Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 04 April 2021

Unveiling the contours and contrasts of an ever-changing Middle East landscape

Reliable reportage and insightful commentary on the Middle East by seasoned journalists from the region and beyond

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



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

The Israel Brief

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Articles

(1)

A Walk In The Park A Return To The Dark?

Avoid this one in Istanbul

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

A Walk In The Park A Return To The Dark?

(Click on the blue title)



(2)

Weep, the Beloved Country

By Stephen Schulman

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

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

Weep, the Beloved Country

(Click on the blue title)



(3)

The Arab World Fighting Antisemitism

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

By Rolene Marks

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

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

The Arab World Fighting Antisemitism

(Click on the blue title)



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

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


The Israel Brief- 30 March – 01 April 2021

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

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



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

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

The Arab World Fighting Antisemitism

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

By Rolene Marks

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

It is proof of what happens when peace takes flight!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Walk In The Park A Return To The Dark?

Avoid this one in Istanbul, it honours an antisemitic Nazi supporter

By David E. Kaplan

What is it about Turkey these days that from being one of the most popular tourist destinations for Israelis, where hoteliers and restaurateurs in its tourist hotspots spoke Hebrew to welcome Israeli visitors in their multitudes, has turned not only anti-Israel but antisemitic?

The latest disturbing action – mostly ignored by the international media – was in November 2020, when the Istanbul metropolitan municipality named a park after a notorious antisemite – Hüseyin Nihal Atsız (1905–1975). The park – following a request made by members of İyi Parti (the Good Party) – is located in Istanbul’s Köyiçi region of Maltepe district, where Atsız spent most of his life.

Troubling Times. The name of Turkist Hüseyin Nihal Atsız was given to a park in Istanbul Maltepe. IYI Party thanked Istanbul mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu.

What is “good” about this decision?

As much of the pre-Corona Western world made headlines of crowds storming statues and ripping them off their proverbial pedestals for their racist pasts, the Turks are fine with naming a park after someone who wrote in 1934:

 “As the mud will not be iron even if it is put into an oven, the Jew cannot be Turkish no matter how hard he tries.”

While the world media dissected the controversial pasts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and even Abraham Lincoln, they ignore the Turkish nationalist writer, novelist, poet, historian and philosopher who also wrote that:

 “Turkishness is a privilege; it is not granted to everyone, especially to those like Jews…If we get angry, we will not only exterminate Jews like the Germans did, we will go further…”

How much “further” could they “go”? To name a park in Istanbul after a man who wants to compete with the Nazis as to how to treat or deal with Jews?

Apparently we should not be surprised according to Dr. Nikos Michailidis,Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Mediterranean Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and an expert on Turkey, who earlier this month told The Jerusalem Post that:

It’s not shocking for those who know Turkey well that Ekrem Imamoglu, the supposedly ‘social democrat’ Mayor of Istanbul, supported and approved a bill to name a park in the city after a prominent ultra-nationalist writer and Nazi sympathizer. Turkish ultra-nationalist and supremacist ideology is not a marginal phenomenon, but rather the mainstream.”

Writing on the Wall.  Ekrem İmamoğlu is the mayor of İstanbul, the largest city in Turkey with 15 million inhabitants, nearly 20% of the entire country’s population. If as President Erdoğan said in an AKP meeting  2017, “Who wins Istanbul wins Turkey” and today this belief dominates Turkish politics, approving a park in Istanbul honouring those advocate exterminating Jews is a major concern.
 

He goes on to say that “With the exception of the pro-Kurdish HDP, and some liberal as well as a few social democrat politicians, all the other parties in the Turkish parliament are inspired – to different degrees – by openly racist ideologies.”

Madness – Marginal to Mainstream

If for years Atsiz’s haircut resembled Hitler’s, his rhetoric mirrored the Nazi leader’s genocidal antisemitism.

Unabashed Racist. An early militaristic photograph of Hüseyin Nihal Atsız (1905–1975) – an anti-Semite and Turkey’s most prominent Nazi sympathizer.

