The Jewel in the crown of Israel’s humanitarian organisations

By Rolene Marks

In the heart of Holon, a bright, sunny house rings out with the delightful giggles of children. A schedule that looks like a culinary tour of the world is posted outside a pristine kitchen. Mothers, some dressed in the traditional garb of the countries they come from, keep a watchful eye over their tiny charges who are playing with the vast selection of toys, carefully selected for their entertainment. The scene is serene. Peaceful.

Welcome to Save a Child’s Heart.

For over 25 years, this remarkable organisation, through its global network of doctors, family members, volunteers, and supporters of Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) have helped bring life-saving cardiac care to children in need around the world. From around the world they have come – including from countries that Israel has no formal bilateral ties with – and even those we are technically in a state of war with – to receive life-saving surgery.

Heartwarming. The writer with a child patient from abroad receiving life-saving cardiac tretement at the Save A Child’s Heart in Holon, Israel.

It is impossible to visit SACH without falling in love with each of the children. *Mohammed comes from Tanzania, his mother watches as he gleefully plays with some toys. I look at this gorgeous young boy and ask how old he is. I think he cannot be more than 2 years old – he is tiny – but full of life. I am told he is 4 years old. Heart defects can seriously impede the growth of young children.

Saving and Winning Hearts. Israel’s non-profit medical charity Save a Child’s Heart group that provides life-saving heart treatment to children in developing countries wins prestigious UN Population Award from UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres (centre) for “outstanding contributions to the world’s population.”

SACH’s extraordinary work to help save the lives of young children needing critical surgeries has earned the organisation high praise from the most unlikely source – the United Nations. The UN has long been critical of the state of Israel but they truly lauded SACH by awarding it the United Nations’ Population Award, which was presented by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, during an official ceremony at UN headquarters in New York.

Baby from Abroad. Doctors at Save A Child’s Heart examining a young baby from abroad.

Save a Child’s Heart house is a joyful place. Despite all the health challenges that the children are facing, every effort is made to make them feel safe, secure and at home. There are many different kinds of toys to delight the children, dedicated staff who look after the young charges and the parent who is with them; and there are doctors who stay on site so all their medical needs are taken care of.

Top Treatment. Save The Child’s Heart state-of-the-art medical facility at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel.

The kitchen is the heart of the house. Immaculate and well stocked, the kitchen is not just a place to prepare food; but also allows parents to bring a small taste from home to a foreign country. SACH provides the ingredients – and parents whip up a taste from home. There may even be a cookbook in the works…..

Foreign Doctors Programme. Since its founding, Save a Child’s Heart has treated children from over 60 developing countries and trained more than 140 medical professionals from those countries. These include training medical staff (seen here) to treat cardiac problems and other diseases in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Romania, The Palestinian Authority and others. (Photo: Rolene Marks)

Walking in, one is fascinated with the notice board that mentions all of the current patients and how far they are with their treatment. It reads like a veritable atlas. Children come from Eswatini and Tanzania, Romania and Iraq, the West bank, Israel and even as far afield as Afghanistan. They come from all over the world – including countries who Israel has no bilateral relations. Children who come from countries like Syria who are technically still in a state of war with Israel, are aided by third parties such as the UN and brought in via an intermediate country. A guardian, usually their mothers, always accompanies the children. One notable exception was a child from Afghanistan accompanied by her father because under brutal Taliban rule, women are not allowed to travel – at least not without “chaperones”.

Patient’s Progress. A notice board lists the age, home country and progress of the young patients.(Photo: Rolene Marks)

A short drive to nearby Wolfson hospital, the brand new Save a Child’s Heart pediatric centre is buzzing with activity. Recently opened with the generous donations from philanthropists and organisations around the world, most notably Sylvan Adams, this bright, sophisticated centre is host to not only the remarkable surgeries and treatments; but also a training programme that equips medical professionals from around the world with the necessary skills to recreate the same programmes in their own countries.

From the ‘Heart’ of Africa. Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kosovo, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Zambia – these are the countries from which 27 children have come with their mothers and caregivers to undergo life-saving heart treatments in Israel through Save a Child’s Heart. Here’s to a house full of smiling heart!

*Maryam from Gaza lies in her state of the art hospital bed, the machines and monitors next to her blinking and beeping. She watches me with her beautiful big brown eyes. Her mother sits vigil by her side as she has for several months. I smile at her. I want her to know we are not enemies. She meets my gaze with weary eyes and offers a small smile. We are human beings making a connection over shared humanity.

Heart of Holon. An anxious Arab mother at the bedside prays for her son attended to at the remarkable Save A Child’s Heart in Holon, Israel.

Save a Child’s Heart is not only saving lives. They are building a bridge of peace, one child at a time. Governments may sign agreements but it is people who create peace, one relationship at a time.

There is no greater example of this than Save a Child’s Heart

Israeli Life Saver. The 7-floor Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) International Pediatric Cardiac Center (IPCC) and Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital houses all of the infrastructure and equipment needed to perform life-saving cardiac treatments, including all pre- and post-operative care for thousands of children in Israel and from around the world. (Photo: Rolene Marks)

*Names changed to protect their identities

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).


Jewish Canadian philanthropist welcomes demise of present ‘coalition of chaos’ government believing Israel will emerge stronger.

By David E. Kaplan

It was interesting  to read the Ynet newspaper headline that “Charles Bronfman, one of Israel’s most prominent Jewish philanthropists, believes the Israeli government won’t last much longer, as it is only a matter of months before it falls.”

Taglit-Birthright cofounder Charles Bronfman

Whether this Netanyahu coalition does or does not fall – whether within months or longer –  it is sobering hearing who is joining the chorus supporting the demise of Bibi’s “coalition of chaos”.

I continued reading Bronfman’s bombshell with increasing interest as it also brought back personal memories of when I interviewed the Canadian billionaire and co-founder of Taglit-Birthright on the occasion  of the programme’s 10th anniversary in 2009.

At the time of our telephonic interview, Bronfman was preparing to join a flight with 400 North American Birthright participants, where they would be welcomed on arrival at a special ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport by Israel’s then Prime Minister, none other than its current prime minister –  Benjamin Netanyahu. There was then in 2009 much to celebrate. Sponsoring free ten-day heritage trips to Israel for young adults of Jewish heritage, Taglit-Birthright was proving to be the flagship of Israel programmes. Said Bronfman on the Birthright programme in that 2009 exclusive interview:

 “It required a massive infusion of funds, a secure structure and a commitment from many disparate parties to make it work. What we were not short of in the beginning were skeptics. Today there are none.”

So yes, there was much to celebrate back then.  

If today – because of the threat to Israeli democracy by the coalition’s judicial overhaul  – there is less to celebrate, not so  for Bronfman who is buoyed by the 2023 protest movement seeing it as a spontaneous expression of democracy.

This is amazing,” he said referring to the weekly protests now into their twentieth week. “This stopped the legislation and this is also proof that the legislation will not pass. It will not happen, and I believe Israel will come out stronger, the question is in how many days it will take.”

Cry Help – Israel Responds. Taglit-Birthright cofounder Charles Bronfman (left) and the recipient of the 2023 Charles Bronfman Prize Yotam Polizer chief executive officer of IsraAID, the Israel-based non-governmental organization that responds to emergencies all over the world with targeted humanitarian help. (Photo: Meital Pinhas for Phillip Van Nostrand)

Bronfman’s observations and insights were made during a closed conversation at the Charles Bronfman Prize 2023 ceremony in New York, where the $100,000 prize was awarded to Yotam Polizer, chief executive officer of Israel’s international humanitarian aid organization IsraAID.

Often the first to arrive at disaster-struck areas around the world – Sierra Leone, Japan, Greece, Turkey, Nepal, Ukraine, and Sudan to name a few – IsraAID led by Polizer is compared around the world to the International Red Cross.

Bronfman’s posited a personal concern that “in the current political climate in Israel,” it may well become increasingly difficult to convince his grandchildren, who in the future will be leading the family philanthropic endeavours, to contribute to Israel as the family did in the past.

