A WORLD APART

Two perceptions of a campus bombing

By David E. Kaplan

Just how far apart Israel’s leadership is from Palestinian leadership is reflected in two divergent reports on the same issue appearing in the same The Jerusalem Post – 1st August 2022 edition.

On page 2, its reported that Israel’s Security Cabinet voted to deduct 600 million from tax and tariffs collected for the PA as it is legally entitled to do annually so long as the Palestinian Authority (PA) pays terrorists who attack Israelis. The PA’s policy of paying terrorists or their families has been nicknamed “pay for slay”.

On the same day on the internet edition of The Jerusalem Post an article’s title reads in bold:

PA raises salary for terrorists who killed 9 at Hebrew U

Was  it a coincidence or was it literally rubbing salt it into the wound – in this case ‘wounds” – that on the exact date of the 20th anniversary of that horrendous bombing of the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria on the Mount Scopus  campus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the 31 July 2002, the PA chose to announce the raising of the “salaries” of the four terrorists responsible for the bombing  by 14.29%!

Over the past 20 years, the PA has paid Wael Qassem, Wassim Abbasi, Alla Aldin Abbasi and Muhammed Odeh  – all members of an eastern Jerusalem Hamas cell – over NIS 8 million (over $2.5 million) for their role in what has become known as the “Hebrew University Massacre”. Their monthly payments are set to increase from NIS 7,000 ($2,251) per month to NIS 8,000 ($2,572). They are reported to receive an additional NIS 300 shekels (£73) each month because they were residents of Jerusalem prior to their imprisonment.

Four other terrorists convicted for taking part in the attack receive a salary from the PA as well.

Deadly Defiant. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that the PA will never stop payments to the killers of Israelis. “If we are left with one penny, we will spend it on the families of the prisoners and martyrs.”

The increased payments of 14.29 % is well above the 4.47 % rate of inflation in Gaza and the West Bank hence it begs the question:

What message is the PA sending – that not only is killing Jewish Israelis acceptable – it is rewarded.

This is tantamount as a state sanctioned – “License to Kill”!

Nine people – four Israelis and five foreign nationals – were murdered with a further 85 injured, 14 of them seriously. Most of the injured were between the ages of 18 and 30.

Death & Destruction. Workers clean the inside of a cafeteria on July 31, 2002, hours after a bomb exploded at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, killing nine, four of them Americans, and wounding more than 70. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

Though classes were not in session, students were taking exams at the time of the blast, and the cafeteria was crowded with diners. There were also numerous students in the building registering for classes for the coming school year.

The Frank Sinatra Cafeteria was also near the Rothberg International School, where about 80 pupils from the US and other Western countries had arrived to prepare for the fall semester.

The explosion gutted the cafeteria. It also gutted the lives of so many families both in Israel and abroad.

Cries on Campus. Bodies are taken away following an explosion at the busy cafeteria in east Jerusalem’s Hebrew University July 31, 2002. (credit: FLASH90)

One recalls on the 10th anniversary of the massacre, the words of Dr. Katherine Baker, a Penn State University microbiologist whose son, Benjamin Blutstein, was one of the victims.

I don’t think time ever heals this kind of loss. There are days I can’t get through the day without crying, there are a couple of days in a row I can do it. But it’s extremely hard.”

Blutstein and his classmate Marla Bennett were both enrolled at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School and at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

These were two wonderful young people, preparing for a career as teachers of Jewish studies in North America.”

One can only imagine now on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre what the families of the murdered must be feeling when they read  that the PA are increasing their monthly “salaries” for murdering their loved ones!

This is only one drama of a conflict playing out but it is a microcosm of the chasm that separates two people. Is there ever a meeting place when one people see  it as “pay for slay” and the other side as a “”martyrs fund”?

While the names of the four murderers or “martyrs” as the PA refer to them are making the news  because of their increased “salaries”, it is important to remember and honour the names of the innocent victims:

Benjamin Blutstein – Age 25, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Ben was a student in the two-year graduate students’ program in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School and at the Pardes Institute. While a religious young man who by day studied Judaism, Gemara and Chumash at night worked as a disc jockey.


Marla Bennett – Age 24, from San Diego, California, Marla was a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and a student in the two-year graduate students’ program in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School and at the Pardes Institute.



Revital Barashi – Age 30, Revital was the youngest of 13 children of a Jerusalem family. Revital worked in the secretariat of the Faculty of Law, and she was involved in assisting the academic and administrative staff and in guiding new employees.



David Gritz – Age 24, from Paris, David had completed his undergraduate studies and his first year of graduate studies in Philosophy at the University of Paris, where he was an outstanding student. David had registered for the Rothberg International School’s summer ulpan, which he never got to begin.


David Diego Ladowski – Born in Argentina in 1973, David immigrated to Israel in 1992. David was about to finish his master’s degree in Public Policy at the Hebrew University, and was due to start his first diplomatic job in the Israeli Embassy in Lima, Peru.



Janis Ruth Coulter – Age 36, from Boston, Massachusetts, Janice had a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Denver. She was the senior program coordinator at the Rothberg International School’s New York office.

Plane Horror. U.S. Airport workers prepare to load August 1, 2002, the coffins of Benjamin Thomas Blutstein, 25, and Jansin Ruth Coulter, 36, at a terminal of Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv to be shipped to the United States for burial. Both American students were killed in a bombing at the Hebrew University. (credit: REUTERS/HAVAKUK LEVISON)

Dina Carter – Age 38, Dina was born in North Carolina, and immigrated to Israel in 1990. She worked as a librarian and archivist in the Publications and Archives Department of the  University’s Jewish National and University Library. Dina was also a talented artist who painted and sculpted.


