Celebrating Co-existence in Haifa

By Rolene Marks 
The northern Israeli city of Haifa is a model of integration and tolerance. Every year, thousands of revelers descend on the city to celebrate the highly anticipated, Festival of Festivals. This 25-year old festivals takes place every December and is a celebration of the country’s three main religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Haifa is festooned with twinkling Christmas lights, chanukiot for Chanukah and Islamic symbols. It is a rare opportunity to be exposed to and enjoy the timeless traditions of these three religions. Rolene Marks filed this report for Channel News Asia:
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Through Hell and High Waters

On the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, while Germany’s Chancellor Merkel was condemning in a synagogue in Berlin resurgent antisemitism, BDS’s poster boy Roger Waters was contributing to it during his concert tour of South America

By Sidney V. Kaplan

While the imagery of Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) in 1938 is of synagogues throughout Germany and Austria going up in flames, the image of Roger Waters’ concert 80 years later was of adding fuel – not ‘water’ – to that fire.

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80 years On. Commemorating Kristallnacht, Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel speaks during a ceremony at the Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin on November 9.

On the same evening that Angela Merkel spoke at Berlin’s Rykestrasse Synagogue – one of the 1,400 synagogues that were set ablaze that night in 1938 – condemning a “worrying” resurgence of anti-Semitism, Waters was giving a concert in Buenos Aires, using his platform to condemn Israel.

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Shattering Sounds Of Impending Holocaust. Jewish shops and businesses destroyed by the Nazis during Kristallnacht in 1938.


Was it coincidence?

There was Merkel reminding that Kristallnacht had “paved the way to the Holocaust” describing it as the “the greatest rupture of civilization,” and then there was Waters trying to delegitimize the state of Israel. Again, while Merkel was warning that “the terror of Nazism did not happen overnight but grew gradually,” and that the German public’s general acceptance of anti-Semitism is what allowed the Nazi regime to carry out the Holocaust, Waters reveled on stage in Buenos Aires stirring his audience to hate the Jewish state.

All this made me reflect back to June 2018 when I attended a Roger Waters concert in Dublin. I had agonised whether to go or not.

While I remain a huge fan of his music from the Pink Floyd era, my conscience played heavily on me in supporting a musician who uses his stardom to stir up hatred against the Jewish people.

Feeling conflicted, I nevertheless felt I needed to enter the lion’s den of one of his concerts if only to better understand how this Machiavellian musician is no less masterful in his crusade to delegitimize the state of Israel.

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Take My Word. Master manipulator Roger Waters rages against Israel


Machiavellian Musician

Attending the concert in Dublin meant more than crossing the Irish Sea but traversing a far more tempestuous ‘Waters’ who delivered like a ‘one-man band’, a skillfully scripted and choreographed visual tirade against Israel to a captive audience of over 50,000 fans.

First in the cross-hairs was Facebook’s pioneer visionary, one of the world’s youngest billionaires, and yes – a JEW!

Resist Mark Zuckerberg” read the giant message on the stage’s screen.

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Waters At His Worst. Seen here at the Dublin concert in June 2018, Waters singles out one of the most high-profile Jews in the world suggesting Jews of trying “to control the world” or “control the media.” How different is this from the Nazi caricatures of Jews in Der Stürmer, the weekly German newspaper published by Julius Streicher in the 1930s and 1940s?

This was followed by carefully crafted antisemitism by projecting messages such as “To discriminate against anyone on the basis of their religion or ethnicity is obscene”, to be followed by “Resist Israeli Anti-Semitism” and “Yes, Israel discriminates against Palestinians on the basis of religion and ethnicity.”

The ‘lyrics’ in Dublin were poison!


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Theatre Of The Absurd. The former Pink Floyd bassist, Roger Waters, is now nearly as famous for his promotion of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as he is for his music. Anti-Israel vitriol emblazoned on screen at concert in Dublin June 2018 attended by the writer.


Troubled Waters

In the parlance of Pink Floyd, Waters was off ‘The Wall” when he called Israel “an Apartheid state” comparing its Government to Nazis and accusing Israel of being the “worst human rights offender in the world.”


Does Mr. Waters read the newspapers or watch the TV and learn of what’s going on in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Turkey, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, North Korea, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan to name a few.

Why single out Israel, and give a free pass to the world’s worst human rights abusers and mass murders? No message on the screen against President Assad for having manically massacred hundreds of thousands of his civilian population, many of them Palestinian, and at times, using chemicals characterized by the UN as a “war crime”!

Assad achieved this genocide not only with the armed support of Russia’s President Putin and the mad murderous mullahs of Iran but with the support by way of a deathly silence from much of the world – a silence that included the muted voice of Roger Waters.

However, silence is not ‘golden’ when it is selective silence that kills!

What explains why one of the smallest countries in the Middle East attracts the most attention?

Why is it that the most free, open, and democratic society in the Middle east provokes the most global derision?

Is it because Israel is a Jewish State – a country that a resurgent antisemitic world can still not yet come to terms with seventy years after independence and ratified by a United Nations that now appears to have second thoughts because of the change in the composition of its member states since 1948?

This may explain why Waters was so vocally abusive in Dublin – not against Assad – but against the Jewish state, a state whose military medical corps at the same time were whisking away under the moonlight severely injured Syrian men, women, and children across the hostile frontier into armored ambulances towards hospitals in Israel for intensive care.

As one Syrian patient remarked:

Israel is not the enemy. Bashar is the enemy.”


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Capital Offence. Israel’s capital is portrayed as dominantly Muslim in this imagery of Jerusalem and Roger Waters.


Bass Player Baseless

And the enemy of Israel today is an English songwriter, singer, bassist, and composer and anti-Semite and his name is Roger Waters.

We have seen dangerous men before; men in the 20th century who too used their voice to devalue people resulting in mass murder. I reflect on the 50,000 fans at the Dublin concert who came there out of love with many leaving charged with hate!

From Dublin to Buenos Aires, Roger Waters is on an itinerary of Jew hate.

The day before he performed in the Argentine capital where he displayed a pig with a star of David, he participated in an event of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

Noting that medieval antisemites used an iconography that featured a Jewish pig or Judensau to humiliate and dehumanize Jews, the Simon Wiesenthal issued a statement that “Using this symbol treated with the technology of the 21st century, Waters contributes to the array of anti-Semitic hatred.”


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Hot Air. The inflatable pig floats above the audience during the Roger Waters’ performance of The Wall in Belgium


Waters came to Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina to promote BDS despite that the ‘Boycott Divestment Sanctions’ organisation has been declared illegitimate in a growing number of European jurisdictions based on the attacks in Nazi Germany on Jewish shops and enterprises to the cries of “Kaufen nicht bei Juden” (No Buying from Jews). “The timing of his hatefest tour,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, the center’s director for International Relations, “led up to today’s 80th anniversary of ‘Kristallnacht’’.”


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The Artful Dodger. Roger Waters defends the use of a pig and Star of David while denying he is anti-Semitic. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/news/video-1021861/Roger-Waters-puts-Star-David-pig-balloon.html


Waters performed two shows in Buenos Aires, following concerts in Brazil and Uruguay.

And we can see the immediate terrifying impact.

Only two weeks later, Argentina soccer fans were chanting “kill Jews to make soap”.

On Thursday 23rd November, Atlanta, a professional Argentine football team from a Jewish neighborhood played All Boys at their stadium in Buenos Aires. After the game which was won by Atlanta 3-2, violent clashes erupted instigated by the All Boys fans who were waving Palestinian flags and T-shirts bearing Iranian symbols and chanting “kill the Jews to make soap”.

Some spectators sought sanctuary in the stadium’s locker rooms until police arranged for them to exit the area safely. All Boys fans also assaulted police, destroying property. Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director Samuels has called for the Argentine Football Association “to sanction the club for this anti-Semitic offense.”

Does Waters see himself in any way contributing for this antisemitic behavior having only a fortnight earlier, ranted against the Jewish state in the same city?

Of course not?

Focusing selectively on Israel, why does Waters not take heed what the head of his church has warmed? Justin Welby, the head of the Church of England wrote shortly before Christmas in The Sunday Telegraph that millions of Middle East Christians are on the verge of “imminent extinction.”

He lamented that “In the birthplace of our faith, the community faces extinction,” calling it, “the worst situation since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.”

In the early 20th century, Christians made up to 20% of the population in the Middle East; that figure has now dwindled to around 5%. This has nothing to do with Israel; on the contrary, Israel is the only country in the entire Middle East where Christians are flourishing and free to practice their religion.

