Education is Eternal – Netzach Yisrael

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

By Rolene Marks

Rabbi Menachem Bombach is a man with a mission. The charismatic Rabbi, raised in the ultra-religious neighbourhood of Jerusalem known as Mea Shearim and who did not speak Hebrew until the age of 20, has a plan to bring about significant change to the Haredi approach to education.

The statistics speak for themselves.

According to the Israeli central Bureau of Statistics, the Haredi community makes up about 12% of the population, with an estimated size of roughly 1 million people – and is amongst the most poor, with 50% living below the poverty line. The Haredi community is also the fastest growing community.

The employment rate of Haredi men is at 51% compared to secular men at 87%. The rate for Haredi women in the workplace is 76% but many are forced to take low paying jobs as a result of their lack of skills.

Even though there is a larger percentage of Haredi women who are employed in the work force, it does not necessarily ensure an improvement in living conditions and the economic situation for the community.

It is clear that this cannot continue – if it does, the effects will be catastrophic.

Enter Rabbi Bombach.

Rabbi Bombach has identified a crucial element to ensuring that this alarming trend is corrected. The Rabbi believes that the key to fixing this growing problem which perpetuates the cycle of poverty, is reforming the Haredi education system. The more members of the community who are educated and receive a matriculation certificate, with skills in significant subjects like maths, English and even Hebrew, the more they will be able to enter into the workplace – and get better jobs. He believes that the current economic situation would not continue if members of the Haredi community were more integrated and productive in society.

Inspired by this, Rabbi Bombach started “Netzach Yisrael”. Established in 2017, Netzach is an ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) network of educational institutions (elementary through to post-high school) whose mission it is to provide its students with an outstanding education and in parallel, work towards a bagrut (matriculation) certificate, which is a prerequisite for higher education in Israel. These studies include mathematics, English, the sciences and civics for both elementary and high school students.

Rabbi Bombach has always been drawn to education. When he was just 12-years-old, he would often lead his peers in Shabbat afternoon prayers. He knew that education would be part of his future.

The Rabbi would go on to study after he finished his schooling and met other students from different communities and societies, including Arabs, secular Jews and others. It was eye-opening. Integrating with other people went a long way to breaking down pre-conceived stereotypes and prejudices and opened his eyes to the ability to stay Haredi – while meeting other people.

Bombach believes in the philosophy that “Jews need to radiate light to each other”.

And so Netzach Yisrael was started. At first, many in the community were skeptical and did not want to send their children to school, but slowly it started to grow and now there are over 1000 students at 11 different educational facilities, with at least 3 700 students attending virtually.

Time for Change. Through a new yeshiva system that he founded in  in Israel, Rabbi Menachem Bombach is determined on reducing poverty in the Haredi community through education, preparing them to attend college and enter the workforce.

There have been several notable success stories. One young student is excelling as an activist talking about climate change, a topic that one would not expect members of the Haredi community to be vocal about. At least 95% of the students who have come through the Netzach Yisrael programme are fully integrated and have gone on to university. This aligns with the focus of having modern, pragmatic Haredim and will improve the economic situation of the community.

Netzach Yisrael’s vision is that the academic programme empowers graduates to create a strong, financially viable future for themselves, their future families, and the Israeli economy, while remaining strongly connected to their core values of Torah observance.

The ethos and values of the Netzach Yisrael programme are very clear – Torah and the worship of G-d by instilling the foundations of faith, worshiping G-d, and the study of Torah as a way of life, Education furthering Derech Eretz, truth, virtue and love of Israel, imparting knowledge, life, social and learning skills and striving for excellence and cultivating personal and social responsibility that is reflected in working for the common good and involvement in the community.

Bombach in Action. This Hasidic Educator is changing the face of Haredi education in Israel

Over seventy years ago, when the State of Israel was formed, the only choice for Haredim was to study Torah,” says Rabbi Bombach. “This was not good for the majority. We can combine religious and secular studies, while maintaining the connection with the community,” he says.

Bucking Tradition. Despite being vilified by his co-religionists, Rabbi Bombach teaches secular subjects to boys.

Today, the proof of success is in the growing statistics of students who have thrived in the Netzach Yisrael programme and continue to excel in tertiary education and beyond. The once skeptical parents are writing glowing testimonials and there is no doubt that Israel will benefit. This truly is proof that a great education, combined with dedications and knowledge of your roots and community – is eternal.

