Israel – Kaleidoscope of Cultures

Ahead of Israel’s Independence Day, we look at the country’s incredible diversity

By Rolene Marks

Israel is a land of many paradoxes. In this glorious juxtaposition of the ancient and modern, you can walk in the footsteps of the prophets but also be amazed by some of the world’s leading cutting edge technology, you can hear the church bells toll at the same time you hear the muezzin call the faithful to the mosque to pray; all while hearing the steady prayers in Hebrew at the Western wall. Israel’s cities have their unique personalities that serve to reinforce the country’s history, position in the region and story.

As Israel celebrates 74 years of Independence, we cannot help but marvel at all the achievements, extraordinary history and enduring legacy.

But it is Israel’s people who are the country’s true treasure. Israel is a kaleidoscope of cultures and much like a kaleidoscope, if you seek to look at a different, vibrant picture, all you have to do is adjust your focus.

Flight to Freedom. Over a million citizens of the former Soviet Union (FSU) immigrated to Israel since the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and now make up 15% of the Israeli population, transforming Israeli society.  

While Jews have had a presence in the land of Israel for millennia, we have been joined over the centuries by other nations, some have stayed but most have left and following the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, the country has served as home not just for the many Jews who have been here through the generations; but to those who responded to the invitation from Prime Minister Ben Gurion, to participate in the ingathering of the exiles.

From all four corners of the world they have come. Diaspora communities from every conceivable country, some voluntarily – but many because the threat of persecution meant they needed to leave – and leave quickly.

Israel’s modern history is a tale of daring and chutzpah, in the attempt to rescue Jewish communities under threat. No sooner than the State of Israel had been declared, then 850 000 Jews from Arab countries were forced to flee. Many made Israel their home and today the majority of Israel’s population trace their roots back to Morocco, Iraq, Yemen and other Arab countries. One of the great advantages of the recently signed Abraham Accords is that many Israelis of Morocco descent now have the opportunity to revisit and trace their roots.

True Magic. In 1949,Israeli transport planes flew “home” 250,000 Jews from Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet. The operation was secret and was released to the media only several months after its completion.

Following the devastation of the Holocaust which saw the genocide of two thirds of Europe’s Jews, many of the survivors who had lost their families and loved ones and saw no future for themselves on a continent that felt hostile, made their way to what was then British Mandate Palestine, joining the ranks of those pioneers that would help defend and build the fledgling country in the years after Israel was declared a state. Slowly, the exiled were returning home.

Hearty Hug: A cross-cultural embrace of a rabbi and Palestinian greeting each other as they meet at the Gush Etzion junction to hold prayers together in the summer of 2014. (photo: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

In the decades to come, Israel would send rescue missions to Yemen and Ethiopia to bring distressed communities home.  The result today is an Israel that has absorbed Jews from all corners of the world – from India and South Africa, Australia and America, Ethiopia and Russia – 82 countries, with many different languages and cultures all calling Israel home. Israel is once again helping the distressed come home. Over the last two months, thousands of Ukrainian Jews, including many Holocaust survivors, have found sanctuary away from a brutal war that is ravaging Ukraine in Israel.

Out of Africa. New Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia exit an airplane during a welcoming ceremony after arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 28, 2013. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Image)

Jews are not Israel’s only citizens. At least 20% of the Israeli population are Israeli Arabs. Israeli Arabs are fully franchised members of Israeli society and have contributed enormously to the country. While there are still many areas that need improvement, Israeli Arabs are represented in the Knesset, holding ministerial positions, lead civil society, serve in the military and are amongst the IDF’s most decorated officers, serve in the judicial system as judges, head multi-billion dollar corporations and more.  Arab Israelis follow either the Muslim or Christian religions. Arab Israelis are exempt from compulsory military service but recent statistics released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) see a steady yearly increase in the amount of volunteers from the community signing up to perform national service.

Seeking Sanctuary. Fleeing the war in Ukraine, passengers disembark from an airplane carrying Jewish immigrants upon arrival in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on March 6, 2022. – (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

“A covenant of blood”. The relationship between Israel’s Jewish and Druze population is so sacred that it is referred to as bond forged by blood. Israel’s Druze population makes up about 2% of the population and are fiercely loyal to the country. There are other significant Druze communities in Lebanon and Syria and Israel’s community live mostly in the Golan region in the north. Not much is known about the Druze religion but recent Pew research revealed that nearly all Druze (99%) believe in God, including 84% who say they are absolutely certain in their belief. But there are no set holy days, regular liturgy or obligations for pilgrimage, as Druze are meant to be connected with God at all times. Druze are active in public life and subject to the military draft. In fact, for more than four decades, the Israeli military had a primarily Druze infantry unit called the “Herev”, (sword battalion).

Coulourful Culture. Druze soldiers in the Israeli Army behind the Druze flag which combines 5 colors representing the 5 prophets of the Druze secret religion.

Israel is the one country in the Middle East where the Christian community is growing. Christians face persecution in many parts of the Middle East and constitute at least 2% of Israel’s population and this number is expected to grow. Christians make up 7% of Israel’s Arab population, and 76.7% of Christians in Israel are Arab. The largest Arab Christian population centers in Israel are Nazareth (21,400), Haifa (16,500) and Jerusalem (12,900). Arab Christian women have some of the highest education rates in the country.

Israel is often maligned in the media and definitely misunderstood but on closer inspection, this tiny, vibrant country is not only fascinating because of all its many paradoxes packed into a small patch of land but because of its people, the greatest national treasure.

This Yom Ha’atzmaut we drink L’Chaim to this plucky, innovative, passionate and diverse country and her people. The future looks bright for Israel – no matter what view you choose to see this vibrant Middle Eastern jewel from.





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).

Celebrating Passover

From a people to a nation we relive the long journey to freedom

By Justin Amler

The greatest story in history is upon once again.

And oh… what a story it is.

It is a story about a people who went from slavery to freedom, from hopelessness to belief, from an uncertain future to one filled with destiny.

It is a story about courage, about faith, about belief and about miracles – one that took the natural order of life and flipped it around.

And even though many others will try to culturally appropriate it, as they do with everything else about us, and claim it’s about all humankind, it was and is and remains a quintessential Jewish story.

For it is our story – perhaps our greatest story – of a time when we grew from a people into a nation.

About 3500 years ago, we were slaves in Egypt, condemned to a life of hardship and bondage, a seemingly bleak existence. And if it wasn’t for the actions of one man, guided by God, the story of the Jewish people might have ended right there.

But it didn’t end.

Instead, it led to the greatest adventure in all of Jewish history – an adventure continuing today.

And through all the wanderings in the desert, the many miracles Hashem performed, the gift of the Ten Commandments, and of course the ultimate return to our land of Israel – where we remain today.

Pesach is a story of such inspiration, because although thousands of years have passed, we continue to celebrate it as if it just happened.

