Reflections from Israel amidst another round of hostilities

By Jonathan Feldstein

I have started and stopped writing this multiple times. From last Wednesday until the ceasefire Sunday night, Palestinian Arab terrorists in Gaza supported by the Islamist regime in Iran, have fired 1469 rockets at Israeli communities.  There have been massive barrages of 100 or more at a time, multiple times.  Throughout this operation, Israel had targeted and taken out both leaders of the Islamic Jihad terror organization, and much (but not enough) of their infrastructure.  For the most part Israel’s Iron Dome has successfully intercepted most of these, specifically ones directed at densely populated areas.  There have been injuries, significant damage, and as of last night one woman and a Palestinian worker from Gaza killed and 10 injured when their building took a direct hit. 

Rock’ets around the Clock.  Continuous firing of rockets from Gaza toward Israel. (Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

I stopped and re-started writing this article multiple times because of repeated talk of a cease fire. But each time one thinks the rockets might stop, the terrorists let off another barrage.  Living in Israel, you develop an instinct as to whether there will be a cease fire or not, protracted rockets and Israeli response of taking out terrorists, or the risk of escalation and a ground operation.  Of course, had 10 people been killed and not “just” injured yesterday, the calculations would be revisited, and all bets would be off.   

But not one person should be killed, and the firing of one rocket at a civilian population is criminal, much less hundreds.  If they can’t be stopped yet, they should face the consequences.  Palestinian Arabs in Gaza should be sending thank you notes to Israel, not firing rockets.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a senior Israeli security officer about the situation in Gaza.  “We know what kind of humus they are dipping their pita into,” he assured me confidently.  It was funny, albeit seeming a bit arrogant.  But how accurate both figuratively and literally.

Killing Killers. Gazan terrorist leaders who gave the orders to kill Israelis were the focus of Israel in its recent ‘Operation Shield and Arrow’.

What we have seen in the past days, as well as in other recent anti-terrorist operations in Gaza, is that he wasn’t just being funny.  This week we have seen IDF operations that have been strategic, tactical and surgical. When you look at the pictures of the buildings in which Palestinian Arab terror leaders have been targeted and taken out, it looks as if someone came with a big industrial scalpel, cut open a careful hole in the side of a building, and carefully extracted the tumors, leaving the rest of the building and its residents shaken, but intact.  The precision is remarkable.

Sadly, some of the terror leaders have chosen to sleep at home with their wives and children which means that some of their wives and children have also been killed.  Sadly, the wives and children didn’t leave their terrorist husbands/fathers to protect themselves.

All this week’s IDF operations have indicated that Israel has incredible intelligence on top of the surgical precision.  If I were an Arab terror leader, I’d be looking for another profession, unless I really believed the misogynist rhetoric about 72 virgins waiting in heaven.  Certainly, Israel has developed a world-class intelligence network that’s the envy of many, as it helps to save lives not just in Israel but around the world. 

Surgical Strike. Leaving this building in the Gaza Strip intact, only the apartment of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist leader is destroyed in a precision attack by Israel. (Associated Press, Fatima Shbai)

A case and point is that Israel successfully killed one particular terrorist leader in a ‘safe’ house demonstrating that the terrorist leaders are not safe anywhere.  Fortunately, he saved his wife and children, though they are known to hide behind women and children which is immoral, and a war crime. In one case this week, a terror leader who had been tracked for two days had his life saved when the pilot commanding the operation noticed two children.  In this case, the word “abort” saved two children’s lives.

Terrorists know that Israel will avoid firing at them and their infrastructure around civilians. So, they hide themselves, their weapons, their infrastructure in, under, and around residential areas, schools, mosques, hospitals, and UN facilities. But Israel’s level of precision has increased and the phrase “you can run but you cannot hide” is a warning that every terrorist in Gaza should heed.

Palestinian Arabs should be thanking Israel because its Iron Dome saves Palestinian Arabs. Had Israel not had the need, ingenuity, and priority to create something never before imagined to track and intercept short and medium range rockets, the terrorists’ rockets would surely wreak much more havoc.  Were there to be more Israeli casualties, Israel would be forced to respond more forcefully.  That would mean more Palestinian Arab casualties.  But the Iron Dome that was invented and built and is deployed to save Israeli lives, also saves Arab lives, while allowing terrorists to inflict damage with relative impunity.

Meeting in Mid-air. Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ anti-missile system (right) fires interception missiles as rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip (left) to Israel, as seen from Sderot on May 10, 2023. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

But Israel should never have to do this to begin with.  The theory that goes that the rockets will stop only when the cost to the terrorists (and the population they have hijacked) suffer more than they are prepared.  That means devastation.  Yet it’s probably true.  Eventually in a day, or week or a month, there will be a cease fire.  Until the next round. 

Speaking of cost, the expense Israel incurs to keep Israelis (and Palestinian Arabs) safe is some $50,000 per Iron Dome interception.  If only half of the 1000+ fired this week required being intercepted, that’s $20 million.  Astounding.

As I was finishing writing this, our family was startled by the piercing noise of an air raid siren in our community south of Jerusalem.  We are dozens of miles from Gaza.  The terrorists are upping the ante and widening the range to draw Israel into the conflict deeper. It’s personal and horrific.

Devastation and Death. An 80-year-old resident was killed when her apartment on May 12, 2023 in Rehovot took a direct hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Gazans should be rising up to take back their society from the terrorists who hijacked their lives.  They can choose to suffer just by the consequences of being around, behind and under the stranglehold of the terrorists, or they can fight back. When Israel withdrew all its communities, military, businesses, and even graves from Gaza in 2005, they had an opportunity to build something. All they have achieved are  four “D’s – death, danger, destruction and destitution.

They should be thanking Israel and seek to live in a society that can be good neighbors rather than mortal enemies.  

If only!

About the writer:

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

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


Follow Social Media Rhetoric

By Aviva Klompas and Rachel Fish

(*Article appears in Newsweek)

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” The true origin of this timeless aphorism — often attributed to Mark Twain — is disputed, the simple lesson it teaches is unquestionable. And in an era of social media algorithms and worldwide connectivity through the internet, it is just as applicable to hatred as it is dishonesty, and the results can be violent and dangerous.

Case in point: While the Israeli Defense Forces responded to over 1,000 rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza in May of 2021, antisemitism also reached an all-time high in the United States. In major cities, like New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, cries of “free Palestine” and “death to Jews” accompanied assaults on the streets, in restaurants, and outside synagogues.

The prevailing presumption was that anger and frustration over events some 6,000 miles away was entirely to blame for unleashing this tsunami of hatred on American Jewish communities. In fact, new research from Boundless, which combats Jew-hatred, and the Network Contagion Research Institute, which identifies and forecasts social cyber threats, found that particular rhetoric propelled by social media outrage algorithms carried the signal for where and when real-world violence would take place. During this digital frenzy, terms typically used to discuss human rights surged on social media in the exact U.S. locations where violence against Jews occurred. Words such as “Apartheid”, “ethnic cleanings”, and “genocide” that used to have moral weight and legal meaning—were hijacked to delegitimize Israel and vilify Jews.

