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If you prick us, do we not bleed?

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As a young boy growing up in apartheid South Africa, I just knew there was something very wrong, something rotten in the Republic. When I was about 12 years old, I had an epiphany. A distressed middle-aged black woman confronted my brother and me out of the blue. She pointed to her skin and said: “You know, I may have a different colour skin from you, but I bleed like you.” At that moment, something deep stirred inside me; I was discomfited and unsettled.

When I became a teenager the truth of her statement and the ugly reality of racism crystallised and nurtured a social conscience. Everywhere I looked I saw the agonising repercussions of this abominable culture. It was as a teenager I studied Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and those telling lines of Shylock the Jew:” If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

As a young religious teenager and member of Bnei Akiva, I was fired up by the words of Moses as he challenged an obdurate pharaoh to let his slave brothers and sisters go free, as he challenged the new nation to be just and caring towards the poor and vulnerable. I was inspired by his actions when he confronted injustice. He did not stand by, but intervened when he saw Hebrew slaves being ill-treated, young Midianite women being abused at the well-side. At the burning bush, a fire was ignited........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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