And in Iran that pledges to destroy Israel, ranks as the 10th worst country in the world according to World Watch List when it comes to the persecution of Christians.

Does this attract any interest in Mr. Waters?

Why does the BDS high-profile flagbearer not raise his voice against any of the many catastrophic human rights abusers in the Middle East and beyond?

Why, because Jews cannot be blamed!

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Counterpoint. Protesters exposing Roger Waters’ anti-Semitism in New York City.

It is little wonder why that the Simon Wiesenthal Center announced this week that Roger Walters comes in at 10th position in the list of ‘Top Ten Anti-Semites for 2018’. He was pitted against the likes of:

– radical African-American Islamist Louis Farrakhan

– the right-wing extremist Robert Bowers, who massacred 11 worshipers at     Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Congregation

– British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

– the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) for inter alia enabling “Hamas’s massive child abuse with a ‘peace’ curriculum that erases Israel’

Needless to say, I will not be attending another Roger Waters concert. Unless of course, he sees the light, and performs in Tel Aviv!



image012 (4).jpgAbout the writer

Sidney Kaplan is originally from  Cape Town South Africa and a founding member of ‘Manof’, a moshav founded in the Galilee in 1978. Today, he is retired, having been involved in marketing in Cape Town prior before coming to Israel, and in Israel, one of three partners involved in the flower growing industry for export.



(Feature picture credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP)



“Merry Christmas in Gaza 2018”

Except it was more ‘misery’ than ‘merry’ all thanks to Hamas

By David E. Kaplan

Don’t celebrate and survive” was the 2018 Christmas greeting that Christians received in  Gaza!

While across the world people wished Christians a MERRY Christmas; in Gaza they were threatened NOT to be merry.

The same Hamas that South Africa’s ANC government in November 2018 welcomed to Parliament in Cape Town, only a month later, allowed flyers to be widely circulated threatening Palestinian Christians not to celebrate Christmas – or else.

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Danger List. The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Most Dangerous to Follow Jesus.

The terrifying flyer was penned by the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades – a coalition of Islamist groups operating in Gaza – and it warned the 1,300 Christians living in Gaza, as well as Muslims looking to take part in the holiday festivities, that celebration of the Christian holiday is forbidden by Islam. The flyer included quotes from the Quran alongside a burning Christmas tree.

Needless to say, this shattering news did not appear in South Africa’s media or on BDS’s venomous website – it was too busy contriving nonsense like, “Santa will not be visiting Bethlehem,” because of Israeli activities.

Time for the Truth

While Israel promotes and welcome Christians to the Holy land – a total of 73% of Christians tourists said they would “certainly” or “probably” revisit Israel as revealed in a Ministry of Tourism report – Hamas has abandoned its Christian community.

The verse from the Quran quoted on the inside of the flyer was not only aimed at Christians but also at Muslims whom were warned “not to go the way of the Jews and the Christians, indeed God is not for the evil people.”

Can a message be clearer – Christians and Jews are “evil people.”

The flyer admonished that it is “absolutely forbidden” to celebrate the holiday in any capacity.

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Nightmare For Christians. Three Christians killed in a targeted suicide bombing attack in Syria.

The Other Cheek

On the other hand, Israel welcomed over 150,000 Christians for the festive season, who celebrated at the many Holy Land sites such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth as well as other locations where the Christmas story unfolded over 2000 years earlier, over 600 years before the arrival of Islam. The most visited sites were the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, followed by the city’s Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall the Via Dolorosa, Mount of Olives as well as Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee and the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

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Pulsating Parade. Christians from all over the world flock to Jerusalem.

Despite the tense situation and a number of Jews who had in recent weeks been murdered by Palestinian terrorists, Israel took special measures to assist Palestinian Christians in observing the holiday. A week before Christmas, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun met with various Palestinian leaders, including some residing in the Gaza Strip, presenting special measures such as more flexibility in granting permits for Christian Gazans to visit family members in the West Bank. Reports reveal that roughly 50 percent of all Christians living in Gaza received these special permits from Israel.

Enabling Christian to enjoy Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, Israel’s Tourism Ministry, headed by Yaniv Levin, whose great-grandparents were South African from the Orange Free State, provided free transportation to and from Jerusalem from 2.00p.m. on Christmas Eve to 2 p.m. on Christmas Day.

Last Christmas, the Jerusalem municipality handed out complimentary “Christmas trees” to residents ahead of the holiday.  During the distribution of the live, potted trees, Santa showed up and rode a camel, and mingled with children and others at the Old City’s Jaffa Gate.

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Free Christmas Trees. Sponsored by the Jerusalem Municipality, Issa Kassissieh, wearing a Santa Claus costume, rides a camel and distributes Christmas trees in Jerusalem’s Old City December 21, 2017. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

President Reuven Rivlin extended his own Christmas greetings to those celebrating this year, wishing Christians around the world a holiday “full of peace, joy and love.”

Bearing False Witness

Israel’s spirit of celebrating Christmas stands in stark contrast to the toxic conduct towards Christians in Gaza. Dexter Van Zile, a Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) writes that “It is time to evacuate the last remnants of Christianity from the Gaza Strip.” Referring to Gaza as having been turned “into an impoverished theocratic gulag by Hamas,” he writes that Christians who live there, “suffer from the threat of kidnappings and forced conversions at the hands of extremists.” These stories do not appear on news networks because, “Journalists who criticize Hamas are imprisoned and tortured.”

Van Zile expounds on the nature of this diabolical situation.

For Christians to remain in Gaza, “they and their benefactors in the West must conceal Hamas’s evil acts from scrutiny and condemnation.”

He cites the case of the 2007 kidnapping and forced conversion of Sana al-Sayegh, a professor at Palestine University that was “perpetrated by Hamas militiamen and that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was deeply involved in.”

Why is the truth suppressed?

As Van Zile reveals, citizens of Gaza “operate under the thumb of Hamas and have to watch what they say about life in the Strip.” It is much easier, “to blame Israel for the suffering Palestinians endure.”

Living a lie is a resident’s passport to survival!

Telling false narratives that absolve Hamas and condemn Israel, is the price of Christian survival in Gaza. In order to survive, “Christians and their benefactors must bear false witness,” or “lie by omission the sins of Hamas.”

 Because of this untenable situation, Van Zile sadly advocates:

 “It’s time to evacuate every last Christian from Gaza.”

However it’s not just in Gaza! The Gaza Strip is a microcosm of the plight of Christians living under Muslim rule.

Only a few weeks earlier, the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote in The Sunday Telegraph that millions of Middle East Christians are on the verge of “imminent extinction.”

He lamented that “In the birthplace of our faith, the community faces extinction,” calling it, “the worst situation since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.”

In the early 20th century, Christians made up to 20% of the population in the Middle East. That figure has now dwindled to around 5%. Its easy to understand why and that Israel has nothing to do with this exodus.

Before the ‘Arab Spring’, Christians in Syria were businessmen, engineers, lawyers and pharmacists. Now they are leaving the country in their droves. In Iraq, 300,000 Christians have fled persecution since the downfall of Saddam Hussein and in Egypt, Christians face harassment leading them to emigrate in record numbers.

Nasty Along The Nile

Egypt’s Christians or  Copts as they are known, are facing “unprecedented levels of persecution and suppression,” according to The Open Doors 2018 World Watch List Report.

In 2017, more than 200 Copts were driven out of their homes and 128 were killed because of their faith.

Egyptian Christians Attacked, Dozens Of Churches Torched. This picture taken on August 18, 2013 shows a burnt icon in the Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya, some 250 kms south of Cairo, which was set ablaze on August 14, 2013. (AFP Photo/Virginie Nguyen Hoang) © AFP

Numbering approximately nine million, the Copts represent 10 percent of Egypt’s population and roughly half of the Christians living in the Middle East. Since 2014 their persecution has increased with the World Watch List Report listing Egypt “as the 17th most dangerous place for Christians to live.”

On the CBS News’s December 2013, ‘60 Minutes’ programme, the plight of Copts was revealed as having “suffered one of their worst periods in nearly 2,000 years.” Following the overthrow of Egypt’s first Islamic president in a military coup in 2013, Christians were the target of revenge by Muslim mobs, and over 40 Christian churches all over Egypt were gutted by arson and looted. Some of these churches were over a thousand years old and filled with priceless relics. Since then, Copts have been murdered in ongoing sectarian violence. An example of such murders was this 2018 report in Open Doors:

Two young masked men entered the pharmacy and dragged my father outside. They told him to kneel in the street. They put two guns at my father’s head and told him to convert to Islam. But he shook his head. Then they shot him.”