Some of the other tirades documented from Hüseyin Nihal Atsiz include:

  • The Jew here is like the Jew we see everywhere. Insidious, insolent, malevolent, cowardly, but opportunistic Jew; the Jewish neighborhood is the center of clamor, noise and filth here as [the Jewish neighborhoods] everywhere else… We do not want to see this treacherous and bastard nation of history as citizens among us anymore.”
  •  “The creature called the Jew in the world is not loved by anyone but the Jew and the ignoble ones… Phrases in our language such as ‘like a Jew’, ‘do not act like a Jew’, ‘Jewish bazaar’, ‘to look like a synagogue’… shows the value given by our race to this vile nation.””

So Jews are a “vile nation” to a man Turkey sees fit to name a park after!

This not only happened in the 1930s; this happened in 2020!

Appearances Aside. Despite the resemblances Atsız (left) had with Adolf Hitler (right), he denied these claims as he started to publish his ideas even before Hitler was well-known in Turkey.

According to the late Prof. Jacob M. Landau of the Hebrew University’s Department of Political Science, “Atsiz was a great admirer of the race theories of Nazi Germany, expressing some of them repeatedly in his works during the 1930s and 1940s.”

Bad enough as Atsiz was as a product of his time, far more worrying is that he has no shortage of fans today in modern-day Turkey. Evidence of this is the annual commemorative ceremonies held in his honour attracting members from a number of political parties and now – a park in Istanbul!

Dr. Efrat Aviv, a senior lecturer in the Dept. of Middle Eastern Studies at Bar-Ilan University and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies reveals:

 Atsız wrote several articles accusing Jews of unrestrained greed and national disloyalty, and of being communist and cosmopolitan at the same time. Atsız labeled Jews and communists Turkey’s two main rivals, and claimed in an issue of Orhun published in November 1933 that “Germany has become the first country to solve the Jewish problem.” In 1944, he wrote that Jews are the secret enemy of all nations.”

The danger of Atsiz’s poison pen moved beyond imaginings  to the real, reminiscent of the insightful quote of Heinrich Heine that:

Wherever they burn books, in the end will also burn human beings.”

Cause for Concern. Nihâl Atsız in the 1930s again popular in the 2020s.

Motivated by the writings of Atsız and other antisemitic authors,continues Aviv, “Turks targeted the Jews of eastern Thrace in pogroms from June 21 through July 4, 1934, collectively known as the “Thrace Incidents”. The pogroms began with a boycott of Jewish businesses and descended to physical attacks on Jewish-owned buildings, which were first looted, then set on fire. Jewish men were beaten and some Jewish women reportedly raped. Terrorized by this turn of events, many Jews fled the region.”

When asked by the Post what can be done about Turkey’s glorification of Atsız and its disturbing direction, Dr. Nikos Michailidis suggested:

primarily through extensive sanctions  and with the use of other innovative diplomatic, economic, educational and cultural tools, the EU and the US can design and implement policies for the ‘de-Nazification’ of the Turkish political system and its irredentist, nationalist ideology.”

Grass no longer Greener! Young people enjoy Istanbul park before its renaming of a racist, antisemite and Nazi supporter.

However, how likely is this to happen when as Michailidis notes that while the EU and the US rightly criticize and oppose the rise of Nazi ideologies in European countries, “they fail to raise the same criticism when it comes to Turkey, a NATO member-state and once an aspiring candidate for EU membership.”

They are also not helped by a global press that is rather reticent on Turkey’s disturbing direction.

If the message that Turkey sends to Jews is to honour those today that pride on killing Jews of yesterday, then maybe the message Jews can send to Turkey is – AVOID IT!


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

Weep, the Beloved Country

By Stephen Schulman

Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”

Winston Churchill

Laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”

Albert Einstein


More than half a century has passed since leaving my native land of South Africa. I left a country dominated by an oppressive racist regime where free speech was nonexistent, all criticism was suppressed and its opponents subject to severe punitive measures. Thankfully, those bad days are long gone. In 1994, the country passed into majority rule, apartheid was abolished and through free elections a representative government was elected.

