Up-Start Nation

A pulsating powerhouse, Israel clocks up a Noble Prize Bar Mitzvah bringing her tally to 13 with Joshua Angrist co-wining for economics

By David E. Kaplan

Not bad for such a tiny nation.

And to those eyebrow-raisers kvetching, “Hmnn….. but Angrist lives in the US,” this writer sides with the wife.

Following the announcement that Israeli-American economist Joshua Angrist was awarded together with David Card and Guido Imbens the 2021 Nobel Prize for economics prize, Angrist’s wife, Mira, told Israel’s Channel 12,  she and her husband are Israelis “with every bone in their bodies.”

She explains “We met in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem after he made aliyah… our lives are run between Israel and Boston… We’re very excited right now.”

So are Israelis and justifiably so!

Miniscule Israel has long punched far above its demographic weight when it comes to the Nobel Prize. “There are not many countries who have won so many Nobel prizes,” said the late Shimon Peres, Israel’s President at the time, himself a Nobel laureate who shared the Peace Prize together with then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat in 1994.

Noting Israel’s stunning trajectory, it is little wonder that as of October 2021, NINE of the TEN Israeli Nobel laureates since 2002, have been for either chemistry or economics. Over the same period, vastly larger countries with larger economies failed to outperform the small Jewish State. Israel’s surge as a pulsating powerhouse shows how it belts way above its weight.

Nobel Men. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the three  – David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens  – have completely reshaped empirical work in the economic sciences.

With a souring hi-tech and cyber based economy, Israel is revered today as “The Startup Nation” – the appellation derived from Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s bestseller by the same name – which examines how a young nation with a small population was able to achieve rapid outstanding economic growth. Today, Israel is the envy of many foreign countries and understandably why. Israel has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world after the United States, and the third-largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies after the U.S. and China.. Driven by gumption and grit and abundant ‘chutzpah’, the Start-Up Nation is as much for this writer – amusingly yet profoundly – the  ‘Up-StartNation’ – cherishing its yesterdays but gung-ho about its tomorrows.

It’s only Natural

Covering in their studies the fields of  ‘education’, the ‘labour market’ and ‘immigration’, Angrist and his co-winners were awarded the 2021 Nobel economics prize for pioneering the use of “Natural Experiments”, which are real-life situations that economists study and analyse to determine cause and effect relationships.

It was fascinating to learn – although I assume less pleasing to some US politicians and businesses  –  that Angrist’s colleague and Nobel co-winner, Canadian David Card had successfully in 2019 dispelled some serious erroneous economic beliefs, notably, that an increase in the minimum wage would destroy jobs as it would make it more expensive for companies to do business.

Israeli-American economist wins Nobel Prize. MIT Prof. Joshua Angrist, who taught at Hebrew University in the 1990s, is the 13th Israeli citizen to win the prestigious award.

Together with the late Alan Kruger, they compared the labour markets on both sides of the border between the US states of New Jersey – where the minimum wage had been increased – and Pennsylvania, where it had not. Their research showed that in that context, the minimum wage increase had no downward effect on the number of employees. Their finding went against the prevailing theory that assumed that an increase in the minimum wage would destroy jobs.

Despite endless jokes about economists such as “Economists have predicted six of the last two recessions” or “Economists were invented to make astrologers look good”, they do get plenty right, and since the new millennium, Angrist is the third Israeli to win the Nobel Prize for economics. The other two were Daniel Kahneman in 2002 and Robert Aumann in 2005 and their experiences and insights on the road to Stockholm remain eternally illuminating.

Calculated Risk

Although Israeli Daniel Kahneman received in 2002 the Nobel Prize for Economics he was a  psychologist who had never “taken a single economics course.”  The Tel Aviv-born Kahneman was recognized for changing the way economists grapple with decision-making, particularly during periods of uncertainty.

Kahneman explained the nature of his research to the peculiarity of people who are prepared to risk much more to get back money lost than they are to make the same amount. “For instance, if a gambler is losing steadily, the risks he would take to try to win back his losses and break even, are about twice as great as the risks he would take to gain the same amount of money had he been winning all along.”

Go figure!

Mind over Matter. Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman received the 2002 Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work in applying psychological insights to economic theory.

Top Of His ‘Game’

How prescient these words of  Israeli Nobel 2005 for economics Nobel Laurette, Robert Aumann, who also was not an economist but a mathematician:

  “Science is exploration, exploration for the sake of exploration, and for nothing else. We must go where our curiosity leads us; we must go where we want to go. And eventually, it is sure to lead us to the beautiful, the important, and the useful.”

This “exploration’ led Aumann to Stockholm where together with Thomas Schelling, they shared the 2005 Nobel Prize for Economics for their work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis. Professor at the Center for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Robert Aumann titled his acceptance speech “War and Peace” honouring Leo Tolstoy who he lamented did not receive a Nobel Prize but “like me, also had a long white beard.” War, unlike the popular view, “is not irrational – it is very rational, and we have to understand that to try preventing it.”

For me, life has been – and still is – one tremendous joyride, one magnificent tapestry.”

Highlighting the “good times”, Aumann cited:

 “The excitement of research, of groping in the dark and then hitting the light. The satisfaction of teaching, of meeting someone at a party who tells you that the course in complex variables that he heard from you twenty-five years ago was the most beautiful that he ever heard. The exhilaration of climbing on an almost vertical rock face; the beauty of a walk in the woods with a four-year-old grandchild, who spots and correctly identifies a tiny wild orchid about which you told him last week; dancing with your wife at your child’s wedding; unraveling an intricate passage in the Talmud with your eighteen-year-old granddaughter; slipping on a ski slope; tumbling two hundred meters down, and then going back and doing the same slope again – this time without slipping, or seeing the flag of Israel fluttering in the wind, right next to that of Sweden, from the roof of the Grand Hotel in Stockholm.”

Game Changer. Prof. Yisrael (Robert J.) Aumann received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in  2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis. He shared the prize with Thomas Schelling.  (Photo personal website)

Well, that blue and while flag will again be “fluttering” in Stockholm, despite some in the Israeli media focusing less on the achievement and more on the issue than Angrist lives mainly today in the USA. What a loss for Israel they write, instead of what a win for all mankind.

Through decades of research, Angrist and his colleagues have demonstrated that many of society’s big economic questions can be answered. Through their methodology of using “natural experiments” – situations arising in real life that resemble randomised experiments – we now have a considerably better understanding of how the labour market operates than we did 30 years ago.

Why is this important?

Because if we are to make good decisions, we must understand the consequences of our choices and this applies to individuals as well as public policy makers. For example, young people who are making educational choices, says Angrist, want to know how these might affect their future income. Choosing to go to “an expensive private college,  does that change your life course in the form of higher earnings?” Also, how much more would people earn if they chose to study longer? Will adding extra years of study improve one’s personal financial situation either through higher salary or  inspiring entrepreneurial ambition?

All this was less important to some in the Israeli media making more of Angrist living in the US. The Jerusalem Post went so far on its front page with an article “A dent in the Aliyah message” The sweet and less sweet in a Noble Prize”, where the writer compares Angrist leaving Israel for greener pastures to the biblical Abraham who makes Aliyah to Israel but leaves shortly afterwards because of a famine.

Big deal. Angrist relocated back to the USA to become an Associate Professor in MIT’s Economics Department and  by his own admission he did so “for more pay”. In other words the economist took a decision for sound economic reasons. The world today is a global village so no big surprise here.

Furthermore, what these articles neglected to consider in their critique, was that Angrist’s return to the US was way back in 1996, long before Israel’s economic miracle and the surge ahead in the hi-tech industry. It is a different Israel today with different opportunities. Even Angrist himself says that the reports on his leaving for financial reasons stemmed from a 2006 Jerusalem Post article on Israel’s brain drain at the time, no longer the situation today. Speaking with Israeli media, Angrist said he was proud to have won the prize as an Israeli and played down reports that he had left Israel because of low wages.

The Times They Are a-Changin. Israel’s reception into a changing Middle East as reflected on this  front page of the UAE’s English daily, Khaleej Times.

“Israel has a very respectable place in science and I am proud to contribute to that,” he told Channel 13 news.

Since Angrist’s relocation back to the States in 1996 for greener pastures, today Israel is the “greener pasture”. How else would you explain that  Israeli tech investment shattered all records in the first half of 2021 with Israel leading the  world in funding growth with a 137% year-over-year increase in the first half of 2021, reaching $10.5 billion.

