FORGOTTEN HISTORY REMEMBERED

The heroic past shall be ‘unveiled’ at an upcoming ceremony at Johannesburg’s Jewish cemetery illuminating ‘bloodlines’ between South Africa and Israel

By David E. Kaplan

On the 27th November, people of all faiths and races – some wearing medals of battles past – will gather at the South African National Jewish War Memorial at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg. They will do so to remember those South African soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the world wars of the twentieth century that not only “changed the course of history” but profoundly impacted on the destiny of the Jewish people. The acts of bravery by these soldiers – whether aware at the time or not – contributed to the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in their ancestral homeland in 1948.

Live stream link on Sunday 27/11/22, 10:30 (SA time) – https://www.facebook.com/SAZionistFed/

The drama of three long forgotten and for many never even known events, will be ‘unveiled’ together with the stones embodying their pulsating pasts.

STORY OF A STONE

When only a year ago, students at  UCT ( University of Cape Town) tried to expunge the memory of South Africa’s famed wartime Prime Minister Jan Smuts by defacing and covering his bust with plastic bags and ultimately removing it from the campus as well as renaming the historic men’s residence from Smuts Hall to Upper Campus Residence, the upcoming gathering on the 27 November has a contrary agenda of honouring his memory as it connects with the Jewish people. If UCT students sought to ‘cover’ Smuts’ bust, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), JNF (SA), the South African Jewish ex-Service League together with its committee member, Selwyn Rogoff and its former Chairman, Peter Bailey also representing the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee in Israel, have sought to uncover Smuts’ less known past, notably his contribution to the State of Israel.

Century of a Stone. The cornerstone originally unveiled by Prime Minister Smuts in 1922 to be again unveiled by his great-grandson Gareth Shackleford on the 27 November 2022 at West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg.

When it was brought to Bailey and Rogoff’s attention that a cornerstone honouring South African Jews who had fought and died in the Great War that had been unveiled by Prime Minister Smuts in November 1922 at the old Jewish Guild War Memorial Building in downtown Johannesburg had after a century of travels to different locations  resurfaced in the garden of a bowling club, they felt a special memorial event marking the centenary should be held. Bailey felt further that it should include two other monumental contributions of South African soldiers who died in the service of that biblical land that would in time emerge as the state of the Jewish people – Israel. Through this writer’s intervention, he contacted Benji Shulman of the SAZF that set in motion the upcoming event that will have Smuts’ great-grandson, Gareth Shackleford, who will unveil again the cornerstone that his grandfather originally unveiled a century earlier reminding the world of the love Smuts had for the Jewish people and his role in the creation of the Jewish state.

Dead at Delville. Included amongst Jewish South African soldiers killed in WWI was the writer’s grandfather’s brother, Victor Kaplan, who volunteered for overseas service and was killed in the Battle of Delville Wood in 1916. (Family photo)

Too few are aware that when Smuts and Chaim Weizmann met in London during the Great War, the two began a close friendship that lasted for the rest of their lives and greatly influenced events in Palestine. In an essay on Smuts and Weizmann, Richard P. Stevens writes:

perhaps few personal friendships have so influenced the course of political events during the twentieth century as the relationship between General Jan Christiaan Smuts, South Africa’s celebrated prime minister, and Chaim Weizmann, Zionist leader, and Israel’s first president.”

Meeting of Minds. They emerged friends with shared visions – Chaim Weizmann (left) and Jan Smuts, circa 1915 (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)

Research reveals that Smuts played a monumental backroom role in the drafting of the Balfour Declaration, providing Weizmann with a direct conduit to the War Cabinet. Another of Smuts’ great-grandsons, Philip Weyers, said of his great-grandfather, who he fondly refers to as “Oubaas” (old boss) that:

he was the anonymous partner to the Balfour Declaration. The spirit and even some of the wording of the Balfour Declaration came from the Oubaas’ mouth. His thoughts and views carried a lot of weight, and is imbedded in that fateful document.

It is little wonder that kibbutz Ramat Yohanan – founded in 1932  – was named in honour of Jan Smuts; ‘Yohanan’ being the Hebrew translation for the Afrikaans ‘Jan’ or English ‘John’, in recognition of his unstinting efforts on behalf of the Jewish people.

LETTER TO LEGEND

However, Israel’s ‘Magna Carta’ – the Balfour Declaration of 1917 – would have meant very little beyond a letter or footnote in history had not the actual ‘feet’ of commonwealth soldiers – including the Cape Corps comprising members of South Africa’s Coloured community – fought valiantly to relieve Palestine of the Ottoman Turks. Some 54 Coloureds  – Christians and Muslims – lost their lives in what became known as the Battle of Megiddo, opening the road for General Allenby’s breakthrough to Damascus. Most important from a Jewish perspective, while it “opened the road” for Allenby, it cleared the region of the occupying Turks, paving the way for a British Mandate and ultimately Jewish statehood in 1948.

Jubilation in Jerusalem. One month after the Balfour Declaration, General Edmund Allenby enters the Old City on the 11 December 1917 to accept the surrender of Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks. Next battle to follow – Megiddo.

A year following the famous battle, Field Marshal Viscount Allenby, GCB, GCMG had this to say about the men of the 1st Cape Corps:

 “I heard you are creating a Roll of Honour containing Cape Corps names. I had the honour of serving with many of the Cape Corps in Palestine and I should like to add my tribute of appreciation. The record of those of the Cape Corps who fought under my command is one that any troops might envy. Especially on September 19 and 20, 1918, they covered themselves with glory, displaying a bravery and determination that has never been surpassed.”

A descendant of this battle, Cmdr. M. Adeel Carelse MMM (Ret.), whose grandfather Cpl. C. H. Carelse fought bravely at Square Hill and Kh Jibeit that were decisive battles within the larger Battle of Megiddo and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, will unveil on the 27 November a plaque to the Cape Corps. Today in Cape Town’s suburb of Retreat, there is Square Hill School that is named after this famous battle that too few remember or the sacrifices made.  However, these mostly forgotten battles fought in a biblical land, ended Ottoman Turkish rule and led to the eventual establishment of the independent states of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and ISRAEL!

Valiant Fighters. Men of the 1st. Battalion, Cape Corps(160th Brigade, 53 Welsh Division) in Palestine 1918.

WORKED TOGETHER, DIED TOGETHER

The third stone of history to be unturned at the ceremony, will be to remember and honour the 644 black Southern Africans who went down with 140 Yishuv Jews on the SS Erinpura during WWII.

They had all worked together as volunteers on a British labour project in Palestine for the war effort and were together in a convoy in the Mediterranean in May 1943 . The SS Erinpura was carrying more than 1000 troops, including Basuto and Batswanan members of the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps and Palestinian Jewish soldiers of 462 Transport Company of the British Army when on the evening of 1 May 1943, German bomber aircraft attacked the convoy 30 nautical miles (56 km) north of Benghazi.

They Made History. On parade but soon to be tested in battle are soldiers of the Cape Corp during WW1 who performed so heroically at the Battle of Megiddo in 1918 against the Ottoman Turks.

In one wave of the attacks, a bomb hit the Erinpura in one of her forward holds, causing her to list to starboard and sink within five minutes. The crew of her 12-pounder anti-aircraft gun continued to return fire until she sank with a loss of life of 800 that included the 633 Sotho, 11 Tswana soldiers and 140 Palestinian Jewish soldiers.

Lives lost at Sea. The ‘SS Erinpura Memorial’ on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem is dedicated to the 139 Jewish soldiers of the British Army  462 Moving Unit in British Mandate of Palestine  that lost their lives on the SS Erinpura  that was sunk in an attack  by the Luftwaffe on 1 May 1943.

The monument on Mount Herzl  to the 140 Jewish soldiers who drowned aboard the SS Erinpura is shaped like a ship  with a pool of water representing the sea where on the bottom appear the names of the fallen. Above the pool is a turret adorned with the Hebrew text of Psalm 68, verse 22:

The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea.”

Ship of Soldiers. The ill-fated SS. Erinpura that went down with South African and Jewish Palestinian soldiers in WWII.

This did in a sense happen with the emergence five years later  with the gathering of Jews and the established of the Jewish state in 1948.

It is only fitting that  Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotsercovsky, will unveil a memorial plaque at the West Park Cemetery ceremony to the tragic loss of life of both the Yishuv Jews and black South Africans who lost their lives together in a cause that others may live.

Entrance to West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg

EPILOGUE

The years have rolled by and like packed away old unread books, heroic lives were lost tucked away in forgotten chapters in recedingly remembered conflicts. The upcoming ceremony on the 27 November 2022  in Johannesburg is designed to address this amnesia and all across the world are invited to attend on ZOOM

https://www.facebook.com/SAZionistFed/

Before all these events played out, the instruction of ‘being careful not to forget’ was already present in Deuteronomy 4:7–9:“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy son’s sons.





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).

MUSICAL DIPLOMACY

Rhetoric from Iran is met by melody from Israel

By David E. Kaplan

Isn’t it ironic  that while the leadership of Iran threatens Israel with destruction, people in Iran are being inspired by the music of an Israeli, as they bravely take to the streets to protest against this very regime .

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran has considered the Jewish state an enemy, making visiting – and even artistic cooperation – a punishable offense. Now that a song by an Israeli artist has now emerged as the Iranian “protest anthem”, I wonder if the self-proclaimed master of English irony  – Jeremy Corbyn  – appreciates Iranian ‘irony’?