For more information visit: https://netzach.org.il/en/home/



Hasidic yeshiva in Israel with general studies
Clips from the “Hamakor” program with Shmuel Rosner about the Hasidic Midrasha in Betar Ilit headed by Rabbi Menachem Bombach






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-26 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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Articles

(1)

Milla’s Story

In a brave new world, brave young girls

By David E. Kaplan

Wonder Girls. When Becca Meyers (l) of the US withdrew from the Tokyo Paralympics,  Milla Wolman (r) pricked the world’s conscience.

Her parents were told shortly after she was born in South Africa that she would never talk. Today, as a teenager in Sydney, Australia, Milla Wolman is talking  to the world about people with disabilities or who she refers to as DIFabilities. “We are not disabled ; we are different”. An animated and activist poet, her message is resonating globally!

Milla’s Story

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(2)

Durban Remembered

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

Fight Hate not Promote It. The message from Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center  – “Bury Durban, don’t celebrate it

As a “newly minted” lawyer at the time South Africa’s coastal city of Durban hosted in 2001 a special UN conference to counter racism but instead promoted it, the writer reflects on that cunningly crafted hate fest against Israel and its contribution to spreading anti-Semitism globally.

Durban Remembered

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(3)

The Arab Voice

A selection of opinions and analysis from the Arab media

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

The Arab Voice

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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- 22-23 September 2021

The Israel Brief – 22 September 2021 – Squad push to defund Iron Dome. 30+ countries boycott Durban 4. Biden UNGA speech.




The Israel Brief – 23 September 2021 – Iron Dome funding entered as separate Bill. Durban IV an epic failure? Abraham Accords partners work for empowerment of women at UNHRC.





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

The Arab Voice – September 2021

Arab writers opine on the political landscape of the Middle East following the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan and the Iran’s  unshakable bond with Syria.



America and Afghanistan: Two different options on the table

By Waheed Abd Al-Majeed

Al-Ittihad, UAE, September 9

The United States’ troubles in Afghanistan didn’t end with its withdrawal a few weeks ago. Despite the fact that the US military conducted an impressive evacuation operation (perhaps one of the largest ever conducted in such a short time frame), the strategic consequences of the withdrawal from Afghanistan haven’t changed. Simply put, the Americans left Afghanistan, but they cannot abandon their role in Central and East Asia.

That’s why US President Joe Biden’s main concern these days is determining the policy his administration will follow regarding the new situation in Kabul, and how to manage America’s relations with the new Taliban regime.

The direction in which this policy is headed is still unclear. The official US discourse revolves around waiting to see whether the Taliban keeps its word and adheres to its commitment to battle al-Qaeda. The US is also keeping tabs on the way in which the new Taliban government treats women and citizens wishing to leave Afghanistan, while avoiding retaliation against people who worked with the US and its allies in recent years.

However, the limited information available so far about the debate within Biden’s national security team suggests that there are two approaches, each taking a different path. The first approach revolves around containing the Taliban through a combination of sticks and carrots. The second and more hawkish approach states that the US must prepare for a full-fledged confrontation with the Taliban.

Taliban Takeover. Hours after the last American troops left Afghanistan, Taliban officials declare victory over the United States from the tarmac of Kabul’s international airport on August 31. Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times/Redux

This discrepancy in approaches isn’t surprising, given the confusion that has been evident in Afghanistan since the beginning of the American withdrawal and the arrival of Taliban forces to Kabul faster than the Americans had expected.

Each of these options has clear advantages and drawbacks. The option of confrontation may force Washington to get involved in Afghanistan in another way, which is counterproductive to Biden’s goal of redirecting America’s focus to other theatres. As for the containment option, it requires Washington to be patient, and it also forces it to disregard some of the conditions it has set for establishing positive relations with the Taliban government, as previously mentioned, because the new government’s commitment to all of them is not certain.

Therefore, it seems difficult at this point to conclude which of the two options the Biden administration will pursue.

It also means that several tactical decisions have been postponed in order to keep all options on the table.

For example, the US still has the Taliban on the list of terrorist organizations, allowing it to freeze the assets of Taliban leaders held in foreign banks. Meanwhile, the Taliban government desperately needs these funds to ensure its survival.

Perhaps experimenting with temporary measures will provide an opportunity to formulate a more nuanced US policy that combines some aspects of each of the above two approaches, with the hope that both sides will find a middle ground that suits their long-term goals.