And in a way it did. Because every single moment of every single day, Jews continue to fight for their homeland, their identity, their culture, and their history. And we have to fight, because every single moment of every single day there are those who continue to try take it from us, to uproot us from our land, to appropriate our history as if it’s their own, to rob us of our past, of our stories, of our nationhood and of our identity.

We cannot afford to remain silent.

But the Jews, while few in number, are a strong people whose foundations are built on stronger things than crumbling empires and dusty buildings. Our foundations are built on almost 4000 years of a promise, of a mission, and of a shared destiny among us.

And even though there are some, even among us, who continue to try spread division through arbitrary things like skin colour and food, they will fail in the end, because we, as a people, are far stronger than the petty divisiveness they sow.

When we left Egypt, we were not white or black or brown and we were not Mizrachi or Ashkenazim or any other designated identity that some are overly obsessed about these days.

We were Israelites.

We were Jews.

We were a people forged in the sands of time and held together by a promise of a God we could not see – a promise without an expiry date. A promise that, despite the many differing views among us, has held us together.

 We don’t need to get ‘woke,’ because we’ve been awake for a very long time.

So, on this Pesach and on every other day, let’s celebrate our freedom, our history, our culture and all the things that make us who we are.

In this world in which we are constantly under attack, let’s stand together and keep our Jewish identity alive, for it is one we should all hold onto proudly.



About the writer:

Justin Amler is a noted South African-born, Australia-based writer and commentator on international issues affecting Israel and the Jewish world.






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 truth about the Sydney Festival boycott

By Judy Maynard

The 2022 Sydney Festival was one of the most controversial ever, but not for artistic reasons.

At the festival management’s request, the Israeli Embassy in Australia provided $20,000 to help stage a production by the Sydney Dance Company of “Decadance”, a work that has been performed in theatres and festivals all over the world since its creation 20 years ago by renowned Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.

From Tel Aviv to Sydney. Crafted from excerpts of Israeli visionary choreographer Ohad Naharin’s works over a decade with Tel Aviv’s Batsheva Dance Company, Decadance is  a contemporary dance that speaks to everyone – except haters of Israel!

The donation was acknowledged on the festival’s website by an Israel logo alongside those of other government and community partners.

This angered local pro-Palestinian activists, who demanded the festival return the embassy’s donation and remove the logo. When the board of the Sydney Festival refused to meet their demands, the activists launched a boycott campaign, supported by the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, calling on artists to withdraw from the festival, nonsensically branding it a “culturally unsafe” environment for Palestinian and Arab artists.

A number of artists acceded, some willingly. But as festival chairman David Kirk revealed, the only unsafe environment was caused by boycott supporters – many of whom subjected artists to blatant bullying, name-calling and moral blackmail.

On Jan. 13, Kirk told the ABC Radio National “Breakfast” audience that many of the artists were being pressured to withdraw their performances. Some were receiving an unacceptable “battering” on social media, and were as a consequence feeling “unsafe and compromised”.

The Australian newspaper reported Kirk’s comment that some artists and festival staff had been subjected to “emotionally damaging” attacks. He called on activists to behave like “decent human beings”.

In a tweet on January 13, Jennine Khalik, one of the boycott organisers, said that claims that the “artists were bullied + pressured to withdraw [were] completely untrue.”

This article will demonstrate otherwise.

The production of “Decadance” by the Sydney Dance Company choreographed by Israeli Ohad Naharin, was supported by a small grant from the Israeli Embassy.

BDS goals and tactics

The anti-Israel boycott movement likes to present itself as a non-violent resistance, encamped on the high moral ground, but its tactics in securing martyrs for the cause show otherwise. In many cases, it claims it has gained the solidarity from those it has in reality intimidated.

BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti does not prevaricate about the movement’s real goals, having declared “No Palestinian will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” In a recent interview, he expressed the view that “Jewish culture is part of Arab culture,” negating any concept of self-determination for Jews after centuries of persecution.

As the BDS movement cannot physically eliminate Israel, it aims instead to “cancel” the Jewish state in whatever ways possible, trying to render it unseen and unheard. Activists campaign for the ostracisation of Israeli artists and academics internationally, and attempt to sabotage the normalisation of relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Israel and Arab states.

Having no success with the latter, as the Abraham Accords attest, the ire of BDS is directed at vulnerable targets – and this often does not involve simply putting one’s case and asking nicely.

In June 2018, the BDS movement claimed a campaign victory after the Argentinian national football team cancelled a friendly match scheduled in Israel. BDS activists shared widely a “quote” from star player Lionel Messi in which he supposedly said he could not play against “people who kill innocent Palestinian children. We had to cancel the game because we are humans before we are footballers.” But Messi never said any such thing.

Claudio Tapia, head of the Argentine Football Association, said the team actually had been forced to cancel due to serious threats against the players, and would try to play in Israel at a future time. The then Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said the threats had exceeded those of Islamic State.

Jibril Rajoub, the President of the Palestinian Football Association, who claimed he had only been involved in peaceful protests against Israel, was suspended by FIFA for a year and given a hefty fine for “inciting hatred and violence”.

Another own goal for BDS was its “triumphant” campaign against the Israel-based manufacturing company Sodastream. As a result of activist bullying, the company relocated a plant in the West Bank to the Negev region, resulting in 500 Palestinians losing their jobs.

Yet the welfare of Palestinians has never been the real focus of the anti-Israel boycott movement; its ultimate desire is the elimination of Israel, as Barghouti noted.

Anti-Israel activists are always seeking new ways to “cancel” Israel. A recent example is the Australian “Do Better On Palestine” campaign, which called for media coverage that avoids “bothsiderism” – a euphemism for insisting that only the Palestinian viewpoint should be aired when news organisations report the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The same local activists who introduced that campaign to Australia are also responsible for attempting to disrupt the Sydney Festival because of the Israeli logo on its website. That logo is to them symbolic of Israel being afforded a space like any other country in international affairs and in the public consciousness, and must therefore be removed. They seek to impose on Australia their discriminatory view that Israel must be always treated as uniquely, irredeemably evil.

Going Gaga. Israeli choreographer, contemporary dancer, and creator and teacher of a unique system/language/pedagogy of dance called Gaga, Ohad Naharin. 

Denying the Ugliness

These anti-Israel stoushes always become ugly, but the boycott organisers’ strategy entailed depicting themselves as principled and noble, simply setting out their case while remaining above the fray.

Responding to Festival chairman Kirk’s bullying allegations, Khalik tweeted “we have approached artists with love and empathy… and left the decision with them.”

Co-organiser, Sara Saleh, told the ABC that they “had approached their conversations with artists with care and sensitivity” and that they were trying to “build a movement and a future… on freedom, liberation, love and equality.”

But even from information available on the public record, it is obvious that many of the targeted (and pro-Palestinian) artists were not feeling the love.