Opening Doors. Liraz Charhi seen here photographed by Rotem Lebel in the Jaffa neighborhood of Tel Aviv for ROSE & IVY.

Resonating across Iran are Israeli  Liraz Charhi‘s lyrics:

 Until when will we be silent, until when will we keep our head down?”

With the people no longer “silent” nor keeping their “heads down”, it is little wonder Liraz Charhi’s music has emerged as the soundtrack to Iran protests that were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police after being arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

Women are saying Eneough. Iran is witnessing one of its worst unrests after the country’s morality police physically assaulted a 22-year-old Kurdish girl Mahsa Amini to death for wearing her hijab inappropriately. Her death has sparked a global protest against restrictions on women in Iran

It makes little difference to Iranians of every class and culture who are protesting for a regime change that Chardi has worn the uniform of the Israeli army. As a conscript, music was Chardi’s weapon serving in the military band of the Education and Youth Corps.

Born in Ramla in central Israel to a family of Persian origin, the Israeli actress, singer and dancer is a niece to Israel’s internationally famous singer and actress – Rita. Frequently singing in her native Persian language, Rita has been referred to as a cultural ambassador between Israeli and Iranian citizens hoping to “puncture the wall of tension” between their countries. In this quest her niece Liraz Charhi has joined her.

Female Freedoms. ‘Zan Bezan’ translated to ‘Women, Sing’ is an invitation to join Liraz’s private revolution of song and dance, calling on women in the Middle East and around the globe to build on the positive language of female freedoms.

Charhi told Israel’s Channel 12 that her first album, “NAZ”  – which featured Iranian artists  – was well received in the Islamic Republic after it was released in 2018.

Very quickly I received videos of women dancing in underground parties and removing their chador and dancing to these songs,” she said.

Clearly, Charhi was having an impact. She was as the headlines proclaimed:

“….. SINGING FOR HER SISTERS

Inspired perhaps by the changes that came about in the 1960s fueled by the freedom-loving music of the period, Charhi observes events in Iran with a mixture of fear and hope as her “sisters” protest against the repressive regime by burning their headscarves. “I’ve always believed women can make the revolution in Iran – we have the force to create change!”

Singing for her Sisters. Iranian women demonstrate against repression, Israeli-Iranian singer Liraz Charhi’s new album was made for them.

Especially these days she asserts:

I’m very proud of my sisters and I support them and am with them in every breath.”

While Charhi grew up in a traditional Iranian home with Farsi-speaking, Persian-Jewish parents, as an Israeli she has never been allowed to visit the land of her heritage. But profoundly connected she is.

If unable to visit Iran with her body, she does so with her personality and talent.

ROYA IS REALISED

The saga behind the production of her latest album ROYA is most revealing. It was something like out of the Israeli award-winning spy thriller ‘Tehran’ in which Charhi stars as a Mossad agent. Cutting the album ROYA became a covert mission necessitating  to secretly meet with the Iranian musicians – including women – at a recording studio in Istanbul. It was so risky that Charhi only revealed to her family only the day before she left Israel. “Not evern my manager believed it would actually happen,” she says.

 “Liraz, this is dangerous. Are you sure?’ he said to her to which she replied:

 “It will happen.”

Tough Call. Liraz Charhi as Mossad agent Yael Kadosh in “Tehran.” (AppleTV+)

Turkey was selected as it’s one of the few countries Iranians can travel to without a visa. Nevertheless, the artists came on the condition that their faces would be blurred in any photographs taken and that their names would not be published anywhere.

It could have been out of the script of  the ‘Tehran’ mini-series. While quietly buying the air tickets for her Israeli band members, Charhi then hired a Turkish company to look after the ‘unnamed’ Iranian musicians, who would be met by security at the airport in Istanbul and taken secretly to the studio.

I knew that they would come,” she says. The fact that they were participating anonymously “meant they did not do it for money or publicity. They did it because we’re sharing the same dream and the same hope of meeting together and bringing our music and our love to the world.”

This resonated with the name of the album
ROYA, which in Persian means ‘fantasy’ or ‘dream’.
For all her conviction, until the minute the musicians landed in Istanbul and were united in the underground studio with her Israeli band of three women and three men, Charhi was more than anxious.
I kind of fainted in the recording,” she says. “I felt that I could not sing.” This fear permeated in the song recorded Tunha, meaning “alone”. It came through in a slight quiver in her voice lending authenticity to what these musicians were going through just to make a recording!

She could so easily have been “alone”  – in the sense without her Iranians – but as Herzl wrote, “If you will it, it is no dream.”

It turned out it was no dream. ROYA had been realized.

Charhi was moved by their bravery.

I waited all my life to meet my friends and family from Iran; the fact that you weren’t afraid and were brave is… WOW,” said Charhi as she welcomed the musicians on their safe arrival at the studio in Istanbul.

One of the musicians told Channel 12:

I know this might be dangerous, but I do what I love.”

Message of the Music. The music of Israeli singer and actress Liraz Charhi, recorded in collaboration with Iranian artists, has become widely associated with recent protests in the Islamic Republic.

Music mission

Charhi’s cause-driven cultural mission continued unabated. Following the recording of the album, she went on tour over the summer when she was offered an opportunity by the Jewish Culture Festival to perform with her Iranian musicians at the Old Synagogue in Krakow, Poland.

Incredibly, the Iranians agreed as long as they were masked so golden hijabs were woven to conceal their identities.  However, one of the artists insisted on showing part of her hair and was later identified and suffered repercussions in Iran for performing with an Israeli.

I Have a Dream

Since the outbreak of protests in Iran which have claimed over 200 lives so far – including over 28 children – at the hands of the security services, Charhi has received messages of support from fans in Iran over Instagram.

Thank you for being our voice, I will never be forgotten,” one message read.

I love your songs in Persian and hope that one day you will sing in beautiful Tehran,” another supporter wrote.

This second message brought back memories for me when I interviewed Charhi’s aunt Rita in in 2014 for Hilton Israel Magazine. Iranian-born Israeli pop singer and actress, Rita has mesmerized audiences globally from concert halls to Britain’s House of Lords and the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York. Her message has always one of love – that music unites people irrespective of their religion and nationality.

Aunty Rita. “There’s no quarrel between Israelis and Iranians, just between governments,” says Liraz Charhi’s aunt, Israel’s premier female vocalist, Rita  Jahan-Foruz seen here in 2014 with then US President Barak Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

When I asked, “What’s next?” she replied:

.“There is a saying in Arabic that says, ‘Throw your heart forward and fetch it.’ It does not matter if the dream is realistic or reasonable but one has to chase it.  My dream is to sing in Persian in Iran.”

You really believe this will happen,” I asked

Yes,” she said and then with a broad smile, “and still when I have my own teeth.”

Who knows, maybe sometime soon, niece and aunt will  fulfill their dream of singing in Iran in Persian.

May the Tehran of tomorrow be the location not of spy thrillers but musical concerts.

As a plan  it ‘SOUNDS’ GOOD!







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).

‘BLOOD’IMIR PUTIN’S WAR

Ditching imperious ambitions to dodge military conscription – a message from the masses

By David E. Kaplan

It’s a war about nothing,” said the Russian father supporting his young son on his shoulders to CNN on the Georgian side of the border with Russia.  He was one among the throng of refugees escaping their “Mother Russia” to avoid conscription. As one gleans in interviews with one fleeing eligible Russian soldier after another, they “hate” this war but feel powerless to stop it.

Protests against President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization order are spreading across Russia, including to the far east, as many young men are fleeing the country. CNN correspondent Nick Robertson reports. #CNN #News

Evgeny, a 28-year-old photographer from Moscow, who walked the last 20 kilometres to the Georgia-Russia border crossing at Verkhny Lars to avoid the huge traffic jam of vehicles trying to cross, told CBC News that:

 “People are fleeing under very dire circumstances; many are saving their lives. They do not want to fight in this imperialistic, pointless war.”

Russians on the Run. People walk next to their cars queuing to cross the border into Kazakhstan at the Mariinsky border crossing, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Chelyabinsk, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Officials say about 98,000 Russians crossed into Kazakhstan in the week since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists to fight in Ukraine. (AP Photo)

For George Vatsadze, who crossed with his brother and his dog carrying only a bag with a few clothes, it was personal. It does not get more personal than family. With a Ukrainian grandmother and cousins living in Ukraine, this marketing professional had “no choice,” he said. “I can’t go there to fight.” 

Aware he was placing himself at risk by speaking to CNN, he nevertheless continued:

I think maybe about half of our population think the war is wrong, but they can’t stand up against it because it’s dangerous.”

As the CNN camara left George crossing into Georgia focusing on his disappearing back  – the ever-diminishing image left the viewer of a man leaving his home for good – never to return!

Putin causes Panic. Cars, walkers and cyclists at a border crossing between Russia’s North Ossetia region and Georgia after Moscow announced a partial military mobilization. (AP Photo)

These tragic unfolding human dramas playing out at Russia’s border crossings with Georgia, Finland and other areas, bear testimony to the hundreds of thousands of men  desperately trying to bolt before being dragged into fighting Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

This reminded me of the story of my grandfather Menachem Mendel Kaplan from Shadova (Šeduva ) in Lithuania then part of Tzarist Russia who was conscripted into the Russian army in 1904 and sent off on a troop train across Siberia to Vladivostok to fight in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). As a Jew from a small shtetl, Menachem Mendel – later to be known as Max – was hardly interested in risking his life to further Russia’s rival ambitions with the Empire of Japan over Manchuria. So, before the train stopped at Vladivostok, he waited for it to slow, jumped off, ditched his rifle and uniform, walked to the port of Vladivostok and stowed away on an English steamer bound for Southampton. Had he been caught he would have been shot for desertion. For freedom, he was prepared to take the risk. He never reached England. Disembarking instead in Cape Town where he knew he had family, with his first steps in a land foreign in culture and language, began half the story of my family’s journey in South Africa and later in Israel.

