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)

Surviving the Shoah

Every year on the 27th of January, the world commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Of the six million Jews murdered in the Shoah (Holocaust) – one and a half million were children!

By David E. Kaplan

Entering  the Children’s Memorial at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem  – World Holocaust Remembrance Center – one is engulfed by darkness until one turns a corner and then suddenly overwhelmed by tiny flames from candles – a Jewish tradition to remember the dead –  that appear to reach out into eternity. Apparently, it might be one candle and through skillful mirror positioning, a single flame becomes many emerging endless. This is the point of the Memorial – that if the murder of ONE child is unbearable to bear then the innumerable flames help try apply the mind to the UNTHINKABLEone and a half million children snuffed out in cold blood!

Lives Lost. Each flame signifying a young Jewish child murdered in the Shoah at the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem  in Jerusalem.

The names of murdered children, their ages and countries of origin can be solemnly heard in the background – a roll call of the dead.

Visitors are left speechless; their only response – tears running down cheeks!

One child that survived that horror – though not her parents  –  was Roni Wolf from the city of Ra’anana in Israel. Her story of survival was revealed this month in an emotionally-charged global Zoom meeting together with her fellow survivors who had found themselves at an orphanage outside Brussels in Belgium during World War II. They had not seen each other since they were all young children together – in that  fateful orphanage where death stalked them!

The Zoom reunion on January 17, 2021, came about because of the research of a Jewish Dutch 24-year-old law student, Reinier Heinsman. While studying, Heinsman opted to volunteer at the Kazerne Dossin – a Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights established within the former Mechelen transit camp from which in German-occupied Belgium, arrested Jews and Roma and sent them to concentration camps.

There, Heinsman became fascinated with the amazing rescue of some 60 orphaned Jewish children having been captured by the Nazis to be transported to Auschwitz on October 30th,1942. From photographs of the children he found at the Museum, he set about in tracing any surviving orphans. Over a period of eight months starting his research in May 2020, the intrepid investigator  reveals “I located five children in the photo who are still alive. The other six who participated in the Zoom reunion were from this orphanage but do not appear in the photo.”

All had been snatched at the eleventh hour from certain death.

The last ‘child’ he found was Reizel Warman, today Roni Wolf from Ra’anana, the only one living in Israel.

Dinner Time. Roni is bowing her head on the left during meal time at the orphanage.

On Sunday night, the 17th of January, the young law student welcomed the eleven Holocaust survivors on Zoom who last saw each other over seven decades earlier. Most of them today are living in the USA. Each of the former ‘children’ re-introduced themselves as ‘adults’ and told their life’s story. Each were truly indebted to Reinier who reveals he is unsure what drove him to tackle with such passion such a deep study of this magnitude that will soon appear in his soon to be published book, Jewish Orphans from Belgium in the Holocaust-Testimonies. Born to a Jewish mother and Christian father, Heinsman has never even visited Israel.

When Roni’s parents were herded onto the train for Auschwitz, they departed not from Antwerp but Brussels, where they had been  in hiding on Rue des Fleuristes. They had shortly before moved to the Belgium capital, “because it had a smaller Jewish population and they thought they could blend in and escape attention,” explains Roni. This proved to be true only temporary. Soon the roundups began in Brussels, and only days before the German’s came, Roni’s parents  Zalman and Malka, took their two baby daughters to their non-Jewish neighbours. Roni would later learn that her mother was murdered on the first day she arrived in Auschwitz; her father would succumb later from illness. “We only spent a few days with this family, who were terrified of the danger we placed them in. They then took us to Wezembeek, an orphanage for abandoned children outside Brussels.”

For a while, the children were safe.  

Wezembeek Children. Roni is in the front row second from the left with the white hood.

Explains Roni:

The orphanage was protected property as part of an understanding reached when Belgium capitulated in 1940, that the Nation’s children would not be harmed. This was insisted upon by the Queen. The Nazis adhered to this policy until one day in 1942, the trains bound for Auschwitz fell short of their quota. Precise by nature, the Germans would not countenance empty coaches. And if they could not meet their quota with adults, they knew where to find last minute substitutes the children at Wezembeek.”

Roni, who was 2-years-old at the time and her older sister Regina were amongst those herded onto the trucks and driven to the station. Luckily, the orphanage was run by a cool head in Madame Marie Blum!

The Wezembeek Orphanage where Roni and her older sister Regina Warman spent four years following their parents deportation to Auschwitz.

Marie had been assigned the post of manager of the Wezembeek Home when she was only 26 years old. On Friday afternoon the 30th of October 1942  – less than two months after Roni and Regina arrived at the home – the SS raided Wezembeek. As related by Marie later, the SS headed by a Dr. Holm, burst in with their firearms in their hands screaming and shouting orders. “Their aim was to frighten all into immediate obedience.” The men rushed into Madame Marie office and started ripping up the wires to the phone, breaking all telephonic contact with the outside world. Two staff members, Julia and Livine Kumps, were washing the corridor at the time.

The Wezembeek staff and boarders.

Dr Holm barked at Marie, “Are these two women Jewish?”

No,” replied Madame Marie, “they are outsiders employed on an hourly basis.”

Pay and get rid of them,” ordered an impatient Holm.

The Germans wanted little interference with what they were doing. After all, they were reneging on the deal with the Belgian royalty not to harm the country’s children!

All this was going through the mind of Dame Marie, who while drawing the money from a drawer in her desk, also managed to write something down on the two pieces of paper in which she wrapped the wages. The clock was ticking, and all she had time to quickly scribble was one word “PREVENT” and a phone number.  She hoped at least one of the messages would find its way to the Queen of Belgium and be understood.

It was not only a long shot  but the only shot!

For the plan to have any chance of success, Dame Marie also needed to buy time – to cause as much delay as she could.

This would prove tricky and dangerous.

She guided  Holm to the infirmary room where she said there were two boys with “contagious diphtheria” germs. Unfortunately when 13-year old Michel Goldberg and 7-year-old Jacob Gebotzreiber were asked by Holm if they were indeed ill, they truthfully answered:

No, we are not sick.”

An irritated, impatient and much angered Holm then proceeded to move all of the children out towards the large canvas covered truck. Holm was meticulous in going through the entire home so as to be certain that everyone was accounted for.

