Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter-19 September 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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Time to Rejoice

Jewish tradition teaches that Sukkot is “the time of our happiness,” with a special biblical command to rejoice. We read the words, “And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” (Deuteronomy 16:14-15) Who are we to argue – be happy!


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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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Also listen to the podcast: Rolene Marks representing Lay of the Land and Jonathan Feldstein, President, Genesis 123 Foundation discuss the upcoming  20th anniversary of the infamous UN 2001 Durban Conference on combatting racism that focused exclusively on discriminating and isolating Israel.

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Articles

(1)

On the Right Track

Building the Burma Road to Jerusalem in 1948 for a united Israel

By David E. Kaplan

A Question of Values. School children at the Burma Road museum at Sha’ar Hagai placing their discs on the Value Board.

A hastily constructed bypass road to relieve the siege of Jerusalem during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, answered a defiant Ben Gurion: “there is no Israel without Jerusalem”. To understand and honour the brave young men and woman who made it happen, visit the new exciting experiential museum opened in 2021 at Sha’ar Hagai.

On the Right Track

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(2)

Revenge for 9/11, like the Holocaust, would be in thriving

By Alex Ryvchin

Israel’s Message to Terror. Survive and thrive as emblazoned in modern day Tel Aviv.

What is the  Jewish perspective of the nature of “revenge” to their persecution over two murderous millennia? If the response of the past was to survive, today it is to thrive and what more JUST “revenge” than the flourishing of Jewish revival in their ancestral homeland.

Revenge for 9/11, like the Holocaust, would be in thriving

(Click on the blue title)



(3)

A Tall Order

Posture on your mind – “Think Tall”

By Lionel H. Phillips D. O

Spinal Mobility. Improve your health and wellbeing with improved posture.

What is the correct standing, sitting or walking posture? This is the second part of a series on  how to achieve good posture for all ages.

A Tall Order

(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).

On the Right Track

Building the Burma Road to Jerusalem in 1948 for a united Israel

By David E. Kaplan

September 14, 2021.

We were about to the exit Mahane Yeduda or in common parlance “The Shuk” at its  southern end onto Jerusalem’s Agripas Street, when there was sudden pandemonium. It began with a policeman running into the market, immediately followed by armed reinforcements. “There is someone armed,” we hear a shout followed by shoppers screaming “Mehabel “(terrorist). This fueled panic leading to people scurrying towards the exits. Police cars and motorbikes blocked off the streets and medics too; entered the market. Carrying our parcels, we stopped at a nearby corner with many other Jerusalemites and watched the drama play out.

Mayhem at the Market. Agripas Street outside the Mahanei Yehuda market in Jerusalem following a terror alert on the 14 September 2021. (Photo D.E. kaplan)
 

While people stood, stared and shouted adding to an animated soundtrack punctuated by sirens, there was too a mood of familiarity as a woman raising her eyebrows lamented publicly:

 “Ma Chadash (what’s new)!”

It wasn’t a question; it was a statement.

Only the day before, two ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students were stabbed  nearby inside the  Central Bus Station.

The most resonant observation came from my wife Hilary, who remarked:

 “It may be easier getting to Jerusalem these days, but nothing has changed within!”

Maybe cryptic to a stranger, her meaning was perfectly clear to me!

Only the day before, as a surprise for my 70th birthday, Hilary had organised a visit to Israel’s “Burma Road”. 

Yes, I had lazily observed those rusty old convoy trucks on the side of Highway 1 on the assent to Jerusalem – relics of the 1948 War of Independence –  and yes, I had seen back in the sixties, the Hollywood blockbuster “Cast a Giant Shadow” with Kirk Douglas on breaking through the siege of Jerusalem, but had to wait until my 70th to really get intimately close to this riveting saga.

Birth of a Nation. A poster of the 1966 blockbuster about the Burma Road with (right-left) Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and Yul Brynner and which also stared Senta Berger and Chaim Topol.

It had been on my ‘bucket list’.

For those unfamiliar, Israel’s hurried Herculean road building up and through the high hills to Jerusalem was named after the Burma Road linking Burma with southwest China built to convey supplies to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Israel’s Burma Road proved no less existential – providing a lifeline that secured Jerusalem as part of the nascent Jewish state.  Approximately 100,000 Jews – around one-fifth of the Jewish population of the Yishuv at the time – lived in the besieged city of Jerusalem and its environs and they were all totally dependent on life-sustaining supplies being brought in from the coastal plain, as all other access roads to the city were under the control of Arab forces. Most significantly, the fort at Latrun which from mid-May 1948, was held by the British-trained Arab Legion from Transjordan, cutting off the main access route to Jerusalem. Unable to capture the fort – losing many soldiers in two major attempts – the only alternative to end the siege of Jerusalem was to bypass Latrun by a longer but safer detour route.

Despite advice from his military strategists to focus on the war elsewhere as the new state was attacked on multiple fronts by five Arab armies and forget besieged Jerusalem as “a lost cause”, David Ben Gurion was defiant, asserting:

Without Jerusalem, there is no Israel.”

