Crazy coalition adds to PM Netanyahu’s woes – and ours!

By David E. Kaplan

When out-of-control wild fires are extinguished by the same crowd that started them, does beg the question:

 “What is going on here?”

It’s crazy, but that is exactly what the Prime Minister of Israel has had to do in his first month of office – put out fires started by his own coalition partners!  

With major threats and issues facing the country – from existential to economic –  look what the PM has had to waste time on:

  • There was first the Religious Zionist Party (RZP) proposed law – championed by the party’s National Missions Minister Orit Strock – to enable businesses and service providers to REFUSE to provide services on the basis of “religious belief” such as a doctor declining to give treatment to a LGBT person. Denounced as discriminatory by politicians from the opposition and members of the medical profession, it was left to the PM to administer the coup de grâce by releasing a written statement and video recording assuring that all persons – irrespective of sexual orientation – would be treated equally.

Doctor No. Contrary to the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath, Religious Zionism lawmaker Orit Strock, proposes bill permitting doctors to refuse treatment to patients on religious grounds. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Next, and literally ‘off the rails’, was United Torah Judaism party chairman, Yitzhak Goldknopf demanding that Transportation Minister, Miri Regev order a halt to construction and maintenance work of Israel’s railways on Saturdays. He claimed that the work is a violation of Shabbat (the Sabbath). Never mind the people who need or want to travel on Saturdays or the vital urgency to complete the national rail electrification project for the betterment of the nation’s economy. In the meantime – although unclear on details – the PM stepped in and an interim compromise was reached that construction was ‘back on track’.
Political Trainwreck. Despite the warning of service delays if maintenance is pushed to weekdays, Haredi Housing and Construction Minister, Yitzhak Goldknopf nevertheless demanded end to Shabbat train work. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
  • Then, stepping onto the proverbial pitch was Micky Zohar, the new Culture and Sport Minister who declared  that his ministry would cease funding the previous government’s “Israeli Sabbath” initiative to provide free entrance to a large number of cultural institutions on Saturdays. The only free day in the week for many, it was left again for the Prime Minister to intervene and referee his sport’s minister and assure the public  that “the project would continue.”
Culture Minister gets Bad Review. The decision of Israel’s new culture minister Miki Zohar to cuts funding for events on Shabbat that included free entry to historic sites and subsidies for theatre performances was met with instant opposition. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
  • Next for the PM to face off was with his ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) coalition partner who sought to introduce a bill to separate men and women bathing at springs located in the country’s national parks. Drawing outrage from opposition lawmakers, calling the move a further step towards establishing “a religious state”, the natural spring issue was anything but ‘natural’, and the PM felt compelled to ‘spring’ into action assuring the country that there would be no change in policy.
Coalition to Collision. Antagonising opposition lawmakers was a coalition partner’s bill to gender-segregate natural springs like Ein Lavan Spring in the Jerusalem Mountains. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

With the PM having to neutralize the crazy urges of his coalition partners – assuring the nation as well as those observing anxiously from abroad that “I am the pilot; not the co-pilot” which is hardly an edorcement for democracy – is it hardly surprising that people across the country have taken to the streets in protest. These are not disgruntled voters who have not accepted the results of the past election. They accepted the election results because they accept DEMOCRACY. What they have NOT accepted is that the results would lead to a process that dismantles democracy.

Mischief Makers. Religious Zionism party member, Simcha Rothman (l), who has been a key supporter of Justice Minister Yariv Levin (r) to significantly restrict the power of the High Court of Justice, has his sights now set to prevent the Histadrut  – the country’s largest trade union – from joining protests against judicial overhaul. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

One wakes up each day and wonder where or what cherished value or institution is this government going to attack next! Not satisfied with a full-on assault on the Supreme Court – the sole institution that provides an ultimate check and balance on a one-tier legislature (the Knesset) and the prime reason for the protests, next up in the crosshairs is a bill to restrict the striking rights of labour unions. Submitted by far-right Religious Zionism party member, Simcha Rothman, who has been a key player leading the government’s efforts to significantly restrict the power of the High Court of Justice, this bill would prevent the Histadrut  – the country’s largest trade union – from joining protests against judicial overhaul. Super serpentine is Rothman. Because the bill is so designed to strip protections from a labor union that strikes in solidarity with a cause that does not directly impact their line of work, this would prevent the national Histadrut labor federation from joining the nationwide protests against the government’s judicial overhaul plan.

Accepting none of this is Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David who issued a statement asserting that the bill would not pass.

Exercising the right to strike is one of the main tools to protect economically vulnerable populations, and I will not allow any party to harm union workers.” Also blasting Rothman’s bill is his immediate predecessor in the Constitution Law and Justice Committee, Labour MK Gilad Kariv, who claimed it is “only phase one of a long-term plan” to place the conservative, right-wing Kohelet Forum think tank in control of the country, “where every man is for himself.”

Quo Vadis. The country braces for “what’s next”  from the Prime Minister (center) and his extreme right-wing coalition partners set on eroding the country’s democratic ethos. (Amir Cohen/Pool via AP)

Every man for himself” is contrary to the ethos of the idea of Israel. As each Saturday night mass protests attests, with the soul of the country at stake, people are relying on the soles of their feet to make their message heard.

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 streets in Tel Aviv are getting more crowded – in protest!

By David E. Kaplan

It was first 10,000 then followed the next Saturday night by 80,000 and last Saturday night the protests in Tel Aviv grew to well over 110,000 – all in support of “Democracy” following the government’s proposed overhaul of the country’s Supreme Court. What the government touts as “reform” is not shared by a rising public  who well versed in the Bible  identify it as a “poisoned apple”!

Israel at a Crossroad. At one of Tel Aviv’s busiest crossroads, crowds estimated at over 100,000, protest against the government’s proposed sweeping changes to the judicial system, in Tel Aviv on January 21, 2023. (Flash90)

Disparaging this public concern for safeguarding democracy, veteran journalist for The Jerusalem Post, Ruthie Blum, dismisses the protests as “the NOISE of the minority of disgruntled demonstrators.” (Jan 20)

Prime Minister to Prime Opponent. Former Prime Minister and current Opposition Leader, Yair Lapid attends the rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government and its proposed judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv on January 21, 2023. (Gili Yaari / Flash90)

– Was it “NOISE” when the former Prime Minister, Yair Lapid says: “What you see here today is a demonstration in favor of the country. People who love this country came here to defend it, its democracy and its courts”?

-Was it “NOISE” when Israeli Prize Laurette for literature, David Grossman, whose books have been translated into 30 languages said from the podium in one of the busiest intersections in Tel Aviv opposite the Azrieli Center:

I am beginning to feel a foreigner in my own country” and “What you see here today is a demonstration in favor of the country. People who love this country came here to defend it; its democracy and it’s courts”?

Israel, ‘Out of Character’. Addressing Tel Aviv’s mass rally, David Grossman says planned judicial overhaul causes many Israelis to feel ‘internal exile’ and warns the nation that it faces a ‘fateful struggle for its character.

-Was it “noise” when former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said “A state in which the prime minister will appoint all of the judges, there’s a name for it: dictatorship”?

Defending the country from Itself. Addressing the rally, former minister of defense Moshe Ya’alon warns of an emerging dictatorship. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

-Was it “NOISE” when High-tech CEO Eynat Guez told the rally that foreign investment into Israeli companies – a key ingredient to Israel’s high-tech sector’s success – will be threatened if Israel’s democracy is eroded?  She warned that a change to the Israeli climate that attracted  $54 billion in foreign money in investment in the last 3 years, could turn away future investment threatening “tens of thousands of workers” in the high tech industry.

-Was it “NOISE” when Dina Zilber, a former deputy attorney general, cautioned  “If you’re the government, think very well what caused all of these people to get off of their chairs and come here tonight”?