With this new economic reality, this writer advocates less focus on Abraham leaving because of famine thousands of years ago and more on the 2020 Abraham Accords which has Israel increasingly integrating into the Middle East and Arab world with infinite economic opportunities. Israel today with her Arab partners is leading the way of showing the potential impact of peace on economics.

Now that will be monumental material for a future Nobel Prize, whether for ‘economics’ or ‘peace’.








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).

Remembering Shimon Peres

It has been 5 years since the passing of one of Israel’s most beloved leaders – former President, Shimon Peres

By Rolene Marks

He was a pioneer, and a founding father. He was both hawk and dove, warrior and peacemaker. He was an innovator and mediator. He was a Nobel laureate and visionary. He was a leader whose personal and political history was deeply woven with the story of Israel and the Jewish people.

It has been 5 years since the passing of one of Israel’s finest sons – and greatest leaders. We bow our heads in remembrance for our beloved Shimon Peres z”l, who passed away at 93.  He was the last of our original founding fathers and a true icon.

Date with Destiny. Shimon and Sonia Peres when they were dating. (photo credit: Government Press Office)

Shimon Peres, was the eternal optimist, a rare quality in this world. He had transcended a decades long career in politics where he held many of the top portfolios in government including the office of Prime Minister twice. His relationship at times with the Israeli public was very complicated. He had suffered many political losses and at times was deeply unpopular, more so after the signing of the Oslo Accords.  He endured a lot of criticism for his role in the signing of these Accords. Many had held him and Prime Minister Rabin z”l, responsible for the terror that followed in its wake.

Risk Takers. Following a daring raid, Defense Minister Shimon Peres (2nd left)  and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (centre)) greet hostages rescued by Israel from Entebbe in 1976. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S OFFICE/URI HERTZL TZHIK/IDF ARCHIVE)

Peres remained ever hopeful that peace is possible in our very volatile region. I cannot help but wonder what he would have thought about the historic signing of the Abraham Accords. Somewhere from on high, he is looking down with immense pride – and satisfaction at the manifestation of the once unbelievable.

But Peres transcended politics and in 1996, founded the Peres Centre for Peace with the intention of furthering his vision of people in the Middle East working together to build peace through socio-economic cooperation and development and people-to-people interaction.

Flight to Freedom. Prime Minister Shimon Peres greets newly released Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky at Ben-Gurion Airport where he was flown from Germany after being freed from a Soviet prison, February 11, 1986. (photo credit: GPO)

He was a great unifier and amongst his many accolades, received both a Knighthood from her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and honorary title of Sheikh by Bedouin dignitaries in the Negev for his work on behalf of the people of the Middle East.

The Tomorrow Man. Shimon Peres writes on a blackboard with Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, March 2012. (photo credit: REUTERS

A true Statesman, he shook the hands of Presidents and Popes, Kings, Queens and movie stars.  Every celebrity who visited, wanted an audience with our ebullient, eloquent and warm elder Statesman. His love for technology was legendary and I sheepishly admit that he was probably more proficient than I am. Who can forget his final message to the world on Facebook– “Buy more Blue and White” or his infamous job hunting clip on YouTube?

I was immensely privileged to meet President Peres when I participated in the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Young Jewish Diplomats course in 2007. Hearing that young leaders had come to hear him speak, he came over to meet us. He took his time greeting all of us and shaking our hands. When it was my turn he asked in his deeply accented English that had never lost its Polish inflection, “Where are you from?” This was at a time when South African President Mbeki had made such sweeping statements like HIV does not cause AIDS and expressed support for Iran. I responded (trying not to giggle like a teenager at a BTS concert) “South Africa, Mr. President”. After a very short exchange he was on to the next person but left a lasting impression with me who was extremely star struck.

Covering Common Ground. Having both fought for their  country’s freedom after years of colonization and racial persecution, South African President Nelson Mandela exchanges views with Shimon Peres in Cape Town, October 1996. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel’s government is once again paying their tributes as Peres continues to unite the most unlikely folk.  There will be many, many more for a man truly deserving of tribute and honour.

Meeting of Minds. After millennia of religious tensions, Pope Francis (left) and Israel’s President Shimon Peres engage in intense discussion at the Vatican. (photo credit: Courtesy)

There will be only one Shimon Peres – and from a grateful nation who bows its head in recognition and remembrance, we say:

 “Thank you Mr. President, for all you gave us, in the good times and bad, in times of strife and peace. May you look down on us one day as we achieve your dream – of a lasting peace.”

May your memory be forever blessed.

Fighters for Freedom.  “The man, the life that we honor tonight is nothing short of extraordinary,” President Obama said honouring Shimon Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House in 2012.  (photo credit: GPO)










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).

To the Rescue

Impacting Jewish destiny through education with “Melton” in the vanguard

By Viv Anstey (Melton Cape Town Director) and Lauren Snitcher (Recruitment & Marketing)

Are YOUR grandchildren going to be Jewish?  

We understand only too well, sadly, that there is no guarantee of that. With rising assimilation rates, intermarriage and couples choosing not to have children, the passing on of Judaism to the next generation “le dor va dor” is not a given.

Time and again studies, research and surveys have shown the importance of Jewish education in addressing this problem. The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning is proud to be part of the solution ensuring Judaism and Jewish values live on through the generations. Melton offers adult learners the opportunity to explore our centuries old tradition through sequential and comprehensive text-based curricula and discover how they relate to us today. It offers a profound understanding of what it means to be Jewish.

The school engages adult learners in a life-long and life-enhancing study of Jewish texts and ideas that nurtures and deepens Jewish community worldwide. Through classes and travel seminars  – both in-person and online (even before the pandemic) – Melton learners are introduced to Jewish texts and ideas and discover how relevant they are to their lives. As students of their Jewish heritage, they find themselves part of a worldwide movement of passionate learners that can then themselves enrich Jewish life at all levels, from within their families to communal organisations to global initiatives.

Melton is the largest non-denominational, inclusive adult Jewish education network in the world, with over 40 Melton communities throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. More than 50,000 learners have experienced Melton’s professionally developed curricula and lively interactive classes.

This creative journey into the world of adult Jewish education began when a remarkable woman who began life in humble beginnings in Philadelphia, USA,  expanded her vision from taking care of millions of tired feet to uplifting people’s minds!

Inventor and activist Florence Zacks Melton (1911-2007) envisioned and endowed The Florence Melton Institute in 1986 as a project of the Melton Centre at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She sought to bring to life a comprehensive, relevant, and sophisticated programme of Jewish learning for adults. To this day, Melton attributes its values of accessibility, open-mindedness, integrity, community, and innovation to her enduring vision. Florence Melton saw in her lifetime that for most Jews, their Jewish education ended at Bar/Bat Mitzvah, if they were even lucky enough to have had a Jewish education up to that point. Florence was passionate about creating a programme of study to help adults attain Jewish literacy. She understood that for many, it was their lack of knowledge and familiarity with Jewish learning that seemed to close the doors for further Jewish engagement.

Shoulders, Feet & Minds

Born Florence Spurgeon to Meir and Rebecca Spurgeon in Philadelphia on November 6, 1911, at 19, she married Aaron Zacks, and the couple moved to Columbus, Ohio.

A housewife with an entrepreneurial flair, Florence invented Shoulda-Shams, washable cotton shoulder pads. She later then discovered she could use the material to line slippers which were marketed first as Angel Treads and later as Dearfoams. Florence’s slippers were a huge hit and were immediately successful, selling in their billions.

Firm Footing. From revolutionizing the footwear industry by inventing the world’s first foam-soled, washable slipper, Florence Zacks Melton would later revolutionise adult Jewish education.

Florence’s first husband, Aaron Zacks passed away in 1966 and in 1968, she married industrialist and philanthropist Samuel M. Melton, an Ohio stainless steel fittings tycoon and philanthropist, who served on the boards of many national Jewish charities.

Partners in Pursuit of Jewish Education. Husband of Florence, industrialist Sam Melton served on the Board of Governors of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, funded the construction of the Samuel Mendel Melton Building for Jewish Education on the Mount Scopus Campus and is credited with having donated more funds in support of Jewish education than any other individual philanthropist

Retiring from business in 1959, Sam Melton turned his attention fully to a range of community and educational philanthropic enterprises, including sponsorship of The Melton Research Center for Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, The Melton Center for Jewish Studies in Ohio State University in Columbus, and The Melton Centre for Jewish Education at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He served on the Board of Governors of The Hebrew University and funded the construction of the Samuel Mendel Melton Building for Jewish Education on the Mount Scopus campus.

Melton Method. Commitment to the sustainability of Jewish culture and heritage through diverse forms of education.

