Decked out in Blue and White

By Rolene Marks

I love this time of the year in Israel. The country is transformed into a blue and white celebration as the roads are lined and national buildings festooned with Israeli flags. There is a festive atmosphere as many decorate their balconies and cars with flags and of course, barbeques are sold out – all in preparation for the national holidays, Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day).

This year as the country starts to recover from the global pandemic we are acutely aware of all that has been lost.  The feeling of celebration is a lot more subdued and pensive this year, many still fearful to gather in large groups but also immense gratitude that we are coming out of this difficult year – and for our world leading vaccination rollout.

This year our beloved country turns 73. Israel is several thousand years old but the modern state was founded in 1948. She wears the lines of her history with grace and integrity and a cheeky sense of humour. At times this is punctuated with a deep sadness and if you look a little closer, sometimes you can see a tear in her eyes.

It is no coincidence that the national holidays fall very closely to each other.  It was intended that way so we are aware of the price that we have paid to have this country. We are reminded of the pain of our past and the sacrifices of the many that ensure that we continue to live in our vibrant but flawed democracy. There is nothing Israelis value more than life and this is demonstrated with such heart around these holidays.

This week we commemorate Yom Hazikaron – Memorial Day for soldiers and victims of terror followed the next day by Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day. Last year, Israelis like many around the world were in lock down and this placed a heavy burden on bereaved families who were unable to visit the graves of the loved ones. Thank goodness this year, we have the go ahead to visit cemeteries and to have gatherings to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. We can return to our favourite national pastime (besides engaging in robust argument!) – the barbeque.

 This Yom Hazikaron we will mourn 23 928 who have fallen in defense of the state and hundreds of victims of terror. Every year, we immerse ourselves in remembering the lives that we have lost but also gratitude for their service. Their names; and the names of the wars and operations are etched in memory – the War of Independence, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the wars with Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead and the many others.

Their names are seared in our hearts.

And there are those whose names we will never know but whose valiant acts of bravery are the reasons that we enjoy the freedoms that we do.

At 20h00 a mournful siren will announce the start of Yom Hazikaron, followed by a ceremony at The Kotel (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem. The time for remembrance and reflection begins.

Yom Hazikaron inspires in us a sense of awe and creates an incredible sense of solidarity amongst Jews around the world, but it is here in Israel where the emotions are seriously heightened. Our soldiers are not uniformed strangers who serve, but our children, spouses, colleagues, parents, friends and lovers.

They are the people we love.

Yom Hazikaron is also a day of gratitude. Few words can express how grateful we are for all who protect us on land, sea and air. Our brave warriors, these lions of Zion are our guardians and protectors. We are proud of them; we embrace them, and we love them.

There is nothing more important to Israelis than life. We revere it and we revel in it. And it is on this solemn and heartbreaking day that we are reminded of its fragility.

And then the whole mood of the country changes from one of somber memorial to that of celebration!

From the north to the south and everywhere in between, Israelis begin to celebrate!

One of the most special moments is the annual fly over of the IAF featuring planes throughout our history. This is a highly anticipated annual event and this year will be viewed with a lot more excitement and sentimentality because it couldn’t happen last year.

On this 73rd year of Israel’s Independence we have much to celebrate. Extraordinary achievements, historical peace deals, triumph over adversity and the temerity to face our ongoing challenges with the strength and gusto that has come to characterize the Israeli spirit.

We will continue to wear our blue and white with pride!

Am Yisrael Chai!







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 Man for all Seasons

By Rolene Marks

HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh leaves behind a tremendous legacy including support of Jewish and Pro-Israel causes.

He was the dashing naval World War II veteran and hero who was the very symbol of dedication and duty. The quintessential alpha male, he was to Her Majesty, The Queen, the love of her life for over 70 years, her unconditional support, her “strength and stay” and theirs was a love affair for the ages.

Theirs was love for the ages. Prince Philip and Her Majesty the Queen

At the great age of 99, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh passed away peacefully at his home, Windsor Castle.

When someone passes away, it is often only after their death when we find out the magnitude of the work that they have done or causes they supported. Prince Philip was no exception. Tributes have poured in from all corners of the globe and knowledge of his tremendous dedication and patronages to over 800 charities and endeavours, including various branches of the British armed forces; it appears that each community has been impacted by his work. Minutes after the news of his passing broke, tributes from Jewish leaders across the United Kingdom and Commonwealth were sent, expressing  gratitude for an extraordinary life, well lived.

HRH Prince Philip with Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, in an interview with the BBC shared the following anecdote. He recalled being invited to visit the Royal family at Windsor Castle, where Prince Philip “particularly wanted me to see one particular gift that Her Majesty the Queen had received in the 1960s. And in the Royal Library, he showed me a Torah scroll that she had received as a gift. And he wanted me to explain it to him.”

“It was one of the Czech scrolls, and I was able to first of all describe what a Torah scroll is; and that in addition, this particular scroll had been rescued from the former Czechoslovakia,” he said. “It had been intended to be part of what the Nazis wanted to be a museum to the people that used to exist. And therefore, in Czechoslovakia, none of the Torah scrolls were destroyed. A whole lot of these scrolls were brought to London and one was presented to the queen.”