-Was it “NOISE” when Shaul Meridor, a former senior Treasury official and son of former Likud minister Dan Meridor, said “This isn’t about Arab or Jew, religious or secular; this is our house that we have to protect.”

Adding to this “NOISE” was the Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Amir Yaron who amid multiple warnings that the judicial reform will harm Israel economically, met at the office of the Prime Minister and warned Netanyahu that the planned judicial reform could harm Israel’s credit score. According to Walla, he soberly cautioned:

The world is worriedly following the developments that may distance international companies from investing in the country.”

Appearing unfazed by this “NOISE”, the Prime Minister plods on, even though, some years ago he is on record opposing such very reform he now proposes. On trial for corruption, Netanyahu has made the legal changes the centerpiece of his new government’s agenda, and the surging opposition to them is presenting an early challenge for the Israeli leader, who has become more reliant on the most extreme elements of his coalition, as his once-loyal allies have deserted him.

People Protest. As if awakened from a slumber, Israeli wake up to a new reality.

The stage is set for two diverse visions of Israel’s future.

To the supporters of Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed judicial reform, let me repeat as I have said in my two previous articles, (WHAT DO ISRAEL’S PM AND US HOUSE LEADER HAVE IN COMMON? And ISRAEL UNDER THREAT FROM  ITSELF) Israel does not have either a constitution nor the two tier branches of government so characteristic of democracies – an upper and lower house like the UK and the US providing the checks and balances. We have only one house – the legislature or the Knesset – and a Supreme Court and a feisty one at that. If we truly treasure democracy we should cherish and protect it instead of storming it like the proverbial Bastille!

Quo Vadis. Placards at the mass protest portray “Bibi” as a Julius Caesar, hellbent on prolonging his leadership at all costs. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Yes, it’s going to get even “noisier” until we decide how we want to move forward for an Israel that is not only military but judiciously secure.

With an ‘uproar in the house’ – our Knesset –  maybe the time has come that instead of storming the Supreme Court to have the more serious conversation of a written constitution!

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).


In their eagerness to quickly claim a narrative win, these two examples show how powerful a tool propaganda is.

By Rolene Marks

May I please have your permission to indulge me for a few minutes? As someone who works in the media (and has a fair interest in pop culture) I have been closely following the trajectory of two major stories, from divergent worlds, but have the ugly fingerprints of propaganda hit pieces scrawled all over them. Yes, I am going to venture THERE and talk about the two most discussed and probably ridiculed people on the planet at the moment – as well as a story that created a social media storm for Israel. 

I am going to spare (see what I did there?) commenting about THAT book and focus instead on the intentions of the Netflix documentary and how it plays into organized propaganda. I will be sparing you the details of a frostbitten Little Harry and dalliances of dog bowls and stallions and focusing elsewhere – the six-part Netflix shlockumentary.

If you were in need of serious lucre but had very little to offer in terms of talent, what would you sell that would be guaranteed to see you rolling in the type of dough the family you left has in order to venture out on your own?  You need to keep yourselves in the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed to – after all, the private jets are not going to hire themselves! The answer is obvious – slag off your family as much as possible for filthy lucre, oh, and control the narrative. That part of the plan is most important. Control the narrative they have – in TV interviews, in articles and now in a six-part docudrama on Netflix. Did I mention the paycheck was an estimated $100million?

In six hours of hagiography, where there is not a single acknowledgement of their own behaviour; but rather a trilling of the virtues of the two protagonists, punch after punch is aimed at the British media and the Royal Family. The documentary is long on accusation but short on proof; and a lot of what has been fed to viewers through pretty visuals and droning muzak has routinely been debunked; but facts are not important here. A canny agenda, oozing with wokeisms is. 

Descent into Despair.  Making big bucks by thrashing their family.

We all remember Harry walking behind his mother’s coffin and it would take a heart of stone not to feel for the Prince who is so clearly distraught and still suffering over her death.

Blaming the media, Harry sees himself as a messiah on a one-man crusade to change the way it operates. In other words, curb free speech by cracking down on criticism of himself and his wife. This same man called the US first amendment that protects free speech “bonkers”; but still uses the media as a tool to carefully control his narrative.

On scrutiny, the accusations do not hold up and the documentary is a definitively one-sided view. That is the point. You have to accept THEIR truth and not THE truth – failure to do so will result in people called racists and other nasty names.

One area that come is for particular opprobrium is the issue of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a voluntary group of 54 countries, working together for the common good. Not all are part of the Realms of nations and not all are former colonies. In 2022, Togo and Gabon joined. It is no secret that Britannia once ruled across the world. What was once the Empire has evolved into the Commonwealth – a body so esteemed that one of Nelson Mandela’s first agenda items when he became President, was to rejoin South Africa which had previously been expelled because of the racist Apartheid regime. Calling for it to be called Empire 2.0 is not only profoundly insulting to Her Majesty’s legacy, but also disingenuous and a downright lie. The damage has been done. Many with little knowledge will resort to the common woke tactics and resort to language like “colonisers” and “racists”.

No Escape from Royal Revelations. Meghan and Harry are in every living room.

Perhaps Harry and Meghan – once President and Vice-President of the Commonwealth Trust – need to have a look at The Commonwealth Charter.

Result – the world has an image of two people, hunted by the media their privacy invaded while expose every private moment of their lives including their children and text messages as they conveniently come in from siblings and celebrities while the cameras are there with perfect lighting. You can’t make this up!

Missing was any modicum of contrition or accountability from their side. But victimhood sells in today’s times. Reeks of solipsism.  The end result? The image of the British media and United Kingdom damaged and a NY Times op-ed calling for Monarchy to be dismantled.

On the opposite end of the scale but no less reeking of careful media narrative capture, is the tragic killing of Al Jazeera journalist, Shirin abu Akleh. Now in this example, we are dealing with the high priests of narrative twisting who know how to use the media better than anyone – the Palestinians. The same people who brought you the Pallywood productions of Mohammed al Dura, dead man on stretcher who suddenly springs to life; and countless others, we now have the case of the war correspondent who the Palestinians say, “was targeted by the IDF for assassination”. Israel is a democracy and as such respects a free press. There never has been a case of journalists deliberately targeted and killed and to say so is a blatant lie. Victimhood sells.

Shirin Abu Akleh’s death was a tragedy. A woman lost her life. Shirin Abu Akleh was also a war correspondent who understood the risks she took covering conflict.

Caught in the Crossfire. Targeted by propaganda, Israel was accused of “targeted assignation” of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh who was dangerously covering a gun battle between Israeli soldiers pursuing suspected Arab terrorists.

At the outset, this incident was politicised – before proper forensic investigations were conducted. The facts were dismissed in favour of a well-coordinated media campaign. CNN trotted out their “expert”, Chris Cobb-Smith, a known anti-Israel agitator who based his implicit ballistics findings based on bullet striations on a tree. He never examined the fatal bullet. Successive examinations by the Palestinian coroner, the US forensic team and the IDF are still inconclusive exactly WHO fired the fatal shot. The damage in the media against the IDF was successful.

The Palestinians have their own crusade. To weaponise the media; and in turn galvanise public opinion into turning Israel into a pariah state. At no stage in their attempt to control the narrative around this, did Palestinians acknowledge their own role in provoking a heavy response. No mention is made of incitement and terror attacks carried out against Israeli civilians, which resulted in counter-terror units having to respond with an incursion into hot spot Jenin.

What was the end goal here? To find out who fired the fatal bullet – or to shore up enough outrage to warrant a sham lawsuit at the International Criminal Court and engage in political lawfare? To paint Israel as a country that deliberately targets and kills journalists as claimed by Al Jazeera, the Palestinians and the anti-Israel establishment are part of a much, much bigger agenda to isolate and end the Jewish state. Propaganda is the key weapon in the arsenal.

