What’s happening under the Netanyahu coalition has former South- Africans in Israel worried.

By Larry Butchins

We are under dire threat. Whether many people are ready to accept and believe or not, we are on the brink of becoming what all our detractors and enemies have claimed for decades – an apartheid state. With laws that call for discrimination against Arab Israelis – yes, when funds are held back from Arab communities, that is discrimination; when law makers on the right talk about “giving job preference” to Jews over Arabs, that is racism; when women are told to “cover up” and sit at the back of the bus, that is prejudice – whether we like it or not, and it doesn’t matter if that is “official policy” or not , it is this government which is enabling that type of thuggish, racist, discriminatory behavior. Empowering those who do believe it, to act it out.

I believe that as a former South African, who grew up and then lived under the apartheid regime all my life until making Aliyah, it is my moral duty to raise a red flag and wave it vigorously, to warn what could happen here. It is my moral duty to caution that while I have fervently defended Israel against those who condemn it as an apartheid state, we are rapidly heading in that direction, to hell in a handbasket, and I am horrified by that possibility.

Shades of Shame. Visual imagery of South Africa past that the writer never wanted to revisit elsewhere.

Allow me to hark back to the days of apartheid in South Africa, as a reminder of what life under doctrinaire and dogmatic rule, was really like back then.

One of my earliest memories of apartheid was when I was probably around 10-years-old. Late one night, my parents insisted I accompany my father to take our black maid Mavis to the central train station in Durban. I had to sit in front of the car and Mavis had to sit in the back seat. When on the drive home, I asked my father why I had to go with him, he replied that he had to have proof (me, his white little boy) that he and Mavis were not contravening the Immorality Act. Had he been stopped by the police, driving alone with a black woman, they both would have been arrested on charges under that “immoral” act. He would have copped a large fine (because he was white), and she would have been thrown in jail (because she was black), processed in the system, and not seen the light of day for weeks, possibly even months. I couldn’t quite internalize the message at that age, but it followed me the rest of my life in SA, always looking over my shoulder to check that the dreaded security service, BOSS (Bureau of State Security) wasn’t following me or checking everything I had written, said or done.

Disturbing Developments. At a change of command ceremony on Wednesday night, outgoing Binyamin Regional Brigade commander Eliav Elbaz, said in reference to increasing settler violence that “It should be said in a loud clear voice, that actions of this type are not ethical, not Jewish, and do not contribute to security.” (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

I will quote from a chapter of my book, “Train in the Distance” in which the protagonist, Adam Marks, a reporter on a weekly newspaper in the 1970s – the height of apartheid – laments about his so-called “privileged freedom”.

“Do you think I’m free?

“When I write and publish the word ‘Amandla (Freedom in Zulu) under my name in the columns of a widely circulated newspaper, do you believe that I will not be condemned for that? Do you not understand that I am putting my freedom – and the welfare of my family – at risk? I cannot express my opinions freely, I cannot associate with whom I please: if I wish to invite Black friends to my home for dinner, I will be watched and under suspicion. If I meet Black friends for a day at the beach…well, that’s not going to happen, because we can’t even go to the same beach! I cannot even meet them for a picnic in a public park – unless my Black friends are seen to be my servants – haulers of wood and drawers of water for my benefit.

“Do you not understand that I cannot read, or view or listen to what I want? If I wish to read ‘The Communist Manifesto’, or ‘Lolita’, or ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, or hundreds of other banned books, magazines; or see certain films; listen to music by certain musicians – can you believe Maria Callas singing Lucia di Lammermoor fell under the censors obliterating red pencil? Fats Domino, The Beatles, Rodriguez…how many more?

“Radical new ideas, by writers, artists, musicians and committed, passionate people, are influencing and shaping dynamic new thinking throughout the world…and here we sit, under the yolk of an evil system with evil intent, all because of our ‘privilege’.

“I am not free; my ideas are not free; my life is not free – despite all my privileges, I am still a white victim of apartheid. YOU are white victims of apartheid; and I don’t know when or if it is ever going to end…”

Separate entrances in post offices and banks, stairwells in train stations, trains reserved for different races; busses – those which allowed blacks on board in the first place, insisting they sat at the back – the last three rows reserved for blacks; Christian National Education – indoctrination of school children about the “right” of the white man to conquer the land and confine others to “homelands” or “locations”; the imposition of the morals and religious authority over what we could read, or view, or listen to, or even discuss…

Back of the Bus. Some of the hundreds of Israelis demonstrating against the segregation of men and women on buses in certain neighborhoods of Jerusalem, where the women must sit in the back. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

I could write volumes on the apartheid regime, its beginnings, middle and end… and how White South Africans enjoyed a multitude of benefits, lifestyle choices and preferential treatment. About how the Afrikaner-led government set itself up as the highest authority in the land – except for the Supreme Court and a group of courageous justices. Despite virulent government opposition, criticism and the possibility of arrest, banning orders, 90- or 180-days imprisonment, they were a light of sanity in a very dark nation.

Under the General Law Amendment Act, the Special Branch was allowed to arrest anyone they suspected of being engaged or involved in any act against the State and to hold them incommunicado for 90 days (and later 180 days) at a time. The Special Branch could interrogate and extract information, and the public was not entitled to any information including even the identity or whereabouts of people being detained. Detainees could literally and effectively “disappear”. If no charges were to be laid, the Special Branch had to release the individual or individuals after 90 (or 180) days. At the time, Prime Minister John Vorster boasted that this was repeatable “until this side of eternity.” A perfect example of the absolute need for an authority higher than the government.[1]

Am I suggesting that bleak Kafkaesque scenario could happen here in Israel? Not exactly, but there are certain resonant and frightening parallels. I do believe that former South Africans, those who came to this beautiful land of ours to flee discrimination and mind control, who came here to a democratic homeland; who came to work for and build a beacon of freedom and enlightenment – albeit somewhat flawed – should now stand up and cry out:

 “We are NOT an apartheid country – and NEVER WILL BE: IT CANNOT HAPPEN.”

[1] South Africa, Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy – Detentions Without Trial During the Apartheid Era

About the Writer:

Larry Butchins – I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and started my journalistic career as a cub reporter on Durban’s morning newspaper, The Natal Mercury, covering fires, accidents, shipping and beach news. I then moved to the Sunday Tribune’s Johannesburg branch office, covering everything from visiting celebrities to political scandals and student anti-apartheid riots. At a protest at Wits University, I was arrested along with student protesters and spent the weekend in a cell in Johannesburg’s notorious John Vorster Square.

Eventually lured into Public Relations, I opened my own PR firm in Durban. On moving to Israel with my family in 1987, I branched from classical PR into Marketing Communication, running a small English-language agency promoting Israeli products abroad, working with Israeli hi-tech enterprises. Five years ago, I self-published my novel Train in the Distance based on my actual experiences as a journalist working under (and often against) apartheid’s rules and regulations.

In addition to professional writing, I write articles and stories, travel blogs – The Offbeat Traveller – and children’s books, two of which have been published in the US and South Africa. I am now entering my third career as a screenwriter and producer for an international TV series based on my novel.

My wife, Marlyn, and I live in Tzur Yitzhak , north of Kfar Saba; have three grown children and four  grandchildren who all live in Mitzpe Ramon.

Contact Details:


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).


Did the West just lose Africa to Russia and Iran?

By Stepan Stepanenko and Catherine Perez-Shakdam

Niger’s military coup, coupled with the new regime’s call for Wagner assistance and apparent negotiations with the Iranian regime, is the beginning of a dangerous realignment in the Sahel region.

If left unaddressed by democratic states, this will see a new stronghold of terror networks on Europe’s borders. Russian and Iranian moves to secure the favor of Niger’s coup leaders show the unity of both in their bid to redress historic balances of power, plunging the country and the region into further turmoil by making democracy and economic development for the region unattainable.

In a historic emergency meeting in Abuja earlier this month, Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called for the immediate release and reinstatement of Niger’s elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, held by the military since 19 July.

President Ousted. Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s democratically elected president, was ousted by members of his presidential guard on July 26 and has since been under house arrest with his wife and son in the presidential compound in the capital, Niamey. Facing prosecution for “high treason”, if found guilty, Bazoum could face the death penalty, according to Niger’s penal code. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

ECOWAS issued a stern ultimatum to Niger’s military, giving them one week to comply with their demands or face the consequences, including the potential use of force to restore the nation’s rightful leader. The bloc’s unwavering stance sends a clear message that the international community will not tolerate the disruption of democracy in the Sahel region.

Niger’s coup, orchestrated by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, has further exposed deep-rooted issues within the country. The rise in insecurity and stagnant economic prospects have contributed to the nation’s fragility, leading to disillusionment among the populace – a theme that unfortunately runs throughout much of the region, reminding many that Niger could be only the beginning of a much broader realignment, with efforts by Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran to exploit chaos to advance their respective agendas.

Taking Charge. Coup leader, General Abdourahmane Tchiani , who was declared as the new head of state of Niger by leaders of a coup, arrives to meet with ministers in Niamey, Niger July 28, 2023. (REUTERS/Balima Boureima) 

Niger’s new leadership is on shaky grounds, coming in at a time when violence and turbulence were decreasing in the country. Coupled with  wider criticism of the presidential guard’s move to detain president Bazoum, the new leadership has no choice but to seek external support from those willing to prey on instability for their personal benefit.

So it comes as no surprise that Evgeniy Prigozhin, head of the infamous Wagner Group, was quick to praise the coup and offer support for the new regime. More worrying is the news that Niger has already asked for assistance from the Russian mercenary group in a visit by the coup’s leader, General Salifou Mody, to Mali – a well-known Wagner outpost.

Offering Order to sow Disorder. Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who remains active despite leading a failed mutiny against the Russian army’s top brass, has hailed Niger’s military coup as  good news and offered his fighters’ services to bring order.

While Russia’s mercenary presence in Africa is well documented, if still largely out of the public eye in the west, a tell-tale sign of the region’s importance to Russia’s future plans in its standoff with the West is Iran’s efforts to assist the coup leaders.

