Love Thy Neighbour

By Rolene Marks

Imagine for a moment, what it would feel like for a small child to taste ice cream for the first time, to feel the soft, comforting hug of a giant teddy bear. Imagine as a parent, being able to sit and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee while your child plays safely. These are small, everyday gestures that we take for granted but for those many thousands affected by civil war in Syria, they are miracles.

Civil war broke out in Syria in 2001, affecting millions of civilians. This is a war that still continues.  My Lay of the Land colleague, Yair Chelouche, and I recently had the pleasure of travelling to the Golan Heights (responsibly masked of course!) to meet with Lt Col (Res) Eyal Dror, commander of the “Good Neighbor” directorate, under the IDF’s Northern Command.

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Close Encounters. Lt Col (Res) Dror and Lay of the Land’s Rolene Marks at a lookout point with Syria mere metres behind them.

We meet Lt Col (Res) Dror at a lookout point that gives us a clear view of Syria, the surrounding hills and the old city of Quneitra. The landscape is dotted with apple orchards and cherry trees and seems peaceful. Deceptively peaceful.

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Golan Heights. Deceptively peaceful landscape

To understand the tremendous security threat that Israel faces on the border, we have to look at the topography of the landscape. From our vantage point, just 500m from the border with Syria, we gain a better understanding just how close terror groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS are to Israel. The ever present threat posed by Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah is not too far away and the IDF need to be ever vigilant.

We also cannot forget that there is still an ongoing civil war in Syria.

The impact of civil war on a civilian population is tragic beyond belief. Civilians are not only caught in the crossfire but are often used as pawns between warring factions, women raped and children severely traumatized. Information about what was happening to Syria’s civilians reached the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and Lt Col (Res)

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Safe and Secure. Away from the Syrian civil war, this young Syrian child clutches his teddy bear while receiving treatment inside an Israeli hospital.

Dror, who had previously served in coordination and liaison units with the Palestinians, was approached to form a unit that would carry out an extremely important mission – helping to save the lives of Syrian civilians by enabling them to receive medical and humanitarian care in Israel.

The result was “Operation Good Neighbor”, which started in 2016 and was forced to come to an end in 2018, following the return of the Assad government’s control of southern Syria along the border with Israel.

Over 700 missions were carried out and nearly 5000 civilians brought into Israel. A field clinic was also set up with the aid of a Christian organisation near the border and this allowed for the treatment of 8000 Syrians. The IDF also opened up a maternity ward next to the field clinc and one of the greatest achievement of “Operation Good Neighbor”, was welcoming 1000 babies into the world!

First of all, I always remember that my mission is to create security – to create good neighbourly relations on both sides of the border. We do this, perhaps, in the noblest way possible,” says Lt Col (Res) Dror commander of the “Good Neighbor” Administration. “It is a great privilege for me to command a unit whose mission it is, in this place and at this time. We have been given the opportunity to influence reality, and with a lot of will and good people – I believe we will continue to do the best we can.”

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Help on the Heights. A Syrian child plays inside an Israeli hospital as part of the IDF’s ‘Operation Good Neighbor’ project, which helped thousands of Syrians before Syrian dictator Bashar Assad regained control of the area bordering the Golan Heights. (Israel Defense Forces)

Looking out at the ruins of the old city of Quneitra and surrounding landscape, I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the brave soldiers of the IDF, who endured immensely difficult and dangerous conditions, to rescue these equally courageous civilians. I imagined heavy fire exchanges between Assad’s forces and rebels, frightened civilians and extremely alert IDF soldiers, with an ever present awareness that they were helping to rescue civilians from an enemy country and that very territory was fraught with terror entities. The IDF soldiers knew that they were carrying out a sacred mission, in line with the ethos and moral code of the army – the sanctity of protecting civilian life.

“Aid operations take place almost every night, at high intensity and in all weather,” says the commander of the 77th Battalion, Lt Col (Res) Shaul Israeli, whose battalion performs operational employment on the Syrian border. “Sometimes it is about transferring food to children, sometimes with medicines and sometimes also real medical equipment. The most exciting action of all is the transfer of children to medical care in the country – patients, the disabled and those who do not have access to appropriate medical care in Syria, find in us light and hope for a better life for them.”

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Israel To The Rescue. It is estimated that Israel through ‘Operation Good Neighbor’ provided Syrians with 1,700 tons of food, 1.1 million liters of fuel, 26,000 cases of medical supplies, 20 generators, 40 vehicles, 630 tents, 8,200 boxes of diapers, 49,000 cases of baby food, and 700,000 lbs of clothing. (Israel Defense Forces)

From our vantage point, we can see the enormous United Nations compound, where peacekeeping forces are stationed. I asked Lt Col (Res) Dror if the UN or any other counterparts like the EU (European Union) had any part to play in “Operation Good Neighbor”. He explicitly replied that they did not. It would appear that neither major international body (who are often prone to great criticism of Israel) was interested in helping in any way.  The IDF was also responsible for the rescue of 400 Syrian civilians who were members of the ‘White Helmets’, a civil defense volunteer organization and their families.

But this mission was all about the civilians. The individual stories grip your heart. Listening to Lt Col (Res) Dror, the tears welled in my eyes.

What is important to understand, is that this wasn’t simply a case of bringing people in, patching up their wounds and then sending them home. It was not a “band aid” approach.

Many civilians required long term care and were dispatched to various hospitals.

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Saving Syrians. Israeli soldiers carried injured and ill Syrians to be treated in Israeli hospitals in the northern Israeli cities of Nehariya, Tiberias and Safed, though Lt Col (Res) Dror explains that hospitals all across the country participated too, welcoming Syrian citizens for life-saving care.

“Imagine what it was like to come to a country that you are taught is the devil and receive care from an Arab doctor or a Druze nurse, speaking to you in Arabic. Those making it possible were Israeli soldiers in uniform. They see that Israel is made up lots of different people”, says Dror. I asked him if the IDF was ever acknowledged and his reply was that they didn’t need it but having received the smiles, the pictures drawn for them by children and just the knowledge that generations of Syrians will grow up with a positive understanding of Israel was thanks enough.

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Rescuing Rescue Workers. IDF soldiers offering water to Syrian rescue workers White Helmets’ and their families whom Israel transported from Syria into Jordan, as they fled the Assad regime on July 22, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Lt Col (Res) Dror, recalls how he asked one little boy what he wanted to be when he grew up. His question was met with silence. To this sweet little boy, who had seen his closest friend killed, the idea of reaching adulthood, let alone contemplating a career was something he could not fathom.  After a while he remarked that he could now have hope that at least maybe he could grow up to reach adulthood.

The gift of hope is priceless!

The soldiers who served on this mission have a lifetime of memories from the individual stories of the people they helped.

Lt Col (Res) Dror is visibly moved when he shares two stories. A little girl was brought into Israel, her leg completely crushed. In such cases, she would have had her leg amputated and sent back to where she came from. Doctors who treated her however, decided that she would stay in Israel for several months for rehabilitation after being fitted with an expensive Ilizarov external fixator, the cost covered by Israel. The IDF and her team of doctors and caregivers made sure that she would have everything she needed to improve her quality of life.

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Lifesaver. How many Syrian babies will grow up to be adults thanks to the Israeli army that saved them from diseases and injuries?

Lt Col (Res) Dror shares a lovely picture of an Israeli flag. This story is very special to him. Another little girl was safely brought in for medical care. Suffering severely from diabetes, doctors remarked that if she had not been brought to them for care and treatment, she would have been dead within hours. Her palate had virtually disintegrated as a result of her illness. Doctors and surgeons treated her, reconstructed her mouth and sent her home with a year’s supply of insulin and medicine. Medicine for diabetes is hard to find in Syria and is prohibitively expensive.

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Another Side to Israel-Syria Relations. Lt Col (Res) Eyal Dror proudly displays a picture of an Israeli flag drawn for him by a young Syrian girl (To Abu-Ya’akub from Wiham).

The stories are endless and so moving. Children were able to play for the first time without fear, taste the simple pleasure of ice cream while their parents can enjoy moments of respite from war. It is hard to imagine the courage that it took for these

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Thanks to Israel. A letter from a southern Syrian civil defense group thanking the IDF for its ‘Operation Good Neighbor’ project, which helped thousands of Syrians. (Israel Defense Forces)

civilians to risk their lives to receive care from an army and country that they once perceived as the ultimate enemy. It is even harder to imagine their life under constant threat of war.  For the soldiers of the IDF who participated in “Operation Good Neighbor”, the ultimate ‘Thank You’ was evident in the hope that they helped instill, the improvement in the health and quality of life for thousands, and the massive barrier of distrust and hate that came crumbling down under the force of humanity and care.

The IDF proved that in a time of strife, you can still love thy neighbour.

 

Warning: This video clip might contain imagery not suitable for sensitive viewers 

Operation Good Neighbor is a mission of compassion for those in need and of hope for a better, more secure border between Israel and Syria. Over the past six years, we’ve seen war destroy the lives of Syrian civilians. We couldn’t stand by and watch. While carrying out Operation Good Neighbor, we’ve had the honour of meeting our neighbours and hearing their stories. #OperationGoodNeighbor #IDFOperations

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Along Came a Hero

He rescued not only lives – but faith in humankind as Arab world mourns Israeli who died saving Bedouin family from drowning

By David. E. Kaplan

Yesterday’s heroes in parts of the Western world are tumbling but others are emerging. Unlike the ingloriously departing generals, politicians, presidents and traders that included humans in their merchandise, today’s heroes are ordinary people who seek not fame or glory.  They are simply doing their job.

But it is anything but “simply” as they risk their lives doing it, and all too often, pay the ultimate price!

How can one not be moved by seeing the frequent profiles on CNN of doctors and nurses after months of dealing with Corona patients, succumbing to the disease themselves. You see their photographs and learn of their experiences. You hear their stories of putting in 18-hour shifts a day, not seeing their families and sleeping in congested passageways before returning to their wards.

To this growing list of heroes – ordinary people called upon to perform the extraordinary –  add the name of 45-year-old Michael Ben-Zikri, an Israeli who drowned while rescuing a Bedouin family from drowning in a lake near Ashkelon on July 3.

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Michael Ben Zikri (45), who drowned while rescuing a Bedouin family from drowning in a lake near Ashkelon on July 3, 2020 (Courtesy)

The family, all residents of the Bedouin town of Hura in Israel’s southern Negev region, three children, aged 14, 10 and 7 and their 40-year-old aunt, found themselves caught in turbulence. Luckily, their frantic cries caught the attention of Ben-Zikiri. Successfully rescuing them, he then – while still in the water – suffered extreme exhaustion and disappeared from sight. Rescue forces were called to search for Ben-Zikri and sadly found him without any signs of life. Magen David Adom medics pronounced him dead at the scene.

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Salvation in the South. Rescue team arrives to search for the man who saved a family of four from drowning. (photo credit: FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE)

 

His brave action will not be forgotten and following the Foreign Ministry sharing the story on its social media accounts in Persian and Arabic, Ben-Zikri emerged “a symbol of co-existence between Jews and Muslims”.

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Lifesaver. One of the many messages on social media from across the Arab world praising the Israeli who saved the Bedouin family.

The positive responses across the Arab world were quick, like this from an Iraqi commentator:

This is true humanitarianism. There is no difference between humans; God has taught us to love one another.”

While all too often, politicians across the divides will call each other names that should embarrass them, ordinary people can tell a different story as revealed by numerous internet users from all across the Arab and Muslim world who were touched by the story of Michael Ben-Zikri and shared their condolences with his family.

Humanity has no religion, may he dwell in heaven and blessings come upon his families and loved ones for his noble act,” wrote another user.

A user from Saudi Arabia by the name of Othman, mentioned in his comment a passage from the Quran in which God said that whoever saves a single soul is considered as if he saved all people.

Is this not reminiscent from the Mishnah’s (Talmud) original text of the famous Jewish idea that:

 “Whoever saves one life […] saves an entire world.” (Sanhedrin 4:5).

A user from Egypt hit the nail on the head with:

The fact we have political differences with you guys doesn’t mean there is a disagreement between us about humanitarianism.”

Clearly, these users recognise that “there must be another way”,   reminding this writer of the song of that name by the 2009 Israeli Eurovision musical duo, Noa who is Jewish and Mira Awad who is Arab. This sentiment was captured by another user from Iraq who wrote:

This is the people of Israel who love all and help all.”

The London-based pan-Arabic Saudi news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat published rare words of praise for an Israeli. On the outlet’s website, it ran an article describing the many Palestinians Bedouins who visited the family of Michael Ben-Zikri to pay condolences and gave a detailed description of how the Israeli saved the Bedouin family.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry’s social media manager in the Arabic language, Yonatan Gonen, said that the post was shared all around the Arab and Muslim world.

Users from Morocco to Iraq, from Oman to Syria, could identify with the story and unanimously pointed at Michael’s heroism on a very large scale, some even pointed Israel’s coexistence as a role model.”

When he was laid to rest in Ashkelon cemetery, dozens of Hura residents attended his funeral. Ben-Zikri is survived by his wife and three children.

In a historic first, Michael Ben Zikri’s family will be awarded the Civil Medal of Distinguished Service, to commend “exemplary behaviour in Israeli society.”

Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin will present at the end of the shiva mourning period, Ben-Zikri’s wife, Cheli, and their children the award. Attending the ceremony at the president’s residence in Jerusalem will be the al-Karem family from Hura.

How noble acts can so change perceptions and public discourse.

Only a few days earlier in July, Israel Arab lawmaker Ayman Odeh, was subjected to a barrage of insults from his Jewish fellow parliamentarians for participating in a video conference against the proposed “annexation” such as:

“Ayman Odeh belongs in the Ramallah parliament.”

This was no way to talk of the head of the Joint List faction who, whether one agrees or disagrees, had every right to oppose the annexation as do many Israeli citizens, which according to a recent opinion poll, more oppose than support the annexation.

Israel Elections
Looking To Heal. Head of the Joint List alliance in the Knesset, Ayman Odeh says: “ We will make sure his noble act will influence the next generations of Jews and Arabs.”

 

Odeh, however, was unfazed. Only days after being verbally assaulted by his parliamentary peers, he reacted to Ben-Zikri’s bravery commenting:

We will make sure his noble act will influence the next generations of Jews and Arabs.”

The Joint Arab List Chairman said further that “humanity is what will win” and that the Bedouin town of Hura will name a street after Ben-Zikri.

A frequently outspoken critic of the Israeli government, former Arab MK Taleb el-Sana attended the funeral and vowed that Ben-Zikri’s memory will also be honoured by the naming of a street after him in Lakiya, the Bedouin town in Israel’s Southern District, where el-Sana lives with his wife and five children.

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Streetwise. The former member of the Knesset Taleb al-Sana and its longest-serving Arab Member suggests naming a street after Michael Ben Zikri.

He told the grieving family that “the entire Arab community, from the north to the south, each house, shares your pain.”

Naming streets after Israelis in Arab towns would really be a new: ‘sign of the times’!

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Poison Pen

When a cartoon is beyond the pale

A letter to Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) concerning his caricature of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng published in The Daily Maverick on Thursday, 2nd July 2020.

By Stephen Schulman

Dear Jonathan Shapiro,

I have long admired your artistic talents in caricaturing even though I have at times disagreed with their contents and message. Still, we live in an age of democracy and freedom of expression and you and I, like others, have the right to express their views. I now wish to exercise that right and take issue with your scurrilous caricature of the Chief Justice of your country South Africa.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, a devout Christian and a respected personage with a long history of fighting for human rights, had actually dared to express his personal beliefs that were anathema to and ran counter to the official oft trumpeted biased anti -Israel mantra of the ANC leadership and you included:  simply calling for a more even handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and recognizing the validity of the existence of the State of Israel. Had he adopted the well worn official line of vilifying and demonizing the Jewish state, encomiums would have been showered upon him, but with his thoughtful and measured words he had actually rocked the boat and gravy train and in so doing had incurred the opprobrium of and brought the full wrath of the political establishment, its faithful followers and sycophants down on his head.

The age old adage states: “A picture is worth a thousand words!” In your caricature of this august gentleman, you have pulled out all the stops, using all your talent to besmirch and humiliate him.  Firstly, you have resorted to the well-worn sordid trick of mocking and distorting his name with the pejorative “Moegoe Moegoe“ –  making him sound like some bothersome insect while knowing only too well that Moegoe is South African slang for  “a stupid person, coward, or weakling”. Shame on you Jonathan Shapiro!

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Jokes Aside. From Chief Justice to Chief Zionist, Shapiro belittles South Africa’s top legal official.

For his sins of calling for a non-lopsided approach to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, you chose to label the Chief Justice the “Chief Zionist” – a venomous assault on his credibility and objectivity.  Furthermore, he now has the Jerusalem dividing wall like a vise on his head, squeezing his cranium, addling his brain and distorting his vision. If you, Jonathan Shapiro, see Zionism as synonymous with this wall, allow me to enlighten you. Prior to its construction, there was a wave of bombings and terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. Many innocent men, women and children whose sole crime was being Jewish and living in Israel, were murdered, maimed, disfigured and blinded by terrorists and many families destroyed – many of them by suicide bombers –   coming from the Palestinian Authority that consequently rewarded them for their nefarious deeds by granting the families of theses murderers and “martyrs” a generous monthly pension – the official ‘pay for slay’ policy! The suicide bombers, as promised by their Muslim religious leaders, would get their own special reward by ascending to the great celestial brothel where seventy-two non- menstruating virgins (Did they work in shifts?) were waiting for each one.

Was the wall – a necessary evil – effective?

The answer is a resoundingly positive one as since its construction, the number of terrorist attacks has plummeted and many lives have been saved and much suffering averted. The logic is quite clear: Had there been no terror attacks on Jews, condoned and sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, then the dividing wall would not have been necessary.

Now, Jonathan Shapiro, I ask you in the name of moral consistency, why do you not condemn other walls that have been erected? To name a few: Turkey illegally invaded Cyprus and built a wall dividing the island and in its construction caused much suffering to Greek Cypriots who were forcibly evicted from their homes, losing their livelihoods. Egypt built a wall to separate the Gaza Strip from its territory at the cost of destroying many homes of Gaza residents. Have you used your pen to voice your indignation or have you with double standards conveniently ignored them?

In your caricature, you labeled the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) a myth. A myth can be defined as a narrative of fictitious events without any foundation explaining certain phenomenon and that is sometimes used to propagate certain ideologies. You have therefore decided to place the Hebrew Bible in the same category as the Greek myths – entertaining but devoid of any value or truth whatsoever. In other words, you have negated the bedrock of the Jewish faith, its deep connection to the land of Israel and made a mockery of the religion. Many of your cartoons have reinforced this point.

Nevertheless, whilst publicly besmirching the religion you were born into, you have not been averse to using the Jewish community of Cape Town and shamelessly exploiting its services. I believe you chose to send your children to Herzlia, a Jewish Day School and had no qualms in requesting your mother to be placed in Highlands House, a Jewish home for the aged. In saying one thing and doing another, it is pretty clear that moral consistency is not your strong point. That, Jonathan Shapiro, in simple English is called: moral hypocrisy.

Stephen Schulman

Ramat HaSharon

Israel

 

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Happy Days. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng (left) with State President Cyril Ramaphosa before South Africa’s governing political party (ANC) called on the speaker of the parliament to censure Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng over him lamenting his country’s lopsided attitude toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

 

 

About the writer:

image001 (4).pngStephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

 

 

 

 

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

Hands off our Chief Justice!

A Christian perspective over the furor in South Africa following the Chief Justice expressing understanding and advocating a balance approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict

By Rev Reuben Chapasuka

Following the participation of the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Warren Goldstein and the Chief Justice of South Africa, Mogoeng Mogoeng in a webinar on June 23, moderated by Israel’s English daily, Jerusalem Post’s Editor-in-Chief, Yaakov Katz, I was asked in my capacity as a pastor and Executive President of the Cape to Cairo Israel Mission to answer a number of written questions submitted to me by Cape Town’s daily, the Cape Argus for an article. I answered them fully. Clearly the paper was not happy with my answers as it declined to publish.

My concern is that South Africa’s ruling ANC government may move to remove the Chief Justice from his office over his expression of his personal and Christian views of support for both Israel and the Palestinians. I feel that it is important that my voice as a Christian be heard. Believing that all sides should be heard, Lay of the Land has agreed to my request to publish the Cape Argus questions and my answers, appearing hereunder.

Why do you feel Chief Justice Mogoeng was justified in his remarks and why have you have chosen to support it?

“I fully endorse his views because he spoke not from the bench but as a devout South African Christian. There is nothing controversial in what the Chief Justice said. He expressed that South Africa would have greater influence if it adopted a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is a fair comment. I too believe that South Africa can play a meaningful and possibly unique role in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians closer to the table. Some members of the judiciary have also spoken out about their personal convictions concerning the same issue, but they were not subjected to this same condemnation. The problem centers on who is advising the ANC on its diplomatic relations with Israel which by the way, our country still maintains, albeit at a recently downgraded level.

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Poignant Moment. President Cyril Ramaphosa receives the Bible from Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng after his inauguration at the Union Buildings in May 2019.

It is ironic that the Chief Justice would have received tremendous praise from these very same vocal critics had he instead chosen to denounce Israel. Clearly his ‘offense’ was not that he was expressing on issues areas outside his legal purview; but that his views upset the #Africa4Palestine crowd and their following in the ANC.

The Chief Justice is not denying Palestinian rights. I am a Christian, a pastor, a husband, a father, a marriage counsellor and also a leader of an organization whose mandate in the continent and beyond the borders of Africa is to proclaim Africa’s biblical connection to the Holy Land. I am familiar with the suffering of people not only in Africa but in countries beyond African borders that have rejected the biblical mandate about the land of Israel in their respective countries.  As it is written in Genesis 12:3, and which the Chief Justice espoused: “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you.” Therefore, I fully endorse the views of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng because he spoke not from his Judicial bench but as a South African Christian, a pastor, a father figure who is passionate to see God blessing this country. Today, some of our children who were born in 1994 did not finish high school. Some of those who finished cannot even read and write. Is that not a curse? And some of those who finished their studies from Universities are not employed to date. Is that not a curse?

Here is a man praying for South Africa, to see South African youth walking with God and enjoying the fruit of the land of their forefathers. What they must do is simple; pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122). Hardly a week after the president called for a NationalDay of Prayer for May 31, what where they expecting? Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem and South Africa will prosper.

Thus, from my perspective as a clergyman, bound by the biblical mandate, the Chief Justice is entitled to have expressed what he did as a Christian of conscience and in a country that today proudly proclaims the freedom of speech.

As a practicing Christian, Judge Mogoeng’s praying for peace in the Holy Land was not a political statement. It does not mean that he is choosing one side over the other. It means that he hopes for peace in the region. As he said in the past: “I can only love. I love Israel. I love the Jews.  I love the Palestinians. I love everybody. I don’t hate anybody… How can you condemn me for asking God for peace?”

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Standing his Ground. Following several organisations wanting him to withdraw his remarks on Israel and apologise, Chief Justice Mogoeng says “There will be no retraction” and refuses to apologise “for being a Christian”.

What is your response to #Africa4Palestine calling the Chief Justice’s remarks an indictment and disservice to the many Christians in South Africa?

 “Firstly let us note on some of the statements of  Africa4Palestine on the issue:

  • “The Chief Justice conflates the modern political entity, the racist State of Israel that was created in 1948 with the Biblical Land of Israel. In the process he does a disservice to the Palestinian Christians who are descendants of the first followers of Jesus Christ.
  • He insults the Christians of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, and those who live in Jerusalem, who are currently living under a brutal Israeli occupation – deemed unlawful by South Africa together with most other countries and the UN.”

 Africa4Palestine is a radical anti-Israel lobby that throughout its existence has resorted to every possible distortion of fact in order to demonize and defame the Jewish state and incite hatred against it. This is evident in their latest outrageous claims that today’s Palestinians are descendants of the original Jews, and that Jesus himself was a Palestinian. As such, it is just another racist label against the Jewish people by this self-styled “human rights” group, which in its previous incarnation as BDS-SA was guilty of provoking numerous ugly anti-Semitic incidents.

Africa4Palestine’s views on the State of Israel are devoid of truth, biblically, historically, and also with regard to present reality.

The formation of the modern State of Israel came after the passing on 29 November 1947 of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 with 33 votes in favour and 13 against. Clearly, the nations of the world deemed this action just and there was no hint of racism perceived.

The Chief Justice is absolutely correct as the Biblical Land of Israel and the modern State of Israel are one and the same geographical piece of land, albeit now smaller, parts of which we all know as Judea and Samaria. The name Palestine is fairly new and was only introduced by the Romans when they suppressed the Bar Kokhba revolt, a rebellion of the Jews in the Roman province of Judea. This was a third Jewish-Roman war and occurred around 135 CE, a full century after the death of Christ; and further evidence is that the name Palestine does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Through instruments such as the Balfour Declaration and the UN, the Jewish people have been restored to their ancestral land from which they were expelled during Rome’s conquest and occupation. Why is it so difficult for some people who also lost their land through colonial conquests in Africa to empathize with the restoration of the Jews to their ancestral land? We draw strength from this restoration because it is both morally justified and the fulfilment of biblical prophecies as detailed by our prophets including Isaiah and Ezekiel. The presence of Jews in Israel can never be termed an occupation unless we, as Africans, are willing to concede that our historical struggles for self-determination and reclaiming our ancestral land also amount to an occupation.”

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Unmasking Evil. With a PLO keffiyeh covering the entire continent of Africa, this nefarious organisation (formally BDS South Africa) pressurizes governments to take action against Israel.

An Inconvenient Truth

In conclusion, while Israel, like all other countries is not perfect, it does not practice institutionalized racism.

The Bible records that the earliest followers of Jesus Christ were His fellow Jews living in Judea and Samaria; and Gentiles who lived predominantly in the Ancient Near East and as far as modern day Greece, Turkey and Ethiopia. An inconvenient truth is the fact that there are very few Christians left in Jericho and Bethlehem – the birthplace of Jesus – as they are an oppressed minority in these areas which are administered by the Palestinian Authority. Their populations are rapidly declining. On the other hand, Christians living in Israel are thriving and growing. This contrast of the experiences and destinies of the Christian communities living in the territories administered by the PA with those living in Israel, should speak volumes!

Anyone who wants to witness true democracy and see the true colours of Africa4Palestine you may come with me to Jerusalem after the lockdown. I will be your tour guide.

For the sake of salvation and the social and spiritual emancipation of the youth in Africa, I must state that any and all Bible believing Christians have a duty to speak out against Replacement Theology and the revision of Jewish history in Israel because it seeks to destroy the very foundations of our Christian faith. Perhaps we should not be surprised as Psalm 83:4 foretold that there would come a day when some people would say:

Come, let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

With God as our father, we will not allow it.

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Mission not Impossible. Advertising The Jerusalem Post webinar where two religiously devout South Africans, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng (left) and Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein (right) articulated their ‘mission’ of supporting a peaceful Middle East where South Africa could contribute its expertise in conflict resolution.

About the writer

image006 (100).jpgRev Reuben Chapasuka MA.Th (UP) –  Executive President of Cape to Cairo Israel Mission. He is the Rector of Cape to Cairo Christian Academy which is currently in operation in Africa and Madagascar (online Platform) and is a  Senior Pastor at Liberty Christian Fellowship Ministries. 291 Louis Trichardt Street Mayville Pretoria 0084

Email: rchapasuka@gmail.com

 

 

* Title picture: Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein and Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa Mogoeng Mogoeng (photo credit: COURTESY / REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS).

 

 

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

 

 

 

Heartwarming

Syrian baby “Usayed” brought to Israel for lifesaving heart surgery

By David E. Kaplan

While international media covered this June an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian controlled warehouse in Syria suspected of storing weapons, there was no such global coverage of another Israel flight this month – this time saving a 10-day-old Syrian infant.

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Healing Hands. Under special care, 10-day-old Syrian baby, “Usayed” boards the flight from Cyprus to Israel for emergency surgery on June 11, 2020. (Sammy Revel/Twitter)

Suffering from a severe heart defect, a newborn son of Syrian refugees, was airlifted from Cyprus to Tel Aviv to undergo an emergency operation at Israel’s esteemed Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. In 2020, Newsweek ranked Sheba Hospital, situated outside Tel Aviv, as the 9th-best hospital in the world.

The delicate ‘operation’ was no less diplomatic than it was surgical, involving the cooperation between the Israeli embassy in Nicosia, the Cypriot Health Ministry and Cypriot and Israeli doctors.

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Baby on Board. On route to Israel, 10-day-old Syrian “Usayed” is monitored throughout the short flight. (Sammy Revel/Twitter)

It all came as a whopping surprise to the baby’s father, Ahmad, when he was told that his son needed specialist treatment that could not be provided in Cyprus and hence led him – accompanying his child – to a country “that I never imagined I would ever see” – Israel!

A relieved daddy revealed to i24NEWS:

I don’t care about the relations between Israel and Syria. My problem is not political or religious; it is a health problem. My son’s life is the most important thing in the world to me. I said right away I will go to Israel if needed; I will go anywhere.”

According to the head of Sheba’s Congenital Heart Center, Prof. Alain Serraf, who operated on the infant:

 “The baby would not have survived more than a month without the surgery.”

Usayed was in the best of surgical hands. Apart from being Chairman of the Edmond J. Safra International Congenital Heart Center, Prof. Serraf is a leading expert in Congenital Heart Diseases, a graduate of the Medical School Paris XII, and a Visiting Professor in several universities worldwide.

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Lifesaver. Dr. Alain Serraf, head of the International Congenital Heart Center at Sheba’s children’s hospital following the surgery on a 10-day-old Syrian baby on June 14, 2020. (Sheba Medical Center)

The Israeli doctors expressed cautious optimism following the complicated heart surgery which will be the first of three procedures the infant will require to address the rare congenital defect. Known as ‘hypoplastic left heart syndrome’, the defect means that the left side of the heart fails to develop properly, leading to poor blood circulation.

Following the first operation, the second will be performed in six months’ time, and the third when Usayed is two years old.

I can say that the procedure went well,” said Serraf, “and we are guardedly optimistic that the child will be okay as we slowly wean him off the various machines.” Serraf performed what is known as the Norwood procedure. This involves placing a shunt in the heart to connect the pulmonary artery, which carries oxygen-rich blood, to the aorta, from which it is pumped throughout the body.

The first procedure is always the most difficult,” said Serraf. “We have experience in doing the Norwood procedure on a number of children who come from throughout the region.”

Over the coming weeks, the baby will recover from this first surgery and then return to Cyprus. In six months, he will return to Israel for the second procedure and then again a year and a half later for the final one.

If everything goes according to plan, the child can have a normal lifestyle,” Serraf said.

Speaking through the hospital’s spokesperson, the jubilant father and Syrian national thanked the governments of Cyprus and Israel for coordinating the emergency surgery.

I feel much more relieved and have complete faith in Sheba’s medical staff for all of the help they are giving my child.”

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Father and Son. Syrian refugee Ahmad with his baby son Usayed at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. (Photo: Screenshot)

While according to a hospital spokesman this was the first such case from abroad for Sheba since the outbreak of Coved-19, emergency situations were not uncommon before the Coronavirus pandemic. What is more, they involved not only countries that Israel has friendly relations with but also such countries like Syria and Iraq that Israel has no diplomatic ties.

Israel’s ambassador to Cyprus, Sammy Revel, said the effort to bring baby Usayed to Sheba required “special approval” from Jerusalem, which was pleased and proud to provide. Israeli medics have a long and impressive history of treating critically ill children from hostile countries. From 2013 to 2018, Israel maintained a programme along the Syrian border allowing residents of the area in Syria, who were affected by the country’s civil war, to enter Israel for medical treatment. Unfortunately, politics intervened! Israel’s lifesaving programme of Syrians formally ended in the summer of 2018 when Syrian dictator Bashar Assad retook control of southern Syria.

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In Safe Hands. Despite hostilities in the region, parents in neighbouring Arab countries know that their children receive the best care at Israeli hospitals like  this baby from Gaza being treated for a heart defect at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. (Photo: Save a Child’s Heart)

In the meantime and away from politics, Israel’s envoy to Cyprus Sami Rabel, is calling for all to pray for Usayed’s speedy recovery.

Solidarity during the coronavirus epidemic and the special bond between Israel and Cyprus, granted the special permission for the baby to be operated at Sheba Medical Center,” he said.

Long live Usayed. LeChaim – “to life”!

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Israel at a Crossroad

To Annex or not to Annex?

By David E. Kaplan

Annexation will mean Apartheid,” warns Benjamin Pogrund, a former South African living in Jerusalem since the 1990s and who was a great friend and ally of anti-Apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and a courageous crusader with the pen against Apartheid. Why is this voice sounding alarm today so important? Simply put,  a respected political analyst who has the proven moral stature earning his spurs in some of the darkest days in the struggle against Apartheid, Pogrund has consistently, persuasively, and publicly, resisted the comparison of past South African Apartheid with the present political landscape in Israel. Despite taking flak – in sometimes disrespectful language –  he persistently argues in books and articles and lectures in many countries that whatever inequalities or injustices transpires in the West Bank it is NOT Apartheid.

That is today; tomorrow has him worried!

It also has worried many of the Middle East countries that Israel has successfully improved relations with – a champion achievement. These moderate Arab countries are sounding alarm bells of the consequences of a unilateral annexation in large parts of the West Bank without offering Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians who live in these areas.

Joel C. Rosenberg writing in The Jerusalem Post writes, ( June 2) reveals that “Not a single one of my Arab contacts are telling me they will be fine with Israeli annexation. To the contrary, all of them are telling me this will seriously rupture relations with Israel. What’s more, they are baffled by the timing.”

Citing an Arab official in a Gulf state:

I can’t understand why Israel is doing this now. Arab relations with Israel are so good, better than ever. The prospect of historic breakthroughs with the Gulf states are improving every day. The last thing we need is new tensions with the Israelis. We have too much on our plates. The COVID crisis has been devastating. Our attention is totally focused on protecting the health of our people and re-opening our economies. Who benefits from creating a new crisis now?”

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Mutual Cooperation. Through crises of security to health, cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis continue as seen here with Palestinian health workers handling a Coronavirus test sample of Palestinian workers as they cross back from Israel at a checkpoint in Tarqumiya on March 25, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Also worried over the Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank are some of the most prominent and respected names in British Jewry, saying such a move would be an existential threat to Israel. Among 40 signatories expressing “concern and alarm” in an unprecedented letter to Mark Regev, Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, are:

Sir Ben Helfgott, one of the best-known Holocaust survivors in Britain; the historians Sir Simon Schama and Simon Sebag Montefiore; the former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; the lawyer Anthony Julius; the philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield; the scientist Lord Robert Winston; the former MP Luciana Berger; the Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein and the author Howard Jacobson.

The signatories assure that their concerns are “shared by large numbers of the British Jewish community, including many in its current leadership, even if they choose not to express them”.

Writing as “committed Zionists and passionately outspoken friends of Israel,” they fail  to see the annexation as “a constructive step.”

Rather, they view it instead, as  “a pyrrhic victory intensifying Israel’s political, diplomatic and economic challenges without yielding any tangible benefit.”

Noting the “grave consequences for the Palestinian people”, they warn that Israel’s international standing would suffer as the annexations would be  “incompatible with the notion of Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state.”

Why so? Primarily because annexing land and not its population has been tried before and we know where that ended up!

Apart from the damage to Israel’s international reputation – pointing out that the UK government will oppose the annexation plan and would bolster calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel –  the signatories  further warn of “The impact on diaspora Jewry and its relationship with the state of Israel.”  They counsel that “The British Jewish community is an overwhelmingly Zionist community with a passionate commitment to Israel. We proudly advocate for Israel but have been helped in doing so by Israel’s status as a liberal democracy, defending itself as necessary but committed to maintaining both its Jewish and democratic status.”

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Seeking Solution. Is there a way forward for Palestinians and Israelis to forge a genuine peace?

This is a serious warning from serious people – Jews and Zionists committed to Israel’s destiny – physically, spiritually and ideologically.

Hard-hitting, the letter concludes  that this policy “not only lacks merit but would pose an existential threat to the traditions of Zionism in Britain, and to Israel as we know it.”

While it would come as little surprise for the EU to condemn such a move, individual European nations are making headline news in pressurising Israel to nix annexation, notably Germany, one of Israel’s staunchest friends and a supporter in the EU. The German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, FM is expected to visit Israel shortly to warn against annexation. There is little doubt that if Israel proceeds as the Prime Minister is so indicating, the pressure for sanctions will mount, and Israeli diplomacy will instantly shift from an advance position  – a success that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can deservedly take huge credit for –  to one of defence.

Is this what the Israeli public want and is prepared for?

Of course, there will be those supporters of annexation who would argue, like Brutus in Shakespeare’s’ Julius Caesar that:

 “There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune
.”

In other words, Israel has a window of opportunity with a supportive American administration, so best to act now than wait and lose the initiative.

As Brutus hammers home to point:

 “And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”

While these wise words may impress theatre audiences, for Brutus it would lead him to perish at the Battle of Philippi.

It proved “A march of folly”, typically where leaders pursue policies contrary to their own interests.

Are Israelis, who must endure the consequences, prepared to take the risk?

At least half of the country’s people think not as reflected in a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute think-tank. While some in the media chose to headline, “Half of Israelis support annexing parts of the West Bank’, it no less meant that half do not or have serious doubts.

Houses in the Israeli settlement of settlement of Kedumim are seen in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Close Encounters. Can Israeli settlements and neighbouring Arab villages find a way forward for a prosperous and secure future for all?

This was further evidenced by the thousands of Israelis Jews and Arabs who protested at Rabin Square last Saturday night against the proposed annexation.

And what of the financial implications?

As reported in The Jerusalem Post on the June 9, David Brodt, a former Finance Ministry director-general, warns that the cost to annex parts of the West Bank would cost the Israeli taxpayer NIS 67 billion per year. He bases his dire prediction using a small representative group of the Palestinian population that will potentially be included in the annexation focusing on the increases to the budget of the National Insurance Institute, the Education Ministry and the Welfare Ministry.

As with the costs of the Corona crisis that was not anticipated and hence unpredictable, what would be the added costs to security in the case of heightened tensions?

As Israel marches hastily into a future of unknown consequences, would it not be prudent that “We, the people…” collectively think through the plan so that if and when annexation may take place, it occurs not in haste but after thoughtful consideration?

Is that too much to ask for?

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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

 

No, Israel isn’t a country of privileged and powerful white Europeans

By Hen Mazzig

This article was originally published in the LA Times and is republished with kind permission.

 Along with resurgent identity politics in the United States and Europe, there is a growing inclination to frame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of race. According to this narrative, Israel was established as a refuge for oppressed white European Jews who in turn became oppressors of people of colour, the Palestinians.

As an Israeli, and the son of an Iraqi Jewish mother and North African Jewish father, it’s gut-wrenching to witness this shift.

I am Mizrahi, as are the majority of Jews in Israel today. We are of Middle Eastern and North African descent. Only about 30% of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi or the descendants of European Jews. I am baffled as to why mainstream media and politicians around the world ignore or misrepresent these facts and the Mizrahi story. Perhaps it’s because our history shatters a stereotype about the identity of my country and my people.

Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, was not established for just one type of Jew but for all Jews, from every part of the world — the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia, Asia and, yes, Europe. No matter where Jews physically reside, they maintain a connection to the land of Israel, where our story started and where today we continue to craft it.

The likes of Women’s March activist Tamika Mallory, Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill and, more recently, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) falsify reality in their discussions of Palestinians’ “intersectional” struggle, their use of the term “Apartheid” to characterize Israeli policy, and their tendency to define Israelis as Ashkenazi Jews alone.

No, Israel isn’t a country of privileged and powerful white Europeans1

 

I believe their misrepresentations are part of a strategic campaign to taint Israel as an extension of privileged and powerful white Europe, thereby justifying any and all attacks on it. This way of thinking signals a dangerous trend that positions Israel as a colonialist aggressor rather than a haven for those fleeing oppression. Worse, it all but erases the story of my family, which came to Israel from Iraq and Tunisia.

For most of history, the Mizrahim have been without sovereignty and equality in the Muslim world. In Iraq, despite being “equal citizens” on paper, my family experienced ongoing persecution. The first organized attack came in 1941, the brutal Farhud, a Nazi-incited riot that claimed the lives of hundreds of Jews and forced the survivors to live in fear. My great-grandfather was falsely accused of being a Zionist spy and executed in Baghdad in 1951. My mother’s family was permitted to emigrate that same year, but with only one suitcase.

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From Roots To Riots. Nazi influence in Baghdad fanned anti-Semitic sentiments inciting riots that claimed the lives of hundreds of Jews who had lived in Iraq since Babylonian times. The writer’s great-grandfather was falsely accused of being a Zionist spy and executed in Baghdad in 1951.

Any erasure of the Mizrahi experience negates the lives of 850,000 Jewish refugees just like them, who, even in the successor states to the Ottoman Empire of the early 20th century, were treated as “dhimmis,” an Arabic term for a protected minority whose members pay for that protection, which can be withdrawn at any time. Demographic ignorance also works to deny the existence of almost 200,000 descendants of Ethiopian Jews who were threatened by political destabilization in the early 1990s and airlifted to Israel in a daring rescue operation.

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Flight To Freedom. Jewish immigrants from Iraq arrive in Israel in 1951. (Photo: Government Press Office)

One of Judaism’s central themes is a story of national liberation in the face of imperial powers. Israel is a place where an indigenous people have reclaimed their land and revived their ancient language, despite being surrounded by hostile neighbours and hounded by radicalized Arab nationalists who cannot tolerate any political entity in the region other than their own. Jews that were expelled from nations across the Middle East, who sacrificed all they had, have been crucial in building and defending the Jewish state since its outset.

Without a doubt, the creation of Israel provided a haven for Jews who survived the Holocaust and extreme oppression in Europe. However, we cannot acknowledge that history at the expense of Mizrahi Jews, who with so many others, regardless of skin colour, shared the desire for a Jewish state long before the establishment of Israel.

 

 

About the writer:

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Hen Mazzig, an Israeli writer and activist of Iraqi and North African descent, is editor-at-large at the J’accuse Coalition for Justice. @HenMazzig

Seeing the Wood from the Trees

Recognising the dangers today averts disasters tomorrow

With Israel embattled and imperilled by venomous word and deed, 2020 “Yakir Ha’Ir Tel Aviv” Award recipient and prominent civil rights activist Jonathan Danilowitz, airs his views and his concerns

What makes us tick? What is it,  deep inside us that gives us the drive to fight on, to survive, to win and to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our families? Surely, it’s that inherent determination that Mother Nature, in her gift of the survival of the fittest, implanted in our being. It’s the ambition and motivation to survive that keeps us from falling and failing, even at the darkest hour before the dawn.

We, humans, are mostly rational, usually logical, reasonable and cogent. We also have feelings, emotions and the ability to reason. We are exposed to information all the time and most of us have the ability to judge, to evaluate and most importantly – to critique the “facts” to which we are exposed.

And yet, we sometimes fail, badly. We “shoot ourselves in the foot” by acting against our own best interests. That normally happens after an error of judgement, but sadly, too often, it happens to someone who “cuts off their nose” just to spite their face. In any event, in doing so, that person harms not only his or herself but very often also their family, friends and/or the surrounding community.

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Why do it?

Why would anyone pick up that knife to cut off their nose? Extending the analogy – why would anyone knowingly harm themselves and worse – their family? It could only be because, like shooting oneself in the foot, they have made a serious error of judgement. They have been misled and misinformed by accepting “fake news” as fact. This sometimes happens to serious, thinking people (people like you, dear reader), who really have good intentions and the desire to help others. The pertinent example is the ongoing Arab-Israel conflict; a conflict that has been ongoing from way, way before the State of Israel was re-established in 1948 within the borders of the historic Land of Israel.

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Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing. What is the difference between the murderers and the financers of the murders?

It isn’t within the scope of this essay to review the historical facts (real or imagined) concerning the conflict. For the sake of argument let us assume that each side has been wronged; let us assume that both sides are right in their demands. And let’s go even one step further: let us assume that the Arabs are always right, and that Israel is always wrong. (Yes, there are people who still believe that.)

Now imagine that you want to be fair and decent. Obviously, you’ll side with right against wrong. But imagine too, that by doing so, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Now try to envisage how ghastly and tragic that would be if you are even partially mistaken about who is right in the conflict!

Mideast Israel Palestinians Prisoners Glance
Sponsoring Murder. The Sbarro pizzeria following a suicide bombing that killed 15 civilians, including 7 children and a pregnant woman, and wounded 130. As of 2019, the “Sbarro terrorists’ have received $910,823 in “pay-for-slay” funding. Female terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, who planned the event, and today a free resident in Jordan, said she has “no regrets.”

Can you accept that the supposedly “right” party – in this case, the Palestinian Authority – actually pays murderers a monthly salary for having slaughtered innocent civilians? Those suicide bombers are considered to be martyrs and are canonized? Can any modern, educated, 21st-century civilized human being actually believe that such heinous government-level support of terrorism can be “right”?

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Blood Money. The Palestinian Authority increases terrorists’ stipends despite claiming it is on the verge of bankruptcy.

If we are to genuinely embark on the road to peace, basic norms of civilizations need to be adhered to. Otherwise, we are setting aside reason to take a leap of faith into a certain “Danger Zone”.

The signs along this journey are clear and visible for all to see.

We have been warned!

 

 

 

 

About the writer:

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Jonathan Danilowitz is a human, civil and animal rights activist who made Israeli caselaw history when he successfully sued Israel’s national airline, El Al, for failure to recognise his same-sex partner as his common-law spouse. The Supreme Court ruling is considered to be one of its most important decisions, and is featured in the Museum of the Court in Jerusalem. He is also the author of ‘Flying Colors’,  an intimate and revealing look of a flight attendant “thirty years at thirty thousand feet – from Apartheid to Israeli gay rights”.  He is a 2020 recipient of the City of Tel Aviv Yakir Award.

 

 

 

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

Thank You, EU

By Irwin Blank

I have a message for the EU, a little bit of Israeli history that I believe is quite appropriate right now after their action to boycott all Israeli businesses, products and services that are located in Yehudah and Shomron.

You know, the history of boycotting the Jewish people isn’t new, but I will not dwell on the distant past, I will take you to April 1, 1933. On that day, the Nazi Party (NSDAP) that had seized control of the German nation, decided to launch a mass boycott of all Jewish businesses, professionals like doctors and dentists, and educated men and women who taught at Germany’s universities and colleges. This was the primary and first governmental anti-Semitic act of the new government-and what did it achieve?

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Boycott Jews. At the windows of Jewish shops, posters are issued by National Socialists with the request “Germans, resist, do not buy from Jews” April 1933 (photo credit: GEORG PAHL / GERMAN FEDERAL ARCHIVES / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Well, firstly it brought Albert Einstein to the United States and it laid the groundwork for the most massive pre-statehood immigration of Jews into the homeland. In 1935, 61,834 Jews from Germany and Central Europe, fleeing for their lives, made the trek to the former British Mandate and what did they bring with them other than the meager belongings that they were permitted to carry on their persons. Let’s see, they brought the talent that would create the now, Israel Philharmonic, the boycott brought dozens of doctors, dentists, lawyers, and university lecturers to what had been, for the most part, a tiny agrarian, socialist economy that had not been able to attract this caliber of person, and it laid the foundations for a burgeoning middle class that would build hundreds of factories, create the groundwork for huge industrial enterprises and give renewal and revival to dozens of established and soon to be established, vibrant communal settlements all over the country.

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Topsy-Turvy. Back in the 1930s when Jews were Palestinians they were boycotted by Arabs.

But why stop there? In 1936, the Arab Higher Committee (the organization of anti-Jewish terrorists of its day) called a general strike all over the mandate that closed shops and factories and ports and impoverished the local Arab community by threatening to murder any Arab that dared to go to work or open his shop or harvest and sell his produce. So, what was the Jewish answer to this boycott? Well, we brought thousands of Greek Jews from Thessaloniki (Salonica) and other Greek ports where the Jews were the dockworkers, the stevedores, the longshoremen, and WE answered the Arab strike with the creation of the port of Tel Aviv, which had no port previously. We built a Jewish owned shipping industry and built what is today the Israel Shipyards – one of the largest shipbuilding and repair facilities in the eastern Mediterranean. We expanded and built new Jewish owned and operated businesses and our farms grew to take up the slack and maintain the market that the Arab boycott had shuttered.

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Israeli Sea’lutions. Since 1959, Israel Shipyards Ltd has been providing seaworthy solutions for the Naval and commercial marine markets.

With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Arab League opened the Office for the Boycott of Israel in Damascus, where it is still located today. The member states of the Arab League  threatened to seize any business and boycott any individual that dared to do invest or build in the Jewish state. They also refrained from opening their markets to Israeli goods and refused our ships docking privileges in their ports. So, what did we do? WE created an Israeli shipping line, the ZIM line, to carry our goods all over the world. WE built the port of Eilat to bypass the Suez Canal and deal with the new nations of Africa and Asia. WE improvised, adapted and overcame by building an economy whose products and services would be demanded by the civilized world and this brought us investment, venture capital and billions in outright donations that has created an economic powerhouse in a nation so small, so lacking in natural resources, that today, Israel’s shekel is among the strongest currencies traded anywhere in the world. International corporations that have brought their major R&D centers here, like Intel, Microsoft and Cisco Systems, where entrepreneurs from all over the world have invested billions of dollars in Israeli companies, as has Warren Buffet, who made his first ever, international investment to the tune of $4 BILLION in an Israeli company in the Western Galilee that makes, among other items, the blades for jet engines and razors. Israel has more businesses listed on NASDAQ than Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea combined, and more startups than America’s Silicon Valley which is represented in EVERY Israeli city. Personally, I don’t believe that Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe or the Disney Corporation were really upset that their films could not be shown in Beirut, Damascus, Ammann or Cairo. Even, “Cleopatra,” could  not be shown in the Arab world because its star Elizabeth Taylor was a Jew.

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Intel in Kiryat Gat, Israel.

But, let’s get to the present, shall we? Over 25,000 “Palestinian” Arabs work in Yehudah and Shomron, all of them receive the same pay as their Israeli equivalents in the same industry, they all get National Insurance benefits, health care and, most importantly, they get paid regularly. I know this for a fact as I see the Arabs who work for my town, line up at the local branch of Bank Le’umi and collect their wages on the 5th of every month. These workers support their families and the EU is threatening the livelihoods of the very folks it wants to grant independence too? How can they ever be independent if by your boycott you force the places where they work  to re-locate within the “Green Line”?

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Microsoft’s campus in Haifa, Israel.

Will your anti-Semitic boycott make us leave our land? Will this act of pernicious Jew hatred weaken our resolve? History teaches us otherwise. More Jews will come to Yehudah and Shomron, build new factories and new farms and new communities. Israeli exports are ever increasing, if not to the creeping decrepitude that is so obvious in a dying, Islamicized Europe, devoid of courage and full of cowardice and prejudice, but to the growing economic powerhouses of India, China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea-Israel’s economic future and success is in the East, in the Pacific Rim and all over a sleeping giant continent called Africa.

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Showing The Way. In hospitals, schools and businesses, Israeli Arabs, Jews and Palestinians are working side by side to forge a better future. Seen here is Siham Sheble Masarwa, an Israeli Arab and head technician of Hadassah Ein Kerem’s catheterisation lab, teaching Jewish Israeli students. (Photograph: Kate Shuttleworth/The Guardian)

Your boycotts have strengthened us, your hatred has united us and your utter contempt for truth and your obeisance to hypocrisy and cowardice has made you contemptible and beyond rescue.

And, to top it all off (to use a gas station phrase) maybe Moses made the correct turn after all, for we have found natural gas deposits that are in the trillions of cubic meters, and, dare I say the word, OIL! Sure, it’s shale, but with all your technological universities and research centers being urged to cut their ties with us, I guess we’ll just have to put our Jewish heads together and solve the problem ourselves, in typical Israeli fashion-after all, you have always forced us too. Thanks again.

 

 

image001 (11).pngIrwin Blank was born in NYC in 1952 and has a BA in Political Science from Colombia University NY. He was part of the Speakers’ Bureau American Zionist Youth Foundation and editor of the Zionost Organization of America. He made Aliyah in July 2008 and lives in Maaleh Adumim.

I, You, Them, Us

By  Martine Alperstein

US President Trump released his concept for a proposed peace between Israel and their Palestinian neighbours. While many countries, including several Arab states firmly endorse the plan, the Palestinian camp has roundly rejected it. Israeli citizen, Martine Alperstein shares her frustrations.

I am tired. So very tired. I am disappointed, disillusioned and exasperated.

And I am not the only one.

I am not the only one who is struggling to see the light at the end of this very long, very painful and very uneven, disjointed, dangerous tunnel. How many more lives need to be lost? How many more tears need to be shed?

My tears, your tears, their tears, our tears.

I you them us2

Yet another proposed peace plan that is never going to be put on the table because only one party is sitting at the table. Yet another ridiculous notion from the UN who can’t be bothered to take a close look at who they are actually hurting. Another day of rage. Another fleet of treacherous balloons.

Another retaliation by the IDF.

All I want is quiet.

Peace. Quiet. Calm. Safe.

I just want to feel safe. I want to know my children are safe. I want to know my parents are safe. I want to know that my siblings, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my acquaintances, my neighbours, my fellow humans are safe – and blessed with peace, quiet, calm.

I want. You want. They want. We want.

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Peace Proposal. Proposals are on the table – lets sit down and talk.

If you ask the average person on the street, on both sides of the line, on both sides of the border, what they want…. the answer will be the same. The Israeli Jew, the Israeli Arab, the Palestinian Arab will all tell you the same thing. They just want to live their lives peacefully, provide for their families, be happy and be good people.

I am crying. You are crying. They are crying. We are crying.

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(Photo credit: Flash 90/Nati Sadot)

What is the solution? What is the next step? What is the way forward? How can we remedy this for once and for all?  What can we do to ensure my children and grandchildren, and your children and grandchildren, their children and grandchildren, our children and grandchildren, have a different experience in this part of the world?

 

I am an ardent Zionist. I am Israeli by choice. Not by birth, not by circumstance, not because it is an easier or a more comfortable life. I am Israeli because I fully, wholeheartedly and passionately believe in the right of the Land of Israel and the Jewish State. I gave up a very comfortable and affluent life. I gave up being surrounded by my family who I miss and adore. I gave up being at so many family celebrations. I gave up a huge amount because I believe that this is my true place and that this is my true country. Every step I take is an echo of my forefathers and mothers. Everywhere I look is the view of my ancestors. Every mark that has been made was the touch of G-d.

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Despair To Hope. Young visitors from around the world to the “Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall that divides the Gaza Strip and Israel. Adjacent to the homes of Moshav Netiv HaAsara, the creation is seen from both sides of the grey security wall and transforms the place’s atmosphere from despair to hope.

And yet, I would be willing to share and be willing to give up a part of my beautiful country with so much history, so much heritage, so much meaning…….  for peace. For guaranteed peace.

But Gush Katif answered that question for me. Brutally. After the withdrawal from Gaza, Israel has faced barrage after barrage of rockets and mortars, killing any chance for peace.  We are still paying the price. Every. Single. Day.

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* Promoting Peace. “Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall

So, what is next?

Where to from here?

What will make the difference?

How can we bring about change?

And the voice & words of Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder running through my head, on repeat…

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony

Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?

We all know that people are the same wherever you go

There is good and bad in ev’ryone

We learn to live, when we learn to give

Each other what we need to survive, together alive’

We need to find a solution for me, for you, for us and for them. We need to learn from the words from Paul and Stevie.

 

 

  • “Path to Peace” mosaic creation border wall:

Visitors are invited to take an active part in the creation of the peace wall by writing a personal wish on the back of a colorful mosaic piece and gluing it onto the security wall. The mosaic pieces are made by hand-work in the Path to Peace workshop. Among the colorful and optimistic pieces are different designs such as flower and butterflies and mosaic pieces with the word Peace in different languages.