Israeli leadership was no different and statements from President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, Lior Haiat and Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely paid tribute to Prince Philip, highlighting his exceptional dedication to duty and extending their condolences not just to the Royal Family whose loss is irreplaceable, but to all citizens of the UK and Commonwealth. It was noted that he would be missed amongst Israel’s people as well because we share a very special connection to the man affectionately known as The Iron Duke.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, third from left, poses with the Duke of Edinburgh, left, Queen Elizabeth II, right, Israeli President Ezer Weizman and his wife Reuma at a State Banquet in their honor at Buckingham Palace, London, in this February 25, 1997 file photo. (AP Photo/John Stillwell/pool)

Israelis have had a complicated relationship with the British Royal Family. Many have wondered over the years why there had been no official visits from Her Majesty, The Queen. Was it an unofficial boycott because of uprisings against the British Mandate before 1947? Was it to not anger Arab Royal Families? Or was it simply because the Foreign Office had not requested it?

Prince Philip and his sister, Princess Sophie, laying a wreath at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on October 31, 1994. (Photo by Beni Berk from the Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel)

This was until 1994, when HRH Prince Philip became the first Royal to visit – albeit in a personal capacity. The reason for his visit was very special. His mother, The Princess Alice was being honoured by Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum for being a Righteous Amongst the Nations. Princess Alice had been assisting the Swedish and Swiss Red Cross to help care for refugees, heard of the Cohen family who she knew personally and would soon be deported by the Nazi’s and opened the doors of the palace on the outskirts of Athens to them. The Cohens remained in the palace for 13 months, with the Princess regularly visiting and talking at length with Rachel the mother and assigned the family two Greeks who helped the family keep in contact with the outside world. Helping a Jewish family came with great risks, especially for Princess Alice. Three of her four daughters had married German princes, who were serving as SS officers. Suspicions of her loyalty were rife, and Philip, her only son had much earlier enlisted to the British Royal navy at aged 18 where he served throughout the war with distinction.

Prince Philip watering a maple tree planted in memory of his mother at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, October 31, 1994. (Photo by Beni Berk from the Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel.)

“I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with deep religious faith and she would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress,” said Prince Philip when commenting about his mother’s heroic actions.

During his trip to Israel, Prince Philip also met with members of the Jewish Legion who served in His Majesty’s Army. In 2018 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, made the first official visit to Israel and was received with great enthusiasm and admiration and Prince Charles has visited several times, one of them being for the funeral of slain Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin.

Jewish and Israeli causes were of great interest to the Prince. He often addressed Zionist organisations like the Jewish National Fund and critics of this were firmly ignored by him. The Prince did what he felt was right and did not suffer fools. He is famous for some of his salty gaffes which only endeared him more to people, especially at a time when woke culture seems to be taking over the world.

Prince Philip jokes with British WWII veterans Nathan Kohaen (right) and Arthur Stark, who immigrated to Israel, during a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Ramle, Israel, on Oct. 30, 1994, where he came to lay a wreath (AP Photo)

He was a great promoter of interfaith dialogue and was extremely dedicated to this work but for me, it is his Duke of Edinburgh Awards aimed at encouraging youth to excel, adopted here in Israel by WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) that is particularly sentimental.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme was set up in the UK in 1956 and operates in 140 countries around the globe. In 1982, Israel adopted the scheme, known locally as ‘Ot Hanoar – The Israel Youth Award Scheme. “It’s what I like to describe as a do-it-yourself growing-up kit,” HRH Prince Philip once said of the scheme, “it has helped countless young people on their sometimes difficult path to adulthood.”

The project involves four main principles set out for youth from the ages of 14-25, which enhances their abilities and potential, increases their awareness of the importance of public and communal affairs. The four main principles are: developing a hobby, physical exercise, volunteerism within the community, and challenging expeditions.

The scheme has changed the lives of so many young Israelis in WIZO Youth Villages and schools who have benefitted greatly from the vision of the late Duke of Edinburgh to become the very best version of themselves – going out in the world as ambassadors for WIZO and Israel. The hundreds of stories from graduates from this scheme are testimony to the living legacy of the man who dedicated his life to Queen, country and duty.

Celebrating 73 years of marriage. The last picture of the Duke of Edinburgh with Her Majesty The Queen, look at an anniversary card made by the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince Philip was the man for all seasons. Steadfast and strong, modest and universally admired, his passing will leave a void in the world. It is humbling to see the tributes flowing in and the people of Britain, despite restrictions due to the pandemic, expressing their love and admiration across the generations. We extend our condolences to Her Majesty, The Queen, the Royal family and the people of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.

Goodnight sweet Prince, may flights of angels wing thee to thy rest.






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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 11 April 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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Last week we remembered and honoured the more than 6 million Jews murdered
simply for being Jewish



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

The Israel Brief

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Articles

(1)

The Hills are Alive

Honouring this week the six million Jews murdered, the writer reflects on a visit to “Yad Vashem”

By David E. Kaplan

Switching Perspectives. Exiting a journey of death, visitors feast their eyes on life.
 

