From Open Windows to Opening Doors

Diplomatic tiptoeing  from Dhaka to Jerusalem

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

I came across an article in this week’s news in which there were suggestions that Bangladesh might open diplomatic relations with Israel.  This reminded me of a recent consultation in which I had occasion to consult with some Bangladeshis or Banglis, as they call themselves. My principal client was not fluent in English and had brought an interpreter with him. After having concluded our legal business the conversation moved to the issue of Israel,  as it almost inevitably seems to do when Muslims and Jews get together.

My clients seemed to see little difference between Jews and Israelis and offended my five-generation South African lineage by asking if I was born in Israel. Banglis were not supporters of Israel, he told me, they supported the Palestinians.  As proud Banglis, they explained just how widely dispersed the Bangli diaspora was and how successful they were. Then from diasporas of the Bangli and Jewish nature, we moved onto the topic of Bangladeshi-Israeli relationship. It started with my principal client telling me that the Banglis did not particularly like the Israelis. And then I received a quick crash course in Bangli history. Originally referred to as East Pakistan, it was separated from West Pakistan by a huge swath of the Indian sub-continent. (interesting fact – he told me that Bangladesh is the most densely populated country on earth – so move over Gaza!) In the early 1970’s, West Pakistan mounted an operation to eliminate the Bengali nationalist movement. This resulted in millions of refugees fleeing into India and to the Bangladeshi war of independence against Pakistan, in which India took part.

Man on a Mission. Lt. Gen. (retd) Jack Farj Rafael (JFR) Jacob was head of the Indian Army’s eastern command during the 1971 India-Pakistan war that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh.

It was at this that the interpreter stepped in and introduced a Jewish -Israeli dimension to the history lesson. There was a Jew by the name of General “Farj Jacobjee” ( I  subsequently found out his name was Jack Farj Jacob,  the “jee”  attached to the name as a sign of respect) who was the head of the Indian Army (or something like that) that fought against the Pakistanis on the side of the Bangladeshis. He took his troops and carefully avoided fighting in the little cities and attacked the capital, Dhaka, directly. This surprise strategy resulted in the quick defeat of Pakistan and the independence of Bangladesh. The interpreter  continued with more amazing details. The Israelis had been supportive of Bangladesh, while the Palestinians had been supporting Pakistan. The “Israeli woman prime minister” immediately recognised the independent state of Bangladesh, but Bangladesh would not recognise Israel.

Golda Meir (1898-1978) Was an Israeli politician, teacher who served as the fourth prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. 

Now with  talks of recognition between Dhaka and Jerusalem, will it be that General Jack Farj Raphael Jacob  may be one of the forgotten men who is instrumental  in advancing the cause of Israeli diplomacy? After all,  how many people still remember the names of  Eddie Jacobson and  Ivan Maisky?

Surprise Support. Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky (1884 – 1975), the Soviet Ambassador to the Court of St James may have been instrumental in influencing Josef Stalin to support a vote at the UN surprising in favour of a Jewish state.

In the desperate times when the Zionists were seeking the independence of Palestine, many people – some now only  vague footnotes to history – strove very hard to make this ideal a reality. One tends to forget that the United States of America was not particularly in favour of the independence of Palestine.  General George Marshall, the great WWII military general, father of the Marshall Plan, and Secretary of State to President Harry S Truman was adamantly opposed to the recognition of a Jewish State. This position was supported by the Foreign Office as well as the CIA. Truman refused to even meet with the Zionist delegation. As Golda Meir states in her biography, it was only because he agreed to meet with his old war-buddy and business partner, Eddie Jacobson, that Truman had a change of heart (it appears that Marshall and the Foreign Office did not) One crucial but relatively unknown meeting resulted in  the USA crucially voted for Israel’s  independence.

Ivan Maisky, Russian ambassador of the Court of St James, may also have been instrumental in obtaining the consent of the virulently anti-Zionist Josef Stalin of the USSR to give a favourable vote.  In trying to gain support, Chaim Weizmann may have suggested that an independent Jewish State would move out the sphere of the detested British to a more socialist outlook, but Maisky seems to have played a part in Stalin’s inexplicable decision so surprisingly announced at the United Nations by Andrei Gromyko. A Jew, and a Russian diplomat, being pushed by Weizmann, Maisky also  visited Palestine and then submitted a secret memorandum to Lenin. While the details still remain unknown, the change of stance by the USSR occurred shortly after the delivery of that memo. Its effect may have impacted the politburo, but it was also strongly felt in the heart of the British Empire  where  Harold Laski, the British socialist leader, later told Ben-Gurion that “I read Maisky’s secret report, and I became a Zionist.”

Missouri Men Making History – Together . Former President Harry S. Truman (left) with Eddie Jacobson (right) in Kansas City, Missouri.

My favourite historian Paul Johnson wrote “in terms both of Soviet and of American policy, Israel slipped into existence through a window that briefly opened, and just as suddenly closed. Once again, timing—or, if one likes, providence—was of the essence.”

In the delicate negotiations that are no doubt going on behind closed doors, one hopes that the late General Jack Farj Raphael Jacob may yet serve proverbially and ‘providentially’ to  hold open another window to reshape history.


Story of Jacob. A file picture from 2015 of Lt Gen JFR Jacob on Israel’s Independence day celebrations. Lt. Gen. (retd) Jack Farj Rafael (JFR) Jacob was one of the most prominent members of India’s relatively small Jewish community, serving as a Lieutenant General in the Indian Army and later as a Governor of two Indian states-Goa and Punjab.




About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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

The Danger of Desmond

A Light Unto his Nation – a Dark Side to Jews

By David E. Kaplan

The recent passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa  presents a conundrum  – how could someone deservedly so loved and respected, referred to as “a moral compass” and the “conscience of the nation” be an antisemite?

It would seem unthinkable!

The Good and the Bad. The beloved late Archbishop Desmond Tutu internationally respected for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist also caused concern for his negative attitude to Jews.  

Tutu is only another in a long lineup of outstanding personalities who having contributed superlatively to making the world a better place but nevertheless expose this “other side”, this “dark side” – of antisemitism.

So how should Jews come to terms and relate to the legacies of legends?

To this day, Israelis  have a problem with the “genius” German composer Richard Wagner, who while revolutionising the course of music in the 19th century, remains controversial in the Jewish state not only because of his virulent antisemitism but the suggested impact of that hatred. Hitler’s favourite composer, the Fuhrer found Wagner’s music and world view – his antisemitism –  inspirational, begging the question:

What role did Wagner play in the cultural evolution towards the genocidal ‘Final solution’?

Struck a Chord. Hitler’s favourite composer, Richard Wagner, whose music and musings inspired the Nazi Fuhrer.

Jews are left with the question:

Can we separate the man from his art?

What of the Impressionists, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edward Degas, who were both vocal about their antisemitism and at the time of the Dreyfus affair, were proud to stand and be counted in the anti-Dreyfus camp? Less nuanced than Renoir, Degas’ hatred was so deep-rooted that that he once threw a model out of his studio, screaming at her that she was Jewish – she was in fact Protestant!  During the Dreyfus affair, Degas ended relationships with Jewish friends, including Ludovich Halevy, who had been like family to him.

Beneath and Beyond. Belying his ugly antisemitism, the unquestionable beauty of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s ‘Two Sisters (On the Terrace)’, 1881

The works of Renoir and Degas are wondrous; their impact on pushing the boundaries of late 19th century French art incomparable.

Should Jews boycott appreciating their art?

True Colours. Edgar Degas’ ‘Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint’  captures on canvas his understanding and passion for ballet. Just the opposite was his attitude to Jews who he despised and proudly stood at the time in the anti-Dreyfus camp during the infamous trial that exposed French antisemitism.

Platform of Popularity

Is there a more iconic American motor car than the Ford and yet its fonder was a notorious antisemite. Has it stopped anyone from buying a Ford vehicle?

Sitting around a campfire in 1919, a friend of Henry Ford records him addressing their group of fellow campers raging that:

 “all evil to Jews or to the Jewish capitalists…The Jews caused the war, the Jews caused the outbreak of thieving and robbery all over the country, the Jews caused the inefficiency of the navy…”

Fueling Antisemitism. The iconic American automobile engineer and manufacturer Henry Ford – known for changing the auto industry but also for using his immense power and influence to vilify Jewish people – poses in the driver’s seat of his latest model, outside the Ford factory in Detroit, Michigan, c. 1905.

In other words, the Jews are responsible for all the country’s ills.

That same year, Ford began publishing a series of articles that claimed of “a vast Jewish conspiracy” that “was infecting America”. The famed industrialist would then then go on to bound the articles into four volumes titled “The International Jew” and distributed half a million copies. As passionate a car-maker, he was as passionate in his hate for Jews.

As one of the most famous men in America, Henry Ford legitimised ideas that otherwise may have been given little authority.

