Education is Eternal – Netzach Yisrael

Improving the education system for Israel’s Haredi community will help to improve their economic situation – and the country’s

By Rolene Marks

Rabbi Menachem Bombach is a man with a mission. The charismatic Rabbi, raised in the ultra-religious neighbourhood of Jerusalem known as Mea Shearim and who did not speak Hebrew until the age of 20, has a plan to bring about significant change to the Haredi approach to education.

The statistics speak for themselves.

According to the Israeli central Bureau of Statistics, the Haredi community makes up about 12% of the population, with an estimated size of roughly 1 million people – and is amongst the most poor, with 50% living below the poverty line. The Haredi community is also the fastest growing community.

The employment rate of Haredi men is at 51% compared to secular men at 87%. The rate for Haredi women in the workplace is 76% but many are forced to take low paying jobs as a result of their lack of skills.

Even though there is a larger percentage of Haredi women who are employed in the work force, it does not necessarily ensure an improvement in living conditions and the economic situation for the community.

It is clear that this cannot continue – if it does, the effects will be catastrophic.

Enter Rabbi Bombach.

Rabbi Bombach has identified a crucial element to ensuring that this alarming trend is corrected. The Rabbi believes that the key to fixing this growing problem which perpetuates the cycle of poverty, is reforming the Haredi education system. The more members of the community who are educated and receive a matriculation certificate, with skills in significant subjects like maths, English and even Hebrew, the more they will be able to enter into the workplace – and get better jobs. He believes that the current economic situation would not continue if members of the Haredi community were more integrated and productive in society.

Inspired by this, Rabbi Bombach started “Netzach Yisrael”. Established in 2017, Netzach is an ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) network of educational institutions (elementary through to post-high school) whose mission it is to provide its students with an outstanding education and in parallel, work towards a bagrut (matriculation) certificate, which is a prerequisite for higher education in Israel. These studies include mathematics, English, the sciences and civics for both elementary and high school students.

Rabbi Bombach has always been drawn to education. When he was just 12-years-old, he would often lead his peers in Shabbat afternoon prayers. He knew that education would be part of his future.

The Rabbi would go on to study after he finished his schooling and met other students from different communities and societies, including Arabs, secular Jews and others. It was eye-opening. Integrating with other people went a long way to breaking down pre-conceived stereotypes and prejudices and opened his eyes to the ability to stay Haredi – while meeting other people.

Bombach believes in the philosophy that “Jews need to radiate light to each other”.

And so Netzach Yisrael was started. At first, many in the community were skeptical and did not want to send their children to school, but slowly it started to grow and now there are over 1000 students at 11 different educational facilities, with at least 3 700 students attending virtually.

Time for Change. Through a new yeshiva system that he founded in  in Israel, Rabbi Menachem Bombach is determined on reducing poverty in the Haredi community through education, preparing them to attend college and enter the workforce.

There have been several notable success stories. One young student is excelling as an activist talking about climate change, a topic that one would not expect members of the Haredi community to be vocal about. At least 95% of the students who have come through the Netzach Yisrael programme are fully integrated and have gone on to university. This aligns with the focus of having modern, pragmatic Haredim and will improve the economic situation of the community.

Netzach Yisrael’s vision is that the academic programme empowers graduates to create a strong, financially viable future for themselves, their future families, and the Israeli economy, while remaining strongly connected to their core values of Torah observance.

The ethos and values of the Netzach Yisrael programme are very clear – Torah and the worship of G-d by instilling the foundations of faith, worshiping G-d, and the study of Torah as a way of life, Education furthering Derech Eretz, truth, virtue and love of Israel, imparting knowledge, life, social and learning skills and striving for excellence and cultivating personal and social responsibility that is reflected in working for the common good and involvement in the community.

Bombach in Action. This Hasidic Educator is changing the face of Haredi education in Israel

Over seventy years ago, when the State of Israel was formed, the only choice for Haredim was to study Torah,” says Rabbi Bombach. “This was not good for the majority. We can combine religious and secular studies, while maintaining the connection with the community,” he says.

Bucking Tradition. Despite being vilified by his co-religionists, Rabbi Bombach teaches secular subjects to boys.

Today, the proof of success is in the growing statistics of students who have thrived in the Netzach Yisrael programme and continue to excel in tertiary education and beyond. The once skeptical parents are writing glowing testimonials and there is no doubt that Israel will benefit. This truly is proof that a great education, combined with dedications and knowledge of your roots and community – is eternal.

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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 (0&EO).

Ruth’s Roots Revealed

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

In September 2016 a solitary, single, slightly tired woman arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa. She did  not find the streets  paved with gold, nor were the people particularly friendly. With no family or friends, or even acquaintances, she has arrived in xenophobic South Africa with little fanfare and no more than a suitcase, a small amount of money and bucket-loads of grit and determination.

She made her way to the room that she had found on the internet and rented.  This too, did not match what had been advertised. The room formed part of a larger house that was sub-let to  other tenants as well.  A small , grubby dingy room with a communal toilet and kitchen, substantially misrepresented by the photos that appeared on the website, was to be her new home for the  immediate future. Not even having unpacked, she took a walk to the corner cafe,  bought some cleaning detergent and got down to work, scrubbing down her room and the toilet. She was determined to make the best of whatever hurdles confronted her.

She was different from the other Zimbabweans. She was not an economic migrant. She was here for a higher purpose. She was here to convert to Judaism. For someone who knew nothing about Johannesburg, the area  in which she had  selected to live was slightly out of the more heavily populated Jewish suburbs, but it was within easy  walking distance of  an orthodox shul. This had been her priority.

 Ruth (not her real name) had been in contact with the Union of Orthodox Synagogues  of South Africa. She had been told that there were inadequate facilities in Zimbabwe for her to convert. If she wanted to convert, she would have to do this in South Africa. So she gave up her comfortable life in an affluent area of Harare  and came to stay in the heart  of  the unknown, dangerous Johannesburg.

It was about two weeks after she arrived that I first met Ruth. It was on a Friday night, when walking back from shul. By coincidence, I had gone to that shul to make a minyon (required quorum of ten Jewish male adults). She was a new face in the congregation.  The congregation is small and even with a mechitzah (participation separating men and women), you couldn’t really miss her.  It is a very small congregation, usually all male,  Ashkenazi and (to be politically incorrect) all white.

Ruth, the only woman present, was none of the above.

After the service, she was walking home with the head of security and headed in the same direction as me. The Security head asked me to walk her home as she lived only a few houses away from me, in the same street. With little further ado, she came to our Shabbas table and revealed to us the amazing story behind her desire to convert. 

Ruth had grown up in one of the leafy green suburbs in Harare,  part of a close-knit family. She had cared for her grandmother during her illness, but it was only on her deathbed, that her mother told Ruth that her grandfather was Jewish. Ruth was stunned!

And so began the investigation. Ruth’s aunt (her mother’s sister) had also been aware of the secret but had been sworn to secrecy. She told Ruth what she knew. Her grandfather was a well-known Jewish merchant who lived in a small town in the southern part  of Rhodesia. She knew his name and she knew the name of the shop that he owned. Ruth went to  the town to see what she could find out.  However, this small outpost no longer had a Jewish community,  and the trail ran cold.  She had made various inquiries over the past ten years, including approaching Africa’s travelling rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Silverhaft, but had come no closer to discovering the truth.

Rabbi Moshe Silverhaft

What remained unsaid, but what all of us realised, was that we were talking about colonial Rhodesia and love across the colour line was absolutely taboo at the time. Had anyone been aware of what had happened it would have resulted in a scandal that might well have ruined this man’s  reputation and certainly his livelihood.

Rhodesia, today Zimbabwe in the early 1900s.

Her interest in Judaism had been sparked  and she embarked on a course of discovery to learn more about Judaism and to discover more about her Jewish roots. The course of this road led to a trip to Israel, accompanied by her daughter.  She had done some studying in Israel but wasn’t really ready to proceed further. She returned to Zimbabwe and resumed her life. Her daughter remained in Israel, converted, married, and is living in Israel.

Some years had passed, she was now more settled and had decided to  proceed on her journey. It was now time for her to convert.

It was a  coincidence that she had chosen to come to South Africa to convert. It was a coincidence that she had chosen to rent accommodation in the same street in which we live. It was a coincidence  that I had gone to that shul that night. It was a coincidence that Ruth had accepted our Shabbas meal invitation. By a further  coincidence,  the only Zimbabwean that we knew, just happened to be Jewish. Coincidently, he also just happened to have grown up in that very town where her grandfather had lived. He  just happened to be the son of the reverend who conducted the religious services in the small town, where everybody knew everybody. As the son of the “makulu-baas” (the big boss) of the Jewish community in the town, if anybody had any information about that time, it would be him.  Further coincidently, he and his family just happened to be living around the corner from us. Again, just by coincidence, he had not severed his relationship with Zimbabwe when he emigrated, regularly returning  to Zimbabwe  on business.

