HOW QUICKLY ORDINARY PEOPLE CAN TURN FROM LIVING ALONGSIDE TO EXTERMINATING EACH OTHER

Why the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre explores the history of the Holocaust and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda side by side.

By Tali Nates

(Based on an article first published online by DAFKADOTCOM )

In April 1994, while South Africans were jubilantly voting in the country’s first democratic elections, in Rwanda, a mere three and a half hours’ flight away, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi, as well as Hutu who opposed the genocide, were being slaughtered .

1994. Two countries in Africa. Two very different paths!

Not that South Africa’s transition to democracy has been easy. As xenophobic violence has shown, South Africans too have the potential for horrific violence against an “other”. 

In 2006, during one of my visits to Rwanda, a personal experience profoundly impacted my thinking on the creation of a future Centre. At a visit to Ntarama Church Genocide Memorial site where more than 5000 Tutsi were murdered, a young survivor, Cocous, was visibly upset. That morning we had also visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the last resting place of over 250 000 Tutsi, including his parents. Sitting with Cocous, who bears a large machete scar on his head, I shared my own family’s history. I told him about the murder of my grandmother Leah Turner and my two aunts, Cela and Helen. My father Moses and his brother Henryk were rescued by Oskar Schindler, but the rest of the family were murdered in the Holocaust. He touched my face in disbelief saying:

“and still after that, genocide happened in my country?”

We spoke about the words ‘Never again’ placed on every memorial to the murdered Tutsi around Rwanda. They sounded hollower than ever.

Never again, yet again?

That encounter persuaded me that any museum in South Africa dedicated to the Holocaust and genocide had to include the story of Rwanda. ​

Personal Horrors. Sylvestre Sendacyeye, survivor from Rwanda, next to the Memorial for the Tutsi who were murdered in the genocide. (Photograph: Catherine Boyd)

This conversation took place while we were reflecting on the importance of memorialising the Holocaust and genocides in the 20th century and how to make such immense human catastrophes feel resonant, relevant and ‘personal’ to South Africans in the twenty-first century. Around the world museums are emerging more and more as institutions dedicated to facilitating human rights awareness and education, dialogue, and debate; we hoped that the Centre would encourage South Africans to grapple with our own history (and how that continues to inform our present), within the context of broader histories.

With or without our intervention, the Holocaust is present in South African public life. In 2007, the Department of Education included the study of ‘Nazi Germany and the Holocaust’ in the South African national social sciences and history curriculum for Grade 9 and 11 (15 and 17 years old). By first learning about the Holocaust and then about Apartheid, they hoped students would have a better understanding of human rights, peace and democracy. All good in theory, but to make this really work requires a huge amount of education before the first lesson is even presented. Much of the essential preparation is provided by three independent Centres, all under a national association, the South African Holocaust & Genocide Foundation. The first Centre was opened in Cape Town (1999) and a second one was established in Durban (2008). The Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre was officially opened in March 2019 but operated from temporary offices since 2008.

Illuminating Darkness. The Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre sheds light on the holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.(Photo JHGC, Johannesburg)

In order to offer visitors a deeper understanding of recent genocides, the core exhibition, developed over many years, covers more generally genocides in the 20th century, starting in 1904 with the Herero and Nama genocide in Namibia and the Genocide of Christian Armenians beginning in 1915. It also looks at the development of the word genocide and explores the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and its aftermath. Finally, the exhibition connects to current human rights abuses in South Africa, particularly xenophobia and racism.

The iconic building is replete with symbolism. Its South African architect, Lewis Levin reflected:

How can the language of architecture be recruited to describe and symbolize the terrible events that took place in Kigali and Auschwitz?”

Asking Holocaust and Rwandan survivors what symbols they would like to see represented in the building, Levin recalls:

The first images that emerged from our discussions were those of trains, railway lines and the vast transportation network of Europe that was employed and diverted to haul people to their deaths. Trains and railways, once a symbol of industrial progress, in the eyes of 20th century modernists, were transformed by the Nazis and their collaborators into a vast killing machine. In Africa, the railways that represented the great dream of the colonialists, not only brought along empire, but also oppression and human misery”.

The building’s façade is lined with railway lines embedded in concrete and rock. The railway, a symbol of modernity and progress, as well as oppression and suffering, is a strong reminder of genocide, a man-made catastrophe.

 “The next images that haunted the survivors,” Levin continued, “were the forests and landscapes of death. The Nazis murdered Jews and others within the panoramas of the European landscapes, often in lyrical forest settings. In Rwanda, the genocide took place in a spectacular landscape of lush green vegetation and terraced hills”. Indigenous yellowwood trees wrap the building from all sides. As you enter the foyer, the railway lines disappear into voids, memorialising the loss and scars of genocide.

Story of a Survivor. Doris Lurie, survivor from Vienna, Austria, with her son Peter next to her portrait and story. (Photo: Catherine Boyd)

LOOKING IN AND LOOKING OUT

​The permanent exhibition area has wide, high windows, unlike many other museums that present this history in darkness. The design invites the visitor to remember that genocide does not happen only in the dark but in broad daylight while neighbours are watching. It challenges them to explore their role as bystanders today and encourages them to move to action. The exhibition journey ends in a Garden of Reflection with a soundscape, Remember/Zachor/Ibuka, by renowned South African composer Philip Miller, with music, songs and testimony of survivors of the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.
 
The JHGC’s core exhibition and education programmes feature stories, photographs and artefacts of Johannesburg survivors that would not be found in any other museum in the world and are uniquely South African. The Centre collected many photographs, documents and objects from survivors of the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. Genocide survivor Xavier Ngabo, for example, donated objects found with the remains of his mother Beatrice. In response to hearing his testimony, students sponsored his return to Rwanda to find the remains of his parents and bury them. 

Processing Evil. Most important are South Africa’s students, who will be tomorrow’s leaders, to visit the Holocaust Centre.(Photo Catherine Boyd)

The JHGC recorded hours of testimonies from Holocaust and Rwandan survivors. For many of the Rwandan survivors, when filmed, it was the first time they told their story – 20 years after the genocide. Holocaust and genocide survivors are also among the Centre’s volunteers and share their testimonies with students at schools, colleges and universities.

One recent student is 21-year-old Mikateko Mnene, in her final year at the University of Johannesburg; studying a Bachelors in Education degree, who describes her visit to the JHGC in April 2022 as “eye-opening” in that the experience “made us more aware that stereotypes, even though seemingly insignificant, can turn into mass persecution and murder. This is exactly what happened to the Jews.”

“Never Again”. Studying to be a teacher,  Holocaust Centre visitor Mikateko Mnene believes we need to educate“the world can become a better place.”

Struck firstly by how “such atrocious cruelties could ever happen, but they did and they can again if we do not make a stand and watch each other’s backs,”  Mikateko draws the lesson of her visit to what is happening closer to home when she says:

 “This experience also made us more aware of the current issues we are facing in South Africa and how the xenophobic stereotypes we are seeing now should not be taken lightly.”

She says that as a teacher in training:

I paid great attention to how the Holocaust affected children and teachers, and how the education sector was infiltrated to support and promote antisemitism. I realised the power and influence of teachers and the education sector. Loving children so much, it was so painful to read about the children in the ghettos and camps and how some of them were used for medical experiments through which some died. I am inspired by the few teachers who tried to continue teaching the children. I asked myself as a teacher, what would I have done? I strongly believe that if we could all do our bit to stand for what is right and just in our different career sectors, the world can become a better place.”

Auschwitz survivor and writer, Primo Levi’s words greet visitors as they enter the JHGC:

It happened therefore it can happen again; this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere”.

When visitors leave the Centre these words feel ever more painfully relevant.



About the Writer:

Tali Nates is the founder and director of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre. She is a historian who lectures internationally on Holocaust education, genocide prevention, reconciliation and human rights. She has published many articles and contributed chapters to different books, among them God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors (2015) and Remembering The Holocaust in Educational Settings (2018)






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).

