Up-Start Nation

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

By David E. Kaplan

Not bad for such a tiny nation.

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

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

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

So are Israelis and justifiably so!

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

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

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

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

It’s only Natural

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

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

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

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

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

Calculated Risk

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

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

Go figure!

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

Top Of His ‘Game’

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

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

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

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

Highlighting the “good times”, Aumann cited:

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

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

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

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

Why is this important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








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

What Short Memories the French have!

A  taste of their own medicine and the back-stabbers are peeved at being “stabbed in the back”!

By David E. Kaplan

The French are puffing profusely!

BETRAYED” is what they say they are feeling, infuriated over Australia pulling out of their multi-billion dollar defense deal, preferring instead to attain nuclear-powered submarines through a new deal with the United States and the United Kingdom.

Facing Off. France on September 16 cancelled a Friday evening gala celebrating relations with the United States over frustration with the Australian submarine deal.
 

Recalling its ambassador to the US for “consultation” – marking what’s believed to be the first time the French have resorted to such a move in modern times –  high-ranking French officials referred to the decision “as a stab in the back”.

I’m very angry and bitter,” said the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian about Australia’s new submarine agreement. “This isn’t done between allies…It’s really a stab in the back.”

REALLY?

The French should know all about “a stab in the back”.

French are Fuming. “Betrayal” is what French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said after Australia scrapped a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology. (Jens Schlueter/Pool Photo via AP, file)

Some years ago but still very much in “Modern Times”, France  pulled a similar stunt – but much worse – when it “stabbed”  its ally Israel “in the back”.

Why “much worse”?

Apart from its ally living in a lethal neighbourhood facing then enemies bent on its destruction and the annihilation of its people, Israel had not simply “ordered” ships to be built in France but had already paid for the built ships waiting in Cherbourg when France refused to deliver them. Then French President Charles de Gaulle decided – at the time of the Six-Say War of 1967 – that the Arab region was a better bet economically and politically than a sole Jewish state in the Middle East and switched allegiance and reneged on the deal.

The Long and the Short of It. David Ben-Gurion and Charles de Gaul in happier times. By mid-1967, France and Israel no longer saw eye-to-eye.

Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, was one of the many who were deeply disappointed by the swift shift of relations between de Gaulle and Israel, after all, in the 1950’s, Dayan had agreed with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion when he called de Gaulle:

 “a true friend, a true ally”.

Some “friend”; some “ally”!!!!!!!!!

De Gaulle, who had had sent Dayan a personal letter of congratulations on his book ‘The Sinai Campaign 1956’ refused to remove the embargo from the boats that had already been paid for by Israel.

And while tempting to lay all the blame on de Gaulle, he soon resigned and the French presidency passed in 1969 on to Georges Pompidou who affirmed his country’s boycott of Israel.

Before Relations Soured. French copy of Moshe Dayan’s book on the Sinai Campaign on 1956 that de Gaul had congratulated the author.

France again had turned on the Jews.

The Cherbourg boats were, in Israeli military thinking, essential for the modernization of her navy and the security of the state. However, France did what suited France and it was left to the ingenuity of the Israelis, to “steal” – hardly the right word as they had been paid for – the five remaining missile boats under the eyes of the French and sail them to Israel.

At some point on the night of December 24/25, 1969, the five missile boats clandestinely maneouvred their way out of Cherbourg harbour into the English Channel and into Israel’s proud history of striving for survival.

Solution Found. View of three of five French missile boats bought by the Israeli government arriving in the port of Haifa on the night of Jan. 1, 1970 that involved  a clandestine Israeli military action following the French arms embargo in 1969.

The ship-building contract having provided much needed employment in Cherbourg, many of the local residents, unlike their national leaders, were not unfavourably disposed towards Israel. They had grown accustomed to some “Norwegians” that had recently appeared on the local scene; even some oddities about them such as bring accomplished linguists that included Hebrew among their repertoire of languages. When the five ships suddenly disappeared that December night under darkness, in a dockside cafe, a barman was said to have remarked to customers huddled over their glasses of red wine:

 “I see the Norwegians have left for Alaska.”

His all-knowing noisy patrons roared with laughter.

Read All About It. On Christmas eve 1969, in a brazen caper, five small boats slipped out of Cherbourg harbor after midnight into a Force Nine gale. The boats, ordered by Israel from a local shipyard, had been embargoed for more than a year for political reasons by France.

Yet, it was no laughing matter that at a most perilous time in Israel’s history, when it feared annihilation by countries surrounding it, intent on fulfilling Hitler’s mission, France, its main supplier of its arms should suddenly turn on the Jewish state and impose an embargo.  With France’s history of its tragic treatment of its Jews, this was a harsh reminder of France’s understanding of the words “friend” and “betrayal”.

Sign of the Times. French President Emmanuel Macron at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, which was vandalized with Nazi symbols and other graffiti.

In recent years with the alarming rise of violent antisemitism in France from children ruthlessly gunned down at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 to the savage stabbing of an elderly Holocaust survivor in Paris in 2018; to the more traditional ‘blood libel’ variety in 2020 of widespread conspiracy theories about Jewish officials accused of spreading the coronavirus and profiting from the pandemic, there may not be too many Jews who are going to share France’s anguish at feeling “betrayed”.

Abnormal France. French Jews arriving to a new life in Israel. Asked what prompted to leave France, a young mother replied: “we understood that our lives there aren’t normal. The hardest part was to see the soldiers standing around outside of my children’s’ school every day.” (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

There are reasons why you hear more French being spoken on the streets of Israel in recent years.

France should look why they – their former citizens in Israel – feel “BETRAYED”!









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).

Planting the Seeds to City Survival

Is urban farming a solution for South Africa?

By  Kenneth Mokgatlhe

It is estimated that nearly half of the adult population of South African live in poverty.

