Up-Start Nation

A pulsating powerhouse, Israel clocks up a Noble Prize Bar Mitzvah bringing her tally to 13 with Joshua Angrist co-wining for economics

By David E. Kaplan

Not bad for such a tiny nation.

And to those eyebrow-raisers kvetching, “Hmnn….. but Angrist lives in the US,” this writer sides with the wife.

Following the announcement that Israeli-American economist Joshua Angrist was awarded together with David Card and Guido Imbens the 2021 Nobel Prize for economics prize, Angrist’s wife, Mira, told Israel’s Channel 12,  she and her husband are Israelis “with every bone in their bodies.”

She explains “We met in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem after he made aliyah… our lives are run between Israel and Boston… We’re very excited right now.”

So are Israelis and justifiably so!

Miniscule Israel has long punched far above its demographic weight when it comes to the Nobel Prize. “There are not many countries who have won so many Nobel prizes,” said the late Shimon Peres, Israel’s President at the time, himself a Nobel laureate who shared the Peace Prize together with then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat in 1994.

Noting Israel’s stunning trajectory, it is little wonder that as of October 2021, NINE of the TEN Israeli Nobel laureates since 2002, have been for either chemistry or economics. Over the same period, vastly larger countries with larger economies failed to outperform the small Jewish State. Israel’s surge as a pulsating powerhouse shows how it belts way above its weight.

Nobel Men. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the three  – David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens  – have completely reshaped empirical work in the economic sciences.

With a souring hi-tech and cyber based economy, Israel is revered today as “The Startup Nation” – the appellation derived from Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s bestseller by the same name – which examines how a young nation with a small population was able to achieve rapid outstanding economic growth. Today, Israel is the envy of many foreign countries and understandably why. Israel has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world after the United States, and the third-largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies after the U.S. and China.. Driven by gumption and grit and abundant ‘chutzpah’, the Start-Up Nation is as much for this writer – amusingly yet profoundly – the  ‘Up-StartNation’ – cherishing its yesterdays but gung-ho about its tomorrows.

It’s only Natural

Covering in their studies the fields of  ‘education’, the ‘labour market’ and ‘immigration’, Angrist and his co-winners were awarded the 2021 Nobel economics prize for pioneering the use of “Natural Experiments”, which are real-life situations that economists study and analyse to determine cause and effect relationships.

It was fascinating to learn – although I assume less pleasing to some US politicians and businesses  –  that Angrist’s colleague and Nobel co-winner, Canadian David Card had successfully in 2019 dispelled some serious erroneous economic beliefs, notably, that an increase in the minimum wage would destroy jobs as it would make it more expensive for companies to do business.

Israeli-American economist wins Nobel Prize. MIT Prof. Joshua Angrist, who taught at Hebrew University in the 1990s, is the 13th Israeli citizen to win the prestigious award.

Together with the late Alan Kruger, they compared the labour markets on both sides of the border between the US states of New Jersey – where the minimum wage had been increased – and Pennsylvania, where it had not. Their research showed that in that context, the minimum wage increase had no downward effect on the number of employees. Their finding went against the prevailing theory that assumed that an increase in the minimum wage would destroy jobs.

Despite endless jokes about economists such as “Economists have predicted six of the last two recessions” or “Economists were invented to make astrologers look good”, they do get plenty right, and since the new millennium, Angrist is the third Israeli to win the Nobel Prize for economics. The other two were Daniel Kahneman in 2002 and Robert Aumann in 2005 and their experiences and insights on the road to Stockholm remain eternally illuminating.

Calculated Risk

Although Israeli Daniel Kahneman received in 2002 the Nobel Prize for Economics he was a  psychologist who had never “taken a single economics course.”  The Tel Aviv-born Kahneman was recognized for changing the way economists grapple with decision-making, particularly during periods of uncertainty.

Kahneman explained the nature of his research to the peculiarity of people who are prepared to risk much more to get back money lost than they are to make the same amount. “For instance, if a gambler is losing steadily, the risks he would take to try to win back his losses and break even, are about twice as great as the risks he would take to gain the same amount of money had he been winning all along.”

Go figure!

Mind over Matter. Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman received the 2002 Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work in applying psychological insights to economic theory.

Top Of His ‘Game’

How prescient these words of  Israeli Nobel 2005 for economics Nobel Laurette, Robert Aumann, who also was not an economist but a mathematician:

  “Science is exploration, exploration for the sake of exploration, and for nothing else. We must go where our curiosity leads us; we must go where we want to go. And eventually, it is sure to lead us to the beautiful, the important, and the useful.”

This “exploration’ led Aumann to Stockholm where together with Thomas Schelling, they shared the 2005 Nobel Prize for Economics for their work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis. Professor at the Center for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Robert Aumann titled his acceptance speech “War and Peace” honouring Leo Tolstoy who he lamented did not receive a Nobel Prize but “like me, also had a long white beard.” War, unlike the popular view, “is not irrational – it is very rational, and we have to understand that to try preventing it.”

For me, life has been – and still is – one tremendous joyride, one magnificent tapestry.”

Highlighting the “good times”, Aumann cited:

 “The excitement of research, of groping in the dark and then hitting the light. The satisfaction of teaching, of meeting someone at a party who tells you that the course in complex variables that he heard from you twenty-five years ago was the most beautiful that he ever heard. The exhilaration of climbing on an almost vertical rock face; the beauty of a walk in the woods with a four-year-old grandchild, who spots and correctly identifies a tiny wild orchid about which you told him last week; dancing with your wife at your child’s wedding; unraveling an intricate passage in the Talmud with your eighteen-year-old granddaughter; slipping on a ski slope; tumbling two hundred meters down, and then going back and doing the same slope again – this time without slipping, or seeing the flag of Israel fluttering in the wind, right next to that of Sweden, from the roof of the Grand Hotel in Stockholm.”

