‘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).

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).

Death of a Reporter

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

By David E. Kaplan

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

Why?

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

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

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

A TWIST IN THE ‘TALE’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One would think – So what!

Continues al-Sarraf in the Kuwaiti daily:

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

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

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

He concludes his article with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

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

The report continues that:

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

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

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

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

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

What is it afraid of again – the TRUTH?





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

CHEERLEADERS FOR PALESTINE IGNORE STATE OF CRIMINALITY

By Alex Ryvchin

(courtesy of the Australian Times)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




About the writer

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







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

MISREPRESENTATION LEADS TO MISHAP

Revealing true intent beneath the facade

By Lawrence Nowosenetz

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

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

Is it?

KORANIC TEACHINGS

Koran chapter II verse 91 says:

Drive them from where they drove you out

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

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

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

This sounds a lot like a religious war.

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

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

Because the Israelis would not give us 100%”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INFLAMING HATRED

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

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

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

WAR AGAINST THE JEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.    

INTOLERANCE OF FREE SPEECH

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

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

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

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

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

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

(My Back Pages 1964) 

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




About the writer:

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






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

CELEBRATING JERUSALEM EVERY DAY

By Jonathan Feldstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when it hit me. 

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

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

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

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

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

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



About the writer:

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





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