Seven of the staff members were forced to board the truck together with the children. At that moment, a staff member – a Mrs. Gold – fainted which gave Marie time to run back for water, clothing and medical supplies for the journey.

Valuable time was bought.

Marie sat in front with the driver and Roni on her lap. She struck a conversation with the driver who looked at Roni and said:

 “I have a daughter of the same age.”

Tedious conversation passed the time away and helped eased the tension.

The truck arrived in the Mechelen town centre where the children were offloaded into a large courtyard in front of the Dossin military barracks where many other deportees were gathered awaiting deportation to Auschwitz.

Again, Marie needed to play for more time and pulled the same stunt she had failed earlier with Holm. She convince the Commander of the Barracks, an officer Steckman, that there were two children that were taken from an infirmary having contagious diseases. Steckman ordered the boys to be separated from the rest of the children and began phoning awaiting further instructions.

Finally after all the delays, Steckman was ordered by his superiors to release the children, which he did  that included Dame Marie and the orphanage staff.

The drive back to the orphanage was harrowing, afraid that they would be stopped at any moment and sent back to the deportations.

They returned safely back to the orphanage and survived the Shoah!

Marie would later discover that Julia Dehaes, the cleaner, had taken her scribbled note and had run to the hardware store in the village, where a telephone was available and called the number that Marie had written on her paper. One thing led to another and a message got through quickly to Queen Elizabeth of Belgium who contacted the military governor of Belgium, General Alexander Von Falkenhausen. He complied with her pleading and ordered the return of the children to Wezembeek. That order came through while the children were disembarking from the trucks and being marched towards the train.

A short while later the train left for Auschwitz with a few empty carriages, while the truck returned to the orphanage full –  with the children!

Close Encounter. Roni (Reizel Warman) soon after her narrow escape of being deported on a transportation to Auschwitz.

In 1992 Madame Marie Blum was honoured by the US Senate for being “a true heroine”.

When the war ended, only Roni and Regina of the Warman family in Belgium had survived but so had her aunt Rachel, who was living in London.

When Rachel was given the names in 1945 of all the deportees in Belgium she noticed that her brother’s children Regina and Rosa (Roni) were not listed. “It meant they had survived,” thought Rachel. She had lost in the Shoah her parents, two brothers, a sister, a sister-in-law, aunts, uncles and cousins, “but I had two nieces and we were going to find them.”

The Marvelous Madame Marie. Roni with the ‘children’s saviour’ Madame Marie Blum (left) at Wezembeek orphanage.

After months of investigation, we learnt that one was living with a devout Catholic family and the other in a Jewish children’s home.” Rachel travelled to Brussels, brought them back to England where she and her husband Jack adopted them.

Surviving to Thriving. A jovial Roni (left)  and her friend Pearl during basic training in the Israeli Defence Force.

At the age of eighteen, Roni left for Israel on a year’s educational programme. Instead of returning to the UK after the year, she joined the army where she met her future husband, South African Ivor Wolf.

Young Country, Young Lovers. From surviving the Holocaust and brought up in London, Roni meets Ivor Wolf from South Africa to forge a life together in the young State of Israel.

Epilogue

On Yom Hashoah in 2009, Yediot Achronot ran an article on the Holocaust with an appeal from a woman working at Yad Vashem to identify any of the children in the six photographs she had randomly selected from some 130,000.  The caption read:

Lost Youth

Shortly before midnight, one young reader of the Hebrew paper was about to retire to bed when she glanced at one of the photos. The next thing she did was call her parents in Ra’anana and said:

 “Don’t go to bed, I’m coming over right now.”

Roni and Teddy. A picture of innocence removed from the horror gripping all of Europe.

A short while later, Yaella arrived, finding her parents, Ivor and Roni Wolf anxiously drinking coffee. She dropped the newspaper on the kitchen table and pointed to a photo of a little girl clutching her teddy bear.

 “Mommy, it’s you, it’s you,” she tearfully repeated.

The following day Roni contacted Yad Vashem. The photo was taken when Roni had been staying at Wezembeek, the orphanage outside Brussels.

Horrors from the Holocaust. A 2009 article in Yediot Achranot of Roni Wolf pointing to herself in the paper’s earlier article with a photograph of herself holding a teddy bear taken at Wezembeek Orphanage.

Now twelve years later, Roni has again reunited with the past, meeting on Zoom all those fellow children who narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Nazis.

“Living in our Jewish state with my husband, children, grandchildren and great grandchild instills in me hope for a brighter future” says Roni.




Survivors Reunite. The young Dutch law student Reinier Heinsman who tracked down Jewish Holocaust survivors from a Belgium orphanage and brought them together for a Zoom reunion.





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 Long-Term Impact of the Abraham Accords in Africa.

By Ben Levitas

Although relations with Africa were low on Trump’s agenda, he set in motion some momentous foreign relations events that will have enduring consequences that offer the Biden administration some tantalizing opportunities to expand American influence in Africa. While Trump spoke of “pivoting out” of the region, it is likely that Biden will deploy more resources to Africa, both to counter China’s growing influence and because of the opportunities that Africa offers.

What can Africa Expect from the Biden Administration? Then US Vice-President Joe Biden concludes his address to the U.S.- Africa Business Forum in Washington August 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

The historic events which overturned seventy-two years of hostility, are the establishment of diplomatic relations between several Muslim majority countries and Israel. Known by the epithet as the “Abraham Accords”, which recognised the historic and cultural bonds shared by the Arabs and Jews, Trump managed to sweep aside decades of animosity and boycotts to inaugurate mutual recognition and diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel. This has set in motion a domino effect, influencing Muslim majority Morocco and Sudan to break their embargoes on relations with the Jewish State. For the first time, direct flights from Tel Aviv to popular destinations in Morocco will commence and Sudan has granted Israel overflight rights. It must be said that the “Abraham Accords” built on the fertile grounds when in November 2018 Chadian President Idriss Deby visited Israel and established diplomatic relation two months later. Immediately thereafter, Mali started a diplomatic push to improve relations with Israel and apparently Mauretania could be next. Israel already has diplomatic relations with 42 out of the 44 Sub-Saharan states.

