A Tale of Two Judokas – the Israeli and the Iranian

It took bravery, grit and defiance – not against a single competitor but an entire autocratic regime!

By David E. Kaplan

He may have won Silver this February on the mat in Tel Aviv but for Iranian judoka, Saeid Mollaei, he had already – off the mat – won Gold for sportsmanship and integrity. It was in defiance of submission to State muscle and all because of one Israeli – Sagi Muki from Netanya! Mollaei, who now represents Mongolia, competed in Israel this February 2021, winning a silver medal in Tel Aviv. He took second place in the under-81kg category after losing to Uzbekistan’s Sahrofiddin Boltaboev. It was more than simply historic – it was inspirational for this Iranian to be competing in Israel.

Silver in Tel Aviv. Iranian-born Mongolian judoka Saeid Mollaei (left), wearing the silver medal, greets Uzbekistan’s gold medal winner Sharofiddin Boltaboev after the finals of the men’s under 81kg category of Tel Aviv Grand Slam 2021 in Tel Aviv, on February 19, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

When Mollaei fled his home country of Iran back in 2019, it could not have been an easy decision to make. He was well aware of the sacrifices he was making – both professional and personal; but his conscience would not allow him do otherwise!

Defying orders, he would not withdraw from an international competition just because he may end up facing in the final an Israeli – Sagi Muki.

Man on a Mission. A motivational speaker, Israeli judoka Sagi Muki is proud to speak on issues from judo to values.

That ‘battleground’ – on and off the mat –  was the Tokyo 2019 World Championships that Israeli Sagi Muki went on to win the title in his weight category. The then reigning world champion, Saeid Mollaei, was ordered by the Iranian Deputy Sports Minister, Davar Zani, to withdraw from a preliminary bout in order to avoid meeting the Israeli in the final. He defiantly defied the order and went on to compete although he eventually lost in the semifinals so did not have to face Muki who won the gold.

Message from the Mat. Israeli Sagi Muki (left) and Iranian Saeid Mollaei (right)  make the case for friendship.

Muki praised Mollaei for his bravery and referred to him as  “an inspiration”.

Afraid to return to Iran, Mollaei went into exile in Germany but was then subsequently granted citizenship of Mongolia and was hoping to compete for his adopted country in the 2020 Olympic Games.

So was Muki for Israel, with whom the writer met in Tel Aviv in 2019 to interview, while preparing for the Olympics. The coronavirus pandemic had other ideas!

Sagi Muki (right) and the writer, David Kaplan during the interview in 2019 in Tel Aviv.
 

Asking Muki what impact the experience had on him , he replied:

I know what it takes to get to the top and for Saeid  to be prepared to sacrifice it all on a matter of principle was humbling and truly inspirational – a true judoka champion on and off the mat. Today, we are friends for life. We met at the Paris Grand Slam, February 10, 2020 and I posted on Instagram a photo of us embracing. He was World Champion in 2018 the year before I became champion and so with the photo, I added the caption:

2 World Champions; but before that 2 good friends

Brothers in Arms. Meeting in Paris, Sagi Muki (right) announces to the world on social media his friendship ‘for life” with Iranian  Saeid Mollaei (left).

This is the message I want to convey to the world. That first of all, we are all human beings; that it does not matter where we are from, we can still be friends.”

And as to the question what was the response in going public with  your friendship, Muki answered:

Overwhelming encouragement from all over the world and particularly from Iranians, who like Saeid are unafraid to upload messages of support on social media.”

Opening his Facebook page on his cellphone, Muki reads a few of the messages from Iran.

““Hi Sagi Muki; The Iranian people love  your people and your country.  We want peace and friendly relationship with yours.”

Muki reads his reply:

Me and all Israeli people love you back.”

And then a flurry of comments from around the world, some in Arabic.

He then read another two:

  • I am from Iran. You are like my brother” and
  • Iranians refuse to be enemies with Israel.” 

This was a far cry from what happened earlier in 2019 in Tokyo when Muki faced off an Egyptian in a semi-final bout on the way to winning the World Championships. That one fight made more international news than was warranted when one bodily movement was less about judo and more about politics!

In his toughly contested semi-finals on his way to becoming judo world champion, Muki encountered Egyptian judoka Mohamed Abdelaal, who refused to shake his hand at the end of the match. Television viewers around the world stared in disbelief  at the Israeli offering to shake Abdelaal’s hand and Abdelaal turning his back and walking away. It was an embarrassing moment for Egyptian sport that led to its sporting body having to apologize.

Unshakable Hate. Israeli Judoka Sagi Muki (left) won against Egyptian fighter Mohamed Abdelaal (right) at the 2019 World Judo Championships who walks off refusing to shake hands with him.

Muki, who received the gold medal after defeating Belgian judoka Matthias Casse in the championship round later in the day, said afterward that he was “sorry” that Abdelaal didn’t shake his hand but that he was nevertheless pleased “that I was able to show the beautiful face of Israel.”

Asking him how did he feel by the Egyptian’s unsportsmanlike behaviour, Muki replied:

I felt so disappointed because I wanted to show the world that through judo – larger things can happen beyond our sport.  I grew up in a home to respect people – this is so important to me – it’s in my upbringing but it’s also integral in judo philosophy. He not only disrespected me but far worse, he disrespected the sport and his country. I wanted to show that Israel extends its hand in peace; that it does not matter who you are, your race, religion or country; we must respect everyone.”

An ambassador for Israel and the sport of judo, Muki – before the Covid-19 pandemic, gave motivational addresses in Israel and abroad. He talked about his recovery from serious injury, which could so easily have prevented his return to the sport.  He speaks of “Positive Transformation” stressing  that “where there is the will, there is a way” and that “Everyone has challenges in life, it is how you tackle them. This is important for young Israeli schoolkids to hear.” But he also talks about positive transformation  in attitudes  “that while the Egyptian refused to shake my hand, other Arab countries – like Abu Dhabi  – are now welcoming Israeli teams and how an Iranian is now my friend for life. These are important messages, particularly when I address university students in the USA. I do not want to be seen as a guy who competes only for medals. I recognise the power of judo; its outreach potential and that it can impact and influence millions all over the world. Therefore I want to use this platform as a bridge between people.”

Meanwhile back in Tel Aviv after the February 2021 competition, CNN reported Mollaei saying Israel had been “very good to me since I arrived,” and that the Israeli judo team “have been very kind. That is something I will never forget.”  Amplifying  his feelings, the Iranian ended off with “TODAH” – “thank you” in Hebrew..