Game Changer. Prof. Yisrael (Robert J.) Aumann received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in  2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis. He shared the prize with Thomas Schelling.  (Photo personal website)

Well, that blue and while flag will again be “fluttering” in Stockholm, despite some in the Israeli media focusing less on the achievement and more on the issue than Angrist lives mainly today in the USA. What a loss for Israel they write, instead of what a win for all mankind.

Through decades of research, Angrist and his colleagues have demonstrated that many of society’s big economic questions can be answered. Through their methodology of using “natural experiments” – situations arising in real life that resemble randomised experiments – we now have a considerably better understanding of how the labour market operates than we did 30 years ago.

Why is this important?

Because if we are to make good decisions, we must understand the consequences of our choices and this applies to individuals as well as public policy makers. For example, young people who are making educational choices, says Angrist, want to know how these might affect their future income. Choosing to go to “an expensive private college,  does that change your life course in the form of higher earnings?” Also, how much more would people earn if they chose to study longer? Will adding extra years of study improve one’s personal financial situation either through higher salary or  inspiring entrepreneurial ambition?

All this was less important to some in the Israeli media making more of Angrist living in the US. The Jerusalem Post went so far on its front page with an article “A dent in the Aliyah message” The sweet and less sweet in a Noble Prize”, where the writer compares Angrist leaving Israel for greener pastures to the biblical Abraham who makes Aliyah to Israel but leaves shortly afterwards because of a famine.

Big deal. Angrist relocated back to the USA to become an Associate Professor in MIT’s Economics Department and  by his own admission he did so “for more pay”. In other words the economist took a decision for sound economic reasons. The world today is a global village so no big surprise here.

Furthermore, what these articles neglected to consider in their critique, was that Angrist’s return to the US was way back in 1996, long before Israel’s economic miracle and the surge ahead in the hi-tech industry. It is a different Israel today with different opportunities. Even Angrist himself says that the reports on his leaving for financial reasons stemmed from a 2006 Jerusalem Post article on Israel’s brain drain at the time, no longer the situation today. Speaking with Israeli media, Angrist said he was proud to have won the prize as an Israeli and played down reports that he had left Israel because of low wages.

The Times They Are a-Changin. Israel’s reception into a changing Middle East as reflected on this  front page of the UAE’s English daily, Khaleej Times.

“Israel has a very respectable place in science and I am proud to contribute to that,” he told Channel 13 news.

Since Angrist’s relocation back to the States in 1996 for greener pastures, today Israel is the “greener pasture”. How else would you explain that  Israeli tech investment shattered all records in the first half of 2021 with Israel leading the  world in funding growth with a 137% year-over-year increase in the first half of 2021, reaching $10.5 billion.

With this new economic reality, this writer advocates less focus on Abraham leaving because of famine thousands of years ago and more on the 2020 Abraham Accords which has Israel increasingly integrating into the Middle East and Arab world with infinite economic opportunities. Israel today with her Arab partners is leading the way of showing the potential impact of peace on economics.

Now that will be monumental material for a future Nobel Prize, whether for ‘economics’ or ‘peace’.








While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

The Israel Brief- 11-14 October 2021

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The Israel Brief – 13 October 2021 – Israel to welcome tourists. Who will lead the Jewish Agency for Israel? Celebrating Yom Aliyah.





The Israel Brief – 14 October 2021 – Australia adopts IHRA. Update on Beirut. Lapid and Blinken discuss Iran.






While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

JUDGE DAVID UNTERHALTER- REQUIEM OR SEQUEL?

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

The last time that Judge David Unterhalter was interviewed for the position of Constitutional Court judge by the Judicial Service Council (JSC), the interview process was a  free-for-all, or as the  legal fraternity might say “highly irregular”. While voices were raised, in the Jewish community at least,  about the  apparently antisemitic questions posed to him by five different commissioners, his was a “generic” attack based on his religion and affiliation. Another candidate,  Judge Dhaya Pillay, was subjected to a more vicious personal attack – mostly by Commissioner  and EFF leader Julius Malema –  based on her association with former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Judge Kathree-Setiloane was  required to address false allegations about a complaint made against her by a former clerk some years ago.

An NGO,  the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC), represented by Adv Ngcukaitobi SC, took the JSC  to court  alleging the JSC exceeded the bounds of acceptable  questioning  to determine the fitness of the candidates. The confidential deliberations, which the  JSC  was obliged to disclose,  revealed that Unterhalter was regarded as a very able judge, but he had only been at the bench for three years and “he can afford to wait”.

Rough Justice. The ongoing saga of a judge’s Jewishness in South Africa being an obstacle to  promotion of higher office.

As a result of CASAC’s successful  court challenge, new interviews had to be held. The same candidates were interviewed – save for Judge Pillay, who was no doubt still traumatized by the previous verbal mauling. These proceedings were far more civilized than the previous one. Parties were asked about their judgements and their approach to the Constitutional Court. Judge Kathree-Setiloane was not asked about her clerk’s complaint.

Then it was time for the interview of Judge David Unterhalter.  Having clearly learned from the previous proceedings, he went to great lengths to correct the  misapprehensions of the previous interview. He told the panel that Adv. Ngcukaitobi SC had put forward his nomination. He emphasized how he represented South Africa and Africa and was the head of the Appeal Court of the World Trade Organisation for 11 years. He showed that he had been a judge for considerably longer than three years. He confirmed that he was presently an Acting Judge in the Supreme Court of Appeal. He referred to his experience in setting up two legal widely respected organisations which fight for the rights of the underprivileged and for human rights generally. He had a list of junior African counsel, which he had assisted. He told the panel about his continuous participation in litigation  at the Constitution Court since its inception. For anyone involved in law, his list of over 150 reported cases was also hugely impressive.