The Abuse of Katie Noonan

Well-known Australian singer-songwriter Katie Noonan posted on Facebook on January 7:

    “I decided to not get involved in this boycott, despite repeated, vigorous and quite aggressive attempts to do so. I simply said I was not contracted by Sydney Festival and was in fact contracted by SIMA [Sydney Improvised Music Association] – an awesome and very important independent cultural org [sic] I love, and I could not ask my fellow indie artists to turn down paid work after the hardest 2 years of their lives. Simple.”

She continued that she was “deeply saddened by the nature of online discussion and wish we could have respectful robust discussions without vitriol, but it does not seem possible in these difficult times.” She also revealed that she’d been called “a racist, mysogonist [sic], anti-feminist, POC [people of colour] hating, WOC [women of colour] hating, homophobic, transphobic, Palestinian hating, colonial loving, cis white, pink washing priveliged [sic] hetero c**t.”

This post then received over 1,000 comments, a mostly negative pile-on, in which Noonan was accused of being racist, Islamophobic, ignorant and a liar. Many claimed to be disappointed fans.

A couple of the more supportive comments suggested “that a group of people who likely never even followed Katie in the first place have been told to come on over here and play stack’s [sic] on”, and “this isn’t public sentiment, this is organised mob outrage.”

At no point had Noonan suggested that any of the unacceptable messages she’d received had come from the boycott organisers, but several of them nonetheless took the opportunity to attack her as if she had – while saying she was a “racist” for making such claims.

Khalik posted a series of tweets on Jan 8:

    “So Katie Noonan claims she was repeatedly and aggressively told to withdraw. There was one exchange on behalf of the campaign… Not sure why she is lying — feels like some nasty racism towards Palestinians…I’m literally stunned lmao [laughing my arse off] how do people lie through their teeth like this. She told us she wouldn’t withdraw and we said best of luck, and we’re always here to chat. but this is aGgReSsIvE [sic] the crocodile tears here are next level.”

In a tweet on January 9 Khalik called Noonan’s statement “impossibly racist and untrue”.

Saleh commented on Noonan’s Facebook page:

    “Katie, with all due respect, as one of the organisers I have screenshots of the conversation that took place, and your replies, which ended congenially. We would never be anything less than respectful because what we are fighting for is our freedom – underpinned by justice and love…I’m sorry you felt you needed to implicitly smear us this way…”

Another organiser, Fahad Ali, also left a comment on Noonan’s Facebook page:

    “We were immensely respectful when we reached out to you and we have the screenshots of these interactions and your replies.

    This post is dishonest and disingenuous. There was no reason to smear our movement and delegitimise the Palestinian struggle for freedom because you felt personally offended in some way. You have put your own ego before millions of Palestinian lives…”

To both Saleh and Ali, Noonan gave the identical response:

    “pls [sic] don’t presume the boycott organising peeps [people] were the only people who contacted me.

   Unfortunately that is a naive and incorrect assumption. Unfortunately they have disingenuously shared parts of our exchange, rather than the entire exchange and that unfortunately created another incorrect narrative.

    I never accused the boycott organizers of anything.  The incorrect and nasty slander has been v upsetting but I choose to rise about it and not engage.”

Yet these organisers, having called Noonan a liar and a racist, have not publicly apologised for, nor retracted, their potentially inflammatory comments, despite Noonan’s response and the lack of any basis on which to allege that she was actually attacking them.

It is also curious that they seemed oblivious to the possibility that some of their fellow travellers just might have engaged in aggressive exchanges, especially when Saleh and Ali’s comments on Noonan’s January 7 post appear alongside many that are openly demeaning. Did they really not notice them?

They did, of course, but took no responsibility.

Indeed, both Saleh and Ali implicitly acknowledged the aggression – even while condemning Noonan for calling attention to it. Saleh told the ABC she “could not control the actions of passionate fans who felt strongly about the issue,” while Ali was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying, “We can’t control the reactions of fans or other commentators.”

Meanwhile, Ali, displaying his “immense respect”, tweeted on January 8:

    “So my best guess of what happened with Katie Noonan is this: she saw [comedian] Judith Lucy coming thru with now something like 7k likes on FB for withdrawing from Sydney Fest and she thought “hey, I want some of that” but figured she could get even more attention if she went pro-Israel.”

Ali is correct in one respect: Noonan certainly received attention. On January 12 she posted again on Facebook:

   “It’s been an educational and very upsetting 5 days. I have listened and learned from various disparate points of view – informed and ill-informed, from lived on-ground experience and from the anonymity of a faceless keyboard 14,000 kms away, and I have observed behaviour I abho,r and behaviour I admire.

    …Twitter is a new hellhole of mentall [sic] illness and vitriol that I am quite happy to never engage with again, and I am really disappointed my name was used in am[sic] inaccurate post that was presumptive and incorrect.

    …I am saddened a twitter shitshow was incited without my consent (as I posted no twitter content regarding this issue)…Sending peace/shalom/salaam and kindness to all.”

Noonan was subjected to bullying and aggression, but not just because she refused to join the boycott. It started before she made that decision. What clearly emerges is the harassment and intimidation of artists by persons probably unknown to try to force compliance with boycotts.

Katie under Pressure. Famed Australian singer-songwriter Katie Noonan experienced “vigorous and quite aggressive” social media pressure to join boycott of Israel.

Victimised, even after complying with the Boycott

Musician Sarah Mary Chadwick sides strongly with the Palestinians and did withdraw from the Sydney Festival. She wrote about the experience, posting the following on her Instagram and Facebook accounts after she’d already withdrawn:

    “Me and my baby Filter are getting pretty pissed off … by pressure exerted on artists to boycott festivals and events. I do not appreciate unsolicited mail from people who have zero understanding or knowledge of my financial situation or life in general. Before you contact your ‘favourite’ artist and encourage them to ‘do the right thing’ maybe consider the following.

    – do you have any knowledge as to whether the artist currently has any income due to Covid?

    – is it really your place to instruct other people essentially to make significant donations to causes YOU have prioritised, regardless of the validity of the cause?

    – do you have any knowledge of medical or personal costs the person you are contacting is managing and do you kno (sic) if they are in fact, able to manage them at all?

    is it the artists (sic) role to give up their livelihoods when the gov[ernment] continue to underfund arts? Anyway, stop telling me what to do, strangers. I have my own moral compass and I use it effectively.”

Again, Chadwick did not directly accuse the organisers of aggressive tactics. As she had already withdrawn, it was courageous of her to blow the whistle on the bullies.

Yet this “respectful” response was received from someone operating the “Boycott Sydney Festival” Instagram account:

    “This post is gross, Sarah. Yes, it’s been a rough year for artists. On the other hand, Palestinians are resisting 7 decades of massacre and dispossession. You’ve made your choice, but don’t centre yourself. And don’t try to police the ways that Palestinians or their supporters choose to expand a boycott against literal violent oppression.”

Another response comes from an account which appears to belong to Matt Chun, an organiser of the boycott:

    “A public post about choosing the wrong side of a picket line is weird. You have agency, as you’ve pointed out, and you’ve used it. Nobody has prevented that. But manufacturing victimhood in opposition to those who are resisting an apartheid regime is appalling.”

