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)

HABITS – Once INGRAINED – Become very difficult to change

However, it is possible if…….

By Lionel H. Phillips D.O.

Habit formation is the process by which behaviours become automatic. Habits can form without a person intending to acquire them, but they can also be deliberately cultivated – or eliminated -to better suit one’s personal goals.

Understanding how habits take shape to begin with, may be helpful in dismantling and replacing them.

First and foremost, one should avoid poor habits from being ingrained in the first place, especially once one is aware that their behaviour will not be in their best interests. That would normally apply to teenagers and older. After all, most if not all people have one or more bad habits. Unfortunately, poor habits are now found to be ingrained from the age of three, thanks to parents, peers and school mates.

One likely reason people are creatures of habit is that habits are efficient. People can perform useful behaviours without wasting time and energy deliberating about what to do. This tendency toward quick-and-efficient responses can backfire, however – as when it gets hijacked by the use of addictive drugs or consumption of unhealthy food, poor posture or the preference to become a couch “potato”.

While intrinsic motivation – the internal force pushing us to engage in a behaviour – is ultimately invaluable, incentives or rewards may help with good habit-building, by getting a person to begin to engage in the hoped-for behaviour in the first place. 

Before you decide to ingrain new habits, though, it is essential to identify the bad habits that are already sabotaging you. Doing so will help you to stick to the healthy habits you form and see progress in the short term.

Researchers wanted to see if they could break a habit by interfering with a part of the prefrontal cortex known as the Infralimbic (IL) Cortex, once they had shown that the habit was fully ingrained. Although the neural pathways that encode habitual behaviour appear to be located in deep brain structures known as the basal ganglia, it has been shown that the IL cortex is also necessary for such behaviours to develop.

It also appears that the IL cortex favors new habits over old ones, consistent with previous studies showing that when habits are broken, they are not forgotten, but replaced with new ones.

Follow-up studies by researchers are endeavoring to pinpoint exactly when, during a maze run, the IL cortex selects the appropriate habit. They are also planning to specifically inhibit different cell types within the IL cortex, to see which ones are most involved in habit control.

We will be concentrating on a few poor habits relating to the functions of your greatest asset, your very own Human Body. As such we will deal with THOSE THAT ARE “SIMPLE” TO CHANGE without invading on your lifestyle:

  • Eating Habits (no dieting)
  • Posture
  • Drinking Water – needs, how and why
  • Nose (Diaphragmatic) Breathing, rather than Mouth Breathing

Having dealt with “Eating Habits” and the “Digestive System” in my last article in Lay Of The Land, this one will deal with the positives and negatives concerning INGRAINED HABITS.

Is there the possibility of getting rid of your well-ingrained poor habits?

Absolutely Yes, if you are prepared to understand the ills of a current bad habit, and stand ready to admit to that fact. Everyone has one or more bad habits.

Straighten up for a Healthy Spine. Incorrect posture (left) and correct posture. (iStockphoto)

 Don’t feel discouraged should you slip backwards now and again. By admitting the failure and opting to get back into the correct actions, you will have made a giant positive step forward.

Note the date that you decide to give it your best shot to make a change. Then think and act positively without stress. Don’t stress if you deviate slightly or if you are having difficulty in maintaining it. Keep in mind that you are the driver, and only you are in charge of providing your body with its proven needs.

Habits become part and parcel of one’s life. Firstly, habits are actions that we take every day. Can you imagine eliminating even one of them? Every habit has an effect one or more of the systems and functions of the body. It is easier to ingrain them correctly in the manner that your body will benefit most, with you receiving the dividends of good health and all the positive aspects that come along with it. 

By understanding what your body needs from you, as well as how your body requires you to provide those needs, you will not only be honing in on the core poor habit or habits, but you will be exerting your sense of empowerment. Although you may experience certain “stresses” initially, within days you will feel the positive effects and the fact that the changes have not interfered with, or been invasive in any way on your lifestyle.

Good intentions are pure and real. Many have made themselves a promise at one time or another to make one or more changes to their lifestyle. But we have so many things weighing us down which cause well-intentioned plans to fail.  So maybe the key to meaningful change is not so much knowing how to make all those well-intended changes, it is knowing how to unload the past, so that it shouldn’t shape your future and bring you back to your old patterns.