Off the Beaten Track. A Trans-Siberian Railway train delivering supplies to Russian troops during the Russo-Japanese war. It would have been such a train that Menachem Mendel (Max) Kaplan jumped from when he deserted the Russian Imperial Army in 1904. (Ullstein Bild/Getty Images)

The Barb was right about ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. If ‘something’ is not done to stop Putin’s war of “nothing”, how many more men will ditch imperious ambitions to dodge conscription?

“MOTHER RUSSIA” TO SMOTHER RUSSIA

For the young father with the child on his shoulder, his thinking – not unlike my grandfather 120 years earlier “This is not my war”. It was Putin’s “pointless war”. With a total area of 17,098,242 Km² (6,601,665 mi²) and a land mass of 16,376,870 Km² (6,323,142 mi²), equivalent to 11% of the total world’s landmass of 148,940,000 Km² (57,510,000 square miles), Russia is the largest country in the world. It does not need Ukraine; rather Putin wants Ukraine, and is prepared that people die en mass in pursuit  of his imperial obsession.

Interestingly, one of Russia’s closest friends today is Iran as evidenced by Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Tehran. It was the Russian leader’s first trip outside the former area of the former Soviet Union since his military invaded Ukraine. The Russian president’s first-choice visit reflects the importance he places on improving ties with the Islamic Republic, that itself today is facing civil unrest.

Irate Iranians. Despite Iran’s leadership curbing the internet, protests over the death of Mahsa Amini continued for a fifth day on Wednesday, including in the capital, Tehran.

As Russians protest and flee so too, are there protests taking place across Iran that while triggered by a young woman’s death in custody amid anger over religious rules, reflects as much a rejection of a state’s fossilized leadership that is dragging the country down.

No light at the end of the Tunnel. South Africans protest in November 2017 Eskom’s decision to cut electricity during the day by blocking the N6 highway between Aliwal North and Jamestown, Eastern Cape. 2022 the situation is WORSE!

It is little wonder that my former country South Africa supports Iran unequivocally as well as Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. South Africa too is going through its “Dark Ages”– quite literally as it even struggles  to provide daily electricity to its people.

Battling with the Basics. South Africa’s ANC government is unable to provide its citizens basic services.

What Russia, Iran and South Africa now overwhelmingly share in common is the increasing dissatisfaction of its people. Their leaderships are foremost a menace to their own people.

It’s time for regime change in all three failing states.





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).

‘CLOSED CIRCUIT’ OPENS MINDS TO TERRORISM

Observations and insights in chilling documentary about 2016 terrorist attack in the heart of Tel Aviv

By David E. Kaplan

It was 6 o’clock on Day 3 of the 21st  World Summit of Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University in Herzliya, Israel. The morning session had been intense – a comparative panel discussion on the subject of ‘Terrorism Negotiations’ comparing Israeli and American modalities. Both countries have long histories of tough dealing with hostage-taking.  The price one pays can lead to painful consequences. Israel knows this only too well.

The afternoon session hardly lightened up  with ‘Perspectives from the United States” on how they are countering domestic terrorism.

With potential mass killers motivated by ideology, religion or frustration coupled with easy access to firearms, ordinary US citizens pose targets in schools, workplaces and places of worship. Once thought hallowed and safe – synagogues today remain only hallowed. They are no longer safe!

So, while  Israel and the USA may share common values; its people also share something else in common today – FEAR!

So leaving these existential issues behind as I stepped out from the auditorium – cerebrally drained – I was already fantasizing about throwing back at home a well-earned soothing scotch when my eye suddenly caught on the information board something  for the die-hards – pun intended!  It was an invitation for a viewing of  a new documentary on a deadly terrorist attack called “Closed Circuit” to be followed by a panel discussion moderated by the Founder and Executive Director of the Institute of Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University Prof. Boaz Ganor.  The panelists included Tal Inbar, the director of the film, Shalom Ben Hanan, a former senior official from the #Shabak, and Hagi Klein, a survivor and hero who attempted to stop the attackers and was injured in the process.

Close Encounters. Following the showing of the documentary “Close Circuit” on the 3rd day of the World Summit of Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University, Prof. Boaz Ganor  (left) moderates a riveting discussion with panelists (l-r) Hagi Klein, a survivor and the hero of the 2016 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, Tal Inbar, the director of the film, and Shalom Ben Hanan, a former senior official from the Shabak (Israeli Security Agency also known as the Shin Bet). Photo: David E Kaplan.

The scotch would have to wait….

If the conference until then had been theoretical, what followed next, felt like the student in Counter-Terrorism’s  “practical” as one transited from the “Ivory Tower” of academia to a real tower –  the ground floor of a  high-rise  in Tel Aviv. This was  the 2016 setting of terrorist attack in the city’s upscale Sarona Market and the locale of the documentary that I was about to experience as much as view

Serenity at Sarona. The tranquil setting prior to the terror attack that left four dead, many physically injured and ever more whose lives were shattered.

In introducing “Closed Circuit”, Prof. Ganor  began with the analogy of how people of a certain age would know where they were, “when they first heard the news of the assignation of President John Kenney” or earlier “the Japanese attack on People Habour” or more recently “the attacks on 9/11,” so too Israelis, particularly residents of Tel Aviv when the news broke of this attack. I recalled when Breaking News came onto all the Israeli TV channels that evening of the 8 June 2016, it was believed that some terrorists were still at large. It was uncertain how many terrorists were involved. The appeal from law enforcement to stay indoors to allow the police to search the city and to not open front doors until you were certain who was there, only contributed to the panic.

The city that never sleeps” was living up to its reputation but for different reasons.

All these recollections came back to me as the movie rolled.

Directed by Tel Aviv-based award-winning independent filmmaker Tal Inbar, the documentary uses security camera footage – much of it taken on the night of the 2016 terror attack. It captures the two Palestinian gunmen dressed in suits and ties, who soon after they sat down at a table at the chocolate restaurant ‘Max Brenner’ in the Sarona Market, got up and opened fire on the patrons, killing four and injuring over twenty. I felt I was not only watching this movie but was in the movie – being part of the terrorist attack. The viewer is constantly confronted with how he or she would have reacted when the first shots were fired. There was one crazy scene when someone ran out still carrying his uneaten chocolate pancake, and when he met up with his friend, believing they were safe, asked:

 “What shall we do?,

The friend incongruously replied, “Let’s eat the pancake!”

The comment in the audience behind me was, “Israelis!”

People laughed; they could just as easily have cried.

We know of the pancake response, because interspersed with the chilling security camera (CT) footage, survivors of the attack are interviewed at the very scene of the attack. They take you back six years earlier revealing why they were at Max Brenner that night; what followed, their thoughts during the attack and how all these years later, how their lives were affected. No on in the attack from patrons to waiters were unscathed.

There is 22-year-old Lihi Ben Ari, who was fourteen at the time of the attack who went with her father to Max Brenner that evening. Her parents were divorced and while her mother had argued “with my dad to postpone our outing, he was persistent in taking me out.”  When the shooting started, he pushed me to a safer place but it cost him his life. He took a bullet in the back. As the events of that evening came back so rolled the tears.  She no longer had a father!

Death and Destruction. Israeli policemen at Max Brenner chocolate restaurant in Sarona in the aftermath of the 2016 terror attack (Reuters/Baz Ratner)

Then there was the hero, Hagi Klein, who fought back instinctively by grabbing a chair and smashing it over one of the terrorist. In this way, he slowed the attack and saved many lives. Klein makes an interesting observation to a question from Prof. Ganor in the panel discussion that, “often in such terror attacks in Israel, the terrorist shouts Allah Akbar (God is great) to explain and justify their action. Here, they just started shooting. There was no warning.”

Honouring a Hero. Following the watching of the unnerving documentary “Closed Circuit”, Prof. Boaz Ganor (left) presents Hagi Klein with a special citation from the ICT for his brave conduct and quick action during the terrorist attack in 2016 at the Sarona Market in the heart of Tel Aviv. Injured as a result of gunfire, Klein’s action saved many lives. (Photo: David E Kaplan)
 

There is a message here – while there are profiles and patterns, every terrorist attack is different with its own characteristics.

Then there is the cop who unknowingly saves one of the terrorists who being dressed in a suit, thought him to be a patron.  Restaurant workers – who are both Arab and Jewish – are interviewed and reveal how their lives were changed forever by their sudden encounter with death.

Breaking the Ramadan fast that fateful evening was an Arab family.

The father sadly recounts the events and the “complicated” feeling of being Arab caught up in a terrorist attack perpetrated by Arabs.  No members of his family were lost that evening but he did lose his marriage. “My wife said I changed;  I was never the same.”

What this documentary exposes is the complex anatomy of a terror attack. For one thing, don’t characterize a terror attack only by the number of fatalities – in this case  four.  The ‘survivors’  remain forever haunted. Some survive with scarred bodies, others with scarred souls.