Footprints in Africa. Whereas Donald Trump did not set foot in Africa once during his presidency, Joe Biden as US Vice President traveled in 2010 to three African countries.

What promise would be underpinning the “Abraham Accords” offer Africa?

We have seen how America has coaxed Sudan to follow the process, by removing it from the list of terrorist supporting states. One of the first Executive orders of Biden was to remove the ban on travel by many Muslim states to the USA, and this will immediately affect several African countries. Biden will be more predisposed to follow his Democratic predecessors who displayed an acute desire to be involved with Africa, particularly to eradicate disease, improve food security and the quality of lives. Attracting foreign investment is still the biggest need for African countries to build skills and create jobs and America can be expected to be more amenable to be accommodative. Despite China’s impressive growth, America still has the deepest pockets. Furthermore, China is being very assertive in spreading its influence in the South China Sea and across Asia with the “Silk Road” which removes its foot from the pedal with regards to Africa and creates a possible vacuum for the United States to fill. Moreover, African countries may be more open to American investment, particularly having experienced the onerous consequences of allowing unrestrained Chinese investment, which has resulted in debt and in economic exploitation.

Back on Track. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right),  warmly welcomes  on  Sunday, 25 November 2018) President of Chad, Idriss Déby (left) at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.  (GPO/Amos Ben-Gershom)

With the Biden administration promising to re-engage with the world and re-build alliances, it will surely strengthen relations with its strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel.  Israel in turn has a tantalizing offering to address the most pressing problems faced by Africa, such as:

  • Cleantech,
  • food production and food security,
  • sewage and
  • sanitation treatments
  • water treatment.

A recent report by the WWF, lists Israel as the second most innovative country world-wide for clean technology, and the Global Cleantech 100 Index listed Israel as the world’s top innovator. With Global warming and the climate challenges, Cleantech is a necessary imperative to meet the Paris Agreement targets and covers the whole field of renewable energy technologies to make the world free from carbon emissions. Africa suffers from chronic power shortages and Cleantech will ensure that it is able to reach its economic growth targets in a sustainable way. 

Israel’s prowess in desalination, where it operates the world’s largest desalination plants and has transformed itself from a water deficient country into an exporter of potable water, is well known. Less known is the fact that Israel recycles nearly 90 % of its sewage water for irrigation and industry making it a leader in the world. South Africa in comparison recycles less than 5 % and spews huge quantities of raw sewage into its rivers and seas. Israel treats sewage as a valuable commodity whereas in Africa it is a waste product that pollutes our water resources.

In agriculture, Israel has already built up a proud history of innovation in Africa such as making Kenya, Africa’s leading flower producer and introduced new varieties of vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes and even seeds, such as the sesame. Israeli produced dripper lines are responsible for most of the food production in Africa and this is supported by Israeli agronomists, who have trained thousands of Africans and Israeli engineers planning, designing and building greenhouses.

Sowing Seeds. In April 2016, a Rwandan delegation visited in Israel to examine the agricultural, research and commercial aspects of Israeli agriculture, with an emphasis on subtropical crops and nurseries as well as on post-harvest and marketing of vegetables.

In every field – from dairy production, where an Israeli company has taken control of Clover to satellite technology to facilitate communication – Israel can help Africa to leapfrog over its deficiencies in infrastructure and make up for its lack of development.

There is a time for everything, and this is the time to embrace the new paradigm that the “Abraham Accords” have unleashed for Israel’s new role in Africa.






About the writer:

Ben Levitas graduate of Hebrew University with postgraduate degrees from London School of economics and Pretoria University. Chaired the Cape Council of the SAZF for 6 years.







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 Man who said “Yes”

A man who shied away from the spotlight all his life but spent a life never shying away from helping others. South Africa’s “Man of Steel’ philanthropist Eric Samson passes away in the USA

By David E. Kaplan

Eric was a visionary leader and nation-builder and a man of unsurpassed generosity, one whose multifaceted legacy will benefit our country long into the future,” voiced the South African Jewish Board of Deputies in a statement following the passing of South African steel magnate and philanthropist Eric Samson who died at his Newport, California home on Tuesday at the age of 83.

Lasting Legacy. South African steel merchant Eric Samson –  A man who left his mark on the lives of  many.

No less a beneficiary of his generosity was the State of Israel.

The founder and majority shareholder of the Macsteel Group, I recall last speaking to Eric at the funeral in Cape Town in 2009 of his good friend, the steel industrialist, Mendel Kaplan. They had been more than good friends. While partnering in many shared interests in the steel industry, it was their partnership in collective causes that they left their mark in making the world a better place. Eric stood right behind me at Mendel’s funeral service at Cape Town’s Pinelands Jewish Cemetery, shocked and devastated and said that he was on board his private plane flying to Europe when he heard the news and related how he immediately asked the pilot to change the flight path and “head to Cape Town.” That was Eric – decisive at being where he feels he needs to be.

He has been like that together with his wife Sheila with causes in South Africa and Israel.

In South Africa “Innumerable organizations and individuals benefited from his support throughout his life,” revealed the South African Board of Deputies in a statement. A great friend of the late South African State President, Nelson Mandela,  Eric served on the board of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund for two decades and donated to it every July to mark the South African leader’s birthday.

The Visionaries. Eric Samson (right) with South African President Nelson Mandela.

In Israel, the Samsons ‘directed’ their generosity to such causes as Keren Hayesod that had been established in 1920 to serve as the fundraising arm of the Jewish People and the Zionist Movement, the Barzilai Medical Center, the Eric and Sheila Samson New Emergency Surgical Hospital in Ashkelon, the Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, the South African retirement home in Herzliya Beth Protea, and the Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize – a prestigious international award, launched in 2013, which grants a million dollars annually for groundbreaking innovation in the fields of smart mobility and alternative fuels for transportation.

Rooted to Israel. The Samson family at the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office in Jerusalem.

I attended the sixth ceremony of The Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize held on the 29th October 2018 at the Hilton Tel Aviv Grand Ballroom as part of Israel’s 2018 Smart Mobility Summit.

I could not help feeling proud both as an Israeli for what my country was achieving for all mankind, and as a former South African, for the contribution of its Jewish community in enriching the State of Israel. And in the quest to “transform transportation”, it all began a little over six years ago, explained the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, “with ONE phone call to my friends Eric and Sheila in South Africa.”