Ben Gurion had the pulse of his people. Every year in the Diaspora, the final words at each year’s Passover is “Next year in Jerusalem” reinforcing the eternal connection of Jerusalem to the Jewish People. However, were it not for the Burma Road, “Jerusalem might have remained an allusive, unattainable dream,” says our good friend and licensed tour guide, Danny Gelley.

Saving Jerusalem. Tour guide Danny Gelley shows on the model the conveys taking the makeshift bypass road , known as the Burma Road, between kibbutz Hulda and Jerusalem  built in 1948 during the siege of Jerusalem. 

Reminding us of the cost in Israeli lives – many Holocaust survivors who only days before got off the ships  – in trying unsuccessfully to take Latrun which Israel only took back in 1967, Danny takes us  to a high point where we look down at Highway 1 with cars speeding in either direction between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. “The road was impassable back then being too narrow and with Arabs on either side shooting at any attempts at convoys trying to take supplies to Jerusalem.” He points to Sha’ar Hagai, “then a bottleneck and the weak point on the road. They were like sitting ducks.” Danny reads from the French explorer Victor Guérin, who described Sha’ar Hagai in 1868:

“…the track winds between walls of rocks, overgrown with brush and thickets….the passage is too narrow that a determined band of men could stop an army in it with little difficulty.”

Monumental Museum. The new heritage center at Sha’ar Hagai reveals the legacy of the battles and the story of the Palmach fighters who with the participants on the convoys broke through to besieged Jerusalem during the War of Independence. (photo by D.E. Kaplan)

Eight decades later, these words proved prophetically true.

The future of Jerusalem as part of the new Jewish State was literally and figuratively hanging at the edge of a precipice. The entrance to this menacing gorge was called Bab el-Wad by the Arabs. By the Jews it was known by several names, all frighteningly intimidating:

The Gate of Terror”, “Hell, the Gate of Blood”, the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” and more.

How well I understood the significance of these disturbing  epithets when later in the day, I would see the final resting place of the warriors who fell in the battles of the roads to Jerusalem who are  buried in the cemetery at kibbutz Kiryat Anavim. Over an eleven month period, 138 fighters were buried here. Walking down the rows of orderly graves meticulously maintained, under the long shadow cast by a tall obelisk-shaped monument built in coloured limestone rising to the heavens, I was reminded again by the NAME of the memorable movie: “Cast a Giant Shadow”. What struck me most was the ages of the soldiers – so young.  I gasped when I read on the tombstones 18, 17, 16 and even 15! I stared mesmerised at the grave of Yaacov Levy, aged 15 and wondered what thoughts were going through this teenager’s mind as he willingly sacrificed his life to open the road to Jerusalem.

Honouring our Heroes. Dedicated to the fallen soldiers from the Harel Brigade that opened the road to Jerusalem, the monument at the cemetery at Kiryat Anavim was designed by Menachem Shemi Schmidt whose son is buried here with his comrades at arms

A little higher from young Levy’s grave,  we stop at the grave of Aharon Jimmy Schmidt, a 22 year-old Palmach company commander who died toward the end of the war on a hilly ridge, near modern day Beit Shemesh. Danny explains that when “his Russian born father, Menachem Shemi Schmidt, who was an artist and sculptor heard from a close friend and fellow soldier of his fallen son that, when they had been at the Kiryat Anavim cemetery that Jimmy had commented that after the war he would ask his father to design a memorial to the fallen comrades, he acted upon his son’s wishes.”

Could Jimmy have foreseen he too would soon be one of whom his father would honour?

When he died in 1951, Menachem Shemi Schmidt, was buried in the same cemetery as his beloved son Jimmy which we later passed and noted how father and son both rested beneath the “giant shadow” cast by the father’s memorial on the hill.

Action Stations

The most momentous ‘milestone’ for this writer along the Burma Road was visiting the new heritage center called Khan Sha’ar HaGai.  Opened earlier this year before Passover, the museum is proving popular with schoolkids, as evident on the day we were there. It is easy to understand why. It’s an experiential museum ideal for all ages, drawing the visitors in to participate in a way that you feel you are “part of the action”.

Rabin brings Relief. Two days after being established in April  1948 and placed under the command of twenty-four-year-old Yitzhak Rabin, the Harel Brigade organised a convoy of supplies to be brought to Jerusalem under fire from Arab irregulars. The relief convoy led by Rabin himself, came four days after an Arab ambush of a medical convoy on its way to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus in which eighty Jews, mostly nurses and doctors, were ambushed and killed. 

Passing through five stations, the tour begins with recorded live testimonies by those who participated in those dangerous convoys describing how under fire they bulldozed and dug with spades and shovels in constructing the road; how bullets ripped through the lorries and fortified ambulances during the convoys and how at times in the mud and on steep assents, they had to get out the trucks under fire and PUSH. These were heroes – ordinary young people who were called upon to act quite extraordinary. One begins to understand how the country was built on the sheer WILL of its determined and defiant people. This struck home when one notices on some of their arms, the tattooed numbers – a reminder of their not too distant hellish residency at Nazi concentration camps. They needed little further motivation to fight – they knew the alternative.