Israel’s Channel 12 touchingly reported that Mollaei said to his friend and competitor Muki:

 “Maybe we’ll meet in the finals of the Olympics” referencing the XXXII Olympiad still known as Tokyo 2020.

Time and the pandemic will tell.

The message of these two friends and sportsmen is exquisitely expressed in the words the Iranian:

I am friends with Sagi Muki. He supports me and I thank him for this. It doesn’t matter who wins, what matters is friendship.”





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

Tel Aviv is Alive, Well and Pedaling

By Stephen Schulman

These times are troubled and turbulent with the Covid-19 Virus taking its toll, reaping illnesses and deaths and like the rest of the planet, Israel has not been immune. There have been and still are lockdowns with businesses closed, people losing their livelihoods, being confined to homes, and much attendant suffering.

Nevertheless, in spite of restrictions on movement and being limited to a certain radius from their homes, Israeli citizens have been allowed a respite; to leave their domiciles for sporting activities and exercise provided that it is not done in groups. Throughout the length and breadth of the country many people have taken advantage of this proviso and with gusto, have filled the paths and trails from Kiryat Shmona in the north down to southerly Eilat.

North to South. The writer participating in the Israel Road Cycling Challenge that crosses the Golan, connecting over 850 miles (1400km) of single track and dirt tracks from the snowy peak of Mt. Hermon in the north to the sun-soaked Red Sea city of Eilat.

Alongside their pedestrian paths, many cities and local councils with a growing awareness and appreciation of this sport have also paved parallel cycle lanes and Tel Aviv and its metropolis is no exception to the rule. Moreover, possessing a cosmopolitan ambience with a round the clock activity, with its flat topography, large parks, seaside promenade, multitude of cycling lanes and many hire bike stations, the city has become a Mecca for cyclists. In this difficult period, there has been a two wheeled renaissance as many Israelis have discovered and rediscovered the joys of cycling. Bicycle shops are bustling, the demand is great and many disappointed customers have found that cycles are in short supply.

Two-Wheel Fun in the Sun. Ideal weather for most the year, Israelis  have taken to cycling in a huge way. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Tel Aviv boasts a great cycling path that runs alongside the sea. It starts from the Old City of Jaffa, continues along the Herbert Samuel beach promenade to the Old Port of Tel Aviv, then turning north via Reading power station stretches until the Tel Baruch beach and then goes even further, ending at the marina in Herzlia. This picturesque route is daily thronged with cyclists of all ages and all sizes riding a wide variety of bikes ranging from folding models with small 20 inch wheels and laid back balloon tired boulevard cruisers to expensive top range mountain and road bikes. It has become so popular that on Friday and Saturday mornings there is something akin to a traffic jam!

Coasting Along. Taking in the breeze off the Mediterranean, cycling on Tel Aviv beach promenade.

Tel Aviv off-road pedallers wishing to be closer to nature and get away ‘far from the madding crowd‘ do not lack for choice. The Yarkon River that runs through Tel Aviv with its effluence at the Old Port has single tracks aplenty. In many places, the path winds through bamboo growing along its banks and it is an inimitable experience speeding down tunnels created by their leaves and stems growing together over your head.

Cycling Comrades. The writer Stephen Schulman (right) with his cycling companion Adrian Wolff.

To their credit, the mayor and the city council identify with and encourage sport. In addition to the annual marathon, there is the Tel Aviv Rondo – the largest cycling event in the country. Every September, (except for lockdown 2020!) on an early Friday morning, well over 10,000 pre-registered cyclists assemble at the Exhibition Grounds to complete a well organized, closed off 20 km loop in the city. Experienced riders are permitted 3 circuits and even the young are well catered for with an 8km route. Nothing can compare to the experience of riding down the freeway with the wind at your back and before you, a colorful phalanx of thousands of joyful pedallers stretching far into the distance!

Sea Breeze. A group cycling tour of the coast seen here at Herzliya marina.

There are many other organized cycling events throughout the country ranging from off-road charity rides to pelotons for serious ‘roadies’. Even hilly Jerusalem has its devoted riders and hosts both off and on road events. Possibly the biggest and most traditional is the annual Ride around the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) where, on a November Saturday morning, with the sea on their right, thousands of cyclists, both young and old, from all over the country congregate to complete the more demanding 65 km circuit to then relax and picnic with family and friends on the large lawns beside the lake.

Peddling Pleasure. Seen here some years ago at the One-to-One Charity Ride Round the Sea of Galilee in aid of children who were victims of terror attacks, is the writer (left) together with former South Africans living in Israel.

Israel offers a great choice of well mapped and marked cycling routes, many of which have been planned and executed by the local and regional authorities together with a growing number of volunteer enthusiasts. A Trans-Israel cycling path is also under development.

 In the Holy Land, the range and variety of landscape is unparalleled. My cycling buddy and I have been on challenging descents on the Golan Heights, climbed single tracks in the verdant and wooded Galilee and bounced over rocks in the arid and dusty Negev Desert. But what gives us even greater pleasure is watching the growing number of keen cyclists. In our well over two decades of pedaling, we have been witnesses to how once limited to a relatively small number of groupies; the sport has mushroomed into a national pastime.

Tough at the Top. The writer participating in a grueling assent of the majestic Golan Heights.

Cycling has also become firmly ensconced within the national consciousness.  We now proudly possess a national cycling team – Israel Start-Up Nation – that has successfully competed in many prestigious international events including the Giro d’Italia  and the legendary and grueling Tour de France. About two years ago, the team, dressed in their blue and white jerseys – the color of the Israeli flag – rode in a peloton across Israel and was greeted by enthusiastic and cheering crowds along the way. How do I know? I was among them!

From Jerusalem to Rome. Elia Viviani of Italy wins the 2nd stage of the Giro d’Italia, in Tel Aviv on May 5, 2018. ( Roy Alima/FLASH90)

With the aid of mass vaccinations and some public cooperation, Israel is now slowly emerging from the lockdown and attempting to return to a normalcy.

Hopefully, the road to full recovery will not only lead upward but also be full of fellow cyclists!  

Hello from Israel. There has been a “cycling revolution” in Israel in recent years with Israel Start-Up Nation / Israel Cycling Academy competing in both the Giro d ’Italia and the Tour de France.
 



About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Stephen-Schulman1.png

Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.





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

Helping Hand into the Arms of All

Tel Aviv rolls out COVID vaccines for illegal foreign nationals and undocumented asylum seekers

By David E. Kaplan

WOW!!!.” 

