A personal recollection from Israel’s victorious war 56 years ago

By Lennie Lurie

Approaching June 5, the anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War,  I’m always reminded of  a miracle – a personal miracle – that occurred within the much larger miracle of securing the Jewish homeland.

This June 5, 2023, will be no different. 

One is sometimes inclined to deride and even scorn unusual events which bear the title of ‘miracles’. The Bible is full of such miracles which are difficult to explain and are usually accepted with an element of religious faith.

I would like to share with you a real “miracle” which I experienced exactly 56 years ago. I ascribe the circumstances of this amazing event as being miraculous because they exceed the realms of sheer coincidence. The ramifications of this miracle brought me indescribable joy under conditions which nobody could have ever foreseen.

Countdown to War. Known for his colloquial charisma and pan-Arab populism,Gamal Abdul Nasser, the man who forced war in 1967, was a master at riling up the crowd as seen here from a balcony of the National Union building overlooking Republic Square, Cairo.(AP Photo)

In May 1967, Jews the world over followed the events developing in the Middle East most anxiously. The United Nation forces in the Gaza Strip were expelled by the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdul Nasser. The strategic Straits of Tiran, providing shipping access to Israel’s southern port of Eilat, had been blockaded by Egyptian war ships and menacing cannons placed on Tiran Island.

Egypt and Syria had united to form a formidable military threat. It was obvious to me that the Western world was gutless to do anything to diminish this dangerous situation and that a war involving Israel was inevitable.

At that time I was working with my late father in his clothing factory in Cape Town. My younger brother, Bernie, had recently flown to Morocco and his next destination was Madrid, Spain, to commence an extensive tour of Europe.

After my matriculation in 1958, I volunteered to serve in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces); and had completed my training as a paratrooper 15 months later. I recall our jumps were made from the dangerous height of about 300 meters to ensure a speedy descent and a greater concentration of landed forces. No other parachuting military unit in the world jumps from such a relatively low height. Needless to say, we had our share of paratroopers with broken legs. As the Yankees say: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs!”

Although now some seven years later, I felt strongly back in South Africa that my duty in 1967 was to be with my fellow soldiers in Israel, being convinced that a war was going to break out and I did not want to just read about it!

Red Beret! The writer after successfully landing safely from his 6th and final parachute jump qualified him to be awarded his “wings” and the privilege of wearing the prestigious red beret. “The – thankfully! – unopened reserve parachute is still attached to my waist.”

At that critical time, all able bodied Israeli men were being called into the army and there was a desperate shortage of man-power to work in the agricultural fields of farms and kibbutzim. The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) began calling for young South African volunteers to go to Israel and work in the fields, replacing the mobilized man-power. I made immediate contact with the SAZF but insisted that as a former Israeli soldier, I wanted to join my unit, the 50th Paratrooper Battalion. Permission was promptly granted: I could fly together with the other volunteers to Israel but on landing, instead of being taken to some kibbutz, I could break away and try to get into army uniform.

Representing SA Volunteers in Jerusalem. The writer wearing his IDF uniform addressing an International Youth Conference ceremony in Jerusalem, May 1959, representing the South African volunteers who served in the IDF.

My parents realized that nothing would deter me from rejoining my army unit and I left with their blessings… and prayers! My last undertaking before leaving home was to write a brief letter to Bernie, explaining to him that I believed that war in Israel was just a matter of time and that I had to be there with my fellow Israeli soldiers. I ended it with the hope that our paths might meet again under happier circumstances.

Fruitful Experience. Young volunteers from abroad picking fruit in a kibbutz orchid in 1967.

Our plane landed in Israel on Sunday afternoon, 4 June 1967. The Six Day War broke out the following morning. The war ended on the Saturday which found me at some kibbutz outpost in the very north of Israel overlooking the Golan Heights, which the IDF had just conquered. I won’t describe all my desperate endeavors to locate my unit, which ultimately proved unsuccessful. Eventually I arrived at Kibbutz Yizre’el, in the north, near the town of Afula, where I knew a number of South African kibbutz members.

A Field Day. Volunteers from abroad being driven early in the morning by a tractor to the fields on a kibbutz in 1967.

I began to work in the agricultural fields together with other volunteers who were arriving daily from overseas. Almost every night I would be woken up to help new volunteers get off the buses and trucks with their baggage. One evening, after helping a new volunteer from Australia to get off the truck, he stared at me somewhat strangely and asked:

Are you South Africa?”

Replying in the affirmative, I hardly considered his question unusual as there were many South African members on Kibbutz Yizre’el. However, I was quite taken aback when he enquired if my name was Lennie! Again answering in the affirmative, he could have flawed me when he next said:

Your brother Bernie is in Israel!”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Bernie was in Israel!

How did this stranger even know who I was? In a state of near shock, I asked him to explain to me the background to his astounding revelation.

I was amongst a group of  Australian volunteers,” he began.We departed from Sydney and flew to Rome to make a connection to Israel. On the flight to Israel, I began to talk to a young guy seated next to me. He told me that his name was Bernie and that he was from South Africa. He then started speaking about his brother, Lennie, who he said had left for Israel before the war started and that he had planned to join his army unit. This fellow had no idea where his brother was and was most concerned about him. He had broken off his European trip in order to find his brother and when we landed in Israel, this Bernie said to me: “If you see a man with a chin beard, ask him if he is a South African. If he says ‘yes!’, then ask him if his name is Lennie. If he says ‘yes!’ again, tell him that his brother Bernie is in Israel”.”

Dig This! Expecting the worst, high school boys digging trenches in a Tel Aviv street on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War.

I firmly believe that despite the enormity of war the Almighty was watching over us and wanted to unite my brother and me.

Now that I knew Bernie was in Israel:

“How would I find him?”

I decided my best bet was to call Telfed  – the office of the South African Zionist Federation in Tel Aviv. Afterall, they look after the interests of South Africans living in Israel and keep track of the movements of visiting South Africans, who in those days, usually made a point of visiting the Telfed office for a coffee, chat and to catch up on news.  It was the No 1 meeting place for South Africans, particularly in 1967.

“Maybe Bernie would have contacted the ‘Fed’ at some time after his arrival.” I thought.

