Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter-01 August 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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The Olympic Spirit – “to Build a Peaceful and Better World”

Over and above a gold and two bronze medals won by Israel so far in the men’s floor exercise, taekwondo and judo, Lay Of The Land applauds  the spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship of former Iranian Saeid Mollaei who dedicated his silver medal to Israel and to the city of Tokyo, for finally honouring at an Opening Ceremony, the 11 Israelis murdered in a terror attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics.



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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.

The Israel Brief

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Articles

(1)

Pandemonium during a Pandemic

Reflections on the Jewish community in South Africa – crisis or no crisis?

By David E. Kaplan

South Africa Erupts. Covered in the international media, army called in to restore calm.

Is the South African Jewish community in crisis? In the wake of disturbing civil unrest on top of the poorly governmentally managed  Covid pandemic, this was the troubling question in a panel webinar discussion organized by the Australia’s UIA (United Israel Appeal).

Pandemonium during a Pandemic

(Click on the blue title)



(2)

Peace, Love and Boycotts?

By Rolene Marks

Is the gate closing? Israel embroiled in a ‘cold war’ over Ben & Jerry’s ice cream ban.

Ice-Cream brand Ben & Jerry’s boycott what they call “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. What is behind this campaign? We bring you the scoop.

Peace, Love and Boycotts?

(Click on the blue title)



(3)

It’s Time to End Cancel Culture

By Gabi Crouse

Stop the Rot. Almost everyone is capable of canceling someone, but they are also capable of being canceled.

Social media is getting anything but “social”.  It’s become unpleasant, intimidating and disrespectful as people show their intolerance of others with whom they disagree. This is the disturbing nature of ‘Cancel Culture’.

It’s Time to End Cancel Culture

(Click on the blue title)



(4)

The Arab Voice

A selection of opinions and analysis from the Arab media

Broad-based coverage on the Middle East, LOTL provides a platform to what Arab journalists – in their own words – are writing about the region.

The Arab Voice

(Click on the blue title)




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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).


Pandemonium during a Pandemic

Reflections on the Jewish community in South Africa – crisis or no crisis?

By David E. Kaplan

In the wake of the unrest across South Africa’s northern provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (9-17 July 2021) sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court, there were a number of popular nightly webinars airing people’s perspectives and anxieties.

South Africa Erupts. Army called in to restore calm.

A country troubled in grappling  with the global pandemic, to then suddenly having to face rampant violent social unrest sent alarm bells ringing across South Africa – particularly in the ears of the ever-diminishing Jewish community hovering at the 50,000 mark – a little less that what would have filled up the grand Olympic stadium in Tokyo were it not for Covid.

South Africans turn on South Africans. People flee from police as they carry goods while looting and vandalising the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg (Phill Magakoe/AFP)

South Africans found themselves  once again in a Quo Vadis mode asking:

 “Where is the country heading?”

While this question is being hotly debated on online public platforms, nothing was more eye-catching to this writer than the invitation to a webinar held on the 28 July –  a week after the unrest abated – in Melbourne, organized by Australia’s UIA (United Israel Appeal) under the title:

SOUTH AFRICAN JEWRY IN CRISIS

What stuck out for me was the omission – or was it – of a question mark at the end of the title. It appeared to present as a given  that there was a crisis and that the three guest panelists – all high profile leaders in the Jewish community – invited to present their overview “of the complicated situation which the South African Jewish community currently finds itself

The three panelists were Howard Sackstein – Chairman of the South African Jewish Report, Rowan Polovin – National Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and Philip Kravitz – a high profile businessman, community leader and Chairman of the Trustees of the United Jewish  Campaign.

Signals of the Jewish community facing undue challenges in South Africa were quickly picked up in Israel.

Panelist. Howard Sackstein, Chairman of the South African Jewish Report

MK Ruth Wasserman Lande, who grew up in South Africa and matriculated at Cape Town’s Herzlia School, raised the issue of the South Africa Jewish community in a plenary session in the Knesset, followed up being interviewed on Israel’s Channel 12 on the situation, where she said:

I would say one very important thing, our eyes need to be on the Jewish community there.”

To the question “Do you think the Israeli government should act?” she replied:

 “First of all, I think we need to wait and see when there will be a request, if at all.…from the community leadership there.”

Equally attentive and responsive was Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Dr.  Nachman Shai, who penned a reassuring letter to the Jewish community of South Africa in which he warmly wrote:

All in Israel watched the recent events in Kwazulu-Natal region and around South Africa with deep concern. We stand with you in solidarity…..” adding that “the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs is your partner in ensuring the resilience of your community…”.

Most significant was his nuanced message in the line:

The secret of Jewish resilience rests on in our sense of shared responsibility towards each other.”

Concern for a Community. Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Dr.  Nachman Shai, who addressed a reassuring letter to the South African Jewish community would recall when he led a delegation of Israeli legislators to South Africa in 2017 how they were “snubbed” by the then current members of the ruling African National Congress at the Parliament in Cape Town.(Miriam Alster/Flash90).

Subtly acknowledging in the “shared responsibility” the appreciation of the Jewish community of South Africa’s contribution to the development of the State of Israel,  Israel today, stands ready to help and support the SA Jewish community – should such need arise.

However, has that ‘need’ arrived?