This is a dire warning to Netanyahu. The disturbing direction this government is taking the country will increasingly lose traction with younger generations of Jews. It was already these concerns that inspired Bronfman and his co-partner Michael Steinhardt to initiate the Taglit-Birthright program over two decades ago.

Birthright Visionary. The writer with Charles Bronfman (right) in 2009 at Ben Gurion Airport to cover the arrival of 400 North American Birthright participants marking the 10th anniversary of the Taglit-Birthright program.(Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Michael and I came at this from different perspectives,” he revealed to me in the interview. “Michael wanted to “plug the dam of assimilation” as he put it. For him this was the number one problem confronting world Jewry and he argued that the program could impact enormously on enriching Jewish life in the Diaspora. While not discounting the importance of stemming the tide of assimilation, I was however more interested in forging a closer relationship between Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora. I believed that together, we could be a real force for good in the world – separately, we might fall apart. It was a case of the age-old saying “United we stand, divided we fall.” I was looking to forge a stronger Jewish world.”

Time have Changed. Once united collogues in the Likud party, Dan Meridor (right) seen here with PM Netanyahu, now a major opponent of the Prime Minister’s assault on Israel’s internationally respected judiciary.

Is this present Israeli government not a threat to the visions of Taglit-Birthright? Are not the misguided actions of Netanyahu’s coalition  more likely to weaken rather than strengthen “to forge a stronger Jewish world”? The protesters on Israel’s streets every Saturday night know the answer. So does the long-standing Likud member Dan Meridor who was alsopresent at the high profile ceremony at New York’s Historical Society Museum. Concurring with Bronfman in taking a justifiable dig at Israel “coalition of chaos”, Meridor, a former Israeli Minister of Justice and a member of the prize committee, said that “unlike those in the government” leading the controversial judicial overhaul, the people on the stage “care about humanity” and not their positions!

This was quite an indictment from this long-time member of the Likud party who apart from his service as justice minister, had at various times, served as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy. Back in January 2023, Meridor accused Netanyahu of placing his ambition for power ahead of the country’s best interest by literally “selling out” Israel’s democratic character to win over coalition partners by acceding to their controversial demands.

Voice of Reason. Nachman Shai (2nd left), the IDF’s most trusted voice during the Gulf War was again a trusted voice when he criticized the Netanyahu government’s initiative to overhaul the judiciary at the protest in Kfar-Saba on the 3 June 2023. Seen here with the guest speaker are (l-r) Warren Samuels, the writer, Hilary Kaplan, Janine and Danny Gelley and Jackie Samuels. Liron Samuels, the son of Warren and Jackey was injured by the police at a protest the previous evening and was hospitalized.

Speaking to Ynet, Bronfman said:

 “It won’t be a matter of years, it’s a matter of months. This government will fall, I’m sure of that. You read the polls, I read the polls. There are some guys in there that shouldn’t be in any government anywhere. I’m confident that the government will fall in a matter of months, and a year from now we will stand here and we all say Mazal Tov!”

For Bronfman’s prediction to materialize – whether in a few months or longer – the protests must continue.

Which means hundreds of thousands of Israelis know what they will again be doing this Saturday night!

Police Violence. Liron Samuels shows his injuries at the protest in Kfar-Saba that he sustained by the police at a protest the previous night in Caesarea. His account of what happened went viral on the social media.

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).


In Israel this week for Israel’s 75th anniversary of Independence are  descendants of Nazi killers participating in Jerusalem’s ‘March of Life’

By David E. Kaplan

My father was in the SS” can be a hard fact for a child to first hear and then to accept but that was what Hartmut Janssen had to come to terms with and ultimately brave eneough to pass on to his daughters. He did so in 2014 when he he bought them tickets to see ‘Labyrinth of Lies’, a film about the Auschwitz trials that took place in Frankfurt in the 1960s. This provided the opportunity he had been waiting for. He was nervous because he was also dreading what their reaction would be. And so, during the  discussion of the movie they had just watched, he revealed the hard truth:

My father was in the SS.”

He had been terrified his daughters would reject him but instead, they hugged and reassured him that he was not responsible for the sins of his father.

The Nazi past of relatives can understandably be a taboo subject in some German families. But a number of descendants of Nazi criminals are not happy about suppressing the past; they want to explore that intimate dark tunnel wherever it takes them. It is a fateful and a very brave exploration of self, particularly so when they choose to reveal publicly their findings. This they do by participating in the ‘March for Life’.

They need to be commended.

This week, several thousand participants will march in Jerusalem from Sacher Park to Safra Square in front of the City Hall on May 16 at 5 p.m. under the banner:

 “Mi Shoah le Tkuma from the Holocaust to New Life

They will be participating in the March of the Nations that unites people from all over the world and Israelis from across the country to celebrate Israel’s birthday on the streets of Jerusalem. The occasion this 2023, marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel and is officially welcomed by Israel’s State President, President Isaac Herzog.

(See President’s letter of endocement.)

March on Track. Welcoming a delegation from March of Life from Germany and Israel at his residence in Jerusalem,  Israeli President Isaac Herzog expressed his appreciation and support to Jobst & Charlotte Bittner, founder and president of the international March of Life movement. The large “March of the Nations” is to be held in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities on May 14-17.

Many of the international participants from Germany and more than 25 other nations are Christians. They have “worked through the Nazi past of their families, the antisemitic theology of their churches, and the history of Jew-hatred in their cities and communities.”

An example is a young German, Luisa, who reveals:

A few years ago, I discovered that a great-grandfather of mine served in the Luftwaffe while another great-grandfather served in the SS, being stationed in Poland in 1939. There his unit expelled thousands of Jews from their homes and was involved in the shooting of many of them. Later, he supervised a concentration camp near Belgrade.”

Participants are part of the worldwide March of Life movement, which each year around Yom HaShoah calls people to the streets to raise their voices for remembrance, for reconciliation, for Israel, and against antisemitism.

Speakers at the closing event at 6:30 p.m. in Safra Square will include Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan Nahoum, Jewish Agency President Doron Almog, founder of the first Shoah Museum in Dubai, Ahmed Al Mansoori (UAE), and ‘March of Life’ founder, Jobst Bittner. The march is led by Odessa-born Holocaust survivor Arie Itamar, who arrived in Israel in 1947 on the Exodus as a seven-year-old.

Snapshot of History. Holocaust survivor Arie Itamar in a 1947 photo taken for a fabricated passport before boarding the Exodus to Palestine will be one of the speakers in Jerusalem.

On May 17, more marches will take place in various cities across Israel. Participants will travel by bus to Metula, Tiberias, Zichron Yaakov, Netanya, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva and Merhavim, where they will have encounter events with Holocaust survivors, students and soldiers. In the afternoon, they will march together through their respective cities.

The organizer is the international March of Life movement, an initiative of Jobst and Charlotte Bittner from Tübingen in Southern Germany  that began with a memorial march from the Swabian Alb to Dachau in 2007.

 Man with a Mission. Pastor Jobst Bittner, founder of TOS Church and March of Life. (Courtesy)

Together with descendants of German Wehrmacht soldiers and members of the SS and police force, they have organized memorial and reconciliation marches at sites of the Holocaust all over Europe. Since this movement began, marches have been held in 20 nations and in more than 400 cities in cooperation with Christians from different churches and denominations, as well as from many Jewish communities.

Although the March of Life in each country has its own name, such as – “March of Remembrance” in the U.S., “Marcha de La Vida” in Latin America, and “Marsz Życia” in Poland – the message remains the same:

  • REMEMBERING, working through the past, giving survivors of the Holocaust a voice
  • RECONCILIATION, healing and restoration between descendants of the victims and perpetrators and
  • TAKING A STAND for Israel and against modern antisemitism

The movement recognises that it was indifference and the silence of the majority that made the Holocaust possible, an indifference that even today, paves the way for antisemitism. They feel the need to act against this indifference and:

 “We will not again be silent! ”

Never Again. Descendants of Nazis join fellow Christians and Jews marching in solidarity to acknowledge the past and strive so that it is never repeated.