Smart New World. The 2018 Smart Mobility Summit at the Hilton Tel Aviv where the 6th  ‘Eric and Sheila Prime Minister’s Prize’ was awarded to two outstanding recipients currently making critical advancements in the fields of alternative fuels for transportation and Smart Mobility.

Aiming to reduce 60% of Israel’s oil consumption by 2025, the Prime Minister revealed his concerns to the Samsons that “we have to free the world from the stranglehold of oil and the biggest culprit in the consumption of oil is transportation.” Therefore, persisted the PM persuasively, “we have to work on transforming transportation.” In pursuance of this vision, the PM appealed to the Samsons to consider sponsoring an annual prize that would not only help reduce the world’s dependency on oil but would further help revolutionize mankind’s modes of transportation.

Peering upon the large audience from across the globe that included delegations from 36 countries, including all the states of Europe, Israel’s Prime Minister bellowed proudly:

 “It took only 60 seconds for Eric and Shelia to answer with one wordYES!”

A co-recipient of the Samson award was Prof. Doron Auerbach of Bar-Ilan University for his contribution to breakthroughs in the field of battery development that included the development of advanced batteries for electric vehicle applications. “Every electric car anywhere in the world is partly powered by our research,” said Auerbach in accepting the prize. “I feel great pride for Israel.”

Israel’s then Minister of Science and Technology, Ofir Akunis said,

We are changing the world. Israel is investing in the future and our Ministry could not ask for a better partner in this critical mission than Eric and Sheila Samson who have made this possible through their contribution towards the Prime Minister’s Prize. We know from our history, knowledge is strength and when used properly, we can make the impossiblepossible!”

The South African retirement home Beth Protea would not have been “possible” were it not for Eric saying “YES” to a vision that skeptics said was “impossible”. It was not too long after that then President of South Africa and future Nobel Peace Laurette, F.W. de Klerk laid the foundation stone to Beth Protea during his visit to Israel in  November 1991.

For the Community. Beth Protea, Israel’s South African retirement home ‘of the community, by the community for the community’.

Enter Beth Protea today and there in the lobby, hangs a large portrait painting of Eric amongst  the other founding fathers. What began as a “vision” over a quarter of a century earlier, this South African ‘flower’ flourished to emerge as the benchmark  of excellence in caring for seniors leading in the ensuing years with the name ‘protea’ resonating across the land as its ‘seeds’ sprouted with other retirement complexes carrying the brand name. Such is the impact  of a man who said “yes” to the callings that touched his heart.

Turning 13. Sheila and Eric Samson with Beth Protea senior staff member and member of the Beth Protea Foundation Lyn Bach (left) in 2005 at Beth Protea’s ‘Bar Mitzvah” party.

And on the question of “heart”, one could have asked 106-year-old Avraham Barry who made an incredible recovery from heart surgery at the Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital. The hospital’s oldest patient,  Avraham who had immigrated to Israel from Yemen as a young child with his family only days after his surgery, returned to his home in Ashdod.

Heartwarming. Born in Yemen, a 106-year-old patient,  Avraham Barry from Ashdod in Israel, makes an incredible recovery from heart surgery at the Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital. It was the oldest patient in the Hospital’s history.

In a statement from Keren Hayasod at the time, “Eric and Sheila Samson, through Keren Hayesod, have provided unparalleled support for patients like Avraham by giving residents of the periphery greater access to healthcare and advance medical facilities.”

The Business of Caring. Businessman Eric Samson addressing a Keren Hayesod fundraiser at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Courtesy)
 

His namesake in the Bible, Samson, was noted for his great strength. Such too was this softly spoken ‘Man of Steel’ who impacted the lives of many – young and old. He will be sorely missed.







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

Vaccination Controversy

Answering Palestinian Accusations of Racism

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

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

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

To the Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind regards

Rolene Marks


The article:

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





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

Kristallnacht Comparisons

By Rolene Marks

There is a startling new trend emerging in the media. Commentators wishing to make a point or push a political agenda are resorting to Holocaust comparisons, in particular Kristallnacht. It is abhorrent and trivializes the experience of the victims of the Holocaust and survivors.

During Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, a synagogue burns in Siegen, Germany. November 10, 1938. (courtesy of Shamash: The Jewish Internet Consortium.)

Several months ago it was CNN anchorwoman, Christiane Amanpour, who drew the comparison between Kristallnacht and the Trump administration.

“This week 82 years ago, Kristallnacht happened,” Amanpour said in the monologue. “It was the Nazis’ warning shot across the bow of our human civilization that led to genocide against a whole identity, and in that tower of burning books, it led to an attack on fact, knowledge, history and truth. After four years of a modern-day assault on those same values by Donald Trump, the Biden-Harris team pledges a return to norms, including the truth.”

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour says she regrets equating President Donald Trump’s tenure to Kristallnacht, an attack on Jews in Nazi Germany seen historically as the Holocaust’s launch.

This resulted in an out pouring of condemnation from Jewish organisations and individuals who were understandably appalled. Amanpour apologized for “juxtaposing the Trump administration with Nazi crimes’ but the gauntlet had been lowered, paving the way for others to do the same.

“I observed the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, as I often do. It is the event that began the horrors of the Holocaust. I also noted President Trump’s attacks on history, facts, knowledge, and truth. I should not have juxtaposed the two thoughts. Hitler and his evils stand alone, of course, in history,” she continued. “I regret any pain my statement may have caused. My point was to say how democracy can potentially slip away, and how we must always zealously guard our democratic values,” Amanpour added.

But there it was. Once the comparison was out and despite the apology, it gave the greenlight to others to follow suit.

Following the violence that took place in Washington DC when a violent mob stormed the Capitol Building, social media platforms have cracked down and removed far-right individuals and groups like QAnon and The Proud Boys from their platforms. They have also cracked down on US President Donald Trump, shutting down his Twitter profile, Facebook and YouTube pages and others. What is strange is that the genocidal Ayatollah Al Khameini from Iran who routinely denies the Holocaust and calls for the eradication of “cancerous” Israel is still allowed a platform. Tech giants Apple, Google and Cloud technology, AWS have also removed platforms like Parler, long seen as a stage for far right rhetoric. The cyber world is purging what they see as far right hate speech. Pity they aren’t purging some anti-Semites….