Waheed Abd Al-Majeed



Taliban: from Caves into a full-fledged Emirate

By Suad Fahad Al-Mojil

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, September 8

Since the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban has made strides and taken over the capital city of Kabul.

At the same time, the movement has sought to rebrand itself as a moderate organization that differs from the terrifying images the world has come to associate it with over the past 20 years.

But let’s make no mistake:

The Taliban committed massacres against Afghan civilians, burned fertile croplands and destroyed thousands of homes; banned all forms of arts and culture in the country; harassed women and schoolgirls; destroyed historical and cultural artifacts (recall the bombing of the famous Buddha statue in Bamiyan, which dates back more than 1,500 years).

However, there are those who seek to reconstruct and rewrite history in order to protect the Taliban.

One political pundit recently described the Taliban as a “legitimate” movement that simply sought to expel the American occupier from its lands. Now, with the withdrawal of US troops, the movement completed its mission and pushed the Afghan people one step closer toward freedom. In this pundit’s view, the Taliban will now foster democracy, governance, development and human rights in Afghanistan.

Dark Days Ahead. From the Etilaatroz newspaper — video journalist Nemat Naqdi, (left) and video editor Taqi Daryabi — undress to show wounds they sustained after Taliban fighters tortured and beat them while in custody. They had been arrested while reporting on a women’s rights protest in Kabul on September 8. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock)

Similar opinions are being voiced around the world in an attempt to distinguish between Islamic State and the Taliban.

But the fact remains that both entities, ISIS and the Taliban, have been promoting flagrant hostility to Western democratic concepts such as equality between men and women, respect for minorities, pluralism, human rights and freedom of expression. They grant themselves the absolute right to apply penalties to those who violate their approach and ideology, whether by public execution, amputation or stoning to death.

The problem is that the West understands this reality very well but refuses to act upon it.

Whether we like it or not, the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will not turn the Taliban into a peace-seeking movement that believes in liberal democracy and respects human rights.

The only change we’ll see is that the movement’s leaders, who once hid in caves, will now sit in the presidential palace and government buildings of the emirate they de facto established in Afghanistan.

Suad Fahad Al-Mojil



Separating Damascus from Teharan is Impossible

By Charles Jabbour

Al Joumhouria, Lebanon, September 9

Arab and international policy-makers placed their bets, on more than one occasion, on the hope that the Syrian regime could be separated from Iran. Immense efforts were exerted on the matter, but all attempts have failed, time and again.

In essence, the Syrian regime has two options to choose from: strengthening its ties with Iran or taking a step back from it. If it chooses the latter, it will collapse. Therefore, it has chosen the former.

The idea of decoupling Damascus from Tehran in order to weaken Iran stems from three key understandings. The first is that defeating Tehran in a knockout is unrealistic. The second is that hedging one’s bet on an internal revolution that would topple the mullah regime – despite the growing frustration within Iranian society – is dubious. The third is that the only way to entice Iran to change its behavior is to shift the regional balance of power, mainly by weakening Tehran’s grip on the Bashar Assad regime.

Meeting of Minds. There is so much more than less keeping this marriage warm and enduring. Iran’s religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, (right), meets Syrian leader Bashar Assad in Tehran, Iran on February 25, 2019. (Iranian Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Despite attempts to pull Syria away from Iran, the reality is that what links the two regimes to each other is too big and deep to be easily dismantled, especially since their relationship dates back to the Iranian Revolution. In other words, the alliance between Syria and Iran is based on common convictions and worldviews, not just narrow political interests.

Furthermore, the balance of power between the two sides of this relationship – the Assad regime on one hand and the mullah regime on the other – is asymmetrical. If the alliance is to break, it would break because the Iranians decided to put an end to it.

And without extensive Iranian military backing and financial support, the Assad regime would have long collapsed. Assad is thus personally indebted to the mullahs.

Accordingly, it’s completely wrong to continue betting on the separation of the Syrian regime from Iran. All of those who fantasize about this scenario coming to fruition are simply deluding themselves.

Charles Jabbour


*Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.



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

Milla’s Story

“Disability is not contagious; ignorance is – In a brave new world, brave young girls

By David E. Kaplan

When USA Baltimore native Becca Meyers, a three-time Paralympic gold medallist swimmer – eight Paralympic medallists in total – withdrew from the Tokyo games after being told she couldn’t bring to the competition her Personal Care Assistant  (PCA)  – “my own mother” – she was angry and understandably disappointed.

