Penetration to the inner sanctum of Iran’s leadership

By Catherine Perez-Shakdam

(*Courtesy of the American Centre for Levant Studies)

With fiery conviction, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said to me, “When we say Death to America we refer to a system sold to the Zionist cause, when we say Death to Israel we refer to the sons and daughters of Jacob who raised their hands in apostasy against our great prophets and followed the path of Satan as they toiled to steal Muslim lands and enslave our communities. Their bloodline is perverse, marked for destruction by G-d. We must obey the divine law.”

His words dripped with disdain and hatred …

The man’s determination was palpable, the implication of his words terrible. In a few words Khamenei had encapsulated the nature of the regime.

Turning away was no longer an option!


Few have ventured into the inner sanctum of Iran and reaped the benefits of an up-close observation of the regime’s machinations. The Islamic Republic, operating within a highly compartmentalized structure, functions on a strict need-to-know basis, selectively divulging information that serves its objectives. No confidence is squandered; every move is meticulously calculated and premeditated. This framework ensures that any accidental breach remains confined. Such pyramidal design also permits the regime’s elite to guarantee ideological continuity, in the sense that not all its loyalists are necessarily required to believe in the revolutionary project to the extent they do, thus insulating the Leadership. For a regime like Iran, where secrecy and paranoia reign supreme, admitting outsiders into the fold is not a casual affair, unless driven by sheer necessity.

The Iranian regime’s imperious craving for validation, its yearning to court fresh voices and expand its ideological influence, particularly in Yemen, would prove to be its Achilles’ heel. As the regime worked to develop a new asset to its ideology, few could have anticipated that it was I who in fact sought to learn of their agenda and learn of their modus operandi so that it could be defeated.

If my initial contact with the Islamic regime had been by chance, my ascent to the heights of Iran’s revolutionary structure would be by design. Presented with an opportunity to break into the Islamic Republic, I was determined to play the game as long as it would take, for as far as I could go.

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran


I traversed the borders of Iran unaccompanied. No one compelled me, coerced me, or orchestrated a plan by foreign powers to infiltrate the regime and gain access to critical information. By the time 2011 arrived, I had witnessed an ample display of Iran’s pernicious influence in the Middle East, specifically in Yemen, leaving me no choice but to acknowledge Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the mastermind behind the shadow of terror. Penetrating the regime is not a venture to be undertaken lightly; it requires assuming substantial risks. One must be invited in – any other approach would raise suspicion and lead to devastating consequences.  The regime must make the approach, not the other way around.

Thus, when the opportunity presented itself, I elected to follow suit — fully aware that my endeavor held no guarantees of fruition. Nevertheless, I remained willing to undertake the endeavor.

This journey into Iran’s corridors of power commenced in Yemen in 2002, three years after my marriage to a Sunni Muslim Yemeni man. Amidst the heartland of Arabia, I found myself face-to-face with the Axis of Resistance — an alliance that, surprisingly, witnessed the transformation of a nation seemingly impervious to Tehran’s influence. In just over a decade, Yemen shed its identity and donned the colors not of Shia Islam but of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

While the Iranian regime purports to adhere to the principles of Twelver Shia Islam, its clerical class has adeptly rebranded and, more pertinently, exploited it, weaponizing faith and subjugating its practitioners to their whims. Iran’s unique brand of Shia Islam exhibits the traits of a cult revolving around martyrdom, jihad, and territorial expansion.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini boldly declared, “Islam says: Whatever good exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! Hundreds of other [Qur’anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.”

Once a client-state of Saudi Arabia, Yemen underwent a seismic shift, aligning itself with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and allowing its ideologues to rewrite its history to the extent that the Yemen of today is unrecognizable.

I encountered my now ex-husband, a Sunni Muslim man from Yemen, through mutual acquaintances in the United Kingdom in late 1998 as I went to pursue my studies. We married in early 1999. Coming from a predominantly secular Jewish French background, burdened by a longing for belonging and a yearning to create the familial unit I had always craved, I dove headfirst, oblivious to the warnings that our cultural and religious differences, would eventually render our marriage unsustainable.

My first visit to Yemen in 2002 was for a family gathering. Our return to the UK would be short-lived as upon insistence from his family my husband decided we ought to resettle there, and if not forever, at least for a while. Unable to refuse, I followed.

Sana’a, Yemen

The two years spent in Yemen proved to be a complex experience. Confronted with an alien world I knew nothing about, I witnessed the deep-seated antipathy harbored by many Yemenis towards Jews and Israel. Plagued by Islamic radicalism, Yemen had already become a breeding ground for violent ideologues, each espousing a vehement hatred for all things Western while positioning Islam as the path to salvation. This impoverished Arabian nation teetered on the precipice amidst conflicting religious and political currents. While few could have foreseen Iran’s success in claiming it as its own — the writing was already on the proverbial wall.

Even then, Iran was acknowledged as a dangerous power, an unwanted influence that needed to be purged from Yemen’s society. Despite initial resistance to the ideological allure of the Islamic Republic, Yemen succumbed, absorbed into Tehran’s Axis of Resistance through the ascendance of the Houthi movement and the reconfiguration of Yemen’s socio-political landscape. Tehran, a master manipulator, had honed its skill over the decades, adeptly exploiting nations’ vulnerabilities to vie for influence.