Sam Melton is credited with having donated more funds in support of Jewish education than any other individual philanthropist.

Florence become an active partner to her husband’s philanthropic projects. Many were sceptical and had concerns about the number of adults that were interested in Jewish study or would even want to view Jewish Study as serious. But Florence, passionate about Judaism and education, perhaps because hers had been interrupted, was determined to empower adult Jews to “Enter The Jewish Conversation”. And so, together with her husband, Sam, in 1986 they created the “Florence Melton Adult Mini-School” – a two-year, non-denominational programme, which operated across North America, Australia and South Africa. To her credit, 35 years later, her school is still growing, stronger than ever. But instead of a 2- year programme, Melton students are still learning decades later.

Always One Step Ahead. From creator of slippers to the inventor and Jewish adult education, entrepreneur Florence Zacks Melton (1911 – 2007) was constantly in the vanguard. (Courtesy of Florence Melton Adult Mini-School)

The fervent passion of its founder, Florence Melton, to bring Jewish education to adult learners lives on to this day in Melton’s leadership, staff, Board, and directors.

Outreach from Jerusalem

Melton’s dual head offices are directed out of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, driven by Rabbi Dr Morey Schwartz, Melton International director, and New York City, led by Rabbi Rachel Bovitz, Melton Executive Director. In true inclusive Melton style, Melton is directed from Jerusalem in the East by a Modern Orthodox male rabbi and New York in the West, by a Conservative female rabbi.

Simply and more affectionately referred to today as “Melton”, the Florence Melton School Of Adult Jewish Learning is enriching the lives of participants across the world who are gaining Jewish literacy through a world class academic curriculum created by scholars and educators at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Melton can be described as an international network of community-based schools that aims to positively impact the destiny of the Jewish people by offering adults the opportunity to acquire Jewish literacy in an open, inclusive, cross-denominational, and intellectually stimulating learning environment.

The Melton Centre at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has expanded to a large community of eager adults that have a strong commitment to the sustainability of Jewish culture and heritage. As Israel’s first Centre for Jewish Education, the Centre offers a wide variety of research and other resources to accentuate the knowledge of its scholars, including a MA in Jewish Education.

What Makes Melton Unique

Melton learners participate in multi-session courses (ranging from 4 to 30 weeks) that make Jewish texts and ideas accessible, relevant and inspirational. Melton learning is text-based and is designed to be studied within an environment of openness, where questioning and dialogue are encouraged. There are no examinations or tests. The only prerequisite is a commitment to learn. Many of our learners choose to make Jewish learning a way of life.

Network of Learners

Melton learning is powered by an international network of communities. Local offerings (online or in person) are augmented with Melton International’s online learning as well as travel seminars that unite our global community of adult Jewish learners. During 2020 and 2021, due to Covid-19, all our classes moved online, including our first-class travel seminars which have become virtual reality tours, proving almost as good as the real thing, enabling “travel” at a time when physically that has not been possible.

Engaging and Sophisticated Curriculum

Written by talented, insightful scholars and reviewed by experts at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, our extensive and ever- growing selection of courses engages learners with a variety of interests.

Towers Head and Shoulders. A Shoulda-Shams department store advertisement in August 1947 (source: Google News)
 

Quality Teaching and Learning

Jewish Federations, Jewish Community Centres, Bureaus of Jewish Education, Synagogues, and community coalitions are natural partners with the Melton School. This ensures a community commitment to maintaining the high level of quality expected of each Melton School. To preserve the high standards which are the hallmark of the Melton School, alumni, local faculty members and educators within their communities participate in ongoing professional enrichment offered through Melton itself or The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Directors attend the yearly International Directors Conference which alternates between America and Israel. In 2020 it was held online with great success.

Israel-Diaspora Partnership

Being a project of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, being staffed internationally from Israel and America, having travel seminars criss-crossing the land of Israel as well as the Diaspora, alternating the Directors’ conferences between America and Israel and having Melton schools across the Jewish world, the Israel-Diaspora relationship is powerful and symbiotic. Many courses have an Israel component so the links between Israel and the Jewish diaspora are deep and lasting.

Courses On Offer

Our text-based curricula are the hallmark of Melton’s success and keeps Melton students returning for more for close to 40 years. Students come for the learning and stay for the community, creating close friendships with their classmates often extending far beyond the classroom.

From our initial core course which spanned a 2-year curricula, covering the Jewish Calendar and Life Cycle, Jewish Philosophy, Jewish History and Jewish Ethics, Melton now proudly offers approximately 40 more courses.

Examples of Melton courses are:

Shivim Panim– a series covering all 5 books of the Torah; Foundations of Jewish Living – teaching Jewish Values to parents and grandparents of young children; Beyond Borders – The History of the Arab Israeli Conflict; Israeli Literature As a Window to Israeli Society; The Holocaust as Reflected In Diaries and Memoirs; Biblical Women – Emerging From the Margins Through Midrash; Jewish Denominations; The Star and The Crescent – A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations; Jewish Medical Ethics; Jewish Mysticism; Social Justice – The Heart Of Judaism In Theory And Practice and Jews In America – Insiders And Outsiders; Jewish Answers to life’s most challenging questions, Yesod – Jewish Leadership

Inspiring Today and Tomorrow’s Generations. Viv Anstey and Lauren Snitcher at the Melton School of Adult Jewish Education, Cape Town, South Africa.

In  a recent research study two-thirds of those interviewed reported a strengthening or enhancement in different facets of Jewish life.

By offering a robust menu of online courses during these challenging times, Melton has been able to:

  • Increase its reach internationally to individuals in communities otherwise not serviced by Melton
  • Introduce Melton courses to new learners
  • Re-engage former learners with new offerings
  • Develop high quality digital pedagogy
  •  expand its partnerships

Since 2006, we have, under the umbrella of the Midrasha Adult Education Institute enriched lives within and beyond the Cape Town Jewish community to an ever-increasing global student body.

Midrasha offers Melton courses as well as their own home-grown Midrasha courses, with a faculty of talented intellectual and academic experts. It boasts over 3500 graduates inclusive of all sectors of Cape Town Jewry and beyond.

Enriching Education. Adult students at the Melton School in Cape Town, South Africa.

Our latest Midrasha course on SA Jewish History:  Dilemmas & Debates is FULL.  Let us know if you are interested so that we can place you on a waiting list for a repeat of this course in 2022.

To end the year on a high note, we will be running Melton’s “From Sinai to Seinfeld: Jews and Their Jokes”.

For more information on Melton Cape Town contact Lauren Snitcher at lauren@snitcher.org or +27828802257 or visit www.meltoncapetown.org




About the writers:

Viv Anstey is the Director of the Midrasha Adult Education Institute incorporating the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning and is also currently Director of The Eliot Osrin Leadership Institute. she is founding member of Limmud South Africa, first Director of SA Jewish Museum, co-driver of PJ Library and the Jewish Literary Festival. Viv currently serves on the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies as elected committee member and previously on its executive as vice-chair.



Lauren Snitcher graduated as a BA.LLB(UCT) and has worked as an attorney in Cape Town.  She is passionate about Jewish Education and after completing the Melton Course in 2008, she took on the position of recruitment and marketing for Melton Cape Town. As part of her interest in her Jewish Heritage and as a descendant of an Ochberg orphan, she undertook extensive research and travel, resulting in the creation of an Oscar short-listed documentary movie, “Ochberg’s Orphans”.










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 Battling to Paddling

Injured Israeli army veterans find healing and balance at sea

By David E. Kaplan

I don’t know whether I am a landman or seaman,”  says Israeli injured vet, Eyal Abro, the inspiration and cofounder of SEASU. This happily unsettled question for Eyal is happily helping to settle lives of Israel’s war wounded!

SEASU is a therapeutic and transformative paddling programme for veterans of the Israeli army living in the wake of physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma.

All Smiles At Sea. Eyal Abro, who grew up in Cape Town South Africa and the brainshild and cofounder of SEASU  in Michmoret is never happier than being at sea.

The philosophy is embedded in the name,” explains  brand builder and a cofounder, Michael McDevitt Shai. “SEASU is inspired by the Finnish concept of ‘Sisu and is best understood as extraordinary courage, undying resilience, and resolute purpose when adversity is unthinkable and success unlikely.” 

Every Thursday morning at 6.00am, some 15 vets together with some eight volunteers meet at the SEASU club house on Michmoret beach, nine kilometers north of Netanya.  They come from all walks of life and professions, all highly motivated with the love of the challenge and with one thing in common – they were injured in the military and have sought through a unique paddling programme a way forward.

