The Arab Voice – January 2021

Arab writers opine on issues ranging from the divisive damage of the Trump legacy on  sustaining democracy and unity in America to the prospects of Israeli generals salvaging the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and President Macron of France’s frustration with Lebanon’s ruling elite.



(1)

Trump’s Last Days in Office

By Abdel Monaam Said

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, December 19

What we’re currently seeing unfold in US politics is far from normal. Typically, a “lame duck” president – a term used to describe an outgoing president after his successor has been elected – simply focuses on the orderly transition of power from one administration to another. But Donald Trump is no ordinary president, and he refuses to abide by any political traditions or norms. Historically, incumbent presidents who lose the election call their competitor on the election night itself to offer their congratulations and accept their defeat. Then there is a ritual of meeting at the White House, with a customary handshake in front of the press pool. Furthermore, the outgoing president typically makes resources available to the elected candidate, in order to ensure that the new administration can begin working come Inauguration Day. However, with Trump, not a single one of these things happened. At the time of writing these lines, the Electoral College already cast its votes and affirmed Joe Biden’s victory.

On the Way Out. An advocate for the strength of America but does Trump leave office with the ‘State of the Union’ more fragile?

However, Trump refuses to accept these results and continues to pursue far-fetched policies, both at home and abroad, that presidents in his situation should avoid. The recent recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara and the normalization deal between Rabat and Tel Aviv is just one example. Trump remains adamant that the elections were rigged, despite the fact that all evidence points to the contrary. He took this issue to Congress and even the Supreme Court but failed to prove his case in these forums. America today is more divided, perhaps, than it has ever been before. The problem is not that 82 million Americans voted for Biden. The problem is that, after learning of Trump’s horrific stance on women, minorities and the world, some 75 million people voted for him. These voters, who constitute a significant portion of American society, are ready to take action to save Trump — including violence. In fact, one cannot rule out the possibility that some states might promote the idea of secession fromthe Union; a testament to how fragmented Trump’s America has become.

Abdel Monaam Said

(2)

Israeli Generals and Peacemaking

By Elyas Harfoush 

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, December 20

Israeli generals who have tasted the scourge of war are those who want peace the most.” This is a statement made by Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister and alternate prime minister. Unlike the politicians of the Likud bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu today, who are driven by religious ideology and by insistence on controlling the land and obtaining peace at the same time, Gantz and many other senior officers in Israel acknowledge that comprehensive peace with the Palestinians will come with a price, including a territorial one. When Benny Gantz talks about the role that the Israeli army generals can play in making peace with the Palestinians, one might think of Israel’s former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who, during his tenure as minister of defense in the 1980s, said Israel should “break the Palestinians’ bones.” Later, however, he signed the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat and called to “stop the bloodshed of Israelis and Palestinians.” This change in Rabin’s positions, from a “bone breaker” to a peace partner, was met with defiance by Israeli religious zealots, who considered Rabin a traitor. Their incitement eventually led to his assassination on Nov. 4, 1995, leading to an abrupt ending of Israel’s peace talks with the Palestinians. Like Rabin, Benny Gantz also seems to have come a long way from his military days. From the chief of staff of the Israeli military who led two wars on the Gaza Strip, Gantz became a “civilian” who admits that full and comprehensive peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without a settlement with the Palestinians. He went on to say:

The Palestinians deserve an entity in which they can live independently.”

Smiling in the Snow. Israel’s Minister of Defence, Benny Gantz who expressed recently that a “comprehensive peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without a settlement with the Palestinians” is seen on December 15, 2013  as the then-IDF Chief of Staff (left) enjoying a fun snowball fight with a family of Palestinians along the West Bank’s Route 60. (Judah Ari Gross/Israel Defense Forces)

Even the division of Jerusalem was not off the books for Gantz, who suggested that “the city of Jerusalem is large enough and has plenty of sacred sites for all religions.” This statement, coming from the most senior officer in the Israeli army, is very revealing. It is a stark reminder that Israel’s military superiority alone is not enough to end the conflict and provide long-term stability for the region. Notably, it is not usually the job of the military officers to make peace. In Arab countries, many leaders walked the opposite way, turning from civilians, who have no experience on the battlefield, to “generals” who hung stars and medals on their chests, and led their people and armies into defeats and disasters. In Israel, it is difficult to question the experience of military leaders. Therefore, they are often more willing to speak freely. And more and more of them are realizing that power and force alone cannot bring about peace. Of course, we all know that appeals alone do not make peace, and that moderate worldviews like that of Gantz’s are only good insofar as they resonate with a wide audience. Unfortunately, in Israel, the general public seems to identify with a more extremist worldview that seeks to maximize Israel’s gains without making any concessions. That’s why Gantz’s vision remains a mere slogan and not an implemented reality. Here, we return to the role played by extremist groups in any chance for peace. Those calling for extreme solutions on both sides of the conflict are not satisfied with any concessions. Israeli extremists raise the banner of territorial control and expansion, alongside military supremacy. Palestinian extremists rally around the idea of “resistance” and refusal to recognize Israel. Both of these camps are spoiling whatever chance there is to salvage the situation in the Middle East. And neither one of these groups is actually promoting their respective side’s long-term political interests.