These are two completely different examples of how careful narrative control influences people and how important it is for us, as media consumers, to question and demand FACTUAL coverage regardless of how it is packaged – or even sold to Netflix.

In an age where people take news at face value, the lessons here are important. Nothing sells quite like a narrative about victimhood. It is the hot commodity of the moment. The danger is that in haste to dominate headlines, facts are sacrificed first in the battle of the narrative.  The consequences extremely dangerous because they create more divisions and more suspicions. We deserve better than this.

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


A cautionary  tale from the South African experience

By former acting Judge, Lawrence Nowosenetz

Is it such a big deal that Knesset can overrule the Israel Supreme Court? That is the plan, it seems, of the new Likud government. The motives are cloaked under the mantle of judicial reform, but this may be a thinly veiled pretext for bringing to heel a judiciary which is an obstacle to the political machinations of the government of the day to protect or give immunity to elected politicians who actually have already crossed the line of the criminal law such as the new Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Health Aryeh  Deri a convicted fraudster  or newly elected Prime Minister Netanyahu who is  currently facing criminal  prosecution.  It remains to be seen whether by the time this is published, the unthinkable  has already have been done.

Courting’ Disaster. Architects of the proposed judicial overall, Justice Minister Yariv Levin (l) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While some on the Israeli street may think this is not a big deal – indignantly claiming on social media that the legislature reflects the will of the voters and why should unelected judges undermine Knesset  laws – the answer lies of course elsewhere –  in the doctrine of democracy that is not simply based on rule by an elected majority. It is far more complex than simply crass majoritarianism!

Democracy is far more.

It has evolved into a system of checks and balances. This is the idea  which forms the separation of powers of a Government consisting of three elements – the legislature, executive and judiciary. Each has limits and no single part is all powerful or sovereign. This is the model of modern constitutional democracy. Parliament may not exceed its authority. It is bound by the founding laws and values of the State and universal human rights (natural law) . These norms are found in the constitution of the state but are not necessarily written. The US, and many Western states have written constitutions which empower the courts to pronounce on the validity of legislation. A notable exception is England which has an unwritten constitution developed over centuries. Although its parliament is sovereign, it was historically set on course  by the Magna Carta of 1215, which acknowledged the now firmly embedded concept that no man – not even the king – is above the law.

Sending Clear Message. Over 80,000 Israelis protest in Tel Aviv against judicial overhaul. (Jack Guez/AFP)

This evolved over time into the idea of the  rule of law.  England presents a unique example of a constitutional democracy with parliamentary sovereignty which is not abused. Israel has no formal constitution but its founding document – the Declaration of Independence – and the body of basic laws are its constitutional values and norms. This is a grey area which is  in danger of being misused. There is no Bill of Rights which gives courts testing powers over legislative excesses or human rights abuses. The courts should be the guardians of the rule of law and should be independent  of political interference. 

The depravity of parliamentary sovereignty is illustrated by the constitutional crisis which occurred during  the 1950’s in what was then the Union of South Africa. In 1910 the Union of South Africa was formed by the fusion of four provinces, the Cape and Natal being former English colonies with the Orange Free State and the Transvaal being former Boer republics. The Cape Colony was the only province in which a group of non-White people of mixed ancestry called  Coloured  had the franchise. The South Africa Act of 1910, being the constitution, contained a clause guaranteeing  the Coloured right to vote in parliament. This provision was called an entrenched clause. It could only be changed by a 2/3 vote of both houses of Parliament  (a bicameral body consisting of the House of Assembly and the Senate) sitting in a joint session. The National Party, the Apartheid government of the day, viewed the Coloured vote as an obstacle to White rule and pushed through legislation called the Separate Representation of Voters Act which sought to remove Coloured voters in the Cape from the common voter’s role and provide a separate mechanism for the election of four representatives on a separate voters roll. The new law  did not however command a 2/3 majority in a joint sitting of  both houses.  Mr  Harris and a group of aggrieved Coloured voters in the Cape  challenged the validity of this law in court as Parliament had violated its own procedures. The Appellate Division, then the highest court, struck down the overriding legislation as illegal, being not in compliance with the constitution. The government  was most dissatisfied with this decision and then passed the High Court of Parliament  Act to constitute Parliament as a court and with the power to override the courts of law and of course the adverse judicial decision in the Harris case. However, Harris again approached the courts to remedy the  High Court of Parliament law. The Appellate Division again struck out the legislation as a sham as Parliament is not at all a court of law and has no judicial powers. A constitutional deadlock was reached. 

Abuse of Power. Defying rulings of South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal (Appellate Division), a predatory parliament in the 1950s pushed through legislation to remove “Coloureds” (mixed race) from the voter’s role.

This stalemate was  overcome by the National Party government  enlarging the Senate with government supporters and also enlarging the Appellate Division with the appointment too, of government supporting judges. The whole sorry saga resulted in the Coloured people being disenfranchised until 1994 when South Africa enacted its democratic interim constitution. The franchise was restored to all South Africans.   

This constitutional gerrymandering  shows the moral depravity of a government armed with untrammelled parliamentary sovereignty, determined to use its powers to maintain power and trample on civil liberties. This approach was already implanted in South Africa by Paul Kruger, prior to the era of union when he  was president of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal. He took a dim view of judicial review, considering it the  work of the Devil introduced to challenge God’s law.  Such an absolutist view harks back to the divine right of kings. This worldview had already been discredited during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe centuries earlier.  

Sign of the Times. Guaranteeing English political liberties, King John signs – under pressure from his rebellious barons – the Magna Carta (“Great Charter”) at Runnymede, a meadow by the River Thames on June 15, 1215.

Democracy has been called a fragile flower. It is easily crushed, particularly by those whose intentions are less than honourable. There has always been a tension between the executive and the judiciary. A delicate balance needs to be maintained. Laws are of general application in most cases whereas a court decision is specific to the parties before it. When legislation is used to favour  an individual, such as a politician, it ceases to be legitimate and is an abuse of power.  In the Harris case, the parliamentary process was used to overturn an unfavourable court judgment. This is a red line which should be guarded against.

Israel is at the tipping point between a constitutional democracy and an unconstitutional pseudo democracy.

About the writer:

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

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


A ‘changing of the guard’ is set on changing laws  – a fear for the future

By David E. Kaplan

Israel does not have a Constitution. Nor does it have a two-tier system of government like in the US (a House of Representatives and Senate) that protects “We the People” by providing structural checks and balances.

Israel has just one house – the Knesset – but what it also has – and cherishes – is an internationally respected and sometimes envied Supreme Court that boldly protects ALL its citizens equally.  The Israeli Supreme Court is not merely a magnificent building, it also provides a magnificent service. It is ‘designed’ not only to attract each year multitudes of tourists but to safeguard for all time –  the rule of law.

Under Threat. With Israel’s Supreme Court under attack from the Netanyahu’s hard-right government, will the country’s democratic credentials suffer?

Now however there are ominous forces in play that want not only metaphorically but to literally ‘change the rules’ that will undermine our esteemed Supreme Court posing a threat to civil liberties and minority rights. They are plotting nothing less than an overhaul or more accurately, an overrule by the legislature of the Supreme Court.

Where will the checks be against a – hardly an impossibility these days – reckless legislature without the constraints of the country’s judicial watchdog – a robust Supreme Court?

Yes, Bibi and his new coalition cohorts are on the warpath against the Supreme Court and let us not be fooled by their pretentions of “protecting” democracy. If Israeli democracy needs protecting, it needs protecting from THEM – the Prime Minister and his Justice Minister – Yariv Levin! Under the facile façade of “judicial reform”, the new ultra-right Likud government want the freedom to pursue what could be reckless agendas without any judicial obstacles and to provide as well, protection and immunity to wayward politicians – starting at the top with the Prime Minister himself facing serious criminal charges and then moving down his list of ‘the usual suspects’ in his cabinet. This cabinet includes the Vice Prime Minister serving as well as the Minister of Health and Minister of the Interior and Periphery, Aryeh Deri. Deri has also served time for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, convicted in 1999. Are ‘we the Israeli people’ expected to place our trust and our futures with convicted fraudsters?