Some took to the airwaves and to Twitter to lament.

Former Republican Congressman for Iowa, Steve King (known for making racist comments in the past) and Fox News host, Jeanine Pirro, both compared the de-platforming of alt-right voices from social media to Kristallnacht.

“I have lost 8,000 followers on this Twitter account in one day. Apple, Google, Facebook, & others have cancelled many conservatives. Last night was cyber god’s Kristallnacht!” King wrote on Twitter. Um, no.

Jeanine Pirro remarked on air, “They gave us a taste of this pre-election when they suppressed the Hunter Biden story, and now that they’ve won, what we’re seeing is the kind of censorship that is akin to a Kristallnacht,” she said. Sigh.

Pirro tried to qualify her statement. “Although book burning started earlier, Kristallnacht included the destruction of Jewish stores, homes & synagogues containing rare Jewish books & Torahs. My reference was in context of books. The Holocaust was the greatest hate crime the world ever tolerated. I abhor all violence,” she wrote.

Fox News host former New York State judge Jeanine Pirro calls Parler backlash “akin to a Kristallnacht” days after the deadly attempted coup on Capitol Hill.

Fox commentator, Glenn Beck has likened it to a “digital ghetto”. I have no words.

You would think they would know better. Former Governor of California and Terminator icon, Arnold Shwarzenegger, in a recent speech made the comparison of events in Washington DC to Kristallnacht. While he was careful to acknowledge Kristallnacht and explain it in historical context, his speech made me very uncomfortable with the reference. Both the Capitol attack and Kristallnacht, he argued, were the actions of violent groups motivated by lies from their leader. The mob that approached the Capitol, urged on by President Donald Trump earlier that day,  chanted that the election was stolen from him, while Kristallnacht was the work of a group Schwarzenegger called “the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys” (a far right, antisemitic group) who responded to the antisemitic libels put forward by Adolf Hitler and his ministers. While the former Governor made some very poignant and powerful points about democracy, invoking Kristallnacht was in the worst possible taste.

In a video posted to Twitter, Arnold Schwarzenegger compared the riot at the Capitol last week to Kristallnacht saying  “My father and our neighbors were misled also with lies, and I know where such lies lead.”
 

What was Kristallnacht?

Kristallnacht also known as the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom against Jews carried out by SA (Stormabteilung) paramilitary forces and civilians including Hitler Youth throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938. The German authorities looked on without intervening, in fact they encouraged it. The name Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”) comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed, looted and burnt to the ground. The pretext for the attacks was the assassination of the German Diplomat, Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old German-born Polish Jew living in Paris. Jews were forced to pay for the damage incurred to their property.

Jewish homes, hospitals and schools were ransacked as attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. Over 7,000 Jewish businesses were damaged or destroyed and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps. British historian Martin Gilbert wrote that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from foreign journalists working in Germany sent shockwaves around the world.

Citizens of Austria, where Arnold Schwarzenegger grew up, watch in Graz as the Jewish cemetery’s ceremonial hall burns. (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Dokumentationsarchiv des Oesterreichischen Widerstandes)

Kristallnacht stands alone as a historical event, steeped in hatred that was the precursor to the destruction of two thirds of European Jewry in the Holocaust. The Jews of Europe were hunted down and marked for murder, regardless of age, gender or social strata but simply because they were Jewish. To be Jewish meant you were sentenced to death. There is absolutely no comparison of this to having your social media profile shut down because of your political leanings.

What these comments expose is a glaring ignorance and trivializing of not just the Holocaust and the historic experience of Jews, but the current climate where antisemitism is rising and where Jews are often the targets of not just the far right but the left as well and this is prevalent on social media.

One thing remains clear, the need for Holocaust education has never been more important.

Disproportionate Stupidity?

The International Committee of the Red Cross Ignores Murder and Rockets to Focus on “Fauda

By Rolene Marks

One of the questions I ask myself when going into my Twitter account is what fresh stupid I will encounter that day. And it never disappoints!

If it is not those whose grasp on the facts is loose to say the least, then it is the never ending parade of conspiracy theories, blame politics and drivel interspersed with some really cool cat memes. Lady Gaga said it perfectly when she referred to social media as “the toilet of the internet”. Yesterday Twitter did not disappoint. The ludicrous tweet came courtesy of the International Red Cross representatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Esther Holgen (z”l), mother of 6, brutally killed in a terror attack, 20/12/2020 (Photo: Courtesy of the family).

Completely giving the previous day’s rocket attacks a wide berth and failing to condemn the terror-motivated murder of 52 year old year old mother of six, Esther Holgen, the Red Cross focused instead on singling out the fictional TV show “Fauda” for its “violations of International Human Rights law”.

Did you also just hear the screeching of brakes? I thought so.

“Fauda” is an Israeli television masterpiece that enjoys massive international interest and viewership, including in the Arab world and even by Hamas, the same terrorist thugs portrayed in the hit show who are quite partial to how realistic they are portrayed. “Fauda” (I am still trying to get over the last season – my heart rate has not settled yet!) unites Jews and Arabs in their enjoyment of the show and how it gives a human face to both sides and tells the story of all protagonists in Hebrew and Arabic. It is pure TV entertainment and even though art may sometimes imitate life, it is F.I.C.T.I.O.N!

Who is next? A Game of Thrones for the flagrant use of dragons and sell swords that violate the laws of proportionality and hiring mercenaries? Will it be Outlander for the planning of uprisings against the British Crown? Maybe The Crown for glaring inaccuracies? The list goes on but if I were James Bond or Olivia Pope from Scandal (who can forget the voting scandal!) I would be shaking in my fictitious shoes.

Before pointing a finger at the fictional, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) should examine their own shortcomings with regards to human rights.

A World at War. Founded 50 years earlier in 1864, 1200 Red Cross volunteers in front of the Rath Museum, Geneva during the First World War.

