Travelling rabbi battles killer bees in Zimbabwe

By Jennifer Lipman, April 4, 2011
Rabbi Silberhaft

Rabbi Silberhaft

A rabbi working to support the dwindling Jewish population of Zimbabwe is recovering after a killer bee attack.

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, a director of the African Jewish Congress, an umbrella organisation for Jewish communities in 13 countries, was in Harare on a Shabbat afternoon walk as part of a pre-Passover visit when a swarm of bees appeared from a hive beneath a wooden pole.

The men were stung severely and required adrenaline and oxygen when they finally reached doctor.

Rabbi Silberhaft told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he and his colleague, a member of Harare's Ashkenazi community, had no warning.

"They suddenly swarmed on us…buzzing around our heads and in our ears."

He added: "Africa is not for sissies."

Zimbabwe was home to a Jewish community of 7,500 in the 1970s, but under the regime of Robert Mugabe numbers have fallen drastically. There are now less than 200 Jews left in the cities of Harare and Bulawayo, mostly elderly and with no permanent rabbi to serve them.

Rabbi Silberhaft, a frequent visitor to Zimbabwe, is known as the "the travelling rabbi" for his work bringing medical supplies, food and spiritual support to the community.

In 2009 he was awarded the Commonwealth Jewish Council and Trust Anniversary Award by London Mayor Boris Johnson, for his "dedication and service to the Jewish people of sub-Saharan Africa."

Last updated: 4:58pm, April 4 2011