Holds Water. Drinking lots of water curbs your appetite, prompting you to eat less.

Patience and persistency will pay off. “Rome was not built in a Day!” Should you realize that you have more than one poor habit that needs attention, choose one at a time. 

Give yourself and your brain a chance to understand the logic of having this new habit in place.  Don’t be disappointed if no changes, whether physical or mental, have taken place in the first week.  Take it one day at a time.  Remember, that any one change for the better will have a positive effect on the others.

Get a Whiff of This. Breathing through your nose is the correct and most optimal way for you to breathe. 

Where should you start? What are the most common damaging habits? A short list which will not be invasive of your lifestyle if performed correctly, are listed below. Rather the reverse will occur in that you will revel with the changes.

The suggestions are:

  • Eating large mouthfuls that will not and cannot be chewed (masticated) into a soft warm paste, required by the balance of the digestive system. Change to small mouthfuls and maximum chewing for a better taste as well as being welcomed by the balance of the digestive system.
  • If You are a Mouth Breather, rather than a Nose (Diaphragmatic) breather, the result will adversely affect your lungs and blood.
  • A poor Posture at any age, has severe and painful repercussions on the whole body. The spine has a very specific shape for many good reasons. For example, the axial skeleton is formed around the central axis of the body and thus includes the skull, spine, and ribcage. It protects the brain, spinal cord, lungs, heart,  esophagus and major sense organs like the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue. 
  • Are you consuming sufficient pure WATER daily?
Hard to Swallow. Good advice – chew your food slowly.

Do any of the above suggestions appear to be over and beyond giving even one of them your best shot?

Lionel H. Phillips D.O.

Got a question? Send me a note via my email address  –  

global@globalhealth-education.com



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).

www.globalhealth-education.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)


“Facts” that Provide Positive Results – rather than “Maybe’s”

Eating is a Necessity so get the most Benefit with Small mouthfuls and Maximum Chewing

By Lionel H. Phillips D.O.

The Human Body leaves nothing in its wake as being the most sophisticated miraculous consistent persistent accurate hard-working machine ever known to mankind. All this while continuing to function 24/7 for 100 and more years, in many cases while not being treated or serviced as is required. We marvel at all the high-tech innovations and invest billions to improve speed and accuracy and imaging, yet none of which holds a candle to the human body – our greatest asset without a sliver of doubt.

On Track. For the long road, the human body beats the car hands down.

It is a fact that the body has the ability for healing itself if given the chance. Think of how quickly and efficiently our bodies deal with damage, from a small cut to a cracked or broken bone. Similarly with an infection or a mild bout of food poisoning. Our entire system acts as a unit to protect, repair and heal itself. Each tiny part of the body and, in turn, each of its systems, is intimately connected to every other part and every other system. When the function of any part is less than 100 %, the rest of the systems are affected in some negative way or another.

The human body requires the minimum of care and knowledge in order to allow it to function efficiently. One would never dream of lowering the service requirements of any of our man-made assets, no matter how simple or complicated they may be. The result of not providing the body with its basic simple logical needs, is extremely costly. Examples are –

  1. THE EVER-INCREASING HEALTH-CARE CRISIS. Sickness, disease and general poor health is rising amongst all age groups as never before, with mounting costs to citizens and governments alike;
  2. Medical and health care services and waiting times for appointments are over-whelmed and stretched, as is the over-burdened pressure on the diligent medical personnel, albeit that they are short-staffed. The waiting times for many imaging units has become longer.
  3.  Poorer and less fortunate citizens are hardest hit, with many not having access to drinking water, food or medical services at all, particularly in African countries.  

Is there even one man-made object, no matter size or expense, that can compare to the human body?

An Interesting Fact about One Part of a System of the Human Body

Although the following is extremely complicated and technical, I believe it will provide some indication as to the wonders of the workings of our body.

If all arteriesveins, and capillaries of the human circulatory system were laid end to end, the total length would be 60,000 miles, or 100,000 km. That’s nearly two and a half times around the Earth! Even though its thickness averages just 2mm, your skin gets an eighth of all your blood supply.    