The ICRC was established in 1864 in Geneva, Switzerland. This neutral body received a mandate to protect victims of international and internal armed conflicts. Such victims include war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other non-combatants. For 50 years, Israel, with our own national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service called Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David) was refused entry into the international body even though it met all other criteria for membership, on the grounds that it does not use one of the approved symbols which were the red crescent or the red cross.

Early Days. A month after the establishment of the Jewish state, a Magen David Adom ambulance in June 1948, Israel.

The Israeli society has used a red six pointed Star of David, the Magen David, since the 1930s – and before the state was established. It was only after immense pressure was put on the ICRC from the American and Australian societies that Magen David Adom was admitted in 2006. Israel’s Magen David Adom would then be able to become an ICRC member if it framed its traditional red Shield of David symbol in the red diamond.

Red Alert. A Magen David Adom Ambulance in Israel today.

In keeping with the mandate of the ICRC, may we suggest less “Fauda” and more focus on what is important. Here are a few suggestions:

The ICRC could focus more on freeing the two civilian captives, Avera Mengistu (6 years) and Hisham Al-Sayed (5 years) held by Hamas without any communication or help with efforts to return the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who fell during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 for a dignified burial. Their families have been in excruciating agony and worry. It must be noted that Gilad Shalit, a former captive who was held by Hamas for 5 years also received no visit from the Red Cross.

Focus on Fact not Fiction. Instead of tweeting about an Israeli  drama TV series, the ICRC could focus on the welfare of  two Israelis with serious mental health conditions Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed (bottom) being held by Hamas in Gaza for over five years, and the return of the remains of  Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul (top) killed in 2014. Courtesy of family/Facebook. 

Prisoners who are terror or security threats held in Israeli prisons receive visits from the Red Cross because Israel is a signatory to two conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. The Red Cross does not visit prisoners held for crimes but it would be really nice if they would pop in on our civilians held captive by a terror entity who regard themselves as the legitimate government of the Gaza strip.

The ICRC could also ensure that their affiliate, the Red Crescent, do not use their ambulances to transport civilians including the disabled and elderly to riots like the March of Return where they formed the front line of defense in the never ending war for optics perpetuated by Hamas who leverage their populations as human shields so that they can get the most sympathy from the world media. Ambulances have been used as transport services for suicide bombers in the past as well. This could also ensure that hospitals are used for their intended purposes and not weapons storage facilities or armouries.

Instead of focusing on the fictional, the ICRC could also have used their social media to condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel’s civilian population or condemning arson terror and they could have condemned the nationalistic motivated murder of Esther Holgen, who went for a run and never returned home. She was found with her head bludgeoned by a rock. Esther Holgen was a mother – and also a non-combatant!

Focusing on the Future. In 2019, the ICRC and Magen David Adom signed a multi-year partnership agreement reflecting the close relations and long-term partnership between the two organizations.

Many may wonder why it is worth getting uptight about a silly tweet but in a region and conflict where the first casualty is often truth and fact coupled with rising anti-Semitism online, this adds fuel to an already flaming fire. It may have been disproportionate stupidity on behalf of whoever is in charge of the social media account or maybe it was a REALLY slow news day. In that case may we suggest watching “Fauda” and less focus on tweeting……



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)

The Year of “Awokening”

By Rolene Marks

At the beginning of 2020, the world was filled with glorious positivity for the dawn of a new decade. There were even the memes and joke exchanges to prove it! Then a little understood virus that seemed to be confined to the Wuhan province in China, eventually would become a global pandemic that brought the world to its knees. Millions have contracted this terrifying virus or have died as a result and the global economy is in crisis.

At the outset; and as country after country went into lock down, many took a philosophical or spiritual approach and saw this as an opportunity to “reset”. A chance to re-evaluate what is important in our lives, go back to times that seemed simpler, to learn a lesson in gratitude and to emerge from the crisis with a new perspective and willingness to help each other. We have been in this together and would surely emerge stronger. Wouldn’t we?

When a crisis happens, it often defines those that are in positions of leadership or in the public eye.

This is a year where many have had the perfect chance to step up and lead – but have failed miserably – safely afloat on a raft made out of self-indulgent virtue signaling woke twaddle. This is the year that apart from dealing with the overwhelming effects of the virus on our collective mental, emotional and physical health; we now have to deal with this rapidly growing phenomenon – the growing “woke” movement.

The term “Woke “is a political term that originated in the United States; and refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice. It derives from the African-American vernacular English expression “stay woke”, whose grammatical aspect refers to a continuing awareness of these issues. Today, it has become very fashionable to be “woke” – and woe betide you if you aren’t.

This movement seems to be permeating every aspect of society and has been given a tailwind by the growth of celebrity culture and social media. At the beginning of the spread of the pandemic, the voices of celebrities were diminished and the everyday heroism of frontline workers took centre stage. And then something changed. The world seems to have tipped on its axis. When did we lose the ability to engage in polite, tolerant debate – even if we have divergent opinions?

Freedom of speech is an imperative in a democratic society and we have the right to disagree with each other but lately identity politics has become an overriding factor and the first casualty seems to be tolerance. Anyone not agreeing with the prescribed “woke” doctrine is effectively cancelled. And the offences seem to be everywhere. If you look hard enough you will find something to be offended by.

Can It. An exasperated reaction to Wokeism.

In 2020, the bar seems to be low. Perhaps it is the frustration of lock downs and statistics and political unrest that has many of us at times, taking complete leave of our senses. 2020 has been a tumultuous year politically as well. The Black Lives Matter movement that spread like wildfire across the world became more than just being aware of racial injustices. Elements within and external to the movement saw it as an opportunity to push their various agendas including anti-Semitic rhetoric and a new phenomenon – taking the knee. Anyone seen to not do this is immediately ostracized or branded a racist. Choosing whether or not to kneel is a personal choice, but when diners enjoying a little al fresco dining are routinely harassed for not kneeling with immediate, we have a problem.

Self Service! When demonstrators entered the outdoor dining space in Pittsburgh, USA, one person took a couples’ drink and drank it before leaving. 

Woke culture is not restricted to racism. Search engine juggernaut, Google, almost as famous for its graphics as it is for its search capabilities had to remove the egg from its salad graphics for “not wanting to offend vegans”. In a time where nearly everything is about identity politics and you are nobody unless you are an activist, everyone from social conscious millennials to big corporations are jumping on the woke wagon.