Elyas Harfoush

(3)

Will Macron Launch a New Initiative to Incite the Lebanese Against Their Ruling Class?

By Ali Hamadeh

Al-Nahar, Lebanon, December 18

French President Emmanuel Macron was supposed to visit Lebanon next week, as part of a series of visits he has been conducting to Beirut following the port disaster in August. During his last visit, Macron gathered representatives of Lebanon’s political echelon at the French embassy in Beirut and presented to them a political-economic reform initiative, sponsored by France. Those in the room unanimously agreed to accept it, in light of the deteriorating conditions in Lebanon. However, since then, nothing has happened. Despite announcing their approval for Macron’s stimulus plan, these lawmakers and business tycoons did what they do best: allowed the initiative to drown in Lebanon’s political bureaucracy. The cancellation of the current visit, caused by the fact that Macron tested positive for COVID-19, places an even greater question mark over the French initiative.

French Frustration. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (right) welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron (left) upon his arrival at the airport in Beirut, Lebanon August 6, 2020.

In his planned visit, Macron was slated to meet French forces operating in southern Lebanon as a part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). He also planned to hold meetings in Beirut with President Michel Aoun, to express his dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to assume any responsibility over the country’s dire situation. It is safe to assume that, during the visit, Macron also planned to address the Lebanese people in an effort to turn them against their irresponsible leadership, which is busy playing petty political games. He also was expected to criticize the country’s ruling class for its failure to accept the financial reforms presented to them. In light of the visit, Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted a brief to President Aoun, in order to sign the decrees that would allow him to form a government in line with the spirit of the French initiative. But the latter kept Hariri waiting and suspended the formation of a new government. Without a new government, the French initiative cannot move forward and Lebanon will not receive any of the aid it had been promised. In any case, it is possible that Macron will still want to address the people of Lebanon from Paris, despite canceling his visit. In doing so, he will send a message to the Lebanese leadership that Paris will no longer put up with Beirut’s political ineptitude. In fact, there are rumors that Macron might announce an entirely new initiative for Lebanon; one which calls on the Lebanese people to rebel against the ruling class and organize in new political groups ahead of the 2022 elections.

– By Ali Hamadeh




*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 (O&EO).

Vaccination Nation

*Feature Picture: Israeli medical staff state “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”!

Leading  the world in vaccinating her  citizens – Is Israel responsible for the Palestinians as well?

By Rolene Marks

Israel, the land of milk and honey is also the place of miracles. From biblical times we have marveled at events that can only be described as miraculous and this continues today. We have survived wars, countless attacks on our sovereignty and Israeli drivers but in the last few weeks, despite still rising Covid-19 numbers, Israel is rolling out and leading the world in our mission to vaccinate our citizens.

This is a true, modern day miracle. You could say that Israel has gone from Start-Up to Vaccination Nation!

Maybe it is our ability to adapt quickly, or our universal healthcare system or maybe it is our sense of responsibility for each other and impatience to get back to normal life that have contributed to the success of this but Israelis are very proud of our newest record of being on track to be the first country to have vaccinated all of our citizens. Initially, about a third of Israelis polled said they would be concerned about receiving the vaccine but as the roll out has progressed, so confidence has grown.  Anti-vaxxers remain a very small number.

Israel Rolls Up Its Sleeve. Israel’s State President Reuven Rivlin receives his COVID-19 vaccine dose. (Photo: Mark Neyman/GPO)

It is important to note that Israel is responsible for the vaccination of our own citizens. To date, Israel has vaccinated at least 14% of the population, soaring well past 1 million. Over  the last few days,  media outlets like The Guardian in the UK, Washington Post, MSNBC and others have accused Israel of almost purposefully neglecting to vaccinate the Palestinian populations. It is almost sadly predictable that as soon as Israel is lauded for an achievement in a certain area, the naysayers in the global media have to find some kind of stick to beat the Jewish state with.

Million Shot Man. Israel’s million Corona vaccination recipient is Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin from the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm who is seen here on January 1, 2021 with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (centre) (Haim Zach/GPO)
 

Far be it for them to do some research and find out the facts. Throughout this pandemic, Israel through NGO’s like Project Rozana has helped with ventilators and medical staff training and ensured that much needed equipment is received. The Palestinian Authority has made their position quite clear at times when it comes to accepting help.

Beating Heart, Helping Hand. An initiative supported by the Israeli government, the Australian-based charity Project Rozana has delivered coronavirus equipment to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Who can forget Palestinian obstinate rejection of thousands of tons of Covid aid from the United Arab Emirates because the plane had “landed at Ben Gurion Airport and had been organised in coordination with Israel”?

But now that Israel is enjoying positive coverage for the most part, agenda-driven media outlets cannot let this continue. It is nothing new. If Israel sets up the first mobile hospital after a disaster, we are accused of harvesting organs; if Israel celebrates the advancement of the status of women we are accused of deliberately crushing the rights of Palestinians; if a hit TV show like Fauda enjoys international acclaim, the show content must be violating international humanitarian law.