The Sahel has grappled for years with Islamic radicalism, with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram vying for control, and the risk that Africa could soon lose territory to the Caliphate 2.0 are too real to be discounted.

Taking into account the recent visit to Niger of Esmail Qaani, the infamous Commander of the Quds Forces – a division primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations – the future of Niger could be grim.

Appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei following the death of General Qassem Soleimani in 2020, Qaani is one of the regime’s most loyal and trusted military operatives and his presence generally signals a desire from Tehran to establish or curate influence.

Niger’s new leadership already announced it is cutting bilateral military ties with France and called back its ambassadors from France, the US, Nigeria, and Togo.

But how did we get here, and more importantly, what does it mean for Western interests and the prospects of peace for the people of Niger and the Sahel?

General Abdourahamane Tchiani’s discontent stems, at least in part, from the presence of foreign forces in Niger. The perception that these forces undermine the military’s authority has fueled dissent and complicated efforts by the United States and France to combat insurgent attacks by Islamic radical groups.

In turn, the coup’s leader’s move to welcome Russia’s assistance clearly indicates that foreign presence is only a pretense.

Flames over Niamey. The headquarters of Niger’s ruling party burns in the background as supporters of the mutinous soldiers demonstrate in Niamey, Niger.

Likewise, in a show of hypocrisy, Mali’s Assimi Goïta, who has made Russia his protector and guarantor, has called for an end to colonialism and the influence of the West on the region, echoing the same lines voiced by Russian diplomats and outlets such as Media Afrique TV, closely linked to Prigozhin’s Association for Free Research and International Cooperation (AFRIC).

The ethnicity and the legitimacy of President Bazoum have also been problematic, fanning old upsets. The predominantly ethnic Arab military have challenged Bazoum’s leadership, despite his majority win in the elections, highlighting the fragility of Niger’s democratic institutions and the difficulties in preserving their integrity.

Niger is only the latest African country to fall prey to violence. Military power seizures in Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Mali most likely paved the way, not to say emboldened, Niger’s military junta.

Before such dynamics, ECOWAS and the African Union have little to no influence. This lack of deterrence has created a troubling environment, encouraging opportunistic military leaders to challenge democratic norms.

The implications of this coup are far-reaching. Niger’s strategic alliances with Western nations in combating insurgency and curbing illegal migration to Europe will be jeopardised. The West could also lose access to vital gold and uranium resources, disrupting markets and broad economic outlooks.

The new military leadership is sure to act as a further facilitator for Russian and Iran to circumvent US and EU and other sanctions placed on their trade.

Undeterred by international moral and legal norms, the impetus of the newly enthroned coup leaders to cling to power will outweigh any restrictions placed on such dealings.

Ultimately, the success of this military takeover could set a dangerous precedent for democracy in the region and Africa as a whole. The formation of a military alliance by the regimes of Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso raises concerns about the erosion of democratic values and the need for African leaders to prioritize the interests of their citizens.

Capitalizing on Coup and Chaos. Joining Russia in eyeing Niger as possible inroad against US in Africa, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for stability and calm in Niger, whose President Mohammed Bazoum has been detained and removed in a coup led by members of his presidential guard.

We may also want to consider that Niger’s coup may not be the expression of internal divisions alone but rather the result of a Russian and Iranian bid for control at the heart of Africa to offset Western influence and access.

Taking into account the fragility of the new leader’s power base, the stage is set for the center of Africa to be the new battleground between totalitarianism and democratic forces.

About the writers:

A co-founder and director of UK-based media and consultancy company  ‘Forward Strategy’, Catherine Perez-Shakdam is a frequent contributor to i24NEWS, Al Jazeera, the BBC, The Jerusalem Post, Politico, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mail.

In 2021, Chatherine gained international attention when news broke of her decade-long infiltration of the Iranian regime, during which she was able to gain access to the highest echelons of the regime’s inner circles. Despite the danger following being labeled an ‘enemy of the state’ by Iran, Catherine utilized her extensive knowledge and close-encounter insight to expose a system that had long operated under a shroud of secrecy. Her revelations have provided a unique perspective on Iran’s actions, challenging its narrative and exposing the true nature of its operations.

Dr. Stepan Stepanenko

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).


Penetration to the inner sanctum of Iran’s leadership

By Catherine Perez-Shakdam

(*Courtesy of the American Centre for Levant Studies)

With fiery conviction, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said to me, “When we say Death to America we refer to a system sold to the Zionist cause, when we say Death to Israel we refer to the sons and daughters of Jacob who raised their hands in apostasy against our great prophets and followed the path of Satan as they toiled to steal Muslim lands and enslave our communities. Their bloodline is perverse, marked for destruction by G-d. We must obey the divine law.”

His words dripped with disdain and hatred …

The man’s determination was palpable, the implication of his words terrible. In a few words Khamenei had encapsulated the nature of the regime.

Turning away was no longer an option!


Few have ventured into the inner sanctum of Iran and reaped the benefits of an up-close observation of the regime’s machinations. The Islamic Republic, operating within a highly compartmentalized structure, functions on a strict need-to-know basis, selectively divulging information that serves its objectives. No confidence is squandered; every move is meticulously calculated and premeditated. This framework ensures that any accidental breach remains confined. Such pyramidal design also permits the regime’s elite to guarantee ideological continuity, in the sense that not all its loyalists are necessarily required to believe in the revolutionary project to the extent they do, thus insulating the Leadership. For a regime like Iran, where secrecy and paranoia reign supreme, admitting outsiders into the fold is not a casual affair, unless driven by sheer necessity.

The Iranian regime’s imperious craving for validation, its yearning to court fresh voices and expand its ideological influence, particularly in Yemen, would prove to be its Achilles’ heel. As the regime worked to develop a new asset to its ideology, few could have anticipated that it was I who in fact sought to learn of their agenda and learn of their modus operandi so that it could be defeated.

If my initial contact with the Islamic regime had been by chance, my ascent to the heights of Iran’s revolutionary structure would be by design. Presented with an opportunity to break into the Islamic Republic, I was determined to play the game as long as it would take, for as far as I could go.

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran


I traversed the borders of Iran unaccompanied. No one compelled me, coerced me, or orchestrated a plan by foreign powers to infiltrate the regime and gain access to critical information. By the time 2011 arrived, I had witnessed an ample display of Iran’s pernicious influence in the Middle East, specifically in Yemen, leaving me no choice but to acknowledge Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the mastermind behind the shadow of terror. Penetrating the regime is not a venture to be undertaken lightly; it requires assuming substantial risks. One must be invited in – any other approach would raise suspicion and lead to devastating consequences.  The regime must make the approach, not the other way around.

Thus, when the opportunity presented itself, I elected to follow suit — fully aware that my endeavor held no guarantees of fruition. Nevertheless, I remained willing to undertake the endeavor.

This journey into Iran’s corridors of power commenced in Yemen in 2002, three years after my marriage to a Sunni Muslim Yemeni man. Amidst the heartland of Arabia, I found myself face-to-face with the Axis of Resistance — an alliance that, surprisingly, witnessed the transformation of a nation seemingly impervious to Tehran’s influence. In just over a decade, Yemen shed its identity and donned the colors not of Shia Islam but of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

While the Iranian regime purports to adhere to the principles of Twelver Shia Islam, its clerical class has adeptly rebranded and, more pertinently, exploited it, weaponizing faith and subjugating its practitioners to their whims. Iran’s unique brand of Shia Islam exhibits the traits of a cult revolving around martyrdom, jihad, and territorial expansion.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini boldly declared, “Islam says: Whatever good exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! Hundreds of other [Qur’anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.”

Once a client-state of Saudi Arabia, Yemen underwent a seismic shift, aligning itself with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and allowing its ideologues to rewrite its history to the extent that the Yemen of today is unrecognizable.

I encountered my now ex-husband, a Sunni Muslim man from Yemen, through mutual acquaintances in the United Kingdom in late 1998 as I went to pursue my studies. We married in early 1999. Coming from a predominantly secular Jewish French background, burdened by a longing for belonging and a yearning to create the familial unit I had always craved, I dove headfirst, oblivious to the warnings that our cultural and religious differences, would eventually render our marriage unsustainable.

My first visit to Yemen in 2002 was for a family gathering. Our return to the UK would be short-lived as upon insistence from his family my husband decided we ought to resettle there, and if not forever, at least for a while. Unable to refuse, I followed.

Sana’a, Yemen

The two years spent in Yemen proved to be a complex experience. Confronted with an alien world I knew nothing about, I witnessed the deep-seated antipathy harbored by many Yemenis towards Jews and Israel. Plagued by Islamic radicalism, Yemen had already become a breeding ground for violent ideologues, each espousing a vehement hatred for all things Western while positioning Islam as the path to salvation. This impoverished Arabian nation teetered on the precipice amidst conflicting religious and political currents. While few could have foreseen Iran’s success in claiming it as its own — the writing was already on the proverbial wall.

Even then, Iran was acknowledged as a dangerous power, an unwanted influence that needed to be purged from Yemen’s society. Despite initial resistance to the ideological allure of the Islamic Republic, Yemen succumbed, absorbed into Tehran’s Axis of Resistance through the ascendance of the Houthi movement and the reconfiguration of Yemen’s socio-political landscape. Tehran, a master manipulator, had honed its skill over the decades, adeptly exploiting nations’ vulnerabilities to vie for influence.

As the poorest and most unruly country on the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen remains a coveted prize for regional powers, owing to its strategic geography. Not only does Yemen provide access to the World Oil Route, but it also opens gateways to Asia and Africa — a geopolitical dream for the Islamic Republic as its leadership endeavors to incorporate more Arab capitals into its Axis of Resistance, thereby reshaping the region to align with its vision.

Previously under the patronage of Saudi Arabia and Gulf powers, Yemen had remained impervious to the Ayatollahs’ influence until the Arab Spring and the downfall of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The unrest of 2011 shattered the established order, paving the way for the most improbable contenders: the Houthis.