Levina Shapira – Age 53, Levina was born in Jerusalem. She worked at the Hebrew University for 30 years and worked her way up to the senior position of Director of the Student Administration Authority.



Daphna Spruch – Born in Tel Aviv, Daphna worked as a systems coordinator in the Student Administration Authority for close to 30 years, and was one of its most senior and experienced workers. She had been studying for her master’s degree in Comparative Religion.


Had former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir been still alive in 2002 during the 2nd Intifada when the bombing took place, she may have reflected on her words:

We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us


Illuminating the Dark.  An unidentified Israeli lights candles at a memorial at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem Thursday August 1, 2002, a day after a bomb blew apart the university’s Frank Sinatra International Students Center cafeteria, killing seven people, five of them Americans (AP Photo/Enric Marti).




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).

KING ABDULLAH’S LEGACY

By Jonathan Feldstein

On a clear day I can see from my Judean mountain balcony the skyline of Amman.  It’s the only place in the world from where one can see the capital of two countries: Jordan and Israel. I look across the border and am reminded that more than 3500 years ago, the Jewish people stood there waiting to cross into the Land, and two and a half tribes settled on the east bank of the Jordan River: Reuben and Gad, and half of the tribe of Manassah. I think about relations with our modern neighbors often.

King Abdullah I of Jordan

In July 1951, Jordan’s first king, Abdullah I, was assassinated while visiting the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount.  He was accompanied by his teenage grandson, Hussein, who would become King of Jordan about a year later, and reign until his death in 1999. Hussein is the father of the current King Abdullah II

King Abdullah Assassinated (1951)

I was speaking about Jordan and the Hashemite monarchy with a friend this week, saying that it’s in both Israel’s and Jordan’s interests to have close, peaceful relations, and that Israel should want to be supportive of the Hashemite monarchy which, more or less, has provided stability in the region. 

King Abdullah I was known for his efforts to reach some form of peace or coexistence with Israel, before Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and following, although he was assassinated four decades before the formal 1994 peace treaty was finally reached. Unfortunately, while there have been high points of relations between Israeli and Jordanian leaders, the idea of peace with Israel is still not popular on the Jordanian street. There’s often hostility, even among its elected leaders who often make antagonistic, threatening anti-Israel statements.

This is a mistake of the Jordanian (and before that, Egyptian) peace agreements, where there’s been no significant cultural shift or interaction between people. This could be due to lack of vision, or more likely as an outlet to provide a way for the people to vent, against Israel rather than the monarchy.  Consequently, despite the mutual interests to have peace, one rooted in the legacy of King Abdullah I, the relationship even between governments has often been tense, particularly in recent years. 

Abdullah was assassinated by Mustafa Shukri Ashshu, who was associated with the rabidly extremist and antisemitic former Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Husseini was known for sparking riots against Jews in British controlled Mandatory Palestine, and was closely allied (and infamously photographed) with Adolf Hitler during World War II. Husseini inspired his followers to oppose the Hashemite kingdom in general, and King Abdullah in particular, largely because Husseini supported the creation of an independent Arab state, which Abdullah’s annexing and occupying the potential territory thereof (the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria) following the 1948-49 War of Independence would prevent.

17.11.1947- Golda Meir meets King Abdullah I of Jordan, in Jordan, a few months before the declaration of independence of the State of Israel

Both preceding and following the 1948 war, King Abdullah met with Reuven Shiloah, the first director of Israel’s Mossad, and Golda Meir (who would become Prime Minister). There are famous stories of Golda dressing in traditional Arab attire to travel to meet the King so as not to be recognized.

King Abdullah I of Jordan (left) with his younger son, Nayef.

It was reported after his death that Abdullah was scheduled to meet with Shiloah and diplomat Moshe Sasson in Jerusalem the day after he was assassinated.  Avi Shalim, an Israeli-British historian, wrote a biography of King Hussein in which he quoted King Abdullah as telling Sasson:

 “I want to make peace with Israel not because I have become a Zionist or care for Israel’s welfare but because it is in the interest of my people. I am convinced that if we do not make peace with you, there will be another war, and another war, and another war, and another war, and we shall lose all these wars. Hence it is the supreme interest of the Arab nation to make peace with you.”

According to Shalim’s biography, Elias Sasson, Moshe’s father, wrote shortly after Abdullah’s assassination:

King Abdullah was the only Arab statesman who showed an understanding for our national renewal, a sincere desire to come to a settlement with us, and a realistic attitude to most of our demands and arguments… We, as well as some of the Arabs and foreigners are going to feel for a long time to come his absence, and to regret more than a little his removal from our midst.”

The state of Arab Israel relations has changed radically since Abdullah’s assassination. Not only were Egypt and Jordan the first two Arab states to make peace with Israel, recognizing that it was in their interests to do so, but four more followed as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords. In three of them, it appears that some of the mistakes of the cold peace of the first two have not been repeated. There’s not just high-level government-to-government contact between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco, but there’s a unique level of interaction between people, and business ties that are all mutually beneficial.

King Abdullah I and his son crown prince Talal

It’s also noteworthy that references to Abdullah’s assassination have had a modern historical whitewash. Immediately following Abdullah’s death, a British publication reported:

The assassin is reported to have been identified as Mustafa Shukri Ashshu, a 21-year-old tailor in the Old City. During the Arab-Jewish war he was a member of the “dynamite squad” attached to the Arab irregular forces which were associated with the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem and became bitter enemies of Abdullah.” 

