It’s Time to End Cancel Culture

By Gabi Crouse

I grew up in a traditional Jewish South African home. Our family was not religious at all albeit loving and close. My social environment was not affiliated with Judaism at all. Friday nights I went out and Saturday mornings was shopping / movies / coffee with friends. I remember seeing religious Jews on the street and feeling sorry for them – all in their sleeves on a hot day –  and thinking, “what a bunch of nerds!”

To cut a long story short. I now live in Israel as an observant Jew and I am now the nerd.

The fact that I was able to turn my life in a different direction was based on the ability to ask hard questions and face the answers I didn’t like. I am part of millions of Jews who now call themselves Baale Teshuva. A group of people I am proud to be a part of. The turning points in a change of way of life requires sacrifice – and that is never painless.

I feel there is a serious pandemic in the world today and I am NOT talking about Covid. I am talking about intolerance – real intolerance.

I write this with a heavy heart – and it’s the weight of what I saw that drives me to put a message out, even if it’s a whisper.

Intolerance - Home | Facebook

Intolerance – Home | Facebook

I am part of a neighborhood group on Facebook and one morning I read a post put on there by a community member who had serious questions about vaccinating children under the age of 12. Before I say another word, I need to make abundantly clear that my opinions on the vaccine are irrelevant here and I beg you to not presume to know my position. I am not interested in the vaccine here at all.  I am interested in Jewish behaviour based on the comments on this particular post.

To my horror I saw fellow Jews bashing this man. Comments like:

 “Anti vaxxers aren’t welcome here

This comment has no place on this neighborhood group

You (not the post) should be permanently removed from the group

These comments were condoned by another demanding a public apology.

I could not believe how this seemingly innocent post was met. It affected me so badly that later in the day, I went back to check if there were further comments but the post had been removed.

Whether or not that post had a place on that particular group is completely irrelevant. If I see a post I don’t agree with or think is stupid, I simply keep scrolling. But to take the time to comment means people obviously feel strongly about their opposing positions.

At what point did Jews forget how to be a Jew?!

The entire premise of Judaism is to question, challenge and ASK! Ask and ask until what you think you know becomes something you KNOW you know. And even after that you still question. Is it not the trait of a Jew to disagree?

The man who commented on the vaccine obviously has not accepted entirely nor is he convinced of what he has been told about the vaccine and still has reservations about giving it to his children. Perhaps he has been exposed to scary data that isn’t trending on twitter or headlines on mainstream news. It is not farfetched to question the good intentions of a government. Last I checked, he not only has a God given right to ask and check, but he has a responsibility to his family to be sure about something like a vaccine before he goes ahead with it. He may eventually arrive at the point where he feels confident in the vaccine for his children. But the bottom line is, the man wants to protect his family and who am I to assume anything else of him. Unfortunately, now he is no clearer on his position on the vaccine but he now knows exactly where he stands with his community – charem. It’s disgraceful.

It’s completely unrealistic to expect all people to agree on everything. We are allowed to argue, we are allowed to ask. We are allowed to think and have different opinions but we should never be allowed to be disrespectful.

This disrespectful nature and ‘cancel culture’ mentality is deeply disturbing. Popular opinion is not always noble. As Jews, we should know better. Never throughout history has there been a time where any government has been completely uncorrupted and transparent with its constituents. Propaganda is a reality that should never be ignored – perhaps if German society didn’t swallow up the garbage they were fed on their national media, fewer of them would have stood idly by while six million of our people were murdered. To quote Albert Einstein:

 “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth”.

Poisonous Prose. German children in 1938 read an anti-Jewish propaganda book for children titled Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom).

We say never again to our enemies but sadly our enemies have emerged within the community! What is going on when we oust a Jew for thinking differently to the ‘majority’? Maybe he is wrong, but then is it not our responsibility to educate him in a reverent manner?

Why does this seem to be too much to ask?

The beauty about the Jewish faith is that we are encouraged to question. The more we ask, the more we uncover layers of God’s glorious truths. Anyone who has struggled and questioned their way through a concept in the Torah knows the beauty of that.

This is a skill that is applied to in all areas of life.

Careful consideration goes into what we chose to study, who we marry, which school we send our children and so on. Having an open mind does not mean you have to commit to any idea that seems right, nor do we need to be precious over it and protect it – because let’s face it, sometimes we are wrong, and that’s okay!

People are afraid to voice their opinions today even if they are slightly outside the “accepted opinion”. People are being bullied into obedient agreeable thoughtless slaves; too quick to jump to conclusions and too slow to make genuine assessments. “When the arguments is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser” – a quote found all over the internet. I think the next time you find yourself resorting to slander, you might want to ask yourself:

 How far you have come from knowing what you know.