Sackstein cautioned the overseas viewership that the unrest – bad as it was – was restricted to select areas and that the majority of  South Africans remained, at least physically, unaffected. So, as Israelis who are all too familiar with how selective optics can created skewed perceptions abroad, the question really is whether, despite the horrifying optics of the unrest in South Africa, is its Jewish community in crisis as the title of the webinar suggested?

Is there a crisis? The UIA Australia Invitation to the panel discussion of the South African Jewish community.

The upfront answer by the three panelists was emphatically NO, preferring to re-character the situation as one less of crisis and more of challenges.

Following the showing of a distressing video clip on the recent unrest by Howard Sackstein which he referred to as  the “Week of Shame”, he then countered his pessimistic perspective of the unrest by saying:

 ‘Too soon to panic” and “there IS no crisis.”

Explaining that the community had been through a number of “difficult times” in the past sixty years and come through, “the South African Jewish community is not in crisis.” On quick reflection, he did then qualify this assertion with:

 “or maybe we have come to learn to live with crises.”

He emphasized that the country has moved on and praised the resilience of South Africans, saying “We have become world experts in resilience.”

Sackstein’s message was that “We are in SA because we want to be; because we consider this our home. We are here by choice and we want to build and create a better society for our community and all of South Africa. It’s not just one crisis but we juggle multiple crises at the same time.  And we are experts in this today.”

Panelist. Rowan Polovin, Chairman of the SAZF (right) seen here with then the Chairman of the Jewish Agency in South Africa, Isaac Herzog, today Israel’s 11th president.

Taking a different line, the Chairman of the SAZF, Rowan Polovin, assured that while Jews did not have to fear the threatening and sometimes lethal type of antisemitism that “we are seeing today in the US and Europe,”  the antisemitism that does prevail “is cloaked within the shroud of anti-Zionism, which pervades all parts of the country’s civil and political society.” Polovin elaborated on four areas:

– government diplomacy

–  the judiciary

– media

– academia.

“We have a BDS movement which has been very successful in infiltrating the ruling party – the ANC” and sites examples of how its impacted government decision-making, namely:-

– influencing the withdrawal of the South African ambassador to Israel and poising the atmosphere to block his return

– blocking a judicial appointment of a Jewish judge, David Unterhalter, to the Constitutional Court for once having been a  member of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, and

– on 28 July, the very day we were attending the UIA webinar, “the government could not hold back condemning the AU (African Union) for granting Israel Observer Status, after an absence of 20 years.”

Contributing to this increasingly uncomfortable climate for Jews, “We are faced with a very hostile press.” He cited the recent publication in the country’s largest Sunday paper, the Sunday Times, which was “a full-on assault on the Chief Rabbi – Warren Goldstein.” Over and above breaching the acceptable boundaries of civilised discourse, “it was viciously anti-Semitic” despite that the article was written by a Jew – Ronnie Kasrils. An attack on the Chief Rabbi for his strong emotional and spiritual support of the Jewish homeland, is an attack on the Jewish community “and we feel it.”

Studying in Israel. Students from all over the world – including from South Africa –  enjoying a chat with Jonathan Davis, the Head of Israel’s IDC’s International School outside his office window (centre).

Polovin concluded with the impact of BDS at South Africa’s universities  where the anti-Israel sentiment has reached a fever pitch with all-year round activities, press releases, university resolutions and advocating for boycotts of Israel. “All this makes it an uncomfortable environment for Jewish students,” and which the third speaker, Philip Kravitz characterized as South Africa’s loss and Israel’s gain as an increasing number of young South African Jews are opting to study at Israel’s universities  in English “through a special Telfed programme. This is born out that there are over 100 South African students studying in English at Israel’s only private university, the IDC Herzliya, located north of Tel Aviv. “We have the largest concentration of South Africans at any academic institution in Israel and we only expect this too increase,” says an upbeat Jonathan Davis, the Head of the IDC’s Raphael Recanati International School, Vice President for External Relations and a former Jewish Agency emissary to Cape Town, South Africa. “Twenty years ago, we started with one South African student, now we need off-campus fields for students to practice rugby!” remarks Davis with satisfying amusement.

Panelist. Philip Kravitz, receiving in 2015 the Keren Hayasod Award.

Kravitz presents a sobering perspective of South Africa’s present and future. “The major threat,” he believes, “is that over 70% of our youth are currently unemployed; that is an absolutely frightening statistic and we have less than 7% of the population owning about 80% of the national wealth. Truly, we are sitting on a powder keg and until we tackle the issues relating to poverty, all it will take is a small spark to ignite it. We know this and we all of live with this every day.”

As the Executive Chairman of the Cape Union Mart Group of Companies which comprises some 300 stores in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana,  he says, “We were fortunate” in the recent unrest, “that only three of out stores were completely looted. But how they were looted? They walked out with the safes, every coat hanger, even the shelving.”

Coming Home. South African immigrants arriving in Israel during the pandemic being welcomed by the Minister of Aliyah and Integration, Pnina Tamano-Shata (Right).

This situation the Cape Union Mart chairman faced as a South African businessman together with many others, but as a Jew, being personally targeted, was nothing new! When he received in 2015 the prestigious Yakir Award for services rendered to Israel through Keren Hayasod, “the local newspapers picked it up; published articles and what followed was our stores were boycotted and I received death threats.” Then again, after the 2021 Israel-Gaza conflict, “we had demonstrations outside our stores, but I see this as badge of honour; we will carry on and we will survive.”

But will the Jewish community “survive?