Warm Embrace

Latino community drawing closer to Israel

By Jonathan Feldstein

I was driving in Jerusalem last month and saw a colourful flag flying. The horizontal bars of yellow, blue, and red had a coat of arms in the middle, but I was not familiar with which country it represented.  What I did know is that there was a visiting head of state in town, and flying that country’s flag was a way to show honour and respect.

A few days later, I read that Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso was visiting, and had announced the opening of an official innovation office in Jerusalem, and he undertook to maintain a more balanced approach toward Israel at the United Nations.  Both are welcome announcements, particularly given that in the past, Ecuador had been part of a group of countries that frequently voted against Israel at the UN.  President Lasso’s visit marked the first time an Ecuadorian President came to Israel since the countries established diplomatic relations in 1949.

Sister States. Hailing new era in Israel-Ecuador ties, Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog hosts dinner for Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso who says countries are “sister state”. (photo Twitter/ Isaac Herzog May 2022)

Celebratory statements and tweets came from both Israeli and Ecuadorian leaders. When I read that the new office will be located in the trade office Colombia that opened in Jerusalem last year, I realized that something big and good was afoot between Israel and Latin America, and the Hispanic community in general.

A week later I read about Israel’s embassy in Mexico opening the Israel-Mexico tech acceleration program, designed to connect innovative enterprises in Israel and Mexico for high-level high-tech collaboration.  The Israeli and Mexican announcement is part of the countries celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations in July.

High Gear. Amid the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Mexico, the Israeli Embassy of Mexico inaugurates Israel-Mexico tech acceleration program. (photo credit: EMBASSY OF ISRAEL IN MEXICO)

As the 15th-largest economy in the world, this program will connect Mexican and Israeli entrepreneurs working on solutions to respective local challenges and needs including health, communication, and the very important issue of water management.

This comes in the wake of two other central American countries, Guatemala and Honduras, being among those to move their embassies to Jerusalem, and is an important way to increase cooperation and build regional ties.

Given these news items and my growing relationships among the latin community, it’s clear I made a mistake studying French in high school. In these cases however, entrepreneurship is a common language, which will overcome linguistic barriers and build warm, ongoing, and mutually beneficial relationships.

When I think about recent developments, I am pleased but not surprised. The truth is that they all are part of a trend in Many countries understand that close relations with Israel bring many benefits and blessings to the table.  Individually, with strong roots in Christianity, latin communities all over the world look at Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Biblical principles such as blessing Israel, praying for the peace of Jerusalem, being watchmen on the wall, and more are not mere words but God’s playbook.

On High Ground. A woman enters the new Honduran Embassy in Jerusalem, June 23,2021, the fourth country to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital following the US, Kosovo and Guatemala.
| Photo: EPA / Atef Safadi

This was why Guatemala and Honduras quickly followed the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move their embassies there.  As these diplomatic pillars strengthen, it’s no surprise that last year six Central American countries took part in establishing the Central American Forum for Israel.  Doing so, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua signed a declaration of support for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Close Ties. Guatemalan activists wave Israeli flags near the “Plaza of Israel” in the country’s capital, 2015 reflecting the friendship ties between Israel and Guatemala that go back to 1947 when the UN voted for the resolution that led to the establishment of the modern State of Israel.(photo credit: REUTERS)

Part of this initiative highlighted their commitment to educate future generations about the Holocaust and fight antisemitism. Together, they adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, declaring:

 “We stand against antisemitism and hatred of all kinds. We support the IHRA as countries and institutions around the world do to simplify law enforcement and deal with the consequences of antisemitism in a correct and just way.”

All this activity is especially noteworthy not just in the strengthening of diplomatic and trade relations with Israel, but as a way to take the war on terror to another front.  Iran has long sought to increase its reach to and presence in Latin America, and indeed has established itself in places like Cuba, Venezuela, and others.  These are not as threatening as Iran’s presence in Argentina where it was responsible for two major terror attacks on the Israeli embassy (March 17, 1992, killing 29 and injuring more than 250) and on the Jewish community center (July 18, 1994, killing 85 and injuring more than 300).

Iran’s terrorist reach is not limited to major bombings. On January 18, 2015, Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment. “Coincidentally”, days earlier, he had filed a report implicating former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other officials of covering up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 Jewish community center bombing. More recently, a Venezuelan cargo plane with “car parts” and previously owned by Iran, arrived in Argentina, rousing suspicion. It had had a far larger than necessary crew, including several Iranians!

The growing relations between Israel and a number of Latin American countries is important and embodies the Biblical model of Israel being a blessing to the families of the world.  But more than on a national basis, religious support for Israel among latinos worldwide is a cornerstone of support within their nations. This of course includes Latin America, but also throughout the US.  While Christian support for Israel is wide and growing in general, it feels much wider on a per capita basis among Hispanics.

New Directions. ‘Thirsty’ for Israeli innovation,  Colombia in 2015 signed with Israel an agreement on cooperation in industrial R&D. The agreement enabled companies from both countries to receive government funding for joint projects in industrial projects focused on adapting products to the Colombian market. (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

There are many ways in which this is expressed, but one of the most unique, dynamic, and impressive was when I visited Nashville this year and had the privilege of attending services and speaking at Casa de Dios. I am accustomed to an Israeli flag flying in a church parking lot of a number of ministries.  However, Casa de Dios raises the bar: before each of their services every Sunday, they sing Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah. I was moved beyond words.

The Spanish Connection. The Ralli Museums located in a 40,000 square meter park in Caesarea, Israel exhibiting mainly Latin American and Spanish paintings and sculptures reflects strong historic bonds with the eye to the future.

Something big is happening among latinos relating to Israel.  Exploring this, I hosted two back-to-back conversations discussing a range of reasons why that’s happening and the significance of how Hispanics are awakening to their deep Jewish roots as well. I pray it will continue and be a mutual blessing to us all. If nothing else, I am hoping that Central American pineapples will begin to flood the Israeli market, bringing down the price and bringing up the quality.

As we are seeing, this is a relationship that bears fruit!




About the writer:

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





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

THE LITTLE COUNTRY THAT DID

Voting with the “big Boys” at the UN puts Eswatini firmly on the map

By Rolene Marks

The very mention of the United Nations is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of most people – especially mention of the Human Rights Council. In this chamber of the absurd, some of the world’s worst human rights violators, including Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea have all held court and sat on the presiding council and some of the most ridiculous resolutions have been passed against Israel. The Jewish state has; and continues to be the focus of an obscene amount of attention – at great expense to other conflicts and human rights abuses around the world.

Last week, in this circus of the ridiculous, the UNHRC’s “Commission of Inquiry” – an investigation that was set up following last year’s 11 day flare up between Israel and Hamas, the internationally recognized terror entity that controls the Gaza strip, presented their findings. Naturally the verdict was that Israel was and is responsible for the ongoing conflict with her neighbours.

The Commission of Inquiry managed to gives as little reference to the incitement of hate and acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas and other Iranian sponsored terror entities in the Gaza strip as possible.

Problematic Pillay. Heading the transparently flawed “Commission of Inquiry” into last year’s 11-day flare up between Israel and Hamas is  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, a strong supporter of BDS that calls for the end of the State of Israel.

The Commission of Inquiry was headed by Navi Pillay, a known anti-Israel agitator who has in the past endorsed the BDS movement which calls for the end of the State of Israel, applauded Iran for signing the 2001 anti-Israel UN declaration and has been proven to have personal ties with members of the PFLP, which is on the international terror list. It is no wonder Israel refused to cooperate with such an inquiry.

Why bother going through the façade? The Commission of Inquiry was endorsed by North Korea though – and the Palestinian representative who called for the USA to be kicked off the UNHRC. It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious because some people still believe in the veracity of such an organization.

Obsessive Anti-Israel Bias. Israel envoy to the United Nations Gilad Erdan rips up a Human Rights Council report at the podium, October 29, 2021 criticizing it for its disproportionate condemnation of Israel saying it belongs in “the dustbin of antisemitism”. (Screen grab)

But something extraordinary happened. The United States led 22 countries, followed the next day by Australia, in a statement condemning the UNHRC for amongst other things, their “disproportionate focus on Israel” and this commission which is counterproductive to the cause of peace.