Off the Wall. Harvard students engage in lies and incitement against Jews in their mock “apartheid wall” erected on campus during Israeli Apartheid Week 2022. (Photo Credit: Harvard PSC)

These findings offer important new clues as to where and how harm targeting Jewish communities originates. Our research makes clear that greater attention must be paid to groups that march in American cities chanting “globalize the intifada” or “find where these Zionist fools live.”

Enemies of Israel’s existence hide behind the guise of progressive values to cherry pick terms from the human rights lexicon and distort their meaning to paint Israel and Jews as evil oppressors. These toxic accusations, in turn, act as a Trojan horse to infiltrate the mainstream discourse with abhorrent tropes about Jews.

There is nothing new under the sun, and this tactic is no exception to that truth. Its origins can be traced to Russia, where an ugly history of animosity toward Jews gave birth to the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. During the Cold War, an explicit campaign sought to exacerbate tensions between East and West, placing Jews as the central scapegoats. The message of these campaigns infiltrated progressive circles, most obviously in institutions of higher education, and have received new life on social media.

Targeting the Talmud. Horrendous antisemitic fliers seen in Georgia, USA in February, 2023. (Esther Panitch/Twitter)

Social media ecosystems have long been known to accelerate the growth and spread of antisemitic activity, and it is well known that there is a linkage between online hate forums and real-world attacks. That said, when it comes to Jew-hatred, law enforcement has focused on neo-Nazis, Islamists, and other radical groups notorious for their toxic ideology.

But to effectively protect Jews – by far the largest target of religious hate crimes in the United States – those who make the laws as well as those who enforce them and monitor threats should heed this data and expand their activities to encompass threats emanating from groups using the façade of progressive human rights to demonize Jews and Zionists.

Terrorizing Jews. Ugly anti-Zionist rhetoric turns into a threat to Jews in this protest by pro-Palestinian activists in New York City, May 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

American Jews live in the crosshairs of an array of bad actors. The threats span political ideologies. Yet ideological blind spots are hindering efforts to keep them safe, and the consequences are devastating. Jewish communities are increasingly under attack and the fear of violence, hostility, and intimidation has led growing numbers of young Jews to hide their identity.

America’s promise to her people is not only that she will affirm their rights and human dignity, but that they will be protected by the rule of law. Social media signals can offer us critical insights into where and when attacks against Jewish communities take place. And where violence can be reasonably predicted, the warning should be heeded and the danger thwarted. Failing to do so means failing to fulfill that critical promise.

About the writers:

Aviva Klompas is CEO and co-founder of Boundless and can be found on Twitter @AvivaKlompas.

Dr. Rachel Fish is the President and co-founder of Boundless.

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).


By his grotesque caricatures of Jews, UK cartoonist signs off as an antisemite

By Adam Levick

A cartoon by The Guardian’s Martin Rowson depicting Richard Sharp, who announced his resignation as BBC chair earlier in the week, was removed by editors on Saturday following widespread complaints of antisemitism. In a statement, The Guardian said of the cartoon depicting Sharp, who is Jewish:

We understand the concerns that have been raised. This cartoon does not meet our editorial standards, and we have decided to remove it from our website. The Guardian apologises to Mr. Sharp, to the Jewish community and to anyone offended.”

Rowson, a Jeremy Corbyn supporter who has been a cartoonist at The Guardian for decades, also apologised, saying the illustration was a result of “carelessness and thoughtlessness”, and adding:

Many people are understandably very upset. I genuinely apologise, unconditionally.”

See the cartoon, and a great analysis of it – which managed to include several antisemitic themes, including depicting Sharp with grotesque stereotypical features, themes of money, power, an octopus and a puppeteer – in the tweet thread below by the CST’s Dave Rich, whose recent book on antisemitism we reviewed.

Though you can find all our posts about Rowson’s problematic work relating to Israel and Jews here, we’ll provide a few examples, from the pages of The Guardian and elsewhere, to provide context on the current row.

In a 2008 report released by the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, the US State Department denounced as antisemitic a cartoon by Rowson two years earlier depicting Stars of David being used as a knuckle duster on a bloody fist to both punch a young boy and crush U.S. President George Bush.

In 2011, Rowson demonstrated that his views about Jews and antisemitism are similar to that of the disgraced former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was found guilty of antisemitic harassment of Jewish people in the EHRC report on antisemitism in the Labour Party.

In an interview at a socialist publication, Rowson wrote that an “outraged sense of victimhood can be a powerful weapon to silence debate” and that “The Israel lobby is particularly masterful in using this to silence criticism of their brutally oppressive colonialism.” He added that the charge of antisemitism is “the ultimate trump card”, that “no matter how many innocent people the Israeli state kills, any criticism is automatically proof of antisemitism” before adding that “no wonder idiots like Ahmadinejad want to deny the holocaust. They are jealous. They’d love to silence their critics like that.”

In 2013, Rowson accused CAMERA UK (then ‘CiF Watch’) of “browbeating him” into avoiding Israel in his cartoons.

Followers of our site might also recall that this isn’t the first time Rowson depicted a well-known Jew with grotesque, stereotypical features, as you can see in this post in 2017 on his illustration of Henry Kissinger. In our post, we included a side-by-side comparison between Rowson’s depiction of Kissinger with the infamous Nazi antisemitic caricature published by Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer, titled ‘The Poisonous Mushroom’:

We should be clear that Steve Bell, Rowson’s colleague at The Guardian, is far more problematic, particularly in his use of antisemitism in his cartoons, and his clear contempt for the Jewish community.  However, while it would be tempting to impute to Rowson ignorance about the myths, libels and caricatures about Jews that have been normalised in the West over centuries, an article he wrote in 2019 criticised The NY Times for publishing a cartoon (later removed) that included what he called “common antisemitic tropes of the type notoriously published in cartoon form in the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer.”

So, it would seem that The Guardian cartoonist has some familiarity with the visual language of antisemitic stereotypes.

Indeed, in his apology for the cartoon about Sharp (the full text of which you can find here), Rowson admits that the cartoon went “horribly wrong”.  He attributed this in part to “the mad rush to cram as much in as possible in the 5 or so hours available to me to produce the artwork by deadline” and that he realises that some of the imagery could be seen as representing “antisemitic blood libels that have recurred poisonously for millennia.”

Guardian caught off Guard. The Guardian deletes and apologises for a Martin Rowson cartoon of BBC Chairman Richard Sharp (above) after being accused of “Shocking” antisemitism

So, how to interpret Rowson’s ‘error’? 

Well, there was something Rich mentioned in his tweet thread that may help explain it.  He wrote, in contextualising antisemitism with other forms of racism, that “you might draw Boris Johnson as a gorilla and nobody would mind…But if you drew a black politician that way, it would be racist.”  The same principle should apply, he added, to depictions of Jews.

It should. But it doesn’t.

Whereas you’d be hard pressed to find a cartoonist working for a mainstream media outlet – or his or her editor – who wouldn’t immediately recognise that kind of depiction of a black politician as racist, the same is in fact not true when it comes to antisemitic imagery.

Nefarious Nib. Award-winning cartoonist Martin Rowson (above) had a recent cartoon in The Guardian removed with apologies for antisemitism.

