IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?

By Craig Snoyman

Every now and then I have occasion to use the word “timeous” when typing on my computer. The automatic spell-checker will spew out the word “timorous” as a substitute for the word that it did not have in its dictionary. Both of these words came to mind when watching the interview of Judge David Unterhalter, as he applied for a position as judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Judge David Unterhalter
 
 
 

I have never been a great fan of watching job interviews. I have never watched the Judicial Services Commission ever interview candidates for the position of judge, although there have been many live transmissions of this. This all changed when a WhatsApp group to which I belong, published a letter from the South African BDS Coalition objecting to the candidacy of Unterhalter on the grounds of his association with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBOD). (In full disclosure – I am a proud Jew, but with only a passing interest in the Board). Viewing this letter as an anti-Semitic attack by a bigoted organisation, I resolved to watch the interview.

The interviews before Unterhalter’s were sometimes personal, but the was a marked emphasis on the need for (racial) transformation of the judiciary. One expected a similar pattern to be followed with the Unterhalter interview.

After the opening “comforter” questions in the interview by the Chief Justice, it was the chance of the commissioners to ask questions. First off the bat was Commissioner Lutendo Sigogo. He wasted no time in raising the issue of Unterhalter’s association with the SAJBD, referring to a letter from the Black Lawyers Association which had requested that he resign from the organisation. Unterhalter acknowledged the letter stating he had considered the grounds in the letter but had chosen to resign from the Board on the basis of a possible perception of judicial bias. He also explained the non-political nature of the Board. This was not satisfactory to Sigogo, who then questioned the necessity of Unterhalter’s resignation.

The situation didn’t get much better with some of the other Commissioners. Commissioner Mmoiemang asked Unterhalter about a “two-state solution” to the Palestine-Israel question while Commissioner Notyesi asked him why he shouldn’t take a cooling off period because of his stint on the Board. Commissioner Mpofu (yes, that Mpofu) then linked Zionism with Apartheid and asked for comment about whether organisations that opposed Zionism should be viewed as supporting equality.  The most noticeable commissioner, who stuck to the original pattern, was Commissioner Dlepu who rejected his candidacy holding that Unterhalter, as an elitist white male, had done nothing transformative. To round it off, Commissioner Ronald Lamola, who is also the country’s Minister of Justice saw the need to comment about Unterhalter being “the leader of a Jewish organisation.”

Degrees from Trinity College, Cambridge, the University of the Witwatersrand and University College Oxford, David Unterhalter was appointed in 2018 to the High Court as a judge and since been appointed as an acting appeal court judge of the Competition Appeal Court and of the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Having watched the interview, which finished quite late at night, I battled to sleep. A jumble of thoughts kept running around in my head. While Untehalter is clearly the most intellectually capable of the candidates for the position, it was the attitudes of the commissioners that was most revealing.

There is this vein of anti-Semitism running through the various layers of society. I don’t know what the BLA letter said but it clearly asked Unterhalter to resign from the Board, that commissioners can delve into Israeli politics because the candidate is Jewish, or tell him to give up  posts because of his affiliation to a Jewish organisation or  make allegations of Zionism = Racism, can be mentioned casually at this level to a national audience is  very worrying to me. I think that it should be equally worrying to the Jewish organisations that represent us.

I followed the media this morning, which was equally revealing. There were reports on the interviews, including that of Unterhalter – with headlines that he admitted that he had an elitist education, but no mention of the issues raised here.

Is it because it is simply a non-issue? That this kind of attitude is acceptable?

That statements like those made don’t deserve sanction?  That the media and the policy makers regard these statements as an acceptable norm in South  Africa?

I remain outraged that so little was said. So little about BDS objecting to Unterhalter’s candidacy on anti-Semitic grounds – but then I was equally outraged that so much was said when Chief Justice  Mogoeng’s call for peace in Jerusalem was adjudged an unacceptable intrusion into a  “political controversy”.  That so little is said when anti-Semitic canards are spouted at the highest levels of decision making.  That the BLA can call on a judge to resign from a Jewish organisation, simply because it is a Jewish organisation. But most of all I remain outraged that it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone in South Africa, Jewish or non-Jewish, who is prepared to stand up against this invasive, maybe even institutional, anti-Semitism.

So much for constitutional rights!

Why are the Jewish organisations in South Africa so timorous in defending the rights of Jews in South Africa? Surely it would now be timeous to stand up and say that Zionism is a fundamental part of Judaism and it is not racist. That calling out anti-Semites may cause waves, but it needs to be done. That the underlying current of anti-Semitism, so prevalent at the hearing, should be allowed to triumph simply because good organisations do nothing.