And so Ruth was introduced to Boaz, who after hearing two sentences from Ruth, completed the description of the shop, the shops next to her grandfather’s shop as well as a general description of the town. He also  knew who presently owned  the shop.  More importantly, he remembered  her grandfather!

Opening a book entitled “Famous Jews of Rhodesia”, Boaz directed Ruth’s attention to a potted biography of her grandfather, together with  a picture of him.  After ten years of dead-ends, it took only  two weeks in South Africa for her grandfather to be revealed to her.

Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi) – Jewish Community exploring project

A few weeks after Ruth’s initial shock, Boaz  went on a business trip to Zimbabwe and took Ruth to visit the gravesite of her grandfather.

Arriving as a stranger in a strange land, Ruth has now learned of her past, formed a durable support base and having spent five tough years following the long, winding, and difficult road to an Orthodox conversion. This morning she went  to the mikveh  and participated in small socially distanced  se’udah (festive meal). In a touching gesture, when she announced her new Hebrew name, she had also adopted her grandfather’s surname. Her long  road continues to wind its way, leading to Jerusalem.

In her process of conversion, Ruth would follow in a 3,500 year tradition of observant Jewish women immersing themselves in a ritual purification bath (mikveh).

The unspoken,  but  equally incredible part of the story is about her grandfather. He was by all accounts a very prominent member of the Jewish community. He held national congregational  office and was married to his wife for many years. He and his wife never had children. In Ruth’s own small way, the stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone. She is now a proud Jewess; she has a son that has converted recently at his yeshiva in Israel and soon to be married. She also has a wonderful Kibutznik daughter and son-in-law with two beautiful grandchildren. Her family is  a shoot that   has  grown  from the stump of Zimbabwean Jewry, it is  a branch that has borne new fruit.    

 “Isn’t it wonderful,” says Ruth, “how Hashem reveals the jigsaw pieces and lets us put them together, for us to create our own puzzle.”

About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

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 Rabbi and a Self-Hating Jew walk into court with a Newspaper

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

South African Jewry is resilient. They know that their government is vociferously anti-Israel and that when an incident flares up in the Middle East between the Israel and its neighbours, they know to keep their heads down and try and weather the storm.  This time, the captain of the ship was on the starboard, plotting a course to safety and became a target.

Two weeks ago, a three-quarter page article appeared in South Africa’s most widely read national newspaper, the Sunday Times. The headlines blazed:

 “A chief rabbi who is a disgrace to his faith and to human decency.

This prominently placed article was written by a former politician, who is now well past his sell-by date. Once a cabinet minister in the Thabo Mbeki cabinet, his star has faded, but he tries his best to appear news-worthy whenever he can. His sure-safe recipe is knocking Israel or the Jews.  He can do this because he was born a Jew and it’s therefore “acceptable”. It always makes for great conversation when a Jew publicly attacks another Jew, even if the first “Jew” has not an iota of Jewishness, save for the accident of his birth.  This was the situation with our self-hating “Jew”, Ronnie Kasrils. His target was the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, and he could hardly fail!

The Rabbi vs the Rebel. Ronnie Kasrils’ article in the Sunday Times attacking South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein.

Kasrils, who has very publicly renounced his Jewishness, has pooh-poohed the idea that the Jews were chosen by God. He has declared that Jewishness is merely a charade for Jews to hide their racism and their Zionist exclusivity. His article, which he called an open letter to the President, was much of the same.  Many didn’t read past the headline.  It was a sickening headline. In fact it is exceedingly difficult to find a more disturbing headline than this, in any mainstream newspaper anywhere in the free world. It was incredible that a newspaper was prepared to print it. How does one react to big, bold in-your- face print that says – “A chief rabbi who is a disgrace to his faith and to human decency”.

The article itself was filled with the normal vitriol about Israel and the Jews, but it also made an unjustified and unheard-of attack on Rabbi Goldstein. In fact, the last time that I can remember a chief rabbi of South Africa being so viciously attacked was when Rabbi Rabinowitz attacked the Nationalist government for its policy of Apartheid.  It was an uncalled for, ad-hominem attack on the Chief Rabbi  and a rant against many things Israeli or Zionist.  It was an article that had no place in any respectable publication. Kasrils started off his letter by referring to “the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian land” which was “the greatest moral issue of our time”. It only got worse from there.  He referred to the anger at the pain and humiliation inflicted on the Palestinian people, to which was an offence South Africa’s core values of equality, justice and human rights. Clearly, Rabbi Goldstein had no justice or compassion of the hundreds of innocent Palestinians who perished in Israel’s “so-called precision bombing” The Chief Rabbi’s version of “the truth” about Sheikh Jarrah was the same as Apartheid’s eviction policy. Similarly the Chief’s statement that there had been many attempts to create a Palestinian state, was “sheer sophistry”. This was because Israel had colonised Palestine in 1948 and had thereafter engaged in expansion, land theft and ethnic cleansing.  It was the Israeli government that had refused to be a partner for peace, while the Palestinians, even Hamas, “had gone out of their way to consider a two-state solution”. It was the Israelis that had rejected proposals, instead insisting on a Bantustan solution. The Chief Rabbi was “obfuscating” if he suggested otherwise. As for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas’ rockets, “Goldstein [had] callously ignored the rain of death poured into the world’s most densely populated concentration camp where two million inhabitants have no place to hide.” How can he support a “people that smash a small densely populated territory to smithereens because they sustained 12 deaths?” Kasrils did not forget to refer to the dubious quote of Richard Falk that “Palestinian resistance to occupation is a legally protected right” and that Israel was violating international law. He also scoffed at the Chief Rabbi’s reliance on “a property-dealing God who presented another peoples land to the so-called chosen” which was in stark contrast to the belief of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. He concluded by holding that “numerous devout Jews interpret the Hebrew bible very differently to Goldstein and his ilk. His views are not representative of Jews in general” and that “Goldstein’s utterances contradict the golden rule of all religions to treat others as you wish them to treat you”.

Up to his Neck. No, Ronnie Kasrils is not wearring a tallit (prayer shawl worn by Jews) but a Palestinian keffiyeh.

With the Jewish community in shell-shock, the response came in last week’s Sunday Times. Entitled “Kasrils breached acceptable boundaries of civilised discourse” virtually every leading organisation within the Jewish establishment attached its name to this public rebuke.  A small photo-replica of the original article with the offensive heading was attached to the Jewish establishment’s response (just in case it could have been forgotten).  In defending the Chief, Kasrils was accused of breaching acceptable boundaries, demonising and defaming the state of Israel and vilifying and crassly impugning “the integrity of the chief rabbi, Dr Warren Goldstein, the public face of the Jewish faith community in South Africa” and inflaming race relations in South Africa. Notably, the Chief Rabbi was not a signatory to the article.

Like any Jew, I know some things and I have an opinion on some things. They don’t always overlap. I have an opinion on Kasrils’ conduct (which might not be fit to publish) and I know something about the law of defamation in South Africa. My opinion based on my knowledge of defamation is that he has opened himself up to a massive lawsuit. Kasrils, who has been on the winning side of a defamation case previously, must also be acutely aware of this as well.

The law of defamation in South Africa balances the existence of various conflicting constitutional rights such as the right to privacy and dignity against the right to freedom of expression and political rights. In principle, to succeed in a defamation case one needs to prove the following: 

(1) there is a statement

(2) it has been published 

(3) it concerns that person

(4) it is defamatory

(5) it has injured that person in his reputation.

The test to be applied to decide whether a statement is defamatory is whether the words complained of, are reasonably capable of conveying to the reasonable reader a meaning defamatory of that person. One does not need to prove falsity. The quantification of damages is dependent on reputation and character, standing in the community and the extent of the publication.

The party being sued has a variety of defences at his disposal. The most common defence is that while the statement appears on the face of it (prima facie) defamatory, the words were used in a non-defamatory sense and special circumstances are set out.  Other defences might include (a) the absence of intention to cause harm (this defence is not available to the media) or (b) that it was made in jest or (c) that the words were spoken in sudden anger as a result of provocation (referred to as “Rixa”) or (d) lack of knowledge of wrongfulness or (e) denial of wrongfulness i.e., that the defamation was not wrongful. 

There are also defences that would apply where the statement was made in the discharge of an official duty such as (f) qualified privilege or where it was made in parliament being (g) absolute privilege. For statements appearing in the media, there are two   defences that are invariably raised, viz. (h) truth and public interest and (i) fair comment. 

When one looks at the requirements that the Chief Rabbi would have to prove, then elements (1)-(3) are self-evident. The crux of the case would be – the reasonable person test.  If this is successful then element (5) falls into place. I regard myself as a reasonable person. On a simple reading of the article, I find it to be unacceptably egregious. On a deeper reading of the article, I find it to be irredeemably and grievously reprehensible and having no redeeming merit. Thus, on the Chief Rabbi’s version, I believe that he cannot but succeed.  As the Chief Rabbi is the pre-eminent Jew in South Africa, I believe that he should qualify for the largest sum of damages ever awarded for defamation in South Africa.