Rather than answering the question of “WHY”, a visit to Yad Vashem reveals more the “HOW”- and reminds and reinforces people to remember and pledge – “Never Again”.

The Hills are Alive

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(2)

We Remember Them

By  Rolene Marks

End of the Track. Herded onto cattle cars Jews are transported to their destination –  death.

With time running out  to hear personal stories from the survivors of the Shoah coupled with a rising tide of antisemitism, the writer reflects on this week’s Yom HaShoah weighing heavier, while at the same time reassured about the future because “We are protected in our beloved State of Israel

We Remember Them

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(3)

Tea in Tel Aviv

Israel’s tea pots are filling up as people again gather in crowds

By David E. kaplan

Tea for Two. The satisfied look of these two tea drinkers by Israeli artist Itzchak Tarkay.

With so much of Israel’s population now vaccinated against Covid, people are venturing out to nature reserves, beaches and street cafes. With traffic and tumult returned to Tel Aviv, the writer looks at Israel’s DNA  to understand how one month ago it was ‘tea for two’ and today can be ‘tea for eight’.

Tea in Tel Aviv

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

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

The Israel Brief- 05-08 April – 2021

The Israel Brief – 05 April 2021 – President Rivlin meets political party heads. Netanyahu in court appearance for trial. Abbas airlifted for medical treatment.




The Israel Brief – 06 April 2021 – Rivlin taps Netanyahu to form coalition. Day 2 of PM’s trial. New stats ahead of Yom Hashoa.





The Israel Brief – 07 April 2021 – Did Israel attack an Iranian vessel? Sudan repeals 63 year old boycott law. Israel begins to commemorate Yom Hashoa.





The Israel Brief – 08 April 2021 – Israel comes to a standstill in remembrance. Biden Administration restores aid to Palestinians. Israel lifts more restrictions.






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 Hills are Alive

Honouring this week the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, the writer reflects on a visit to “Yad Vashem” embedded in the hills of bustling Jerusalem

By David E. Kaplan

Let’s begin at the end. What has always fascinated this writer was the reactions of visitors when exiting the main museum and stepping out into the high balcony with the majestic view of the city of Jerusalem.

From Death to Life. Exiting the death factory museum, visitors feast their eyes on the pastoral beauty  of Jerusalem and the visual message that Jewry survived and today thrives.

Looking through the trees and imagining the bustle below of people going about their daily business and contrasting it with the New Holocaust History Museum’s chronicle of death left behind, seldom fails to evoke a visceral response of raw emotion. My non-Jewish friend from London, who had never visited Israel before, simply burst into tears.

You won; they lost,” he uttered tearfully.

He did not have to say more!

The name “Yad Vashem” is taken from a verse in the Book of Isaiah:

  “And to them will I give, in My house and within My walls, a Memorial and a  Name (yad vashem) … an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:5).

Symbolic in its naming, “Yad Vashem” conveys the idea of a national depository eternally imbedded into the rock of Israel’s ancestral capital, remembering and honouring the names of Jewish victims who have no one to carry their name after death. The magnitude of human loss was for this writer, best grasped stepping inside the Hall of Names and later the Children’s Memorial.

Cruelty to Creativity. The stark grey angular features of a factory of death museum contrasts with animated beauty of the Jewish People’s eternal capital – Jerusalem.

Hall of Names

Near the end of the ‘journey’ through the museum, one steps onto a platform midway within a sphere. One’s attention is immediately drawn skyward where the ten-meter high ceiling – an upper cone – displays hauntingly 600 photographs of Holocaust victims.

Who were they? What lives did the live?” visitors will silently ask themselves. The questions are rhetorical as the names of too many remain unknown. And then, as if believing some clues to this madness might lie below, one’s eyes are drawn downward where those same victims’ portraits are reflected in water at the base of the lower cone carved out of the mountain’s bedrock. Their faces naturally blurry in the reflection, one engages the collective image of all six million Jewish victims crying out from the watery depths below:

 “Forget us not”.

Although the exhibit represents only a fraction of Europe’s six million Jewish victims, the monumental horror of the Shoah (Holocaust) is evident by two simple movements of the head – above and then below. Visitors are speechless; the most audible sounds are sighs……

Surrounding the platform is the circular repository, housing approximately 2.2 million Pages of Testimony collected to date, with empty spaces for those yet to be submitted. The task ahead of ‘unearthing’ those names still unknown is open-ended…..

If the world  failed to save their lives, future generations can at least try  save their identities…..

Time to Reflect. With the faces of the murdered appearing above and reflected in the water below, the Hall of Names is the Jewish People’s memorial to each and every Jew who perished in the Holocaust – a place where they may be commemorated for generations to come.
 

Children’s Memorial

No less gut-wrenching in conveying the sheer magnitude of human loss is the visit to the Children’s Memorial, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, who also designed the museum.

Hollowed out from an underground cavern, this unique memorial is a tribute to the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered in the Shoah.

Entering, one is engulfed by darkness until one turns a corner and then suddenly one is overwhelmed by tiny flames from candles that appear to reach out to eternity. Apparently, it might be one candle that through clever reflection, appears endless. This is the point of the exhibition – that the murder of one child is unbearable to bear and so the candles help try apply the mind to the unthinkable – one and a half million children snuffed out in cold blood!