King Abdullah I of Jordan with Glubb Pasha, the day before he was assassinated by Mustafa Shukri Ashshu, a21-year-old tailor in the Old City. (Photo credit: GLUBB PASHA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Neither in this segment, nor the whole article, is there a reference to the assassin being a “Palestinian”. It was not a term used in 1951 to describe Arabs. Today however, historical revisionism retroactively brands Mustafa Shukri Ashshu as a “Palestinian”.

History Revealed or Revised? What is revealing about this contemporaneous newspaper report of the assassination of King Abdullahi was the identification of the assassin – as an “Arab” and not as a Palestinian as he is so described today.  

The same Arab/Islamic extremism that was preached by Haj Amin al-Husseini, and which “inspired” King Abdullah’s assassin, is a common enemy of and threat to Israel, Jordan, and the entire Arab Middle East, spilling over around the world. On this anniversary of the assassination of King Abdullah who might have made peace if he had lived, it’s important to revisit his words, that not only is peace important, but where we share common threats, so too it’s important that we unite against these.  

I pray that King Abdullah II will remember and take to heart these words and be guided by the wisdom of his great-grandfather for whom he is named.


The present king of Jordan, Abdullah II, named after his great-grandfather.




About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.





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- 31 July 2022

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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What’s happening in Israel today? See from every Monday – Thursday LOTL’s The Israel Brief broadcasts and on our Facebook page and YouTube by seasoned TV & radio broadcaster, Rolene Marks familiar to Chai FM listeners in South Africa and millions of American listeners to the News/Talk/Sports radio station  WINA, broadcasting out of Virginia, USA.

THE ISRAEL BRIEF

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Articles

(1)

ISRAEL UPPING ITS PACE

The Jewish state’s cycling team, ‘Israel-Premier Tech’  soars at the Tour de France

By David E. Kaplan

Heaven Sent. Pointing above, Stage 16 winner, Israel team’s Hugo Houte engages with his deceased brother “WE DID IT”.

In only the country’s third appearance in the most prestigious cycling race in the world, Israel at the 2022 Tour de France took two nail-biting stages.  A world force-fed on a daily diet of negative coverage of the Jewish state, this 109th Tour offered over a billion TV viewers a refreshing re-imaging of ISRAEL for 21 days on the saddle.

ISRAEL UPPING ITS PACE

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(2)

A DREAM OF ZION

The Story of Ethiopian Jewry

By Rolene Marks

Home at Last. Leaving a past of over 2000 years of history in Africa behind, Ethiopia’s Jews embrace a future in Israel.

Israel is the only country in the world that has extracted a people of Africa en mass to save rather than enslave. The story of Israel’s Ethiopian community is one of unimaginable hardship and loss, but it is also one of a remarkable homecoming after 2000 years of exile.

A DREAM OF ZION

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(3)

PAST AND PRESENT MIX AT THE LOWEST POINT ON EARTH

The highs and lows of Israel’s Dead Sea

By Motti Verses

Muddy Waters. Wading through ‘elements’ past and present, the writer emerges invigorated at Israel’s Dead Sea.

This Communication Executive revisits his past when as a child and later as a student in Jerusalem, he would frequently visit the popular places around the Dead Sea. Time has not stood still. What remains and what has changed makes for intriguing reading as the writer ‘floats’ on a high…. or is it a low?

PAST AND PRESENT MIX AT THE LOWEST POINT ON EARTH

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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- 25-28 July 2022

The Israel Brief – 25 July 2022 – The growing crisis for JAFI in Russia. Abbas meets with King Abdullah 2. Good news for Israeli motorists. Dutch retailer chain to open in Israel.



The Israel Brief – 26 July 2022 – Update on Jewish Agency issue. Israel sends more aid to Ukraine. Palestinian lawyers protest. Israel to train rangers.



The Israel Brief – 27 July 2022 – Abu Akle family meet Sec of State Blinken. SA Minister of Foreign Affairs accuses Israel of Apartheid. UN official says Jewish lobby controls social media. Germany to pay compensation to families of Israelis murdered in Munich in 1972.



The Israel Brief – 28 July 2022 – Israel slams comments by UNHRC investigator, Miloon Kothari. Court hearing in Moscow for JAFI. IDF release footage of use of human shields by Hamas. Families of Munich victims reject compensation offered.






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).

ISRAEL UPPING ITS PACE

The Jewish state’s cycling team, ‘Israel-Premier Tech’  soars at the Tour de France

By David E. Kaplan

There is hardly a more prestigious thrill in the world of professional cycling than winning a stage at the Tour de France. However, when there are 176 riders as began the 2022 Tour de France with the Grand Depart in Copenhagen on July 1; and there are only 21 stages, the odds are challenging. The commentators common line every day for 21 days is:

 “Who will have the legs to sprint for the line.”

Talking about legs, I knew something was ‘afoot’ when I received a WhatsApp from a friend on July 6 asking:

 “Are you watching?”  

He did not have to specify what – it was a given. I turned on Eurosport just in time  to see  an Israeli team make history in the Tour de France when one of its riders won a stage of the world-famous race.

Pulsating Pedaling. The name ISRAEL is now a recognised winning brand at the Tour de France.
 

Australian Simon Clarke of Israel-Premier Tech won stage five of the tour in a photo finish after a 157 kilometer (97.5 miles) run from Lille to Arenberg featuring 20 kilometers (nearly 12.5 miles) of cobbled roads.

It was the first time ever an Israeli team had performed so well.

It was a sheer joy and pride for Israelis, to see  their country’s name branded on the riders cycling top at the podium.

