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

“Under Construction” – from Buildings to Human Relations

Israel’s Top Trade Union Provides Safety Training During the COVID Crisis for Every Palestinian Construction Worker

By David E. Kaplan

Something “constructive” has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel – an innovative programme to save Palestinian lives; not from disease but from preventable accidents in Israel’s bustling construction industry.

In Israel’s entire workforce, construction workers are in the greatest danger, and for decades have suffered the highest rates of fatal workplace accidents – 6.6 times more than that of the average worker in Israel.

Like in most societies, the victims of these fatal workplace accidents are disproportionately the most vulnerable members of society and in Israel it is Israeli Arabs, Palestinians  and other foreign workers consistently over-represented in the number of construction-site fatalities and injuries.

Caught in the Act. Captured on camera, repeated safety offenses at a construction site in the center of the country. (Photo: First thing)
 

A breakdown shows that the highest incidence of fatal workplace accidents from 2017 to 2019 were caused by falls from heights, followed in descending order of falling objects, vehicular accidents, collapsing walls and scaffolding, electrocution, explosions and other.

Yes, society demands expansion and rapid development, but humanity no less morally requires that there is a limit at what price and every effort should be made to safeguard work environments.

To this end, over the past few months, a construction site in the Beit Zafafa neighbourhood in Jerusalem was rented by Israel’s largest trade union – the Histadrut – and converted into a “hands-on classroom” for the safety training of Palestinians in the construction industry. Already more than 500 Palestinian construction workers have participated in the training course at the “Safety Headquarters” with the primary aim “to prevent the next casualty.”

“Stayin’ Alive”. Safety training for Palestinian workers in Israel as the  Beit Zafafa construction site in Jerusalem. (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)

The Histadrut or the General Organization of Workers in Israel was established in 1920 in Mandatory Palestine and soon emerged as one of the most powerful institutions in the Yishuv (the body of Jewish residents in the region prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948).

In extending their services to the wellbeing of non-Israeli workers in Israel, the Histadrut proudly subscribes to the motto:

Unionised labour recognizes no borders

The one-day training sessions were planned and implemented by the Histadrut in partnership with the Israel Builders Association, who utilised the prolonged stay of Palestinian workers in Israel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to carry out the safety workshops. The morning of the training, workers were transported from their places of accommodation across Israel to the on-site “classroom”. Upon arrival,  they would register at the reception station, where after the workers were divided into small groups that underwent the training, each one separately, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the restrictions of the Corona virus.

Certificates of Safety. Proudly displaying their certificates are Palestinian safety training graduates with Avital Shapira on the right. (Photo: Avital Shapira)

Work like a Dream

Eyal Ben Reuven, Chairman of the Safety Headquarters, explained that “The training is both theoretical and practical and is based on scenarios of real accidents in the industry.” The training sessions, said Reuven, “dealt with scaffolding, ladders, dangerous mechanical tools, electricity and preventing objects from falling.”

With the thousands of Palestinians working in Israel’s construction industry, the programme has a long way to go, but it’s a start – “a constructive start.”

My dream is that only workers who graduate safety training will be able to work on construction sites,” says Ben Reuven. “But for that to happen, the government needs to help us.”

According to Reuven, the course costs approximately NIS 450 per worker with current funding being provided by the Fund for the Encouragement of the Construction Industry. With the government showing little interest in supporting the initiative at present, “we are trying to fund-raise to continue the course,” says Reuven.

Striving for Safer Working Environments. Meeting with the Palestinian delegation in the office of Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar-David (4th from the left). (Photo: Histadrut spokeswoman)

The success of the programme depends on the support of the constructive industry, which according to the Deputy Director General of the Israel Builders Association, Itzik Gurvich, has come to the table with construction companies “agreeing to pay their workers a full days wages to participate in the training.” The result has been that “Both employers and the workers have been satisfied with the course, and we’re hoping to expand the pilot.”