Sinking South Africa. A comment reflecting the sad situation: “Justice Unterhalter interviewed well, it’s not his time; he will get another chance when there is a next opening.”

The panel interview commenced, with each panelist limited to two questions per candidate. In the absence of the recently deceased Lutando Sigogo, the questioning was commenced by Madonsella SC. (The same Madonsela who previously asked Judge Lever whether the observing of the Sabbath would interfere with his judicial duties.) His first question didn’t differ significantly from the one raised by Sigogo.  He  raised the issue of Unterhalter’s association with the SAJBD (South African Jewish Board of Deputies) , referring to letters of the Black Lawyers Association  and BDS objecting to him:

 “because he was a member of an organization allegedly pro-Zionist.”

So after the CASAC review, where the rules of the game were set  out that one should play the ball and not the man, this little curve ball was thrown – with no objection by the (new) presiding officer. Zionism is not banned in South Africa. It remains a lawful activity and ideal in South Africa. The organization of which he was a member – the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) – is a lawful organization that assists with the needs of the South African Jewish (and other ) community members.  Our Constitution expressly allows for freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom  of religion. So why was a question like this thrown into the mix, without being called a foul?  Does Unterhalter’s association with an allegedly pro-Zionist organization affect his ability to be a Constitutional Court judge? If it doesn’t affect his ability as a High Court judge or as a judge of Appeal, what relevance does it have to his present application? Not one of his judgments was attacked –  In fact on Appeal, he wrote the judgment that overturned another (successful) candidate’s erroneous judgment. Should one even address  issues raised  by “lay” organisations when they have no relevance to his legal ability? As for the SAJBD being an allegedly pro-Zionist organization, Unterhalter had denied it at the first interview and denied it again in this interview. There are reasonable boundaries for the questioning of these candidates.  This question was a trespass on prohibited territory.  Even if Unterhalter were to admit to being Zionist (Oy, the scandal!) this should not affect his suitability, simply because our Constitution guarantees these rights! And at what stage should one question the bona fides of these organisations that submitted these objections. One organisation is presently supporting the disgraced Judge Hlope for the position of Chief Justice of South Africa, while the other is vociferously supporting  Legal Services ombud, Judge Desai in his misconduct hearing arguing that his repeatedly expressed politically anti-Zionist conduct should be viewed as freedom of expression? (The JSC is involved, or affected, by both issues).

In a previous article on this media platform,  it  was questioned whether the JSC was a racist organization. More specifically this was based on a quotation in a letter from the JSC, in a response to a letter from the  SAJBD, where the  JSC was quoted as stating:

“The questions relating to the association with the SAJBD dealt with concerns that the organisation supports Zionism which is viewed as a discriminatory form of nationalism and potentially in conflict with the values contained in the South African Constitution.” 

How Times have Changed. In December 1990, Professor Michael Katz (left), President of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBOD) meets with representatives of the African National Congress Gill Marcus and Nelson Mandela recently released from 27 years of incarceration. Today, that same Jewish communal organization, the SAJBOD that was established the same year as the ANC in 1912, is treated as a pariah organization, an obstacle to Justice Unterhalter’s advancement in South Africa’s judiciary.

This statement has never been retracted by the JSC. The JSC is not a body competent to make such a determination.  Madonsella SC’s question, which to use the legal phrase, “I submit was irregular, improper and legally irrelevant,” tends to affirm this underlying strain of antisemitism that was previously evidenced by the JSC. The  linking of the community-oriented SAJBD with the “discriminatory form of nationalism” that is Zionism, serves only to tarnish the image of, and discriminate against both Jews and Zionism. And don’t forget,  that invariably, the only time that one uses the  word “alleged” in South Africa is when it relates to a forthcoming criminal matter. In this case, the suspect is an organisation that is accused of the crime of being “allegedly pro-Zionist”.

Should one be surprised?

The JSC’s statement is on record, Madonsella SC remains unrebuked and once again, arguably the most qualified candidate has been rejected for a position on the country’s apex court.

Is it a warning to South Africa’s Jews?

The majority party in South Africa regularly expresses a similar sentiment and now even one of our highly respected legal NGO, formed to represent the poor and indigent of South Africa – The Legal Resources Centre – has ventured outside the South African sphere and  joined forces with international bigots to draft and submit a report  seeking to have Israel’s observer status at the African Union withdrawn.

So with the visible current of anti-Zionism and all of its murky undercurrents, there are another two more Constitutional Court posts up for grabs shortly. Unterhalter, unsuccessful in this encounter,  is again a candidate for these posts. Will he again,  ostensibly, be rejected on the elephant-in-the-room grounds that he is white and male? Or is there also an additional, deeper, darker reason, one that allows “alleged pro-Zionist” issues to enter into the fray when considering his legal ability? 

And for the Honourable Judge Unterhalter AJA, will the next encounter be his Constitutional Court requiem or  just another sequel?





While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Bipartisan Support – an Iron Dome against “The Squad”?

There have been attempts by “the Squad” to stop funding for Iron Dome – but have the shots fired reached their target?