Press Event: Members of the press will have the opportunity to speak with leaders of the March of Life movement and meet interviewees on May 16, at 3:30 pm, prior to the March’s kickoff event in Sacher Park.

For further information go to:

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 murder of a Christian Arab Israeli hero and his message to the world

By Jonathan Feldstein

It has been a year.  I was in Houston, about to go into a TV interview on CTN and got a text message from my wife.

Did you hear what happened?”  

It was an unnerving way to go into a TV interview, turning off my phone and not knowing what she meant.  Was it something with one of my kids? Grandchildren? Friends or neighbors? It was hard to focus and, as soon as the interview was done, I turned on my phone to find out.

What happened? Another terror attack, this time in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox central Israeli city Bnei Brak.  Four had been murdered.  One of them was a policeman, Amir Khoury, who along with his partner raced to the scene of the attack and engaged the terrorist in a gunfight. Amir was a Christian Israeli Arab, and a hero.  He engaged and killed the Palestinian Arab terrorist, but he was mortally wounded by the terrorist as well.  Had it not been for Amir – a Christian Arab Israeli police officer on patrol in a mostly ultra-Orthodox Jewish community – the potential carnage would have been unimaginable.

Hero, Comrade and Friend. Israeli police officers carry the coffin of police officer Amir Khoury, who was killed in a terrorist shooting attack in Bnei Brak, during his funeral in Nazareth, on March 31, 2022. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

I flew home the next day, realizing that we had 11 people murdered in four terror attacks by Palestinian Arabs while I was away, 11 more families grieving, and many, many others suffering PTSD.  While terror is too common in Israel, and the past year has been particularly difficult with dozens murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists, it’s not every day that one of the victims is a Christian Israeli Arab policeman who lived, and died, as a hero.

On Sunday, I drove to Nazareth where Amir lived, and his family still does.  Normally, when one goes to express condolences to a family mourning a deceased relative, you know one of the family members, if not the deceased. At a certain age, one goes to console a friend whose parent died, but with whom you didn’t have a person relationship.  It’s rare to show up at the home of a complete stranger, grieving over the loss of a loved one who you also didn’t know either.  But that’s what I did.  I wasn’t alone.

Because Amir was being hailed as a national hero, thousands of visitors came from all over the country and around the world to a large tent outside their home adorned with Israeli flags. Thousands of Israelis, from all walks of life.  As diverse as the visitors were, I stood out a bit.  I am a “settler”, a Jew living over the “Green Line”, what people pejoratively call the West Bank.  Biblical Judea. The assumption is that because I live there, I have a hatred for or at least a disrespect of Arabs. Nothing can be further from the truth

“Hero of Israel”. His colleagues in tears, Arab police officer Amir Khouri, who bravely thwarted a terror attack in the ultra-Jewish orthodox city of Bnei Brak is mourned at his funeral on March 31, 2022 in Nazareth as a “hero of Israel’.

Unlike most other visitors, I stayed around for hours.  I spoke with Amir’s father, brother, and cousin in the tent, and others from their community.  Then, I went into the house where I thought I might meet more relatives.  Immediately, I saw a group of women sitting on a couch, dark circles under their eyes.  Not knowing who was who, I approached the couch.  One woman stood to greet me: Amir’s mother. We embraced, and talked as if we were old friends.  But she didn’t know me, not even my name, and didn’t care.  My presence was a comfort. 

I met Amir’s sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew.  I don’t know how to describe it, but we simply became fast friends. On one level it felt terribly inappropriate to be in a house of mourning and to be able to enjoy the company of total strangers.  On the other hand, I went there to comfort them, and I know my visit did that. We talked for a long time, just us, in a corner room of the house.

When I went back outside to the mourning tent sometime later, people were surprised to see that I was still there.

Because of the wider conflict, heightened this year during the Islamic holy month Ramadan often marked by increased violence in Israel, thinking of Arabs as loyal Israelis is not the norm, nor is it understood by most because it contradicts the simple narrative of Arabs hating Jews and Israel. Thankfully in recent years, it’s become less of a contradiction.  In fact, Israel has seen a growing number of Christian Arabs volunteering for the IDF, making a commitment to serve their country with honor, despite the risk of threats from the wider Moslem Arab population which sees many as traitors.

Savior of Lives. Cut down in the prime of his life, Amir Khouri will be remembered as a hero.

When I shared about Amir on social media and that I was going to be visiting the family, the outpouring of love, sympathies, and support from a wide range of people around the world was a comfort to me.  I made it clear to the Khourys that I was there in person, but scores were with them in spirit, praying for them all over the world. 

As my visit was not just idle conversation but a genuine outreach of friendship, Amir’s family were keen to know more about me. I shared my background, what I do building bridges between Jews and Christians, and that we wanted to do something in his memory. They appreciated this and told me to be in touch. I stayed in touch and went back to visit two months later.  In the interim, I saw my new adopted family featured in national media multiple times, honored with front row seats at Israel’s national Presidential Independence Day celebration and more.

Mourning a Hero. Visiting the family home in Nazareth, the writer (right) with Amir Khouri’s sister and brother-in-law.

I went back to the Khourys with my wife, knowing that she would be blessed by getting to know such lovely people too.  Condolences and comforting people who lost a loved one can never come too late. Ideally, we would have never met.  Amir should still be alive, and we would never have anything to do with one another. After the Khourys asked what they could serve us since we keep kosher, and we ate and talked together for at least two hours, Amir’s father asked what we had come to talk about.

I had a few ideas which I shared as a way to memorialize Amir and share his life and legacy with others.  The family liked one the best which I agreed would be the most impactful for it would bring the story and message of Amir to the world. It will take time to achieve – involving a hefty budget – but when it’s done, it will be impressive, well worth the challenge.

How I wish I never met the Khourys, certainly not under these circumstances.  Whether one believes in destiny, that everything is somehow ordained from God, or not, the reality is that as a result of Amir’s death, this is one positive outcome.

Dear Khourys, I wish I never knew you.  But now we have met, and we need to make something purposeful from that.”

Just as thousands came to comfort the Khourys and honor Amir from across Israel and around the world, today, we need a coalition of Jews and Christians, of people of good conscience, to join together in a sweeping project that will not only memorialize Amir, but do so much more, just as he would have done if he were alive, if only by his existence and doing what he did.

Portrait of a Hero. The writer (left) with Amir Khouri’s father proudly holding a poster of his hero son in police uniform.

Undertaking this on behalf of the Genesis 123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel, there is no better way to be able to bring Jews and Christians together for such a purpose. Prospective partners who share this broad vision can be in touch at

May Amir Khoury’s memory continue to be a blessing, and his family continue to derive comfort from the support of friends, new and old, and even total strangers.

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall,, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

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).


Israeli youth reveal the nature of true friendship and camaraderie

By Lennie Lurie

Israel is a unique country in so many respects and the amazing achievements of this small nation are the envy of many countries, all larger and with a wealth of natural resources. However, it is the Israeli people who are undeniably responsible for these innovations, developments and remarkable accomplishments.

However, let me tell you about a relatively insignificant incident which does not involve any reputable Israeli movers and shakers; it does not elicit any “WOW” reactions of incredulity and wonder, and it has no bearing on Israeli science, technology and corporation takeovers. In fact it relates to a group of ordinary Israeli school pupils who undertook a rather simple though bizarre step in displaying their feelings towards a fellow school mate. Yet this unpretentious act solicited the empathy and admiration of all who heard about it. More than that, it displayed something uniquely “Israeli” in its originality, imagination and involvement. I can already see that quizzical expression on your face, so I request your patience.

Our son, Yair, having served his three years military service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), was honorably discharged towards the end of 2017. During his service, he began to cut the hair of his friends and fellow soldiers. Where or how he learnt this skill is unknown to me but he did a most commendable job and his “clients” were most satisfied with the results (not to mention the free service!). Upon his discharge he worked as an assistant to Moshe, the proprietor of the local men’s barber / hair dresser in our village, Kiryat Tivon. With the additional experience he gained, when Moshe went on holiday, Yair single handed managed the business and undertook his hair cutting and styling duties with exemplary results. “Our son …. the barber!”