So, very early the next morning I phoned the Fed. One of the secretaries, Myra, whom I knew from my army days, answered the call. I had barely stated my name when she interrupted me to say: “Your brother, Bernie, is standing next to me. Do you want to speak to him?”

Bernie had hardly asked, “Len, is that you?” when I found the strength to utter only two words to him:

 “Don’t move?”

Some three hours later we reunited in the Fed offices. People could only stare in bewilderment as we embraced each other in uninhibited rapture, tears of joy streaming down our cheeks. I returned with ‘bro’ Berns’ to Kibbutz Yizre’el where we worked for a few weeks. We then left the kibbutz and hitchhiked together to the Golan Heights and then south to Eilat, sharing with Israelis the wonders of a victorious Israel with a united Jerusalem.

Home Away from Home. The Telfed office in Tel Aviv where the Lurie brothers were reunited. A meeting place for Southern African volunteers during the Six Day War, seen here are the staff of Telfed with the legendary Simie Weinstein (standing centre).

I defy you to convince me that our reunion was not a miraculous event!

I felt the Almighty had rewarded us – two brothers – for our volunteering efforts to aid Israel in its hour of need. He brought us    together and replaced anxiety and concern with fraternal elation and happiness.

The Lurie Brothers. After spending months in Israel during and following the 1967 Six Day War, the writer (right) with his brother Bernie (left) are seen here back in Cape Town, South Africa. Three years later, Lennie emigrated to Israel.

The Six Day War 56 years ago, united Israel’s eternal capital Jerusalem; it also united two brothers from South Africa in Israel.

I made Aliyah in February 1970 and Israel has been my  home ever since, raising five children and being blessed with five grandchildren.

About the writer:

A B.Sc. graduate in Economics and Geology from the University of Cape Town (UCT), Lennie may be the only volunteer from abroad who was granted permission to leave his group on kibbutz during the 1967 Six Day War to rejoin his paratroop brigade that he had served with years before following his matriculation in Cape Town. In Israel, Lennie has worked as an Export Manager for some of the country’s major food manufacturers and chemical companies as well as an independent consultant in Export Marketing guiding many small Israeli businesses to sell their products and services in the world-wide market. As a result of a work accident in 1995, Lennie made a career change and became an independent English teacher working mainly with hi-tech companies and associated with universities and colleges in the north of Israel.

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


On Jerusalem Day Israel celebrates the unity of the city but how unified is it?

By David E. Kaplan

It’s ironic,” says my wife’s nephew  visiting from Philadelphia, “that on Jerusalem Day where do you think in Jerusalem our group was most afraid to walk!”

Not in the Old City but in Mea She’arim; meaning; the supposed threat not from Arabs but from fellow Jews!

Dressing Down. At the entrance, ultra-Orthodox men stand under a sign advising of the strict dress code. (Nati Shohat/Flash 90)

Keith and his wife Caroline Joffe were part of a large delegation from the US  – Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia – which falls under the umbrella organization Jewish Federation of North America – and while the organizers “did not cancel our trip despite the war with Gaza, chose not to cancel our visit to the Gazan border to view the situation following ‘Operation Shield and Arrow’ even though the situation remained tense, but they did cancel our ‘Challah Baking’ tour through Mea She’arim,” said Keith.

God Forbid. The do’s and don’ts in Mea She’arim, a district founded in the late nineteenth century and since then nothing has changed there.

Advertised as “not to be missed”, my American family chose the Challah Bake tour in Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox neighbourhood instead of the alternate option of the famed Light and Sound Show, and were then told at the last moment:

 “that it was unsafe to go because the last group to visit were attacked by the residents; spat on  and subjected to verbal abuse and there was a strong likelihood of a repetition. We were aghast

Jerusalem Day. The writer’s wife’s family from USA with their Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia group celebrating Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall.

Some in the group were still keen to visit as they felt that as Jews visiting Jerusalem, no visit was complete without a visit to Mea She’arim. Their persistence was met with:

The atmosphere was not right to visit at this point in time.”

The atmosphere was not right on Jerusalem Day? A day that celebrates and commemorates the “reunification” of East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem following the victorious Six-Day War of 1967, 

I was reminded of people I know, people from my youth movement in South Africa, Habonim, who fought in that war and in Jerusalem.

View of History. Standing between models of past warriors, the writer’s wife Hilary (c) with her niece Dee (l) and nephew Keith (r) from the US on the ramparts of the Old City, Jerusalem.

One such is Ian Rogow of Tel Aviv; who in 1967 was a 31-year- old, married with young kids, fighting fiercely on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He recounts the battle in this letter to his family in Cape Town, recorded in a ‘book of letters’ by the late  Muriel Chesler:

On Monday, 5th June, my company was moved after dark to the front where kibbutz Ramat Rachel, east of Jerusalem, forks the border with Jerusalem. That night we took a terrible hammering, and the shells of heavy 120mm mortars and long-distance artillery beat down on us like hail storms.

It was a long night and the machine gun and rifle fire found only brief moments of respite during the dark hours.

I shall carry with me to the end of my days, the memory of the long, drawn-out, sibilant whistle that so ominously precedes the explosion of a mortar shell. At first, you’re frightened as hell, and you strain to push your whole body into your steel helmet like a snail retreating into its protective shell as you dig into mother-earth tighter, and wish your trench was deeper, and you think of God and pray. But you have to fight back, and soon you condition yourself against hitting the dirt with every bone-chilling shriek of an incoming shell.

Back in Battle. Writing to his parents from the Jerusalem battlefield in June 1967, that he hoped that would be the last war, Ian Rogow (left) found himself on the bank of the Suez Canal during the 1973 Yom Kippur War where he is greeted here by the “Father of Modern Jerusalem”, Mayor Teddy Kollek.

By the time dawn broke, Ramat Rachel was safe and by nightfall, we were in Bethlehem; white flags flying from the rooftops and the Royal Jordanian army not in sight. The next day we were in Hebron, and here too, the white flags fluttered prominently from every roof-top.”

The remaining danger, Ian writes were:

 “unseen snipers. We lost many a life to the bullet of a rifle fitted with a telescopic sight and triggered by a well concealed finger.”