Ahmed Ghanaim, who heads Al Ola College, a vocational training  college in the Western Galilee; and whose instructors are responsible for the training itself, explains that even veteran Palestinian workers “who have been working in Israel for decades and are experienced in their field, don’t know Israeli labour and safety laws. This information doesn’t really exist in the Palestinian Authority and also the employers don’t always give workers all necessary knowledge. Once workers have this knowledge, they’ll know what to ask for from management in order to return home safe and sound.”

Constructing a Safer Tomorrow. The construction site hired by the Histadrut in Jerusalem offered a perfect “classroom” training ground. (Photo: Nitzan Zvi Cohen)
 

After a most instructive hands-on session about scaffolding and ladders, the workers gathered in a circle to discuss the regulations as it applies in practice. One concerned worker remarks to the instructor:

But out there on the site, it doesn’t actually happen like that!”

The instructor replies:

Listen, at the end of the day there’s a hierarchy of responsibility. You have to speak to your foreman, and he needs to report to the contractor.”

And what if the employer tells me to break those rules?” asks the employee.

Contact the Histadrut,” the instructor replies. “Remember that we’re talking about your life, don’t agree to work in dangerous conditions.”

Avital Shapira, Director of International Relations of the Histadrut, addressed the Palestinian workers in fluent Arabic. Shapira’s fluency in Arabic  stems from her stay in Egypt where she was the first Israeli student to study at the American University of Cairo, back in 1994.

This is a great opportunity to show that the Histadrut is the home for all workers, regardless of origin, religion or gender,” Shapira told Davar, the Histadrut’s online news outlet.

This is also an opportunity to use this platform to convey to Palestinian workers the message that the Histadrut sees them as a bridge to peace. I think the presence of so many Palestinian workers in the Israeli labour market is a platform for cooperation and coexistence.” The presence of these Palestinian workers, according to Shapira, also strengthens the relationship with the Building and Wood Workers’ International organization (BW).

Safe and Sound. Histadrut’s Director of International Relations, Avital Shapira, addresses the Palestinian workers in Arabic  at a safety training workshop at Beit Zafafa in Jerusalem. (Photo: Nitzan Zvi Cohen)

It is important to understand that in the construction industry there is no difference between a Palestinian, Israeli, or migrant worker,” adds Tal Burshtein, Vice Chairman of the Construction, Related Industries and Wood Workers’ Union. “Everyone is covered by the same collective bargaining agreement and is entitled to the same rights.”

Most of the Palestinians who came to the safety training chose to become members of the Histadrut, a process that began in recent years.

And for good reason!

Think of the abhorrent conditions foreign workers are treated in countries where they have found employment, notably in the Middle East and Africa. Too frequently they are exploited, with few legal rights to protect themselves.

In Israel, on the other hand, the Histadrut, will aid Palestinian foreign workers who have been fired, help them receive their vacation and sick days, and even represents them against the National Insurance Institution in events of workplace accidents. “First and foremost, the Histadrut is a sympathetic ear – we want to help.” During the COVID-19 crisis, the Histadrut distributed tens of thousands of masks and gloves and more than 2,000 liters of hand sanitizer to Palestinian workers.

Meeting with them has shown us that they lack a lot of knowledge about their rights,” said Burshtein. “Since we’ve been distributing pamphlets on workers’ rights and signing them up to the Histadrut, we’ve been getting many more inquiries from Palestinian workers to our information service center, asking for help with problems at work. The workers who’ve gotten the pamphlets in Arabic also serve as ambassadors who disseminate this knowledge to additional workers.”

Building Bridges

Peter Lerner, Director General of the Histadrut’s International Relations Division, is totally upbeat about the joint venture safety training programme for Palestinian workers. “The pilot was an initiative,” he told Lay of the Land,  “that we hope will become the new standard for saving the lives of workers in the construction sector. I believe that it is a joint obligation to combine efforts and produce a safer working environment for the workers, empowering them and sharing knowledge about safety in the workplace and workers’ rights.” 

Thumbs Up. An inspired Director General of the Histadrut’s International Relations Division, Peter Lerner.
 