About a year ago, a pupil in the matriculation class at the local high school was diagnosed with bone cancer and he underwent chemotherapy as a means of treating this malicious disease. Sadly, a common result of this treatment is the total loss of hair on the head. The pupil, let’s call him Yossi, continued to attend school. Needless to say, a “bald” school kid amongst the pupils of the school was most conspicuous. Yossi experienced a terrible sense of being “different” and he seriously considered absenting himself from school. His close friends were aware of Yossi’s dilemma and they decided to do something to “remedy” this perturbing quandary.

One day, a group of pupils appeared at Moshe’s barber shop and requested that he “shear” each one of them completely! Moshe did not give this a second thought and both he and Yair went about their duties, turning each kid into a young Yul Brynner (a well-known Russian born Hollywood actor in the ‘50’s and 60’s, distinguished by his bald head). Upon asking the boys the reason for their extreme haircut, Moshe was informed that this was a means of identification with their fellow pupil who had lost his hair as a result of the chemotherapy treatment. No longer will Yossi stand out amongst his fellow pupils; he will have a number of “twins” to share the offensive stares of the school pupils.

Moshe was so impressed with this gesture of solidarity that he suggested to the pupils that both he and Yair would come to the school and during the school break, and give free haircuts to any pupils who wished to identify with their school mate, Yossi.

And so it was. The two professional barbers, together with their equipment, went to the high school and during the break, cut off the hair of about 50 school boys. These kids, with intense pride and self-satisfaction, proudly sported a clean cut cranium for all to see. One can barely imagine the feelings of Yossi who suddenly found himself, one of many, with a shining and hairless head. If ever a “friend in need was a friend indeed”, it was those selfless kids who never hesitated for a moment to undertake such an extreme aesthetic change in order that a fellow pupil would not feel the upsetting glances of the public.

As stated above, there is something typically “Israeli” in the pupils’ magnanimous gesture of cutting off their hair. This bonding with a friend to eliminate any stigma, coupled with the ingenuity, spontaneity and the “contagiousness” of the act, is what makes these impudent, impolite, crude and spirited kids the envy of all their counterparts the world over. And it is with love, admiration, awe and respect that we embrace them and watch them become soldiers who will defend us with the same dedication, valor and unselfishness. 

About the writer:

A B.Sc. graduate in Economics and Geology from the University of Cape Town (UCT), Lennie may be the only volunteer from abroad who was granted permission to leave his group on kibbutz during the 1967 Six Day War to rejoin his paratroop brigade that he had served with years before following his matriculation in Cape Town. In Israel, Lennie has worked as an Export Manager for some of the country’s major food manufacturers and chemical companies as well as an independent consultant in Export Marketing guiding many small Israeli businesses to sell their products and services in the world-wide market. As a result of a work accident in 1995, Lennie made a career change and became an independent English teacher working mainly with hi-tech companies and associated with universities and colleges in the north of Israel.

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).


Can the South African experience be a guiding force? It could and should

By Ostern Tefo

Several anti-Israel activists, including BDS (Boycott Divest Sanctions) and others, boldly assert that Israel is an Apartheid state, when such allegations could not be further from the truth. Misguidedly, this has led to a South African foreign policy exclusively geared to favour one side – Palestine. As a result of erroneous perceptions, this has created a complex and divisive viewpoint.

Ruling oppressively in Gaza, Hamas has no interest in achieving peace in the sense of parties arriving at a mutually agreeable consensus. This not in its DNA. As long as this remains the case, the predicament of the Palestinian community must be regarded as the product of both Hamas’ rule over Palestinians in Gaza as well as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Conflicts can be resolved if both parties are willing to do so. The latter is well illustrated by the success of the South African liberation struggle which resulted in a successfully negotiated settlement that birthed democracy and above all, “peace and reconciliation”.

Raucous Road. A protest against Israel in South Africa in 2021. Are these the voices that shape South Africa’s foreign policy?
(AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

Israel has repeatedly attempted to initiate peace negotiations with the Palestinian leadership, but each time has been violently rebuffed. It would be inaccurate to compare the struggle for democracy in South Africa to the Palestinian struggle for independence. They are not remotely comparable. To say that “Israel is an Apartheid state” solely in an effort to delegitimize Israel, ends up delegitimizing the definition of Apartheid. It is an abuse of the word and hence an abuse of the people who suffered under Apartheid.

It is critical for a number of reasons that South Africa not only maintains but strengthens its diplomatic relations with Israel. South Africa is on its knees with:

– its rolling blackouts

– the world’s highest unemployment rate

– poor access to healthcare

– grey listing

– a murder rate that is higher than the death toll in Ukraine at present.

All this, when my country, South Africa, could greatly benefit from Israel’s rapidly expanding entrepreneurial economy with its emphasis on hi-tech innovation. South Africa could profit from a number of Israeli solutions which is presently being used to solve problems in much of African.

So, why not South Africa?

Take the South African healthcare system for starters, which is in tatters and compare it to Israel’s superlative National Healthcare System. There is no comparison!

Cultivated Hate. The venom by some in the South Africa Muslim community against Israel that influences the ANC today began years ago as seen in this protest against the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Every resident across Israel, whether in cities or small towns in the countryside is insured for quality healthcare under their National Health Insurance Law. While South African health care accessibility remains poor in rural areas and there are problems retaining physicians in the public system, surely South Africa could learn from the Israeli system.

Then there is Israel’s drip irrigation technology popular in much of Africa. Tailormade for dry terrain or lands plagued by unreliable water resources, the Israeli system allows villages to grow more food with less water, which not only dramatically improves food security but also economic development and financial independence. Israel, a far more desert country than South Africa with much less rainfall, is now water independent. South Africa should welcome the Israelis instead of driving them away!

A Light unto the Nations. Israeli engineering students from Tel Aviv University (TAU) bring solar power to a remote Tanzanian medical clinic, as part of their ongoing work in the village. (Photo via Facebook)

In terms of “loadshedding”, our all-consuming national catastrophe  of widespread national blackouts of electricity supply that began in 2007 and is worse today in 2023, why not speak to the Israelis who have revolutionised solar power and energy?

Instead of the South African parliament dumbly voting this March 2023 to downgrade ties with Israel, it should be doing the opposite. It should be strengthening not destroying ties!

Sad ‘State’ of Affairs. At a time when many African and Muslim countries are strengthening and deepening ties with the State of Israel for the benefit of everyone’s common interests, South Africa does the opposite as exhibited in its House of Parliament in Cape Town when it voted to downgrade its ties with the Jewish state.

Ultimately, we have to come to terms with the fact that Israel  cannot be prejudiced for defending its sovereign policies and the interests of its people, and Palestine must take responsibility for the attacks on Israel carried out by Hamas and other extremists. South Africa’s refusal to maintain full diplomatic relations with Israel motivated solely by the conflict, exposes its bias and prejudice because Palestine also commits a fair share of unprovoked aggressions against Israel.

To preserve the true legacy of the South African experience of reconciliation and share it with others that they too can benefit,  South Africa’s foreign policy should be consistent, and above all, its leaders need to display impartiality and non be biased.

‘Tapping’ into Israeli Ingenuity. Israeli Sivan Yaari of INNOVATION:AFRICA opens taps of clean water for the first time in this remote part of Tanzania. Innovation:Africa has completed over 880 solar and water installations, impacting over 4.2 million people (photo credit: INNOVATION:AFRICA)

Since COVID-19 broke out, the South African economy has continued to contract. In contrast, Israel’s economy is still expanding.

We have much to learn and gain by deepening our relations with Israel. South Africa stands to gain far more from a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with Israel than Israel does and yet, we behave abysmally towards Israel.  All to our detriment and suffering of our people.

Switched On Tanzania. An ‘illuminating’ lesson for South Africa – Nkaiti Medical Center is lit up at night for the very first time thanks to Israeli engineering students. (Photo via Facebook)

In essence, one cannot dismantle the fact that the benefits of the association outweigh the costs. Thus, it would be in the best interest of the South African to restore full relations with Israel and encourage partnerships to the mutual benefit of South African and Israelis.