AFTERTHOUGHTS

I did have my scotch later that evening. It was hardly soothing. I reflected on the discussions at the Conference up to that day, on how effectively countering terrorism required countries around the world to come together and agree on what constituted terrorism. After all, how does one devise counter terrorism strategies if you have ambiguity on what terrorism is and who the terrorists are. There has to be a consensus definition.

The Killers.  Appearing on Facebook the day after the attack, Palestinian terrorists Khaled Makhamra on a visit to the Temple Mount (l) and Muhammad Makhamra. 

The perpetrators in the 2016 attack at Max Brenner were Khalid al-Muhamra and Muhammad Ahmad Moussa Mahmara, 21-year-old cousins from the West Bank who by their own admissions, had been inspired by Islamic State  propaganda videos. Their attack actually began in Beersheba where they intended to catch a train to Tel Aviv and start shooting passengers. Their admitted reasoning was that there would be no escape on a train thus maximizing the carnage. Deterred by the visibly strict security at the Beersheba railway station, they switched plans and took a cab arriving at HaShalom Railway Station in Tel Aviv where they asked locals:

Where are there good places to eat where there are lots of people?”

They were directed to Sarona. On arrival, they gravitated to the popular and crowded Max Brenner.

Shortly thereafter, the area was chaos with four people dead and many wounded.

Yes, this was obviously a terrorist attack but not so obvious to the world media if one goes by their initial headline reportage.

CNN on its Facebook page had in its its headline the word “terrorists” in quotations, as if the explanation for the carnage was up for academic speculation. Adding insult to injury, CNN failed to mention terrorism even once in the article reporting the ordeal.

Similarly, the British news network SKY also neglected to use the word “terror” or “terrorism” in their report of the attack at Sarona.

In keeping with not offending Arabs at the expense of Israeli sensitivities, the BBC‘s headline read:

 “Tel Aviv shooting: Three killed in attack in shopping centre attack”.

Could the perpetrators be disgruntled shoppers unhappy with the customer service?

The BBC report markedly avoided the keywords that would have factually characterised what had horribly happened in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Clearly a pattern was all too evident.

Not to be outdone, The Telegraph as well as The Guardian also labeled the terror attack as “shooting” incidences in their headlines.

While CNN later – following a public outcry – issued an apology via Twitter calling their use of quotation marks around the word terrorist in their news headline “a mistake” and admitted in a subsequent press release that “The attacks were, without question, terrorist attacks,” the damage had been done.

Chaos to Comforting. A man and woman comfort each other following the 2016 terrorist attack at Sarona in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: REUTERS)
 

I look forward to future World Summits on Counter-Terrorism that see media personalities from top TV news network and senior correspondents from influential papers not merely covering the Conference but participating in the discussions. They need to be part of the conversation.

Afterall, the “mistakes” admitted to in 2016 still happen too frequently to be “mistakes”.





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).

PLANE LIES

The heaven reveal Jordan’s concern for Palestinians is a lot of hot air

By David E. Kaplan

Anything that could ease the lives of West Bank Palestinians should be welcome. Or so one would think!

Apparently not so for Jordanians if Israel is doing the ‘easing’ and the Hashemite Kingdom  feels they are losing out economically.

Literally go figure, for this brouhaha is all about money not morality!

Jordan reveals its true colours as self-interest trumps any interests of the Palestinians.

Instead of West Bank travelers, when flying abroad, having to take the cumbersome, bureaucratic, time-consuming and costly route of going through the ever-crowded Allenby Crossing into neighbouring Jordan for international flights out of Amman, now have a much simpler and far less costly option.

Sparks Fly. A partial view of the international Ramon Airport located some 18 kilometers north of the southern Israeli Red Sea resort city of Eilat sparks crisis between Jordan and Palestinians.  (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

They can fly out from Israel!

Compounding the Allenby Crossing is that it is not open 24 hours a day thus forcing many travellers to pay to stay in a hotel nearby before their flight. There are also travel costs and crossing fees that make the journey via Jordan an added financial burden.

The alternative is Israel’s offer of its relatively new international Ramon Airport near Eilat. Opened in 2019, tourists from abroad holidaying at Israel’s all-year sunshine resort now fly directly to Ramon Airport. The first group of West Bank Palestinians flew last week from Ramon Airport to Cyprus aboard a plan belonging to the Arkia Israeli Airlines.

Hopefully it will not be the last, but it might be if Jordan gets its way.

So why is Jordan upset? According to Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, some 255,000 Palestinians enter Jordan every year with each passenger spending at least 350 Jordanian dinars during his or her visit to the kingdom. Here’s the revealing truth:

Jordanian travel and tourism agents say that 45% of their clients are Palestinians.

Easing the lives of the Palestinians is the last thing on Jordan mind.  First thing on its mind is not to lose out on this revenue. Hence Jordan is sadly in sabotage mode.

The rhetoric from Jordanians – across the board from government officials to activists on social media – has been threatening, frightening and scrapes away the false façade of caring for the wellbeing of Palestinians. The tone and tempo indicates also a callous disrespect towards Palestinians.

Several Jordanian activists launched a hashtag on Twitter titled “Palestinian normalization [with Israel] is treason”, #palestiniannormalizatioistreason, accusing the Palestinians of “stabbing Jordan in the back”. Ironically, many Palestinians feel it is Jordan that has stabbed them in the back, and have been reminding Jordanians on social media was it not their country that signed a peace treaty with Israel!

Where then is the “treason”?

This menacing reaction from Jordan permeates from the top. Chairman of the Tourism Committee in the Jordanian Parliament (National Assembly), Majed al-Rawashdeh, said that Israel’s decision to open Ramon Airport to the Palestinians posesto the kingdom:

“a great economic and social danger”.

Really? Israel offers a solution to ease Palestinian travel and Jordan seeing it causing “social danger”!

First Flight May Be Last. Making history, West Bank Palestinians fly to Cyprus from Ramon Airport Arkia flight to Cyprus from Ramon Airport, August 22, 2022. (photo credit: COGAT)

It gets even more vicious and libelous. Al-Rawashdeh added that the move was a “political decision par excellence” by the Israeli government to harm Jordan’s economy. The extent of this Jordanian parliamentarian’s lying was astounding when he claimed that the recent crisis of severe overcrowding at Allenby Bridge that saw thousands of Palestinian passengers stranded on the Jordanian side of the border crossing, was deliberately created by the Israeli government so that they could start flying from Ramon Airport.

In full throttle, Rawashdeh even castigated his own government for not taking any measures to thwart the Israeli move, and suggested that Jordan revoke the temporary (Jordanian) passports of Palestinians who travel through Ramon Airport.

Then steps in Jordan’s former Minister of Information, Samih al-Mayaita who accused the PA of collusion with Israel in opening the airport to Palestinian passengers. His Tweet read:

Yesterday, the first flight from the Israeli Ramon Airport arrived in Cyprus carrying Palestinians from the West Bank. Flights will continue to other countries at the expense of Queen Alia Airport and transit through Jordan. [This is] an Israeli move to serve its own interests in agreement with the Ramallah authority, which provided a service to Israel at the expense of Jordan.”

The Jordanian narrative is now of an Israeli plot in collusion with the PA to damage Jordan’s economy.  Can this hysteria get any more absurd? It can and does, and adding fuel to the fire is the Jordanian media.

Prominent Jordanian columnist Maher Abu Tair also accused the PA of being in cahoots with Israel to open Ramon Airport to the Palestinians. He writes:

The Ramallah Authority was complicit with the occupation. The rhetoric of the officials in Ramallah was soft and they did not prevent the Palestinians from using the airport.”

With venom creeping into the now offensive rhetoric, the Jordanian columnist referred to the PA as that “miserable Ramallah Authority” who would not “dare prevent travel and tourism agencies from promoting travel through Ramon Airport.”

Smooth Landing, Political Uproar. Palestinians at Larnaca International Airport after arriving aboard the first flight from Israel’s Ramon airport, in Cyprus on August 22, 2022 (Iakovos HATZISTAVROU / AFP)

He continues:

Most Palestinians travel by land to Jordan, and from Jordan they travel with the Jordanian airlines from Queen Alia Airport to Turkey and other countries. This means that opening Ramon Airport to them will negatively affect Jordan.”

This rhetoric was leading somewhere – a call for action.

That came from Jordanian parliament member Khalil Attieh who said that he would exert pressure on the Jordanian government to ban any Palestinian who uses Ramon Airport from entering the kingdom.

Long delays and Overcrowding. According to Palestinian sources, about 7,000 passengers cross daily from Jordan to the West Bank and from the West Bank through Jordan, reaching up to 10,000 passengers per day on holidays.

My message to the Palestinians is that anyone who uses this airport will not be permitted to enter Jordan. In addition, travel and tourism agencies that cooperate with this issue should be subjected to legal measures. The Palestinians need to know that they either chose Jordan that has always stood with them or the Zionists …….”

Where this will now lead for Palestinians travelling abroad is very much up in the air!





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).

THREE DECADES LATER

The long arm of Iranian injustice takes out famed writer’s eye

By David E. Kaplan

Be warned – those that stab you in the eye will have no compunction to stabbing you in the back. This is the cautionary message to those participants in the Iran nuclear deal from the murderous attack on Sir Salman Rushdie!