It was reported in April this year, 2021, that of the 60 million South Africans, 10.2 million experienced hunger on a weekly basis according to the Nids-Cram and approximately 2.4 million faced perpetual hunger. One viable way to address this is by developing backyard and rooftop gardens that are inexpensive to maintain. 

The rising unemployment figures and effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have worsened the hunger situation in South Africa. It is evident that hunger threatens social stability as evidenced by increased criminal activity as a direct effect of poverty.

It is time to think out of the box. Recently, the Jewish National Fund of South Africa (JNF-SA) hosted an important webinar:

Survival in our cities, food and water security – A South African crisis, is urban farming a solution?

It is unacceptable and should be embarrassing that our country has such an alarming number of its people enduring hunger.

Food for Thought. Israel and South African experts provide fascinating insights on the problem of food security in South Africa.

The National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Nids-Cram) has collected data on a broadly nationally representative sample of South African households covering the period from May 2020 to March 2021. This is the period wherein the country has been under lockdown regulations with vast number of people losing their jobs or having had to take salary cuts.

Stressing the importance of food security as well as the quality of the food, webinar panelist Dr. Naude Malan, a senior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg’s Development Studies, said:

Supermarket food is pretty expensive compared to the food which we produce for ourselves. A farmer can actually make a really good living by selling food at less than retail/market prices and still dominate the competition. You will capture the market and create a livelihood.”

Through ConvenesiZindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food), Dr.Malan is working with the local communities around the province of Gauteng to create opportunities for urban agriculture in a sustainable food system. 

Urban Renewal. Dr. Naude Malan from the University of Johannesburg’s Development Studies is working with the local communities around Gauteng to create opportunities for urban agriculture.

One of the beneficiaries of this noble project is a family from Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg who own a state-sponsored house referred to as “RDP”  – a house that was built as part of a government-funded social housing project. The family have converted their parking space into a garden which they are using to feed themselves and sell the surplus to the community for profit.

Panelist Siyabonga Ndlangamandla, a BSc in Biological Science graduate, is one of the vibrant young South Africans who are using their knowledge to solve hunger problems in many struggling black communities. He is a board member of an enterprising and innovative organisation called Makers Valley whose priorities are food security and social matters.

Back to Basics. Through Makers Valley (above), SiyabongaNdlangamandla is encouraging the local inhabitants to develop small gardens in their backyard.

What is disturbing for me is the food waste that we are experiencing in our cities. While there is so much food coming to our cities so much is not being consumed. That is one of our biggest challenges in the food system,” said Ndlangamandla.

Through Makers Valley, Ndlangamandla, has encouraged the local inhabitants to develop small gardens in their backyard. “Low-income communities are more likely to install a shack to rent it out than start a garden.” Over and above the food problem, “There is also a water problem in South Africa,” reminded Ndlangamandla.

Orange Alert. A project underway at the Orange Farm community 40km South of Johannesburg where the township  – one of the largest informal settlements in South Africa, with most estimates giving a population of 1 million people – faces challenges of poverty, low levels of literacy, lack of basic services, lack of health care facilities, unemployment  and increasing crime.

Not only a scarce resource in South Africa, water is also expensive  – especially in cities. Most, if not all community protests regarding service delivery are mainly about shortage or lack of water. This makes gardening or agriculture challenging for the weaker sectors of society.

Contributing to the panel discussion from Israelwas Dorit Chassid, a Sustainability Manager at Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv. She illuminated a path forward by presenting a whole host of the work that they are doing on the rooftop of the mall named after the city’s famous and first mayor, Meir Dizengoff.

Today, Dizengoff Center houses a variety of activities in the field of urban sustainability like hosting school kids for planting trees activity, investing in energy saving systems, a center for hydroponic urban gardening on the Centre’s roof and more.

High Rise Solutions.  Roof top cultivation on Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv.

Not having access to land is no excuse for not starting a garden project; there is the option of doing it on top of the roof on tables, with or without soil. 

We have school children whom we teach about sustainability; we have lots of tools and we bring people to see the work that we are doing,” explains Chassid. “We have bats and we teach people about the importance of bats into our ecosystem. We also have beehives on the rooftop; we do them in a natural way. We do not harvest honey, we do not do anything to harm the bees; we just let them be there,” said Chassid

We bring about 1, 500 children each year to plant small trees on the rooftop of the mall which we sell when they are ready for planting, and the money is donated all over Israel,” Chassid added.

Leading Light. Panelist from Israel, Sustainability Manager at Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv, Dorit Chassid.

No less inspirational was the insights and suggestions from the founder of Green Roof Designs (a specialized environmental design company), Dr. Clive Greenstone, who works on various projects that deal with urban design, sustainable development, urban ecology, urban resilience and urban landscape activation designs.

Offering tailor-made greening solutions to enhance building functionality and design, Green Roof Designs provides a complete greening scheme including green roofs and ground level planting schemes.

Dr. Greenstone said that there are large, flat, and empty rooftops that are abundant throughout South African cities on institutional, private, residential, industrial, municipal, and commercial buildings.

These underutilized spaces are ideal locations to rethink urban spaces and create urban greening advancements. Very little research has been done in reimagining the socio-environmental benefits of developing these underutilized spaces to improve human-environmental relations within the cities.”

Going Green. Dr Clive Greenstone (right) with his Green Team Green Roof in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal in ‎2011.

Listening to these panelists on the JNF (SA) webinar, it was evident to this writer that one of the main ways to combat hunger in my country of South Africa is to develop backyard or rooftop gardens. Food that we buy from our supermarkets is not as cheap nor as healthy as the food we could and should grow ourselves in our backyards or rooftops. Every family should start a garden that will serve the family and the surplus could be sold to those who do not own a garden.

This is one of the sustainable ways to deal with the hunger and labour market challenges facing South Africa today.



About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Kenneth-Mokgatlhe1.png

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a freelance writer and political commentator from Zeerust, North West Province, South Africa.








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

China’s One Tweet Too Many!