About the writer:

Ostern Tefo has a BA in Political Studies and International relations and is currently studying for his LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. He serves as a coordinator at ‘Africans for Peace’, a collective of independent students, scholars and activists who bring an African lens to the global debate on peace and stability on the African continent.

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).


Reflections during Purim of a latter day heroine, Marzi, a defiant and brave Iranian Christian

By Jonathan Feldstein

Marziyeh  “Marzi” Amirizadeh is not a Persian queen.

Unlike the biblical Jewish queen, Esther, an orphan in Persia expelled from Judea following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and exile of the Jewish people, Marzi is a native of Persia. Today that is Iran. She lives in the United States, her adopted country where, like Esther, she has risen to the occasion “for such a time as this.”  Like Esther who put her life on the line to approach the King, her husband, and to save her people, Marzi also put her life on the line.  She did not go before the modern “King” – the ayatollah – to save her people from imminent death, but rather worked stealthily behind the scenes – against the ayatollahs – to affirm her faith and for the well-being of Iran.

Beauty and the Beasts. Former Iranian prisoners Marziyeh “Marzi” Amirizadeh, (l), and Maryam Rostampour (r)  were sentenced to death in 2009 for spreading the message of Christianity but the regime’s punishment backfired when they evangelized hundreds of fellow prisoners – even prison guards – in the 259 days before they were released following intense international pressure. “God had a purpose for being in that dark place,” says Marzi.

Marzi is an Iranian-born Christian who fled the land of her birth, the land in which she found her faith.  Just doing so put her life at risk. Christians, like Jews are persecuted, as is pretty much anyone who does not fit into the narrowly defined version of extremist Shia Islam that hijacked Iran in 1979.  Sunnis, Kurds, Bahais, and other religious and ethnic minorities are all in the regime’s crosshairs.

Coming to faith as a Christian in Iran is not something to be taken for granted.  While there is the morality police enforcing Islamic dress code, such as ensuring women in the country wear hijabs, simply being a Christian and affirming that in any way publicly can be dangerous, if not life threatening. Marzi knows all too well!

Arrested and thrown into one of the most brutal prisons in the world – the notorious Evin Prison outside Teheran – Marzi was subjected to months of physical and mental hardship, including intense interrogation before being brought to trial, where she was sentenced to death by hanging for the ‘crime’ of “apostacy”.

Behind Bars for Beliefs. The notorious Evin Prison in northwestern Tehran has held during its brutal history, hundreds of peaceful activists, journalists, intellectuals, human rights lawyers and Christians like Marziyeh Amirizadeh and Maryam Rostampour who chose to take the dangerous step of sharing their faith inside the very walls that was meant to silence them.

But like Esther, Marzi is not only brave, she is astute.  In her interrogations and even at her trial, when accused of ‘apostacy’ -the  renunciation of a religious belief – which she did by converting from Islam to Christianity, Marzi simply said:


Although forced to study Islam, Marzi never considering herself a Muslim, despite that under Islamic law a child born of a Muslim man is Muslim, and that children born as such in Iran are registered as Muslims. Marzi never avowed Islam; never embraced it and so she could never disavow it. Baffling her accusers, they were left without much to challenge her, despite that she and everything about her so enraged the Iranian regime.

Living on the Edge. Marzi was arrested and imprisoned in 2009 for converting from Islam to Christianity, an offense which carries the death penalty. Placed in Evin prison’s notorious Ward 2-A, which is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Marzi was denied a lawyer and contact with her family for three months.

But she didn’t stop there. Marzi shared her faith with her accusers, her captors and her interrogators. If Allah was really God, why could she not have a personal relationship with him?  Why could Allah not speak to her directly? There were many “whys” in her search for faith, and then her affirmation of it.

Marzi related that their God is a God who is distant, with whom you cannot have a close relationship, is always ready to punish, even inflict torture for the most minor infractions. She never accepted Allah as the true God.  She was always searching for a personal relationship with God, to find the truth.  Even something as mundane as only praying to God in Arabic, not in Persian or any other language, challenged her and caused her to challenge their theology. If their God was God, he would surely be multi-lingual and receive prayers in all languages?

She understood her accusers were lying, and her eagerness to find God intensified. Eventually, God spoke to Marzi in a dream, revealing the true face of Islam, and God’s love for her and all people. A God of love was comforting, made sense, and upended her accuser’s God of fear. After this, God made Himself present in her life, and became her rock.

In coming to faith in the land whose Islamic leaders brand Israel “the Zionist entity” and “the little Satan”, Marzi also had a spiritual awakening about Israel and the Jewish people, how important they were to her faith and very existence as a Christian. This alone could have earned her another death sentence.  Even in our conversation for the Inspiration from Zion (podcast), she dispassionately notes how that this would assuredly be used by Iranian extremists to demonstrate her “spying” for Israel.  She is aware that should the Iranians arrest her in the future, she will be accused as a spy.

Marzi enraged the judge in whose hands her life precariously lay, by recounting how God spoke to her. This was totally at variance with the judge’s and Islam’s belief that God only speaks to prophets and holy people. Some of her captors even admired the strength of her faith for standing up to the many forms of intimidation and threats of consequences of not renouncing her Christianity, even while challenging fundamental principles of Islam.

But Marzi does not do anything in half measures.  Though Iran is the land of her birth, and the United States is where she’s now a citizen and where she has even run for elected office, Israel is a dream on her radar. Next month she’ll get to fulfill her dream and visit the Land of the Bible, the Land in which her faith was born, where Jesus lived. She wants to see all of Biblical and modern Israel, and be inspired in her own faith.  But she also wants to bring a message of love to Israel that while the Iranian regime hates Israel, average Iranians do not. She knows that just as she was arrested and sentenced to death, and only a miracle saved her, the Iranian threat to Israel is very real, but that God will also protect Israel.

Fate Uncertain. Iranian women prisoners sit at their cell in Tehran’s Evin prison. While allegations of sexual abuse and rape against Iran prison officials have been made by former female political prisoners, information about the alleged number of rapes committed by IRGC officials in Iran’s prisons remains unclear.

2500 years ago, Esther beseeched the Jewish people to pray and fast for her, that she should be able to use her position to save the Jewish people from the death decree forced by Haman.  Today, Marzi represents Esther’s bravery and boldness, and is very much a bridge between Jews and Christians.

Purpose in Prison. In ‘Captive in Iran’, cowriters Marziyeh Amirizadeh and Maryam Rostampour who knew they were putting their lives on the line by sharing their Christian beliefs, recount how God used their 259 days in Evin Prison to shine His light into one of the world’s darkest places, following their arrest in 2009.

We should join her in prayers for Iran, that somehow miraculously the Iranian people can be saved from its evil rulers.

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall,, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

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 look at Operation Olive Branch – Israel’s Search and Rescue Efforts in the aftermath of the Turkey-Syria Earthquake

By Rolene Marks

The Talmud says that “he who saves a life, it is as if he saves the entire world”.

Over a week ago, a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria, with shock waves and tremors felt all the way in Israel shattered neighbourhoods and families, killing an estimated 35 000.  The United Nations estimated that the final death toll could be as high as 55 000. This is an unfathomable tragedy.

Global Response. Note the impressive size of the Israeli delegation to Turkey.

As soon as news of the devastation broke, Israel offered help. When the call goes out – and even sometimes when it does not – Israel is the first to respond. This even extends to countries who Israel has no formal diplomatic ties with, because humanity and helping your fellow man in a time of crisis trumps politics every time.

Israel to the Rescue. IDF search and rescue teams pose for a photo in Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, February 12, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has a long history of sending humanitarian aid. This value is woven into the fabric of our society. Just ten years after the founding of the modern State of Israel in 1948, the country adopted an official humanitarian aid agenda, providing vital relief to more than 140 countries.