Let’s observe just one of the many functions, that of the Abdominal Arteries –

  • Celiac Trunk – Branching off from the abdominal aorta, the celiac trunk divides into smaller arteries that supply organs such as the stomach, liver and spleen.
  • Superior mesenteric. Also branching off of the abdominal aorta, it sends blood to the small intestinepancreas, and most of the large intestine.
  • Inferior mesenteric. Like the superior mesenteric artery, this artery also branches off of the abdominal aorta and supplies blood to the last portion of the large intestine, which includes the rectum.
  • Inferior phrenic. These are paired arteries that supply blood to the diaphragm.
  • Adrenal. The adrenal arteries are paired arteries that send blood to the adrenal glands.
  • Renal. These paired arteries deliver blood to the kidneys.
  • Lumbar. These paired arteries send blood to the vertebrae and spinal cord.
  • Gonadal. The gonadal arteries are paired arteries that send blood to the testes in males and the ovaries in females.
  • Common iliac. This branch of the abdominal aorta divides into the internal and external iliac arteries.
  • Internal iliac. Derived from the common iliac artery, this artery supplies blood to the bladder, pelvis, and external portion of the genitals. It also supplies the uterus and vagina in females.
  • External iliac. Also arising from the common iliac artery, this artery eventually becomes the femoral artery. All perfect in design and function.
The World Over. If all arteries and veins of the human circulatory system were laid end to end, the total length would be nearly two and a half times around the earth.


A QUICK BREAKDOWN OF WHAT YOU ARE MADE OF –
Number of Bones – 206
Number of Ribs – 24
Number of Bones in your Face – 22
Number of Bones in your Skull – 22
Number of Bones in your Neck – 7
Number of Bones in your Vertebral column – 33
Number of Bones in one Hand – 30
Normal Heart beats – 70 to 72 times per minute
Normal Blood Pressure – 120 / 80 mm of Hg.
Number of Cranial Nerves – 12 pairs
Number of Spinal Nerves – 31 pairs
Life Span of R.B.C.’S – Red Blood Cells – 120 days
Life Span of W.B.C.’S – White Blood Cells – 10 – 15 days
Life Span of Platelets – 5 – 9 days
Amount of Blood in the Body – 5 – 6 Liters.

Q:  How complicated and difficult and invasive is it to provide my body with its NEEDS?

A:  Not invasive in any way at all. Extremely simple to follow, if you give YOURSELF and YOUR BODY the chance to prove the benefits to be gained. 

First and foremost, focus on the suggestions and do your utmost to avoid being influenced by any ingrained habits leading you astray.  No dieting – no excessive exercise – no pills.

Something to ‘Chew On’What looks good will taste better with small mouthfuls  that are well-CHEWED.

Let us concentrate on How to Eat and Chew your food – any food:

Your Digestive System –

The digestive system involves the extremely complex process of absorbing the maximum nutrients from the food you eat, which the body uses for energy, growth and cell repair, in order to survive. The digestion process also involves eliminating the waste created by the whole process.  

The digestive tract (or gastrointestinal tract) is a long twisting tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. It is made up of a series of muscles that coordinate the movement of food and other cells that produce enzymes and hormones to aid in the breakdown of food. Along the way there are other vital ‘accessory’ organs that are needed for digestion, among which are the esophagus, stomach, intestines – small and large, gallbladder, liver, and the pancreas.

The digestive system is truly a remarkable mechanism. During a person’s lifetime, it may process between 60,000 and 100,000 pounds (35,000 and 58,300 kgs.) of food

‘Taste’ of a Healthier Tomorrow

Digestion actually starts before you even take the first bite of a meal. The look and smell of food triggers the salivary glands in your mouth to secrete saliva, causing your mouth to water. When you actually taste the food and begin chewing, your tongue takes charge and moves the food to the appropriate teeth for grinding, mashing and cutting, as well as spreading it so as to become softer and warmer.  The enzymes in saliva begin to break down carbohydrates in the food.  After chewing, the tongue directs the food (now called a bolus) to the back of the mouth to be swallowed. It enters the esophagus and via peristalsis, continues on to the stomach, where the next stage of digestion occurs. The primary peristaltic wave forces the bolus down the esophagus and into the stomach which takes about 8–9 seconds. The esophagus is 23-37 cm long and only    1-2 cm. in diameter.