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Fired Up. Christian church set ablaze in Egypt in 2013.

Pattern of Persecution

Leaving Egypt, a quick flip across the Middle East reveals a pattern of persecution of Christians.

In a heinous incident in 2016 in Syria, jihadists slit the throat of a Christian man in front of his wife, giving a vent to their odium for Christianity. They mocked the woman in a derogatory way saying, “Your Jesus did not come to save him from us.” This odious incident took place in Syria’ ancient town Maalula; which was invaded by militants a few days earlier during the Civil War.

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Shocking & Mocking. Syria: Militants slit a Christian’ throat in Syria and mock his wife saying “Your Jesus did not come to save him from us.”

Another Christian woman resident of Maalula related to the media that “They arrived in our town at dawn and shouted ‘We are from the Al-Nusra Front and have come to make lives miserable for the Crusaders.” The woman who was identified as Marie, further narrated that after their first advance against the town, Christians started fleeing.

This is the new trend.

In Turkey, Christians are facing oppression by their government and while Christians were once a majority in Lebanon, that is no longer the case. From the civil war which began in in the 1970s, to the Syrian occupation, to ISIS aggression, Lebanese Christians have suffered and fear becoming extinct in their own country, given the sheer number of young, educated men and women emigrating.

In Iraq, the situation is far worse. There, the Christian population has dramatically dwindled; while there were once 1.4 million Christians, there are now less than 200,000. In Syria, Christians and Yazidis faced a full-scale genocide at the hands of ISIS, and even then, the TV news networks were reluctant to use the “g-word.” Truth be told, TV networks are far more interested in anything the Pope might say on gay marriage or contraception than genocide.

Why have these networks failed to spotlight the plight of Christians suffering increasingly under Islam? Correspondents have long connected the dots, writing of the hundreds of thousands of Christians “on the run” from their homes, of the mass graves been discovered, and Christians have been made to “convert or die.”

While Israel’s enemies like to joke that, “Santa will not be visiting Bethlehem”, who can forget what took place in the city in 2002 when terrorists affiliated with then PLO leader Yasser Arafat infamously raided and trashed the birthplace of Jesus Christ – the Church of the Nativity – holding 200 monks hostage for 39 days.

After the departure of the terrorist-occupiers and their hostages released, booby-trapped explosive devices were discovered in the Church. To even think of booby-trapping one of the holiest sites in all Christendom, and then to add insult to injury, altars, religious objects, and furniture were discovered fouled by urine, cigarette butts and human excrement by Arafat’s henchman.

Is it any wonder – following systematic and constant abuse – the Christian population in Palestinian controlled areas is constantly decreasing. Last year, Christians were only 2% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, less than half their number a generation ago.

In 1950, 86% of the residents in Bethlehem were Christian. In 2017, they were only 12%.

Of all the countries in the Middle East, it is only in “evil” Israel that the Christian population has stayed stable, and in fact,  has increased.

The world media should probe why in every Muslim country, the Christian community is dwindling – and in the words the Archbishop of Canterbury on the “verge of imminent extinction” – except in Israel where it is on the increase?

‘Turning the other cheek’ is a phrase in Christian doctrine from the Sermon on the Mount  that refers to responding to injury without revenge and allowing more injury. This passage is variously interpreted as commanding non-resistanceChristian pacifism, or nonviolence on the part of the victim.

However, the way the trend is going, there will come a time when there will be no Christian cheeks in the Middle East – except in Israel – to turn!


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Mindless Murder. From the Middle to Far-East, Christian are threatened as when the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 132 Christian children in Lahore, Pakistan in 2016. Reuters

The case of Lara Alqasem

To allow or not allow entry, that is the question

By Stephen Schulman

In reading the 9th December issue of The Lay of the Land, I came across an informative and elucidating article of three learned jurists discussing the pros and cons of the ‘Lara Alqasem affair’ in which Israel’s Supreme Court had overruled the decision of the Ministry of the Interior in denying entry to an individual who they had deemed through her past actions was inimical to interests and wellbeing of the State of Israel.

US student Lara Alqasem (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

In the article, many relevant issues were discussed and many sides to the issue were evaluated including the harm that her denial of entry to Israel could do to my country’s image. Being a mere layman in legal matters, I have the utmost respect for the writers’ opinions but would like to humbly add my own. After all, the law often deals in abstracts and sometimes forgets the human facet and this is what I wish to write about.

Leon Kanner
Leon Kanner
Edward Joffe
Edward (Eddy) Joffe

I lived in Claremont, a suburb of Cape Town and grew up there together with the Joffe family. Basil, the eldest, is my age, the twins Harold and Eddy two years younger and a good friend of my younger brother. Then there is Nadine, the youngest. I was active in Habonim and Basil and Eddy at some period were members too. The Joffe family being very Zionist, left for Israel in the 1960’s and I reestablished contact after my Aliyah (immigration to Israel) in February 1969 when about a month later, I met Eddy on the campus of Givat Ram prior to his registering as a student at the Hebrew University. He had finished his service in the IDF, served, and been wounded in the Six Day War and was happily looking forward to a quiet and well-earned period of studies.

Unfortunately, this was not to be!

Whilst still on ulpan (learning Hebrew) at kibbutz Yizreel, we heard the terrible news that Eddy and a fellow student, Leon Kanner, had been killed in a terrorist attack. An Arab woman Rasmea Odeh had planted a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket and it exploded as the two boys were doing their shopping.  A few of us bundled into the back of the kibbutz panel van and travelled to attend their funeral. The tragedy and the loss were immense. Eddy Joffe was a lovely person: warm, pleasant and talented. He would have had a promising future and a great life ahead of him.

Approximately a year later, I met Eddy’s parents. They were under a pall of grief and to add to their anguish, their son’s murderer who had been caught and sentenced to life in prison, had been released as part of a prisoner exchange. Nothing could be said in consolation.

All this brings us back to Lara Alqasem. The terrorist murderess Odeh, unrepentant and convinced of her righteousness in the taking of Jewish life, had entered the USA under false pretenses and perjured herself in not declaring her past. After being discovered and declared fit for extradition, a long legal struggle began with many pro-Palestinians and BDS activists campaigning to enable her to remain, Lara being one of them.

Ramsea Yousef
A convicted Terrorist: Rasmea Yousef Odeh seen in 2015 after being sentenced to 18 months in prison and deportation from the USA for immigration fraud.

Lara herself belongs to a family with her Palestinian father, a known anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. In her case, the apple did not fall far from the rotten tree, supporting BDS as a student for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Florida (UF). Her photograph, according to The Jerusalem Post, appears at a SJP rally held as late as the 28th September 2017 affirming membership.  She since then, has taken pains to recently wipe her Facebook page clean of her activist past when applying to study in Jerusalem.

Now, I am plagued by a few naïve questions. Firstly, if she had nothing to hide, why did she take such pains to obliterate all her past actions? Secondly, after being so involved in anti-Israel activism for so long, why this 180-degree turnabout to want to come to live and learn in a country that she vilifies, despises and wishes to see wiped from the map?  Was it a change in the stars that made her change her long-ingrained attitudes? Was it an epiphany that caused this sudden transmogrification? I am just a wee bit skeptical!

 Why should she be allowed to study in the selfsame university where two of its students had been murdered by a terrorist that she openly supported?  Did she have no qualms about her past? In admitting a student to a university are there no moral factors taken into consideration?  Do only the dry legalistic rules apply?

 Upon returning to the USA on completion of her studies, would she work towards a greater understanding and tolerance of the Israeli- Arab conflict or would she as a fifth column, abuse the hand proffered to her and the hospitality given to further promote her previous ideology and continue her old activism?

All these questions continue to run through my mind as I fondly remember Eddy. I hope that they also bother the powers that be!

Ramsea Yousef bobming site
Bombing: Terrorist Rasmea Yousef Odeh was responsible for the 1969 bombing of a supermarket (pictured) in Israel.



image001 (4).pngAbout the writer:

Stephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a Master’s Degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

A Donkey Named Hope

By Rolene Marks

Jester loves to greet people.

Look Who’s Talking. “Hee-haw,” says Jester, the self-appointed spokesdonkey for Safe Haven.