Lerner asserts that this project is part of the Histadrut’s “expanded activities with Palestinian workers” adding that while “designed to ensure the health and welfare of Palestinian workers, they also promote co-existence.”

In Israel’s ever-expanding ‘urban landscape’, the building of new inspiring edifices is welcome. No less welcome in the country’s frenetic ‘social landscape’ is the building of improved relations between people!

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

Unbreakable Bonds

The Relationship between the USA and Israel

By Lay of the Land USA correspondent

Away from the feuding in American politics – a matter for Americans themselves to determine and decide as they will in November’s upcoming election  – President Trump’s steadfast support for Israel has been reassuring and much appreciated. At a time when Israel faces existential threats and is not short of enemies committed to its destruction, it is reassuring to Israelis as well as Jewish communities around the world that the Jewish state enjoys the solid support and friendship of the United States not only in word but indeed.

There is only ONE Israel and we all know what befell the Jews when there was NO Israel!

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Unshakable Ties. During the meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo Pompeo said that he is sure that “you know that Israel has no better friend than the United States.”

Appreciation of this enduring support and friendship, was warmly evident in a recent address by leading businessman and philanthropist, Simon Falic at a gathering of Christian Zionists to honor the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. The indefatigable Secretary of State has been in the forefront of  championing President Trump’s vision for peace in order to “achieve enduring security, freedom and prosperity for both sides.”

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Simon Falic stressing the unbreakable bond between the US and Israel.

“Judeo Christian values are ingrained in the United States of America,” began Falic. “For many of us, one of the most significant events in the last century was the establishment of the State of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to our ancestral homeland.  I believe, as so many of you, that this historical event was decreed by the heavens. The destinies of the United States and Israel are intertwined.”

Unbreakable Bonds3.png

 

Stressing the familial nature of the relationship, Falic said that  “while our common enemies refer to the United States as the ‘big Satan’ and Israel as the ‘little Satan’, I think it is more like we are the big brother and Israel the little brother.” Evidence of this was  “President Truman’s recognition in 1948 of the establishment of the State of Israel, to 1973 during the Yom Kippur war, when President Nixon sent desperately needed weapons to allow Israel to defend herself and survive the Arab onslaught and then from the billions of dollars in aid over the years to President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the eternal and united capital of Israel  and the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights.”

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Strong Ties. Simon Falic, Chairman of Duty Free Americas at the ceremony presenting Israeli President Shimon Peres the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014. The medal, designed and struck by the United States Mint, recognizes and honored the late President Peres for maintaining strong bilateral relations between Israel and the United States and was the first Congressional Gold Medal to be awarded to a sitting President of Israel. (Photo: Shmuel Lenchevsky/Dov Lenchevsky)

Through this all, “big brother has always been there for little brother.”

Stressing the Biblical ties to the land, Falic said, “The Jewish people returning to live in Israel after 2000 years in exile is based on something far more meaningful than any partition plan, any arbitrary division of land, or any political decision that granted Jewish survivors of World War II a place of refuge. It is essentially tied to the Bible. Without this perspective, people inevitably miss the entire story that leads to mistakes politically.

“Time and again, leaders from across the globe adopt definitive positions about what is best for Israel and how to move the peace process forward. Yet, these ideas never worked. They insisted on imposing a solution without seriously considering and ignoring the fact that Israel is surrounded by enemies who vow to destroy this sliver of Holy Land that could fit into Lake Michigan.  Israel and her people alone will have to face and deal with the consequences, as the Oslo accords have taught us.  The mindset of the Arab world is that they can lose 99 wars with Israel – but all they have to do is win the 100th.”

Warning against failure to take advantage when destiny provides a window of opportunity, Falic recounted of the telegram, President Truman’s Chief of Staff, General George Marshall wired on May 13th, 1948, to David Ben Gurion “stating that if he declared an independent state of Israel, five Arab armies would attack and within 48 hours and not one Jew in the land would be left alive.  The rest is history.”

This same warning of fearing the worst and hence counselling inaction, occurred before President Trump announced the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. “He was also warned by his Generals that there will most likely be a violent reaction around the world to US interests.”