It helps to chew (masticate) your food to a maximum, in order for this process to be effective. SMALL MOUTHFULS AND MAXIMUM CHEWING is required. This helps with your digestion process and the absorption of the maximum Nutrients. And that’s it! Large mouthfuls cannot be chewed sufficiently, leaving a large amount in a state that will create all sorts of problems along the route.

Give it a full chance for a month and make a note of any changes that may have taken place – satisfaction, eating less, no feeling of over-eating or reflux and even fat loss. By the way, if small servings don’t suffice, you can always have a second.

However, the smaller helping should have been tastier and more satisfying. 





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).

Lionel is contactable at: global@globalhealth-education.com


www.globalhealth-education.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)

Tea in Tel Aviv

Israel’s tea pots are filling up again

By David E. kaplan

It was not written in the tea leaves that indicated the future was changing, it was in the people drinking it – or more precisely, the number of people!

Where for the past year it has been “Tea for Two” my wife and I   recently sat down with a group of friends that until recently could have been described as an “illegal gathering”, a connotation repugnant to this former South African.

Tea for Two. The satisfied look of these two tea drinkers by Israeli artist Itzchak Tarkay’s “Nothing Left to Say” (2006).

So what could be read into this tea – proverbial as some referred coffee –  with friends was that all had been vaccinated against Covid and we were at last enjoying a taste of the “old normal”.

Instead of over the cell or ZOOM, we met face-to-face, shifted conversational gears opening with “So when did we ACTUALLY see you last?” to discussions on Israel’s unpredictable futurepolitical landscape following the predictable past election result to issues around Corona.

There were divergent views, voices were raised for this was again – real, animated social engagement – Israeli style.

It was REAL and a long time coming…..

Had the life we have been living this past year been the plot of an earlier book or movie , we would have scoffed at it being farfetched – the literary imaginings a of a Ray Bradbury, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley. This sudden ‘Brave New World’ was a reality and still is for most the world as it awaits a speedier rollout of the vaccines.

And here is the rub as the goal of “herd immunity” has to be global not parochial. Confronting a pandemic, we are all in this together. These thoughts were on our minds as we enjoyed our tea, thankful that our country of Israel is the world leader in getting shots in arms at a pace that is far ahead of any other nation. If in January only 10% of Israel’s population had been vaccinated,  by mid-March it was over 50%! Now in April, we look to the economy picking up as more and more businesses open up  as we recommence our lives of engagement.

Systematic Rollout. Israelis receive a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from medical professionals at a coronavirus vaccination center set up on a shopping mall parking lot in Givataim, Israel.

Since none of the vaccines were developed in Israel, an intriguing question is how did the country manage in record time to acquire so many vaccinations? It lies in the county’s DNA – its ingenuity, foresight, quick bold action – not without risk – by our political leadership, and our unique medical system that provides superlative cover to all its citizens. While some ignorant critics abroad might stupidly scream ‘”socialism”, Israel’s unique medical aid Kupat Holim –  is  our pride and saviour as has proved during this Corona crisis. I recall when interviewing the previous Coronavirus Tzar, Professor Ronnie Gamsu for Hilton Israel Magazine  in 2016,  he described Israel’s medical system as in keeping with the “fundamental egalitarian philosophy of our founding fathers.”

Arm Down, Thumb Up. Seen here as Israel kicks off mass coronavirus vaccine drive to stamp out COVID-19 pandemic, Ronni Gamzu, CEO of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and former virus czar receiving the Pfizer vaccine at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) on December 20, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

To my question of what he meant by this, Prof. Gamsu replied:

 “Well, Israel can be truly proud of not only its superlative cutting edge medical services but of how we provide this quality service to all our citizens at affordable costs to the recipient. For this, we need to thank the founding fathers of the modern State of Israel. The Zionist Movement in pre-state Israel, which combined the traditional Jewish concern for all people with an emphasis on societal needs that regarded Public Health as a top social, political and economic priority.”

