Can women across the world move freely in their cities?

A British study says no – an Israeli app now says yes

By Diana Grosz

Most people would say that life today is far safer compared to previous centuries. International agreements and treaties protect us from wars; innovative medicine saves millions of lives from diseases, and local and international laws provide security and a feeling of safety on the streets in a majority of Western countries.

However, despite these monumental developments, half the world’s population is not truly protected – even in highly developed states!

Even though politicians and the media constantly talk about equal rights of all citizens and the growing success in the fight against gender inequality in recent years, feeling safe and secure is still a privilege reserved mostly for men.

According to a research in 2019 bythe British international Internet-based market research and data analytics firm, YouGov, around half of all women feel unsafe in various routine situations. Men however, in the same context, feel relatively secure and safe.

50% of women say they always or often feel unsafe walking alone at night.

The insecurity and awareness of women in this study are related to them moving from one place to another; whether it’s a walk from work to their home or traveling to another country. For instance, the average man is able to easily travel by hitch-hiking, while among women this practice is considered high-risk. Such an evident polarity in opportunities leads to thoughts about the difference in men’s and women’s freedom, which are in the end validated and maintained by our own societies.

The situation seems even grimmer after realizing that the surveys from 2007 have very similar data as the same surveys from 2019, and the data hasn’t significantly changed during the last twelve years.

For instance, 62% of women that had to go out at night were afraid to go alone, and 66% of interviewed women were afraid to go through certain neighbourhoods.

Women are as insecure while using public transport, walking in the park, or going out alone as they were more than ten years ago. This is according to the data provided in 2007 by Stéphanie Condon, Marylène Lieber, Florence Maillochon in their research entitled:

FEELING UNSAFE IN PUBLIC PLACES

understanding women’s fears’ .

From the data, it appears that society is indifferent to the problem of women’s safety and hence makes little effort – if at all – to effect change. The statistics reveal that women’s freedom of movement is constantly violated and somehow it has become the norm, sadly even for women themselves.

As a consequence, women might not even try to move freely anymore, their mindset programmed to accepting this ‘reality’ as a normal part of life.

Regrettably, this constant sense of danger leads women, instead of availing themselves of various creative methods to protect themselves to instead succumb to their feared situation and restrict their lifestyle accordingly.

Six in ten women – fearing a sexual assault or street harassment – will avoid walking in certain areas or walking alone preferring instead to travel in their own vehicle or take a taxi.

Most women say they regularly take steps to avoid being sexually assaulted.

The point therefore is that women adapt their routines and daily activities to meet safety considerations, when safety should not even be an issue.

What do women need to do to feel and be safe?

The evident obstruction of women’s rights and freedom due to safety concerns has challenged people towards creating solutions to protect women in potentially dangerous situations.  The market already offers women and girls access to self-defense tools and techniques that might be useful for particular live situations.

On such is the Israeli app SafeUP, a social network for women that allows them to help each other in real time to feel safer and prevent incidents of harassment and sexual assault.

For those 50% of women who feel safer when accompanied, SafeUP is the perfect and simple solution to their day-to-day worries.

No neighbourhood will ever be too scary or dark when knowing that a community near you will have your back.  Just pull out your phone and within seconds our SafeUP guardians will be with you.

It was an incident as a girl that sowed the seed for 30-year-old Israeli Neta Schreiber Gamliel to made her first steps in the hi-tech world and cofound  SafeUP. The start-up’s CEO explains:

I went out with some friends to a party at the villa, when one of my friends disappeared from us. We went to look for her and after a few minutes we found her in one of the rooms with two men, half naked, half conscious. When they entered the room, the men ran away and we realized that we had saved her life. From that moment on, we created a system of internal laws between our friend group that was designed to protect each other.”

Co-Founder and CEO of SafeUP, Neta Schreiber Gamliel.

A decade and a half later, this event ignited the creation of SafeUP, which she launched with her partner Tal Zohar together with the Tel Aviv Municipality. Within three months, they had reached 11,000 users and six local authorities paying for the service. Breaking into the US market, the Israeli duo have created communities of female guardians in Boston, New York and Washington that protects women walking alone at night.

TIME TO CHANGE

But these solutions are for real-time situations. It is still imperative to change society and its vision on women’s safety. We should all be able to comprehend that actions such as catcalling, whistling, unwanted sexual comments, unwelcome sexual touching, or following girls as an attempt to demonstrate interest, joke or to get her phone number is not acceptable. 

Any of these inappropriate behaviours that are usually perpetrated by men, even if they think it’s funny or not, are the main reason why women do not feel safe while out on their own.

However, until the process of educating people on gender violence, its roots and how we can solve it,  women must have the right and opportunity to create communities and safe spaces in which they can share their experiences and perspectives on the subject. The idea of creating empathic and trustworthy communities, where its members could assist each other in dealing with difficult and even harmful situations – is one of the main goals of SafeUP.

We are trying to not only provide women with a useful and secure app but also to show them how important and meaningful the power of community can be. By joining SafeUP,  women are provided the means to connect with women willing to help and support them, and the chance to be the ones who provide this support and help.

Only by combining powers and aspirations to protect our right to feeling confident regardless of whether we are walking at night, during the day, wearing a mini or maxi dress, can women begin to change the reality we live in.

The greater our numbers, the greater our power. By joining SafeUP and becoming a guardian, you can easily take an active role in helping women feel safer wherever they are going.


Join a global solidarity of women, to belong, be free and be safe together



About the writer:

Diana Grosz  is a history teacher, Middle Eastern specialist, and a women’s rights advocate. Diana’s mission is to raise awareness about women’s issues and promote equality. She started her journey in South America and later immigrated to pursue her passion of helping women in the Middle East.






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).

Taking Control

Understanding your body and how it works is  fundamental to good health –  a focus on the “Control Centers” of the Human Body Processes

By Lionel H. Phillips D.O.

Whilst seeming over-technical, don’t be deterred! Do persist, for this article is meant to remind and / or inform readers on just one of the many remarkable functions of their most important asset – IF we provide it with its NEEDS as required.

The Endocrine System

Metabolism is the conversion of nutrients into energy and building materials to meet the body’s needs.

Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers and are part of the Endocrine System.

Endocrine glands make hormones, which travel through the bloodstream to tissues and organs, and control most of your body’s major systems. Hormones affect your body’s functions, from growth and sexual development and mood to how well you sleep, how you manage stress and tension and how your body breaks down food.                                     

The Endocrine System regulates your heart rate, metabolism – how your body gets energy from the foods you eat – appetite, mood, sexual function, reproduction, growth and development, sleep cycles, and more.

Hormones play a very important part in your body’s chemistry by carrying messages between cells and organs. Hormone imbalances can occur any time regardless of one’s age, whilst causing serious health problems, requiring ongoing medical management.

Various functions and rhythms of the body are controlled by Hormones. Chemical messengers produced by the Endocrine Glands are discharged into the bloodstream. These glands include the Pituitary, Thyroid, Parathyroids, Adrenals, Islets of Langerhans, and the sex glands or Gonads. Some interaction takes place among all the endocrine glands, but only the hormones from the pituitary are able to control production of hormones in other glands. Most glands produce several types of hormones – the pituitary, for example produces at least nine – and each type reaches its own target area in the body, no matter how far from the gland producing it.

Glands are organs that secrete and release substances essential for the proper functioning of the body. There are two types of glands – Exocrine and Endocrine. The exocrines have ducts that carry their secretions to particular parts of the body.

The salivary glands that provide the mouth with saliva, and the mammary glands that produce milk, belong to this group.

The Liver, an exocrine gland, is the largest gland in the body, weighing about 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs.) in an adult. The liver has many roles in the digestive system. For example, it produces a green fluid called bile, which breaks down fats and ducts convey their content to the gall bladder, where it is stored and concentrated, before being released into the digestive tract.

Your pancreas is a large gland that creates natural juices called pancreatic enzymes to break down foods. These juices travel through your pancreas via ducts. They empty into the upper part of your small intestine called the duodenum. Each day, your pancreas makes about 8 ounces of digestive juice filled with enzymes.

Endocrine glands have no ducts and release their substances, called hormones, directly into the bloodstream. The endocrines and their hormones help to regulate as well as control the balance of salt and water in the body and the level of sugar in the blood.

The Pituitary Gland is about the size of a pea and lies in a small hollow well within the skull at about the level of the top of the nose. It is connected to the part of the brain called the Hypothalamus, and this link gives the brain direct control over the pituitary’s hormone production. The most important function of the pituitary is to stimulate, regulate and coordinate the functions of certain of the other endocrines. For this reason, it is called the Master Gland.

Diseases of the pituitary gland are fortunately relatively rare. Too little pituitary secretion causes certain types of dwarfism, while too much stimulates the body to grow to gigantic proportion. Pituitary tumors may press on the optic nerves, resulting in headaches and loss of vision. Another rare disease is diabetes insipidus, which causes excessive thirst and excessive secretion of urine.

Two hormones in the rear lobe of the pituitary gland are produced in the adjoining hypothalamus and piped in along nerve fibers. One, vasopressin, helps to maintain the balance of water in the body. The other, oxytocin, stimulates contraction of muscles in children and the milk-flow of nursing mothers.

The Thyroid Gland is in front of the throat, below the Adam’s Apple and just above the breastbone. It is U-Shaped, each end of the U flaring back into a lobe that is about the size of the big toe. The thyroid’s hormonal production stimulates or affects almost every important body process, including the body’s use of oxygen. Too much or too little of the hormone, called thyroxine, can cause serious health problems.

Hypothalamus – Is the portion of the middle part of the brain that is known to regulate body temperature and help control the functions of the internal organs.

How the Body Fight Germs – The body is not helpless against germs. It has filters, such as the tiny hairs in the nose, to keep them out; and secretions, such as the tears to kill them or wash them away. If germs do get into the blood, leukocytes (white blood cells) attack and devour them. When an infection develops, the number of these white cells increases rapidly. Fever raises the body’s temperature to inhibit or destroy germs.