However, sadly to say, after more than a quarter century has passed, bigotry, intolerance and stifling of views that disagree with those of the powers-that-be, still persist. An eloquent testimony to this fact is the ongoing saga of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

Bravery on the Bench. Ordered to apologise and retract comments he made about SA’s relationship with Israel and even supplied with a scripted version of what he should say, Chief Justice Mogoeng has defiantly doubled down at a public prayer meeting, saying he had nothing to apologise for.

In July last year, the Chief Justice together with the Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein appeared on a webinar organized by The Jerusalem Post and moderated by its Editor- in-Chief Yaakov Katz. The Chief Justice, a devout Christian, used this platform to express his personal beliefs and views regarding the Middle East conflict. He prefaced his remarks by stating that as a citizen of his country he was bound by the laws and policies adopted by it. Nevertheless, as a citizen, he also had the inalienable right to criticize the very same policies and laws and suggest changes.

Ordered to Rethink! Jerusalem Post Editor-In-Chief Yaakov Katz (top right) moderates a discussion between Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein (bottom) and South Africa’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng (top left) whose comments upset the country’s ruling ANC party leading to an order for him to apologise and retract his comments about SA’s relationship with Israel. (photo credit: screenshot)

As a believer in the Bible and as a tenet of his faith he declared his love and prayers for Israel and the Palestinians as well. Neither a moral judgment was passed nor a condoning of Israel’s policies. He felt that South Africa, with its anti-Israel bias, was depriving itself of “a wonderful opportunity of being a game changer in the Israeli-Palestinian situation.” Moreover, he accused the critics of Israel of blatant hypocrisy and self-serving for maintaining relations with both former colonial powers and countries that exploit the continent today.

The expected public reaction was not long in coming!

The pro-Palestinian groups and activists, including Africa 4 Palestine, South Africa BDS Coalition and the Women’s Cultural Group, were outraged. In the eyes of the ruling ANC and the faithful, he had committed the heinous, unforgivable sin of deviating from the official line and criticizing the wisdom of their policies. Cancel Culture – the phenomenon of silencing, shaming and ostracizing people whose views or ideologies are considered problematic or offensive – came into full swing; the floodgates of official opprobrium were swiftly opened and Justice Mogoeng was deluged with protests, condemnations and questioning of his authority and moral integrity. He was insulted, besmirched and even subject to a vile, scurrilous caricature by the cartoonist Zapiro. Chief Justice Mogoeng stood his ground and refused to buckle under by renouncing his principles and beliefs.

Jokes Aside. For freely expressing an opinion outside court, the “Chief Justice” is ridiculed as being “Chief Zionist” by South Africa’s best known cartoonist, “Zapiro”.

I stand by my refusal to retract or apologize for any part of what I said during the webinar. Even if 50 million people were to march every day for 10 years for me to do so, I would not apologize. If I perish, I perish.”

The next chapter of the saga unfolded when a complaint of him becoming “involved in political controversy or activity” was lodged by the above mentioned groups with the Judicial Conduct Committee of the country’s Judicial Service Commission that then concurred with the complainants. It ordered him to apologize for his comments about the Middle East, apologize and retract his statements concerning his refusal to back down and to sign a prewritten document drafted by the Commission to that effect. This document would not only make him eat humble pie but cause him to refute his deeply held beliefs and relinquish his dearly held principles in order to fall in line with the government’s official policy. It was a harsh judgment reminiscent of the recanting and public humiliations of the Stalinist era and the techniques of Mao Tse Tung!

Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has vigorously refuted the charges against him and denied being involved in extrajudicial activities incompatible with the impartiality of a judge. He unequivocally stressed that he had nothing to apologize for; his conscience was clear that he would appeal the court’s decision and that he refused to sign the document. He reiterated his position that in exercising his citizen’s right of free speech, he was in no way attacking and undermining his government’s policy.

“…..judges are citizens and have constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought and freedom of opinion. It is not correct to say as soon as you assume office, you automatically let go of your constitutional rights.”

The Chief Justice also rebuked the presiding judge of the Judicial Service Commission who accused him of appearing on The Jerusalem Post webinar in order to promote his own interests, those of the publication and those of the Israeli government.

Because it means every time a judge or a magistrate accepts an invitation by the SABC or eNCA or Newzroom Afrika they are advancing their own interests or the interests of the station so that it can have a large viewership and the judges must be punished for it.”