As the poorest and most unruly country on the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen remains a coveted prize for regional powers, owing to its strategic geography. Not only does Yemen provide access to the World Oil Route, but it also opens gateways to Asia and Africa — a geopolitical dream for the Islamic Republic as its leadership endeavors to incorporate more Arab capitals into its Axis of Resistance, thereby reshaping the region to align with its vision.

Previously under the patronage of Saudi Arabia and Gulf powers, Yemen had remained impervious to the Ayatollahs’ influence until the Arab Spring and the downfall of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The unrest of 2011 shattered the established order, paving the way for the most improbable contenders: the Houthis.

Regarded as outcasts within Yemen’s political and tribal spheres, the Houthis emerged in the 1990s on the fringes of Yemeni society. Shunned, derided, and relegated to the highlands, the Houthis faced insurmountable odds. It was only through Iran’s meticulous planning and the strategic appointment of several of its operatives to guide the group that Abdel Malek Al Houthi was able to march upon Sana’a, Zaidi Islam was absorbed into Khameneiism, and Saudi Arabia found itself compelled to wage war against its neighboring state in a bid to contain the escalating threat to its religious and territorial integrity.

The Puppet Masters

Two men had been put in charge of breaking through Yemen’s defenses: Hassan Al Emad, the man Saudi Arabia refers to as the Khomeini of Yemen, and Nader Talebzadeh, Iran’s chief propagandist –  both men who would ensure my rise within Iran regime’s ranks would meet no resistance. They both imagined they could use me as a pawn in their chess game.

Hassan Al Emad, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran

As fate would have it, Al Emad was a close family friend of my ex-husband, even though their respective ideology and political views could not have been more polarized. The son of a formerly affluent Yemeni family, my ex-husband had retained many close connections to Yemen’s leading class – something Al Emad was keen to utilize for his benefit.

Back then, Al Emad knew nothing of my origins other than the story my in-laws had told their entourage – that of a French girl who had married their son and agreed to embrace their way of life and, above all, toe the line.

Upon my request, we returned to the UK in early 2005, a few months after my daughter’s birth. I met Al Emad again at a family gathering in 2009, following our second attempt at settling in Yemen.

Following encouragement by Al Emad, who I would soon learn was a well-known IRGC operative in Yemen, I would be slowly taught the ideology of the Islamic Republic, first through history books, later through a crash course in the genesis of the Islamic Revolution and the ideals it claimed to embody – that of liberation and empowerment against tyranny. It is then that I commenced my ascent into Iran’s network of influence.

Such proximity to Al Emad and time would play in my favor. Add to that my curiosity for Shia Islam and a passion for history and geopolitics and I was quickly identified as a potential convert to Tehran’s ideology, someone who could be manipulated and exploited to spread the regime’s words among Yemen’s elite – potentially western media too. 

We would leave again for the UK on the back of the Arab Spring and the toppling of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in late 2012.

If Al Emad made Tehran pay attention, offering his religious clout, Nader Talebzadeh’s recommendation would open the gates. A close friend to Ayatollah Khameini, the regime’s most trusted advisor and communication strategist, Nader’s influence was greater than that of the IRGC’s most high-ranking commanders.

What he said went. Whoever he brought would be granted access, as it was assumed his vetting was the only one that mattered. He controlled the Leadership’s propaganda campaign and was its architect.

On the Right: Nader Talebzadeh

Nader loved to collect people. He would hone talents and build careers, ensuring that loyalties would be secured. I was just another project, a valuable witness of Yemen’s Revolution, a Westerner whose voice would be listened to. My grasp of the region’s dynamics made me a useful tool – that and the fact that I had access to actors within Yemen the regime could not reach. He was to become my mentor.

My ‘education’ would take place over several years – opportunities to demonstrate my utility would be staged and ‘friendships’ arranged so that I could be kept and my thoughts nurtured. Looking back, knowing what I know now of the regime’s modus operandi, I can see how I was being tested and my utility analyzed before I could be let through various circles of influence.

My induction into the regime’s higher echelons came through Lebanon when Marwa Osman, a self-proclaimed Hezbollah supporter, invited me as a political commentator on Etejah TV in early 2015. Within a few years, I became Iran’s favorite Yemeni expert, featured as I was in interviews for Mehr News, Press TV, Tehran Times, Fars News, etc. I was also handpicked by RT (Russia Today) to write OpEds and appear on its programs. Nader Talebzadeh had of course a hand in this.

Pictures of Alexander Dugin taken during the Arbaeen pilgrimage  in Najaf in 2017, Iraq. Alexander Dugin is President Vladimir Putin’s senior advisor and chief propagandist

A close friend to Alexander Dugin, one of President Vladimir Putin’s close advisors and chief ideologue, Talebzadeh had curated a network of people he could use to promote his ideas and act as a powerful echo chamber over the years. The two men were so close that only a year would go by without them meeting or traveling together.

Iran’s ties with Russia are far deeper and more diverse than many believe, as the two powers run exchange programs, allowing appointed experts to lend their clout across their respective networks so that ideas would be disseminated and certain narratives consolidated. This process also allows Tehran to identify talent and advance careers when and if needed.

Kim Sharif – Director of Human Rights for Yemen and cousin of Abdel Malek Al Houthi (Yemen)

In 2015 I was approached by the Houthis’ information bureau. Kim Sharif, a cousin of Abdel Malek Al Houthi in the UK and an IRGC asset, asked me to attend a series of events she was organizing in the UK with such groups as Code Pink and Stop The War. An affiliate of the Iranian regime, Kim Sharif had developed close ties to many Iran-friendly outposts in the UK, namely the Islamic Centre of England, the Islamic College, the Khoei Foundation, and various Shia media outlets. While the Khoeis are not per se part of the regime, their connection to Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq places them within Tehran’s sphere of influence. Many of the events the foundation hosts, for example, bring together many of the regime’s loyalists including the clerical class. The Khoeis exist within the Islamic Republic‘s ecosystem – and willingly or not remain instrumental in propagating its ideology.