If donkeys had a public relations spokesman, Jester would be it. A nuzzle of the nose is all the payment he requires.  Gali is the beauty queen with her grey coat and elegant black markings. She is also a bit of a maternal figure. Sooty has the longest ears and wiggles them proudly and Chicco has a long memory for kindness. Yalon steals your heart with his large foal eyes and gangly legs and Hope is a movie star with a penchant for a little something sweet. She is also in for a surprise because on Christmas day she will turn one year old and there is a party planned in her honour.

These are just some of the 250 cast of characters that call Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land their home.

Nestled in the serene moshav of Gan Yoshiya close to the seaside city of Netanya in Israel, Safe haven for Donkey’s in the Holy Land is more than just a sanctuary for these rescued animals – it is a real community of caregivers and their equine charges, and the healing that they receive.

Dinnertime For Donkeys. Open air restaurant for rescued donkeys at the ‘Safe Haven for Donkeys’ on moshav Gan Yoshiya in central Israel

The gentle and noble donkey is an iconic image that had long been associated with the Holy Land. Since the time of the Bible, donkeys symbolise peace, conciliation and humility and are ingrained into the imagery of all three of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Kings David and Solomon revered donkeys; Kind David kept a royal she-mule and King Solomon chose to be anointed on one instead of a grander animal like a thoroughbred horse or elephant. Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey as a symbol of peace. In Islam it is believed that a donkey who had the power of speech, told Muhammad that it was the last in a line of donkeys ridden by prophets and was a descendant of the donkey ridden by Jesus in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which was also called Ya`fūr.

Sadly today, in a region that is often volatile and mired in conflict and conflagration, these humble, gentle creatures are often a casualty.

Donkeys have often been referred to as a workhorse, not because of their shared equine features but because of their ability and patience to bear heavy loads. This ability is sometimes exploited by some who use these sweet creatures as construction workers, over-burdening them with weight and materials.

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Rustic Royalty. Gali the beauty queen.

Safe Sanctuary

In this region that can sometimes be a tinderbox waiting to explode, donkeys have been brutally abused by terrorists who have exploited them to make a political point. During the second intifada (Palestinian uprising) it was not uncommon for terror entities to pack these sweet creatures with explosives and direct them towards soldiers at checkpoints. In the last few months, as Hamas encourages rioters along the border between Israel and Gaza, so too have donkeys been used as weapons.  One of the first weeks of protest saw donkeys draped in Israeli flags and set on fire. This outrageous act of animal cruelty and depravity has barely registered in the media. Donkeys are just not “sexy” enough a story.

Thankfully, there is an organization that is dedicated to the well-being and upkeep of these humble and noble beasts.

Founded in 2000, Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land is a not-for-profit organization that helps thousands of working donkeys in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

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The Lucky Ones. These donkeys are all praise for their loving care.

The sanctuary provides life-long care to over 200 unwanted and abused donkeys of all ages, but the work does not stop at the sanctuary gates. Safe Haven for Donkeys operates a mobile clinic that treats around 500 working donkeys, mules and horses across the Palestinian Territories as well as a permanent clinic in the city of Nablus.  The mobile vet treats injuries such as those from poor harnessing, overgrown hooves and bad teeth are easily treatable and this goes a long way in helping to improve the lives of the animals who work so hard for so little.

Safe Haven for Donkeys has realized that education is just as important and help teach children and adults how to treat these animals with humanity and kindness and through the work with the owners of these animals, the team has made many friends and is treated with trust and respect.

Our vets circulate and go to a different village every day to ensure that as many are treated as possible” says Abed, a caregiver whose dedication and love for his charges is evident.

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Making ‘Hay’ While The Sun Shines. Safe Haven donkeys enjoying a snack before a snooze.

The work done by this organization is evident in the happy, braying donkeys who despite all that they have endured, are friendly to the visitors who come to either volunteer or check out the sanctuary. The donkeys just love a cuddle and a scratch – and maybe a good old roll in the sand. After enduring so much abuse, Safe Haven’s over 200 personalities who proudly carry their names on their harnesses, get to live out their lives in peace and serenity in the gorgeous heart of Israel.

For a donkey called Hope and all the cast of characters, Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land is more than just a sanctuary, it is home. It is a veritable heaven for donkeys – and that is worth braying about.

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Rise & Shine. Nothing like an early morning stretch before breakfast.

For more information about the sanctuary and to contribute, visit their website:



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Love Is In The Air. Writer Rolene Marks snuggles up close to Jester.

Of Heaven And Earth

Israel Mourns Rona Ramon

The saying “It’s not the number of years in your life but the life in the number of your years,” resonates in describing the relatively short but extraordinary lives of three members of one heroic Israeli family – Ilan Ramon, son Asaf Ramon and today’s sad news, wife and mother – Rona Ramon.

By David E. Kaplan

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Rona Ramon (1964 – 2018)

He has never left us – his spirit, his values and his message to future generations lives on for all time,” said Rona Ramon in an interview with this writer in 2014 about her late Israeli astronaut husband, Ilan Ramon, who died in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster in 2003. She could so easily as well be referring to her beloved son Asaf Ramon, who followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a pilot and was tragically killed in an Air Force training accident in 2009.

And sadly, as the news broke  that Rona too, was taken before her time – passing away at age 54 from cancer – the Jewish world can say about Rona, “her spirit, her values, and her message to future generations lives on for all time.”

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Match Made In Heaven. Rona and Ilan Ramon (Photo: Craig H. Hartley

In the years following the tragic passing of her husband and son, Rona showed the same bravery, determination and grit as she spearheaded the perpetuation of the family legacy through the Ramon Foundation.

A life characterized by triumph and tragedy, the writer sat down with Rona Ramon for an exclusive interview for a major magazine in Israel.

 Colonel (Aluf Mishne) Ilan Ramon perished at the age of 48 when the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated on its re-entry into earth, killing all  seven astronauts on board. An ace Israel fighter pilot, in 1981 Ramon was the youngest – participating in Operation Opera, Israel’s impressive strike against Iraq’s near-completed and threatening nuclear reactor in Osirak.

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Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope. Front (L-R): Rick Husband, Kalpana Chawla, William McCool, Rear (L-R): David Brown, Laurel Clark, Michael Anderson, Ilan Ramon

A global icon, Ramon is the only foreign recipient of the United States Congressional Space Medal of Honor which he was awarded posthumously in 2004.

With Israelis enjoying a love affair with the Ramon family – the surname embedded in the minds of most – my first question opened with their ‘love affair’.

How did you and Ilan meet?

“We met on my 22nd birthday party at a friend’s house in Kiryat Ono. My friend’s eldest sister invited her neighbor – this 32-year-old good looking guy with a million-dollar smile – and to this day I always say, “Ilan was my 22-birthday present.”

Six months later they were married.

“Why wait, we were in love,” the couple thought at the time, and nine years later with their four children, they were living in a suburb close to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. All this would come to a crashing, cataclysmic end as billions of people stared in disbelief at their television sets as the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated in flame as it reentered the earths atmosphere.

This nation was unprepared.

It was just not possible!

After 16 days of almost constant news coverage about “our Ilan’s” exploits in space – from how he spent Shabbat (Sabbath), the various experiments he was conducting in space and what special mementos he took with him such as a prayer book to recite the Kiddush (blessing) as well as a Kiddush cup, a picture drawn by a 14 year-old boy who perished in Auschwitz and a Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust – Israelis felt they knew him personally.

He was family!

As one newspaper at the time expressed it:

“He represented us all – our country, our people, our past and our future. He was our hero at a time when we sorely needed one.”

The son of Holocaust survivors, he represented a nation’s rebirth – the young, proud modern Israeli rising from the ashes of the Shoah (Holocaust) to a child of a new nation, reborn in its ancestral homeland and who in one generation was seeking answers to earth’s problems in the heavens.

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Israel In Space. Israel’s first astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon

How perceptive and prophetic were Ilan’s words from space:

“The world looks marvelous from up here, so peaceful, so wonderful and so fragile.”

From a prolonged high to a sudden low, how did Rona cope?

“Before finding answers, I had to understand the questions. I felt such conflicting emotions to a situation I was unprepared. I was not only dealing with a profound personal loss but a national loss, so while having to keep my young family together, I also could not forsake my national responsibilities and obligations all under the international spotlight.”

Hard for anyone to be prepared, how did you find the strength?

“My family – my wonderful kids who brought me to a place that I found I was not afraid and I found the strength to shift from thinker to doer.

Did it make it easier or more difficult that all Israel shared in your grief?