Pancreas –The pancreas makes Insulin and glucagon which are hormones that control the level of glucose or sugar in the blood. Insulin helps keep the body supplied with stores of energy. The body uses this stored energy for exercise and activity, and it also helps organs work as they should.

The body has other resources as well. It manufactures substances that counteract the germs and render their poisons (toxins) harmless. These germ fighters are called antibodies and the poison-controlled substances are known as antitoxins. After the body has overcome a disease, these substances remain in the blood and prevent the germs of that disease from getting a foothold again. Physicians refer to this condition as an “acquired immunity”. People who are immune to a disease without ever having it, are said to have natural immunity. Many immunities are partial or temporary.

Most of the germs that penetrate the body are bacteria or viruses. These disrupt bodily functions and release poisons called toxins. Their effects are counteracted by the body’s defensive cells.

In order to have a healthy, active and free-of-diseased body, we should endeavor to ingrain the following habits. Should the facts below NOT BE part of your lifestyle at present, why not give yourself three (3) months to incorporate them 24/7, and then take stock of the situation. The links below will provide explanations on how best to provide for each one. I will be available to assist with questions via my email address – global@globalhealth-education.com .

Nose (Diaphragmatic) Breathing – for the cleanest oxygen intake;

Natural Breathing (see link)

Our Digestive System – No matter the quality of the food one eats, the best chance for maximum nutrient absorption is SMALL MOUTHFULS. This also assists in excess fat loss without the need to diet, as you will be eating less and tasting each mouthful, whereby the need for second helpings is a rarity.

A quick Look at GERD (see link)

Finally, it may be a “Tall Order”, but I can’t over-emphasize the importance of posture. See my previous articles on  lay of the land . Any variance away from the required good posture, will have a negative effect on muscles, nerves and joints.

Water – Without clean air and sufficient water, our body will not survive.

Items24 (see link)

The NEEDS of our Human Body are actually extremely logical and easy to provide.

Albeit that habits are difficult to change, it is well worth the effort.

Every one of the body’s numerous systems will welcome and act positively to the response.




About the writer:

Lionel Phillips is a Doctor of Osteopathy (1975), an International Fitness & Health Instructor, Consultant and Lecturer. He has researched and designed ‘The Needs & Functions of the Human Body’ as an educational subject for inclusion in all School Curriculums World-Wide. A past Federation Member and Israel Liaison Representative of IHRSA (International, Health & Racquet Sports club Association) and member of their worldwide “Panel of Experts”, Phillips is a recipient of the “Prime Ministers Award of Merit” (PM Menachem Begin).





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).

When Jews Thrive, the World Thrives

Surviving the Shoah and its impact on human survival today

By David E. kaplan

Interviewed from the USA on Israel’s Channel 12, only a few days before Holocaust Memorial Day on the 27 January 2022, this year’s Genesis Prize recipient – dubbed Israel’s “Jewish Nobel” -gave an answer to a particular question that was touchingly telling.

Savior from Salonica. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who as chairman and CEO of Pfizer pharmaceutical company helped develop the lifesaving COVID vaccine, owes much to the valiant efforts of others to save the lives of Greek Jews during the Holocaust. His mother and father were among the very few to survive the Nazi occupation of Salonica, the ancient Greek city where he was born.

Dr. Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, was asked whether – because of Covid –  he would be travelling to Israel to accept his $1 million prize from President Isaac Herzog at a ceremony in Jerusalem to be held on June 29, to which he replied with an engaging smile:

 “Well, there is the incentive for me to work even harder.”

And work hard he has.

Not only has the Pfizer vaccine protected tens of millions of people around the world and prevented even more, from suffering severe illness or even death from the coronavirus infection, it may have also saved the global economy.

The Pfizer CEO took over at the 173-year-old pharma giant just a year before the pandemic when the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 surfaced. When Bourla was confronted about taking on the world-crippling coronavirus, there wasn’t the vaccine technology yet for the job that lay ahead, but he trusted his scientists. 

Disappointed but Undeterred. While “disappointed” during 2020 by COVID vaccine rhetoric, Pfizer CEO Bourla wrote that Pfizer is “moving at the speed of science,” driven by the deadliness of the disease and urgent need for a vaccine. 

It was here that Israel’s Genesis committee recognized Dr. Bourla for his “leadership, determination, and especially for his willingness to assume great risks”. Unlike CEOs of most other major companies working on developing COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Bourla declined billions of dollars in US federal subsidies in order to avoid government bureaucracy and expedite development and production of the vaccine. As a result, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was ready in record time –  MONTHS instead of YEARS!

However, let us remember that if Hitler had his diabolical way,   the health of the world today would not be so secure.

Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, Dr. Bourla was raised in a family that faced the horrors of the Holocaust first-hand. His parents were among only 2,000 survivors out of a once-thriving, ancient Jewish community of 50,000, almost completely wiped out by the Nazis.

Precious Few. The parents of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla were among only 2,000 of Salonika’s once-thriving Jewish community to survive the Holocaust.

A year ago on January 27th for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Dr. Bourla joined the Sephardic Heritage International where he shared his Greek Sephardic family’s story of tragedy and survival.

My father’s family, like so many others, had been forced from their homes and taken to a crowded house within one of the Jewish ghettos. It was a house they had to share with several other Jewish families. They could circulate in and out of the ghetto as long as they were wearing the yellow star.

But one day in March 1943, the ghetto was surrounded by occupational forces and the exit was blocked. My father and his brother (my uncle) were outside when it happened. Their father (my grandfather) met them outside, told them what was happening and asked them to leave the ghetto and hide because he had to go back inside as his wife and two other children were home. So later that day, my grandfather, Abraham Bourla, his wife Rachel, his daughter Graziella and his youngest son David were taken to a camp outside the train station and from there, left for Auschwitz. My father and uncle never saw them again.”

He explained how his father and uncle were able to escape to Athens. Thanks to local police who were helping Jews escape from the Nazis, they were able to obtain fake IDs with Christian names.

When the Germans had left, they went back to Thessaloniki and found that all of their property and belongings had been stolen or sold. With nothing to their name, they started from scratch, becoming partners at a successful liquor business that they ran together until they both retired.”

Greek Tragedy. The Greek city of Thessaloniki  (Salonika) under occupation by German troops. Bourla’s parents were among only 2,000 survivors out of  a once-thriving, ancient Jewish community of 50,000 that survived the Holocaust.

Then followed Bourla relating the harrowing story of his mother who was also saved in miraculous circumstances. 

So well-known in the town, she was afraid to venture outside her house for fear of being recognized on the street and turned over to the Germans. She essentially stayed at home “24 hours a day“, said Bourla.

However, on one of her rare ventures outside, she was recognised and forcibly escorted to a local prison.

My Christian uncle, my mother’s brother-in-law, Costas de Madis approached a Nazi official and paid him a ransom in exchange for a promise that my mother would be spared.

However, my mother’s sister, my aunt, didn’t trust the Germans. So she would go to the prison every day at noon to watch as they loaded the truck of prisoners. One day, her fear had been realised, and my mom was put on the truck. She ran home and told her husband, who then called the Nazi official and reminded him of their agreement – who said he would look into it. That night was the longest night in my aunt and uncle’s life because they knew that next morning, my Mom would likely be executed.    

The next day, my Mom was lined up with other prisoners against a brick wall. And moments before she would have been executed, a German soldier on a motorcycle arrived and handed some papers to the men in charge of the firing squad. They removed my mother from the line. As they rode away, my Mom could hear the machine gun slaughtering those that were left behind. Two or three days later, she was released from prison after the Germans left Greece.”

Eight years after narrowly escaping death, Bourla’s parents met by way of matchmaking and were married.

My father had two dreams – one, that I would become a scientist and two, that I would marry a nice Jewish girl. I’m happy to say he lived long enough to see both dreams come true.”

Afraim Katzir, Director of the Sephardic Heritage International, said at the time that “It is very inspiring that it is the son of Holocaust survivors who is on the front line of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

A year and more variants of covid later, the Genesis committee recognised the role of Bourla in leading the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and will be awarding him $1 million in prize money.

A Light unto the Nations. This year’s virtual lighting of the Chanukah candles at Israel’s embassy in Washington, D.C., was led by Albert Bourla.

And what does Bourla intend to do with this money? He is donating it to projects aimed at preserving the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, with a particular emphasis on the tragedy suffered by the Greek Jewish community.

In welcoming Dr. Albert Bourla to the distinguished family of Genesis Prize Laureates, Co-Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets said that:

 “Dr. Bourla personifies two of the most fundamental Jewish values: the commitment to the sanctity of life and to repairing the world.  And while the pandemic is far from over, millions of people are alive and healthy because of what Dr. Bourla and his team at Pfizer have accomplished.”

So while Dr. Bourla is praised for his services in fighting Corona,  2021 was recorded at the most antisemitic year in the last decade, fueled by the very pandemic he was fighting against. Even in in his native Greece, which should have taken pride in Bourla’s achievements, there were those in media that instead perverted the facts in order to fuel antisemitism.

The Good, Bad and the Ugly. Pfizer CEO albert Bourla was attacked by a Greek newspaper –  the Makeleio daily  – with horrific antisemitic Nazi tropes. November 10, 2020. (Courtesy/Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece via JTA)

There was Bourla educated at the university in Salonika and who after graduation joined Pfizer in Greece to begin his steady climb through the executive ranks of the multinational corporation and is generally credited with driving the company to develop the two-shot COVID vaccine in record time, and what do they do?

Following in November 2020 the welcome announcement by Pfiser of promising results in clinical trials, Greece’s Makeleio newspaper claimed that “Bourla is evil” and the vaccine that “Pfizer is working on is actually deadly.” The paper juxtaposed a photograph of Bourla with that of Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele, who conducted gruesome experiments on Jewish prisoners. Albert Bourla wants to “stick the needle” into Greeks, delivering what the paper described as “poison” in the guise of a vaccine.

Despite some criticism from the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs calling it “most vile anti-Semitism reminiscent of the Middle Ages”, the unrepentant newspaper responded by publishing another hate-filled article three days later, describing Bourla as a “Greek Jew” who was under the control of a sinister-sounding “Israel Council”.