Is it any wonder the protests have begun against Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister, Yariv Levin.

These protests are not a case of the “left having lost an election that they can’t come to terms with it” as rightwing journalists daily jibe but of Israelis who love and respect democracy but now fear losing it.

Wide Awakening. Thousands turn out on a cold wintry Saturday night to protest at Habima Square in Tel Aviv against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s new government, after Justice Minister Yariv Levin unveiled plans earlier in the week to overhaul Israel’s judicial system. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The protests on Saturday night the 7 January 2023,  which drew more that 10,000 people to Habima Square in Tel Aviv – “is just one example,” writes the editor of The Jerusalem Report  in his November 9 editorial “of how a large segment of the Israeli public finds these reforms scary and dangerous. People are afraid of the loss of basic civil rights.” The editorial continues, stressing that “Combined with extreme remarks made by some members of the new government about the LGBT community for example, their concerns are not “, as the Prime Minister refutes, “baseless.”

It’s all very well that our smooth-talking Prime Minster is trying to reassure an anxious half of the Israeli population that the claims of his proposed judicial reforms will lead to “the end of democracy” are “baseless”. But are they? After all, he too was once in opposition to the very reforms he now champions.

Demonstrating for Democracy. “We will continue to fight for our democracy,” Merav Michaeli, leader of the Israeli Labour Party, tweeted from the protest in Tel Aviv attended by thousands.  (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Does Netanyahu – who boasts frequently of how “smart” Israelis are – really believe that Israelis will be duped by the self-interest assertions of a Prime Minister facing criminal charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in bed with cabinet ministers who some themselves are convicted felons or hold extreme positions? Noting the caliber of the characters Netanyahu has assembled in his governing coalition, are we really to expect that these reforms will be carried out as he asserts “responsibly” and in a “level-headed manner”?

Who is the Prime Mister kidding? Not any people I know.

And who is Netanyahu listening to? It appears only to himself, while at least one person who he should be listening to is his greatest supporter abroad, emeritus Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

If I were in Israel I would be joining the protests,” Dershowitz told Israel’s Army Radio, referring to the protest attended by thousands in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Asserting that “It would be a tragedy to see the Supreme Court weakened,” he cautioned that “It will make it much more difficult for people like me who try to defend Israel in the international court of public opinion to defend it effectively [in the future].”

Courting Disaster. Prepared to join the protests, staunch defender of Israel in the court of public opinion, American jurist Alan Dershowitz is troubled by the Prime Minister’s proposed Israel court reforms. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

It was a surprise awakening to hear Dershowitz – who has written bestselling books supporting Israeli policies and is close to Netanyahu – to so forcefully oppose the proposed judicial reforms. Dershowitz added he had informed Netanyahu of his “very strong” opposition to the reforms, warning they would also expose Israel to legal challenges by global bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

Even Israel’s president, a position largely ceremonial, has joined in the public outcry to Netanyahu’s judicial reforms. Breaking his silence on Tuesday, President Isaac Herzog  vowed to defend the country’s founding values expressing concern that the proposed reforms by Justice Minister Levin could violate the “moral compass of the country.”

Changes to Israel’s Supreme Court will be ‘supreme’ folly. At the moment the Prime Minister is not listening. It will be up to an awakening public to shout louder.

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 endeavors to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO) .


Three Phases Every Healthy Relationship Repeatedly Goes Through

By Bev Ehrlich

Have you ever questioned whether the person you’re in love with is capable of making you happy? Well, how is that working out for you? The marriage we want is like the body we want – flawless!! Relationships are not perfect! Real relationships are the collision of your partner’s imperfections with your flaws. How you manage that, is key to your healthy relationship.

Ed Tronick introduced the idea that all relationships are a constant dance of harmony, disharmony, and repair. Closeness, distance taking, and closeness once again. This pattern can play itself out over decades or 30 times over one dinner.

Photo: Julia C. Basso, PhD


Harmony is when you feel relational with your partner. You can listen to what their needs are, and see their perspective.

Terry Real refers to this first stage as “love without knowledge.” It’s the promise phase in which you might recognize a soul connection. You feel this person completes you. They get you! They will surely heal all your wounds and hurts. They get you in every way.

Real calls this phase “love without knowledge” because, while you may feel like you’ve known this person for your entire life, you don’t know how they keep their sock drawer or how they manage their finances, or if they leave their dirty laundry on the floor.

As you move from being wrapped up in one another, you begin to notice other things going on in your world. Living life together doesn’t seem quite so simple and disillusionment sets in.


Knowledge without love now comes to the fore. You now know more about your partner. You may feel you now know more about them than you ever wished you knew! You don’t feel very loving at this stage. You begin to behave in a way that keeps you protected and disconnected. Much to your shock and frustration, not only is this person not going to deliver you from all the broken places you’re trying to run from, but you discover that your partner is beautifully designed as Terry Real so eloquently puts it “to stick a burning spear right into your eyeball.”

Looking more closely, we have married our unfinished conversations with our early caretakers.

When we were dating, we met many potential partners who would not have recreated our old family dramas. Our lives together may have been calmer, however, none of them attracted us.

This disillusionment hurts like crazy! You can feel betrayed, angry, and even trapped.


The third phase of the dance is repair. This is the “knowing stage of love.” You know all about your partner. You know all their ugly and imperfect parts. You know they never pay bills on time or always leave their shoes and socks strewn all over the living room floor, they squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle!! However, despite all this knowledge you choose to love them anyway.

Thomas Hübl  teaches that “healthy intimacy is not something you have, it’s something you do. It’s a minute-to-minute practice; as such, we need to create conditions for sustained practice and build a relationship-cherishing subculture around ourselves, our children, and our marriages. “

A healthy relationship flows from harmony to rupture and doesn’t get stuck there but works its way back into repair and closeness.

About the writer:

Beverly Ehrlich is a relationship coach. She firmly believes that we heal, grow and thrive through healthy and cherishing relationships that show appreciation for each other’s strengths and build on them. Feeling helpless and strained when her husband of many years found himself in the depths of depression, they turned for support to Terry Real’s Relational Life Therapy (RLT). She has since dedicated her life to bringing couples back into healthy connectedness. Beverly encourages her clients to stand up for themselves with love while cherishing their partner at the same time. She teaches strategies that help clients speak their truth so that their partner can hear them and come into repair quicker each time.

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 heroic past shall be ‘unveiled’ at an upcoming ceremony at Johannesburg’s Jewish cemetery illuminating ‘bloodlines’ between South Africa and Israel

By David E. Kaplan

On the 27th November, people of all faiths and races – some wearing medals of battles past – will gather at the South African National Jewish War Memorial at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg. They will do so to remember those South African soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the world wars of the twentieth century that not only “changed the course of history” but profoundly impacted on the destiny of the Jewish people. The acts of bravery by these soldiers – whether aware at the time or not – contributed to the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in their ancestral homeland in 1948.

Live stream link on Sunday 27/11/22, 10:30 (SA time) – https://www.facebook.com/SAZionistFed/

The drama of three long forgotten and for many never even known events, will be ‘unveiled’ together with the stones embodying their pulsating pasts.