Protesters outside the production of “Decadance” by the Sydney Dance Company (Image: Twitter)

Boycott organisers frequently boasted of the number of artists who withdrew, and posted their photos in a gallery on their Instagram account. Yet strangely Chadwick’s photo is missing, despite her stance.

Some of the artists who were heavily critical of festival management for putting them in what they regarded as an invidious position also confirmed the bullying tactics used to encourage withdrawal.

The band Tropical F**k Storm, led by Gareth Liddiard, issued a strongly worded statement, saying the decision to accept Israel as a sponsor “would inevitably mean that hundreds of unwitting artists (who are having a rough enough time with the pandemic as it is) would become the targets of online harassment, bullying, smear campaigns, ridiculous accusations, misrepresentations and abuse from total strangers who have no idea what’s actually going on behind the scenes, what any artist’s position is or even what they’re talking about.”

Performer Jaguar Jonze joined the boycott in mid-January and released a statement criticising the festival for creating “an environment where artists and audience are put at risk and forced to endanger their careers and well-being. Because of this, the safest decision that is left – to protect myself, my team and the audience in a way the festival has decided not to – is to withdraw and cancel my performance at Sydney Festival.”

Saleh retweeted this, calling it a “principled, sensitive show of solidarity”, which is surprising as it seems to indicate a more immediate fear of harm to one’s physical “well-being” from supporters of a boycott.

Crocodile Tears

The boycott’s organisers give an impression of respectful direct dealing with the performers. Statements by the few artists who dared go public give a glimpse into the murk below.

And then there are the crocodile tears.

In response to Festival chairman Kirk’s apology to artists for putting them in a position “whereby they’ve felt pressured or compromised to withdraw their acts,” Ali demanded the board divest itself of the Israeli funding to protect artists. “If [the decision to accept the funding] has had the effect that it has left artists feeling compromised and unsafe, why continue to put artists in harm’s way?

Such impeccable logic – as if it were the funds that endangered the artists, and not the menacing BDS trolls.

In similar vein, how touching the concern expressed in Saleh’s tweet of January 15:

We hope that Sydney Fest board recompenses artists for harm and loss incurred.”

Anti-Israel boycotts have never achieved anything for the Palestinian people. They have only hurt them and now, in the case of the Sydney Festival boycott, also hurt vulnerable local artists coping with the aftermath of a pandemic.


About the writer:

Judy Maynard policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.









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 BDS Black Eye from Black Eye Peas

By David E. Kaplan

It was music to our Israeli ears. What’s more it was LIVE music, something foreign to Israelis for nearly two years because of the pandemic.  And if Covid was the enemy  preventing international bands performing in Israel, BDS thought they would provide the perfect  ‘backup’ – just in case.

WRONG!

The Black Eyed Peas with will.i.am born William James Adams, Jr., apl.de.ap, Taboo, and new member J. Rey Soul, performed at Jerusalem’s Pais Arena on November 29, 2021, the first major international show in Israel since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Ahead of the concert, the BDS-supporting Artists for Palestine UK released a statement calling on Black Eyed Peas to cancel the show. It was a call emphatically rejected by the  Grammy-winning group.

“Hello Mishpocha”. Taboo, will.i.am, J. Rey Soul and apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas performing at Pais Arena in Jerusalem, on November 29, 2021. (Ethan Freedman/The Times of Israel)

At a press conference will.i.am explicitly responded to the call to boycott Israel saying:

I’m a musician and a tech enthusiast and people like our music. Do I turn my back on people that live here because of politics? No, that’s not the way we were built. So, you know, there’s beautiful people here as well as beautiful people in Palestine. And one day we want to go there too.”

Not only has the frontman for the Black Eyed Peas over the years

consistently resisted calls to boycott Israel, but will.i.am has strengthened his ties with the country through his “core passion” – technology. Back in 2016, his tech firm i.am + acquired an Israeli startup Sensiya and regularly visits the country “catching up” on Israel’s vibrant tech scene.

In fact, on the morning the Black Eyed Peas performed on the 29 November in Jerusalem, will.i.am participated in a panel discussion at an innovation conference organised by Improvate, an Israeli organisation that works to advance Israeli technology.

Introducing will.i.am as “Musician, producer and frontman for the supergroup, Black Eyed Peas that you can hear tonight,” the panel moderator then continued, “you can hear him now about his second career as a technology entrepreneur and futurist who is sought out by corporations to get insights how technologies, innovations behavior patterns could impact their business.”

Man of Many Talents. Advertising both the Black Eyed Peas concert in Jerusalem and band’s frontman will.i.am’s participation in the IMPROVATE innovation conference.

Before questioning wil.i.am on technology,  the moderator asked how he coped with the harassment from BDS about visiting Israel.

Every time we are asked to come to Israel, we come.” And the reason he says can be summed up in one word “Mishpocha” (Yiddish for “family”) 

He explained how one of his childhood friends inspired him to throw some other Hebrew words into one of the band’s most popular songs, “I Gotta Feeling” – a big hit at most Israeli weddings, where guests invariably go wild on the dance floor, familiar with all the words. In that song, will.i.am famously shouts out “mazel Tov”, explaining how so many Israelis refer to it fondly as the “Mazel Tov Song”.

How did this “mishpocha” develop?

Will.i.am explains:

I have friends and family here; my first girlfriend ever – when I was 16-years-old –  was from Israel. When you have friends and family you don’t follow the babble; you follow your heart. I remember her saying, “I am moving back to my homeland”  you will one day come to Israel. I said I’m from the Ghetto, be realistic, I’m never going to get to Israel. And I came… And when they [BDS] told us not to come, I said I’m going to see Orly and her family. I wanted Orly’s mom to see what we became. So every time I am asked the question, I think of family, I think of friends.“

When they started the group, “it was in my friend Benjamin’s bedroom; and sometimes it was late Friday’s and I ended up having Shabbat dinner with them…and when I said Mazeltov and LChaim,  Benjamin’s dad said, “We are so glad to have you here, you are Mishpocha.

So when I say mishpocha, I mean that dearly because I am connecting you to my upbringing, my friends, the people that encouraged me, and this place – ISRAEL- is magical to me.  And I wont let politics get in the way of where my heart is.”

Where there is a “will” there is a Way. “I always wanted to come to Israel growing up in Los Angeles, a lot of my friends are Israelis,” said will.i.am at technology conference.

Will.i.am also worked the word “mishpocha” into a music video for a song the Black Eyed Peas made with the Israeli pop duo Static and Ben-El in 2020. “What’s up, mishpocha?” he asks at the beginning of the music video.

In recent years, the musician cum innovator has created a series of wearable devices, including smartwatches and headphones, that have yet to be widely adopted. But he said he measured his success “not by sales, but rather by how much he learns from his experience.”

So, while BDS has had some success in influencing the likes of Lorde and Elvis Costello to cancel  concerts in Israel, it lost big time with the Black Eyed Peas.