Within a few weeks, Sharif would introduce me to the entire network, positioning me at the heart of Tehran’s network of influence in the UK. I would learn of the many operatives and ‘friends’ the Leadership owned and controlled – it most certainly still does.

As 2016 came rolling in, I became a known face in Iranian media, a favorite on Press TV, and a trusted mouthpiece for the regime. As my profile grew, so did my access within the regime. My position would be sealed one Sunday morning when Khamenei’s office asked me to contribute to the Leadership’s website. Featuring on Khamenei’s official website indicates that one is officially a valued asset above all suspicion. My first task would be to interview George Galloway, the former British MP, himself a favorite among Iran’s loyalists for his hatred of Israel.

A presenter on Al Mayadeen, a TV outlet in line with Hezbollah and the IRGC, Galloway would invite me to several of his shows as a commentator on Yemen first, and finally, Iran.

In early February, Al Emad arranged for me to meet with the leadership of the Dawa party (Iraq), yet another political asset of the regime. This meeting would open the doors to Ayatollah Sistani’s camp in Iraq and allow me to witness the weight and extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq.


Conference Hall of the Palestine Conference 2017 – Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran 

Later that month, I was brought to Tehran to attend the ‘Palestine Conference’. There were members of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, the Dawa Party, Al Wefaq, the PMU, and other groups totally sold on Khamenei’s ideology. This first journey to the heart of the regime would be a whirlwind. Over four days, I would come to meet the who’s who of the regime: Nader Talebzadeh, Professor Mohammed Marandi, President Hassan Rouhani, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Ali Larijani – countless meetings were arranged with countless faces.

It was then that I was granted an audience with Khamenei himself, a day after I had first officially met Nader Talebzadeh, and de facto made my entry into the regime. Little did I know at the time that Nader had watched me from afar, carefully monitoring my work while encouraging the regime’s media to give me ‘airtime’. As with most things in Iran, the decision to take me to Ayatollah Khamenei was taken over a shisha [hookah] in a cafe not too far from the conference hall. As I sat with whom I believed to be high-ranking members of the IRGC – people’s reactions to the group were enough of a giveaway for me to deduct they were indeed intelligence, and if not that, high enough within the regime’s ranks to wield great influence, I was asked:

If you could request anything what would it be?”

As I requested a ring from Khamenei –  a token most loyalists value above all, I was told:

What about meeting the Imam in person?”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – this picture was given as a token of appreciation on the back of the meeting with Khamenei as a ‘souvenir’.

I was given 15 minutes to get my things together. I was under strict instructions not to take my phone with me or to have any sharp object on me – including the pin many women use to secure their headscarves. I was to done the traditional Iranian Chador – one had been delivered to me earlier that day. As I was ushered in a four-wheel drive a woman went over the rules, impressing on me that there could be no mishaps, no faux-pas made when addressing the Leadership … not that I needed to be told twice.

Speak only if asked a direct question, do not stare, do not offer your hands to greet anyone, do not smile too overtly, sit still and keep your hands rested on your knees, do not ask impertinent questions, do not offer your opinion unless asked to, do not speak directly at him but rather your interpreter, and whatever you do, do not share any of the details of this meeting on social media or anyone within your entourage.”

We entered a complex with a large courtyard. On the right of us was an annex which I was told was where guests were received. I entered … before me was a room with bare walls, safe for a few pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei – they hung low and crooked. Bright neon lights on the ceiling added to the austerity and dilapidated feeling of the room – not a setting you would imagine meeting with a head of state. On the floor were tattered rugs and cushions running alongside the walls.

A chair was brought in. I was told to sit on the floor and wait. He came through a door located at the very far end of the room with an entourage of men. As I stood up to greet him, which I did by bowing my head as previously instructed, the woman who had accompanied me quickly waved her hand at me, so that I would sit back down. I did.

His voice was soft and he spoke slowly. He seemed smaller and frailer than I remembered him during the conference’s opening ceremony. Our interaction was an odd one.

He spoke to me of Imam Mahdi and the responsibility he had, as his servant to precipitate his return. He told me of the End of Days and the foretold battle that would end with the fall of Christianity and the death of all Jews – how G-d would strike the infidels, humiliating them before the Believers for their acts of heresy. How justice was a matter of submission to the rule, his rule since he alone could translate divine laws. He was after all, the Guardian of G-d’s will, the vehicle by which His commands could be enacted and Islam reigns mighty over all.

He spoke at length of the Zionist lobby, his fight to denounce and expose Jews’ nefarious influence, how during his time on the front against Iraq he could feel the perverse presence of Jewish America and realized then that Iran was engaged in a war that would ultimately lead to the Great War referenced in the Quran and the Return of the Awaited Imam.

I was asked if I understood the regime’s most infamous slogan: “Death to Israel, Death to America”. I replied that I wasn’t sure and wouldn’t dare assume.

When we say Death to America we refer to a system sold to the Zionist cause, when we say Death to Israel we refer to the sons and daughters of Jacob who raised their hands in apostasy against our great prophets and followed the path of Satan as they toiled to steal Muslim lands and enslave our communities. Their bloodline is perverse, marked for destruction by G-d. We must obey the divine law.”