Marked Man. Living with a bounty on his head since 1989, Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed onstage multiple times as he was about to give a public lecture in 14 August 2022 at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua , New York. [File: Charly Triballeau/AFP]

There is no time limit on an Iranian threat to inflict harm; whether on an individual or a country. This is why Israelis are observing the ongoing Rushdie affair through a microscope and not rose-tinted spectacles. They understand clearly the razor sharp message delivered on August 12, 2022,  in a place few outside the USA have ever even heard of –  Chautauqua, New York and they worry about allowing a menace state to get hold of menacing weapons. Particularly when the intended recipient of Iran’s venom is the world’s only Jewish state. For a people that failed to heed the warnings in the 20th century are not going to make the same mistake in the 21st century. Jews today take it very seriously when Iran bellows “DEATH TO ISRAEL”, exhibits the Star of David on its paraded missiles and is HELL-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

The Writing is on the Missiles. What could be clearer of Iran’s intentions when “Death to Israel” is plastered on its Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ missiles?

While much of the ‘civilised’ world was horrified at the stabbing of Indian-born British-American novelist Salman Rushdie on a public stage, what was Iran response? Afterall, the attempted murderer, 24 year-old Hadi Matar, was specifically carrying out the fatwa (religious edict) delivered on the 14 February 1989 by the then world’s most prominent Shi’a Muslim leader and the Supreme Leader of Iran. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The edict  called for the death of Rushdie and his publishers. 

Words Kill. Born in the US to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun, a border village in Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon,  Hadi Matar arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y.(Gene J. Puskar / AP)

Iran blamed the victim – Rushdie! He had it coming; he deserved it.

Extensively commenting on the attack, Iranian media were calling the attempted murder “divine retribution“, while the state broadcaster daily, Jaam-e Jam, highlighted the news of Rushdie might losing an eye with this tasteless admonishment:

an eye of the Satan has been blinded“.

It was a play on words following Rushdie’s famed novel ‘The Satanic Verses’.

Matar’s Mug Shots. Facing charges of attempted murder and assault of author Salman Rushdie, Hadi Matar is reported in a New York Post interview saying that “I respect the Ayatollah. I think he’s a great person”.

So while Rushdie – widely regarded as one of Britain’s finest living writers – was knighted for his contribution to the arts in 2008 by Queen Elizabeth II by the traditional placing of a sword on his shoulder, the long arm of Iran instead inserted a knife into the esteemed writer’s eye.

Despite Iran’s fingerprints found glaring at the scene of the crime in Chautauqua, the Islamic republic not only denies any culpability but  accuses the victim and his supporters. Is this a country we are seriously believing will engage honestly regarding the nuclear deal that has existential ramifications for Israel, the region and the world?

Marking the country’s first public reaction to the Rushdie attack, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said the following In a televised news:

Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie, we do not consider anyone other than [Rushdie] and his supporters worth of blame and even condemnation.”

Dead Set to Kill. Iranian women are seen on February 17, 1989, holding banners reading “Holly Koran” and “Kill Salman Rushdie” during a demonstration against British writer Salman Rushdie in Tehran. (Norbert Schiller/AFP)

Kanaani should have been reminded that on 14 February 2006, the Iranian state news agency reported that “the fatwa will remain in place permanently”. The following year, Rushdie reported that he was still receiving a “sort of Valentine’s card” from Iran each year on 14 February letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him.

It was a vow they kept – thankfully not successfully –   on August 12, 2022, and Rushdie is thought likely to lose sight in one eye as well as suffering nerve damage in his arm and liver.

Is Iran’s theocratic leadership ever to be believed and trusted, particularly as the country wants to make good on its promises, not only to kill Rushdie but to wipe out Israel?

Rogues Gallery. A view of banners depicting Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in the Lebanese town of Yaroun, where the parents of the attempted killer of Rushdie emigrated to the US from. (August 15, 2022. REUTERS/Issam Abdallah)

Since being elected Supreme Leader in 1989 – taking over from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – Ayatollah Sayyed Ali  Khamenei has made it crystal clear he wants Israel – as a country – to disappear.

On December 4, 1990, he expressed:

Regarding the Palestine issue, the problem is taking back Palestine, which means disappearance of Israel. There is no difference between occupied territories before and after [the Arab-Israeli war of] 1967. Every inch of Palestinian land is an inch of Palestinians’ home. Any entity ruling Palestine is illegitimate unless it is Islamic and by Palestinians. Our position is what our late Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] said, “Israel must disappear.”

Doubling down on Iran’s commitment to hasten the demise of the Jewish state, Khamenei on August 19, 1991, expressed:

“. . . Our view regarding the Palestine issue is clear. We believe the solution is destroying the Israeli regime. Forty years has passed [since establishment of the state of Israel], and if another forty years passes, Israel must disappear, and will.”

Iran’s obsessional determination to expunge  Israel from the map has persisted unabated.

In the opening speech to an international conference in support of the Palestinians’ Intifada on April 22, 2001, Khamenei endeavours to mobalise the Muslim world to the mission of destroying “the Zionist regime”:.

He tells his listeners:

 “rest assured that if even a portion of the Islamic world’s resources is devoted to this path [Intifada], we will witness the decay and eventual disappearance of the Zionist regime.”

“Israel must Disappear”. Ayatollah Khamenei has made it crystal clear he wants Israel to disappear having expressed: “Any entity ruling Palestine is illegitimate unless it is Islamic and by Palestinians. Our position is what our late Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] said, “Israel must disappear.”

A decade later in a Friday prayer sermon on February 3, 2012, the Supreme Leader addressing past and future Iranian involvement in anti-Israel activities, expressed explicitly that Israel must not be allowed to survive:

“We have intervened in the anti-Israel struggle, and the results have been the victories in the 33 days war [the 2006 war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon] and the 22 days war [Israel’s attacks on the Gaza strip in December 2008]. From now on we will also support any nation, any group that confronts the Zionist regime; we will help them, and we are not shy about doing so. Israel will go, it must not survive, and it will not.”

When it comes to ending Israel, there is no letup in warning signs. If the Nazi imagery of the Jew was that of the rodent, for the Iranian leadership it is a “cancerous tumor” that “must be removed”. Speaking at a meeting on June 4, 2013, about the steadfastness of his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhhollah Khomeini – the man who issued the apostasy fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the present Ayatollah said:  

our magnanimous Imam is the person who never changed his mind about the Zionist regime; that ‘the Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor that must be removed’.”

For Iran’s leadership, there will never be an acceptance of the Jewish state. It is in their words, “a tumor that must be removed.”

Is it any wonder that Israelis are warry of the future when they read recent headlines in The New York Times:

Some Glimmers of Optimism About Iran Nuclear Deal.

You won’t find too many Israelis feeling positive about an Iran that is as dead set on ending the existence of Israel as it is dead set on possessing nuclear weapons.

Iran Calling the ‘Shots’? Iran wants compensation if US pulls out of nuclear deal again.

And what is the current status of the deal that at best is little more than kicking the can down the road to confront a nuclear Iran later?

Well, instead of iron clad assurances from Iran, what is apparently holding up the deal is not a worried world seeking assurances but a Tehran seeking guarantees that it will be compensated if a future US president pulls out! For Iran it is all about resuscitating its economy and that means the removal of the sanctions regime.

Hadi Matar in court accused of attempting to murder Salman Rushdie

However, in the wake of the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Accord, Iran has increasingly violated the agreements it made under the deal and expanded its nuclear programme.

If Iran wants these sanctions lifted, they will need to alter their underlying conduct; they will need to change the dangerous activities that gave rise to these sanctions in the first place,” the State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, said at a recent briefing.

Does anyone really believe that Iran will “change its dangerous activities”?

Would love to get Salman Rushdie’s take on this!





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

THE FATAL FLAWS OF THE ONE-STATE SOLUTION

By Samuel Hyde

Proposals of single-state arrangements have been presented to leaders from as early as the 19th century and consistently rejected by both the Jews and Arabs of the land. Therefore the notion that the conflict stems from attempts to partition the land is nothing short of ahistorical, and presenting the one-state idea as new, is nothing short of deceptive.

Over recent years, versions of single-state arrangements have been promoted in dozens of books and hundreds, perhaps thousands of articles and opinion pieces. These one-state arguments are often presented with an aura of sophistication and unconventionality, making them sound appealing. Yet, in truth, one-statism is more an expression of an ideological pursuit or political desperation than a well-reasoned proposal.

Searching for Solutions. ‘Two-State Solution’ may be arduous, but ‘One-State Solution’ appears both unwelcome and unworkable.

Those bursting at the seams of the one-state idea as if it is hot off the press are frequently disingenuous about the motivations that drive their intentions. The people puppeting this idea tend to drift within fringe elements of Western intellectual circles with an already unfavorable attitude toward the Jewish state or in the ideologically driven messianic Israeli right who seek sovereignty over the entire land due to religious dogma.

Both groups claim to despise the other, yet for differing but predaceous reasons, they have reached a consensus – the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot succeed, shouldn’t succeed, and that there should be no further attempts because the idea of partition itself is unjust. This is simply a lazy conclusion. Failure to deliver a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could only count as evidence of the infeasibility of the two-state solution if the process itself were not flawed. The peace process, however, has been so flagrantly flawed that finding fault in the proposed two-state solution amounts to the de-facto exoneration of Palestinian rejection and diplomatic mismanagement.

From Here to – hopefully not – Eternity.  May a solution finally find favor.