The Palestinian Authority has been quite clear on the issue of vaccines. A senior official from the Palestinian Health Ministry said that Palestinians do not expect Israel to sell them or purchase vaccines on their behalf. They are working with the World Health Organisation to purchase Russian-made vaccines as well as others that should arrive within the coming weeks. The Official, speaking to The Jerusalem Post said that “We are not a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry. We have our own government and Ministry of health and they are making huge efforts to get the vaccine.”

Jerusalem confirmed that Israel had not been asked for help from the Palestinians – nor would they refuse help if needed.

Israel is also not legally responsible for vaccinating the Palestinian population.

According to the Oslo Accords signed in 1995 the Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities Annex II Protocol Concerning Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities in the Sphere of Health states:

The powers and responsibilities of the military government and its Civil Administration in the sphere of health will be transferred to and will be assumed by the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority shall apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally-accepted standards in the field.

The inference by media outlets like The Guardian that Israel is deliberately vaccinating “settlers” as the expense of Palestinians has led some in the Israeli press to call it a modern day blood libel.

These kinds of accusations are not trivial mistakes with facts. Comments like “medical Apartheid” and “deliberately excluding Palestinians” are dangerous because these are the receipts used by the anti-Israel establishment and organisations like BDS to spread libel and push their hate-filled, antisemitic agenda.

In the past, responsible journalists and publications were driven by truth and facts – and not clickbait and blatant agenda pushing. This is not a case of “lazyitis” but perhaps another nefarious virus that sadly, there is no vaccine for.

The only cure for this is facts.

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)

Under Lockdown, Israeli University Unlocks Ingenuity

Educating through a Global Pandemic, IDC Herzliya turns Challenge into Opportunity

By David E. Kaplan

They say when the “going gets tough, the tough get going,” but in the Start-Up Nation of Israel that is never quite enough, you also need to be SMART.

Tough, smart and add in entrepreneurial,” asserts  Jonathan Davis, Vice President for External Relations at IDC Herzliya, and head of the university’s Raphael Recanati International School. “This is how the IDC has come through 2020 with the Corona pandemic. We have put IDC philosophy into practice by welcoming the challenges of Corona as opportunities. Overcoming hurdles and obstacles is what we teach here. It’s in our DNA.”

Flying Colours. Flags representing the international students’ countries of origin wave along the ‘Raphael Recanati Avenue of Flags’ (Photo: Herschel Gutman).

Nurtured in a country that has survived and thrived in adversity, Israel’s first private university, the IDC Herzliya was founded in 1994 by its President, Prof. Uriel Reichman to train the future leadership of the State of Israel via “a unique model of excellence in research and teaching” alongside an emphasis “on social responsibility and community involvement”.  

“Wonder Woman”. Famed Israeli actress Gal Gadot and Miss Israel 2004 studied law at the IDC university , while building her modelling and acting careers.

Its students are trained to “Dream Beyond” and its former students can be found at the pinnacles of their professions fulfilling their “dreams” in fields all over the world. Look no further than Hollywood’s “Wonder Woman”  Gal Gadot, who after serving two years in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat trainer, studied law at the IDC Herzliya before she began her modelling and acting career. Even with 2020 being the year of the Corona, Gadot is ranked in the top three highest paid actresses in the world – quite a leap from the once young girl from Rosh Ha’ayin!  

Impact on the World. “It is our responsibility to shine hope and light for a better future for our children,” says IDC former student famed film star, Gal Gadot.

While the supernatural powers of a “Wonder Woman” could have come in hand in 2020,  the IDC dug into its own innovative talents and optimized its abundant expertise to come up with solutions.

Meeting of Young Minds. A regular day at the IDC before Corona. Students at the international school who study in English, hail from over 90 countries from all over the world.

When the Corona pandemic struck in March 2020, “We rapidly responded to the new educational realities,” explains Davis who has been responsible for the health and welfare of eight hundred international students from over 90 countries. Having to adjust to a world knocked off its proverbial axis, it has been non-stop for Davis and his energized “A-team” arranging transportation for these mostly foreign students, ensuring that health regulations were strictly adhered to, quarantining the foreign students upon arrival in Israel, and remaining in touch with anxious parents.

Time Out.  The outdoors coffee shop is the social hub on campus. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

We held frequent Zoom conferences with as many as six hundred parents at a time, from the Far East, Europe, North America, and Latin America,” says Davis. “Felt like the United Nations but with one big satisfying difference – we resolved issues!”

Corona Connectivity. A IDC Zoom meeting of students from all over the world with international school head, Jonathan Davis (centre top)

Countering Corona

Confronting the pandemic as if it were a war, the IDC set up on its campus an “Operations Room”, which maintained constant contact with representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior and Ben Gurion International Airportto ensure that things went smoothly,” says Davis. Running 24 hours a day, “We had to field requests from North and South America, South Africa, Australia, across Europe and even China; after all, we have students here from over 90 countries. As we were bringing these students into Israel, the regulations and rules of Corona were changing from one minute to the next. It reminded me of Mohamed Ali – it was not good enough to carry a touch punch; one had to be nimble on the feet – to adjust to constantly changing conditions.”