It has no place in a civilized community.

I am a Jew; I am a descendant of Avraham. Avraham challenged all the ideas of authorities, including those of his parents. Avraham asked; Avraham challenged his own beliefs; Avraham changed his ways.

But it was never Jews who threw him into the furnace.



About the writer:

Gabi Crouse1.JPG

Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations as well as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.







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 High Ground

The Hills of Yodfat are Alive with the Sound of Hebrew

By David E. Kaplan

It is a Kaplan family Bar Mitzvah in the quant intimate shul (synagogue) at Yodfat, a moshav in northern Israel in the picturesque high mountains of the Lower Galilee. The shul is packed – mostly with animated children of all ages. Following my brother Sidney  as both a Cohen and grandfather to the Barmitzvah boy Yoav being called up first for an Aliyah  – I followed.

The Children are our Future. The children of Yodfat singing a song to the Bar Mitzvah boy – Yoav Kaplan. His grandsfather, Sidney Kaplan (right) was a founding member of the nearby South African moshav – Manof.

I made my way, maneuvering the short joyful journey between children sitting on bunk benches in the isle, I ascend the Bimah and before reciting the blessing for the reading of the Torah, I look up and to the right of the ark out a wide window and saw the green valley leading to the mountain-top fortresses of Yodfat.

It is no ordinary vista that this shul looks out on!

Embedded into the physical landscape of modern Israel, it is in the psychological landscape that this ancient Jewish fortress  stands as a stark and dark reminder of those enemies that may come to try erase Jewish life from this land. It happened 2000 years ago and began the process of exile until 1948, but the same battle persists. “Rome” has other names today.

I recite the prayer; the Barmitzvah boy reads from the Torah and I smile as I look at all the children who are armed to their teeth with sweets to later throw at Yoav when he has completed his Haftarah, to wish him a “sweet” life as he makes the transition to adulthood. I then momentarily reflect on who was armed to the teeth at this very same spot 2000 years earlier – ROMANS – and not with sweets!

War and Peace. Looking out from where the Roman legions were positioned 2000 years ago to modern day moshav Yodfat in the background where the synagogue is perched on the crest of the hill.

What bloodily played out on these ochre hilltops created a narrative that continues to caution and inspire ensuing generations of Israelis.

Walking to the shul earlier, I breathed in the fresh country air and feasted my eyes on the valley with its vineyards and orchards, olive trees, and goats roaming in the distance tended by a young shepherd. The scene was pastoral and peaceful – a far cry from the cataclysmic clash of arms that occurred at this exact spot in 67 CE when heroic Jewish fighters took on the might of the Roman Empire.

Time to Rejoice. Grandfather Sydney Kaplan speaking in Hebrew to his grandson Yoav at the Bar Mizvah reception in a garden overlooking the site of the tragic Roman siege 2000 years earlier.

In early June of that year, a force of 1,000 Roman cavalrymen arrived at Yodfat to seal off the town, defended by Jewish forces commanded by Yosef Ben Matityahu (the future Flavius Josephus). Prior to the Roman assault, Ben Matityahu had fortified nineteen of the most important towns of the region, including Yodfat.After a failed attempt to confront the Roman army at Tzipori, he retired to Tiberias, but soon thereafter established himself at Yodfat, drawing the Roman legions to the town. A day later at the foothills not far from the shul where we were proudly celebrating Yoav’s Barmitzvah, stood the amassed Roman legions of the Fifth, Tenth and Fifteenth as well as auxiliaries consisting of Arabian archers and Syrian slingers led by General Vespasian and supported by his son Titus, who would both emerge as future emperors of Rome.

These Roman “occupiers” meant business. Literally ‘Dressed to kill’, they aspired to crush an uprising that would become known in history as “The Great Jewish revolt” or “The Jewish War”. This was 2000 years ago and long before anyone ever heard of Palestinians!

Hill of Hereos. The ancient town of Yodfat was positioned on this isolated hill hidden between high peaks, surrounded on three sides by steep ravines.  During the “Great Revolt” in year 67 CE – Yodfat, the last stronghold of Jewish resistance after the fall of Zippori – was besieged by three Roman legions and resisted for 47 days before the city fell.  

I return from the Bimah to take my seat next to my brother. We exchange comments about the lively atmosphere with loving parents battling to keep some decorum amongst their animated kids – mostly friends of the Barmitzvah boy. It’s a sheer Shabbos delight. And then I contrast this image of an imagined one of Jewish kids 2000 years earlier looking down at the Roman legions with their frightening coloured attire and menacing siege machines. It was laughter today; it was fear then. It should never again be the other way around – ever!