Riding into History. Stage 5 winner, Israel-Premier Tech’s Simon Clarke at the podium following a photo finish after a 157km run from Lille to Arenberg.

With the Tour de France being the most prestigious cycling race in the world, reaching more than 15 million spectators and over 1 billion television viewers globally, this was a refreshing media spotlight on Israel.

Could it happen again at this Tour?  Having happened once, anything is possible!

So when I again received a WhatsApp from my friend and a co-founder of Lay of the Land, Yair Chelouche this time on the 19 July, saying again: “Are you watching?”, I replied, “You gotta be kidding.”

Turn on your TV we may have a story in the making!”

I flipped to Eurosport and screamed in joy as there was the name ISRAEL in bold leading the pack. However, it was still some 40 kilometres to the finish line and anything could happen. Could the rider keep it up with the profusely panting predators lunging from behind?

This was riveting stuff and warranted cracking open a beer. After all, this rider needed all the support and I thought cracking a Gold Star – one of Israel’s premier beers – was my thoughtful contribution.

After dropping on the Port de Lers, the Israel-Premier Tech rider Hugo Houle chased back to the front of the race with 40 kilometers to go before attacking from a reduced group at the foot of the final climb. The beauty of the French countryside – its medieval churches and chateaus were but passing flashes of distractions as all eyes were on Hugo Houle, who was like horse with blinkers bolting back to the barn as if stung by a wasp!

At the Finish Line. Pointing to the heavens, Stage 16 winner for Israel-Premier Tech, Hugo Houte, engages with his deceased brother saying to himself, “WE DID IT”

When he attacked he was  – in his words – “setting the table” for fellow Israel-Premier Teck team member Mike Woods but “ when I saw that they let me go, I just went all in, full gas. You never know how it will turn out in the breakaway. Sometimes you need luck. Nobody wanted to commit…and then it was just a time trial to the end.”

‘Luck’, ‘legs’ and ‘commitment’ saw the Israel-Premier Tech rider take the stage. A joy for Israel, it was an enormous emotional win for Houle.

With one minute and ten seconds ahead of the chasers behind him, Houle had plenty of time not only to raise his arms in celebration on the approach to the line but also to point to the sky in memory of his brother.

It sounds incredible, but I know my brother helped me,” said an emotional Houle of his younger sibling Pierrik who was killed by a hit-and-run driver a decade earlier.
He went to run in the snow and was hit and left dead by the roadside. It took me three hours to find him.”
It was my dream to win a stage of the Tour de France since he left us,” said the  Stage 16 Israeli-team winner.

From Impossible to Possible. “I never won a race, so I guess it’s the right place to win my first race,” Houle said shortly after his win of Stage 16. “I think what I achieved today can be an inspiration of what is possible.”

So while most Stage winners express absolute joy as they are received by their teams after crossing the finish line, “This one is for my brother,” Hugo Houle  could be heard saying as he was embraced by his team after the 178.5-kilometer (111-mile) leg from Carcassone to Foix,

This means a lot to me,” Houle told reporters shortly afterward, with his voice breaking as he struggled to hold back the tears.

The Tour de France is not all about racing and picturesque countryside –  it’s about human stories.

With the name of the Israel team having changed from Israel Cycling Academy to Israel Start-Up Nation and finally to Israel-Premier Tech,  there was something common in all the name-changes – the inclusion of the word ISRAEL.

I thought back to my Hilton Israel Magazine 2019 interview with the Israeli-Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist and powerhouse behind the renaissance of cycling in Israel, Sylvan Adams. Credited for  the successful campaign to have Israel host in 2018 the Big Start of the Giro d’Italia, I recalled his words:

I intentionally insisted on ISRAEL in the name of the team – our name is part of our identity, so that sports commentators cannot avoid mentioning ‘Israel’ in their coverage of races where our riders compete. It’s strategic branding. Instead of TV viewers around the world hearing of ‘Israel’ in news reports relating mostly to political issues, they will increasingly hear it in the context of sport. We are resetting the visuals.”

Rough Riders. On gravel, Israel-Premier Tech’s Simon Clarke on Stage 5 which he wins in a photo finish.

How right he was.

I also think back to early 1990’s when Avi Ganor, a former business correspondent for Israel’s daily Haaretz, gave it all up to start a local monthly magazine called OFANAYIM (Bicycle).

Meshuga (crazy)!” my friends said. “How can you make a living out of a magazine about a sport that nobody in Israel takes seriously?”

Really? Takes seriously?

Two decades later, an Israeli team is winning stages in the Tour de France.

Israel is a country that faces endless existential challenges but always has the knack of getting – literally and figuratively – ‘back on the saddle



Hugo Houle solos to emotional TDF win



The Road Ahead. The writer interviewing Sylvan Adams in 2018 in Tel Aviv following the Giro d’Italia in Israel, where he said, “Next up, is the Tour de France”.






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).

PAST AND PRESENT MIX AT THE LOWEST POINT ON EARTH

By Motti Verses

(Photos credit: Merav Ayalon and Ein Gedi Hotel)

Traveling south along the shoreline of the Dead Sea from Lido Beach always brings back unforgettable childhood memories. Weeks after the 1967 Six Day War, I visited the Lido, a luxurious Jordanian hotel at the northern end of the sea. A road was paved to Ein Peshcha and it was possible to enjoy an immersion experience of the freshest spring water merging with the salty sea waters. The sweet salty connection etched my memory. The blue sea was then full and impressive. Great memories.

This is the Dead Sea, earth’s lowest point with an elevation of 430.5 meters below sea level. Due to the high salt content of the water, no living creature can live in the sea. 