Archbishop Tutu joins this list of impressive influencers in the impact they can have in creating negative mindsets against Jews. The reverence Tutu justly deserved in his struggle against Apartheid and his subsequent role in facilitating national reconciliation through his adept chairmanship of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, provided him a platform and a protection when it came to his vocal attacks on Jews.

This is what made him dangerous in life and no less today in death. In paying tribute to the celebrated esteemed icon, eulogies in the media and online, spared no effort to exploit this ‘heavenly’ masqueraded opportunity to convey the Archbishop’s animus towards the ‘collective Jew’ –  Jewish state of Israel.

Cognisant of the danger of a Tutu protected by his international acclaim and popularity, Jay Nordlinger – a senior editor of National Review and author of a ‘Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize’ – wrote in 2014: 

The most harmful of them [Nobel Laureates] is Desmond Tutu: because he is a South African hero who  for decades  has peddled the lie that Israel is an “apartheid state”. Coming from him, it is more harmful than from (the countless) others.”

The accusation of being an antisemite did nor seem to bother the Archbishop. Whenever so questioned, Tutu would flippantly respond with his two preferred stock answers:

  • Tough luck” 

or

  • My dentist’s name is Dr. Cohen

There is however one major difference between the mindset of a Wagner, Renoir, Degas and Ford and that of Archbishop Tutu – the intervening  Shoah!

Lost in Thought. From the man who said “The gas chambers made for a neater death” begs the question what was Archbishop Tutu truly thinking on his visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, on 26 December 1989 (AFP)

It is doubtful that the nineteenth and early twenty century antisemites could have foreseen the Holocaust or predicted the impact of their animus in contributing to what was to follow. Tutu, on the other hand, had the benefit of hindsight and still could be so insensitive that on a visit in 1989 to Israel’s Holocaust memorial  – Yad Vashem – to say that the Nazis ought to be forgiven for their crimes to the Jewish people. Two thirds of European Jewry were wiped out in a methodic mass murder and at the memorial to their memory all the Archbishop could say was:

We pray for those who made it happen, forgive them and help us to forgive them, and help us so that we, in our turn, will not make others suffer.”

This, he said, was his “message” to the Israeli children and grandchildren of the murdered!

Where were the archbishop’s  prayers for the  six million victims, including 1.5 million murdered children?

Tutu’s behaviour baffled no less a fellow Nobel Peace Laurette, Elie Wiesel who said:

 “For anyone in Jerusalem, at Yad Vashem, to speak about forgiveness would be, in my view, a disturbing lack of sensitivity toward the Jewish victims and their survivors. I hope that was not the intention of Bishop Tutu.”

Clearly it was “the intention” otherwise how else do you explain Tutu saying that “The gas chambers made for a neater death” than Apartheid’s resettlement policies?

And for those who rush to ‘explain’ Tutu’s fulminations against Jews as ‘a perfectly understandable’ default position of viewing all perceived problems in the world through a South African lens, how do you excuse Tutu declaring back in 1984,that:

 “The Jews thought they had a monopoly on G-d” or his other insensitive observations:

  • Jews … think they have cornered the market on suffering
  • that Jews are “quick to yell ‘antisemitism
  •  that Jews display “an arrogance of power – because Jews have such a strong lobby in the United States.”

Tutu draws close to the antisemitic thinking of  Henry Ford when he expressed in April 2002 that:

People are scared in [America] to say wrong is wrong, because the Jewish lobby is powerful, very powerful. Well, so what? Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin were all powerful, but, in the end, they bit the dust.”

Tutu did not talk here of an Israeli but a “Jewish” lobby and longingly predicts that in the end, the implied devious and “powerful, very powerful, ” Jewish power brokers will be crushed like their kindred spirits – Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. In the age-old tradition of antisemitic diatribe, what a despicable construct from the Archbishop designed to sow suspicion and foster hatred of Jews. All the worse in that the ‘voice’ behind this venom enjoyed the ‘moral’ authority of the South African Anglican church.

Written Proof. A letter written by Hitler’s favourite composer Richard Wagner in April 1869 to philosopher Edouard Schuré warning about “corrosive” Jewish influence on culture was auctioned in Jerusalem for $34,000.
Wagner wrote in this letter that Jewish assimilation into French society meant that it was harder to see that “corroding influence of the Jewish spirit on modern culture”.

Whichever way one tries to decipher these disturbing words, Tutu comes out “in his own words” an antisemite.

Beneath the beloved veneer of South Africa’s archbishop resided an unabashed enemy of the Jews and there lies the conundrum:

When famous personages, who contribute to mankind are acclaimed by an appreciative populace and then use their platform of popularity to turn on the Jews, are they to be revered or reviled?


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 South African Lunch at Israel’s Reichman University

It left much to chew on!

By David E. Kaplan

As one neared the wooded deck of the cafeteria at Reichman University – formerly IDC, Herzliya – the alluring aroma of the “boerewors” (special South African sausage)  directed this writer’s nostrils like a GPS. I was headed in the right direction and then the all too familiar South African accents assured me I was in the right place – a picturesque setting for the Hanukkah ‘braai’ (barbecue) for the over 100 South African students at the Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS).

Tomorrow’s Leaders. South African students at Reichman University enjoy a Hanukkah boerewors braai (barbecue) and send the message: “Life is Good.” (Photo Yaron Peretz)

If one needed any further affirmation  of – right place, right time – this was provided by the displayed bottles of superlative Western Cape wines on each table shaded by Eucalyptus trees.

If it was the aroma of the ‘boerewors’ directing me, there were far more profound reasons ‘directing’ and an ever-increasing number of Jewish school-leavers to leave South Africa and chose to come study in Israel. It was also a case of “right place, right time” – for the majority of these young South African Jews who the vast majority are opting for Reichman University where there are over 2000 overseas students from over 90 countries. All studying together in English, one third of the student body is American, one third from countries across Europe, and the rest from Latin America, Africa, Israel and Asia.

For most the students this is largely the attraction – to be in a top global academic environment, interacting and networking with their peers, exploring the present, preparing for the future. Located in the midst of Israel’s ‘Silicon Wadi’ – with the highest number of hi-tech companies per capita of any region in the country – “the Reichman University enjoys a very strong connection with these companies,” says Jonathan Davis, head of RRIS and Vice President, Reichman University. “They provide cooperative hands-on education as well as offering internships.”

Boerewors Bonanza. The boerewors (sponsored by Meatland, Ra’anana) was a treat for the South African students at Reichman University as well as this writer who addressed the students. ( Photo Yaron Peretz)

Cooperating with top universities in the US, notably the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, University of California, Berkley, Washington University in St. Louis, Syracuse University and Harvard, Reichman University  – Israel’s first and only private, non-profit university  – is ranked first of 66 Israeli academic institutions “in terms of student satisfaction” for four consecutive years.

As I arrived, I joined a group of students who were in deep animated conversation with Prof. Uriel Reichmann, the university’s founder and President. I thought to myself, at what university in the world, would undergraduate students – many of them first year –  not only have the opportunity to meet but to socially interact with the President of a university. Casually attired in blue jeans, Prof. Reichman was engaging the students, enquiring:

Where do you come from?”

What are you studying?”

How you managing, particularly during Covid?”  

The students were doing most the talking, Reichman was listening attentively.

When Reichman formally addressed this lunch, he revealed in anecdotes and insights much about himself and the university – but all with the emphasis on the students. “When I conceived the idea of this private non-profit university based on the ivy-league universities of the US, people thought I was crazy. It cannot in Israel be done. Well, look who is crazy and look what has been done.” As he said these words, I looked out  beyond and above the deck to a massive new construction going up – it will be the new ‘Building of Innovation’, sponsored by the Franco-Israeli businessman and telecommunications mogul Patrick Drahi, who also owns in Israel both HOT TV and i24NEWS.

If Israel today is so much about “INNOVATION” and aptly termed the “Start-Up Nation” for its outside-the-box entrepreneurship, then Reichman University feeds and fuels this national aspiration and direction. Reflecting on this trend, I noted that I had earlier parked my car outside the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship!

“Island of Opportunity”. President and Founder of Reichman University, Uriel Reichman (right) engages with South African students at the Hanukkah boerewors braai (barbeque) at Reichman University. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Continuing, Reichman emphasized the care and welfare of the students that does not end on graduation. “We ensure you find your right place in the labour market. We are there for you always.”

The writer too had the honour in addressing the group and recounted how over the years the number of South African students at Reichman University had grown from  four to over 100 making it today the number one university in Israel with the most students from South Africa.

Soon it will have a competitive rugby team,” I quipped!

So what makes Reichman University so appealing to South Africans?

Commenting on how well the South African students do academically, Davis’ praises the educational system of the Jewish Day Schools in South Africa. He sites as an example that “Twenty-seven students were accepted to our prestigious Computer Science programme of which nine are from SA. This is impressive.”

Universal University. With students from over 90 countries around the world, Jonathan Davis, head of RRIS and Vice President, Reichman University addresses the South African students. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Davis was happy to go on record saying that “the South African Jewish Day School education, particularly its matric mathematics  is of a much higher level than in the US.”