And once again “The rest is history”.

This pattern of warning and suggested caution was to again repeat itself with President Trump’s “recognition of Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights.  We can only imagine what would be the situation today if Israel had not conquered the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and held in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.  Today, ISIS, the Syrian and Iranian regimes and the Russians would be overlooking the Sea of Galilee.”

Looking to Pompeo, and with a warm smile, Falic exclaimed:

“You are now being part of Israel’s History.”

Exposing European hypocrisy of singling out Israel for selective opprobrium, Falic drew attention to last year’s European Union Court of Justice, when “all 15 judges unanimously ruled, that all products made by Jews in Judea and Samaria, or what they refer to as occupied territory, must be labeled as products made in “occupied territory”.  There are close to 100 conflicts and disputes around the world regarding borders and territories, including Cyprus that is occupied by Turkey, but only Israeli products made by Jews, were singled out. Europe destroyed and eliminated century’s old Jewish communities and today they pursue Israel and the Jews in their courts and in diplomatic circles. The primary product that was part of this European’s court decision, was a wine called Psagot. Psagot is the “poster boy” of the BDS movement.

 

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Taste Of Ancient Israel. The Psagot winery is located in the northern region of the Jerusalem mountains, an area ripe with remnants of biblical-era vineyards and wineries. 

 

My family and I are partners in this winery.  We invested in Psagot over 10 years ago – against the advice of other investors and wine experts. We were told that while the wine is excellent, it is in a disputed area that one day might be part of a negotiated agreement and Jewish life and business there will be eliminated.

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Psagot winery. During the vineyard’s construction, a coin dating back to the Great Revolt of (66–73 CE) was discovered where its front face is stamped with the words “For Freedom of Zion” and adorned with a vine leaf, while the back face reads “Year Two” (a reference to the Revolt) alongside an image of an amphora – an ancient container used for storing wine. This coin appears on the label of each bottle of Psagot wine.

Ironically, these naysayers encouraged and emboldened us, even more, to invest to help establish Jewish life and business after 2,000 years.  Next to the vineyards is a cave and press where wine was produced and stored during the time of the Second Temple. An ancient coin of Judea was found in the cave, and today a replica of that coin appears on many of our bottles.  Psagot was a small unknown boutique winery producing 40,000 bottles per year. Today, after winning many prestigious wine awards in France and London, we produce 400,000 bottles per year.

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Shared Values, Common Destinies. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waves as he speaks at the 2019 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, at Washington Convention Center, in Washington, Monday, March 25, 2019 (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“Secretary of State Pompeo, only one week after the despicable decision of the European court, you publicly announced the State Department’s determination that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not categorically inconsistent with International law. Your official announcement is widely referred to in Israel as the “Pompeo Doctrine”.  I don’t think you really know how loved and respected you are in Israel.”

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Simon Falic (right) with Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of the Christian United for Israel (CUFI) organization.

Reminding his Christian Zionist audience of the strong connection the Jewish people have with the land of Israel “where Abraham, Isaac, Sara, Leah, Rivka, and Rachel, walked, lived and are buried,” Falic concluded with  “Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and to all our Christian Zionist friends, “May G-d bless you and protect you. May G-d make his face shine upon you and treat you with grace. May G-d lift his face toward you and grant you peace.”

In a world currently plagued not only of a virus but one of uncertainty, it is reassuring that we have certainty on this critical issue – the unbreakable bond between the USA and Israel.

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Simon Falic flanked by his wife, the Honorary Life President, WIZO USA Jana Falic (left) and Nili Falic, Chairman Emeritus, Friends of the IDF (FIDF).

 

 

 

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

 

You ‘Beer’ The Judge

Israel’s burgeoning boutique beer industry is foaming at the brim.

By David E. Kaplan

Just think of it – twenty years ago in Israel, there were the two stalwarts of Maccabi Beer and Goldstar with few imports from abroad.  The soft drink was king; beer the lowly pawn.

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Today, it has all changed.

While ancient Israel may well have been known as “The land of milk and honey”, 21st century Israel could well be on the way to becoming “the land of hops and barley”.