Ian concludes this long letter of further wartime encounters through Gush Etzion with:

Let our political successes match our military victory as some small compensation for the heavy price we paidso as not to let down those who gave their lives for the gain we have made by the sword.”

In the heat of battle, prescient prose if ever there was from a war-weary soldier with a young family. Rogow’s message is valid today in 2023 no less than it was in June 1967 as an ever-increasing number of Israelis anguish that the gains won by yesterday’s brave soldiers are not being squandered by today’s foolish politicians. It should be prescribed reading for anyone entering politics to read Barbara Tuchman’s ‘March of Folly’, that reveals through examples of history down the millennia from Troy to Vietnam that governments pursue policies contrary to their best interest. They do so foolishly, knowingly, repeatedly and incomprehensibly they take in the proverbial ‘Trojan Horse’. Attired in alluring political verbiage to appear to “strengthen democracy”, Netanyahu’s “judicial reform” may well prove Israel’s ‘Trojan Horse’.

It does not have to be. What is more important – the coalition or the country?

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).


People behind exposing the hard truth of Lithuania in the Holocaust

By Grant Gochin

After a decades long campaign for basic truth about the Lithuanian Holocaust, the Lithuanian Government has finally told one truth. Ambassador Dainius Junevičius, the Lithuanian Ambassador to South Africa, admits that Jonas Noreika was a Holocaust perpetrator, not the rescuer of Jews they have previously asserted.

This admission follows a very strongly worded statement by the Governments of America and Germany, where these Governments declared that Holocaust revisionism can promote impunity for war criminals, normalize antisemitism, racism, discrimination, and exclusion, increase tensions between countries, and undermine public support for democratic institutions and values-based international structures.

Truth be Told. Lithuanian Ambassador Dainius Junevičius who has come clean about his country’s past by admitting that revered war hero Jonas Noreika was in fact a Holocaust perpetrator, presents his letters of credence to the President of the Republic of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa.

NATO and the European Union cannot demand truth from Russia when one of their own members is so deeply engaged in Holocaust fraud. Lithuania had no choice but to tell one truth.

In the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam (Healing the world) my first response to this was peace and genuine friendship. Friendship can only be based on truth.

It is indeed a tragedy that Lithuania still has open threats of criminal and constitutional charges against me for having exposed their long history of Holocaust distortion and revision. I hope these threats will soon be publicly retracted, along with Lithuania’s formal apology.

It has taken pressure from NATO and the government of the United States to bring Lithuania to the truth. Multiple legal actions failed. A massive worldwide media campaign failed. At long last, American pressure opened the door.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Director of Israel’s Simon Wiesenthal Center has led a decades long effort to raise and press these issues. His arduous and tenacious work has demonstrated that truth can be revealed, even when dealing with the most persistent of liars. Dr. Zuroff is my hero.

Fighting Falsehoods. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff who reveals the uniquely extensive role played by Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews is seen here saying Kaddish, a mourning prayer, for Holocaust victims near Kaunas, Lithuania. (Photo Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

Silvia Foti’s book: Storm in the Land of Rain: A Mother’s Dying Wish Becomes Her Daughter’s Nightmare broke open the door of Holocaust denial in Lithuania. Silvia Foti is my hero.

From Hero to Nazi. Raised on reverent stories about her hero grandfather, a martyr for Lithuanian independence and an unblemished patriot, Silvia Foti would later discover after a 20-year wrenching quest for the truth that Jonas Noreika had been a Jew-killer.  

Ruta Vanagaite and Dr. Zuroff together wrote Our People: Discovering Lithuania’s Hidden Holocaust. Ruta paid an enormous personal, emotional and financial price for telling the truth. Her books were removed from Lithuanian bookshelves and she had to flee Lithuania for her personal safety. Ruta is my hero.

Home Truths. Rūta Vanagaitė was a best-selling author in Lithuania until she contradicted the story her country tells about itself. Following her book about her country’s involvement in the Nazi killing machine, she went from the “toast of Vilnius” to never leaving her own home without pepper spray.

Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas and Evaldas Balciunas researched the Noreika case. They were vilified by the Lithuanian Government for revealing the facts. They are my heroes.

Rokas Rudzinskas is my lawyer in Lithuania. This is a man of bravery, dignity and compassion. He is a Lithuanian patriot who takes on the cause of truth and justice in order to improve Lithuania and restore Lithuania’s integrity. Rokas is my hero.

Dr. Marylin Kingston is the brain behind many of my articles and strategies. She is my hero.

Dr. Melody Ziff is my Litvak backbone when I am (often) ready to fall. She is my hero.

Michael Kretzmer made a documentary J’Accuse! to tell the story of Noreika. His work is nothing short of remarkable. Hundreds of thousands of people have already seen and been educated by J’Accuse! Michael’s glaring light on Holocaust fraud will forever change society’s response to genocide. Michael is my hero.

Eugene Levin made a documentary “Baltic Truth” exposing multiple Holocaust frauds by Lithuania. It was shown on Israeli national television and ended the ability of Lithuanian diplomats to lie to Jews. Eugene is my hero.

Dr. Carol Hoffman has been my rock and support all the years I have been fighting for truth. Carol has taught me what Litvak integrity means. Her friendship goes beyond being merely close friends, rather, she is my dearest family.

Vladas Krivickas, an ethnic Lithuanian from Seduva, is my beloved, reliable and long term friend. Without his support we could not have reached our digital penetration. He has worked diligently to preserve and document Jewish history. To me, Vladas stands as an example of a righteous Lithuanian, to show what Jews and Lithuanians can achieve when we join together in goodwill.

Mark Blumberg stood up to Lithuania’s enablers. He has paid dearly for his passion.

Dillon Hosier of the Israeli American Civic Action Network has been a leading political advisor and activist. His intellect and strategic thinking has been invaluable.

My religious moral guides who have lent me so much support during these many years, include Cantor Daniel Singer and Rabbi Zev Meyer Friedman.

There have been countless Lithuanians who have assisted me over the years. I do not name them for fear of retribution or retaliation from their own government. These individuals are shining examples of genuine patriotism.