The names of murdered children, their ages and countries of origin can be heard in the background. The recording takes some three months to list all the murdered children!

One is speechless, the only common outward body expression – tears running down cheeks…

Each Flame One Child. The reflection of a single candle produces the illusion of space, which symbolizes the approximately 1.5 million children and young people who died during the Shoah.  

Like Cattle to the Slaughter

As it hanging in the air, the track and an actual German cattle truck used to transport Jews to their death greets the viewer. Looking at this mechanism for murder, one can imagine how the Jews were ordered to gather like livestock, and to bring with them only a few possessions and then ‘herded’ into these crowded cattle cars without ventilation, water or food. Sealed for days until arriving at the death camps, many perished.

On ‘track’ to  the ‘final solution’, we move to the memorial museum, designed to explore the unthinkable!

Approaching the grey façade of the Museum projects the image of a colossal factory – a factory of death, designed for processing death – a human abattoir. I thought:

 “Well, I came by car and I will leave later.”

There were no such thoughts for the millions who walked along earlier paths, with dogs barking and wondering what that smoke was coming out distant chimneys ahead.

Before one begins the walk along the central 180-meter walkway with exhibition galleries on either side of the prism, the journey begins at the Museum’s entrance, a kaleidoscope of changing visual images on a 13-meter high triangular wall portraying the Jewish world before the Holocaust. Viewers peer through open windows and doors into the lives of Jewish households, synagogues and places of work in cities, towns and shtetls across Europe. With little thought of the brewing storm, they look happy, innocent and unprepared for the cataclysmic crunch when all these windows and doors will close on their lives forever.

Each step forward, is a step into impending doom. The next gallery follows the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of World War II.

Whose Feet did these Belong to?  This says it all as  – a huge cart full of shoes from victims of concentration camps. Their owners unknown, the shoes survive!
 

The anti-Jewish policies are now played out with harsh violence and a campaign of abuse and restrictive measures intended to undermine the foundations of Polish Jewry.  Jews are ordered to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothes. The badge was not only a symbol of absolute separation from the general population but also a means by which Jews were immediately identified for humiliation and eventual deportation.

Selections from the diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, a youth from Lodz, accompany visitors through this gallery, providing the human perspective of a young person facing personal upheaval. The gallery ends with the uprooting of Jews from the general population and herding them like cattle into Ghettos. 

The ‘Between Walls and Fences’ gallery opens with an area dedicated to the fate of Jews in Western Europe.  Personal stories of families from France and Holland are chosen to illustrate German policies in the conquered lands of Western Europe.

The largest part of this gallery is devoted to providing visitors with a true sense of the Jewish experience in the Ghettos of Eastern Europe. Four Ghettos are selected – Lodz, Warsaw, Kovno and Theresienstadt.

More than a Game. In addition to entertaining the children, this Monopoly game on exhibit at Yad Vashem provided information about ghetto life in Theresienstadt, such as the Ghetto’s prison, barracks, the fort, the warehouse, the kitchen and the deportees’ absorption site. Those who were deported would often leave belongings with friends who remained in the ghetto, and thus, this Monopoly game was passed on until its final home – Yad Vashem.

A Monopoly board, made in Theresienstadt in 1943 forms the center of this Ghetto’s exhibition. The stations in the game were named after the streets and main buildings in the Ghetto.  Using the game board as a base for exploring the Ghetto, visitors can see how the children and the elderly were treated and cared for by their fellow Jews, and how people expressed their feelings through works of art, music, and poetry.

Hunting Season. Jews were the prey for this member of the Einsatzgruppe (mobile killing units) shooting a Jewish mother and her child near Ivangorod, Ukraine.  Open air killings continued in areas of eastern Europe during 1942 and by the spring of 1943, Einstagruppen units A-D had killed over a million persons. (Credit: Jerzy Tomaszewski, Poland)

The “Final Solution”

The next gallery starts with the German offensive into the USSR, marking the start of the implementation of the plan for the mass-murder of the Jews. Visitors track the activities of one killing unit, Einsatzgruppe C that served in Eastern Galicia and the Ukraine where during its first four months of operations, 800 SS soldiers of this unit murdered 75,000 Jews from villages, towns, and cities.  What does this tell you – only 800 soldiers murdered 75,000 Jews? The participation of the local population in mass murder was enormous – not only as passive bystanders but eager voluntary participants.

Illuminating Man’s Inhumanity. Natural light from the roof beams down on the stark grey reality of mass murder of the Jews of Europe.

This gallery too emphasizes the victims’ perspective  –  the voices of the few escapees are heard and seen on screens, alongside rare photographs of the slaughter of Vilna’s Jewish community at Ponary.

In a meeting with members of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, Abba Kovner shows them a poster in which he urges Jew to resist.  It was the first time that Jews were urged to defend themselves against the Nazis with arms. 

The exhibit exposes visitors to the Wannsee Conference, which was convened to discuss the measures and inter-ministerial coordination needed to implement the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Problem”.  The purpose of the meeting was not to discuss murdering European Jewry – only to consider the means of murder. 