She took a stand – to withdraw!

Troubled Waters. The withdraw on principle from the Tokyo Paralympics of three-time gold Paralympic swimmer medalist Becca Meyers of the US (above) inspired teenager Milla Wolman to write and recite a poem that is proving inspirational on YouTube.

With only one PCA unreasonably tasked with serving all 34 Paralympic swimmers, nine who were visually impaired, Becca, who has been deaf since birth due to Usher syndrome and has been gradually losing her vision, said her “gut-wrenching decision” to withdraw was necessary to advocate “for future generations of Paralympic athletes.”

Although approved in having “my trusted PCA – my mom – at all international meets since 2017,” at the Tokyo Paralympics, due to Covid, new safety measures were introduced limiting “non-essential staff”.

For Becca however, her trusted PCA mother was definitely not  “non-essential staff”.

Her defiance found traction.

Bold, Strong, Beautiful. Deaf-blind Becca Meyers (second left) poses in 2020 for ‘Happy Women’s International Day’. (photo cred: Richard Phibbs)

Individuals who experience disabilities should not be forced to navigate the Tokyo Paralympics without the support that they need,” expressed Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, who called Becca’s position a “preventable situation.”

The U.S. lawmaker was not a lone voice.

At the other end of the world in Australia, support for the deaf-blind Becca came from a young kindred spirit, a Jewish girl with cerebral palsy born in South Africa. Her name is Milla Wolman, who was inspired by Becca to compose an ode that she aired on YouTube.

Mazeltov Milla. Milla (centre) with her parents Jonathan and Romy and her younger siblings, Lola and Judah at her Bat Mitzvah in Sydney, Australia.

Every now and again, poets emerge that capture the mood of an era and the crying issue of their time. They call out and talk back to injustices and unfair treatment and crystallize a collective conscience towards a cause. Young Milla Wolman has joined this elite cadre of revolutionary poets with her poem DIFability, reaching a global audience with her message:

We are not disabled, we are different”.

When she repeats the word “tremor” over and over between stanzas, she is shaking  an indifferent world to wake up from a selfish slumber.

So who is Milla Wolman?

Milla was born at the Linksfield Clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the pediatrician had said she would neither be able to walk or talk. When Milla was nine months old, the Wolman family, Jonathan, Romy and Milla, left for Sydney and a shortly after a year, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Fast forward to the present and “You should see and hear her now!”  and “Unbelievable and unforgettable!” are some of  the comments on social media to this extraordinary girl.

Watch Milla here:

Through her powerful poetry, Milla asks:

“Why was Becca Meyers forced to withdraw?

It should be against the law,

For someone we adore to leave,

solely because of her disability.”

“An ironic sick joke

Which makes me want to choke

For a swimmer with a masterstroke

Becca Meyers is blind but we are the ones who cannot see.”

Describing the attitudes of the Paralympic authorities as:

This humungous assault to our own humanity

What a calamity to not get to see her victory!”

And then poses the further question:

It is your choice

Do you see Becca Meyers, the deaf-blind disabled person?

Or do you see Becca Meyers, the courageous and strong Paralympian?”

It is your choice.”

What is so captivating is Milla’s inspirational leadership:

Our revolution has just begun, we will not stop

Until we have won,

We have voices,

So why do you disable our voice?

We are not disabled, we are different,

It is not a disability

It is a DIFability.

And whoever said it is wrong to be different

That person is insignificant.

Disability is not contagious; ignorance is

Preferring to characterise herself as DIFabled rather than disabled, her grandfather, Allan Wolman, today a resident of Tel Aviv, and a contributor to Lay of the land, describes the day Milla was born in Johannesburg, on 26 August 2007:

 “It’s a day I will never forget. As you can imagine the anticipation of awaiting our first grandchild’s birth with much excitement and joy. 

Super Siblings. Lola, Milla (centre) and Judah with grandparents Allan and Jocelyn Wolman in Sydney, Australia.
 

That joy quickly turned into awful anxiety with doctors and nurses frantically running in and out of the delivery room and seeing little Milla being carried into the neo-natal care unit looking very blue! A heart stopping moment. After her birth, she had oxygen deprivation for eight minutes! There was no diagnosis at birth other than brain damage, and not knowing how severe at the time.