Breakout Pass. Jubilation as a convoy with lifesaving supplies arrives in Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

At the next few stations, visitors participate with the use of a disc received on entry. From here on visitors face simulated life or death situations as a commander and have to make decisions by placing their disc at the small windows of their choice. So at a Road Station, your convoy comes under heavy fire and one of the trucks gets stuck. You have 30 seconds as a commander to decide – order the convoy to continue away from enemy fire or to delay and try save the troubled truck. These were real life situations and you then learn what decisions were actually made at the time and the consequences of those decisions.

At the Supply Station,  you are briefed of the dire situation in Jerusalem of Jews starving, dying from a lack of medicine and running low on ammunition. Faced with a reduced number of trucks having been destroyed by enemy fire, you, as a commander, have to make the decision to use the limited space left to pack in mostly  food, medical supplies or ammunition. What will you choose? Whatever you decide – it will result in life for some and death for others. Not knowing the “right” choice – I opted for ammunition!

At another station, you sit in an armoured truck being pierced by bullets as it struggles in a high gear up a long winding high hill, hearing the sound of gunfire, and looking out the  small windows seeing the raging battle outside.

Wayside Inn. The site of the museum today, the Khan ( a hostel for convoys of merchants traveling the roads to stop for the night without fear of bandits) at Sha’ar Hagai in 1910.

Determining Values

This is no ordinary museum for the passive observer. You see, feel and ask – what would I have done in such a situation?

As you exit, you are called upon to not simply return your disc but to hang your disc at a Value Board, where  you select the value that you consider to have been most important to those who endured this experience. Your choices range between camaraderie, just cause, unity, love of country, mutual responsibility, determination, faith, Jerusalem and more.

What to Do? On route from Hulda to Jerusalem when the convey faces a life-threatening crisis.

Still wondering if you made the most appropriate choice – it’s all very personal – you walk out the museum onto a stretch of the old Burma Road where you can climb aboard some of the original supply trucks and ambulances as they line up in a convoy. Cramped inside with all the supplies and only slits to see out and fire at the enemy, one’s mind travels faster than the speed these trucks ever travelled.

A Question of Values. School children at the Khan Sha’ar HaGai ,Bab el-Wad,  National Memorial Site placing their discs at the Value Board. (photo by D.E. Kaplan)
 

How did they do it?

Today, cars speed up and down between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in record time and in complete safety. In Jerusalem however, the danger remains with terror a constant menace.

Hence my wife’s observation outside a turbulent Mahanei Yehuda:

It may be easier getting to Jerusalem these days, but nothing has changed within!”




Israeli Private Tour Guide. Looking for an excellent Israeli tour guide schooled in history? Danny Gelley is certified in English, Hebrew and German. Contact danielgelley@gmail.com Cell: 054-4499227




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- 13-14 September 2021

The Israel Brief – 13 September 2021 – 4 down 2 to go – prisoners back in custody. IDF respond to rockets fired on Israel. Lapid outlines plans for Gaza but what do Palestinians think?



The Israel Brief – 14 September 2021 – Anniversary of Abraham Accords. Israel bracing for escalation? Hamas ordered to pay families of three murdered boys. Yom Kippur.






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).

Revenge for 9/11, like the Holocaust, would be in thriving

By Alex Ryvchin

Republished with kind permission from “The Australian“.

A few weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945, a group of survivors of the Holocaust met in Bucharest to mark Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom. Among the group was Abba Kovner, who had escaped the Vilna ghetto and led a partisan campaign that struck at the Nazis and their collaborators from the forests of Lithuania.

Kovner was consumed with desire for revenge. “He will repay them for their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness,” he told his fellow survivors at the gathering, invoking Psalm 94 and God’s promise to deliver vengeance upon the enemies of Israel.

The Jewish Avengers.  Killer of Jews in their sights, Abba Kovner (back row, center) with members of the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (The FPO – Eng: United Partisan Organization) in Vilna, 1940’s.

After the war, Kovner and his comrades, known as the “Avengers”, hatched a series of plots to exact retribution for the murders of their families and the near annihilation of the European Jews.

Most were aborted but the Avengers did succeed in getting their operatives into the kitchen of the Stalag 13 prisoner of war camp at Langwasser near Nuremberg, where Nazi SS, the units responsible for the implementation of the Final Solution, were being held. They planned to poison the bread of the prisoners, but the poison failed to take full effect and not a single SS man died.

The pursuit of revenge after the Holocaust proved futile. How does one even begin to avenge such a crime, really a sequence of millions of individual crimes, including the murders of one million children, carried out by hundreds of thousands of perpetrators across Europe?

It is a cliche to say success is the best revenge, but it is true. The real revenge the Jewish remnants took against those who pursued their obliteration was their survival and the re-establishment of a successful national centre for the Jews in their ancient lands that revived Jewish culture and enhanced Jewish scientific, cultural and scholarly contributions to the world. Kovner would become one of that state’s greatest poets.

Jewish Justice. Abba Kovner testifies at the trial in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann.  