The tweet of the ‘Grim Reaper’ is a for Jews a Grim Reminder

By David E. Kaplan

China and the USA are in major strategic competition and constantly maneuvering for one-upmanship. Fair enough, but why bring Israel and the Jews into  this quarrel? After all, Chinese investment in Israel has grown significantly in recent years, especially in the fields of software, IT services, and electronics. According to 2018 data from the World Bank, Israel imports the most goods from China ($10.4 billion), with the U.S. a close second ($10.2 billion), and China is the second biggest destination – following the U.S. – for Israeli exports ($4.8 billion).  And despite sound concern and strong opposition from the USA, has Israel not agreed for a Chinese company  –  Shanghai International Port Group –  to run the new Haifa port for the next 25 years?

So while China ranks relatively low on the Anti-Defamation League’s rankings of anti-Semitic countries, it thus came as a surprise that the Chinese Embassy in Japan tweeted  – albeit later deleted – an anti-US meme with strong antisemitic and anti-Israel imagery.

Grim and Grotesque.  The offensive cartoon tweeted from the Chinese Embassy in Japan depicting the partnership of the US and Israel in bringing death and destruction to Muslim counties – beware!

The tweet featured a cartoon image of a Grim Reaper draped around in an American flag and inflicting death with his scythe emblazoned with the Israeli flag of the Star of David.  For those less acquainted, the Grim Reaper is a common enduring image over many centuries of a skeletal figure, usually shrouded in a dark, hooded robe and carrying a scythe to “reap” human souls. It’s eerie, disturbing and frightening!

In the offending tweet, the reaper appears knocking on a door labeled ‘Egypt’  having left a trail of Muslim blood behind after having ‘visited’ through the other doors in the image – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Libya, and Syria. Now if China is so heavily invested in the Middle East including Israel, why sow discord?

While China – through its embassy tweet –  may feel it is justifiably retaliating against the U.S. in its competition for world leadership by warning of the dangers of American democracy, but why bring Jews and Israel into this ‘picture’ by emblazoning on the reaper’s scythe the Jewish Star of David?

It only gets worse. The tip of the scythe is dripping in Muslim blood and the caption in Japanese reads:

If the United States brought ‘democracy,’ it would be like this.”

In other words,  it’s a warning from the Chinese embassy:

Beware of the allure the USA because beneath the veneer, you Muslim countries will receive death and destruction at the murderous hand of  Israel.

This was reminiscent of a Nazi German cartoon circa 1938 depicting the Jews as an octopus encircling the globe.

As reported in the New York based Jewish newspaper, The Algemeiner, the cartoon was featured on several extremist websites and proved popular with white supremacists and Holocaust deniers. The damage was done!

Role Model for China. Nazi propaganda which often portrayed Jews as engaged in a conspiracy to provoke war, depicts here a stereotyped Jew conspiring behind the scenes to control the Allied powers, represented by the British, American, and Soviet flags. The caption reads, “Behind the enemy powers: the Jew”. (Circa 1942. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Helmut Eschwege)

When Israel’s Ambassador to Japan, Yaffa Ben-Ari called her Chinese counterpart, Cheng Yonghua, last Friday saying that “the cartoon demonized Israel”, Yonghua responded that he had not noticed that Israel was part of the image. It is true, the Star of David appears small in relation to the size of the US flag but  the horrific and bloody image draws the viewer closer, and while the U.S. is depicted as the agent of death, Israel and Jews by appearing on the scythe are seen as the instrument of death. Together, “Big Satan” and “Little Satan” are graphically portrayed as cunning, conniving mass murderers of the innocent and vulnerable.

Sounding the Alarm. Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Yaffa Ben-Ari, Ambassador who called her Chinese counterpart in Japan about its Embassy’s antisemitic tweet.

This is something Israelis have become accustomed to seeing in official Iranian social media and on banners at pro-regime mass rallies in Teheran – not from China!

Despite Cheng Yonghua’s ‘failure to notice’ the detail  of the Israel-Jewish connection to the cartoon from his embassy’s website, an hour after the call, the tweet was deleted. It may also have resulted

From Israel’s Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific Gilad Cohen contacting the Chinese Embassy in Israel to inform it about the tweet.

However, despite having deleted the grotesquely offending tweet, the Chinese embassy did not tweet an apology!

The incident comes at a time of high diplomatic frictions between China and both Japan and the United States over a broad range of issues, including China’s regional territorial ambitions.

Hence many Japanese Twitter users responded angrily to the tweet, some including the famous June 5, 1989 photo of a man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. What they failed to respond to  – whether they did not seem to notice or take issue  – was the antisemitic element!

Is This What China wants to be Associated With? German antisemitic cartoon from 1938, using Octopus symbolism of Jewish tentacles  stretching over the entire globe.

Jews need little reminder of the existential danger of cartoons as part of Nazi propaganda to win the support of millions of Germans in a democracy and later in a dictatorship to facilitate persecution and ultimately genocide.

We need to be vigilant and respond.  Its not acceptable to say “We did not notice” like the Chinese ambassador, because to do nothing is to wait until it’s too late!







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)

Mindsets to Markets

The Stef Wertheimer formulae for Middle East  regional stability where “the battlefield today should only be the market place”

By David E. Kaplan

Reading in the latest Forbes ranking industrialist Stef Wertheimer as Israel’s wealthiest citizen with a net worth of $6.2 billion in its annual ranking of the wealthiest billionaires in the world,  reminded me of my interview with him in 2011.

Israelis in the Pack. Twenty-one Israelis appear in Forbes 2021 billionaires list with  Stef Wertheimer as the country’s richest citizen with a personal fortune of $6.2 billion.

 It also made me think that Israel’s premier industrialist would not have been pleased with the nature of exposure!

Why do I assume this?

Well, before I even began that decade-old interview, Stef said:

I hope you were not planning on asking me about the Buffett deal?”

I was taken back!