I don’t recall the journey back to the hotel … Khamenei had just rationalized genocide to me.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s parting gift to Catheine Perez-Shakdam following their meeting.

If I had a clear grasp on the regime’s political vision by then, I had yet to be introduced to its methods and, more importantly, the goals it had assigned for the region and, more pertinently, for Western democracies.

In the corridors of Tehran’s conference hall, I would be told of the Islamic Republic’s plan for Israel, its mad pursuit for the ‘destruction’ not of a state but that of its people. How the IRGC had mapped out the Jewish diaspora so that it could, at the appointed time, strike at its very heart and drive a wedge between Israel and its Western allies.

While access was given quickly once in Iran, it reflected over a decade of careful work and networking. I had to prove myself to many of Iran’s clients and make a name first among Iran’s revolutionary networks – Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq so that my presence would never be questioned but rather assumed. I posed as a regime supporter to learn of its men’s techniques to buy hearts and minds. I’ve witnessed how many allowed themselves to be seduced by the regime; the pull its ideologues have on intellectuals.

The process by which Iran’s regime buys itself loyalties deserves more scrutiny – the slow burn of its indoctrination, the web its agents will weave around their intended targets. Not all, unfortunately, are aware of the game being played against them. Not all are even aware of whose game they are playing. The regime has many agents and outposts peppered across the MENA region and even our Western democracies, especially our Western democracies No sectors stand immune to the regime’s advances; from the military to academia, politics, and NGOs, Tehran’s agents are everywhere, nurturing contacts and leveraging influence.

Nothing is usually left amiss in Tehran, except maybe in my case. If many voiced reservations about my ascent, never did they suspect my loyalty or imagine that the doors they were opening were to facilitate the entry of a Zionist into their midst. I had erased every shred of my identity and dressed in theirs for far too long.

Nader’s friendship would seal the deal –  in a few months, I had become a trusted family friend, someone he would invite on trips and confide in. My links and access to Yemen’s deep state, my ability to read geopolitical developments and relay them within a context the regime could exploit, would prove too valuable not to be utilized. I was groomed to be an IRGC asset.

In April 2017 I was asked to help build the IRGC’s new propaganda campaign in the UK. Nader Talebzadeh asked me to devise a communication/propaganda campaign to help disseminate the ideas and program laid out by Khamenei during the ‘Palestine Conference.’ The regime wanted to mimic Israel’s hasbara efforts in the UK and Europe, bring the media to their views and gain traction among Sunni Muslim communities. They also wanted to draw a list of politicians and state officials they could engage with.

In May 2017, I was again brought back to Tehran, this time to interview Ebrahim Raisi, then a presidential candidate.

President Ebrahim Raisi’s interview with Catherine Perez-Shakdam In Rasht on the campaign trail

The interview taught me little, other than that Iran’s elections are a complete sham and that the media are an extension of the regime’s propaganda machine. My subsequent conversation with Raisi on the flight back to Tehran gave me better insight into the man who would become Iran’s president. A faithful follower of Khomeini’s ideology, Raisi believes in the principles of the Islamic Revolution, just as he believes that he is endowed with a religious duty to bring about the return of Imam Mahdi. Raisi craves power and control. His eyes are set on the Leadership.

In June 2017, I was called to Tehran following a terrorist attack against Khomeini’s shrine. With media attention pointed towards Tehran after the attack, the regime was keen to bring Western voices to relay its message.

Hassan Al Emad, Qom 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Al Emad is known by the Saudi Intelligence Services as the Khomeini of Yemen in reference to his ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In August 2017, I again returned to Tehran this time to meet with Nader Talebzadeh, Professor Mohammed Marandi, and Hassan Al Emad. Having molded me to be an asset, Nader was keen to maintain close contact. He arranged for me to visit him at his home and meet with several people during my stay, such as Professor Marandi, whom I had also met at the ‘Palestine Conference’. Following this visit, Professor Marandi would call me weekly to speak about political developments and drill into me the need to pursue Khomeini’s revolutionary goals.

In September 2017, I was back in Tehran to meet with Nader Talebzadeh. During this visit, I learned that Nader was planning a series of visits to Africa and the Middle East to pursue several business ventures and consolidate his network.

On the road to Karbala (Iraq) with Nader Talebzadeh and Zeinab Mehanna, 2017


In November 2017, I was invited to attend the Arbaeen Pilgrimage (Najaf and Karbala) as part of a delegation organized by Talebzadeh and his wife Zeinab Mehanna. They had put together a delegation from academia and the media, and activists from across the US, UK, Canada, and the EU so they could better understand Shia Islam. What Nader ultimately wanted was to buy goodwill, impress on the delegation the regime’s narrative, and consolidate Tehran’s hold in the West.

During our walk from Najaf to Karbala, Nader pulled me from the delegation so that I could record a special interview for Iranian media and let me know that several people close to the Leadership would meet with me in Karbala. Upon our arrival to Karbala that evening, I learned that Zaynab Soleimani, daughter of the general, and Zaynab Mughniyeh, Imad Mughniyeh’s daughter, were staying in the same hotel. We met for a coffee and a quick chat. Zaynab Soleimani informed me that her father was in town for 24 hours.