For those of us who watched the carnage of 9/11, the desire for revenge was a difficult emotion to suppress. “Revenge is the first law of nature,” Napoleon wrote as a young man. It was certainly just and necessary to find those who masterminded the murders of 2996 people and to incapacitate terrorist organisations that would pursue further attacks. As the Babylonian Talmud teaches, “If someone comes planning to kill you, rise and kill them first.”

But the desire for revenge goes beyond justice or prevention. It aims to redeem those whose lives were taken and to restore their dignity – a noble aspiration, but one that more often than not is unattainable and the pursuit of which can corrode the soul.

The true revenge for 9/11 ought to have come in the form of global unity, comprising people of all faiths who shared a determination to drive fanaticism from our societies. Instead, the 9/11 attacks did what their mastermind had intended. Beyond killing thousands of innocent people, the attacks shook the self-confidence of the West. They divided us into doves and hawks, established fault lines that persist today and caused a collective questioning of our ideals.

Many would conclude that the pillars of our society – enlightenment, rationalism, human freedoms – were void and corrupt, as the al-Qaeda assassins had charged from their caves.

America Attacked. The World Trade Center’s South Tower burst into flames after being hit by United Airlines Flight 175.

September 11 also triggered a dangerous defect in our thinking. Instead of understanding that the terrorists were motivated by a barbarism and blood lust of which mankind had always been capable, we began to believe we had brought this on ourselves.

We assumed rational objections to policy were governing the thoughts of those for whom slaughtering morning commuters and teenage girls at pop concerts constituted success. But rationalism is not universal or innate. It occurs only in those who are raised in its traditions and teachings. And religious extremism does not breed rationalism, it crushes it.

This doomed path of inquiry produced a narrative that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and US support for Israel were the root cause of radical Islam’s desire to overthrow the West.

US academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer claimed US support for its democratic ally was a predominant source of anti-American terrorism and urged punitive measures against Israel.

Lobbying against Israel. In their book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John Mearsheimer (left), a political science professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt (right), academic dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, assert that America’s “special relationship” with Israel works against its best interests.

High school textbooks in Britain also suggested Israel’s creation was the root cause of Islamist terrorism and the motivation for 9/11. Rather than confronting radical Islam’s fanatical hatred of the Jews and Osama bin Laden’s stated mission to “punish the oppressive Jews and their allies”, such thinking in effect validated their racism and bowed to it.

From blaming the Jew to Blaming the Jewish State. Before being withdrawn, a UK  history textbook was in use by high schools in the country asking how the September 11 terrorist attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda could be connected to the establishment of the State of Israel.

The wicked sectarianism on display in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon finally made mockery of the view that if only Israel withdrew from the West Bank, al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Jema’ah Islamiyah and the rest would promptly beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

As we all do, I still vividly recall September 11, 2001. I came into my torts law class that morning after watching the second plane destroy the South Tower. Our lecturer announced that class was cancelled. “I’m not going to lecture you about the ‘reasonable person’ test when such unreasonable people exist in the world,” he said. Unreasonable people will continue to exist and inflict misery; the disintegration of Afghanistan and the recent ISIS-inspired stabbing spree in an Auckland supermarket attest to that.

Israel’s Message to Terror. Survive and thrive as emblazoned in modern day Tel Aviv.

But our revenge and our victory lie in the survival of free societies, our reasonable, rational thought, and our unified purpose to uphold precisely that which the terrorists sought to destroy.



About the writer:

Alex Ryvchin is co-chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the author of “Zionism: The Concise History“.








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)

A Tall Order

Posture on your mind – “Think Tall”

This is the second part of a series on  how to achieve good posture for all ages

(First part: Importance of Posture – For All Ages)

By Lionel H. Phillips D. O.

There is no machine anywhere compared to our very own machine – our human body. Surely it should be an asset that we take maximum care of 24/7. It requires simple actions by us in order to work efficiently for a lifetime in a healthy mode.

The key to good posture is the position of the spine relative to its natural curvature. The spine has three natural curves – at your neck, mid/upper back, and lower back. Correct posture should maintain these curves, by not increasing or decreasing them. 

Let us take note of a few extremely important basic acts required in order to achieve the correct posture.

Refer to the illustration below – Take note of the curvature in the left illustration and note how it relates with the illustration on the right. The design provides safety, strength and mobility.

The middle illustration is full-on from the back, stretching from the back of the skull in a straight line to the Coccyx where the last 4 vertebrae are fused together. That is what we want to achieve.

When viewed from either the front or the back – middle illustration – the vertical line passing through the body’s center of gravity should theoretically bisect the body into two equal halves, with the bodyweight distributed evenly between the two feet.

Stage One is a Fast Check – Necessary items are a mirror – preferably full length – as well as your cellphone and an assistant. All three will play an important role throughout the checking and correction process.