By Rolene Marks

It has been quite an eventful few weeks in US-Israel relations. Among the many oft discussed events was Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett’s maiden speech at the UN General Assembly. This event is often to Israelis what the Superbowl is to Americans, and no matter where we sit on the political spectrum, we are all glued to the television. This was an area where the Prime Minister’s predecessor Netanyahu shone. Usually armed with props and a coterie of international news channels filming his every word, this was Bibi’s “real house”. Bennett owned his first speech, striking the right balance of humility, toughness and optimism. While he did receive criticism for failing to mention the Palestinians and the seemingly never-ending conflict, he seemed to take aim at those for whom criticizing Israel has become a sport. Staring down the camera, kippah firmly perched on his head he said, “hating Israel doesn’t make you woke”.

On Target. In his first address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, Israeli PM Naftali Bennett takes aim with his careful wording: Hating Israel doesn’t make you woke”.  
 

Oh. Snap!

We all knew exactly who was included in his sharply aimed barb. They may not have been in the room; but the inference was there.

Just days before, there had been a dramatic vote in Congress where a bipartisan majority voted in favour of the $1 Billion funding allocation for the Iron Dome. Just days before, members of the “Squad” led by efforts by Congresswoman

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(AOC), had campaigned successfully to have the funding removed from the budget. It was then allocated to an independent vote and was passed with its clear majority but make no mistake, the “Squad” were able to score a significant hit.

Disabling  Defence. Trying to disable Israel from even defending herself, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Photo: EPA-EFE/JIM LO SCALZO).

It seems incongruous that they would target the Iron Dome. The Iron Dome is purely defensive – its prime role is to intercept rockets and projectiles fired from terror entities in the Gaza strip towards Israeli civilians. During the conflagration in May this year, over 300 of these rockets fell short inside the strip, killing and maiming Palestinians as well. What the Squad and those supporting this campaign of defunding fail to realise, is that if there was no Iron Dome and rockets and projectiles were reaching their intended targets killing Israeli civilians, then the IDF would have to go in, boots on the ground, into the strip. This would mean heavy casualties on both sides as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others hide between their civilian population, using them as human shields and often booby trap buildings.

The Iron Dome saves the lives of both Israelis – and Palestinians.

The message we have received is loud and clear. While the Squad would have you believe that they want to allocate funds for domestic issues, we know that the idea of Israel defending its citizens is anathema. Why else would Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, AOC’s fellow “Squaddie” use the opportunity preceding the final vote to engage in a tirade so appalling and riddled with antisemitic tropes that it prompted a furious tirade from Congressman Ted Deutch?

Don’t underestimate the squad’s ability to read the room. They are not necessarily focused on the peers but rather the next generation. The shots fired by the Squad have landed and the effects are evident in other incidents.

Vice-President, Kamala Harris, also caused a stir recently when she addressed students at George Mason University. During her address, one student, identifying as Yemeni-Iranian used the opportunity to express her indignation at the US funding of Israeli security and said the following:

 “Israel is doing (sic) ethnic cleansing.”

The student’s words were pure sophistry but instead of correcting her or disagreeing, the Vice President answered saying that “her truth should not be suppressed.”

Was this an attempt to curry favour with an increasingly “woke” generation? Harris did not correct the student and did not say anything along the lines of “your truth may not actually be THE truth!”

Harris’s office tried to walk back her comments stating that the VP was proud of her longstanding support of Israel.

We are used to the Hollywood celebs and more “woke” rabbiting on about “their truth”. Hardly a day goes by without a celebrity woke-is-me whine-a-thon talking about “their truth” in the race to claim biggest victimhood in the oppression Olympics.

The pursuit of “our own truths” in this kind of context has dire consequences. We saw it with the “Squad” in their attempt to quash funding for life-saving technology by spinning the rhetoric to suit their anti-Israel agenda.

Intentions Unveiled. The “Squad’s” reveals true intent when they tried to sabotage in Congress US support for Israel’s exclusively defensive Iron Dome.

It has dire consequences. The San Diego chapter of the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution last month rejecting Israel’s legitimacy as a country and accusing the Israeli government of carrying out “ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and war crimes against Palestinians.”

In the resolution, AFT Guild Local 1931, which represents community college teachers in San Diego, refers to Israel as “historic Palestine” and calls on the Biden administration to “hold Israel accountable for its complete disregard of international law” and implement a “prompt reassessment of military aid to Israel”. Nowhere in this resolution is the Israeli experience of terror attacks, incitement of hatred against the Jewish state or rocket attacks mentioned. These are teachers, responsible for educating inquiring young minds.

Troubled Times. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten is “troubled” by passages of an anti-Israel resolution.

In his UNGA speech, Prime Minister Bennett made a point of thanking Congress for continued bipartisan support. Israel and the United States have long and enduring ties based on shared values and alliances but make no mistake, the shots fired by the Squad have had some impact. One of the priorities of Israel’s relatively new coalition will be to repair any cracks in the relationship with the Democratic Party. This will be the Iron Dome needed to intercept the grossly inaccurate and offensive comments made by the Squad – and their supporters.

As the PM said in his speech, “hating Israel doesn’t make you woke” and even though they weren’t present in the room, one hopes the “Squad” got the message loud and clear.

What the Squad Tried to Stop. Trying to save lives, Israel’s defensive Iron Dome interceptor missiles (left), rise to meet rockets from Gaza (right) fired towards Israel’s civilian population on May 14, 2021. (Anas Baba/AFP)






While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 10 October 2021

Unveiling the contours and contrasts of an ever-changing Middle East landscape

Reliable reportage and insightful commentary on the Middle East by seasoned journalists from the region and beyond

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What’s happening in Israel today?  See from every Monday – Thursday LotL’s “The Israel Brief” broadcasts and on our Facebook page and  YouTube by seasoned TV & radio broadcaster, Rolene Marks familiar to Chai FM listeners in South Africa and millions of American listeners to the News/Talk/Sports radio station  WINA, broadcasting out of Charlottesville, Virginia. You can subscribe to LOTL news from Israel and enjoy at a time of your convenience.