Beth Krom, Dina Gold, Dr. Lara Gochin, Dr. Jan Grabowski, and so many others have brought moral guidance and leadership skills of how to introduce truth to Lithuania.

How is it possible to be surrounded by so many amazing people? To top it off, my husband of over three decades, Russell Lyon, has managed unwavering support during times of crisis and darkness. He shares in even the smallest of victories and is unrelenting in his steadfast belief that this work will save lives and prevent future atrocities. I have not made it easy for him, yet his love continues to support and guide me. To say Russell is my greatest hero, is nothing short of a grand understatement.

After decades of lies, Lithuania has finally spoken one truth. We must show them a path where truth can bring reconciliation and authentic friendship. My suggestion is:

The government of Lithuania needs to follow through, revoke national honors for Noreika and remove all remaining monuments for him. Otherwise, theirs are just empty promises. There are a multitude of Holocaust perpetrators honored as Lithuanian national heroes. All of these national honors must be revoked.

The President of Lithuania should go on national television and admit the truth, and the national cover up. Half measures are unacceptable.

Lithuania needs to create a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to tell the whole truth of who committed the murders, and how the Genocide Center, Government and Courts continues to cover up their crimes.

 Judges who ruled on instruction rather than fact, need to be exposed for their judicial misconduct and removed from their positions. Government workers who committed these frauds should be fired and their state pensions revoked.

As an act of contrition, sincere apology and redemption, Lithuania should welcome every Jew of Lithuanian heritage with a grant of Lithuanian citizenship.

There is no possibility of forgiveness as only the murdered can forgive. Lithuania has taken a miniscule initial step towards reconciliation. We are merely observers in the unraveling of their decades of Holocaust deceptions. Our hope remains, this time, it will be real.

Lithuanian Killers. Photographs like these expose a reality that Lithuanians today find difficult to digest. Seen here is the aftermath of the Kovno (or Kaunas) ‘garage’ massacre in June 1941, perpetrated by Nazi-supporting Lithuanians. (public domain)

About the writer:

Grant Arthur Gochin currently serves as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Togo. He is the Emeritus Special Envoy for Diaspora Affairs for the African Union, which represents the fifty-five African nations, and Emeritus Vice Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps, the second largest Consular Corps in the world. Gochin is actively involved in Jewish affairs, focusing on historical justice. He has spent the past twenty five years documenting and restoring signs of Jewish life in Lithuania. He has served as the Chair of the Maceva Project in Lithuania, which mapped / inventoried / documented / restored over fifty abandoned and neglected Jewish cemeteries. Gochin is the author of “Malice, Murder and Manipulation”, published in 2013. His book documents his family history of oppression in Lithuania. He is presently working on a project to expose the current Holocaust revisionism within the Lithuanian government. Professionally, Gochin is a Certified Financial Planner and practices as a Wealth Advisor in California, where he lives with his family. Personal site: https://www.grantgochin.com/

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, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

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


Nearly the whole country – but who in Israel is listening?

By David E. Kaplan

My physiotherapist expressed while treating my damaged knee:

You know, this is worse then when I was in Lebanon.”

This was a reference to the mood in the country and not the condition of my knee.  “We were fighting an enemy back  then behind a wall, on top of a roof or above on a hill. Now we are fighting at home with each other – our neighbours, our friends our family. I don’t know how, when or even if, it will end.”

My physio was more optimistic about my knee than Israel. I felt the complete opposite. I knew realistically the best days of my knee were behind but no less realistically believed that the best days of Israel still lay ahead. Resonating in my mind were the profoundly prophetic and poetic words of the South African-born Israeli diplomat and politician Abba Eban:

 “Israel’s future will be longer than its past.”

After 2000 years of exile and persecution, we were not going to let control over our destiny slip away again and by or own hand!

True there “was no resolution yet in sight” as my physio asserted with the same intensity as he hard-pressed the flesh around my fragile knee, but we did agree “at least we are talking”, albeit at times  more like SHOUTING!

And if the country was experiencing a semblance of a “civil war” as some TV commentators and news media correspondents are bandying about, it is of a Jewish variety. Afterall, the barbs are at the tips of tongues not bullets.

Tally on the Warpath. Likud’s Tally Gotliv at a legislative committee meeting at the Knesset on Monday, February 20, 2023 was sanctioned for blaming Israel’s Chief Justice Hayut for a fatal terror attack. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)


Nevertheless, the verbal barbs emanating from this coalition are tough to process. Take for example, Likud firebrand Tally Gotliv, who at a recent rally in Netanya in support of her government’s proposed judicial reform, called for the dismissal of Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miar. The AG had simply been doing her job by warning, nay I say ‘counselling’ the Prime Minister that he would be acting illegally if he involved himself directly in his government’s moves to change the country’s judicial system. Why? Simply, because it could be construed as a conflict of interest vis-à-vis his ongoing criminal cases.

Freshman Firebrand. Far-right Knesset Likud freshman Tallly Gotliv has attracted much media attention over her outrageous statements such as accusing the Israeli left of “betraying the State of Israel”  to calling to imprison the former prime minister, Ehud Barak, Israel’s most decorated soldier for “sedition”.

On a rampant charge of absurdity, galloping Gotliv further called for the insane imprisonment  of  former PM Ehud Barak accusing him of “sedition”. Sedition? “He should be in prison,” she  called for. Where does Gotliv come with her crazy notion of calling Israel’s most decorated war veteran who fearlessly faced death on the battlefield and was a former Prime Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff a traitor? It’s one thing being known for fiery rhetoric, it’s quite another accusing your opposition – simply for holding opposing views which is the nature of “opposition” of having “betrayed the State of Israel”. Gotliv had bellowed to her followers at the Netanya rally the following:

You know what differentiates us from the people on the left? The left has lost it, the left betrayed the State of Israel; the left forgot the most basic values of the people of Israel and a Jewish and democratic state.”

Could her choice of wording be more divisive and dangerous?