You don’t mess with “mishpocha”!

Making it Work. American musician will.i.am, frontman for Black Eyed Peas (second left), speaks on a panel at an innovation conference held by Improvate, in Jerusalem, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

As a show of defiance on stage, will.i.am gave a shout-out to producer Yonatan Goldstein as an example of his “mishpocha”. Goldstein co-wrote or co-produced much of the Black Eyed Peas’ latest album, and produced their collaboration with Israeli musical duo Static & Ben El.

Crowning Glory

Unlike the rapturous reception to the  music of Black Eyed Peas,  the call for boycott by BDS fell on deaf ears.  Less than two weeks after the Black Eyed Peas concert in Jerusalem, the 2021 Miss Universe pageant took place in Eilat, Israel, which was won by Miss India. To ‘crown’ it all,  Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, who bravely resisted pressure from her own government to withdraw from the competition was second runner up.

Bravo Miss SA! Defying her government and BDS, Miss South Africa participated  and was crowned as the second runner-up at the 2021 Miss Universe in Eilat, Israel on the 12 December {Photo: Creative Community for peace).

Responding to this good news, South African Friends of Israel penned the following in its press release:

Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, has brought pride and honour to our nation by being crowned the second runner up at the 2021 Miss Universe pageant in Eilat, Israel.  South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) congratulates and celebrates Lalela’s stunning achievement. She has raised the status and visibility of South Africa across the globe. We are bubbling with joy to witness how she had the courage and conviction to stand up as a proud South African on the world stage, and against the anti-Israel bullies and hatemongers who tried to intimidate her for going to Israel, including the short-sightedness of the South African government. Lalela truly represents the millions of South Africans who are standing behind her and celebrating her achievements.”   

Not cowering to pressure and standing up for what they believe is right, that is the message from the Black Eyed Peas and  Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane  as we close out 2021. Taking to heart the emotive lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas,  let’s embrace 2022 in the spirit of “mishpocha” and remember:

I gotta feeling that its gonna be a good good night….”







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).

Tel Aviv is Welcoming its Tourists Back

The day has dawned – Israel opens its borders to international tourists

By David E. Kaplan

For a city with a reputation as “THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS”, it seems that is exactly what Tel Aviv residents have been catching up on for the last two years. Maybe, with its traditional frenetic hummus to hedonistic pace, a ‘time out’ was not such a bad idea even if the reason was a global pandemic. However, as Israelis say in such situations that have long passed their level of patience:

ze maspik” – (“it’s enough”).

Now, with most of the country vaccinated with the booster; they are not only raring to revel but welcoming back tourists from abroad – provided of course they too are all ‘vaccinated’!

Unlike bears, hedgehogs, some snakes, bats and turtles, humans are not built to hibernate, particularly  in Tel Aviv. With 300 days of guaranteed sunshine a year and some of the best beaches along the entire Mediterranean coast, Tel Avivians are social creatures  feeling most at home when not at home.

Beach City. From 16 beaches to choose from, here is Tel Aviv’s Frishman Beach to soak in the good weather. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Anyway, all this changed on the 1st of November when Israel opened to individual tourists for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Only the day before, as a journalist, I received this Press Release from the office of the Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jafa. In poetic prose it read:

The seabed has been cleaned, the cocktail served, the pastry warmed up and the cauliflower grilled – all reserved for our favorite customerTOURISTS! For the first time since March 2020, individual international tourists are welcomed back into the city, just in time to swap the cold weather for a sunny winter in the city that never sleeps.”

Clearly they want local journalists  to spread the word globally, as the Press Release continues:

The pandemic has given us a minute (or more) to focus on our city and perfecting the little details to ensure an easy landing and seamless travel experience for all those coming to discover the cultural center of Israel.”

Known for its award winning beaches, beautiful promenades, historic sites, mouthwatering restaurants, pavement cafes and bustling nightlife, Tel Aviv cannot wait to welcome back its greatly missed travelers. Most inviting of all, are its incomparable beaches –  16 to chose from!

Tel Aviv Twilight. Enjoying a late afternoon walk passing the lifeguard station on Tel Aviv’s Bograshov Beach at sunset. (Photo by Frank Fell Media, via Shutterstock)

The Israeli coastline may not conjure the majestic swells found off the beaches of Hawaii, Australia or this writer’s native South Africa. Nevertheless when the wind is right and the swell up, the allure of the crested curve invites surfers of all ages. A common sight in Tel Aviv’s ever-increasing traffic, are surf-boards on the side of mopeds as riders nips through the city traffic to the beach.

Anything Goes

To explore the newly opened city, the Municipality is offering free walking tours in English at some of the most iconic places. Whether one would want to discover the history of ancient but bustling Jaffa, the enriching culture of trendy Sarona in a 19th century Christian Templar setting, the world heritage sites of the architecturally unique “White City” or the quaint charm of Neve Tzedek where Tel Aviv began, “we have a tour to please everyone,” continues the Press Release. Coinciding with the opening of the skies to tourists, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art will open its Yayoi Kusama exhibition. There is a reason why the famed artist chose Tel Aviv as the next destination for the retrospective, and “we invite all to discover why!”

Sumptious Sarona. Tel Aviv’s version of iconic markets around the world, Sarona, in a 19th century setting, is ready to welcome back overseas tourists.

The exhibit is ranked as one of the biggest and most impressive art exhibitions opening in 2021 around the world, and will follow Kusama exhibits at Gropius Bau in Berlin and another retrospective of the artist’s work at the New York Botanical Gardens.

The Tel Aviv exhibit is a joint collaboration of Studio Kusama in Tokyo and the Gropius Bau in Berlin.

Her entire oeuvre is mesmerizingly powerful, impressive and pleasurable at the same time,” said Suzanne Landau, curator of the exhibition and the museum’s former director. “The presentation of her retrospective at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is definitely a unique event of historic magnitude.”

Polka-Dot Lady. Considered an influence on Andy Warhol and a precursor to Pop art,  the art of Yayoi Kusama  can we seen at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Now 92, Kusama is easily recognisable by her red wigs, witches’ hats and robes, and a proliferation of polka dots on her clothing and other surfaces. She would feel quite at home in Tel Aviv where “anything goes”.

With Kusama’s art having crossed into commercial cooperative ventures with luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton making her work more familiar to fans of all ages, she has emerged the most tagged artist on social media. With a public thirsting for exciting quality experiences, “particularly now, in the post-COVID-19 period with all its difficulties,” said Tania Coen-Uzzielli, director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, “the presentation of this monumental exhibition in Israel, in collaboration with other museums around the world, will allow the Israeli public to enjoy a unique international cultural event.”

Choice Pickings. The allure of the yellow and black polka dotted pumpkins at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art exhibition of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama on October 31, 2021 (Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

They will be hopefully joined  by an increase in foreign tourists.