From right to left: Catherine Perez-Shakdam, Zaynab Mughniyeh, and Zaynab Soleimani (General’s Soleimani’s daughter)- Karbala, Iraq 2017

This visit would lead to my meeting with Gen. Qassim Soleimani; the then-head of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, and several high-ranking members of the clergy, among whom were some close supporters of Ayatollah Sistani.

I came to Najaf upon Nader Talebzadeh’s invitation. Soon after that, Nader asked me to accompany him to a house in Karbala – there, I met with Soleimani. My interaction with the General was brief. He sat on the floor with maps before him, pointing at some troops’ movements, commenting on his efforts to push ISIS out of certain areas in Syria and Iraq. He recalled an incident with ISIS, claiming that his men had contacted the US military, informing them of Al Baghdadi’s exact location, saying the Americans had refused for the Iraqi army to intervene.

As he spoke of his military prowess, glancing often in my direction to gauge I was certain of my reactions, the general asked me if I knew of Ayatollah Khomeini’s famous quote:

 “If one kills the infidel, and this stops him from perpetrating his misdeeds, his death will be a blessing to him. We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry ‘There is no god but Allah’ resounds over the whole world, there will be a struggle.”

This meeting was unnerving.

Soleimani was the most radical and unhinged of all the regime’s men I’ve met. His advocacy for mass murder and his dismissal of human suffering were most pronounced.

Sheikh Abdul Mahdi Karbalai, the custodian of the shrine of Imam Hussein and the representative of Grand Ayatollah Sistani (Karbala, Iraq) right of the picture.

The day that followed would take me to Imam Hussain’s shrine in Karbala, where the delegation met with several high-ranking clerics from Ayatollah Sistani’s office, the Head of the PMU, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, and several representatives of Ayatollah Khamenei in Iraq.

Grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Karbala, Iraq during 2017 Arbaeen Pilgrimage (centre)

In December 2017, Tehran asked me to arrange a meeting with Yahia Saleh,  nephew of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The regime was keen to know if the Saleh faction would consider an alliance with the Houthis and abandon their military operations in Yemen. Far from selling the regime to Yahya, I tried to assess to what extent Yahya understood the role Iran continued to play in Yemen.

In early 2018, I would make my last trip to Iran. For the first time, I was challenged by immigration officers and asked to answer a series of questions on why I was visiting Iran – my name had tipped them off. Although I was immediately let go after Nader Talebzadeh intervened, I felt I was cutting it too close for comfort. This time, the regime wanted to speak to me about the MEK and asked me to research the group. The MEK makes the regime the most nervous of all the opposition groups based outside of Iran.

By the end of 2018, I had almost completely disengaged from the regime. It coincided with a request by the Leadership’s office for me to write Khamenei’s biography and convey to a Western audience the essence of Iran’s revolutionary message. By then, I felt too exhausted and sickened by the regime to carry on the charade. I also learned that several IRGC assets in the UK suspected that I was, in fact, a Zionist – an infiltrator. Given the stakes, I disappeared quietly, citing family problems to justify my silence.

From 2019 to 2021, I worked to cut all ties with the regime, choosing not to speak against it, not knowing how they would react. I also needed time to digest what I had learned and determine how to utilize my knowledge best. The pandemic would facilitate my disengagement.

In late 2021, I wrote in the Times of Israel about my meeting with Ebrahim Raisi. Following Raisi’s election to the presidency, I knew that my knowledge had become relevant and that Raisi’s profound hate for Israel would lead to attacks against Israeli interests in the region and potentially the diaspora.

As the regime learned of my ‘betrayal,’ I would be labeled an enemy of the state – with all its implications.


Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran – 2017

It is crucial that we recognize the pressing need for a comprehensive reframing of our foreign policy towards Iran. In our pursuit of peace and the promotion of democracy as a catalyst for nations to prosper and flourish, we thoroughly underestimated our enemies’ ambitions – that to subjugate us.

Most troubling of all, we have failed to grasp the true agenda that drives Iran’s regime, the tactics it employs, and the assets it cultivates. We have been so preoccupied with extinguishing the fires ignited by its agents that we have lost sight of the bigger picture.

Our misjudgment has brought the Iranian regime to the brink of victory, and its triumph is not due to the reasons we might assume. The true threat emanating from Iran does not solely lie in its nuclear program or its territorial expansion across the MENA region. Rather, it resides in the legions of men and women who have been drawn into its narrative, trapped as they are in cycles of hatred and victimization.

The regime meticulously studies us, laying traps and patiently waiting for us to fall into them. Iran is a master manipulator, and we find ourselves unwittingly dancing to its tune.

Tehran’s vision projects itself in the future, not the next election cycle. The regime cares little for popular approval or even efficiency, its men are willing to wait us out, absorbing losses as they carefully weave their carpet.

Islamic radicalism knows no sectarian boundaries; it is an Iranian phenomenon. The full extent of Tehran’s influence has yet to be fully understood and mapped out.

The Islamic Republic stands today as the biggest threat to secular democracies. For decades, Tehran has been an integral sponsor of terrorism, opening its coffers and its training camps to whoever wishes war on the West and its apostasy. We are the infidels to whom their clerics urge followers to lay waste. Everything that we are – from our quest to achieve self-governance and sovereignty over our lives, to our human rights advocacy and our calls for equality before the rule of law, or again free speech – are values Tehran’s clergy deems an insult to its religious sensitivities. Ironically, their actions, often promoting bloodshed, seem to have little to do with genuine religious principles. Nevertheless, Iran’s clerical class persists in attempting to rationalize genocide, presenting it as the liberation of oppressed people from enslavement. This contradiction sheds light on their manipulation of religious beliefs to justify their actions and ideologies.