He further noted that the South African students “are rich in Zionist values and stand out, showing great leadership qualities.” Despite  the negative perception that Zionism is not as strong as it once was in South Africa, “That flame has not been extinguished. Far from it. The SA students here are a testament to this!”

 On this note, I set about to tear away some of the students from their boerewors and chicken kebabs to interview them.

First year Computer Science student Aaron Osrin from Cape Town, followed his sister who graduated the previous year in Communication. “I saw how much fun she had studying here and knew this is where I wanted to be.” Asked about the ‘uncomfortable’ atmosphere for Jews on South African campuses in recent years over anti-Israel activities, Aaron says, that “while thankfully I had never been exposed to it, many of my friends and cousins have; it’s scary and all it does is further force Jews in their bubble.” Here, on the other hand, “We are free but not in a bubble.”

The Global Connection. First year Computer Science student Aaron Osrin from Cape Town, praises the networking potential from connecting with fellow students from all over the world. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

I could not escape the though of how Ghettoization – the scourge once for the Jews of Europe – has found a nuanced presence on South African campuses!

In Israel only two months, Aaron has made friends from all over the world. “I have made connections that I would never have made had I studied in South Africa.”

Raising a glass of his Cape wine and toasting to his life in Israel and Reichman University, “It’s been a brilliant experience.”

Twenty-one year-old Melissa Moritz from Cape Town in her first year at the School of Psychology, first went to the Israeli army for two years.

It was unbelievable; it was tough in the beginning;  I did not really know Hebrew when I came to Israel; so firstly serving in the IDF gave me the confidence to be a leader; I now have the tools and feel prepared.”

Her parents back in Cape Town are extremely proud. “It was their dream as well and still is and will happen within the next few years.”

Marvelous Melissa. Thriving on challenges, 1st-year psychology student Melissa Moritz from Cape Town, first served in the Israeli army for two years. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Melissa feels that by coming to Israel and “going to the army and then studying here, offered me a sense of challenge which was not the case if I stayed in South Africa where the pathway is predicable  ….. coming to Israel threw a spanner in the works;  made things more challenging but for the better. Also, there is a lot of meaning being here and doing what I am as a Jewish woman.”

Melissa then introduces me to her brother Dan Moritz, who says he was sold on the idea of studying at Reichman University when he visited the campus with his parents at the age of sixteen. “We were on holiday from Cape Town and we toured the campus. My Mom and Dad were already looking ahead for our education, and when I saw the Communications School, I was sold and here I am in my second year specialising in an intensive interactive track – designing websites and applications.” This reminded me of my tour around the School of Communication some years earlier when our guide told us of a student who had designed an app for a class project. A few months later an Israeli hi-tech company bought his app for a whopping $2 million!

Not bad – better than the usual student waiter jobs!

On Track. Studying at the School of Communication, Capetonian Dan Moritz is specialising in an intensive interactive track – designing websites and applications. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Yaron Eisenberg made Aliyah six years ago also from Cape Town, has also served in the Israeli army and is a  second year psychology student. Raised within a very Zionistic family, in 2017, Yaron volunteered for Tzanchanim (parachute brigade), finishing his service in 2019. “I don’t regret a single second.” He says living in the campus dorms during corona was an eye-opener about the nature of Israeli society. “The way people genuinely care for you. People would come during quarantine an offer food and ask what they could do for us. It showed how Israel is like one big family. When the chips are down, people are there for you.”

Yaron presents his perspective on his Jewish peers in South Africa. On his return visits to Cape Town representing Reichman University, he has addressed pupils at Herzlia High School and students at the University of Cape Town (UCT), speaking about life in Israel.

Master of his Destiny. Having proudly served in Israel’s prestigious parachute brigade in the IDF, Yaron Eisenberg from Cape Town is a 2nd year psychology student. He already has his sights set on pursuing a Masters. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Today, the Jewish community in SA is increasingly diverse. There is an alternate Jewish community who think differently to that their peers of 10-15 years ago. I have Jewish friends  who subscribe to the BDS narrative and there are others  who are looking forward and seeing South Africa is no more a place  for Jews and view Israel as an option.” Affirming this trend, Yaron’s twin sister has since made Aliyah and his younger brother is following, starting soon his service in the IDF. His parents are destined to follow.

I planted the flag.”

Even from the small towns in South Africa where there is hardly any Jewish life, young Jews are finding their way to Israel and Reichman University.

Josh Buchalter is from Knysna, a coastal resort town in South Africa’s famous Garden Route. Apart from Josh’s parents, “there may be another three Jewish families” living in this town of some 76,000 residents. In 2013, as a teenage student, Josh came on the Encounter programme that planted the seed.

After school, life’s journey took him to Miami where he worked for a number of years on cruise ships until the corona pandemic closed down the industry. Returning to Knysna to reassess  “my  future”, Josh thought back to his “ENCOUNTER” and decided to apply to Reichman University. The rest is history and the future. For someone like me, who did not grow up in a Jewish community, I could not think of a more lifechanging trip than Encounter; it really was lifechanging. If I had not come on that 2013  trip I would not have the friends I have today at Reichman and I would not have had such a strong connection to Israel.”

Imagining the different direction of his life had he instead  gone to a South African university, Josh believes:

 “I have gained diversity – the ceiling is a lot higher;   maybe there is no ceiling here – the sky is the limit.”

Chucking, Josh concludes:

I think getting on a plane with a one-way ticket to anywhere, the concept means you have booked a passage for opportunity, excitement, growth, learning and uncapped experiences. I believe I have gained this all here.”

Even though Tel Aviv was recently ranked as the most expensive city in the world, it  does not deter the likes of Josh. “For someone in their 20s and 30s, there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be. And if it’s so pricey, does that not indicate that everyone wants to be here?”

21-year-old Yaron Peretz from Johannesburg has a fascinating pedigree that includes Moroccan, Israeli, Greek, South African and Lithuania lineage. “This is what I love about being Jewish,” says Yaron. “It is not just one nationality. It does not matter where you come from in the world, you are Jewish…. And you are part of the Jewish nation and so I look forward to contributing to this society in spreading Israeli creativity.”

L’Chaim (“to health”). Toasting to a healthy, peaceful and enriching future are Communication students, Yaron Peretz (left) from Johannesburg and  Josh Buchalter from Knysna. (Photo D.E.Kaplan)

The official photographer at today’s lunch, Yaron is a visual communications student and is “into movie-making to scriptwriting and all that stuff….I am loving it so much.”

Yaron, who recently made Aliyah, says:

 “I was sold on studying here since I first visited the campus in 2016 on Habonim’s three weeks ‘Shorashim’  (”roots”) tour and then what clinched it, was listening to a student address us at King David School, Victory Park. What appealed to me  was the idea of being together with students from so many different countries and the potential for networking.”

He admits:

 “it’ was a leap of faith  but one that paid off. I feel a sense of belonging. This is where my heart feels at home.”

Fun in the Sun. Enjoying today and inspired about tomorrow are Rebecca Breger, who is studying Psychology and Skye Solomon studying Business and Economics, both from Johannesburg. (Photo Yaron Peretz)

I had a sense that this sentiment was shared by all the South African students I met who although were far from home geographically, felt at home spiritually. The boerewors and Cape wines were fine – it represented the pleasant past.

Far more exciting they now had a taste for the future full of opportunity and adventure in 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).

From Drums of War to Alarm Bells

Ratcheting up the rhetoric coupled with martial machinations, China, Russia and Iran have the world worried

By David E. Kaplan

We are living in uncertain times and it is unsettling what the big movers are plotting.

Who knows what China is planning against Taiwan? Is it thinking about anytime soon mounting a full-scale invasion? Analysts and government figures are debating less about if and more about when.

What about Russia? Having annexed Crimea, will the “Big Bear”  devour anytime soon, the rest of the Ukraine? After all, the notion that Ukraine is not a country, but a historical part of Russia, appears to be deeply ingrained in the minds of a Russian leadership who repeatedly express the narrative:

 There is no Ukraine”.

Well, there might not be in the near future with tens of thousands of Russian troops reportedly gathered at the border with Ukraine seemingly ready to pounce. The TV news networks are replete with experts fearing Russia could be about to stage a repeat of its 2014 invasion of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

What’s the Drill? ‘Showtime’ as Russian military armored vehicles roll into landing vessels after drills in Crimea on April 23, 2021. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

We all should be very worried, to be honest, I do share this assessment,” Michal Baranowski, director and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Warsaw Office told CNBC.

And if either of these bellicose giants – China and Russia – make a military move – and possibly in a coordinated manner and time –  what will the US do if faced with this nightmare scenario of a two-front conflict with both China and Russia?

Yiddish has just the expression:

Oy Vey!

Following the hurried, costly and inglorious withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, the US clearly has no appetite for any future military engagements, never mind squaring off against its equals – China and Russia – in concert.

