Ilan Levin

As Interviewed by Cassidy Levin, March 24, 2019

Ilan Levin: In His Own Words

My name is Ilan Levin and I was born in 1968 and I grew up, until I was nine years-old, in South Africa. Everyone I knew was aware that it was wrong to have a system of government, like the haves and the have not were based on the color of your skin. Yeah, I think everyone, even kids, knew that was wrong. We were always taught that it was wrong by my parents and teachers. It wasn’t something that was hidden from us, at least not from me, that it was wrong.

My family ending up in South Africa, coming to South Africa; when they came they, they didn’t even know, I think, about the government or the apartheid. They arrived in South Africa as immigrants in the 1800s and early 1900s. And it was before there was anything called apartheid, even though, of course, there was the established, institutionalized racism.

That was happening in a lot of places around the world, and I don’t even know what those immigrants thought -- I bet they didn’t even think much about it, to be honest with you.

I do know there’s a letter from my grandfather, from when he was seventeen years-old. He left his family in Europe and they wrote letters back and forth and some of them we have. And he has a letter and it was translated and he’s a newly arrived seventeen year-old kid working in a butcher’s shop in Cape Town, South Africa.

He mentions what he calls the Boers, the Afrikaners, the Dutch, the white folks who were there. Um, and he says “They’re not like the Christians at home” -- because, remember, he was a Jewish man -- and he writes to his family, he says, “They don’t hate us.” He says that these, they’re Protestants, he said that “They don’t despise the people of the book.”

What my grandfather was referring to was that these Boers, these Afrikaners, these people of Dutch ancestry, who were Protestant Christians despite, they weren’t perfect. They were far from perfect, but unlike the Greek Orthodox and Catholic Christians that my ancestors experienced back in Europe, these Afrikaners -- they didn’t hate Jews and Muslims. And so Jewish people and Muslim people actually found a relatively peaceful place to have businesses and raise families when they went to South Africa.

That doesn’t change anything about, of course, that it was wrong for black folks to be persecuted, but I have a feeling that a lot of immigrants came from places around the world and they didn’t think much about, especially if they had opportunities or of they weren’t being persecuted. They probably didn’t want to think much about participating in the government.