  1. Stand in front of the mirror facing full on, wearing light comfortable but fairly tight-fitting clothing. Preferably barefoot, but certainly without high heels. Relax the body completely so as to view your natural posture. We need to record your posture as accurately as possible whilst breathing normally.
  2. Have someone take a picture from the back, side and front.  Then, whilst still in this position, check the alignment of your shoulders and hips. Are they parallel one side to the other? Are the gaps between the waist and elbows similar?  Write any variance down. For example – right shoulder lower and left hip protruding to the left.
  3. Move away from the spot and then return to the same place. Without any body movement, increase your height by pushing yourself up from your heels and the balls of your feet, whilst imagining that you have a hook in the middle of you head tied to the ceiling and stretching you upwards. Don’t involve any body parts but try to STAND TALL. Breathe normally.
  4. Have pictures taken once again from the back, side and front.
  5. Write down what you observe. There should be a variance in all 3 of the positions, as well as the chin having moved slightly backwards.
  6. The pictures will tell you, in some small way, about any variance.

Now take a seat in your usual dining room chair. Sit as naturally as usual. Take pictures from the front, side and back. Stand up and be seated again. This time you must be seated with your lower back and buttocks as far back in the seat as possible. Once again take 3 pictures and then compare.

Did you feel more upright on the second set?

Were your shoulders relaxed yet more upright?

There should have been no gap between your lower back and the backrest from the waistline and lower. In addition, you should find it much easier to stand up when seated correctly. Let’s give it a test. Sit with what may have been your “slouched” posture. Inhale through the nose and exhale as you rise to a standing position. Next, sit with your lower back flush against the chair. Repeat the inhalation through the nose and exhale as your stand upright. Feel any difference?

Next step is to analyze the pictures and note the variances, if any. Assuming that there were changes, it would require actions that you, and only you, can perform.

Posture – Two examples of the Skeleton – Take particular note of the Spine

What are we looking for? Muscles in the body are attached to the spine with the help of tendons. At times, due to poor posture, overuse and strenuous activities, these muscles get inflamed, especially the upper back muscles of the cervical and thoracic spine which are more susceptible to inflammation due to overuse. Bad posture, such as slouching, pulls the shoulders forward. Correcting poor upper body posture can avoid and alleviate the pain and limited function associated with shoulder tendonitis.

The cervical region of the spine is the most flexible, followed by the lumbar region. The thoracic spine, however, has a more limited range of motion as it is anchored by the rib cage. The illustration below left should be our aim. Upright, relaxed for maximum efficiency.

The illustration below indicates – to some degree – how crowded, yet perfectly, our organs are packed. Imagine the negative pressure effect on our organs if say one shoulder is lower than the other, or if we are in a slouched position.

Where do posture imbalances come from? It is important to note that having good posture is a combination of flexibility in your skeletal muscles, and balanced strength, which helps you stand and walk gracefully. The conscious activation of the postural muscles is very important, especially when standing or sitting for an extended period.

The illustration below, will give you some idea of the numerous muscles that are affected by poor posture.  And this is only the upper body.

Solutions are non-invasive, other than one having to have the discipline and make the effort. The results will certainly be worth one being able to change poor postural habits for the better.

A full-length mirror, if available, will be your best guide.  Please delete the often-well-meaning advice to a) Pull your shoulders back. b) Lift your chin.

The most important two words for one to ingrain are – THINK TALL. Whether sitting, standing, walking, jogging or running. THINK TALL.

Imagine that the top of your head is attached to a crane which is lifting you upwards. All whilst you are in a relaxed posture.

Below is an illustration of the right knee. Poor posture of one’s head always drooping to the right, will cause the right shoulder to follow suit, whilst the left hip will move outwards to the left, affecting the right knee which will be taught, whilst the left knee is relaxed.

Whether sitting, bending, jogging, running, lifting or pushing / pulling, or climbing a staircase, NEVER ALLOW THE KNEES TO BEND FORWARD BEYOND THE LINE OF THE TOES. Our knees have to put up with enormous pressures as well as strain.

Common falls whilst walking. Test yourself with the following. Stand upright, feet shoulders apart. Then slouch slightly into a poor posture. The shoulders will be ahead of your waist. Lift one leg with a bent knee as high as possible and note the height achieved. Then stand upright with an upright THINK TALL posture. Once again, lift the same leg with a bent knee as high as possible. You should notice how much higher the second lift was compared to the slouched posture. This accounts for the large number of persons tripping and falling, resulting in a variety of injuries due to being hunched forward and not allowing for a natural lift of the leg. It is also difficult to do Nose Diaphragmatic Breathing whilst slouched.

Breathing and Posture whist Walking in general or as an Exercise. THINK TALL and inhale through the Nose, and Exhale through the Mouth.

Note how the abdominal section rises when inhaling through the Nose. This is followed by the abdominals returning to the start position, whilst the chest has remained unmoved throughout. This can be done whilst lying or sitting.

The diaphragm is a parachute-shaped fibrous muscle that runs between the chest and abdomen, separating these two large cavities. When you breathe through your chest, the intercostal muscles and diaphragm don’t get to contract like they’re supposed to. This keeps the body from getting the optimal level of oxygen that it needs. This is the reason why you may feel stressed and fatigued even when you do not engage in physically extraneous activities. According to a 2004 study from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the main reason why most people do chest breathing instead of diaphragmatic is because of poor posture.                                                                                                                

Diaphragmatic breathing is different. In diaphragmatic breathing, the air enters through the lungs and the diaphragm is actively contracted. The chest does not rise. Instead, the belly expands.