Israel’s ability to mobilise and deploy quickly along with our methodology and practices is one of the reasons the country has been acknowledged by the UN as being the best in the world when it comes to search and rescue missions. This is further bolstered by our abilities to set up field hospitals to treat the wounded, which we have done in Haiti, Ukraine and many other places in the world. It is no coincidence that from Nepal to Haiti, there is always a newborn baby who has been named “Israel”!

Saving Lives in the Field. IDF medical officers treat wounded Turkish civilians at a field hospital near Kahramanmaraş, February 10, 2023. (IDF)

Bilateral relations between Israel and Turkey have been strained for the better part of a decade and it is only in the last year that this has started to thaw. As soon as news of the earthquake broke, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, expressed the country’s condolences and plans were made to deploy the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Home Front Command teams — which also included some Magen David Adom paramedics and fire and rescue service personnel. A delegation of 150 left for Turkey. They were soon joined by 250 IDF medics and troops as well as medical personnel from Sheba Hospital, Hadassah Hospital, United Hatzalah and search and rescue from Harel, an insurance company and ICL who conduct rescues around the Dead Sea area, joined along with ZAKA, Israeli members of Rescuers without Borders, NGO’s IsraAid and many more. Israel’s delegation swelled to over 450 and became the second largest on the ground to neighbouring Azerbaijan’s rescuers. Operation Olive Branch was underway. This was the 30th mission in 41 years.

Ready to Rescue. The United Hatzalah rescue delegation that was dispatched to Turkey after the country’s devastating earthquakes pose for a photograph on February 12, 2023. (United Hatzalah)

Heading up the delegation, was Col. Golan Vach, Commander of Israel’s National Rescue Unit. I had the immense privilege of meeting Col. Golan Vach when he addressed our WIZO Meeting of Representatives last month. This warm and modest soldier represents the best of Israel; and had his audience emotionally captivated as he walked us through various rescue missions, including the recent disaster in Surfside, Miami.

Col. Golan Vach, Commander of Israel’s National Rescue Unit to Turkey is seen here with the writer last month when he addressed a WIZO conference in Tel Aviv.

Israel also offered humanitarian aid to Syria (albeit through third parties). Syria does not recognize Israel and the two countries remain in a state of war. Syria’s complicated internal political issues hampered rescue efforts. Aid organisations expressed their anger and frustration that the Assad regime were not allowing much needed humanitarian aid to get to those who needed it the most.  A frustrated Syrian blogger was filmed asking Israel for help.

Syrians in Shock from Israel’s willingness to aid them during earthquake

One of the first on the ground, Israel’s team saved 19 civilians who were found still alive. They also recovered countless souls, killed by the earthquake. It is impossible to imagine what they witnessed – and what people endured, such is the magnitude of this tragedy.

In the Thick of It. Israeli and local rescue teams working at the site of a building collapse in Marash, Turkey, February 8, 2023. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

A personal account from Dvir Dimri, volunteering with a contingent of Israelis with Rescuers without Borders recalls, “Even with what I went through in the army, and treating victims in all the terror attacks in Israel, I never experienced anything like this.”

A Turkish doctor who worked closely with the Israeli team wrote to Dimri, in a message he shared with the website

“I want to thank you on behalf of the Turkish nation. You didn’t leave us alone. From now on, I will remember you when Israel is mentioned. I love the country of Israel and the Israelis more because of you. The Turkish nation will never forget this noble act you showed. You have a very big heart, my brother.”

Operation Olive Branch brought together volunteers from many Israeli and Jewish organisations including ZAKA, an NGO rescue and recovery organization. “ZAKA volunteers from Israel and South Africa worked together, shoulder to shoulder along with IDF search and rescue soldiers,” said mission head Haim Otmazgin. “The expedition rescued 19 survivors, and after more time passed, and the chance of finding more survivors among the living became very small, the expedition achieved its goals and returned to Israel.”

From Turkey with Love. Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, presents Col. (res.) Golan Vach, the head of a search and rescue delegation to the country, with a bouquet of flowers, at a ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport, February 13, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF Home Front Command team have returned to Israel. Israel’s field hospital is still operational, treating hundreds in Turkey, including Syrian refugees. Immense gratitude has been expressed from President Erdogan, from the Turkish Ambassador in Israel,  Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, and from Syrian refugees and Turkish citizens.

Search and Rescue. Israel Defense Force (IDF) teams begin operating in a bid to find survivors after the earthquake in Turkey on February 7, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

In a ceremony to welcome home the delegation, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

“The entire people of Israel followed your rescue operation with great emotion. You went on behalf of the country and you brought great honor to the State of Israel. We saw you in action in the cold, in difficult conditions around the clock in the most sacred work a person can do — saving the lives of others.”

Continuing, Netanyahu stressed:  

“You did something else. You showed the entire world the true and beautiful face of the State of Israel: a small country with a huge soul, a country that rushes to help others around the world and in the harshest conditions, out of humanity and the highest morality. This is the true face of Israel. It is precisely at this time that your mission receives extra significance. In these stormy times, you remind all of us that we are one people, with one fate, and with one future. All of Israel is proud of you. I am proud of you. I salute you. Welcome home,”

Not all heroes wear capes – sometimes they wear the olive green of the IDF or reflective yellow and orange vests. They have saved many lives; and in turn many worlds. They do not do this for gratitude or media coverage; but to save lives. This is humanity in its purest form. We are so profoundly proud of them.

We are with You. As a symbol of solidarity with the Republic of Turkey, the municipality of Tel Aviv light its building with the Turkish flag.


Christians and Jews unite in providing a helping hand

By staff correspondent

The timing may be coincidental but there are no coincidences.  This week, two parallel, complementary organizations – one run by an Orthodox Israeli American Jew, and one run by a Chinese American Christian – announced a partnership to bless and comfort Holocaust survivors in Israel.  The need and opportunity is great, and time is of the essence the aging population of Holocaust survivors are dying at an alarming rate.  As they age, they also find themselves in challenging and stressful situations where fixed incomes do not cover all their increased needs. They are literally inviting people from around the world to join them.

The Genesis 123 Foundation is a US based 501(C)3 non-profit whose mandate is to build bridges between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel in ways that are new, unique and meaningful.  Jonathan Feldstein is its Orthodox Jewish, Israeli American president.  Years ago, Feldstein connected with Shirley Burdick, a Chinese American Christian, and founder of the Israeli based non-profit, Ten Gentiles, whose mission is to equip and engage Christians to participate in God’s restoration of Israel alongside the Jewish people.

Helping Hands. On a mission together are founder and CEO of Genesis 123 Foundation Jonathan Feldstein  and founder of the Israeli based non-profit, Ten Gentiles, Shirley Burdick

Feldstein and Burdick became friends and have partnered together on various projects including providing fresh, homemade, hot kosher soup to bless Israeli soldiers guarding at night, keeping Israelis safe, in the Judean mountains. This partnership started with Ten Gentiles purchasing a large soup pot and Feldstein and Burdick preparing and delivering soup one cold winter night. Since then, hundreds of servings of soup, and infinite love and appreciation for the soldiers, have been served.

Recently, Feldstein and Burdick learned of a need and opportunity to be a blessing to elderly Holocaust survivors, and to partner together in a way that neither could do on their own. As they age, and die by the thousands each year, survivors have increased needs medically and economically that create financial stress and trigger PTSD, reminding them of the trauma of suffering and survival that they endured as young people. 

Genesis 123 and Ten Gentiles agreed to partner, with Genesis 123 receiving financial offerings from donations as a US non-profit, and facilitating Ten Gentiles to disburse the funds to benefit Holocaust survivors in need.  Some of the very tangible needs presented include massage and physical therapy to help with healing after a physical trauma (ranging from $500-$700), replacing an AC unit for survivors in the heat of summer ($875-$1,000), home renovation to replace a bathtub with an accessible shower  ($1,780), urgent dental treatment (from $826- $2,105), new eye glasses ($859), hearing aids and eye surgery ($1,071), purchasing a new convertible couch/bed ($780), purchasing a new TV ($560), and a new washing machine and freezer ($800 + $600), laser eye surgery ($820), providing a new computer ($1,156), and offering a rent increase subsidy ($1,500).  This week, Ten Gentiles gave out gift cards to a major Israeli grocery store chain to survivors to be sure that they have basic food supplies going into winter.