One of the many overseas students the IDC assisted in returning to Israel during Corona was Jessica Rubens from Belgium. Stuck at home because of the pandemic, this Communication’s student was finding it frustrating studying from home. “I had been trying since March to return to Israel; it was not easy but finally, the IDC knowing the right levers to pull, helped me get back safely. This is where I need to be. It’s been quite amazing.”

Studying Communications is Jessica Rubens from Belgium.

Responsible for quarantining over 800 students,  many of whom went either to the IDC’s new dormitories or apartments off-campus and “We had to check those apartments to make sure that everything was according to the rules and regulations.”

Campus Beat. The IDC’s new dormitories on campus before Corona (Photo: Hershel Gutman)

Tapping into Talent

Ensuring the health and wellbeing of the students, the focus shifted to education, and what proved “smart”  was to tap into the talents of its students. To ensure the IDC was able to continue effective teaching, meant training hundreds of lecturers and professors in the art of online teaching in the most innovative and creative way.  “We took two hundred students from the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science, who became the mentors and tutors of these professors and lecturers, to assist them with technical aspects,” reveals Davis.

If one is tempted to raise an eyebrow at the sudden upside-down practice of students counseling lecturers, it is well known that IDC computer science students receive an average of three job offers from the biggest high-tech companies during their last year of studies. “They are trained to perform, and perform they did during Corona,” says Davis. “These guys were the cavalry.”

As 2021 dawned, and Israel became the first country in the world to vaccinate 10% of population, it is understandable that its universities are the breeding ground of its superlative successes. It needs to be!

Through entrepreneurial and innovative ways, we found ways and means to make lectures more interesting,” says Davis who directed the writer to interview a number of students.

Top Diplomat. Priding itself on having lecturers and professors active in their disciplines, seen here on campus is Israel’s top diplomat, the former Ambassador to the UK and the UN, Ron Prosor and today head of the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya with Jess Dorfan (L) from San Diego and Kelly Odes (R), Argov Fellow alumni, from JHB two students in 2017. (photo D.E. Kaplan)

I began with a group from South Africa, a country facing increasing isolation as more countries ban travel there over the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus.

For Noah Marks from Johannesburg, being under lockdown did not mean “my mind was ‘quarantined’.” Studying Business and Entrepreneurship, Covid-19 allowed Noah to use his time “profitably” as he began to work “on a number of venture ideas I had been toying with for some time.” He says it made him think “how crises are not to be seen as all negative but rather that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Throughout this Covid-19 pandemic, I have been exposed to new ways of creative problem solving and these lessons have indeed helped me to further become the entrepreneur that I wish to be.”

The  IDC could not be better geographically situated to suit Noah and his aspiring hi-tech peers. Located between Ra’anana and Herzliya, in the midst of Israel’s ‘Silicon Wadi’, with the most hi-tech companies per capita of any region in the country, “the IDC enjoys a very strong connection with these companies,” says Davis. “They provide cooperative hands-on education as well as offering internships.”

From South Africa (Left to Right ) Jordi Rubenstein studying Psychology, Tali Kadish Psychology student, Noah Marks Business and Entrepreneurship.

While for second year Psychology student returning to Israel and leaving her family behind in Johannesburg was “a daunting and emotional experience,”  Tali Kadish says she knows “I made the right decision.” At least surrounded by classmates in the dorms “allowed the online lessons to feel somewhat ‘normal’.”

In agreement is her compatriot and also Psychology student, Jordi Rubenstein who says the IDC “has gone to special efforts to make our online lectures interesting and productive. This period has no doubt been difficult, but the extra resources laid on has ensured that my education is on track and enriching.”

From ‘Down Under’, Computer Science student, Arora Attenborough from Australia’s Gold Coast, is up and energized being back in Israel. Using underwater parlance to describe learning ‘under lockdown’, Arora is looking forward “to start deep diving into my Computer Science and Entrepreneurship courses knowing that the skills we are acquiring and the challenges we are overcoming today will make us better and more prepared for the changed world after Corona.”

Warmly welcomed back to the IDC is Arora Attenborough from the Gold Coast, Australia studying Computer Science.

There is an understandable sense among the students that the post-Corona world will be different and that the education they are receiving at the IDC is preparing them for that proverbial, ‘Brave New World’.

This phenomena came from one man’s dream – Prof. Uriel Reichman and after whom the IDC will soon be renamed.  It was this esteemed Law Professor who during the early 1990s – without any state financial support – deflected the skeptics and transformed a crumbling British Mandate military base into an educational oasis in the center of the country. That short saga from decay to enterprise, encapsulates the spirit of the IDC. As students walk through the picturesque, verdant grounds of their campus, they can look upon the artifacts and masonry of bygone Empires from Rome to the British and marvel at modern day Israel’s accomplishments.

Men with A Mission. Founder and President of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Prof. Uriel Reichman (left) and Jonathan Davis, Vice President for External Relations at IDC Herzliya and head of the university’s Raphael Recanati International School.

With the shackles of past rulers an artwork on their pathways to lecture halls, “We train our students,”says Reichmann, “to free themselves from the shackles of convention and take responsibility for their future. We encourage them to pursue their dreams and not to succumb to the status quo.”