When only a year ago, students at  UCT ( University of Cape Town) tried to expunge the memory of South Africa’s famed wartime Prime Minister Jan Smuts by defacing and covering his bust with plastic bags and ultimately removing it from the campus as well as renaming the historic men’s residence from Smuts Hall to Upper Campus Residence, the upcoming gathering on the 27 November has a contrary agenda of honouring his memory as it connects with the Jewish people. If UCT students sought to ‘cover’ Smuts’ bust, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), JNF (SA), the South African Jewish ex-Service League together with its committee member, Selwyn Rogoff and its former Chairman, Peter Bailey also representing the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee in Israel, have sought to uncover Smuts’ less known past, notably his contribution to the State of Israel.

Century of a Stone. The cornerstone originally unveiled by Prime Minister Smuts in 1922 to be again unveiled by his great-grandson Gareth Shackleford on the 27 November 2022 at West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg.

When it was brought to Bailey and Rogoff’s attention that a cornerstone honouring South African Jews who had fought and died in the Great War that had been unveiled by Prime Minister Smuts in November 1922 at the old Jewish Guild War Memorial Building in downtown Johannesburg had after a century of travels to different locations  resurfaced in the garden of a bowling club, they felt a special memorial event marking the centenary should be held. Bailey felt further that it should include two other monumental contributions of South African soldiers who died in the service of that biblical land that would in time emerge as the state of the Jewish people – Israel. Through this writer’s intervention, he contacted Benji Shulman of the SAZF that set in motion the upcoming event that will have Smuts’ great-grandson, Gareth Shackleford, who will unveil again the cornerstone that his grandfather originally unveiled a century earlier reminding the world of the love Smuts had for the Jewish people and his role in the creation of the Jewish state.

Dead at Delville. Included amongst Jewish South African soldiers killed in WWI was the writer’s grandfather’s brother, Victor Kaplan, who volunteered for overseas service and was killed in the Battle of Delville Wood in 1916. (Family photo)

Too few are aware that when Smuts and Chaim Weizmann met in London during the Great War, the two began a close friendship that lasted for the rest of their lives and greatly influenced events in Palestine. In an essay on Smuts and Weizmann, Richard P. Stevens writes:

perhaps few personal friendships have so influenced the course of political events during the twentieth century as the relationship between General Jan Christiaan Smuts, South Africa’s celebrated prime minister, and Chaim Weizmann, Zionist leader, and Israel’s first president.”

Meeting of Minds. They emerged friends with shared visions – Chaim Weizmann (left) and Jan Smuts, circa 1915 (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)

Research reveals that Smuts played a monumental backroom role in the drafting of the Balfour Declaration, providing Weizmann with a direct conduit to the War Cabinet. Another of Smuts’ great-grandsons, Philip Weyers, said of his great-grandfather, who he fondly refers to as “Oubaas” (old boss) that:

he was the anonymous partner to the Balfour Declaration. The spirit and even some of the wording of the Balfour Declaration came from the Oubaas’ mouth. His thoughts and views carried a lot of weight, and is imbedded in that fateful document.

It is little wonder that kibbutz Ramat Yohanan – founded in 1932  – was named in honour of Jan Smuts; ‘Yohanan’ being the Hebrew translation for the Afrikaans ‘Jan’ or English ‘John’, in recognition of his unstinting efforts on behalf of the Jewish people.


However, Israel’s ‘Magna Carta’ – the Balfour Declaration of 1917 – would have meant very little beyond a letter or footnote in history had not the actual ‘feet’ of commonwealth soldiers – including the Cape Corps comprising members of South Africa’s Coloured community – fought valiantly to relieve Palestine of the Ottoman Turks. Some 54 Coloureds  – Christians and Muslims – lost their lives in what became known as the Battle of Megiddo, opening the road for General Allenby’s breakthrough to Damascus. Most important from a Jewish perspective, while it “opened the road” for Allenby, it cleared the region of the occupying Turks, paving the way for a British Mandate and ultimately Jewish statehood in 1948.

Jubilation in Jerusalem. One month after the Balfour Declaration, General Edmund Allenby enters the Old City on the 11 December 1917 to accept the surrender of Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks. Next battle to follow – Megiddo.

A year following the famous battle, Field Marshal Viscount Allenby, GCB, GCMG had this to say about the men of the 1st Cape Corps:

 “I heard you are creating a Roll of Honour containing Cape Corps names. I had the honour of serving with many of the Cape Corps in Palestine and I should like to add my tribute of appreciation. The record of those of the Cape Corps who fought under my command is one that any troops might envy. Especially on September 19 and 20, 1918, they covered themselves with glory, displaying a bravery and determination that has never been surpassed.”

A descendant of this battle, Cmdr. M. Adeel Carelse MMM (Ret.), whose grandfather Cpl. C. H. Carelse fought bravely at Square Hill and Kh Jibeit that were decisive battles within the larger Battle of Megiddo and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, will unveil on the 27 November a plaque to the Cape Corps. Today in Cape Town’s suburb of Retreat, there is Square Hill School that is named after this famous battle that too few remember or the sacrifices made.  However, these mostly forgotten battles fought in a biblical land, ended Ottoman Turkish rule and led to the eventual establishment of the independent states of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and ISRAEL!

Valiant Fighters. Men of the 1st. Battalion, Cape Corps(160th Brigade, 53 Welsh Division) in Palestine 1918.


The third stone of history to be unturned at the ceremony, will be to remember and honour the 644 black Southern Africans who went down with 140 Yishuv Jews on the SS Erinpura during WWII.

They had all worked together as volunteers on a British labour project in Palestine for the war effort and were together in a convoy in the Mediterranean in May 1943 . The SS Erinpura was carrying more than 1000 troops, including Basuto and Batswanan members of the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps and Palestinian Jewish soldiers of 462 Transport Company of the British Army when on the evening of 1 May 1943, German bomber aircraft attacked the convoy 30 nautical miles (56 km) north of Benghazi.

They Made History. On parade but soon to be tested in battle are soldiers of the Cape Corp during WW1 who performed so heroically at the Battle of Megiddo in 1918 against the Ottoman Turks.

In one wave of the attacks, a bomb hit the Erinpura in one of her forward holds, causing her to list to starboard and sink within five minutes. The crew of her 12-pounder anti-aircraft gun continued to return fire until she sank with a loss of life of 800 that included the 633 Sotho, 11 Tswana soldiers and 140 Palestinian Jewish soldiers.

Lives lost at Sea. The ‘SS Erinpura Memorial’ on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem is dedicated to the 139 Jewish soldiers of the British Army  462 Moving Unit in British Mandate of Palestine  that lost their lives on the SS Erinpura  that was sunk in an attack  by the Luftwaffe on 1 May 1943.

The monument on Mount Herzl  to the 140 Jewish soldiers who drowned aboard the SS Erinpura is shaped like a ship  with a pool of water representing the sea where on the bottom appear the names of the fallen. Above the pool is a turret adorned with the Hebrew text of Psalm 68, verse 22:

The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea.”

Ship of Soldiers. The ill-fated SS. Erinpura that went down with South African and Jewish Palestinian soldiers in WWII.

This did in a sense happen with the emergence five years later  with the gathering of Jews and the established of the Jewish state in 1948.

It is only fitting that  Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotsercovsky, will unveil a memorial plaque at the West Park Cemetery ceremony to the tragic loss of life of both the Yishuv Jews and black South Africans who lost their lives together in a cause that others may live.

Entrance to West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg


The years have rolled by and like packed away old unread books, heroic lives were lost tucked away in forgotten chapters in recedingly remembered conflicts. The upcoming ceremony on the 27 November 2022  in Johannesburg is designed to address this amnesia and all across the world are invited to attend on ZOOM


Before all these events played out, the instruction of ‘being careful not to forget’ was already present in Deuteronomy 4:7–9:“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy son’s sons.

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).