In other words, the same instinct which motivated Diane Abbott, in her letter in the Observer, to outrageously diminish the significance of antisemitism by likening it to the prejudice faced by “redheads” helps explain why those on the hard left, such as Rowson, fail to see racism against Jews even when it’s staring them in the face – even if, at least on an intellectual level, they understand the history of antisemitic tropes.

This represents an extremely dangerous ideological blind spot which both Rich and David Baddiel have explored at length.

Shades of 1930’s Germany. Note the antisemitic stereotypes in Martin Rowson’s offensive cartoon of a grinning Sharp identified as Jewish by an enlarged nose and carrying a Goldman Sachs office box, stuffed with gold and an octopus, a common antisemitic image found in anti-Jewish images and cartoons, representing the antisemitic canard of Jewish control.

The Guardian‘s decision to remove the cartoon was clearly motivated – in my view –  by the widespread backlash it engendered rather than any outrage over antisemitic imagery.  This explains why, to this day, a recent article legitimising a medieval blood libel by Mohammed elKurd still has not been amended to clarify that the outlet rejects his antisemitic libel.

The Guardian, as we’ve demonstrated repeatedly over the years, only worries about “averting accusations of antisemitism”, not antisemitism itself.

About the writer:

Adam Levick lives in Israel and is co-editor of CAMERA UK. He previously worked as a researcher at NGO Monitor and, prior to that, at the Civil Rights Division of the Anti-Defamation League. Adam has published reports on progressive antisemitism for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His op-eds have appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Irish Examiner, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Quarterly, The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, JNS, The Algemeiner, South African Jewish Affairs and Perspectives (the print magazine of Aish HaTorah UK).

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).


Rockets and terror attacks rain sorrow on Israelis

By Rolene Marks

The image is seared in my mind. A radiant, vivacious mother poses proudly with her two beautiful daughters. There is no mistaking the family resemblance and you can feel the love and pride radiating out of their smiles. Lucy Dee, and her two daughters, Maia (20) and Rina (15) were traveling to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) when Palestinian terrorists caused their car to swerve and crash – some say they were rammed, others their car was shot at. The terrorists then shot them at close range, killing Maia and Rina and critically injuring Lucy. She died several days later in hospital. Over twenty shell casings were found at the site. Their crime?

They were Jewish and Israeli.

Senseless Slaying. Lucy and her daughters Maia (20) and Rina (15) shot in their vehicle traveling to Tiberias.

The murders broke the hearts of Israelis, already reeling from a wave of terror that had already claimed 15 lives. Maia and Lucy were the third set of siblings murdered by terrorists this year.

I do not think many of us will forget the shattering images as thousands gathered in Kfar Etzion cemetery, thousands more watched the coverage as Maia, and Rina were laid to rest. Their siblings clung to the covered bodies of their sisters. The grief was palpable throughout the country.

Millions around the world continued to pray for Lucy, their mother who was in a coma fighting for her life. We prayed that the family would be spared further grief. Lucy Dee passed away the next morning.

As news of Lucy Dee’s passing broke, the heavens rumbled and the rain started to fall over Israel. G-d was crying along with all of us. The tears, like the rain, have not stopped.

It has been said that The Almighty counts the tears of women. In the last few days, He has lost count. Lucy’s final selfless act was the donation of her organs to five people whose lives have now been saved.

Israel is a country where every loss is felt very personally. We are a country that may have many divisions and squabbles but when we grieve, it is together, regardless of political leanings, whether one is religious or secular or whatever divides us.

Summoning what I can only describe as superhuman strength, Rabbi Leo Dee, the grief-stricken father and husband addressed the global media and in his speech, appealed that “If you feel that it was wrong to shoot dead at close range 3 beautiful innocent young ladies in the prime of their lives please post a picture of you with an Israeli flag or just post a picture of an Israeli flag & share on social media.” April the 10th was designated #DeesDay, and Israeli flags proudly lit up social media platforms all around the world.

Terror strikes indiscriminately and following the brutal murders of Lucy, Maia and Rina, an Italian citizen was killed and several injured when a terrorist rammed his car into them the following Saturday night. Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome was killed. Once again, Israelis united to mourn his death – and stand in solidarity with Italy. The victims of these senseless murders were honoured at protests that night and Israelis laid flowers and lit candles at a makeshift memorial for Parini at the site of his murder. His coffin, draped in an Italian flag was sent back to Italy days later with a solemn ceremony of honour.

Tourists Targeted. Italian tourist Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome was killed when a terrorist rammed the car he had stollen into tourists on Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade.

If murdering our citizens with guns and cars was not enough, Iranian-sponsored proxies rained rockets down on Israel over the Passover weekend. Terror groups in the south of Lebanon fired 34 rockets into Israel, the highest escalation since the Second Lebanon war in 2006. The iron Dome intercepted the majority but a few managed to strike a chicken coup, land near a children’s playground and wounded several when shrapnel fell on cars. Iranian terror groups in Gaza fired 44 at Israel’s southern citizens, hitting a house and 6 rockets were fired from Syria. The IDF struck in all three areas in response.

These terror groups fired rockets towards Israeli civilians using the excuse that “the Al Aqsa is under threat”. In a carefully coordinated campaign, terror organisations cited “resistance against the Israeli attack on Al Aqsa”.

What happened inside the Mosque? Groups of masked Palestinian hooligans entered the holy site, armed with fireworks and rocks which they threw at police, disrupted peaceful prayer and desecrated the sanctity of the site. Police were forced to enter and quell them. This is the same tactic used in recent years to draw attention back to the Palestinian “cause” as the world turns further away from them. Incite, clash and attack. Rinse and repeat.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers had prayed at the Al Aqsa peacefully for three weeks during Ramadan but was it a coincidence these disruptions occurred during the start of Passover and Easter? I think not. If anyone cannot see that the clashes on Al Aqsa, designed for maximum media impact (it worked) along with terror attacks and rockets wasn’t carefully coordinated by Iran, then they really are naïve. This had Iran’s grubby fingerprints all over it.

The response from the international community and mainstream media was outrage at the audacity of Israel to dare safeguard the safety of worshipers at Al Aqsa. Glaringly missing was the condemnation of brutal terror attacks of Jews and Christians the same weekend. British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, admonished after his initial letter of condemnation, rewrote it to condemn the heinous acts.

Condemning Palestinian Terrorism. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s letter to British national Rabbi Leo Dee condemning terrorism faced by Israel and expressing condolences over the “brutal” murder of his wife and daughters. (Getty Images)

Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, no stranger to appalling antisemitic invective, tweeted this:

This has resulted in a renewed call for the UN Secretary General, to fire her.

Next week Israel will mark Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day. Every Israeli is acutely aware of the price paid by so many, both in the armed forces and victims of terror, for our freedom to live in our ancient and historical homeland. There is not a single family that has not been touched in some way by the icy grip of loss.

Next week Israelis will join to mourn. We will grieve for those we have lost and brutal theft of futures that were rich with promise. We cry endless tears as the sirens will wail and we will remain locked in our private thoughts and unique memories. We will stand silent and resolute.