Soon decked out in their surfski outfits, they take to the sea on their special sleek kayaks imported by Eyal from South Africa, and are beyond the waves and breakers paddling through the rolling high and low swells. There is another feeling out there in the open sea that resonates among the army vets, “that unique spirit of camaraderie,” says Eyal, “of friends who there with you and for you come hell or high water – proverbially speaking.”

One of the oldest in the group is 64-year-old serial entrepreneur Shlomo Nimrodi, who has founded, built, and led a diverse range of global industries, led three IPO’s, several M&A transactions and is at the heart and spirit of the veteran paddlers.

Rearing to Go. Hi-tech entrepreneur and war veteran amputee Shlomo Nimrodi, thrives on challenges whether in business or in sports preferring to paddle without his prosthetic.

A grandfather of five, Shlomo has been with the group for four years. Injured at age 21 while fighting in a special units in the IDF,

Shlomo lost his left leg above the knee as well as suffering “a lot of collateral damage in many parts of my body.” This did not deter this man who thrives on challenges whether in business or in sports.

In the years following his leg amputation, “I skied, did triathlons, and while I lived  in the States for 15 years , I managed to do the NY City triathlon and the Westchester Triathlon, and I guess in one of those ski trips, somebody told me about surfski, and suggested I try it.” Never deterred by a new challenge Shlomo tried, and “I fell in love  at my first try.”  Trying at first to do it with his prosthetic leg,  “I felt at some point this was more of an anchor, so I just left it in the room and started to paddle with one leg.”

This writer found interesting Shlomo’s use of maritime parlance – “anchor”  – to describe that which was holding him back!

Shlomo compares the uncertainty, challenges and the risks at sea as similar to the hi-tech arena where he daily operates. “Every time you go to the ocean its different – different weather, different vision, different feeling, different risks and it’s exciting; it raises the adrenaline.”

Sea’ing is Believing. Amputee paddler Eran Peri injured in the Second Lebanon War, was skeptical at first to surfski but soon became totally passionate about the sport.

Another leg amputee paddler, is Eran Peri, who was injured 15 years ago in the Second Lebanon War. He relates how tough it was to come to terms with his disability.  “I was told there was a guy who I should meet. I was against it; least of all to meet another amputee but when that guy turned out to be Shlomo, who we soon discovered we shared the same birthday, date – it was a sign –  we became instant friends and I started sport again – skiing, cycling and long-distance running.”

The banter between Shlomo and Eran was inspiring.

Hey, Shlomo, how many times we went skiing together?” meaning a lot.

Not enough!” replied Shlomo.

And when Eran observed, “We are not getting any younger,” Shlomo replied:

Are you kidding!”

Magic Moments at Michmoret. Early morning coffee before  grabing their surfskis and taking to the watyer.

Always looking for new challenges, when surfski arrived in Israel through Eyal, Eran was at first skeptical “ But soon fell in love with it. I don’t know if  it’s the combination of  the morning sunrise and the fact that the sea is different every day; overcoming the cold water,  and then the group of people that take care of each other  – whatever it is, it’s a winner!”

Adds Shlomo:

I too at first was skeptical. The group was composed of people with multiple challenges or disabilities.  One guy with PTSD who used to be sea sick after 5 minutes, would throw up and we would have to go back and today, he is one of the best, and like all of us, he loves it.” 

The Art of the Craft

Michael describes the sport’s craft as “long, narrow and lightweight similar to a kayak with an open “sit-on-top” cockpit. Propelled by two-sided paddles and designed to cut through water with incredible efficiently, SurfSkis are built to seat one or two people and can be adapted for individuals missing limbs or using prosthetics to utilize the craft’s pedal and pulley rudder system. We have even created seating platforms for paraplegic individuals.”

Eyal adds that the beauty of the craft is that “it basically puts everyone on a par. So whether someone is amputated or has PTSD issues, on the water, everyone is equal.”
Shlomo adds, “On water it does not matter if you have one leg or half a leg,  you are pretty much the same.”

Technique Time. Decked out in their “WHERE WE BELONG” shirts, SEASU amputees and suffererors of PTSD learning how to use the paddle before going out to sea.

Regarding safety, all paddlers are required to wear a Personal Flotation Devise (PFD) and carry a mobile phone within a waterproof sleeve in case of emergencies.

Eyal laughs:

The most serious catastrophic ‘emergency’ we encounter with these guys is when for some personal reason they are unable on a Thursday to not join us!”

So what inspired Eyal to ‘paddle’ this path forward?

Born to a South African father who met his Israeli mother on kibbutz Nahshon when he volunteered during the 1967 Six Day War, Eyal grew up in Cape Town where he fell in love with the sea and water sports, excelling in water polo. Returning to Israel as age 18, he joined the IDF, where he served deep in Lebanon as a machine gunner close to combat but never experiencing it directly. However, the thoughts of “life and death” experiences he went through, did not leave him unscathed “and although I had light PTSD, even if light, it’s something you need to take care of and I did through the therapy of the sea and combining it professionally by starting my club, SurfSki Israel, in Michmoret that has 160 members and in the last four years, giving back to society through SEASU.”

Setting out to Sea. Last minute instructions outside the SEASU clubhouse in Michmoret before heading out on for an early morning sea adventure .

He adds that “PSTD never really leaves you but today I am thankful to it because it is who I am and has been the inspiration to try heal others through my love and passion for the sea.”

Psychological consultant, Roy Haziza, who brings a career of academic research and applied treatment of military-focused PTSD to serve SEASU’s leadership, volunteers, and post-trauma veterans, explains the transformative therapeutic qualities of the Surfski.

The anticipated journeys of army vets that were derailed by injury or trauma need to be restored or repaired and a new journey is required that is about letting go of the past of imagined futures to make way for a new identity to appear.” The journeyman “must overcome the feeling of often hopelessness and dissabilities to reassert the control of mind over body and develop a sense of health and ability and I believe SEASU paddling offers  just that. The paddlers set out to sea on vigorous paddling adventures, conquering difficulties, fears and aches, pushing their bodies and spirits  to new heights of health and ability. And they also discover a new group that they can identify with on this adventure.”

By paddle skiing, they “find a sense of balance, learn to control their breathing while feeling the water, the wind, the salt, like ancient mariners and all throughout, they have to stay focused, keep up with the group while always concentrating on the technique.  This is why I say that surfski paddling is a medium of  transformation and rebirth.”

Mist over the Med. Early morning mist as the vets paddle out into the Mediterranean.

Shelter from the Storm

By his own admission, SEASU cofounder  Michael McDevitt Shai says he is “the odd man out” being “a native New Yorker who came to Israel 10 years ago” and who has no “military background.”  However, “I have found a real home here in Israel” and it was by sheer chance that “I became involved.”

He says that unlike Eyal, “who was into spearfishing, I was never a sea person; I was more into cycling and marathon running. However, when my wife and I and the kids left Tel Aviv and joined the seaside community of Michmoret, I felt ready for a change – a sea change!

That change came during a storm one winter’s day.

Settled at the Sea. SEASU cofounder and brand specialist Michael McDevitt Shai, a former New Yorker now happily ensconced at Michmoret.

Taking a walk on the beach, “we got caught in a sudden severe rainstorm. Seeking shelter, we ducked under –  and as fate would have it – the awning of Eyal’s surfski club which set off the alarm. A club member came looking, probably afraid someone was trying to break in,  and after chatting, he  kindly offered us a lift home telling me the owner’s name. Shortly thereafter, having dinner with a friend,  in Tel Aviv and telling the story of being caught in the storm and when I mentioned Eyal’s name, he said,  “I served with him in Lebanon.  Great guy!” So I ended up joining the club and fell in love with it.”

Discovering that Michael was a photographer, “Eyal asked me if I could shoot some photos for him  of group of guys who were IDF veterans – amputees and those with PTSD.  I watched these guys on the beach with their surfskis like Shlomo and Eran and another paddler, who suffered both physical injury and PSTD. His story was horrendous. Called to intervene in a terrorist attack in a private home, he was injured by a knife-wielding terrorist and lost his eye by a bullet ricochet meant for the terrorist. Following numerous therapies and medications, he finally found balance in his life through Surfski.

So, armed with his camera, the soon-to-be cofounder of SEASU zoomed in on these battered, bruised but tough guys on the beach who dispensed with their day clothes as they had their disabilities as they prepared to embrace the challenges of the sea. “It was so inspiring, like something out of Greek mythology of mighty men unafraid, embarking on a maritime adventure. I wanted to be part of this adventure and share their story with the world.”