Lying in a little incubator with tubes protruding and monitors beeping was traumatic for her parents and grandparents. She lay in the unit for two weeks without uttering a cry – which was more than concerning as the specialist pediatrician had advised that she would neither walk nor talk again. After an agonizing number of days, she eventually let out a little cry, which was cause for such relief and happiness – can you imagine that a faint cry can give so much joy and hope.”

That baby cry from the past is today a megaphone as teenager Milla cries out to a global audience.

Allan recounts Milla’s ‘journey’ as seen through their own journeys as grandparents “visiting the kids” in Sydney.   

When Milla was a few months older, we remember her just starting to sit up on her own, which again was cause for much celebration, and on subsequent visits celebrated her development albeit later than most children, but began walking with the help of a ‘walker’ and also her talking was difficult to understand due to her weak muscles and drooling. But naturally her mom and dad could understand everything – words just cannot describe those two incredible people – who created an atmosphere of normality.”

Milla attended a mainstream nursery school and “on our visits to Sydney, we – my wife Jocelyn and I – derived so much pleasure in taking and fetching her from school.”

Proud Grandparents. Allan and Jocelyn Wolman with Milla at her Bat Mitzvah in Sydney, Australia.

At some stage, Allan recalls:

 “Milla began to have epileptic seizures which were terribly traumatic and started to increase in frequency over a period of time. Naturally, the doctors gave her medication which was a worry because while calming it also had a slowdown effect. After struggling with the seizures for some time, her parents put her on cannabis oil – a wonder drug – and from having multiple seizures a day, the cannabis virtually stopped the seizures, and Milla has hardly suffered a seizure these past few years.”

Milla attended a mainstream primary and is presently at a regular high school and “Three years ago, participated in a six week programme at the Feuerstein Institute in Jerusalem. It was immensely beneficial to her learning as well as her confidence.”

From Sydney to Jerusalem. The Feuerstein Institute in Jerusalem, which Milla attended on a six month programme which improved her learning and confidence.

Attesting to this confidence was “a terrific speech she made at her Bat Mitzvah,”  affirms the proud grandfather followed by last month addressing the world on YouTube in her support for Paralympian Becca Meyers.

If once little Milla had no voice, today there is no silencing her as her message resonates beyond Australia to the world.

She ends her poem:

Tremor, tremor, tremor,

Here they come again,

But this time

They won’t stop me…

I will never give up.”

We believe you Milla and we believe in you.






Meet Milla who was born with no heartbeat. She was resuscitated back to life for 10 minutes and as a result lives with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Milla’s mum Romy hopes to change the perception of ‘disability’ to ‘difability’ meaning that we all have different






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).

Durban Remembered

By Craig Snoyman

Can one have memories of something that never happened to you?  There is a phenomenon in psychology that is referred to as false memory. Basically not only can the mind be used, it can also be manipulated. Different scenarios will produce different effects.  I know that I wasn’t at the original UN Conference Against Racism, known as Durban 1 but still have clear memories of it.

Unleashing a Tsunami of Hate. Secretary-General Kofi Annan speaking at the opening of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

In 2001, I was a freshly minted advocate, but still had strong ties with labour and one particular  trade union. It was a small mining trade union and I had a very good relationship with its General Secretary.The unionists knew I was Jewish but it made no difference. On 11 September 2001, I received a surprise visit from  Vuyani, the GenSec. He was full of the joys of the world! He had just returned from Durban and was bursting with news. He and a bunch of his comrade unionists had been bussed down to Durban to attend a big conference. They hadn’t paid for anything. They were put up in a hotel and were given food and there were lots of other unions there as well. It was the first time that he had seen the sea. He saw “Coffee” (Kofi Anan) and he was sure that I would be interested to know that he saw Yasser Arafat as well. He thought that he saw lots of other famous people as well, but he couldn’t remember their names, but it was those two that were pointed out, that he remembered. There were so many people there and there was lots of shouting and protests and also some toy-toying. But everybody was busy  and there was lots of talk about “Jews” and “Israel” and “Palestine” and everyone was waving posters about Israel and Apartheid. 