He stressed that this salient point could be extended to all the media.

At this point of time, the saga is still unfolding as the Judicial Service Commission’s decision regarding his refusal has not been forthcoming!

Most illuminating and possibly reflecting public opinion was an article, conspicuously devoid of any moral stance, that appeared in the Daily Maverick concerning the case of Mogoeng Mogoeng. The writer acknowledged that the ANC is virulently anti-Israel which it accuses of being (in the well-worn, inaccurate and misleading phrase) an “apartheid” state. In scouring for further justification of their attitude, he dredges up the unsubstantiated claim that Israel supplied the apartheid regime with the knowledge to build an atomic bomb. Desperately and rather pathetically, dredging even deeper, he states that: “Culturally, White South Africans sometimes saw themselves as having similarities with Israelis, an example of which can be found in at least one popular novel by Wilbur Smith at that time.” With all due respect to Mr. Smith, a talented and prolific author with over 30 novels of historical fiction to his credit and to the writer of this article, I modestly beg to differ. I was born, grew up in South Africa, attended a public school and served in the SA Defence Forces where I encountered and knew people from all backgrounds. Never once did I hear this belief expressed. Even at university where I studied South African history, did I find evidence of it! If it exists at all, it is confined to a miniscule lunatic fringe. The writer can also rest assured that Israelis would find no affinity with adherents to this credo.

The Daily Maverick contributor comforts himself by concluding that the committee’s findings and actions regarding Mogoeng Mogoeng will have a positive effect for here at last, the judiciary has actually functioned by acting in unison to prove “that judges can be, and are being, regulated and this might actually generate more trust in the judiciary among the general public.” This is a sad testament to a judiciary whose reputation is in tatters as when it quashed the case of misconduct and impropriety against a former Western Cape Judge President, and  former South African President Jacob Zuma now thumbs his nose at the commission investigating his multifarious misdemeanors by refusing to appear  before them.

Cold comfort indeed!

Most unfortunately, South Africa under its present government is on the road to becoming a failed state. Kleptocracy has become institutionalized. The ruling ANC party is dominated by nepotism and cronyism, appointing many incompetent people whose sole qualification for a post is family and/or political connections and who see it as an opportunity to fill their pockets. Crime is endemic with an ineffectual police force characterized by corruption up to the highest level. Statistics show South Africa to be the global murder and rape capital with citizens fearing for the safety of their persons and their property. Unemployment is rife with many citizens living in abject poverty. The infrastructure is crumbling with regular power outages and public transport is unreliable and unsafe: travelling on the vandalized trains involves risking life and limb. In some instances, local authorities do not fulfill their roles and in a few towns the residents have taken it upon themselves to collect garbage and supply municipal services. Has the judiciary spoken out on these burning issues?

The government ignores the injustices outside its borders. It turns a blind eye to the plight of the citizens of Zimbabwe suffering under a corrupt regime and remains conspicuously silent regarding the travesties committed on the continent. It retains close links with China – a notoriously violator of human rights and is not averse to maintaining diplomatic relations with other oppressive regimes. Nevertheless, it remains obsessively hypocritically, focused on Israel, the one democracy in the Middle East.

The saga of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng whose sole crime was a suggestion that his government take a more even handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict caused him to be treated like a pariah is a sad testament to the state of affairs and bodes ill for the future of independence of thought and free speech in a healthy democracy.

I fervently hope that my prediction will be proved wrong.




About the writer:

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Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 29 March 2021

Unveiling the contours and contrasts of an ever-changing Middle East landscape

Reliable reportage and insightful commentary on the Middle East by seasoned journalists from the region and beyond

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Happy Passover

Celebrating the ‘liberation from bondage’Lay Of The Land wishes all across the world, a speedy ‘liberation from covid’ that plaques us all.  We remember those we sadly lost and salute our heroes – our healthcare workers.

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

The Israel Brief

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Articles

(1)

Music to Our Ears

Israel’s Shalva band sings with artists from the United Arab Emirates

By David E. Kaplan

A Different Tune. Voices in different languages from different cultures illuminates path forward.