Viewing his IDC academic experience through a Corona prism, Government and Sustainability student Lee Ortenberg from Newton, Massachusetts is quite philosophical:

 “I came to IDC to have an international community surrounding me during my studies. I think one of the most amazing things about IDC is the diversity you find among your peers and professors; everyone has completely different life experiences to offer! Oddly enough, the coronavirus aligns almost perfectly with what we study in Government and Sustainability. From the nature of the virus, to how globalized economies handle shutdowns, to how cities and governments may come out of this pandemic greener and more resilient, it all has to do with our degree, making it a truly interesting time to be studying. Our professors share so much passion with our students, which is so inspiring to be around, and have been there for us every step of the way during the pandemic.” 

Lee Ortenberg from  Newton, Massachusetts USA is studying Government & Sustainability

While praising the administration and faculty in providing “an excellent job in adapting to online teaching,” Business Administration and Economics student Eitan Dooreck-Aloni from Miami, Florida articulates what all the students are hoping for”

Eitan Dooreck-Aloni, from Miami, Florida in the USA is studying Business Administrations-Economics

 “I can’t wait for life to get back to normal, so that we can all enjoy IDC’s vibrant life on campus.”

Now that’s a sentiment that everyone, everywhere can truly relate to!

Pathway to the Past.  Walking to classes, students pass the artifacts and masonry of bygone Empires from Rome to Great Britain.





*For more information about the IDC, please contact Stephanie Miller at smiller@idc.ac.il Or 972-9-9602841. 




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 December 2020

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)

A Shot in the Arm

A world knocked off its axis, vaccines arrive to set it straight

By David E. Kaplan

Thumbs Up. A jubilant Sidney and Irit Kaplan after receiving the vaccine at a clinic in  the Lower Galilee.

Almost 800,000 Israelis so far have been inoculated against the virus crossing the milestone in some 10 days after the start of the campaign. With figures showing the Jewish state leading the world in the immunization rate by a large margin, the writer taps into the joyful experiences of ordinary people across Israel receiving the Covid vaccinations.

A Shot in the Arm

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(2)

Disproportionate Stupidity?

The International Committee of the Red Cross Ignores Murder and Rockets to Focus on “Fauda“

By Rolene Marks

Fed-up with Fauda. The Red Cross on Twitter ignores real terror for fiction on television’s “Fauda”.  

“Fauda” is an internationally acclaimed Israeli television series. But that is all it is – a popular TV drama! So why does the International Red Cross choose FACTS over FICTION by failing to condemn ‘actual terrorism’ instead accusing ‘fictional Fauda’ for its “violations of International Human Rights law”?

Disproportionate Stupidity?

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(3)

Caveman vs Covid-man

By Justine Friedman

Early to Bed, Happy to Rise. Research shows people who retire to bed early arise in better moods.

Separated by millennia, Covid-man shares many of the core concerns with ancient caveman but equipped  with modern day knowledge, the writer offers tips of how in times of uncertainty, we can regain some small measures of control back in our daily lives?

Caveman vs Covid-man

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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- 28-31 December 2020

The Israel Brief – 28 December 2020 – Israel is Vaccination Nation. Are Israel and the UAE trying to shutter UNRWA? The Red Cross accuse “Fauda” of violating human right laws (should we tell them it is fiction?).



The Israel Brief – 29 December 2020 – Operation “Give a Shoulder”. The road to elections is paved with drama! 20 000 make aliyah in 2020.



The Israel Brief – 30 December 2020 – Covid and election update. Will Saudi normalise? Israel sends humanitarian aid to Croatia.




he Israel Brief – 31 December 2020 – The year that was – a look back on the main stories in 2020 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)

Caveman vs Covid-man

By Justine Friedman

As we head towards the culmination of this crazy year 2020 with a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel with the advent of the vaccine for Covid-19, I would like to reflect on the physical and emotional experience that has so consumed our lives. In my own country of Israel, we have just entered our third lockdown.

Testing Times. Israel in its third lockdown, testing for coronavirus at Tl Aviv’s iconic Rabin Square.(Photo: Moti Kimchi)

In many countries across the world the second and in some a third wave of this unseen virus is gaining momentum. Just yesterday, friends of mine in South Africa left on their long-awaited holiday destinations as the president of the country announced the closure of many holiday related activities. I heard frustrated and desperate cries of a people so utterly disappointed and angry at the impact that Corona has had and continues to have on our daily lives.

How is this invisible threat impacting us? Besides the financial, emotional, and social impact, how is the physical pressure taking its toll? I would like to compare two scenarios. That of the age old “Caveman” and todays “Covid-man”.

Not Caving In. No less anxious for caveman who had to provide safety, shelter and sustenance for his family.

In ancient times when man lived as hunter-gatherers and life was simple on many levels, the day-to-day experience was one of taking care of basic needs which were, warmth, food and water and shelter. When threats entered their space i.e., a wild animal or another human who threatened to take away what was theirs, they experienced a “fight and flight” response which caused a surge of adrenaline in their bodies enabling them to receive blood flow to all their major muscles and organs which would assist them in running away from or fighting against the threat. Once they had succeeded, the effects of this rush of adrenaline subsided and they continued as normal.