We are an aging community and our death rate is higher than our birth rate,” says Sackstein. “Add to this, we loose each year between 500-1000 to emigration so that means we are a shrinking community.”

This means that there is less need for some of the existing institutions, and the name of the game is “consolidation” in order to sustain communal services. “We have had to close two of our Cape Town Jewish Day schools – in Milnerton and Constantia,” reveals Kravitz confirming this inexorable trend.

Israel Hears. MK Ruth Wasserman Lande addressing the concern for the Jewish community in South Africa during the Knesset plenum, in Jerusalem, Israel. (Courtesy)

All three panelists agree that “the numbers are going down” but still nevertheless project a positive front that the community will survive – albeit ever-diminishing  – and adamant that “Jewish life will remain vibrant.”

“There have never been more kosher restaurants in Johannesburg,” says one speaker.

But who would still be there to eat in fifteen or twenty years’ time?

Poignantly illuminating the Jewish community’s uncertain future was a question that solicited the briefest of answers during Q & A. Someone from abroad, probably Australian, asked about the current status of the Jewish community in South Africa’s norther neighbour, Zimbabwe as to how many Jews still live there and how they were faring. The panelists dispensed with the question in double-quick time, answering that the there is “no more of a ‘community’ to speak of”; that there “are very few Jews living there today, and mostly all living in Harare”. Kravitz added  they were being serviced by the country community rabbi from South Africa, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, “who ensures they have the necessary foods during the Yontavim (festivities)”.

Could this be the future scenario for South Africa Jewry down the road?





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).

Peace, Love and Boycotts?

Ice-Cream brand Ben & Jerry’s want to boycott what they call “Occupied Palestinian Territories” – what is behind this campaign? We bring you the scoop.

By Rolene Marks

One would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love a creamy, sugary, indulgent delicious ice cream treat. We all have our favourites. Mine, ironically, is Ben & Jerry’s “Cinnamon Buns”. Go figure.

Sadly, over the last two weeks I, like many of you reading this has lost my appetite for ice-cream. I am almost at the point of being lactose intolerant! This aside, the statement by the Ben & Jerry’s recently that they will “not be selling their ice-cream to the Occupied Palestinian territories” has left a decidedly sour taste in our mouths.

Is the gate closing? Israel in a ‘cold war’ over Ben & Jerry’s ice cream ban.

Naturally this was met with widespread global condemnation for a of reasons. Do people really want a sprinkling of politics with their ice cream? Chief virtue signalers (okay Board members) of Ben & Jerry’s believe that we do. The problem is that they are singling out one conflict at the expense of many around the world and still sell their calorific treats to countries like Malaysia who has a dismal record with LGBTQ+ rights or China currently imprisoning over a million Uyghurs in concentration camps and more. Hypocritical much?

At least be an equal opportunity virtue signaler!

Settlements have long been a major source of debate – including inside Israel but are they the sole obstacle to peace? There are other major factors impeding the brokering of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and while many argue that settlements may be a part of this, we need to also consider decades of incitement of hate against Israel and the Jewish people, refusal to recognize Israel’s existence by Palestinian leadership and the pay-for-slay scheme which perpetuates an economy of terror.

Match gone Sour. Blue-and-white Ben & Jerry’s with Hebrew to match. (Photo by Naama Barak)

Ben & Jerry’s, instead of doing something productive and bridge-building, would rather deny Jews and Palestinians in these disputed territories their cartons of Cherry Garcia and such. The peacenik founders of Ben & Jerry’s said in an op-ed in the New York Times that they are proud of their boycott, and that while they are “proud Jews who support Israel” this is in line with their values and the best decision in the history of their company. The Jewish world and many who see this as flagrant discrimination and yes, antisemitism, is going to break out in a rounding rendition of Kumbaya any time soon.

But is there something more to what meets the eye happening behind the scenes?

Not content to sell over-priced calorific frozen treats to the world, the Ben & Jerry’s Board, operating independently from their holding company, Unilever, made this decision unilaterally – and with the advice of Omar Shakir, Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Israel-Palestine. Shakir served as the sole advisor. International law expert, Eugene Kontorovich revealed the scope on Twitter last week.

A source at Ben & Jerry’s revealed that the company’s decision to boycott Israel was influenced by Omar Shakir, who was kicked out of Israel in 2019 for BDS activities and rejected calls to hear opposing opinions to Shakir’s narrative. The head of the Board is Anuradha Mittal, another proponent of BDS who describes herself as being an “activist for indigenous rights”. Except for Jewish indigenous rights! 

Mittal has spent the last few weeks blocking Jewish voices opposing hers including reputable ones like Combatting Antisemitism, and Michael Dickson, Director of Stand With Us Israel.

This is more than a storm over ice-cream. Is this part of a wider campaign fueled by organisations like Human Rights Watch who have no interest in finding practical, peaceful solutions but would rather demonise and exclude one side – the Israeli?

Catering’ to anti-Semitism. Israeli leaders slammed Ben & Jerry’s saying the woke company “surrendered to anti-Semitism” with Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett adding “it will turn out to be a business mistake, too.”

Israel has been swift to respond. Government officials from the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Interior Minister condemned the move as immoral and anti-Israel. There are massive concerns about the ramifications that this could have on the local manufacturer who stand to possibly lose their license at the end of 2022, which would result in unemployment for many staff including Palestinians. Israelis, in a show of solidarity have been buying up stock from the local Ben & Jerry’s Israel manufacturer.