‘Festival of Jew-hate’. Protestors outside the 2001 Durban conference set on fighting Jews instead of racism

And then he produced his prized possessions. He took off his jacket to show me the T-shirt that he had been given. “They were just giving them to everyone” he said but he could only get one. It was a T-shirt with an image, I can’t remember it image clearly but  I think it was a child hiding behind an adult.  The writing on the shirt is still engraved in my memory: “Mohammed al-Durra  Killed for being a Palestinian”. Vuyani told me that he was keeping the shirt,  but he had  got a special present for me because he knew that I was Jewish. He opened up his plastic packet and pulled out a book. “They were giving these away and I knew that you would want one!” Out popped a soft-cover book with large writing on the front cover “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. I was dumbfounded. I know that I must have reacted because he asked me what was wrong. I can remember telling him that the book was banned and that he must destroy it. I don’t have much recollection of the rest of our meeting.

So that’s what I remember of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held at Durban in 2001.  I can remember my wife phoning me later in the day telling me that “they’re bombing America”- which turned out to be the terror attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, but my memories of Durban are stronger than my memories of New York.

It’s really ironic; I’m sure I must have known about al-Durra before but it probably never rang any bells. Then, suddenly, it was in the forefront of my mind. I had grown up hearing about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and even as a secular Jewish boy in a government school I knew it was virulently antisemitic.  This is what what Durban I and all the other subsequent Durban conferences have been about – lies and hatred!

Demonisation in Durban. Decrying false narratives, anti-Israel protestors demonstrate outside the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The killing of Mohammad al-Durra occurred about a year before the conference  during the ongoing Intifada. Video footage taken by a freelance Palestinian television cameraman was screened by France 2. The footage  shows Mohammed being given cover by his father as they  crouched behind a concrete cylinder. Mohammed was crying and his father was waving.  They were seen to be caught in the crossfire between the Israeli military and Palestinian security forces. Then there was a burst of gunfire. Mohammed  slumped, having been mortally wounded by gunfire and died soon after. The footage gained mega-traction and was distributed worldwide. Israel, initially admitted to killing al-Durra and this was the position when the conference was held. (Israel subsequently withdrew its admission.) Israel was the self-confessed villain, the killer of innocent Palestinian children. The world didn’t want to hear anything else, they lapped it up.  It was a vindication of their previously held opinions. A year later, it was still big news. By all accounts, the T-shirts of al-Durra must have flooded the Durban conference. It was the perfect foil for the conference, which in hindsight, was a premeditated orgy of anti-Zionist and antisemitic hate.

Stage Managing Hate. The photo of 12-year old Mohammed al Dura cowering behind his father  (centre)- distributed with the storyline that he was shot dead by Israeli soldiers (later proved false) was plastered all over the UN’s racist anti-racism Durban conference in 2001.

Winston Churchill once said that a lie will fly around the world before the truth has had time to put on its pants. The al-Durra narrative flew around the world many thousands of times before the truth found its pants. Slowly but surely the story started falling apart. The  France 2 journalist admitted that he didn’t see the incident, he relied on his Palestinian cameraman. Then there were lengths of time that were missing from the video clip. After the shooting, the clip went blurred. Then the Palestinian cameraman denied what he had sworn to in his affidavit, refuting his early oath that al-Durra had been shot in cold-blood. Then discrepancies entered into the matter. – If he was shot and killed why was there no blood on the scene? Where were the bullets? Initially, the cameraman said the bullets were collected by the Israelis.  Later Mohamed’s father said the Palestinians had all the bullets.  There was a problem with the time-line of the incident; it didn’t correlate. Mohammed’s father, who claimed to have been hit in the leg by nine bullets was also shown to be a liar as the scars on his legs were pre-existing., even although his Palestinian doctor on the day confirmed there were gunshot wounds to his leg. In 2012, when the medical records of the father were finally  examined, the  wounds were found to be completely different from those previously described. No bullets were ever produced, no inquiry by the Palestinians was even done and there was no inquest. Israeli soldiers denied that the incident could have taken place in the manner described. The Palestinians refused the Israelis access to the body and any medical records. In a subsequent Israeli recreation of the incident, it was found that if al-Durra was shot on the scene then the shots would have been fired by the Palestinian security forces. Seven years after the incident, the general view was that either the Palestinians shot al-Durra or it was a Pallywood set-up.  (On Appeal, the French Court was of a similar opinion, reversing the lower court finding of defamation of France 2)  So by 2012, some twelve years after the al-Durra incident took place, it was shown to be a scam, but the damage to Israel and its reputation was irreparable. Vuyani didn’t have a clue who Mohammed al-Durra was, but he  – and no doubt thousands of others – went around wearing this shirt, proclaiming the blood libel on a daily basis.