Room to Improve. Appalling conditions at homes of Holocaust survivors (Photo: The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel)

These needs are just some of the specific examples of things that have been done by mostly Christian donors so far, and an illustration of what kinds of needs are expected coming up. Most needs fall outside the kinds of things that local government and civil service agencies can do, and involve one-time expenses that are unaffordable for those living on a fixed income.  With about 25% of survivors living below the poverty line, any one of these can push someone over, the stress of which would be compounded by the trauma the survivors suffered in Nazi Europe.

All the survivors for whom needs are being provided are vetted by local social service agencies so that the funds donated will make the biggest impact to those most in need. The more money that is donated, the more survivors that can be helped. 

Mindful of the six million Jews who were murdered, Genesis 123 and Ten Gentiles have established a modest goal of $600,000 as stage one, and agreed to steward the funds with no overhead.  If just 6000 people were to donate $100, the goal could be reached by January’s observance of International Holocaust Memorial Day.

Working through churches around the world, Genesis 123 has also provided handmade holiday cards along with the ability for donors to send their personal blessings and words of encouragement to the survivors directly.  

In announcing their partnership, Feldstein and Burdick realized that it could not be timeous.  As November 9 is the anniversary of the 1938 nationwide pogrom that engulfed Germany’s Jews known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, while the horrors of the past cannot be undone, a redeeming partnership between Jews and Christians to support the shrinking number of remaining survivors can be a blessing and is redemptive.

On Kristallnacht, Jewish institutions and synagogues were vandalized and burned, along with countless private Jewish businesses and homes. Jews were arrested, assaulted, and murdered across Germany in what became the foundation of the systematic mass murder of the Holocaust. 

Because so much of the persecution of the Jews in Europe took place by Christian Europe, this partnership between Jews and Christians is not just a comfort to the survivors but healing in the sense that it mends the relationship that was overcome by hate.  Anyone who wishes to be a blessing and participate in comforting the survivors in the twilight of their lives can visit:  

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).


If it took the Almighty six days to create the world; 55 years ago it took the almighty IDF six days to perform another miracle

By David E. Kaplan

When Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran in May 1967 to Israeli shipping, it also opened the minds and hearts of Jews around the world who knew that war was coming. In the weeks that followed – before, during and immediately following the cessation of hostilities  – over 5,000 – mostly young people from Jewish communities across the globe, put their lives on hold to volunteer in Israel.

Unlike the earlier wars of 1948 and 1956, this time it was not to hold a rifle but the metaphoric rake, not to grab a grenade but the teat of a cow as they mostly served on kibbutzim taking the place of those who were in uniform. It kept the wheels of Israel’s still a very much agrarian economy turning.

The Volunteers of the Six Day War – 50 Years Later – Featuring former Director Solly Sacks, who takes a look at those volunteers who came from abroad to Israel in 1967 to assist the State of Israel during and following the Six Day War.

Leading the pack of countries from where volunteers came was England with 1,295.One of those volunteers was 23-year-old Barry Kester, who was articled in a West End accountancy practice and due to take his finals in December of that year. That was all to change Barry writes on his blog:

On the 20th May 1967 I was at Wembley Stadium cheering on my beloved Spurs as they defeated Chelsea in the F.A. Cup Final.  Had anyone told me on that day, that just a couple of weeks later I would be in Israel working on a kibbutz close to the Golan Heights, I would have thought them crazy.”

Following England in the largest number of volunteers was Southern Africa with 861. For a region with a small Jewish community – never more than 120,000 Jews in South Africa and 5000 in then Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) at its peak – the figure of 861 Southern Africans represented an extraordinarily high percentage. It also repeatedly matched with the over 800 volunteers who came from this same region in 1948 to fight in Israel’s War of Independence.

Responding to the Call.  Young adults, probably students, volunteer on a kibbutz in 1967.

Capturing the atmosphere at the time –  from the anguish in the build-up to the war to the jubilation following the overwhelming victory –  are the contemporaneous accounts and later recollections of people that lived through it. Apart from people I have interviewed over the years, we are fortunate to have letters written by many of these young people that were collated by the late Muriel Chesler in her book, ‘A Shield About Me’. In it, she writes:

 “I was in Cape Town during the Six Day War and thought the end of the world had come.”

She was hardly alone experiencing those apocalyptic thoughts!

Joy & Jubilation. Young men and woman in the IDF following victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.(Terry Fincher/Express, via Getty Images)


I was petrified of having to inform my accountancy firm of my decision to go,” recalls Solly Sacks of Jerusalem then living in Johannesburg. As head of Bnei Akiva, he would serve on the screening committee of his group. “People were shocked and tried to dissuade me,” but Solly would have none of that and by the time “I arrived at the third floor of the Fed [South African Zionist Federation] building, it was crowded with hundreds of people. I was unable to get out of the elevator.”

Having ensured that most of his youth movement group were booked or had already left for Israel, “I managed to ensure that the remaining few of us got on that last flight.”

One in his group is the founder of Carmit Candy Industries Ltd., Lenny Sackstein. Back in June 1967, Lennie was a 21-year-old law student at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). 

Studying was a serious business. You attended classes wearing a tie, submitted papers on time, and passed your exams or you were history.”

Having a Field Day. Volunteers from abroad being driven early in the morning by a tractor  to the fields on a kibbutz in 1967.

However, history was precisely what Lenny and his fellow volunteers were about to make!

On Thursday, the 11th June, Sackstein presented himself to Professor Ellison Kahn, the dean of the Faculty to advise him he was off to Israel as a volunteer.

He looked at me straight in the eye and said, “Sackstein, if you do not present yourself at class on Monday, you will be removed from the course for the year.”

A Fruitful Experience. Young volunteers from abroad picking fruit in a kibbutz orchid in 1967.

Having discharged his duty as dean, Kahn then went on to say, “Well done Sackstein! Can I assist you in any way?

The Jewish community was united.

Lenny arrived with his group to Kibbutz Shluchot in the Beit She’an Valley in northern Israel .in 40-degree heat – a far cry from Johannesburg’s crisp winter. Welcoming them, the kibbutz representative said:

 “Freirim; vot you come for? Ve have already von ze var.”

Hearing this, the 40-degree temperature “was nothing in comparison to my blood pressure.”

The upbeat in Cape Town was no different.  In May 1967, Sidney Shapiro – who would later become Director of TELFED, the South African Zionist Federation in Israel – was then a student at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Being National Vice-Chairman of the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) and Chairman of the Student Jewish Association (SJA), he felt it was only natural that it fell on him to make the appeal on campus for volunteers. “We called a meeting during the day at the SJA centre in Mowbray hardly expecting too many students to pitch during lecture time.”

In High Spirits. Volunteer Gerald Abelson from Cape Town (top) on the ladder picking fruit at kibbutz Gadot.

How wrong he was!

The SJA hall was bursting at the seams with students piling into the garden and into the street. There I was, standing in front of these hundreds of students ready to read from a prepared speech, when I was suddenly caught up in the excitement and set aside my notes and spoke from the heart.”

Sidney had reservations about volunteering as “I was in my final year. However, I got caught up in my own words and volunteered.”

The excitement peaked when “some of the students grabbed the podium, turned it on its head and the next thing, students began throwing money in it.”

Sidney, like many Jewish students throughout South Africa, would have good reason to be apprehensive – not only because of the impending danger in Israel, but “we had to break the news to our parents. I knew I would be flying out on the first plane available, which meant not completing my degree that year. As difficult as this was, I knew there was no way that I could not have volunteered. My parents understood.”

In 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, Michael Cohen, Vice-Principal of Bialik College, Melbourne, recounted the atmosphere in Cape Town in the period leading up to the war when he was undertaking postgraduate studies in History at the University of Cape Town. “The local Zionist offices were flooded with applications from would-be volunteers; meetings were held in synagogues and at other venues to raise money for Israel, whose very survival was under grave threat; and potential volunteers, of whom I was one, were taken to outlying Jewish-owned farms to learn to drive tractors in preparation for work on Kibbutzim. The aim was to replace young Israelis who were being called to arms.”