In the land that gave the civilized world wine in the era of our Patriarchs – evinced by the many ancient presses found all over the country – it was only a question of time for a thriving beer industry to emerge. If the choice of beers was once limited, today it is difficult keeping up with the new labels as an ever-increasing number of enterprising brewmasters are entering the market.

The writer invites you to join him on a pub crawl and get a taste of what’s brewing in Israel.

A ‘Jem’ Of A Beer

I enter the Jem’s Beer Factory – a pub restaurant – in the heart of a courtyard in  the center of Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, situated in the city’s outdoor food market which has been partially renovated and restored to a boutique food court. At night, the courtyard is buzzing, and Jem’s is packed. I meet as arranged the owner who is normally at the headquarters in Petach Tikva. There are ten Jem’s Beer Factory pubs located mostly in the center of the country.

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A ‘Jem’ of a selection.

 “All our advertising is by word of mouth,” says Jeremy (“Jem”) Welfeld – or as likely – word of lips!

The name ‘Jem’ is derived from the name “my younger sister coined for me when we were kids.” That’s the simple part of a long journey that began when Jem gave up a lucrative job as an event planner at the While House, “during the Clinton and Bush administrations” for brewing beer in Israel.

Quickly discovering that his new vision would require a variety of skills “beyond drinking a lot”, Jem studied Microbiology and The Advanced Sciences of Brewing and arrived in Israel armed with a battery of diplomas and a wife and their two kids.

Many hops later, Jem’s Beer Factory churns out many thousands of litres a month. “About a third of our production goes out in bottles, the rest out on tap”, says Jeremy. The range includes an American Pale Ale, an American Indian Ale which he describes as “deep color gold like the city of Jerusalem, with more hops and of course, more date honey,” and a Midnight Stout, “black as coal with a creamy tan head, thick as the afternoon haze over Tel Aviv.”

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“Cheers”. Founder of Jem’s, Jeremy Welfeld with barmaid at his restaurant pub in Kfar Saba. (photo D.E. Kaplan)

If Jem is poetic in describing his beer, he is no less philosophical why he enjoys the business. “Beer is a catalyst to play with people.”

Puzzled, I enquired, “What do you mean?”

 “Israel is a very intense country on a lot of different levels and beer is the perfect equalizer; it lets everyone calm down at the end of their day. It is perfect for the Israeli climate and with only 5% alcohol, it is the beverage of friendship.”

 Rich In History

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Dancing Camel brewmaster David Cohen.

“Our goal”, says brewmaster David Cohen, an immigrant from the USA and founder of Dancing Camel brewery, “is to brew an exciting beer that makes people think and smile. Sure, we make traditional styles, but they are nuanced in a way that is distinctly Israeli. This country is rich in herbs, fruits and spices that belong in beer but have never been tried before. I want to help define what Israeli beer means. You know when I’ll be satisfied? When I hear people in London, Brussels and Seattle talking about how exciting Israeli beers are.”

The market may be competitive but what this writer found most refreshing – apart from tasting the various chilled beers – was the camaraderie amongst the various brewmasters. This is evident at the annual Beer Festivals in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where the various brewmasters have little hesitation praising their competitors and their beers. “We are a rare club,” continues  Cohen whose passion for beer began in 1987, “at a time when the American microbrewery scene was first hitting the East Coast,” and decided to brew his own. “It was the thrill of tapping into a craft that’s as old as time itself and for most, as mysterious. Suddenly, I was connected to the Babylonians of 4,000 years ago, the Trappist Monks of Belgium, the pilgrims that landed on Plymouth Rock, the brewers of medieval London. I began to study different beer styles and flavors – to learn what ingredients and processes impact flavors and how. What I discovered was how complex beer really is and how much each reflects the unique cultures, climates and tastes of different civilizations.”

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Once the hobby got under Cohen’s skin, there was no turning back, nor to bringing to ‘fruition’ his other passion – Aliyah (Immigrating to Israel).