This was the exclamation of a participant from South Africa  on a business Zoom meeting three weeks ago in January after asking the six other participants – all from Israel – whether they had had the COVID-19 vaccination. Far from being out of the woods, Israel so far has outpaced every other nation in vaccinating its people, nearing 40% of its population.

Hearing in the affirmative that all the faces staring at him on his computer screen partnered arms that had all been inoculated, the Zoom participant from Johannesburg concluded his “WOW!” with:

You guys don’t realise how fortunate you are.”

It’s not only Israel’s citizens that are “FORTUNATE”  but also the migrant workers in Israel from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Moldova, China and Nigeria, as well as Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers who are receiving the Pfizer- BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at the Tel Aviv COVID-19 Vaccination Center in the southern part of city – home to large migrant community.

Vaccines for All. A sign written in multiple languages at the Tel Aviv vaccination center for foreign nationals (Photo: Moti Kimchi).

As part of an initiative to inoculate the city’s foreign nationals,  Tel Aviv City Hall and the Sourasky Medical Center started administering vaccines free of charge to the city’s foreign nationals, many of whom are undocumented asylum seekers. This was all visually evident on Tuesday, 9th February – the first day of the operation – as dozens of asylum seekers and foreign workers in Tel Aviv lined up outside the building to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Posters provided information in English, Tigrinya, Russian and Arabic.

Lay Down Your Arms. A foreign national receives the COVID-19 vaccine at the new vaccination center in Tel Aviv (Photo: EP)

I am very happy,” Indian national Garipelly Srinivas Goud told Associated Press. Lamenting that foreign workers in Israel don’t have the money or insurance to afford paying privately for the vaccine, Goud, who has been working in Israel for eight years, welcomed the vaccine drive as a “very good decision.”

A Call to Arms. French nuns, asylum seekers and foreign workers wait in line to receive their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

While it is the government’s responsibility to vaccinate everybody within the nation’s borders, Tel Aviv municipality spokesman Eytan Schwartz, said that the city would take the next step and start “to vaccinate the illegal or undocumented asylum seekers as well.”

Thumbs Up. A very happy  and relieved foreign worker following receiving the coronavirus vaccine in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Moti Kimchi)

With Open Arms

Israel is also extending its helping hand into the arms of others.

While far from completing vaccinating its own population – having thus far delivered over 3.5 million first doses of the Pfizer vaccine and at least 2.1 million second doses –  it has nevertheless started providing the Palestinian Authority (PA) with thousands of vaccines for its healthcare workers, despite ultimate responsibility for health services and vaccine acquisition falling upon the PA, which is elected by Palestinians to govern the West Bank. 

After receiving thousands of doses from Israel, the Palestinian Health Ministry administered its first known coronavirus vaccinations last Tuesday, announcing in its statement the start of the campaign, saying Health Minister Mai al-Kaila received a first dose along with several front-line medical workers. Disappointing although hardly surprising, the statement failed to acknowledge that Israel provided the vaccines. While acknowledging the receipt of 2,000 doses on Monday the 8th February — the first batch of vaccines sent by Israel — the PA did not say where they came from.

This follows a regrettable pattern.

Petty Politics

Back in May 2020, Covid relief aid from the UAE was rejected by the Palestinian leadership because it arrived by freight plane to Israel’s international airport  without prior coordination with the PA. This resulted in 14 tons of virally needed Covid-relief medical supplies languishing at Ben Gurion airport because the PA refused to accept delivery so as not to be seen as condoning the normalizing of ties between Israel and the Arab world.

Disregarding the health of his people, the PA Health Ministry medical services director Osama al-Najjar explained that Ramallah “cannot accept shipments that are a gateway to normalization between Arab countries and Israel.”

No Thanks! Fourteen tons of medical supplies for the Palestinians to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic were still sitting at Ben Gurion Airport a week after they arrived from the UAE, as UN officials worked to find a way to  distribute the aid after the Palestinian Authority announced it would not accept it.  

Asked what he thought would happen to the medical supplies, al-Najjar responded, “I do not know where they will go, but we won’t accept them. They’re free to do with them what they please, but we will neither accept them nor welcome them.”

However, al-Najjar did acknowledge that the PA is “in need of ventilators.”

Go figure!

Rollout in Ramallah. A Palestinian health official receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from Israel before the start of a public rollout of vaccines received from Russia.

Within Arm’s Reach

What we are “all in need of” is better understanding and cooperation  as there are no borders when it comes to the health of the planet and its vulnerable citizens.  Israeli epidemiologists agree that it is in Israel’s interest to ensure Palestinians are vaccinated as quickly as possible, as the populations are too intertwined to have one gain herd immunity without the other. As recently departed Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov told The Times of Israel in January, “The message is very simple: We are one epidemiological unit. As much as we can, we have to help them address this matter.”

To that end, Israel and Tel Aviv are proving to be ‘shot in the arm’ for a healthier world.



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

Seeing is Believing

The English expression “long time, no see” took on a quite literal meaning with Israeli medical science restoring sight to the blind

By David E. Kaplan

It was like a miracle out of the Bible when an Israeli resident from Haifa “saw the light”!  However, it was all about science, not divine intervention.

And yet there was something majestically “biblical” about the scene played out at the Rabin Medical Center when a 78 year-old BLIND man from Haifa on the 3rd of January was able to see his youngest grandchild – only three months old!

An Arab from Haifa, Jamal Furani had gradually lost most of his vision over the past decade due to corneal disease.

If someone resembling a friend or neighbour stood in front of him, “I would not be able to tell the difference,” he said. His cause had seemed lost following four donor transplants to try to restore his vision. All had failed!

That was until the 3rd of January 2021 when he became the first patient to receive the KPro artificial cornea from CorNeat Vision in Ra’anana.

A Sight to Behold. Jamal Furani reading a vision chart a day after receiving the KPro artificial cornea from CorNeat, surrounded by his surgeon, Prof. Irit Bahar (left) and CorNeat cofounder Dr. Gilad Litvin and Furani’s daughter Khulud. (Screenshot from Channel 13)

Prof. Irit Bahar, Chief of Ophthalmology at Beilinson Hospital of Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva who performed the implant surgery, explained that “each successive surgery has less chance of success,” however, “the synthetic cornea changed all that. The surgical procedure was straight forward and the result exceeded all of our expectations.”