And just like that, at 20h00 on Tuesday evening, as we ring in Independence Day, the mood of the country will change to that of celebration. This year Israel celebrates 75 years of modern independence in our ancient homeland. As many Israelis contemplate the Israel that we hope to have, we will have Lucy, Maia, Rina, Alessandro and all the victims of terror and brave soldiers who fell in our hearts. We live, not just for us but for them as well. May the memories of all we have lost be eternally bless

In full: Exclusive interview with father and husband of British-Israelis killed in West Bank, Rabbi Leo Dee.

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).


Israelis question the senseless murder of its civilians in public places

By Jonathan Feldstein

Throughout the streets of Efrat, the Judean mountain town of about 12,000 in which I live, on Sunday afternoon, thousands of people stood silently, in reverence and grief, to provide comfort and prayer.  We had been asked to line the streets as the Dee family drove from their home in my neighborhood to the cemetery just a few miles away, to bury Maia (20) and Rina (15) who had been murdered in a terrorist attack two days earlier. Entire families stood silently, even with children too young to know why they were standing there. 

Mother and Daughters Slain. Lucy Dee (left), Rina (middle) and Maia. (Pic: @LtColRichard)

Among the thousands of people, there were hand printed signs showing love and support, along with numerous Israeli flags of all sizes. When tragedy strikes a family and community like this, particularly an incident as unspeakable and horrific as this, we all bleed blue and white and are united in solidarity.

To get to the funeral a few miles from our home, we had to park the car a 30-minute walk from the cemetery. It’s estimated that 10,000 people showed up to pay their last respects. Along the way, people in the neighborhood closest to the cemetery set tables with cups and cold water for thousands of complete strangers.  Tragedy unites us.  Sadly this was not the first time. 

Hard to Accept. Reflected in the faces of the distraught mourners is the question, “Why, oh why?”

The funeral was like nothing I had ever experienced. Other families have been attacked and murdered. In 2011, five members of the Fogel family were butchered in their home, a mother, father, and three children including an infant. 

This year, two sets of brothers were also murdered in two separate terrorist attacks. 

The funeral home in our community is made for one burial at a time. There’s a stone slab on which the deceased’s shroud-covered body is placed before burial.  Our cemetery has never seen a double funeral of siblings, executed together, and then buried together.  As their sisters’ bodies were brought into the packed hall, a makeshift platform held the girls’ bodies as their sisters embraced them, and wept uncontrollably, one last time.

Mass Funeral. While mother Lucy was fighting for her life in hospital, the funeral in Efrat of her murdered daughters Rina and Maia was taking place.

I stood outside with my wife and children. Thousands of mourners surrounded the building in a big hug – family, friends, loved ones, and complete strangers. Loudspeakers were set up to broadcast the prayers and eulogies in the parking lot. Passover is a holiday to spend time with family, at the Seder meal and during the week with outings together.  It was at the outset of such a family outing that the Dee family was attacked.  Passover for them will forever be marked by loss and grief. It was surreal that our family’s outing for the day was the funeral of two young women from our neighborhood. It could have been us!

Tearful Eulogy. Rabbi Leo Dee recalls daughters Rina and Maia’s passion for life and dreams for the future; ‘How will I explain to Lucy what happened to our two precious gifts,’ he asks as mother remained in critical condition. She would shortly herself succumb to her wounds.

Amid uncontrollable sobbing and wailing, the girls’ father, Rabbi Leo Dee, found strength to speak meaningfully, trying to find in his daughters’ murder a way for uniting all Israel.  His three surviving children also spoke lovingly, but gut wrenchingly.  

One of the sisters wept as she said that their “sisters” WhatsApp group would now just be a private chat between the surviving two. Two of the siblings apologized that they were not able to protect their sisters, even wishing aloud that they would have taken the bullets for them.

As much as it was all unthinkable, Rabbi Leo Dee asked how he would tell his wife Lucy that their two daughters were gone when she woke up from her coma.  Lucy was in critical condition, but they had faith she would survive.  Sadly, less than 24 hours after her daughters were buried, Lucy succumbed to the wounds inflicted by the terrorists’ execution, despite the doctors doing everything possible to save her.  Now, it’s unimaginable that the family will have another funeral.

Maia and Rina. The Dee sisters were shot as their drove from their home in the settlement of Efrat to Tiberias.

In Hebrew, the word “why” is “lama”.  That was the word on everyone’s mind. Why?  One of the family members noted that “lama” is similar to “le ma,” in English “what for?”  The Dees and all of Israel are not just asking “Why?” but “what for,” as in what can come out of their murder, to find some comfort. It’s superhuman even to think that, much less articulate it, and to do so while burying their loved ones.

Community Comforts. Youth gather for prayer and song in Dee family’s hometown of Efrat after the murderous terror strike.(Photo: Efrat municipality)
Outpouring of Support. The Dee family home in Efrat. The family moved to Israel from the UK nine years ago.

Some mistakenly confuse terrorist murders like this as being political. They are not political; they are just evil. They are a product of a theology and ideology that sees Jewish presence in the Land of Israel as being illegitimate, hateful, and something to destroy, whether in Jerusalem, Efrat, the Jordan Valley, Tel Aviv, or anywhere else.  The day after the Maya and Rina Dee were murdered, another Arab terrorist ran down pedestrians on Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade. The terrorist didn’t care that he murdered an Italian tourist and injured several other foreign tourists. 

Terror in Tel Aviv. The car that drove into pedestrians on Tel Aviv’s seaside promenade killing Italian tourist Alessandro Parini, and injuring others. (Pic: AP)

I was interviewed by a Swedish media outlet after the funeral.  I noted that we are attacked and murdered just for being Jews in the Land of Israel.  I was asked if I was hopeful. I thought of the words of Israel’s former Prime Minister, Golda Meir, who famously said we will only have peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate ours. It’s still the truth. Their children are raised and brainwashed that Jews are a foreign occupier with no legitimacy here. They are raised to celebrate our being murdered, and honor the murderers. Evil.

Tourist Targeted. Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome, was killed in a terrorist attack on Tel Aviv’s beachfront. (Pic: Facebook)

On the way home from the funeral we drove past the sites where four other terror attacks took place, leaving eight murdered. In my own neighborhood, before driving past the Dee’s house, I drove by the home of a friend whose son was murdered in a terror attack 15 years ago, around the corner from where a man lived who was murdered four years ago, and past a park in memory of a soldier from our community who died in service.  

We also gave a ride home to a neighbor who, the aunt of one of the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014, less than a mile from the cemetery that we had just come from.  

It’s all very close to home. 

Too close.

As the Dee family grieves, and extended circles of mourners including friends, classmates, neighbors, the community, and Israel in general all struggle to understand “WHY” and “WHAT FOR,” the Genesis 123 Foundation is offering the opportunity for people around the world to send messages of love, support and condolences to the Dee family, and to donate to a fund that will provide grief counseling for the extended community.

The Dee family. (Photo: via Facebook) 

About the writer:

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

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


Can the South African experience be a guiding force? It could and should

By Ostern Tefo

Several anti-Israel activists, including BDS (Boycott Divest Sanctions) and others, boldly assert that Israel is an Apartheid state, when such allegations could not be further from the truth. Misguidedly, this has led to a South African foreign policy exclusively geared to favour one side – Palestine. As a result of erroneous perceptions, this has created a complex and divisive viewpoint.