Unilever are facing a conundrum. While they support Ben & Jerry’s right to make decisions independently, they unequivocally condemn BDS and stand by their operations in Israel. Condemning BDS as “unfairly singling Israel” was a statement released by the US State Department as well.

Bad Aftertaste. Ice cream on offer at Israel’s Ben & Gerry’s factory store. (Photo: courtesy)

Five US States (Florida, Texas, Illinois, New York and New Jersey) have begun sending warnings to Unilever that they will divest their pension funds and more if this move is found to contravene anti-BDS laws. At least 35 US states have these laws in place as BDS is considered anti-Semitic, a sentiment echoed by countries like Germany and Austria.

At least 90 members of the Knesset have sent a petition to Ben & Jerry’s warning them that this unjust action contravenes Israel’s anti-discrimination laws which prohibits discrimination based on where people live.

Will Ben & Jerry’s melt under pressure? We are all watching closely.

Ben & Jerry’s pay off line is “peace, Love and Ice Cream”. It’s a great pity that it doesn’t include Jews and Palestinians.

Disturbing Decision. Ninety members of Knesset urge Unilever to reverse ‘shameful’ Ben & Jerry’s decision.





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- 26-29 July 2021

The Israel Brief – 26 July 2021 – IDF Strikes targets in response to arson balloons. Israel at the Olympics! Great strides in Israeli diplomacy!




The Israel Brief – 27 July 2021 – Covid cases surge. Iran claims capture of Mossad “agents”. Olympic update.




The Israel Brief – 28 July 2021 – “I am not an antisemite” says Ben & Jerry’s Board Chair and updates. Swastika on US State Dept building. Olympic update – will the IOC take action against forfeiters?




The Israel Brief – 28 July 2021 – South Africa “appalled” at AU for Israel re admittance. Three Israeli film makers return safely. Israeli and PA Health and Environment Ministers cooperate.





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).

It’s Time to End Cancel Culture

By Gabi Crouse

I grew up in a traditional Jewish South African home. Our family was not religious at all albeit loving and close. My social environment was not affiliated with Judaism at all. Friday nights I went out and Saturday mornings was shopping / movies / coffee with friends. I remember seeing religious Jews on the street and feeling sorry for them – all in their sleeves on a hot day –  and thinking, “what a bunch of nerds!”

To cut a long story short. I now live in Israel as an observant Jew and I am now the nerd.

The fact that I was able to turn my life in a different direction was based on the ability to ask hard questions and face the answers I didn’t like. I am part of millions of Jews who now call themselves Baale Teshuva. A group of people I am proud to be a part of. The turning points in a change of way of life requires sacrifice – and that is never painless.

I feel there is a serious pandemic in the world today and I am NOT talking about Covid. I am talking about intolerance – real intolerance.

I write this with a heavy heart – and it’s the weight of what I saw that drives me to put a message out, even if it’s a whisper.

Intolerance - Home | Facebook

Intolerance – Home | Facebook

I am part of a neighborhood group on Facebook and one morning I read a post put on there by a community member who had serious questions about vaccinating children under the age of 12. Before I say another word, I need to make abundantly clear that my opinions on the vaccine are irrelevant here and I beg you to not presume to know my position. I am not interested in the vaccine here at all.  I am interested in Jewish behaviour based on the comments on this particular post.

To my horror I saw fellow Jews bashing this man. Comments like:

 “Anti vaxxers aren’t welcome here

This comment has no place on this neighborhood group

You (not the post) should be permanently removed from the group

These comments were condoned by another demanding a public apology.

I could not believe how this seemingly innocent post was met. It affected me so badly that later in the day, I went back to check if there were further comments but the post had been removed.

Whether or not that post had a place on that particular group is completely irrelevant. If I see a post I don’t agree with or think is stupid, I simply keep scrolling. But to take the time to comment means people obviously feel strongly about their opposing positions.

At what point did Jews forget how to be a Jew?!

The entire premise of Judaism is to question, challenge and ASK! Ask and ask until what you think you know becomes something you KNOW you know. And even after that you still question. Is it not the trait of a Jew to disagree?

The man who commented on the vaccine obviously has not accepted entirely nor is he convinced of what he has been told about the vaccine and still has reservations about giving it to his children. Perhaps he has been exposed to scary data that isn’t trending on twitter or headlines on mainstream news. It is not farfetched to question the good intentions of a government. Last I checked, he not only has a God given right to ask and check, but he has a responsibility to his family to be sure about something like a vaccine before he goes ahead with it. He may eventually arrive at the point where he feels confident in the vaccine for his children. But the bottom line is, the man wants to protect his family and who am I to assume anything else of him. Unfortunately, now he is no clearer on his position on the vaccine but he now knows exactly where he stands with his community – charem. It’s disgraceful.

It’s completely unrealistic to expect all people to agree on everything. We are allowed to argue, we are allowed to ask. We are allowed to think and have different opinions but we should never be allowed to be disrespectful.

This disrespectful nature and ‘cancel culture’ mentality is deeply disturbing. Popular opinion is not always noble. As Jews, we should know better. Never throughout history has there been a time where any government has been completely uncorrupted and transparent with its constituents. Propaganda is a reality that should never be ignored – perhaps if German society didn’t swallow up the garbage they were fed on their national media, fewer of them would have stood idly by while six million of our people were murdered. To quote Albert Einstein:

 “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth”.