Movers & Shakers. Stef Wertheimer showing Warren Buffett (left)  around  Tefen in northern Israel Israel. (Photo by FLASH90)

The “Buffett deal” of 2006 was not just any deal but the most highly publicised one at the time in Israel’s history. Yes, it was when Warren Buffett‘s investment company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.,  acquired 80% of Wertheimer’s  Iscar Metalworking Companies (IMC) for $4 billion. Not only was it a ‘big deal’  for Israel, but also for Buffett being his largest acquisition outside the USA! This was a huge endorsement of Israel, so yes, I had planned to anchor my article on ‘the Buffett deal’. I had also been  spurred on by Buffett revealing shortly before our interview in 2010 that he   he would like to invest more in Israel, believing that Israel has a sustainable advantage in the global competitive market place, saying:

 “If you are looking for brains – stop in Israel.”

Puzzled, I asked Stef why he was so against discussing the deal, after all, “it made your family and your company household names – globally?”

Man on a Mission. Stef Wertheimer – a warrior for peace and prosperity

His explanation was instructive.

“Why do you think that the Berkshire Hathaway deal is any more important than the first deal I did with my fledgling company operating out of my house in Nahariya in the early 1950s?”

Seeing my perplexed look, he continued:

It you disregard the amounts of money in the equation and focus on impact then the first 1950s deal was far more historically significant than the Berkshire Hathaway deal.”

The message was clear. Beneath the veneer of being bedazzled by billions, Wertheimer was directing the interview to a far more philosophical rather than simple monetary assessment of the word “value”.

Factory Floor. A young highly motivated Stef Wertheimer (center) in his backyard Iscar workshop in Nahariya in the early 1950s. (Photo: private)

Early Days

Stef Wertheimer was born in Kikenheim, Germany in 1926, the son of a musician and decorated war veteran of the Great War. In 1936, with the Nazis entrenched in power, the Wertheimer family fled Germany for Palestine.  “I was 10 years old,” he said, “so they did not ask me.”

Following learning a trade as an apprentice to a refugee, Stef, at age eighteen, joined the newly established Israel Air force flight school. Although he graduated as a pilot, the army was far more interested in his skills in metal processing. Given the important task of developing weapons, no one in those days would have imagined that young Stef was well on his way to becoming a global industrialist and ‘warrior’ for peace.

Rearing to Go. The refugee child from southern Baden, Germany, Stef Wertheimer as a teenager in Tel Aviv.

When the State of Israel came into being and the battles ended, he started his cutting-tool factory from his home in Nahariya – then a small coastal town in northern Israel – with a borrowed lathe and a loan from a local butcher.

“Living in Nahariya, I used to ride my motorbike to kibbutz Hanita where I paid for the use of a machine. I then decided in 1952 to work at home and started with small blade sharpener which cost 40 lirot. My ‘factory floor’ was the balcony off our kitchen. I called my business Iscar and it was a case of family and factory sharing the same premises. As the business expanded and required more space, I invaded the bedroom and shifted the beds into the corridor. In between all this, Irit, my baby daughter was riding around on her tricycle taking bites of food from my workers. That is how she cultivated a liking for harif (hot) cuisine from my Mizrahi (Eastern Jews) workers.”

These were humble beginnings but the makings of what would amount global news in the future.

Battlefields for Peace

Known as the father of Israel’s “Industrial Parks”, establishing his first Tefen Industrial Park in 1982  in the northern Galilee –  “to foster economic growth and job creation and so help create stability in the region” – it became the model for all the parks that followed. He became animated describing then his latest and sixth park, located in Nazareth that “will be managed by Arabs but essentially where Jews and Arabs will work together. It’s a model for coexistence, where people work with each rather than against each other. The battlefield today should only be the market place.”

Aiming High. The ISCAR World Headquarters and Central Manufacturing Facilities located in Tefen in the high hills of Israel.

This argument had added resonance at the time as the Middle East in 2011 was gripped in the turmoil of the Arab Spring that had begun in response of citizens across the Middle East rising up against their autocratic regimes for their low standards of living. This Wertheimer understood well and in a series of articles he penned at the time, was advocating a type of ‘Marshall Plan’ for the Middle East of mass industrialization as a tool for regional harmony. More than ideology or religion, they needed – JOBS and jobs in mass manufacturing

Explaining, he said, “if people are highly skilled, earning good salaries and enjoying job satisfaction, there will be less urge for individuals or nation states to resort to violence to achieve their aspirations. Religious fanatics only flourish where poverty and despair rule. But to achieve an industrial revolution, we need too, a revolution in our educational system to produce a skilled working workforce.”

A portend of things to come, our interview also took place a few months before the Social Justice protests across Israel, when starting in July 2011, hundreds of thousands of protestors from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds opposed the continuing rise in the cost of living – particularly housing.

These were hardly the people with a mindset for factory floors but Wertheimer understood but pressed his case for a change in mindsets.

Sure, we prefer to pursue the ‘clean’ professions because we are pressurized by our parents. This is embedded in our culture where we have an aversion to roll up our sleeves and getting our fingers dirty. For this reason, Jews gravitate to commerce and the professions rather than into industry. This needs to change.”

And to my next question of how we break from tradition if it’s so imbedded in our culture, Wertheimer replied:

“One need look no further for a shining example than one of our revered Zionist pioneers, A.D. Gordon. Was he suited to work in the fields? Definitely not. He was an elderly intellectual, of no great physical strength and with no experience doing manual labour, but he took up the hoe and worked in the fields. By personal example, he provided the inspiration for generations of Zionist pioneers to create a Jewish economy by physically working the land. By personal example, he showed how manual labour, so essential to the creation of the state, was honourable and enriching work.”

His argument was we need that same insight and spirit of A.D. Gordon to move new generations not to the fields but to factory floors. “In the same way that tilling the land in the early days was considered honourable, so today we need to correct the erroneous notion that manual labour is “low”. Nations with the most dynamic economies such as China, India, Singapore, Switzerland, Denmark and France have introduced a dual system of technical education that combines classroom learning with on-sight internships in various industries. We need to do the same.”