How is this different to “Covid-man”? In our current world we face an invisible enemy, and perhaps some of us face visible ones too. Our bodies in this situation continue to do what they were programmed to do, which is release surges of adrenaline to enable us to “run away from” that which threatens us. The difference from prehistoric times to today’s world is that we get to infrequently feel that we do succeed and overcome existential threats. We do however still share the same anxieties with caveman of having to provide food and shelter, although for Modern Day Covid-man, these concerns are synonymous with ‘earning a living’.

The Invisible Enemy. An electron microscope captures images of the coronavirus, which is about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.(COURTESY OF ELIZABETH FISCHER)

Body and Soul

The world we live in is now less certain than it was a year ago and the threat is never ending. This causes our bodies to be constantly assailed by a rush of adrenaline to achieve the impossible and the result is an eventual fatigue or burnout with the consequent rise of cortisol in our bodies. When circulating cortisol is constantly elevated it results in many diseases and one that I see daily in my work, weight gain and exhaustion that leads to an increase in appetite particularly for foods that will provide quick bursts of energy.

Stressed Out. The adrenal gland produces cortisol, a hormone that contributes to several bodily functions, including the fight or flight response to stress.

Is it possible to reverse this process? What can we do to live with this uncertainty and regain some small measures of control back in our daily lives?

Here are some tips to dealing with elevated cortisol and adrenal burnout/ fatigue (as each person may differ these guidelines are general and if you are concerned you are experiencing this condition please seek the guidance of a qualified medical practitioner and dietician):

  • Endeavour to get to sleep no later than 10-11pm at night
  • Aim for 7-9 hours’ sleep
  • Caffeine increases cortisol levels so switch to decaff or avoid drinking caffeinated beverages between 7.00-9.00 am and after 2.00pm. Limit total number of cups of caffeinated beverages (tea/ coffee/ green tea/ energy drinks)
  • Light aerobic exercise is very beneficial for lowering cortisol and for stress management, aim to perform 30 minutes daily and if possible, do many of these sessions in the sunlight to increase exposure to the benefits of increased vitamin D production which is shown to increase immunity
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of clean water daily
  • Balance meals and snacks and eat 5-6 small meals frequently throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable.
  • Try and include 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
Early to Bed, Happy to Rise. Researchers have found that subjects who went to sleep and arose earlier reported better moods.

Each of us has a unique set of circumstances and way of experiencing and dealing with this strange new world. One thing we can be certain of is that we are living in interesting and challenging times and in a world where making decisions and controlling what we once were able to do, no longer exists.

Health is Wealth. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables daily.

We are each responsible for our own immediate environment and despite the uncertainty, there are some things that we can implement. We have the power to choose our responses; we have the power to be kind; we have the power to help another, and we have the power to be sociably responsible.

Drink Up! It’s recommended to drink six to eight glasses of water a day.

As we begin 2021, I wish you all health and the strength to face all that is in your path.

Performing light aerobic exercise in sunlight is beneficial for stress management and increasing vitamin D.





About the writer:

Justine Friedman (née Aginsky), Clinical Dietician (RDSA) and Mind-Body coach, made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019 with her husband and their two children. In Johannesburg, she was a successful clinical dietician, coach and speaker who ran her own private practice for 17 years. Justine is passionate about helping people, and women, in particular, achieve greater degrees of health in their mind, body and soul. She is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.





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 endeavors 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)

Disproportionate Stupidity?

The International Committee of the Red Cross Ignores Murder and Rockets to Focus on “Fauda

By Rolene Marks

One of the questions I ask myself when going into my Twitter account is what fresh stupid I will encounter that day. And it never disappoints!

If it is not those whose grasp on the facts is loose to say the least, then it is the never ending parade of conspiracy theories, blame politics and drivel interspersed with some really cool cat memes. Lady Gaga said it perfectly when she referred to social media as “the toilet of the internet”. Yesterday Twitter did not disappoint. The ludicrous tweet came courtesy of the International Red Cross representatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Esther Holgen (z”l), mother of 6, brutally killed in a terror attack, 20/12/2020 (Photo: Courtesy of the family).

Completely giving the previous day’s rocket attacks a wide berth and failing to condemn the terror-motivated murder of 52 year old year old mother of six, Esther Holgen, the Red Cross focused instead on singling out the fictional TV show “Fauda” for its “violations of International Human Rights law”.

Did you also just hear the screeching of brakes? I thought so.

“Fauda” is an Israeli television masterpiece that enjoys massive international interest and viewership, including in the Arab world and even by Hamas, the same terrorist thugs portrayed in the hit show who are quite partial to how realistic they are portrayed. “Fauda” (I am still trying to get over the last season – my heart rate has not settled yet!) unites Jews and Arabs in their enjoyment of the show and how it gives a human face to both sides and tells the story of all protagonists in Hebrew and Arabic. It is pure TV entertainment and even though art may sometimes imitate life, it is F.I.C.T.I.O.N!