In fact, when it comes to big corporations, a new issue is starting to take form known as “woke washing”. Woke washing can be described as the appropriation of ethical and progressive values as a form of advertising just to make more profit while hiding the dark side of conventional capitalistic business management.

An example of recently woke washing is Tumblr. Two months after banning adult-content, the social media still let Nazis thrive on its platform.  White supremacist propaganda that contravenes its  guidelines is now co-existing with Tumblr’s promotion of Black Excellency for Black History Month.

Razor maker, Gillette also helped to set the tone of 2019 by “woke washing” with the January debut of “The Best Men Can Be,” a campaign fighting toxic masculinity by referencing #MeToo, the movement fighting sexual harassment that was growing at the time. Some critics decried the initial short film as painting all men as poorly behaved or even predatory. Others wondered why a razor maker, and not necessarily a brand with a ton of baggage, was getting so righteous.

 Or take former/maybe not somuch/aretheyoraren’t they royals, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. Famous for their support of whatever issue seems hot at the time, the two woke royals have lectured on topics as diverse as the environment, unconscious bias, racism and not to forget universal kindness. All this while traversing the world in private jets and zooming from a $16million dollar mansion. They are not the only woke schlebs on the virtue signaling bandwagon. They are joined by many in Hollywood extolling the virtues of defunding police (while being able to afford private security), lecturing on saving the planet (while zipping around the world on private jets) and talking about inclusiveness (while cancelling those who may have divergent political opinions).

A Battle Royal.  Mega voices on a range of  popular issues, Harry and Meghan constantly dodging controversy with the Royal family and a fickle public in this Woke milieu.

It would appear nobody is safe from the “woke” offensive. The BBC’s radio station R4 was taken to task for referring to fishermen as “fisherpeople”.  Critics said that seeing that women only made up 2.7% of staff on a fishing trawler, the BBC with their right on woke politics was unnecessary.

Billionaire creator of Harry Potter, JK Rowling, has also been cancelled for allegedly being “transphobic”. Rowlings reference to people who menstruate as women was seen as discriminatory to the trans community.

Twitter users accused her of being exclusionary to transgender men and women but also to cisgender women who no longer menstruate. The result has been an aggressive campaign against her, including vocal criticism by Harry Potter stars, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson whose careers were started by the successful franchise. Rowling responded by saying ““I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” Rowling replied. “I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

The list of transgressions according to the “awokened” is endless. As mentioned before, if one is looking for offences, they can be found everywhere. The danger lies in the pursuit of a kind of liberalism that becomes so intolerant of a different opinion that it borders on fascism.

A Touchdown. Woke-washing is when companies cynically prey on customers’ social awareness. A decision by Nike to feature athlete-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick in its 2018 ad paid off, with the ad going on to receive an Emmy nomination.

For a society to function, people must be able to feel free to express themselves and debate, discuss and disagree respectfully. While there are lines like hate speech and incitement that should never be crossed, in order to understand each other better and build a more tolerant and respectful society, we need to listen to each other.

Failure to do so just contributes to an epidemic of intolerance.




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

Relief, Rage and Fear

By Emma Picken

First appeared in the “Jewish News”.

With the publication of the EHRC (Equality & Human Rights Commission) findings and the verdict ringing out loud and clear that the Labour Party has acted unlawfully in its treatment of Jews, I am filled with three conflicting emotions.

Relief, rage and fear.

Relief because any other verdict would have been an affront – the impact on my Jewish friends would have been devastating.

Having dragged the boulder of Labour antisemitism up the hill together for the last five years only to see it roll back down crushing my friends would have left nothing but despair in its path.

It also provides legal vindication, a historically accurate, irrefutable record and potentially a path forward.

There can be no return to the days that cultivated fertile soil for Corbynism. The rotten stench of antisemitism ignored so long within the left, that finally enveloped the party with its noxious gases, must now be addressed.

The internal Labour row over antisemitism has dragged on for several years.

Tearing out antisemitism at its roots requires more than just soundbites. The source goes back decades in the left – a fact I was personally oblivious to when I joined the party with enthusiasm, the day after Ed Milliband lost in 2015.

So relief yes, vindication, justification, and potential for change.

So why rage? This goes back to election night, 2019. The sheer hell of that election can never be forgotten.

In so many ways, no verdict from any human rights body can be as powerful a message as the one sent to the Jewish community on Dec 12th by the electorate.

The absolute demolition of Corbyn that evening changed everything. In one fell swoop the public rejected his party, and my Jewish friends who had been making plans to leave the country could breathe again.

The days of darkness leading up to that exit poll had lifted.

The fights with people who had other priorities were over.

The fear of an institutionally antisemitic party with an antisemite as its leader running the UK were gone.

It was over.

What I heard time and time again running into the election were the words ‘This country doesn’t feel like home anymore.’

Like every other non-Jewish person involved with Labour Against Antisemitism, I know how devastating that was. How hard it was to feel the pain, and how helpless I felt and the impossibility of saying anything of comfort.

The only comfort I could give was my fight, our fight.

Some of the attacks on our members and allies over this time were abhorrent. They have had lasting impact on their lives even now. Some wounds run deep: they will need more than soundbites to heal. It’s too late now, I don’t know if they ever will.

That is my rage.

Now to my fear.

A party doesn’t become institutionally antisemitic overnight nor does it eradicate this culture overnight.

What happened wasn’t something incidental – any study of antisemitism on the left could have predicted Corbyn and all that followed in his path. A political path that had been there long before he came on the scene.

The antisemitism row in the Labour Party was a constant backdrop to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership

Even now, Labour stands at a crossroads. Does it eradicate the source of the stench, or simply cover it up again in the hope it stays undetectable to those without a good sense of smell until the next election?

It has that choice, and I am afraid of the party. I became afraid of Labour over the last few years and my fears were proven correct.

Too many people who should have stood by our side on Dec 12th were missing. Many people were with us, but a huge number of people in the party were not.

I feel fear because I believe these people will advocate covering the stench rather than eradicating it. This would be dangerous for the future of Labour and its ability to keep the Jewish community safe, should it rise to power at some point in the future.