The diverse group of countries led by the USA and spanning the continents included Israel, Austria, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Hungary, Eswatini, Brazil, Cameroon, Micronesia, Canada, United Kingdom, Togo, Colombia, Guatemala, Croatia, Liberia, Marshall Island, Nauru, North Macedonia and Palau denounced the Commission of Inquiry.

They were joined the next day by Australia who slammed the UNHRC’s “disproportionate focus on Israel and the Commission of Inquiry that does not serve the cause of peace”. There was an encouraging presence of African countries who also grow weary of having to take sides when they could benefit from what Israel has to offer and play a concrete role as African Union members towards brokering a resolution to the conflict – a role which sadly South Africa who also harbours an unproductive obsession with the Jewish state, has forfeited.

What was particularly heartening to see was the amount of African states breaking with stalemates of the past to come out and take a stand for Israel.  Israel, recognizing the similarities between our history and challenges to those of African countries has focused attention on growing bilateral ties on the continent. This is evident in the recent granting of observer status at the African Union (AU) and the steady growth of bilateral ties.

There is huge significance to the African states voting in Israel’s favour at the UN. It means the decades long African bloc stalemate has now been broken.

One country in particular stands out. Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) often garners very few headlines but last week the tiny, Southern African state, by voting in favour of Israel along with the leading democracies of the world made a bold statement – we are here, and we came to play. Make no mistake, each country’s vote, no matter the size or perceived level of importance, carries the same weight.

A New Dawn. The landlocked kingdom of Eswatini, formerly Swaziland in Southern Africa voted in favour of Israel along with the leading democracies of the world in condemning the UNHRC for amongst other things, their “disproportionate focus on Israel”.

The message Eswatini sent was clear. We stand with Israel. We recognize the benefits that having ties to a country like Israel, that leads in so many areas can have for our country. We won’t be bullied by neighbouring South Africa to vote against Israel. South Africa’s major foreign policy focus for 2022 is getting Israel’s observer status at the AU revoked – a disappointing choice for a country plagued by so many challenges that the Jewish state can help with.

Eswatini, by breaking with tradition sent a strong, resounding message. Size doesn’t matter – rather it is the imperative of taking moral and principled stands at an institution that is fast losing its cachet. Eswatini has shown the country can stand alongside the world’s leading democracies – and hold its own. Eswatini has shown that when it comes to what is best for its citizens – will not be coerced. Eswatini has shown leadership by example.

The Southern African state has not only firmly established itself on the world stage but it has proven it is the little country that could – and did.





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).

Death of a Reporter

Al Jazeera’s Abu Akleh died as much in the line of fire asin the lie of fire!

By David E. Kaplan

So much has been written on the tragic death of Shireen Abu-Akleh, most of it critical of Israel, accusing the Jewish state of pre-meditated murder. All these allegations are unsubstantiated but this is no matter to the purveyors of falsehoods, who are milking her death only to besmirch Israel. Should it be established that the bullet that killed the Al Jazeera news correspondent was by an unintentional stray bullet as she was caught in a crossfire while covering clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during an Israel Defense Forces operation in the West Bank city of Jenin or even a bullet from a Palestinian terrorist – both of which are highly possible – this story will be dropped like a hot potato.

Why?

Because its value as an anti-Israel weapon will have been neutralized.

The durable interest in this story was NEVER about Abu Akleh; it was only about how to blame Israel for her death.

When it comes to coverage of Israel, ‘NEWS’ today is more about ‘aiming’ than pointing the cameras, and the death of Shireen Abu Akleh by a bullet is a latest example until the next proverbial ‘round’!

A TWIST IN THE ‘TALE’

However, there has been another twist in Shireen Abu Akleh’s death that is proving both revealing and disturbingly illuminating.  Writing for the Kuwaiti daily newspaper al-Qabas, Ahmad al-Sarraf  sounds an alarm about a racial chink in the character of “the Arab world” today in his June 3 article ‘IF I WERE ISRAELI’.

No friend of Israel, the Kuwaiti journalist  doesn’t break rank with his anti-Israel cohorts when he characterizes her death as “murder” and accuses Israel of the deed, writing that she:

 “was struck by a treacherous Israeli bullet that took her life, while carrying out her duty.”

So yes, he accuses Israel of treacherous murder without any proof, but look what he accuses the Arab world – with proof!

Noting that while “Her murder sparked a storm of intense sympathy, which was accompanied by a strong wave of protests,”  he then goes  to write that when:

 “everyone discovered Shireen’s full name and the fact that she was the daughter of Nasri Antoine Abu Akleh…… people understood that she was Christian.”

Projecting Prejudice. Popular Libyan Islamic Scholar Sheikh Zain Khairallah: “Palestinian Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh Was A Christian, So We Are Forbidden From Praying For Allah To Have Mercy On Her Soul”

One would think – So what!

Continues al-Sarraf in the Kuwaiti daily:

 At once, public opinion throughout the Arab world changed – and the same people who had just announced her a martyr stripped her of that title. There were even those who asked to stop praying for her soul, since mercy can only be sought for a Muslim. A Kuwaiti cleric known for his extremist views issued a fatwa ruling that she was an infidel that should be shown no mercy. If I were Israeli, I wouldn’t have been able to find a better story or tragedy than that of Shireen Abu Akleh as an example that the Arab world doesn’t deserve any respect. If Abu Akleh’s own people show no sympathy for her death, then why should Israelis do so?  

The Arab nation lost an Arab woman who dedicated her life to the protection of her homeland. If the Arab people can’t describe that woman as a martyr, why should their enemies describe her as such?”

A Bad Call. Following Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh being shot dead  amid gunfire between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank, another Islamic scholar courted controversy in his May 13  tweet by calling on Muslims to not pray for her.

He concludes his article with:

As an Israeli, I would genuinely ask myself: Is the Arab world trustworthy? If they reject a loyal daughter of their own, how would they ever come to accept us?”

This development out of the death of Al Jazeera’s Abu Akleh, exposes another distortion prevailing in the middle East – the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The case of Abu Akleh exposes this because it reveals Arab Muslim attitudes towards Arab Christians in their societies.

Huma Hader writing in his 2017 report ‘The Persecution of Christians in the Middle East’ for University of Birmingham wites in his overview:

A century ago, Christians in the Middle East comprised 20 percent of the population; today, they constitute no more than 3-4 percent of the region’s population (Pew Research Center, 2015; cited in Ben-Meir, 2016). The drastic decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East is considered to be part of a longer-term exodus related to general violence in various countries, lack of economic opportunities in the region, and religious persecution (Katulis et al., 2015; Hanish, 2014; Weiner, 2014).

The Middle East may be the birthplace of Christianity and home to some of its oldest communities, but the Christian population has dropped dramatically over time and this trajectory – including in areas under Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas control – is only going to intensify.

Downgraded in Death. On learning she was Christian, Shireen Abu Akleh was no longer deserving of “prayer for mercy”.
 

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

In a 2019 report commissioned by the then British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt found pervasive persecution of Christians, sometimes amounting to genocide in parts of the Middle East that has has prompted “an exodus in the past two decades.”

The report continues that:

“The inconvenient truth is the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians”.

The exception is in Israel, where the Christian population is growing:

“The Christian population of Israel currently stands at approximately 177,000 citizens, or 2% of the overall population, according to data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) ahead of Christmas (2019).”

So even while a group of 25 bipartisan Congress members -14 Democrats and 11 Republicans – have urged the PA to release the bullet that killed Abu Akleh so it can be forensically examined by Israel, the PA is refusing to do so.

Instead of always blaming Israel irrespective of the facts, the PA should ‘bite the proverbial bullet’ and release the actual bullet.

What is it afraid of again – the TRUTH?





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).

CHEERLEADERS FOR PALESTINE IGNORE STATE OF CRIMINALITY

By Alex Ryvchin

(courtesy of the Australian Times)

On the last day of April, Yehya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, delivered these instructions to the Palestinian people: “Let everyone who has a rifle, ready it,” he said. “And if you don’t have a rifle, ready your cleaver or an axe, or a knife.”