Ruling oppressively in Gaza, Hamas has no interest in achieving peace in the sense of parties arriving at a mutually agreeable consensus. This not in its DNA. As long as this remains the case, the predicament of the Palestinian community must be regarded as the product of both Hamas’ rule over Palestinians in Gaza as well as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Conflicts can be resolved if both parties are willing to do so. The latter is well illustrated by the success of the South African liberation struggle which resulted in a successfully negotiated settlement that birthed democracy and above all, “peace and reconciliation”.

Raucous Road. A protest against Israel in South Africa in 2021. Are these the voices that shape South Africa’s foreign policy?
(AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

Israel has repeatedly attempted to initiate peace negotiations with the Palestinian leadership, but each time has been violently rebuffed. It would be inaccurate to compare the struggle for democracy in South Africa to the Palestinian struggle for independence. They are not remotely comparable. To say that “Israel is an Apartheid state” solely in an effort to delegitimize Israel, ends up delegitimizing the definition of Apartheid. It is an abuse of the word and hence an abuse of the people who suffered under Apartheid.

It is critical for a number of reasons that South Africa not only maintains but strengthens its diplomatic relations with Israel. South Africa is on its knees with:

– its rolling blackouts

– the world’s highest unemployment rate

– poor access to healthcare

– grey listing

– a murder rate that is higher than the death toll in Ukraine at present.

All this, when my country, South Africa, could greatly benefit from Israel’s rapidly expanding entrepreneurial economy with its emphasis on hi-tech innovation. South Africa could profit from a number of Israeli solutions which is presently being used to solve problems in much of African.

So, why not South Africa?

Take the South African healthcare system for starters, which is in tatters and compare it to Israel’s superlative National Healthcare System. There is no comparison!

Cultivated Hate. The venom by some in the South Africa Muslim community against Israel that influences the ANC today began years ago as seen in this protest against the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Every resident across Israel, whether in cities or small towns in the countryside is insured for quality healthcare under their National Health Insurance Law. While South African health care accessibility remains poor in rural areas and there are problems retaining physicians in the public system, surely South Africa could learn from the Israeli system.

Then there is Israel’s drip irrigation technology popular in much of Africa. Tailormade for dry terrain or lands plagued by unreliable water resources, the Israeli system allows villages to grow more food with less water, which not only dramatically improves food security but also economic development and financial independence. Israel, a far more desert country than South Africa with much less rainfall, is now water independent. South Africa should welcome the Israelis instead of driving them away!

A Light unto the Nations. Israeli engineering students from Tel Aviv University (TAU) bring solar power to a remote Tanzanian medical clinic, as part of their ongoing work in the village. (Photo via Facebook)

In terms of “loadshedding”, our all-consuming national catastrophe  of widespread national blackouts of electricity supply that began in 2007 and is worse today in 2023, why not speak to the Israelis who have revolutionised solar power and energy?

Instead of the South African parliament dumbly voting this March 2023 to downgrade ties with Israel, it should be doing the opposite. It should be strengthening not destroying ties!

Sad ‘State’ of Affairs. At a time when many African and Muslim countries are strengthening and deepening ties with the State of Israel for the benefit of everyone’s common interests, South Africa does the opposite as exhibited in its House of Parliament in Cape Town when it voted to downgrade its ties with the Jewish state.

Ultimately, we have to come to terms with the fact that Israel  cannot be prejudiced for defending its sovereign policies and the interests of its people, and Palestine must take responsibility for the attacks on Israel carried out by Hamas and other extremists. South Africa’s refusal to maintain full diplomatic relations with Israel motivated solely by the conflict, exposes its bias and prejudice because Palestine also commits a fair share of unprovoked aggressions against Israel.

To preserve the true legacy of the South African experience of reconciliation and share it with others that they too can benefit,  South Africa’s foreign policy should be consistent, and above all, its leaders need to display impartiality and non be biased.

‘Tapping’ into Israeli Ingenuity. Israeli Sivan Yaari of INNOVATION:AFRICA opens taps of clean water for the first time in this remote part of Tanzania. Innovation:Africa has completed over 880 solar and water installations, impacting over 4.2 million people (photo credit: INNOVATION:AFRICA)

Since COVID-19 broke out, the South African economy has continued to contract. In contrast, Israel’s economy is still expanding.

We have much to learn and gain by deepening our relations with Israel. South Africa stands to gain far more from a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with Israel than Israel does and yet, we behave abysmally towards Israel.  All to our detriment and suffering of our people.

Switched On Tanzania. An ‘illuminating’ lesson for South Africa – Nkaiti Medical Center is lit up at night for the very first time thanks to Israeli engineering students. (Photo via Facebook)

In essence, one cannot dismantle the fact that the benefits of the association outweigh the costs. Thus, it would be in the best interest of the South African to restore full relations with Israel and encourage partnerships to the mutual benefit of South African and Israelis.

About the writer:

Ostern Tefo has a BA in Political Studies and International relations and is currently studying for his LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. He serves as a coordinator at ‘Africans for Peace’, a collective of independent students, scholars and activists who bring an African lens to the global debate on peace and stability on the African continent.

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


A personal  perspective of Israelis living with terrorism on their streets

By Jonathan Feldstein

At 9:34pm Thursday, I received a strange message from my daughter in our family WhatsApp group:

For all those who asked, I am ok and alive

Since nobody asked, her sarcasm coupled with a little fear was eerily palpable.

I had been recording a podcast and didn’t know what she was talking about. None of us did. It seems that there was another terrorist attack, this time in central Tel Aviv.  I had not heard about it.

Three people were injured, one shot in the neck and as of this writing, is still in critical condition. One terrorist was killed on the spot but there are reports that another terrorist escaped. The last time this happened, much of Tel Aviv remained on lockdown until the terrorist was caught, as it was again.

I also didn’t know my daughter was in Tel Aviv. She is 26, I don’t need to know her every move.  But she lives in Jerusalem and we live just south of Jerusalem so, while not far away, we’re not often there. It’s a strange paradox in Israel that our kids have such wide freedom, so much so that we don’t feel the need to keep track of them 24/7 or on an unusually tight leash, yet we live in a society in which this could happen.

Devastation on Dizengoff. The scene following the terror attack on Dizengoff street, in central Tel Aviv, March 9, 2023. (Avshalom SaassoniFlash90)

My daughter was out at a restaurant when it happened, fifteen minutes away by foot on Ben Yehuda St. They were just about to leave to walk to Israel’s first 7-Eleven on Dizengoff Street, right before it happened.

Fifteen minutes after her first note, she wrote that she and her friends had decided to return to where they were staying and had arrived safely. Thank God!

Forty-five minutes after her first message, another daughter wrote, “There was a terrorist attack?”

Fifteen minutes later, an hour after the shooting attack happened, my younger son came into the room announcing another attempted terrorist attack in a community nearby. A Palestinian Arab terrorist entered the largely ultra-Orthodox community of Beitar Ilit by bus, left a package on the bus which began emitting smoke but didn’t explode, and then fled at the second bus stop into the city of some 50,000 residents.  The residents were put on lockdown while a bomb-squad arrived to detonate the explosive, accompanied by other security personnel who began the search for the terrorist.