Heading to Court. The man Kasrils has accused of as “a disgrace to human decency”, South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein speaking at Nelson Mandela’s memorial ceremony on December 10, 2013. (Sky News, YouTube)

Strategically and tactically the response was brilliant. Whether intentionally or by chance (or should I say by fate, as Rabbis don’t believe in chance), with the stroke of a pen, the people of the book  vindicated the Chief Rabbi. The entire upper echelons of the Jewish Community, unquestionably comprising of reasonable people, found the article to be, not only defamatory, but as exceeding the bounds of civil discourse and both vilifying and crassly impugning the chief rabbi’s integrity.  One can’t get a much stronger condemnation of Kasrils’ statement than that. No doubt the Chief has a superior legal team advising him. His father, Ezra Goldstein was one of the sharpest judges on the South African bench and certainly one of the most compassionate.  But the Chief Rabbi, no doubt, has a Greater Hand guiding him. I think the whole Jewish community would derive immense satisfaction in seeing him nail this ###%##   BIG TIME, through the agency of this Greater Hand.

Kasrils, on the other is not without his defences. He has revelled in his article, has not denied a single word of it and his only complaint is that it was not published in its totality. Various defences are immediately ruled out. Having called the Chief Rabbi an obfuscating sophist whose views, and that of his ilk, are not representative of Jews in general, he can hardly be seen to raise a defence of absence of intention to cause insult, or that they were not intended to defame the Chief Rabbi.  The defence of lack of knowledge of unlawfulness is moot. Many of our jurists hold that it is an element of intention. Whether unlawful forms part of intention or not, Kasril’s   statement falls within this larger category.  So Kasrils is left with a choice of two defences: truth and public interest or fair comment. To succeed in the defence of truth and public interest requires proof that both (1) the statement was true and (2) that its publication was to the benefit of the public. Just on a summary of his statement as set out, it is unlikely that he can prove either. Which leaves Kasrils with one defence, that of fair comment. The elements required to be proven for this defence are (1) that it was a comment and not a statement of fact; and (2) that the comment was “fair” (in that it does not exceed certain limits); and (3) the facts commented on were truly stated and (4) the matter was in the public interest. With several facts indisputably incorrect as well as a response from the entire Jewish establishment that Kasrils’ comment breached acceptable boundaries of civilised discourse, it will be difficult for a judge to hold that this defence has any merit either.

Last but not least, the law also provides the Chief Rabbi with a further useful line of attack. Even if Kasrils were able to show circumstances providing a justification for his statement, such a defence should fail, if it can be shown that he intended to injure the Chief Rabbi in his reputation. As my maths teacher used to say: Quod Erat Demonstratum! (Roughly translated: this which has been proved)

In defamation cases like this, not only is the writer of the article sued, but the publisher is as well. There have been cases where even the distributor and the printer of the newspaper have been sued as well. In this case, it would probably be adequate to sue Kasrils and the owners/ publishers of the Sunday Times.

Like all juicy court cases, there is invariably a twist in the tale.  This one is no different. Following this notorious article, Kasrils was interviewed on a Muslim television channel.  He went on record as stating that he was not responsible for the headlines that appeared above his article, that was done by the newspaper itself. It is almost inconceivable that the largest national newspaper, with top-class legal advisors on tap, could have created such a stupefyingly defamatory headline. Our Supreme Court of Appeal has made it abundantly clear that the public media cannot rely on the absence of animus injuriandi to escape liability, (although it may rely on absence of negligence.) If Kasrils is to be believed, not only would it appear that the Sunday Times had been negligent, but it would seem that a case might be made for malevolent premeditation and malice in choosing the headline.  That the Sunday Times first published and then republished the headlines a week later, when the response was published, places it in a very invidious position. Not only has the headline been published twice in hard copy, but these headlines appear around the world in soft copy and remain on record.

No place to hide!

The newspaper’s legal team are going to have their work cut out for them, in the event of defamation litigation being instituted.

I am one of those South Africans who keeps my head down. I am not part of the Jewish establishment. I don’t know what the Chief Rabbi will do. In response to the article, I have bought a Jewish National Fund Certificate so that a tree will be planted in Israel in the name of Ronnie Kasrils.  I really hope that the Chief Rabbi will sue and get the biggest defamation award ever issued in South Africa and then donates it to a Zionist cause in the name of Kasrils. ….and it all has to published in the Sunday Times!

About the author:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

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) .

Cadena – Bringing Dignity Back to Young Women

Breaking taboos, Jewish non-profit on a mission to repair the world

By Rolene Marks

There is an old and wise African proverb that says:

Educate a woman and you educate a village.”

Access to a good education saves and improves the lives of girls and women the world over, ultimately leading to more equitable development, stronger families, better services and better health for children. Educating young girls has a wide-ranging impact as well as long term benefits. It is often said that the future is women – and who can forget such extraordinary young women like Malala Yousafzai who literally risked her life for the right to be educated and the countless others, who dream of what so many take for granted?

The simple act of going to school every day is one that many of us don’t give a second thought to; but what of the millions of young girls living in poverty around the world who miss out on a week of school every month because of their menstrual cycle? During this time, young girls who live in areas that are either rural or poverty stricken do not go to school because of a lack of access to safe, hygienic sanitary products, and/or who are unable to manage their periods with dignity, sometimes due to community stigmas. Many of these young girls are made to feel ashamed of their bodies and that they are dirty.

There is a connection between the confidence of women who are able to take care of their bodies and their ability to be able to take care of their education and their communities. At a time when we are having important conversations around issues of body positivity and breaking the stigma about menstruation which is a natural function, we need to draw attention to the many suffering from period poverty, that is – the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and waste management.

Young women deserve the basic human right to menstruate with dignity. Diminished capacity, even for just a week, creates barriers to opportunities. It does not just affect the ability of young girls to go to school but women to go to work.

Proud to Help. Young volunteers from the Jewish non-profit Cadena helping a  community in South Africa to replace unsafe and unsanitary pit latrines.

It also impacts on physical health. Lack of access to the right feminine hygiene products may lead to greater risk of infection. In some cases, women and girls do not have access to menstrual products at all. They may resort to rags, leaves, newspaper or other makeshift items to absorb or collect menstrual blood. They may also be prone to leaks, contributing to shame or embarrassment.

Humanitarian organization, Cadena has found a solution to these issues.  Cadena was formed in Mexico in 2004 with the intention of assisting with victims of natural disasters. Since then, Cadena which now has a global presence in many countries around the world, has expanded its focus to include education, the launching of rescue missions, community rebuilding programmes and many, many more important projects. Cadena also firmly believes in a philosophy of “hand to hand”, preferring direct contact with the people that they are helping. The organization became more and more concerned hearing about the situation for young women in poverty stricken areas of South Africa where a decision between buying a loaf of bread or sanitary protection for girls is a heartbreaking but common occurrence. At least 50% of young women in South Africa have seen their education disrupted during their menstrual cycle!

Project Preparation. Volunteers planning and preparing to  replace and upgrade latrines in rural community.

What could Cadena do to help alleviate the situation and ensure that the education of these young women and girls is not interrupted?

The first order of the day was to break the taboos. Cadena had to educate these young girls and women that there was nothing “dirty” or horrible about a process that is a very natural part of being a woman. Sadly today, taboos around this subject are not just in struggling communities but worldwide which is why an article like this can help a lot with breaking down stigmas and taboos.

Team Work. Cadena volunteers help communities with solutions to replace deadly pit latrines and help host workshops to help alleviate period poverty.

Cadena is determined that young girls and women get their dignity back and are committed to equipping them with the tools and material necessary!

Cadena is launching workshops in the townships where women will not only be taught about health and hygiene but will also be supplied with fabric and materials to help them make their own ecological, washable and reusable menstrual pads. This not only helps to empower the women attending the workshops but helps them to share the same skills with their families and communities. These workshops have been held with great success in South America.

Helping communities also creates opportunities for other volunteers to be involved. Students from Johannesburg’s Jewish day school have been eager to help. Cadena is primarily a volunteer organization. While they cannot take anyone under the age of 18 into the field, students were really keen to help as much as possible by packing materials, helping with content creation for distribution and helping to raise awareness. After all, who better to help than their peers of the same age! It also proved a great opportunity for them to learn about the situation for many in their own country who don’t enjoy the same comforts and privileges that they do.

Making a Difference. Braving heat and dust for three weeks in a row, CADENA volunteers in South Africa went from house to house in Plot 89 to deliver PitFix by Enzyme Genie that has made such a difference in a short amount of time.