Major Mentor. Current ICF World Surfski Champion, Sean Rice from Cape Town, South Africa is the third cofounder of SEASU offering expertise and experience.  .

So, for the professional brand builder and more recently passionate paddler who through a rainstorm was destined to meet Eyal Abro, and then joined by another South African from Cape Town, Sean Rice, the ICF World Surfski Champion, SEASU was born.

Bearing the scars of the past, a group of heroes vigorously embrace the future.






*For all inquiries, whether looking to join SEASU or those looking to support SEASU to contact Michael McDevitt Shai at: mms@seasu.org

**To see additional photos, check their INSTAGRAM  as well: https://www.instagram.com/seasu_united/





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).

Victor in Name and in Life

Remembering Victor Gordon, an award-winning playwright, artist, musician, community leader and strong literary advocate for Israel

By David E. Kaplan

It came as little surprise to hear on Sunday 11 July at the opening of the Zoom memorial service to Victor Gordon of Pretoria, South Africa, to hear his widow, Shirley reveal that she had been phoned that morning by Jonathan Pollard, today a free citizen of the State of Israel.

It had been an emotional yet profound conversation – about ones man’s too soon passing and another’s belated freedom. Their disparate lives were eternally linked by Victor’s  poignant prose.

My Word. Victor Gordon, whose words in the media and on stage,  enthralled , entertained  and challenged. (Photo: Diane Wolfson)

Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former intelligence analyst for the United States government, pleaded guilty in 1987, as part of a plea agreement, to spying for and providing top-secret classified information to Israel. He was sentenced to life in prison making him the ONLY American to receive a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally of the U.S.

Believing that Pollard was the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice, Victor wrote the play titled “Pollards’ Trial” which was translated into Hebrew opening shortly thereafter in 2011 at the famed Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv. Not only did it receive a five-star rating from the critics,  but became the only play in the history of Israel to receive an invitation to mount a private performance at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) before an invited audience of 350, hosted by the former President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, who was then Speaker of the Knesset. “Since Pollard’s conviction, the Berlin Wall came down but he is still surrounded by the walls of the federal prison,” Rivlin had said. “At first, we thought that if we could act behind the scenes, we could restore trust with the US and bring about a breakthrough that could bring about Pollard’s release. Too slow, we learned that acting quietly wouldn’t help and we needed to act openly to help him become free.”

Victor’s play did just that and ran on-and-off throughout Israel for over two years having a huge impact in galvanizing support for his eventual release.

The issues that Victor drew attention to in his play were troubling.

Set in Pollard’s jail cell, the accused presents his imagined case to the judge – something he was never actually permitted to do when he was sentenced to life. Exposing the American judicial process as ‘twisted’ and ‘double-dealing’ when it came to its treatment of the Jew – Pollard –  it reveals how this accused was deprived of his most basic rights.

Monumental Man. Playwright, artist, activist and communal leader, South African Victor Gordon and wife Shirley. (Photo: Diane Wolfson)

It was hard to believe that anyone at the time who saw this play could remain indifferent to Pollard.  

One man who assuredly was not indifferent was Victor Gordon!

Neither was he on the many fundamental issues effecting the Jewish state. As a member of the South African Zionist Federation Media Team Israel committed to monitoring media bias against Israel and antisemitism, Victor’s articles – well researched and balanced, were a regular feature in the press both in South Africa and abroad. Speaking from Israel at the memorial service on Zoom,  Lay of the Land’s Rolene Marks, who had worked closely with Victor as colleagues on the Media Team Israel since it had been formed 20 years earlier as well as representing Israel’s Truth be Told (TbT) committee, said:

If you are lucky in life, you have the blessing and benefits of truly remarkable mentors. I have been doubly blessed to be able to count Victor as one of mine – both as a friend and as a mentor.”

Words were Victor’s stock-in-trade and Rabbi Gidon Fox, who moderated the Zoom memorial service tearfully wrestled with a conundrum :

 “What words can one say about one of the world’s finest wordsmiths?”

Victor’s passion on spotlighting milestone events impacting the Jewish people  – some forgotten as minor but in truth were monumental –  was the plot of his 2009 play Harry and Ed.

So ordinary sounding – Harry and Ed – yet they were extraordinary men who pulled off the extraordinary.

This play reveals how a hometown friendship between a Jewish boy, Edward “Eddie” Jacobson born in New York’s Lower East Side in 1891 to impoverished Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and  the future US President Harry Truman would shape the destiny of the Jewish People. Following their childhood friendship, they would go into business together – not terribly successfully – from running a canteen to opening a haberdashery but it was the “business” of creating the Jewish State that history would record as a resounding success!

A Friend in Deed. The unique friendship of Harry S. Truman (right) and business partner Edward Jacobson (left) that together influenced the establishment of the Jewish State, captured on stage in Victor Gordon’s illuminating play, “Harry and Ed”.

Irritated by incessant Jewish lobbying for statehood, Truman had issued instructions that he did not want to meet any more intermediaries and so it was left to Ed – the most unlikely of diplomats – to urge the reluctant president to meet one more  –  Chaim Weizmann

As a friend the President could not ignore, and with the weight of a future Jewish state on his aging, tired and stooped shoulders, Ed skillfully beseeched the President:

Your hero is Andrew Jackson. I have a hero too. He’s the greatest Jew alive. I’m talking about Chaim Weizmann. He’s an old man and very sick, and he has traveled thousands of miles to see you. And now you’re putting him off. This isn’t like you, Harry.”

Truman agreed to meet with Weizmann and the rest is history.

The United States became the first nation to grant diplomatic recognition to the new state of Israel on May 14, 1948.

Although Victor did not live in Israel, he  was finely tuned to its peculiar nuances which he explored in his play “You Will Not Play Wagner”. The play examines Israel’s unofficial ban on performing works by “Hitler’s favourite composer” and charts the fictional conflict between a young Israeli composer, Ya’akov, who wants to perform Wagner in the final concert of a prestigious musical competition in Tel Aviv, and an elderly Holocaust survivor, who is the event’s patron.

Sounds of Silence. Poster for Victor Gordon’s thought-provoking play “You Will Not Play Wagner”  that questions the dividing line between politics and art that sets Israeli society on edge.

Set against a backdrop of impassioned protests over the years in Israel to attempts by musicians and composers to defy cultural mores and Shoah sensitivities, Victor expressed in deference to survivors, “I appreciate the fact that there is a place in the world where you won’t hear Wagner.”

Himself an accomplished clarinet and saxophone player, the playwright in Victor struggles to separate the man from his music through his character Ya’akov, who asks:

How can music be antisemitic?”

Victor’s answer was:

You have got one of the greatest composers that ever lived and one of the greatest antisemites that ever lived, and the two meet at the Third Reich. You can’t get worse than that.”

No you can’t.

While I corresponded with Victor on media and Israel related issues, I had never personally met him until 2016 when I was invited as an overseas speaker to the Limmud Conference in Johannesburg.  How fascinating that when I sat down for lunch at the conference,  on my right sat the late anti-Apartheid activist Denis Goldberg, hardly favourably disposed to Israel, although it was to Israel that he left for after his release from prison, and on my left, Victor Gordon, a strong advocate for the Jewish State.  If the next day I was to moderate a debate with four fiery panelists on the then upcoming 2016 US election, this lunch provided some entertaining preparation as I had to deftly ‘moderate’ a riveting discussion on Israel and its policies between these two verbal pugilists holding diametrically opposing views.

It was a lunch that we all left the table with more than the food to chew on.

And in truth, although Victor has left the proverbial ‘table’, he  leaves a lasting legacy and hence shall remain active by inspiring others.







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).

Battling for our Boys

From helping English-Speaking lone soldiers to embracing soldiers from the Haredi community, a Jerusalem Rabbi pursues his vision of ensuring Israel’s lone soldiers are never alone

By David E. Kaplan

Rome was not built in a day,” said Rabbi Shalom Myers  of Jerusalem describing a personal journey that began 8 years ago helping English-speaking lone soldiers from abroad to more recently widening the ambit to include Hebrew-speaking Israeli soldiers from the ultra-orthodox Haredi community. However, “we are well on our way,” Shalom affirms enthusiastically of his groundbreaking vision.

There was a particular resonance in the Rabbi’s use of the word “ROME”, which had begun the Jewish exile from the land of Israel 2000 years earlier, and which Rabbi Myers is working to ensure will never happen again as he helps lone soldiers in the Israeli Army protect and preserve the hard-fought Jewish state of Israel.