Poisonous Prose. German children in 1938 read an anti-Jewish propaganda book for children titled Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom).

We say never again to our enemies but sadly our enemies have emerged within the community! What is going on when we oust a Jew for thinking differently to the ‘majority’? Maybe he is wrong, but then is it not our responsibility to educate him in a reverent manner?

Why does this seem to be too much to ask?

The beauty about the Jewish faith is that we are encouraged to question. The more we ask, the more we uncover layers of God’s glorious truths. Anyone who has struggled and questioned their way through a concept in the Torah knows the beauty of that.

This is a skill that is applied to in all areas of life.

Careful consideration goes into what we chose to study, who we marry, which school we send our children and so on. Having an open mind does not mean you have to commit to any idea that seems right, nor do we need to be precious over it and protect it – because let’s face it, sometimes we are wrong, and that’s okay!

People are afraid to voice their opinions today even if they are slightly outside the “accepted opinion”. People are being bullied into obedient agreeable thoughtless slaves; too quick to jump to conclusions and too slow to make genuine assessments. “When the arguments is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser” – a quote found all over the internet. I think the next time you find yourself resorting to slander, you might want to ask yourself:

 How far you have come from knowing what you know.

It has no place in a civilized community.

I am a Jew; I am a descendant of Avraham. Avraham challenged all the ideas of authorities, including those of his parents. Avraham asked; Avraham challenged his own beliefs; Avraham changed his ways.

But it was never Jews who threw him into the furnace.



About the writer:

Gabi Crouse1.JPG

Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations as well as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.







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 Arab Voice – July 2021

Arab writers from the Middle East and beyond, opine on potentially explosive issues in the north of Africa – the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Turkey’s interference in the affairs of Libya – that could have a global impact.


Playing with Water (and fire)

By Abdul Latif Al-Manawi

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, July 15

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has become one of the most important issues concerning the Egyptian people and, perhaps, the entire Arab world. This is because it revolves not merely around water, agriculture and food security – but also because it threatens the national security of several countries in the region. Many international players have acknowledged this to date, including the United States. 

The Arab world has been united in its support for Egypt and Sudan, including, most recently, in a statement delivered by the foreign ministers of Arab countries in their recent meeting in Doha. Unfortunately, the Arab position doesn’t seem to affect the intransigence of the Ethiopian government, which continues to provoke and defy its neighbors to the north, including by moving forward with the dam’s second filling. It’s clear that the Arab world must move from talking to doing, and threaten Addis Ababa with sanctions and penalties should it refuse to cooperate with Arab demands. 

Damn the Egyptians! Ethiopians protesting in response at what they see as Egypt’s interference in their dam.

I don’t know when the next round of negotiations will commence, but I expect that it will only lead to more Ethiopian intransigence and Egyptian-Sudanese steadfastness on the situation. What we know is that Egypt will not give up its right to the waters of the Nile. Likewise, Sudan – which suffers from a weaker and poorer infrastructure than Egypt, and is thus expected to be most harmed by the project – will not sit idly by as its water resources are stolen. Does Ethiopia realize this? Do the decision-makers in Addis Ababa understand that they are passing the point of no return?

The answer, unfortunately, seems to be yes.

 Abdul Latif Al-Manawi

Fired up over Water. Sudan and Egypt are worried about the flow of the Nile in future years of drought.



Turkish Outage over the Flag Incident in Libya

By Suleiman Jawda

Al-Arabiya, London, July 16  

The recent session held by the Libyan House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk was unlike any session held by the House since its very formation. In the session, the legislature was planning to discuss the general budget after a long political brawl over how resources should be allocated.

True Colours. Libyans in the capital Tripoli hold a demonstration to condemn a provocation that targeted the Turkish flag.

 However, the real drama took place not within the halls of the parliament, but rather outside, on the streets leading to the building. At the exact moment when Abdulhamid Dabaiba, Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity, was heading in his convoy to attend the session, a group of Libyan citizens spread out the Turkish flag on the road so that cars and passersby making their way to the parliament would trample it. The act drove the Turkish government crazy, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara was quick to issue a condemnation describing the event as an “affront to Turkey” and a “heinous attempt to desecrate its national symbols.” 

Moscow called upon the Libyan authorities to take whatever steps necessary to arrest those involved in the incident. Those who followed these statements could easily sense how outraged the Turkish government was. But the truth is that Turkey shouldn’t be surprised by what transpired. The defiant act represents what a majority of Libyan citizens think about the Turkish presence in Libya

Mischief Maker. Imbedding itself in Libya’s troubled waters, Turkey  interference is likely to prolong the internal conflict.

Turkey describes its presence in Libya as a legitimate presence, and claims that it was agreed upon together with the government of Fayez Al-Sarraj. However, Turkey refuses to understand that its presence in a foreign country is illegitimate and illegal. The best thing for Erdogan’s government to do is to stay silent and swallow its pride. Then, it should think of ways it can quickly and elegantly exit Libya – because the flag incident is just the beginning.

It’s a prelude to the rage that exists among ordinary Libyan citizens who feel like their country has been kidnapped from them by foreign mercenaries.

Suleiman Jawda



*Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb




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-25 July 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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Wishing “Team Israel” as it strives for excellence in Tokyo

Lay Of The Land wishes Israel’s largest delegation ever to an Olympiad  the “best of Luck” as they engage
with an unsettled world embracing the Olympic spirit of friendship and solidarity.