We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.” – Ruhollah Khomeini

We would do well to appreciate the magnitude of such words, for since its inception, the Islamic Republic’s truest expression, its life force and raison d’être, has been to cater to a warped Shia Islamic ideal – the worldly manifestation of the Awaited Mahdi’s Kingdom, which sovereignty extends to all that is and all that will be.

The Iranian regime exists in a state of profound nihilism. Although Iran’s Leadership claims to embody morality, its ideologues have encouraged heinous violations and crimes – so their purposes would be served, advocating even the death of the innocents.

It needs an enemy to define itself against; it thrives on chaos to better exploit socio-political fault lines and in the process wield more influence; it demands a cause to hide behind so it could appear as a champion of the people. Both Khomeini and Khamenei have always positioned themselves against elusive enemies: the West, liberalism, and capitalism – not to offer answers but rather to denounce; hoping in doing so that they would rally around their rule, forever blaming their failures on others.

The Iranian regime’s most remarkable achievement has been its ability to constantly divert our attention away from its vulnerable spots, preventing us from striking where it truly hurts, and leaving us ill-prepared to defend ourselves against its relentless attacks or anticipate its next move.

We are facing a formidable adversary in the Islamic Republic. Its ranks will not easily crumble, and unless we dismantle its alliances and accurately identify its strongholds through meticulous mapping, it will merely emerge under a different guise.

Make no mistake; we are engaged in a battle for our survival.


For decades, Iran has skillfully exploited the fundamental principles that underpin our democratic societies, such as freedom of speech and assembly, to undermine and pervert our institutions. By strategically generating tensions and exploiting existing divisions, Iran has succeeded in turning us into unwitting actors in our own downfall, slowly eroding our unity and causing us to compromise our core values in the name of self-protection.

Iran has cunningly capitalized on the very freedoms that define our democratic systems. Through the manipulation of free speech, it has propagated its own narratives and ideologies, often using media outlets and propaganda to disseminate its messages. By infiltrating social platforms, it has sown discord, amplifying existing divisions and fostering animosity within our societies.

Tehran, picture taken near Parliament on the wake of the attack against Khomeini’s shrine in 2017

Similarly, Iran has exploited the freedom of assembly to its advantage. By organizing and supporting various groups, it has created a network of allies who work towards its interests. This allows Iran to influence public opinion, shape discourse, and exploit vulnerabilities within our democratic structures.

By exploiting our differences, it has fueled political polarization, social unrest, and ideological clashes. By fostering a climate of fear, it aims to weaken our societies from within, making us susceptible to divisive rhetoric and policies that undermine the very foundations of our democracies.

The ultimate objective of Iran’s manipulation is to cause us to turn against ourselves and compromise our core values – beyond that the regime wants to exhaust our resolves, systematically forcing us to engage in conflicts and crises that forever drain our resources – Iraq and Afghanistan stand testimony to such tactics.

To counter Iran’s subversive tactics requires a rethinking of our strategy, but more importantly a mapping out of the regime’s circles of influence, its finances, and methodology. Resolve will be needed … courage also.

In the words of Winston Churchill:

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”

About the writer:

Catherine Perez-Shakdam is  co-founder and director of Forward Strategy, a boutique media and consultancy company based in the UK. She is a prominent expert in the Middle East, particularly in the domains of Iran and Yemen. With a rich background, including consultancy work for the United Nations Security Council in 2012, she has played a crucial role in shaping policy decisions by providing invaluable insights into Yemen’s War Economy, uncovering the intricate web of corruption, trafficking, and money laundering.

Catherine has also established herself as a respected voice in the media landscape. She has been a frequent contributor and commentator for outlets such as the I24, Al Jazeera, the BBC, The Jerusalem Post, Politico, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mail. Her contributions have shed light on critical issues, offering a nuanced understanding of complex situations.

Having previously served as a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, Catherine has authored compelling policy recommendations and research papers to address the increasing influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, exposing its activities and providing a deeper understanding of its operations.

In 2021, Catherine gained international attention when news broke of her remarkable decade-long infiltration of the Iranian regime, during which she was able to gain access to the highest echelons of the regime’s inner circles. Unsurprisingly, she was promptly labeled an ‘enemy of the state’ by the regime. Undeterred, Catherine has courageously utilized her extensive knowledge and expertise to denounce the activities of the Islamic Republic, helping to unveil a system that had long operated under a shroud of secrecy. Her revelations have provided a unique perspective on Iran’s actions, challenging its narrative and exposing the true nature of its operations.

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


The Mainstream media suffers amnesia with facts when it comes to covering Israel

By Rolene Marks

Whenever Israel launches a military operation or responds to any kind of aggression towards her citizens or sovereignty, one can safely rely on the mainstream media to develop a sudden and acute case of amnesia. This particular type of amnesia has the most astounding symptoms. Not only are facts, context, history and truth conveniently forgotten; but also the type of invective takes on a tone so nasty that even the bitchiest Real Housewife would be stunned.

Terror Uncovered. These masked terrorists that Israeli forces went into Jenin to neutralise, could not mask their true intentions – to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. (Photograph: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)

The most recent example has been the coverage of Israel’s two-day military operation in Jenin last week. The city of Jenin, located in the West Bank and under the control of the Palestinian Authority, has been a hotbed of incitement and terror for a number of years. The city (not a refugee camp as many in the mainstream media would have you believe) is in Area A under the Oslo Accords; and is under full civilian and security control by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

A Perfect Fit. Like trying on a pair of shoes, a young Palestinian child tries out this highly powerful firearm for size in Gaza City on June 30, 2023, only days before Israel’s raid on Jenin to uproot terrorists. (Mohammed ABED / AFP).