In its annual report on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021, Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry found that antisemitic conspiracy theories blossomed as soon as the coronavirus began spreading around the world in February 2020.

According to its report, the false theories circulating went on the lines as follows:

Jews and Israelis created and spread the virus so that they could rescue the world with lucrative vaccines.

The report said:

The advent of the vaccines, coupled with Israel’s vast vaccination campaign, assisted by Israelis and Jews who hold prominent positions in the companies that produce these vaccines (such as Tal Zaks, Chief Medical Officer at Moderna, and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla), was used to reinforce these accusations: Israelis and Jews join hands so that Israel may be the first to recover from the pandemic, while the rest of the world stands in line and begs the Jews for help.”

Writing on the Wall. Anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled in a UK stairwell in this undated photo juxtaposes Holocaust imagery with the current coronavirus crisis. (Community Security Trust)

Contrast the hate of the antisemites with the words of the Genesis Prize recipient, which explains not only Jewish survival but why an unappreciated world is forever enriched by Jewish survival:

Says Bourla:

I was brought up in a Jewish family who believed that each of us is only as strong as the bonds of our community; and that we are all called upon by God to repair the world. I look forward to being in Jerusalem to accept this honour in person, which symbolizes the triumph of science and a great hope for our future.”


IsraelPresidentIsaacHerzog
Israel President Isaac Herzog

Watch the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s global program, in partnership with The King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence, featuring leaders and peacemakers from the Gulf, Indonesia, Israel, and the United States, commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.






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).

Respect for Freedoms

Israel scores high on Freedom House Global Score

By Bev Goldman

“Freedom House works to defend human rights and promote democratic change, with a focus on political rights and civil liberties. We act as a catalyst for freedom through a combination of analysis, advocacy, and action. Our analysis, focused on 13 central issues, is underpinned by our international program work.”

Freedom House is a non-profit NGO that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights in countries across the globe. Founded in October 1941, its first honorary chairpersons were Wendell Willkie, the 1940 Republican nominee for President of the USA, and Eleanor Roosevelt, former and longest-serving first lady of the USA; and it is founded on the core conviction that freedom flourishes in democratic nations where governments are accountable to their people.

A Force for Freedom. A central figure among Freedom House’s early leaders was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt seen here holding up the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in November 1949. Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong supporter of Israel from that nation’s founding in 1948 until her death in 1962.

In analysing the countries, Freedom House speaks out against the main threats to democracy while encouraging citizens to exercise their fundamental rights through a unique combination of analysis, advocacy, and offering direct support to frontline defenders of freedom, especially those working in closed authoritarian societies. 

As an independent watchdog organization, its research and analysis focus on the progress and decline of freedom across the globe by empowering human rights defenders and civic activists to advance democratic change.

The 2020 Freedom House Annual Report on Israel is impartial, objective and candid, acknowledging the government’s faults but giving credit wherever it is due, and presenting a picture which to Israel’s enemies would be anathema, but to those who recognise her strengths, it is factual and accurate.

The report begins with an introduction, followed by rigorous analysis of the issues on which they focus: 

“Israel is a multiparty democracy with strong and independent institutes that guarantee political rights and civil liberties for most of the population. Although the judiciary is comparatively active in protecting minority rights, the political leadership and many in society have discriminated against Arab and other ethnic or religious minority populations, resulting in systemic disparities in areas including political representation, criminal justice, education, and economic opportunity.”

The coverage then focuses on the topic of free and fair elections. The report notes that the Central Elections Committee (CEC), which is composed of delegations representing the various political groups in the Knesset and chaired by a Supreme Court judge, guarantees the fairness and integrity of elections, and acknowledges that they are generally peaceful and orderly with results accepted by all parties.

Regarding political pluralism and participation, the reports delineates Israel’s multiparty system as “diverse” and “competitive” but adds that parties or candidates that deny Israel’s Jewish character, oppose democracy, or incite racism are prohibited.  It then includes comments by critics of the 2016 law – which allows the removal of any members who incite racism or support armed struggle against the state of Israel with a three-quarters majority vote – alleging that it is aimed at silencing Arab representatives.

Vibrant Voting. Israel’s “diverse” and “competitive” national elections always attract high turnouts. Seen here are people casting their ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem on March 2, 2020 in an election that at the end of voting, the committee put turnout at 71%. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The report illustrates the fact that while women generally enjoy full political rights in law and in practice, they are somewhat underrepresented in leadership positions and can encounter additional obstacles in parties and communities – both Jewish and Arab – that are associated with religious or cultural conservatism.

It discusses further that Arab residents of East Jerusalem have the option of obtaining Israeli citizenship in order to be allowed to vote, though most decline for political reasons. While these non-citizens are entitled to vote in municipal as well as Palestinian Authority (PA) elections, most of them have traditionally boycotted Israeli municipal balloting.

The report observes that Israel’s basic laws are considered equivalent to a constitution (which the country does not have). It adds that in 2018, the Knesset adopted a new “basic law” – the Nation-State Law – which granted only to Jewish people the right to exercise self-determination in the State of Israel. Those opposing it, according to further research done, claimed that it created a framework for the erosion of non-Jewish citizens’ political and civil rights.

This report was released before the election of the current coalition and stated that no Arab party had ever been formally included in a governing coalition, nor did Arabs generally serve in senior positions in government. But the current government under Naftali Bennett is the first to include an independent Arab Israeli party as an official member of the governing coalition. How things change!

History in the Making. An Arab dentist, Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist party  Ra’am, emerged as the “Kingmaker” in the 2020 Israel election and made history by ensuring for the first time an Arab party joined a governing coalition.

Israel’s laws, political practices, civil society groups and independent media are recognised as generally ensuring a significant level of governmental transparency, though corruption cases are not infrequent and high-level corruption investigations are regularly held. Israel’s judiciary is especially lauded in the report for its independence and its regular rulings against the government. As an addendum to this, the Supreme Court is verified as having played a crucial role in protecting minority groups and overturning decisions by the government and the parliament when they threaten human rights; and court rulings are almost always adhered to by the State, involving both Israeli citizens and Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Moving forward, the report commends Israel’s media as being among the most vibrant and free of any country. But while criticism of government policy is uninhibited, vociferous, candid, and forthright, the rules differ for print articles on security matters which are routinely subject to a military censor. Security considerations are behind the action of the Government Press Office which withholds press cards from journalists to restrict them from entering Israel. While a law passed in 2017 allows police and prosecutors to obtain court orders to block websites publishing criminal or offensive content, the report acknowledges that freedom of expression advocates are concerned that the same law could suppress legitimate speech if applied indiscriminately.

The report applauds Israel’s commendable respect for total freedom of religion, notwithstanding the fact that the country defines itself as a Jewish state. In matters of marriage, divorce and burial, Christian, Muslim, and Baha’i communities have jurisdiction over their own members, but it mentions that while the Orthodox govern personal status matters among Jews, this power they wield is often objected to by many non-Orthodox and secular Jews. It is also revealed that while the law further protects the religious sites of non-Jewish groups, the latter face discrimination in the allocation of state resources.

Mention is made of the ever-present security concerns in Israel which forced Israeli authorities to set varying limits on access to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in East Jerusalem in recent years, affecting worshippers across the broader area. However, in 2018 the government lifted restrictions on Jewish lawmakers visiting the site, restrictions that had been in place for nearly three years, a move much approved of by the citizens.

Jitters in Jerusalem. Freedom of worship is guaranteed in Israel but becomes problematic when praying at places held sacred to both religions as seen with Israeli security forces standing guard, as a group of Jews visit the Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa) compound in Jerusalem, on July 18, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

With reference to education, all primary and secondary education is national but is divided into multiple public-school systems (state, state-religious, Haredi, and Arabic). A law passed in 2018 bans groups that favour legal action abroad against Israeli soldiers, or that otherwise undermine state educational goals by criticizing the military, from entering Israeli schools or interacting with students.

Israel’s universities are celebrated as being open to all students and have long been vocal centres for argument, protest, and discord; but again, security concerns have resulted in restricted movement and limited access for West Bank and Gaza residents/students. 

Campus Freedom. A clear show of tolerance and freedom, it is no problem for hundreds of Israeli Arab students to demonstrate against Israel on “Nakba Day” at Tel Aviv University.  Arab students registered at Tel Aviv University comprise about 14.5% of the total number of registered students. (Photo: Al Ittihad).

The report refers to the persistent threat of small-scale terrorist attacks in Israel which usually involve stabbings or vehicle onslaughts; and this is combined with ongoing rocket and artillery fire from Syria and the Gaza Strip. While Israeli soldiers are always on alert, trying to obtain the truth from the terrorists, the report adds that while the Supreme Court banned torture in a 1999 ruling, it said that “physical coercion might be permissible during interrogations in cases involving an imminent threat. Human rights organizations accuse the authorities of continuing to use psychological threats and pressure, painful binding, and humiliation.”

Freedom of assembly in Israel permits protests and demonstrations which are typically peaceful. However, some protest activities – such as desecration of the flag of Israel or a friendly country – are seen as criminal acts and draw serious criminal penalties.

Education for All. The number of Arab students in Israeli universities grows 78% in 7 years. Seen here are Arab Israeli students at the campus of Givat Ram at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
 

Regarding NGOs, particularly those engaged in human rights – and governance-related work, the report observes that a 2016 law states that NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from foreign governments must disclose this fact publicly. The measure mainly affects groups associated with the political left that oppose Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. But foreign funding for right-leaning groups that support Jewish settlements in the West Bank, for example, more often comes from private sources.

The report deals with additional issues including freedom for labour organisations; due process in criminal and civil cases; freedom of movement; personal and social freedoms; equal treatment of all sectors of society; and equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation among others. However, they were not covered because of space constraints.

True Colours. A clear image of freedom and liberalism is Israel’s annual Pride Parades that attract hundreds of thousands of people from across the world. The parades are the largest in Asia and the Middle East. (photo:Guy Yechiely)

The final summation awarded Israel 73 out of a possible 100 points on the Freedom House Global Score, acknowledging it to be a free state, one of 77 out of 196. Included in those not free, with very low results (some in brackets), are Algeria, China (9), Egypt, Gaza Strip (11), Iran (16), Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia (7), South Sudan (2), Sudan, Syria (1), Turkey, UAE, West Bank and Yemen. All Israel’s enemies.