Former Labour MP Luciana Berger addresses the crowd during a demonstration against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. (JACK TAYLOR / GETTY IMAGES

There are already thousands of committed Labour activists radicalised against the Jewish community, and Labour created them. LABOUR not Corbyn.

The party did this, by the choice it made to save itself from Corbyn.

The fear I feel is that it doesn’t understand this and does not feel the need to properly address the issue. Too many people involved still feel the party is ‘too good’ and full of ‘good people’ to really rectify the roots of how it came to this.

I remained a member of the party throughout all of the last few years. I made no judgement over people staying, as I was one of them. I believed then as I believe now that only through brutally honest introspection over how abhorrent it all was – and still is – along with retributive action, can the party redeem itself from the swamp of antisemitism that engulfed it.

The party is at a crossroads, and so am I. How it deals with antisemitism and the activists that stood with the Jewish community on Dec 12th remains to be seen.

Will it take on the grip the PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign) has over the union movement? Will it understand that the antizionist antisemitism paraded around by thousands of its activists needs to be fully and robustly dealt with?

Whatever its leadership says, does the party still see me, standing up against what was happening, as the enemy?

Is our small group of committed activists still the enemy?

Do we still have to be afraid of the party?

Will the voice of the 94% of Jews that refused to vote Labour, whom I proudly advocated for on Dec 12th, be given the first and last hearing in how Labour deals with antisemitism?

British Jews protest outside parliament against Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: GettyImages)
 

Will justice be done for the community that suffered so badly?

Is it still a party for those that said loud and clear, Enough is Enough?

The verdict is still out.


About the Writer:

Emma Picken is director and researcher for Labour Against Antisemitism.












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

Building the Foundations of Peace

By Rolene Marks

It is often said that the foundations of peace will be built by people from the countries where there is conflict who courageously defy divisions and interact and cooperate with each other. While government officials and representatives discuss, argue and negotiate, it is groups of people from both sides of the divide who will build the foundations of peace.

This is hardly a scenario that is anticipated when we speak about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The media (and other interest groups) would rather have you believe that we are two peoples perpetually at each other’s throats and while there definitely is conflict, there are also a myriad of incredible projects that are being done at  grassroots levels to encourage dialogue and cooperation.

Fall from Window Turns Tragedy into Coexistence Triumph. Little girl’s recovery at a Jerusalem hospital inspires a project for sharing medical expertise between Israeli and Arab healthcare practitioners.

In these uncertain times, when health and wellbeing is our collective focus, it is extremely critical that those who are particularly vulnerable receive the care that they need. Project Rozana is one such extraordinary organization, fulfilling those needs. Named in honour of a very special little Palestinian girl called Rozana Salawhi, who needed critical medical care, and whose mother sought to find it regardless of race, religion or political divides, Project Rozana endeavours to build bridges of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians by using Israeli excellence and ingenuity in healthcare to treat Palestinians. It is an area of civil society that is proving that Palestinians and Israelis can cooperate on a major scale and interact on a daily basis. This is a relationship that is being built on the basis of equality and mutual respect. The intention of Project Rozana is to help Palestinian medical professionals skill up so that they can build a strong medical infrastructure and provide the best possible care for their communities.

This bridge-building project has attracted the interest of the international community, led by Hadassah Australia and has been embraced by affiliates in the United States, Canada, Israel and across the Palestinian Territories.

Building Bridges. Project Rozana is committed to building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians through the field of healthcare.

Project Rozana runs a variety of programmes to ensure that the vast skill gaps are filled.  Palestinian doctors, nurses, therapist and others, receive the best training possible to meet those needs that have been identified in consultation with the Palestinian Advisory Board. The Medical Fellowship Programme funds young clinicians from Palestinian hospitals to train in Israel under highly qualified and experienced Israeli medical specialists. This provides them with the opportunity to train in a much needed sub-specialty including paediatric rehabilitation and peritoneal dialysis (very important because of rising diabetes in the territories) and bring their skills and knowledge back to hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza.

Previous fellows completed their two-year residencies in Paediatric Intensive Care at Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, and in Anaesthesiology at Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv.

West Bank coordinator of transportation for Project Rozana Naeem al-Bayda (right) with a Palestinian youngster he brought to an Israeli hospital.

Project Rozana also provides funding for critically ill Palestinian children to be treated in Israeli hospitals. This is particularly important when the specific treatment needed is not available or very limited. Children who need it, have also received surgery to deal with DSD – gender dysphoria. This is one of the most medically and socially complex of genetic disorders in the Palestinian population (and Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jewish population) and presents with ambiguous genitalia.

A baby from Gaza with congenital heart disease being treated at Sheba Hospital.

Children with DSD are subject to gender dysphoria – a condition the dissatisfaction and anxiety they experience due to their body not reflecting their gender, leads to severe psychological distress, anxiety, and depression. Parents too, are subject to stress. Children with DSD receive corrective surgery, made possible by the partnership between Project Rozana and Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Mobile health clinics for women are also an area of major consideration.

Critical  under Corona

The Coronavirus global pandemic has also impacted greatly on the medical situation for Palestinians. Project Rozana has been instrumental in helping to get much needed equipment and training to navigate the crisis. Through Project Rozana, Palestinian medical professionals have received essential, up-to-date training from Israeli experts. The Australian government in cooperation with Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad Al-Maliki and Project Rozana, facilitated the delivery of 20 ventilators to be distributed across hospitals in the territories.

Project Rozana Helps Save Palestinian Baby’s Life.  Musab Alafandi stands over his son’s crib, checking on his breathing at Hadassah’s Hospital.

At the time of writing this article, Palestinian Chief Negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who is critically ill with Covid-19, is receiving the best possible care in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and is on a ventilator and ECMO machine. As complicated and difficult the situation between Israel and the Palestinians is politically, medicine forms a vital role in helping to build bridges of peace.

Stars for Salvation. Israeli stars David Broza, Achinoam Nini, Mira Awad, ‘Hamilton’ stars and other musical celebs join Jewish-Arab youth chorus promoting a healthier future.

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians might not be instantly solved through goodwill gestures like providing top level care for a dignitary like Erekat, but the bridges built by Project Rozana that facilitates and encourages daily cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, may be the strong foundations between people that will help make it an inevitability.







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