Gotliv is a sad barometer of the calibre of this government’s leadership. Her statement was not a rash outburst of an animated politician at a rally. Gotliv displays a pattern of stupidity imbued with toxic values – a calamitous combination. Review what she shockingly expressed in a Twitter post back in February when she accused Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut of inciting a deadly terrorist attack that claimed the lives of three Israelis:

I blame the Supreme Court chief justice for the terror attack. I blame her for the chaos in Israel, and for destroying democracy and the rule of law.”

A member of the government blames the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for murder and terrorism, and you wonder why the people of Israel are literally up-in-arms, brandishing banners to protect their Supreme Court?  

Man on a Mission. Coalition’s chief architect of the government’s planned judicial overhaul, Justice Minister Yariv Levin at a rally in support outside the Knesset on April 27, 2023. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Is it any wonder why the protests continue every Saturday night against a government  that has not lost its way but is decidedly heading in the wrong direction. This ‘coalition of chaos’ is careering ingloriously at full speed down a cul-de-sac. It is a political and moral dead end and the people of Israel from all persuasions and parties have risen to revers course before it’s too late. By obstructing certain roads in protests, these obstructions are proving to be a metaphor of trying to block the coalitions attempts at undermining Israel’s precious democracy. It is why the very mention at protests of those names in the coalition driving this chaos from Prime Minister Netanyahu, to Levin, Rothman, Ben Gvir, Smotrich and now Gotliv are met by protestors shouting repeatedly in Hebrew “Busha, Busha, Busha” – “Shame, Shame, Shame”.

This is Conversation. Anti-judicial reform protesters outside Israel’s parliament, the Knesset in Jerusalem are making their voices heard.


Nevertheless there is one marked change in the political landscape. If in the past protesters against judicial reform were criticized for protesting, now supporters of the government too are protesting all across the country – in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Beer Sheva and even in my city of Kfar Saba. Irrespective of allegiances and perspectives, a cross-section of citizens are making their voices heard. People are addressing issues that for far too long have been hibernating under the proverbial rug, lazily left for future generations to resolve.

Right’ up one’s Street. The right as well have taken to the streets in protest. Seen here are tens of thousands of right-wing Israelis gathered in Jerusalem a mass rally in support of the government’s efforts to drastically overhaul the judiciary

No longer.

With people pouring onto the streets in protest, there is a new dawn awakening this generation to forge a way ahead as to what type of Israel it wants.

That crucial conversation about the characteristics and identity of an evolving Israel – raucous as it is – has begun. What’s more, no one can escape it.

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 Eyes of the world on the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla

By Rolene Marks

On May the 6th, the eyes of the world will be trained on Westminster Abbey in London as King Charles is crowned the Most High, Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch, our Sovereign Lord, Charles III, now, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.  A long title to be sure – and one that comes with a 1000 year old history and a great sense of responsibility, duty and service.

Britain is a constitutional monarchy and the King is the living embodiment of that contract between constitution, people and sovereign. This was on full splendid display at the accession ceremony following the death of her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

While the King cannot send anyone to the Tower (although I think he has been tempted to send a few errant members of his family to the great fortress) or has any real power, he is the very symbol of the United Kingdom, the consummate diplomat, deploying that soft diplomacy and convening power only royalty can.

For many of us, this will be the first time we will see a Coronation. It has been 70 years since the last one, when a beautiful 26 Queen Elizabeth, resplendent in her robes and crown, bearing the symbols of power, the scepter and orb, was revealed to the world.

The coronation will be a great moment in history and it is only the British Royal Family that officially crown their monarchs by holding a ceremony like this which will not only have the pageantry and splendor that Britain is renowned for but it also has great spiritual significance. The monarch is the head of the Anglican Church and will take the sacred vow to be “defender of the faith”.  Over 2000 invited guests will gather in the medieval abbey, 7000 military personnel including serving British armed personnel called in from their posts as far as Estonia and Iraq, and others from 40 different countries of the Commonwealth will provide a spectacular parade.

Of course many (like me!) will be glued to the television, eagerly awaiting the carriages and crowns, gowns and tiaras, horses and soldiers and the iconic gathering of Royal family members on the Buckingham Palace balcony.

As King Charles is crowned, we wonder who the man beneath the glittering Crown is.

Heavy is the head who wears the crown and the King has been preparing for decades. King Charles has worked and campaigned tirelessly during his life on causes that have been very close to his heart. As Prince of Wales, he recognized that many young people were falling through the cracks and unable to find employment. Following his discharge from his service in the Royal Navy, he took the salary he received as a naval officer and established The Prince’s Trust. The Prince’s Trust offers courses that help young people aged 11-30 to develop essential life skills, get ready for work and access job opportunities. The Prince’s Trust assists them to find work because having a job or running a business can lead to a more stable, fulfilling life. One of the most famous beneficiaries is the actor, Idris Elba. To date, The Prince’s Trust has helped over a million young people.

King Charles has always been passionate about spirituality and the environment and is known to be somewhat of a workaholic. As he takes the vow to be “defender of the faith”, he is on record as saying that he would like to be the defender of faiths and is often seen at events of different religions. The King danced up a storm with Holocaust survivors during Chanukah and counted the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks as amongst his close friends.

It is his love of the environment that King Charles is probably the most recognized. Once ridiculed for his fondness for talking to his plants, (he must be doing something right – have you seen the gardens at Highgrove, his estate in Gloucestershire?), the King has followed in the footsteps of his late father, the Duke of Edinburgh; and made saving the environment and being sustainable a priority. Even his Coronation invitation displays his love of all things natural.

The King was years ahead of his time, an early adopter, long before climate was the cause du jour.

Known to be an intellectual, King Charles embraces a broad range of interests but none as loved as his wife and consort, Queen Camilla. Queen Camilla is the love of the King’s life and we are all familiar with the difficult trajectory of their story. This is the juncture when I hope we can let the much-loved late Diana, Princess of Wales rest in peace, as she deserves and wish their Majesties well.

Tabloids have feasted on the foibles on the Royal Family for years and the King and Queen have not been spared (pun very much intended). In recent years, it is the unedifying behaviour of his younger son, Prince Harry and his wife that are the fodder of daily headlines. It is the hope of many that the King and his errant younger son will reconcile in the future.