In the Air. Is something more about to happen following a record number of Chinese warplanes entering Taiwan’s air defence zone? Taiwan has urged Beijing to stop these “irresponsible provocative actions”

While all these potential existential conflicts are worrying for an already paranoid global community over Covid, for Israel there is the added angst over a potentially nuclear-armed IRAN that is hardly concealing its desire to destroy Israel.

So while talks about reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed Monday in Vienna after a five-month break and for the first time since Iran’s new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi took office and under a caution from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling Israel’s President Isaac Herzog that the world “doesn’t have much time” to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, the message from Iran was clear:

Iranian Brig.-Gen. urges destruction of Israel prior to nuke talks

Time to Stand Firm. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) shares his concerns about a possible Nuclear Iran with Israeli President Isaac Herzog(right) in London on Nov. 23, 2021. (photo: AP/Justin Tallis/Pool)

This is hardly the message to put the parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks at ease!

It may be bluster but Israel cannot take any chances when the spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces, Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, last Saturday urged the total elimination of the Jewish state during an interview with an Iranian regime-controlled media outlet.

Telling the Iranian Students News Agency,  Shekarchi said:

We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, even one millimeter. We want to destroy Zionism in the world.”

So this is not only a threat against Israel – the nation state of the Jews – but a threat against Jews everywhere. Not satisfied with annihilating people, Iran wants to “destroy” the very idea of Israel – Zionism.

Chilling!

With the clock ticking to the frightening soundtrack of Shekarchi’s genocidal antisemitic remarks, is it any wonder that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appealed to the international community and its leadership as negotiations resumed in Vienna on Monday:

Don’t cave in”.

Iran on the Level. Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi warned that the “slightest mistake” by Israel would lead the Islamic Republic to “level Haifa and Tel Aviv.”

With Iran’s sole aim for the US to lift sanctions while it will do almost nothing in return,  the PM warned:

Iran won’t just keep its nuclear program: From today, they’ll be getting paid for it.”

Vienna Waltz

So the fear in Israel is that the US and other world powers will ‘dance’ around and in the end, provide Tehran with economic sanctions relief, while the Iran regime will pursue the building of a nuclear weapons device. And if Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi is to be believed and taken seriously, the coordinates for any future Iranian nuclear ballistic missile would likely be Tel Aviv.It there is a second target, it would likely be Haifa before any other international city.

How do we know this?

Well Shekarchi said so himself in January 2021 to Tasnim News Agency that Iran’s regime can:

  “level Haifa and Tel Aviv in the shortest possible time.”

A Nuclear Iran – Never. “A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass-destruction,” warns Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Common sense dictates in a parent’s thinking not to allow their kids to play with dangerous toys. Similar common sense should similarly dictate amongst the world leaders to do all in their power – most certainly not facilitate –  one of the most maniacal murderous regimes in the world to develop and possess nuclear weapons.

Venerable leaders in Vienna, adhere the message of Israel’s Prime Minister Bennett.

It is succinct and sound:

“Don’t cave in”





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).

Weep, My Alma Mater

By Stephen Schulman

I feel a deep sadness, the sadness felt at the loss of something that was dear to me that is now lost and is no more. It is my alma mater, The University of Cape Town (UCT).

The campus is still situated in its magnificent location, the buildings are still standing and the students are present, but for me it is an empty shell for as what constitutes the essence of a true academic institution: the spirit of tolerance, disinterested academic research, open discourse accepting often contradictory points of view; and accompanying perspicacity that once was the hallmark of this venerable institution has long since gone. The campus calls itself UCT (at least at this moment of time!) but the spirit that characterized this once true liberal university has vanished.

Going Downhill. UCT in decline.

The saga of Lwazi Lushaba is just another sad testimony to this decline for in April of this year, in a pre-recorded lecture delivered online with first-year political science students, on a date that happened to coincide with Israel’s Holocaust Day, Lushaba, a lecturer in the department of political studies at the University of Cape Town, said:

Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.”

His words displaying blatant racism or at the very least, abysmal ignorance and/or an abhorrent lack of sensitivity caused outrage amongst his students, many alumni and the community. Protests were lodged and their outcome was awaited. However, the university choosing a policy of “hear no evil and see no evil” and with the backing of the head of the Students Representative Council perceived nothing amiss, dismissed the protests and elected to remain silent.

Black and White. UCT lecturer Dr Lwazi Lushaba was reported to the Human Rights Commission after stating Hitler did nothing wrong when he stated: “Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.”

On the 27th June, after naively and patiently waiting three months for UCT to respond, I penned an open letter to Vice Chancellor Rosina Mamokgethi Phakeng expressing my dismay at the silence of the institution at Lushaba’s words, the damage it had caused to the university and the distress of the community at large. Somewhat surprisingly, I received a prompt communication albeit not from the VC but from Prof. Martin Hall, the acting deputy VC in charge of transformation.

Dear Stephen Schulman

The Vice-Chancellor has asked me to reply to your email of 27 June.

 It is not the case that Dr Lushaba issued a statement that : Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.” Rather, an unknown person extracted a short clip from a 30-minute recording of a first year lecture delivered on line, and posted the clip on social media.  The overall subject of the lecture was acts of genocide committed by colonial powers against indigenous communities, in the context of changing interpretative models within the disciplinary field of political studies. It is apparent from the full recording that Dr Lushaba’s reference to Hitler was intended ironically.

Understandably, the wide distribution of this clip on social media has caused extensive concern and distress.  The university is currently reviewing the full lecture in the context of the curriculum the context and our expectations of our teaching staff.  We expect this review to be completed shortly.

Regards

Emeritus Professor Martin Hall

Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Transformation

Excusing EvilActing UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) Prof. Martin Hall, responds to Schulman’s ‘open letter’.

My reply to Professor Hall expressed concern at the delay and hoped that the university would take prompt action as promised. Alas, my hopes were dashed! It is now December; four months have passed since reception of his letter and UCT still remains silent.

The University of Cape Town prides itself on being Africa’s premier university. It proclaims itself as being the continent’s beacon of academic achievements, enlightenment, morality, and social justice. It also purports its involvement in helping to ensure a better future for all the inhabitants. Moreover, Vice Chancellor Phakeng repeatedly stresses on a multiracial campus, the institution’s policy of inclusion and caring.

Between the Cup and the Lip. UCT VC, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng repeatedly stresses the institution’s policy of inclusion and caring. However, have the actions of the university borne these fine words out?

Have the actions of the university borne these fine words out?

If Lushaba’s words were taken out of context, why did the university, at the very least, not see a moral obligation to publish the lecture text to substantiate this claim and clear up misunderstandings?

Why did the university, out of respect for and duty to the community, not issue a statement clarifying this issue?

Why did the Acting Deputy Chancellor put it in writing that the university was reviewing the issue and then do absolutely nothing?

Why was the matter swept under the carpet?

Why the silence?

Unfortunately, this is not the only glaring example of ethical decline. The T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture is a prestigious annual event where internationally distinguished speakers have addressed the student body and convocation. In 2019, a discredited academic known for his crude antisemitism and filthy mouth (e.g. “I wish all the fu____g West Bank settlers would go missing”)  was invited to be the speaker, giving an address that hit a nadir in its vacuity, obtuseness and antisemitic tropes. The university seemingly has no problem in trampling the sensitivities of the Jewish students and community and then soliciting donations.

Inviting Antisemites. In the 2019 TB Davie Memorial Lecture at UCT, the American anti-Zionist academic who lost a tenured university position over his graphically-antisemitic outbursts on Twitter, delivered a fierce attack on the “corporate university” and depicted Israel as the supine tool of an international “ruling class”.

The Students Representative Council (SRC), an accurate weathervane of the prevailing campus winds, actively promotes the so called “Israel Apartheid Week.” On more than one occasion, I wrote to them expressing my disagreement with their decision and calling for an open dialogue. Needless to say, in true Cancel Culture tradition, my letters were ignored.

Emeritus Professor Hall’s appointment as the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Transformation has aroused anger both from the SRC and the Black Caucus who see his main disqualification for the post being the colour of his skin. The SRC declared that “the appointment signalled the institution’s endorsement of patriarchy and whiteness, perpetuating historic power imbalances” They continued: “We are not confident that an individual, long lost to UCT, and who is ignorant of the lived realities and struggles of the many marginalised identities who desperately seek the transformation of the institution, is in any way suitable for the role.”

So much for the trumpeted inclusivity and tolerance!

In 2015, the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement demanded that Rhodes’ statue be removed from the campus since it was a symbol of white colonialism and racism. Nevertheless, the students and administration conveniently ignore that it was Cecil John Rhodes who bequeathed the ground to the university and that black students are not averse to accepting the “tainted” money of a Rhodes Scholarship! The smell of hypocrisy is just as strong as that of the faeces that were disgustingly smeared on the statue!

Tomorrow’s Leadership. UCT SRC wants Smuts Hall residence to be renamed to a more ‘suitable name’. Seen here are students covering with plastic and tape the bust of the statue of South Africa’s WWII Prime Minister who mustered the support to oppose the Nazis, Jan Smuts.