The day after the operation, Prof. Bahar said that even she was “amazed”, “surprised” and “thrilled” at how well Furaniwas “able to read a vision chart and to recognize family members.” And of course Furani’s family had changed over the years but the absolute thrill was seeing for the first time the new members who he had spoken with and touched but now could see!

It has been emotionally tough for medical practitioners all over the world over the last year with COVID-19, so this was a thrill. “The moment we took off the bandages was an emotional and significant moment. Moments like these are the fulfillment of our calling as doctors,” said Prof. Bahar.

To which an exuberant Furani replied, “As much as you are happy, I am even happier. It’s my treasure to be able to see.”

So what is this artificial cornea that can now restore sight to the blind?

Seeing Eye to Eye. CorNeat’s artificial cornea fits into the wall of the eye without the need for any donor tissue.

CorNeat co-founder and the inventor of the KProDr. Gilad Litvin, told Channel 13 news that “The innovation here stems from the ability to take something totally synthetic that has no cells or tissue and implant it in the wall of the eye so that it essentially becomes part of the body.”  Litvin who sat in on the operation, revealed to the Times of Israel the sensation of “Unveiling this first implanted eye” and “being in that room was surreal. Witnessing a fellow human being regain his sight the following day was electrifying and emotionally moving. There were a lot of tears in the room.”

You bet!

The Insightful A-Team. The CorNeat Vision team with Almog Aley-Raz, and Dr. Gilad Litvin seated centre. (Courtesy of CorNeat Vision)

It was only last July, the first in-human trials of the CorNeat synthetic cornea were approved at Beilinson. This is only the start of a procedure which will undoubtedly impact the lives of millions.

A Welcome Sight. Israeli startup has successfully carried out the world’s first artificial cornea transplant, restoring the sight of a 78-year-old man who had been blind for 10 years.

First Step

CorNeat Vision’s Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer and VP R&D, Almog Aley-Raz, noted that theCorNeat KPro’s first-in-human implantation is just the first step in a multi-national clinical trial, geared toward attaining CE Mark, FDA Clearance and China NMPA approval. “A total of 10 patients are approved for the trial at Rabin Medical Center in Israel with two additional sites planned to open this January in Canada and six others at different stages in the approval process in France, the US, and the Netherlands. Our first trial includes blind patients who are not suitable candidates for- or have failed one or more corneal transplantations. Given the exceptional visual performance of our device, the expected healing time and retention, and the fact that it cannot carry disease, we plan to initiate a second study later this year with broader indications to approve our artificial cornea as a first line treatment, displacing the use of donor tissue used in full thickness corneal transplantations.”

Now, when Haifa grandpa Jamal Furani says to someone “I’ll be seeing you” he sure means it!







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)

Vaccination Controversy

Answering Palestinian Accusations of Racism

Israel is leading the world in the country’s efforts to vaccinate its population. This has not been without criticism from many in the media who believe Israel should assume responsibility for vaccinating the neighbouring Palestinians. The Palestinian Foreign Minister accused Israel of racism for not vaccinating his citizens. The Daily Mail online, which enjoys one of the largest readerships in the world, published an article featuring the FM’s false narrative.

Founded in 1896, the Daily Mail is the United Kingdom’s highest-circulated daily newspaper. 
 

Lay of the Land Co-Founder, Rolene Marks replies in an open letter:

To the Editor

Your article about Palestinians accusing Israel of being racist with regards to the vaccination roll out refers.

Israel is currently the world leader and has to date vaccinated 27% of our population. Along with this great achievement, has come a certain level of criticism focusing on whether or not Israel is responsible for vaccinating the neighbouring Palestinians. It is extremely important to understand the situation on the ground.

Since the start of the global pandemic, Israel has been cooperating with the Palestinians, ensuring that they receive much needed testing kits, PPE, training and other medical necessities through the relevant authorities, NGO’s and COGAT, the IDF unit responsible. This effort was lauded by UN Special Envoy to the region, Nikolay Mladenov. This has not been without its challenges. Two plane loads of Covid aid from the United Arab Emirates was summarily rejected by the Palestinian Authority “because it was coordinated with Israel and landed at Ben Gurion airport”. This aid was subsequently distributed with the help of the World Health Organisation and UN.

The Israeli government moved decisively and quickly to procure vaccinations as soon as they were able, in order to inoculate our citizens. The roll out has been an exceptional achievement, applauded by many around the world. At the end of December 2020, a Palestinian Health Ministry official stated “we do not need or require help from Israel to procure vaccines. We have our own health ministry and are not an extension of the defense ministry (of Israel).” Israel is on record as stating that while vaccinating our citizens remains the priority, we will help the Palestinians as needed.

Israelis and Palestinians are both signatories to the 1995 Oslo Peace Accords, which awards Palestinians autonomy with their healthcare, including responsibility for vaccines. For Israel to take responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian population, it would be a violation of this autonomy. This is a clear case of Israel is damned if it does – and damned if it doesn’t. The Palestinians will be receiving Russian Sputnik vaccines in the coming days with the help of the WHO. There should be enough budget in the coffers of the Palestinian Authority for more, seeing that millions of dollars are spent annually ensuring that the salaries and stipends for convicted terrorists and their families are paid.

UAE Covid aid for Palestine lands at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport but is refused  on the grounds according to a Palestinian government source that “Palestinians refuse to be a bridge [for Arab countries] seeking to have normalised ties with Israel.”
 

In the Gaza strip, the situation is more complicated. Gaza is governed by Hamas, who are recognised internationally as terrorist organisation; and an enemy entity of Israel. Aid and training including doctors, specifically not Jewish, has still been sent into the Gaza strip in coordination with the above mentioned NGO’s and COGAT. Hamas, in protest of what they see as insufficient aid, forbade their citizens to seek medical help at a field hospital run by a Christian non-profit last week. This did not make any headlines. Neither did the two rockets, fired from the northern part of the strip towards the Israeli port city of Ashdod. A flagrant waste of good budget that could be used for much needed vaccines. Thank goodness these rockets landed in the sea and not in an apartment or kindergarten as they have in the past.

Accusations of racism, which coincidentally are made AFTER mainstream media criticises Israel are extremely unproductive, unhelpful and devoid of fact. In the interest of a global triumph over a pandemic that has already destroyed so much, please do not let it further erode the integrity of responsible reporting.

Kind regards

Rolene Marks


The article:

Israel is accused of ‘racism’ by Palestinian PM after excluding 4million people in the West Bank and Gaza from its Covid-19 vaccine program





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)

Vaccination Nation

*Feature Picture: Israeli medical staff state “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”!