Since then so many years have passed, and the sights of childhood are left only in mind. The sea is shrinking and drying at a frightening speed. In the northern section it can hardly be seen and only when approaching an oasis – Kibbutz Ein Gedi. The road winding up the ridge, a more optimistic picture is obtained. If the road had been paved in recent years, it certainly would not have had to be turned up. It was possible to continue south at a lower location aided by safety concrete piles. The tranquility, the wilderness, the colors of the blue sea with the drying salt are breathtaking, but so sad.

Desert Delight. Past and present fuse as the early morning sun rises above the mountain in Jordan illuminating a tranquil Dead Sea.

During my studies at the Hebrew University, when I lived in Jerusalem – my hometown, the escape east to the Dead Sea was frequent. The choices were either to Jericho to “wipe some hummus” and slide in the narrow concrete canal of the Uja Stream, or south to Ein Gedi for a hike in the Nahal David and Nahal Arugot streams. Today the first option does not even come to mind. The territory is in the hands of the Palestinian Authority and no one is willing to risk a trip experience turning into a question mark. Ein Gedi remains a popular option. Excursions to springs, streams, water ponds and tiny waterfalls in the heart of the arid wilderness were frequent and full of happiness. Later came the visits and stays in the Ein Gedi kibbutz hotel , which I always preferred over a stay in the Ein Bokek hotels.

Lovers in Paradise. Serene beauty, solitude and togetherness, a formula for fun.

I returned to Ein Gedi with my partner, who was born in Israel in the Sharon region, but it turns out that she is not familiar with this area. Full of excitement, I returned to walk in recognizable districts. The Nature Reserves Authority has made the visit to Nahal David an amazing experience, accessible to almost everyone and special in nature. The ibexes that used to hide away from sight, walk around with no fear and their quantity is quite large. A variety of small waterfalls await everyone to enjoy the cool and fresh water. This is compensation for the disappointing sign forbidding immersion in the pond of the rather powerful waterfall of David. Not many years ago, we used to bathe in the cool water enjoying the water falling on our shoulders.

Cool It. Nothing like a cold refreshing natural shower in the soaring heat of the desert.

After the ultimate Dead Sea mud experience all over our bodies, we found ourselves in our car – climbing on the winding road to the kibbutz on the way to the hotel. Same curvy road. Loud noise from the industrial chicken houses was a childhood memory. Years later, the chickens vanished but the rusty houses remained. This week the rusty structures had disappeared and only their concrete ramps remained. A strange sight.

My beloved hotel was still there, scattered over large areas dipped in greenery, with ancient baobab trees and desert flowers. A real oasis. The room where we stayed was clean and compact with an adjoining garden, overlooking the arid mountains. Meals in the hotel’s dining room remained as they were. Rich and basic. Who needs more? In the morning we enjoyed shakshuka, a salad and an outdoor coffee while the view of the powerful mountains left us speechless.

I was looking for the old bus painted blue to hop on leading the way to the hot springs and the beach; to enjoy the sea water and smear mud all over our bodies. The idea back then was to be photographed on camera using Agfa or Kodak film spools and wait a week for the prints. Today, with a state-of-the-art iPhone, the photos are instant, but the bus is no longer there. It’s been put out to pasture due to old age. Ein Gedi’s hot springs  are temporarily closed. 

Playing it Cool. While a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1980, the writer, Motti Verses (far left) with friends frolicking in Nahal David in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.

Challenges and improvisations in this unique area are endless. ”We had to close our famous hot springs facility next to the sea shores, as the water receded dramatically”, says Shahaf Homri, CEO of kibbutz  Ein Gedi. “Over recent years we have lost a staggering 50 meters and the waterfront that was part of the facility in 1982 when we opened, is now 5 kilometers away,” says Shahaf“No hospitality business faces a challenge like this globally. We are planning a totally different hot springs fascination to meet this new millennium, as the Dead Sea deserves a more modern attraction”, he says to me.

I was looking for Zalman’s cactus farm, an initiative of kibbutz member Zalman Dagmi. I loved enjoying the variety of plants in his compound. Unfortunately the farm is gone and the plants are now scattered all over the hotel and the kibbutz is now branded as a botanical garden. Nice, but for my money the older option was more desirable.

Road of Revelations. In contrast to the arid crust of the desert, the exotic flora along the coastal road provides a kaleidoscope of color.

The spacious swimming pool in the shade of the trees and at the foot of the mountains remains the attraction I really missed. On a sunbed overlooking the dying sea and the mountains of Moab, I was contemplating on my fortunate unforgettable vacation that connects past and present. 

Driving back home charged with energy with my partner at the wheel, I looked at my mobile phone, googling sadly about the Dead Sea, and a beacon shines via a surprising recent  announcement by Travel + Leisure, the prestigious American travel magazine with 4.8 million readers. It read:

The Dead Sea, Israel has been selected as the world’s number 1 healing spot around the world for 2022,  from hot springs to salt flats.

Besides being absolutely breathtaking, this landlocked salt lake has long been touted for its health-giving properties. From slathering the black mud over your skin for exfoliation and alleviating skin conditions like psoriasis, to its professed natural power to remedy asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, and other issues, the body of water also boasts a low content of pollen and other allergens. At 400 meters below sea level, harmful UV rays are filtered through an evaporation layer above the Dead Sea, the ozone layer, and an extra atmospheric layer. This is said to mean that sunbathers can absorb the beneficial effects of vitamin D from the sun’s rays, without risk of sunburn and ensuing skin damage,” the leading travel iconic magazine highlights.