Jewish fate was sealed and final!

On Track to Death. Cattle cars like this original German death transport train car at Yad Vashem were used to transport Jews to concentration camps.

Resistance and Rescue

The authentic Schindler’s List is presented in this gallery, which deals with Jewish resistance, rescue attempts, and the Righteous Among the Nations.

This gallery opens with an attempt to answer the requisite question of what the world knew and when.  It describes how the world was silent in 1942 when the Struma, a decrepit ship carrying 769 refugees on route to Palestine was turned back from the coast of Turkey, towed out to sea without fuel, food or water and torpedoed within hours. All but one refugee drowned.

Throughout the Holocaust, there were expressions of Jewish defiance and this gallery depicts life in the Jewish partisan camps whose members combined fighting the Germans with the rescue of Jewish men, women, and children. 

Righteous Path. The names of the Righteous Among the Nations – non-Jews who risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust – are engraved on the walls of honour.

Epilogue

“What would someone who had no knowledge of the Holocaust feel following a visit to Yad Vashem,”  was a thought that had intrigued me for many years. An opportunity  to answer this thought arose in 2010, when the Chilean miners who had been rescued after spending 69 days trapped in a collapsed Chilean mine were hosted in Israel by the Ministry of Tourism. The writer caught up with the shift manager, 54-year-oldLuis Urzúa – the last miner to be rescued – as he exited the Hall of Names.

Emotionally distraught, he said, “There is one big difference. While we may have shared with the Jews in the concentration camps that feeling of always being close to death, we at least enjoyed one luxury – hope. We knew there were people rooting for us all over the world and working non-stop to save us. The Jews in the Holocaust had no hope. No-one was coming to rescue them.”

This insight is testimony why Jews around the world need a secure State of Israel, so visually reassuring as one exists the death factory of a museum and step onto the balcony and feasts ones eyes through the foliage of forests over undulating Jerusalem hills with Israel’s eternal capital in the background.

One leaves with the message reverberating:

“Never again”





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)

We Remember Them

By  Rolene Marks

Tonight we begin to commemorate Yom Hashoa, Holocaust – Martyrs and Heroes Memorial Day. Every year I feel the weight of this day on my soul. I almost welcome it because  I am appreciative of the solemn weight that this day carries; and it serves as a reminder that I, like millions of others have taken that most important vow – NEVER AGAIN.

This year, the weight seems to be heavier. I don’t know if it is because we are running out of precious time to gather as many stories from survivors as we can or because we have lost so many to the pandemic. I do know that this year it weighs heavier on my heart because I see the tides of antisemitism rising. Europe is especially worrisome.  Acts of violence against Jewish individuals that have even resulted in death; and the shift in realpolitik to the right is extremely alarming.  Antisemitism is on the rise in the USA as well and at least 63% of American Jews has reported experiencing it in some iteration over the last year. I write this in gratitude that I am safe and protected in our beloved State of Israel.

Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes day is that one day a year where we specifically remember Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This is different to the UN’s International Holocaust Memorial Day which rightfully recognizes all victims. On this poignant and sad day we take that moment to stop and stand sentinel for the siren that screams its mournful cry all over our beautiful land and pierces the soul, we dedicate 24 hours to education, to remembrance and to bear witness to the experiences that are almost too painful to bear. But bear them we must because now more than ever, it is our responsibility to tell them to the next generation and those that will follow.

Let us not wait for one day in the year to remember them. While Yom Hashoa is a sacred day, I urge everyone to take up the mantle of remembrance every day. Today’s social media platforms make it possible for us all to continue educating, disseminating the truth and educating future generations who speak a new language – the hashtag. When we pause for remembrance, let us be ever conscious why this is so important.

In the hateful gestures of Nazi salutes and imagery –  we remember them.

In the calls to boycott, divest and sanction Israel – we remember them.

In the calls to question the rights of Jewish people to return to their ancestral homeland – we remember them.

On the train where “next stop Aushwitz” traumatized travelers on their daily commute – we remember them.

In the rallies where screams of “Jews will not replace us” – we remember them.

In the defacing of graves and holy places – we remember them.

In the unmarked graves that are all over Europe – we remember them.

In the fire bombings and defacing of the synagogues – we remember them.

In the calls to register our property or risk being expelled – we remember them.

In the biased, vitriolic media broadcasts – we remember them.

In the attacks on individuals – we remember them.

In the shootings in community centres and synagogues – we remember them.

In the flagrant denial of our lost 6 million – we remember them.

In the loss of lives to terror attacks – we remember them.

In bearing witness to the genocides that have and continue to happen – we remember them.

In the harassment of our students on campuses – we remember them.

In the venom of social media – we remember them.

In the hurt and pain inflicted on any minority community or anyone “different” – we remember them.

In the medieval and modern day blood libels – we remember them.

In the words that built machines of death – we remember them.

WE REMEMBER THEM

In the lighting of memorial candles – we remember them.

In the lowering of our flag – we remember them.

In the mournful cry of the siren – we remember them.

WE REMEMBER THEM.

In the birth of new generations – we remember them.

In the celebration of our homecoming from exile – we remember them.

In the singing of Hatikvah – we remember them.