Who is next? A Game of Thrones for the flagrant use of dragons and sell swords that violate the laws of proportionality and hiring mercenaries? Will it be Outlander for the planning of uprisings against the British Crown? Maybe The Crown for glaring inaccuracies? The list goes on but if I were James Bond or Olivia Pope from Scandal (who can forget the voting scandal!) I would be shaking in my fictitious shoes.

Before pointing a finger at the fictional, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) should examine their own shortcomings with regards to human rights.

A World at War. Founded 50 years earlier in 1864, 1200 Red Cross volunteers in front of the Rath Museum, Geneva during the First World War.

The ICRC was established in 1864 in Geneva, Switzerland. This neutral body received a mandate to protect victims of international and internal armed conflicts. Such victims include war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other non-combatants. For 50 years, Israel, with our own national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service called Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David) was refused entry into the international body even though it met all other criteria for membership, on the grounds that it does not use one of the approved symbols which were the red crescent or the red cross.

Early Days. A month after the establishment of the Jewish state, a Magen David Adom ambulance in June 1948, Israel.

The Israeli society has used a red six pointed Star of David, the Magen David, since the 1930s – and before the state was established. It was only after immense pressure was put on the ICRC from the American and Australian societies that Magen David Adom was admitted in 2006. Israel’s Magen David Adom would then be able to become an ICRC member if it framed its traditional red Shield of David symbol in the red diamond.

Red Alert. A Magen David Adom Ambulance in Israel today.

In keeping with the mandate of the ICRC, may we suggest less “Fauda” and more focus on what is important. Here are a few suggestions:

The ICRC could focus more on freeing the two civilian captives, Avera Mengistu (6 years) and Hisham Al-Sayed (5 years) held by Hamas without any communication or help with efforts to return the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who fell during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 for a dignified burial. Their families have been in excruciating agony and worry. It must be noted that Gilad Shalit, a former captive who was held by Hamas for 5 years also received no visit from the Red Cross.

Focus on Fact not Fiction. Instead of tweeting about an Israeli  drama TV series, the ICRC could focus on the welfare of  two Israelis with serious mental health conditions Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed (bottom) being held by Hamas in Gaza for over five years, and the return of the remains of  Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul (top) killed in 2014. Courtesy of family/Facebook. 

Prisoners who are terror or security threats held in Israeli prisons receive visits from the Red Cross because Israel is a signatory to two conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. The Red Cross does not visit prisoners held for crimes but it would be really nice if they would pop in on our civilians held captive by a terror entity who regard themselves as the legitimate government of the Gaza strip.

The ICRC could also ensure that their affiliate, the Red Crescent, do not use their ambulances to transport civilians including the disabled and elderly to riots like the March of Return where they formed the front line of defense in the never ending war for optics perpetuated by Hamas who leverage their populations as human shields so that they can get the most sympathy from the world media. Ambulances have been used as transport services for suicide bombers in the past as well. This could also ensure that hospitals are used for their intended purposes and not weapons storage facilities or armouries.

Instead of focusing on the fictional, the ICRC could also have used their social media to condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel’s civilian population or condemning arson terror and they could have condemned the nationalistic motivated murder of Esther Holgen, who went for a run and never returned home. She was found with her head bludgeoned by a rock. Esther Holgen was a mother – and also a non-combatant!

Focusing on the Future. In 2019, the ICRC and Magen David Adom signed a multi-year partnership agreement reflecting the close relations and long-term partnership between the two organizations.

Many may wonder why it is worth getting uptight about a silly tweet but in a region and conflict where the first casualty is often truth and fact coupled with rising anti-Semitism online, this adds fuel to an already flaming fire. It may have been disproportionate stupidity on behalf of whoever is in charge of the social media account or maybe it was a REALLY slow news day. In that case may we suggest watching “Fauda” and less focus on tweeting……



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 endeavors 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 Shot in the Arm

A world knocked off its axis, vaccines arrive to set it straight

By David E. Kaplan

It should have been unremarkable but it felt quite monumental! Within a few days after watching on TV a plane landing at BG International Airport with the Corona vaccine, I had my Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Monday 21 December, only a day after the Prime Minister had the nation’s first shot followed immediately by the Minister of Health. One friend was having it the next day, my wife on Thursday, my brother on Friday and others I know the next week.

Happy Landings. Delight was felt across Israel as photos appeared on  social media of the DHL freight plane arriving with the first batch of Pfizer covid-19 vaccine at Ben-Gurion International Airport, December 9, 2020.

The process was happening – personally and nationally!

And as for the actual injection, it took less time than the annual flu shot – five minutes from the time I entered the building in Herzliya until the time I came out. Hilary my wife who was waiting for me outside suspiciously thought:

My God, that was too quick! What did he forget that he has go home and fetch?”

However, this was not a moment of oy vey but OMG!

Momentous Moment. Outside the Maccabi clinic in Herzliya, the writer flexes his muscle while reflecting on the occasion.

As for thinking “too quick”, Hilary had the same brief’ experience a few days later at a clinic in Petah-Tikva. Even though we were going into a third lockdown, she came out the clinic and exclaimed: “I feel liberated”.

Such is the irony in these strange uncertain times!