UCT is in the throes of ‘Transformation’ i.e. renaming frenzy and one of its decisions has been to rename the men’s residence, the former Smuts Hall. Jan Christian Smuts certainly was not a proponent for racial integration but as Prime Minister of South Africa in 1939, he fought against Fascism and led South Africa in the struggle against Nazi Germany. The university Council with its selective amnesia would do well to remember that had there not been people like him and many others of all races, UCT would certainly not be able to call itself an African university today.

Rhodes Removed. In 2015, students at the University of Cape Town   began the Rhodes Must Fall  protests directed against a statue at the University commemorating Cecil John Rhodes. The campaign for the statue’s removal received global attention and led to a wider movement to “decolonise” education across South Africa. Exactly a month later, the UCT Council voted for the statue to be removed.

On the 17th of November, Vice Chancellor Phakeng, in an official communication titled “Renaming of upper campus places and spaces“, once again urged UCT alumni in keeping with the ‘Transformation’ spirit to devote serious thought to renaming various campus buildings and open spaces. The university council will undoubtedly find a wealth of suitable names amongst the known ANC luminaries and those yet to be discovered!

South Africa is beset with many problems and is on the way to becoming a failed state. The university remains mute, preoccupied with choosing names and ignoring its commitment to community and country. Bigotry and intolerance dominate and the well-worn slogans of caring and inclusiveness ring hollow. Many of us UCT alumni, in the light of its actions, no longer wish to have contact with our once beloved alma mater.

Postscript

At the time of writing, a book by Professor David Benatar “The Fall of the University of Cape Town” has been published that meticulously documents UCT’s losing of its moral compass. The writer, a respected professor and senior member of the academic staff has long been a witness to this decline. His words corroborate the conclusions and sentiments of so many of us all.

“The Mad and the Bad”. In his “THE FALL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN”, Professor David Benatar’s probes the destructive forces that have been eroding Africa’s leading university. Exposing the methods of protest that became criminal – “including intimidation, assault, and arson”, the university leadership capitulated to this behaviour, which “has fostered a broader and now pervasive toxic environment within the institution.”





About the writer:

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




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

Farewell Eli

His passing reveals the best of a South African family and the worst of its government

By Lay of the Land Co-founders David E. Kaplan, Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche.

The cruel murder on the 21 November 2021 in the Old City of Jerusalem of Eliyahu (“Eli”) Kay (25), a recent immigrant from South Africa has shocked the nation as it has the ex-pat community in Israel and the Jewish community in South Africa.

Who it has not shocked  – which is shocking – is the political leadership in South Africa!

Future cut Short. Raised in Johannesburg and moving to Israel on his own in 2017,  Eliyahu David Kay was shot while heading to prayer at the Western Wall and died of his wounds in  hospital.

The fact that it took the South African government nearly a week – and only after disappointment and disgust was expressed from the Jewish leadership in press releases as well as letters to the media from dismayed members of the Jewish community – did the government  finally –  and one senses reluctantly – send a letter of condolence addressed to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and with a request to pass it on to the Kay family.

This belated response fooled few.

The wording “…we are deeply saddened…” rings rather hollow from a government that is more  receptive and responsive to the opinions and sentiments of Africa4Palestine than the SAJBD.

Formerly known as BDS South Africa, the organisation Africa4Palestine issued a statement following the brutal gunning down in cold blood of the 25-year-old former South African, describing Eli as a “South African mercenary” who was not murdered but “was  killed in gunfire with the indigenous population” and that he “loved Apartheid – a disgrace to our South Africa.”

Yes, there IS a “disgrace to our South Africa”, but that disgrace is the ANC government that lends a warm ear to the disseminators of such vile accusations and lies as Africa4Palestine.

Compare South Africa’s belated reaction to the murder of Eli Kay with its embarrassingly hysterical response to its beauty queen, Lalela Mswane, participating in the 2021 Miss Universe pageant next month in Eilat, Israel.

Only last week, Lay of the Land published an article on the ANC government’s vehement opposition of  South Africa participating in the beauty competition.

While this issue riled up the South African government influenced by the BDS movement, the brutal murder of a South African national on the other hand was met with initial official silence. The common denominator or explanation to both sets of calculated conduct by the ANC government was ISRAEL – the national homeland of the Jewish People.

Eli’s Final Journey.  The young man, Eliyahu David Kay on his way to his final resting place in Jerusalem, the city he loved, studied and worked as a tour guide at the Western Wall.

After 2000 years of exile and persecution, Jews have a name for this – ANTISEMITISM.

Compare the week’s reticence of the South African government with the choice words of the representative of the Israeli government at the funeral of Eli in Jerusalem. Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, MK Nachman Shai – who in 2017 led a 5-member delegation of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) to South Africa “to promote dialogue, understanding and cooperation between Israel and South Africa” – spoke of strangers to the Kay family who at the funeral, felt like family:

So many people came today to say goodbye to you. Many  never had the opportunity to meet you, who only learned your name yesterday and decided they wanted to be with you to say goodbye.”

In sad contrast, the only “goodbye” the South African government would truly be happy to say would be as a final farewell to the State of Israel! After all, compare South Africa’s ANC government downgrading its diplomatic relations with Israel – with no ambassador since 2018 – while in 2015, it welcomed to South Africa a Hamas delegation, even hosting it in the South African Parliament in Cape Town. This is the same Hamas that is committed to the destruction of Israel and who only this week was declared a terrorist organization by the UK, joining the US, the EU and other powers.

Laying Eli to Rest. Israelis far and wide, join family and friends attending the funeral at Har HaMenuchot Cemetery in Jerusalem on November 22, 2021of 25-year-old Eliyahu David Kay from South Africa who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack the day before in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

This is also the same Hamas that praised and took credit for the murder of Eli Kay. Official Hamas media identified the assailant Fadi Abu Shkhaydam as a “leader of the Hamas movement  in East Jerusalem” saying “the operation” was designed to be a warning to Israel, which it said would “pay for the inequities” at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Writing in the South African national daily, Business Day, Kenneth Mokgatlhe, makes the observation before posing the astute question:

A hysterical SA government withdraws its support for a young woman to participate in the Miss Universe contest in Israel, but doesn’t say a word about a South African Jew killed by terrorists. Surely there is something wrong with this?”

Is this  the direction South Africa is morally heading – associating and identifying with the murderers of Jews?

Clearly concerned at the government’s silence of a  murder of a fellow South African by a Hamas gunman, the South African Zionist Federation released the following statement on the 22 November 2021:

It has been over 24 hours since Eliyahu David Kay, a Jewish South African national who emigrated to Israel, was murdered in an act of terrorism in Jerusalem by a Palestinian gunman affiliated with Hamas. The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) condemns the deafening silence from the South African Government and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on this issue. There has been no message of condolence to the family of the deceased, nor any public condemnation of this attack. DIRCO has in the past issued statements against terrorist attacks in the City of Jerusalem, and it is appropriate for them to do so now in respect of a South African national. 

Hamas is an extremist organisation, as recently confirmed by the United Kingdom which designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation and has outlawed support for the group. This antisemitic and anti-Israel hate group gladly claimed responsibility for the killing of an innocent civilian and injuring others as the gunman opened fire in the Old City of Jerusalem.

We call on the South African Government to publicly condemn this heinous incident and to offer support and assistance to the family of the deceased.”

Finally, the ANC felt the heat and on the 25th November – after five emotionally-charged days following the horrendous murder – sent out its official letter of condolence. The circumstances surrounding South Africa’s response, reveals its antisemitic perspective, namely:

The killing of Jews when carried out by Palestinians is understandable.

Note the carefully selected wording in its belated letter of condolence.

The South African government condemns the actions which led to the death of Mr. Kay…”

What actions?

The implication in this cunningly crafted verbiage is that it could be the behaviour or “actions” of Israel’s Jews that is responsible for the death of Eli Kay. In other words, Israel is responsible for what happened to Eli Kay not the murderer, who will soon be honoured as a victim and martyr in Palestine and within some sectors in South Africa.

The SA government is sending a chilling message to its Jewish community and it’s a message that is being read loud and clear and may explain why in 2021 there will be more Olim (immigrants) to Israel from South Africa than over the past 25 years.

These Olim will be following in the heroic example of Eli Kay and his family, taking a journey that is securing the Jewish state for all eternity.

In the words of Nachman Shai at the funeral:

 “Eli, you died a hero, an example to us all.”










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

Finding Common Ground

Far apart geographically, Jews and Hindus are closer than ever in shared history

By Fionn Grunspan

When India’s Narendra Modi on the final day of his historic visit to Israel in 2017 frolicked in the waves with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a visit to a Mobile Desalination Unit, it emblazoned to the world a visual affirmation of the relationship between the two countries having literally turned a tide.

If the Mediterranean water for the two leaders was warm, relations between Jerusalem and New Delhi had not always been similarly so.