Emphasizing these priorities, Gamsu pointed out that by the time Israel declared its independence in 1948, “we already had a national health infrastructure in place. There was Tipat Halav (Mother-and-child care centers) administering vaccinations to new-born babies and counseling parents on proper care for their infants, and Kupot Holim (Health insurance funds) offering day-to-day consultations with doctors and specialists, and insured members for hospitalization.”

Israel’s Vaccine Rollout is Record-breaking, but is it a Surprise? This historic photograph captures Israelis in the early days of the state getting vaccinated.

Even as Israel transformed in the twilight decades of the twentieth century from a socialist to capitalist economy, Gamsu explained, “some of our most cherished values of concern for the collective remained entrenched – they are part of our ethos and are ingrained in our culture.”

As future needs arise, he cautioned, “we need to be on guard and adhere to our founding principles.”

Clearly, this philosophy has carried Israel through with aplomb through the global Corona crisis.

As a country used to living on the edge with little room for error or miscalculation, the Israeli mindset – although totally inept at  dealing with elections –  is more than adept at situations when lives are at stake and ready to confront monumental challenges.

Southern Comfort. Covid-19 rapidly on the decline in Israel as vaccinations kick-in. A testing place in the middle of Israel’s arid desert south of the Dead Sea..

Compare Israel’s situation with other countries or regions.

Never mind my native South Africa, where Corona is spreading at unclear but feared alarming rates and with little certainty as to when it will receive a vaccine, ‘mighty’ Europe is faring not much better.

As there are currently dire warnings by health experts of a “fourth wave”, one looks with bewilderment at Continental Europe and wonder, “What went wrong?” as France and Italy enter  ‘another’ full lockdown with a vaccine rollout in total chaos. Their systems, bureaucracy and political leadership has failed and people are suffering.

While Israel’s enemies are quick to point out its imperfections – Israelis do it far better themselves –  there is a growing shift of more and more countries and its people to look to Israel as to “how they do it?”

Opening Up. Young Tel Avivians at Cafe Zurik in Tel Aviv on the first day that restaurants were allowed to open after the coronavirus, May 27, 2020. (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

Living up to its reputation as the ‘Start-Up Nation’, its handling of the most monumental health challenge in a century, Israel is showing a way forward.

It’s why I can enjoy a cup of tea in Tel Aviv with a group of friends. And now its back to the old concerns as my wife raises an eyebrow noticing me salivating over an inviting creamy chocolate eclair in inviting proximity and saying:

 “You don’t need it!” 

Stopped in my tracks from committing a gross culinary felony, Covid took a back seat to  the old health and more ‘weighty’ issues!



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

Music to Our Ears

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are Family”

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

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

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

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

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

 “We are family.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dare To Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shalva’s Global Chairman Kalman Samuels is very upbeat about

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

To paraphrase The Bard:

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






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

Israel Sends Vaccines to Palestinians

By Rolene Marks

Israel is currently the world leader in rolling out the vaccine and it is predicted that nearly all adults will be vaccinated by next month. Along with this great achievement, has come a certain level of criticism focusing on whether or not Israel is responsible for vaccinating the neighbouring Palestinian populations in Gaza and the West Bank. It is extremely important to understand what the situation on the ground is before making accusations like the one in the article “Israel violates international law by blocking vaccines to Gaza”.

Since the start of the global pandemic, Israel has been cooperating with  our Palestinians neighbours, ensuring that they receive much needed testing kits, PPE, training and other medical necessities through the relevant authorities, NGO’s and COGAT, the IDF unit responsible. This effort was lauded by UN Special Envoy to the region, Nikolay Mladenov.

People waiting in line to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in Jerusalem. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

In an official statement dated November 26, 2020, issued to the residents of the Gaza Strip by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, IDF Maj. Gen. Abu Rukun stated:

   “We find it important to emphasize clearly that neither I, nor the organization that I head, nor any other representative of Israel, has obstructed any request or requirement for the entry of medical aid of any kind. We welcome all assistance from all the various sources. In light of the situation, COGAT is allowing assistance from the international community to the health system of the Gaza Strip.

IDF Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun chief Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)

So far, many dozens of ventilator machines have arrived, as well as many PCR machines, which have increased the pace of testing from 200 to 2,500 tests a day.    Dozens of oxygen generators have arrived, and hundreds of inhalers for hospital use and home use. Hundreds of hospital beds have been added, and with our coordination, approximately 600 tons of essential medications and medical equipment have been allowed entry, including tens of thousands of coronavirus testing kits.