The Murder Merchant of Gaza. Terror on Israeli streets as Hamas Leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar again stirs up his people to kill Jews.
 

On Thursday the following week, two men from the village of Rummanah, on the northern tip of the West Bank, phoned a Jewish-Israeli driver named Oren Ben Yiftah. Ben Yiftah had regularly transported the two across the security barrier into Israel where they performed occasional work as labourers. That day, Ben Yiftah drove the two Palestinian men to the city of Elad in central Israel. They had told Ben Yiftah they had been hired to carry out urgent repairs at a synagogue. As they neared the synagogue, one man produced an axe, the other a knife and, after a struggle, they hacked Oren Ben Yiftah – a man they knew – to death. The two men then left the car and approached Yonatan Havakuk and Boaz Gol, both easily identifiable by their religious garb as Jewish, and slew the men in the street. Hamas praised the men for their “brave and heroic act”.

The victims, fathers in their 30s and 40s, leave behind a total of 16 children!

Randomly Murdered. Inspired by their leaders to kill, the victims of the Elad terror attack on May 5, 2022, (left to right) Boaz Gol, Yonatan Havakuk and Oren Ben Yiftah (Photo: Courtesy)

It is difficult to imagine a more clear-cut link between incitement to violence and the act itself; between cause and effect. Nineteen Israelis have been murdered in similar street attacks in the past few months.

Hamas has rightly been designated a terrorist organisation in Australia, but the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, is no less complicit in this process. In a prelude to an earlier spate of lethal stabbing attacks, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas declared:

Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre”, and the Jews “have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet”.

Soon after, Palestinian social media was awash with graphics and videos showing how and where to stab a victim to greatest effect.

Official Palestinian Authority TV broadcasts claims of “Zionist” plots to destroy Islamic holy sites, to “burn monasteries and churches” and “bomb the Al-Aqsa Mosque”. Such claims have been used to rally the masses to violence since the 1920s. Needless to say, since Israel unified Jerusalem in 1967, the mosques and monasteries have stood unmolested.

As news of the Elad terror attack broke, young men in Gaza and the West Bank handed out sweets as though marking a festive day. Slain Jewish civilians immediately brighten the mood. Any visitor to a Palestinian village in the West Bank will have seen the banners, posters and public squares dedicated to their “martyrs”. Palestinian propagandists have even taken to photoshopping photos of their captured terrorists, carefully replacing haggard, defeated countenances with assured smiles to convince their youth that there is glory even in capture.

Slaughter on the Streets. Security forces pouring into the scene following terrorist attack in Elad, in central Israel. May 5, 2022 (Photo: Shaul Golan)

Taken together with the PA’s notorious payment of life pensions to the families of terrorists, Palestinian society operates under a system of inducement and reward that has turned the killing of Jews into an industry.

The violent purging of suspected “collaborators” is another feature of this system and reinforces the glory of the resistance and the perfidy of having contact with Jews. Hamas summarily drags suspected collaborators through the streets in the theatrical style of a mid-century junta, and the “moderate” Palestinian Authority still enforces laws that make the sale of land to Jews punishable by death, or life with hard labour if the court is moved to leniency.

The paranoia and fanaticism are not only projected outward at the Jewish menace, but meted out to the most vulnerable in Palestinian society. A law enabling rapists to evade punishment by marrying their victims remained on the books until 2018. “Honour killings” performed by brothers and fathers of sisters and daughters who have brought “shame” to their family occur with a startling regularity. Only 4% of Palestinians believe homosexuality should be accepted.

Needless to say, there is no accountability for, or even great scrutiny of, this criminality and gross intolerance. It certainly doesn’t rate a mention at party conferences or in full-page pro-Palestinian resolutions passed by student unions at ANU (Australia National University in Canberra) and Melbourne University. All is shrouded in the solidarity of slogans or a sort of orientalism that judges Middle Eastern peoples against outrageously low standards.

Selective Understanding. Ignoring Palestinian criminality and acts of terrorism, University of Melbourne Student Union passes an historic pro-Palestinian motion that it stands “with BDS and Solidarity Policy”.

To make them worthy of the adulation, the marches, the bumper stickers, the pledges to peremptorily recognise a Palestinian state, the Palestinians have been reconstructed as a mythical version of themselves, cleansed of all sin and stripped of all responsibility. The consequence of all of this is that there is absolutely no incentive for Palestinians to self-examine let alone reform, let alone develop a society that is functional, just and worthy of a state.

Should our new government wish to revisit Australia’s position on aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it ought to see the Palestinian leadership not as it wishes it to be but as it is, and to hold Palestinian leaders to the same standards as in every other society. Otherwise, we will see policymaking founded in delusion and more lives lost to a system of violence and impunity.




About the writer

Alex Ryvchin is the co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the author of Zionism – The Concise History.







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).

MISREPRESENTATION LEADS TO MISHAP

Revealing true intent beneath the facade

By Lawrence Nowosenetz

In his article Time to establish an interfaith solidarity in wake of death of Shireen Abu Akleh’Rasheed Omar (DM 29 May 2022) writes:

 “the freedom struggle of the Palestinian people is not a Muslim struggle, it is an anti-colonial struggle for justice, struggle of reclaiming land, identity and statehood.”  Omar also refers to “the pernicious Zionist propaganda machine that seeks to frame the Palestinian freedom struggle as a religious war between Muslims and Jews.  Quite the contrary is true.”

Is it?

KORANIC TEACHINGS

Koran chapter II verse 91 says:

Drive them from where they drove you out

Islamic teachings provide that lands which become Islamic by  conquest or otherwise, stay Islamic forever and Muslims must expel any non-Muslim rule in a land once governed by Islamic law. The area that was Palestine fell under Muslim rule in  637 AD and with the exception of the Christian crusader period from 1099 to 1187 AD until the British Mandate era in 1923 was a colony under several Muslim empires.  

The Palestinian Authority’s current Mufti Mohammed Hussain stated in the official  PA daily publication  Al-Hayat Al Jadida 13 April 2018:

Palestine, that includes within it, Jerusalem, is waqf land, it is forbidden by Shari’ah law to relinquish it or ease the transfer of ownership of it to enemies, because it is part of the Islamic public property. Granting ownership over Islamic territory or part of it to enemies is invalid and constitutes treason.”

This sounds a lot like a religious war.

No Compromise. Posing in front of the Dome of the Rock at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, Jerusalem’s Mufti Mohammed Hussein asserts that “Jerusalem, is waqf land” and  “it is forbidden by Shari’ah law to relinquish it”. (Ahmad
Gharabli/AFP)

After the Camp David peace negotiations failed, Yasser Arafat was interviewed by an Israeli  Muslim Arab journalist. He asked Arafat why he walked away from the negotiations. His answer was :

Because the Israelis would not give us 100%”.

Similarly in the peace talks with Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seven years later, Abbas also refused to make any land concessions or compromises.

We have all heard the slogan “from the river to the sea Palestine shall be free”. This geographic area refers to the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea. It not only includes the West Bank and Gaza but the entire territory of the State of Israel prior to the 1967 Six Day War. The struggle to reclaim land stated by the Omar does not specify what land exactly this entails.

Does he too consider the State of Israel as waqf land? 

In a survey undertaken by the Jerusalem Communications and Media Center published on 6 August 2018, the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were asked:

 “Is religion in general an important part of your life?”

The answer was yes by 96.8 in the West Bank and by 99.2 in  Gaza . Even allowing for non-Muslims (a minority)  in this poll, it  indicates the centrality of Islam in the Palestinian street.

Fair enough but are its extremist positions not an impediment to genuine rapprochement and peace?

Head to Head. They came close but not close enough – Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA head Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 8, 2008. (REUTERS/Moshe Milner/GPO)

INFLAMING HATRED

Hamas which rules Gaza and has a substantial following in the West Bank is less subtle about its beliefs. Its very name is an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement and is committed to the total annihilation of Israel.  In recent months, Hamas and several groups in the Gaza Strip announced the formation of a new body, called The National Commission to Support the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories of 1948. The El Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is a Palestinian armed group, and its name suggests its link to the El Aqsa Mosque being the third most holy site in Islam. The Fatah slogan is:

With spirit with blood we will redeem you Al Aqsa Mosque”.