No matter how busy one is, squeeze in a few minutes to practice diaphragmatic breathing. Do it while on your way to work or school, during lunch breaks, watching TV, before or after working out and before or in bed.

Car Seats. The backrests are generally set sloping too far backwards. It will assist one to sit more upright by adjusting them to a more upright position. This will have an added positive by allowing the knees to be slightly higher than the buttocks.

In addition, by using a rolled towel – or similar- to be placed in the lower back, at the natural curvature of the spine, one will be seated more upright and prevent air from the open window or air conditioning from hitting the lower back. This happens to be the area where one usually sweats the most.  

Photo below is in a lounger. Same principal applies to a car seat.

(Photo on the left illustrates the position and effect of using the towel.)

What is the Correct Standing, Sitting or Walking Posture?

  1. THINK TALL – Stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling. Do this by imagining that you have a hook pulling at the hair on top of your head towards the ceiling. This will also help to keep your shoulder blades well aligned (but relaxed) and in a strong, confident position. This concept must be practiced when you are standing or sitting. Don’t pull your shoulders back or upwards un-naturally – you cannot hold them in such an un-natural position.
    2. Hold your head up straight with your chin relaxed. Do not tilt your head forward, backward or sideways.
    3. Your earlobes should then be in line with the middle of your shoulders.
    4 Keep your chest naturally forward, not sunken.
    5. Straighten at the knees, but do not lock or tighten them.
    6. Tuck your abdominal area in by a slight tensing / squeezing of the abdominal muscles, which will tilt your pelvis slightly forward and up.
    7. The arches in your feet should be supported by good footwear.
    8. Avoid standing in the same position for a long time. When this is necessary, keep shifting your weight from one leg to the other, and try to elevate one foot by resting it on a stool or box or bar if possible. After several minutes, switch to the other foot.
    9. If possible, adjust the height of the work table or desk to a comfortable level.
Cell/ Mobile Phones – Posture – Pressure on the Cervical Spine

Stretching, should be done until you feel a slight pulling of the muscle, but not pain. As you hold the stretch the muscle will begin to relax. Then as you feel the tension easing, you can increase the stretch again until you feel the same slight pulling. Hold this position until you feel no further increase. 20 seconds for each.

The PSOAS MUSCLE is one of the most important muscles in your body.      It lies deep within the center of your core, connecting your femur to your lower back. The psoas muscle is the deepest muscle of the human body.

It affects our structural balance, muscular integrity, flexibility, strength, range of motion, joint mobility, and organ functioning. Three muscles are associated with what is commonly referred to as “the psoas”: the psoas major, psoas minor, and iliacus.

Without this essential muscle group, you wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed in the morning!

In fact, whether you run, bike, dance, practice yoga, or just hang out on your couch, your psoas muscles are involved. That’s because your psoas muscles are the primary connectors between your torso and your legs.  They affect your posture and help to stabilize your spine.

They attach from your 12th thoracic vertebrae to your 5 lumbar vertebrae, through your pelvis and then finally attach to your femurs. In fact, they are the only muscles that connect your spine to your legs.

The VAGUS Nerve (seen in the two red tubes running vertically on two sides of the Cervical Spine in the illustration below) is the longest cranial nerve, and runs from the brain to the gut. It sends sensory information to the brain and controls certain motor functions throughout the body. It’s part of the parasympathetic system, which allows the body to “rest and digest.” Please note the key to stimulating the Vagus Nerve – Nasal Diaphragmatic Breathing!

When you breathe deeply into your belly, it stimulates the Vagus Nerve, which then sends a message to the brain telling it to make the body relax. Stress hormone production is reduced – and other physiological stress effects (like capillary constriction, muscle tension, decreased digestion, etc.) are improved as well.

The result? In the moment, you feel better and in the long-term help to prevent disease.

You can use deep belly breathing to stimulate the Vagus Nerve. This sends a message to your body causing it to relax and relieve stress. It’s fast and easy!

Be mindful of posture during everyday activities, like watching television, washing dishes, walking, driving and whenever using your computer and mobile phone.

Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can weaken the abdominal muscles, causing problems for the pelvis and spine, as well as adding pressure to the hips and knees, whilst contributing to lower back pain.

Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. High heels, for example, can throw one off balance and cause postural problems, while placing more stress on numerous muscles. 


About the writer:

Lionel Phillips is a Doctor of Osteopathy (1975), an International Fitness & Health Instructor, Consultant and Lecturer. He has researched and designed ‘The Needs & Functions of the Human Body’ as an educational subject for inclusion in all School Curriculums World-Wide. A past Federation Member and Israel Liaison Representative of IHRSA (International, Health & Racquet Sports club Association) and member of their worldwide “Panel of Experts”, Phillips is a recipient of the “Prime Ministers Award of Merit” (PM Menachem Begin).