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Articles

(1)

Kamala Harris Disappoints

A lie left unchallenged creates the illusion of truth – shame on you Kamala

By David E. Kaplan

School for Scandal.  The ‘lesson’ at Virginian university by the US Vice President was dangerous and divisive.

How genuine is the US Vice President’s  “commitment to Israel’s security” when she allowed false accusations against the Jewish State of “ethnic genocide” to go publicly unchallenged? If words “MATTER”, it is words like these that not only undermine the Jewish state but endangers Jews everywhere.

Kamala Harris Disappoints

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(2)

Remembering Shimon Peres

It has been 5 years since the passing of Israel’s beloved former State President

By Rolene Marks

Risk Taker. Defense Minister Peres (2nd left)  and PM Rabin (centre)) greeting hostages rescued by Israel from Entebbe.

From a man who waged peace with as much vigour as he had earlier waged war, Shimon Peres was a complex character, a daring visionary – cultured and colourful – who left a lasting and inspiring legacy.

Remembering Shimon Peres

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(3)

Resourceful Ruth

Innovative and inspirational Christian support in South Africa for Israel through WIZO

By Galya Tregenza Hall, National Administrator and PA to WIZO SA President

Fertile Future. With the backdrop of the fertile Cape, “Ruthies” cultivate  fertile partnerships working for Israel.

Since Christian Zionist friends were welcomed five years earlier into the WIZO family in South Africa, the Ruth Branch in the Western Cape has emerged as the fastest-growing branch globally with Israel as the fortunate beneficiary.

Resourceful Ruth

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LOTL Cofounders David E. Kaplan (Editor), Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche

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While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

The Israel Brief- 04-07 October 2021


The Israel Brief – 04 October 2021 – Iran attempt to assassinate Israeli businessman? Abbas meets with Meretz. First direct flight from Egypt! Remembering Shimon Peres.



The Israel Brief – 05 October 2021 – Mossad operation to locate To Arad. 43 States pledge to fight antisemitism at UNHRC. Pres. Hertzog in Ukraine to commemorate Babi Yar.



The Israel Brief – 06 October 2021 – French Senate adopts IHRA. UEFA investigate antisemitic incident between Union Berlin and Maccabi Haifa. Auschwitz defaced with antisemitic graffiti.



The Israel Brief – 07 October 2021 – Is Oman the next country to normalize ties with Israel? UNHRC censors reports exposing UNRWA incitement. Silent prayer on Temple Mount?





While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Resourceful Ruth

Innovative and inspirational Christian support in South Africa for Israel through WIZO

By Galya Tregenza Hall National Administrator and PA to WIZO SA President

“Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the Lord do to me if anything but death part me from you”.

Ruth 1:16, 17

Story of Support. Widow Ruth (right) follows her also widowed mother-in-law Naomi (left) from Moab to Bethlehem to remain at her side setting in motion the ‘direction’ of early Judaism.

WIZO South Africa, like all the WIZO Federations around the globe, actively supports and promotes the work of WIZO in Israel through various projects and fundraisers that take place throughout the country. However, unique to the make-up of WIZO SA is a branch of Bnoth Zion WIZO Cape Town that is called the Ruth Branch.

Who are these generous members and what makes them so special?

Over the last five years, Christian Zionist friends have been welcomed into the fold of the WIZO family through the Ruth Branch and what a success it has been! They have become the fastest-growing branch globally and as their chairperson Elizabeth Campbell says:

We are so thankful that our Jewish sisters have opened up their hearts and given us this amazing opportunity to join hands and work together to support the nation of Israel through WIZO’’.  Elizabeth points out that many Christians know and understand that you cannot separate the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. We are living in difficult and unprecedented times but these Ruth Branch members are committed to Israel – just like the widow Ruth would not leave her widowed mother-in-law Naomi’s side, Elizabeth will not leave Israel’s side as she truly feels that this unity of Jew and Gentile together is the key for future success.

Healing Hands. Following the inspiration of Elizabeth Campbell (centre), a journey of togetherness in the spirit of Ruth and Naomi, began with husband Jamie (right) and popular entertainer Erez Shaked (left) leading to the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concerts’ vision.

Elizabeth is a dynamic and passionate woman who leads her WIZO Ruth Branch with tremendous energy and vision!

Where did it all begin for her?

Her family were farmers and she grew up in a nominal Christian home in the Eastern Cape. She was first introduced to Judaism and Jewish culture through a Jewish friend she made at school. From an early age she would enjoy sleepovers at her friend’s house and subsequently learnt more about Shabbat (the sabbath)and the different chagim (Jewish festivals). At the age of nineteen, her fascination intensified after a surprise holiday to Israel, where on her arrival she was bowled over by an uncontrollable love for the land and its people.  So powerful was this ten-day experience, that once back home at art school, she chose JERUSALEM as the theme for one of her projects.  Little did she know it was going to stir a hornet’s nest. Her “crime’’ of loving Jerusalem resulted in shocking abuse from her lecturer and it was then that she experienced her first bout of horrendous antisemitism. In Elizabeth’s words:

I was shocked to the core. After the trauma I heard a voice in my deepest kishkas (in the depths of my soul) and I realized that this was HaShem talking to me – ‘Will you stand up for my people?’.

Little did I know back then what a tremendous calling this would become and nor did I realise all that I was going to have to endure for the love of His people and land. Every moment has been worth it’’.

Fertile Future.With the backdrop of the beautiful fertile Western Cape, members of the Ruth Branch (“The Ruthies”) and Bnoth Zion WIZO Cape Town Executive set on a fertile partnership of working together for needy causes in Israel.