On arrival in Israel, “we were sorted into groups after interviews. A select number of us, mainly those who had youth movement leadership experience or spoke Hebrew, were dispatched to Jerusalem to work as non-combat members of the Israeli army. We were accommodated in East Jerusalem, at the Jordanian Police School next to Ammunition Hill in tents while the girls were located in nearby hotels. Our task was to collect the ‘booty’ left in retreat by the Jordan army. We joined with Israeli soldiers, and each day we were transported to locations in the West Bank where we loaded equipment – barbed wire, army boots, large bombs in canisters and other items – into trucks.”

Later relocated to Shech Jerach in the Sinai Desert, “our duty was to collect the hundreds of abandoned Egyptian armed vehicles. I recall, on one occasion, being given a gun and being asked to accompany a group of Egyptian prisoners on the back of a truck to a nearby army base. My anxiety levels were exacerbated by the fact that I did not know how to use the weapon! I chatted briefly with one of the prisoners whose English was passable and who told me about his family back in Egypt. Those Egyptian prisoners who had earlier escaped, making their way to the Suez Canal in an effort to return home, and who had survived on water from the radiators of abandoned Egyptian armoured vehicles, quickly gave themselves up to our forces when they discovered that Egyptian soldiers returning to Egypt were being shot to prevent news of Egypt’s defeat spreading.”


Not a volunteer but a conscript in the Israeli army was 31-year-old Ian Rogow, a former South African, fighting fiercely on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He recounts the battle in this letter to his family in Cape Town:

On Monday, 5th June, my company was moved after dark to the front where kibbutz Ramat Rachel, east of Jerusalem, forks the border with Jerusalem. That night we took a terrible hammering, and the shells of heavy 120mm mortars and long-distance artillery beat down on us like hail storms.

It was a long night and the machine gun and rifle fire found only brief moments of respite during the dark hours.

Homecoming. The war over, Ian Rogow returns to his wife Pearl and kids in 1967 after having fought at kibbutz Ramat Rachal, Mar Elias and the Jordanian front.

I shall carry with me to the end of my days, the memory of the long, drawn-out, sibilant whistle that so ominously precedes the explosion of a mortar shell. At first, you’re frightened as hell, and you strain to push your whole body into your steel helmet like a snail retreating into its protective shell as you dig into mother-earth tighter, and wish your trench was deeper, and you think of God and pray. But you have to fight back, and soon you condition yourself against hitting the dirt with every bone-chilling shriek of an incoming shell.

By the time dawn broke, Ramat Rachel was safe and by nightfall, we were in Bethlehem; white flags flying from the rooftops and the Royal Jordanian army not in sight. The next day we were in Hebron, and here too, the white flags fluttered prominently from every roof-top.”

Preparing for the Worst. High school boys digging trenches in a Tel Aviv street on the eve of the Six Day War.

The remaining danger, Ian writes were:

 “unseen snipers. We lost many a life to the bullet of a rifle fitted with a telescopic sight and triggered by a well concealed finger.”

Ian concludes this long letter of further wartime encounters through Gush Etzion with:

Let our political successes match our military victory as some small compensation for the heavy price we paid – so as not to let down those who gave their lives for the gain we have made by the sword.”

One of the many South Africans who fought in the Six Day War was the late David “Migdal” Teperson. No surprise here – he held the exclusive honour in the IDF of having participated in every war from 1948 to Protective Edge – most in combat. It was only from the Second Lebanon War, he was no longer allowed in the frontline but could bring supplies by truck “to my boys.”

On the 5th of June 1967:

 “we were lined up under our camouflage nets, amongst the trees at the side of the road in company formation. We had orders not to move around too much so that we would not be spotted by the Egyptian air force. At daybreak, we saw our airplanes fly over us, flip their wings in salute, and continue towards the Sinai. Suddenly a dispatch rider on a motorbike came charging down between our columns shouting, “switch on your radios.” As soon as we did, we heard the password “red sheet” and the orders “move, move, move”! We launched our attack against the Egyptian forces in Sinai.”

Migdal’s division was ordered to break through a fortified stronghold at Rafiah, situated between the Gaza strip, Sinai and Israel. For Migdal, it felt like déjà vu. Following the War of Independence, the 1956 war and “now again in 1967 – this was the third time I was fighting in the same area.”

His division’s objective was to cut off El Arish. “We captured close to 800 Egyptian prisoners of war, who we kept in a temporary stockade. I had taken prisoners of war around the same position in 1948 as a corporal; in 1956 as a platoon commander, and now again, in 1967 as number 2 company commander.”

While waiting to move on and listening to the Israeli news, “we heard that east Jerusalem, and the Western Wall had been captured by our paratroopers. On hearing the news, the boys cried, especially the old soldiers who had fought in the 1948 war.”

Migdal would fight all the way to the Suez Canal and remained there after the ceasefire.


Capturing the atmosphere at home are revealed in these letters to family in South Africa that appear in Muriel Chesler’s book.

A week before the war, Raie Gurland writes on the 28th May 1967,  to her family in Cape Town:

Blankets, sheets, towels and hot water bottles were collected. No-one refuses. We all give and more. It’s like caring for a child in danger – Israel is our child and we want to protect her. How extraordinary to be in a country expecting war. The stillness and partially empty streets – its ominously frightening, and I often feel butterflies in my tummy, but then it passes.

Journalists, like vultures are flocking in from the four corners of the earth with the prospect of disaster. The panic at the airport is over and most of the tourists have left….

No job is too menial or too small. Rabbis – with a special dispensation concerning the Sabbath – were digging trenches at the school yesterday, driving delivery trucks and writing out instructions – all on Shabbat!

….I would not be anywhere else – as a Jewess, this is where I belong.”

Dig This! Digging trenches on kibbutz Gan Shmuel in northern Israel before the Six Day War.

Capturing what a young wife must be feeling not knowing of the whereabouts or fate of her soldier husband are these two letters by Avril Shulman to her parents in Cape Town.

On the 9th June, she wrote:

I am so proud to be the wife of a sabra. In the last three weeks, I have lived a lifetime. Even as I write, I do not know where Amnon is or how he is. I hope and pray and wait.”

Avril had to wait until the 20th June when she again wrote to her parents:

It was two o’clock in the morning and there was a knock at the front door. I jumped out of bed, daring to hope, and on opening the door, there stood a hunk of man dressed in an Israeli uniform with Egyptian boots, a Russian gun, and a South African tog bag, covered from head to foot in Sinai dust, but looking very familiar. The reunion is something I cannot describe.”

On the 9th June, Muriel receives a letter from her sister Pat Slevin, a resident of Eilat.

It seems it’s all over bar the jubilation and the heartache of the families who have lost loved ones, and the pain and suffering of the wounded.

Who could have thought on Monday morning when the Egyptian tanks crossed the border, that on Friday morning I would be writing to you like this! Last night at 10 o’clock, we received the news of Egypt’s consent to a cease-fire; this morning at 7 o’clock Syria’s, and at 8 o’clock, the telegram from our Southern commander that our men were on the banks of the Suez Canal. I’m privileged to have been here and to have lived through this moment in Israel’s destiny.”

Fifty-five years on from the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, the nation is strong. Israel is a vibrant democracy in a neighbourhood of autocracies. Its economy is booming and its universities are churning out graduates that will spearhead our small country into a big future.

While the history of this land may read like a chronicle of ‘War Stories”, the Israel of 2022 is a resounding ‘Success Story’.


List of countries from which volunteers came and their number as at the 5th July, 1967.

England                   1,295

Southern Africa          861

France                        607

USA                            301

Belgium                      285

Argentine                    277

Spain, Germany, Switzerland & Austria  262

Canada                        236

Scandinavia                135

Uruguay                       117

Australia                       111

Italy                              110

Holland                           90

Brazil                              68

Chile                               66

Venezuela                      55

Other Latin countries    164

Total                          5,043

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).