Transcending borders and boundaries, musicians with disabilities from Israel and the United Arab Emirates sing together in Hebrew Arabic and English, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’demonstrating  that regardless of nationality, religion or culture, we can join together to promote positive social change and foster more inclusive societies.

Music to Our Ears

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(2)

“From Slavery to Freedom”

Transformation is in the air! Do you feel it?

By Justine Friedman

Passover in a Pandemic. Grandkids wave to grandmother in Haifa during Passover Seder via Zoom in 2020.
 

Does celebrating our “Freedom from Slavery” that occurred over 3000 years ago in Egypt remain relevant today everywhere? Examining its significance during a pandemic, the writer – a clinical Dietician and Mindset Mentor – explores how a contemporary “breaking of shackles” from restrictive mindsets can enhance the quality of our lives.

“From Slavery to Freedom”

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

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

The Israel Brief- 22-25 March 2021

The Israel Brief – 22 March 2021 – The eve of elections, again. IDF Chief condemns ICC investigation. Palestinians roll out vaccines.


The Israel Brief – 23 March 2021 – Israelis head to the polls. Will Saudi Arabia normalize with Israel? Attack on a pregnant woman in London.



The Israel Brief – 24 March 2021 – Election results so far. IAF strike targets in response to rockets. Quartet and China start proposing talks for 2 state solution.




The Israel Brief – 25 March 2021 – Election deadlock drama. UNHRC passes 4 anti-Israel Resolutions. Israel prepares for Pesach.



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)

Music to Our Ears

Separated by more “land” than “water” but far too much “trouble”, Israel’s Shalva band sings ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ with artists from the United Arab Emirates

By David E. Kaplan

The horizons of the people of the Middle East are constrained by self-inflicted ‘limitations’ but all share similar dreams and aspirations. This coincides with the message from Israel’s famous band made up of musicians with disabilities that this month collaborated with Emirati artists to celebrate the nations’ 2020 Abrahams Accords normalization deal.

“WE HAVE LIMITATIONS, BUT WE ARE ALSO LIKE EVERYONE ELSE’ was the bands message when they first broke into the national spotlight in 2019, competing in Israel’s top TV talent show Kochav Haba (“Rising Star”) before making it internationally.

Rising Stars. The Shalva Band takes to the stage on The Rising Star in Israel in the hopes of representing the Nation in May 2019 at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy of Shalva)
 

Today, with its music heard worldwide, its message of hope and overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges is resonating internationally.

This month’s groundbreaking performance took place on the occasion of the 31st anniversary of The Israel Association for Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, better known as Shalva. Performing with United Arab Emirates singer Tareq Al Menhali; and accompanied by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the lyrics of the Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” classic  – sung in Hebrew, Arabic and English – resonated far and beyond. The celebration was held under the theme – “Building Bridges to the Future”.

Building Bridges. ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ performed for the first time in Arabic , Hebrew and English.
 

Guest speaker the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, said:

 “The United Arab Emirates shares Shalva’s unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities. In the UAE, those with intellectual disabilities or special needs are referred to as people of determination in recognition of their achievements across different fields. The collaboration to create the special rendition of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ demonstrates how we must all continue to work together – regardless of nationality, religion or culture – to promote positive social change and foster more inclusive societies.”

Emirati Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba at an event with then-US House speaker Paul Ryan, at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, January 25, 2018. (AP/Jon Gambrell)

With Shalva actively engaged with its UAE counterparts aiming in advancing the field of disability-care across the region, its founder and president, Kalman Samuels explains:

We have chosen ‘Building Bridges to the Future’ as the theme for our 31st Anniversary Celebration to reflect the way in which Shalva is inspiring a more inclusive society, building bridges between individuals with disabilities and their broader community with a particular focus on our newly developing relationships in the Arab world as part of the Abraham Accords.”

“We are Family”

The journey of Shalva Band is one of those ‘only in Israel’ stories’.

When Shalva Band – whose 8 members all have disabilities – took Israel’s top TV talent show ‘Kochav Haba’ – Rising Star – by storm in 2019 and may have gone onto to win and represent Israel in May in Tel Aviv at the Eurovision Song Contest – the world’s most watched live music event – it was not to be!