The fact that the mosque is under the administration of the Jordanian waqf does not seem to make any difference: Israel is to blame.

WAR AGAINST THE JEWS

While a theoretical distinction can be made between Zionists and Jews this is at best tenuous. While not all, most Jews identify with Israel, and Judaism itself is infused with Zionist prayer. Jews are an ancient nation not just adherents of a religion.  Lip service  is paid to the idea that Palestinians have no problem with Judaism. In practice they promote intolerance and hostility.  Palestinians are vociferous about their opposition to Judaisizing Jerusalem. A recent Fatah  video called for Israelis to leave:

 “because you have no history in our Jerusalem, and it is not your homeland.” It also called for “blood” and ended with the chant Allahu Akbar – “Allah is greatest” repeated four times.

(Facebook page of the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture, May 28, 2022)

Fatah also  published  a video with a song calling for Jerusalem “to be freed of the Jews”. It  encouraged Arab states to unite and break down borders between them to “redeem” Jerusalem and prepare “the Jews’ graveyard” (Fatah Facebook page, Oct. 13, 2020)

Palestinian terrorists who have randomly murdered Jews inside and outside Israel do not differentiate between Zionist and non-Zionists. They do not ask their victims before carrying out their killings whether  they are  Zionists. The EU  have recently made a finding that  Palestinian school textbooks have for many years incited hatred and promoted demonization of Israel.  By definition Israel is a Jewish State. Palestinian children are conditioned to consider Jews as evil.

Is this too not building a psychological wall obstructing any potential for peace?

Jews are “impure” and “the world’s dogs” appear in the lyrics in girls’ songs to their terrorist relatives
Official Palestinian Authority TV  | Nov 4, 2021

.    

INTOLERANCE OF FREE SPEECH

Western journalists  working in Gaza in recent years have been harassed and threatened by Hamas for documenting cases of the terrorist group’s involvement of civilians in warfare against Israel. The Times of Israel has interviewed  reporters  in the international media revealing how they allow themselves to be intimidated and fail to report on such incidents. This is swept under the carpet. Any illusions that Palestine tolerates public criticism and debate were convincingly shattered by the death of Palestinian lawyer and activist Nizar Bayat. He was an outspoken critic of the corruption of the Palestinian Authority but was labelled as selling out the Palestinian cause for personal gain. He had  a huge following on Facebook.  On 24 June 2021, he was beaten and dragged from his house by 14 members of the Palestinian security forces without an arrest warrant. He subsequently died in a Hebron hospital. The official cause of death was natural causes, but a private autopsy initiated by his family revealed he had forty-two injuries sustained by metal pipes. The PA and Fatah did not respond to calls for a detailed investigation. There was no international outrage and media solidarity. The Guardian – hardly a staunch supporter of Israel – ran the headline in its international edition dated 31 August 2021:

Nizar Bayat’s death highlights brutality of Palestinian Authority”. 

The death in custody of Palestinian political activist and human rights defender Nizar Barnat’s highlights brutality of Palestinian Authority.

A little humility and introspection may well be sorely expected from the writer and those who call for rejuvenating the Palestinian struggle from ‘Israel’s settler colonialism’. Palestine may be in need of democratic reforms to reach liberation rather than anti-Israel slogans. 

Perhaps the moral equation is not so binary. In the words of Bob Dylan:

 “Good and bad, I define these terms quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then I’m younger than that now

(My Back Pages 1964) 

There are further risible issues in Rasheed Omar’s article such as the well-known anti-Israel trope: “Zionist Israel’s settler colonialism”. These need to be addressed fully too. Demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel will not  assist in reaching a mutual understanding conducive to peace and co-existence. This raises the question whether the supporters of the Palestinian cause are  committed to this goal or the destruction of the Jewish State.  




About the writer:

Lawrence Nowosenetz is a retired South African advocate at the Johannesburg Bar specialising in labour law; a former senior Commissioner of the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) and  served as an Acting High Court Judge in Gauteng. He has served as Chairman of the Pretoria SA Jewish Board of Deputies and in 2019, he immigrated to Israel where he lives with his wife in Tel Aviv. He retains an interest in international law.






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 MAZEL TOV FIT FOR A QUEEN

Celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 2 as the monarch celebrates 70 years of an extraordinary reign.

By Rolene Marks

“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Princess Elizabeth, South Africa, 1947

We don’t know her thoughts or opinions – a rare feat in in today’s world where everyone is obsessed with sharing everything on social media. She has never given an interview – also a rare feat when most in the public eye are clambering over each other for a few minutes with a camera. We only found out this past weekend what the most famous and respected woman keeps in her chic Launer handbag (besides her lipstick!) and this revelation came courtesy of a beloved fictional bear. When Paddington Bear and her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II took tea last weekend in a clip for the Platinum Jubilee, we discovered that Her Maj keeps a marmalade sandwich safely tucked in there.

While we may now know this delightful titbit, what many don’t know about is the long and sometimes complicated history that the Royal family have with Jews and Israel.

Many have criticized the Queen for never visiting Israel. What many don’t realise is that foreign trips are made at the request of the British Foreign Office wanting to deploy the soft diplomacy and convening power that royalty has. The Queen cannot send anyone to The Tower (although I think she may have been tempted a few times with her family over the last two years!) but the monarch and her family wield an ambassadorial and convening power that is second to none.

The respected historian, Andrew Roberts, once said that the British government had a de facto ban in place on state visits by Queen Elizabeth II to Israel. “The true reason of course, is that the FO [Foreign Office] has a ban on official royal visits to Israel, which is even more powerful for its being unwritten and unacknowledged. As an act of delegitimization of Israel, this effective boycott is quite as serious as other similar acts, such as the academic boycott, and is the direct fault of the FO Arabists. It is, therefore, no coincidence that although the Queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, neither has ever been to Israel on an official visit,” said Roberts, addressing attendees at a gala dinner in London.

The Queen at her coronation.

The Queen has received Israeli dignatories including former President Shimon Peres who was awarded an honourary knighthood in 2008. Peres was knighted with the Grand Cross of the order of St Michael and St George.

For 30 minutes, Peres spoke to the Queen about Israel’s history and current situation and gave the Queen two gifts: a letter written by her father, George VI, upon the official recognition by Britain of the state of Israel, and two silver candlesticks in the shape of pomegranates.

The former President described their meeting as:

 “friendly and informal; the Queen asked me a lot of questions on Israel. I was very moved to be the representative who received this honour for the state of Israel. The whole ceremony was not for me as an individual but a mark of respect for the country. I felt I was a shaliach mitzvah (emissary dispatched to do a mitzvah).”

Mr. Peres spoke to the Queen about the suffering of the town of Sderot and said that “the British learnt from the bible and we learnt from the British democracy.”

Arise, Sir Peres. The Queen knights Shimon Peres

Even though the Queen has never visited Israel, she has had strong ties with the Jewish community (even hiring a Jewish mohel to perform a royal circumcision) and has met with Holocaust survivors on many occasions.

One such meeting was at an event marking 60 years of liberation of Bergen Belsen. The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l who was present, later recounted: “When the time came for her to leave, she stayed. And stayed. One of her attendants said that he had never known her to linger so long after her scheduled departure. She gave each survivor – it was a large group – her focused, unhurried attention. She stood with each until they had finished telling their personal story.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, spoke of meeting the Queen and Prince Philip in his memoirs and how they took a keen interest in his work and Jewish traditions.

Over the years, members of the Jewish community have been honoured at investitures for their work and contribution in a variety of fields including Holocaust and Jewish education. WIZO’s founding mother, Rebecca Sieff, was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) as has former WIZO UK President, Lorraine Warren and other WIZO Presidents from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries.