“It added to the huge weight on my shoulders as I was representing Israel not only symbolically but physically. I was compelled to channel my grief through action. I had to present myself before several investigation committees relating to the accident; addressed conferences and attended commemorative ceremonies, such as accepting from President Bush in 2004 the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. Ilan is the only non-American to have ever received this prestigious award.”

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From Pilot To Astronaut. Ilan Ramon with his F-16

Was it stressful taking on all these responsibilities?

“Actually the exposure to so many people and situations gave me strength, and after returning to Israel from the USA, I found solace in returning to academia. I took my Masters in Holistic Studies through Lesley University, Boston. My thesis dealt with how personal loss impacts on our lives – physically, emotionally, spiritually and cognitively. Through my studies, I navigated my return journey home to normalcy.”

Trying Times To Ramon Foundation

If losing her celebrated husband was not enough, Rona would be tragically tested once more. In June 2009, President Shimon Peres had awarded Captain Asaf Ramon his air force wings at Hatzerim base in southern Israel. The President had been close to the Ramon family and it was Peres who has encouraged President Clinton to include an Israeli astronaut in a future NASA space mission. “Peres felt at the time,” said Rona, “that the country needed a boost; that there had been much division in the society following the Rabin assassination and that an Israeli traveling in space would unite the nation like no other event.” This proved correct. The nation did unite around this spectacular venture.

Inspired by his father, Asaf had excelled in his training and had expressed the hope that he, too, would one day become an astronaut.

It was not to be.

On the 13th September 2009 Captain Asaf Ramon, age 21, was tragically killed when his F16-A jet crashed during a routine training exercise.

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Asaf Ramon, left, with President Shimon Peres upon his graduation at Hatzerim air force base in June 2009, several months before he was killed.

The way Rona dealt with this further blow was to channel all her energies in founding the ‘Ramon Foundation’ which would honor both her husband and her son.

“The foundation,” said Rona, “promotes and initiates projects that can influence our society for the better. We focus on the field most associated with the Ramon name – space and science, as we view these fields best to inspire children and young people to dream, to pursue, and to make their dreams a reality. Just like his father, Asaf fulfilled his dream of becoming a fighter pilot, and just like his dad, he graduated from the flying academy with honors.”

Rona quotes from both Ilan and Asaf, whose writings from their diaries were the inspiration for her founding the Ramon Foundation. Ilan wrote: “The children and youth are the future of the development and advances in space research, especially since they are open to new creative ideas and not prisoners to old ways and therefore so important to our future in space.” And following his graduation, Asaf wrote: “My siblings and I were lucky to grow up with parents who helped us to fulfill our dreams and reach our unique potential.”

Rona says she was “humbled and moved reading this,” and took this short appreciative passage of Asafs’ as her Magna Carta in founding the Ramon Foundation.

So what are some of the programs?

“We have many and use the world of space and aviation, associated with Ilan and Asaf, to encourage personal excellence and community involvement. We support groundbreaking excellence in academic achievement among Israeli youth and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education involving scientists, pilots and young leaders, all determined to make these goals a reality.”

Do you work with schools?

“Yes, we are working with 20 schools all over the country and including all the communities – Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouin. We look beyond ethnicity to enthusiasm. All who want to excel are welcome. So for example in our elementary schools, we have set up Aviators Clubs where squadrons from the Israeli Air Force adopt a school and where the students are inspired by the pilots who serve as role models.

We have witnessed trouble-makers transform into outstanding students. All they wanted was to excel and we provide the tools and the inspiration to follow their dreams. The pilots inspire the children to strive for excellence and be better students, citizens and leaders of their society.”

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Ramon Legacy. Rona Ramon (left) visits a school in Modiin named after her husband, Ilan Ramon, along with two NASA astronauts in February 2008

Projects Out Of This World

For the older students, I understand you have a program called the Ramon Space Labs. Can you explain the program?

“Imagine the excitement of a school kid knowing that an experiment he is working on will be tested by a real astronaut onboard an International Space Station (ISS)! There are currently 100 students in four schools who are planning an experiment soon to be launched, while some have already watched their experiment launched into orbit. Basically, students design and build an experiment to be performed on the International Space Station. They watch it then being launched into space, performed by the astronauts on the ISS and then on the return to earth, the results are analyzed and published.”

 Rona was also working with the Conrad Foundation, named after the late Apollo 12 astronaut, Charles “Pete” Conrad, who had struggled academically due to dyslexia and only because of a perceptive headmaster, saw Pete’s spark of genius and gave him the confidence he needed.  He went on to earn a scholarship to Princeton University and in November 1969, Pete became the third man to walk on the Moon.

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Spearheading The Ramon Legacy. Rona Ramon, speaking at a Space Convention.

We too are looking for that ‘spark of genius’ in our Israeli students and this year, twelve of our schools are participating in the Conrad Foundation’s

‘Spirit of Innovation Challenge’ which invites high school students from all over the world to its annual competition.

Using science, technology, engineering and math skills, teams develop innovative products to help solve global and local problems while supporting global sustainability. We are sending our best students to represent our country and hope to reach the semi-finals. The finals, where the participants will present their products and vie for seed grants, patent support and commercial opportunities will be held as a space camp in Houston.”

Can you foresee future Israeli astronauts like Ilan?

“We need to equip the dreamers to emerge as doers. Everyone has their own calling. I have a son who is a talented musician composing his own material.  Our foundation helps young people identify their talents and explores ways for them to reach their full potential. We are offering opportunities to kids which would not otherwise have them. However, as our young participants grow older, we zone in on those who have the potential to make a global impact.

For such individuals we have a program called ‘Ramon Breakthrough’. This program is open to those who can through innovative technology, improve the lives of one million people in Israel. The prize is a scholarship to Singularity University in California where the student will together with other students from around the world will explore solutions aimed at solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

 It would seem you are busy now than ever before?

“Well, from losing members of my family, I feel the Ramon family is expanding as we are touching the lives of so many kids. Today, I have a large family.”

There are parks, sixteen streets alone in Israel, museums, schools, playgrounds, departments at hospitals, soon the renaming of the airport in Eilat and even an asteroid named after Ilan Ramon. How special for you is the new Ramon Museum at Mitzpe Ramon?

“When the government decided to honor Ilan with a national memorial, I pressed for the focus to be less about a memorial and more about education. I also felt that Mitzpe Ramon would be the ideal location. The crater has a surreal space quality about it and on the personal level – Ilan was a child of the Negev having grown up in the desert’s capital, Beersheva. With the crater below and the space above, the museum’s exhibits project both the heaven and earth.”

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Reach For The Stars. Rona Ramon with Kiryat Yam Mayor Shmuel Sisso join children at the inaugural World ORT Space and Science Seminar last year.

Rona’s Proudest Moment

After the first anniversary of her husband’s death, Rona received the program of the first anniversary ceremony of the Columbia tragedy to be held at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. She saw that it did not include the Hatikvah – the national anthem of Israel – so she called her friend at NASA who explained to Rona that the protocol at such ceremonies allows only for the American national anthem.

In which case, I will not be attending,” Rona replied.

There was silence at the other end of the phone “and my friend replied he would call back. It apparently went all the way to President Bush who approved. It was the first time a foreign national anthem had ever been played on such an occasion. I felt truly proud when I stood at Arlington Cemetery listening to Hatikva.

The personal legacy of Ilan for me is his wonderful smile. I suspect wherever he was that day looking upon me having stood my ground defiantly, he was smiling.”

On behalf of a mourning nation, Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin said today, “Rona Ramon left us as she lived among us noble, pure, full of faith.”

Rona joins her husband and son but leaves a legacy that will  forever enrich the lives Israelis today, tomorrow and into the far future.


Feature picture credit: AFP

South Africa Misbehaves; Israel Behaves

While in December 2018, South Africa’s ANC government welcomed to Cape Town a Hamas delegation from Gaza committed to Israel’s destruction, a renovated community centre was being opened in Johannesburg. This community centre is sponsored by Israel.

This same Hamas who only weeks before fired some 500 missiles at Israel’s civilian population,in comparison to Israel – who opts for Construction rather than Hamas-style Destruction.“

By David E. Kaplan

While the news focused on Cape Town where a Hamas delegation in Parliament, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that South Africa “will work towards the full boycott of ALL Israeli products and the support of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel; and will ensure that ANC leaders and government officials do not visit Israel,” there was another event playing that was not making news.

A renovated community centre sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in South Africa, was unveiled in Soweto in early December 2018, despite pressure from the BDS movement to scrap the project.