Shalva Sensation. Seen by global audience of 200 million at the 2019 Eurovision in Tel Aviv, Shalva Band with Eurovision Host, international Israeli supermodel, Bar Refaeli.

Israelis will recall that they withdrew from the competition due to suddenly discovering that the European Broadcasting Union’s insisting that  they had to rehearse on the Shabbat (the Sabbath or Jewish day of rest). The organisers refused to budge on the group’s request not to perform on Shabbat.

By refusing to break the Shabbat and turning down a chance to represent Israel in the 2019 Eurovision, the popular band, several of whose members are religiously observant, won the bigger competition – placing one’s values above all else. It was not only about religious observance – one member in the group is an atheist – it was respect to for those that are and standing together as a team! As the band members remarked after the fateful decision:

 “We are family.”

The Shalva Band’s two lead singers are blind, the lead keyboard player is visually impaired, and of the bands four percussionists, two have Down Syndrome, one has Williams Syndrome, and another is a disabled war veteran. The pioneering Jerusalem-based Shalva National Center where the band was born, provides services for thousands of children and young adults with disabilities.

Inspirational Outreach. Located in the heart of Jerusalem, Shalva’s headquarters is Israel’s beacon of inclusion and an international leader of innovative programs and research.

Providing care, education, vocational training, and community for people with disabilities, Shalva gives equal access and opportunity to all participants regardless of religion, ethnic background, or financial capability. It was established In 1990 by Rabbi Kalman Samuels and his wife, Malki, after their son Yossi – who was born healthy in 1977 but was rendered blind, deaf and hyperactive after receiving a faulty DPT vaccination – achieved what they call “a Helen Keller breakthrough”, showing that he can communicate. Yossi has proudly shared the Shalva Band’s progress on his Facebook page.

Expanding Family. A journey that began for one son emerged a journey for many sons and daughters. Founder and President of Shalva, Rabbi Kalman Samuels Samuels and son Yossi . (photo Marc Israel Sellem) 

And so, what began as an after-school programme caring for eight children out of an apartment, today serves over 2,000 people, including its house band of eight musicians – Tal Kima, Dina Samteh, Yosef Ovadia, Anael Khalifa, Yair Pomburg, Guy Maman and Naftali Weiss, under the directorship of Shai Ben-Shushan.

It’s through music that I can be an equal,” says singer and percussionist Yosef Ovadia who has a developmental disorder known as Williams Syndrome and began attending Shalva at age seven. “Music lights up my life,” he asserts as it does fellow band member Tal Kima who has Down Syndrome and whose talent for the drums was discovered at the age of six during music therapy.

It’s my favourite thing to do!” he says.

“People of Determination”. Members of the Shalva band perform Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge over Troubled Water,’ accompanied by Emirati musicians and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, March 2021. (YouTube screenshot)

Dare To Dream

Their compelling story is one of overcoming adversity and coming out on top, literally, ‘on a world stage’!

Despite initial reservations of the band members of competing ‘live’ on one of the most watched television shows in Israel, with each progressive stunning performance on Season 6 of The Rising Star, there was not a dry eye amongst judges and audience as they captivated the hearts and minds of a nation that rooted for them  -“to go all the way”.

Although they did not “go all the way” having pulled out from the competition, they nevertheless took to the largest live music event in the world – Eurovision 2019 as entertainers and totally blew their audience of almost 200 million away. It was a performance that dominated the Eurovision conversation and the applause was heard around the world. BBC Eurovision tweeted it; newspapers from around the world highlighted them, and the performance was #2 TRENDING on YouTube, garnering more than double the views of most of the other contest participants.

The Eurovision organisation called the band “inspirational” for “inspiring us to think differently about challenges and acceptance,” while many viewers at home said the performance brought them to tears.

Their performances changed how millions of people view and embrace disability. They strengthened children and families to believe in their amazing potential.

Now their talents  are combining with their Arab counterparts with disabilities in the UAE.

Shalva on Tour. The Jerusalem-based Shalva Band released its first professional music video ahead of its world tour to Canada, the United States, Mexico and the United Kingdom in October and November 2017.