The late Prince Philip was well known for his politically-incorrect gaffes which some attribute to an attempt to make people laugh and put them at ease. While the foreign office forbid royal visits to Israel, the Duke of Edinburgh visited in a private capacity several times for a very honourable reason. His mother, Princess Alice, who is buried in Jerusalem, has been honoured by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Amongst the Nations for saving the lives of a Jewish family during the Holocaust.

In recent years, two future kings, Prince Charles and Prince William have visited the Jewish state.

Prince Charles represented Her Majesty at the funeral of slain Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin and has supported Jewish causes and visited Israel in recent years.

Prince Charles, once ridiculed for his propensity to prefer conversing with plants than politicians and intellectuals, has said that he prefers to regard himself as the defender of faiths rather than of the faith, that being the Church of England which the monarch heads. To this end, he works hard to promote coexistence between the faiths. The Prince of Wales counted Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks as a close friend and lamented his passing. He has also written personal messages in several books including Lily Eberts, “Lily’s Promise”.

The Prince of Wales talks to Holocaust survivor, Lily Ebert.

Prince Charles is patron of World Jewish Relief as well as the Holocaust Memorial Trust, a patronage that once belonged to the Queen but as the monarch hands over more of her patronages to members of her family, the heir to the throne has received this one. He is also patron of the Jewish Museum, JLGB for Jewish youth across Great Britain and numerous others. To coincide with International Holocaust Memorial Day, the Prince commissioned portraits to be painted of several Holocaust survivors accompanied by a documentary on the BBC. The Prince gave a very moving speech the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz hosted by Yad Vashem and met privately with survivors, away from the prying eyes of the media. He gave a notable private donation to The Peres Centre for Peace. His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall visited Auschwitz, representing the Queen to mark the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

The Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) lights a candle of remembrance at Auschwitz.

Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall is also known to enjoy a hora or two. During her visit to Jewish Care’s Brenner Centre in East London to celebrate the organisation’s 80th anniversary, the Duchess danced with delighted residents.

It was a lovely, wonderful experience, I think I’m dreaming,” said Abraham David, who danced with the duchess. “She put her hand out to mine and wanted to dance — I couldn’t believe it. I won’t sleep tonight I’m so excited.”

Having a Swinging Time. The Duchess of Cambridge dances to Hava Nagila at a Jewish Community Center in East London in 2019.

Prince William was the next king in waiting to visit Israel albeit without his lovely wife Catherine (Kate Middleton) who had recently given birth to their third child, disappointing many Israeli fashionstas (okay, me) wanting to catch a glimpse of what she would be wearing but mother duty comes first and we understand. The Prince struck all the right notes visiting the Kotel, Yad Vashem, the grave of his late great-grandmother, met young innovators, took a stroll with Eurovision sensation Neta, and even played volleyball on the beach and football with young Israelis and Arabs – all without breaking a princely sweat.

Prince William plays volleyball in Tel Aviv

The prince also proved that he could navigate some tough political terrain, shuttling between Israeli and Palestinians leaders, without going “there”. Royals are above politics.

Prince William at the Kotel (Western Wall)

On a state visit to Poland, Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge visited Stutthof Concentration Camp. It would be a life-changing experience for the Duchess. The Royal couple met Holocaust survivors, Manfred Goldberg and Ziggy Shipper who both came to England after the war as Windermere children.

The Duchess of Cambridge photographs Holocaust survivors.

Since this seminal meeting, the Duchess has dedicated herself to Holocaust education and has taken photographs of survivors for the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition, included them in her book “Hold Still”, engaged with survivors and young educators via Zoom, met with Windermere child survivors, attended Holocaust Memorial Day events and more.

Judge and TV personality, Rob Rinder, who accompanied the Duchess when she met with Windermere survivors tweeted in response to a royal fan “She was – truly – amazing .. Anybody with doubts about the future & purpose of our Monarchy should spend an hour with her. Quite extraordinary.”

Hosting a garden party at Buckingham Palace on behalf of the Queen recently, fascinator firmly fixed, umbrella in hand, the Duchess made a beeline for her good friend Manfred, who along with his wife was a guest. “Manfred,” Catherine said, “It’s so lovely to see you again. How are you?” The two shook hands, whilst Manfred replied: “It’s my pleasure and privilege to see you again.”

The Duchess of Cambridge is delighted to see Manfred Goldberg at Buckingham Palace.

When I saw your name on the guest list I thought ‘yes!’ I am so happy to see you! Are you keeping well?” asked the Duchess. The pictures of the delighted trio were beamed around the world to the happy reaction of many young people who knew exactly who Manfred was and his story of survival. This is the power of royalty. Through their work, generations are learning the stories of the Holocaust because the platform to tell them does not come bigger than the royal family. The Cambridges have spoken publicly about how they are talking to their children about the Holocaust so that it is never forgotten.

The Duchess of Cambridge marks Holocaust Memorial Day

While the history of the royal family, Jews and Israel may have had its awkward moments in  history, it looks like the future seems extremely positive.

The young princess who made that sacred, lifelong vow in South Africa on her 21st birthday has more than delivered and the joyous celebration this past weekend as she marked her Platinum Jubilee is proof of the love and respect she commands through duty and service to her people, Commonwealth and realms.

 The Queen and her heirs at the Platinum Jubilee

We lift a glass of the best kosher champagne and toast to Her Majesty, the Queen on the remarkable achievement of 70 years on the throne. Mazel Tov, Ma’am, the future you have ensured, is in good hands.

MAZEL TOV !!!






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).

CELEBRATING JERUSALEM EVERY DAY

By Jonathan Feldstein

This week, Israel and Jewish and Christian friends all over the world celebrated Jerusalem Day, 55 years on the Biblical calendar (the 28th of Iyar) corresponding to the day on the secular calendar in June of 1967 when Jerusalem was miraculously reunified during the Six Day War.  Indeed, the restoration of Jewish sovereignty to all of Jerusalem for the first time in 2000 years is yet another fulfillment of the many promises God made to the Jewish people, and many prophesies that continue to play out before our eyes right here in the Land.

For Jews and Christians, there is no place more central or significant to our faith than Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is the place that Kings built, prophets prophesied, where the Temples stood, where Jesus preached and was crucified, and much more.  Jerusalem is mentioned several hundred times in the Bible. It’s the only place by name that God specifically tells us to pray for, and to be guardians on the walls of. 

Sadly, not everyone understands that and the significance of Jerusalem to us today.  Not only doesn’t everyone understand that, but some people deny the significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Christians, deny that there was ever a Temple on the Temple Mount, and talk about Jerusalem being “defiled” by Jews and Christians, and “Judaized”.

David Rubinger’s iconic photo showing Israeli paratroopers (from left: Zion Karasenti, Yitzhak Yifat and Haim Oshri) standing in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, June 7, 1967 .(Photo credit: David Rubinger/GPO)

This narrative is not only not Biblical, but it undermines the very foundation of Judaism and Christianity. It is the mother of all replacement theology, to erase actual Biblical history and our deep roots in Jerusalem as Jews and Christians to the Holy City. 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre sacred to all the Christian faiths as the site of the Resurrection of Jesus following his Crucifixion. (CC-BY-SA Anton Croos)

This is all the more reason why we need to celebrate. Last year, Hamas and other terrorists used the occasion of Jerusalem Day to start an 11-day war, launching over 4000 rockets at Israeli communities.  As bad as that is and was, I prefer to look at the cup half full.  Yes, we have our challenges, but there are far more blessings. In fact, our cup runneth over.

While I am not a prophet, this year I felt a little bit like a prophet of doom, joking with friends that we should hold off plans until after the war starts.  My daughter, with a two-week-old baby, nervously told my son-in-law that if there is a war, he has to tell the army he can’t go and be among the first 5000 reservists called up as he was a year ago. Thankfully, no major war or conflict broke out and Jews were able to march and celebrate throughout the city.