Regarded as outcasts within Yemen’s political and tribal spheres, the Houthis emerged in the 1990s on the fringes of Yemeni society. Shunned, derided, and relegated to the highlands, the Houthis faced insurmountable odds. It was only through Iran’s meticulous planning and the strategic appointment of several of its operatives to guide the group that Abdel Malek Al Houthi was able to march upon Sana’a, Zaidi Islam was absorbed into Khameneiism, and Saudi Arabia found itself compelled to wage war against its neighboring state in a bid to contain the escalating threat to its religious and territorial integrity.

The Puppet Masters

Two men had been put in charge of breaking through Yemen’s defenses: Hassan Al Emad, the man Saudi Arabia refers to as the Khomeini of Yemen, and Nader Talebzadeh, Iran’s chief propagandist –  both men who would ensure my rise within Iran regime’s ranks would meet no resistance. They both imagined they could use me as a pawn in their chess game.

Hassan Al Emad, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran

As fate would have it, Al Emad was a close family friend of my ex-husband, even though their respective ideology and political views could not have been more polarized. The son of a formerly affluent Yemeni family, my ex-husband had retained many close connections to Yemen’s leading class – something Al Emad was keen to utilize for his benefit.

Back then, Al Emad knew nothing of my origins other than the story my in-laws had told their entourage – that of a French girl who had married their son and agreed to embrace their way of life and, above all, toe the line.

Upon my request, we returned to the UK in early 2005, a few months after my daughter’s birth. I met Al Emad again at a family gathering in 2009, following our second attempt at settling in Yemen.

Following encouragement by Al Emad, who I would soon learn was a well-known IRGC operative in Yemen, I would be slowly taught the ideology of the Islamic Republic, first through history books, later through a crash course in the genesis of the Islamic Revolution and the ideals it claimed to embody – that of liberation and empowerment against tyranny. It is then that I commenced my ascent into Iran’s network of influence.

Such proximity to Al Emad and time would play in my favor. Add to that my curiosity for Shia Islam and a passion for history and geopolitics and I was quickly identified as a potential convert to Tehran’s ideology, someone who could be manipulated and exploited to spread the regime’s words among Yemen’s elite – potentially western media too. 

We would leave again for the UK on the back of the Arab Spring and the toppling of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in late 2012.

If Al Emad made Tehran pay attention, offering his religious clout, Nader Talebzadeh’s recommendation would open the gates. A close friend to Ayatollah Khameini, the regime’s most trusted advisor and communication strategist, Nader’s influence was greater than that of the IRGC’s most high-ranking commanders.

What he said went. Whoever he brought would be granted access, as it was assumed his vetting was the only one that mattered. He controlled the Leadership’s propaganda campaign and was its architect.

On the Right: Nader Talebzadeh

Nader loved to collect people. He would hone talents and build careers, ensuring that loyalties would be secured. I was just another project, a valuable witness of Yemen’s Revolution, a Westerner whose voice would be listened to. My grasp of the region’s dynamics made me a useful tool – that and the fact that I had access to actors within Yemen the regime could not reach. He was to become my mentor.

My ‘education’ would take place over several years – opportunities to demonstrate my utility would be staged and ‘friendships’ arranged so that I could be kept and my thoughts nurtured. Looking back, knowing what I know now of the regime’s modus operandi, I can see how I was being tested and my utility analyzed before I could be let through various circles of influence.

My induction into the regime’s higher echelons came through Lebanon when Marwa Osman, a self-proclaimed Hezbollah supporter, invited me as a political commentator on Etejah TV in early 2015. Within a few years, I became Iran’s favorite Yemeni expert, featured as I was in interviews for Mehr News, Press TV, Tehran Times, Fars News, etc. I was also handpicked by RT (Russia Today) to write OpEds and appear on its programs. Nader Talebzadeh had of course a hand in this.

Pictures of Alexander Dugin taken during the Arbaeen pilgrimage  in Najaf in 2017, Iraq. Alexander Dugin is President Vladimir Putin’s senior advisor and chief propagandist

A close friend to Alexander Dugin, one of President Vladimir Putin’s close advisors and chief ideologue, Talebzadeh had curated a network of people he could use to promote his ideas and act as a powerful echo chamber over the years. The two men were so close that only a year would go by without them meeting or traveling together.

Iran’s ties with Russia are far deeper and more diverse than many believe, as the two powers run exchange programs, allowing appointed experts to lend their clout across their respective networks so that ideas would be disseminated and certain narratives consolidated. This process also allows Tehran to identify talent and advance careers when and if needed.

Kim Sharif – Director of Human Rights for Yemen and cousin of Abdel Malek Al Houthi (Yemen)

In 2015 I was approached by the Houthis’ information bureau. Kim Sharif, a cousin of Abdel Malek Al Houthi in the UK and an IRGC asset, asked me to attend a series of events she was organizing in the UK with such groups as Code Pink and Stop The War. An affiliate of the Iranian regime, Kim Sharif had developed close ties to many Iran-friendly outposts in the UK, namely the Islamic Centre of England, the Islamic College, the Khoei Foundation, and various Shia media outlets. While the Khoeis are not per se part of the regime, their connection to Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq places them within Tehran’s sphere of influence. Many of the events the foundation hosts, for example, bring together many of the regime’s loyalists including the clerical class. The Khoeis exist within the Islamic Republic‘s ecosystem – and willingly or not remain instrumental in propagating its ideology.

Within a few weeks, Sharif would introduce me to the entire network, positioning me at the heart of Tehran’s network of influence in the UK. I would learn of the many operatives and ‘friends’ the Leadership owned and controlled – it most certainly still does.

As 2016 came rolling in, I became a known face in Iranian media, a favorite on Press TV, and a trusted mouthpiece for the regime. As my profile grew, so did my access within the regime. My position would be sealed one Sunday morning when Khamenei’s office asked me to contribute to the Leadership’s website. Featuring on Khamenei’s official website indicates that one is officially a valued asset above all suspicion. My first task would be to interview George Galloway, the former British MP, himself a favorite among Iran’s loyalists for his hatred of Israel.

A presenter on Al Mayadeen, a TV outlet in line with Hezbollah and the IRGC, Galloway would invite me to several of his shows as a commentator on Yemen first, and finally, Iran.

In early February, Al Emad arranged for me to meet with the leadership of the Dawa party (Iraq), yet another political asset of the regime. This meeting would open the doors to Ayatollah Sistani’s camp in Iraq and allow me to witness the weight and extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq.


Conference Hall of the Palestine Conference 2017 – Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran 

Later that month, I was brought to Tehran to attend the ‘Palestine Conference’. There were members of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, the Dawa Party, Al Wefaq, the PMU, and other groups totally sold on Khamenei’s ideology. This first journey to the heart of the regime would be a whirlwind. Over four days, I would come to meet the who’s who of the regime: Nader Talebzadeh, Professor Mohammed Marandi, President Hassan Rouhani, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Ali Larijani – countless meetings were arranged with countless faces.

It was then that I was granted an audience with Khamenei himself, a day after I had first officially met Nader Talebzadeh, and de facto made my entry into the regime. Little did I know at the time that Nader had watched me from afar, carefully monitoring my work while encouraging the regime’s media to give me ‘airtime’. As with most things in Iran, the decision to take me to Ayatollah Khamenei was taken over a shisha [hookah] in a cafe not too far from the conference hall. As I sat with whom I believed to be high-ranking members of the IRGC – people’s reactions to the group were enough of a giveaway for me to deduct they were indeed intelligence, and if not that, high enough within the regime’s ranks to wield great influence, I was asked:

If you could request anything what would it be?”

As I requested a ring from Khamenei –  a token most loyalists value above all, I was told:

What about meeting the Imam in person?”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – this picture was given as a token of appreciation on the back of the meeting with Khamenei as a ‘souvenir’.

I was given 15 minutes to get my things together. I was under strict instructions not to take my phone with me or to have any sharp object on me – including the pin many women use to secure their headscarves. I was to done the traditional Iranian Chador – one had been delivered to me earlier that day. As I was ushered in a four-wheel drive a woman went over the rules, impressing on me that there could be no mishaps, no faux-pas made when addressing the Leadership … not that I needed to be told twice.

Speak only if asked a direct question, do not stare, do not offer your hands to greet anyone, do not smile too overtly, sit still and keep your hands rested on your knees, do not ask impertinent questions, do not offer your opinion unless asked to, do not speak directly at him but rather your interpreter, and whatever you do, do not share any of the details of this meeting on social media or anyone within your entourage.”

We entered a complex with a large courtyard. On the right of us was an annex which I was told was where guests were received. I entered … before me was a room with bare walls, safe for a few pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei – they hung low and crooked. Bright neon lights on the ceiling added to the austerity and dilapidated feeling of the room – not a setting you would imagine meeting with a head of state. On the floor were tattered rugs and cushions running alongside the walls.

A chair was brought in. I was told to sit on the floor and wait. He came through a door located at the very far end of the room with an entourage of men. As I stood up to greet him, which I did by bowing my head as previously instructed, the woman who had accompanied me quickly waved her hand at me, so that I would sit back down. I did.

His voice was soft and he spoke slowly. He seemed smaller and frailer than I remembered him during the conference’s opening ceremony. Our interaction was an odd one.

He spoke to me of Imam Mahdi and the responsibility he had, as his servant to precipitate his return. He told me of the End of Days and the foretold battle that would end with the fall of Christianity and the death of all Jews – how G-d would strike the infidels, humiliating them before the Believers for their acts of heresy. How justice was a matter of submission to the rule, his rule since he alone could translate divine laws. He was after all, the Guardian of G-d’s will, the vehicle by which His commands could be enacted and Islam reigns mighty over all.