In theory, the one-state idea is utopian. In actuality, it is disastrous. It has no support among the vast majority of Jewish-Israelis or Israeli-Arab leaders. In terms of the Palestinians, a study conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research found that only 6% support a single state with equal rights for all.

Young activists, favorable to the preaching of the Israeli messianic right, dress up their talk of the one-state paradigm as the only authentic way for both peoples to achieve justice and reach peace. Oddly, they have concluded that the maximalist vision of the Palestinians – a Palestinian state “from the River to the Sea” could find harmony alongside the Jewish maximalist vision of a Jewish state “from the River to the Sea”. But one could only reach this conclusion if they were to negate the core principle as to why these two maximalist visions exist.

From the Jewish-Israeli perspective, this vision is unique because it is held solely by a fractional minority of the population – Yesha, the settler movement, and their supporters. In this view, there is no acceptable Jewish sovereignty without the wholeness of the land and no acceptable sovereignty in the land unless it is Jewish. From the Palestinian perspective, this maximalist vision is the driving force behind what has always been the Palestinian cause – no Jewish state within any borders – “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

There is no synchronous element to the attitudes behind these two visions. Both movements are negative in nature, preferring to deny the other’s rights and sovereignty above advancing their own.

On the one hand, you have a movement of Israelis who want to settle the land to spur on the messianic dream. On the other, the Palestinians, who believe their claim to the land is exclusive and supreme over that of the Israelis. In both of these visions, neither side dreams of, nor is willing to concede political independence, power, and state-governance to the other.

This optimism surrounding the potential coexistence of Palestinians and Israelis in one state is particularly unwarranted as binational and multinational arrangements show strain elsewhere. If aspirations for self-determination are strong enough to currently challenge the cohesion of developed countries such as Belgium, Spain, and Canada, even without a backdrop of conflict, why try it between two belligerent parties who are actively engaged in conflict? The two peoples in Belgium have very few cultural, historical, and social distinctions between them. Jews and Arabs, on the other hand, do not share a religion, language, institutions, a common historical experience, model figures, or social structures. The failure of the binational model in Belgium is thus all the more damning to any reasoning for implementing this idea between Israelis and Palestinians. Given the profound animosity and distrust due to religious, political, and social divisions between Palestinians and Israelis, the internal ethnic violence that tore apart Yugoslavia and has caused perpetual strife in Lebanon and Iraq is more probable than this fantastical presentation.

On the opposite side of the fence, one encounters people such as Peter Beinart and his comrades who seek to mobilize a one-state movement on the Western left.

Ideological Cul-de-sac. Once an outspoken advocate of 2 states, Peter Beinart has abandoned the concept for a binational state, saying it’s time to ditch Jewish-Palestinian separation ‘and embrace the goal of Jewish-Palestinian equality’.
 

Why should Beinart be entertained with the technicalities of his unoriginal proposal when Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi presented the same plan in a 2009 New York Times essay. Nonetheless, it is critical to grasp what this idea might cause if it were to receive the desired mass backing under the prying prelude of ‘human rights’.

Beinart’s arrival at the one-state solution rests on the idea that Israeli settlements have extended too far into the West Bank for prospects of a peaceful two-state solution. Yet, this is nothing more than a deceptive ploy.

The Jewish settlement system included 451,257 Israeli residents as of 2020. In recent years, the nominal growth of the Jewish population in the West Bank has stabilized at around 13,000 people. The yearly growth rate peaked at 16 percent in 1991 and has since declined, hitting 2.24 percent in 2021. According to three recent surveys, extrapolated from Shaul Arieli’s report “Deceptive Appearances” – the majority of settlers are pragmatic. Even if they disagree with the evacuation of settlements, they will accept the decision if it is sanctioned by a government decision and/or referendum as part of a peace accord. The Israeli NGO Blue White Future’s 2021 Voluntary Evacuation Survey gives solid evidence that 30 percent of the settlers east of the barrier would be willing to leave if sanctioned by the government even without a peace agreement. Less than one-third of the settlers subscribe to the maximalist vision of Yesha’s Greater Israel ideology, of that one-third, only a fractional minority claim they would resist with violence. And yet, the same threats were shouted from the mountain tops by this radical minority regarding the Sinai exchange and the Gaza disengagement; decades later, everyone in Israel is still awaiting the proclaimed violent resistance.

Whenever Israel felt reasonably confident that negotiators grasped the security threat and believed in the moral necessity of a Jewish state, it has been most willing to make territorial concessions. This was evident in the peace offerings by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert in 2000 and 2008 which would have birthed a sovereign Palestinian state thereby ending the occupation, with no settlements, and a capital in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians rejected these offers.

Similarly, George W. Bush‘s administration achieved more territory withdrawals by keeping Israel near and appreciating the risks it faced than Barack Obama‘s government did by deliberately attempting to keep distance between his administration and Jerusalem.

Israel illustrated its willingness once again in the negotiations of the Abraham Accords. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came close to or at least threatened to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank. The stipulations made by the UAE for normalization with the Jewish state were clear from the start – all attempts at annexation must be ended. Almost instantaneously, Netanyahu, whose support base tends to be more favorable to the settlement movement, flushed annexation down the toilet simply to open flight paths between Dubai and Tel Aviv. That’s all it took.

The rupture of the settler dream has always been the two-state solution, so by sinking their teeth into the one-state idea, Beinart and friends have unwittingly become concubines to the goals of the Israeli messianic right they purport to despise.

Continuing to drive the one-state idea also has a detrimental effect on the Palestinians. Over a hundred Palestinians were killed in clashes on the Gaza border in 2018 and 2019 as they demanded their “right of return” to pre-1967 Israel – an action indicative of the Palestinian maximalist vision. Unlike the surrender of settlements, which Israel has proved willing to forgo for peace, as in the cases of Sinai and Gaza, “return” is the one demand that no Israeli government can accept if the Jewish fabric of the country is to be safeguarded. It should be noted that there is no legal “right” for Palestinians, by any international standards, to settle within Israel’s sovereign territory. Anyone who demands that Israel withdraw from parts or all of the West Bank must therefore equally demand the Palestinians relinquish the so-called right of return. These one-state advocates achieve the exact opposite.

There is no precedent under international law to force Israel and Palestine into a single state framework without the consent of both parties. Seeming both have consistently rejected the idea for well over a century, any attempt to do so at a political level effectively violates international law itself.

Yet, if Israelis and Palestinians are to consent to a joint political venture, both would need absolute certainty that their rights as individuals and as a collective would be protected. If either of the peoples believe that the other is not their equal, they will merely use the state’s system as a means to oppress or push the other people out of the territory.

According to a recent study, the most significant component for Israelis to uphold and maintain is democracy. When Western intellectuals advocate for a one-state solution while demanding that Israel maintain its democratic fiber, despite Arabs quickly becoming the majority and Jews a minority in a combined Israel-Palestine, due to immigration and growth rates, the onus of responsibility lies solely with the Arabs.

Since Jews have never been recognized as equal to the Arabs in any country where they have resided as a minority, Jews have every right to wonder if they will be treated fairly and equally under a single Arab majority state. After all, the Jews would be relinquishing their universal right to self-determination in a nation state of their own to live in one-state with the Arabs.

Unfortunately, there is little in today’s Arab-Palestinian society which inspires confidence that they are yielding a path to progress that includes protecting minority rights.

Are one-staters capable of providing proof without a shadow of a doubt that Jews will not be treated as dhimmis (a non-Muslim “protected person” in the Ottoman Empire) or ethnically cleansed as they were for centuries under an Arab majority? No.

In the same study, democracy ranked as the least important element of the settler movement, with Jewish sovereignty over the entire land taking precedence above all. As a result, the Arabs have every reason to wonder how they, as the majority population, will be protected in the settler vision of Jewish control over the entire land. What would it mean for the majority Arab population if this vision came true? To retain Jewish political control, would they be denied the ability to vote? In practice, what does a minority population reigning over a majority population with an anti-democratic attitude sound like? – Apartheid

An additional argument made by the Palestinians are concerns that in a single state where Jews effectively hold all political and economic power, there will be zero incentive to improve the lives of the Arabs, as is the current case in Jerusalem.

Are the settler activists able to prove without a shadow of a doubt that in their vision this will not be the ultimate fate of the Arabs? No.

To this argument, one-staters choose to deflect and deny, either missing the boat entirely or aiming at the wrong target altogether. They make the case that no one can determine such outcomes while no actual political moves have been made towards the one state paradigm. Yet, that is precisely the point, no political moves have been made towards this “solution” despite endless proposals for well over a century, because Israel is not suicidal.

The advocates of the one-state “solution” are blinded by ideology, lack an articulate resolution program, geopolitical strategies, and any robust policy proposals. Because of that the one-state paradigm would merely act as a spring-board from which a mirror of the Balkan war would erupt and serve to change the name from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Jewish-Arab civil war. Despite its branding campaign, the one state paradigm is neither new nor a solution. It is simply fit to be dubbed the old and never ending delusion.


About the writer:

Samuel Hyde is a writer/research fellow at the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance, based in Tel Aviv, Israel. He is a contributing writer/editor of the book “We Should All Be Zionists” with former Israeli Knesset member Dr Einat Wilf.






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).

LIVING UNDER FIRE

By Rolene Marks

(*This article appears in theJewish Report“)

The site of the Iron Dome stood upon a hill in Modiin is both comforting – and yet fills me with dread. Israelis know that when Iron Dome batteries are rolled out across our cities, that we will face the now all too familiar barrages of rockets and mortars, fired by terror entities in the Gaza strip.