Links to various Stretching and Free Exercise routines

Stretches for the Lower Body:

Exercise Routines – Global Fitness Services Limited – Health and Education Services (meandmybody.com)

General Stretches for Flexibility:

Exercise Routines – Global Fitness Services Limited – Health and Education Services (meandmybody.com)

Strength Exercises:

Exercise Routines – Global Fitness Services Limited – Health and Education Services (meandmybody.com)







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)

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Happy New Year from Israel

A Year of Changes and Challenges

As vaccines drive down infections and variants are kept at bay, we yearn for life returning to “normal”. May the New Year bring joy and rejuvenation to a global community.


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The Right Moves

A dance instructor’s  recollections of  defying Apartheid in South Africa

By David E. Kaplan

Not Dancing to the Tune of Apartheid. Fonda’s  students at Gelvandale Ballet School, Port Elizabeth.

Too often observers focus on the Napoleons and not the foot soldiers who opposed Apartheid in South Africa. Fonda Dubb of Eilat, Israel was a foot soldier, who through her talents in dance and cuisine courageously defied and broke barriers and made a difference.

The Right Moves

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The Best of Humanity

The Paralympics showcases the best of the human spirit, resilience, triumph and sporting excellence

By Rolene Marks

Man of Vision. Ludwig Guttmann, the Jewish doctor who escaped the Nazis and founded the Paralympics.

Inspired by the superlative performances of Israeli competitors at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics winning 9 medals, the writer reflects on the history of these unique games, the brainchild of Ludwig Guttmannthe Jewish doctor who fled from the Nazis and shepherded his vision to emerge as one of the world’s largest international sporting events.

The Best of Humanity

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Durban is a Downer

Major countries boycott UN “Durban Conference” for its blatant antisemitism

By Rodney Mazinter

True Colours. Israeli-American political cartoonist and journalist Ranan R. Lurie nails it.

Like vultures circling above their prey, the predictable predators gear up to attack Israel at the upcoming 20th  Anniversary of the UN World Conference Against Racism, also known as Durban IV. The writer exposes the lies, deceptions and hypocrisy peeling off the veneer to reveal naked antisemitism.

Durban is a Downer

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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- 30 August – 02 September 2021

The Israel Brief – 30 August 2021 – Gantz and Abbas meet. Biden and Bennett meeting – what was discussed. Rioting along Gaza border. It’s raining medals for Israel at the Paralympics.




The Israel Brief – 31 August 2021 – Thousands mourn Barel Shmeuli z”l, family demand inquest. Last US troops leave Afghanistan. Israel welcomes Bahraini Ambassador.




The Israel Brief – 01 September 2021 – Back to school for Israel’s kids! Riots continue on border with Gaza. Angela Merkel honoured for her advocacy work against antisemitism.




The Israel Brief – 01 September 2021 – Budget time! Lapid weighs in on Afghanistan. Victoria, Aus to outlaw display of hate memorabilia. It is raining gold medals for Israel at the Paralympics!







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 Best of Humanity

The Paralympics showcases the best of the human spirit, resilience, triumph and sporting excellence

By Rolene Marks

I am completely devoid of sporting ability. The only thing I have been able to run for successfully is a shoe sale; I can swim in a pool of emotions and if it requires a bat, stick, racket, hoop and a ball, count me out. It is for this and so many reasons that I love watching the Olympic Games. I marvel at the magnificent sporting prowess of the athletes, celebrating and competing at the pinnacle of their careers. The spirit of sportsmanship evident in the competition transcending politics. I have a healthy appreciation for the sheer tenacity, talent and sportsmanship.

I love the Paralympics even more.

The Paralympics are the embodiment of the triumph of the human spirit and the best of humanity, a sentiment echoed by Andrew Parsons, the President of the International Paralympic Committee when he opened the latest games in Tokyo, Japan.

Andrew Parsons, the President of the International Paralympic Committee

The Paralympics brings together the best international athletes with disabilities and takes place after both the summer and winter games.  

This year, the games are taking place against the backdrop of the omnipresent Corona virus pandemic which means that these amazing sportsmen and women have competed with virtually no spectators but this has not diminished their spirit.

Israel had the best Olympics in its history. Known more for being more of a start-up than sporting nation, we surpassed our expectations with a 4 medal haul – two gold and two bronze. Our Paralympians have even surpassed that! At the time of writing this, our medal tally stands at 4 gold 2 silver and a bronze.

Monumental Medalists. Medal-winning Paralympic swimmers back in Israel on August 20, 2018, from left (seated), Ami Dadon, Iyad Shalabi and Inbal Pezaro; (standing) Mark Malyar, Erel Halevi and Yoav Valinsky. (Photo courtesy of Israel Paralympics Committee)
 

The story behind how the Paralympics started is quite extraordinary.