Looking at the great view with that new knowledge my optimism soars. I am indeed fortunate to have had such a unique experience.





About the writer:

Motti Verses is a Communications Executive, Video Presenter, Writer, Marketing and PR Expert. He was Head of Public Relations for Hilton Hotels Israel for more than 30 years. Now he is the publisher of Travel Flash Tips.

http://linkedin.com/in/motti-verses-a7369913





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

A DREAM OF ZION

The Story of Ethiopian Jewry

By Rolene Marks

The dream of Jerusalem sustained them through the centuries. The hope of one day returning home to Jerusalem has been the song in the heart of Ethiopian Jews and home they came.

The story of Israel’s Ethiopian community is extraordinary. It is a story of hardship, tragedy and loss – but it is also a story of incredible hope, survival and fortitude.

Jewish Journey. Berchko Adela as a young girl in Ethiopia, before Operation Moses is today 68, a married mother of five and lives in Ashdod, Israel. (Doron Bacher/via JTA)

Ethiopia’s Jewish community (Beta Israel – House of Israel) had existed in that country for centuries. The origins of Jews in Ethiopia are unclear; though most believe that they are the descendants of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. There are many theories though, some believing they are the lost tribe of Dan, while others believe they are the descendants of Christians who converted to Judaism. The Jews of Ethiopia maintained their independence for over 1000 years in spite of continuous massacres, religious persecution, enslavement, and forced conversions.

In 1616, using modern Portuguese weapons, the Amhara finally conquered the Jews, enslaving, converting or killing many of them. They were referred to as “Falashas” – a derogatory name meaning “stranger” or “exile” – Ethiopian Jews could no longer own land or be educated.

But the dreams of Zion sustained them.

Promised Land. New immigrants from Ethiopia shortly after disembarking from the plane as part of Operation Solomon, 25 May 1991. (Photo: Gadi Cavallo/ Dan Hadani Archive,)

In 1974, civil unrest broke out and a pro-communist military junta, known as the “Derg” (“committee”), seized power after ousting the emperor Haile Selassie I. The Derg installed a government which was socialist in name but military in rule. Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam assumed power as the head of state and Derg chairman. Mengistu’s years in office were marked by a totalitarian-style government and Ethiopia became extremely militarized with heavy financing from the former Soviet Union and the former Eastern Bloc countries as well as Cuba. Ethiopia was effectively a communist state in the 1970’s and 80’s. With this, Ethiopia took on the communist mantles of being both anti-religion and anti-Israel.  

The Jews of Ethiopia bore the brunt of this.

Ethiopia in the 1980’s endured a series of famines and hundreds of thousands lost their lives. The images of starving children with distended bellies are seared into our global consciousness.

Out of Africa. A still from the documentary ‘With No Land.’ (Courtesy of the Other Israel Film Festival)

The situation for Beta Israel became untenable and many started to leave Ethiopia. Ethiopian Jews started the long, arduous journey on foot through neighbouring Sudan to reach the Promised Land. The journey was fraught with danger and many died along the way.

In late 1984, over six weeks, about seven thousand Beta Israel were covertly flown from Sudan to Israel in Operation Moses. Due to pressure from Arab states, Sudan ceased allowing the emigration in January 1985, leaving many Ethiopian Jews stranded.

Months later, the United States evacuated five hundred Jews from Sudan to Israel in Operation Joshua. However, after this operation, Israeli leaders struggled to convince Mengistu to allow the remaining Beta Israel to leave. Finally, in 1990, Israel and Ethiopia reached an agreement that allowed Jewish emigration.

Home Free. Ethiopian Jews arrive in Israel waving Israeli flags in this still from the documentary ‘With No Land.’ (Courtesy of the Other Israel Film Festival)

The situation became increasingly more desperate and in 1991, rebel forces seized control of Addis Ababa, the capital, threatening the country with political collapse. Israeli officials embarked on an emergency mission to evacuate as many Jews as possible, dispatching thirty-four planes. Many of these planes had their seats removed to increase their passenger capacity; one set the record for passengers carried aboard a Boeing 747 at 1,087 people. Over thirty-six hours, starting on May 24, 1991, more than fourteen thousand Beta Israel were flown to Israel in the remarkable Operation Solomon. Several babies were born aboard the flights, and numerous doctors were mobilised to assist the sick and the new born babies and moms upon arrival in Israel.

Israel’s rescue was the only time in history that a Westernised country brought out Africans to liberate rather than to enslave.

Desert to Knesset. Tamano-Shata came to Israel as part of Operation Moses, the first wave of mass immigration from Ethiopia and is today Israel’s Minster of Aliyah and Integration.

Today there are an estimate 170 000 + Jews of Ethiopian origin in Israel and many have gone on to achieve extraordinary things in a variety of areas including the Rabbinate, politics, military, fashion, journalism, the arts and many more.

Despite economic and social challenges, including incidents of racism, the community has largely integrated into Israeli society. Efforts continue to bring the remaining Ethiopians with Jewish origins, whose total number is disputed, to Israel.

Welcome to Israel. Then Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog before becoming Israel’s President (2nd right) and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (centre) greet Ethiopian immigrants arriving at Ben Gurion Airport on March 11, 2021. (The Jewish Agency

Israel’s vibrant Ethiopian community, who have fulfilled the dream of returning home to Jerusalem, Zion form a strong part of the fabric of society that makes Israel so very special.





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- 24 July 2022

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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What’s happening in Israel today? See from every Monday – Thursday LOTL’s The Israel Brief broadcasts and on our Facebook page and YouTube by seasoned TV & radio broadcaster, Rolene Marks familiar to Chai FM listeners in South Africa and millions of American listeners to the News/Talk/Sports radio station  WINA, broadcasting out of Virginia, USA.