Cadena has also been instrumental in making sure that rural communities have safe, hygienic latrines following a tragic accident where a 5-year-old little boy drowned. CADENA South Africa will be using PitFix, a locally produced product by the company Enzyme-Genie that removes wastes, breaks down organic solids resulting in a dramatic reduction in smell and the presence of flies in both traditional pit latrines and septic tanks.

This Should Not Happen! The mother of a five-year-old South African boy who died after falling into a pit latrine at school breaks down in court as she described finding his body.

Every person deserves to live a life of dignity and for the truly vulnerable, including women and girls, Cadena is playing a vital role in ensuring that that their personal health is protected and that they never have to miss out on receiving their education.

The future is clearly women!

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Sarah Halimi : une déroute judiciaire programmée

Par Dr. Gad Amar

Les faits:

Dans la nuit du 3 au 4 avril 2017, dans un quartier populaire de Paris, Sarah Halimi, 65 ans, médecin de formation et directrice d’une crèche juive à la retraite, est attaquée par son voisin, Kobili Traoré, qui s’introduit chez elle par le balcon et la roue de coups pendant 35 à 40 minutes aux cris d’Allah Akbar, récitant des sourates du Coran et la traitant de « Sheitan » (Satan), avant de la jeter vivante par la fenêtre du 3eme étage. Elle meurt sur le trottoir de ses multiples traumatismes.  

Mère de famille, médecin et directrice de crèche à la retraite, Sarah Halimi a été battue,torturée et assassinée – mais la justice française a fermé les yeux

La veille, Traoré se rend à 5 reprises à la mosquée Omar, une mosquée salafiste voisine. Il la quitte à 22 heures, dîne au restaurant et va dormir chez un ami, dans l’immeuble mitoyen de celui où il réside chez ses parents et où vit aussi Sarah Halimi.

Il se lève à quatre heures du matin, monte pieds nus au 3° étage avec son tapis de prières, sonne chez des amis de sa famille, les Diarra, qui le laissent entrer, ferme la porte à clé, met les clés dans sa poche et crie « ça va être la mort, ça va être la mort ». Le matin, il avait dit à ses parents « J’ai tout raté dans ma vie, ce soir tout sera terminé ». Devant son état d’excitation, les Diarra s’enferment dans une pièce de leur appartement et appellent la police, comme le feront d’autres voisins réveillés par les cris. Traoré fait ses ablutions à la cuisine, récite quelques prières et va sur le balcon dont il enjambe la balustrade pour entrer chez Sarah Halimi qui dort dans son lit. Il prétendra être devenu fou en découvrant chez elle un chandelier à sept branches (les menorot en ont 9…) et des livres de judaïsme.

Les policiers arrivent rapidement, ils sont neuf, ils sont armés, mais n’interviennent pas.

L’assassin, âgé de 27 ans, d’origine malienne, est un toxicomane baraqué d’1m90 qui deale dans le quartier depuis des années. Il a déjà été condamné à 22 reprises pour trafic et usage de stupéfiants, outrage et rébellion. Il a à son actif une cinquantaine de gardes à vue et a fait 2 ans de prison en tout par périodes de 3 et 6 mois (selon William Attal, frère de Sarah Halimi, qui rapporte des éléments du dossier).

Après son forfait le meurtrier retourne chez ses amis maliens. Il est calme et récite son Coran. Il est interpellé à 5heures35 par la police. Arrivé au commissariat, il se rebelle contre les policiers (au moment de la prise de sang ?) et il faudra huit hommes pour le maîtriser. Il en blesse deux. Le médecin juge son état psychiatrique incompatible avec la garde à vue et le fait interner en hôpital psychiatrique sans qu’il ait été entendu une seule fois par la police.

La France incapable de protéger ses juifs, mais aussi ses prêtres, ses policiers, ses enseignants…à cause d’une immigration incontrôlée. Sarah Halimi a été massacrée puis jetée du haut du balcon de son appartement, rue de Vaucouleurs à Paris

Pendant des jours, seuls les médias communautaires font état de l’assassinat de Sarah Halimi. On n’en parle pas dans les medias français. La France est en pleine campagne présidentielle ; François Hollande est le Président (socialiste) sortant jusqu’au 14 mai 2017, Jean-Jacques Urvoas son ministre de la Justice jusqu’au 10 mai 2017. Une médiatisation de ce nouvel assassinat par un islamiste fanatisé risquerait-elle d’apporter des voix à l’extrême droite ?

Le 7 avril le Procureur de la République François Molins déclare qu’en l’état de l’enquête, il n’apparaît pas qu’il s’agisse d’un acte antisémite, mais que cette hypothèse reste à examiner.

Les expertises :

La juge instructrice Anne Ihuellou demandera trois expertises psychiatriques, fondées sur des éléments glanés auprès du criminel, de sa famille et de la famille Diarra. L’enquête ne sera pas élargie à l’entourage moins proche de l’accusé, malgré les demandes des avocats. 

La première expertise, confiée au Dr Zagury (psychiatre d’origine juive) conclut à une bouffée délirante aigue, mais sans abolition du discernement. Le parquet demande à la juge de requalifier le meurtre en acte antisémite.

La seconde, demandée à un collège de trois experts (dont le Dr Bensussan, d’origine juive) conclut à une bouffée délirante avec abolition du discernement : cela implique l’irresponsabilité pénale du criminel.

Face à ces deux expertises contradictoires, les avocats de la victime demandent une troisième expertise, dont les conclusions extrêmement nuancées laissent planer le doute sur l’origine de l’abolition du discernement : « la bouffée délirante aigue (en l’occurrence exotoxique) et la motivation délirante de l’acte sont deux critères qui font discuter l’abolition du discernement, dans la mesure où l’on considère que cet état émerge en dehors de toute volonté du sujet » (arrêt du 19 décembre 2019).

En d’autres termes, cette troisième expertise pose deux questions : si l’abolition du discernement est une conséquence de la bouffée délirante provoquée par une consommation volontaire de cannabis, peut-on la considérer comme un état pathologique indépendant du sujet ? La motivation antisémite, cultivée par Traoré et qui déjà faisait trembler Sarah Halimi à chaque fois qu’elle le croisait, n’est-elle pas une volonté réfléchie du sujet qui trouve dans le crime son aboutissement ?

Le 17 juillet 2019, le Parquet de Paris demande le renvoi aux assises du meurtrier pour crime antisémite. Les juges d’instruction au contraire disent qu’il faut retenir l’irresponsabilité pénale. 

Le 27 novembre 2019, le débat est ouvert en audience publique devant la chambre d’instruction sur la responsabilité pénale du meurtrier.

Meurtrier défoncé, la justice s’enfonce. Kobili Traoré s ‘acharne sur une femme juive de 65 ans et la jette par la fenêtre en criant Allah Akhbar mais pour les tribunaux il n’est pas responsable: défoncé au cannabis au moment des faits, il ne sera jamais jugé.

Les jugements :

Le 19 décembre 2019, la Cour d’Appel de Paris reconnaît la circonstance aggravante du crime antisémite commis par Traoré, mais conclut à l’irresponsabilité pénale du meurtrier, au motif qu’« aucun élément du dossier d’information n’indique que la consommation de cannabis par l’intéressé ait été effectuée avec la conscience que cet usage de stupéfiants puisse entraîner une bouffée délirante aigue »

Le 14 avril 2021, la Cour de Cassation confirme ce premier jugement. Tout en reconnaissant le caractère antisémite du crime, elle confirme l’irresponsabilité pénale du meurtrier.

Les protestations des avocats et de la famille

Les insuffisances de l’enquête sont soulignées par les avocats : pas de reconstitution des faits sur les lieux du crime, pas d’examen du portable de l’assassin qui aurait pu révéler son antisémitisme ou la préméditation, aucune confrontation. Les policiers présents pendant le drame et qui ne sont pas intervenus n’ont pas été auditionnés. Et il n’y a eu ni auditions ni perquisition dans la mosquée salafiste fréquentée assidûment par le criminel.

Sur son compte Facebook, Traoré s’est choisi le nom de « Boubaker Fofana ». Fofana, c’est le nom du meurtrier d’Ilan Halimi en 2006. Un deuxième Fofana annonce-t-il le massacre une deuxième Halimi ?

La barbarie en France. Ilan Halimi, 23 ans, a subi des semaines de torture avant d’être poignardé et incendié par le chef du «gang des barbares», Youssouf Fofana, qui a siégé au tribunal en souriant avec défi et en déclarant: «Allah sera victorieux».

Le meurtrier, qui séjourne depuis 4 ans en psychiatrie, ne suit plus de traitement depuis 18 mois et attend sa libération d’un feu vert du préfet. Pourtant, le second collège d’experts avait affirmé que le meurtrier entamait une schizophrénie. Elle n’a pas été confirmée depuis. Le cas aurait dû être réexaminé de sorte à écarter la maladie et ainsi pouvoir retenir uniquement la bouffée délirante secondaire à la prise de cannabis et au fanatisme islamiste.