Book of Revelations. Says Warren Buffett, “There’s no better way to explain the miracle of Israel than to examine the life of Stef Wertheimer.”

And as to what progress Wertheimer had made so far towards this goal, he explained:

“I have for over 50 years created and run technical education programmes. Along the way, I have established six technical schools, including one in the army and one in the navy. These are schools where young people can learn a trade and acquire skills of a very high standard.  I have also established schools where we teach teachers in vocational training because this is so lacking in this country. I cannot stress enough – we have enough bankers and lawyers; we need people with skills and when they receive the recognition they deserve, attitudes will change. This is the way forward for Jews and Arabs to stand together. Their battlefield is the factory floor, their common enemy – their competitors in the overseas markets.”

Making an Impact. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (right) with Stef Wertheimer at the “Collective Impact” employment project, in Nazareth, Israel, on April 6, 2016.
 

Embellishing on his Marshall Plan for the Middle East that there cannot be real peace in the region unless neighbouring countries enjoy similar economic prosperity, he explained:

“If Israel has been a success story, we could be more of a success by helping our neighbours more than ourselves. They need to believe that they are on the same path to prosperity as us. We need to expend far more of our resources on peace rather than on war. Can you imagine if we built Industrial Parks like we have in Israel all over the Middle East, the impact it would have on regional peace and stability? People don’t know, but the money the government spends on ONE fighter plane could pay for FIVE industrial parks. Think of it – which offers a better return on the investment?”

Imagine if there were hundreds of these “Pockets of Peace” all over the Middle East? “Who would have the time or inclination for war? People would be too busy creating than destroying.”

This vision has been passed onto his son Eitan, today the CEO of Iscar.

Fostering Peaceful Coexistence. At the grand opening in April 2013 of this industrial park in the predominantly Christian-Arab city of Nazareth, Wertheimer and Nazareth Mayor Ramez Jeraisy explained that the industrial park is part of a unique model to promote the advancement of Arab-Jewish Israeli export companies. During his visit to Israel in 2009, Pope Benedict had met with both men at the site of the future park and gave his blessing to the project.

“There are no bad people. There are just people without a future and people with a future. Once you create a future, peace will come. The model is already in place. It only needs to be adapted elsewhere – to build a region of conflict into islands of hope.”

“We need people like Stef, who live for their ideas and bring them alive through commitment and pragmatism,” expressed the German Federal Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Schaeuble in 2008 on presenting  the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal to Wertheimer for his contribution to Christian-Jewish understanding.

Possibly the accolade that best sums up Stef Wertheimer’s contribution to the State of Israel came from his good friend, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who said, “Stef, hopefully, if there were more people like you, not many, maybe just 20, the country would be completely different.”

Laughing all the Way to the Bank

A few years after Israel’s War of Independence (1948-1949), Stef found himself sitting on a bus with a young woman he had met in their days in the Palmach, the pre-independence, elite fighting force.

So Stef, what you doing with yourself now? Any plans?”

Yes, to go into industry; I want to start my own business.”

 “What?” she asked and laughed so loud everyone on the bus stared at them. After all, the country was poor; many foodstuffs were hard to come by.

However, six decades later, what began from a loan from a butcher and a borrowed lathe working in his backyard, grew into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of metal cutting tools, which are used by carmakers, shipbuilders and aerospace industries.

Who had the last laugh?







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

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)

Clover Workers Hijacked

GIWUSA uses Clover Workers to Attack Israel

By Yossi Malherbe

Clover Workers have been in the midst of an employment dispute with Clover for some time and have had their cause hijacked by the anti-Israel Lobby. A march focusing on an international embassy instead of to their employers was led by The General Industries Workers Association and The Workers and Socialist Party

GIWUSA uses Clover Workers to Attack Israel

On Monday 26th October 2020, General Industries Workers Union South Africa (These workers have been on strike since 13 October 2020 and GIWUSA claim that they have “long opposed” the selling of Clover SA to Israeli Milco, which was approved by The Competition Tribunal in September 2019. 

They state, “CLOVER’s bosses continue to view workers’ demands for a living wage and against labour broking with absolute contempt and disdain.”

 They connected their view of Clover administration to Israel by stating:

 “This arrogant attitude is consistent with the attitude of the imperialist Israeli regime which continues to commit atrocities against Palestinian people in the occupied territories.”

GIWUSA then stated that they are marching on the Israeli Embassy to hand over a letter of demand.

Letter By General Workers Union South Africa:

Why do we have to speak out?

I feel like this is something that I, as a Zionist and a person that supports fair employment, have to comment on as the anti-Israel movements hijack innocent people from their plight and misdirects them with false promises and a free meal.

Misdirecting the Misery. The gripe is with a company Clover not a country Israel.

It is intriguing how the sale of Clover was approved over a year ago and only now do “The Clover Workers” march on an Israeli entity, when they should be marching at Clover. They claim that this march is due to their “long opposed” sale of Clover to an Israeli company, yet they only “chose” to act 13 months later, which just so happens to be days after our fellow African state, Sudan, announces normalization of ties with Israel.

This timing cannot be a coincidence!

This is clearly a local dispute with nothing to do with the Israeli Government. The description of “The Clover Workers” is designed to make us feel like Clover’s collective employment force  – which includes over 1,255 factory workers  – are striking, while in the video it looks like 40 people. 

Sadly, the Coronavirus pandemic has caused over 1 Million South Africans to lose their jobs this year and is sad and understandable how 3% of Clover’s staff are no longer under employ. Their statement about how their “bosses continue.. with absolute contempt and disdain” highlight how this is a long-term problem/dispute between these workers and their management from 2019 which predates the sale. 