The combination of these two passions is Dancing Camels and as to the derivation of the name, “that’s a long story that goes back 500 years.” In the meantime, Cohen’s customers are ‘dancing’ the nights away downing his beer.

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Alexander the Great

Back at the 2013 European Beer Star competition in Munich, judges swigged 1,512 beers from 40 countries to find the best beer. Israeli boutique brewery Alexander located in the Hefer Valley won the gold medal in the English Style Porter category.

Alexander’s ecstatic CEO, Ori Sagy, a former pilot who plotted the course for his brewery’s trajectory, told local media, “Our vision is to make Alexander Israeli beer fresh, excellent and as good as the best breweries in Europe and the USA. After a series of blind tastings, the jury, composed of professionals in the field of breweries from across Europe, selected our beer as the best English Porter Beer. We therefore received recognition in the beer capital of the world that ours is indeed up to par with the best breweries in Europe and the USA. For us, this is a great joy and honour.”

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From Pilot To Brewer. Former Israeli pilot, Ori Sagi at his Alexander Beer brewery in Tel Aviv. (Moshe Shai/ Flash90)

This was followed in 2014 by another gold medal at the prestigious World Beer Cup in Denver, Colorado.

Established in 2008 the brewery takes the name of the nearby Alexander River. However, in case one is confused over “Which Alexander?” – particularly after a few pints – the river is named not after the conquering Macedonian but after Alexander Yannai, once king of Judea. “This beer is historically kosher,” assures an employee with a wide grin.

With the Alexander River home to the country’s largest habitation of soft-shelled turtles it was only ‘natural’ that the turtle featured on the brewery’s logo. The added inclusion of wings on the turtle’s shell is a nod to Sagy’s previous career as a pilot.

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The Line Up. Alexander’s cavalry ready to charge (your glasses)!

Beer and humour go hand in hand, so it was quite fitting to see written high on the wall in the brewery bar the quote from the legendary rock musician Frank Zappa:

You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline”.

This brewery with a pilot in the cockpit is flying high.

Southern Comfort

In Israel’s dry desert sits Negev Brewery, “ready to quench the thirst of any passerby who steps inside,” as the invitation to the public reads. With a backyard bar, Israel’s sole southern brewery is a popular ‘waterhole’. With a relaxed southern desert vibe, visitors come to sample the boutique beer that now distributes to 450 clients throughout Israel.

Negev Brewery started out as a home-brewing project dreamed up by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev graduate Yochai Kudler. Returning home to Kibbutz Orim in the Negev Desert, he continued brewing but mostly for friends. Wanting to expand and build a modern facility, Yochai found an empty building in the industrial zone of Kiryat Gat where he opened Negev Breweries in 2010. In the summer of 2011, Norman Premium, an Israeli importer and distributor of premium beers purchased Negev Brewery.

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In Good Spirits. The Negev Brewery handing out sample shots at an event. (Photo: Negev Beer)

Today Negev Brewery is run by CEO Sagiv Karlboim, Gilad Dror and Tomer Ronen.

Like the purity of the desert, there is a purity in the philosophy  behind Negev Brewery. The desert brewery is environmentally conscious with the wastewater collected used to irrigate the garden which is being developed to host tastings of their array of beers namely: Amber Ale, Porter Alon and Passion Fruit. Like most microbreweries, Negev Brewery does not filter their beers or add preservatives. This means that the beer is best when fresh and as they say, “don’t think that sediment in the bottom of your glass is anything but a positive indication of unfiltered beer.”

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Desert Delight. The flavorful brews at Negev Brewery in Kiryat Gat (photo credit: Rebecca McKinsey/Times of Israel)

Negev’s brews are available around the country, in pubs, restaurants and stores that sell wine and beer

Says Tomer, “the company is very particular about the ingredients that go into its beers,” and refutes that beer is fattening.  Setting the record straight, “It’s the peanuts you eat with your beer that make you fat!”