The results speak for themselves.


About the writer:

Bev Goldman national president of the Union of  Jewish Women South Africa (UJW), worked for many years in education and journalism, and she holds a master’s degree in Feminist Literature. Prior to joining the SA Zionist Federation where she dealt with media and education for 12 years, she was the editor of the ‘Who’s Who’ of Southern Africa; a member of WordWize which taught English language skills to Russian and Polish immigrants in South Africa; an occasional lecturer in English at RAU (now the University of Johannesburg); and Director of Educational Programmes at Allenby In-Home Studies.  Currently, she runs the Media Team Israel for the SA Zionist Federation; she sits on the Board of Governors of the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre (RCHCC); she is an executive member of the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW); and she edits and proofs Masters and PhD dissertations.





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).

Robbie’s Story

Surviving cancer – a personal account from South Africa to Israel

By Robbie Eddles

I am now 20 years old.

My journey with cancer was an eleven-year intermittent battle, due to two relapses. It began in 2008, when I was almost 7- years-old and I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells.  It appeared as a lump on the left side of my groin. At first, the lump was small, and our doctor examined me, but didn’t appear too worried as she just advised my parents to keep an eye on it.  However, the growth grew larger, and our doctor referred us to a paediatrician. 

A biopsy was performed, and the results were shocking; I had Leukaemia.  I started treatment, chemotherapy and after a very long and difficult battle, I was finally in remission and then I completed two years of maintenance treatment.  I was cured, there was no trace of cancer in my bone marrow.

Or so we all thought

Five years later, in January 2014, at the age of 13, I had an unrelated MRI scan, which showed unexpected signs of leukemia. Another biopsy was performed, which confirmed that my leukemia had returned and that I had relapsed. We were all distraught and devastated at the news and I was shattered that I had to go through the stringent regime of chemotherapy again. It was during this relapse that my oncologist told me I would need a bone marrow transplant.  High dose chemotherapy started, and I had to endure all the side effects as a teenager, which included high risks of infection, isolation, nausea and vomiting, changes in smell and taste, mucositis, hair loss and fatigue. At the end of it, I was thankfully in remission once again. A worldwide search for a bone marrow donor started but no donor match was found. I had reached remission, I was clear of cancer, perhaps a transplant wasn’t necessary.

Or so we all thought… again

Robbie’s Road to Recovery. Surrounded by his South African family, young Robbie Eddles (left) at Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Hashomer.

Another 5 years passed, and at the end of January 2019, when I was 17 years old, I got extremely sick. I felt extraordinarily tired and was very pale.  My mom took me for blood tests. The blood results indicated that I was anaemic, with very low red and white blood cells. I was immediately hospitalised for further investigation to determine the diagnosis.  I had been in remission for 5 years, so no one suspected a relapse.  I had been on a school trip to India, and I had also swum in the Tugela River, the largest river in South Africa’s  KwaZulu-Natal Province. We thought that perhaps I had caught a bug from the river. 

Shockingly, it turned out to be a second relapse with the same Leukaemia.   Chemotherapy options had now run out and my oncologist had to start the process of looking for a bone marrow donor.

No match was found!  

Next destination – Israel.

A treatment called CAR-T therapy was offered in Israel and my doctor consulted with the Israeli oncology team and they accepted me as a patient.  Two weeks later my Mom and I travelled to Israel as I had to urgently start the treatment. I experienced severe side effects, but they managed to get me back into remission. Remission meant I could have a haplo transplant (from a family member that is not a perfect match).  This is a relatively new treatment, which has only been available in South Africa since 2014.  My eldest sister was my closest familial match. 

Right Track. Robbie and mother, Gilly Eddles, at Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Hashomer outside Tel Aviv.

After months of recovery, some minor Graft vs. Host disease in December of 2019 and two years post-transplant, I am back to full health and strength.  I am no longer in fear of having a relapse.

I consider myself as extremely fortunate because I had access to the CAR-T treatment.  My South African doctors, the fantastic Israeli doctors, my transplant doctor, my oncologist, and my sister saved my life.

To my parents, family, and friends, thank you for giving me strength, courage, and wisdom to face cancer.  Thank you for all the sacrifices you made, for never giving up on me.  I love you with all my heart and I am grateful l am yours.

Sight Seeing. Time out from treatment in Israel, Robbie enjoying a scooter ride in Jaffa.

I went to this amazing city-like medical centre, Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Hashomer outside of Tel Aviv. The staff – the doctors, nurses and the social worker – were incredible. They were very kind, friendly and hospitable. I also managed to go out and see the beautiful and historical cities and places, such as Jaffa, Tel-Aviv, Caesarea, and Jerusalem. I am so thankful to the staff, for all that they did for me and to the doctors for clearing my bone marrow of Leukemia, which allowed me to have a transplant.

I will always have fond memories of Israel and it will always hold a special place within my heart.





About the writer:

Having experienced much of his young life receiving treatment for cancer, Robbie Eddles is today 20 years-old, living with his family in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa and is currently preparing for his final matriculation examination. 






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

A Tall Order

Posture on your mind – “Think Tall”

This is the second part of a series on  how to achieve good posture for all ages

(First part: Importance of Posture – For All Ages)

By Lionel H. Phillips D. O.

There is no machine anywhere compared to our very own machine – our human body. Surely it should be an asset that we take maximum care of 24/7. It requires simple actions by us in order to work efficiently for a lifetime in a healthy mode.

The key to good posture is the position of the spine relative to its natural curvature. The spine has three natural curves – at your neck, mid/upper back, and lower back. Correct posture should maintain these curves, by not increasing or decreasing them. 

Let us take note of a few extremely important basic acts required in order to achieve the correct posture.

Refer to the illustration below – Take note of the curvature in the left illustration and note how it relates with the illustration on the right. The design provides safety, strength and mobility.

The middle illustration is full-on from the back, stretching from the back of the skull in a straight line to the Coccyx where the last 4 vertebrae are fused together. That is what we want to achieve.

When viewed from either the front or the back – middle illustration – the vertical line passing through the body’s center of gravity should theoretically bisect the body into two equal halves, with the bodyweight distributed evenly between the two feet.

Stage One is a Fast Check – Necessary items are a mirror – preferably full length – as well as your cellphone and an assistant. All three will play an important role throughout the checking and correction process.

  1. Stand in front of the mirror facing full on, wearing light comfortable but fairly tight-fitting clothing. Preferably barefoot, but certainly without high heels. Relax the body completely so as to view your natural posture. We need to record your posture as accurately as possible whilst breathing normally.
  2. Have someone take a picture from the back, side and front.  Then, whilst still in this position, check the alignment of your shoulders and hips. Are they parallel one side to the other? Are the gaps between the waist and elbows similar?  Write any variance down. For example – right shoulder lower and left hip protruding to the left.
  3. Move away from the spot and then return to the same place. Without any body movement, increase your height by pushing yourself up from your heels and the balls of your feet, whilst imagining that you have a hook in the middle of you head tied to the ceiling and stretching you upwards. Don’t involve any body parts but try to STAND TALL. Breathe normally.
  4. Have pictures taken once again from the back, side and front.
  5. Write down what you observe. There should be a variance in all 3 of the positions, as well as the chin having moved slightly backwards.
  6. The pictures will tell you, in some small way, about any variance.

Now take a seat in your usual dining room chair. Sit as naturally as usual. Take pictures from the front, side and back. Stand up and be seated again. This time you must be seated with your lower back and buttocks as far back in the seat as possible. Once again take 3 pictures and then compare.

Did you feel more upright on the second set?

Were your shoulders relaxed yet more upright?

There should have been no gap between your lower back and the backrest from the waistline and lower. In addition, you should find it much easier to stand up when seated correctly. Let’s give it a test. Sit with what may have been your “slouched” posture. Inhale through the nose and exhale as you rise to a standing position. Next, sit with your lower back flush against the chair. Repeat the inhalation through the nose and exhale as your stand upright. Feel any difference?

Next step is to analyze the pictures and note the variances, if any. Assuming that there were changes, it would require actions that you, and only you, can perform.

Posture – Two examples of the Skeleton – Take particular note of the Spine

What are we looking for? Muscles in the body are attached to the spine with the help of tendons. At times, due to poor posture, overuse and strenuous activities, these muscles get inflamed, especially the upper back muscles of the cervical and thoracic spine which are more susceptible to inflammation due to overuse. Bad posture, such as slouching, pulls the shoulders forward. Correcting poor upper body posture can avoid and alleviate the pain and limited function associated with shoulder tendonitis.

The cervical region of the spine is the most flexible, followed by the lumbar region. The thoracic spine, however, has a more limited range of motion as it is anchored by the rib cage. The illustration below left should be our aim. Upright, relaxed for maximum efficiency.

The illustration below indicates – to some degree – how crowded, yet perfectly, our organs are packed. Imagine the negative pressure effect on our organs if say one shoulder is lower than the other, or if we are in a slouched position.

Where do posture imbalances come from? It is important to note that having good posture is a combination of flexibility in your skeletal muscles, and balanced strength, which helps you stand and walk gracefully. The conscious activation of the postural muscles is very important, especially when standing or sitting for an extended period.

The illustration below, will give you some idea of the numerous muscles that are affected by poor posture.  And this is only the upper body.

Solutions are non-invasive, other than one having to have the discipline and make the effort. The results will certainly be worth one being able to change poor postural habits for the better.

A full-length mirror, if available, will be your best guide.  Please delete the often-well-meaning advice to a) Pull your shoulders back. b) Lift your chin.

The most important two words for one to ingrain are – THINK TALL. Whether sitting, standing, walking, jogging or running. THINK TALL.

Imagine that the top of your head is attached to a crane which is lifting you upwards. All whilst you are in a relaxed posture.

Below is an illustration of the right knee. Poor posture of one’s head always drooping to the right, will cause the right shoulder to follow suit, whilst the left hip will move outwards to the left, affecting the right knee which will be taught, whilst the left knee is relaxed.