Christians and Jews unite in providing a helping hand

By staff correspondent

The timing may be coincidental but there are no coincidences.  This week, two parallel, complementary organizations – one run by an Orthodox Israeli American Jew, and one run by a Chinese American Christian – announced a partnership to bless and comfort Holocaust survivors in Israel.  The need and opportunity is great, and time is of the essence the aging population of Holocaust survivors are dying at an alarming rate.  As they age, they also find themselves in challenging and stressful situations where fixed incomes do not cover all their increased needs. They are literally inviting people from around the world to join them.

The Genesis 123 Foundation is a US based 501(C)3 non-profit whose mandate is to build bridges between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel in ways that are new, unique and meaningful.  Jonathan Feldstein is its Orthodox Jewish, Israeli American president.  Years ago, Feldstein connected with Shirley Burdick, a Chinese American Christian, and founder of the Israeli based non-profit, Ten Gentiles, whose mission is to equip and engage Christians to participate in God’s restoration of Israel alongside the Jewish people.

Helping Hands. On a mission together are founder and CEO of Genesis 123 Foundation Jonathan Feldstein  and founder of the Israeli based non-profit, Ten Gentiles, Shirley Burdick

Feldstein and Burdick became friends and have partnered together on various projects including providing fresh, homemade, hot kosher soup to bless Israeli soldiers guarding at night, keeping Israelis safe, in the Judean mountains. This partnership started with Ten Gentiles purchasing a large soup pot and Feldstein and Burdick preparing and delivering soup one cold winter night. Since then, hundreds of servings of soup, and infinite love and appreciation for the soldiers, have been served.

Recently, Feldstein and Burdick learned of a need and opportunity to be a blessing to elderly Holocaust survivors, and to partner together in a way that neither could do on their own. As they age, and die by the thousands each year, survivors have increased needs medically and economically that create financial stress and trigger PTSD, reminding them of the trauma of suffering and survival that they endured as young people. 

Genesis 123 and Ten Gentiles agreed to partner, with Genesis 123 receiving financial offerings from donations as a US non-profit, and facilitating Ten Gentiles to disburse the funds to benefit Holocaust survivors in need.  Some of the very tangible needs presented include massage and physical therapy to help with healing after a physical trauma (ranging from $500-$700), replacing an AC unit for survivors in the heat of summer ($875-$1,000), home renovation to replace a bathtub with an accessible shower  ($1,780), urgent dental treatment (from $826- $2,105), new eye glasses ($859), hearing aids and eye surgery ($1,071), purchasing a new convertible couch/bed ($780), purchasing a new TV ($560), and a new washing machine and freezer ($800 + $600), laser eye surgery ($820), providing a new computer ($1,156), and offering a rent increase subsidy ($1,500).  This week, Ten Gentiles gave out gift cards to a major Israeli grocery store chain to survivors to be sure that they have basic food supplies going into winter.

Room to Improve. Appalling conditions at homes of Holocaust survivors (Photo: The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel)

These needs are just some of the specific examples of things that have been done by mostly Christian donors so far, and an illustration of what kinds of needs are expected coming up. Most needs fall outside the kinds of things that local government and civil service agencies can do, and involve one-time expenses that are unaffordable for those living on a fixed income.  With about 25% of survivors living below the poverty line, any one of these can push someone over, the stress of which would be compounded by the trauma the survivors suffered in Nazi Europe.

All the survivors for whom needs are being provided are vetted by local social service agencies so that the funds donated will make the biggest impact to those most in need. The more money that is donated, the more survivors that can be helped. 

Mindful of the six million Jews who were murdered, Genesis 123 and Ten Gentiles have established a modest goal of $600,000 as stage one, and agreed to steward the funds with no overhead.  If just 6000 people were to donate $100, the goal could be reached by January’s observance of International Holocaust Memorial Day.

Working through churches around the world, Genesis 123 has also provided handmade holiday cards along with the ability for donors to send their personal blessings and words of encouragement to the survivors directly.  

In announcing their partnership, Feldstein and Burdick realized that it could not be timeous.  As November 9 is the anniversary of the 1938 nationwide pogrom that engulfed Germany’s Jews known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, while the horrors of the past cannot be undone, a redeeming partnership between Jews and Christians to support the shrinking number of remaining survivors can be a blessing and is redemptive.

On Kristallnacht, Jewish institutions and synagogues were vandalized and burned, along with countless private Jewish businesses and homes. Jews were arrested, assaulted, and murdered across Germany in what became the foundation of the systematic mass murder of the Holocaust. 

Because so much of the persecution of the Jews in Europe took place by Christian Europe, this partnership between Jews and Christians is not just a comfort to the survivors but healing in the sense that it mends the relationship that was overcome by hate.  Anyone who wishes to be a blessing and participate in comforting the survivors in the twilight of their lives can visit: genesis123.co/hug-a-holocaust-survivor.  

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 drive up north on Yitzhak Rabin Day led to recollections and reflections of more than a life cut short

By David E. Kaplan

While Americans of a certain age will ask each other where they were when they first heard the news in 1963 that President Kennedy was shot, Israelis are more likely to question of their own leader assassinated on November 4, 1995:

What would have happened had he lived?”

Reflections of “WHAT IF” have persisted unabated  every year around the time of the anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was gunned down in office while addressing a peace rally in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995. Despite his physical absence, his spiritual presence remains profoundly felt – even at places far beyond the borders of the country he so valiantly served.

Man of Destiny. Yitzchak Rabin as a young Major General in the IDF.

More than killing a man, the assassin killed a peace process leading to an accelerated and deepening polarisation in Israel  that has influenced the country’s domestic and foreign policy ever since. One wonders if Rabin had not been killed by Yigal Amir that fateful November Saturday 27 years ago, would Israel be different today?

These were the thoughts that I pondered as I traveled north with a JNF (Jewish National Fund) delegation from South Africa, who together with members of our Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee (Israel), were meeting with the Mayor of Megiddo, Itzik Holawsky and members of the Megiddo Regional Council to discuss joint projects in a region that is so enrichingly connected to the Jewish community of South Africa.

Memorable Meeting. With the photograph of Yitzchak Rabin in the background, members of the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee (Israel) and a delegation of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) South Africa meet in the Mayor of Megiddo’s office on Rabin Day. (l-r) Mayor Itzik Holawsky, Hagar Reuveni, Isla Feldman, Bev Schneider, David Kaplan, Peter Bailey, Michael Kransdorff and Nati Vierba (Rob Hyde absent). (Photo D.E. kaplan)

The day’s programme, although not intentionally connected with Rabin,  resonated with the spirit of Rabin from the moment we peered out the vehicle’s window as we headed north and saw the sign in bold – Yitzchak  Rabin Highway – the official name of Highway 6. Seeing that sign, jolted my memory back to my interview with Rabin’s trusted friend and confidant, the late Eitan Haber who said “that it was most fitting that Israel’s Cross-Israel Highway (“Highway 6”) was officially dedicated as the ‘Yitzhak Rabin Highway’. He was such a powerful force behind this project as he was in pushing ahead with road development throughout the country.” Nevertheless, the irony was not lost that on this anniversary of a nation mourning the loss of its visionary leader, the leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu was forming a coalition – whose collective mindset represented the antithesis of what Rabin stood and for what he was gunned down for.

On Track. Highway 6 (Hebrew: כביש 6, Kvish Shesh), also known as the Trans-Israel Highway or Cross-Israel Highway is officially dedicated as the Yitzhak Rabin Highway.

Our day would play out with constant  interludes of Rabin from entering Mayor Holawsky’s  office and noticing the photograph of Rabin on the wall behind his desk to visiting a school where the young students – boys and girls – were all singing songs from the Rabin era.

We all joined in. As I watched these youngsters,  I wondered what they knew of the life of the former Prime Minister.

Rabin Remembered. Members of the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee (Israel) and a delegation of JNF South Africa attend Rabin Day activities at Megiddo School with representatives of the Megiddo Regional Council.