The opening of the new community centre proceeded despite the tensions between the two countries. Last May, South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel, who has since returned and in June, the mayor of Johannesburg suspended Mpho Phalatse, a council member in charge of health after she made a public declaration that the city was a “friend” of Israel.

This trajectory of antisemitism was further evidenced when during November 2018:

– Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar called in the presence of ANC leaders in Nelson Mandela’s cell  on Robben Island for a violent Jihad against Israel “to regain the land inch by inch”.

– the Johannesburg City Council voted to rename a major street in the city after Palestinian terrorist and hijacker Leila Khaled.

–  following BDS pressure, Stellenbosch University disinvited to a conference, seven professors from three universities in Israel.

Despite all this, and throughout the year, Israel’s ambassador to Pretoria, Lior Keinan, has been promoting social projects involving the local population across the country. The unveiling of the community centre in a distressed neighbourhood in Soweto, follows a spate of projects by the Israeli embassy in the fields from agriculture, women’s empowerment to advancing gay rights. The Community Centre is just the latest, and proudly displays a plaque noting the contribution of the Israeli embassy. The unveiling took place in the presence of Ambassador Keinan and Israeli, Danny Adeno Abebe, who initiated the project.

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Constructive Engagement. Israeli-sponsored community centre opens in South Africa. Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Lior Keinan (centre)

From Dreamer to Doer

An Ethiopian who immigrated to Israel with his family as a young child, Abebe, is presently the shaliach (emissary from Israel) to the Jewish Zionist youth movement Habonim Dror, that was founded in South Africa in 1930 by Norman Lurie of Johannesburg. Lurie was more than a dreamer; he was a doer and so is this young emissary from Israel.

Inculcated with the values of Tikun Olam (“Correcting the world”) Abede initiated a programme called “Your Neighbors,” where through Habonim, they organized enriching monthly encounters between Jewish children in Johannesburg and children in the distressed area of Kliptown in Soweto. The activities at these meetings, ranged from doing  homework together to the more social activities like dancing.

“However, “the community centre where we were meeting, lacked a roof and became difficult to conduct activities during rainy days,” said Abede. The makeshift roof became moldy, and “the musical equipment was destroyed by the water.”

Abebe invited Lior Keinan, Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, to visit the neighbourhood and meet with the local leadership, who requested help in repairing the roof.

No sooner had Keinan agreed to assist on behalf of the State of Israel, predictably the local BDS activists responded by putting pressure on the local leadership to halt the renovation plans.

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Man of Africa. Apart from serving as an Education Adviser to the Habonim Dror Youth Movement, Danny Adeno Abede acts as well as a consultant to professional staff and related Jewish and Israel organisations, representing WZO in Johannesburg. Follow Danny and his family’s journey, as they integrate themselves into the Jewish Community in South Africa.

True Colours

Rather than show concern for a community in need, in true BDS fashion, its leaders decried the community centre project as “a public relations stunt financed by the apartheid state in the Middle East.”

The residents of Soweto saw through the BDS façade of underlying hypocrisy and false pretense and accepted the Israeli aid since the project was designed to benefit the local population.

Abebe says, “the community centre plays an integral part in the lives of more than 400 children living in Soweto, where they can now spend their time doing homework without the dangers of getting drenched by rain.”

Abede who is presently at the annual Habonim summer camp in Onrus in the Western Cape, says “There is something about being an Israeli emissary that reinforces my profound love for my country. And the distance from family that my work demands, makes me long for it even more.”

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Sign Of The Time. The plaque at the newly renovated Community Centre in Soweto.

Abede is no less a man of Africa than those he brings Habonim to engage with. He has the depth of understanding prejudice and deprivation from personal experience.

Arriving in Israel in 1984 as part of Operation Moses when Israel began a seven-week clandestine mission to bring more than 8000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, Abeda’s saga is no less compelling than the biblical saga that transpired over 3000 years earlier.

Referencing the story of Passover when the Jews fled the slavery of Egypt and undertook the long and arduous journey to ‘The Promised Land’, he says “We understand the meaning of freedom, liberty and a long journey undertaken through the desert. Our family experienced the uncertainty throughout the journey, as well as the sense of helplessness, much like the wandering Jews must have experienced with Moses as they walked through the desert without truly knowing their destination or having hope.
When we read the Haggadah (text recited at the Seder on the first two nights of the Jewish Passover), we feel we are part of that same journey, part of the people who reluctantly followed Moses.
We, too, walked in the desert dressed in minimal clothing, thirsty for water and hungry for food. We too walked endlessly without knowing where our escape route from Ethiopia would lead us. Like those Children of Israel, we were refugees. We too, shed tears while burying our dead where there was no cemetery. We too, laid our dead to rest at the side of the path and continued our seemingly endless journey with the vague hope of reaching the land of Israel.”

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Operation Moses. Boarding the plane after weeks in the desert, on the way to the promised land, 1984.

Abede says “it is hard to shake off the comparison between our exhausting journey and that of the Children of Israel. We had the same purpose – getting to the land of Israel.
I still remember my father’s dark gaze and my mother falling ill in the desert. I remember my sick younger brother in the refugee camp in Sudan. I remember myself with a runny nose and a bleak look of hopelessness.”

He recalls, “the dead having been buried among the great stones, near a tree trunk or behind a small grove because they were Jews.”
Among them was his aunt, his father’s sister, so when “when we sit each year at the Passover table and tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and of G-d’s miracle with the Children of Israel, I praise G-d the miracle in bringing us from Ethiopia to Israel.”

Love Thy Neighbour

Abede’s “Your Neighbour/Makwelwane” project was launched early in 2018 when the members from the youth movements of Habonim and Bnei Akiva as well as teachers and pupils from Johannesburg’s King David Schools engage with the youth in Kliptown, Soweto. Says Abede, “The goal is to enrich the education of pupils in Kliptown one Sunday every month. The Jewish youth will tutor them in maths, science, English and other skills needed to pass matric exams. In return, the Kliptown youth will teach their Jewish counterparts Zulu, tribal dance and their local culture.”

The idea behind the initiative is “to activate the idea of ‘Love thy Neighbour’ by closing the gap between cultures and sharing skills,” says Abede.

From the Community Centre in Kliptown, Soweto the message is to engage and prosper.

This message this writer heard from Ambassador Keinan when together with Akiva Tor, Head of the Bureau for World Jewish Affairs at an event on the 5th November 2018 at Café Riteve hosted by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), United Jewish Fund and the SAZF (South African Zionist Federation).

Ambassador Keinan revealed that despite the efforts of BDS, progress is being made in so many areas not receiving the media attention it deserves and that the potential remains for Israel to assist and enrich South Africa in so many areas from hi-tech, agriculture, water management, cyber technology and health.

He reiterated much of what he had expressed in September to the SA Jewish Report that Israel’s relationships with countries in the Middle East have greatly improved, enjoying good relationships with the other countries in BRICS, like Russia, China, India, even Brazil. “We also have much improved friendships on this continent, and we are opening more embassies in Africa and African embassies in Israel. We have a record number of African leaders coming to visit Israel, so why should South Africa stand alone? There is no logic to this.”

From his experience of BDS, Keinan said the organisation has nailed its colours to the mast. “The fact that it stands with Hezbollah flags outside Israeli embassy events says everything. Hezbollah has nothing to do with Palestinians, and everything to do with Iran and the destruction of Israel. Whatever BDS says, this makes it clear it wants to see the total destruction of our country.”

The meaning of ‘Habonim’ in Hebrew is “the builders”.  Projects and initiatives that bring people together in enriching engagement is about building not like BDS which is about destroying.

Moving away from ‘destructive’ to ‘constructive’ messages, the Community Centre in Soweto supported by the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish youth movements in South Africa stands as a beacon of hope and promise.

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Sending Message Of Love. Danny Abede with his kids wearing Habomim uniform shirts in Khayelitsha



Feature picture credit: businesstech.co.za

The ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ to The Dark Side of Waters

By David E. Kaplan

Pink Floyd Experience, a tribute band to the British rock group, canceled three shows in Israel after Roger Waters – the former lead singer of rock band Pink Floyd and BDS’s high-profile flagbearer – pressured the cover band to cancel its shows in Israel. The band was scheduled to perform in the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba in early January 2019.

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Roger Waters Show Draws Protestors At Bay Street Theater, NY in October 2015.

He has no shame in lying in his explanation which he posted online:

To sing my songs in front of segregated audiences in Israel and contribute to the cultural whitewashing of the racist and apartheid government of that country, would be an act of unconscionable malice and disrespect.