Looking Ahead. Right arm exposing the  jabbed area, a relieved Hilary Kaplan from Kfar- Saba after receiving her shot at a clinic in Petah-Tikva.

The PM said he hoped to reach 150,000 vaccinated a day by next weekend, which will allow health authorities to inoculate some 2.25 million Israeli citizens within the next 30 days.

Only months before, the conventional wisdom was that ‘this day’ was  sometime “next year” or maybe even years away. Life “as we knew it” was on hold – dependent on how fast a vaccine would be ready and listening to the experts – one thing we had in abundance – there was little reason to  put the champagne on ice. The history of vaccine development was hardly encouraging. I recall reading Barney Graham, Deputy Director of the Vaccine Research Center at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases saying:

 “I’ve been working on vaccines for a long time and I’ve never seen one take less than about 20 years.”

Disquieting examples were daily cited in the media, notably:

– “it took 26 years to develop a vaccine for the human papilloma virus

– “25 years to secure one for rotavirus

– “researchers have been trying for more than 50 years to find a vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus, one of the leading causes of infectious disease mortality in infants.”

Roll Call. Danny and Janine Gelley from Kfar-Saba excitedly holding up their vaccination numbers at the Maccabi clinic in Herzliya, Israel.

Even when in mid-May, the US government optimistically announced that with its  “Operation Warp Speed’ they will have a vaccine ready for general use by the end of 2020, most of the cognoscenti felt that target was too optimistic, generally citing spring of 2021 as a best-case scenario.

That ‘scenario’ arrived during Hanukkah and before Christmas and New Year  2020 and nothing brought home to me the enormity of the event and the concomitant excitement than while I was writing this article, I was receiving WhatsApp’s from friends and relatives with their photos of just having received the vaccine. You can’t see the smiles because all are wearing masks  but their reactions are evident in their bodily gestures from a thumbs up to a raised arm or flashing the V for victory sign. What’s more, these images of joy and jubilation – or relief – were arriving from across the country like the photo of my brother and sister-in-law outside a clinic in Sakhnin, an Arab village in the lower Galilee in northern Israel.

Thumbs Up. The writer’s brother Sidney Kaplan flashing a thumbs up with wife Irit from Moshav Manof after receiving the vaccine at a clinic in the Arab village of Shaknin in the Lower Galilee.

Jews and Arabs were  together  in combatting a common enemy – Corona!

How telling in the new age of rapprochement in the Middle East that on December 26, four days before New Year, the No. 1 and No. 2 countries in the world for administering COVID-19 vaccinations doses per 100 people are the two counties that recently signed a “normalization deal” – the Muslim state of Bahrain and the Jewish state of Israel. Both are small countries but with huge aspirations. Once foes, they were more than ready to stand in the vanguard of rolling up sleeves, not to fight but for a shot in the arm.

Call to Arms. Volunteer police officer, Maish Isaacson of Ra’anana receiving his shot at Meir Hospital, Kfar Saba where he also volunteers as a Medical Clown.

Israel’s Prime Minister said it right when he paraphrased astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous words after landing on the moon with “One small injection for a man and one giant leap for the health of us all.”

That’s the way I felt – a shot in the arm was a shot in the body of all mankind.






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 endeavors 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- 21-24 December 2020

The Israel Brief – 21 December 2020 – Police hunt for killer and motives for murder of mom of six. Covid and Vaccine update. Will Israel avoid going to elections?



The Israel Brief – 22 December 2020 – Historic flight to Morocco. Israel heads to the polls March 2021. Covid updates.



The Israel Brief – 23 December 2020 – Is Israel heading into another lockdown? Morocco agreements signed. The road to elections. Again.



The Israel Brief – 24 December 2020 – Israel to go into 2 week lockdown. Dramatic election announcements. US labels settlement goods “Made 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)

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 20 December 2020

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)

A Brush with the Past

By David E. Kaplan

Dreaming on the Dunes. Founded on sand dunes, Gutman’s idealistic impression of a sun soaked Tel Aviv.

The brushstrokes of Nachum Gutman reveal Tel Aviv’s journey from “sleepy city” to the “city that never sleeps”. Through his paintings, sculpture and writings, we journey back in time to an early Tel Aviv and discover the settings and seeds of its transition.

A brush with the past

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(2)

Has the New York Times Been Captured?

By Rolene Marks

Admitting the Obvious. The NY Times later acknowledges anti-Semitism in publishing this “appalling” cartoon.

One of the world’s most respected news media publications, the writer explores how The New York Times  has gone from admired to derided. Has an obsession with Israel and American Jewry contributed to this once venerated bastion of global journalism becoming another casualty of ‘institution Capture’?

Has the New York Times Been Captured?

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(3)

“Winter of Our Discontent”

By David E. Kaplan

Breaking News.  An  excited Israeli public process the news during Hanukkah seeing “light at the end of dark tunnel.

From a pessimistic Passover in 2020 when Israelis faced its first lockdown to an approaching promising Passover 2021, the writer reflects on the year that was to the year we welcome paying tribute to the way humanity has miraculously responded to this pandemic with rapid resourcefulness.

“Winter of Our Discontent”

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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 (O&EO).