Being a Jew in Jerusalem, I feel the blessings every day. From the balcony of my apartment, I can see the golden dome on the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount . I am overcome with joy and emotion that 17 years ago, my youngest son was born in Jerusalem. He is named for two relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust and no doubt prayed for the restoration of Jerusalem.  I suspect that they could never have imagined how that has become a reality today as a thriving diverse city that is the capitol of the State of Israel.  As overjoyed as they would be seeing a young man carrying their name, born in Jerusalem, who is finishing high school and preparing to go serve the country as a member of the IDF, they would be speechless to know that now, I also have three grandsons born in Jerusalem, representing another generation of Jewish life thriving in Jerusalem.

But don’t believe me. This month I had conversations with two dear Christian friends who live in Jerusalem and have been part of life here for decades.  We discussed modern and Biblical history, the blessings that they experience being here, and the significance of Jerusalem’s reunification and why we celebrate today.  Chris Mitchell is the veteran head of the CBN Jerusalem bureau for more than two decades.  He’s reported on thousands of aspects of life here and is well known to Christians around the world.  He’s a journalist with the highest of integrity who speaks about being at the intersection of history and prophesy. Hear his invaluable insight here.

Orthodox Christian worshippers take part in the Good Friday procession, along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City, on 22 April 2022. (AFP)

John Enarson works on a theological basis to help Christians understand the significance of Jerusalem to them.  He has had the privilege of living and raising a family in Jerusalem and speaks with unwavering moral clarity rooted in Biblical tradition.  Together, Chris and John offer extraordinary personal testimony and insight about living in Jerusalem and the significance of how and why celebration of Jerusalem Day is so important.  

Yesterday, I was watching a TV talk show broadcasting from Jerusalem with the Old City as the backdrop.  The panel was discussing the significance of Jerusalem’s reunification, in light of current events including the annual “flag march”, as well as the threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, and others.  This is particularly relevant given that last year on the eve of Jerusalem Day, Hamas used this as an excuse to launch rockets at Jerusalem (to “protect” Jerusalem!), beginning an 11-day conflict during which terrorists fired more than 4000 rockets at Israeli communities.  I suppose that “protecting” Jerusalem means different things to different people.

Organized by the Elijah Interfaith Institute, Abrahamic Reunion, and the Tantur Institute for Ecumenical Studies, a multi-faith prayer in Jerusalem welcoming Jews, Christians and Muslims. (Courtesy Abrahamic Reunion)

One of the panelists talked passionately about the significance of Jerusalem’s reunification and our celebration. She spoke ardently, as a proud Israeli. Before my mind could ascribe any political association, she described herself growing up in a (left-wing) kibbutz environment and noted that even for her, celebrating Jerusalem and not caving in to Hamas threats was a priority. 

That’s when it hit me. 

The reunification is indeed a national thing. Jerusalem’s reunification is not something I take for granted.  Years ago, I was moved to hear from a friend’s father, Moshe, how that very year, hundreds of thousands of Israelis flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate its reunification.  For him, it was like a heart transplant, bringing a new pulse to the State and people of Israel, one for which we waited and prayed for nearly 2000 years. 

Cobbled street through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Jerusalem

Today, too many do take Jerusalem’s reunification for granted.  That’s wrong. Jerusalem is our heart.  Its reunification is fulfillment of a Divine promise on which we could bank, and is now fulfilled. Even if it took two millennia.

Not everyone looks at the significance of Jerusalem’s restoration from the same perspective. Some look at it as just part of modern history, some as fulfillment of a Divine promise, some as one of the greatest things to happen in the State of Israel, and some, a combination of all these.  But remembering Moshe’s moving words, along with the passionate comments of the “left-wing” woman on TV, things clicked in a way that haven’t before.  That’s part of the beauty of living here. It’s not just academic.  I live in my own Petrie dish.  I am part of the experiment and can observe the outcome all at the same time.

The Church of All Nations also known as the Basilica of the Agony  on the Mount of Olives next to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Our joy and celebration should be unbridled. No exceptions. This year, thank God, it was, more or less. But we don’t have to wait once a year to celebrate Jerusalem. Like our heart, it’s part of who we are, central to Judaism and Christianity. Let’s celebrate Jerusalem every day.



About the writer:

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





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

LET DEAD TERRORIST GROUPS LIE

Enlisting support against delisting terrorists

By Jonathan Feldstein

[Ed note: At the time of publication of this article, Politico  media reports that President Biden has “finalized his decision to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on U.S. notorious terrorist blacklist.”]

There have been recent reports that the Biden administration is planning to remove five groups from the US’ foreign terrorist blacklist. Each of these groups is now considered defunct. But it’s strange that if they are defunct anyway, why anyone would worry about delisting them. It’s better to let dead terror groups lie.

The groups include Basque Fatherland and Liberty, Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult; Kach, an Israeli/nationalist Jewish group, and two Islamic groups: the Mujahideen Shura Council in the environs of Jerusalem, and Gama’a al-Islamiyya.

When I read the reports, I asked myself why, and why now?  A Christian friend reached out to me to get an understanding from an Israeli perspective, and whether it was something for which she needs to pray. I explained to my friend that it seems the delisting of these groups is connected with ongoing reports that the Biden administration is considering removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the US terror blacklist as part of wooing Iran to renew the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Just to be clear, the IRGC is directly responsible for the killing of some 600 U.S. military and is far from defunct. A group of 46 retired U.S. generals and a growing number of Democrats and Republicans are on record urging the Biden administration not to remove the IRGC from the terrorist blacklist.

In this context, I explained to my friend that not only does it not make sense to delist defunct terror groups but doing so is deliberately dangerous. Typically, when members of a board, alumni of an institution, or other notables pass away, they are not removed but are identified by a note that they are now deceased. Why not just leave the list of terror groups as is, and make a note that they are defunct? Listing those that are no longer active actually shows success in the war on terror.

To Delist or not to Delist? Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meeting with leaders of the IRGC last January. Will the Biden administration remove Iran’s IRGC from terror blacklist? (Photo: Handout via Getty)

I told my friend that delisting the defunct organizations is a smoke screen for plans to delist the very active IRGC. Anyone who cares about the threats of Islamic terror in general, and to Israel in particular, will be uncomfortable with the delisting of two Islamic terror groups.  However, the Biden administration’s machinations appears expedient – like the tossing a bone to placate some in Congress – by the inclusion of the Jewish/nationalist group Kach, creating the pseudo impression that the administration is being equitable.  There’s no reason to delist any of these – including Kach. It’s also offensive to those who were the victims of these and other terror groups.

My friend is a Hispanic pastor. She revealed how the removal at the end of 2021 of Columbia’s FARC off the US list of terrorist organizations proved traumatic for Hispanics who had suffered under the ruthless terrorist and drug trafficking group that raped and destroyed and kidnapped poor Colombians for decades.

FARC Fiends. On May 15, 2000 the Colombian FARC put an explosive collar around the neck of a woman, killing her and a man who tried to neutralize the device. (Photo of FARC soldiers: Pablo de Tarso Luz Meneghel Sparco)

The similarities are astounding. It was reported that the Biden administration’s delisting of the ‘now defunct’ Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group as a “foreign terrorist” organization was to support a tenuous peace agreement in Colombia. As a rule, wooing terrorists with promises of turning a blind eye rather than confronting and defeating them is not good policy.

This applies to FARC in Colombia, and IRGC in Iran.

Clearly what’s behind this is to bring Iran to sign a new or revised nuclear agreement which has become a pilar of US foreign policy.  Seeing the Biden administration’s eagerness to renew an agreement at any cost, the Iranians have used this as a make-or-break negotiating tactic.

The IRGC is on the terrorist list as a central part of Iran’s military. However, it operates far beyond a typical military unit simply preparing for combat. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the IRGC has become a quasi-governmental institution, with vast independent power and actual oversight and control over key elements of Iran’s economy, industry, and energy sectors. It regularly calls for Israel’s destruction, and materially supports other terrorist groups around the world with money, training, and equipment.