Whether sitting, bending, jogging, running, lifting or pushing / pulling, or climbing a staircase, NEVER ALLOW THE KNEES TO BEND FORWARD BEYOND THE LINE OF THE TOES. Our knees have to put up with enormous pressures as well as strain.

Common falls whilst walking. Test yourself with the following. Stand upright, feet shoulders apart. Then slouch slightly into a poor posture. The shoulders will be ahead of your waist. Lift one leg with a bent knee as high as possible and note the height achieved. Then stand upright with an upright THINK TALL posture. Once again, lift the same leg with a bent knee as high as possible. You should notice how much higher the second lift was compared to the slouched posture. This accounts for the large number of persons tripping and falling, resulting in a variety of injuries due to being hunched forward and not allowing for a natural lift of the leg. It is also difficult to do Nose Diaphragmatic Breathing whilst slouched.

Breathing and Posture whist Walking in general or as an Exercise. THINK TALL and inhale through the Nose, and Exhale through the Mouth.

Note how the abdominal section rises when inhaling through the Nose. This is followed by the abdominals returning to the start position, whilst the chest has remained unmoved throughout. This can be done whilst lying or sitting.

The diaphragm is a parachute-shaped fibrous muscle that runs between the chest and abdomen, separating these two large cavities. When you breathe through your chest, the intercostal muscles and diaphragm don’t get to contract like they’re supposed to. This keeps the body from getting the optimal level of oxygen that it needs. This is the reason why you may feel stressed and fatigued even when you do not engage in physically extraneous activities. According to a 2004 study from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the main reason why most people do chest breathing instead of diaphragmatic is because of poor posture.                                                                                                                

Diaphragmatic breathing is different. In diaphragmatic breathing, the air enters through the lungs and the diaphragm is actively contracted. The chest does not rise. Instead, the belly expands.

No matter how busy one is, squeeze in a few minutes to practice diaphragmatic breathing. Do it while on your way to work or school, during lunch breaks, watching TV, before or after working out and before or in bed.

Car Seats. The backrests are generally set sloping too far backwards. It will assist one to sit more upright by adjusting them to a more upright position. This will have an added positive by allowing the knees to be slightly higher than the buttocks.

In addition, by using a rolled towel – or similar- to be placed in the lower back, at the natural curvature of the spine, one will be seated more upright and prevent air from the open window or air conditioning from hitting the lower back. This happens to be the area where one usually sweats the most.  

Photo below is in a lounger. Same principal applies to a car seat.

(Photo on the left illustrates the position and effect of using the towel.)

What is the Correct Standing, Sitting or Walking Posture?

  1. THINK TALL – Stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling. Do this by imagining that you have a hook pulling at the hair on top of your head towards the ceiling. This will also help to keep your shoulder blades well aligned (but relaxed) and in a strong, confident position. This concept must be practiced when you are standing or sitting. Don’t pull your shoulders back or upwards un-naturally – you cannot hold them in such an un-natural position.
    2. Hold your head up straight with your chin relaxed. Do not tilt your head forward, backward or sideways.
    3. Your earlobes should then be in line with the middle of your shoulders.
    4 Keep your chest naturally forward, not sunken.
    5. Straighten at the knees, but do not lock or tighten them.
    6. Tuck your abdominal area in by a slight tensing / squeezing of the abdominal muscles, which will tilt your pelvis slightly forward and up.
    7. The arches in your feet should be supported by good footwear.
    8. Avoid standing in the same position for a long time. When this is necessary, keep shifting your weight from one leg to the other, and try to elevate one foot by resting it on a stool or box or bar if possible. After several minutes, switch to the other foot.
    9. If possible, adjust the height of the work table or desk to a comfortable level.
Cell/ Mobile Phones – Posture – Pressure on the Cervical Spine

Stretching, should be done until you feel a slight pulling of the muscle, but not pain. As you hold the stretch the muscle will begin to relax. Then as you feel the tension easing, you can increase the stretch again until you feel the same slight pulling. Hold this position until you feel no further increase. 20 seconds for each.

The PSOAS MUSCLE is one of the most important muscles in your body.      It lies deep within the center of your core, connecting your femur to your lower back. The psoas muscle is the deepest muscle of the human body.

It affects our structural balance, muscular integrity, flexibility, strength, range of motion, joint mobility, and organ functioning. Three muscles are associated with what is commonly referred to as “the psoas”: the psoas major, psoas minor, and iliacus.

Without this essential muscle group, you wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed in the morning!

In fact, whether you run, bike, dance, practice yoga, or just hang out on your couch, your psoas muscles are involved. That’s because your psoas muscles are the primary connectors between your torso and your legs.  They affect your posture and help to stabilize your spine.

They attach from your 12th thoracic vertebrae to your 5 lumbar vertebrae, through your pelvis and then finally attach to your femurs. In fact, they are the only muscles that connect your spine to your legs.

The VAGUS Nerve (seen in the two red tubes running vertically on two sides of the Cervical Spine in the illustration below) is the longest cranial nerve, and runs from the brain to the gut. It sends sensory information to the brain and controls certain motor functions throughout the body. It’s part of the parasympathetic system, which allows the body to “rest and digest.” Please note the key to stimulating the Vagus Nerve – Nasal Diaphragmatic Breathing!

When you breathe deeply into your belly, it stimulates the Vagus Nerve, which then sends a message to the brain telling it to make the body relax. Stress hormone production is reduced – and other physiological stress effects (like capillary constriction, muscle tension, decreased digestion, etc.) are improved as well.

The result? In the moment, you feel better and in the long-term help to prevent disease.

You can use deep belly breathing to stimulate the Vagus Nerve. This sends a message to your body causing it to relax and relieve stress. It’s fast and easy!

Be mindful of posture during everyday activities, like watching television, washing dishes, walking, driving and whenever using your computer and mobile phone.

Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can weaken the abdominal muscles, causing problems for the pelvis and spine, as well as adding pressure to the hips and knees, whilst contributing to lower back pain.

Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. High heels, for example, can throw one off balance and cause postural problems, while placing more stress on numerous muscles. 


About the writer:

Lionel Phillips is a Doctor of Osteopathy (1975), an International Fitness & Health Instructor, Consultant and Lecturer. He has researched and designed ‘The Needs & Functions of the Human Body’ as an educational subject for inclusion in all School Curriculums World-Wide. A past Federation Member and Israel Liaison Representative of IHRSA (International, Health & Racquet Sports club Association) and member of their worldwide “Panel of Experts”, Phillips is a recipient of the “Prime Ministers Award of Merit” (PM Menachem Begin).




Links to various Stretching and Free Exercise routines

Stretches for the Lower Body:

Exercise Routines – Global Fitness Services Limited – Health and Education Services (meandmybody.com)

General Stretches for Flexibility:

Exercise Routines – Global Fitness Services Limited – Health and Education Services (meandmybody.com)

Strength Exercises:

Exercise Routines – Global Fitness Services Limited – Health and Education Services (meandmybody.com)







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

The Right Moves

A dance instructor’s  recollections of  defying Apartheid in South Africa

By David E. Kaplan

A marine biologist and tour guide friend of Fonda Dubb in Eilat had a bad fall and was rushed to Emergency at Israel’s southern coastal city hospital – Yoseftal Medical Center. After being patched-up, Colin Porter, said the stitching done by the Arab doctor on duty was so well done  that he characterised it as a “tapestry” and wanting to show his appreciation, offered to teach him snorkeling.

Touched by this gesture, the Arab doctor agreed and said it was the first time he would be socialising with a Jew!

What this story or extended “tapestry” of life unveils is that too few people from worlds culturally separate, fail to meaningfully engage beyond the workplace. “This happens across the globe,” says Fonda. “We leave it to the politicians who are generally lousy at this job instead of us ordinary people engaging on a grassroots person-to-person level.”

Fonda knows exactly what she is talking about from her experiences in South Africa during the darkest days of Apartheid when she went out of her way to bring people who would not otherwise connect – together!

She made every effort, frequently putting herself in danger in crossing boundaries – geographic as well as personal.

What her story reveals is that while we  are more familiar with the high-profile opponents of Apartheid, we are less so of the ordinary people who in their own ordinary way achieved extraordinary results. Such was the case of Fonda Dubb of Eilat.

As a dance teacher in the late sixties in Port Elizabeth, Fonda lead a kind of double life. While in the city she taught kids at a dance studio exclusively for whites, she also immersed herself in teaching boys and girls at the Gelvandale Toynbee Ballet School in the coloured district of Port Elizabeth.

Not Dancing to the Tune of Apartheid. Fonda Dubb’s students at Gelvandale Ballet School.

At the city studio “coloureds” were excluded because of the ugly Group Areas Act, which assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas in a system of urban apartheid. So I used to drive backwards and forwards to the township, a one hour drive away. I was totally unperturbed visiting an area where very few Whites ever went, although I was under surveillance and at times stopped by the police enquiring where I was going and what I was doing.” When there were clashes with the police in  Gelvandale or on the route, “someone would phone and warn me not to come. ”

There was no stopping Fonda. If whites were blocked from being culturally exposed to the coloured community, Fonda ‘pirouetted’ devising a reverse step. “I was determined that my students performed in front of white audiences and so, I would apply for permits to the Administration of coloured Affairs for every such performance.”

Testing Times. Through Fonda Dubb’s perseverance, these coloured students would perform in White areas of Port Elizabeth.

Knowing the moves on the dance floor were not enough; Fonda had to ‘choreograph’ a path through Apartheid’s labyrinthian bureaucracy!

From a file, Fonda takes out a humiliating relic of the Apartheid era, the permit which imposed the following conditions:

“…that no social mixing with the audience occurs, that the coloured do not make use of any of the  change-rooms or any other facilities provided for Whites and that they leave the premises immediately after their performance.” And if they needed to use the toilets, “who knows what they were expected to do,” sighs Fonda, shaking her head.

A Good Mix. Fonda Dubb and her committee receiving a grant for the Gelvandale Toynbee Ballet School. Besides the Treasurer Colin Melmed (left), the only other white on the Committee, Fonda says “This to my knowledge was the only mixed committee during the Apartheid era.”