Shalva’s Global Chairman Kalman Samuels is very upbeat about

the upcoming special cover version which “we believe for the very first time, in English, Hebrew, and Arabic represent the coming together of our respective countries and the optimism we share that with love, understanding and co-operation we will make the world a better place.”

To paraphrase The Bard:

 “If music be the food of love, play on, Shalva Band”






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)

“From Slavery to Freedom”

Transformation is in the air! Do you feel it?

By Justine Friedman

Here in the northern hemisphere, the start of spring is tangible and with it comes a sense of shifting from a winter mindset which lends itself to cocooning and insulation, to the newness and openness to growth that comes with the advent of spring. Globally, we are still in the throes of the corona pandemic. What an interesting year it has been and so incredibly challenging on many levels.

When we first entered lockdown, the impression I had was of a temporary closure with return to normality after about a month or so. In fact, when the world first stopped, I was relieved. It gave me an opportunity to breathe and pause the usual rushing around that life had become. As lockdowns have extended and become part of regular life, the halt on a rushed life is still appreciated, however the new reality has opened the door to some introspection that I find myself experiencing as well as many of my clients.

Passover during a Pandemic. Medical personnel sit down for a Passover Seder at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba on April 8, 2020. (Health Ministry)

I would like to share some of the areas that my clients and I have spent time unpacking, which is particularly relevant to this time of year as we enter spring and move towards the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover). This festival is marked in the Jewish calendar as the liberation of the enslaved Children of Israel in Egypt over 3000 years ago following some 200 years of slavery. Imagine what it must have been like to be enslaved for such an extended period.

Each year, we celebrate this freedom from slavery with a 7-day (8 days outside of Israel) festival where we are forbidden to eat bread. In its place, we eat the very flat and often tasteless matzah (unleavened bread seen as a symbol of our freedom from slavery. Many of my clients’ experience panic over the limitations of foods and the dread of what they are not able to eat over this time. I find it eases their concern to rather focus on what is still permissible (which is quite considerable when you start to list the foods).

Is the concept of freedom from slavery relevant to our daily lives? Are we able to use this as an analogy for our own lives? Could this shift in mindset and breaking of shackles be representative of self-transformation that can enhance the quality and very fabric of our lives?

How can we understand this slave mentality better? Another way of describing it is being locked into a fixed mindset which is synonymous with feeling constricted. In this frame of mind, there is a general feeling of experiencing obstacles and lack of flow in our lives that often seem insurmountable. It is a sense of being stuck in habits, thought patterns, belief systems and situations that we cannot see our way clear of. Often the feeling of being stuck presents itself repeatedly with similar situations coming to challenge us. Often, we feel a sense of frustration and helplessness in the face of them.

The opposite of this is a freedom or growth mindset. The nature of which immediately allows one to draw a deep breath, as with this comes a sense of expansion, flow, and a sense of being able to rise above challenge, accomplish and thrive.

Awareness of how this plays out in everyday life is the starting point to transformation. Setting an intention to move towards establishing habits that fit the freedom/ growth mindset model is really what gets the process going. It is very normal to be able to face certain situations in life from one mindset and others from the complete opposite.

An example of this is an esteemed businessman or woman who is soaring in their career but finds that they cannot break the pattern of bad eating habits and negative self-talk. Their own inner taskmaster/ critic runs like a radio in their mind analysing how they are handling eating experiences and their bodies. In their work life they thrive on challenge and work well to meet deadlines and stay focused, and yet in their private life they do not believe that they are capable of making the changes necessary to lead a life of health, vitality and wellness. What spurs them on in their work area, breaks them in their personal area.

Passover Under Lockdown. Three siblings in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem, wave to their grandmother in Haifa as she joins their Passover Seder via Zoom as Israel takes stringent steps to contain the coronavirus in April 8, 2020. (Photo Dan Williams/Reuter)
 

I often find that one of the greatest obstacles my clients face which keeps them stuck and enslaved to poor habits, is linked to negative self-talk and a feeling that on some level they are not worthy of wellness and taking care of themselves. Oftentimes, eating and food is used as a punishment and overindulgence. This can either be due to restricting intake as well as from overeating. It is so common to use food as a means of soothing emotions or repressing emotions, and situational triggers constantly keep one stuck in these negative cycles which leads to despair.