He spoke at length of the Zionist lobby, his fight to denounce and expose Jews’ nefarious influence, how during his time on the front against Iraq he could feel the perverse presence of Jewish America and realized then that Iran was engaged in a war that would ultimately lead to the Great War referenced in the Quran and the Return of the Awaited Imam.

I was asked if I understood the regime’s most infamous slogan: “Death to Israel, Death to America”. I replied that I wasn’t sure and wouldn’t dare assume.

When we say Death to America we refer to a system sold to the Zionist cause, when we say Death to Israel we refer to the sons and daughters of Jacob who raised their hands in apostasy against our great prophets and followed the path of Satan as they toiled to steal Muslim lands and enslave our communities. Their bloodline is perverse, marked for destruction by G-d. We must obey the divine law.”

I don’t recall the journey back to the hotel … Khamenei had just rationalized genocide to me.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s parting gift to Catheine Perez-Shakdam following their meeting.

If I had a clear grasp on the regime’s political vision by then, I had yet to be introduced to its methods and, more importantly, the goals it had assigned for the region and, more pertinently, for Western democracies.

In the corridors of Tehran’s conference hall, I would be told of the Islamic Republic’s plan for Israel, its mad pursuit for the ‘destruction’ not of a state but that of its people. How the IRGC had mapped out the Jewish diaspora so that it could, at the appointed time, strike at its very heart and drive a wedge between Israel and its Western allies.

While access was given quickly once in Iran, it reflected over a decade of careful work and networking. I had to prove myself to many of Iran’s clients and make a name first among Iran’s revolutionary networks – Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq so that my presence would never be questioned but rather assumed. I posed as a regime supporter to learn of its men’s techniques to buy hearts and minds. I’ve witnessed how many allowed themselves to be seduced by the regime; the pull its ideologues have on intellectuals.

The process by which Iran’s regime buys itself loyalties deserves more scrutiny – the slow burn of its indoctrination, the web its agents will weave around their intended targets. Not all, unfortunately, are aware of the game being played against them. Not all are even aware of whose game they are playing. The regime has many agents and outposts peppered across the MENA region and even our Western democracies, especially our Western democracies No sectors stand immune to the regime’s advances; from the military to academia, politics, and NGOs, Tehran’s agents are everywhere, nurturing contacts and leveraging influence.

Nothing is usually left amiss in Tehran, except maybe in my case. If many voiced reservations about my ascent, never did they suspect my loyalty or imagine that the doors they were opening were to facilitate the entry of a Zionist into their midst. I had erased every shred of my identity and dressed in theirs for far too long.

Nader’s friendship would seal the deal –  in a few months, I had become a trusted family friend, someone he would invite on trips and confide in. My links and access to Yemen’s deep state, my ability to read geopolitical developments and relay them within a context the regime could exploit, would prove too valuable not to be utilized. I was groomed to be an IRGC asset.

In April 2017 I was asked to help build the IRGC’s new propaganda campaign in the UK. Nader Talebzadeh asked me to devise a communication/propaganda campaign to help disseminate the ideas and program laid out by Khamenei during the ‘Palestine Conference.’ The regime wanted to mimic Israel’s hasbara efforts in the UK and Europe, bring the media to their views and gain traction among Sunni Muslim communities. They also wanted to draw a list of politicians and state officials they could engage with.

In May 2017, I was again brought back to Tehran, this time to interview Ebrahim Raisi, then a presidential candidate.

President Ebrahim Raisi’s interview with Catherine Perez-Shakdam In Rasht on the campaign trail

The interview taught me little, other than that Iran’s elections are a complete sham and that the media are an extension of the regime’s propaganda machine. My subsequent conversation with Raisi on the flight back to Tehran gave me better insight into the man who would become Iran’s president. A faithful follower of Khomeini’s ideology, Raisi believes in the principles of the Islamic Revolution, just as he believes that he is endowed with a religious duty to bring about the return of Imam Mahdi. Raisi craves power and control. His eyes are set on the Leadership.

In June 2017, I was called to Tehran following a terrorist attack against Khomeini’s shrine. With media attention pointed towards Tehran after the attack, the regime was keen to bring Western voices to relay its message.

Hassan Al Emad, Qom 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Al Emad is known by the Saudi Intelligence Services as the Khomeini of Yemen in reference to his ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In August 2017, I again returned to Tehran this time to meet with Nader Talebzadeh, Professor Mohammed Marandi, and Hassan Al Emad. Having molded me to be an asset, Nader was keen to maintain close contact. He arranged for me to visit him at his home and meet with several people during my stay, such as Professor Marandi, whom I had also met at the ‘Palestine Conference’. Following this visit, Professor Marandi would call me weekly to speak about political developments and drill into me the need to pursue Khomeini’s revolutionary goals.

In September 2017, I was back in Tehran to meet with Nader Talebzadeh. During this visit, I learned that Nader was planning a series of visits to Africa and the Middle East to pursue several business ventures and consolidate his network.

On the road to Karbala (Iraq) with Nader Talebzadeh and Zeinab Mehanna, 2017


In November 2017, I was invited to attend the Arbaeen Pilgrimage (Najaf and Karbala) as part of a delegation organized by Talebzadeh and his wife Zeinab Mehanna. They had put together a delegation from academia and the media, and activists from across the US, UK, Canada, and the EU so they could better understand Shia Islam. What Nader ultimately wanted was to buy goodwill, impress on the delegation the regime’s narrative, and consolidate Tehran’s hold in the West.

During our walk from Najaf to Karbala, Nader pulled me from the delegation so that I could record a special interview for Iranian media and let me know that several people close to the Leadership would meet with me in Karbala. Upon our arrival to Karbala that evening, I learned that Zaynab Soleimani, daughter of the general, and Zaynab Mughniyeh, Imad Mughniyeh’s daughter, were staying in the same hotel. We met for a coffee and a quick chat. Zaynab Soleimani informed me that her father was in town for 24 hours.

From right to left: Catherine Perez-Shakdam, Zaynab Mughniyeh, and Zaynab Soleimani (General’s Soleimani’s daughter)- Karbala, Iraq 2017

This visit would lead to my meeting with Gen. Qassim Soleimani; the then-head of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, and several high-ranking members of the clergy, among whom were some close supporters of Ayatollah Sistani.

I came to Najaf upon Nader Talebzadeh’s invitation. Soon after that, Nader asked me to accompany him to a house in Karbala – there, I met with Soleimani. My interaction with the General was brief. He sat on the floor with maps before him, pointing at some troops’ movements, commenting on his efforts to push ISIS out of certain areas in Syria and Iraq. He recalled an incident with ISIS, claiming that his men had contacted the US military, informing them of Al Baghdadi’s exact location, saying the Americans had refused for the Iraqi army to intervene.

As he spoke of his military prowess, glancing often in my direction to gauge I was certain of my reactions, the general asked me if I knew of Ayatollah Khomeini’s famous quote:

 “If one kills the infidel, and this stops him from perpetrating his misdeeds, his death will be a blessing to him. We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry ‘There is no god but Allah’ resounds over the whole world, there will be a struggle.”

This meeting was unnerving.

Soleimani was the most radical and unhinged of all the regime’s men I’ve met. His advocacy for mass murder and his dismissal of human suffering were most pronounced.

Sheikh Abdul Mahdi Karbalai, the custodian of the shrine of Imam Hussein and the representative of Grand Ayatollah Sistani (Karbala, Iraq) right of the picture.

The day that followed would take me to Imam Hussain’s shrine in Karbala, where the delegation met with several high-ranking clerics from Ayatollah Sistani’s office, the Head of the PMU, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, and several representatives of Ayatollah Khamenei in Iraq.

Grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Karbala, Iraq during 2017 Arbaeen Pilgrimage (centre)

In December 2017, Tehran asked me to arrange a meeting with Yahia Saleh,  nephew of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The regime was keen to know if the Saleh faction would consider an alliance with the Houthis and abandon their military operations in Yemen. Far from selling the regime to Yahya, I tried to assess to what extent Yahya understood the role Iran continued to play in Yemen.

In early 2018, I would make my last trip to Iran. For the first time, I was challenged by immigration officers and asked to answer a series of questions on why I was visiting Iran – my name had tipped them off. Although I was immediately let go after Nader Talebzadeh intervened, I felt I was cutting it too close for comfort. This time, the regime wanted to speak to me about the MEK and asked me to research the group. The MEK makes the regime the most nervous of all the opposition groups based outside of Iran.

By the end of 2018, I had almost completely disengaged from the regime. It coincided with a request by the Leadership’s office for me to write Khamenei’s biography and convey to a Western audience the essence of Iran’s revolutionary message. By then, I felt too exhausted and sickened by the regime to carry on the charade. I also learned that several IRGC assets in the UK suspected that I was, in fact, a Zionist – an infiltrator. Given the stakes, I disappeared quietly, citing family problems to justify my silence.

From 2019 to 2021, I worked to cut all ties with the regime, choosing not to speak against it, not knowing how they would react. I also needed time to digest what I had learned and determine how to utilize my knowledge best. The pandemic would facilitate my disengagement.

In late 2021, I wrote in the Times of Israel about my meeting with Ebrahim Raisi. Following Raisi’s election to the presidency, I knew that my knowledge had become relevant and that Raisi’s profound hate for Israel would lead to attacks against Israeli interests in the region and potentially the diaspora.

As the regime learned of my ‘betrayal,’ I would be labeled an enemy of the state – with all its implications.


Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran – 2017

It is crucial that we recognize the pressing need for a comprehensive reframing of our foreign policy towards Iran. In our pursuit of peace and the promotion of democracy as a catalyst for nations to prosper and flourish, we thoroughly underestimated our enemies’ ambitions – that to subjugate us.

Most troubling of all, we have failed to grasp the true agenda that drives Iran’s regime, the tactics it employs, and the assets it cultivates. We have been so preoccupied with extinguishing the fires ignited by its agents that we have lost sight of the bigger picture.