In the greening and building of our start up nation – we remember them.

In the proud winning of sporting medals, Nobel prizes, life-saving NGO’s – we remember them

In the ways we are contributing to a better world – we remember them

In reaching out a lifesaving hand to our enemies – we remember them.

In our defense of our country – we remember them.

In the helping of the vulnerable, the displaced, the oppressed – we remember them.

In protecting their health – we remember them.

In bearing witness – we remember them

In the teaching of the next generation – we remember them.

In our unabashed, joyful, defiant celebration of life – we remember them.

In our cries of Am Yisrael Chai! (The people of Israel live) – we remember them.

In our vow NEVER AGAIN – We remember them.

WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THEM.



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)

Tea in Tel Aviv

Israel’s tea pots are filling up again

By David E. kaplan

It was not written in the tea leaves that indicated the future was changing, it was in the people drinking it – or more precisely, the number of people!

Where for the past year it has been “Tea for Two” my wife and I   recently sat down with a group of friends that until recently could have been described as an “illegal gathering”, a connotation repugnant to this former South African.

Tea for Two. The satisfied look of these two tea drinkers by Israeli artist Itzchak Tarkay’s “Nothing Left to Say” (2006).

So what could be read into this tea – proverbial as some referred coffee –  with friends was that all had been vaccinated against Covid and we were at last enjoying a taste of the “old normal”.

Instead of over the cell or ZOOM, we met face-to-face, shifted conversational gears opening with “So when did we ACTUALLY see you last?” to discussions on Israel’s unpredictable futurepolitical landscape following the predictable past election result to issues around Corona.

There were divergent views, voices were raised for this was again – real, animated social engagement – Israeli style.

It was REAL and a long time coming…..

Had the life we have been living this past year been the plot of an earlier book or movie , we would have scoffed at it being farfetched – the literary imaginings a of a Ray Bradbury, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley. This sudden ‘Brave New World’ was a reality and still is for most the world as it awaits a speedier rollout of the vaccines.

And here is the rub as the goal of “herd immunity” has to be global not parochial. Confronting a pandemic, we are all in this together. These thoughts were on our minds as we enjoyed our tea, thankful that our country of Israel is the world leader in getting shots in arms at a pace that is far ahead of any other nation. If in January only 10% of Israel’s population had been vaccinated,  by mid-March it was over 50%! Now in April, we look to the economy picking up as more and more businesses open up  as we recommence our lives of engagement.

Systematic Rollout. Israelis receive a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from medical professionals at a coronavirus vaccination center set up on a shopping mall parking lot in Givataim, Israel.

Since none of the vaccines were developed in Israel, an intriguing question is how did the country manage in record time to acquire so many vaccinations? It lies in the county’s DNA – its ingenuity, foresight, quick bold action – not without risk – by our political leadership, and our unique medical system that provides superlative cover to all its citizens. While some ignorant critics abroad might stupidly scream ‘”socialism”, Israel’s unique medical aid Kupat Holim –  is  our pride and saviour as has proved during this Corona crisis. I recall when interviewing the previous Coronavirus Tzar, Professor Ronnie Gamsu for Hilton Israel Magazine  in 2016,  he described Israel’s medical system as in keeping with the “fundamental egalitarian philosophy of our founding fathers.”

Arm Down, Thumb Up. Seen here as Israel kicks off mass coronavirus vaccine drive to stamp out COVID-19 pandemic, Ronni Gamzu, CEO of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and former virus czar receiving the Pfizer vaccine at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) on December 20, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

To my question of what he meant by this, Prof. Gamsu replied:

 “Well, Israel can be truly proud of not only its superlative cutting edge medical services but of how we provide this quality service to all our citizens at affordable costs to the recipient. For this, we need to thank the founding fathers of the modern State of Israel. The Zionist Movement in pre-state Israel, which combined the traditional Jewish concern for all people with an emphasis on societal needs that regarded Public Health as a top social, political and economic priority.”

Emphasizing these priorities, Gamsu pointed out that by the time Israel declared its independence in 1948, “we already had a national health infrastructure in place. There was Tipat Halav (Mother-and-child care centers) administering vaccinations to new-born babies and counseling parents on proper care for their infants, and Kupot Holim (Health insurance funds) offering day-to-day consultations with doctors and specialists, and insured members for hospitalization.”

Israel’s Vaccine Rollout is Record-breaking, but is it a Surprise? This historic photograph captures Israelis in the early days of the state getting vaccinated.

Even as Israel transformed in the twilight decades of the twentieth century from a socialist to capitalist economy, Gamsu explained, “some of our most cherished values of concern for the collective remained entrenched – they are part of our ethos and are ingrained in our culture.”

As future needs arise, he cautioned, “we need to be on guard and adhere to our founding principles.”

Clearly, this philosophy has carried Israel through with aplomb through the global Corona crisis.

As a country used to living on the edge with little room for error or miscalculation, the Israeli mindset – although totally inept at  dealing with elections –  is more than adept at situations when lives are at stake and ready to confront monumental challenges.

Southern Comfort. Covid-19 rapidly on the decline in Israel as vaccinations kick-in. A testing place in the middle of Israel’s arid desert south of the Dead Sea..