My father was a happy man; he loved life and loved his tennis,” Rabin’s daughter Dalia Rabin told this writer in an interview at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv in 2010. We were standing next to the glass-encased cabinet of Rabin’s rackets and tennis balls, testimony to the relaxed side of a personality that carried the weight of a nation on his broad shoulders.

Earlier in the interview, Dalia explained the importance of the Center in outreaching to the children of Israel:

We need to reach today’s young generation. We are all concerned about the increased level of violence, a thread, I believe, traceable to the night of the assassination. People woke up the next day to a new reality they were not prepared for. Unfortunately, the shock was never dealt with by the leadership of all political parties at the time and that has impacted on our culture. When you have tensions that are not addressed, when your minorities do not have adequate platforms to express their ideas and beliefs, it leads to frustration. Seeking an outlet, this pent up frustration can lead to violence. We believe that our initiative to ensure every schoolchild in Israel should visit the museum and hopefully thereafter attend our workshops will help address some of the pressing issues confronting our society.”

Revealing Rabin. The writer interviewing Dalia Rabin about her illustrious father at the newly opened Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv in 2010.

I thought too of another image of Rabin that Haber had raised, a far cry from the  ‘cigar and champagne’ image of some of today’s leaders and that would be important for children of today to know about. Haber had told me that “The trappings of high office never got to Rabin, as it might others with less moral stature.” Supporting this observation, Haber revealed a feature of Rabin’s personality that was quite unique for a leader of a country.

Say your Peace. Eitan Haber reads lyrics from the anthem “Song of Peace” at Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in 1995. The sheet of paper had been retrieved from Rabin’s pocket after he was shot by the assassin at a peace rally. (Photo Nati Harnik/AP)

He constantly voiced to me the need to justify his monthly salary. He might have held the highest office in the land, but this man never forgot he was a servant of the people and that he had to give it his all.” It was that “all” that would later cost him his life.

On the return drive home later in the day and seeing once more the sign as we got onto Yitzchak  Rabin Highway, the name again sent my mind back in reverse, this time directly relating to ‘highways’.  I though back to the meeting I attended in the Prime Minister’s office in 1995 representing TELFED with a delegation of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) leadership from South Africa. After welcoming us each individually – there must have been twelve of us altogether –  he said:

I am not sitting behind a desk, please grab a chair and let’s sit in a circle.”

From what could have been a typical formal meeting separating the Prime Minister from his guests,  he immediately transformed it into a relaxed gathering with friends. He made us feel we were meeting with the first name, ‘Yitzchak’, and not the revered surname – ‘Rabin’.

And then, at some stage during our discussions, Rabin did the unexpected by breaking off from the intense conversation with this surprising question:

Do you know what still excites me?”

We all sat there puzzled.

The question, which came out of nowhere, was of course rhetorical, so no-one ventured an answer. No-one was expected to. But for sure, most were probably pondering:

 “What could still excite a man who was in his second term as Prime Minister; had previously been a Minister of Defense, an Ambassador to the USA, Chief of Staff and participated in some capacity in most of the major national events, from all the wars to the most famous rescue operations in history – The Entebbe Raid?”

What was realistically left?” all must have thought at the time.

We did not have to wait long.

Rabin answered:

Waking up on mornings knowing that I would be cutting a ribbon that day opening a new stretch of highway, a bridge or an underpass.”

After a lifetime of excitement, I thought that this sounded so mundane!

I was so wrong!

Only on that 1995 drive back from the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem to Tel  Aviv, did the proverbial shekel drop! It was not so much the “stretch of highway, bridge or underpass” where Rabin was cutting the ribbon that was so significant – it was what potentially lay ‘down the road’. The roads, bridges and underpasses were metaphors – signifying to the Prime Minister easier access to a better future – for they would lead to expansion – new towns, new factories and new lives as Israel developed. Rabin was a man of foresight; he looked not only at the road but down the road and beyond!

Of the many photographs of Rabin throughout his military, diplomatic and political careers, the one that resonates for me the most is one with the late King Hussein of Jordan, taking time out to enjoy a smoke together. It was taken at the Jordanian royal residence in Aqaba after the signing of the historic peace treaty between their countries on the  26 October 1994. Rabin is guiding Hussein’s hand as he lights his cigarette. Rich in symbolism, it captures the atmosphere of two former enemies who had waited a long time for this precious moment who were not only enjoying a ‘smoke break’ but enacting the symbolic ritual of smoking the proverbial  ‘peace pipe’.  

Light Up. King Hussein lights a cigarette for Yitzchak Rabin after their signing the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. Aqaba, October 26, 1994.

As they puffed away,  they had moved on from warriors of war to worriers for peace.

Later reflecting on the singing children at the Megiddo School, we welcome the day when future leaders will be ‘cutting ribbons’, opening new sections of the road ahead – to peace and prosperity.

Visiting a school where the young pupils – boys and girls – were all singing songs from the Rabin era.

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 hijab and the nuanced position of Iranian women

By Hügo Krüger

On 16 September 2022 the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in a hospital in Tehran following her arrest by Iran’s Guidance Patrol. Although the details surrounding her death has been disputed, given that she suffered from previous brain injuries (later acknowledged by her family’s lawyer), the event sparked protests and spoke to an underlying anger within Iranian Society.

Death in Custody. Protests following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini arrested by the ‘Modesty Police” over the  Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. (Photo credit: OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

Iranian women started protesting with the Slogan, “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” – “Women Live, Freedom” and they were joined by the Iranian diaspora in cities like San Francisco, Toronto, Brussels, Berlin, Paris and New York. Much like the Black Lives Matter protests that swept through the United States in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd – the nuanced details of Mahsa Amini’s death no longer mattered, as the movement spoke to systemic issues within the society.

To the protestors, the Hijab symbolizes the status of women in general as Iran still upholds laws and practices like the following that are outright discriminatory.

  • Laws that forbid married women from leaving Iran without their husband’s consent.
  • Legislation that makes it difficult for women to file for a divorce as they risk losing the custody of their children to the father once the children are older than seven.
  • Laws and practices that prevent women from getting married without their father’s permissions.
  • All girls over 7 years old are required to wear a headscarf when going to school, with the practice being mandatory in public from the age of 9
Road to Revolution. Thousands of mourners shouting “Woman, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator” walked along a road, through a field and across a river to bypass roadblocks and reach the graveyard where Amini was buried.

There are however signs of reform within Iranian society as since 2019 Iran abolished a law that prevented Iranian women who marry foreigners to pass citizenship onto their children. A 2018 survey published by Iran’s Parliamentary Research Center (PRC) showed that between 60 to 70% of Iranian women do not follow ” the Islamic dress code” strictly in public”. The report  also noted that positive attitudes to the dress code has been steady falling since 1992 and proposed the repealing of Iran’s hijab as the measure was clearly counterproductive.

The PRC also proposed repealing Iran’s hijab law as one of five approaches the state could adopt to counter waning support of the hijab, arguing that the state’s aim of getting people to embrace it could be achieved in more subtle ways.”

The debate in Iran opened up in recent times with calls for reform that included a former Iranian President, a former Mayor of Tehran, the Grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, a former brigadier general of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and a senior Islamic Cleric.

Future down the Road. The uncertainty for women in Iran is reflected in this photo of a child covering her face and a young woman riding on a bus in Tehran. (photo © Reuters)

When it comes to women, Iran is a country of contradictions, the above mentioned laws stand in stark contrast against the remarkable achievement that over 70% of Iran’s mathematics and science graduates are women, a higher proportion than in most liberal western democracies. Iranian Mathematician, Maryam Mirzakhani, was the first and only women to date to have won a Field’s Medal in Mathematics and in 2016 Dorsa Derakhshani became Iran’s first female Chess Grandmaster. She obtained the title after the Iranian Federation banned her for refusing to wear a Hijab, and her brother was punished for playing a match against an Israeli Opponent . When it comes to Sports, Iranian Female Athletes compete at an International Level and have won a series of Gold Medals at the Olympic Games. Iran’s fertility rate (usually the best proxy that economists use to measure the advancement of women) has fallen to levels below China’s thanks to rapid urbanization rate that occurred in the period following the collapse of the last Shah’s Rule.