Five judges were recommended for appointment to the Constitutional Court, which excluded Judge Unterhalter who faced questions  from commissioners about coming from a privileged background to having served as a member  of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. (File photo. Image: GCIS)

It’s time to call out this anti-Semitic behaviour for what it is – a violation of our religious constitutional rights and Jewish identity. A good start would be getting the internationally accepted IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism adopted in South Africa. We saw what happened at the Durban Conference, let’s not let it permeate South African society.

If not now, then when?


Epilogue

Update: As a result of this article it was also drawn to my attention that in the same set of interviews, but this time of the position of judge in the Northern Cape,  secular and non-observant  Jewish candidate Lawrence Lever (SC)  was asked by Commissioner Madonsela (SC) whether observing of the Sabbath would interfere with his judicial duties.  Would Muslim and Christian applicants for judgeships be asked whether observing a Friday or Sunday respectively “would interfere with your judicial duties”?




About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.



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

Quo Vadis UCT?

By Stephen Schulman

On the eve of Israel Holocaust Day, it came to light that in a pre-recorded lecture shared online with first-year political science students, Lwazi Lushaba, a lecturer in the department of political studies at the University of Cape Town, said:

Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.”

That statement is shocking in itself, displaying bigotry, racism, anti- Semitism, a brutal callousness toward all the victims of Nazi oppression and an insult to the living survivors and their families. Its ignorance of and willful distortion of history is doubly shocking as it comes not from the mouth of a dyed in the wool member of a racist and Holocaust denier organization or from Louis Farrakhan but from a black South African whose people had suffered under the apartheid regime and who would have been expected to show some sensitivity for others who had suffered too. Moreover, his intense hatred blinded him to the obvious fact that had Hitler prevailed, his race – in the most optimistic scenario – would have been reduced to serfdom and slavery and he would certainly not be at UCT today.

Free Pass for Hitler. Dr Lwazi Lushaba told first-year University of Cape Town political science students in an online lecture that Hitler “committed no crime” because “all Hitler did was to do to the white people what white people had normally reserved for black people”.

Lushaba’s despicable statement flies in the face of all that a university stands for: an institution of higher learning  with teaching and research facilities, unfettered from bias, prejudice and current politically correct doctrines, guided by an objective, disinterested intellectual curiosity, an acceptance and tolerance of conflicting opinions and a moral integrity untainted by influence of interest groups.

Noble sentiments indeed, but unfortunately divorced from reality! Universities do not exist within vacuums. They function within communities and societies each with their own historical background, socio-economic composition, dominant creeds and narratives. Understandably, their academic staffs are not immune to these influences and whilst being influenced by all these factors, it is incumbent on the institutions to uphold all the values that constitute this institution.

Truckloads of Evidence. Dr Lwazi Lushaba, UCT political science lecturer, fails to see any “crime” here of the bodies of Jews being transported from the gas chambers to the five crematoriums of Auschwitz

Just over a quarter century ago, the country regained majority rule after many years of oppression by a white minority. Despite attempts to right past injustices, there still exists a huge reservoir of bitterness and rage. South African universities are faced with an especially difficult task in piloting a true course. They must acknowledge the past, incorporate its lessons in their teaching and devise curriculums that can benefit the country for the future. No less important, to ensure their academic status, they must also retain their academic and ethical standards.


Bird’s-Eye View. The idyllic setting for Africa’s premier university belies an academic situation that is far from idyllic.

Even though having left South African decades ago, as an alumnus of UCT I still have a link to and feel affection for my alma mater. Consequently, I follow with interest the developments in the post apartheid era as the institution seeks to define itself as an African university. While there have been many laudably positive achievements, sadly to say, there are those that I have found to be distressing.

The annual hate fest known as Israeli Apartheid Week has become a regular campus fixture. As a citizen of Israel, I had written an open letter to the Students Representative Council (supporters of the event) explaining my opposition to it as being libelous and defamatory to my country with a blatant misuse of the epithet “apartheid”. I offered to engage them in an open discussion with an honest exchange of views in order to correct this injustice. Needless to say, my challenge was ignored and I never even received the common decency of an acknowledgement.

The T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture on academic freedom is a prestigious annual event that has drawn distinguished speakers to address students and academic staff. In 2019, in order not to exacerbate existing campus tensions and/or not to offend Moslem students, the university disinvited Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed on the grounds that his lecture would sow discord and contribute nothing to the campus culture.

Double Standards. While UCT had no problem disinviting Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed  because it might offend Muslim students, the university showed no such sensitivity to Jewish students when it invited an advocate for academic boycotts of Israel, Dr Steven Salaita, to give its annual academic freedom lecture.