Fonda relates how they overcame problems that today, 26 years after the fall of Apartheid, appear strangely surreal:

If I received a permit, which only allowed for the exact number of my dances, then that would exclude the coloured staff, particularly their drivers. To surmount this problem, because we had to strictly comply with the conditions, of the permit, my late husband Mark and I would drive backwards and forwards in our own cars, taking and fetching the students.”

Aspiring Dancers. Fonda Dubb’s young students receiving awards in 1974.

Her coloured students frequently received the highest marks in Port Elizabeth. Following their progress, Fonda always felt proud to see how they overcame the many Apartheid-related obstacles. “Some would go on to UCT’s ballet School, others would become teachers, while a few went on to perform overseas.”

Following Dulcie Howes – considered the prima ballerina assoluta of South African ballet  – introducing Ballet as a matric subject in South African schools, two of the first graduates in the progamme “were  my coloured students who would go on to receive bursaries to study at UCT, where after they returned to teach at Coloured schools in Gelvendale. I think this was one on my proudest moments!”

Going Great. On a visit to the Toynbee Ballet School, the former principal dancer of the Royal Ballet, London Johaar Mosaval, says he was most impressed with the caliber of the students who Fonda Dubb had been entering for R.A.D Ballet exams since 1970.

What’s Cooking?

Leaving Port Elizabeth in the mid-1970s, Fonda and her family moved to the small country town of her youth,  Pietersburg, today Polokwane, capital of the Limpopo Province. There she switched from dancing to her other great love – cuisine! Boasting a strong Jewish community of some 200 families, Fonda was kept very busy catering for barmitzvahs, batmitzvahas, britot mila and weddings.

Recipe for Success. Following Fonda Dubb’s  cooking course in Pietersburg for blacks making the national media, she was inundated with enquiries across South Africa.

In time she was soon approached by an organization called “Woman Power” to provide cooking lessons to blacks, where they would receive certificates enabling domestics workers to command higher salaries. They were “earning at the time a paltry – in today’s Israeli currency –  NIS28 per month,” recalls Fonda. Approximately 80% of my students could neither read nor write but they were determined to improve their lives.”

Pathway to Progress. Tasty delights of Fonda Dubb’s students that paved their way for higher salaries.

The graduation ceremonies regularly appeared on national television, where after “we would receive calls from other organisations throughout the country for the guidelines to our courses.”

White by Night

As a child growing up in Pietersburg, Fonda’s young eyes were witness to the horrors of Apartheid. She recalls the vivid images of “blacks being randomly picked up in the streets by roving police vans and tossed in brutally like sacks of potatoes. I can still hear the sounds of the siren that used to sound every night at 9.00pm, whereafter no blacks were free to roam the streets of Pietersburg.”

She recalls her late cousin, Dr. John Gluckman, a pathologist, “who had the courage of his convictions to expose the horrible tortures inflicted upon the black school children held in police custody during the 1976 riots. Years earlier, he had represented the Timol family, whose son Ahmed, was one of the first detainees to die at the notorious John Vorster Square by allegedly jumping out a window. He later represented the Biko family,” following the black Consciousness leader Steve Biko’s death in police custody.

She recalls being at the police station in Pietersburg a few years before immigrating to Israel and hearing the screaming coming from the cells. “I asked one of the policemen what was happening. With a whip of a hand, he bellowed, “We’re going to donner (beat) them”. Such was South Africa.”

Wonder Woman. Fonda Dubb (left)  with the “Woman Power” group providing cooking lessons to blacks, where they would receive certificates enabling domestics to command higher salaries.

Making a Difference

While Fonda is quick to minimize her contribution during the dark days of Apartheid, she recognised the injustice around her and through her routine activities made a difference. In Eilat, she again used her passions for dance and food “to make a difference”. Apart from assisting the blind and visiting the sick, she over the years,  would through organisations like ESRA and WIZO instruct dance to children with disabilities, teach English to Ethiopian children through cooking and would fundraise for causes by conducting food demonstrations.

What’s Cooking? Fonda teaching English to Ethiopean children in Eilat through the meduim of cooking.

It is little wonder that Fonda is a recipient of Eilat’s prestigious Miller Award, presented personally by former Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi for:

 “diverse volunteer work conducted with dedication and sensitivity in guiding and supporting the needy in all sectors of the population and for the empowerment of women.” 

If bad laws kept people apart in South Africa, Fonda Dubb found good ways to bring them together.


From Battling to Paddling

Injured Israeli army veterans find healing and balance at sea

By David E. Kaplan

I don’t know whether I am a landman or seaman,”  says Israeli injured vet, Eyal Abro, the inspiration and cofounder of SEASU. This happily unsettled question for Eyal is happily helping to settle lives of Israel’s war wounded!

SEASU is a therapeutic and transformative paddling programme for veterans of the Israeli army living in the wake of physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma.

All Smiles At Sea. Eyal Abro, who grew up in Cape Town South Africa and the brainshild and cofounder of SEASU  in Michmoret is never happier than being at sea.

The philosophy is embedded in the name,” explains  brand builder and a cofounder, Michael McDevitt Shai. “SEASU is inspired by the Finnish concept of ‘Sisu and is best understood as extraordinary courage, undying resilience, and resolute purpose when adversity is unthinkable and success unlikely.” 

Every Thursday morning at 6.00am, some 15 vets together with some eight volunteers meet at the SEASU club house on Michmoret beach, nine kilometers north of Netanya.  They come from all walks of life and professions, all highly motivated with the love of the challenge and with one thing in common – they were injured in the military and have sought through a unique paddling programme a way forward.

Soon decked out in their surfski outfits, they take to the sea on their special sleek kayaks imported by Eyal from South Africa, and are beyond the waves and breakers paddling through the rolling high and low swells. There is another feeling out there in the open sea that resonates among the army vets, “that unique spirit of camaraderie,” says Eyal, “of friends who there with you and for you come hell or high water – proverbially speaking.”

One of the oldest in the group is 64-year-old serial entrepreneur Shlomo Nimrodi, who has founded, built, and led a diverse range of global industries, led three IPO’s, several M&A transactions and is at the heart and spirit of the veteran paddlers.

Rearing to Go. Hi-tech entrepreneur and war veteran amputee Shlomo Nimrodi, thrives on challenges whether in business or in sports preferring to paddle without his prosthetic.

A grandfather of five, Shlomo has been with the group for four years. Injured at age 21 while fighting in a special units in the IDF,

Shlomo lost his left leg above the knee as well as suffering “a lot of collateral damage in many parts of my body.” This did not deter this man who thrives on challenges whether in business or in sports.

In the years following his leg amputation, “I skied, did triathlons, and while I lived  in the States for 15 years , I managed to do the NY City triathlon and the Westchester Triathlon, and I guess in one of those ski trips, somebody told me about surfski, and suggested I try it.” Never deterred by a new challenge Shlomo tried, and “I fell in love  at my first try.”  Trying at first to do it with his prosthetic leg,  “I felt at some point this was more of an anchor, so I just left it in the room and started to paddle with one leg.”

This writer found interesting Shlomo’s use of maritime parlance – “anchor”  – to describe that which was holding him back!

Shlomo compares the uncertainty, challenges and the risks at sea as similar to the hi-tech arena where he daily operates. “Every time you go to the ocean its different – different weather, different vision, different feeling, different risks and it’s exciting; it raises the adrenaline.”

Sea’ing is Believing. Amputee paddler Eran Peri injured in the Second Lebanon War, was skeptical at first to surfski but soon became totally passionate about the sport.

Another leg amputee paddler, is Eran Peri, who was injured 15 years ago in the Second Lebanon War. He relates how tough it was to come to terms with his disability.  “I was told there was a guy who I should meet. I was against it; least of all to meet another amputee but when that guy turned out to be Shlomo, who we soon discovered we shared the same birthday, date – it was a sign –  we became instant friends and I started sport again – skiing, cycling and long-distance running.”

The banter between Shlomo and Eran was inspiring.

Hey, Shlomo, how many times we went skiing together?” meaning a lot.

Not enough!” replied Shlomo.

And when Eran observed, “We are not getting any younger,” Shlomo replied:

Are you kidding!”

Magic Moments at Michmoret. Early morning coffee before  grabing their surfskis and taking to the watyer.

Always looking for new challenges, when surfski arrived in Israel through Eyal, Eran was at first skeptical “ But soon fell in love with it. I don’t know if  it’s the combination of  the morning sunrise and the fact that the sea is different every day; overcoming the cold water,  and then the group of people that take care of each other  – whatever it is, it’s a winner!”

Adds Shlomo:

I too at first was skeptical. The group was composed of people with multiple challenges or disabilities.  One guy with PTSD who used to be sea sick after 5 minutes, would throw up and we would have to go back and today, he is one of the best, and like all of us, he loves it.” 

The Art of the Craft

Michael describes the sport’s craft as “long, narrow and lightweight similar to a kayak with an open “sit-on-top” cockpit. Propelled by two-sided paddles and designed to cut through water with incredible efficiently, SurfSkis are built to seat one or two people and can be adapted for individuals missing limbs or using prosthetics to utilize the craft’s pedal and pulley rudder system. We have even created seating platforms for paraplegic individuals.”

Eyal adds that the beauty of the craft is that “it basically puts everyone on a par. So whether someone is amputated or has PTSD issues, on the water, everyone is equal.”
Shlomo adds, “On water it does not matter if you have one leg or half a leg,  you are pretty much the same.”

Technique Time. Decked out in their “WHERE WE BELONG” shirts, SEASU amputees and suffererors of PTSD learning how to use the paddle before going out to sea.

Regarding safety, all paddlers are required to wear a Personal Flotation Devise (PFD) and carry a mobile phone within a waterproof sleeve in case of emergencies.

Eyal laughs:

The most serious catastrophic ‘emergency’ we encounter with these guys is when for some personal reason they are unable on a Thursday to not join us!”

So what inspired Eyal to ‘paddle’ this path forward?