For this writer however, the best of Tel Aviv, is homegrown Tel Aviv, exploring and discovering  its unique creative fruits. This occurred this week when with my nearly-4-year-old grandson Yali, we came upon this surprise art gallery in Neve Tzedek, ZYGO on quaint Shabazi Street. Yali was fascinated, running from one sculpture and painting to another, explaining to his clueless grandfather  the meaning of each piece. Many of the pieces were variations of clothespins, which Yali easily identified and yet the runaway imaginings that evolved thereupon were expressed by:

WOW Grandpa!

Waiting to Welcome. Tel Aviv’s artsy Neve Tzedek  – with its fashion boutiques, handicraft shops, restored 19th century railway station, trendy restaurants and bistros and live jazz bars at night – is now waiting the arrival of the tourists.

Our reactions to the art brought out more than our lively loud discourse, it also bought out none other than the artist himself, who stepped out from his back studio into his gallery to see what the commotion was all about. Going under the name of “Zygo Artist”, he found us and launched into explaining his work and his vision. “The clothespin represents love, the coming together in embrace of two halved souls – the man and the woman.” He points to the raised leg at the knee of the woman, in dance mode with her partner. The colour and the vitality of the art so represents the exuberance of Tel Aviv but I was intrigued where the name Zygo came from.

In the spirit of innovative Tel Aviv, the artist who coined the term  “Zygotism” is set on pioneering a new art movement. The term he explains, he adopted from the realm of biology, which expresses the first stage in the creation of a new organism – the moment when two genomes combine to create a completely new genome and start cell division. A “zygote” is a fertilized eukaryotic cell.

From Love of Art to Art of Love. The Gygo Art Gallery in Neve Zedek, Tel Aviv with clothespin sculptures in the foreground.

The two become one on a third and other plateau:

 “similar to a divine love which compel two individuals to separate from their former life, home, habits and views in order to devote themselves to one another and to create a new eternal whole, which is their joined loving bond.”

Eternal Embrace. Love in the form of a coupling clothespin at the Gygo Art Gallery in Neve Zedek, Tel Aviv.
 

Not sure how much a nearly 4-year-old understood all this but most certainly was entertained  by the art and sensed there was “a lot of love going around”.

It is that same love that the newly opened city of Tel Aviv- Jaffa is ready to welcome all with open arms, and hearts!



Closeup of Clothespin. Taking a closer look at a clothespin sculpture, the writer’s 3-year-old grandson, Yali (left) at the Gygo Art Gallery in Neve Zedek, Tel Aviv. Inspired, Yali moves onto the next work of art.






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).

Resourceful Ruth

Innovative and inspirational Christian support in South Africa for Israel through WIZO

By Galya Tregenza Hall National Administrator and PA to WIZO SA President

“Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the Lord do to me if anything but death part me from you”.

Ruth 1:16, 17

Story of Support. Widow Ruth (right) follows her also widowed mother-in-law Naomi (left) from Moab to Bethlehem to remain at her side setting in motion the ‘direction’ of early Judaism.

WIZO South Africa, like all the WIZO Federations around the globe, actively supports and promotes the work of WIZO in Israel through various projects and fundraisers that take place throughout the country. However, unique to the make-up of WIZO SA is a branch of Bnoth Zion WIZO Cape Town that is called the Ruth Branch.

Who are these generous members and what makes them so special?

Over the last five years, Christian Zionist friends have been welcomed into the fold of the WIZO family through the Ruth Branch and what a success it has been! They have become the fastest-growing branch globally and as their chairperson Elizabeth Campbell says:

We are so thankful that our Jewish sisters have opened up their hearts and given us this amazing opportunity to join hands and work together to support the nation of Israel through WIZO’’.  Elizabeth points out that many Christians know and understand that you cannot separate the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. We are living in difficult and unprecedented times but these Ruth Branch members are committed to Israel – just like the widow Ruth would not leave her widowed mother-in-law Naomi’s side, Elizabeth will not leave Israel’s side as she truly feels that this unity of Jew and Gentile together is the key for future success.

Healing Hands. Following the inspiration of Elizabeth Campbell (centre), a journey of togetherness in the spirit of Ruth and Naomi, began with husband Jamie (right) and popular entertainer Erez Shaked (left) leading to the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concerts’ vision.

Elizabeth is a dynamic and passionate woman who leads her WIZO Ruth Branch with tremendous energy and vision!

Where did it all begin for her?

Her family were farmers and she grew up in a nominal Christian home in the Eastern Cape. She was first introduced to Judaism and Jewish culture through a Jewish friend she made at school. From an early age she would enjoy sleepovers at her friend’s house and subsequently learnt more about Shabbat (the sabbath)and the different chagim (Jewish festivals). At the age of nineteen, her fascination intensified after a surprise holiday to Israel, where on her arrival she was bowled over by an uncontrollable love for the land and its people.  So powerful was this ten-day experience, that once back home at art school, she chose JERUSALEM as the theme for one of her projects.  Little did she know it was going to stir a hornet’s nest. Her “crime’’ of loving Jerusalem resulted in shocking abuse from her lecturer and it was then that she experienced her first bout of horrendous antisemitism. In Elizabeth’s words:

I was shocked to the core. After the trauma I heard a voice in my deepest kishkas (in the depths of my soul) and I realized that this was HaShem talking to me – ‘Will you stand up for my people?’.

Little did I know back then what a tremendous calling this would become and nor did I realise all that I was going to have to endure for the love of His people and land. Every moment has been worth it’’.

Fertile Future.With the backdrop of the beautiful fertile Western Cape, members of the Ruth Branch (“The Ruthies”) and Bnoth Zion WIZO Cape Town Executive set on a fertile partnership of working together for needy causes in Israel.

‘Art’ of Coming Together

About twelve years ago, Elizabeth began to think about how she could get the Jewish people and those Christians like herself who love Israel to work together. She had a vision of the two communities coming together through the arts.  The idea of a musical concert popped into her head and suddenly the words ‘JERUSALEMWOVEN DESTINY CONCERTS’ resonated throughout her being. From that moment, a wonderful journey began.

Elizabeth and her husband Jamie, reached out to their friend, the popular entertainer Erez Shaked, who needed no encouragement to get on board. He too has a heart for oneness and could clearly see the potential and significance in Elizabeth’s revelation. A partnership was formed and the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concert vision started to become a reality.

If Music be the Food of Love, Play On.  Inspiring their ongoing journey into the future, a celebratory concert organised in 2019 by Liz Campbell and Erez Shaked with WIZO and Christian friends in support of  Israel held in the majestic Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town.

Twelve years later and with six concerts under their belts, they have most definitely come up with a winning formula to celebrate together through music and song. Two years ago their concert was held at the Gardens Shul in Cape Town and was a resounding success. However, with this years’ concert going virtual, it was possible to reach a much larger audience. The Concert was streamed by the Jewish Report via Zoom and Facebook live and was a beautiful collaboration between the Jewish and Christian communities, with approximately three thousand viewers being reached on the night and to date, thousands more people are still watching the production on YouTube and social media.