Home Not Alone. Rabbi Shalom Myers with lone soldiers – all paratroopers in a combat unit –  in a renovated and fully-furnished ‘Emek Lone Soldiers’ apartment in the German Colony Jerusalem

“Never again” means doing not only talking – and Rabbi Shalom Myers exemplifies both. He had just returned with his architect wife Lynne, “my partner” in his Emek Lone Soldiers’ initiative from an Ikea  outlet with a truckload of furnishings “for our apartment in Jerusalem for the Haredi lone soldiers.” The apartment at present houses  six soldiers, “three Israelis and three from abroad, two of whom are from orthodox communities in the USA.” Describing as “our pilot”, Rabbi Myers hopes to have apartments “for 30 plus by the end of 2021” but in the near future to have  a home-away-from-home complex “exclusively for Haredi soldiers.”

A “lone soldier” is a soldier in the IDF with no family in Israel to support them. This could mean a new immigrant, a volunteer from abroad, an orphan or an individual from a broken home. Highly motivated to serve in the Israeli army, most lone soldiers are placed in combat units. At any given time, these soldiers are guarding Israel’s borders by land, air and sea.

Time Out. Rabbi Shalom Myers (centre) enjoying an afternoon  BBQ with active duty lone soldiers near the front lines.

While regular soldiers regularly spend weekends and holidays at home where their parents provide for all of their needs such as food, laundry and a hug, “these basics” are absent for a lone soldier when they leave a base.

There are over 7,000 lone soldiers currently serving in the IDF of which about 45% are new immigrants, coming from Jewish communities all over the world. Another 50% are Israelis who are orphans or that come from low socio-economic backgrounds. And then there are those that come from ultra-orthodox neighbourhoods who are shunned by their families and communities because they decided to go to the army. Of the total, there are up to 1000 English-speaking religious lone soldiers serving annually in various units of the Israel Defense Force. They come from America, England, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Most have no immediate family in Israel and no place to call home.

Securing Israel’s Future. Combined English-speaking and Haredi lone soldiers at an army base with Rabbi Shalom Myers.

This is where the Emek Lone Soldiers – A ‘Home -away- from from home’ framework for religious lone soldiers wanting to maintain their religious lifestyle while serving in the IDF – came in 8 years ago with Rabbi Shalom Myers leading the proverbial charge. The Emek Lone Soldiers is an off-shoot of the flourishing Emek Learning Center in Emek Refaim, the German Colony’s main street, co-founded and headed by Rabbi Myers. So what began years earlier providing for English-speaking lone soldiers has in recent years expanded to embrace the Haredi community. Rabbi Myers  – who has had four sons serve in combat units in the IDF –  explains:

 “they are all our children, all our soldiers – I make no distinction.” It is the Beit Midrash (learning centre), the synagogue  and “our community” that are “our three pillars that we offer to the religious lone soldiers.”

Soft Landing. Far removed from the life they had planned, lone soldiers affixing mezuzot in their new fully furnished Emek Lone Soldiers’ apartment in Jerusalem.

It takes a village to raise a child” reminds Rabbi Myers of the African proverb that means that an entire community of people must provide for and interact positively with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.

A child himself of Africa, Rabbi Myers is well familiar with the military. Formerly of Cape Town where he was the Reverend of Rondebosch and Parow synagogues, a Chazan at the Claremont shul, he was also a chaplain in the South African army as part of his compulsory military service.

In The Army Now. Rabbi Shalom Myers with lone soldiers at a pre sabbath dinner in the German Colony, Jerusalem organized by  Emek Lone Soldiers.

Shalom recalls when as army chaplain for Western Province Command, the Christian chaplain was suddenly unable to deliver his weekly sermon to the men on parade and “suddenly, I was called upon to fill in”.

I’m the Jewish chaplain,” he answered, “besides I’m unprepared.”

Maak nie saak nie, Myers (“makes no difference” in Afrikaans), proceed,” barked his superior.

Officer Myers looked out at the sea of men standing before him, and the words flowed. Afterwards, the officer congratulated him on the most inspiring sermon he had ever heard and his stature in the military henceforth was rock solid. “The point is,” Shalom asserts, “You need to be prepared not only with knowledge but the confidence to impart that knowledge when you might least be expected to.”

Bonding at the Base. Rabbi Shalom Myers following his shiur (Talmudic study session) to combat lone soldiers at an army base.

Such attributes are serving him well today as he pursues his vision.

Asking what inspired him in this direction, Shalom replies:

“Let me say this. When you get involved in the Rabbanut and you want to teach, influence and help, the Rabbanut is the ultimate Chesed.” And in helping the lone soldiers, “not only are we helping individuals but we are helping the Jewish people.”

I was reminded of the revered Rav Soloveitchik who was very meticulous and stringent in every phase of Hilchot Tefillah, the laws of prayer. However, when once visited by a student serving in the IDF and asked by the soldier in a tank division that involved cleaning and maintaining the tanks whether he needed to change his uniform when covered in oil and grime before davening Mincha, the Rav looked at him in amazement and said out loud:

 “Why would you need to change? You are wearing Bigdei Kodesh – holy clothes!”

Father and Son. A proud Rabbi Shalom Myers with youngest son Moshe at his induction into Sayeret Nachal. 

Rabbi Myers’ pursuit has not come without opposition from within his community. The following exchange is instructive.  He recalls some years ago a well-meaning friend cautioning him:

 “You should choose, either focus on the shul (synagogue) or  the lone soldiers; you cant do both.”

Capable of doing both and much more, Shalom is also a former practicing accountant,  has Smicha from Machon Ariel and taught for 14 years at Ohr Somayach, heading the Mechina program before founding in 2013 the Emek Learning Center.

So while there was no need “to choose”, Rabbi Myers is quick to add that had he had to choose, “I would have chosen the lone soldiers because while the learning centre could be done by others,  what I am offering the lone soldiers particularly now with the Haredi lone soldiers is unique.” Of all the soldiers, the ones “closest to my heart,” says Rabbi Myers are the Haredi Israelis.

Why?

They were not brought up from this; it is not their world and they are giving to their people but at a huge personal price; they have to start their lives all over again. They are the most in need, not only in preparing then for the army and offering them a warm environment during their military service but most important helping them after the army service in guiding them to then study to provide a financially sustainable future. Feeling abandoned, we are like their new parents.”

It’s a long and hard process but it is a fruitful process with huge rewards  not only for individuals but for Israeli society.

The Graduate. Rabbi Shalom Myers (right) at the graduation ceremony of a lone soldier.

Rabbi Myers could not have received a more enriching endorsement for his vision then from the late Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who expressed back in 2018, the following:

One of the core ideas within Judaism is contained in the famous Talmudic phrase: Kol yisrael arevim zeh lazeh, meaning all of Israel are responsible for each other. This is at the heart of the mission and work of the Emek Lone Soldiers Initiative. By caring and looking out for those who have no other support, we are taking responsibility for them in the most Jewish of ways. Linking this work to the writing of a Sefer Torah is a beautiful idea. We know that for a Sefer Torah to be kosher, every letter has to be correct, and no letter, word or phrase is more important than any other. Such is the same with the soldiers who risk their lives in defense of the State of Israel. Each soldier has put himself or herself on the line and as such we, as Am Yisrael, must do everything possible to ensure they are looked after both during and after their service. I wish all at Emek Lone Soldiers, blessings and best wishes for the future.”

Tucking In. Undergoing fitness training in preparation before their draft,  lone soldiers enjoying a meal at the Emek Learning Center in the German Colony, Jerusalem.

Trained for the temporal world with a lifelong passion for the spiritual – “I was born in a shul” – Rabbi Myer’s journey has been one of absorbing and processing experiences along the way that “has served as my GPS” directing him precisely to his present destination  – founding and heading first the Emek Learning Center and now the Emek Lone Soldiers.

May he continue his outstanding service to his community, the state of Israel and today and tomorrow’s lone soldiers.

I am very proud that when I stood under a chuppah 39 years ago, with my bride Hilary, the Rabbi officiating was Shalom Myers!



Having a Ball. Lone soldiers enjoying a game of American football  during a Shabbaton In Herzliya.





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).

Of Men and Mensches

By Craig Snoyman

South African social media has been scorching hot this week.  The former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, was sentenced to 15 months direct imprisonment for contempt of a court order. The order was handed down by the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court. It also ordered his imprisonment. Virtually the whole of South Africa was sure that he would do something to prevent his arrest, after all his so- called “Stalingrad Defence” has managed to stall criminal corruption charges against him for at least ten years . Cell phones were literally burning as discussion, speculation, conspiracy theories and humour jammed the internet.