Leading  the world in vaccinating her  citizens – Is Israel responsible for the Palestinians as well?

By Rolene Marks

Israel, the land of milk and honey is also the place of miracles. From biblical times we have marveled at events that can only be described as miraculous and this continues today. We have survived wars, countless attacks on our sovereignty and Israeli drivers but in the last few weeks, despite still rising Covid-19 numbers, Israel is rolling out and leading the world in our mission to vaccinate our citizens.

This is a true, modern day miracle. You could say that Israel has gone from Start-Up to Vaccination Nation!

Maybe it is our ability to adapt quickly, or our universal healthcare system or maybe it is our sense of responsibility for each other and impatience to get back to normal life that have contributed to the success of this but Israelis are very proud of our newest record of being on track to be the first country to have vaccinated all of our citizens. Initially, about a third of Israelis polled said they would be concerned about receiving the vaccine but as the roll out has progressed, so confidence has grown.  Anti-vaxxers remain a very small number.

Israel Rolls Up Its Sleeve. Israel’s State President Reuven Rivlin receives his COVID-19 vaccine dose. (Photo: Mark Neyman/GPO)

It is important to note that Israel is responsible for the vaccination of our own citizens. To date, Israel has vaccinated at least 14% of the population, soaring well past 1 million. Over  the last few days,  media outlets like The Guardian in the UK, Washington Post, MSNBC and others have accused Israel of almost purposefully neglecting to vaccinate the Palestinian populations. It is almost sadly predictable that as soon as Israel is lauded for an achievement in a certain area, the naysayers in the global media have to find some kind of stick to beat the Jewish state with.

Million Shot Man. Israel’s million Corona vaccination recipient is Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin from the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm who is seen here on January 1, 2021 with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (centre) (Haim Zach/GPO)
 

Far be it for them to do some research and find out the facts. Throughout this pandemic, Israel through NGO’s like Project Rozana has helped with ventilators and medical staff training and ensured that much needed equipment is received. The Palestinian Authority has made their position quite clear at times when it comes to accepting help.

Beating Heart, Helping Hand. An initiative supported by the Israeli government, the Australian-based charity Project Rozana has delivered coronavirus equipment to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Who can forget Palestinian obstinate rejection of thousands of tons of Covid aid from the United Arab Emirates because the plane had “landed at Ben Gurion Airport and had been organised in coordination with Israel”?

But now that Israel is enjoying positive coverage for the most part, agenda-driven media outlets cannot let this continue. It is nothing new. If Israel sets up the first mobile hospital after a disaster, we are accused of harvesting organs; if Israel celebrates the advancement of the status of women we are accused of deliberately crushing the rights of Palestinians; if a hit TV show like Fauda enjoys international acclaim, the show content must be violating international humanitarian law.

The Palestinian Authority has been quite clear on the issue of vaccines. A senior official from the Palestinian Health Ministry said that Palestinians do not expect Israel to sell them or purchase vaccines on their behalf. They are working with the World Health Organisation to purchase Russian-made vaccines as well as others that should arrive within the coming weeks. The Official, speaking to The Jerusalem Post said that “We are not a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry. We have our own government and Ministry of health and they are making huge efforts to get the vaccine.”

Jerusalem confirmed that Israel had not been asked for help from the Palestinians – nor would they refuse help if needed.

Israel is also not legally responsible for vaccinating the Palestinian population.

According to the Oslo Accords signed in 1995 the Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities Annex II Protocol Concerning Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities in the Sphere of Health states:

The powers and responsibilities of the military government and its Civil Administration in the sphere of health will be transferred to and will be assumed by the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority shall apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally-accepted standards in the field.

The inference by media outlets like The Guardian that Israel is deliberately vaccinating “settlers” as the expense of Palestinians has led some in the Israeli press to call it a modern day blood libel.

These kinds of accusations are not trivial mistakes with facts. Comments like “medical Apartheid” and “deliberately excluding Palestinians” are dangerous because these are the receipts used by the anti-Israel establishment and organisations like BDS to spread libel and push their hate-filled, antisemitic agenda.

In the past, responsible journalists and publications were driven by truth and facts – and not clickbait and blatant agenda pushing. This is not a case of “lazyitis” but perhaps another nefarious virus that sadly, there is no vaccine for.

The only cure for this is facts.

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)

Caveman vs Covid-man

By Justine Friedman

As we head towards the culmination of this crazy year 2020 with a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel with the advent of the vaccine for Covid-19, I would like to reflect on the physical and emotional experience that has so consumed our lives. In my own country of Israel, we have just entered our third lockdown.

Testing Times. Israel in its third lockdown, testing for coronavirus at Tl Aviv’s iconic Rabin Square.(Photo: Moti Kimchi)

In many countries across the world the second and in some a third wave of this unseen virus is gaining momentum. Just yesterday, friends of mine in South Africa left on their long-awaited holiday destinations as the president of the country announced the closure of many holiday related activities. I heard frustrated and desperate cries of a people so utterly disappointed and angry at the impact that Corona has had and continues to have on our daily lives.

How is this invisible threat impacting us? Besides the financial, emotional, and social impact, how is the physical pressure taking its toll? I would like to compare two scenarios. That of the age old “Caveman” and todays “Covid-man”.

Not Caving In. No less anxious for caveman who had to provide safety, shelter and sustenance for his family.

In ancient times when man lived as hunter-gatherers and life was simple on many levels, the day-to-day experience was one of taking care of basic needs which were, warmth, food and water and shelter. When threats entered their space i.e., a wild animal or another human who threatened to take away what was theirs, they experienced a “fight and flight” response which caused a surge of adrenaline in their bodies enabling them to receive blood flow to all their major muscles and organs which would assist them in running away from or fighting against the threat. Once they had succeeded, the effects of this rush of adrenaline subsided and they continued as normal.

How is this different to “Covid-man”? In our current world we face an invisible enemy, and perhaps some of us face visible ones too. Our bodies in this situation continue to do what they were programmed to do, which is release surges of adrenaline to enable us to “run away from” that which threatens us. The difference from prehistoric times to today’s world is that we get to infrequently feel that we do succeed and overcome existential threats. We do however still share the same anxieties with caveman of having to provide food and shelter, although for Modern Day Covid-man, these concerns are synonymous with ‘earning a living’.