The Booze Brothers

The story of Shapiro Beer begins with two brothers Itzik and Danny Shapiro in their parents’ basement in the German Colony neighborhood in Jerusalem with plastic bowls and improvised tubes. Toying with flavours and recipes, they soon had a following for their brews, but it wasn’t until Itzik spent a summer working at a microbrewery in Colorado that they began giving some serious thought to turning their hobby into a business.

What a difference a few years makes!

Today, their state-of-the-art brewery is in Beit Shemesh, however “it’s a Jerusalem beer,” asserts Itzik.

Known as Shapira in Hebrew and Shabeera in Arabic it is most popular in the nation’s capital.

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All In The Family. Tamar Shapiro, who runs the brewery with her siblings, shows off her family’s wares. (Photo: Shapiro Beer)

Offering eight beers, there first – Pale Ale – remains there most popular beer. Based on their first home brew recipe, it is a classic golden coloured, American style pale ale, dry hopped with Cascade giving aromas of citrus and grapefruit.

Their label is the Lion of Judea swigging down ale. At the annual Jerusalem Beer Festival, the local brew customarily receives a ROAR of approval from the crowd.

The cool thing about a microbrewery is that it’s flexible,” said Dani. “You can make a test batch and if it’s good, you sell it. If it’s not good, you drink it!”

Clearly no downside!

BlockBUSTER Beer

“In our family, we always spoke about ambition and reaching your dreams through hard work,” said Denny Neilson the founder of Buster’s Cider Factory located in Beit Shemesh.

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Busters Beer. Pam and Denny Neilson at Buster’s Beverage Company in Beit Shemesh. (Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman)

Denny is another fascinating personality blending into the environment like the ingredients in his beer. Formally in the telecommunication business for 30 years before immigrating with his family to Israel in 2003 from Tennessee in the USA, Californian native Denny says, “I started making wine and brewing beer at home.  We are kind of “do-it-yourselfers” and when the local folk expressed how much they liked it, we opened up a store, called Winemaker.” Soon afterwards, he had an award-winning beer under his belt called Isra-Ale. Thereafter, he began making alcoholic apple cider, and once the recipe was perfected, he introduced it to the Israeli market as Buster’s Cider. It became so popular that mass production followed, and in the summer of 2014, he introduced Israel’s first alcoholic lemonade named Buster’s Hard Lemonade. Today the Buster brand of alcoholic beverages is available at retail outlets throughout the country.

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Family Brewery. Now running the brewery is Matt Neilson (right) with mom Pam who runs the visitor’s centre. (photo D.E. Kaplan)

To the question I put to Denny a few years ago  as to how he came up with the name ‘Buster’, Denny replied,

Well, you can probably hear him barking. Buster is our family dog, a Golden Retriever we love so much that we decided to name our beers after him.  So when people ask about the recipes for our drinks, we always joke only Buster knows – and he’s not talk’in.”

Sadly, today Buster has passed on but not his legacy that lives on with satisfied beer drinkers across the country.

Denny’s wife Pamela runs the Visitor’s Center while Matt their son is, “the main man today,” says his proud Dad.

“I’m the science guy,” asserts Matt with his hand on the tap.

We were a large group that sat, danced on the pub’s patio and listened to Pamela present the history of the brewery ‘From Tennessee to Beit Shemesh’, all the while sampling the frothy fruitful delights of the warm Neilson family.

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Sweet Surrender. Enjoy these fruity delights from Busters.

Beit Shemesh is first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible  in the Book of Joshua. After Moses, it was Joshua  who gave direction to the Jewish People. Many Busters later, I reflected on this “direction” and was thankful I was not driving home!

 “Cheers”

Having ‘done the rounds’, I was indebted to the brewer from Negev Breweries’, Tomer Ronen, who assured: “You won’t put on weight from beer; it’s the peanuts that is fattening.”

Staying clear of the peanuts and having ‘weighed’ all aspects of these boutique beers across much of the country, the only thing left to say is:

Le’Chaim! ( “cheers”, or in Hebrew – “to life”)

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Out Of This World. Young revelers from around the world having fun at a Bazelet Beer Festival in Israel. (Photo: Shishi Bagolan/Facebook)