La justice française en question et l’inquiétude des juifs de France. Manifestation Place du Trocadéro à Paris dimanche 25.4.2021.

Les conclusions contradictoires des psychiatres sur l’abolition du discernement du criminel permettaient aux juges d’exercer leur liberté d’appréciation pour prononcer leur jugement. Ils ne l’ont pas fait.

Pour éclairer toutes ces zones d’ombre, la magistrate en retraite Danielle Khayat suggérait il y a plus d’un an la création d’une enquête parlementaire (Mabatim, 13.1.2020). Sa proposition n’a pas encore été retenue.  

Les réactions de l’opinion publique :

Nombreuses ont été les réactions indignées de la population juive de France, de ses représentants, de plusieurs hommes politiques dont le Président français Emmanuel Macron, de journalistes, penseurs et hommes de lettres. La consommation de drogue, considérée jusqu’ici par la loi comme un facteur aggravant, devient tout d’un coup une échappatoire. Le Président Macron demande à réécrire la loi sur laquelle les juges se sont fondés qui permet au meurtrier d’éviter le procès devant une cour d’assises et de ressortir libre dès que les esprits se seront calmés. Libre surtout de récidiver grâce à cette nouvelle jurisprudence « cannabis » et sans que justice ne soit rendue à la victime.

Une nouvelle loi « Sarah Halimi »? Le Président Emmanuel Macron souhaite un changement de loi. Il déclare au Figaro: «Décider de prendre des stupéfiants et devenir alors « comme fou » ne devrait pas à mes yeux supprimer votre responsabilité pénale.Sur ce sujet, je souhaite que le Garde des Sceaux (Éric Dupond-Moretti) présente au plus vite un changement de loi ».

Dans le Journal LA CROIX (21 avril 2021), Dominique Durand, Président de l’Amitié Judéo-chrétienne de France, écrit : « L’antisémitisme est une bouffée délirante aigue qui dure depuis des siècles et qui n’a jamais cessé de se renouveler au cours du temps ».

Effectivement, en France, l’irresponsabilité pénale est reconnue dans 15% des cas lorsque la victime est juive, dans 1% lorsqu’elle ne l’est pas (Maître Marc Sztulman dans La Règle du Jeu, 22 avril 2021).

Le dimanche 25 avril 2012, des manifestations de protestation ont réuni 26000 personnes à Paris, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Strasbourg et Toulouse.  Et à Tel-Aviv, New-York, Los-Angeles, Miami, Londres, Rome, les manifestants se sont rassemblés pour réclamer justice pour Sarah Halimi. La maire de Paris a annoncé vouloir donner le nom d’une rue à Sarah Halimi.

20 000 personnes rassemblées au Trocadéro le 25 avril 2021 pour réclamer justice pour Sarah Halimi

Une déroute judiciaire

1. L’instruction de l’affaire souffre de nombreuses lacunes. La préméditation a été écartée d’emblée, qui aurait orienté l’affaire, y compris les expertises, dans une tout autre direction.

L’antisémitisme de Traoré, de sa famille et de ses fréquentations a été sous-estimé. Ce n’est pas le cannabis qui est antisémite et lui attribuer l’origine du crime antisémite commis est une duperie, voire un déni. Pour avoir été des millions de fois assassinés par des antisémites, les Juifs savent que la haine antisémite tue. Au vu des insuffisances de l’instruction il appartenait à la Cour de demander un complément d’enquête pour que soit établie la préméditation. 

2. Sur les trois expertises, l’une penchait pour l’abolition du discernement, l’autre pour la non abolition et la troisième laissait planer le doute. La Cour d’Appel de Paris puis la Cour de Cassation ont retenu l’abolition du discernement. Manifestement, on a préféré enterrer l’affaire.

3. La Cour de Cassation admet les motivations antisémites du crime, mais considère que la bouffée délirante, seule en cause d’après elle, a pu être favorisée par la prise de cannabis.

En France, la loi dit pourtant que la possession ou la consommation de cannabis est strictement interdite. Le jugement qui exonère Traoré de tout procès fait ainsi de ce délit une circonstance exonérante, alors que dans toute autre situation, elle serait aggravante.

4. Mais disent les juges, rien ne prouve que le meurtrier ait su que la prise de cannabis le mettrait dans l’état où son discernement serait aboli. Le procureur Molins réagissant au choc dans l’opinion du jugement de la Cour de Cassation, s’insurge : « Toute personne qui consomme de l’alcool ou du cannabis n’a pas une bouffée délirante et ne voit pas son discernement aboli » (Le Figaro, 24.4.2021).

En effet, le déroulé de la nuit du crime semble refléter au contraire toute la logique, la réflexion, l’organisation et la détermination de l’assassin pour massacrer une voisine qu’il détestait parce qu’elle était juive. Un antisémitisme cultivé au sein de sa famille et nourri par sa proximité avec une mosquée salafiste.

Tel-Aviv dans la rue Forte participation de la communauté française à la manifestation devant l’ambassade de France à Tel-Aviv pour demander justice pour Sarah Halimi, assassinée par un voisin dans son appartement à Paris

La notion d’« abolition du discernement » doit aussi être discutée : un chauffard qui écrase un enfant après avoir consommé du cannabis est jugé responsable avec circonstance aggravante, un assassin drogué qui massacre  une vieille dame ne l’est pas ?

5. Les juges se réfèrent à l’article 122-1 du code pénal français qui ne distingue pas selon leur origine les troubles psychiques conduisant à l’abolition du discernement. A l’émoi suscité par l’affaire Sarah Halimi autant que par celle de Viry-le-Chatillon où des policiers avaient été brûlés par des « jeunes », le Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature (25.4.2021) vient au secours des juges, rappelant « que le juge a pour mission d’appliquer la loi, et se doit, en matière pénale, de l’interpréter strictement ».

La loi considérerait que l’abolition du discernement, quelle qu’en soit la cause, maladie subie ou consommation choisie de stupéfiants, exonère de la faute ? Elle ne le précise pas et laisse ainsi la porte ouverte à l’interprétation.

A ce propos, un des avocats de la famille Halimi, Maître Gilles-William Goldnagel (le Figaro, 26.4.2021) rappelle que dans une affaire similaire à celle de Sarah Halimi – le coupable avait poignardé sa compagne sous l’emprise de la drogue, trois expertises avaient été ordonnées dont deux concluaient à l’abolition du discernement et il était reconnu souffrant d’« une fragilité psychique dans le registre de la persécution », le meurtrier avait aussi plaidé son irresponsabilité pénale au titre de l’article 122-1. La Cour considéra que la prise de drogue était « une circonstance aggravante », nonobstant l’article 122-1 (arrêt devant la Cour d’Appel de Versailles du 13 février 2018) et renvoya le prévenu devant la Cour d’Assises.

Ainsi, contrairement à ce qu’affirme le Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature, « la Cour Suprême a bien plus de latitude qu’elle ne le prétend » dans l’affaire de Sarah Halimi.

 (Paule Gonzalès, Le Figaro, 26.4.2021). 

6. Le refus de la justice française d’interpréter la loi en lui donnant un sens rationnel rappelle la rigidité des tribunaux islamistes qui appliquent la charia, à la différence près que les juges islamistes appliquent une loi qu’ils croient divine. Les juges français n’ont pas cette excuse.

7. En se rangeant à une lecture littérale de l’article 122-1, les juges ont manqué de courage. Un nouveau projet de loi sera bientôt déposé par le Garde des Sceaux, qui évitera dorénavant de tels égarements. Il s’appellera peut-être loi Sarah Halimi. Cette loi rappellera à tous que les juges de l’affaire Sarah Halimi ont absout d’avance un criminel fanatique et raciste.

Sarah Halimi. Que sa mémoire soit une bénédiction.

A propos de l’auteur:

Dr. Gad Amar, Chirurgien retraité, hébraïsant et arabisant, auteur d’études juives en hébreu et en français .

Alors que la mission de Lay of the Land (LotL) est de fournir une perspective large et diversifiée des affaires en Israël, au Moyen-Orient et dans le monde juif, les opinions, les croyances et les points de vue exprimés par ses différents écrivains ne sont pas nécessairement ceux des propriétaires. et la gestion de LOTL mais des écrivains eux-mêmes. LotL s’efforce au mieux de sa capacité de créditer l’utilisation de toutes les photographies connues au photographe et / ou au propriétaire de ces photographies (0 & EO)

Sarah Halimi Murdered but no Trial for Murderer – Why?

A French Jew’s insights of the events surrounding her killer’s “escape from justice”

By Dr. Gad Amar, retired French surgeon and writer in Jewish and Arab studies (translated from French)

On the night of April 3/4, 2017, in a popular district of Paris, Sarah Halimi, 65, a doctor by training and retired director of a Jewish crèche, was attacked by her neighbour, Kobili Traoré. Traoré broke into her home via the balcony and beat her up for 35 to 40 minutes to the shouts of Allah Akbar while reciting suras (chapters) from the Quran and calling her “Sheitan” (Satan), before throwing her from the 3rd floor window. She died on the sidewalk from her multiple injuries.