Rockets launched from Gaza Strip towards Israel is seen as rocket by Iron Dome anti-missile system is fired to intercept them near Modiin

Last Friday, the IDF launched Operation Breaking Dawn, preemptively striking, with pinpoint precision, Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza strip. Following the arrest of PIJ leader, Bassam al Saadi during counter-terror operations in Jenin in the West Bank, military and security officials had received intelligence that the terror group was planning on launching attacks on Israeli civilians. The IDF moved quickly – shutting down access roads to the Gaza border, locking down communities and shutting off train services between the city of Ashkelon and Sderot, the most bunkered town in the world.

A Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist stands guard during a funeral in Jenin following clashes with Israeli forces, Aug 2, 2022 (Photo: AFP/ Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Israelis waited for the storm that would inevitably follow the tense calm.

The storm started with barrage after barrage of rockets fired at Israel’s southern communities. Over 1 500 000 of us who live within an 80 kilometre radius were advised by the IDF Home Front Command about the dangers of incoming rockets. City after city opened their public shelters and families prepared their personal shelters for any inevitability.

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system fires to intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Ashkelon southern Israel, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The sirens wailed, the booms from Iron Dome interceptions followed and the cycle continued. My peaceful Shabbat reverie was interrupted on Saturday by the wails of our siren, sending my husband and I (and our very disciplined cat) running into the shelter. A boom followed. An explosion was reported just outside the city that left a small crater in the ground. The obligatory “are you guys okay?” What’s App messages soon circulated amongst everyone.

I am not embarrassed to share that sirens scare me. The warning wail of an air raid siren makes me anxious – a feeling shared by many of us. Despite working in the media and being particularly busy during these times of tension, I still feel anxiety and tension.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad would continue to pound our Southern communities but would also fire rockets as far as Tel Aviv, Beer Sheba in the Negev desert and Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. They fired their weapons of destruction towards Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting, reflection and mourning for our holy Temples that has been destroyed.

More than 1100 projectiles were fired at Israel from Gaza.

At 23h30 on Sunday night, an Egyptian brokered ceasefire had gone into place, ending 66 hours of fighting. The IDF claimed it has achieved all of their aims and it believed PIJ, pressured by Hamas who stayed out of the fray (for a variety of reasons but don’t be fooled into thinking they are going soft!) to accept. By the end of the weekend 1 100 rockets had been fired by PIJ, 47 Israelis injured,  95% of incoming rockets  intercepted by Iron Dome systems (thank G-d for our “Domey’s”) and over 200 misfired rockets falling in the Gaza strip, killing 16 out of 27 civilian casualties. This has been acknowledged by Gaza media as well as PIJ who have offered compensation to the families of the victims. Will they pay from their swollen Iranian-backed coffers?

Living on the frontline are Israel’s southern communities. You couldn’t meet more extraordinary people. I visit the south often, taking groups or individuals to visit our rocket proof WIZO daycare centres and to meet with the staff who work at our centre that helps the people of Sderot and surrounds cope with the profound trauma they have experienced for several decades.

WIZO rocket proof daycare centre in Sderot

The people of Israel’s south are exceptional and a true inspiration. They have a fierce spirit of Zionism and community and are determined not only to stay put and not be chased out of their homes and their towns; but they experience trauma few of us can understand. Over the last two decades, through countless attacks, children have grown up with the all to-familiar sound of “Tseva Adom” (Red Alert) being called out from speakers. Sirens do not wail because that is far too scary for many. There are teenagers who still wet the bed, small children who can recite exactly what they need to do when they hear “Tseva Adom” and parents who feel the strain of helping their children deal with their PTSD while coping with their own.

Just before the Covid pandemic, I had the privilege of leading a WIZO delegation on a visit to the south that included visiting our rocket-proof daycare centres, trauma centre, a terror tunnel with an exit point in the middle of a sunflower farm as well as a visit to Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asara, located just metres from the wall that divides Israeli sovereign territory from the beleaguered strip.

The residents have buried several of their own over the years, who have been killed as a result of rocket attacks. It is this kibbutz that in 2014 reported “strange digging noises beneath us”. WIZO evacuated the entire kibbutz, hosting residents in our projects further up north. This past weekend, my heart sank every time I saw the alerts for the incoming rockets and mortars.

The ever-growing Peace Wall Mosaic at Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asara. Photo: courtesy

The residents have fought back in the most Israeli way possible. They have started a project called “Path to Peace”. Visitors are encouraged to choose a small tile from the collection made on the kibbutz and place it on the “peace wall” that divides Palestinians and Israelis, in the hope that the message of peace will someday manifest into reality. They have hope. Hope is the greatest weapon against hate. Israelis carry that hope in our hearts. Make no mistake, we will defend ourselves with everything we have but will stubbornly pursue hope with everything we are.  

This resilience is the spirit of the south, it is the character of Israel and it is why try as hard as they might, terrorists will never defeat us. Am Yisrael Chai !

The writer places a tile on the wall of peace between Gaza and Israel in 2020 (Photo: Rolene Marks).




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).

TIME TO DO RIGHT, SOUTH-AFRICA

Pandor’s call for Israel to be called an ‘apartheid’ state laughable

By Pamela Ngubane

(Originally published in The Citizen)

At a Palestinian Heads of Missions (HOM) in Africa conference, on 26 July 2022, held in Pretoria, South Africa, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Dr Naledi Pandor, told the international community that they ought to consider labelling the only democracy in the Middle East as an apartheid state. What is laughable, is that she expects these nations, which largely value and uphold democracy as the world’s most progressive political system, to take her seriously.

Pandor’s Pulpit. Draped with a Palestinian headscarf, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor calls for Israel to be declared an ‘apartheid state’ at a conference held in Pretoria on 26 July 2022 of the Palestinian Heads of Mission in Africa.

As usual, nothing was said about the lack of democracy and transparency in the way the Palestinian Authority (PA) governs the West Bank. In the last few days, Palestinian lawyers staged a protest against the authoritarian Palestinian government that Pandor supports. The parliament is defunct and the only “rule of law” are the diktats which emanate from the pronouncements made by Mahmoud Abbas, who has become the de facto Palestinian president-for-life. Yet, according to Minister Pandor, the most unprogressive person on the African continent is the African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat because he granted observer status in the continental body to the State of Israel.

Israel in Africa. In July 2021, under the chairmanship Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union granted Israel observer status, a decision that does not sit well with South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

While Minister Pandor embarked on this political grandstanding, employees of the African National Congress (ANC) picketed outside the ANC’s pre-policy conference gala dinner, demanding they be paid their outstanding salaries. Medical personnel at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital are struggling to provide care to patients, using infrastructure built in the previous century. Sixty to seventy per cent of students who leave high school will be unemployed.

When it comes to the ANC, logic is not necessarily the lens through which issues are analysed. A logic-based examination of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians will show that the hallmarks of apartheid are not present in how Israel conducts itself.

Writing on the Wall. While pointing false fingers at Israel, South Africa’s inept and morally bankrupt ANC government is dragging South Africa down as reminded by these very own angry ANC staff picketing outside the party’s national policy conference in Johannesburg over unpaid salaries for June and July 2022. (Picture: Twitter/ @_cosatu)

Israel has shown through the adoption of systematic legislation that it upholds the rights of the Arab citizens of Israel. Not only do they have full voting rights, but the city of Jerusalem has also instituted a programme to provide higher education and employment opportunities in East Jerusalem with the establishment of a “Silicon Valley” in the area. Arab entrepreneurs in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector are receiving mentorship from prestigious Israeli tech organisations.

Work permits are provided daily for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza whose only chance at earning a living is to be found in Israel. The incompetence of Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank has created this economic crisis. And it uses the financial donations it receives, due to the goodwill of the international community, to line its pockets and pay terrorists to attack and kill Jews.

While Minister Pandor continues to cherish delusions of the Jewish state being made a pariah, most African states support AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat’s decision regarding Israel. African states continue to establish institutional mechanisms to fight the ills that have hindered the continent’s progress since the end of colonial rule. Moreover, they see in Israel a shared story of victory over oppression and marginalisation at the hands of the world’s great powers.

Out of thin Air. While South Africa’s ANC government has its head in the clouds, much of Africa is availing itself of Israeli technology such as this revolutionary device by an Israeli company WATERGEN that produces water out of air. (photo credit: Courtesy)

As Israel grows its partnerships with its neighbours through the Abraham Accords, it becomes clear to enlightened African leaders that Israel is a desirable partner to help Africa achieve its Agenda 2063 developmental goals. These include:

– the creation of an integrated and productive continental economy

– maintaining peace and security on the continent unlocking

– the potential of Africa’s people, through better food security, education provision and medical interventions.

A country’s foreign policy must reflect the aspirations of its citizens. It’s time South Africa reoriented its foreign policy in favour of nurturing productive relations with other states, by being an advocate for global peace, a facilitator of regional and international dialogue and doing what is right by its people.