The Invisible Enemy. An electron microscope captures images of the coronavirus, which is about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.(COURTESY OF ELIZABETH FISCHER)

Body and Soul

The world we live in is now less certain than it was a year ago and the threat is never ending. This causes our bodies to be constantly assailed by a rush of adrenaline to achieve the impossible and the result is an eventual fatigue or burnout with the consequent rise of cortisol in our bodies. When circulating cortisol is constantly elevated it results in many diseases and one that I see daily in my work, weight gain and exhaustion that leads to an increase in appetite particularly for foods that will provide quick bursts of energy.

Stressed Out. The adrenal gland produces cortisol, a hormone that contributes to several bodily functions, including the fight or flight response to stress.

Is it possible to reverse this process? What can we do to live with this uncertainty and regain some small measures of control back in our daily lives?

Here are some tips to dealing with elevated cortisol and adrenal burnout/ fatigue (as each person may differ these guidelines are general and if you are concerned you are experiencing this condition please seek the guidance of a qualified medical practitioner and dietician):

  • Endeavour to get to sleep no later than 10-11pm at night
  • Aim for 7-9 hours’ sleep
  • Caffeine increases cortisol levels so switch to decaff or avoid drinking caffeinated beverages between 7.00-9.00 am and after 2.00pm. Limit total number of cups of caffeinated beverages (tea/ coffee/ green tea/ energy drinks)
  • Light aerobic exercise is very beneficial for lowering cortisol and for stress management, aim to perform 30 minutes daily and if possible, do many of these sessions in the sunlight to increase exposure to the benefits of increased vitamin D production which is shown to increase immunity
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of clean water daily
  • Balance meals and snacks and eat 5-6 small meals frequently throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable.
  • Try and include 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
Early to Bed, Happy to Rise. Researchers have found that subjects who went to sleep and arose earlier reported better moods.

Each of us has a unique set of circumstances and way of experiencing and dealing with this strange new world. One thing we can be certain of is that we are living in interesting and challenging times and in a world where making decisions and controlling what we once were able to do, no longer exists.

Health is Wealth. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables daily.

We are each responsible for our own immediate environment and despite the uncertainty, there are some things that we can implement. We have the power to choose our responses; we have the power to be kind; we have the power to help another, and we have the power to be sociably responsible.

Drink Up! It’s recommended to drink six to eight glasses of water a day.

As we begin 2021, I wish you all health and the strength to face all that is in your path.

Performing light aerobic exercise in sunlight is beneficial for stress management and increasing vitamin D.





About the writer:

Justine Friedman (née Aginsky), Clinical Dietician (RDSA) and Mind-Body coach, made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019 with her husband and their two children. In Johannesburg, she was a successful clinical dietician, coach and speaker who ran her own private practice for 17 years. Justine is passionate about helping people, and women, in particular, achieve greater degrees of health in their mind, body and soul. She is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.





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

A Shot in the Arm

A world knocked off its axis, vaccines arrive to set it straight

By David E. Kaplan

It should have been unremarkable but it felt quite monumental! Within a few days after watching on TV a plane landing at BG International Airport with the Corona vaccine, I had my Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Monday 21 December, only a day after the Prime Minister had the nation’s first shot followed immediately by the Minister of Health. One friend was having it the next day, my wife on Thursday, my brother on Friday and others I know the next week.

Happy Landings. Delight was felt across Israel as photos appeared on  social media of the DHL freight plane arriving with the first batch of Pfizer covid-19 vaccine at Ben-Gurion International Airport, December 9, 2020.

The process was happening – personally and nationally!

And as for the actual injection, it took less time than the annual flu shot – five minutes from the time I entered the building in Herzliya until the time I came out. Hilary my wife who was waiting for me outside suspiciously thought:

My God, that was too quick! What did he forget that he has go home and fetch?”

However, this was not a moment of oy vey but OMG!

Momentous Moment. Outside the Maccabi clinic in Herzliya, the writer flexes his muscle while reflecting on the occasion.

As for thinking “too quick”, Hilary had the same brief’ experience a few days later at a clinic in Petah-Tikva. Even though we were going into a third lockdown, she came out the clinic and exclaimed: “I feel liberated”.

Such is the irony in these strange uncertain times!

Looking Ahead. Right arm exposing the  jabbed area, a relieved Hilary Kaplan from Kfar- Saba after receiving her shot at a clinic in Petah-Tikva.

The PM said he hoped to reach 150,000 vaccinated a day by next weekend, which will allow health authorities to inoculate some 2.25 million Israeli citizens within the next 30 days.

Only months before, the conventional wisdom was that ‘this day’ was  sometime “next year” or maybe even years away. Life “as we knew it” was on hold – dependent on how fast a vaccine would be ready and listening to the experts – one thing we had in abundance – there was little reason to  put the champagne on ice. The history of vaccine development was hardly encouraging. I recall reading Barney Graham, Deputy Director of the Vaccine Research Center at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases saying:

 “I’ve been working on vaccines for a long time and I’ve never seen one take less than about 20 years.”

Disquieting examples were daily cited in the media, notably:

– “it took 26 years to develop a vaccine for the human papilloma virus

– “25 years to secure one for rotavirus

– “researchers have been trying for more than 50 years to find a vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus, one of the leading causes of infectious disease mortality in infants.”

Roll Call. Danny and Janine Gelley from Kfar-Saba excitedly holding up their vaccination numbers at the Maccabi clinic in Herzliya, Israel.

Even when in mid-May, the US government optimistically announced that with its  “Operation Warp Speed’ they will have a vaccine ready for general use by the end of 2020, most of the cognoscenti felt that target was too optimistic, generally citing spring of 2021 as a best-case scenario.

That ‘scenario’ arrived during Hanukkah and before Christmas and New Year  2020 and nothing brought home to me the enormity of the event and the concomitant excitement than while I was writing this article, I was receiving WhatsApp’s from friends and relatives with their photos of just having received the vaccine. You can’t see the smiles because all are wearing masks  but their reactions are evident in their bodily gestures from a thumbs up to a raised arm or flashing the V for victory sign. What’s more, these images of joy and jubilation – or relief – were arriving from across the country like the photo of my brother and sister-in-law outside a clinic in Sakhnin, an Arab village in the lower Galilee in northern Israel.

Thumbs Up. The writer’s brother Sidney Kaplan flashing a thumbs up with wife Irit from Moshav Manof after receiving the vaccine at a clinic in the Arab village of Shaknin in the Lower Galilee.

Jews and Arabs were  together  in combatting a common enemy – Corona!

