We flew into the picturesque coastal town of George, drove through 40 minutes of lush countryside and breathtaking mountain passes, and arrived in the stillness that is Oudtshoorn.
Quaint old-style homes, stores and restaurants dot the lazy main road of this town. Chirping birds replace the roar of traffic and a crystal-blue sky illuminates the whole area.
Admittedly, people looked twice at the hat & beard, but were all genuinely friendly to us- at Pick ‘n Pay, our hotel and on the street.
What’s left of the 600 Jewish families is about two minyanim of warm, close-knit, salt-of-the-earth good people. Sitting in the same room as them is inspiring; a reminder of the humanness people should have.
Oudtshoorn’s sandstone Shul stands proud on the main road. A working mikveh, South Africa’s first ever Jewish day school (now rented to a local nursery school), rabbis’ house (pity there’s no rabbi) and a large tract of land- all well maintained- sit behind it.
Many, perhaps most, of the community eats only kosher meat. Rabbi Maisels of Cape Town treks through once a month to shecht. Hundreds of kilometers away from kosher delis and bakeries, some still keep strictly kosher homes.
Shabbos in Oudtshoorn is the real deal- quiet, peaceful, restful. The wedding we went to celebrate was a communal/ family affair, as simchas were intended.
I couldn’t help but wonder why all the Jews had left.
Why do we opt to live in the stress, pollution and noise of the globe’s great metropolises? Why are all major Jewish communities in the Londons, New Yorks and Joburgs of the world?
Wouldn’t you love to move to a crime-free, tranquil spot of ramrod-straight-farmer territory, less than an hour from some of the world’s most beautiful beaches?
But, that would miss the point.
Hashem placed us in this world to create “a home for Him in the lowest realm”. Now, as the spiritual universe goes, Earth is as low as it gets. On Earth, the dog-eats-dog madness of city-life is as low and dirty as possible.
Jews gravitate to those places, because we’re driven to make a difference. We’re naturally drawn to uplift and inspire a world that’s not naturally kosher.
Its’ nicer to live in Utopia; it’s more meaningful to radiate light into the coal-face.
Still, it’s good to visit rural spots once in a while- just to remind yourself what our world is supposed to look like.