While this was unfolding, several friends from overseas reached out to ask:

 “Are you guys OK?”. 

I assured them we were all fine, that my daughter who was fifteen minutes away from the attack was shaken but also fine. I explained that it’s sometimes surreal that things like this happen sometimes; that it’s close to home, sometimes closer, and sometimes  too close.  But we go about our lives.

Sitting Targets. Tables and chairs in disarray following lone gunman on a shooting spree at city restaurant on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv.

While we were watching the news unfold, three of my kids were out, going about life. I didn’t really think about it, but did want to stay up to be sure they got home safely. My youngest son went to a midnight movie with friends. Another daughter was out at a kosher Korean restaurant with her boyfriend (and didn’t bring me any), and my older son and his fiancé went to an engagement party for other friends.

One friend asked about mental health and trauma related issues, a logical and intuitive question. I explained that because of the reality of terror and the threat of terror and war that exists (though the impression is that Israel is unsafe like the wild-west which is not the case), people do suffer trauma but most just go about their lives. 

Trauma like this, particularly impacts terror victims and families of terror victims, military and former military and at-risk youth who live in areas that might be particularly unsafe and/or come from homes where they have no parents or parents who are unable to care for them. These children need support. It’s one of the important projects that the Genesis 123 Foundation funds, to empower “at-risk” youth so that they can pursue  – with security and confidence – successful lives.

Terror in Tel Aviv. One minute there are revelers enjoying the nightlife of Dizengoff street in central Tel Aviv, the next police at the scene of a terror attack on March 9, 2023. (Avshalom Saassoni/Flash90).

Both military and private civilian security in communities like mine which abut Palestinian Arab communities, go on high alert in situations like this as well. First responders must be trained in defense, able to confront a live terror incident, and take care of anyone injured from an attack before EMS personnel arrive. Providing resources for these rapid response civilian security teams saves lives, I know this, because my son-in-law is in one of the local teams and has actually saved people’s lives.  It’s a reason that this is also a project that the Genesis 123 Foundation is proud to fund.

Friday morning, while running errands before the onset of, Shabbat (the Sabbath), I drove by Beitar Ilit, just 15 minutes away from my house by car. I went to the bakery where “Abed” and I always greet one another, as we did again. In another shop, another Palestinian Arab worker helped me professionally and politely. All as if nothing had changed.  Maybe it hadn’t.  Maybe this is just the norm: on one day others try to kill us and the next day we’re being polite and respectful.

Targeting Busses. Israeli security forces scan the settlement of Beitar Illit, following an infiltration of a Palestinian terrorist who placed a bomb on a passenger bus that caught fire but failed to explode on March 10, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

All this comes on the heels of other civil strife in Israel that has been adding to the stress of increased terror attacks. Earlier in the day there were country wide protests over proposed sweeping judicial reforms. Roads were blocked to and at Ben Gurion airport, and main arteries in Tel Aviv.  Hours later, Tel Aviv’s roads were clear of protestors, replaced by police and military securing the area and hunting for the terrorist who got away.

This is a taste of life here. There are injured people and their families who need your prayers. There are others for whom this creates trauma. And if these don’t hit too close to home, the rest of us just try to go about our lives.

About the writer:

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

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


A reputation of tough and tenacious, SA Rugby loses its spine

By Lennie Lurie

In an unprecedented vote on the 6th November 1962,  uniting nations on both sides of the Iron Curtain, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, condemning South African Apartheid policies and called for the imposition of economic sanctions on South Africa. While nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom were at first reluctant to impose sanctions, by the late 1980s, both countries and 23 other nations had passed laws placing various trade sanctions on South Africa.

An immediate arms embargo was followed by a trade embargo which played havoc with the burgeoning vehicle production factories in the eastern Cape province. Despite the large numbers of black employees who were dismissed as a result of production cut backs, they heartily approved of the economic sanctions even though their income was grievously affected. Anything which would contribute to the removal of the cruel, wicked and  humiliating racial policies of Apartheid was encouraged and the black workers were prepared to bear the load of the economic boycott as it affected them as well.

When it was realised that the SA Government was not bending under the economic boycott, a cultural boycott was imposed on the Republic. No foreign entertainers and singers visited SA and no South Africans performers would be welcome overseas. The iconic and celebrated SA singer of authentic African music, Miriam Makeba, who gained international fame with her popular “click” song, wholly supported the cultural boycott, which made a strong impression on South African artists and entertainers.

Miriam Makeba – Click Song (Qongqothwane) (Live)

Here again, the resolute and determined SA government remained steadfast in the maintenance and implementation of the Apartheid system.

Finally, it was decided to impose a sport boycott on all South African sportsmen and women preventing the proud ‘Springbok’ teams – notably in rugby and cricket – from competing abroad as well as officially banning any overseas countries and foreign sports team from touring South Africa. And this, dear friends, was the final straw which broke the back of the Apartheid system!

Economic sanctions against South Africa placed a significant pressure on the SA government. The cultural boycott made SA unwelcome overseas and isolated the country from foreign entertainers and performers. The real fear that the Springboks would no longer compete against the sports teams of other countries proved to be a hardship (particularly on the rugby field!) that even the most fervent white nationalist could bear.

In 1990, President Frederik Willem (F.W.) de Klerk recognized the economic unsustainability of the burden of international sanctions and felt the isolation of his country in all aspects of culture and sport. Reluctantly but finally and unreservedly, he released the nationalist leader Nelson Mandela and unbanned the African National Congress (ANC) that Mandela led. De Klerk and Mandela together guided the country to democratic elections in 1994, with Mandela as president. When Mandela was asked if the sanctions, especially the sports boycott, helped to bring an end to the apartheid system, Mandela replied “Oh, there is no doubt!”

Can’t take the Heat. While players from Israeli rugby team ‘Tel Aviv Heat’ are seen here in London celebrating a victory in November 2022, they will not be seen in South Africa this March after their invitation to compete was withdrawn by the SA Rugby Union following pressure from the BDS coalition.

Who can ever forget the emotional scene when Nelson Mandela congratulated the Springbok rugby captain, Francois Pienaar on winning the 1995 World Rugby Cup in Ellis Park. Rugby was as dear to Mandela as any white South African rugger lover – he never forgot the pressure of the international sports boycott on his country and how it contributed in breaking the vile and contemptible Apartheid system.

True Colours. Disinviting Israeli rugby team to participate in South Africa in 2023 is a far cry from the outreach projected by President Nelson Mandela and Springbok captain, Francois Pienaar at the historic 1995 Rugby World Cup.

In light of the above historical review of the sports boycott on South Africa, it is therefore most surprising and deeply disappointing to read that the South African Rugby Union (SARU), had on the 3rd February, 2023, rescinded its invitation, given in August, 2022, to have the Israeli rugby team Tel Aviv Heat compete in the 2023 Mzansi Challenge tournament – also known as the Currie Cup First Division, which is scheduled to start on the 24th March with teams from Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe and six SA provinces.     

The Tel Aviv Heat team includes a number of South Africans and its coach, Kevin Musikanth, was born in South Africa.