‘Art’ of Coming Together

About twelve years ago, Elizabeth began to think about how she could get the Jewish people and those Christians like herself who love Israel to work together. She had a vision of the two communities coming together through the arts.  The idea of a musical concert popped into her head and suddenly the words ‘JERUSALEMWOVEN DESTINY CONCERTS’ resonated throughout her being. From that moment, a wonderful journey began.

Elizabeth and her husband Jamie, reached out to their friend, the popular entertainer Erez Shaked, who needed no encouragement to get on board. He too has a heart for oneness and could clearly see the potential and significance in Elizabeth’s revelation. A partnership was formed and the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concert vision started to become a reality.

If Music be the Food of Love, Play On.  Inspiring their ongoing journey into the future, a celebratory concert organised in 2019 by Liz Campbell and Erez Shaked with WIZO and Christian friends in support of  Israel held in the majestic Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town.

Twelve years later and with six concerts under their belts, they have most definitely come up with a winning formula to celebrate together through music and song. Two years ago their concert was held at the Gardens Shul in Cape Town and was a resounding success. However, with this years’ concert going virtual, it was possible to reach a much larger audience. The Concert was streamed by the Jewish Report via Zoom and Facebook live and was a beautiful collaboration between the Jewish and Christian communities, with approximately three thousand viewers being reached on the night and to date, thousands more people are still watching the production on YouTube and social media.

Six concerts have been produced and all of them have been musical extravaganzas that have made a deep impression and had a lasting impact. The President of WIZO South Africa, Shelley Trope-Friedman, rightly stated in her welcome address at the concert this year:

Sadly and most concerningly, we are living in times where we are witnessing a rapid rise in antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric the world over. Therefore, the spirit of unity and cohesion that this concert brings is greatly needed and deeply appreciated. I thank you, our Christian Zionist friends, for partnering with us in the fight against antisemitism and Israel-hatred. This concert is giving a platform to the voice of friendship, love and solidarity and I know that together, we can make a difference.”

Ruth Reverberates. This past Sukkot, saw on the 26 September 2021, the Jerusalem Feast of Tabernacles Woven Destiny Concert performed at the Jerusalem Theatre.

It is clear that the concerts have indeed made a tangible difference in bringing awareness to this serious matter.

The Woven Destiny Concert chose this year to help fundraise for the wonderful work that WIZO does in supporting and assisting those in Israeli society who need it most. Elizabeth is very passionate about WIZO, especially after attending the World WIZO Centennial Celebration Conference in Israel in January 2020 where she saw for herself the magnitude of the life-changing help that WIZO offers the Israeli people through their incredible facilities, ranging from shelters for abused women and houses of safety for children at risk.

Elizabeth and all the ‘Ruthies’, as she affectionately calls her Ruth Branch members, are committed to the Jewish people, committed to WIZO and committed to Israel. They seek to be a force of change and agents of love and hope.

“Agents of Love and Hope”. Come Friday, rain or sunshine, ChristianZionist members of the WIZO Ruth branch stand outside the South African Parliament in Cape Town in support of Israel.

’Being a Christian chairperson of a global, all Jewish women’s, Zionist organization called WIZO is stranger than fiction to say the least, but I am so thankful for the opportunity. Together with the help of my countless Christian friends, we will stand by the Jewish people and speak up for Israel. There are so many untruths and misguided beliefs out there when it comes to Israel and as antisemitism rises, I trust and thank HaShem for this ongoing formula of the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concerts which so clearly makes a difference. For Zion’s sake, we will not remain quiet and for Jerusalem’s sake we will not remain silent’’.

When it comes to support of Israel, the “Ruthies” do not adhere to the ancient proverb “silence is golden”. As Elizabeth says, “We will not remain silent.”


2021 Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concert South Africa



About the writer:

Galya Tregenza graduated from the University of Cape Town with a post-graduate degree in Jewish Studies. She spent four years living and working in Israel in the charitable sector and several years in the UK. Currently residing in Cape Town with her husband and three daughters, Galya is a lover of Israel and works for WIZO South Africa as the National Administrator and PA to the WIZO SA President.





For those of you who missed the concert you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9-ls5qnJ5s

Any donation to the work of WIZO will be most welcome. For more information please contact: wizosouthafrica@gmail.com




JERUSALEM: Woven Destiny Concert – Jews and Christian celebrate together. Sukkot is the time of year when people of faith join together in song to celebrate the inspiration of Jerusalem and the shared destiny of all of us who consider Jerusalem as our spiritual home. Together with WIZO and the Gardens Shul in Cape Town.



While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Kamala Harris Disappoints

A lie left unchallenged creates the illusion of truth – shame on you Kamala

By David E. Kaplan

Wherever they burn books, in the end will also burn human beings,” foretold the Jewish German poet and essayist, Heidrich Heine.

Who would have thought in cultured Germany of the nineteenth century to take such words of warning seriously.

Less than a century after Heine died, they were doing just that – to Jews –  in the crematoria of Europe.

Jews have learnt painfully to heed warnings and false accusations and at the first signs of Jew-bashing it cannot and should never go unchecked.

Hence no free pass to US Vice President Kamala Harris!

In a post Holocaust world with an alarming rise in antisemitism unseen since the Shoah, the US Vice President should not be surprised at the increasing criticism she is receiving not only for what she said but for more for what she did NOT say.

When Kamala stood before a Political Science class at Virginia’s George Mason University addressing the issue of voting rights, she did so not as a refreshing guest lecturer but as the country’s Vice President.