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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)

On High Ground

The Hills of Yodfat are Alive with the Sound of Hebrew

By David E. Kaplan

Sounds of Success. Near the site where Jewish kids were taken into slavery, Yodfat’s children today sing to Barmitzvah boy.

Over  2000 years ago, Yodfat was a fierce battleground in a war of the Jews with Rome that would lead to exile until 1948. A lively barmizvah of the writer’s family at modern day Yodfat, ignites thoughts and reflections of a people’s destiny and proud homecoming.

On High Ground

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(2)

“But You Don’t Look Jewish!”

By Rolene Marks

Looking Beyond. There is an ingrained perception that Jews fit a certain stereotype in the way they look.

Not all discrimination or racism is experienced in the same way. When aimed at Jewish women, antisemitism takes on an additional and sometimes distinctly misogynistic element.

*Warning – contains language some may find offensive.

“But You Don’t Look Jewish!”

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(3)

How Complex is Baseless Hatred?

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

Media Malice. Publishing despicable outright lies against Israel, this South African paper is promoting antisemitism.

While a South African newspaper saw fit to publish an inciteful article referring to Israel as a “settler colony” describing it as “racist”, “ethno-supremacist” and “set on ethnic cleansing” and calling for international sanctions, the writer, a practicing South African lawyer, responds in Lay of the Land after being refused a right of reply in newspapers across South Africa.

How Complex is Baseless Hatred?

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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- 19-22 July 2021

The Israel Brief – 19 July 2021 – Tension on Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av. Ben Gurion Airport not to close decides Health Minister. Human Rights Watch’s Ken Roth blames Israeli government for surge in. antisemitism.




The Israel Brief – 20 July 2021 – Ben & Jerry’s brouhaha. Rockets fired from Lebanon? Gantz and Abbas speak.




The Israel Brief – 21 July 2021 – US State Department stands with Israel. IDF reenact historic jump. Ken Roth deletes despicable tweet but does not apologise.




The Israel Brief – 22 July 2021 – Will Texas blacklist B&J? Israel to rejoin AU and more. Iranian delegation welcomed to Israel.







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).

On High Ground

The Hills of Yodfat are Alive with the Sound of Hebrew

By David E. Kaplan

It is a Kaplan family Bar Mitzvah in the quant intimate shul (synagogue) at Yodfat, a moshav in northern Israel in the picturesque high mountains of the Lower Galilee. The shul is packed – mostly with animated children of all ages. Following my brother Sidney  as both a Cohen and grandfather to the Barmitzvah boy Yoav being called up first for an Aliyah  – I followed.

The Children are our Future. The children of Yodfat singing a song to the Bar Mitzvah boy – Yoav Kaplan. His grandsfather, Sidney Kaplan (right) was a founding member of the nearby South African moshav – Manof.

I made my way, maneuvering the short joyful journey between children sitting on bunk benches in the isle, I ascend the Bimah and before reciting the blessing for the reading of the Torah, I look up and to the right of the ark out a wide window and saw the green valley leading to the mountain-top fortresses of Yodfat.

It is no ordinary vista that this shul looks out on!

Embedded into the physical landscape of modern Israel, it is in the psychological landscape that this ancient Jewish fortress  stands as a stark and dark reminder of those enemies that may come to try erase Jewish life from this land. It happened 2000 years ago and began the process of exile until 1948, but the same battle persists. “Rome” has other names today.

I recite the prayer; the Barmitzvah boy reads from the Torah and I smile as I look at all the children who are armed to their teeth with sweets to later throw at Yoav when he has completed his Haftarah, to wish him a “sweet” life as he makes the transition to adulthood. I then momentarily reflect on who was armed to the teeth at this very same spot 2000 years earlier – ROMANS – and not with sweets!

War and Peace. Looking out from where the Roman legions were positioned 2000 years ago to modern day moshav Yodfat in the background where the synagogue is perched on the crest of the hill.

What bloodily played out on these ochre hilltops created a narrative that continues to caution and inspire ensuing generations of Israelis.

Walking to the shul earlier, I breathed in the fresh country air and feasted my eyes on the valley with its vineyards and orchards, olive trees, and goats roaming in the distance tended by a young shepherd. The scene was pastoral and peaceful – a far cry from the cataclysmic clash of arms that occurred at this exact spot in 67 CE when heroic Jewish fighters took on the might of the Roman Empire.

Time to Rejoice. Grandfather Sydney Kaplan speaking in Hebrew to his grandson Yoav at the Bar Mizvah reception in a garden overlooking the site of the tragic Roman siege 2000 years earlier.

In early June of that year, a force of 1,000 Roman cavalrymen arrived at Yodfat to seal off the town, defended by Jewish forces commanded by Yosef Ben Matityahu (the future Flavius Josephus). Prior to the Roman assault, Ben Matityahu had fortified nineteen of the most important towns of the region, including Yodfat.After a failed attempt to confront the Roman army at Tzipori, he retired to Tiberias, but soon thereafter established himself at Yodfat, drawing the Roman legions to the town. A day later at the foothills not far from the shul where we were proudly celebrating Yoav’s Barmitzvah, stood the amassed Roman legions of the Fifth, Tenth and Fifteenth as well as auxiliaries consisting of Arabian archers and Syrian slingers led by General Vespasian and supported by his son Titus, who would both emerge as future emperors of Rome.