Many who have met the King and Queen speak of how warm and invested they are in whomever they meet. Queen Camilla who has borne the brunt of some of the most salacious media treatment, has earned the respect and many say even love from Britons as she has kept her head down and focused on the causes close to her heart like domestic violence and the elderly. Her recently launched “The Queen’s Reading Room” has also proven to be a hit. At the end of the day, she is the strong woman behind her husband and keeps him calm and focused.

Some say King Charles will be a “caretaker King” as he prepares his heir, Prince William to be King along with his consort, Catherine. The Princess of Wales is currently the most loved of all the Royal family members. With their three enchanting children, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte, the future of the monarchy is in safe hands. Some of us will be watching Prince Louis to see if the 5-year-old will entertain us as he did during his beloved great-grandmother’s Platinum Jubilee last year, delighting us with his cute expressions.

This weekend, the eyes of the world will focus on the 40th monarch crowned in Westminster Abbey. It will be a moment in time, replete with splendour. The State of Israel will be represented by our President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal who will keep with the laws of Shabbat by walking to the Abbey. There they will join Rabbi Mervis, who the King kindly said could stay overnight at his London residence, Clarence House, so that he may observe Shabbat.

This is the kindness of a King who has waited a lifetime for this moment, who has been misunderstood and often mocked but who remains a sovereign devoted to his people, family and role. As we herald in the Carolean Age, we offer our hearty Mazel Tov.

G-d save the King.

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).


With first foreign correspondent since Cold War to be detained for alleged spying being a Jew, is it coincidence or out the Russian playbook?

By Jonathan Feldstein

When I read about the arrest of American Jewish Wall Street Journal Reporter, Evan Gershkovich, in Russia on March 29, my mind went back to the 1980s.

Jewish Journalist Detained. The Biden administration has formally determined that Jewish Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich who was arrested in Russia on espionage charges, has been ‘wrongfully detained.’ (The Wall Street Journal via AP)

In July 1985, I went to visit Abe Stolar.  Abe was well into his 70s. We bonded immediately, two American Jews, me listening to his stories intently, in his native Chicago accent.  The strange thing is that I was not visiting Abe and his wife, Gita, in Chicago, the place of his birth, or in New Jersey, the place of my birth.  I was visiting Abe in Moscow, the Soviet Union.

Stepping into the Clutches of Stalin. American Abe Stolar in Chicago prior to his departure in 1931 for the USSR.

Like many Russian Jews, Abe’s parents fled Czarist Russia. The arrives in Chicago, a year before Abe was born. Then in 1931, with the US still suffering from the Depression, Abe’s parents, imbued with a degree of communist revolutionary fervor, decided to return to the USSR. Within five years, Abe’s father was taken from their home by Stalin’s police (NKVD) during the infamous purges in which many Jews became victims. Abe’s father was never seen again. Despite being an American citizen, Abe saw no way back to Chicago.  So much for the Beatles’ 1968 sympathetic portrayal of the USSR in their song  “BACK IN THE USSR”.

The True ‘Cover Story’. While the Beatles 1968 album cover with title ‘Back in the USSR’ ‘ presented a sympathetic portrayal of the USSR, Abe’s family experience of back in the USSR’ was very different. Within five years, Abe’s father was taken from their home by Stalin’s police during the infamous purges and was never seen again.

In 1975, Abe, Gita and their son applied for exit visas. They received permission to leave, selling all their belongings.  On July 19, the permission was revoked. The Stolars were detained just before boarding the plane, forced to return to their empty Moscow apartment, hopeless.

I met Abe a decade later, almost to the day.  He was clearly frustrated and desperate to leave, but he was jovial, friendly, and welcoming. Two years later, I went back to Moscow and visited Abe again. He was more hopeful as he saw signs that things in the USSR were changing, but he was still an American citizen forcefully detained in Moscow.

As soon as I heard of Evan Gershkovich’s arrest, I thought of Abe. Evan was arrested on charges of espionage by Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB), the successor to the KGB, and Stalin’s NKVD. It’s the first time Russia has accused a foreign journalist of espionage since the Cold War.

Singing to Sara. 75-year-old Abe Stolar singing “If I had a Talking Picture of You” from the 1929 Fox film “Sunny Side Up” to his granddaughter Sara in their Moscow apartment in September, 1986.

There are many parallels between Abe Stolar and Evan Gershkovich. Both are American Jews, both detained in Russia, both children of Russian-born Jews who emigrated to the US, and both went back to Russia as young men, albeit Evan went of his own accord in a professional capacity. He probably didn’t know about Abe Stolar, and that there was a precedent for Russia detaining American-born Jews. 

Shortly after Evan’s arrest, Jews around the world were asked to set an extra seat for him symbolically at their Passover Seder table. It’s interesting that leaving seats empty at the Seder table was something done in the height of the movement to free Jews of the Soviet Union, the time when Abe Stolar first tried to leave and, when Gershkovich’s parents actually left the USSR.

Setting empty seats at a Seder table is meaningful because Passover is the holiday during which we celebrate our freedom. Jews being detained, arrested, imprisoned as Jews (on trumped up charges) is evocative of the enslavement of Jews in Egypt. This creates awareness, and is meaningful especially when the person for whom that seat is set is a Jew being forcefully detained.  It builds solidarity, but is unlikely to do anything on its own to effect a change in Russian policies, or free someone who has been arrested.  

It’s clear that Russia is using Evan to retaliate or as leverage against the U.S, or both. Evan’s arrest will intimidate other western journalists still reporting in Russia, making a black hole of already limited information coming out of Russia even deeper and darker.  Perhaps Evan was not targeted as a Jew, but it’s now no longer unusual for Jews in Russia to be in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.

Back in the USA. Abe Stolar singing the National Anthem at Wrigley Field prior to a Cubs game is flanked by wife Gita and Senator Paul Simon who had been Abe’s principal advocate on Capitol Hill.

Abe Stolar’s case became very personal to me.  Especially after my adopted Soviet Jewish family was permitted to leave in 1987, I stepped up my activism on his behalf, one of many doing so.  When I read about Evan Gershkovich, something additional and personal struck and engaged me. Although some years after I graduated, Evan also graduated from Princeton High School, in the suburban New Jersey community in which I grew up and where my Soviet Jewry activities began.