Compare Israel’s situation with other countries or regions.

Never mind my native South Africa, where Corona is spreading at unclear but feared alarming rates and with little certainty as to when it will receive a vaccine, ‘mighty’ Europe is faring not much better.

As there are currently dire warnings by health experts of a “fourth wave”, one looks with bewilderment at Continental Europe and wonder, “What went wrong?” as France and Italy enter  ‘another’ full lockdown with a vaccine rollout in total chaos. Their systems, bureaucracy and political leadership has failed and people are suffering.

While Israel’s enemies are quick to point out its imperfections – Israelis do it far better themselves –  there is a growing shift of more and more countries and its people to look to Israel as to “how they do it?”

Opening Up. Young Tel Avivians at Cafe Zurik in Tel Aviv on the first day that restaurants were allowed to open after the coronavirus, May 27, 2020. (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

Living up to its reputation as the ‘Start-Up Nation’, its handling of the most monumental health challenge in a century, Israel is showing a way forward.

It’s why I can enjoy a cup of tea in Tel Aviv with a group of friends. And now its back to the old concerns as my wife raises an eyebrow noticing me salivating over an inviting creamy chocolate eclair in inviting proximity and saying:

 “You don’t need it!” 

Stopped in my tracks from committing a gross culinary felony, Covid took a back seat to  the old health and more ‘weighty’ issues!



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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 04 April 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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Praying For A Healthier Tomorrow

Frohe Ostern! #wirstehenzusammen #digitalisierungistdieloesung – INCAS  Training News vom 28.03.2020

Lay Of The Land wishes all our Christian readers around the world a Happy & Healthy Easter, a speedy end to Covid and a welcome return to the socially “Old Normal”



What’s happening in Israel today?  See this week’s daily ‘The Israel Brief’ broadcasts on LOTL  YouTube by seasoned TV & radio broadcaster, every Monday to Thursday and on our Facebook page. 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

(Click on the blue title)



Articles

(1)

A Walk In The Park A Return To The Dark?

Avoid this one in Istanbul

By David E. Kaplan

Grass no longer Greener! Young people enjoy Istanbul park before its renaming after Nazi supporter.

Why when the international media made headlines of crowds storming statues and ripping them off their proverbial pedestals for racist pasts, Turkey today escapes such opprobrium  when it names a park in Istanbul  after  Hüseyin Nihal Atsız  who wrote: We will not only exterminate Jews like the Germans did, we will go further…”

A Walk In The Park A Return To The Dark?

(Click on the blue title)



(2)

Weep, the Beloved Country

By Stephen Schulman

Bravery on the Bench. Ordered to apologise and retract comments, Chief Justice Mogoeng refuses.

From a racist and oppressive country that the writer left  over a half century earlier “where free speech was nonexistent, all criticism was suppressed and its opponents subject to severe punitive measures,” Schulman explores the nature of South Africa’s hard-fought ‘freedom’ of today, when its esteemed Chief Justice  is “ORDERED” to apologise and withdraw his personal comments relating to Israel.

Weep, the Beloved Country

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(3)

The Arab World Fighting Antisemitism

How Arab countries have become the new leaders in the fight against growing antisemitism

By Rolene Marks

A Gamechanger. UAE and Israel show sporting spirit on the rugby field in an international  friendly match.

From the NO’s in 1967  to the YESSES of today, there is monumental change in attitudes towards Israel across the region as Arab countries that have normalized ties with the Jewish state are helping repair too many wasted years of mistrust, incitement and hatred and will go a long way to countering antisemitism.

The Arab World Fighting Antisemitism

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image006-2021-03-25T142049.846.jpg

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

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


The Israel Brief- 30 March – 01 April 2021

The Israel Brief – 30 March 2021 – Celebrating Pesach! The coalition building begins! The last remaining Jews of Yemen expelled.

The Israel Brief – 31 March 2021 – Welcoming the new Ambassador from Bahrain. 10 years of the Iron Dome. Coalition update.



The Israel Brief – 01 April 2021 – Israel to vaccinate adolescent pending FDA approval. First major deal with Bahrain. Are we closer to a coalition.

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

The Arab World Fighting Antisemitism

How Arab countries have become the new leaders in the fight against growing antisemitism.

By Rolene Marks

There is a pervasive sense of optimism winding its way through the Middle East since the signing of the Abraham Accords. Hardly a day goes by without a major announcement of new Memorandums of Understanding signaling co-operation in some or other field; friendships between Bahrainis, Moroccans, Emiratis and Israelis are blossoming on social media and Israel even managed to pull off a sporting miracle – beating the Emirati team 33-0 in a friendly rugby match.

It is proof of what happens when peace takes flight!

Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion once said that in order to live in Israel, one had to be a realist and believe in miracles. And where better than in a land where decades of strife and disorder and now being turned into normalization, recognition and mutual co-operation?

Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is the one that is poised to undo generations of suspicion, incitement and even hatred. The Arab world is fast becoming a great example of how to lead in the fights against antisemitism.