Blind to Jewish Suffering. Jewish mother, retired doctor and head of a kindergarten in Paris, Sarah Halimi  was beaten, tortured and killed — yet France turned a blind eye.

The day before, Traoré went to the Omar Mosque, a neighbouring Salafist mosque five times. He left the Mosque at 10 p.m., dined at a restaurant and slept over at a friend in the apartment building next to the one where he lived with his parents and where Sarah Halimi also lived.

He arose at 04:00am, went barefoot to the 3rd floor with his prayer rug, rang the bell at his family’s friends, the Diarra’s, who let him in, locked the door, put the keys in his pocket and shouted:

 “It’s going to be death! It’s going to be death“.

In the morning, he had said to his parents “I missed everything in my life, tonight it will be all over.” Reacting to his disturbing state of agitation, the Diarra’s locked themselves in a room in their apartment and called the police, as did other neighbours who were awakened by his screaming. Traoré carried out his ablutions in the kitchen, recited a few prayers and went to the balcony where he steped over the balustrade to enter Sarah Halimi’s apartment. She was asleep in her bed. He will later claim to going crazy when he comes across the Jewish seven-branched candelabra and books on Judaism.

The police arrive quickly. They are new to the force and they are armed, but fail to intervene.

France cannot Protect its Jews. Sarah Halimi was thrown from the balcony of her flat in Vaucoloeurs Street (Le Parisien).

The 27-year-old Traoré an African immigrant from Mali, is a six foot tall drug addict who has been dealing in the neighbourhood for years. He had already been convicted 22 times for drug-related offences and resisting arrest. He had to his credit, been held in police custody more than fifty times and served two years in prison in periods of three and six months, according to William Attal, the brother of Sarah Halimi.

After perpetrating the murder, Traoré returned to his friends. He was calm and recited from the Koran. Arrested at 5:35 am, he was brought to the police station where he behaved aggressively and would take eight policemen to subdue him. He injured two. The doctor considered his psychiatric condition and committed him to a psychiatric hospital without hearing testimony from the police.

Accused High, French Justice Low. While Kobili Traoré beat a 65- year-old Jewish woman and threw her out of a window while screaming “Allahu Akhbar”, the courts found he was not responsible for his actions because he was high on marijuana.

For days, it was only the Jewish community media that reported the murder of Sarah Halimi. The French media did not mention it at all. France was in the middle of a presidential campaign.  François Hollande was the outgoing (socialist) President until May 14, 2017, Jean-Jacques Urvoas was his Minister of Justice until May 10, 2017. Possibly factoring in: Would media coverage of this new murder by a fanatic Islamist risk creating support for  the far right Marine le Pen  who was also a candidate in the elections?

On April 7, the Public Prosecutor, François Molins, declared that at that stage of the investigation, it did not appear to be an anti-Semitic act, but remained to be further investigated.

The investigating Judge, Anne Ihuellou, asked for two psychiatric – later three – evaluations, based on elements gleaned from the criminal, his family and the Diarra family. The investigation was not extended to those less close to the accused, despite requests from lawyers.

The first expert, Dr Zagury concluded his analysis. The prosecution asked the judge to reclassify the murder as an anti-Semitic act.

The second, after engaging with further colleagues in the profession, concluded that the accused bore no criminal responsibility.

Faced with these two contradictory testimonies, the victim’s lawyers requested for a third expert opinion.

Underlying the enquiry was the prevailing legal view that if the accused at the time of the commission of the act was in the grip of a drug-induced “delusional fit”, he was not in control of his actions and hence not criminally responsible.

The third expert asked two questions:

Firstly, in the execution of the ‘delusional’ act that culminated in the murder of Sarah Halimi, did the accused’s voluntary consumption of cannabis undermine his ability to formulate criminal intent?

Secondly, should not past conduct of the accused such as causing fear to the deceased every time she met him, be considered to show a pattern of anti-Semitic behaviour explaining the motivation of the crime?

On July 17, 2019, the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office requested that Traoré be charged for an anti-Semitic crime.  However, the examining magistrate ruled that Traoré was not criminally responsible because his heavy cannabis use had put him in a state of temporary psychosis known in France as Bouffée délirante. 

France on Trial. With France showing a traditional indifference to Jewish suffering, protesters hold placards as people demand justice for Sarah Halimi in Trocadero Plaza in Paris on Sunday. (Photo: AFP)

This was affirmed at the end of 2019 by the Paris Court of Appeal and in 2021 by the Court of Cassation, which is the final court of appeal in France. Lawyers for Halimi’s family subsequently announced their intention to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The shortcomings of the investigation have been exposed by lawyers. There was no reconstruction of the facts at the scene of the crime and no examination of the killer’s cell phone, which might have revealed evidence in conversation of his anti-Semitism or indicators of premeditation. The police officers present during the commission of the crime and who did not intervene, were not interviewed. And there was no investigation of the Salafi mosque frequented by the Traoré.

On his Facebook account, Traoré took the name “Boubaker Fofana”. Fofana is the surname of a gang leader who in 2006, kidnapped, tortured and murdered a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi.

What is to be deduced from this?

Does not taking the surname of the previous murderer and then killing a Jew with the exact same surname indicate a thoughtful pattern of intentional murderious behaviour rather than a “delusional” act brought about by drug taking?

Barbarism in France. Twenty-three year-old Ilan Halimi suffered weeks of torture before he was stabbed and set alight by ‘Gang of Barbarians’ leader Youssouf Fofana, who sat in court smiling defiantly and declaring: “Allah will be victorious”.

The murderer, who had previously been in therapy for four years, had been out of treatment for eighteen months. However, the second panel of experts had claimed that he was developing signs of schizophrenia. This diagnosis was never confirmed. The case should have been reopened to dismiss this unsubstantiated claim, and to proceed only on the facts that included the accused’s Islamist fanaticism.

The judges should have exercised discretion in pronouncing their judgement. This they failed to do.

To shed light on all these gray – if not dark – areas, retired magistrate, Danielle Khayat, suggested more than a year ago that a  parliamentary inquiry be conducted (Mabatim, 13 January 2020). The magistrate’s proposal was never considered.

Public Reaction

Most of the justifiably aggrieved reactions came from the Jewish community of France and its representatives, as well as from several politicians including French President Emmanuel Macron, journalists, intellectuals and those who wrote letters to the media. Drug use, considered by law to be an aggravating factor, suddenly became a loophole.

France Unmasked. Following Jewish groups reacting with outrage to the decision by France’s highest court  that Kobili Traoré was not criminally responsible for the murder in 2017 of Sarah Halim, French President Macron told the newspaper, “Le Figaro”,  “I would like Justice Minister (Eric Dupond-Moretti) to present a change in the law as soon as possible.” (© Christian Hartmann, Pool/AFP)

In a rare critique of France’s justice system, President Macron said that taking drugs and “going crazy” should not take away criminal responsibility and has called for a change to laws to prevent such a case from happening again.

Exposing the different treatment when victims are Jewish, Dominique Durand, President of the Amitié Judeo-Chrétienne de France, writes in Journal LA CROIX (21 April 2021) that “in France, when victims are Jewish, the accused is failed to be held accountable  in 15% of cases compared with 1% when they are not Jewish.” (Maître Marc Sztulman in La Règle du Jeu, April 22, 2021)

On Sunday April 25, 2012, protests brought together 26,000 people in the French cities of Paris, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Strasbourg and Toulouse, while in Tel Aviv, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Rome and Brussels, protesters gathered too to demand justice for Sarah Halimi. The Mayor of Paris announced that she proposed to name a street after Sarah Halimi.

Paris is Burning. A mass of protesters at the Trocadero Plaza near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, April 25, 2021 horrified at the message of French justice  – ‘Snort cannabis to kill a Jew!’. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The Judicial Route

The investigation of the case suffers from numerous shortcomings. Premeditation was ruled out from the outset, which would have steered the case, including the expert reports, in a completely different direction.

The anti-Semitism expressed by Traoré, his family and his associates was completely ignored. Cannabis is not anti-Semitic and attributing the drug as the cause of the murder while ignoring the anti-Semitic nature of the crime was a deception, even a denial of the truth. After thousands of years of violent persecution, Jews recognise anti-Semitism and its lethal implications. In view of the shameful inadequacies of the investigation, it was up to the Court to request a further investigation in order to establish premeditation.

Indeed, the course of events during the night of the crime shows a determination of the killer to end the life of a neighbour whom he hated – simply because she was Jewish. His anti-Semitism was cultivated within his family and nourished by his association with a local Salafist mosque.