Romans came Prepared. A typical Roman siege machine that the defenders at Yodfat would have faced.

Vespasian had pitched his own camp north of the town, facing  the only accessible side, while his forces surrounded the city. An assault against the wall on the second day of the siege failed, and after several days in which the Jewish defenders made a number of successful sorties against his forces, Vespasian changed tactics.  He instructed for the building of a siege ramp against the city walls, and when these works were disrupted by the Jews, Vespasian set 160 engines, catapults and ballistas  – backed by lightly armed troops, slingers and archers – to dislodge the defiant defenders from the walls. These were in turn met with repeated sallies by the besieged, but work on the ramp continued, raising it to the height of the battlements and forcing Ben Matityahu to have the walls themselves raised.  Roman measure was met with Jewish countermeasure and the battle ebbed and flowed…..

Peace and Tranquility. The only connection today of Yodfat to the times of conquering Rome is that its pastoral beauty is often described as “Shades of Tuscany”.

As always with such sieges, water was an issue for the defenders on top of a high hill so Ben Matityahu had Yodfat’s limited supply of water rationed before the siege began. The Romans had heard of this and began to use their artillery to target any efforts to draw water, hoping to exacerbate an already difficult situation and bring a swift end to the siege. The defenders, in a far-in-the-future future Mossad type of maneuver, cunningly confounded the Romans by wringing out their clothes over the battlements until the walls were running with water, leading the Romans to believe the Jews had some hidden supply of water.

According to Ben Matityahu, later writing as Josephus, this taunting had a twin effect – one negative and one positive. It strengthened Roman resolve but it also steeled the mettle of the defenders to fight, preferring to die by the sword than from thirst or starvation.

Man with Menace. A statue of Emperor Vespasian who in 66 AD was appointed to suppress the Jewish revolt underway in Judea.

There was of course an atmosphere of inevitability where this was ultimately heading. “Proportionality” was never a consideration in Vespasian’s battle plans to expunge a Jewish presence at Yodfat.

With the completion of the assault ramp, Vespasian ordered a battering ram  brought up against the wall. The defenders responded with ingenuity.  They lowered sacks filled with chaff to absorb the blows, they set fire to the ram and as chronicled by Josephus, one of the defenders, renowned for his strength, cast a huge stone on the ram from above, breaking off its head.

This infuriated the Romans. A physical act but it was also symbolic – decapitating the “head” of a war machine. This shortly took on a new meaning when the “head” – the future Emperor Vespasian himself was wounded by a defender’s dart. The Romans were so incensed driving their assault to a fever pitch but still were beaten back.

Eventually, on July 20, 67, a band of Romans reportedly led by Titus himself, stealthily scaled the walls, cut the throats of the watch and opened the gates, letting in the entire Roman army.

What followed was a slaughter. While the descendants today of some of Rome’s conquered like in modern day Britton may cherish the famed Roman baths, Yodfat records only a Roman blood bath!

According to Josephus, 40,000 were slain or committed suicide and 1,200 women and infants were taken into slavery. Vespasian ordered the town demolished and its walls torn down and prohibited burial of the fallen. It was only a year or more later when Jews were allowed to return to bury the remains in caves and cisterns.

Yodfat Today.  Enjoy the fun of Yodfat today by visiting “Boacha Yodfat” (literally, “As you approach Yodfat”) – a recreation and shopping center, located in a grove of oaks, providing stunning views. Here you will find stores, a gallery, a jewelry studio, a delicatessen, a dairy café, a bakery and a nearby “Monkey Forest”.

So even on this day 2000 years later, the sound of innocent chatter and laughter soliciting reprimands from the rabbi, were to me like music to the ears.

If the few surviving children of ancient Yodfat were cruelly sold off into slavery never to return, Jews did RETURN and today’s young children in the shul of modern Yodfat on this Shabbat were sending a strong message – this was our home 2000 years ago and is our home today.

Nothing more audibly conveys this message than that Latin  – the language of Rome –  is today a dead language while the hills of Yodfat are alive with the sound of Hebrew!


L’Chaim – “to Life”. Two thousand years later, there is much to toast about at Yodfaf as seen by these visitors enjoying the good life at “Boacha Yodfat”






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).