 Nothing about “The Clover Workers” is discussed or addressed while all the focus is drawn towards the Israeli Government and the plight of the people of Palestine. 

 If the focus of the letter surrounds “The Clover Workers” who are striking, then why is a stance being taken against a nation and not their employer?

This was a march that is the total opposite of uBuntu where the GIWUSA have hijacked a group of people to service their own agenda and have done nothing to help the workers with their situation with Clover. In a time where Muslim nations such as Bahrain, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and every one of our BRICS partners(excluding South Africa) as well as multiple African Nations are either normalizing ties/partnering on projects with Israel, this feels like an attempt to show the public that our public do not support ties with Israel while nearly 80% of the citizens in Saudi Arabia do support it. 

I call on the GIWUSA and The Workers and Socialist Party to free “The Clover Workers” from their control and to support them in finding their hopeful resolution with Clover and to avoid using anti-Israel sentiments to misdirect people who are already distraught.


About the Writer:

Yossi Malherbe is a South African historian that specializes in African and Middle east politics. He has researched in multiple global archives with a focus on “the tipping point” where foe becomes friend and regime changes come into affect.




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 (O&EO).

A System for All Seasons

Plants having “A Field Day” in South Africa thanks to Israeli expertise

By David E. Kaplan

While South Africa poured cold water on the recent groundbreaking United Arab Emirate’s deal with Israel – expressing it was “regrettable” – Israeli companies are only too happy to provide water solutions to South Africa.

One such Israeli company is the startup SupPlant that develops a sensor-based system that autonomously waters crops according to gathered data, while optimising water consumption and alerting farmers of the status of their crops, the soil and the air.

SupPlant’s motto imbedded in its brand:  

More Produce, Less Water

One of the biggest problems in agriculture is weather.

While South Africa’s regional rainfall pattern for the 2020/21 agricultural season is encouraging as the bulk of southern Africa is expected to receive an adequate rainfall throughout the growing season, previous years of substantially less rainfall resulted in adverse impacts on agriculture, water resources and hydropower generation in much of the region.

Very hard hit were South African farmers.

The SupPlant system processes hyper-local weather forecasts and provides the farmer with irrigation recommendations for a week ahead. As an example, when a large heat wave is approaching, its system will alert the farmer and recommend the necessary steps needed to overcome this heat wave without suffering crop damage while maintaining a reasonable use of water. SupPlant has accumulated years of experience in dealing with extreme weather events around the world – including South Africa – and thus is well positioned to advise its farmers globally.

Back to the Roots

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Afula in Israel’s picturesque Yezreel Valley, SupPlant has been active in the South African market since 2017. It started with two farms in the Western Cape that yielded impressive results in citrus and apples then subsequently expanded to the  county’s northernmost province of Limpopo.

Gamechanger. SupPlant changing the nature of agriculture.

SupPlant’s system assists farmers by providing the tools to maintain a correct irrigation regime all year long. It focuses on the needs of the crops and the changing conditions in the environment. “Using our system, farmers can manage their precious water resources correctly, prevent plant stress, reduce fruit loss, improve production, and maximize their crop potential year after year,” says Ori Ben Ner, the CEO of SupPlant.

In South Africa, “We have been able to decrease water usage by 37% in apple crops, increased lemon yield by 60% and Macadamia nuts have been increased by 21%. This is worth $4500 savings per hectare,” says Ori.

SupPlant CEO Ori Ben ner

Apple Does Not Fall Far From the Tree

CEO Ben Ner is following in the footsteps of his revered grandfather, Avner Ben Ner, who was born and raised to be a farmer in a small village in the northern part of Israel. It was  “Grandfather Ben Ner”  who came up with the original concept based on his experience – literally and figuratively –  “in the field”.

At 88, the elder Ben Ner is today still actively farming.

Very proudly CEO Ori reveals that “all of the experiments and R&D is done on grandfather’s original plot.”

All in the Family. (left-right) The farmer with ideas, “Grandfather Avner” Ben Ner, President & Founder Zohar Ben Ner and CEO Ori Ben Ner.

Today, with climates so unpredictable that can change so rapidly, “we have to rely on the available technologies to communicate with plants and prepare them for any scenario,” says Ori. “Our mission,” he asserts, “is to equip farmers and agri-businesses to manage their water challenges with the most relevant and potentially effective agronomic insights.” 

Today,  SupPlant is a world leading company in the field of “IOT” (“Internet of Things”) relating to agriculture. By shifting away from antiquated irrigation methodologies, SupPlant’s unique technology significantly saves water and improves productivity. 

How it works is that its artificial intelligence system analyses the data from the crops acquired through sensors which it then processes to provide irrigation commands.

Under Strict Surveillance. Strategically placed sensors monitor the growth of the fruit, the contractions of the stem or trunk and leaf temperature.

A lot of farmers talk about “sensing the needs of their plants” but what SupPlant has found is a way to scale the sensing: “We place sensors strategically which transmits data to the cloud on what the plant is sensing. It then translates that data through the use of artificial intelligence and big data to irrigation recommendations,” explains Ori. “We use all the data we have accumulated about 31 crops from 14 countries to create the best knowledge base.”

Look Who’s Talking. Farmers can now simply place sensors in the field and let the plants do the talking.
 

SupPlant has partnered in South Africa  with Nulandis  to service the country’s agricultural sector by assisting its farmers achieve  two goals:

– increasing crop yield

– reducing water usage 

Listening to the Plants

Farmers can now listen to their plants and hear directly how they are feeling or even likely to feel! SupPlant’s new mobile app will allow farmers to monitor plots and control their water budget from anywhere. The mobile app will  also send real-time alerts to the farmer in case the plants show a high stress level as it continuously monitors plants stress. In addition, it will alert when the soil is too moist, or a technical malfunction has occurred and will send advance notice  and recommendations  for dealing with extreme weather conditions.