Born to a South African father who met his Israeli mother on kibbutz Nahshon when he volunteered during the 1967 Six Day War, Eyal grew up in Cape Town where he fell in love with the sea and water sports, excelling in water polo. Returning to Israel as age 18, he joined the IDF, where he served deep in Lebanon as a machine gunner close to combat but never experiencing it directly. However, the thoughts of “life and death” experiences he went through, did not leave him unscathed “and although I had light PTSD, even if light, it’s something you need to take care of and I did through the therapy of the sea and combining it professionally by starting my club, SurfSki Israel, in Michmoret that has 160 members and in the last four years, giving back to society through SEASU.”

Setting out to Sea. Last minute instructions outside the SEASU clubhouse in Michmoret before heading out on for an early morning sea adventure .

He adds that “PSTD never really leaves you but today I am thankful to it because it is who I am and has been the inspiration to try heal others through my love and passion for the sea.”

Psychological consultant, Roy Haziza, who brings a career of academic research and applied treatment of military-focused PTSD to serve SEASU’s leadership, volunteers, and post-trauma veterans, explains the transformative therapeutic qualities of the Surfski.

The anticipated journeys of army vets that were derailed by injury or trauma need to be restored or repaired and a new journey is required that is about letting go of the past of imagined futures to make way for a new identity to appear.” The journeyman “must overcome the feeling of often hopelessness and dissabilities to reassert the control of mind over body and develop a sense of health and ability and I believe SEASU paddling offers  just that. The paddlers set out to sea on vigorous paddling adventures, conquering difficulties, fears and aches, pushing their bodies and spirits  to new heights of health and ability. And they also discover a new group that they can identify with on this adventure.”

By paddle skiing, they “find a sense of balance, learn to control their breathing while feeling the water, the wind, the salt, like ancient mariners and all throughout, they have to stay focused, keep up with the group while always concentrating on the technique.  This is why I say that surfski paddling is a medium of  transformation and rebirth.”

Mist over the Med. Early morning mist as the vets paddle out into the Mediterranean.

Shelter from the Storm

By his own admission, SEASU cofounder  Michael McDevitt Shai says he is “the odd man out” being “a native New Yorker who came to Israel 10 years ago” and who has no “military background.”  However, “I have found a real home here in Israel” and it was by sheer chance that “I became involved.”

He says that unlike Eyal, “who was into spearfishing, I was never a sea person; I was more into cycling and marathon running. However, when my wife and I and the kids left Tel Aviv and joined the seaside community of Michmoret, I felt ready for a change – a sea change!

That change came during a storm one winter’s day.

Settled at the Sea. SEASU cofounder and brand specialist Michael McDevitt Shai, a former New Yorker now happily ensconced at Michmoret.

Taking a walk on the beach, “we got caught in a sudden severe rainstorm. Seeking shelter, we ducked under –  and as fate would have it – the awning of Eyal’s surfski club which set off the alarm. A club member came looking, probably afraid someone was trying to break in,  and after chatting, he  kindly offered us a lift home telling me the owner’s name. Shortly thereafter, having dinner with a friend,  in Tel Aviv and telling the story of being caught in the storm and when I mentioned Eyal’s name, he said,  “I served with him in Lebanon.  Great guy!” So I ended up joining the club and fell in love with it.”

Discovering that Michael was a photographer, “Eyal asked me if I could shoot some photos for him  of group of guys who were IDF veterans – amputees and those with PTSD.  I watched these guys on the beach with their surfskis like Shlomo and Eran and another paddler, who suffered both physical injury and PSTD. His story was horrendous. Called to intervene in a terrorist attack in a private home, he was injured by a knife-wielding terrorist and lost his eye by a bullet ricochet meant for the terrorist. Following numerous therapies and medications, he finally found balance in his life through Surfski.

So, armed with his camera, the soon-to-be cofounder of SEASU zoomed in on these battered, bruised but tough guys on the beach who dispensed with their day clothes as they had their disabilities as they prepared to embrace the challenges of the sea. “It was so inspiring, like something out of Greek mythology of mighty men unafraid, embarking on a maritime adventure. I wanted to be part of this adventure and share their story with the world.”

Major Mentor. Current ICF World Surfski Champion, Sean Rice from Cape Town, South Africa is the third cofounder of SEASU offering expertise and experience.  .

So, for the professional brand builder and more recently passionate paddler who through a rainstorm was destined to meet Eyal Abro, and then joined by another South African from Cape Town, Sean Rice, the ICF World Surfski Champion, SEASU was born.

Bearing the scars of the past, a group of heroes vigorously embrace the future.






*For all inquiries, whether looking to join SEASU or those looking to support SEASU to contact Michael McDevitt Shai at: mms@seasu.org

**To see additional photos, check their INSTAGRAM  as well: https://www.instagram.com/seasu_united/





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).

Zzapping Malaria

One of the most dangerous creatures in the world is one of the smallest – the mosquito. Coming to the rescue is one of the smallest counties in the world – Israel.

By Kenneth Mokgatlhe

Who is not afraid of sharks but in 2019 they killed only two people, which is below the average of four. Yet malaria, carried by mosquitoes, kills more than 400,000 people per year, most of them babies and toddlers in sub-Saharan Africa. While much of the world is obsessed with the danger that which kills two a year, Israel, whose Jerusalem-based start-up, ZzappMalaria, aims to eliminate malaria – a mass killer – by applying Artificial Intelligence (AI). Towards this lifesaving goal – particularly for Africa where I am from – the company has grabbed the world’s biggest prize for innovation – the XPRIZE.

Meet the Team using AI to Eradicate Malaria. The ZzappMalaria team (left to right): Eugene Rozenberg, Lea Leiman, Michael Ben Aharon, Founder and CEO Arnon Houri-Yafin, Arbel Vigodny, Yonatan Fialkoff

For those unfamiliar, XPRIZE is a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring about “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity” through incentivized competition.

Developing a mobile app and dashboard to help eliminate Malaria, ZzappMalaria, won first place in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE Competition, as well as the People’s Choice Award for the Most Inspiring Team. As part of the award, the company received a $3 million prize to continue its efforts to eliminate malaria from the world.

Tiny Terrors. Image of mosquito larvae in stagnant water by James Gathany of the CDC in PLoS Biology, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. AI helps zap mosquito larvae before they become a problem.

The Zzapp team is deeply grateful to Xprize and IBM Watson for acknowledging the importance of the fight against malaria,” said Arnon Houri-Yafin, CEO and founder of ZzappMalaria. “We will dedicate the prize money to one ambitious goal: demonstrating that rapid malaria elimination is possible in Sub Saharan Africa.”

Making the World Safer. ZzappMalaria COO Arbel Vigodny speaks at IBM Watson AI XPRIZE at TED in the TED World Theater, February 12, 2020, New York, NY. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

So how does it work? Zzapp uses AI to provide specific malaria-control strategies depending on the needs of each village or neighborhood. Then, it breaks down those strategies into clear and manageable tasks. Tasks are allocated to fieldworkers via its mobile app designed for local needs, such as battery consumption, internet access, and more. To date, the app has been tested in six African countries and has succeeded in increasing the effectiveness of operations designed to tackle Malaria.

Brought to Task. The Zzapp app assigns tasks to field workers based on AI analysis of mosquito breeding conditions. (Photo courtesy of Zzapp Malaria)

Attracted by ZzappMalaria’s aim to eradicate malaria worldwide by developing a system to “plan, execute, and monitor large-scale and cost-affecting malaria elimination campaigns”, the 2016-founded company has won grants from the Gates Foundation and the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) and has been conducting anti-malaria operations in Ghana, Zanzibar, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

It is very gratifying to know that our technology is saving lives on a daily basis. In fact, our pilot product currently protects more than 300,000 people,” said Houri-Yafin. “ZzappMalaria’s app – which is GPS-based and works offline – is suited to work in the harshest conditions.”

Scanning for Safety. A field worker uses ZzappMalaria to scan bodies of water set for treatment. (Courtesy)

“It simplifies our work considerably,” says Dr. Abebe Asale from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, a research body in Ethiopia which specializes in malaria. “Despite the technology’s sophistication, the app and the dashboard are very intuitive and user-friendly. In an operation in the Amhara region in 2019, we located all of the water bodies, which is usually a great challenge. The technology saved us time and energy, and in prioritizing severely affected villages.”

Although malaria is not a major public health problem in South Africa as yet, the country needs to be better prepared in order to ensure that the disease does not burden our over-extended public health care sector. It can do so by adopting efficient measures such as the AI method developed by ZzappMalaria. The notion of “prevention is better than cure” should reign supreme in our heads to ensure that our public health is prepared.

The Beauty of the App. The Israeli app can be used without internet connectivity by workers in fields. (Photo: ZzappMalaria)

About 10% of South Africa’s population (4.9 million) is at risk of contracting malaria, largely in the provinces of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu-Natal. This is a significant number that should be a concern to all of us in South Africa. Malaria is a curable and treatable disease as long as it is diagnosed as quickly as possible. However, it is fatal if not done so in the earlier stages. That is where this new app becomes so vital. So, while many countries of Africa are increasingly availing themselves of life-saving Israeli technology and expertise, South Africa should too for the health and future health of its people.  

Acting on Info. With the information provided, spraying mosquito larvae in Ghana. (Photo by Arbel Vigodny/ZZapp Malaria)
 

As the world is facing a life-threatening Covid-19 pandemic, we are able to see the importance of life-saving discoveries in reducing casualties. It is clear that failure to avail ourselves of new available technologies, the price to be paid would be higher than what we are paying presently

ZzappMalaria has inspired confidence in those who were in despair and had accepted malaria as part of their being. Now, thanks to this Israeli company, there is much greater hope that malaria would be eradicated in our lifetime.


About the writer:

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

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







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



Importance of Posture – For All Ages

Straight Talking

This is the first of a 2-part series on POSTURE. The writer is concerned that the medical fraternity advises “very little” to “if any at all” on a critical health issue that can cause – sooner or later – serious setbacks to virtually all the various systems of our bodies. In a follow-up article, the writer will provide information on how to check one’s POSTURE and ways and means to improve it.

By Lionel H. Phillips D. O.