“The people you intend to entertain are executing their neighbor’s children, shooting them down in cold blood every day. In the name of everything human, PLEASE hear my plea and cancel today.”

The tribute band canceled its shows a few hours after Waters’ post.

I loved and still love Roger Waters’ brilliant music. It was difficult not to as a student in the seventies!

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What’s With Waters? While denying no “anti-Semitic intent” what was Walters thinking when he used Nazi-like uniforms and a pig balloon with a Magen David (Star of David) at a 2013 concert in Belgium.

So, without denying the impact of Pink Floyd on Rock culture and society, today, when I hear Water’s magnum opus, “The Wall”, I think he may be “off the wall”.

Or worse!

While the messages in Pink Floyd’s lyrics were at times subliminal, the messages today from the band’s co-founder and chief song-writer is clear – to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel. It is reminiscent of another of his concept albums – ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’. There is something “dark” about Waters today the way he obsessively supports BDS – whose aim is the destruction of the only Jewish state.

This is what he actively supports despite his protestations that he is not an anti-Semite!

 Troubled Waters

This “Dark Side”, evident in influential figures throughout history, has a name: it’s called anti-Semitism.

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The imagery of Roger Waters

Let us reflect on a few:

  • Cicero, the Roman statesman and orator wrote:

The Jews belong to a dark and repulsive force. They are a nation of rascals and deceivers.”

  • While many are familiar with the anti-Semitism of the composer Richard Wagner, his no less illustrious father-in-law, Franz Liszt had this to say:

The day will come when all nations amidst which the Jews are dwelling will have to raise the question of their wholesale expulsion, a question which will be one of life or death, good health or chronic disease, peaceful existence or perpetual social fever.”

  • And what of US President Ulysses S. Grant, who 1862, in the heat of the Civil War fighting against slavery, issued Order No. 11, expelling all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. He explained that the measure amounted to “special regulations of the Treasury Department have been violated….mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders.”
  • While we may be comfortable reclining in a Ford sedan, who can be comfortable with the words of the company’s founder Henry Ford when he said in 1921: “Jews have always controlled the business… The motion picture influence of the United States and Canada . . . is exclusively under the control – moral and financial of the Jewish manipulators of the public mind.”

And what of our 20th century writers, whose works we cherish like – Roald Dahl, H.G. Wells, and Bernard Shaw:

  • Roald Dahl, the beloved children’s book author, expressed that “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity….even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

         – the British writer H.G. Wells had a lot to say on the subject. In the Anatomy of Freedom, he writes: “Zionism is an expression of Jewish refusal to assimilate. If the Jews have suffered, it is because they have regarded themselves as a chosen people.”

In a 1933 letter he pens: “A careful study of anti-Semitism prejudice and accusations might be of great value to many Jews, who do not adequately realize the irritations they inflict.”

Of course, persecution of the Jews is not the fault of the persecutor but the persecuted according to Well’s, who in private correspondence labeled Karl Marxa shallow third-rate Jew,” and “a lousy Jew”.

  • The wondrous writer of Pygmalion, transformed into one of the most beloved musicals of all times – “My Fair Lady”, Georg Bernard Shaw expressed in the London Morning Post, December 3, 1925:

This is the real enemy, the invader from the East, the Druze, the ruffian, the oriental parasite; in a word: the Jew. This craving for bouquets by Jews is a symptom of racial degeneration.”

As Israel celebrated last year, the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, it is sad to recall the words of Shaw in the Literary Digest, October 12, 1932:

The Jews are worse than my own people. Those Jews who still want to be the chosen race – chosen by the late Lord Balfour – can go to Palestine and stew in their own juice. The rest had better stop being Jews and start being human beings.”

In other words, according to Shaw, Jews were not “human beings”!

Is it not this belief of Shaw that only a few years later led to the “Final Solution”?

Come Hell or High Waters

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The imagery of Roger Waters

And joining this august company is Roger Waters on a ‘crusade’ to silent Israeli artists and to sabotage any international artists performing in Israel.

Not sufficient that Israel is surrounded by enemies that want little more than its physical annihilation, Waters now is hell-bent on its cultural obliteration.

  • Is he calling for cultural boycotts of Syria that remains responsible for wholesale murder and mayhem or of its complicit backers Russia and Iran, that have left over half a million dead, and many million refuges?
  • Is he calling for boycotts for some the world’s other major human rights violators such as Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Myanmar, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan and Afghanistan?

Of course not!

Only Israel is “chosen”, a word that H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw so connivingly ridicule. Waters happily adds his voice in this anti-Semitic chorus that periodically reaches fiendish crescendos that that end up as ‘Inquisitions’, ‘pogroms’ and ‘concentration camps’.

Next up for Waters: the destruction of the State of Israel.

Is it a surprise why Jews not only need an Israel, but a strong Israel – an Israel that can defend itself and deter others seeking its destruction?

Durban Disaster

With BDS crediting its genesis to the 2001 Conference against racism in Durban, South Africans should be aware of this organisation’s real agenda.

Apart from harassing international artists to cancel their shows in Israel, they bully and threaten Palestinians who wish to engage with Israelis.

This happened recently when it caused a conference at Stellenbosch University in November 2018, to cancel a delegation of seven Israeli academics from three universities, including a Palestinian Professor, Mohammed Dajani.

Omar Barghouti, a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and a co-founder of BDS refuses to engage with Israelis. He accuses Palestinians who do of displaying “moral blindness,” calling them “clinically delusional”.

Mohammed Suleiman Dajani, who founded the Wasatia, a “Muslim moderate” movement in Palestine in 2007, descends from a well-known Palestinian family. His great grandfather Sheikh Ahmad Dajani (1459-1561) was appointed by the Ottoman Sultan as the custodian for the King David Tomb in Jerusalem.

As Dajani writes in an exclusive with Lay Of The Land (LOTL), “I have endured my fair share of criticism as an academic but never have I had my credibility or identity as a Palestinian doubted before.  To accuse me of not being a “genuine Palestinian” because I seek peace and engage with Israelis or Jewish communities around the world is extraordinarily myopic and one can see how preposterous it is for an organization that says it is concerned with human rights to be so set against dialogue and reconciliation.”

The Writing is on ‘The Wall’

What is happening today in South Africa by fomenting a culture of hate against Israelis and Israeli-born visitors – trying to bar them from South African campuses – is reminiscent of the “Judenrein” policies of the not so distant past. Note the proposal put forward in September 2017 by the Palestine Solidarity Forum, calling on UCT to implement an academic boycott of Israeli universities. “This academic boycott would require that UCT reject forming any institutional ties with Israeli universities.”

These universities are losing their moral high ground and can no longer claim to be bastions of free speech.image007 (1).png

From Richard to Roger

Despite Waters trying to whitewash BDS members as “human rights activists” they are nothing more than a band of bullies.

Its aim is not to seek a SOLUTION but a DISSOLUTION – the dissolution of the State of Israel.

Listen to BDS’s founder Omar Barghouti who says, “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,” referring to all of Israel. He chooses his words carefully when he says:

To have a Palestine next to a Palestine, rather than a Palestine next to Israel.”

This is ‘music to the ears’ of anti-Semites and might explain why Israel is hardly partial to the sounds of Richard Wagner nor to the rantings of Roger Waters.

Israel can do very nicely without either!

Reconciling Reconciliation

Boycotts That Deserve To Backfire

Pressure from supporters of a boycott against Israel led organizers of an academic conference in December 2018 on “Recognition, Reparation, Reconciliation: The Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma” at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University to disinvite seven professors from three universities in Israel. One of the participants was a Palestinian, Mohammed Dajani, who founded Wasatia’ which aims to bring both Israeli and Palestinian public opinion closerto having more faith in negotiations and dialogue with each realising that the cake needs to be shared not trampled on.”

In an exclusive article for Lay Of The Land (LOTL)Prof. Mohammed Dajani explains  his position why it was so important for him and the six Israelis to participate and how wrong the South African organisations were to oppose their participation.


By Prof. Mohammed Dajani

South Africa has long been a global symbol of the possibility of emerging from a turbulent and conflict ridden past to a hopeful future built on the spirit of reconciliation between its peoples.

Prof. Mohammed Dajani

It has been the hope of many, including Palestinians and Israelis, to replicate the successful transition towards peace and democracy that South Africa did.