A New Dawn. CEO Ori Ben-Ner at a SupPlant’s autonomous irrigation technology presentation at the UN in July 2019 says “a day where all growers in the world will be able to grow more produce and saving water – that day is now closer to reality more than ever.”  

This more intimate relationship between  man and his crops reminded me of in the 1969 musical western classic Paint Your Wagon with Clint Eastwood singing “I Talk To the Trees”.

Who would have thought that in 2020 the trees are now talking to the farmer!






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

From Meddling to Menace

A hungry Turkey itching to gobble all  before her

By David E. Kaplan

What’s cooking with Turkey these days? Like its namesake in the animal kingdom it has an insatiable appetite to gobble all in its sight!

President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems set on sampling a new regional “dish” nearly every month creating each time an international crisis.

His latest flavour of the month  – Armenia.

Over the course of 2020, starting in February, the salivating President interfered in Syria’s Idlib and then in April and Mayit was Libya that attracted his fancy. Clearly unsatiated, the President bombed Iraq in June and then from August through to September, drooled westerly threatening Greece over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Then, from meddling in the Mediterranean,  the appetitive Erdoğan switched his tastes to the Caspian and Caucasus to support Azerbaijan in its current clashes with Armenia.

Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians arrive in Hassakeh city after fleeing Turkish bombardment on Syria’s northeastern towns. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

Recent reports by a Syrian source supported by photos and videos revealed Syrian mercenaries recruited by Turkey being transported by busses on September 23 towards Armenia. Photographs furnished by Majd Helobi confirming these allegations further suggest that the Syrians recruited by Ankara are the same that carried out earlier “crimes against humanity” in Turkish-occupied Afrin and Tel Abyad. These crimes that according to a September 2020 United Nations Human Rights Council biannual report include “rape, ethnic cleansing and looting” were directed against women and children, primarily targeting minorities such as Yazidis, Kurds and Christians.

Man with a Mission. Two-fisted threatening Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a typical tirade.  (Photo: EPA via STR)

Bullying Beast

Is there no stopping the insatiable Turkey?” ask Arab journalists throughout the region.

Jalal Aref, writing in the UAE’s Al-Bayan, laments the tragic plight of the Turkish people under its president:

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to wake up every morning to yet another report about the deterioration of the Turkish economy, the collapse of his country’s reputation around the world and the decline in his party’s influence at home. But the Turkish leader refuses to look reality in the eye and insists on maintaining his illusion of grandeur. The question is, where will these illusions take his bullying next?”

Syrians flee shelling by Turkish forces in Ras al-Ain, northeastern Syria [AP Photo]

The man who inherited a promising economy is now only promising misery as he leads Turkey to the brink of bankruptcy. In his grandiose quest to revive the “glory days” of the Ottoman Empire,  he “has brought blood and destruction not only on his own people, but also on hundreds of innocent civilians throughout the Arab world,” writes Aref.

Syrians throw stones toward Turkish military vehicles during a patrol along the Syria-Turkey border near the town of Darbasiyah, Syria, Nov. 11, 2019. (Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

How did it come about that a man who initially promised to promote democratic reforms in his country has instead allied himself with terrorist factions that undermine the sovereignty of nation-states throughout the Middle East causing havoc!

Also writing in Al-Bayan, “How Long Will We Keep Silent About Turkey?” asks Dr. Abdullah Al-Madani. The countries of the Gulf “can no longer afford to sit idly by as Turkey continues to threaten the security and stability of our entire region. Ankara, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party is clear about its aspiration to lead the entire Muslim world by restoring the Ottoman caliphate.”

Meddling in the Med. Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz escorted by a Turkish Navy frigate in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Cyprus, last August. (Reuters)

Asserting that Erdogan’s Turkey is “no longer a friendly country with good intentions,” but rather, continues Dr. Al-Madani, “has become one of the most malicious nations in the world, deploying mercenaries all over the region and destabilizing the security and stability of distant countries in an effort to lock in political and financial gains.”

The height of hypocrisy  was when Erdoğan threatened to suspend diplomatic relations with the UAE following its September breakthrough deal between the Gulf state and Israel, without even suggesting that it might downgrade its own diplomatic relations with the Jewish state that it has maintained since 1949.

This position by Turkey was widely criticized as hypocrisy.

Today, Turkey competes with Iran in only one major respect – its hate and threats toward Israel!

What’s more disturbing, does the insatiable Turkey have its sights again set on “returning” to Israel restoring the Ottoman legacy that ruled Palestine for 400 years from 1517 to 1917.

In a speech this October to lawmakers during the opening of the new legislative session, President Erdoğan proclaimed “Jerusalem is ours”. The Turkish leader touted years of Ottoman rule over Jerusalem lamenting that “In this city that we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance.”

Designs on Jerusalem.  President Erdogan greets legislators at the parliament in Ankara on Oct. 1, 2020 on the way to declare ‘Jerusalem is our city’.  (Turkish Presidency via AP. Pool)

Erdoğan should do well not to brag nor lament the past when it comes to Jerusalem.  We have enough archaeological reminders of those ‘visitors’ who approached with armies more likely to try crushing its walls than entering through its gates, hence the city’s long and tumultuous history. Since the city was first established by Kind David in 1004 BCE, Jews have suffered war, massacre, slavery and exile .

No Mr. Erdoğan – ENOUGH and the loudest voices telling you this are not from Israel but your fellow Muslims across the region.

Tensions over Gas. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  announces on Aug. 10, 2020 that it will be conducting energy exploration in an area of the eastern Mediterranean that Greece says overlaps its continental shelf.(Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

Today Israel welcomes those that come with cameras not threats and as we see what is evolving around the Middle East – particularly in the Gulf –  this is a sentiment shared by new generations seeking a future of peace and prosperity not a past of bloodshed and bondage.