The Israel Brief

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Articles

(1)

‘RUCK’ & ROLL

From rugby to netball, squash to tennis, the 21st Maccabiah is “rocking”

By David E. Kaplan

Zionism in Motion. Having a ‘field’ day, Israel takes on the mighty South Africa powerhouse at a packed Wingate.

After recent years of few tourists to Israel, Israel is flooded with visitors to the world’s third biggest sporting event – the Maccabiah. Even President Biden was present for the Opening Ceremony of the “Jewish Olympics” in Jerusalem. How important is the “Jewish Olympics” today?

‘RUCK’ & ROLL

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(2)

ANTISEMITIC “MAPPING PROJECT” EXPOSES BDS’ REAL AGENDA

Is a Kristallnacht in the USA farfetched or a real possibility?

By Eitan Fischberger and Arsen Ostrovsky

Targeting Jews. Promoted by anti-Israel groups, US website raises alarm over its targeting of the Jewish community.

A new website endangering the Jewish community of America by targeting Jewish institutions in Massachusetts, includes a high school, a center for people with disabilities, student groups, synagogues, newspapers, Jewish-run charities, and even a center for Jewish arts. The writers appeal to prevent a future Kristallnacht on American soil!

ANTISEMITIC “MAPPING PROJECT” EXPOSES BDS’ REAL AGENDA

(Click on the blue title)



(3)

A 101 -YEAR-OLD-NAZI CONVICTED

Late justice is still justice

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

From Hiding the Truth to Hiding his Face. Nazi defendant Josef Schütz takes refuge behind a folder in a German court.

“One could sense the tension as the judge entered the courtroom, and everyone stood up,” notes the writer who was instrumental in bringing Josef Schütz to this long-awaited point. A long life also meant that the unrepentant Nazi lived long enough to hear a German judge sentence him for being an accessory to mass murder.

A 101 -YEAR-OLD-NAZI CONVICTED

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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).

‘Ruck’ & Roll

From rugby to netball, squash to tennis, the 21st Maccabiah is “rocking”

By David E. Kaplan

When cynics scoff that the Maccabi Gamesis not real sport” or

it’s not front page, back page or any page news” or even more disparaging, “Who cares?” they are wrong.

In sport parlance – “It’s on track”.

In one 24-hour period – in full view of the international media -visiting US President Joe Biden was introduced to two polarized but defining components of the Jew of the 21st century – a journey from the depths of near oblivion to Jewish national sovereignty when in the morning he visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center and in the evening the opening of the 21st Maccabiah, commonly referred to as the “Jewish Olympics”.

Let the Games Begin. Raising his USA cap as the USA delegation marches onto the field in the Opening Ceremony at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, July 14, 2022, Joe Biden becomes the first USA president to make an appearance at the Maccabiah or ‘Jewish Olympics’. Joining him in jubilation are Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog (left), and Prime Minister Yair Lapid. (Ronen Zvulun/POOL/AFP via Getty Images).

When Joe met the two American Holocaust survivors at Yad Vashem, he was meeting not only  Giselle Cycowicz and Rena Quint but a stark reminder that only a few years before the State of Israel was born in 1948, Jews  were lining up to be mass murdered while much of the world stood by and yawned. At same day’s end, as the golden summer sun’s rays settled over the sublime skyline of Jerusalem, the American President waved as Jewish athletes – over 10,000 from 80 countries including the USA, the largest overseas delegation – marched  proudly onto the field at Teddy Stadium for the 2022 21st Maccabiah. These athletes were the living embodiment of “Muscular Zionism”, the concept conceived by Max Nordau who sowed the seeds for a “Jewish Olympics” when at the Second Zionist Congress in Basel in 1898, he spoke about forging a new Jew – far removed from the stereotype Ghetto image – who would be strong in appearance and resolute in spirit.

Moving Meeting. Giving both women and hug and kiss on the cheek, President Joe Biden speaks with Holocaust survivors Giselle Cycowicz (r) and Rena Quint in the Hall of Remembrance during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem on July 13, 2022. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Image.
 

While the concept of “Muscular Zionism” was born, it took a further three decades before the first Maccabiah opened in 1932 in Tel Aviv with a colourful parade through the streets of Tel Aviv led by Mayor Meir Dizengoff riding his iconic white horse.

That triumphant march in what was nicknamed the “White Horse Olympics” would culminate in 1950, the first Maccabiah held in a sovereign State of Israel. Edna Kaplan who I interviewed  some years ago was a participant in the South African delegation that year.

Rose among the Thorns. Edna Kaplan (centre) was the only woman in the South African running squad at the 1950 Maccabiah.

I was the rose amongst the thorns,” she said chuckling. “I was not the only woman in the South African athletic squad, I was the only woman in the entire delegation.” A sprinter, Edna described the conditions of the rough track, with Tel Aviv’s Reading Power Station in the background. In keeping with the family’s sporting tradition, her daughter Janine, literallyran’ in her mother’s footsteps, participating in the1973 Maccabiah also as a sprinter.  Janine was then part of the Rhodesian (later Zimbabwe) delegation. Such an impression did it make, that within six months, she immigrated to Israel.

This has frequently proved the impact of the Maccabiah.

Running for Gold. In the first post-WWII Maccabiah in 1950, South African Edna Kaplan competes in the Woman’s 100m at Reading in Tel Aviv.