Bad Boys. There is overwhelming evidence that the IRGC is the largest and most powerful sponsor of global terrorism, writes Navid Mohebbi in Al Arabiya News. (Stock photo)

While Biden has made a new Iran deal a key pillar of his foreign policy even before coming into office, reports to mitigate the looming disaster of delisting the IRGC, suggest Biden is personally resistant to such delisting. These conflicting agendas suggest a combination of schizophrenia, deliberate disinformation and possible incompetence which I discuss in the interview . Delisting the IRGC might help achieve his key foreign policy goal of an Iranian agreement, but looks weak regarding international terrorism, something that he and other Democrats don’t need as another foreign policy failure.  With the mid-term election in just six months, that’s part of the reason that even some moderate Democrats – already resistant to rejoining a nuclear deal that goes too easy on Iran – are urging Biden to stand firm on keeping the IRGC on the terrorist list.

Right is Might. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) that in his personal opinion, he does not support the delisting of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

These issues will no doubt be top on the agenda when Biden is expected to visit Israel at the end of June, particularly in light of recent reports that Iran may be days away from enough material for one nuclear bomb. With his coalition shaky at best, Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cannot afford to appear weak or allow anything to undermine his leadership in protecting Israel from the Iranian threat.

Towering Rage. The IRGC was found liable in 2018 for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 Americans and injured 260. (© AFP/Getty Images)

Is this a good cop, bad cop quasi negotiating tactic with Iran, or just a dress rehearsal for another Biden administration foreign policy failure? The implications of delisting these terror groups now, along with FARC, opens old wounds of their victims, brings Jews, Hispanics and all people of conscience closer together, and makes us all less safe.



About the writer:

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





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

WHAT IF?

From bicycle saddle to hospital bed – some existential thoughts about self and country

By David E. Kaplan

On Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) on the 5th May, I went for a ride on my bicycle. Turned out – a regrettable mistake. In a quiet side road, I had a serious accident and ended up in Meir Hospital, Kfar Saba. I am recovering well but I ask the question:

What at the last corner before the accident I turned right instead of left?”

Lying in my ward later that night following a general anesthetic stitch-up, I reflected on the poem of Robert FrostThe Road Not Taken’ and pondered literally and figuratively if, in the words of the poet:

I took the one less traveled by

Clearly then – inter alia –  I would not be penning this prose!

But then I pondered beyond my bodily bruising and thought instead of the anatomy of the world whose condition too throughout history has either sored or soured dependent at critical moments when  fractured futures or favourable fortunes could have gone either way and the destinies of people would have been quite different.

As I was reflecting in an Israeli hospital, I thought back to those past pivotal – some even existential – moments in Israel’s modern history, when disaster or salvation hung in the balance:

WHAT IF on November 2, 1917, Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour had not written a letter to Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, expressing the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine – a letter that would eventually become known as the Balfour Declaration.  In all likelihood, I would then not be lying in a ward of the seventh largest hospital in the Jewish state of Israel after 2000 years of exile.

Weighty Words. Lord Arthur Balfour and the letter that moved a dream towards reality.

WHAT IF Rommel’s African Corp had not lost the Battle of El Alamein in 1942, leaving the German Wehrmacht free to steamroll northwards to Palestine? Again, possibly no Meir Hospital would have been established in 1956.

WHAT IF Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had not demanded the unification of ideologically diverse Jewish armed forces during the War of Independence to forge a national army – the IDF?

WHAT IF? A British army recruitment drive in Tel Aviv during World War II. The big fear for the Jews before the Battle of El- Alamein was that Rommel would overrun Palestine.

WHAT IF Israel had not taken out the Egyptian Air Force in the opening round of the 1967 Six Day War?

WHAT IF Israel had not mounted Operation Thunderbolt in 1976 to rescue the Jewish hostages held in Entebbe airport following the hijacking of an Air France airbus A300 jet airliner? No Jew or Israeli plane would be safe anywhere. The message – don’t mess with us and expect  you will get way with it. Jews will “NEVER AGAIN” be slaughtered with impunity.

‘Plane’ Truth. What if Israel had not rescued the Jewish captives held by Palestinian and German terrorists in Entebbe in 1976?

WHAT IF there was not a young IDF commander of a tank battalion Avigdor Kahalani, like a biblical David that blocked a Goliath Syrian army from conquering the Golan Heights in 1973.

WHAT IF Prime Minister Menachem Begin had not embraced the peace process with Anwar Sadat of Egypt or authorized the surprise bombing of Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1982?

WHAT IF Israel had not mounted highly secretive operations to rescue the threatened Jews from Yemen and Ethiopia and absorbed one million Russian immigrants. In 1948, Israel had a Jewish population of 716,700; today over seven million, the largest concentration of Jews anywhere in the world! If the quest before had been for the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in their ancestral homeland, the quest today is to secure it for eternity.

Reaching a Crescendo. What if Israel had not neutralised Iraq’s nuclear ambitions in 1981 with Operation Opera.
 

ONE DOME TO ANOTHER

And then as I lay in the hospital bed digesting the distressing news of the Arab disturbances playing out at the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif, the compound housing both mosques, Al- Aqsa and Jerusalem’s most iconic Dome of the Rock, I reflected on exactly a year earlier when Hamas and its cohorts had unleashed over 4,300 rockets at Israel’s civilian population centers and pondered WHAT IF we did not have our IRON DOME?

Not designed to attack or retaliate, this “life saver” defence missile system developed by Israeli companies and financially supported by the US, proved some 90% effective in intercepting enemy rockets, greatly reducing the death toll. No less significant, this remarkable instrument of Israeli ingenuity also reduced the need for IDF ground operations in and around the civilian areas that terrorists use for launching missiles and rockets at Israeli civilians. Invariably ground offenses result in greater loss of lives. All this was avoided or averted because of the IRON DOME!

Special Relationship. Israeli Iron Dome anti-rocket system (right) and an American Patriot missile defense system are shown during a joint U.S.-Israel military exercise on March 8, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

A MAJOR LEAK

And then finally before retiring to sleep at Meir, the need for the bathroom reminded me of one final WHAT IF, which at the time of its happening was lavatorialy inconsequential but decades later proved monumentally existential.

What do I mean?

For many years, U.S.-Israel military ties  – so vital to Israel – were non-existent. From Israel’s creation in 1948 until the mid-1960s, US State Department and Pentagon officials argued against even providing American arms to Israel lest it provoke the Arabs to ask the Soviets and Chinese for more weapons, which in turn would stimulate a Middle East arms race.

U.S. policy fundamentally changed only after the 1967 Six Day War when France – Israel’s main supplier –  abandoned the Jewish state and the US stepped in to give Israel a qualitative military edge over its enemies. This was all due to a successful meeting between Israeli PM Levi Eshkol and US President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 leading to an agreement to sell Phantom jets to Israel marking the change in relationship between the two countries and establishing the US as Israel’s principal arms supplier.

Meeting of Minds. One of the most important meetings in Israeli history was Prime Minister Levi Eshkol (left) meeting here with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 as the President’s Texas ranch, which established a warm relationship between the two countries which has stood the test of time.

Since then, Israel has never looked back.

All this however would not have happened, had LBJ not decided at a precise moment in 1942 to relieve himself at an airbase toilet.

A 33-year-old Representative from Texas, lieutenant commander Johnson on the 9th June 1942, boarded a plane called the Wabash Cannonball for a mission in the South Pacific. While the Wabash Cannonball was on a bombing mission, Johnson’s participation was as an observer to inspect and report back to President Roosevelt of Japanese troop movements over New Guinea. However, no sooner had the future US president boarded the B-26, nature called!

Toying with the decision to “hold it in” or go to the toilet and catch the next bomber, he chose the latter and alighted from the plane.

It was a history-altering decision.

After relieving himself, he then joined the crew of another bomber, the Heckling Hare

LBJ was lucky.

The  Wabash Cannonball  was hit by enemy fire and crashed with a total loss of life, while a crippled “hare” made it back to base.

So to my list of Israel’s “What Ifs?”, I add:

Where would Israel’s relationship be today with regard to the US, had not a young Lyndon B. Johnson not had the desperate need to at the right moment to take a leak?

And so while Israel never looked back, my final thought was if only  the driver of the car in Kfar Saba had ‘looked back’ – in her rear view mirror – before opening her door into which I rode!

The writer on a ride in northen 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).