Our misjudgment has brought the Iranian regime to the brink of victory, and its triumph is not due to the reasons we might assume. The true threat emanating from Iran does not solely lie in its nuclear program or its territorial expansion across the MENA region. Rather, it resides in the legions of men and women who have been drawn into its narrative, trapped as they are in cycles of hatred and victimization.

The regime meticulously studies us, laying traps and patiently waiting for us to fall into them. Iran is a master manipulator, and we find ourselves unwittingly dancing to its tune.

Tehran’s vision projects itself in the future, not the next election cycle. The regime cares little for popular approval or even efficiency, its men are willing to wait us out, absorbing losses as they carefully weave their carpet.

Islamic radicalism knows no sectarian boundaries; it is an Iranian phenomenon. The full extent of Tehran’s influence has yet to be fully understood and mapped out.

The Islamic Republic stands today as the biggest threat to secular democracies. For decades, Tehran has been an integral sponsor of terrorism, opening its coffers and its training camps to whoever wishes war on the West and its apostasy. We are the infidels to whom their clerics urge followers to lay waste. Everything that we are – from our quest to achieve self-governance and sovereignty over our lives, to our human rights advocacy and our calls for equality before the rule of law, or again free speech – are values Tehran’s clergy deems an insult to its religious sensitivities. Ironically, their actions, often promoting bloodshed, seem to have little to do with genuine religious principles. Nevertheless, Iran’s clerical class persists in attempting to rationalize genocide, presenting it as the liberation of oppressed people from enslavement. This contradiction sheds light on their manipulation of religious beliefs to justify their actions and ideologies.

We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.” – Ruhollah Khomeini

We would do well to appreciate the magnitude of such words, for since its inception, the Islamic Republic’s truest expression, its life force and raison d’être, has been to cater to a warped Shia Islamic ideal – the worldly manifestation of the Awaited Mahdi’s Kingdom, which sovereignty extends to all that is and all that will be.

The Iranian regime exists in a state of profound nihilism. Although Iran’s Leadership claims to embody morality, its ideologues have encouraged heinous violations and crimes – so their purposes would be served, advocating even the death of the innocents.

It needs an enemy to define itself against; it thrives on chaos to better exploit socio-political fault lines and in the process wield more influence; it demands a cause to hide behind so it could appear as a champion of the people. Both Khomeini and Khamenei have always positioned themselves against elusive enemies: the West, liberalism, and capitalism – not to offer answers but rather to denounce; hoping in doing so that they would rally around their rule, forever blaming their failures on others.

The Iranian regime’s most remarkable achievement has been its ability to constantly divert our attention away from its vulnerable spots, preventing us from striking where it truly hurts, and leaving us ill-prepared to defend ourselves against its relentless attacks or anticipate its next move.

We are facing a formidable adversary in the Islamic Republic. Its ranks will not easily crumble, and unless we dismantle its alliances and accurately identify its strongholds through meticulous mapping, it will merely emerge under a different guise.

Make no mistake; we are engaged in a battle for our survival.


For decades, Iran has skillfully exploited the fundamental principles that underpin our democratic societies, such as freedom of speech and assembly, to undermine and pervert our institutions. By strategically generating tensions and exploiting existing divisions, Iran has succeeded in turning us into unwitting actors in our own downfall, slowly eroding our unity and causing us to compromise our core values in the name of self-protection.

Iran has cunningly capitalized on the very freedoms that define our democratic systems. Through the manipulation of free speech, it has propagated its own narratives and ideologies, often using media outlets and propaganda to disseminate its messages. By infiltrating social platforms, it has sown discord, amplifying existing divisions and fostering animosity within our societies.

Tehran, picture taken near Parliament on the wake of the attack against Khomeini’s shrine in 2017

Similarly, Iran has exploited the freedom of assembly to its advantage. By organizing and supporting various groups, it has created a network of allies who work towards its interests. This allows Iran to influence public opinion, shape discourse, and exploit vulnerabilities within our democratic structures.

By exploiting our differences, it has fueled political polarization, social unrest, and ideological clashes. By fostering a climate of fear, it aims to weaken our societies from within, making us susceptible to divisive rhetoric and policies that undermine the very foundations of our democracies.

The ultimate objective of Iran’s manipulation is to cause us to turn against ourselves and compromise our core values – beyond that the regime wants to exhaust our resolves, systematically forcing us to engage in conflicts and crises that forever drain our resources – Iraq and Afghanistan stand testimony to such tactics.

To counter Iran’s subversive tactics requires a rethinking of our strategy, but more importantly a mapping out of the regime’s circles of influence, its finances, and methodology. Resolve will be needed … courage also.

In the words of Winston Churchill:

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”

About the writer:

Catherine Perez-Shakdam is  co-founder and director of Forward Strategy, a boutique media and consultancy company based in the UK. She is a prominent expert in the Middle East, particularly in the domains of Iran and Yemen. With a rich background, including consultancy work for the United Nations Security Council in 2012, she has played a crucial role in shaping policy decisions by providing invaluable insights into Yemen’s War Economy, uncovering the intricate web of corruption, trafficking, and money laundering.

Catherine has also established herself as a respected voice in the media landscape. She has been a frequent contributor and commentator for outlets such as the I24, Al Jazeera, the BBC, The Jerusalem Post, Politico, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mail. Her contributions have shed light on critical issues, offering a nuanced understanding of complex situations.

Having previously served as a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, Catherine has authored compelling policy recommendations and research papers to address the increasing influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, exposing its activities and providing a deeper understanding of its operations.

In 2021, Catherine gained international attention when news broke of her remarkable decade-long infiltration of the Iranian regime, during which she was able to gain access to the highest echelons of the regime’s inner circles. Unsurprisingly, she was promptly labeled an ‘enemy of the state’ by the regime. Undeterred, Catherine has courageously utilized her extensive knowledge and expertise to denounce the activities of the Islamic Republic, helping to unveil a system that had long operated under a shroud of secrecy. Her revelations have provided a unique perspective on Iran’s actions, challenging its narrative and exposing the true nature of its operations.

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).


Israelis may protest against each other but the message to its enemies is we are here to stay

By Yair Chelouche and David E. Kaplan

In his political treatise – ‘The Prince’ – Renaissance political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, addressed the question whether for a ruler:

 “It is better to be feared than to be loved, if one cannot be both.”

This may have been in the back of the mind of Saudi Arabian journalist and novelist Abdullah bin Bakheet when in the Saudi daily Okaz (June 15), he wrote:

 “Arabs in the region have accepted Israel’s power, they have not yet accepted its right to exist.”

Israel, celebrating its 75th birthday this year, is still unable to capture, never mind the hearts but even Arab acceptance of the “right to exist”.

Israelis may be more divided today than at any time in its history but they are solidly united on their right to a Jewish state on the sliver of turf that is our ancestral homeland.

True Zionists. Israel’s enemies need to understand that while a large number of Israelis may be united against government policies thy are no less united against those who with to destroy or undermine the Jewish state.

We may fiercely argue amongst ourselves on the character of the state – as the vigorous protests now into their 27th week clearly demonstrates – but on the very existence of a Jewish state there is no argument.

The question the Saudi journalist then grapples with is if Israel can transcend being ‘acknowledged’ solely as a powerhouse that Arabs endure like an incurable disease to being truly accepted as an integral cultural component of the Middle East mosaic?

Bakheet tackles this  conundrum by posing the question of whether the Middle East holds any “cultural connotations that could unite peoples, and what is the cultural foundation that could allow for coexistence between the peoples of the Middle East and Israel?”

While the Arab world stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean “encompass many political entities” it is bound together in “a single cultural bloc” enjoying  a “shared cultural identity”. This is  evidenced “in the likenesses of their language, faith, history, literature, customs, traditions, and aspirations,” which clearly to Bakheet must thus exclude Israel.  He cites as examples the book fairs of Beirut, Cairo, Medina, Riyadh, Kuwait, Marrakesh, Amman, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi that “display similar authors, while musical compositions from Damascus evoke joy in the people of Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, the Gulf, Palestine.” Again, he reasons, Israel has no part in this.

Adding that “a fatwa issued in Cairo resonates throughout the entire region,” Bakheet asserts that “these undeniable similarities demonstrate the unified culture of the Arab world,” leaving Israel as the odd man out; a foreign import  unable to genuinely integrate into the region. For the Jewish state to achieve some modus vivendi in this Arab milieu, Israel can only depend on the US to coerce or influence Arab countries to make an effort to accept the presence of Israel. He arrives at this conclusion because Israel is otherwise unable “to exist in a world with which it is otherwise unconnected.

To Bakheet’s line of thinking, there is the natural Arab world and then there is the unnatural Israel, discounting thousands of years of Jewish history.

Winds of Change. Multiple flags flying in the wind signals that despite the challenges, the Jewish state is inexorably integrating in a mostly Muslim Middle East.


How negative the collective mindset of Israel is in the Arab world is captured in Bakheet’s ‘animal’ type perspective below, which is both illuminating and alarming. He describes Israel’s presence in the Middle East under the protection of the USA:

 “… like transferring a herd of camels to the Arctic, providing them with a tight reserve in which to live, severing any relationship with the outside world. As long as the camels are provided with appropriate protection, they can survive, although they must remain within their dedicated reserve until they are either repatriated or transformed into penguins.”

Israelis for Bakheet are a people confined, under protection and subject to consequences if we step “off the reservation”.

To Abdullah bin Bakheet and his ilk and whoever else shares his mindset, I would respond with the profound message of Israel’s illustrious Foreign Minister, Abba Eban that:

“Israels’ future will be longer than its past”

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).


Top Jewish Day school in South Africa’s “Mother City” targeted by politicians

By David E. Kaplan

The picturesque backdrop to the Cape Town Jewish community’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’ –  Herzlia School – is the  iconic  exquisite Table Mountain. The latest media backdrop to this ‘gem’ is anything but “exquisite”.

High and Low. A member of the EFF in the Western Cape Legislature has called for the deregistration of Herzlia School (entrance seen here) charging that it is a “feeder for South African Zionists joining the IDF”. (Herzlia High/Facebook).