Calm before the Storm. United States Vice President Kamala Harris engages a political science class to commemorate National Voter Registration Day at George Mason University. (Pool via CNP / MEGA)

What she would say or not say “MATTERS” in the “woke” parlance of today.

And herein ‘lies’ – pun intended – the problem.

When a student, who identified herself of Yemeni and Iranian descent, stood up and slandered the Jewish state by accusing it of “ethnic genocide” that the Vice President did not refute this patent lie was unconscionable. She had no problem during the 2019 Democratic Party presidential debates to take issue with then candidate Joe Biden for his “very hurtful” comments about having worked with two segregationist senators. Recalling emotionally to a mega-million global television audience how sensitive this was to her as a black child over the issue of segregated bussing, 2-years later, the Vice President shows scant sensitivity when the Jewish state is subjected of the false accusation of “ethnic genocide”. Compounding her misconduct, this episode played out not in a vacuum but in a frightening climate of virulent and violent antisemitism in her own country.

She had only to again ‘recall’ but also reflect that in a state not too far from the Virginia campus where she failed to refute the antisemitic falsehood, in 2018, an armed man with an AR-15-style assault rifle shouting antisemitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue in the state of Pennsylvania. It was on  a Saturday morning –  the Sabbath –  and 11 congregants were massacred in cold blood.

Selective Sensitivity. While Sen. Kamala Harris (right) during the 2019 Democratic presidential  debate found Joe Biden’s past position on bussing “hurtful”,  she was less so emotionally impacted in 2021 when a student falsely accused the Jewish state of “ethnic genocide”. (Drew Angerer/Getty Image)

Words matter!

If Biden’s past position was “hurtful” to the young Kamala schoolgirl, how  “hurtful” was it to American Jews to hear their VP respond not by educating the student that her facts were dead wrong, hurtful and dangerous but instead, to greenlight that student’s  toxic message by saying:

your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth should not be suppressed.”

What?

This is the “voice”, the “perspective”, the “truth” that Kamala Harris

feels “should not be suppressed”, in other words – should be HEARD?

Of course, the fallout was quick and Harris’ office went into rapid damage control mode over the student’s Israel “ethnic genocide” comment. The Vice President’s team reached out to prominent pro-Israel groups and members of Congress to “clarify” with the expected responses of those who work with her, assuring “I can personally attest to her strong and unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

But how genuine is one’s “commitment to Israel’s security” when you permit accusations to go unanswered that falsely accuse Israel of “ethnic genocide”? If words “MATTER”, it is words like these that not only undermine the Jewish state but endanger Jews everywhere.

Is it thus surprising that Jewish congregations in the US are increasingly opting to deploy armed security personnel outside synogogues?

For Jews, America was once exceptional. Now, antisemitism is as strong here as in Europe,” writes Joshua Safran an author, attorney and advocate for survivors of domestic abuse and the wrongfully imprisoned. A board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Portland, Oregon, he continues his 2020 opinion piece in USA TODAY:

 “I was used to being harassed, abused and put in danger when I prayed in synagogues abroad. Never did I think America would become just as dangerous.”

“Is this the new normal?” he asked a rabbi friend, who nodded in response. Lamenting that “America might yet be a bastion of democracy, but for Jews, it is no longer truly exceptional.”

Taking to Twitter, David Wolpe the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles took Kamala Harris to task. Named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by The Jerusalem Post, he wrote:

Madame Vice President, the idea that Israel has committed genocide against the Palestinians is not someone’s truth, it is someone’s lie, whether they know it or not. And it is pernicious, destructive and should not be elided or ignored by the highest officials in the land.”

Rabbi’s Response. Influential American rabbi,  David Wolpe takes to Twitter to lambast VP Kamala Harris for her cringe worthy response to a student’s lies about Israel.

Literally blooding Jewish history since the 12th century, has been the “Blood Libel” that falsely claimed that Jews engage in ritual murder. Leading to violent persecution and pogroms persisting through to the 20th century, the ‘blood libel’ reveals much about the way a lie becomes embedded in a society with lethal repercussions.

This is why the need to refute and never fuel a lie.

Kamala Harris should have known better. After all, when sheat George Mason University engaged that student class on voting rights, it was in the aftermath of the “Big Lie” that Trump had won the Presidential election and the dangers it could lead to.

Is it not ironic, that when the Vice President was engaging political science students – the leaders of tomorrow – to stand fast and safeguard against lies to protect democracy, she should fail so abysmally when the “Big Lie” was directed at the Jewish state.

Trail of the ‘blood Libel’. When lies are not denounced  by the highest officers of the land, they  become embedded with lethal consequences as so graphically despicted in the medieval myth of Jews killing Christian children finding popular favour in this Nazi-era ‘Der Sturmer’ Jewish ritual murder May 1934 edition. (public domain)
 

While her office did put out a statement that “the vice president strongly disagrees with the student’s characterization of Israel,” it was like shutting the barn door once the  horse had bolted.  If the VP so disagreed with the student’s dangerous “characterisation”, what a perfect opportunity she had  to set an example of defusing the student’s incendiary lie. Instead, with the stamp of the second highest office in the land, the Vice President gave legitimacy to the lie.

Shame on you Kamala!










While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Remembering Shimon Peres

It has been 5 years since the passing of one of Israel’s most beloved leaders – former President, Shimon Peres

By Rolene Marks

He was a pioneer, and a founding father. He was both hawk and dove, warrior and peacemaker. He was an innovator and mediator. He was a Nobel laureate and visionary. He was a leader whose personal and political history was deeply woven with the story of Israel and the Jewish people.

It has been 5 years since the passing of one of Israel’s finest sons – and greatest leaders. We bow our heads in remembrance for our beloved Shimon Peres z”l, who passed away at 93.  He was the last of our original founding fathers and a true icon.

