SA teacher who was fired for allegedly supporting Israel to be honoured with Tzorah Forest tree
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Durban: A tree will be planted in a forest in Jerusalem to honour Sudesh Mooloo. But, in the town he calls home, Laudium in Gauteng, Mooloo is shunned by some.
Until May this year, the 52-year-old taught Afrikaans at Laudium Secondary School. He was employed at the school for more than 20 years by the governing body (SGB).
But his employment was terminated when he posted the following WhatsApp status: "I am not anti-Palestine, but I am anti-Hamas. I stand with Israel".
During that time, violence in the Middle East had escalated because the Israelis had tried to evict Palestinians from an area called Sheikh Jarrah.
When the Palestinians in Gaza protested, the situation turned ugly. In one incident, the Israeli army threw grenades and fired rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian worshippers, who were praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, fired rockets into Israel.
A day after posting the status, Mooloo went to school but, during the course of the day, left when he heard people were coming to attack him because they found the status he posted offensive.
According to Mooloo, he informed the principal before leaving. Later, when he called the principal, he was told the SGB did not want him to return.
When the POST spoke to Mooloo shortly after the incident, he apologised on the basis that he had not meant to offend anyone. He also said he did not approve of the killings in Palestine.
Mooloo added he was a Christian, and there were several verses in the Bible in which God instructed Christians to pray for peace in Israel and to stand by Israel.
He said he was merely following this biblical instruction.
This week, Mooloo described the last few months as difficult.
"I tried to arrange a meeting with the school, the SGB and the Department of Education over my dismissal. I wanted an opportunity to explain myself. But they did not respond to me. I then decided to report the matter to the CCMA. The matter has now been moved to the Labour Court.
"I was unfairly dismissed and my human rights were violated. I want to be compensated for a period of two years. I will not let this go until I get justice. The SGB must be taught a lesson because they are in a position of leadership and power. They dismissed me without following protocol or engaging with me. I tried numerous times to meet with them but I was ignored."
Mooloo said he was grateful to Jewish organisations that helped him and his family when he was not able to earn a salary.
Meanwhile, in July, the organisation, South African Friend of Israel, will plant a tree in the Tzorah Forest in Jerusalem to honour Mooloo.
The organisation aims to help people understand the conflict in Israel. Benji Shulman, a board member, said many years ago, Jerusalem was similar to a desert.
"People began planting pine trees because they grew quickly, but when they realised that it easily caught on fire, they changed to planting oak or Cypress trees. Over the years, it became a Jewish tradition to plant trees in the holy land for a special occasion like a wedding."
Shulman said people paid up to R60 for a spot to have their tree planted and were given a certificate that indicated the location of the tree.
"When we read about Sudesh in the media, we believed he needed to be honoured for his bravery and outspokenness. So, we donated a tree in his honour. Once autumn is over, the tree will be planted. When Covid-19 is over, he can visit the forest and look at his tree. Many other people, diplomats, and missionaries have trees planted in honour of them."
Mooloo said he felt blessed.
"Knowing that there is a tree in honour of me, where Jesus once walked, is the most rewarding feeling."
The school declined to comment or provide details for the SGB.
The Department of Education had not commented at the time of publication.