The games were the brainchild (quite literally!) of Sir Ludwig Guttman CBE FRS, a German-British neurologist. Born on the 3rd of July 1899 in the town of Tost, Upper Silesia, Guttmann always had an affinity with medicine. In 1917, while volunteering at an accident hospital in Königshütte, he encountered his first paraplegic patient, a coal miner with a spinal fracture who later died of sepsis. That same year, Guttmann passed his Abitur at the humanistic grammar school in Königshütte before being called up for military service. Guttmann started studying medicine in April 1918 at the University of Breslau. He transferred to the University of Freiburg in 1919 and received his Doctor of Medicine (MD) in 1924 and by 1933, Guttmann was working in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) as a neurosurgeon and lecturing at the university.

Founding Father. Portrait of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann the father of the Paralympic movement.

The world would soon dramatically change with the Nazi rise to power and so to for the Guttmann family.

The Nazis assumed power in 1933 and immediately began to target Germany’s Jews. The antisemitic Nuremberg Laws were introduced and as part of these discriminatory measures, Jews were banned from practicing medicine professionally. Guttmann was assigned to work at the Breslau Jewish Hospital, where he became Medical Director in 1937. After Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938 when synagogues, Jewish property and individuals were violently attacked, Guttmann ordered his staff to admit any patients without question. The following day, he justified his decision on a case-by-case basis with the Gestapo. Out of 64 admissions, 60 patients were saved from arrest and deportation to concentration camps.

Man of Vision. Sir Ludwig Guttmann, the Jewish doctor who escaped the Nazis and founded the Paralympics.

In early 1939, Guttmann and his family left Germany, fleeing Nazi persecution of the Jews. An opportunity for escape had come when the Nazis provided him with a visa; and ordered him to travel to Portugal to treat a friend of the Portuguese dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar. Guttmann was scheduled to return to Germany via London when the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) arranged for him to remain in the United Kingdom. He arrived in Oxford, England, on 14 March 1939 with his wife, Else Samuel Guttmann, and their two children: a son, Dennis, and a daughter, Eva, aged six. CARA negotiated with the British Home Office on their behalf, and gave Guttmann and his family £250 (equivalent to £16,000 in 2019) to help them settle in Oxford.

Guttmann continued his spinal injury research at the Nuffield Department of Neurosurgery in the Radcliffe Infirmary. The family became members of the Oxford Jewish community, and Eva remembers becoming friendly with Miriam Margolyes, an actress famous for her role in Harry Potter as Professor Pomona Sprout.  The Jewish community in Oxford grew rapidly as a result of the influx of displaced academic Jews from Europe.

Actress Miriam Margolyes

Guttmann’s skill and reputation in the medical field began to grow.

In September 1943, the British government approached Guttmann with an idea to establish the National Spinal Injuries Centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire. The initiative came from the Royal Air Force to make sure that the treatment and rehabilitation of pilots with spinal injuries, “who often crashed on approach with their bombers damaged”. The centre opened on 1 February 1944, and was the United Kingdom’s first specialist unit for treating spinal injuries. Guttmann was appointed its director, a position he held until 1966. He believed that sport was an important method of therapy for the rehabilitation of injured military personnel, helping them build up physical strength and self-respect.

History of the Paralympic Games

Guttmann became a naturalised British citizen in 1945 and organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games for disabled war veterans, which was held at the hospital on 29 July 1948, the same day as the opening of the London Olympics. All participants had spinal cord injuries and competed in wheelchairs. In an effort to encourage his patients to take part in national events, Guttmann used the term Paraplegic Games. These came to be known as the “Paralympic Games“, which later became the “Parallel Games” and grew to include other disabilities.

Early Days. Javelin throw with Ludwig Guttmann watching.

Guttmann was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1950 King’s Birthday Honours, as “Neurological Surgeon in charge of the Spinal Injuries Centre at the Ministry of Pensions Hospital, Stoke Mandeville”. His other investiture honours include being made an Associate Officer of the Venerable Order of Saint John on 28 June 1957, promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1960, and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1966, becoming Sir Ludwig Guttmann!

Right Royal. Her Majesty the Queen congratulating an Israeli participant at the 1969 Stoke Mandeville Games with Ludwig Guttmann looking on. (left)

In 1961, Guttmann founded the International Medical Society of Paraplegia, now the International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS) and was the inaugural president, a position that he held until 1970. He also became the first editor of the journal, Paraplegia (now named Spinal Cord) and retired from clinical work in 1966; but continued his involvement with sport, seeing the incredible healing effect it had on participants.

Sir Ludwig Guttmann suffered a heart attack in October 1979, and died on 18 March 1980 at the age of 80.

His lasting legacy is the Paralympic Games.

The Paralympic games now include sports as diverse as fencing, basketball, swimming, table-tennis, football, cycling, equestrian events and so many, many more and have inspired other such events such as the hugely popular Invictus Games, founded by Prince Harry for disabled war veterans from different armies from around the world.

Enter Israel. Athletes from Israel enter the stadium during the opening ceremony for the 2020 Paralympics at the National Stadium in Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
 

Today’s Paralympic athletes are a reflection of their great founder, Sir Ludwig Guttmann. The athletes that compete are the embodiment of the human spirit, of tenacity, endurance, courage, perseverance and fortitude. I cannot help but think that Sir Ludwig Guttmann (MD) would be so proud of how the games have grown and the joy they inspire.

This is the human spirit at its best!