Tel Aviv Reacts. Heavy turnout of the French community at the protest outside the French Embassy in Tel Aviv to ask justice for late Sarah Halimi who was murdered by her neighbour in her apartment in Paris, seen on April 25, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The notion of the accused’s “diminished responsibility” following the use of cannabis should also have been vigorously re-examined. After all,  why should a driver of a motor vehicle who knocks down and kills a child after consuming cannabis be found responsible for his actions with aggravating circumstances, while a drugged out murderer who slaughters a JEWISH old lady is not?

In this regard, one of the lawyers of the Halimi family, Maître Gilles-William Goldnagel (le Figaro, 26 April 2021) referred to a case similar to that of Sarah Halimi, where the accused had stabbed his companion under the influence of drugs, and the Court found that the taking of drugs was “an aggravating circumstance”.

Not only did  the judges in the Sarah Halimi murder case lack courage to pursue the truth, but it was also obvious that:

France preferred to bury the matter!

Sarah Halimi. May her memory be a blessing.

About the writer:

Dr. Gad Amar, Retired surgeon, Hebrew and Arab scholar, author of Jewish studies in Hebrew and French who has published the Sefer ha-Malkhouth in Hebrew by Rabbi David Halévy, the great Kabbalist who took refuge from Spain in Morocco.

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)

J’ Accuse!

By Craig Snoyman

The famous words have outlived their equally famous author. Author, Emile Zola published his open letter to the French President accusing the government of anti-Semitism and convicting Alfred Dreyfus without cause, simply because he was a Jew.

Alfred Dreyfus

An assimilated Jewish Staff officer in the French army, Dreyfus was found guilty of treason. Then, in front of 5000 soldiers, he suffered the public degradation. The buttons of his military tunic were cut off, then the stripes of his trousers. Next came the removal of the insignia on his cap and sleeve.  The final humiliation was his sword being broken in two – all performed with excruciating slow military precision. He was then marched around the Ecole to calls for his death and that of the Jews. Stripped of rank and dishonourably discharged from the army, he was deported to Devil’s Island to serve a sentence of life imprisonment. Following Zola’s J’ Accuse, a public outcry and evidence of an army cover-up, he was brought back to France for a retrial – and again found GUILTY!

Falsely Accused. An illustration of the public military degradation of Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus.

The relationship between the French government and its Jewish citizens has always been a little uneven. Emancipated by dint of happenstance as a result of the French Revolution, the Jews were not trusted by the Revolutionaries that had unintentionally freed them. This distrust remained until Napoleon reconvened the Sanhedrin to satisfy himself that Jews could be good Frenchmen. It should then have been a case of Liberte, Fraternite and especially Egalite. It was not!

At the Dreyfus trial.  there was another assimilated Jew present. A correspondent for the Austrian newspaper, Neue Freie Presse, he had been sent to cover the trial. Watching the Paris mob baying for Dreyfus’ blood and with shouts that “The Jew must burn” ringing in his ears, he left with a changed world view.  He formed the opinion that the Jew had no place in the Diaspora. He concluded that the only hope for the submissive, discriminated, wandering Jew, was for them to have their own Jewish state in Palestine. That man was Theodor Herzl.

Storming French Injustice. Zola risked more than his career when on  the 13 January 1898 published “J’Accuse…!” as an open letter to President Félix Faure, accusing the highest levels of the French Army of obstruction of justice and antisemitism by having wrongfully convicted Alfred Dreyfus to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. (“J’accuse” postcard, 1902, Bibliothèques de la Ville de Paris, Public Domain)

Fast-forward about 120 years.  Herzl’s vision has been realised. France’s relationship with its Jews is still uneven. France’s recent record is something like this:

2006 – a young Jew, Ilan Halimi is kidnapped, tortured and murdered by a Muslim gang, who proclaim that “all the Jews in the world are enemies”. The French police reject the idea that the murder was motivated by Jew-hatred.

Life Cut Short. 23-year-old lan Halimi, kidnapped, tortured and murdered by an anti-Semitic gang in Paris in 2006.(Courtesy of Stephanie Yin/JTA)

2012 – an Islamist gunman shoots dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southern city of Toulouse, because “the Jews kill our brothers and sisters in Palestine”.

Terror in Toulouse. On March 25, 2012, a Jewish scout places flowers under a banner paying tribute to the victims of jihadist Mohammed Merah who killed three children and a teacher at the “Ozar Hatorah” Jewish school in Toulouse, southwestern France. (AFP / ERIC CABANIS)

2015 – Islamic gunmen take their hatred to the Hypercacher kosher supermarket and kill four Jewish customers at a kosher supermarket. One declares that he was murdering the people he hated most in the world. (or as then-president Obama called it “randomly shooting a bunch of people in a deli”).  The attack on Bataclan theatre is played down (sic). The Jewish ownership of the theatre is concealed from the public.

Jews Marked for Death. Republican guards stand outside the Hyper Cacher supermarket ahead of a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack against the store in Paris on January 5, 2017 that murdered four Jewish customers. (AFP/Christophe Archambault

2017– a 65-year-old Jewish retired doctor and schoolteacher, Sarah Halimi, is murdered in an anti-Semitic attack by her Muslim next-door neighbour. While torturing her, he is heard shouting the Arabic phrase Allāhu ʾakbar (meaning “God is the greatest”), and calling her a shaitan (Satan, in Islamic belief, a “demon” or ‘devil”). Then he throws her out of her third-floor window. The French authorities refused to classify this as an anti-Semitic attack.  The media ignored it.

French Justice! The sister of an Orthodox Jewish woman murdered in France in 2017  by being thrown out of her window of her Paris flat in 2017, is to file a legal claim in Israel in the hope of getting a trial against the killer, Kobili Traoré who cannot stand trial in France after a court deemed he was not criminally responsible due to his mental state  affected by drug-taking.

2018 – two men stab Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, set her on fire and throw her out of the window of her Paris apartment. One of the men is heard shouting Allāhu akbar.  

Grotesque Hate of Jews. Police red tape and a photograph of Mireille Knoll on the door of her apartment in eastern Paris where the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, who escaped anti-Jewish purges in Paris during World War II, was stabbed and burned to death in 2018.

Writer, Marc Weitzmann, then writes that French authorities have repeatedly denied the anti-Semitic nature of these crimes, calling them “lone wolf” attacks or resulting from psychotic episodes.  But then he’s not an Emile Zola, and the French government don’t have to listen to him. Neither do the French press or the French public. Lone wolves and psychotics can proliferate.

Émile Zola

It goes further than that. The French Courts don’t listen either. In 2021, the Country’s highest court, the Cour de Cassation, upholds a  lower court decision that  the anti-Semitic murderer of Halimi could not be held criminally responsible because his “discernment”  had been compromised . He is held to have attacked and killed Halimi not because he hated Jews, but because he was in a “delirious fit” (what we might term a “psychotic state”) brought on as a result of his cannabis abuse. 

The court did see fit to mention that he had anti-Semitic tendencies!

I could find no reference as to whether he was using drugs in any  of his  previous (12) offences where he had been convicted. Nor was there any reference to a previous history of drug-induced “delirious fits”.

I have done more than my fair share of criminal cases and defended many substance abusers. Neither I, nor any of my colleagues that I have spoken to, can ever remember a marijuana abuser aggressively fighting.  Marijuana is a “downer,” a depressive drug, not one that is likely to render one both temporarily insane and violently aggressive.  The most aggressive behaviour that any of my clients ever showed while under the influence of marijuana, was throwing a bottle of pickles at the police who came to arresting him for housebreaking while he was trying to satiate his “munchies”.

In South Africa, and I suspect in most other countries, the voluntarily abuse of an abusive substance before committing a crime is an aggravating factor. It does not criminally absolve the abuser.  Even if you are in a “delirious state” or in a state mental incapacity, there are other competent charges that can be laid. Temporary insanity is a defence to be raised and proved by the defence. It’s an extremely difficult defence to sustain. While France’s legal system is different from ours, there was still an expert report of a psychologist before the Cour, which stated that this murderer was not temporarily insane.

And now we come up to speed. The French government’s relationship with its Jewish citizens is still uneven. However today, there are no big-name Frenchmen – no Emile Zola standing up for Halimi, no press shouting about injustice. A small voice of President Emile Macron, tainted by his politics and by his previous employment with Rothschild et Cie, can be heard calling for a change in the law.  But there are Jews protesting – in Paris and London and New York and Tel Aviv and elsewhere.