Victor in Name and in Life

Remembering Victor Gordon, an award-winning playwright, artist, musician, community leader and strong literary advocate for Israel

By David E. Kaplan

It came as little surprise to hear on Sunday 11 July at the opening of the Zoom memorial service to Victor Gordon of Pretoria, South Africa, to hear his widow, Shirley reveal that she had been phoned that morning by Jonathan Pollard, today a free citizen of the State of Israel.

It had been an emotional yet profound conversation – about ones man’s too soon passing and another’s belated freedom. Their disparate lives were eternally linked by Victor’s  poignant prose.

My Word. Victor Gordon, whose words in the media and on stage,  enthralled , entertained  and challenged. (Photo: Diane Wolfson)

Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former intelligence analyst for the United States government, pleaded guilty in 1987, as part of a plea agreement, to spying for and providing top-secret classified information to Israel. He was sentenced to life in prison making him the ONLY American to receive a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally of the U.S.

Believing that Pollard was the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice, Victor wrote the play titled “Pollards’ Trial” which was translated into Hebrew opening shortly thereafter in 2011 at the famed Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv. Not only did it receive a five-star rating from the critics,  but became the only play in the history of Israel to receive an invitation to mount a private performance at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) before an invited audience of 350, hosted by the former President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, who was then Speaker of the Knesset. “Since Pollard’s conviction, the Berlin Wall came down but he is still surrounded by the walls of the federal prison,” Rivlin had said. “At first, we thought that if we could act behind the scenes, we could restore trust with the US and bring about a breakthrough that could bring about Pollard’s release. Too slow, we learned that acting quietly wouldn’t help and we needed to act openly to help him become free.”

Victor’s play did just that and ran on-and-off throughout Israel for over two years having a huge impact in galvanizing support for his eventual release.

The issues that Victor drew attention to in his play were troubling.

Set in Pollard’s jail cell, the accused presents his imagined case to the judge – something he was never actually permitted to do when he was sentenced to life. Exposing the American judicial process as ‘twisted’ and ‘double-dealing’ when it came to its treatment of the Jew – Pollard –  it reveals how this accused was deprived of his most basic rights.

Monumental Man. Playwright, artist, activist and communal leader, South African Victor Gordon and wife Shirley. (Photo: Diane Wolfson)

It was hard to believe that anyone at the time who saw this play could remain indifferent to Pollard.  

One man who assuredly was not indifferent was Victor Gordon!

Neither was he on the many fundamental issues effecting the Jewish state. As a member of the South African Zionist Federation Media Team Israel committed to monitoring media bias against Israel and antisemitism, Victor’s articles – well researched and balanced, were a regular feature in the press both in South Africa and abroad. Speaking from Israel at the memorial service on Zoom,  Lay of the Land’s Rolene Marks, who had worked closely with Victor as colleagues on the Media Team Israel since it had been formed 20 years earlier as well as representing Israel’s Truth be Told (TbT) committee, said:

If you are lucky in life, you have the blessing and benefits of truly remarkable mentors. I have been doubly blessed to be able to count Victor as one of mine – both as a friend and as a mentor.”

Words were Victor’s stock-in-trade and Rabbi Gidon Fox, who moderated the Zoom memorial service tearfully wrestled with a conundrum :

 “What words can one say about one of the world’s finest wordsmiths?”

Victor’s passion on spotlighting milestone events impacting the Jewish people  – some forgotten as minor but in truth were monumental –  was the plot of his 2009 play Harry and Ed.

So ordinary sounding – Harry and Ed – yet they were extraordinary men who pulled off the extraordinary.

This play reveals how a hometown friendship between a Jewish boy, Edward “Eddie” Jacobson born in New York’s Lower East Side in 1891 to impoverished Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and  the future US President Harry Truman would shape the destiny of the Jewish People. Following their childhood friendship, they would go into business together – not terribly successfully – from running a canteen to opening a haberdashery but it was the “business” of creating the Jewish State that history would record as a resounding success!

A Friend in Deed. The unique friendship of Harry S. Truman (right) and business partner Edward Jacobson (left) that together influenced the establishment of the Jewish State, captured on stage in Victor Gordon’s illuminating play, “Harry and Ed”.

Irritated by incessant Jewish lobbying for statehood, Truman had issued instructions that he did not want to meet any more intermediaries and so it was left to Ed – the most unlikely of diplomats – to urge the reluctant president to meet one more  –  Chaim Weizmann

As a friend the President could not ignore, and with the weight of a future Jewish state on his aging, tired and stooped shoulders, Ed skillfully beseeched the President:

Your hero is Andrew Jackson. I have a hero too. He’s the greatest Jew alive. I’m talking about Chaim Weizmann. He’s an old man and very sick, and he has traveled thousands of miles to see you. And now you’re putting him off. This isn’t like you, Harry.”