How can it be otherwise when antisemitism casts its dark show on the country’s Mother City, resting on a school, a Jewish school!

Shame on the Western Cape Legislature that a member should feel so emboldened to call for the de-registration of a school – for being Jewish!

Whatever such practical implications this would suggest, it sends a familiar message to Jews.

Cape Town to Cairo via Israel. A former member of Knesset, advisor to the late President Shimon Peres and Deputy Ambassador at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, this alumnus of Herzlia School, Cape Town, Ruth Wasserman Lande is currently chairperson of the Women’s Impact Forum at the World Jewish Congress.

Disregarding and disrespecting the School’s excellence and its proud history in being a feeder to the University of Cape Town (UCT), it  ignores a long line of illustrious alumni enriching humanity both in South Africa and across the world. Such notables from judges, poets, artists and leaders in industry and the sciences  include Ephraim Mirvis who is presently the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Michael Hayden, Professor of Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in Human Genetics and Molecular Medicine and best known for his research in Huntington disease and Israeli diplomat, Ruth Wasserman Lande who was a member of the 23 Knesset had served previously at the Israeli Embassy in Egypt as well as serving as an advisor to President Shimon Peres.

Rabbi and the Prince. An alumnus of Herzlia School, Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth Ephraim Mirvis (left) with then Britain’s Prince Charles, now King Charles III at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Jan. 23, 2020 (Menahem Kahana/Pool Photo via AP, file)

Dismissing the phenomenal  achievement of the school enjoying a 100% pass rate, the motivation  behind the call of the member of the third largest political party in South Africa – the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) – to de-register the school is its Jewishness embodied in its love for Israel – the national homeland of the Jewish people.

It’s a love that goes back in time to well over a century.

The hate that drives those supporting the deregistration of Herzlia School goes back a lot longer – 2000 years!

The love of Jews in South Africa for a Jewish state preceded its establishment in 1948 by half a century. It even preceded the establishment of the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the ANC  – established in 1912 – when in 1896, the first members of Hibbat ZionHovevei Zion Society was formed in South Africa and a resolution establishing the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) was passed in 1898. That was one year after the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. An enriching offspring of this movement is Cape Town’s Herzlia School established in 1940, that has above its entrance gate, the prophetic words of Theodore Herzl, after whom the school is named:

If you will it, it is no dream”.

It is a dream that took 2000 since the exile under the Romans to come to fruition and it’s a monumental achievement that some South African politicians in the ruling ANC and the those in the EFF would like to see destroyed. Unable to build themselves, they chose instead to destroy the work of others.

In support for her calling for Herzlia School to be de-registered, EFF MPL Aisha Cassiem said during a debate in the Western Cape Legislature:

It is insulting for the DA [Democratic Alliance] provincial government to condemn the war in Ukraine but do nothing with regard to this school [Herzliya School ] which is aligned to the apartheid state of Israel and encouraging learners to partake in apartheid.”

Gunning for Jews. Undaunted by the danger to Jews her rhetoric could cause,  MPL Aisha Cassiem called upon Education MEC David Maynier to deregister Herzlia School as he had, according to her, the power to do so.

There may well be not another school in South Africa that its students while at school and thereafter, stood out as vocal opponents of Apartheid.

It may well be true that there is “no need for concern” as expressed by the South African Board of Deputies (SAJBOD) in its press release:

By now you are aware of an article which has appeared in the Cape Argus calling for the deregistration of Herzlia High School. This article has also been shared on a variety of social media

Rest assured, the school is in no danger of being deregistered. It was tabled for discussion last week Thursday during a Western Cape Legislature meeting where this outrageous proposal was unequivocally rejected.

Obviously these reprehensible claims against the school have no substance and there is no need for concern. The Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies is in constant communication with Herzlia leadership and will continue to monitor the situation. ”

Adrienne  Jacobson
Chairperson, Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies

Herzlia School’s proud badge

However “outrageous” the proposal so described so as not to cause concern, the public rhetoric of political leaders in South Africa today like Aisha Cassiem is false, dangerous and highly inflammatory that could so easy lead to physical violence on Jews.

Seduced by the parlance of the likes of EFF’s Cassiem, potential perpetrators of violence could so easily believe they would enjoy official approval. This is a familiar plot and script for Jews well versed in their history.

There is more than the electrical outages or loadshedding darkening South Africa today. Contributing  to South Africa’s ‘Dark Ages” are its politicians and when they resort to antisemitism, the writing is on the wall or in this case, on the slopes of Table Mountain!

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).


Young South African woman on a mission to Israel

By Jonathan Feldstein

If she were a Biblical character, she would be the Queen of Sheba: an influencer, and a strong and inspiring leader looking to build alliances, to learn, to grow, and to bring better to the world. Coming from the tip of southern Africa, she is a tip of the growing movement across Africa to repair and restore relations with Israel and the Jewish people. She is also a popular media personality and author for whom her Christian faith is interwoven in everything she does.

Major Personality. Media personality and author Major Daughter from South Africa. (courtesy)

A decade ago, Major Daughter was given a vision for the imperative to restore ties with Israel as a pillar of Africa to correct the curse resulting from most of the continent breaking ties with Israel decades earlier.  While she is not a formal educator, she knows that education is the key.  Africans need to be educated to the reality that Israel is, Israel’s long-standing history in Africa, and to break the stereotypes of perpetual misinformation that, at best, is ill-informed.  But in recent decades ‘ill-informed’ has become disinformation, even with malice and lies. 

Much of the lies and disinformation emanates from the country of her birth – South Africa. It is something about which she is passionate about fixing, one by one.  And that’s the nature of the unique trip she is leading to Israel, and her appeal to Israelis to join the movement.

On June 26, dozens of business, civic, academic, and religious leaders along with noted media personalities will be participating in a special event that gives voice to her vision. While coming from around the world, the Leadership Summit and Tour will start in Egypt, the northeastern corner of Africa, symbolically building a bridge between Israel and Africa. It will trace the route of the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery to freedom, and as a reminder of God’s providence thousands of years ago, demonstrating His might at the time in contrast to that of the then, world superpower. It will culminate in bringing the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.

Now, as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the restoration of Jewish sovereignty to the Land of Israel with the birth of the State of Israel, she leads a group of Africans and others to learn, grow, be inspired, and to build alliances. Just like the Queen of Sheba.

Many initiatives exist to build relationships between Africa and Israel. While there are several notable holdouts – including Major Daughter’s native South Africa leading a charge against Israel in the expansive continent. In recent decades, many African nations have gone out of their way to forge their own mutually beneficial relations with Israel.  One thing that differentiates this effort is that it is faith based, but not only based on faith leaders. For that reason, Major is looking for Israelis to join the Summit on June 29 for a day of intense conversations, and networking.  She says:

Israelis should come out (to participate) because Africans are coming to learn, more than just networking, but to form partnerships. Israeli Jews should come out to be part of it, to support this global conversation, and how we can turn the tide.  We want to see what can be done to make progress. Let’s not talk about the darkness of the past, we want to shine a light on the future.”

In a recent conversation on the Inspiration from Zion podcast, Major Daughter affirms that much of Africa is suffering the cumulative consequence of cursing Israel and is eager to change the course.  Part of the “correcting the curse” is exposing Africans to the reality of Israel. Many think that Israel is an endless war zone, impossible to live within safely, much less thrive and prosper. The notion that there are people who don’t understand this, how Israel is truly a shining example for all, is astounding.  She expects that the Leadership Summit and Tour will open their eyes, and then the eyes of many more back at home thereafter.  Many also don’t realize that Israel is also a thriving democracy, for all its citizens. She decries the “Apartheid” label that was disingenuously branded on Israel in her own country, along with the scourge of BDS. Africans know the truth. They will see it first-hand. 

The Summit will take place at Jerusalem’s Ramada hotel.  Israelis are invited to register to attend the full day of programs, meals, coffee breaks, and forge their own relationships among the Summit’s diverse participants for only $50.


Striking another Biblical analogy, Major is clear that supporting Israel and building bridges is neither a one-way street nor exclusive to having positive relations with the Arab and Moslem world. Some think that supporting Israel is mutually exclusive to supporting Arabs, that Arabs and Jews are destined to be enemies, and that you can only support one. 

The opposite is true,” says Major and avers that because Jews and Arabs are related, “people can and must support both.” 

Hers is a refreshing voice of intelligence, faith, and inspiration, and all participating are in store for something unique and remarkable, and will go a long way in advancing the cause of why she believes visiting Israel is something that everyone has to do.

When King Solomon in ancient times was visited by the Queen of Sheba, she brought gifts of gold, frankincense and spices; this ‘Daughter’ of Africa will bring energy, inspiration and understanding to build bridges and alliances of the future.


For information and to register for the Leadership Summit, please visit this site.  

About the writer:

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

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


Wounded veterans from the UK and Israel compete in Veterans games in Tel Aviv

By Rolene Marks

I am writing this article during quite a poignant week. If you are a keen observer of military history, the first days of June are hugely significant. This week, we commemorated 56 years since the start of the Six Day War in 1967 that changed the landscape of the Middle East. The 6th of June marks 41 years since the First Lebanon War “Operation Peace for Galilee” in 1982 and a day that changed the trajectory of the Second Word War as Allied forces troops landed on the Normandy beaches in France in 1944. D-Day. We salute the remarkable men and women of the armed forces.

Why is mentioning famous historical military operations relevant to the veterans games that this article is dedicated to? Because it is a reminder of the fighting and sacrifices made for our freedoms and democracy. We owe these brave soldiers a debt we can never repay. They fight with everything they have – and return bearing the wounds and scars of battle, some carried deep inside the recesses of their souls. We bear reminding of the enormous sacrifices made by our armed forces and whatever generation deployed to battle, they deserve our acknowledgement, respect and support.

Sporting Snapshot. Competing British and Israeli teams pose together at the Veteran Games in Tel Aviv. (Photo Tomer Appelbaum).