A South African ‘Israel Prize’ recipient, Dr. Ian Froman – the driving force behind the Israel Tennis Centers – credits representing South Africa at the 1961 Maccabi Games in tennis – having competed in the men’s singles at Wimbledon in 1955 – leading to him to making Aliyah (immigrating to Israel) shortly thereafter. As a young graduate in dentistry “I fell in love with Israel” and then got his teeth into tennis instead of dentistry!

FAMILY AFFAIR

How important is the Maccabiah today?” was a question I put to veteran Israeli squash player Stanley Milliner originally from Cape Town. A multiple Maccabiah medal recipient over five Maccabi Games – including gold – Stanley says that “While there is a lot of feeling in Israel that the Maccabi Games has passed its time,” he disagrees. “It brings together Jews from all over the world. What’s more, it bring them together IN ISRAEL. This remains so important today as it affirms the centrality of Israel to global Jewish life in such a warm and entertaining way.  There is nothing like sport to achieve this. It creates this feeling of ‘mishpocha’ – of getting together for a ’family affair’.”

Super Siblings. Holders of multiple Maccabi Games medals, including gold, former South Africans Stanley Milliner for squash and sister Jillian Milliner for tennis will be again proudly competing for Israel

Stanley elaborates that this feeling was all-pervasive at the opening ceremony attended by Biden, “who we knew was there but we did not see.” Says Stanley:

 “You have never seen these people before  from all over the world, speaking different languages  and yet you feel you have known them all your life. This is what I mean – like long-last family coming together.”

What was interesting, continues Stanley:

 “was that for some of the Israelis in squash who had never before participated in a Maccabiah, it was a new experience for them. For the first time they realized that they were part of a huge Jewish global experince. “

Staying within ‘the family’ is Stanley’s sister, Jillian Milliner who has also participated in five Maccabiah and is a three time Israeli gold medalist in tennis. Now playing in the 65-plus age category, I caught up with Jillian following her hard-fought victory against a  Chilean in the soaring heat. She collapsed and required treatment from the para-medics, “but only after I won the match in a tie-breaker!

Striving for gold both in singles and doubles, Jillian is “so proud to be again representing Israel. For me it’s very meaningful. I was speaking with someone from the US delegation that said it was the largest US delegation in history – over 1,600 athletes and this is in the age of Covid.  They so much wanted to come, to be in Israel. This is the spirit of the Maccabiah. Despite the cynics and those who want to denigrate and pull Israel down, the Jewish world with Israel at the core is thriving.” While looking for gold on a personal level, “for the Jewish world,” says Jillian, “this is our Golden Age.”

SHOOTING STARS

Manning the kiosk at the Maccabiah Netball venue in Ra’anana was  Carol Levin, Treasurer of Netball in Israel, Carol was not exaggerating when she said:

 “This place is rocking.”

I had not yet stepped into the hall but could hear the high pitch screaming. Then entering, I was met by a kaleidoscope of colour and a cacophony of cheering supporters. I understood this is what Carol meant when she said only minutes before:

 “What a VIBE!”

This “vibe” represents netball’s popularity at the Maccabiah and in Israel which has come a long way since its founder, Jodi Careira,  arrived in Israel over 25 years earlier with her family “and a netball that I got for my Bat Mitzvah. My friend Yoni Weil called me and said let’s go play outside and here we are at the Maccabiah, with Israel competing with top teams from all over the world.  Who knew then, what would be today?”

Who would indeed!

Golden Girl. Prime mover for netball in Israel,  gold medalist Jodi Carrera at a rugby match at a previous Maccabiah.

UPROAR IN THE STANDS

It was a treat watching – or ‘experiencing’ – the rugby at Wingate.

Irrespective of who was playing or the scores, it was refreshing for Israelis who instead of arguing over divisive issues plutzing the nation, could plutz instead over the decisions of rucks, mauls, scrums and lineouts – “important stuff”. After all,  the ref couldn’t see what us experts were seeing in the stands enhanced in our observation skills by copious tall glasses of  frothing beer from the pub that was doing a roaring trade!

Having a Field Day. South Africa beats Israel in a round robin match on the 15 July 2022 at Wingate. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Sitting in the stands at the semi-finals, I noted with the banners, giant flags and national team T-shits there was always the Magen David – Star of David –  reflecting the ultimate victor – the Jewish people.

Following  the first Friday afternoon’s packed match between South Africa and Israel, everyone shook hands – nothing to do with the rugby. Spectators from across the world were wishing each other “Good Shabbos”.

Cruising while Watching the Bruising. Supporting Israel – as well as the local pub – at the rugby at Wingate are former South Africans (l-r) Leigh Freedman, Barry Kornel and Phillip Levy.
 

Beyond the sights and sounds, the message of the Maccabiah is clearly – A Jewish world divided by geography is united by history.

I only hope, Max Nordau is a “spectator” watching and smiling from above.





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- 18-21 July 2022

The Israel Brief – 18 July 2022 – Wrapping up Pres. Biden’s trip. IAF respond to rocket fire. Cop killed in ramming laid to rest. Did Mandela like Israel?



The Israel Brief – 19 July 2022 – Israel and EU Association Council reignites toes. Lapid in exclusive to i24 News – restart Joint Economic Committee. Remembering AMIA. Is Nikki Haley getting ready to run?



The Israel Brief – 20 July 2022 – Major UK-Israel trade deal. UN Watch report on Palestinian torture. Macron to Abbas: start direct talks with Israel. Over 80% new olim are happy.



The Israel Brief – 21 July 2022 – Terrorist caught says Shin Bet. IDF and military drones. IDF Chief in Morocco. Foreigner to perform in Israel.






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