Vive la difference! The humiliated, cowering Jewish community had been too scared to protest the Dreyfus decision, either in Paris or at Rennes.  The voice of reason had to come from the Gentiles.  Now, thanks to the vision of Herzl, the existence of the State of Israel has given the Jews of the Diaspora a backbone and a voice. The fearful “Ghetto Jew” has disappeared. The new breed of Jew, in the knowledge of the support of the Israeli government is prepared to stand up and call for justice on their own. The murder of Sarah Halimi will never hit the world headlines like the death of George Floyd, but it will not be forgotten. It is not clear just how much Jewish Lives Matter to non-Jews and European governments. But Jews have very long memories, as Napoleon can attest – for those of you who remember your Gemarrah. So while the twitter-tags such as #JeSuisSarah and #JusticeforSarahHalimi may trend, a phrase not often used in the Diaspora, comes to mind which might be equally apt:

“Hashem yikom damma“(“May Hashem avenge her blood”)

Twice the French legal system has looked into the murder of Sarah Halimi and twice has been found wanting.

The double shadow of Dreyfus looms.

But now it is no longer an anti-Semitic murderer that is now on trial, it is again the French and their legal system. The scandal remains.  The Jews again have reason to distrust the French authorities, but they have a voice.  Where once there was the voice of an author proclaiming “J’Accuse”, it is now the voice of one nation shoutingJusticeforSarahHalimi”.  #MayHashemavengeyourbloodSarahHalimi

We, the Jews accuse!

About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

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)


By  Gill Katz


The news will depict the old city as a place of war. Conflict. Bloodshed.

A place where cultures clash, and old and new don’t tolerate one another.

A place of political turmoil. Of suicide bombers. Of death.

But there is another Jerusalem.

A city old and rich in culture, steeped in the golden light of God’s eye as He watches with a fierce love, and I know that His city will for all times be a very special place.

From Hillel Street and it’s quaint coffee bars to the Holy sites where Jew, Christian and Moslem seek and find their roots, to the Mount of Olives where one can stand and look out over the peach coloured Jerusalem stone buildings, the city is incomparable.

A trip to the Old City, and a delightful barter with Arab stall sellers, and the joy of walking back to ones residence carrying a basket of fragrant smelling fruit and succulent vegetables from the shuk.. ahh.

What can compare?

I bump shoulders with Haredi Jews, bearded Greek Orthodox Priests and bare bellied tattooed American teenage girls. There are old and young, firm and infirm – all on their own private mission.

The presence of soldiers is but a comfort to me.

I contemplate their absense.

I know in time they will be, but for now I see them as warriors of Biblical times, fierce in their desire to protect God’s chosen city.

It’s all good…

God chose well.

Jerusalem – City of Gold.

About the writer:

Gill Katz. Former children’s book author, journalist, member of Media Team (South Africa and International) and television scriptwriter, now retired in Florida USA.

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

From Bombs to Babies

Israel at 73

By David E. Kaplan

Not sure how the field of psychology would view it but there is something strangely unique in Israel’s character and calendar  that only a split second separates joyful Independence Day  from the sad day that precedes it. Possibly perplexing to non-Israelis – the shift from grief to joy in the space of a heartbeat  – but that is what Israelis do each year. For 24 hours we remember and honour those fallen in defense of the State of Israel as well as victims of terror, and the next 24 hours we celebrate the fruits of that sacrifice – an independent Jewish State after 2000 years of exile and unrelenting persecution. Coming a week after Yom HaShoah where we remember and honour the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Jews know the PRICE of statehood because  they also understand the NEED for statehood.

If the Jewish partisan and poet Abba Kovner wrote in a pamphlet  in 1942 “Let us not go like lambs to the slaughter!” to inspire his fellow Jews in the Vilnius area to take up arms against their German invaders, then look only to the following year of 1943 and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II, the uprising by a civilian population, untrained and without sophisticated weapons – men women and children – held off the might of the Nazi invader for nearly a month. Very impressive when you compare it was nearly the same length of time as the trained Polish army took to be defeated by the German army – one month!

Lions not Lambs. Abba Kovner (center) with Rozka Korczak-Marla (left) and Vitka Kempner-Kovner after the liberation of the Vilna ghetto(Yad Vashem).

Far from “lambs to the slaughter”, they were heroes to a man, woman and child.

Twenty-four hours preceding Israel’s annual sound of  fireworks is the sound of the siren, when traffic stops and people stop talking in mid-sentence. Life in Israel is frozen for those two minutes encapsuling so many bitter and tragic memories. I for one always think first of the names of those I know who were either killed in uniform or perished in a terrorist attack – I rattle them off in my mind as I stand solemnly, their faces flash by as if flipping over the pages  of a cerebral picture album.

Defiant until Death. No military uniforms or helmets, Jewish fighters in civilian attire, take on the might of the German army during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

According to the Defense Ministry, the country’s total number of people killed in war and terrorist attacks now stands at 23,928 They are not numbers – their names and faces are known throughout the land – each and every one of them!

On the flip side, as we celebrate Israel’s 73rd Independence Day, and reflect  on the loss of 6,000,000 Jews mourned only a week ago on Yom HaShoah, today we can celebrate Israel’s population standing at 9,327,000 million – over a third more than was lost in the Shoah – and growing.

Light unto the Nations. The last public Independence celebrations before Corona, people watch fireworks during a show to mark Israel’s 71st Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 8, 2019.

If on a national note we take pleasure that 167,000 babies have been born over the past year, I take personal pleasure that one of those babies is my grandson. I take further pleasure that another is on the way.

Yes, the country can feel proud of its inventions and innovations from hi-tech to Smart Mobility but this Independence Day, I reflect on our successes in the baby manufacturing business that all Israelis are super active in.

Be Fruitful and Multiply. Israelis delight in fulfilling the divine injunction from Genesis.

What can bring more delight that looking upon these  ‘products’ in nappies under the ‘blue and white’ brand:

“Made 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)

Decked out in Blue and White

By Rolene Marks

I love this time of the year in Israel. The country is transformed into a blue and white celebration as the roads are lined and national buildings festooned with Israeli flags. There is a festive atmosphere as many decorate their balconies and cars with flags and of course, barbeques are sold out – all in preparation for the national holidays, Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day).

This year as the country starts to recover from the global pandemic we are acutely aware of all that has been lost.  The feeling of celebration is a lot more subdued and pensive this year, many still fearful to gather in large groups but also immense gratitude that we are coming out of this difficult year – and for our world leading vaccination rollout.

This year our beloved country turns 73. Israel is several thousand years old but the modern state was founded in 1948. She wears the lines of her history with grace and integrity and a cheeky sense of humour. At times this is punctuated with a deep sadness and if you look a little closer, sometimes you can see a tear in her eyes.

It is no coincidence that the national holidays fall very closely to each other.  It was intended that way so we are aware of the price that we have paid to have this country. We are reminded of the pain of our past and the sacrifices of the many that ensure that we continue to live in our vibrant but flawed democracy. There is nothing Israelis value more than life and this is demonstrated with such heart around these holidays.

This week we commemorate Yom Hazikaron – Memorial Day for soldiers and victims of terror followed the next day by Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day. Last year, Israelis like many around the world were in lock down and this placed a heavy burden on bereaved families who were unable to visit the graves of the loved ones. Thank goodness this year, we have the go ahead to visit cemeteries and to have gatherings to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. We can return to our favourite national pastime (besides engaging in robust argument!) – the barbeque.

 This Yom Hazikaron we will mourn 23 928 who have fallen in defense of the state and hundreds of victims of terror. Every year, we immerse ourselves in remembering the lives that we have lost but also gratitude for their service. Their names; and the names of the wars and operations are etched in memory – the War of Independence, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the wars with Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead and the many others.

Their names are seared in our hearts.

And there are those whose names we will never know but whose valiant acts of bravery are the reasons that we enjoy the freedoms that we do.

At 20h00 a mournful siren will announce the start of Yom Hazikaron, followed by a ceremony at The Kotel (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem. The time for remembrance and reflection begins.

Yom Hazikaron inspires in us a sense of awe and creates an incredible sense of solidarity amongst Jews around the world, but it is here in Israel where the emotions are seriously heightened. Our soldiers are not uniformed strangers who serve, but our children, spouses, colleagues, parents, friends and lovers.

They are the people we love.

Yom Hazikaron is also a day of gratitude. Few words can express how grateful we are for all who protect us on land, sea and air. Our brave warriors, these lions of Zion are our guardians and protectors. We are proud of them; we embrace them, and we love them.

There is nothing more important to Israelis than life. We revere it and we revel in it. And it is on this solemn and heartbreaking day that we are reminded of its fragility.

And then the whole mood of the country changes from one of somber memorial to that of celebration!

From the north to the south and everywhere in between, Israelis begin to celebrate!

One of the most special moments is the annual fly over of the IAF featuring planes throughout our history. This is a highly anticipated annual event and this year will be viewed with a lot more excitement and sentimentality because it couldn’t happen last year.

On this 73rd year of Israel’s Independence we have much to celebrate. Extraordinary achievements, historical peace deals, triumph over adversity and the temerity to face our ongoing challenges with the strength and gusto that has come to characterize the Israeli spirit.

We will continue to wear our blue and white with pride!

Am Yisrael Chai!

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)