How telling in the new age of rapprochement in the Middle East that on December 26, four days before New Year, the No. 1 and No. 2 countries in the world for administering COVID-19 vaccinations doses per 100 people are the two counties that recently signed a “normalization deal” – the Muslim state of Bahrain and the Jewish state of Israel. Both are small countries but with huge aspirations. Once foes, they were more than ready to stand in the vanguard of rolling up sleeves, not to fight but for a shot in the arm.

Call to Arms. Volunteer police officer, Maish Isaacson of Ra’anana receiving his shot at Meir Hospital, Kfar Saba where he also volunteers as a Medical Clown.

Israel’s Prime Minister said it right when he paraphrased astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous words after landing on the moon with “One small injection for a man and one giant leap for the health of us all.”

That’s the way I felt – a shot in the arm was a shot in the body of all mankind.






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

“Winter of Our Discontent”

By David E. Kaplan

Little did we think when we watched a year ago the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ and joked that “Winter is Coming” that the show’s most memorable marketing metaphor of impending doom descending on the landscape would step out of our TVs into our very lives.

Portend Poster. Advertisement of the ‘Game of Thrones’ final season – ‘Winter is Coming’.

Corona affected everyone everywhere. And like in the award-winning mythical saga of demons, dragons and the demented, in our wonky world of 2020, people perished, much of our commerce suspended or died, and a powerful leader of the most powerful nation on earth – confounded by the science, fell – to the dismay of his mega-million followers.

“Winter” came with a vengeance and we wonder if our lives will ever be the same again.

No doubt when folk turn on their TVs to watch the countdown to midnight on the 31st December and observe the fireworks first in Sydney; and then illuminate across cities circumnavigating the globe, they will be praying for some semblance of “life as we knew it.”

Diminished social intimacy and wearing masks for fear of ‘the next virus’ is not something we want in our proverbial luggage as we travel into the future!

Still, we do have to marvel.

Colouring the Future. Fireworks in Sydney, usually the first country people watch on television  heralding the New Year.

With all the pain and discomfort,  we have to tip our hats to those brave souls who day in and day out returned to the terrifying trenches, helping the inflicted and preventing those from being inflicted at great risk to themselves and their families.

The death toll from Covid-19 has surpassed the number of Americans killed in World War I and the Vietnam War combined. And this December 2020, the number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the US now surpasses the number of people who died on 9/11.  How sadly ironic that so many of the first responders in 9/11 are falling victim to Covid-19!

New York’s Finest. Retired New York Fire Marshal John Knox in 2017 is among dozens of first responders who answered the call during of 9/11 only to die of Covid-19.

First, it was the horror of that tragic day as first responders ran into the fire as debris rained down. Then followed months of grueling work to remove the bodies and clear the pile as toxic dust inevitably filled their lungs. Then came the illnesses – asthma, cancers and COPD.

And in 2020, nearly two decades later, the coronavirus pandemic – which, in so many cases, feeds off the underlying conditions like the ones 9/11 survivors developed – has finally taken their toll and in many cases, their lives. For those with already weakened lungs and immune systems, this latest challenge has been too great to endure. Beset by Corona, the list of 9/11 victims continues to grow.

And as with the 9/11 first responders, so too have been the healthcare workers on the front lines of the global effort to care for patients with COVID-19 putting themselves at risk for infection. Thousands from a multitude of countries, professions, and specialties have died, and we honour them all.

Signs of Exhaustion. Overworked medical staff catch some sleep between shifts at Chinese hospital. (Image credits: Astroboys2019)

See the Light

As in the story of Hanukkah, which Jews around the world are presently celebrating where we are reminded of miracles   – a small quantity of oil to light the Temple’s menorah miraculously lasted eight days – even today’s cynics and skeptics have to marvel as to how humanity has miraculously responded to this pandemic with rapid resourcefulness.

Questions were raised as to how we might achieve the impossible.

It was said that “it usually takes 10 years to develop a vaccine”.

I recall endless opinions and comments in the news media along the lines of from “The grim truth is that a vaccine probably won’t arrive any time soon”  to  “Our record for developing an entirely new vaccine is at least four years — more time than the public or the economy can tolerate social-distancing orders”.

Breaking News.  The first batch of Pfizer vaccines arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport with the Prime Minister reassuring the Israeli public that he would be the first  to take the vaccine.

And yet, as we in Israel saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein attend the arrival of a DHL freight plane transporting the first batch of Pfizer vaccines at Ben Gurion Airport on December 9, 2020, we had to marvel how this vaccine has gone from the drawing board to imminent distribution in such a short period of time.

Hands On. Light at the end of the tunnel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu places his hand on the first batch of Pfizer coronavirus vaccines at Ben Gurion International Airport on Dec. 9, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/JINI via Xinhua)

No, it did not take years but months as people in Israel will start receiving their doses from the 27th December, four days before New Year 2020. Coronavirus czar, Nachman Ash, said he hopes Israelis will be able to celebrate Passover 2021 in an almost restriction-free manner.

I assume that in March-April we’ll already return to significant activity. My hope is that we can celebrate Passover in an almost free manner.”

Tides Turned. Israel signs agreement with Moderna for 6 million coronavirus vaccine doses.

How we in Israel recall that it was during Passover 2020 – falling during the initial outbreak of the pandemic – that the government ordered an overnight curfew, confining Israelis to their homes for the first night of the holiday.

A festivity all about celebrating FREEDOM, Passover 2021 may be the momentous milestone when we all return to FREEDOM.

Now that’s something to cheer about –  “L’chaim!”  (Hebrew “to life”) 

Israeli Foresight. “Israel was one of the first countries that believed in us,” said Chief Medical Officer at Moderna Therapeutics, Dr. Tal Zaks,  a graduate of Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Speaking to Globes,  Zaks revealed, that it was thanks to the advance agreement signed with Moderna that Israel will be among the first countries to receive doses of the company’s vaccine against Covid-19. The advance that Israel paid, said Zaks, “helped to build the company’s production lines.”
 





*Feature pictute credit: Illustration by Joseph McDermott


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).

Weathering the Storm

By Gabi Crouse

Just about everything you read these days is corona-related. There are a million articles by know-it-all’s suggesting “5 ways to keep fit during Corona” or “How Corona saved my marriage” and I’ve even seen one titled “Corona and the great depression”.

Really?

Let’s not kid ourselves, nothing in our lives has not been affected by this pandemic and anything you read will somehow relate to the upside down world that has now become the ‘norm’ – including this article!