The availability of the book “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”  was equally amazing.  South Africa, with its much touted “best-in-the-world” Constitution, prohibiting hate-speech  made no attempt to prevent the distribution of the book at the Conference.  Hitler’s “Mein Kampff” was also freely available. Apparently, the only thing not freely available were the Jewish participants and Jewish protestors at the conference, “whose safety could not be guaranteed”  and had indeed withdrawn in fear of harm to life and limb, their voices having been drowned in the melee.  

Encouraged Reading at Durban. Freely distributed at the 2001 Durban Conference was the slanderous  Protocols of Zion that advocated a global Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Here  is a version published in Pakistan  depicting on its cover the global Jew as a snake out to venomously strike at the Muslim world.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I recall the Protocols  as originally being a French creation from the nineteenth century and then adapted to the Russian condition. My google sources of reference state it as being a Russian creation of the early twentieth century, and recesses of my mind seem to be far more vast than my active memory. Maybe it’s just another of my  false memories! But then my recesses have difficulty distinguishing  one antisemite from another. The import of this  locus classicus  of antisemitic poison is to record a series of meetings held in Basel, Switzerland in the late nineteenth century. Ring a bell? Herzl’s first Zionist Conference just happened to be held in Basel at that time.  The report details  24 meetings in  which the Jews plan to create a world state under their control.  If the Jew’s liberalism (then, as now a dirty word) could not subvert the world  then the  Jews would do it by socialism.  Another bell starts ringing – Jews and the Menshevik party of Russia were becoming a threat to the Tzar with their (socialist) trade union activism. It was also published at the same time as the start of another pogrom against the Jews in Russia.  The Protocols explain that the Jewish  plots would proceed but if the Jews failed in these attempts,  then all the capitals of Europe would be sabotaged. Another bell ringing? The Balkans was a tinder box at the time. The Protocols  was rapidly translated into the languages of international discourse – English, French and German –  the world had established the cause of all the problems in the world.

It was the Jews’ fault.  

Churchill’s proverbial pants again took time to get pulled up. By 1921, the Protocols had been authoritatively discredited as a fraud and a hoax. Yet despite numerous and regular proofs of its falsity, it remains a widely published book and freely available, even at  a World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, a hundred years after its publication. In Durban, as with the Protocols,  the perfect evil villain had been created and again attacked with little fear of actual consequence.  The world didn’t want to hear anything else, they lapped it up.  The Durban Conference established the cause of all evil in the world. It was Israel’s fault, and it was officially, and solely,  identified as such.  The need for  a legitimate antisemitic, anti-Zionist body also translated into world discourse – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) –  was evolved to fight the greatest evil that the galaxy (and beyond) has ever known – the evil Zionist oppressor, of course!

That, to me is what Durban I was all about. All these famous people in Mandela’s South Africa proudly and vocally heaping blame on Israel for the world’s trouble and all based on lies, fraud and hoaxes. It was only in Israel that senseless violence against innocent children took place. It was only in Israel that Nazism had resurrected its head. It was only in Israel that racism existed. It was only in Israel where Zionism had been translated into a dominating and racist ideology used for oppressing people. It was only  because of  Israel that intolerance and hate and violence in the world existed. And for that, Israel – and only Israel – deserved excoriation. Excoriated they were, lead by past and future Nobel Peace Prize luminaries such as Koffi Annan, Mary Robinson, Yasser Arafat and our own Nelson Mandela!

This disgracefully fraudulent House of Cards has not fallen.  Churchill’s pants have been pulled up but to no avail. We are on the eve of Durban IV, the rehash. Many “western” democracies have pulled out of the conference. There is only one  small voice shouting about the despicable nature  of the attack on Israel and that is from  the world’s  “oppressor” itself. Why should anyone choose to believe Israel anyway?  The West has done its part; it withdrew from  the conference. Should one expect more? Maybe just a small expression of condemnation? It doesn’t seem that the world thinks so.

Fight Hate not Promote It. The message from Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center  to UN head Antonio Guterres is that it is time for the world body “to finally bury Durban, not celebrate it” (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
 

I sit with my false memories, transposed from a naïve trade unionist and realize that  these false memories  are what we South Africans refer to as “msmallinyana skeletons”(small skeletons). The United Nations, however, sits with  the entire stinking, rotting corpse of Durban 1 on display on the outskirts of its opening of Durban IV.  



About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.




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-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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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

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(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

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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“.








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