The sooner one realizes, or if it is pointed out, that one has poor posture, every effort to correct it, should be a priority. As with a car, should one tire lack sufficient air, or if the steering is pulling to one side or the other and so on, no one will neglect the problem, for sure. The human body requires the same attention.

Posture refers to the alignment of the spine with all its adjoining structures. A person with good posture maintains proper alignment through all sitting, standing and lying positions as well as when active. Poor posture in the form of slouching, hunching or slumping creates misalignment along the spinal column that disrupts and has significant negative implications for nearly all major components of the musculoskeletal system, amongst many other issues.

Misalignment

The skeletal and numerous other ailments that result from bad posture, are the result of misalignment in the spine. When one has a good posture, the upper cervical curve, mid thoracic curve and lower lumbar curve of the spine, balance along an imaginary vertical line that runs down your body from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Proper posture ensures that the spine is neither angled to either side of your body nor exaggerated along any of its natural curves. Improper posture disrupts the alignment of the spine by either over emphasizing one or more of the spinal curves, or by causing horizontal curvature to the spinal column. An improperly aligned spine disrupts alignment of other major bones and muscles, which can cause short-term pain or more long-term structural damage.

Fascia is the tough connective tissue that supports and lubricates every muscle and organ in the human body. However, if poor posture, trauma, or inflammation is involved, the fascia will bind down and create more fascia in response to stress or demand. When fascia binds down, extra pressure is also being placed on nerves, blood vessels, bones, and organs.  

 

Joint Stress

The joints in the body are protected by connective tissue designed to cushion and protect the joint during movement. The amount of connective tissue reflects the load bearing properties of the joint. A misaligned spine causes weight or stress to be redistributed throughout the body, so joints that were not intended to bear a significant amount of stress are now required to do so, in order to compensate for poor posture. When joints bear stress beyond their capacity, the result is temporary or long-term pain as well as a degradation of the supportive connective tissue. Bad posture most commonly impacts joints in the spine, knees and shoulders.

Growth Issues

The skeletal system coordinates growth with muscle fibers in order to maintain alignment and balance. Some forms of chronic poor posture negatively impact normal growth patterns. For example, bad posture that places added stress on the vertebrae of the spine will cause the connective disks to wear down more quickly, compressing the bones of the spine and causing a loss in height. Bad posture that compresses bones and joints also inhibits muscle fiber growth, leading to reduced strength or stature.

Osteoarthritis

Poor posture is one contributing factor to osteoarthritis, which is the result of the severe degradation of the connective tissue between joints that protects the bones from rubbing together and causing pain. When posture disrupts the load bearing balance of your joints, connective tissue is worn down, exposing bone to bone. Occasionally, affected joints will calcify and fuse nearby bones in unnatural or painful positions, particularly in the spine and hands. Posture is particularly critical for osteoarthritis because the condition often exacerbates already poor posture, which can compound pain. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured or reversed, but the pain can be managed with physical therapy and medication.

Poor posture impairs circulation, which makes it harder for the heart to do its important work. Researchers even showed that the posture people use when they spend time on a smartphone reduces respiratory function. Altogether, this means that bad posture reduces the oxygen that gets to our tissues.

Poor posture is responsible for a number of ailments that can seriously affect your health and happiness. Modern life means that many of us are desk bound, hunched over a computer for hours and hours, commuting to and from work, and spending our evenings sitting even more in order to relax by either watching TV or reading.

It is easy to get into poor habits with our posture, sitting slumped with a rounded lower back may actually feel a lot more comfortable than sitting with a straight back. This is because the body has become accustomed to adopting this position and sitting upright will require much more effort from the supporting muscles. In fact, slouching generally doesn’t cause any discomfort at the time of doing so, but rather takes its toll over time causing tension, straining the muscles and soft tissue.

Permanent poor posture can cause a number of different health and well-being related problems, including one or more of the following:

  • Chronic and acute pain of the back, neck, and shoulder
  • Headaches
  • Knee, hip, and back injuries
  • Respiration problems
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle atrophy and weakness
  • Digestive problems
  • Sciatica
  • Formation of varicose veins or “spider” veins
  • Impingement and nerve compression, as well as Carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Increased risk of cardiovascular disease. When poor posture causes changes in the spine alignment, it can lead to blood vessel constriction, which in turn affects nutrient and oxygen supply, resulting in blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.

Back and Neck Pain

Common causes of back and neck pain are poor posture (whether sitting or standing) and repetitive movements. Working from an office desk in a sedentary environment and adapting poor posture is often the culprit of upper and lower back pain. Postures that can cause back and neck problems include – cradling the phone in one ear, sitting lopsided, sitting cross legged, hunching forward and many other incorrect postures.

One of the most frequent causes of neck pain is extending the head and shoulders too far forwards. The head is heavy and its weight in a forward position, can with time, irritate the small facet joints in the neck plus the ligaments and soft tissues. In some cases, this can lead to more serious problems in later life such as degenerative disc disease. This position is usually accompanied by a rounded upper back and forward reaching shoulders, causing shoulder pain as well as further aggravating the neck problem.

Many of us also stand with incorrect posture, either slouching our shoulders and curving our backs, sticking our bottoms out, leaning on one leg or standing with a flat back. All of these can lead to long term discomfort and problems.

If one wants to be active and healthy in later life, maintaining good posture is essential, whereas long term poor posture can result in a permanent curvature of the spine: this puts the spine under a great deal of pressure and may result in a number of conditions and illnesses in later life. Ultimately adopting long term good posture can increase life expectancy and reduce the risk of a number of illnesses and conditions.

Digestion, Internal Organs and Breathing

It should come as no surprise that poor posture constricts internal organs which can cause an array of different issues. Several digestive problems have been attributed to slouched posture, these include; constipation, acid reflux and even hernias in some cases, caused by undue compression of the internal organs and of the abdomen, whereas correct posture permits these organs to maintain their natural position.

When the upper body is rounded or in a slouched position, the rib cage and diaphragm muscles are unable to expand properly. The exchange of oxygen between the lungs and the blood is constricted, meaning the body is required to work harder and more effort is needed to breathe and speak. This can result in feelings of fatigue. The Diaphragm is a muscle which serves two main functions – 1. It is a dome-shaped muscular partition that separates the upper organs from the lower organs. The esophagus, aorta, vena cava, and numerous nerves pass through the diaphragm. 2.  It plays a major role in breathing, as its acts as a massage machine, moving down and up as one inhales and exhales, increasing the volume of the thorax and so inflates the lungs. 

Adapting certain negative postures can also lead to nerve impingements, lessening the ability of nerves to relay signals between our brain and body. Adequate posture is paramount for many types of exercises and especially for athletes due to an increase in the demand for oxygen. Have you ever seen a top sprinter slouching? The answer is no, definitely not. Many attributes the success of top athletes to their posture or form when running.

Poor Body Language: Your Overall Appearance and How Others View It

We all know that first impressions do count and posture says a lot about one’s personality. A strong confident person will undoubtedly adopt good posture, holding their head up, and standing tall with an open chest. Slumped posture indicates poor body language, this can negatively affect a variety of things.


Correcting Posture Mistakes

The core muscles (in the abdomen, pelvic floor, and back) help support the spine.

Posture is just one component of our health, but it can have a surprisingly big impact. Poor alignment or posture is one of the leading causes of neck pain, back pain and headaches.  Hunching over and looking down puts extra strain on the posterior muscles of the neck to keep the head from falling forward. This can put strain on the muscles, causing headaches.

Poor posture can negatively impact our ability to sleep. If our muscular system is not aligned properly, we won’t be able to fully relax.

Misalignment can also end up affecting one’s feet. Bad posture can create foot pain and may not allow one to wear their favorite shoes.

Workouts and recovery times. Certain muscles will become overworked with poor posture and will fatigue too quickly, leading to more pain during and after a workout because the body will become inflamed and irritated. When one slouches, not only do the shoulders move forward, but it also flatten out the lower back, which will eventually lead to pain.

The nerves that come out from the neck and upper back control muscle function and sensations of the arms, wrists, and hands. The nerves can get pinched from the spine (bone or discs) or from chronically tight muscles, which will lead to carpal-tunnel-type numbness, tingling, or pain throughout the arm.

Altered posture effects how the internal organs function. This has a profound effect on how the intestines move food matter through the system. Bad posture slows the movement of the intestines.

Poor posture can cause breathing problems. Once again, slouching can prevent the diaphragm from fully expanding, which affects its ability to help the lungs contract and release with each breath. One’s ability to breathe properly is at its most optimal when the body is in proper alignment. 


Force acting on Lumber spine L3 – In Different Situations in a Person Weighing 70kg

Posture or Movement                                                     Force in kg

Lying on back, using traction of 30 kg.                                                 10

Lying on back, legs straight                                                                     30

Upright standing position                                                                        70

Walking                                                                                                         85

Trunk lean to one side                                                                               95

Sitting unsupported                                                                                 100

Isometric Exercises for Muscles of Abdominal Wall                         110

Laughter                                                                                                       120

Inclined forward leaning of 200                                                                                  120

Sit-up from supine position, legs straight                                           175

Lifting a 20 kg. load, back straight                                                         175

Lifting a 20 kg. load, back straight and Knees bent                         210

Lifting a 20 kg. load, from a forward lean, Legs straight                340 

Internal support of the spinal column. It can be compared with the mechanical action of a rugby ball located in the abdominal cavity.  See illustration above.

Biomechanical Foundations in the Prevention of Injuries to the Spinal Lumber Region during Physical Exercise Training – 1985. 

Presented by – Lionel H. Phillips D. O. CEO & MD – Global Fitness Services Limited.




About the writer:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Lionel-H.-Phillips.jpg

Lionel Phillips is a Doctor of Osteopathy (1975), an International Fitness & Health Instructor, Consultant and Lecturer. He has researched and designed ‘The Needs & Functions of the Human Body’ as an educational subject for inclusion in all School Curriculums World-Wide. A past Federation Member and Israel Liaison Representative of IHRSA (International, Health & Racquet Sports club Association) and member of their worldwide “Panel of Experts”, Phillips is a recipient of the “Prime Ministers Award of Merit” (PM Menachem Begin).







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)