Happier Days. Launched as Israel’s first professional rugby team in July 2021, Tel Aviv Heat is seen here celebrating a post-match at Loftus Versfeld at the end of a magical South African Tour hosted by the Blue Bulls in 2022.

The SARU President Mark Alexander stated that it had “listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups” and took the step “to avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division.” A more accurate and honest reason being that the SARU bowed under pressure and alleged threats from supporters of the South African BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanction) Coalition.

Shameful Withdrawal. Under pressure, Mark Alexander SA Rugby president rescinds invitation to Israeli team, Tel Aviv Heat.

This cowardly and shameful volte-face decision by the SARU is not only insulting to the Israeli Tel Aviv Heat rugby team but it is a despicable slap-in-the-face to the sporting image of South Africa which knows only too well the historical background of imposing a sports boycott on a fellow sporting nation or team. To comprehend that the all-powerful SARU has cowardly kowtowed to insidious pressures and / or threats of the SA BDS Coalition, an anti-Israeli group of South Africans who are known as talkers, not doers, is all the more pathetic. It is indeed a sad day when South African rugby has lost its independence, objectivity and neutrality in matters relating to sport and becomes a spineless puppet manipulated by an anti-Semitic group, simply pulling on distant strings!

Let SARU bow its head in shame in stooping so low as to callously affront the proud and heroic image of that South African leader, known to all his friends as ‘Madiba’, who had the courage to welcome and support a sport boycott as a means of exerting pressure on a government that oppressed his people under the scourge of Apartheid.

Not long ago, the University of Cape Town, again under pressure from BDS student supporters, decided to impose a boycott on all Israeli universities and colleges. UCT soon realized that it had more to lose than gain by such an ill-advised and self-defeating act and promptly withdrew its boycott threat after it was inundated by letters from former students informing the UCT council that they would discontinue all financial aid should UCT enact the boycott. Frankly, UCT could be in greater need of ground breaking Israeli academic discoveries and inventions than vice versa!

Thumbs Up to Thumbs Down. Israel’s SA-born rugby coach Kevin Musikanth who helped get together Israel and the UAE to play a historic match for the Sons of Abraham trophy got the thumbs down for his Tel Aviv team the ‘Tel Aviv Heat’ to compete in his native South Africa.

Likewise, SARU has already lost face in the eyes of many Israelis and probably Israeli supporters world-wide. Making excuses about “competition becoming a source of division” when it is well-known that the BDS threat was the real reason, places SARU as a pathetic and weak-willed organization, susceptible to the crudest form of verbal pressure.

Even the image of the proud Springbok emblem has been irrevocably tarnished and sullied by the cowardly collapse of SARU.

One can only exclaim: How the mighty have fallen!

About the writer:

A B.Sc. graduate in Economics and Geology from the University of Cape Town (UCT), Lennie may be the only volunteer from abroad who was granted permission to leave his group on kibbutz during the 1967 Six Day War to rejoin his paratroop brigade that he had served with years before following his matriculation in Cape Town. In Israel, Lennie has worked as an Export Manager for some of the country’s major food manufacturers and chemical companies as well as an independent consultant in Export Marketing guiding many small Israeli businesses to sell their products and services in the world-wide market. As a result of a work accident in 1995, Lennie made a career change and became an independent English teacher working mainly with hi-tech companies and associated with universities and colleges in the north of 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).


SA Rugby Board withdraws invitation to Israeli team – the Tel Aviv Heat

By Pamela Ngubane

For those who know little about the game of rugby, what’s ‘in play’ here, is less about the sport and more about the principle! The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has withdrawn an invitation to an Israeli rugby team – Tel Aviv Heat – to play in the 2023 Mzansi Challenge tournament in South Africa due to the objections of several “stakeholders”.

Refusing to play Ball. An invitation for Tel Aviv Heat – the Israel-based Super Rugby Cup franchise –  to participate in a provincial tournament in South Africa has been withdrawn by SA Rugby. (Photo by Levan Verdzeuli/Getty Images)

Who are these “stakeholders” and what is their agenda?

While the SARU tried to explain that they had “listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups”, it failed to consult with either the Tel Aviv Heat or the Israel Rugby Union, or even the Israeli Embassy in South Africa prior to their mean-spirited decision.

It simply failed. It failed both procedurally and morally.

Scheduled to play in the tournament with four other international teams and six teams from South African provinces, Tel Aviv  Heat was informed that the invitation had been withdrawn!

Let me make it clear that despite the publicity surrounding this development, the SARU decision disinviting Tel Aviv Heat from the upcoming Mzansi Challenge, does NOT represent the South Africa people. What it does represent is the shameless bullying of the Jew-hating Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) movement resorting to, when they fail to convince anyone of the lie that Israel is a state perpetrating Apartheid.

‘Bokke’ on the Run. Tarnishing the Springbok image, SA Rugby announced that it had withdrawn an invitation to the Tel Aviv Heat to play in the Mzansi Challenge. Photo: SA Rugby website

South Africans across the board are increasingly experiencing the Jewish state as a partner for development and progress, as it consistently shows in its conduct when relating to other nations and peoples.

Just this week, South Africans, along with the rest of the world, have witnessed the work of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), medics from Israel’s world-renowned Sheba Medical Centre, and countless Jewish and Israeli volunteers, in Turkey and Syria, where thousands need aid in the aftermath of the recent devastating earthquakes. And this is despite that Turkey has had a rocky relationship with Israeli in recent years and that Syria remains technically at war with Israel. That is the nature of Israel – it responds to people in need.

This selflessness brings to mind the words of a young Jewish woman conscript in the IDF (Israel Defence Force)  I interviewed. When I asked her what Israel meant to her, she replied that no matter how people behave towards Israel and the Jews, “my country” will always lend a helping hand anywhere it is needed. She said this altruistic attitude was a part of her Jewish identity and that no amount of the world’s cruelty would change this about her people. This tenacious spirit has won the admiration of the friends and enemies of the Jews over the years.

Heat Wave in Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv Heat (in blue) has been a success, both on and off the pitch, as it helps reignite the spirit of rugby throughout Israel.(photo credit: TSAHI REIZEL/COURTESY)

As the world seriously begins to seek to overcome the challenges that divide humanity and hamper our progress, Israel and the Jewish people are being recognised as “a light to the nations”. This is not just for their brilliant technological and scientific innovations and breakthroughs, but most importantly because they are willing to share this knowledge with all who are eager to listen and learn.

Africa in particular is embracing Israel as a partner for development who will not only advise but teach us how to recalibrate our thinking so we can ‘tackle’ – using rugby parlance – our problems with the aim to solving them permanently.

Israel’s willingness to get ‘into the ruck’ – again borrowing another rugby stratagem – with us in the fields of agriculture, water management, ICT, medicine, and entrepreneurship is why 44 out of 55 members of the African Union (AU) maintain increasingly strong diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

Therefore, while the cynical BDS celebrates Tel Aviv Heat’s exclusion from the 2023 Mzansi Challenge, they will not be able to keep South Africans and Africans from seeing the truth about Israel in the long run. While BDS insist on fighting against the moves by African states to normalise relations with the Jewish state, their efforts will grow increasingly futile as Israel’s humanitarian achievements surpass these bigoted efforts to undermine Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.