Somehow, this sensitivity did not extend to the Jews!

The organizing committee of academics, scraping the bottom of the barrel, in its stead, saw fit to invite Steven Salaita. Salaita, the holder of a dubious doctorate and odious views and that no American university wishes to employ, is notorious for his vituperative anti-Semitic sentiments that he crudely expresses and freely disseminates. His lecture, the text of which I ploughed through, was an object lesson in verbosity, obtuseness and obfuscation replete with sniveling self pity, plugging a brand of soft drink and the obligatory tropes of a Jewish conspiracy responsible for his plight. How sad that UCT had debased such an august event and sunk to such a nadir by honouring a third rate academic, bigot and anti-Semite.

Beneath the Veneer. Having removed the statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes that had become the focus of protests, is it no less important for UCT to address living offenders on the campus like Dr Lwazi Lushaba who dispenses to impressionable young students, that Hitler committed no crimes?

UCT prides itself on being a leading African university. Nevertheless, it remains remarkably silent on burning issues such as misrule, poverty and other injustices that afflict the continent. South Africa suffers from a government with its cronyism, nepotism and institutionalized kleptocracy to the great detriment of its citizens. It cries out to its universities, both students and staff, to condemn and correct the misuses of power. My alma mater, like all the others, remains conspicuously mute. However, approximately 18 months ago, the university council and senate found time to devote themselves to a far more burning issue: the promotion of a boycott of Israeli universities! In due time the initiative was quashed as the more pragmatic senate, faced with a wave of protests, realized the repercussions of such a drastic move: the condemnation of the academic world with a consequent loss of links and funding.

Events on the campus have not been propitious for the creation of a tolerant atmosphere. A philosophy professor has written an article exposing abuses: In the name of “social justice” there have been instances of vandalism and wanton destruction of university property. Teachers and staff including the previous vice chancellor have been physically assaulted. All of these acts have gone unpunished. There has been discrimination and expressions of racism against white students including accusations of “settler and colonialist mentality”. Pressure has been exerted on academic staff to conform, compromise their standards and give poor students passing grades on account of their skin colour for if they failed them, it was a clear sign of overt racism. Cancel culture is very much in evidence as those who disagree are stifled and sanctioned. It is sad to think that such prejudiced behaviour on campus has become a mirror image of the very hatred and bigotry of despised apartheid proponents that they condemn!

In 2019, the University of Cape Town extended an invitation to all alumni who had graduated over fifty years ago to participate in a “golden graduation” where they would attend the end of year graduation ceremony and be honoured by taking part in the academic procession. I replied, expressing my thanks, but declining the invitation. I felt that, with a clear conscience, in light of all the past and present events, I could not participate and be part of the window dressing for my alma mater that had betrayed so many of its ideals.

Questionable Standards! Lecturer at UCT’s faculty of political Science, Dr Lwazi Lushaba, who makes the case, “Hitler committed no crime.”

In the context of the prevailing campus climate, it is perhaps not surprising that Lushaba expressed such an outrageous statement that exceeded all bounds of common decency. He is a member of the political science department and as such, his lecture was given under the aegis of UCT. Undoubtedly, he was fully aware of the weight of his words, their fallout and his confidence in his impunity. His vile utterances are an affront to the bedrock upon which the university is based and he should be made fully accountable for them. The campus academic community cannot and must not remain silent. To stand true to its principles and retain its credibility, the senate of the University of Cape Town should unequivocally condemn his words, dismiss Lushaba or at the very least, suspend him from his teaching position. The senate must unhesitatingly react and use its authority, for its decision will have far reaching consequences in setting the future course of my alma mater as a worthy educational institution.   





About the writer:

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

The Israel Brief

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Articles

(1)

The Man for all Seasons

Duke of Edinburgh leaves behind legacy of support to Jewish and Israel causes

By Rolene Marks

Prince Charming. Prince Philip engages with WWII veterans at Commonwealth War Cemetery in Ramle, Israel in 1994.

Revealed with his passing the number of Jewish and Israel causes he associated his esteemed name with, Prince Philip, is fondly remembered in the Jewish State as having been the first member of the British royal family to visit Israel and that his mother is revered for sheltering Jews in Nazi-occupied Greece during the Holocaust.

The Man for all Seasons

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(2)

From Bombs to Babies

Israel at 73

By David E. Kaplan

Be Fruitful and Multiply. Israelis delight in fulfilling the divine injunction from Genesis.

With the country coming to an immediate standstill at the sound of the siren to honour Israel’s fallen, to the sudden switch of joy celebrating the country’s independence, the Israeli temperament is attuned to life’s sudden changes.