One of the pictures widely disseminated was a photo-shopped pictures was of President Zuma disguising himself as an Arab, with him thinking of going to Dubai.  It is widely rumoured that many of his illicit millions are there. What we do know, is that his son owns a very expensive apartment there.  The Gupta brothers, who are alleged to have looted billions of rand from the South African fiscus in cahoots with Zuma, are also hiding out there.

Former South African President, Jacob Zuma has started his prison term

Normally it is completely politically inappropriate even refer to “black-face” or in this case “brown-face”, let alone circulate such a picture but these are very strange times in South Africa. President Zuma, once referred to “Msholozi” (number one) and now in whispered references as “Jailkop Zuma”, is likely to spend some of his immediate future behind bars. At the same time as he sets out on a new path, so does Israel’s former President, Reuven Rilvin.  Two pictures tell the difference between the two Presidents.

On his last day as President, photographs of President Rivlin in disguise, were released to the press. In the picture that appears in the Israeli press, President Rivlin is heavily disguised with a dark-haired wig, a bushy beard and spectacles (and possibly an altered nose and shoulder padding) and a long black overcoat. He certainly did not look like an 81 year old man.  His security detail said that he spend several hours walking around, disguised and incognito, amongst his fellow citizens. 

Deep Undercover. The President in his disguise, happily mingled amongst unsuspecting Israeli citizens.

From our perspective at the bottom of Africa, it never looked like President Rivlin put a foot wrong. He was the image of the perfect statesman, (almost perfect because he looked a little too cuddly) representing the State of Israel in an extremely dignified manner. And then these pictures were released! Not furtively onto a site on the internet, but publicly released to all the national newspapers.  Clearly an affectionate gesture by his secret-service protection, with his full consent.

All of a sudden, President Rivlin is seen in a different light! No longer the upright, ceremonial state representative.  In one fell swoop, he is seen as an avuncular scamp – a man with a sense of humour, your favourite uncle playing a trick on you! He is transformed and now, he’s just an ordinary person, one of us.  Sometimes we forget that the politicians are human to.  For me, this is probably going to be my lasting image of President Rivlin, all his other accomplishments will slip into the recesses of my memory. Farewell President Rivlin, may your future journeys be filled with joy and wonder and much good health and happiness… and lots more impish humour. I doff my kippa to you, President Rivlin, a People’s President.



About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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

Crystal Clear

A co-recipient of the 2021 Wolf Prize, Israeli scientist – a former South African – solves a 140-year-old complex riddle

By David E. Kaplan

Israel’s prestigious Wolf Prize – an annual international award given to outstanding scientists and artists from around the world –  have been handed out for the past 43 years to 354 leading scientists and artists including Israel’s Prof. Ada Yonath, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2009. To this illustrious list, we can now add  the 2021 recipients,  that includes a former South African, Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz  who with his longstanding collegial partner Prof. Meir Lahav, both of the Weitzman Institute’s Molecular Chemistry and Materials Science Department for their collaborative establishment of the ”fundamental reciprocal influences of three-dimensional molecular structure upon structures of organic crystals.”

Awarded for “achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among people … irrespective of nationality, race, colour, religion, sex or political views,” there is no doubt that Leslie and Meirs’ scientific discoveries have truly contributed towards “the interest of mankind and friendly relations among people”.

They have at the same time solved a riddle!

The Wolf Prize ceremony at the Knesset, Jerusalem

Resolving a Riddle

Crystal formation is one of the most fundamental phenomena in chemistry and the structure of organic crystals is of particular importance because the crystal shape (morphology) reflects the three-dimensional structure (stereochemistry) of the molecules assembled in that crystal. In 1848, the famed French chemist microbiologist. Louis Pasteur conducted his famous experiment, physically separating the two crystalline forms of a tartaric acid salt, which mirror one another. Pasteur’s experiment became the basis for modern stereochemistry, and it was followed by the study of the first Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Jacobus H. van’t Hoff from Holland. However, neither Pasteur nor van’t Hoff, nor many of the other famous chemists  that followed would come to understand the relationship between crystal morphology and molecular stereochemistry until 140 years had passed and two Israelis, Professors Lahav and Leiserowitz conducted their milestone experiments in the Mid-1980s. These experiments demonstrated for the first time that the absolute configuration of molecules can be derived from their crystal morphologies. They not only solved the long-standing puzzle; but according to the Wolf Foundation press release:

they also pioneered the science of organic crystals’ stereochemistry. They directly related the stereochemistry of the individual molecule to the shape of the macroscopic crystal. They founded the links between molecular structure, crystal morphology, crystal growth’ dynamics, and molecular chirality (the structural property of an object, which makes it different from its mirror image, like the human hands). Their findings laid the foundation for our current knowledge of the selective self-assembly of organic molecules. In this way, their rules powerfully complement our understanding of organic chemistry for covalent assembly and macromolecules’ self-assembly.”

When Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz was awarded the 2016 Israel Prize for ‘Chemistry and Physics’ with Prof. Meir Lahav, he was only the third South African Israeli to receive Israel’s highest civilian award. The other two recipients had been Dr. Ian Froman in 1989 for his contribution to society through sport, and the late Hillel Deleski in 2000 for the study of English literature.

Interviewing Leiserowitz at the time, he explained to me by posing these questions:

How and why do artery-blocking chunks of cholesterol form?”

What happens at the very first stage of the transition from water to ice?”

What can be done to prevent the formation of gallstones or the crystals in the joints that cause pain in gout?”

These are all questions about one of the more important processes in nature: crystallization, and Leslie and Professor Lahav have worked separately and together over their careers to investigate this process.

Collaborating on Crystals. Recipients of the 2021 Wolf Prize in Chemistry,  Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz (Left) and Prof. Meir Lahav of the  Molecular Chemistry and Materials Science Department at the Weizmann Institute.

Indebted to Mom!

Born in Johannesburg in 1934, Leslie obtained a BSc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and during an ensuing 18-month period “of work, unemployment and travel,” he became fascinated in a field of chemistry that drew him to an illuminating work – “The Crystalline State” by Brag & Bragg. “The symmetry of the crystal structures therein,” intrigued Leslie, reminding him “of the patterns my mother worked with as a dressmaker in Johannesburg.”

This curiosity, coupled with a knowledge of “microwave interference”, led him to his next marker on his academic path – “The Optical Principles of the Distraction of X-rays” by R.W. James, who was Professor of Physic at UCT. With now a clear direction, the young budding scientist studied for an MSc in X-ray crystallography in the Physics Dept. at UCT.

Following his travels to London and then on to Israel “with my good friend”, the future South African Jewish leader Mervyn Smith, who he knew “from our Bellville days,” he joined in 1959, the research group of Gerhard Schmidt at the Weizmann Institute of Science as a PhD student in solid-state chemistry.

Leslie’s journey of research, took him to academic posts abroad, and in more recent years, focused on a childhood fascination with the study of malaria – a project, which he says, “in some ways is a continuation of my original research with Prof. Lahav on crystal growth. It was not generally appreciated that this infectious disease is intimately connected with crystallization.” Leslie reveals that growing up in Johannesburg, “I learnt from my father, who had spent long stretches of time in Central Africa, the full ravages of the disease.”

It was an area of study that Leslie felt compelled to study and most assuredly gels with the spirit of the wording of the Wolf Prize of contributing towards “the interest of mankind and friendly relations among people”.

If Leslie’s mother, who died young – “only in her forties” – was today looking down from her celestial perch, she would be amazed and proud that from the simple patterns of her daily dressmaking, lay the complex mysteries that would inspire her brilliant son to pursue a journey of scientific exploration culminating in the 2016 Israel Prize and the 2021 Wolf Prize.

Maybe, she had a “crystal ball”, and foresaw it all coming!

The 2021 Wolf Prize in chemistry that was awarded to Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz and Prof. Meir Lahav.






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).

Monumental Man

A tribute to the passing of Israel’s internationally renowned sculptor – Dani Karavan

By David E. Kaplan

Internationally famed for making his monuments blend into their environment, Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan – who died this past May 2021 at the age of 90 – blended into the public, hardly recognized when walking about his native Tel Aviv.

Monumental Man. Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan became recognized for making his monuments blend into their environment.

I put this question to the artist in a  co-interview with Moshe Alon in 2013 when we asked:

“While you are an internationally acclaimed artist, admirers of your work might not recognize you standing alongside one of your masterpieces? Does this bother you?”