Joel Joins In. South African rugby legend, Joel Stransky joins in the fray in criticizing the SA Rugby Board decision.

As I continue to work in the field of Israel advocacy, I daily draw inspiration from the incredible contribution the nation of Israel has made to humanity since its founding over 3500 years ago.

While the history of this tiny nation is replete with dire experiences of national persecution and despair, there have always been outsiders who have watched in awe as the Jewish people emerged stronger after every trial.

It is my hope that Israel and the Jewish people will see these admiring friends shining brighter and cheering louder than the hateful bigots that try to tear them down.

So while the South African Rugby Union seemed to indicate that its intention behind its decision to withdraw the invitation to Tel Aviv Heat was “to avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division”, it will only, in the words of the statement from Tel Aviv Heat, “sow further division in South Africa and beyond by bolstering voices dedicated to vilify, demonize, and censor those who do not share their views.”

Let me conclude that when Israel’s friends become more fearless and vocal in her defence, we will see that far more people stand with Israel than against her and the Jewish people across the world.

The Plane Truth. Contrary to the lies South African BDS spreads about the Jewish state, here is the real Israel as it sends search and rescue equipment to Turkey in the wake of the devastating earthquake. What contribution has South Africa made to either Turkey or Syria besides ‘sending’ condolences?

About the writer:

A Social Science Honours graduate, Pamela Ngubane is a history teacher who was recently appointed as the General Manager of SAFI (South African Friends of 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).


A good question for both Jews and Arabs in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem

By Jonathan Feldstein

In case you missed it, just over a week ago Israel suffered back- to-back terror attacks during Shabbat (the Sabbath) leaving seven dead and several more injured, some seriously. I was grateful for the many friends reaching out from all over the world, anxiously enquiring how we were. This has happened before, so my response was to write a series of updates of “How We Are”.

Taken by Terrorism. Only 14 years of age, Asher Natan, one of the victims of the terror massacre in Jerusalem’s Neve Ya’akov neighborhood. (Courtesy)

Palestinian Arab terror in Israel is not unique, and in the past year it’s been on the increase. However, there was something particularly disturbing about these recent attacks. Part of the reason that terror attacks like these can take place is that Jerusalem is a mixed Jewish/Arab city, roughly two thirds and one third respectively.  Jews and Arabs interact widely with virtually no impediments. It’s the norm to see Jews and Arabs shopping together, working together, on public transit, in the hospitals as patients and medical personnel, and much more.  So an Arab in a Jewish neighborhood is not new, and rarely suspicious. 

Of course, all this debunks the lie of Israel practicing Apartheid against Arabs, but that matters little to Israel bashers when it’s Jews being attacked and killed!

For a few days at least, the attacks were an explosive topic of conversation. Terror attacks don’t take place every day.  The norm is the intermingling of Arabs and Jews more than a terror attack, though the threat of an attack exists all the time. Nevertheless, these shook up many Israeli Jews maybe because:

–   they took place on Shabbat, the day of rest or

–   of the relatively high number of casualties or

–  the bigger attack took place outside a synagogue  or

–  one of the Arab terrorists was just 13!

No Kidding! Out to kill, this was the gun used by a 13-year-old Palestinian in a shooting attack near Jerusalem’s Old City on January 28, 2023. (Israel Police)

And then again, maybe because for months now, there’s been a steady wave of terror attacks leaving dozens of Israelis dead and wounded, and each one takes its toll and tension is compounded. 

In addition to being in the news in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the attacks were the inescapable subject of many individual conversations.

Of course, there is the grief for an among the families of the victims, that played out on national media in ways that were very personal and heart wrenching. And then there immediately followed the inevitable exchanges of conversations, discussions and questioning between friends and colleagues. In speaking with one friend who works in a setting where many Arab and Jews work together, there was a sense of tremendous stress. My friend didn’t know whether her Arab colleagues were celebrating the deaths, or whether any of them might be the next terrorist to attack, either at her place of work or somewhere else. A colleague who noted that her demeanor was not her normal friendly engaging self, asked if she was okay. She opened up candidly. They discussed their mutual stress and concerns. What is noteworthy is that my friend is an Israeli Jew, and her colleague who expressed concern is a Palestinian Arab.

Another friend expressed tremendous tension in her academic setting which also has a demographic mix of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. On any average day, it was not uncommon for her to engage in intense conversations with her Arab colleagues; sometimes leading to understanding, while other times to prickly friction. But this was no ordinary day!

Driven to Kill. 21-year-old Alqam Khayri, the suspected gunman in a Jerusalem terror shooting on January 27, 2023, that killed seven people, is seen in an undated photo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. (Social media)

On the day immediately following the terrorist attacks, my friend reported that there was very little interaction between the Arabs and Jews.  The Arabs largely kept to themselves speaking in Arabic rather than engaging their Jewish peers. The same was true with the Jews who were fearful and even angry that terrorist attacks take place at all, much less are celebrated with candy and cake being distributed in Arab communities.

Probably thousands of conversations like this took place with the undertone from an Israeli side that incidents like these make us feel unsafe even around Arab colleagues and peers with whom we interact regularly. In the news the same week, an Israeli Jewish woman reportedly protested being put in a maternity ward room with an Israeli Arab woman. Tension is thick.

Two days after the attack, I was pulling into a gas station to fill up my car. Ahead of me was a brand-new Mercedes E200 convertible.  Stunning.  It also had green and white Palestinian Authority license plates. At the pump, I commented to its owner, whose name I leant was Mohammed that he had a beautiful car.  He smiled proudly.  I asked him how much it cost. Also with pride he responded:

300,000 shekels.” 

That’s about $90,000.

I posted this interaction with a picture of the car on my social media, noting that despite the myth used to blame Israel for an array of suffering of Palestinian Arabs, not all Palestinian Arabs are poor refugees. This attracted a range of comments from calling Mohammed a terrorist (after all, where else would he get the money), and calling me out for playing on anti-Arab stereotypes.  I pushed back, sorry that anyone would read that into my comments, but that in this case, I tried to poke a hole in some of the misperceptions that people have about Israelis and their relations Palestinian Arabs.

Often, when people have biases, they cannot consider anyone else’s position.  That’s too bad. I also noted that it was too bad that my critics missed the human moment of me engaging Mohammed and his proud response. It’s easy to overlook and disregard the part about the Orthodox Jewish Israeli “settler” initiating a civil human conversation with a Palestinian Arab over his prized motor vehicle. 

Conversing over a Convertible. Despite the tension and suspicions following terror attack, this brand-new Mercedes E200 convertible caught the attention of the writer to engage with Mohammed its proud owner at a gas station.

My conversation also debunks the misperception that there’s apartheid here; that Jews and Arabs don’t and can’t get along and that we dehumanize them. Someone unaware, or unwilling to be honest, would be surprised at the frequency of civil interaction and basic human respect and decency that really is the rule even where I live in the Judean mountains.

Despite the very real tension that people were naturally feeling in the wake of the Shabbat terror attacks that left Jews dead and injured, the personal engagement as I encountered, continues. How are we? It’s complicated.

About the writer:

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

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