Last week, Beit Halochem Centres in Israel played host to the Veteran games, welcoming 60 wounded warriors from the United Kingdom and their families. Beit Halochem (House of the Warrior) is an extraordinary organization. The organization provides unique rehabilitation, sports and recreation centers serving disabled veterans and their families. Beit Halochem provides a place where the wounded undergo the various treatments, which they need for as long as they live. The centre emphasises sport as a rehabilitative tool along with a wide array of social and cultural programmes.

The four Beit Halochem Centres in Israel – including the state-of-the-art complex in Tel Aviv, played host to the warrior athletes and their families as they engaged in friendly competition in events that included swimming, shooting and CrossFit.

War to Tug-of-War. Families of wounded veterans join a spirited game of tug-of-war.

Ex-servicemen and women from across the UK armed forces who have lost limbs in combat and other veterans who are battling crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were selected to compete. PTSD is often endured in silence and sports have a therapeutic effect for many suffering from trauma. What made this competition particularly unique is that competitors did not have to reach a certain sporting standard to qualify. This means that no matter what their sporting level or experience, everyone could compete for medals.

This is the third year that this event took place, and presents a great opportunity not just for veterans to compete, but to bond with each other as well as take in the sights and sounds of Israel.

Grit and Determination. Ashley Hall in competition in the X-fit

The games were organized by Beit Halochem UK and the IDF Disabled Veterans Fund. Beit Halochem UK raises awareness and funds to help support Israel’s wounded veterans. Beit Halochem in Israel helps 51,000 wounded soldiers and victims of terror by offering them support for the rest of their lives.

 “Physical activity, camaraderie and the family all play a crucial role in the successful rehabilitation of injured soldiers and the Veteran Games put both front and centre,” said Veteran Games co-founders Andrew Wolfson and Spencer Gelding. “Medals are a great bonus, but our goal is to provide an environment for veterans to challenge themselves in a way that will provide lasting benefits, while building friendships with other heroes and their families with whom they have so much in common.”

Pulling their Weight. Once putting their lives on the line for their countries, wounded vets from the UK and Israel engage in friendly competition in Tel Aviv. 

These remarkable warriors are absolutely inspirational.

Ben Roberts, 42 a veteran from Essex who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan said, “I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and in 2010 was diagnosed with Combat Stress Insomnia. I took part in the games last year and they have inspired me, shown me that I have a purpose and I have worth and that there are people out there that are willing to support us and show us British veterans that we can achieve things even with mental health. The games for me personally were a major spiritual level as well and the energy was just amazing here and it has helped me through the year where we are today”

Cheered on by the Competition. A British athlete is cheered on by Israeli staff and athletes during the third Veterans Games in Tel Aviv on May 29, 2023. (Courtesy Beit HaLohem UK)

Organizers ensured that families were front and centre and they stood on the sidelines and cheered as their loved ones tested their mettle in friendly competition. Family members often struggle when an injured veteran returns back home and the role they play in their loved one’s recovery is crucial. To keep children entertained, a soccer camp is simultaneously held. Nothing builds bonds quite like sports!

Sight to Behold. Craig Lundberg receiving a swimming medal in the visually impaired category

Craig Lundberg 37, was completely blinded after being hit by two rocket-propelled grenades that are usually used for targeting helicopters or armored vehicles while on his second tour of Iraq in 2007. “It feels amazing to have my family along that they can see no matter what life throws at you, you can focus and get around it. I am really honored to be here and I competed in CrossFit and swimming and won a silver medal. It wasn’t expected because there was some great competition. For the lifting of weights and running, my son stood at one end my partner at the other and called to me so I could hear and get from point A to point B so it was a real family event. It is massively important that they are involved. Every day the family live with the sacrifice of living with a blind partner which isn’t the easiest sometimes, so to have them here giving support has been top notch.”

Opening Ceremony. A veteran of Afghanistan, cabinet minister for Veterans Affairs, Johnny Mercer MP addressing the opening ceremony of the Veteran Games.

Accompanying the UK delegation was Minister for Veteran’s Affairs, Johnny Mercer. MP Mercer served in the Royal Artillery and retired in December 2013 with the rank of captain.  “We traditionally look at Israel and certainly the certainly the wealth of data you have accumulated over years of experience. I’m trying to make the UK the best country in the world to be a veteran and to do that we need to work with our friends and partners to understand what they’re doing that works really well, so that we can replicate that in the UK.” Mercer added that “it’s amazing to be out here in Israel. There’s nothing quite like an Israeli welcome, seeing the Veteran Games and using the power of sports as a vehicle for recovery. It’s extraordinary.”

Brother-in Arms. From different countries, these veterans share a bond understanding and camaraderie.

The games were timed to coincide with half-term (semester) vacation in the United Kingdom and the group had the chance to visit historical sites in Jerusalem, experience the healing powers of the Dead Sea and enjoy culinary and even graffiti tours in Tel Aviv.

Top Training. Veterans are seen ahead of the Veteran Games in Israel. (photo credit: Courtesy of The Veteran Games)

The bonds forged between these exceptional warriors from the United Kingdom and Israel will last a lifetime.

We could not be more proud to salute them. 

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).


Digging up the past releases curses, reveals truths but time for Israelis and Palestinians to maturely move on.

By David E. Kaplan

If times today are troubling and the suggestion is that we may have displeased the Almighty, then a recent reading of a 3,200-year-old folded-lead tablet reveals little has changed over the millennia.

The ancient tablet found on Mount Ebal that was recently subjected to special x-ray investigation to reveal what is believed could be the oldest known HEBREW writing ever found in Israel, reads disturbingly:

You are cursed by the God

Digging up the Past. The 3,200-year-old “curse tablet” found on Mount Ebal could prove Israelites were literate when they entered the land. (Photo by Jaroslav Valach)

If over three millennia later we are still upsetting the Almighty by our wayward ways – hardly a challenging task – then look how this ancient finding may have upset the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. It’s not the message that Jews are cursed by God that would rattle him – in this he far outshines the Almighty – but the language in which it is written – HEBREW – the  spoken language of the ancient Jewish Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. 

If what experts suggest is correct, this would make the tablet the first use of the name of God in the Land of Israel and would prove that Israelites were literate hundreds of years earlier than previously supposed. In other words, Israelites in the Land of Israel speaking Hebrew – albeit an earlier version – as we are doing today. This completely refutes Abbas’ false protestations recently at the United Nations where he challenged historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

Can’t the PA leader get over that Jews have been living in this neck of the proverbial woods for thousands of years. But no, in customary theatrics he has to again stand up in the UN as he did on that Israel/Jewish hate-fest, the 75th anniversary of Nakba Day and dismissed with gusto, any Jewish ties to Jerusalem. And this display in folly was happening all the while ancient tablets are unveiled to the world affirming Jewish life here over three thousand years ago. An article in Heritage Science states that the finding:

 “…is the oldest Hebrew text found within the borders of ancient Israel … by at least two centuries.”

No wonder Abbas does not approve of any digging around in Jerusalem – the ‘truth’ is the last thing he wants to unearth.

No Ties. A gesticulating Mahmoud Abbas (centre), President of the State of Palestine denies any Jewish ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in his address at the event to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Nakba.

‘God’ forbid that  anything is revealed that disputes the increasingly popular PA narrative that Jews are a colonial European implant.

Abbas’ unabashed antisemitic protestations are consistent with personal past conduct and of his political peers. In Qatar on Feb. 26, 2012, at an Arab League conference, Abbas refuted any historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem, a diplomatic strategy that began with his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who questioned whether the Temple even ever existed.

There is nothing there,” Arafat said at the at the Camp David summit in July 2000. He amplified this two years later in the leading pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat, Arafat with:

They found not a single stone proving the Temple was there …”

It goes on and on.

No Attempt at Outreach. Denying Jewish historic connection to Jerusalem during his speech at UN Headquarter in New York, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas compared Israeli rhetoric to Nazi propaganda and demanded Israel be suspended from the UN if it does not grant Palestinians a “right of return” for millions of refugees.

A month after Camp David, Abbas himself continued with Arafat’s ideological position on the Temple in an Israeli-Arab weekly, adding:

“… they claim that 2,000 years ago they had a temple. I challenge the claim that this is so.”

Others in the PA “Chorus Line” stuck to this nefarious narrative :

  •  Interviewed in al-Ayyam, the late Nabil Shaath spoke of Jerusalem’s  “fictitious temple
  •   The late Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat asserted  that “…. there never was a Temple at al-Quds, “only  a “mosque.”
  • Palestinian politician and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee,  Yasser Abd Rabbo, told Le Monde in September 2000 that “There was no archaeological evidence that the Temple ever existed on the Temple Mount.”
Shock and Outrage. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas causes shock and outrage when he accuses Israel of perpetrating “50 holocausts” at a press conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a joint press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022. (Jens Schlueter/AFP)

This can go on and on. No-one benefits and people on all sides die violently. Israelis too have to seriously come to the table and recognise that Palestinians are here to stay and help create a climate that can eventually lead to the elusive “Two-State Solution” that is losing traction but that Netanyahu himself has endorsed. Did the Prime Minister not at Bar Ilan University in 2009 say:

If we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.”

On German Soil. A headline on the website of Germany’s BILD newspaper expresses shock at PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s use of the term ‘Holocaust’ to describe past Israeli actions. Instead of apologizing for the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics 1972, Abbas, on German soil, accuses Israel of genocide. (Screenshot)

Even if this was not a fully-throated enthusiastic commitment, Netanyahu did follow it up with “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historical peace,” and later in his speech to the United States Congress:

 “I recognize that in a genuine peace we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.”

These days few identify Netanyahu with these words but he said them.


Israelis and Palestinians need to find a way to engage beyond bullets, rockets and false narratives! We owe it ourselves and future generations. If we want safe roads to travel free of terrorism we have to find that road to peace.