Not at all. I think you hear about the noisy ones more than the quiet ones but this is true of any group. People hear about the extroverts and less about the introverts. Some artists prefer to create their work in peace and quiet, and you don’t hear much about their personal lives.”

Karavan’s work can be found across Europe, Asia and Israel. It’s hard to escape his distinctive style that blends sculpture, architecture and the landscape into unique and monumental pieces. Through molding and meshing of the environment, Karavan’s works showcase the urban or natural elements of their respective surroundings. As such, his materials range from concrete – in the construction of large geometrical structures – to the lands natural offerings – trees, water, grass and crusty surface.

We noted that “Your works are not ‘sculptures’ in the traditional sense – pieces that are exhibited in a museum or placed in the middle of a public square,” and asked. “You integrate the natural environment using the land – as if sculpting the landscape?”

That’s correct. This is what characterizes my work which is rooted to a physical environment and not to an atelier [artist workshop]. I was once privileged to meet the distinguished sculptor Henry Moore and observe him work in his environment – how he molded a model the size of a suitcase handle and enlarge it ninny-nine times its size.

For me it’s the opposite, because the large environment where I work emerges as part of my composition.

One example is the wall at the Knesset, rooted to the environment –  physically and conceptually. Another is the Negev Brigade Memorial – my first big piece as a sculptor – and which was a groundbreaking project. Up until then, “site-specific” environmental sculpture did not exist. To some degree, it is similar to architecture, where the architect designs specifically for a particular environment.

Monumental Impact. The Monument to the Negev Brigade is in memory of the members of the Palmach Negev Brigade who fell fighting on Israel’s side during the 1948 Arab Israeli War. The perforated tower alludes to a watchtower shelled with gunfire and the pipeline tunnel is reminiscent of the channel of water in the Negev defended by the soldiers. Engraved in the concrete are the names of the 324 soldiers who died in the war, the badge of the Palmach, diary passages from the soldiers, the battle registry and verses from the Bible and songs.  In addition to its strengths as a memorial, it was a precursor to the land art  movement.

In effect, I am a sculptor that does not search for a place, but rather the place seeks me. Michelangelo said that the statue already exists within the stone; I say that the sculpture already exists within the environment. I just unearth it. This is essentially my contribution to the evolution of sculpture. I wanted that sculpture be something people can climb and children play on – that it will be full of life and not pieces where people visit once a year to lay flowers.”

How true when I think of Karavan’s massively monumental work at the Edith Wolfson Park on the eastern edge of the city of Tel Aviv. If its Tuesday, “we, the grandparents”, are usually there with our grandson. Perched high, the park offers a magnificent view of the city from its most iconic KaravanThe White Square”, the monumental work overlooking “The White City” as Tel Aviv is famously known because of its white Bauhaus architecture. Karavan’s sculpture is a complex geometric work that is an ode to the city itself.

Fun in the Sun. An activity all to familiar to the writer, a father and son slide down the sundial of Dani Karavan’s ‘White Square’ sculpture at Edith Wolfson park, overlooking Tel Aviv. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

If Tel Aviv is a city not so much to see but to experience, then so too is Karavan’s sculpture where it is less viewed than it is walked, climbed, roller-skated and rollerbladed upon. I invariably join the “kids” in sliding down the sculpture’s colossal “sundial” on carboard as well as scampering up the large “pyramid”. The sculpture exudes physicality  – it is a metaphor for Tel Aviv of open-ended action befitting its reputation as “the city that never sleeps.” If you are generally “into art”, then visiting The White Square you literally, “get into” this art as you climb in, over, upon and through it!

Feeling his Way

On several occasions, he was commissioned to create memorials for victims of Nazi Germany.

The horrific atrocities suffered by Jews, and others during World War II, was a key theme in Karavan’s work, not least because his parents’ families lost many members during the Holocaust.

On Track to Death. Dani Karavan poses on part of his installation “Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs” during the presentation of his exhibition “Dani Karavan Retrospective” at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum in Berlin. After the Vichy government signed an armistice with the Nazis in 1940, Gurs became an internment camp for mainly German Jews. (Courtesy of Michael Kappeler/AFP/Getty Images).

Another notable example is the “Way of Human Rights” at the Germanic National Museum in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.

Karavan’s  “Passages” memorial in Portbou, Spain, also became well-known since its unveiling in 1994. It commemorates the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, who died in the small Spanish border town in 1940 while fleeing from the Nazis.

It was named “Passages” in remembrance of Benjamin’s final passage from France to Spain, as well as his enormous unfinished work Passagenwerk (Arcades Project) on 19th-century Paris. The name also refers to the several passages visitors make during their time at the memorial, from the journey down the steps to the glass view of the ocean whirlpool and back up to the rectangle of sunlight in the dark.

War and Remembrance. Inaugurated on 15 May 1994, marking the 50th anniversary of his death, “Passages” in Portbou, Spain  pays homage to  the philosopher Walter Benjamin in his failed flight from the Nazis.

Taken from Walter Benjamin’s On the Concept of History, etched in German are the words:

It is more arduous to honour the memory of anonymous beings than that of the renowned. The construction of history is consecrated to the memory of the nameless.”

That “nameless” Dani also ‘rectified’ in his memorial created in 2005, depicting the foundation of the Regensburg Synagogue in Bavaria, Germany that was destroyed during a pogrom in 1519. On February 21, 1519, the Jewish community of Regensburg  –  that had lived in the city for 500 years – was ordered to leave but only after its members had demolished the interior of their 13th-century synagogue.

Demolishing more than a synagogue, they were forced to demolish their past.

Despite his international fame, when asked which award among all those he has received touched him the most, he answered unwaveringly:

The Israel Prize which I received at the age of 46. It stands today as my greatest honour. I received it during a very special year and the person who shook my hand at the ceremony was Yitzhak Rabin… an added honour. While I hardly mention the international awards I have won, I am never reticent about my Israel Prize.”

Visitors surround the memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims in Berlin
Remembering Roma. The Berlin memorial for the Sinti and Roma murdered by the Nazis during World War II Many relatives of Dani Karavan were killed during the Holocaust and the atrocities and those affected by them became an important theme for the Jewish artist.

‘Portrait of an Artist’

The recurring flower motif  in Karavan’s work is reminiscent of his memories of his childhood and of his father’s garden. The ‘sights and smells’ of nature from his home in Tel Aviv – before it was the bustling city it is today – continued to influence the artist’s’ work.

Dani probably drew his inspiration from his father who had been a landscape architect. He studied art in Israel (at Bezalel), Florence, and Paris. During his youth, he was also involved in the establishment of kibbutz Harel, located in the Jerusalem Corridor. A week following our interview in 2013, he travelled to Berlin to dine with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A man of the world, he relished in recalling “raising mice and lizards” as a child and “weeding my father’s garden in order to earn a small allowance to buy falafel and soda.”

Forgotten People Remembered. Dani Karavan and Chacellor Angela Merkel at the opening ceremony on October 24, 2012 of the Memorial for the Murdered Sinti and Roma. (Photo Stephanie Drescher)

Known for creating poignant monuments in Israel and around the world, Karavan’s most recognized local work is the huge wall carving in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, named “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”.

While Karavan could mold material to articulate his dreams and visions, he lamented “an inability to influence better relations with our Arab neighbours. My father arrived in Israel in the 1920s. He came as an idealist, and I inherited that idealism and what better vision to work for, than the pursuit of regional peace and happiness. If you ask what I still want to do, yes, I need to finish my autobiography but also, to collaborate with a Palestinian artist on a project toward peace.”

Writing on the Wall. To inspire all before it at work on guiding Israel’s destiny, Israeli artist Dani Karavan’s ‘Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem’ on the wall of the plenum hall at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, May 13, 2015. – REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Not all endeavors “towards peace” are invariably fulfilled. However, that task, even though Dani Karavin has passed on, still maybe possible. If Dani Karavan is no more, his most notable work in Israel, the huge wall carving decorating the plenum of the Knesset – is.

Appropriately named, the stone mural of an abstract Jerusalem landscape depicting surrounding hills and the Judean desert, faces the elected members of ALL the people of Israel – and under the shadow of Dani Karavan’s creative mind and hands, they can continue his ‘unfinished work’  – to pursue peace.




Some of Karavan’s important works:

A walk in the park7 The “Path of Peace” sculpture by artist Dani Caravan. An environmental sculpture which is one of the attractions of Nitzana


A Walk In The Park5


UNESCO Square of Tolerance – Homage to Yitzhak Rabin, Paris, France



A Walk In The Park6
The Axe Majeur, Cergy-Pontoise, France









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

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)