Playing by her own Rules. A defiant 19 -year-old Dorsa Derakhshani was banned in 2017 from Iran’s national chess team for playing without wearing a headscarf during a competition in Gibraltar and accordingly switched allegiances to the US.

So why the contradiction with the hijab and other outdated practices?

Under strict Islamic Rule, the purpose of Hijab is to encourage modesty, both physically and spiritually as stated in [Qur’an 24:31].

“And tell the believing women to reduce of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which appears thereof and to wrap their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, fathers, sons, husband’s sons, brothers, brother’s son, sister’s sons…”

Despite being mandated religiously, the practice of wearing face veils varies throughout the Muslim World. Media reports often don’t distinguish between the different types of veils like the Hijab, Niqab, Burka, Chador and Dupatta. The adherence to the particular type is often a function of cultural and conservative attitudes that in certain countries, like Iran predate the arrival of Islamic Rule.

Surveys report that the practice of wearing a face veil in one form or another ranges significantly in among Muslim Women Worldwide, from a 90% acceptance rate in Egypt, to less than half in Lebanon. Even in countries with sizable Muslim minorities and strong rights for women, many women actively chose to wear the veil out of their own free will with acceptance ranging from 65% in the United States, 64% in India and more than 50% among South Africa’s university educated Muslim Women. Today only two countries, Afghanistan and Iran mandate the wearing of head scarves in public as since 2018 it is no longer compulsory in Saudi Arabia – although it is still practiced by the majority of the population.

Adherence to the practice changed throughout the last century in Iranian society. From 1936, the Shah Reza Pahlavi implemented a series of “modernisation reforms” like the Kashf-e-Hijab, that gave the police the right to rip the hijab from a women’s face. His aim was to modernise Iran and remove the influence of the Muslim Clerics in the society, but the practice ultimately backfired and emboldened the revolutionary movement.

Despite attempts to celebrate it, the Pahlavi Dynasty was cruel. The Shah ruled Iran with an Iron fist and notably with the SAVAK – a Gestapo like security force that routinely tortured dissidents of the state. In the years prior to the 1979 revolution, Iranians found escape in the Madrassas and Mosques that offered a form of congregation and solitude from the brutality of the Monarchy. The role of the Mosques became a political instrument that was used to mobilise dissident voices against the regime. Women started wearing their head scarves as a symbol of rebellion against the Monarchy.

But in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution the Hijab moved again from the positive to a negative. After adopting the constitution known as the Velayat-e faqih, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini dictated that face covering become mandatory for women in public life to conceal their “nakedness”. His decision sparked the 1979 Women’s Day Protests, the first rebellion against the introduction of the veil. The protest had an initial moderate success, but it only delayed the Hijab’s systemic implementation. In 1980, unveiled women were refused entry into public life and by 1983, women could face corporate punishment for not wearing a headscarf. Then during the Iran Iraq War, the status of the Hijab briefly changed again as Iranian Women wore the headscarf as a symbol to get behind the war effort. It’s also worth recalling that it was ultimately thanks to Israeli Weapons and Military support that Iran could repel Saddam Hussein’s Army as at the time Israeli Intelligence regarded Iraq as a bigger threat to National Security.

Today under Iranian Law, women over the age of 9 are required to wear a veil in public and since 2005, they could be fined by Iran’s Guidance Patrol, known as the ‘Morality Police’ in the West, for not adhering to the country’s dress code. The right to enforce the dress code rule is also exerted by more than one institution that includes the infamous paramilitary Basij – an institution that is less accountable to the public. As soon as the hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad instituted the Guidance Patrol, tales of police brutality and abuse of power became evident. Powerless and humiliated citizens, who couldn’t take their anger out at the police decided in turn to chastise and attack religious women who wore the veil out of conviction.

Close Inspections Of A ‘Moral’ Kind. Morality police patrols are tasked with ensuring that women are not wearing “bad hijab”.

The behavior of the Guidance Patrols in some cases was so violent and harsh that it led to a popular backlash. But since they were connected with the police force, the ordinary people did not dare respond to them. Rather, they attack religious people who would verbally chastise them for the way they were dressed. On June 13, 2012, it was reported that a 30-year-old woman was abused in Punak, Tehran. After having chastised a woman who, according to her, was improperly wearing the veil, she was attacked by the improperly attired woman who pulled off her veil. The next day, a woman who was accompanied by her 3-year-old child was beaten by two other improperly veiled women in Khaniabad, Tehran. A few days later, a young man was beaten and wounded after chastising another man who, according to witnesses, was dressed very inappropriately.”

My experience in traveling through Iran with my wife has been that the hijab’s enforcement clearly differs from city to city and within family to family. In Iran’s religious capital Qom, it is rare to find a woman without a full chador, yet just South in Isfahan, particularly younger women preferred to wear only a headscarf. In the northern more liberal areas around Rasht and in Tehran, it’s not too uncommon to see women barely respecting the rule in public and often in restaurants or on the Caspian Sea’s beach, they simply don’t care about the Hijab.

As confirmed to me by a former journalist; Fereshteh Sadeghi; the protests in the aftermath of Masha Amini is not as widespread as reported in the western media, they came overwhelmingly from the upper classes and university students. Her observation ties in with a 2018 poll that found that many Iranians agree with the statement that “Women should wear the hijab even if they don’t believe in it”. The poll notes that the attitude and opinion is a function of geography, and therefore clearly even abolishing the law will not entirely remove the practice or eliminate the cultural pressures that exist within Iranian Society.

A Cover Up. On 8 March 1979, more than 100,000 women gathered on the streets of the Iranian capital to protest against the new Islamic government’s compulsory hijab ruling, which meant that women would henceforth be required to wear a headscarf when away from home.

Nuance should be added here as educated Muslim women throughout the world wear a veil out of their own free will. The Iranian government as advised by its own parliament has no reason to fear that the practice will go away, even if the laws that mandate them are removed.

The modernisation of Iran should be encouraged if Iranians and others around the world wish to see constructive constitutional change within the Islamic Republic and its relations to other Middle Eastern countries and notably the hostile relationship with Israel. But I also caution against those who preach the language of revolution. The nature of the Iranian regime is that the security forces act as a shadow of power. They have shown their willingness to squash any attempt that challenges their rule. In the unlikely event that that the government is toppled, the IRCG will quickly exert control over Iran and potentially bring a more devasting order to power as was the case in Egypt in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The Iranian military is still one of the most respected institutions in the country and despite western media coverage, the majority of Iranians do actually support their government.

Flaming Passions. How long will the flame of revolution burn amongst a rising populace as seen by these demonstrators in Tehran? (Photo: Obtained by AFP via Getty Images)

The upliftment of women in Iran, much like elsewhere in the world often has little to do with the morality and debate taking places within the intellectual silos, but is rather driven by the technology and urbanisation that breaks down traditional and religious authority. The advancement of women is comparable to the abolition of slavery that was only defeated after the widespread use of the steam engine and not due to the moral debates that took place since the time of Aristotle. Telling women what they should and should not wear simple cannot be justified in the modern era and as Iran’s own government admitted in 2018, the society has long past moved the point where the law is enforceable.

About the writer:

Hügo Krüger is a South African born Structural/Nuclear Engineer, writer and YouTube podcaster, commentating on topics relating to Energy and Geopolitical Matters, Hügo is married to an Iranian born Mathematician and Artist; the couple resides in Paris.