From Bombs to Babies

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(3)

Decked out in Blue and White

By Rolene Marks

Colourful Character. People of Israel celebrating Independence day.

From streets, buildings and people ‘dressed up’ in Israel’s national colours for the emotional rollercoaster  journey from “somber memorial” one day  to “celebration and jubilation” the next,  the citizens of Israel reveal the country’s ‘True Colours’.

Decked out in Blue and White

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(4)

Israel Is All You Have

By Martine Alperstein

Rebirth of a Nation. David Ben-Gurion pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv.

Reflecting on the character of Israel by the nature of its characters –  from its citizens who have to fight to survive to those who fought to arrive here enduring imprisonment as “Refuseniks” or walking barefoot through a never ending African desert – the writer cherishes this Independence Day the long-fought for freedom of a People and a Nation.

Israel Is All You Have

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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)

ISRAEL IS ALL YOU HAVE

By Martine Alperstein

Read that title again.

Because believe it or not, this beautiful, complicated, tiny little country that is steeped with your ancestral heritage, is all you have.

I have never understood how people of Jewish faith could ever denounce Israel. I have never understood how some people imagine you can be anti-Zionist and not be antisemitic. Zionism and Judaism are intrinsically intertwined. The history of Israel and the story of the Jewish people, are the same story. And Israel exists because a Jew had a dream.

I am not sure if it is ignorance, naivety or the ostrich syndrome that enables any Jew to believe that without Israel, they would be safe and protected. Tonight we light a yahrzeit candle on Erev Yom Hazikaron in memory of the 23, 928 soldiers who gave their lives to protect our existence, which acts as a reminder of the price we have paid in order to ensure that the yahrzeit candle we lit last week on Erev Yom HaShoah in memory of the 6million Jews that were annihilated in the holocaust, will NEVER happen again. Ever.

Maybe it comes from being privileged, having never encountered antisemitism in any form? Maybe it is ignorance thinking it is happening to other Jews because of x, y or z but that it will never happen to you?. Maybe it is being raised in an environment that is desperate to blend in, to be part of the crowd, to be unrecognised? Maybe it is from having lost the  connection to your roots, to your traditions and customs out of necessity or something else?

Those who know me well, know that I despise conflict and will avoid it at all cost. I believe in the value of giving and the value of love. I teach my children that respect and tolerance are basic human rights, that people are all just people, irrespective of colour, race, religion, position, financial status, sexual orientation or political beliefs. We won’t change the world through hate, through violence, through arrogance, through intolerance or rigid barriers.

In order to make a difference on our planet, to be able to build bridges and stretch out a helping hand, you first need to know yourself, your roots, your history, your traditions and customs. You need to believe in yourself and your heritage. You need to understand that first you stand strong, you stand tall………..  And it’s from that place of confidence, strength and courage, that you can reach out and connect, lift up, assist, aid, collaborate, communicate and facilitate the change.

On an airplane we are taught to first put the oxygen mask on ourselves and to then help others because without that oxygen, you will be useless. The same is true for a Jew and Israel.

Denouncing, belittling, and removing yourself from Israel will not bring you any love, respect or acceptance, it will not make you courageous nor a hero. It will not make a difference and it will not bring change.

Earn your respect by being true to your heritage and to yourself. Show your strength by loving who you essentially are. Find your heritage, your individual and communal spark….honour those who came before you, and shine.

Shine your light.

Be true.

Rebirth of a Nation. David Ben-Gurion publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel, beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl in the old Tel Aviv Museum of Art building on Rothschild Street.

Take a good look at those who fought hard, sacrificed and suffered to fulfill their dream of aliyah, those who walked barefoot through a never ending desert, those who sat in jail, those who risk their lives to light Chanukah candles underground…. and those 23, 928 neshomot who gave their place on this earth to ensure that you have a home.

The Young and the Adventurous. A new group of young olim  (immigrants) arriving in Israel (Photo: Sason Tiram)

 

And from YOUR place of brightness and truth, start to close gaps, give with loving kindness and do the desperately needed tikkun ha’olam (Jews bearing responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare, but also for the welfare of society at large).

A Homecoming. On February 12, 2021, some 302  immigrants from Ethiopia were flown into Israel on a specially chartered flight sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) despite Ben-Gurion Airport being closed and the borders being sealed off tight to lower COVID-19 infections.
 

 

Israel is the reason that you are. Israel is the reason that you can. Israel is the reason that you will always be able. Israel is the reason that we are free to be.

“Were you there when the camps were liberated?

Are you with us now as we rebuild?