Not that I am a journalist as Evan is, but in my advocacy to free Jews from Russia, I began writing articles as one of my forms of advocacy, including in the Princeton High School student newspaper. People commented on my being a Jewish student at a particularly WASPy school, in a particularly wealthy community, writing about the imperative of freeing Jews from Russia. For most, it was the first exposure any of my fellow students knew about the antisemitic treachery of Soviet policies.

Long Journey Home. On the left, Abe Stolar in his Moscow apartment in September of 1986. On the right, Abe Stolar at a hotel in Los Angeles in the summer of 1989.

Today, the imperative to do so has come full circle. Espionage was one of the trumped-up charges the Soviets would use against Jews in the past.  It seems that it’s a play in Russia’s playbook as well under Putin, a former KGB agent.

As much as things have changed in the past decades, it’s astounding to see how much things have stayed the same.  The pin and bumper sticker I still have from my Soviet Jewry activism days, “Russia is Not Healthy for Jews and Other Living Things”, are more than just nostalgic collectors’ items, but still a sad truth.

Raising Awareness. Pin sticker in support of Abe Stolar, an American Jew detained in the USSR for 58 years.


The Soviets then, and Russia today, need motivation to change. Optics matter. In the 1980s, I initiated protests at the Russian Embassy in Washington, participated in other massive protests, and called Soviet embassies all over the world to make my protest heard in their offices, to frustrate and embarrass them, and make it no longer worthwhile to use Jews or others as pawns.   The Russian Embassy can be reached at (202) 298-5700. Give them a call.

See America First: the Abe Stolar Story

About the writer:

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

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


Still defining who and what it is, Israel at 75 is plugging full steam ahead

By David E. Kaplan

Yom Ha’atzmaut has arrived this year at a time of internal turmoil and uncertainty. If the flags are out every Saturday night in justifiable protest – in my view – they will be out this Independence Day in no less justifiable pride as we celebrate how far we have come despite the challenges. It’s okay if at 75 the country is still trying to work out what it’s going to be when it grows up.

Determining Direction. Israelis take to the streets in weeks of protest to determine the country’s future.

Looking back to 1948, the naysayers and voices of gloom were lining up at the starting block warning that we stood no chance. Just review the choice of words of US Secretary of Defence, James V. Forrestal who was trying to influence President Truman not to support the Jewish state’s quest for independence:

You fellows over at the White House are just not facing up to the realities in the Middle East. There are thirty million Arabs on one side and about six hundred thousand Jews on the other. It is clear that in any contest, the Arabs are going to overwhelm the Jews. Why don’t you face up to the realities? Just look at the numbers!”

It’s not only about the numbers.

Polly the Pioneer. Polly Resnick kneeling (right) on the refugee boat she took from Italy to Palestine in 1938. Seated on her right is the famous Zionist leader, Menachem Ussishkin.

I thought of some of the early South African pioneers I have interviewed over the years like Polly Resnick (née Salber), ordinary people caught up in doing extraordinary things.  Arriving from Cape Town to Haifa in 1938 on a small refugee boat,  she boarded a bus to Tel Aviv. Chugging along the old coastal road, “we were not yet halfway to Tel Aviv when the bus driver told us to get quickly under our seats because we were being shot at. Bullets  whistled through the windows. So this was my warm welcome to Palestine.” I loved her story, when later married and living in Jerusalem, a British officer came to her door. “It was during the curfew soon after the bombing of the King David Hotel and he asked, “Madam, do you speak English? I wanted to say to him that I speak a better English then him but instead, I invited him in and seated him on the couch which underneath was hidden five rifles.” Polly had had been a member of the  Haganah since her early days living with her aunt in Tel Aviv. Now she thought:

Oh my God, if he finds these firearms, not only will they be confiscated, I WILL BE CONFISCATED!” My heart was pounding. I offered him a cup of English tea to which he replied, “Oh Madam, I would love it.” We sat and chatted. All I wanted to do was get rid of him, and he asked if he could please have another cup of tea. I was crazy with fear and all the while my neighbours were shouting to me in Hebrew from their balconies, “Don’t worry Polly; It will be alright. You’ll be okay.”

Meanwhile soldiers were swarming the road and randomly searching houses for firearms. “Finally, he finished his second cup of tea and left with a smile. Little did he know he was sitting on the very illegal items he was searching for.”

Well, sometimes you have to look beyond the numbers that Defence Secretary Forrestal alluded to but to the core values and the will of the people at the time. I recall when moderating a debate in 2015 at a WIZO conference at the Hiton Tel Aviv, to my question “How relevant today is Zionism to the lives of Jews both living in Israel and in the Diaspora?” the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Rachel Azaria, answered as follows:

There is a lovely story of two chalutzim (pioneers) on their kibbutz, Afikim, while under siege during the War of Independence. While shells were falling all around them, they spoke of establishing a state, not caring if it lasted one day or more but it had to come into being. That was their task. After the war, every year on Yom Haatzmaut, whenever they walked passed each other on the kibbutz, they would defiantly hold up the number of fingers displaying how old Israel was. As the years wore on, they would run out of fingers and smile. They got the job done and it was now up to the next generation to secure it.” And so it has been, continued Azaria, “that each generation since independence was confronted with “getting the job done’.”

How Wrong Was James. Defence Secretary James V. Forrestal warned the American administration that there  no millage in officially supporting a Jewish state as it had little chance of  surviving a combined Arab attack.

And while that is still the case today of “getting the job done”, today’s generation  – as we pass further from the defining epochs of the Shoah (Holocaust) and the independence – need to figure out who we are, what we stand for and to define our Zionism that will have traction for future generations. In part that is what the national protests are about, which at this Yom Haatzmaut is now into its 17th week.

But where one can look at the ‘numbers’ to see where today’ generation is taking Israel, look no further than today’s news headline:

Israeli high schoolers sweep international math competition

In a historic first,” the report read in The Jerusalem Post, that “an all-female team of young Israeli mathematics students took home every medal possible at the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO) in Slovenia. These young Israeli math enthusiasts won the gold, silver, and bronze medals after competing against 214 contestants from 54 countries worldwide. 