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

A New Dawn in Dubai

Once a gulf apart, now Israeli emissaries set to serve Jewish community in the Gulf

By  Michael Jankelowitz

Following the signing of the historic Abraham Accords in August, no less historic will be the sending of long-term emissaries to the Jewish community in Dubai by the World Zionist Organization (WZO). Why this is monumentally moving is that this will be a first time Israeli emissaries are sent to serve a Jewish community in an Arab country!

The resounding message is that far more than a ‘practical peace’ – something Israelis are accustomed to  –  but a portent of a ‘warm peace’ – what we all aspire to and embodied in the spirit of the Abraham Accords.

Picture Perfect. An idyllic vista of Dubai that will be seeing an influx of Israeli visitors. 

After all, the name of ‘Abraham’ in the accords holds special meaning to Jews, Christians and Muslims as the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

By so naming the deal, Israel and the UAE hope to publicly display their ancient ties and a commitment to a future of peace and prosperity.

It is to this warming milieu in the Gulf that the WZO is sending its emissaries – a young married couple Yaacov and Zolty Eisenstein.

The Eisensteins will work with a South African expatriate in Dubai, Ross Kriel, who is President of the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE), an umbrella group established by Jews living in the country.

Destination Dubai.  World Zionist organization emissaries  to the UAE, Yaacov and Zolty Eisenstein (photo credit: Courtesy)

The small Jewish community of the United Arab Emirates has welcomed the historic agreement between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi to formalize relations, praising the Arab Gulf state for its pluralism and religious tolerance.

I am so moved by the many messages of hope that I have received from Emirati friends of our community on hearing this news,” says Kriel. “Our community members look forward to direct flights to Israel and welcoming Israeli friends and visitors to the UAE.”

Winds of Change. Fluttering in the wind, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) flag waves alongside an Israeli flag. (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER PIKE

Food for Thought

A Jewish community has been operating in Dubai for about a decade with estimates as to the size of the community in the UAE ranging from the low hundreds to 1,500. There are three functioning congregations – two Orthodox and one egalitarian – and one kosher eatery called “Elli’s Kosher Kitchen”. Clearly it has established a reputation as it has caught the eye – or more the palette – of UAE Culture Minister Noura al-Kaabi who gastronomically observed that it has added “a new chapter in Gulf food history”.

Looking Ahead. The Minister of Culture and Youth, Noura Al Kaabi looks ahead to cultural exchanges between the UAE and Israel. (Chris Whiteoak / The National)

Also a former South African, Elli is the wife of Ross Kriel. She reveals that after receiving repeated requests for kosher food over the years while living in Dubai, she started Elli’s Kosher Kitchen “to provide fresh, wholesome, homemade kosher meals to travellers.” 

Man on a Mission. President of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, former South African, Ross Kriel in Dubai.

Describing the newly formed Jewish Community of the Emirates, Elli says it “grew organically out of the homes of a few expat families living in Dubai. These families used to get together occasionally for Shabbat. After we moved to Dubai in 2013, my husband did not want to pray alone and was determined to create a functioning Jewish community. Striving for a minyan, he started weekly Shabbat services in our living room using a wardrobe as the Aharon Kodesh. Chagim were also initially observed in our home. The development of the community continued in my home for two years until more space was required. Our community, albeit small, is vibrant, warm and embracing, diverse, inclusive and eclectic in its makeup.”

Kosher Cuisine. Opening her business in response to growing demand, Elli Kriel preparing Shabbat bread in the kitchen of her Dubai villa. (Pawan Singh / The National)

It is to this “vibrant, warm and embracing” community that emissaries Yaacov and Zolty Eisenstein will soon be arriving to serve on behalf of the World Zionist Organisation.

Clearly, this is “history in the making” avers Chairman of the WZO, Avraham Duvdevani, asserting: “This is an important milestone in the existence of the World Zionist Organisation.”

In a process started a few months before the announcement of the Abraham Accords, the WZO, which has a framework of hundreds of emissaries worldwide – including in small, dispersed communities – has been in touch with the Jewish community in Dubai. This followed a request from the Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations of America to send emissaries for the first time to Dubai’s Jewish community and now with the historic decision to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, what could be more “normal” than sending such ideally suited emissaries.

Changing Perspectives. A man sporting a Jewish ‘tallit’ looks out over the Dubai skyline in the United Arab Emirates. (video screenshot)

The Eisensteins will establish and run a Jewish kindergarten, teach about the heritage of the Jewish People and Israel, will establish an Ulpan for learning of the Hebrew Language and will organize community events around the Jewish festivals. Highly motivated, they have already begun working in time for the upcoming Jewish Festivals.

The emissaries are part of the “Ben Ami” programme of the Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora of the WZO, which has 36 emissaries operating in 23 countries. Most of these Jewish communities are small and dispersed, however, these are the first emissaries that are being sent to a Jewish community in an Arab country.

Says WZO Chairman, Avraham Duvdevani:

This is an important milestone in the history of the Zionist Movement through all its years of existence. We will continue to operate in every way to strengthen the connection between the State of Israel and Jewish communities in the diaspora and to strengthen the Jewish identity of our people throughout the world, including tiny dispersed communities.”

Monumental Milestone. Upbeat over the sending of emissaries to the UAE, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization Avraham Duvdevani  aims to strengthen the connection between the State of Israel and Jewish communities throughout the world.

This news has been received with great enthusiasm by communities around the world and what has been truly moving, has been to see the reaction from the Emiratis, who are looking forward to welcoming their new Israeli friends.

With Israel working on a direct airline route from Israel to Dubai that will fly through Saudi air space, Elli’s Kosher Kitchen will definitely have many more mouths to feed!




About the writer:

Michael Jankelowitz, has worked for the World Zionist Organisation and Jewish Agency  for Israel in various capacities since leaving the National Union of Israeli Students in 1978. He has worked in the WZO’s Student Division in New York and Jerusalem and was the Jewish Agency’s representative to the Jewish organization, Hillel in Washington DC and advisor on World Jewry to the JAFO treasury. He has also worked as spokesperson for JAFI.

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