The Palestinian Authority have effectively lost control over the city, creating a power vacuum, ripe for terrorism. Jenin is not only rife with incitement of hate, but at least 16 terror attacks this year alone have been planned or executed by terrorists in the city. It is not just prime scouting ground for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad but for the recently created “Lion’s Den” terror faction as well.

In the early hours of the morning of July 2, the IDF embarked on a two-day counterterror operation with the aim of crippling the terror infrastructure in the city and eliminating terror cells.

When the operation ended, the IDF had dealt a significant blow to the terror infrastructure. One Israeli soldier had been killed; and 12 Palestinian terrorists had been eliminated. What is remarkable is that not one civilian casualty had been incurred. The IDF had conducted their operation with surgical precision, mitigating any civilian casualties.

Col. Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, speaking to Israel National News said: “To conduct an operation of such intensity in an urban area without killing any uninvolved civilians at all is a remarkable achievement by the IDF and probably unprecedented in modern warfare. Casualty ratios in most such operations have often been 3 to 5 civilians killed for every fighter, and that is by Western armies that do their best to avoid civilian casualties and adhere to the laws of war.” He firmly added: “I doubt any other army in the world would be able to achieve what the IDF did in Jenin.”

It is a great pity that the world media did not receive the memo. Watching the news coverage last week, many others and myself noticed two significant – and worrying trends. It was noted that mainstream media outlets almost romanticized the terrorists, referring to them as “resistance fighters”. The other accusation that seemed to take a firm hold was the accusation that Israel is killing children.

By far the most grotesque example of this was the BBC’s Anjana Gadgil interviewing former Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett. In what can only be described as a blood libel straight out of medieval times, Gadgil made comments that the IDF is happy to kill children:

“The Israeli military are calling this a ‘military operation,’ but we now know that young people are being killed, four of them under eighteen. Is that really what the military set out to do? To kill people between the ages of 16 and 18?” asked Gadgil.

“Quite to the contrary,” Bennet replied. “Actually, all 11 people dead there are militants. The fact that there are young terrorists who decide to hold arms is their responsibility.” The former Israeli prime minister went on to explain that, of many of the terror attacks over the past year, events that have collectively ended several dozens of Israeli civilian lives, the perpetrators have come from, and were trained in, Jenin. “Jenin has become an epicenter of terror,” he says. “All the Palestinians that were killed were terrorists in this case.”

“Terrorists, but children. The Israeli forces are happy to kill children,” Gadgil responded.

Former Prime Minister Bennett to BBC: “Why’d we enter Jenin? Because that’s where the terrorists are.”

It is summer time in Israel. Parents have sent their kids to summer camps to make friends, do crafts and play games and connect with each other and the land. For Palestinian children, the scenario could not me more different. No rousing rendition of Kumbaya for them, instead they will be fed a steady diet of incitement and taught paramilitary and terrorist tactics and skills. When they are older, they will be recruited by terror organizations as child soldiers. They will kill Israelis. Some will come from Jenin.

No Kidding! Only days before Israeli forces entered Jenin to try root out terrorists attacking Jewish civilians, Palestinian kids pose for souvenir pictures with rocket l;aunches during an exhibition by Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers in Gaza City on June 30, 2023. (Mohammed ABED / AFP)

Perhaps a better course of questions would be to Palestinian leadership about their recruitment of child soldiers. The BBC apologized but this is not the first rodeo with Aunty Beeb. This has become a steady series of rinse and repeat – where they offend and make outrageous statements and then issue mealy-mouthed apologies.

Perhaps it is time for the long buried Balen Report to be released. The Balen Report is a 20,000-word document written by the senior broadcast journalist Malcolm Balen in 2004 after examining hundreds of hours of the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The report was commissioned by former BBC Director of News, Richard Sambrook, following persistent complaints from the public and the Israeli government of allegations of anti-Israel bias. The results were found to be damning – and the report buried.

Headlines like those of the Washington Post “Israel invades Jenin” and Forbes “Israel Ends West Bank Assault and Launches Airstrikes on Gaza” are profoundly concerning. Not only are they inaccurate and misleading, they are featured in “papers of record” that are reputable sources of news information. It is imperative that we hold them accountable and challenge them to report the facts – and not agendas.

There is no excuse for reporting inaccurately. The IDF, in a variety of languages on their social media is providing the information, footage and relevant information as expediently as possible.

Profoundly worrying is the romanticizing of terrorists as seen below by The Economist and NY Times. This is not a new generation of “Gen Z resistance fighters” continuing the tradition of standing up to “the occupation”. These are terrorists with one target in mind – Israelis, preferably Jewish ones.

No country would tolerate an ongoing campaign of terror on their citizens. Israel is a country that faces challenges other countries do not. Terror attacks, rocket attacks and daily assaults on its legitimacy as the nation state of the Jewish people. This is fomented and financed by Iran, the largest state sponsor of terror. Iran’s grubby fingerprints are all over Jenin and other terror hotspots.

The mainstream media have a lot to answer for over their coverage of the Jenin operation. They have left out context, historical facts and very important, growing security threats.

These are inconvenient truths. We cannot let them go uncorrected.

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).


Digging up the past releases curses, reveals truths but time for Israelis and Palestinians to maturely move on.

By David E. Kaplan

If times today are troubling and the suggestion is that we may have displeased the Almighty, then a recent reading of a 3,200-year-old folded-lead tablet reveals little has changed over the millennia.

The ancient tablet found on Mount Ebal that was recently subjected to special x-ray investigation to reveal what is believed could be the oldest known HEBREW writing ever found in Israel, reads disturbingly:

You are cursed by the God

Digging up the Past. The 3,200-year-old “curse tablet” found on Mount Ebal could prove Israelites were literate when they entered the land. (Photo by Jaroslav Valach)

If over three millennia later we are still upsetting the Almighty by our wayward ways – hardly a challenging task – then look how this ancient finding may have upset the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. It’s not the message that Jews are cursed by God that would rattle him – in this he far outshines the Almighty – but the language in which it is written – HEBREW – the  spoken language of the ancient Jewish Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. 

If what experts suggest is correct, this would make the tablet the first use of the name of God in the Land of Israel and would prove that Israelites were literate hundreds of years earlier than previously supposed. In other words, Israelites in the Land of Israel speaking Hebrew – albeit an earlier version – as we are doing today. This completely refutes Abbas’ false protestations recently at the United Nations where he challenged historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

Can’t the PA leader get over that Jews have been living in this neck of the proverbial woods for thousands of years. But no, in customary theatrics he has to again stand up in the UN as he did on that Israel/Jewish hate-fest, the 75th anniversary of Nakba Day and dismissed with gusto, any Jewish ties to Jerusalem. And this display in folly was happening all the while ancient tablets are unveiled to the world affirming Jewish life here over three thousand years ago. An article in Heritage Science states that the finding:

 “…is the oldest Hebrew text found within the borders of ancient Israel … by at least two centuries.”

No wonder Abbas does not approve of any digging around in Jerusalem – the ‘truth’ is the last thing he wants to unearth.

No Ties. A gesticulating Mahmoud Abbas (centre), President of the State of Palestine denies any Jewish ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in his address at the event to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Nakba.

‘God’ forbid that  anything is revealed that disputes the increasingly popular PA narrative that Jews are a colonial European implant.

Abbas’ unabashed antisemitic protestations are consistent with personal past conduct and of his political peers. In Qatar on Feb. 26, 2012, at an Arab League conference, Abbas refuted any historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem, a diplomatic strategy that began with his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who questioned whether the Temple even ever existed.

There is nothing there,” Arafat said at the at the Camp David summit in July 2000. He amplified this two years later in the leading pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat, Arafat with:

They found not a single stone proving the Temple was there …”

It goes on and on.

No Attempt at Outreach. Denying Jewish historic connection to Jerusalem during his speech at UN Headquarter in New York, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas compared Israeli rhetoric to Nazi propaganda and demanded Israel be suspended from the UN if it does not grant Palestinians a “right of return” for millions of refugees.

A month after Camp David, Abbas himself continued with Arafat’s ideological position on the Temple in an Israeli-Arab weekly, adding:

“… they claim that 2,000 years ago they had a temple. I challenge the claim that this is so.”

Others in the PA “Chorus Line” stuck to this nefarious narrative :

  •  Interviewed in al-Ayyam, the late Nabil Shaath spoke of Jerusalem’s  “fictitious temple
  •   The late Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat asserted  that “…. there never was a Temple at al-Quds, “only  a “mosque.”
  • Palestinian politician and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee,  Yasser Abd Rabbo, told Le Monde in September 2000 that “There was no archaeological evidence that the Temple ever existed on the Temple Mount.”
Shock and Outrage. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas causes shock and outrage when he accuses Israel of perpetrating “50 holocausts” at a press conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a joint press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022. (Jens Schlueter/AFP)

This can go on and on. No-one benefits and people on all sides die violently. Israelis too have to seriously come to the table and recognise that Palestinians are here to stay and help create a climate that can eventually lead to the elusive “Two-State Solution” that is losing traction but that Netanyahu himself has endorsed. Did the Prime Minister not at Bar Ilan University in 2009 say:

If we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.”

On German Soil. A headline on the website of Germany’s BILD newspaper expresses shock at PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s use of the term ‘Holocaust’ to describe past Israeli actions. Instead of apologizing for the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics 1972, Abbas, on German soil, accuses Israel of genocide. (Screenshot)

Even if this was not a fully-throated enthusiastic commitment, Netanyahu did follow it up with “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historical peace,” and later in his speech to the United States Congress:

 “I recognize that in a genuine peace we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.”

These days few identify Netanyahu with these words but he said them.


Israelis and Palestinians need to find a way to engage beyond bullets, rockets and false narratives! We owe it ourselves and future generations. If we want safe roads to travel free of terrorism we have to find that road to peace.

Stating Two States. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a keynote speech on June 14, 2009, in which he laid out his peace policy at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, where he endorsed for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state but said it must be demilitarized. ( photo by pool Michael Kramer flash90)

Palestinians would be right to hold Israelis to past promises and  Abbas needs to shift his cerebral address from an alternate universe to a reality that Jews have an enriching historical link to the land of Israel and are here to stay. Before being truthful to one’s enemies, all sides need to be truthful to themselves. Palestinians and Israelis need to be prepared for the harsh realities of deep compromises.

In this way, we can fulfill the prophecy of the late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban that:

Israel’s future will be longer than its past

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).


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).