Although Israel and India gained their independence from the United Kingdom within months of each other, they soon found themselves heading in different directions – India as a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement maintaining close relations to the Arab world and the Soviet Union, and Israel linking its future to closer ties with the United States and Western Europe. This lasted for nearly four decades until 1992 when India and Israel established full diplomatic relations  and since, then bilateral relationship between the two countries has blossomed.

Testing the Water. India’s Narendra Modi(left) with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during  his historic visit to Israel in 2017.

A major obstacle to building this warm relationship was India’s legitimate fear that close relations with the Jewish State might radicalize its Muslim citizens – numbering more than 100 million – and harm its relations with the Arab world.

Other than that, Hindus have never been a threat to the Jews, unless, as someone jokingly commented on social media:

 “Well, not unless you count competing for contracts in hi-tech.”

The Dawning of Relations

The relationship between the State of Israel and India goes back many millennia to abound 1,500 BCE when trade began between the two ancient kingdoms.

Excavations at Tel Megiddo in northern Israel  have revealed evidence of such trade proving the presence of turmeric, banana, sesame, all originating from south Asia. Further analysis suggests that the authors of the Old Testament were talking about India, when referencing the trade of animals such as monkeys and peacocks.

During Roman rule of Judea, expensive garments worn in the Temple are believed to have been imported from India via Alexandra.

Israelites in India. Arrival of Jewish pilgrims in Cochin, AD 68. The Cochin Jews who first arrived in the contemporary state of Kerala are dated to about 50 CE. The local legend states that they moved to the country after the first Temple was destroyed during the siege of Jerusalem and were warmly received by Cheraman Perumal, the ruler of the Chera dynasty.

Parallel Fight for Freedom

Jews lived in India among Hindus free of persecution and India periodically provided a refuge to Jews as they fled from persecution, genocide, and slavery. In the early-20th Century, both India and Israel, both under British rule, would fight for independence.

In 1919, British forces carried out the Jallianwala-Bagh Massacre where over 1000 peacefully protesting Indians were killed in Amritsar, India. Also known as the Amritsar Massacre

it caused fury among Indians, leading to the launch by Mahatma Gandhi of the Non-Cooperation Movement, where Indians demanded independence.

During the same period, the fight for independence by Jews in the British mandate was heating up as antisemitism across Europe and in the Arab world spiralled. While Britain had recognised Israel as the homeland for Jews in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, it nevertheless blockaded and imposed limits on Jews entering Palestine, including during the Holocaust.

Howzat! A Bene Israel family in Mumbai, (Bombay). The Bene Israeli, that numerically form the largest Jewish group in India are said to have descended form a group of Jews shipwrecked on the Indian coast in 500 A.D. From the establishment of the state until 1969, over 12,000 Bene Israel emigrated to Israel, settling mainly in Beersheba, Dimona, Ashdod, and Eilat. Some settled in kibbutzim and moshavim. They have contributed to the sort of cricket in Israel.

Jewish resistance took shape in the creation of defence groups such as HaShomer, Nili, Palmach and Haganah to resist attacks from the Arabs; as well as to fight for Independence.

While Britain imposed a brutal blockade on Jews fleeing Nazi persecution to Palestine, a half a world away, colonial Britain continued to commit further massacres in India, such as in 1930 at Qissa-Khwani now in Pakistan. As both India and the emerging Jewish state both fought for independence from Britain, the birth pains of both were agonising,  resulting in painful partitions.

Similarities in their shared history of shaking off the shackles of colonialism, it reached a crescendo in 1948 when both India and Israel gained independence from Britain. They would each – in different ways – have to confront the new independent state of   Pakistan that went to war against India and supported the Arab invasions of the newly established State of Israel.

After independence, India would remain overtly cold to Israel with a hard-line ‘non-aligned’ and pro-Arab policy, as India refused to engage with Israel until the early 1990s. Pakistan would again support further invasions and attacks on Israel in 1967 and 1973, while in 1971, Israel supported India in the Indo-Pakistani War. It proved a breakthrough in the countries relations. Even though India did not have diplomatic ties with Israel in 1971, New Delhi secretly sought and received arms from Tel Aviv as it prepared to go to war with Pakistan, according to Srinath Raghavan’s book “1971”.

Sasoon and Sons. One of the most influential names in the history of Jewish presence in India is that of businessman Shaikh David Sasoon who arrived in Bombay in 1828. His arrival marked the beginning of the prosperity of Baghdadi Jews in India.

Although Israel was in middle of an arms shortage, Prime Minister, Golda Meir stepped in to divert arms meant for Iran to India. She sent a note to her Indian counterpart, Indira Gandhi through Shlomo Zabuldowicz, the director of the firm handling the secret transfers, with a request for diplomatic ties in return for arms. The diplomatic ties, however, would only be established twenty-one years later  in 1992.

Destiny & Détente

After decades of pro-Arab policy, India formally established relations with Israel when it opened an embassy in Tel Aviv in January 1992. Relations continued to warm and in 1999, Israel supported India in the deadly Kargil War, in which Pakistan invaded India. India soon became Israel’s largest buyer of arms and would increase trade to Israel, as the relations continued to warm. India would become a much sought-after travel destination for Jews and Israelis, especially after IDF service, for relaxation and cultural exploration.

India and Israeli relations would continue to warm, strongly supported by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who welcomed Israel’s promotion of exchange student programmes.

Exiled in India. The Synagogue Judah Hyam Hall is the only place of worship in Delhi for Jews, a special minority group whose entry into the country can be traced two thousand years back. (Express Photo)

The Golden Age

In the 2019 British Election, British-Hindus had defended British-Jews, voting against antisemitism in an election, which around half of British-Jews indicated they would consider emigrating if Jeremy Corbyn would win. In 2021, Israeli Prime Minster Bennett and Indian Prime Minster Modi, stated they were close friends on Twitter and wanted to build relations between India and Israel, for future generations.

Bennet wrote:

Narendra, I want to thank you for your historic role in shaping the ties between our countries. Together, we can bring India-Israel relations to a whole new level and build a better & brighter future for our nations.”

Currently the Indian and Israeli Governments are negotiating for closer security agreements, as Israel faces aggression from the Iranian Regime and India confronts an insurgency in northern India.

Climate Change, Warming Ties. Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called PM Modi (right) “the most popular man in Israel” during an animated conversation with him at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Great Expectations

On Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, the following appears:

 “While Israel and India established diplomatic ties in 1992, the Jewish and Indian people share a rich and deep relationship which dates back to ancient times. Jews were one of the first foreign groups in recorded history to arrive and settle in India and became an integral part of Indian society. Today, India boasts a vibrant Jewish community, which numbers close to 7,000, while Israel is home to 85,000 Jews of Indian origin. The warm ties between the Indian and Jewish people continue to enhance and influence the Indo-Israeli relationship today.”

While India today is Israel’s third largest trading partner in Asia and seventh largest globally with bilateral trade having expanded from being mostly dominated by diamonds and chemicals to areas such as electronic machinery and high-tech products, communications systems and medical equipment, the Indian export most emotionally appreciated in Israel, has been Zubin Mehta.

Maestro Mehta. Famed Indian conductor Zubin Mehta performing his final concert with the Israel Philharmonic on Saturday night, July 13, 2019 (Courtesy Hanoch Grizitzky)

Fondly referred to in Israel as the “Maestro”, in 1969 this illustrious conductor of Western classical music began his long tenure with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), serving as music adviser before becoming music director in 1977. Four years later the orchestra named him Music Director for life, and he held the post until retiring in 2019.

Two years after India and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1992, the IPO performed in India for the first time, and since then, has toured there periodically. Every few years it performs in Bombay. “Music has this transformative ability to bring people together,” says the Maestro.

When asked “why is Israel so important to you?”,  Mehta replied:

My association with Israel started even before 1969. I first went there in 1961 and immediately formed a bond with the people. This was later solidified through regular visits. Besides, it is also the only real democracy in the area, that values freedom of expression.”

And to the question “how was it during the years when India and Israel didn’t have diplomatic relations??, Mehta replied:

It was very frustrating for me personally. So as soon as relations were resumed, I got the IPO (in 1994) on an India tour. And they came and  performed absolutely free of charge. There is a lot of respect and interest for India in Israel.”

With the Indo-Israeli relationship continuing to reach new heights with growing ties between Israel and India, we can expect this trend to only strengthen into the future.



About the writer:

Fionn Grunspan is a sign language translator previously working for a number of charities. Since being a community teacher and activist within his Jewish community from his mid-twenties, Grunspan today, through  his “Clubhouse Page”, promotes news and information about the Jewish world, focusing on 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).

Israel’s Image

New perspectives through Arab Eyes

By David E. Kaplan

Changes of mind often leads to change on the ground. With luck, it then presages peace.

Is this what is happening in the Middle East regarding Israel?

It appeared so to this writer when reading an article translated into English from the original Arabic by Ahmed Al-Sarraf, published on November 4, 2021, in Al-Qabas. This influential Kuwaiti daily has large bureaus in Washington, London, Beirut, Cairo, and Moscow.