Number One in Numbers. Israel’s female winning team at the European Mathematics Olympiad for Girls. Since Israel’s involvement in the competitive series began in 2012, Israeli female math enthusiasts have won an impressive 19 medals in the Olympiad. (credit: FUTURE SCIENTISTS CENTER AND MINISTRY OF EDUCATION)

Not only was this an extraordinary achievement for these young students, but one student, in particular, stood out from the crowd. Participant Noga Friedman not only took home the gold medal for her achievements but ranked 1st, competition wide with a “perfect score.”

Its also an extraordinary achievement for Israel.

So yes,  we ‘do the math’. Israel at 75, despite the challenges, has the talent and the temerity to continue: “to get the job done”.

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).


From driving “me crazy” to “no place I’d rather be” the author writes to her beloved Israel on her 75th Birthday

By Andi Saitowitz

Dear Israel,

I sit here listening to the radio programmes preparing for tomorrow, tears streaming down my face, each story and song piercing my heartstrings. 

How deeply you are cherished. 

How precious you are to us. 

Even now, especially now.

You are protected by living and fallen heroes, brave and courageous, and you are an eternal treasured sacrifice that our people make every day just to ensure your survival. 

As this difficult week will slowly turn into a festive one, I wanted to take a few minutes and wish you a very happy 75th Independence Day! 

Just as everything about you is extreme, that’s how I feel today; extreme loss and pain and extreme gratitude and will for better. I feel privileged, grateful and blessed to be able to celebrate you. Even when things feel as messy as they feel these days. 

I realize more and more as my life unfolds, how this honor was denied to many before me and painfully many today who don’t get to experience your glory and share their everyday with you. 

I know that despite all the fragility at the moment, there is no place I’d rather be.

You continue to amaze me in countless ways and with each passing year, your growth and accomplishments leave me in awe. And yes – you sometimes drive me crazy too….and what’s happening within you, this turmoil, upsets me more than you can imagine. 

While the uncertainty, division and unrest keep me up at night, I hold on to faith and hope, knowing we’ve come this far, despite all odds. 

And I specifically want to acknowledge all that you are, because all that you’re not, is what everyone is focusing on and what we focus on grows so I want to look for your good and grow that. 

In just 75 years – you have achieved unparalleled greatness. 

In every field, you excel.

How utterly proud you should be, knowing that you are a pioneer and world leader: in medicine, technology, agriculture, science, security, education, sport and culture and above all – the willingness to help whoever you can, wherever possible – no matter what. 

You have earned stature and status, recognition and power, you are often considered the center of the world’s stage and your position is so well-deserved.

In your humble, quiet and unassuming way, you have embodied the very meaning of transformation. Against all odds – you have not only endured tremendous pain and suffering, loss and agony – but you have thrived and shone and continue to be a bright light unto the nations.

It’s not easy having so many people wish you harm. I don’t doubt that for a second.

I can’t imagine the pressure you feel every day from trying to progress, using all of your might to advance and reach new goals, develop and expand and at the same time, facing harsh resistance internally and externally – every single step of the way. 

So many people want to see you fail. And yet so many people want to see you win. Because when you do, we all do. Everything in the world is better when you are at your best.

You know your values, you know your principles and your worth and you continue to live by them with integrity and authenticity. I wish all our leaders would live your values more. I wish we all would. Truthfully. 

It’s not always easy to like you – believe me, we’ve had our ups and downs, frustrations and reconcilements, I don’t always understand you, but it is completely effortless to love you – unconditionally. 

And I know there are huge improvements to make – internally – we all do. We all have to do better. We all have to work on ourselves.

I wish I could heal some of your deepest wounds. 

I wish I could tell you that next year will be so much simpler for you. 

I wish I could guarantee that your obstacles and enemies will soon see your magnificence. 

I wish I could promise that your contributions to the goodness of the world will be celebrated by everyone – but I can’t. 

I can only promise that we will keep trying to make you proud.

We will keep creating, inventing, contributing, helping, giving – and in time, more and more will know your worth and acknowledge your legacy.

I can only share with you that the people who already love you – want to see you win – and the same very faith and unwavering belief in justice and G-d’s miracles will always continue to guide and support you. 

I love that my children think in Hebrew. 

I love that the supermarkets and gyms light a Chanukiah and the buses and highways wish us all a Chag Sameach

I love that the entire country is wearing white tomorrow night and that on Yom Kippur, there isn’t a car to be seen. 

I love the “only in Israel” moments because they are uniquely ours and one has to be here to feel it, to truly appreciate and understand it – you and your incredible polarities and idiosyncrasies. 

I love the chutzpah, the deepest love and energy of your people for what they believe in and for one another. 

I love that this tiny country has such a vibrant non-profit charitable sector.

I love representing you in the sports arena, you have instilled a spirit in your people that is filled with passionate fire and I try my hardest to showcase your beauty to all those who don’t know you well, or haven’t had the utter nachas of spending time with you and getting to know your incomparable personality.

Israel – thank you for inspiring me.

Israel – thank you for challenging me.

Israel – thank you for allowing me to live a meaningful life.

Israel – thank you for being my home.

I only wish you peace. In every single prayer.

G..d knows, it’s more than anything I wish you. 

You bring me joy. 

You make me smile and give me so many reasons to be thankful.

May you be showered with Hashem’s richest blessings. 

May you grow from strength to strength. 

May you remain true to your spirit and continue to drive change, empower others to bring out their best, and leave your indelible mark of greatness, excellence and contribution to whatever you develop, create, touch, grow and share with us and the world.

Here’s to many more happy, healthy and wonderful years ahead filled with plenty of new dreams coming true.

I know that when things seem like they’re falling apart, very often it means they just might be falling into place. Hold on. 

Hold tight. The craziness inside you right now is necessary for transformation. It’s how all worthwhile change occurs; with cracks, discomfort, fear, pain, courage and hope. 

We haven’t lost hope. 

עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו

About the author:

Heroes of Israel4

Andi Saitowitz, a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, published author and lover of inspiration. Also a Personal Development Strategist, Life Coach, Mentor and Transformation Leader.

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).