Allow me to reflect on some of my observations as a mother, employee and an Olah (“immigrant”).

The Mask Mistaker!

So, the first thing I need to say about all this is that I have accepted that ‘Karen’ is my new nemesis. For the sake of clarity I will admit that I’m not so brazen to be above wearing a mask. Of course I’m not – I wear my mask! On the contrary, I have mastered the choreographed new corona dance called “Oy, I forgot my mask!” The steps are easy: it’s a brisk three-step forward – quick left spin with a simultaneous perfectly timed slap on the forehead – back three steps into the house. That’s it!!! In fact any idiot can do this dance – and often does.

As I was saying regarding the Karens of the world – you know who they are – the power trippers that seem to have nothing better to do than wield their power over suspected corona carriers. They seek out to destroy the slightly falling-off-the-bridge-of-the-nose’ mask wearer. Heaven forbid your nose sticks out by mistake!

So whenever I encounter one of these ‘police’, I take full advantage of my hidden mouth and I spew forth a few profanities that I know they can’t see. Although the eye-roll is a little harder to disguise.

‘Lift’ the rules?

One of Karen’s many duties includes being the bouncer to entrances to stores. This, you should know, is not an easy job. She has to count the amount of people entering and leaving the store as to keep the 2 meters distance between shoppers. Then by waving her magic thermometer-charged wand, allows/denies entry.

Put Your Mask Where Your Mouth Is. Jerusalemites at the Mamilla Mall near Jerusalem’s Old City on June 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

My confusion comes in when all shopping is said and done, and we gather round the elevator – or lifts. I have noticed that most people don’t seem to be as enthusiastic as Karen. Everyone squeezes into that small space and I just know that good old ‘Rona’ rubs hands together relishing at the all-you-can-infect buffet.

In those situations, I don’t need Karen to remind me to lift my mask!

Inspector Zoom

It’s easy enough to laugh at these idiosyncrasies, but when it comes to the education of our children, or lack thereof, the situation becomes less humorous. What does make tears roll down my cheeks (maybe laughing / maybe crying / perhaps both) is the amount of pressure applied on parents, students and teachers. Parents who work full time jobs with homes to run, now find they have a new role. I, for one, do not remember applying for position of teacher/principal/personal assistant. It is not a job I want or am

qualified to do! Besides that, I am not pro pro-bono work! And I am still expected to pay school fees.

Accepting my fate though, I decided to be the best I can be under the circumstances. I printed out forthcoming schedules, set up work-stations for each of my non-obliging students and ensured they each had what they needed. I was ready … I was so ready!!! The cables, the work stations, the time slots for each child who share one laptop and the time prep for food breaks etc. Boy was I ready. This quickly faded.

Once the group chats started firing away like explosions of the 4th of July, my head began to spin. I know I must have reprinted those schedules a hundred time before I finally gave up and left them to stew for a while on my desktop folder.

Some of the WhatsApp groups look like this: ‘Tap this link for this week’s schedule’, followed by ‘no sorry, this one’, then a new one the following week. Then this ‘teacher may not be available today’ and we are sorry but ‘we’re experiencing technical issues’ followed by ‘this class to reschedule in place of the other one’. It’s frenzied. And that is just for one of my children! Did I mention that these are in a language foreign to me and I spend my life jumping to google translate?

It’s one thing to be on top of class schedules for the day but it’s a whole different story getting your students to comply. Some children – God bless them – are willing participants but there are other kinds of children also.

A Student unto Himself

Appealing to the other kind of student with bribery negotiations, warnings and scary face tactics become less and less affective and rewarding for good behavior becomes nonsensical – leaving us parents feeling pretty hopeless. Why? To threaten with punishment or offer a reward is a double edge sward!

What’s the leverage?

What do kids want these days? Screen time, junk food and hanging out with their friends.

If you don’t do your school work, I’ll take away the phone/screen… wait what? That’s not going to work out too well – they need those.

Alternatively, I’m not thrilled by the idea of offering more screen time as a reward all the school screen time. Junk food so they can get sugar highs and crash while sitting at their screens? I think not. And as for friends during lock-down? Poor kids – they lose all round.

Shush! Daddy Needs to Focus. Managing the kids and work at home.

On a more serious note, kids have borne the brunt of the situation from all sides. However, if a positive is to be found, the kids have had to become self-reliant and assume responsibilities. They have had to take ownership of their own education in a lot of ways. This is at best very overwhelming and even more so for olim chadashim (new immigrants) who have yet to come to grips with Hebrew.

For example: each of my children have several different ways of on-line learning and interacting with their schools and teachers. Mashov, Teams, Zoom and one other which is beyond my spectrum of memory (I am NOT tech savvy and God help the child who isn’t!). The kids have to know how to access the lessons using the codes provided, know their schedules which keep changing and have enough Hebrew knowledge to know what to do. It all takes twice the amount of time back and forth to google translate before they even get started. The scope of pressure on these poor olim kids is beyond the realm of reasonable expectation.

Credit Due

I will say that some schools are supportive and worthy of appreciation. In our family, we are exposed to three different school institutions but only one of the schools fully understand the difficulties the olim kids experience. They are helpful and concerned and do everything in their power to support. For the other kids, whose schools are less compassionate, I am forced to outsource assistance which comes at an additional cost. So it goes.

Full House

On the plus side I get to have my kids at home all the time. All day. Day in and day out. How lucky am I?

In addition to keeping me company while I work, they are free to raid the kitchen at any time they feel a slight peckishness – I know this because of the evidence they leave behind. I mean, who needs a clean house anyway? Goodbye to shining clean floors, hello to friendly footprints and crushed pretzels to remind me of my full house.

I am a little sad that my dishwasher handed in its resignation and I am slightly concerned about the black hole in the fridge where there used to be food. Also, the laundry basket has disappeared under its heavy burden along with the cat.

School at Home. An Israeli youth seen during a remote learning at their home in Moshav Haniel, on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Chen Leopold/Flash90)

Change of Heart

Finally though, I would like to mention that we have been dealing with this for long enough to know that we, as humans, are adaptable. However, when we fail to exercise a willingness to adjust some of our ways to accommodate the needs and interests of others, this frequently results in conflict – personal and social.

In the final analysis, while different and divergent thinking around the world is welcome as it reflects the beauty of individuality and creativity, when it is met by intolerance, the results can be regrettably  – and avoidably – destructive.

Perhaps adaptability and flexibility is exactly what the world needs today.



About the writer:

Gabi Crouse1.JPG

Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations as well as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.



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