Voice from the Gulf. The influential Kuwait daily, Al-Qabas with bureaus in Washington, London, Beirut, Cairo, and Moscow.

Israel and Kuwait do not have diplomatic relations. Kuwait refuses entry to anyone with a passport issued by Israel or documented travel to the State of Israel. Also, the Muslim Brotherhood  movement – hardly favourably disposed to Jews and Israel – is very strong in Kuwait. Disquieting quotes in the past from the Brotherhood’s luminaries include Mohammed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, who lamented “Jewish control……spreading of corruption on earth” and recommended “holy Jihad” as a remedy.

It thus was hardly surprising that days after Israel and the United Arab Emirates in 2020 announced that they would be normalizing diplomatic relations, and with other Arab countries making noises that they might follow in the Emirates’ footsteps, Kuwait doubled down on its anti-Israel stance.

In a formal announcement at the time to Al-Qabas newspaper, a senior Kuwaiti official expressed:

Our position toward Israel has not changed as a result of the deal to normalize relations with the UAE, and we will be the LAST to normalize ties.”

Well, Kuwait may be “the last” as other Arab nations in the Middle East draw closer to Israel but is their once hardline position to Israel  softening?

The same Kuwaiti Al-Qabas newspaper that only a little over a year ago published that Kuwait “will be the last to normalize ties,” with Israel, published on November 4, 2021, a refreshing new understanding on Israel under the pen of it its esteemed journalist Ahmed Al-Sarraf. Most telling was Al-Sharaff’s opening line which he clarifies in mid-sentence so there is no misunderstanding.

Illuminating Insights. Correspondent Ahmad-Al-Sarraf at the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas

There is a huge gap between the Jews and their enemies or more precisely, between Jews and the Arab world.”

Although in the wake of the Middle East’s changing political topography following the historic 2020 Abraham Accords, Al-Sarraf still identifies the entire Arab world as Israel’s enemy, he then proceeds to illuminate for his readership a new understanding of the Jewish State characterizing it more by it cultural than its military attributes. He also quashes any notion or fantasy that the Jewish state will one day disappear.

Fruits of changing Perceptions. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid (left) visited Abu Dhabi in June to open the Jewish state’s first embassy in the Gulf. –(WAM/AFP/File)
 

“This gap is not only represented by Israel’s military superiority over its neighbours, but also in its more progressive culture and conscience. On the map, Israel looks as if it could easily be swallowed by its neighbours in a matter of seconds. However, it’s clear that it isn’t going anywhere. Although Arabs have lived in this region for thousands of years, what separated them has always been greater than what united them. In contrast, in Israel – where the overwhelming majority of the population immigrated from countless ethnic and cultural backgrounds – a unifying culture has been formed. Israelis were able, with limited resources and under the harshest conditions, to build up a national identity that is nothing short of a miracle. So, what is Israel’s secret?”

Al-Sarraf then draws an instructive comparison between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Zionist movement, both striving for a cohesive national identity but only one succeeds.

The Arab journalist reveals why.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is considered by many to be the only ideological and political organization capable of uniting people across the Middle East under one joint identity, similar to what the Zionist movement sought to do in the first Zionist Congress held in Basel in 1897. In only half a century, the Zionist movement succeeded in realizing its dream and established a modern state capable of imposing itself on the whole world. As for the Brotherhood, it has been trying for more than ninety years to do the same, but has failed time and again. The success of the Zionist movement and the failure of the Brotherhood movement is due to several factors. First, the Zionists succeeded in recruiting the best scientific and political minds to serve and lead their cause, regardless of these individuals’ adherence to traditional Jewish thought. This is what the Brotherhood failed in, as its choices were miserable from the get-go. The very nature of the Brotherhood precludes anyone who doesn’t adhere to the group’s view of Islam to actively take part in its activity. Second, whereas the Zionist movement was open about its goals, the Brotherhood always suffered from a lack of transparency about its ideology. No one truly knows the group’s plan for governance or its ultimate plans. We saw this clearly during its rule in Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan.”

Finally, Al-Sarraf zones in on the Jewish passion for education particularly for the sciences and the Jewish penchant for setting up cultural institutions as an assured path to statehood.

Writes Al-Sarraf:

 Third, and most important, the historical interest of the Jews in science and their known passion for reading and academic inquiry allowed them to establish a state with strong educational and cultural institutions from day one.”

State in the Making – Emphasis on Education. Twenty-three years before independence, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was inaugurated in 1925. (left) Invitation to the celebration of the opening of the Hebrew University on April 1; (right) An original 1925 picture postcard from the dedication of Hebrew University.

The Kuwaiti journalist concludes by comparing what the Muslim Brotherhood failed over a century and what the Zionist movement succeeded in less than a half-century:

“As for the Brotherhood, it has proven its inability and failure, scientifically, politically and culturally, for nearly a century. Finally, allow me to end with the following parting thought:

A study conducted by the well-known American Pew Research Center in 2016 showed that the average Jew has 13.4 years of education, followed by Christians, with 9.3 years. I’ll spare you the embarrassment of knowing what the same rate stands at in our countries.”

No Wasting Time. Construction of the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in 1912. Born 36 years before Israel declared independence, in that time the Technion educated the engineers and brought the expertise to literally lay the infrastructure for a modern state.

Go figure!

Well, the Gulf States were the first to – “go figure”  – and join Israel in transforming the landscape. It is only a little over one year ago since the sighing of the historic Abraham Accords paving the way for the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain charting a new course in the history of Arab-Israeli relations by recognizing the State of Israel and normalizing diplomatic relations.

Creators of Chaos. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi throw stones during clashes with security forces in Cairo on August 14, 2013 that left over 600 dead. (Getty Images)

Later in 2020, two other Arab nations, Sudan and Morocco, followed suit and joined the Abraham Accords, raising the number of Arab States with formal diplomatic ties to Israel from two – Egypt and Jordan –  to six. Today, with the new coalition government in Israel led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, there are new political realities at play.

With more articles of understanding like Ahmed Al-Sarraf in Al-Qabas and maybe KuWAIT won’t wait so long!



Pulsating with Promise. A young country, Israel today is a world leader in the sciences.







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).

South African Government Boycotts Miss South Africa

The South African Ministry of Culture boycott the country’s representative to Miss Universe pageant because host country is Israel

By Rolene Marks

The stage is set, the sequins extra shiny, the sashes ironed and the tiara polished – Eilat is getting ready to host the Miss Universe 2021 pageant to be held on the December 12 and are looking forward to welcoming representatives from around the world to compete for the coveted title. For the first time, there will be representatives from the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. This is historic and fitting with the flourishing peace afforded by the signing of the Abraham Accords normalization and peace treaties. The symbolism of the two beauty queens competing for the first time on the international stage in Israel is highly symbolic of the seeds of peace bearing real fruits.

The Way Forward. Israel’s premier coastal resort, Eilat on the Red Sea, which will host the 2021 Miss Universe pageant is sandwiched between Egypt and Jordan, both countries which the Jewish state is at peace  with – a shining example to South Africa of the way forward.

While talking about beauty pageants is not my normal beat (having failed to place anywhere in Junior Miss Pears at the age of four, much to my mother’s chagrin), I find myself for the second time in a matter of weeks commenting on the Miss Universe pageant. Several weeks ago, Lay of the Land published an article explaining how Chief Mandla Mandela was calling for not just Miss South Africa; but other countries to boycott the Miss Universe pageant because it is being held in Israel.

With peacemaking clearly skipping Mandla in the Mandela gene pool, the former poster child for scandal, now turned BDS front man is going full throttle on his campaign and has roped in his cohorts-in-hate from the BDS movement to pressurize the new Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane to pull out. The beautiful and accomplished Miss South Africa, graduated with a degree in law and deserves every opportunity to not only achieve her dream but also the chance to proudly represent South Africa on the world stage, make lifelong friends and draw focus on the humanitarian causes that she champions.

With the pressure from hate groups like BDS mounting, the Miss South Africa on behalf of Lalela, released a statement that stated not only would she compete but Mswane has spoken out openly about being bullied as a child and she will not be bullied as an adult against fulfilling her ambition.

Dashed Hopes. The crowning of an excited Miss SA 2021 Lalela Mswane whose dreams of competing at the 70th Miss Universe pageant in Israel were subsequently crushed by the misguided bullying of her own government.

Miss SA CEO, Stephanie Weil said a “very, very small, but extremely vocal, group” had attempted, and failed, to derail Mswane’s chances at the prestigious international pageant.

Bullying is what BDS do best and artists like Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and many others can attest to that – including having the lives of themselves and their bands threatened by BDS activists.

Joining the BDS is the African National Congress (ANC) and this is an excerpt from their statement they released:

“Following unsuccessful consultations initiated by the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, it has proven difficult to persuade the Miss SA pageant organisers to reconsider their decision to partake in the Miss Universe event scheduled to be held in Israel during the month of December 2021. What during initial consultations appeared like engaging, constructive and progressive discussions, was later met with an unpleasant demeanour that is intransigent and lacking appreciation of the potential negative impact of such a decision on the reputation and future of a young black woman.