For decades and at least since the beginning of the 20th century, antisemitism has spread throughout the Arab world as a result of a number of reasons. The fall of the Ottoman Empire, the spread of Western Imperialism, the relations between Nazi leaders and the Arab world are some reasons why anti-Jewish propaganda found eager recipients in many parts and bred resentment against Jews and Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.

Jews had experienced a relatively protected existence against persecution in Arab countries. Long seen as “People of the Book”, Jews were granted dhimmi status. This meant that they were not treated equally and were subject to specific laws, restrictions and taxes (called jizya) but protected against being killed. We could scoff indignantly (and should!) at this but in other countries where Jews were a minority, they endured far worse.

From Khartoum With Hate. A summit of the heads of Arab League countries, held in Khartoum, Sudan following the Arab defeat in the Six Day War in June 1967, the leaders in a press release expressed: “no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel.”

In the 20th century as Pan-Arabism and Islamism spread, an estimated 850 000 Jews were expelled from Arab lands following the establishment of the modern State of Israel.  The communities that thrived in Libya and Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Morocco and so many others, dwindled down to few or ceased to exist.

Decades later, anti-Jewish sentiment would spread through these countries and also manifest itself as hatred against Israel, the Jewish state. Who can forget the infamous 3 No’s of Khartoum? No recognition, no negotiation, no peace.

But something remarkable has happened with the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the USA, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as well as Morocco and the Sudan.

The signing of these Accords is more than just recognition or normalization. While hardly a day goes by without news of yet another investment or area of cooperation, perhaps one of the most important clauses is tolerance and promotion of education against antisemitism. Tolerance education has been policy in Bahrain and the UAE since before the Accords were officially signed and it is so evident in the exchanges between Emiratis, Bahrainis and Israelis online. But this connection is deeper than 120 characters on Twitter. It is also evident in the interfaith events that have almost become the order of the day. A sukkah (temporary decorative shelter) nonchalantly perched outside the Burj Khalifa in Dubai during the Jewish festival of Sukkot spoke volumes, just as the minyan (quorum of 10 men required for prayers) at the synagogue in Manama, Bahrain. These are just glimpses into the relationships that are being built on a daily basis.

Constructive Engagement. Amongst Dubai’s towering skyscrapers, a tine structure surprisingly rose in  October 2020 – a Sukkah at the base of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa. The sukkah – a temporary shelter where Jews gather to celebrate the weeklong harvest festival of Sukkot  – was set up following the US-brokered deal to normalize relations between the UAE and Israel.(AP)
 

But there is something more “tachlis” that is happening on the ground. Arab countries that have normalized ties with Israel are starting to institute policies that take major steps that help fix decades of mistrust, incitement and hatred.

The signing of the Abraham Accords itself stands as historical. The recognition of Israel in the Arab world says this Jewish state exists, it is a part of our region, we will no longer ignore or deny its sovereignty and we will build strong and lasting ties. This is profoundly significant at a time when daily attacks on Israeli sovereignty come from quarters in the far right and far left and when peace in the Middle East was thought to be contingent on an agreement between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours. Former US Secretary of State, John Kerry must feel a fool because this was a theory he espoused many times. The three No’s have become the three yesses. Yes to recognition, yes to negotiation and yes to peace.

Bahrain Bounces Back . At the end of a synagogue service occurring on the sidelines of the US administration’s economic peace workshop held in Bahraini capital Manama in 2019 the men, clad in prayer shawls, broke out in song, walking around the bimah and singing “Am Yisrael Chai” – the people of Israel live.

Bahrain signed another important agreement. The Gulf state signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US department of State where they adopted the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of antisemitism, becoming the first Arab country to do so. Under the agreement, both sides vowed to promote and share the best procedures for tackling antisemitism and anti-Zionism, including efforts to delegitimize Israel. This is a far cry from many countries around the world, including in Europe where antisemitism is rising to astronomical levels.

Another Arab world first is the decision by Morocco to include Jewish history and culture as part of the school curriculum. Islam is the official state religion and according to Education Minister Said Amzazi and the heads of two Moroccan associations who signed a partnership agreement this will pave the way “for the promotion of values of tolerance, diversity and coexistence in schools and universities.”

Morocco’s King Mohammed V1, is also “Commander of the Faithful,” has pushed for a tolerant Islam that ensures freedom of worship for Jews and foreign Christians.

These Arab countries are paving the way through practical, important and sincere examples of how to lead in the fight against antisemitism.  They are not relying on platitudes but are putting words into actions, something that many other countries should be cognizant of.

Winds of Change. With Morocco to become first Arab nation to teach Jewish history, culture in schools, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI visits the Bayt Dakira Museum in Essaouira.  King Mohammed VI’s declaration that he will normalize ties with Israel has had “the impact of a tsunami,” says head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco. (Photo: AFP via the Moroccan Royal Palace)

It is hoped that more Arab countries will join the ever growing circle of peace. This will go a long way to winning increasing battles in the fight against antisemitism, however it may manifest itself. The proof is in the interaction that is growing not just between governments but ordinary citizens who value tolerance and co-existence.  This is an example that the rest of the world could and should be following.

This celebrates three new yeses. Yes to tolerance. Yes to education. Yes to peaceful co-existence.

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