About the Writer:

A Social Science Honours graduate, Pamela Ngubane is a history teacher who was recently appointed as the General Manager of SAFI (South African Friends of Israel)







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

DAVID GOES TO WAR

A personal account marking the 40th anniversary of the First Lebanon War in 1982

By David E. Kaplan

When Israel launched 40 years ago on June 6, 1982, Operation Peace for Galilee (‘Shlom HaGalil’) also known as the First Lebanon War against Palestinian terrorists based in southern Lebanon, 27-year-old David David was back living with his parents in Holon following his graduation in engineering at the prestigious Technion in Haifa. An army reservist, who had “long forgotten what it was like to be in uniform”, war was “the furthest thing from my mind.” Yes, like everybody in Israel, he was up on the news following the attempted assassination in London of the Israeli Ambassador to the UK by one of the terrorist groups operating out of Lebanon. Only a year before on July 10, 1981, the PLO based in Lebanon began shelling the north of Israel with Katyusha rockets and 130 mm artillery shells. Periods followed when civilians in the north had to live in shelters or as many did, move southward to escape the terror.

Israeli troops in Lebanon, 1982. (Michael Zarfati / IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

It was an untenable situation!

All this however was not on the young engineering graduate’s mind. Rather than catching up on the news, he was instead catching waves, surfing off Tel Aviv beach.

It was mid-summer, which meant time for fun.

Reality hit home – literally and figuratively – when returning from the beach his distraught mother came to him with papers in her hand:

 “You have been called up”.

Both David’s father and mother had survived the  ‘Farhud’ – the violent pogrom carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, on June 1–2 in 1941. Leaving everything behind, their lives  and livelihood, they escaped to the new State of Israel – a place of salvation for Jews.  However, wherever there are Jews, it is never entirely safe and their son David was off to war.  

HAIR-RAISING EXPERIENCE

It was funny; the expected thing do when called up as a reservist was get your hair cut. Not me; I was suspicious about trimming my locks before going to war; maybe it was the Samson syndrome, so I went off to Lebanon in uniform but with a black slightly afro-hippy hairstyle,” relates David whose parents were so proud of their biblical surname felt it deserved repetition – hence David David!

On the road to Beirut, “a CNN correspondent tried to interview me. He remarked he found it strange how in the Israeli army  some with no hair and you have plenty. I explained that I was a reserve soldier and had come from the beach. The main thing I told him was  “that I am here’ hair or no hair.”

Refusing to cut his long hair, David David in Lebenon in 1982.

While war is ugly David is proud of how he and his comrades conducted themselves. He cites examples:

 “Our food truck on the way to Beirut was bombed and there we were, 30 of us with no food and we arrive at a supermarket. All I wanted was milk and a chocolate. Loudly, we were collectively working out the exchange rate as we only had Israeli currency. Meanwhile, the shop owner was terrified; all these soldiers with firearms, speaking loudly in Hebrew; he suspected the worst. He was overwhelmed when the accountant in our group went up to him with all the money we collected and said in Arabic,We do not have any of your currency but this is the equivalent in ours that you can exchange”. He could not believe it.  He broke into a smile he was so relieved.  I doubt any soldiers of previous invading armies over the millennia have ever so conducted themselves.”

On another occasion, David was in his amoured vehicle driving through a Palestinian refugee camp. This was during a later reserve duty in Lebanon and in Winter. “We always made a point when we saw children, to stop and offer them food if we had any. On one occasion as we came across a kindergarten it suddenly started raining hard. All the kids were rushed inside both because of the downpour but also because they saw us soldiers and in the tumult, one little girl was left alone crying outside in the rain. Although dangerous to stop so exposed in an unprotected area, we did, and I said, “keep alert;  I’m going to take that girl inside”. I got out, took the little hand of the shivering and frightened girl and knocked on the door of the kindergarten. The teacher partially opened, looking terrified and then revealing surprise as she saw me – a soldier holding the girl’s hand. She grabbed the kid and shut the door as if trying simultaneously to shut out the complexity of war. I often think, of that little girl who  would today be about 44-years- of-age, herself a mother and possibly a grandmother. Would she even remember the incident and if she did, what would her thoughts be?”

During the war in Lebanon, David David (centre) with his fellow comrades.

Asking what impact the war had, David replies that every year on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), during the celebratory fireworks, “I always think about Lebanon. The BOOM BOOM of the fireworks reminds of the noise of shells falling around me. This year I did not experience it and then I realized the fireworks were silent this year in consideration for dogs who become traumatized.”

David David and a comrade on top of their armored vehicle in Lebanon.

David has reason to believe in a guardian angel watching over him. In the second week of the war, he obtained a brief leave of absence to attend a family wedding.

No sooner had David climbed aboard the Egged bus seconded to the military, he was told by the driver “to get off”. Only authorized to carry  a maximum of 25 passengers, David was number 26. “I tried to argue; offered to sit on the floor, but the driver refused.”  David got off the bus and upset that he might miss the wedding, he then noticed a military truck that was about to leave for Rosh Hanikra, the most northern Israeli town on the Israeli-Lebanese border. It had large tires on the back “I begged the driver for a lift to which he replied if I didn’t mind curling up with the tires.”

It possibly saved David’s life!

 “We started to drive and at about 500 metres, two missiles  struck the bus I would have been on, causing multiple casualties. The tires shielded me from most of the blast with pieces of shrapnel piercing my face and finger. I still have a piece lodged in the finger and every time there is pain it reminds me of the war.”

David did manage to still attend the wedding and returned a day later on aboard an IDF military helicopter. “Once we entered Lebanese airspace we were pounded by enemy fire and missiles but the crew took all the necessary evasive actions to redirect the incoming missiles and we landed safely. It was very scary. That was one hell of a wedding to attend – both getting there and getting back!”

ROAD TO DAMASCAS

There were moments for David on this road but hardly what one can describe akin to biblical revelations. David can honestly claim to have captured 25 Syrian soldiers without firing a bullet or injuring anyone. In charge of an important machsom (military roadblock) at Bhamdoun, east of Beirut, “Anyone going to Syria had to pass through me. I examined all identification papers and travel documents and my good grasp of Arabic, having studied it at school, would serve me well.  One day, a group of 25 men arrived at the roadblock and each presented me with their papers. They explained they had been in Lebanon and were now returning to Syria.  I noticed in each of their ID papers, the same word جندي (“jundi”), which I knew meant ‘soldier’. I quickly deduced this was a Syrian Commando unit that had fallen behind our Israeli lines and were trying to return to their area. They had obviously ditched their weapons and uniforms and found civilian clothes. Without raising any alarm, I casually over the radio called for the Shabak (security service) who quickly arrived and took the group away as captured Syrian prisoners.”

On the road leading to Damascus,  David David with a convoy behind.

When not engaging the enemy, Bhamdoun proved full of surprises. “We had no access to showers but came across an abandoned villa with a natural hot spring swimming pool. It was a real treat.”

Also abandoned was  “a synagogue we discovered. It was once used by Jews visiting this resort town. We honoured its past by some of us praying outside its walls.”

On a lighter note,  “a IDF military bulldozer had just completed digging a trench near our checkpoint when the driver looked up at a nearby hill, saw some soldiers and said I’m finished here; I’m going there. I said to him jokingly, ‘maybe you will come back; maybe you won’t’. He asked, ‘What are you talking about?’ I said those are the Syrians. ‘WHAT?’ he bellowed. He never realized how close he was to the frontline,  He said “I’m outta here. He turned his bulldozer around and headed back in the direction of Beirut.”

David David (2nd left) and his fellow soldiers discover an abandoned synagogue in Bhamdoun, east of Beirut.

Pressing David as to what helped him get through the war he replies:

  “It was humour-often very black humour.  Look, we had no proper food;, nowhere to shower; to sleep properly but what we did have was very high moral and humour .We were always telling jokes and funny stories and laughing loud at everything. This is how we got through this war. Also, sharing stories about our lives.”

Having no access to showers, David David and his comrades found an abandoned villa with a private swimming pool.

Merging the two, David explains that whenever a person received a parcel from a loved one, it was “a big occasion shared by all. It was opened in front of everyone. One day, one of us received a parcel from his girlfriend. We were sitting in a cherry orchard; the whole of Lebanon seemed to be one big cherry orchard – they were everywhere. Anyway, he opened this parcel from his beloved and inside was none other than a box of cherries with a note “Because I’m so sweet, I know this will remind you of me.” We could not stop laughing; even the Syrians must have heard us.”

Missing loved ones was alleviated on one occasion when out of the blue an IDF mobile phone truck arrived at David’s base and “we had access to it for the day to phone our families, friends and girlfriends.  Cut off as we were, it was wonderful and we did not want the truck to leave. And then a miracle happened. At the end of the day, the truck could not leave, there was a problem with the engine but of course, no problem with the phones. For three days we used the phones. To this day, I am convinced that it was no ‘miracle’ but some talented soldier in our unit who had craftily disabled the truck’s engine. After all, we’re Israelis!”

“The morale was so high,” says David David seen here relaxing with his comrades somewhere in Lebanon.

EPILOGUE

Forty years later, there is still no peace for Israel with Lebanon. It was once falsely believed that Lebanon would be “the second country to make peace with Israel”. It has proved not to be. Under the grip of Hezbollah and Iran, it may prove to be the last.

However for my good friend David David  living with his South African-born wife Henrietta (née Wolffe) from Cape Town in Rishon LeZion,  to the question of whether there will be peace one day, he replies:

I hope so; and  when there is, the first thing I am going to do is take my family there and see all the places where I was. The place is beautiful – trees, water, mountains. It is breathtaking. That is the paradox that there is also war with the beauty. Not only with Israel but more with itself. When the war is all over, I will return.”



Operation Peace for Galilee (‘Shlom HaGalil’) emblem (1982)






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).