 The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented, and Government, as the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, cannot in good conscience associate itself with such. In an attempt to demonstrate what partaking in Miss Universe means for South Africans and many others across the world, the Miss SA pageant organisers were referred to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s views following his visit to the area. Indicating that Israel was guilty of the apartheid treatment of Palestinians, he said, “Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”

The South African Zionist Federation  (SAZF) as well as the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) have taken a strong position in support of Mswana.

The SAJBD said in a statement:

 “It is quite clear that Minister Mthethwa’s view is a minority one.  A poll conducted by Newzroom Afrika on Thursday night as to whether Miss SA should withdraw from the Miss Universe event in Israel showed a plurality of nearly 2:1 in favour of her competing. The PSA protest attracted a bare handful of activists.  This is despite the barrage of intimidation by groups such as Africa4Palestine and SA BDS in the media have resulted in comments calling for them to stop bullying Lalela and for her to participate in the event.

South Africa has diplomatic ties and extensive commercial trade relations with Israel.  It engages in events such as this one, such as hosting the Israeli Davis Cup team in 2018. The way we influence situations is to engage, not to withdraw.  The SAJBD believes that closing doors merely isolates us from contributing and any contribution we can make to finding peace in this country.  What better opportunity for a South African to be part of an event where she can connect with 70 countries around the world, including many Arab countries, in sharing our story of dialogue and peace-building?”

The SAZF added to that saying:

 “The SAZF is appalled that the South African government is self-sabotaging our country’s hopes and chances of participating and shining in an international event just because it happens to take place in Israel. Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa may think that South Africa is making a grand moral statement because the ruling party has been misled by a perversion of facts about Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, but in fact, our country is simply signalling its isolationism and irrelevance on the world stage. The government has been silent on actual and serious human rights abuses occurring in many other countries where we participate in sports and contests, but self-righteously reserves its opprobrium for the world’s only Jewish State.”

Perhaps South Africa is doing this to draw focus away from the myriad of problems plaguing the country. Extremely high levels of unemployment, government corruption, rolling electricity blackouts and many more issues are confronted by South Africans on a daily basis. Surely this is more important than sash-and-tiara wielding beauty queens? The ANC and BDS would have you believe that it is all about human rights but they remain resolutely silent on the genocide of the Uyghurs in China, the hanging of members of the LGBTQ community in Iran or the decimation of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Nothing like cosying up to some tin pot dictators to bring out the hypocrite in some folk!

It is interesting that another man has weighed on the Miss Universe pageant and the opportunity it brings to showcase young empowered, humanitarian driven women. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a strong advocate for BDS last visited Israel in 1989 and at Yad Vashem called on Jews around the world to “forgive the Nazis”.

I wonder if “The Arch” would pull this same stunt if the pageant was to be held in Venezuela, Cuba, China or any other country responsible for gross human rights violations? Probably not but this just exposes the hypocrisy and yes, antisemitism of BDS and its supporters.

It is a pity that the Miss Universe pageant which is non-political in nature but serves as a chance for women from different cultures and countries to build bridges has become the cause that  the ANC who fought so hard for equal rights for all, now chooses to boycott its country’s women.





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).

Beauties and the Boycott

Chief Mandla Mandela calls for Israel to be boycotted for hosting the Miss Universe pageant

By Rolene Marks

Ask any beauty queen worth her sash and tiara what she wants for her reign and the answer is always delivered in firmly and resolutely, with a beatific smile, “I want world peace”. 

Now I know that there are many reading this who are contemplating whether or not we actually need beauty pageants in this day and age; and perhaps find the swimsuit section more than a little antiquated and demeaning. The truth is, these pageants provide a global stage for contestants to represent their countries, express their hopes and carry out important humanitarian work.

This year, Israel will play host to the annual pageant and we are delighted that the city of Eilat will be visited by beauties from around the world. Hosting international spectaculars is not new to Israel. It was only two years ago the Jewish state played host to the great bastion of cheesy tunes – the Eurovision song contest. We brought the world glam, we brought the world glitz, we brought the world Madonna!

Israel has also hosted the major international cycling event, Giro D’Italia and if all goes according to plan, will be putting in a joint bid with regional partners to host the 2030 Soccer/Football World Cup. FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, recently visited Israel and citing the signing of the Abraham Accords, stated that he thought Israel along with possible partners like the UAE and Bahrain would make excellent hosts for the much loved global tournament. Talk about scoring a goal for peace!

Men on the Move. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Not feeling the love and urge to sing a glowing rendition of kumbaya as the rest of us peace loving folk, Chief Mandla Mandela, grandson of the iconic Nelson Mandela, is calling for a boycott of Israel’s hosting of the global pageant. He is urging each contestant not to participate because in his words, Israel is an Apartheid state.

View our interaction on African television channel, eNCA here:

Mandla Mandela has his own dubious history and it is quite ironic that he is choosing the Miss Universe pageant as his hill to die on. What is interesting, is that this poster man for the BDS movement is doing this as a solo efforts and without the boycott-screeching mob.

He has been the subject of much derision from his family for his moving his late grandfather’s remains from their peaceful resting place without consulting the family. The family laid criminal charges of tampering with a grave and South African High Court Judge, Judge Lusindiso Phakade, ruled in favour of the complainants and ordered Mandela to exhume and rebury the body.

Mandla caught lying! In the above youtube interaction, Mandla Mandela says that Malaysia is boycotting the Miss Universe pageant but it is clearly not the truth.

Criminal allegations were again levelled at the younger Mandela when he was charged with pointing a firearm and assaulting, a man. He was found guilty of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Mandela’s private life could also rival a soap opera. Tales of annulment and affairs, blazing arguments and paternity suits abound and after converting to Islam, Mandela married his fourth wife.

Perhaps he is the LAST person who should be commenting on activities that involve young women. His iconic grandfather, who stood as a beacon of reconciliation and was an advocate for speaking to both parties in a conflict and contrary to popular opinion was a friend and supporter of the State of Israel, must be spinning in his grave.

Mandela wants each beauty queen to pull out of the pageant. Who does he think he is?

This is gross misogyny to deny these young women an international platform to do the humanitarian work that they choose to do?

Calling for boycotts is not the desirable path to peace. In fact, all that boycotts serve to do is to break down discourse and cooperation. The Miss Universe pageant does provide a unique opportunity for young women around the world to interact with each other and learn about each other’s cultures. While these beauties may not be brokering peace from a luxury resort in Eilat, they will have a chance to build friendships.

One such example is the friendship that developed several years ago between Miss Israel and Miss Iraq.  This broke long-held barriers and has done more for the cause of peace than the posturing of politicians.

Blessed are the peacemakers – for they are often beauty queens.

It is this former Miss Iraq whose name is Sarah Idan, having seen the situation for herself, who has become quite a vocal supporter of Israel and the pursuit of peace in the region.

Chief vs Beauty. In a war of words, Miss Iraq Sarah Idan (right) counter-punches Mandla Mandela (left) over the Miss Universe pageant in Israel. (Image via Instagram)

In a brutal ironic twist, this Iraqi Muslim woman has been the subject of a nasty social media pile on over the last week. Idan took to social media in a video message and criticised Mandela’s call for boycotts:

All I can say is: how dare you? How dare you as a man try to tell an organisation for women in women empowerment what to do? This is an opportunity that millions of women dream of, having to go on a world stage and represent their people, their nation, their culture. Not governments, not politics and definitely not your political agenda,” said Idan in her video.

Please allow Miss South Africa to go and experience Israel up close on the ground, and let her be the judge for herself. I’m positive, just like me, she will be shocked to see that the Israeli government consists of Muslims, Jews, Christians, and those people not only get to vote on policies to shape their future, but they also are part of the people who have political parties, and some of them are even Israeli ambassadors to the world,” said Idan in her video.

The responses were staggering in their venom and vitriol. Here is one such example:

In a region where many women, including Palestinians, would not have the opportunities to compete in pageants because their leaders would not allow for this, wouldn’t the efforts of people like Mandela be best served lobbying for women’s rights and NOT breaking down cooperation and dialogue?

I am sure if it were Russia or China or Venezuela (who have turned beauty pageants into a veritable Olympic sport) that was hosting, Mandla Mandela would be there quicker than a queen could change into her evening wear.

As Israel gears up to welcome the Miss Universe contestants to our vibrant and diverse country, it is my hope that they will realise their dreams of being one step closer to “world peace”. If the brave, beautiful and regal Sarah Idan is any indication, then a well-shod step for one, is a giant leap for the region.  Mandela would be wise to take heed of women waging peace and kindly shut up.

Meddling Mandla. Lalela Mswane, the winner of Miss South Africa 2021, is being urged by Mandla Mandela to boycott the event  in Eilat, Israel.(Screengrab/Instagram)






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).