Date with Destiny. Shimon and Sonia Peres when they were dating. (photo credit: Government Press Office)

Shimon Peres, was the eternal optimist, a rare quality in this world. He had transcended a decades long career in politics where he held many of the top portfolios in government including the office of Prime Minister twice. His relationship at times with the Israeli public was very complicated. He had suffered many political losses and at times was deeply unpopular, more so after the signing of the Oslo Accords.  He endured a lot of criticism for his role in the signing of these Accords. Many had held him and Prime Minister Rabin z”l, responsible for the terror that followed in its wake.

Risk Takers. Following a daring raid, Defense Minister Shimon Peres (2nd left)  and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (centre)) greet hostages rescued by Israel from Entebbe in 1976. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S OFFICE/URI HERTZL TZHIK/IDF ARCHIVE)

Peres remained ever hopeful that peace is possible in our very volatile region. I cannot help but wonder what he would have thought about the historic signing of the Abraham Accords. Somewhere from on high, he is looking down with immense pride – and satisfaction at the manifestation of the once unbelievable.

But Peres transcended politics and in 1996, founded the Peres Centre for Peace with the intention of furthering his vision of people in the Middle East working together to build peace through socio-economic cooperation and development and people-to-people interaction.

Flight to Freedom. Prime Minister Shimon Peres greets newly released Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky at Ben-Gurion Airport where he was flown from Germany after being freed from a Soviet prison, February 11, 1986. (photo credit: GPO)

He was a great unifier and amongst his many accolades, received both a Knighthood from her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and honorary title of Sheikh by Bedouin dignitaries in the Negev for his work on behalf of the people of the Middle East.

The Tomorrow Man. Shimon Peres writes on a blackboard with Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, March 2012. (photo credit: REUTERS

A true Statesman, he shook the hands of Presidents and Popes, Kings, Queens and movie stars.  Every celebrity who visited, wanted an audience with our ebullient, eloquent and warm elder Statesman. His love for technology was legendary and I sheepishly admit that he was probably more proficient than I am. Who can forget his final message to the world on Facebook– “Buy more Blue and White” or his infamous job hunting clip on YouTube?

I was immensely privileged to meet President Peres when I participated in the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Young Jewish Diplomats course in 2007. Hearing that young leaders had come to hear him speak, he came over to meet us. He took his time greeting all of us and shaking our hands. When it was my turn he asked in his deeply accented English that had never lost its Polish inflection, “Where are you from?” This was at a time when South African President Mbeki had made such sweeping statements like HIV does not cause AIDS and expressed support for Iran. I responded (trying not to giggle like a teenager at a BTS concert) “South Africa, Mr. President”. After a very short exchange he was on to the next person but left a lasting impression with me who was extremely star struck.

Covering Common Ground. Having both fought for their  country’s freedom after years of colonization and racial persecution, South African President Nelson Mandela exchanges views with Shimon Peres in Cape Town, October 1996. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel’s government is once again paying their tributes as Peres continues to unite the most unlikely folk.  There will be many, many more for a man truly deserving of tribute and honour.

Meeting of Minds. After millennia of religious tensions, Pope Francis (left) and Israel’s President Shimon Peres engage in intense discussion at the Vatican. (photo credit: Courtesy)

There will be only one Shimon Peres – and from a grateful nation who bows its head in recognition and remembrance, we say:

 “Thank you Mr. President, for all you gave us, in the good times and bad, in times of strife and peace. May you look down on us one day as we achieve your dream – of a lasting peace.”

May your memory be forever blessed.

Fighters for Freedom.  “The man, the life that we honor tonight is nothing short of extraordinary,” President Obama said honouring Shimon Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House in 2012.  (photo credit: GPO)










While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 03 October 2021

Unveiling the contours and contrasts of an ever-changing Middle East landscape

Reliable reportage and insightful commentary on the Middle East by seasoned journalists from the region and beyond

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Articles

(1)

What Short Memories the French have!

A  taste of its own medicine a back-stabber is peeved at being “stabbed in the back”!

By David E. Kaplan

Undercurrents from an underwater Deal. France questions relations with the US over its Australian submarine deal.

Accusing her allies and friends – the US, UK and Australia –  of  “BETRAYAL”,  France should reflect to a time when she “betrayed” – also over a maritime deal – a  friend and an ally far more existentially threatened and vulnerable – Israel.

What Short Memories the French have!

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(2)

Education is Eternal – Netzach Yisrael

Improving education system for Israel’s Haredi community will improve their economic situation and country

By Rolene Marks

Time for Change. Rabbi Bombach is set on reducing poverty in his Haredi community through education.

Recognising the Haredi community as the fastest growing in Israel and amongst the poorest, Rabbi Menachem Bombach is undaunted by the fierce resistance as he trailblazers educational reform in the quest to integrate Ultra-Orthodox Jews into Israeli society.


Education is Eternal – Netzach Yisrael

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(3)

To the Rescue

Impacting Jewish destiny through education with “Melton” in the vanguard

By Viv Anstey (Melton Cape Town Director) and Lauren Snitcher (Recruitment & Marketing)

Melton Method. Commitment to the sustainability of Jewish culture and heritage through diverse forms of education.

With alarming assimilation rates, intermarriage and couples choosing not to have children, the Jewish world feels under threat – from within! Posing the question, “ Are YOUR grandchildren going to be Jewish?”, Melton advocates and facilitatesנJewish literacy through programs of exploring the Jewish world in the company of other passionate learners.

To the Rescue

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LOTL Cofounders David E. Kaplan (Editor), Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche

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While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).