Were you standing next to David Ben Gurion when a two thousand year old dream was fulfilled?”

Raise Your Hand – Julie Geller





About the writer:

Martine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.

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- 12-15 April 2021

The Israel Brief – 12 April 2021 – Sabotage at Natanz nuclear plant – who did it? The race is on for Israels next President. Israel remembers HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.




The Israel Brief – 13 April 2021 – Natanz blast update. UNRWA promises Biden “no antisemitism”. Israel to observe Yom Hazikaron.




The Israel Brief -14 April 2021 – Israel remembers and mourns her fallen. Biden Administration approves the sale of F35’s. Israel to celebrate 73 years of Independence.









The Israel Brief -15 April 2021 – All your Tom Haatzmaut coverage! Sudan to send the first ever delegation to Israel next week. Abu Dhabi business exchange opens in Tel Aviv.

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)

From Bombs to Babies

Israel at 73

By David E. Kaplan

Not sure how the field of psychology would view it but there is something strangely unique in Israel’s character and calendar  that only a split second separates joyful Independence Day  from the sad day that precedes it. Possibly perplexing to non-Israelis – the shift from grief to joy in the space of a heartbeat  – but that is what Israelis do each year. For 24 hours we remember and honour those fallen in defense of the State of Israel as well as victims of terror, and the next 24 hours we celebrate the fruits of that sacrifice – an independent Jewish State after 2000 years of exile and unrelenting persecution. Coming a week after Yom HaShoah where we remember and honour the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Jews know the PRICE of statehood because  they also understand the NEED for statehood.

If the Jewish partisan and poet Abba Kovner wrote in a pamphlet  in 1942 “Let us not go like lambs to the slaughter!” to inspire his fellow Jews in the Vilnius area to take up arms against their German invaders, then look only to the following year of 1943 and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II, the uprising by a civilian population, untrained and without sophisticated weapons – men women and children – held off the might of the Nazi invader for nearly a month. Very impressive when you compare it was nearly the same length of time as the trained Polish army took to be defeated by the German army – one month!

Lions not Lambs. Abba Kovner (center) with Rozka Korczak-Marla (left) and Vitka Kempner-Kovner after the liberation of the Vilna ghetto(Yad Vashem).

Far from “lambs to the slaughter”, they were heroes to a man, woman and child.

Twenty-four hours preceding Israel’s annual sound of  fireworks is the sound of the siren, when traffic stops and people stop talking in mid-sentence. Life in Israel is frozen for those two minutes encapsuling so many bitter and tragic memories. I for one always think first of the names of those I know who were either killed in uniform or perished in a terrorist attack – I rattle them off in my mind as I stand solemnly, their faces flash by as if flipping over the pages  of a cerebral picture album.

Defiant until Death. No military uniforms or helmets, Jewish fighters in civilian attire, take on the might of the German army during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

According to the Defense Ministry, the country’s total number of people killed in war and terrorist attacks now stands at 23,928 They are not numbers – their names and faces are known throughout the land – each and every one of them!

On the flip side, as we celebrate Israel’s 73rd Independence Day, and reflect  on the loss of 6,000,000 Jews mourned only a week ago on Yom HaShoah, today we can celebrate Israel’s population standing at 9,327,000 million – over a third more than was lost in the Shoah – and growing.

Light unto the Nations. The last public Independence celebrations before Corona, people watch fireworks during a show to mark Israel’s 71st Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 8, 2019.

If on a national note we take pleasure that 167,000 babies have been born over the past year, I take personal pleasure that one of those babies is my grandson. I take further pleasure that another is on the way.

Yes, the country can feel proud of its inventions and innovations from hi-tech to Smart Mobility but this Independence Day, I reflect on our successes in the baby manufacturing business that all Israelis are super active in.

Be Fruitful and Multiply. Israelis delight in fulfilling the divine injunction from Genesis.

What can bring more delight that looking upon these  ‘products’ in nappies under the ‘blue and white’ brand:

“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)

Decked out in Blue and White

By Rolene Marks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their names are seared in our hearts.

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

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

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

They are the people we love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am Yisrael Chai!







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

The Man for all Seasons

By Rolene Marks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 11 April 2021

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

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

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Last week we remembered and honoured the more than 6 million Jews murdered
simply for being Jewish



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

The Israel Brief

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Articles

(1)

The Hills are Alive

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

The Hills are Alive

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(2)

We Remember Them

By  Rolene Marks

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

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

We Remember Them

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(3)

Tea in Tel Aviv

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

By David E. kaplan

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

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

Tea in Tel Aviv

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

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

The Israel Brief- 05-08 April – 2021

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




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





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





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






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