These Roman “occupiers” meant business. Literally ‘Dressed to kill’, they aspired to crush an uprising that would become known in history as “The Great Jewish revolt” or “The Jewish War”. This was 2000 years ago and long before anyone ever heard of Palestinians!

Hill of Hereos. The ancient town of Yodfat was positioned on this isolated hill hidden between high peaks, surrounded on three sides by steep ravines.  During the “Great Revolt” in year 67 CE – Yodfat, the last stronghold of Jewish resistance after the fall of Zippori – was besieged by three Roman legions and resisted for 47 days before the city fell.  

I return from the Bimah to take my seat next to my brother. We exchange comments about the lively atmosphere with loving parents battling to keep some decorum amongst their animated kids – mostly friends of the Barmitzvah boy. It’s a sheer Shabbos delight. And then I contrast this image of an imagined one of Jewish kids 2000 years earlier looking down at the Roman legions with their frightening coloured attire and menacing siege machines. It was laughter today; it was fear then. It should never again be the other way around – ever!

Romans came Prepared. A typical Roman siege machine that the defenders at Yodfat would have faced.

Vespasian had pitched his own camp north of the town, facing  the only accessible side, while his forces surrounded the city. An assault against the wall on the second day of the siege failed, and after several days in which the Jewish defenders made a number of successful sorties against his forces, Vespasian changed tactics.  He instructed for the building of a siege ramp against the city walls, and when these works were disrupted by the Jews, Vespasian set 160 engines, catapults and ballistas  – backed by lightly armed troops, slingers and archers – to dislodge the defiant defenders from the walls. These were in turn met with repeated sallies by the besieged, but work on the ramp continued, raising it to the height of the battlements and forcing Ben Matityahu to have the walls themselves raised.  Roman measure was met with Jewish countermeasure and the battle ebbed and flowed…..

Peace and Tranquility. The only connection today of Yodfat to the times of conquering Rome is that its pastoral beauty is often described as “Shades of Tuscany”.

As always with such sieges, water was an issue for the defenders on top of a high hill so Ben Matityahu had Yodfat’s limited supply of water rationed before the siege began. The Romans had heard of this and began to use their artillery to target any efforts to draw water, hoping to exacerbate an already difficult situation and bring a swift end to the siege. The defenders, in a far-in-the-future future Mossad type of maneuver, cunningly confounded the Romans by wringing out their clothes over the battlements until the walls were running with water, leading the Romans to believe the Jews had some hidden supply of water.

According to Ben Matityahu, later writing as Josephus, this taunting had a twin effect – one negative and one positive. It strengthened Roman resolve but it also steeled the mettle of the defenders to fight, preferring to die by the sword than from thirst or starvation.

Man with Menace. A statue of Emperor Vespasian who in 66 AD was appointed to suppress the Jewish revolt underway in Judea.

There was of course an atmosphere of inevitability where this was ultimately heading. “Proportionality” was never a consideration in Vespasian’s battle plans to expunge a Jewish presence at Yodfat.

With the completion of the assault ramp, Vespasian ordered a battering ram  brought up against the wall. The defenders responded with ingenuity.  They lowered sacks filled with chaff to absorb the blows, they set fire to the ram and as chronicled by Josephus, one of the defenders, renowned for his strength, cast a huge stone on the ram from above, breaking off its head.

This infuriated the Romans. A physical act but it was also symbolic – decapitating the “head” of a war machine. This shortly took on a new meaning when the “head” – the future Emperor Vespasian himself was wounded by a defender’s dart. The Romans were so incensed driving their assault to a fever pitch but still were beaten back.

Eventually, on July 20, 67, a band of Romans reportedly led by Titus himself, stealthily scaled the walls, cut the throats of the watch and opened the gates, letting in the entire Roman army.

What followed was a slaughter. While the descendants today of some of Rome’s conquered like in modern day Britton may cherish the famed Roman baths, Yodfat records only a Roman blood bath!

According to Josephus, 40,000 were slain or committed suicide and 1,200 women and infants were taken into slavery. Vespasian ordered the town demolished and its walls torn down and prohibited burial of the fallen. It was only a year or more later when Jews were allowed to return to bury the remains in caves and cisterns.

Yodfat Today.  Enjoy the fun of Yodfat today by visiting “Boacha Yodfat” (literally, “As you approach Yodfat”) – a recreation and shopping center, located in a grove of oaks, providing stunning views. Here you will find stores, a gallery, a jewelry studio, a delicatessen, a dairy café, a bakery and a nearby “Monkey Forest”.

So even on this day 2000 years later, the sound of innocent chatter and laughter soliciting reprimands from the rabbi, were to me like music to the ears.

If the few surviving children of ancient Yodfat were cruelly sold off into slavery never to return, Jews did RETURN and today’s young children in the shul of modern Yodfat on this Shabbat were sending a strong message – this was our home 2000 years ago and is our home today.

Nothing more audibly conveys this message than that Latin  – the language of Rome –  is today a dead language while the hills of Yodfat are alive with the sound of Hebrew!


L’Chaim – “to Life”. Two thousand years later, there is much to toast about at Yodfaf as seen by these visitors enjoying the good life at “Boacha Yodfat”






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).

“But You Don’t Look Jewish!”

By Rolene Marks

Antisemitism takes on an additional and sometimes distinctly misogynistic element when aimed at Jewish women. *Warning – contains language some may find offensive.