How does one move out of this mindset of enslavement, of behaving towards oneself as a cruel taskmaster?

Self-awareness is the first cog in getting the proverbial wheel to turn. This works best when locked into another forward moving wheel, that of an experienced practitioner who can mentor one each step of the way. There are many techniques available to assist in breaking the shackles of slave mindset and each is unique to the individual.

Where in your daily life do you find yourself feeling successful and rising to the challenge? Where do you feel the opposite? Stuck, enslaved and feeling blocked? How would you feel if the situations that you are currently feeling enslaved were to be removed? What would this mean for your daily life and for your future? Can you picture what that may look like?

This is a wonderful picture to have in one’s mind and despite your inner critic telling you otherwise it is very achievable to get there. All you must do is take that first step.

If given a choice between wellness and illness, I can confidently say that most people would opt for the former. It is this picture of wellness that can be used as the goal. How does one reach that goal? One micro-step and micro-achievement at a time. Try this on for size the next time you are faced with a choice involving food options that usually challenge you. Ask the question, is this moving me towards my goal or away from my goal?

I encourage you all to use the energy of this time of year to propel yourselves from feeling enslaved in your life, to experiencing freedom in those same areas.

May this bring a new meaning to your Pesach seder and allow for the usual recitation of a historical and biblical story, to spark the story of your own redemption.



About the writer:

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Justine Friedman (nee Aginsky), is a South African trained, Licensed Clinical Dietician and Mindset Mentor who has run a successful clinical private practise for over 20 years. She made Aliyah with her husband and two children in November 2019. Justine educates patients with the skills and tools of how best to develop a wellness mindset and adopt behaviours that lead to the integration and maintenance of healthier habits. She is based in Modi’in, Israel and is also available for online consultations via zoom.

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)

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 21 March 2021

Unveiling the contours and contrasts of an ever-changing Middle East landscape

Reliable reportage and insightful commentary on the Middle East by seasoned journalists from the region and beyond

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

The Israel Brief

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Articles

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Message from Megiddo – A Wrong Righted

Celebrating the centenary of Isaac Ochberg’s 1921 daring rescue of orphan children from war-torn Eastern Europe

By David E. Kaplan

Past Preserved. Erin Kumin at the plaque of her great-grandmother, Janie Odes at centenary event at  Ochberg  Park, Megiddo, Israel.

It was a tearful and illuminating unveiling of a tragic tumultuous past on the SA Jewish Report webinar to 13,000 participants from all over the world of what transpired 100 years ago when South African Jewish businessman, philanthropist and Zionist visionary, Isaac Ochberg, risked life and limb to save Jewish orphans in Eastern Europe. Join in the centenary celebration organised by the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee (Israel), Megiddo Regional Council supported by JNF-KKL.

Message from Megiddo – A Wrong Righted

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(2)

Time To Tackle Antisemitism – Seriously!

UN steps up to the plate at special virtual Conference

By Yair Chelouche

Talking Heads. Panelists from all over the world participate at United Nations virtual conference on antisemitism.

Lay Of The Land‘s co-founder, Rolene Marks joins an impressive panel of experts at the UN Alliance of Organizations (UNAOC) virtual conference following the urgent call to devise new innovative methodologies in trying to combat rising antisemitism, most notably the role of social media in the spread of online hate.

Time To Tackle Antisemitism – Seriously!

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(3)

Israel Sends Vaccines to Palestinians

By Rolene Marks

Healing Hands. Palestinian health worker vaccinated in Bethlehem clinic against Covid following delivery of doses from Israel. 
 

With Israel proving the world leader in rolling out the Covid vaccine, some have chosen to besmirch Israel by falsely accusing the Jewish state of violating international law by blocking vaccines to Gaza. Not only is this untrue but Israel is cooperating with its Palestinians neighbours, ensuring that they receive much needed medical necessities, which has been lauded by UN Special Envoy to the region, Nikolay Mladenov.

Israel Sends Vaccines to Palestinians

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

To unsubscribe, please reply to layotland@gmail.com



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