Six concerts have been produced and all of them have been musical extravaganzas that have made a deep impression and had a lasting impact. The President of WIZO South Africa, Shelley Trope-Friedman, rightly stated in her welcome address at the concert this year:

Sadly and most concerningly, we are living in times where we are witnessing a rapid rise in antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric the world over. Therefore, the spirit of unity and cohesion that this concert brings is greatly needed and deeply appreciated. I thank you, our Christian Zionist friends, for partnering with us in the fight against antisemitism and Israel-hatred. This concert is giving a platform to the voice of friendship, love and solidarity and I know that together, we can make a difference.”

Ruth Reverberates. This past Sukkot, saw on the 26 September 2021, the Jerusalem Feast of Tabernacles Woven Destiny Concert performed at the Jerusalem Theatre.

It is clear that the concerts have indeed made a tangible difference in bringing awareness to this serious matter.

The Woven Destiny Concert chose this year to help fundraise for the wonderful work that WIZO does in supporting and assisting those in Israeli society who need it most. Elizabeth is very passionate about WIZO, especially after attending the World WIZO Centennial Celebration Conference in Israel in January 2020 where she saw for herself the magnitude of the life-changing help that WIZO offers the Israeli people through their incredible facilities, ranging from shelters for abused women and houses of safety for children at risk.

Elizabeth and all the ‘Ruthies’, as she affectionately calls her Ruth Branch members, are committed to the Jewish people, committed to WIZO and committed to Israel. They seek to be a force of change and agents of love and hope.

“Agents of Love and Hope”. Come Friday, rain or sunshine, ChristianZionist members of the WIZO Ruth branch stand outside the South African Parliament in Cape Town in support of Israel.

’Being a Christian chairperson of a global, all Jewish women’s, Zionist organization called WIZO is stranger than fiction to say the least, but I am so thankful for the opportunity. Together with the help of my countless Christian friends, we will stand by the Jewish people and speak up for Israel. There are so many untruths and misguided beliefs out there when it comes to Israel and as antisemitism rises, I trust and thank HaShem for this ongoing formula of the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concerts which so clearly makes a difference. For Zion’s sake, we will not remain quiet and for Jerusalem’s sake we will not remain silent’’.

When it comes to support of Israel, the “Ruthies” do not adhere to the ancient proverb “silence is golden”. As Elizabeth says, “We will not remain silent.”


2021 Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concert South Africa



About the writer:

Galya Tregenza graduated from the University of Cape Town with a post-graduate degree in Jewish Studies. She spent four years living and working in Israel in the charitable sector and several years in the UK. Currently residing in Cape Town with her husband and three daughters, Galya is a lover of Israel and works for WIZO South Africa as the National Administrator and PA to the WIZO SA President.





For those of you who missed the concert you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9-ls5qnJ5s

Any donation to the work of WIZO will be most welcome. For more information please contact: wizosouthafrica@gmail.com




JERUSALEM: Woven Destiny Concert – Jews and Christian celebrate together. Sukkot is the time of year when people of faith join together in song to celebrate the inspiration of Jerusalem and the shared destiny of all of us who consider Jerusalem as our spiritual home. Together with WIZO and the Gardens Shul in Cape Town.



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

Monumental Man

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling his Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Portrait of an Artist’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Some of Karavan’s important works:

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


A Walk In The Park5


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



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









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

Music to Our Ears

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are Family”

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

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

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

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

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

 “We are family.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dare To Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shalva’s Global Chairman Kalman Samuels is very upbeat about

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

To paraphrase The Bard:

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






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

“From Slavery to Freedom”

Transformation is in the air! Do you feel it?

By Justine Friedman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Caveman-vs-Covid-man2.png

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

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

Under Lockdown, Israeli University Unlocks Ingenuity

Educating through a Global Pandemic, IDC Herzliya turns Challenge into Opportunity

By David E. Kaplan

They say when the “going gets tough, the tough get going,” but in the Start-Up Nation of Israel that is never quite enough, you also need to be SMART.

Tough, smart and add in entrepreneurial,” asserts  Jonathan Davis, Vice President for External Relations at IDC Herzliya, and head of the university’s Raphael Recanati International School. “This is how the IDC has come through 2020 with the Corona pandemic. We have put IDC philosophy into practice by welcoming the challenges of Corona as opportunities. Overcoming hurdles and obstacles is what we teach here. It’s in our DNA.”

Flying Colours. Flags representing the international students’ countries of origin wave along the ‘Raphael Recanati Avenue of Flags’ (Photo: Herschel Gutman).

Nurtured in a country that has survived and thrived in adversity, Israel’s first private university, the IDC Herzliya was founded in 1994 by its President, Prof. Uriel Reichman to train the future leadership of the State of Israel via “a unique model of excellence in research and teaching” alongside an emphasis “on social responsibility and community involvement”.  

“Wonder Woman”. Famed Israeli actress Gal Gadot and Miss Israel 2004 studied law at the IDC university , while building her modelling and acting careers.

Its students are trained to “Dream Beyond” and its former students can be found at the pinnacles of their professions fulfilling their “dreams” in fields all over the world. Look no further than Hollywood’s “Wonder Woman”  Gal Gadot, who after serving two years in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat trainer, studied law at the IDC Herzliya before she began her modelling and acting career. Even with 2020 being the year of the Corona, Gadot is ranked in the top three highest paid actresses in the world – quite a leap from the once young girl from Rosh Ha’ayin!  

Impact on the World. “It is our responsibility to shine hope and light for a better future for our children,” says IDC former student famed film star, Gal Gadot.

While the supernatural powers of a “Wonder Woman” could have come in hand in 2020,  the IDC dug into its own innovative talents and optimized its abundant expertise to come up with solutions.

Meeting of Young Minds. A regular day at the IDC before Corona. Students at the international school who study in English, hail from over 90 countries from all over the world.

When the Corona pandemic struck in March 2020, “We rapidly responded to the new educational realities,” explains Davis who has been responsible for the health and welfare of eight hundred international students from over 90 countries. Having to adjust to a world knocked off its proverbial axis, it has been non-stop for Davis and his energized “A-team” arranging transportation for these mostly foreign students, ensuring that health regulations were strictly adhered to, quarantining the foreign students upon arrival in Israel, and remaining in touch with anxious parents.

Time Out.  The outdoors coffee shop is the social hub on campus. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

We held frequent Zoom conferences with as many as six hundred parents at a time, from the Far East, Europe, North America, and Latin America,” says Davis. “Felt like the United Nations but with one big satisfying difference – we resolved issues!”

Corona Connectivity. A IDC Zoom meeting of students from all over the world with international school head, Jonathan Davis (centre top)

Countering Corona

Confronting the pandemic as if it were a war, the IDC set up on its campus an “Operations Room”, which maintained constant contact with representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior and Ben Gurion International Airportto ensure that things went smoothly,” says Davis. Running 24 hours a day, “We had to field requests from North and South America, South Africa, Australia, across Europe and even China; after all, we have students here from over 90 countries. As we were bringing these students into Israel, the regulations and rules of Corona were changing from one minute to the next. It reminded me of Mohamed Ali – it was not good enough to carry a touch punch; one had to be nimble on the feet – to adjust to constantly changing conditions.”

