Leigh Friday – About

My values and outlook on life have been largely shaped by growing up in South Africa. For many my early life would have seemed perfect. Born to a South African father and an Australian mother in a sleepy little South African town and later moving to beautiful Cape Town.

My childhood, on the surface, was a typical, idyllic one. Long carefree days in the African sunshine with no worries other than getting home when the streetlights came on. But underneath all of that was the inequity of our society. In seemingly small ways it crept into our lives. The fact that we had privilege denied to many. Our friends, part of my family and other people we were around, (or not), in social, school or neighbourhood situations during the apartheid era did not have the opportunity to live the same life we were living.  My parents had a social justice conscience. Discussions and questioning were encouraged. Ingrained into me is a quote my father used often: “It is a good thing now and then to question what you have long taken for granted’ (Bertrand Russell). This background naturally led to my interest in anti-apartheid activism and later, human rights. To me, respect for others, for our environment and for ourselves is fundamental to how we interact with the world around us.  

This formed the groundwork for getting involved in politics and actively working towards a free and democratic South Africa. The sheer joy and overwhelming emotion seeing Nelson Mandela walk free, our first free and fair elections, the hope of the rainbow nation, a country that embodied Ubuntu, (I am because you are – isiZulu and isiXhosa saying) were enormously important milestones. Even those who had not opposed Apartheid seemed to embrace our unified country. However, our new-found freedoms also highlighted the huge amount of work that needed to be done to rectify the injustices of the past. Human rights issues, women and children’s rights and empowerment, social inequity and poverty, HIV Aids affected families leading to child-headed households – the scale of the work ahead of us was intimidating but work that I was able to contribute to in a small way.  

As my personal journey took me to Aotearoa, I was able to have a complete change of lifestyle. I stepped back from an all-consuming career, to focus on my sons and settling us into our wonderful new country. My world opened from pressing social justice and political issues on my doorstep to those further from home. Similarities between apartheid South Africa and Israel started to creep into my consciousness.  

Alongside this, I have been exploring my Jewish heritage and how that relates to my spirituality. I stumbled across Sh’ma Koleinu and was a casual but interested bystander. That continued until I read an offer to ‘get in touch if you’re interested in doing community differently”. I filled out the contact form, not expecting to hear back, and very quickly had a warm welcome. I have been embraced by a community and provided with advice and guidance in my learning along with more avenues to explore than I can possibly manage! 

Anti-Zionism, for me, is opposition to an Israeli state that is all too reminiscent of the apartheid regime of my youth. A racist hierarchy of the elite, who control power at the top and the dispossessed and hopeless at the bottom. It’s easy to see why the wagons are circled when fear is at the heart of our thinking – based on a history where the Jewish people have been affected by antisemitism and all the horrors that come with it. However, in my political experience, while fear is an incredibly powerful tool for creating a groundswell of support, by far the more powerful emotion is hope. Hope is universal, and our humanity resonates with a better future for ourselves, our children, and our planet. Hope is collective. It joins us together to one cause: Peace. Zionism is the antithesis of this. It divides, it separates, and it creates insecurity and fear.  

I don’t have the religious knowledge that others on this forum have, but what I do have is a belief in the innate goodness in us. We pray for peace, yet Zionism promotes war. We pray that ‘our souls are pure,’ but if my soul is created pure, then surely everyone else’s soul is also pure. That resonates with so many other belief systems. At our core we’re pure. We are connected. No one race is superior to another. No one race is more deserving. It is possible to live in harmony with people who are different to us. In fact, diversity enriches our experience. If we recognise the humanity in our fellow humans, then surely, we support the rights of everyone to a peaceful, flourishing, and free life.  Respecting the humanity and pure souls in others is far stronger than looking for what divides us. We can do better. 

%d bloggers like this: