Reflections from Israel amidst another round of hostilities

By Jonathan Feldstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If only!

About the writer:

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

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


Recollections and reflections of a South African immigrant under fire

By Joel Klotnick

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

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

Crowd Flees Tel Aviv Beach After Siren Sounds

Ra’anana in Range

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

About the Writer:

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

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


Israel’s military ‘Shield and Arrow’ operation was a lethal reminder to  terrorist leaders not to misread internal tensions as fragility

By David E. Kaplan

My daughter Keren, a dance instructor, gets out of her car early evening outside a municipal dance centre in central Israel and is met by an arrogant woman driver in a car parked next to her with:

 “I can’t breath, your car stinks’ its letting off terrible smells,” she bawls

Geveret (lady)”, my daughter replies, “the whole country stinks tonight; it’s Lag B’Omer.”

This Jewish festivity is celebrated by lighting bonfires and having barbecues to symbolize the light that Shimon Bar Yochai brought into the world.  The problem was not with my daughter’s car but with this woman’s knowledge or lack of it! Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad(PIJ) in Gaza suffer from that same malady  – ignorance – not of Jewish festivities but of misreading the signs of Israeli society.

The Right Moves. Keren Kaplan’s students in the dance that came first performing at the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre in Tel Aviv. (Photo by Oren Cohen)

It could not go on! Terrorists were murdering Israelis – notably civilians as well as foreign tourists – in restaurants, pubs, standing at bus stops, walking along pavements and seaside pavilions while at the same time lobbing masses of rockets in the south from Gaza. There was a miscalculation by Palestinian terrorist leaders – that Israel was so wrapped up in internal issues and tensions over the government’s frenzied judicial overhaul that it was vulnerable and easy pickings. WRONG! What country in the world is not going to respond when over a 100 rockets are fired at its civilian centres?

You may argue with your government over tax returns; you are not going to argue with it when it tells you we are about to be attacked and to head for bomb shelters.

Shelter from the Storm. A mother clutching her baby in Sderot in southern Israel leave a shelter in between air raid sirens warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip May 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

A total of 104 rockets were fired into Israel over a 24-hour period in the week preceding ‘Operation Shield and Arrow’, most by the PIJ according to IDF reports, with some minor participation from Hamas.

Did the terrorist leaders orchestrating this murderous mayhem really believe that Israel was just going to continue with ‘life as ab’normal’?  Did these terrorist leaders really think they were personally immune from attack while they were free to unleash hellfire on  Israelis? Are Israelis expected to behave like chickens in a coup waiting to be randomly snatched? It was this imagery of chickens that reminded me of the response of Britain’s wartime PM to the sneering comment by French Marshal Philippe Pétain, future leader of the collaborationist Vichy French government who was convinced that Germany would successfully invade Britain as it had done France. He told Churchill that in three weeks, Britain would:

have its neck wrung like a chicken”.

Churchill’s defiant reply in carefully crafted oratory was a dig at France and a scoff at Nazi Germany:

 “Some chicken! Some neck!” 

Defiant in Adversity. Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill delivering his famed  “Some chicken! Some neck!” speech to the Canadian House of Commons on 30 December 1941. (Credit: Library and Archives Canada)

So Israel launched its operation, targeting senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials in pre-dawn airstrikes and no surprise it was supported unequivocally by leaders of Israel’s opposition. In matters of national security, Israelis will set aside differences and hastily shift into existential mode. With a thin sliver to land to protect, most within missile range from some potential enemy, the Shoah (Holocaust) and “never again” casts its shadow. Only a few weeks ago, Israelis stood for a minute’s silence as the siren sounded across the nation, in every city, town, kibbutz and moshav as we remembered the victims of the Shoah.  Now that same siren sounds, telling us that rockets from Gaza are on the way.  If the former siren sound was to remember past  victims  the current sirens are a warning to avoid being victims in the present. That is life in Israel.  Israel’s Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant and Israel’s leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid, may be at opposite sides politically but they can agree what is at stake – existentially. Both are children of Holocaust survivors. Galant’s 88-year-old mother who sadly passed away today while Israel is again at war, first arrived in Israel – then Palestine – on the Exodus. These passengers were inhumanely returned to Germany by the British. Yair Lapid’s father, Tommy, escaped death while being forced marched by the Nazis in Budapest to be downed in the Danube,  when an air raid siren led his mother to drag him into a public toilet, and remain there. Staying in that toilet while the rest of the Jews, following the Allied air raid were led off to their deaths, ensured he would one day have a son who would be a Prime Minister of a future Jewish state and today Leader of the Opposition. While at the same time opposing the government on its judicial overhaul, the opposition is supporting it in its defence against terrorism and hence ‘Operation Shield and Arrow’. This the planners in Gaza failed to comprehend when they fired the barrage of 100 rockets into Israel setting off the consequences that were to follow.

Meeting of Missiles. Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system (right) intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip (left) on May 10, 2023(photo Ammar Awad/Reuters)   


These are crazy times. Saturday nights Israelis in their thousands are legitimately off to protests and in-between will shelter in bomb shelters. Addressing craziness in her own way is my dance instructor daughter Keren Kaplan with the non-smelly car.  With the intense dramas playing out on Israel’s national stage, I was  pleasingly diverted to another action occurring on a different stage –  theatre stages in Tel Aviv. There, my daughter’s students of Soul Studio performed a dance choreographed by her called ‘It’s a Very Very Mad World’ and which won first prize in two national dance competitions – ‘I BELIEVE’ at Cinema Cityand the Confederation National Dance (CND) at the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre.

Following these spectacular wins, her students qualified to compete in two international competitions abroad – in the U.S.A and Spain. Explains Keren:

 “In a crazy world like ours, we are all dealing with a lot on our shoulders whether  personally or collectively; we are all in this delusional period. What the song is about is very relevant today and in my vision, we live in a kind of circus amidst all this chaos.”

Take a ‘time out’ and log on to enjoy the dance:

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).


Probably very different from Israelis who were ducking rocket fire near Gaza

By Jonathan Feldstein

Good morning from the Judean mountains.  I slept well last night but when I woke up I realized that just 30-40 miles from my home, for hundreds of thousands of Israelis, it was a horrible night. Again.

Palestinian Arab terrorists in Gaza fired over 60 rockets at Israeli communities, trying to kill, maim, and terrorize as many Israelis as possible.  Despite the Iron Dome that typically shoots down 90% of all incoming rockets aimed at Israeli communities, some broke through and there have been injuries.

As immoral as it is for terrorists to fire rockets deliberately at population centers, unfortunately that is very much the norm.  The impact is felt widely.

Parents who spent all night worried about protecting their kids from rockets every hour or two have had to wake up (assuming they even slept at all) to get their kids off to school, and get to work.  As if everything is normal.

At the Mercy of Monsters. This scene in May 2023 captures the terror for a mother and her daughter as they instantly leave their car on a road between Ashkelon and Sderot and crouch on the side of the road clutching each other as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90

Children who spent all night in bomb shelters ate breakfast, got dressed, and ready to go to study math and science and history, and socialize with friends.  As if everything is normal. They will play in the playgrounds during recess, but not more than 15 seconds away from a bomb shelter. Just in case they have to take cover. 

The rocket fire began before they went to bed the previous night.  At the scene of one rocket landing in the middle of a residential street, kids gathered to have ice cream, displaying their bravery and resolve, as if everything was normal: a rocket lands on your street, and you have ice cream! Normal! But they were standing in front of a car littered with the shrapnel that was packed into the rocket, shrapnel that was meant to cut apart their bodies.

Red Alerts. For those in southern-western region of Israel near Gaza, these are the messages they are receiving one after another – ROCKET ATTACKS! (Photo: social media/the public domain.) 

Their teachers have to be the adults in the room but are no less well-rested, no less stressed. They have kids of their own too. Teachers have to engage their young students in basic education, but also serve as a sounding board for kids who are physically exhausted from not sleeping, and emotionally fearful.

Elderly and infirm Israelis, some Holocaust survivors, will calculate whether they really need to go out for milk or eggs, and may decide it’s safest and smartest to stay indoors, hiding just like many did to survive the Nazis, just in case.

Hundreds or thousands of orphans and at-risk children who may not have had parents to protect them overnight, coming from homes that are not safe, woke up to the reality that they are not safe at home, not safe in their community, and struggle with the trauma and stress of all this even if they are too young to articulate why. For those who can articulate it, it doesn’t make them less stressed or traumatized.  As if everything is normal.

Just a few miles away, thousands of Palestinian Arabs from Gaza will line up at the Erez Checkpoint to cross the border into Israel, coming to work, shopping, or getting medical care in the communities and among the people who Palestinian Arab terrorists spent all night loading and firing rockets at, to kill, maim and terrorize as many as possible. Civilians. Men, women and children. Just because the terrorists are evil and don’t sanctify life.  Just a normal day on the Israel-Gaza border.

Life is reduced to Luck! A building in the Israeli city of Sderot sustaining a direct hit of a rocket from Gaza on a children’s bedroom.

Israelis wonder why our government and military don’t end the threat of terror from Gaza’s Palestinian Arab hate groups and target those responsible. Why are they allowed to hide behind their civilians, firing rockets from urban areas knowing that Israel won’t fire back to take out the terrorists and risk the lives of Palestinian Arab civilians?  Are their lives worth more than ours?

People of good conscience around the world who see the black and white, the evil of the terrorists, and can’t imagine this happening in their community because it never would.  But many don’t. They think Israel is somehow at fault, or deserving of ongoing rocket and other terrorist attacks because for some, morality is malleable, relative. 

Anywhere else in the world, it would not be tolerated. In no other circumstance would it be considered normal. Nowhere else would the terrorist perpetrators be celebrated, and excuses made for their actions, while blaming the victims.

Two months ago, I visited Sderot, the Israeli city that’s closest to the Gaza border.  It’s a lovely growing community. Less than a mile separates Gaza where terrorists reign, and some 30,000 Israelis just trying to live.  I visited a program for orphans and at-risk youth for whom the trauma of their existence requires ongoing care and comfort, and which I have been privileged to support.  They were engaged in a group therapy when I arrived, before playing in the yard, and then getting help with their homework and a hot meal before heading home, because their parents are not able to care for them properly.  So the community steps up to help.  Across the street is a playground made of concrete so that if they are playing and rockets come, they can duck inside one of the “climbing toys” and be protected.  This is their normal.

The New Normal! Standing before a car struck by a rocket littered with shrapnel, these kids display the Israeli flag while having frozen suckers in a display of defiance and resilience. (Photo: social media/the public domain.) 

You can join the Genesis 123 Foundation to provide urgently needed and ongoing therapies and care for the most vulnerable, orphans and at-risk youth.  While we can’t stop the rockets, we can build resilience, show love and support, and enable these young people to stay strong, even when living in their normal lives is not normal.

If you woke up rested and not suffering the threat of terror or rockets, not worrying about protecting your children and staying strong for them albeit while you know that you can only protect your kids to a limit, please join us to help parents and children whose days started very differently.

How’s your day going?

About the writer:

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

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


Israelis question the senseless murder of its civilians in public places

By Jonathan Feldstein

Throughout the streets of Efrat, the Judean mountain town of about 12,000 in which I live, on Sunday afternoon, thousands of people stood silently, in reverence and grief, to provide comfort and prayer.  We had been asked to line the streets as the Dee family drove from their home in my neighborhood to the cemetery just a few miles away, to bury Maia (20) and Rina (15) who had been murdered in a terrorist attack two days earlier. Entire families stood silently, even with children too young to know why they were standing there. 

Mother and Daughters Slain. Lucy Dee (left), Rina (middle) and Maia. (Pic: @LtColRichard)

Among the thousands of people, there were hand printed signs showing love and support, along with numerous Israeli flags of all sizes. When tragedy strikes a family and community like this, particularly an incident as unspeakable and horrific as this, we all bleed blue and white and are united in solidarity.

To get to the funeral a few miles from our home, we had to park the car a 30-minute walk from the cemetery. It’s estimated that 10,000 people showed up to pay their last respects. Along the way, people in the neighborhood closest to the cemetery set tables with cups and cold water for thousands of complete strangers.  Tragedy unites us.  Sadly this was not the first time. 

Hard to Accept. Reflected in the faces of the distraught mourners is the question, “Why, oh why?”

The funeral was like nothing I had ever experienced. Other families have been attacked and murdered. In 2011, five members of the Fogel family were butchered in their home, a mother, father, and three children including an infant. 

This year, two sets of brothers were also murdered in two separate terrorist attacks. 

The funeral home in our community is made for one burial at a time. There’s a stone slab on which the deceased’s shroud-covered body is placed before burial.  Our cemetery has never seen a double funeral of siblings, executed together, and then buried together.  As their sisters’ bodies were brought into the packed hall, a makeshift platform held the girls’ bodies as their sisters embraced them, and wept uncontrollably, one last time.

Mass Funeral. While mother Lucy was fighting for her life in hospital, the funeral in Efrat of her murdered daughters Rina and Maia was taking place.

I stood outside with my wife and children. Thousands of mourners surrounded the building in a big hug – family, friends, loved ones, and complete strangers. Loudspeakers were set up to broadcast the prayers and eulogies in the parking lot. Passover is a holiday to spend time with family, at the Seder meal and during the week with outings together.  It was at the outset of such a family outing that the Dee family was attacked.  Passover for them will forever be marked by loss and grief. It was surreal that our family’s outing for the day was the funeral of two young women from our neighborhood. It could have been us!

Tearful Eulogy. Rabbi Leo Dee recalls daughters Rina and Maia’s passion for life and dreams for the future; ‘How will I explain to Lucy what happened to our two precious gifts,’ he asks as mother remained in critical condition. She would shortly herself succumb to her wounds.

Amid uncontrollable sobbing and wailing, the girls’ father, Rabbi Leo Dee, found strength to speak meaningfully, trying to find in his daughters’ murder a way for uniting all Israel.  His three surviving children also spoke lovingly, but gut wrenchingly.  

One of the sisters wept as she said that their “sisters” WhatsApp group would now just be a private chat between the surviving two. Two of the siblings apologized that they were not able to protect their sisters, even wishing aloud that they would have taken the bullets for them.

As much as it was all unthinkable, Rabbi Leo Dee asked how he would tell his wife Lucy that their two daughters were gone when she woke up from her coma.  Lucy was in critical condition, but they had faith she would survive.  Sadly, less than 24 hours after her daughters were buried, Lucy succumbed to the wounds inflicted by the terrorists’ execution, despite the doctors doing everything possible to save her.  Now, it’s unimaginable that the family will have another funeral.

Maia and Rina. The Dee sisters were shot as their drove from their home in the settlement of Efrat to Tiberias.

In Hebrew, the word “why” is “lama”.  That was the word on everyone’s mind. Why?  One of the family members noted that “lama” is similar to “le ma,” in English “what for?”  The Dees and all of Israel are not just asking “Why?” but “what for,” as in what can come out of their murder, to find some comfort. It’s superhuman even to think that, much less articulate it, and to do so while burying their loved ones.

Community Comforts. Youth gather for prayer and song in Dee family’s hometown of Efrat after the murderous terror strike.(Photo: Efrat municipality)
Outpouring of Support. The Dee family home in Efrat. The family moved to Israel from the UK nine years ago.

Some mistakenly confuse terrorist murders like this as being political. They are not political; they are just evil. They are a product of a theology and ideology that sees Jewish presence in the Land of Israel as being illegitimate, hateful, and something to destroy, whether in Jerusalem, Efrat, the Jordan Valley, Tel Aviv, or anywhere else.  The day after the Maya and Rina Dee were murdered, another Arab terrorist ran down pedestrians on Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade. The terrorist didn’t care that he murdered an Italian tourist and injured several other foreign tourists. 

Terror in Tel Aviv. The car that drove into pedestrians on Tel Aviv’s seaside promenade killing Italian tourist Alessandro Parini, and injuring others. (Pic: AP)

I was interviewed by a Swedish media outlet after the funeral.  I noted that we are attacked and murdered just for being Jews in the Land of Israel.  I was asked if I was hopeful. I thought of the words of Israel’s former Prime Minister, Golda Meir, who famously said we will only have peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate ours. It’s still the truth. Their children are raised and brainwashed that Jews are a foreign occupier with no legitimacy here. They are raised to celebrate our being murdered, and honor the murderers. Evil.

Tourist Targeted. Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome, was killed in a terrorist attack on Tel Aviv’s beachfront. (Pic: Facebook)

On the way home from the funeral we drove past the sites where four other terror attacks took place, leaving eight murdered. In my own neighborhood, before driving past the Dee’s house, I drove by the home of a friend whose son was murdered in a terror attack 15 years ago, around the corner from where a man lived who was murdered four years ago, and past a park in memory of a soldier from our community who died in service.  

We also gave a ride home to a neighbor who, the aunt of one of the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014, less than a mile from the cemetery that we had just come from.  

It’s all very close to home. 

Too close.

As the Dee family grieves, and extended circles of mourners including friends, classmates, neighbors, the community, and Israel in general all struggle to understand “WHY” and “WHAT FOR,” the Genesis 123 Foundation is offering the opportunity for people around the world to send messages of love, support and condolences to the Dee family, and to donate to a fund that will provide grief counseling for the extended community.

The Dee family. (Photo: via Facebook) 

About the writer:

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

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


The murder of a Christian Arab Israeli hero and his message to the world

By Jonathan Feldstein

It has been a year.  I was in Houston, about to go into a TV interview on CTN and got a text message from my wife.

Did you hear what happened?”  

It was an unnerving way to go into a TV interview, turning off my phone and not knowing what she meant.  Was it something with one of my kids? Grandchildren? Friends or neighbors? It was hard to focus and, as soon as the interview was done, I turned on my phone to find out.

What happened? Another terror attack, this time in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox central Israeli city Bnei Brak.  Four had been murdered.  One of them was a policeman, Amir Khoury, who along with his partner raced to the scene of the attack and engaged the terrorist in a gunfight. Amir was a Christian Israeli Arab, and a hero.  He engaged and killed the Palestinian Arab terrorist, but he was mortally wounded by the terrorist as well.  Had it not been for Amir – a Christian Arab Israeli police officer on patrol in a mostly ultra-Orthodox Jewish community – the potential carnage would have been unimaginable.

Hero, Comrade and Friend. Israeli police officers carry the coffin of police officer Amir Khoury, who was killed in a terrorist shooting attack in Bnei Brak, during his funeral in Nazareth, on March 31, 2022. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

I flew home the next day, realizing that we had 11 people murdered in four terror attacks by Palestinian Arabs while I was away, 11 more families grieving, and many, many others suffering PTSD.  While terror is too common in Israel, and the past year has been particularly difficult with dozens murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists, it’s not every day that one of the victims is a Christian Israeli Arab policeman who lived, and died, as a hero.

On Sunday, I drove to Nazareth where Amir lived, and his family still does.  Normally, when one goes to express condolences to a family mourning a deceased relative, you know one of the family members, if not the deceased. At a certain age, one goes to console a friend whose parent died, but with whom you didn’t have a person relationship.  It’s rare to show up at the home of a complete stranger, grieving over the loss of a loved one who you also didn’t know either.  But that’s what I did.  I wasn’t alone.

Because Amir was being hailed as a national hero, thousands of visitors came from all over the country and around the world to a large tent outside their home adorned with Israeli flags. Thousands of Israelis, from all walks of life.  As diverse as the visitors were, I stood out a bit.  I am a “settler”, a Jew living over the “Green Line”, what people pejoratively call the West Bank.  Biblical Judea. The assumption is that because I live there, I have a hatred for or at least a disrespect of Arabs. Nothing can be further from the truth

“Hero of Israel”. His colleagues in tears, Arab police officer Amir Khouri, who bravely thwarted a terror attack in the ultra-Jewish orthodox city of Bnei Brak is mourned at his funeral on March 31, 2022 in Nazareth as a “hero of Israel’.

Unlike most other visitors, I stayed around for hours.  I spoke with Amir’s father, brother, and cousin in the tent, and others from their community.  Then, I went into the house where I thought I might meet more relatives.  Immediately, I saw a group of women sitting on a couch, dark circles under their eyes.  Not knowing who was who, I approached the couch.  One woman stood to greet me: Amir’s mother. We embraced, and talked as if we were old friends.  But she didn’t know me, not even my name, and didn’t care.  My presence was a comfort. 

I met Amir’s sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew.  I don’t know how to describe it, but we simply became fast friends. On one level it felt terribly inappropriate to be in a house of mourning and to be able to enjoy the company of total strangers.  On the other hand, I went there to comfort them, and I know my visit did that. We talked for a long time, just us, in a corner room of the house.

When I went back outside to the mourning tent sometime later, people were surprised to see that I was still there.

Because of the wider conflict, heightened this year during the Islamic holy month Ramadan often marked by increased violence in Israel, thinking of Arabs as loyal Israelis is not the norm, nor is it understood by most because it contradicts the simple narrative of Arabs hating Jews and Israel. Thankfully in recent years, it’s become less of a contradiction.  In fact, Israel has seen a growing number of Christian Arabs volunteering for the IDF, making a commitment to serve their country with honor, despite the risk of threats from the wider Moslem Arab population which sees many as traitors.

Savior of Lives. Cut down in the prime of his life, Amir Khouri will be remembered as a hero.

When I shared about Amir on social media and that I was going to be visiting the family, the outpouring of love, sympathies, and support from a wide range of people around the world was a comfort to me.  I made it clear to the Khourys that I was there in person, but scores were with them in spirit, praying for them all over the world. 

As my visit was not just idle conversation but a genuine outreach of friendship, Amir’s family were keen to know more about me. I shared my background, what I do building bridges between Jews and Christians, and that we wanted to do something in his memory. They appreciated this and told me to be in touch. I stayed in touch and went back to visit two months later.  In the interim, I saw my new adopted family featured in national media multiple times, honored with front row seats at Israel’s national Presidential Independence Day celebration and more.

Mourning a Hero. Visiting the family home in Nazareth, the writer (right) with Amir Khouri’s sister and brother-in-law.

I went back to the Khourys with my wife, knowing that she would be blessed by getting to know such lovely people too.  Condolences and comforting people who lost a loved one can never come too late. Ideally, we would have never met.  Amir should still be alive, and we would never have anything to do with one another. After the Khourys asked what they could serve us since we keep kosher, and we ate and talked together for at least two hours, Amir’s father asked what we had come to talk about.

I had a few ideas which I shared as a way to memorialize Amir and share his life and legacy with others.  The family liked one the best which I agreed would be the most impactful for it would bring the story and message of Amir to the world. It will take time to achieve – involving a hefty budget – but when it’s done, it will be impressive, well worth the challenge.

How I wish I never met the Khourys, certainly not under these circumstances.  Whether one believes in destiny, that everything is somehow ordained from God, or not, the reality is that as a result of Amir’s death, this is one positive outcome.

Dear Khourys, I wish I never knew you.  But now we have met, and we need to make something purposeful from that.”

Just as thousands came to comfort the Khourys and honor Amir from across Israel and around the world, today, we need a coalition of Jews and Christians, of people of good conscience, to join together in a sweeping project that will not only memorialize Amir, but do so much more, just as he would have done if he were alive, if only by his existence and doing what he did.

Portrait of a Hero. The writer (left) with Amir Khouri’s father proudly holding a poster of his hero son in police uniform.

Undertaking this on behalf of the Genesis 123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel, there is no better way to be able to bring Jews and Christians together for such a purpose. Prospective partners who share this broad vision can be in touch at

May Amir Khoury’s memory continue to be a blessing, and his family continue to derive comfort from the support of friends, new and old, and even total strangers.

About the writer:

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

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


A personal  perspective of Israelis living with terrorism on their streets

By Jonathan Feldstein

At 9:34pm Thursday, I received a strange message from my daughter in our family WhatsApp group:

For all those who asked, I am ok and alive

Since nobody asked, her sarcasm coupled with a little fear was eerily palpable.

I had been recording a podcast and didn’t know what she was talking about. None of us did. It seems that there was another terrorist attack, this time in central Tel Aviv.  I had not heard about it.

Three people were injured, one shot in the neck and as of this writing, is still in critical condition. One terrorist was killed on the spot but there are reports that another terrorist escaped. The last time this happened, much of Tel Aviv remained on lockdown until the terrorist was caught, as it was again.

I also didn’t know my daughter was in Tel Aviv. She is 26, I don’t need to know her every move.  But she lives in Jerusalem and we live just south of Jerusalem so, while not far away, we’re not often there. It’s a strange paradox in Israel that our kids have such wide freedom, so much so that we don’t feel the need to keep track of them 24/7 or on an unusually tight leash, yet we live in a society in which this could happen.

Devastation on Dizengoff. The scene following the terror attack on Dizengoff street, in central Tel Aviv, March 9, 2023. (Avshalom SaassoniFlash90)

My daughter was out at a restaurant when it happened, fifteen minutes away by foot on Ben Yehuda St. They were just about to leave to walk to Israel’s first 7-Eleven on Dizengoff Street, right before it happened.

Fifteen minutes after her first note, she wrote that she and her friends had decided to return to where they were staying and had arrived safely. Thank God!

Forty-five minutes after her first message, another daughter wrote, “There was a terrorist attack?”

Fifteen minutes later, an hour after the shooting attack happened, my younger son came into the room announcing another attempted terrorist attack in a community nearby. A Palestinian Arab terrorist entered the largely ultra-Orthodox community of Beitar Ilit by bus, left a package on the bus which began emitting smoke but didn’t explode, and then fled at the second bus stop into the city of some 50,000 residents.  The residents were put on lockdown while a bomb-squad arrived to detonate the explosive, accompanied by other security personnel who began the search for the terrorist.

While this was unfolding, several friends from overseas reached out to ask:

 “Are you guys OK?”. 

I assured them we were all fine, that my daughter who was fifteen minutes away from the attack was shaken but also fine. I explained that it’s sometimes surreal that things like this happen sometimes; that it’s close to home, sometimes closer, and sometimes  too close.  But we go about our lives.

Sitting Targets. Tables and chairs in disarray following lone gunman on a shooting spree at city restaurant on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv.

While we were watching the news unfold, three of my kids were out, going about life. I didn’t really think about it, but did want to stay up to be sure they got home safely. My youngest son went to a midnight movie with friends. Another daughter was out at a kosher Korean restaurant with her boyfriend (and didn’t bring me any), and my older son and his fiancé went to an engagement party for other friends.

One friend asked about mental health and trauma related issues, a logical and intuitive question. I explained that because of the reality of terror and the threat of terror and war that exists (though the impression is that Israel is unsafe like the wild-west which is not the case), people do suffer trauma but most just go about their lives. 

Trauma like this, particularly impacts terror victims and families of terror victims, military and former military and at-risk youth who live in areas that might be particularly unsafe and/or come from homes where they have no parents or parents who are unable to care for them. These children need support. It’s one of the important projects that the Genesis 123 Foundation funds, to empower “at-risk” youth so that they can pursue  – with security and confidence – successful lives.

Terror in Tel Aviv. One minute there are revelers enjoying the nightlife of Dizengoff street in central Tel Aviv, the next police at the scene of a terror attack on March 9, 2023. (Avshalom Saassoni/Flash90).

Both military and private civilian security in communities like mine which abut Palestinian Arab communities, go on high alert in situations like this as well. First responders must be trained in defense, able to confront a live terror incident, and take care of anyone injured from an attack before EMS personnel arrive. Providing resources for these rapid response civilian security teams saves lives, I know this, because my son-in-law is in one of the local teams and has actually saved people’s lives.  It’s a reason that this is also a project that the Genesis 123 Foundation is proud to fund.

Friday morning, while running errands before the onset of, Shabbat (the Sabbath), I drove by Beitar Ilit, just 15 minutes away from my house by car. I went to the bakery where “Abed” and I always greet one another, as we did again. In another shop, another Palestinian Arab worker helped me professionally and politely. All as if nothing had changed.  Maybe it hadn’t.  Maybe this is just the norm: on one day others try to kill us and the next day we’re being polite and respectful.

Targeting Busses. Israeli security forces scan the settlement of Beitar Illit, following an infiltration of a Palestinian terrorist who placed a bomb on a passenger bus that caught fire but failed to explode on March 10, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

All this comes on the heels of other civil strife in Israel that has been adding to the stress of increased terror attacks. Earlier in the day there were country wide protests over proposed sweeping judicial reforms. Roads were blocked to and at Ben Gurion airport, and main arteries in Tel Aviv.  Hours later, Tel Aviv’s roads were clear of protestors, replaced by police and military securing the area and hunting for the terrorist who got away.

This is a taste of life here. There are injured people and their families who need your prayers. There are others for whom this creates trauma. And if these don’t hit too close to home, the rest of us just try to go about our lives.

About the writer:

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

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


Brought together by a love for music, it was love for country that would tragically separate them

By David E. Kaplan

I saw the article, then stared wide-eyed at the photograph.

I was reading a Ynet report and then, when I read the line that  “Few Israelis have likely heard of the man named Meir Max Bineth”, I exclaimed:

 “I’m not one of them.”

Being the Jewish festival of Tu B’Shevat  (“The new year of the trees”) on the 5 February, the focus of the article was on this man from British Mandate Palestine whose passion for Jewish holidays pushed him to teach about the subjects to local Jewish communities abroad.1942 found him in Iran teaching about Tu B’Shevat – hence the article.

Max Bineth

What would follow next in his life is what I would write about  in 2004, when his South African-born widow, Jane Bineth (née Davidow), passed away aged 83 in Savyon, Israel.

As a young woman out from Johannesburg in the late 1940s, Jane was trying to find her feet in Tel Aviv. Interested in classical music, she responded to a notice in the newspaper inviting music lovers to meet at a café in Shenkin, already a street ‘paving’ the way to what it is today, packed with cafes, restaurants and boutiques.

There she met Hungarian-born Meir, a cultured European who played a variety of musical instruments and who spoke six languages. They would marry, and in the few years that they would share together, they would dwell in the furtive world of deep undercover intelligence gathering.

New State; Young Love. Max and Jane Bineth marriage ceremony in  Tel Aviv in 1950.

Prior to his marriage to Jane, Meir had been a secrete agent operating in Arab countries throughout the Middle East. It all started for him went he went to the UK in 1946 to study radio and electronics, believing these were the subjects of the future.

He used to use the bayit (club house) of Habonim – a Jewish youth movement – to train after hours. One of the members of the movement recalled that “he would pick up Morse broadcasts in English from Moscow and decode them at a speed of 60 words per minute and identify the different broadcasters.”  It is no surprise that his skills attracted the attention of agents working for Aliyah Bet – the code name for illegal immigration to British Mandate Palestine  – and in 1947 he was recruited. He operated as a communication technician building vital communication equipment for the voyages bringing the illegal immigrants as well as procurement of arms for the fledgling Jewish state as well as thwarting efforts of enemy Arab countries to acquire specialized military equipment. Max was a very busy man.

With the establishment of the State of Israel, Binet moved on to more dangerous missions. He joined the intelligence corps of the young IDF and in August 1949, he arrived in Iraq. Even though the decades have passed since then, there is no permission even today to reveal the details of his clandestine activities on Iraqi soil. However, one fact of history remains undisputed:

The Iraqi government condemned him to death in absentia for his actions in its territory during this period.”

His final mission  – now married with a child – was to Egypt, where he posed as a businessman representing various German firms, primarily ‘von Laufenberg’, a company manufacturing artificial limbs for the disabled.

Under Cover in Cairo. First leader of the Egyptian Republic, Mohamed Najib is seen here thanking Max Bineth (left) representing ‘Von Laufenberg’, the company that manufactured prostheses for Egyptian soldiers injured in the 1948 war with Israel. (Bineth Family Photo)

How ironic,” his daughter Michelle Bineth-Dagan told me during the 2004 interview for Telfed Magazine. “Here was my father spying against Egypt and my mother had a 1953 photograph of my dad with the Prime Minister of Egypt, General Mohammed Naguib, who was honouring him for his contribution in rehabilitating Egyptian soldiers wounded in the war against Israel in 1948.”

‘Sign’ of Friendship. As a token of friendship, see the signature (top) of General Mohamed Naguib President of Egypt 1952-1954 in this postcard Max Bineth sends to his daughter Michelle. ( Bineth Family Photo)

Jane and her daughter Michelle, who was a child of two at the time of his posting to Cairo in 1951, joined Max and were part of the cover. Recalling conversations with her mother, Michelle described their life:

 “as being very comfortable. My parents had a very hectic social life. They were part of the cocktail circuit, attending parties, where they mixed with foreigners in the diplomatic and business communities and of course Egyptians in government and the military. One of the primary tasks was to get close to the many former Nazis, who had found refuge in Egypt. Some of them were scientists, who were helping Egypt develop missiles that could threaten Israel.”

The Spy who Loved Me. While under cover in Egypt as a businessman representing German companies, Israeli spy Meir (Max) Bineth is seen here dancing with his beloved South African-born wife Jane at a cocktail party in Cairo. (Bineth Family Photo) 

Max was passing on vital information to  his Israeli contacts:

 “until things went terribly wrong and set into motion a chain of event that ended tragically, leading to my mother’s bitterness to her dying day.”

The secrete lives of the Bineths came crashing down in what became referred to as the “Lavon Affair”, after Defence Minister Pinhas Lavon, who was forced to resign.

Conducted in Egypt in the summer of 1954, the Lavon affair was a  ‘false flag’ operation, whereby Israeli military intelligence had setup a spy ring of young local Egyptians in the Jewish community with the purpose of blowing up US and British owned civilian targets – like cinemas and libraries –  all timed to detonate several hours after closing time so there would be no casualties. The attacks were to be blamed on local nationalists with the aim of creating a climate of instability to induce the British government to retain its troops in Egypt’s Suez Canal zone. While the operation caused no casualties among the population, it did lead to the deaths of four of the Jewish operatives, one of whom was Max. It also led to a scandal that dominated Israeli politics for well over a decade.

The incident had been euphemistically referred to in Israel as the “Unfortunate Affair” or “The Mishap”(In Hebrew: HaEsek HaBish).

Israel publicly denied any involvement in the incident until 2005, when the surviving agents were awarded certificates of appreciation by Israel’s State President.

My father,” said Michelle, “was not part of this spy network but was ordered by his senior officer in Israel to pass on money to them. He had met Marcelle Ninio, a young member of the group on a few occasions. She was the last to be captured and under torture, gave a description of my dad’s car, which led to his arrest.”

Michelle and Jane were in Europe at the time visiting family and so escaped the physical horrors that were to follow. “The psychological scars never left my mother until her last breath.”

After a few months of interrogation and torture, on December 24, 1954, “my dad slit his wrists in his prison cell on the day before his trial. He realised there was no way out for him and did not want to give the Egyptians the pleasure of hanging him,” the fate of two others, Dr. Moshe Marzouk of Cairo and Shmuel Azar of Alexandria.

Max in Court. One of the thirteen accused of spying, Max Bineth enters the Supreme Military Court in Cairo for the start of the trial in December 1954. This is the last known picture of Bineth alive before he committed suicide by slashing his wrists in a Cairo cell. (AP Photo)

Failure has no father and for many years this bizarre and embarrassing affair was shrouded in secrecy. Strict censorship ensured that the Israeli public was fed little or no accurate information and key protagonists were routinely referred to as “X” and “The Third Man”, a reference to the 1949 Orson Wells’ movie of the same name. To this day, the truth as to who gave the orders in the Lavon Affair remain a mystery.

In 1959, President Nasser agreed to transfer the body of Max (Meir) Bineth to Israel on condition that the arrangement would not be publicised. Max was secretly buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem in the presence of a few members of the family. “My mother was only told about the burial at the last moment.” The reburial only became public knowledge following the peace agreement with Egypt in 1979.

Jane, who passed away in 2004, never remarried. From his cell, he wrote to Jane before he ended his life.  These were a few of the lines:

My dear – there is no other way out. I came to this conclusion out of caution and consideration. It is becoming impossible to bear this… I am also thinking of you. …..Jane, you must remarry, Michelle needs a father, and I hope you live as planned. You and Michelle can plant a tree in our garden on my birthday.  I love you, I love youOf all the contributions I wanted to make for a better future for everyone – now Michelle is my only contribution. I wrap my arms around you and Michelle. May God bless you and grant you peace and happiness. Jane my dear, hold me tight….”

While Jane did fulfill what she believed was her dear husband’s dying request to bring up their daughter in the Land of Israel, she did not fulfill the part where he called on her to marry again. “ She had many suitors,” said Michelle her daughter, “but she never married again. Father was the only knight for her.”

Father and Daughter. Daughter Michelle Bineth-Dagan proudly holds up a photograph of her father Mair Max, who spoke six languages, loved music and played various instruments. He also painted and kept a diary of his experiences.

According to Michelle, her mother resented that the honour  bestowed on other Israeli agents – such as Eli Cohen, (“Our man in Damascus”) – had been denied to her husband. Israeli Minister of Defense, Yitzhak Rabin tried to correct this injustice. Some thirty years later in September 1987, when Rabin, handed Jane, her husband’s Lieutenant Colonel rank, he said:

It was an unusual, remarkable, high-risk mission that Max Bineth was running. Unfortunately, and to our great regret, he fell on duty, while on his watch. In the course of time, certain affairs got mixed and Meir was linked, by mistake, to another affair (referring to “The Lavon Affair), one he had nothing whatsoever to do with. Meir went on a separate security-intelligence assignment, which had nothing to do with the other events that took place that year. He fell while serving the State of Israel and for the State of Israel. Meir’s service improved Israel’s security capabilities greatly and they have become far, far better than they would have been, had Meir not performed so well on his mission.

Sounds of Silence. Article following widow Jane meeting with Israeli President Chaim Herzog in 1986 notes that  “The meeting with the President does not erase the bitterness of 32 years of silence.”

Later, a street in Kiryat Shaul in Tel Aviv was named Rechov Meir Bineth. Do people walking this street know who Max Bineth was or the contributions to Israel’s security he made and of his ultimate sacrifice?

Israeli journalist, author and military commentator Gad Shimron rightly asks:

“”How did it happen that a man who deserves to stand in the first row of the Israeli pantheon of heroism was forgotten on the fringes of the public consciousness of the country he served and for which he gave his life?”

It was thus heartwarming, that all these tumultuous years later in 2023 that Max is being remembered on Tu B’shvet. When Max  was teaching in Iran in 1942 to the Jewish community about the ‘New Year of the Trees’ festival, the mass slaughter of six million Jews across Europe was taking place and a Jewish state was still a dream to be hard fought for.

Today, a region that was mostly arid desert has over 200 million trees and Jews have a secure and vibrant homeland – ISRAEL.

Like the trees he so loved, the legacy of Max Bineth is ‘rooted’ to this land.

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


A good question for both Jews and Arabs in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem

By Jonathan Feldstein

In case you missed it, just over a week ago Israel suffered back- to-back terror attacks during Shabbat (the Sabbath) leaving seven dead and several more injured, some seriously. I was grateful for the many friends reaching out from all over the world, anxiously enquiring how we were. This has happened before, so my response was to write a series of updates of “How We Are”.

Taken by Terrorism. Only 14 years of age, Asher Natan, one of the victims of the terror massacre in Jerusalem’s Neve Ya’akov neighborhood. (Courtesy)

Palestinian Arab terror in Israel is not unique, and in the past year it’s been on the increase. However, there was something particularly disturbing about these recent attacks. Part of the reason that terror attacks like these can take place is that Jerusalem is a mixed Jewish/Arab city, roughly two thirds and one third respectively.  Jews and Arabs interact widely with virtually no impediments. It’s the norm to see Jews and Arabs shopping together, working together, on public transit, in the hospitals as patients and medical personnel, and much more.  So an Arab in a Jewish neighborhood is not new, and rarely suspicious. 

Of course, all this debunks the lie of Israel practicing Apartheid against Arabs, but that matters little to Israel bashers when it’s Jews being attacked and killed!

For a few days at least, the attacks were an explosive topic of conversation. Terror attacks don’t take place every day.  The norm is the intermingling of Arabs and Jews more than a terror attack, though the threat of an attack exists all the time. Nevertheless, these shook up many Israeli Jews maybe because:

–   they took place on Shabbat, the day of rest or

–   of the relatively high number of casualties or

–  the bigger attack took place outside a synagogue  or

–  one of the Arab terrorists was just 13!

No Kidding! Out to kill, this was the gun used by a 13-year-old Palestinian in a shooting attack near Jerusalem’s Old City on January 28, 2023. (Israel Police)

And then again, maybe because for months now, there’s been a steady wave of terror attacks leaving dozens of Israelis dead and wounded, and each one takes its toll and tension is compounded. 

In addition to being in the news in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the attacks were the inescapable subject of many individual conversations.

Of course, there is the grief for an among the families of the victims, that played out on national media in ways that were very personal and heart wrenching. And then there immediately followed the inevitable exchanges of conversations, discussions and questioning between friends and colleagues. In speaking with one friend who works in a setting where many Arab and Jews work together, there was a sense of tremendous stress. My friend didn’t know whether her Arab colleagues were celebrating the deaths, or whether any of them might be the next terrorist to attack, either at her place of work or somewhere else. A colleague who noted that her demeanor was not her normal friendly engaging self, asked if she was okay. She opened up candidly. They discussed their mutual stress and concerns. What is noteworthy is that my friend is an Israeli Jew, and her colleague who expressed concern is a Palestinian Arab.

Another friend expressed tremendous tension in her academic setting which also has a demographic mix of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. On any average day, it was not uncommon for her to engage in intense conversations with her Arab colleagues; sometimes leading to understanding, while other times to prickly friction. But this was no ordinary day!

Driven to Kill. 21-year-old Alqam Khayri, the suspected gunman in a Jerusalem terror shooting on January 27, 2023, that killed seven people, is seen in an undated photo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. (Social media)

On the day immediately following the terrorist attacks, my friend reported that there was very little interaction between the Arabs and Jews.  The Arabs largely kept to themselves speaking in Arabic rather than engaging their Jewish peers. The same was true with the Jews who were fearful and even angry that terrorist attacks take place at all, much less are celebrated with candy and cake being distributed in Arab communities.

Probably thousands of conversations like this took place with the undertone from an Israeli side that incidents like these make us feel unsafe even around Arab colleagues and peers with whom we interact regularly. In the news the same week, an Israeli Jewish woman reportedly protested being put in a maternity ward room with an Israeli Arab woman. Tension is thick.

Two days after the attack, I was pulling into a gas station to fill up my car. Ahead of me was a brand-new Mercedes E200 convertible.  Stunning.  It also had green and white Palestinian Authority license plates. At the pump, I commented to its owner, whose name I leant was Mohammed that he had a beautiful car.  He smiled proudly.  I asked him how much it cost. Also with pride he responded:

300,000 shekels.” 

That’s about $90,000.

I posted this interaction with a picture of the car on my social media, noting that despite the myth used to blame Israel for an array of suffering of Palestinian Arabs, not all Palestinian Arabs are poor refugees. This attracted a range of comments from calling Mohammed a terrorist (after all, where else would he get the money), and calling me out for playing on anti-Arab stereotypes.  I pushed back, sorry that anyone would read that into my comments, but that in this case, I tried to poke a hole in some of the misperceptions that people have about Israelis and their relations Palestinian Arabs.

Often, when people have biases, they cannot consider anyone else’s position.  That’s too bad. I also noted that it was too bad that my critics missed the human moment of me engaging Mohammed and his proud response. It’s easy to overlook and disregard the part about the Orthodox Jewish Israeli “settler” initiating a civil human conversation with a Palestinian Arab over his prized motor vehicle. 

Conversing over a Convertible. Despite the tension and suspicions following terror attack, this brand-new Mercedes E200 convertible caught the attention of the writer to engage with Mohammed its proud owner at a gas station.

My conversation also debunks the misperception that there’s apartheid here; that Jews and Arabs don’t and can’t get along and that we dehumanize them. Someone unaware, or unwilling to be honest, would be surprised at the frequency of civil interaction and basic human respect and decency that really is the rule even where I live in the Judean mountains.

Despite the very real tension that people were naturally feeling in the wake of the Shabbat terror attacks that left Jews dead and injured, the personal engagement as I encountered, continues. How are we? It’s complicated.

About the writer:

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

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


Questioning the claims by the King of Jordan to Protect Christians in the Middle East

By Jonathan Feldstein

I was disappointed to read of Jordanian King Abdullah II warning Israel not to cross “red lines” on Jerusalem during a Christmastime interview on CNN.  Curious as to the nature of King Abdullah’s warning, I decided to watch the interview rather than just comment based on the politicized reports, where the headlines look for click-bait.

By way of full disclosure, I have nothing against King Abdullah.  I think he’s quite a rational, stable, and important leader, for Jordan and for Israel. A close alliance between our countries is important.

Interestingly, Abdullah II’s great grandfather, Abdullah I, moved to the region 100 years ago after he was appointed Emir of Trans-Jordan. He and his brother were rewarded with the territory of what’s today Jordan and Iraq for their loyalty to Britain. As Hashemites, they were moved from their native Mecca where the Saudi dynasty took control of the Arabian peninsula, to these new made-up entities. It was not considered an upgrade at the time, but they took what they could get. This was around the same time my grandparents came home to Israel ending, their and their descendants (my family’s) diaspora.

Twisted Tongue. Jordanian King Abdullah II in an interview with CNN claims to protect Christians in the Middle East. “But does he?” questions the writer. (Photo: Screenshot)

Regarding family, I have a lovely photo of the King’s late father, King Hussein bin Talal, and my father in the early 1990s, just before Israel and Jordan formalized a peace agreement.  My father was overjoyed to meet the King, but also because peace was coming to our counties.  I can see the skyline of Amman from my home, underscoring the geographical proximity and all the historical and modern security issues that go along with that, and I would very much like to meet King Abdullah as my father met his father. However, I must take exception with what he said.

Pursuing Peace. The writer’s father (right) on a UJA mission to Jordan, shakes hands with King Hussein at a reception hosted by the King shortly before the signing of the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel.

Indeed, King Abdullah did issue warnings. He cautioned against Jerusalem being “used by extremists on all sides,” an important comment placing himself in the middle. His criticism of Israel initially took a rare tone when he expressed, “If we continue to use Jerusalem as a soapbox for politics, things can get out of control.” Jerusalem, he continued, is a “tinderbox that if it flashes, we won’t be able to walk away from (in the near future).”

King Abdullah underscored how he wants to be perceived as a centrist, engendering sympathy by “living between Iraq and a hard place.” Yet, he warned from his own soapbox that:

 “if people want to get into a conflict with us, we are quite prepared. I like to…look at the glass half full, but we have red lines.”  

While he was not threatening a third intifada, he did toss that in as a possible consequence of crossing the “red lines”.

The “people” he was referring to were Israelis, and the red lines are related to Israel’s presence in and control of parts of Jerusalem, specifically those in which he sees himself as the ‘custodian’. The Jordan River that separates our counties is often brown and murky. So too, King Abdullah’s words were murky.  He repeated a baseless claim he has made before, that as the Moslem Hashemite leader, he’s custodian of Christian and Moslem holy sites.  In fact, he is not.  Jordan’s custodianship only applies to Islamic sites.

King Abdullah spoke of the shrinking number of Christians in the region, noting that the number of Christians is dropping under “pressure.”  He didn’t say it outright, but the pressure to which he was referring is supposedly from Israel.  That too is false.

While indeed the situation of Christians in the region is dire, around the same time as King Abdullah’s CNN interview, Israel released demographics showing a 2% increase in the Christian population in Israel.  Israel is the only area in the region where the number of Christians is actually growing. In fact, the actual pressure on Christians comes from the wider Islamic society in which they live.

But if the King is concerned about the well-being of Christians in the region, he should start in Jordan itself. Why, when I met a Christian woman visiting Jerusalem recently, she would not be photographed with me, or even in Jerusalem, for fear of herself and her ministry in Jordan being threatened. The same happened with a Christian Palestinian Arab from Bethlehem with whom I had the opportunity to do business recently.  When I suggested taking a picture, he stiffened, and he told me that could be dangerous for him in the Palestinian Authority.

Birthplace of Jesus. Will ‘Silent Night’ one day take on a more literal and ominous meaning of the state of the Christian community in Bethlehem, which has dropped from 86% to 12% in the past 60 years, following a trend across the Middle East, except in Israel, where the Christian population is increasing.

One of the most remarkable comments King Abdullah made was in reference to Islam’s reverence of Jesus as messiah. It might be surprising if the King did not have to walk that back for fear of the charge of heresy. That could prove very dangerous for him and his kingdom where he constantly has to underscore his legitimacy as a Hashemite leader of a country that is predominantly Palestinian Arab. Fortunately for the security cooperation between Israel and Jordan where Israel’s intelligence helps keep the Hashemites on the throne.

Sitting on the east bank of the Jordan River, the King said that it was the third holiest site in Christianity being the location where Jesus was baptized. I asked many Christian friends if this was true, and if so, what the first and second most holy Christian sites were. Without exception, all said that a ranking of such sites is disingenuous, and if it were legitimate, there are other sites that would be in contention for third place, fourth, fifth, and even sixth, ahead of the King’s claimed third place.  Then again, with Islam’s third holiest site being in Jerusalem but never once mentioned in the Koran, perhaps his use of the term is deliberately vague.

Others suggested that he was just pandering, trying to be perceived as the savior (pun intended), of Christians in the Middle East, placing a wedge between Jews and Christians and our shared Biblical understanding of the significance of the Land and people of Israel. His saccharine-sweet words “we are committed to defending the rights, the precious heritage, and historic identity of Christians of our region,” hardly stands up to the reality of the plight and persecution of Christians by Muslims in the Middle East.

The King’s warning about protecting the “status quo” in Jerusalem, undermines the rights of Jews and Christians who, by law, are denied the right to pray on the Temple Mount where Jordan has custodianship. Denying the Jewish right to pray at what’s arguably the most holy place in Jerusalem to Jews must be one of his red lines, and about which he sees no problem enforcing, while “defending the rights” of Christians.

Despite the Jordanian King’s claims to protect Christians and Christian sites, I was left feeling uneasy that his comments were more likely to exacerbate than ease tensions and create divisions between Israel’s Jewish and Christian communities, where there are none.

Disputing King Abdullah’s observations, a spokesperson for Christians United for Israel (CUFI) had it right when he said, “Jerusalem never knew true peace or prosperity until its liberation by Israel.”

About the writer:

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

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