One of the many overseas students the IDC assisted in returning to Israel during Corona was Jessica Rubens from Belgium. Stuck at home because of the pandemic, this Communication’s student was finding it frustrating studying from home. “I had been trying since March to return to Israel; it was not easy but finally, the IDC knowing the right levers to pull, helped me get back safely. This is where I need to be. It’s been quite amazing.”

Studying Communications is Jessica Rubens from Belgium.

Responsible for quarantining over 800 students,  many of whom went either to the IDC’s new dormitories or apartments off-campus and “We had to check those apartments to make sure that everything was according to the rules and regulations.”

Campus Beat. The IDC’s new dormitories on campus before Corona (Photo: Hershel Gutman)

Tapping into Talent

Ensuring the health and wellbeing of the students, the focus shifted to education, and what proved “smart”  was to tap into the talents of its students. To ensure the IDC was able to continue effective teaching, meant training hundreds of lecturers and professors in the art of online teaching in the most innovative and creative way.  “We took two hundred students from the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science, who became the mentors and tutors of these professors and lecturers, to assist them with technical aspects,” reveals Davis.

If one is tempted to raise an eyebrow at the sudden upside-down practice of students counseling lecturers, it is well known that IDC computer science students receive an average of three job offers from the biggest high-tech companies during their last year of studies. “They are trained to perform, and perform they did during Corona,” says Davis. “These guys were the cavalry.”

As 2021 dawned, and Israel became the first country in the world to vaccinate 10% of population, it is understandable that its universities are the breeding ground of its superlative successes. It needs to be!

Through entrepreneurial and innovative ways, we found ways and means to make lectures more interesting,” says Davis who directed the writer to interview a number of students.

Top Diplomat. Priding itself on having lecturers and professors active in their disciplines, seen here on campus is Israel’s top diplomat, the former Ambassador to the UK and the UN, Ron Prosor and today head of the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya with Jess Dorfan (L) from San Diego and Kelly Odes (R), Argov Fellow alumni, from JHB two students in 2017. (photo D.E. Kaplan)

I began with a group from South Africa, a country facing increasing isolation as more countries ban travel there over the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus.

For Noah Marks from Johannesburg, being under lockdown did not mean “my mind was ‘quarantined’.” Studying Business and Entrepreneurship, Covid-19 allowed Noah to use his time “profitably” as he began to work “on a number of venture ideas I had been toying with for some time.” He says it made him think “how crises are not to be seen as all negative but rather that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Throughout this Covid-19 pandemic, I have been exposed to new ways of creative problem solving and these lessons have indeed helped me to further become the entrepreneur that I wish to be.”

The  IDC could not be better geographically situated to suit Noah and his aspiring hi-tech peers. Located between Ra’anana and Herzliya, in the midst of Israel’s ‘Silicon Wadi’, with the most hi-tech companies per capita of any region in the country, “the IDC enjoys a very strong connection with these companies,” says Davis. “They provide cooperative hands-on education as well as offering internships.”

From South Africa (Left to Right ) Jordi Rubenstein studying Psychology, Tali Kadish Psychology student, Noah Marks Business and Entrepreneurship.

While for second year Psychology student returning to Israel and leaving her family behind in Johannesburg was “a daunting and emotional experience,”  Tali Kadish says she knows “I made the right decision.” At least surrounded by classmates in the dorms “allowed the online lessons to feel somewhat ‘normal’.”

In agreement is her compatriot and also Psychology student, Jordi Rubenstein who says the IDC “has gone to special efforts to make our online lectures interesting and productive. This period has no doubt been difficult, but the extra resources laid on has ensured that my education is on track and enriching.”

From ‘Down Under’, Computer Science student, Arora Attenborough from Australia’s Gold Coast, is up and energized being back in Israel. Using underwater parlance to describe learning ‘under lockdown’, Arora is looking forward “to start deep diving into my Computer Science and Entrepreneurship courses knowing that the skills we are acquiring and the challenges we are overcoming today will make us better and more prepared for the changed world after Corona.”

Warmly welcomed back to the IDC is Arora Attenborough from the Gold Coast, Australia studying Computer Science.

There is an understandable sense among the students that the post-Corona world will be different and that the education they are receiving at the IDC is preparing them for that proverbial, ‘Brave New World’.

This phenomena came from one man’s dream – Prof. Uriel Reichman and after whom the IDC will soon be renamed.  It was this esteemed Law Professor who during the early 1990s – without any state financial support – deflected the skeptics and transformed a crumbling British Mandate military base into an educational oasis in the center of the country. That short saga from decay to enterprise, encapsulates the spirit of the IDC. As students walk through the picturesque, verdant grounds of their campus, they can look upon the artifacts and masonry of bygone Empires from Rome to the British and marvel at modern day Israel’s accomplishments.

Men with A Mission. Founder and President of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Prof. Uriel Reichman (left) and Jonathan Davis, Vice President for External Relations at IDC Herzliya and head of the university’s Raphael Recanati International School.

With the shackles of past rulers an artwork on their pathways to lecture halls, “We train our students,”says Reichmann, “to free themselves from the shackles of convention and take responsibility for their future. We encourage them to pursue their dreams and not to succumb to the status quo.”

Viewing his IDC academic experience through a Corona prism, Government and Sustainability student Lee Ortenberg from Newton, Massachusetts is quite philosophical:

 “I came to IDC to have an international community surrounding me during my studies. I think one of the most amazing things about IDC is the diversity you find among your peers and professors; everyone has completely different life experiences to offer! Oddly enough, the coronavirus aligns almost perfectly with what we study in Government and Sustainability. From the nature of the virus, to how globalized economies handle shutdowns, to how cities and governments may come out of this pandemic greener and more resilient, it all has to do with our degree, making it a truly interesting time to be studying. Our professors share so much passion with our students, which is so inspiring to be around, and have been there for us every step of the way during the pandemic.” 

Lee Ortenberg from  Newton, Massachusetts USA is studying Government & Sustainability

While praising the administration and faculty in providing “an excellent job in adapting to online teaching,” Business Administration and Economics student Eitan Dooreck-Aloni from Miami, Florida articulates what all the students are hoping for”

Eitan Dooreck-Aloni, from Miami, Florida in the USA is studying Business Administrations-Economics

 “I can’t wait for life to get back to normal, so that we can all enjoy IDC’s vibrant life on campus.”

Now that’s a sentiment that everyone, everywhere can truly relate to!

Pathway to the Past.  Walking to classes, students pass the artifacts and masonry of bygone Empires from Rome to Great Britain.





*For more information about the IDC, please contact Stephanie Miller at smiller@idc.ac.il Or 972-9-9602841. 




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)