“But you don’t look Jewish”. I have lost count how many times I have heard this. I normally respond by asking the protagonist what they think a Jew looks like. “You don’t have a Jewish nose” is often the response. Epic face-palm moment.

There is a perception that Jews fit a certain stereotype in the way we look. Over the last year or so, as antisemitism rises, so this has come more to the fore and ugly stereotypes are rearing their heads. This time there is a new iteration – singling out Jewish women.

Hurtful Humorist. Comedian Seth Rogan sparked outrage after mocking a Jewish journalist Eve Barlow who wrote an article expressing concern about the rise of anti-Semitism.

Following the recent conflagration between Israel and Hamas, there has been a misogynistic element to the antisemitism that women are experiencing. Movie star joker, Seth Rogan, most famous for toilet humour type antics and smoking his fair share of wacky baccy, piled into journalist, Eve Barlow, after she wrote an op-ed for Tablet Magazine describing how some of the anti-Semitic invective online resembled an “online pogrom”. Barlow was vulnerable, sharing some of the horrendous messages she and many of us who are active online, receive on an almost daily basis.

Rogan’s response was to trivialize and mock this by commenting “Eve Fartlow” – with a fart emoji.

Mature, isn’t he?

Many were quick to defend Barlow, calling out Rogan’s rather flatulent response.

Barlow wasn’t alone. In an op-ed for Tablet Magazine, fierce and fabulous social media maven, Emily Schrader, describes her experience with some of the online trolls. She shares some of her “messages” here:

Go suck Netanyahu’s ball [sic] … Hey slut I will bomb your house.”

Another stated, “Your vagina is so dirty and disgusting, I can assure that it was a rape of an Israeli dog [sic].”

Hmmmm, classy.

An ill Wind. Following twitter users writing “Eve Fartlow” in response to a recent article  by Jewish reporter Eve Barlow (above) on antisemitism,  actor Seth Rogan then climbed into the act  by posting a “gust of wind” emoji commonly used to represent flatulence, further mocking the journalist.

During the height of the conflict with Hamas, a convoy of pro-Palestinian goons drove through suburbs of London where there are large concentrations of Jews screaming:

 “F*** the Jews, rape their women”. Because raping Jewish women is going to “Free Palestine”?

But last week there was an incident that really motivated this article. Fashion designer and podcaster, Recho Omondi, who hosts the show “The Cutting Room Floor”, trotted out some distinctly anti-Semitic stereotypes to “call out” (yes this is a verb from the dictionary of Woke)  ManRepeller Founder, Leandra Medine Cohen for her “privileged upbringing”.

Omondi in this episode, in which Cohen discussed not realizing until recently that she “actually grew up rich” despite being raised in a “privileged environment” on the Upper East Side.

I couldn’t stomach another white assimilated Jewish American Princess who is wildly privileged but thinks she’s oppressed,” Omondi said on the episode after ending the interview with Medine Cohen, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

At the end of the day you guys are going to get your nose jobs and your keratin treatments and change your last name from Ralph Lifshitz to Ralph Lauren and you will be fine.”

Sorry, what? 

From where I write this in the diverse state of Israel, Jews are a kaleidoscope of multiple ethnicities. We are blonde hair (dye not withstanding!) blue-eyed like me, we are Jews from Ethiopia and India, South America and Scandinavia, the USA and Europe. I thought the term “Jewish American Princess” went out in the 90’s like stone-washed jeans and boy bands but evidently not. We are not all “spoilt princesses”. Some of us fled Arab persecution, survived fascism, walked from Ethiopia through the Sudan to freedom and are the descendants of names of relatives that echo through the generations, names of relatives who perished in the Holocaust. To diminish us like Omondi did to nose jobs and hair treatments, negates our noble, proud and more often than not, tragic history.

Picture Imperfect. Recho Omondi (right) was accused of antisemitism for calling Leandra Medine Cohen (left) a “Jewish American Princess.” (Getty Images)

It made me think about a time in my own history when I was personally diminished as a Jewish woman. At the age of about 20, I worked for a radio station. This was a time that long preceded the “Me Too” movement and sexist comments towards female staff was just another day in the office. I was the youngest and only Jew and the running joke used to be that if you broke a mirror or needed to break a curse of sorts, then one should “F*** a Jewish woman – then you will have good luck”.

Charming.

Without the wisdom and confidence of age, my reaction was to look slightly uncomfortable, say nothing and cry in the car as I drove home, feeling humiliated and diminished.

Speaking about my experiences, and these are just a few of many, is deeply painful – but an absolute necessity. We are having important conversations about tolerance and racial discrimination. Not all discrimination or racism is experienced in the same way. For Jewish women, the reduction of us to mere sex objects to be derided or spoilt princesses with bad noses coupled with the usual gross hate invective that is the every-day experience of Jews is untenable.

The Price of Being a Zionist Woman on Twitter. “These days the worst social media crime is daring to be a pro-Israel woman,” writes Emily Shraeder, the founder of Social Lite Creative, a political marketing consultancy firm.

We need to be included in the conversation and we need to be taken seriously – not reduced to fart emojis. This is our lived experience – online and off. We need to summon the courage of our ancestors, because that stubborn, brave, will to survive that was in them is inside us as well and remember who we are. The descendants of queens, matriarchs, priestesses, mothers, pioneers, trailblazers, judges, warriors and Zionesses.

The time for us to roar back is now.

And if my nose is not petite enough for some, it is time they checked their moral compass.





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).