South Africa has always had the potential to play a meaningful role as a negotiator between Israelis and Palestinians. The iconic former President and anti-Apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela, was living proof that reconciliation between historical enemies was possible.

South Africa is a country that I was excited to visit in 2016 to promote peace. Peace is the solution that both Palestinians and Israelis yearn for but there are elements that will do anything to ensure that the normalization of ties between our two peoples never happens. It is not just the fundamentalist elements within both Israeli and Palestinian society that would rather peace not happen, but in the Rainbow nation as well.

The BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement, has found fertile ground in South Africa and is extremely vocal in their support in the breaking down of any constructive and productive dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. In fact, one could go as far as to deem them anti-normalisation and anti-peace.

Peace will be built from the ground up and through Palestinians and Israelis engaging with each other. This is how we recover from historical traumas.

The reluctance of BDS and their allies to support peaceful endeavours was evident recently when I along with an Israeli colleague, was invited to participate in a conference titled Recognition, Reparation, Reconciliation: The Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma at the University of Stellenbosch.  South Africa is always a favoured stop on my lecture circuit because of the historical symbolism of reconciliation and I thought that this conference was a fitting place for my message of peace.

 My Israeli colleague and I were asked “not to participate” and were told that it was “a political matter of not allowing the normalisation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by means of discussions about reconciliation, empathy and forgiveness while Israel continues to attack Gaza and place it under siege, occupy the West Bank, kill and torture Palestinian activists, and deny human rights to people who have been dispossessed of their land”.

There was not attempt to hear the reality of the situation from people who live in the region or give my Israeli colleague and I an attempt to bring context and fact to discussion. This has also robbed participants of the opportunity to ask important questions and engage in meaningful dialogue and does not have the interests of the Palestinian people at heart.

I have endured my fair share of criticism as an academic but never have I had my credibility or identity as a Palestinian doubted before.  To accuse me of not being a “genuine Palestinian” because I seek peace and engage with Israelis or Jewish communities around the world is extraordinarily myopic and one can see how preposterous it is for an organization that says it is concerned with human rights to be so set against dialogue and reconciliation.

The irony of not being allowed to speak at a conference which puts this discussion at the forefront of its agenda is such a lost opportunity to promote healing and understanding. It is also counter-productive to academia to not encourage diversity of opinions. It would appear that any contrary opinion to that expressed above is not welcome.

This is deeply troubling for a country that once prided itself in setting the benchmark for discourse.

If there is to be any solution and if South Africa intends to play a meaning ful role, then all voices need to be present at the table. This would not only be in the best interests of Israelis and Palestinians but also academia – after all, this is where future peace makers are shaped.


Prof. Mohammed Dajani. (Credit: Natan Dvir)

Professor Mohammed S. Dajani, an adjunct fellow at The Washington Institute, founded the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam and previously worked as a professor of political science at al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

Without Israel, there would have been no university education in Palestinian Authority areas

By Charles Abelsohn

The Israel hating crowd in South Africa now desire to boycott Israel`s academic institutions and Israeli academicians  due to the “treatment” of Palestinian universities.

Let`s ask some questions. Are there universities in the West Bank and Gaza? If so, who established the universities and when. How are Palestinian universities ranked as compared with their Arab counterparts.

The Ottoman Empire, actually Turkey, a Moslem State, occupied Palestine from 1513 until 1917. Since Charles William Eliot, the president of Harvard University, who visited the country in 1867, and described the Galilee as a place of emptiness and misery and in his famous book “Innocents Abroad,” Mark Twain recalls not seeing a living soul throughout his journey, unsurprisingly, there were no Arab universities. The Jews, however, established the world famous Technion in Haifa in 1912.

The British controlled Palestine between 1917 and 1948. The Jews immediately established another university, the world famous Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1918. The Arabs? Nothing, as in: no Arab university.

Jordan, an Arab country, illegally occupied Judea and Samaria between 1948 and 1967, renaming this area the West Bank.

During this period, the Jordanians were careful and shrewd enough to forbid and prevent the establishment of any university in the West Bank. Yes, in 1967, when Israel regained Judea and Samaria, there were no universities in the West BankNOT ONE! Did anyone academically criticize or boycott Jordan? Of course not. When it comes to Israel, double standards are the order of the day.

Israel recovered Judea and Samaria in 1967. In 1970, Deputy Israeli Premier Yigal Allon, who was then Minister of Education, announced that he had approved the establishment of the first university in Ramallah in principle when approached by West Bank Arab leaders, including Dr. Salem Nashef, Dean of the Tulkarem Agricultural School.

Paradoxically, it was the Arab Jordanians who still attempted to prevent the establishment of the first university on the West Bank. In April 1971, Sheikh Mohammad Ali Jaabari, the Mayor of Hebron, even needed to warn the Jordanian government not to interfere with plans by West Bank Arab leaders to establish an Arab university on the West Bank. Jaabari spoke in reply to a charge made by the Jordanian Education Minister in Amman that “all those who take part in planning the university are traitors and collaborators with the Israelis.” Eventually, under the Israeli administration, in 1971 the foundation of the Hebron University was laid and forty-three students joined from different parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

The universities in the West Bank enjoyed the cooperation of the Israeli universities without which they could not have been developed. In 1973, Dr. Nashef, as a guest of Tel Aviv University’s “Shiloah” Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, reported that Arab education on the West Bank had expanded under the Israeli administration since 1967. According to Dr. Nashef, 90 percent of children between 6-15 were receiving an elementary education, a much higher percentage than under the Jordanian regime. He further said that by 1973 the number of matriculants under Israeli administration had risen from 3,500 to 14,500.

Stupid matriculants. Were they not aware that they were supposed to boycott Israeli administered education?

What exactly are the boycotters boycotting? Thanks only to Israel, a second university, Birzeit University, was established in 1975. Under Israeli guidance, by 1993, when the Oslo Agreement establishing the Palestinian Authority was signed, there were 14 universities, 18 colleges and 20 community colleges in the West Bank and Gaza.

Bir Zeit University
Bir Zeit University

Current Palestinian tertiary student enrolment is 214,000, of which roughly 54 per cent are women and 46 per cent are men. This compares favorably with Israel’s tertiary sector where from a larger population enrolment is approximately 307,000 and the gender balance among undergraduates is 56 per cent women and 44 per cent men. The remarkably high participation rate reflects both the commendable importance Palestinians attach to the universities (and formal education more generally) for strengthening both their economy and their national identity and, importantly in the context of the proposed “academic boycott”, the absence of any impediment by Israel. There is no legitimate reason for any “academic boycott” except hate for Israel.

Al Nagah entrance
Entrance to the campus of Al-Najah university

With Al-Najah National University of Nablus ranked in 20th place of the top 300 ranked Arab universities and Birzeit university of Ramallah in 27th place, it is clear that the Palestinian universities are among the best in the Arab world and do not suffer discrimination or oppression by Israel.

If the boycotters, like the Jordanians, had their way, there would today still not have been any academic institutions in the West Bank. Israel`s positive contribution to the Palestinians generally and Israel`s contribution to the establishment of higher education specifically continues to be ignored by the Israel haters, best described as the new obstructionist Jordanians, who themselves contribute nothing to the Palestinians.

Israel`s positive contribution to the Palestinian higher education may be compared to the “contribution” by UCT, Stellenbosch and other South African universities` professors and  students specifically and South Africa generally to the Palestinians – which is nothing. The anti-Israel noise by some South Africans may be emotionally satisfying to these few boycotters but the constructive support continues to be provided by Israel. By their actions, in attempting to prevent Israeli support of Palestinian institutions, these few boycotters may best be described as anti-Palestinian rather than anti-Israel, much like the Ottoman Empire (the Turks), British and Jordanians pre-1967.

Israel is now to be “punished” by a boycott for permitting the establishment of universities in the West Bank and Gaza, against the opposition of Arab governments such as Jordan. Until 1967 the world was silent which means the world at that time consented to the Arab opposition to universities in the West Bank. The criticism of Israel and its academics and the boycotting of Israeli academics is simply living proof that no good deed goes unpunished.

Kafka? Orwellian? I doubt whether these Israeli haters even know who these guys are.



image001 (16).jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charles Abelsohn, a co-founder of Truth be Told, retired several years ago as the legal manager of one of the most well–known entities in Israel. He is a graduate of three universities (Cape Town, Stellenbosch and U. of South Africa) in South Africa in Law, Transportation Economics and Finance. His interests, even as a young student, were Judaism, Israel, Economics and Finance.



Feature picture credit: Yaser Wakid