    All that assistance can help the health system to provide care and save lives. COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge, and it behooves all parties to strive for a solution to that challenge.”

The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas who is recognized internationally as a terrorist organization.

Distributing Covid aid and vaccines has not been without its challenges. Two plane loads of Covid aid from the United Arab Emirates was summarily rejected by the Palestinian Authority “because it was coordinated with Israel and landed at Ben Gurion airport”. This aid was subsequently distributed with the help of the World Health Organisation and UN. The rationale for refusal according to a Palestinian government source was that “Palestinians refuse to be a bridge [for Arab countries] seeking to have normalised ties with Israel.”

In May 2020, Palestinian Authority rejected UAE aid sent via Israeli airport giving its reason  that it would be seen as a ‘cover for normalisation’ of ties with Israel”.
 

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

Is Israel legally responsible for vaccinating Palestinians?

Israelis and the Palestinian Authority are both signatories to the 1995 Oslo Peace Accords, which awards Palestinians autonomy with their healthcare, including responsibility for vaccines. For Israel to take responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian population, it would be a violation of this autonomy.

In article 17 of the Third (Civilian) annex to the Oslo 2 accord, the Palestinian side assumed full powers and responsibilities in the field of health care. They undertook in paragraph 2 of article 17:

 “…to continue to apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally accepted standards in the field, taking into account WHO recommendations.”

In paragraphs 6 and 7, they agreed that:

   “Israel and the Palestinian side shall exchange information regarding epidemics and contagious diseases, shall cooperate in combating them and shall develop methods for exchange of medical files and documents.”

Similarly:

    “The health systems of Israel and of the Palestinian side will maintain good working relations in all matters, including mutual assistance in providing first aid in cases of emergency, medical instruction, professional training and exchange of information.”

This is a clear case of Israel is damned if it does – and damned if it doesn’t. The Palestinian Authority  have received Russian Sputnik vaccines as part of the international  Covax scheme. Israel began vaccinating over 120,000 Palestinian workers who enter the country daily with legal permits as well as sent vaccines to the Palestinian Authority to vaccinate healthcare workers. By admission from PA officials, some of these vaccines did not go to healthcare workers as intended but rather to the Palestinian soccer team and government officials. Perhaps corruption and cronyism is more to blame than the convenient finger pointing at Israel.

A Palestinian health worker is vaccinated against COVID-19 after the delivery of doses from Israel in West Bank city of Bethlehem. (REUTERS – MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA)

Israel has sent vaccines into the Gaza strip and while there is a  legal maritime blockade in place that is recognized by the United Nations, it has not prohibited Israel in ensuring aid and vaccines continues to enter the strip. Israel, the West bank and the Gaza strip share the same epidemiological footprint and so Israel has ensured that vaccines continue to be distributed to our neighbours. Epidemiological and moral responsibility require both Israel and the Palestinians to act responsibly and to cooperate with a view to reducing the risk of COVID-19 spreading between their respective territories and as such regardless of not being legally bound, Israel continues to send vaccines. Accusations of such as the one made in the above mentioned article are extremely unproductive, unhelpful and devoid of fact. In the interest of a global triumph over a pandemic that has already destroyed so much, please do not let it further erode the integrity of responsible reporting.

A health worker prepares to vaccinate former Palestinian health minister Jawad Tibi against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Gaza City February 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem





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 Tale of Two Judokas – the Israeli and the Iranian

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 World Champions; but before that 2 good friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muki reads his reply:

Me and all Israeli people love you back.”

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

He then read another two:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time and the pandemic will tell.

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

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





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

Tel Aviv is Alive, Well and Pedaling

By Stephen Schulman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



About the writer:

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





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

Helping Hand into the Arms of All

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

By David E. Kaplan

WOW!!!.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Open Arms

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

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

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

This follows a regrettable pattern.

Petty Politics

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

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

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

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

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

Go figure!

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

Within Arm’s Reach

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

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



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

Seeing is Believing

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You bet!

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

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

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

First Step

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

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







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