Stating Two States. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a keynote speech on June 14, 2009, in which he laid out his peace policy at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, where he endorsed for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state but said it must be demilitarized. ( photo by pool Michael Kramer flash90)

Palestinians would be right to hold Israelis to past promises and  Abbas needs to shift his cerebral address from an alternate universe to a reality that Jews have an enriching historical link to the land of Israel and are here to stay. Before being truthful to one’s enemies, all sides need to be truthful to themselves. Palestinians and Israelis need to be prepared for the harsh realities of deep compromises.

In this way, we can fulfill the prophecy of the late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban that:

Israel’s future will be longer than its past

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


Reflections from Israel amidst another round of hostilities

By Jonathan Feldstein

I have started and stopped writing this multiple times. From last Wednesday until the ceasefire Sunday night, Palestinian Arab terrorists in Gaza supported by the Islamist regime in Iran, have fired 1469 rockets at Israeli communities.  There have been massive barrages of 100 or more at a time, multiple times.  Throughout this operation, Israel had targeted and taken out both leaders of the Islamic Jihad terror organization, and much (but not enough) of their infrastructure.  For the most part Israel’s Iron Dome has successfully intercepted most of these, specifically ones directed at densely populated areas.  There have been injuries, significant damage, and as of last night one woman and a Palestinian worker from Gaza killed and 10 injured when their building took a direct hit. 

Rock’ets around the Clock.  Continuous firing of rockets from Gaza toward Israel. (Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

I stopped and re-started writing this article multiple times because of repeated talk of a cease fire. But each time one thinks the rockets might stop, the terrorists let off another barrage.  Living in Israel, you develop an instinct as to whether there will be a cease fire or not, protracted rockets and Israeli response of taking out terrorists, or the risk of escalation and a ground operation.  Of course, had 10 people been killed and not “just” injured yesterday, the calculations would be revisited, and all bets would be off.   

But not one person should be killed, and the firing of one rocket at a civilian population is criminal, much less hundreds.  If they can’t be stopped yet, they should face the consequences.  Palestinian Arabs in Gaza should be sending thank you notes to Israel, not firing rockets.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a senior Israeli security officer about the situation in Gaza.  “We know what kind of humus they are dipping their pita into,” he assured me confidently.  It was funny, albeit seeming a bit arrogant.  But how accurate both figuratively and literally.

Killing Killers. Gazan terrorist leaders who gave the orders to kill Israelis were the focus of Israel in its recent ‘Operation Shield and Arrow’.

What we have seen in the past days, as well as in other recent anti-terrorist operations in Gaza, is that he wasn’t just being funny.  This week we have seen IDF operations that have been strategic, tactical and surgical. When you look at the pictures of the buildings in which Palestinian Arab terror leaders have been targeted and taken out, it looks as if someone came with a big industrial scalpel, cut open a careful hole in the side of a building, and carefully extracted the tumors, leaving the rest of the building and its residents shaken, but intact.  The precision is remarkable.

Sadly, some of the terror leaders have chosen to sleep at home with their wives and children which means that some of their wives and children have also been killed.  Sadly, the wives and children didn’t leave their terrorist husbands/fathers to protect themselves.

All this week’s IDF operations have indicated that Israel has incredible intelligence on top of the surgical precision.  If I were an Arab terror leader, I’d be looking for another profession, unless I really believed the misogynist rhetoric about 72 virgins waiting in heaven.  Certainly, Israel has developed a world-class intelligence network that’s the envy of many, as it helps to save lives not just in Israel but around the world. 

Surgical Strike. Leaving this building in the Gaza Strip intact, only the apartment of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist leader is destroyed in a precision attack by Israel. (Associated Press, Fatima Shbai)

A case and point is that Israel successfully killed one particular terrorist leader in a ‘safe’ house demonstrating that the terrorist leaders are not safe anywhere.  Fortunately, he saved his wife and children, though they are known to hide behind women and children which is immoral, and a war crime. In one case this week, a terror leader who had been tracked for two days had his life saved when the pilot commanding the operation noticed two children.  In this case, the word “abort” saved two children’s lives.

Terrorists know that Israel will avoid firing at them and their infrastructure around civilians. So, they hide themselves, their weapons, their infrastructure in, under, and around residential areas, schools, mosques, hospitals, and UN facilities. But Israel’s level of precision has increased and the phrase “you can run but you cannot hide” is a warning that every terrorist in Gaza should heed.

Palestinian Arabs should be thanking Israel because its Iron Dome saves Palestinian Arabs. Had Israel not had the need, ingenuity, and priority to create something never before imagined to track and intercept short and medium range rockets, the terrorists’ rockets would surely wreak much more havoc.  Were there to be more Israeli casualties, Israel would be forced to respond more forcefully.  That would mean more Palestinian Arab casualties.  But the Iron Dome that was invented and built and is deployed to save Israeli lives, also saves Arab lives, while allowing terrorists to inflict damage with relative impunity.

Meeting in Mid-air. Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ anti-missile system (right) fires interception missiles as rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip (left) to Israel, as seen from Sderot on May 10, 2023. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

But Israel should never have to do this to begin with.  The theory that goes that the rockets will stop only when the cost to the terrorists (and the population they have hijacked) suffer more than they are prepared.  That means devastation.  Yet it’s probably true.  Eventually in a day, or week or a month, there will be a cease fire.  Until the next round. 

Speaking of cost, the expense Israel incurs to keep Israelis (and Palestinian Arabs) safe is some $50,000 per Iron Dome interception.  If only half of the 1000+ fired this week required being intercepted, that’s $20 million.  Astounding.

As I was finishing writing this, our family was startled by the piercing noise of an air raid siren in our community south of Jerusalem.  We are dozens of miles from Gaza.  The terrorists are upping the ante and widening the range to draw Israel into the conflict deeper. It’s personal and horrific.

Devastation and Death. An 80-year-old resident was killed when her apartment on May 12, 2023 in Rehovot took a direct hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Gazans should be rising up to take back their society from the terrorists who hijacked their lives.  They can choose to suffer just by the consequences of being around, behind and under the stranglehold of the terrorists, or they can fight back. When Israel withdrew all its communities, military, businesses, and even graves from Gaza in 2005, they had an opportunity to build something. All they have achieved are  four “D’s – death, danger, destruction and destitution.

They should be thanking Israel and seek to live in a society that can be good neighbors rather than mortal enemies.  

If only!

About the writer:

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

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


Recollections and reflections of a South African immigrant under fire

By Joel Klotnick

The recent hostilities, which Israel named “Operation Shield and Arrow” brought back memories of the last ‘fireworks’ when we in Ra’anana – a city some 20 kilometers north of Tel Aviv –  found ourselves in range.

At the time I penned a piece (hereunder) that I sent to friends and family around the world. I believe it  no less relevant today – sadly so!

Crowd Flees Tel Aviv Beach After Siren Sounds

Ra’anana in Range

“It’s bizarre and surreal! I always wanted to meet a siren, i.e. one, who according to a definition in my trusty Oxford Dictionary is “a woman who is considered to be alluring but also dangerous in some way”.

Instead, I get to meet  – or rather hear – an ear-splitting, caterwauling, prolonged sound telling me that it’s dangerous in some way!

On Friday, one minute we’re sitting and having coffee with friends at a popular local café in central Ra’anana, the next you hear a siren in the distance and although you think it is too far away to be of concern to us, a number of patrons of the coffee shop think otherwise and decide that it’s time to make a dash for the shelters. I felt less energised and decided to do more than dash.

From Gaza with Hate. What has changed in Israel today than from when this mother ducked with her kids in Tel Aviv in 2012 following a siren warning of incoming rockets from Gaza? (Photo Oren Ziv AFP/Getty Images)

As I was getting up  – somewhat lethargically – to join them, I looked up to see a rocket plume far away and high in the sky and then another plume – from another direction – intersect the first one – and then a puff of smoke, followed 20 to 25 secs later by a “BOOM”, thus confirming that it was quite far away. So, after consulting our smart phones we confirm that the sirens were in Herzliya, the city adjacent to Ra’anana. But what about our friends, who are having coffee with us and whose kids are on the beach at Herzliya. A quick call to them to see that all’s OKAY and back to coffee and chatting. Our thoughts are also with friends, family, and just ordinary Israelis (including non-Jewish Israelis) who have to spend days and nights anticipating a CODE RED alert, giving them seconds to dash for shelter?

Dash for Cover. With only seconds to find cover, children in 2023 at a playground in Tel Aviv run as fast as they can to the underground bomb shelter. (Kobi Wolf for The Washington Post)

Why are there these guys in Gaza trying to  frighten us! They are not going to weaken my resolve, nor, as far as I can judge, the resolve of all Israelis. There is a broad consensus that “we” have to go in and clean out the place once and for all. However, if you think about it a little more logically, “going in” means that our soldiers are likely to suffer injuries and worse. And can they really eliminate all terror cells and rocket launchers?

Rocket strikes ‘Home’. An 80-year-old Israeli is killed as Gaza rocket makes direct hit on her apartment in Rehovot.

So, what’s the answer? It’s obvious – it is PEACE – but you’ve got to have leaders in Gaza who are prepared to LEAD! I’m not known as a pessimist, but, unfortunately, I do not believe that this elusive PEACE will be reached in my lifetime.

Israelis, those who were born here and others “who’ve seen it all before”, regularly ask “So, are you still happy that you made Aliyah?” My unequivocal answer is a resounding YES, I would not like to be anywhere else.”


As I reflect about this 5-day  “round” of hostilities that included a total of 1,469 rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel with 1,139 rockets crossing into Israeli territory, have my thoughts changed in any meaningful way since the previous engagements? Sadly not and am no less resolute to proudly call Israel my home and still hope against all the odds for that most elusive prize –  PEACE.

About the Writer:

Joel Klotnick, retired in South Africa after many years in practice as a Chartered Accountant (CA) in commerce and as a volunteer in community affairs. Now volunteering in community affairs in Israel. Very proud and happy that all three children and their families (including nine grandchildren), live 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).