Truman agreed to meet with Weizmann and the rest is history.

The United States became the first nation to grant diplomatic recognition to the new state of Israel on May 14, 1948.

Although Victor did not live in Israel, he  was finely tuned to its peculiar nuances which he explored in his play “You Will Not Play Wagner”. The play examines Israel’s unofficial ban on performing works by “Hitler’s favourite composer” and charts the fictional conflict between a young Israeli composer, Ya’akov, who wants to perform Wagner in the final concert of a prestigious musical competition in Tel Aviv, and an elderly Holocaust survivor, who is the event’s patron.

Sounds of Silence. Poster for Victor Gordon’s thought-provoking play “You Will Not Play Wagner”  that questions the dividing line between politics and art that sets Israeli society on edge.

Set against a backdrop of impassioned protests over the years in Israel to attempts by musicians and composers to defy cultural mores and Shoah sensitivities, Victor expressed in deference to survivors, “I appreciate the fact that there is a place in the world where you won’t hear Wagner.”

Himself an accomplished clarinet and saxophone player, the playwright in Victor struggles to separate the man from his music through his character Ya’akov, who asks:

How can music be antisemitic?”

Victor’s answer was:

You have got one of the greatest composers that ever lived and one of the greatest antisemites that ever lived, and the two meet at the Third Reich. You can’t get worse than that.”

No you can’t.

While I corresponded with Victor on media and Israel related issues, I had never personally met him until 2016 when I was invited as an overseas speaker to the Limmud Conference in Johannesburg.  How fascinating that when I sat down for lunch at the conference,  on my right sat the late anti-Apartheid activist Denis Goldberg, hardly favourably disposed to Israel, although it was to Israel that he left for after his release from prison, and on my left, Victor Gordon, a strong advocate for the Jewish State.  If the next day I was to moderate a debate with four fiery panelists on the then upcoming 2016 US election, this lunch provided some entertaining preparation as I had to deftly ‘moderate’ a riveting discussion on Israel and its policies between these two verbal pugilists holding diametrically opposing views.

It was a lunch that we all left the table with more than the food to chew on.

And in truth, although Victor has left the proverbial ‘table’, he  leaves a lasting legacy and hence shall remain active by inspiring others.







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).

Surfside Strong

By Ruthy Benoliel

It is hard to put into words the anguish that so many people in Miami and all over the world have suffered over the last two weeks since the collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24, 2021. In seconds, our whole community was put to the most dreadful test ever imagined. The pain we feel is a surreal and an overwhelming sense of loss. As we watched the news over and over again, nothing made sense. Within hours our community came together to help support and comfort the bereaved families and pray for miracles.

People embrace at a makeshift memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church in Surfside on Monday, June 28. (The Associated Press)

Immediately, organizations and thousands of volunteers came together to collect, pack, deliver, feed, find accommodation, lend a helping hand, or be there to give a hug. People put a pause on their lives to be on call for whatever need arose. Teams of first responders from the USA and other countries, including police, firefighters, engineers, governmental authorities, mental health professionals, and our dear IDF rescue soldiers, became our hope. The search and rescue mission became the priority for all those heroes that not only had to deal with the consequences of the collapse, but with several fires, rain, hurricane winds, the shifting of the remaining structure, the controlled demolition of the left-over structure, and exasperation of not finding people alive. Each corner of our streets was filled with police, checkpoints, and access by car was almost impossible.

It felt like a war zone!

Soriya Cohen shows a picture of her husband, Brad Cohen, who she said was missing after the partial collapse of the 12-story condo tower that he was in on June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.

     The human touch and sensitivity towards each other were always present. We witnessed IDF soldiers break down and cry; the sergeant who gave us the daily reports kept trying to control his tears, and rescue teams needing emotional help as this tragedy consumed their lives. Grieving families, rescue teams, volunteers, people from different faiths and religions became one.

Champlain Towers was extremely special for my family. It was my home for many years. It was the place where my husband picked me up on our first date, where we got engaged, where three of my four children were born, where beautiful memories were made and will never be erased. Many of my old neighbours, friends, and acquaintances were there the night of the collapse; some were spending only one night in the building.

Col. Golan Vach receives the honour of being called to the Torah.

Over the last two weeks, we all have felt numb, waiting for the next briefing to give the latest answers, holding hands, crying collectively, and feeling the agony of the victim’s families. There is nothing to be said that can alleviate this grueling pain.

A few days ago, the search and rescue mission transitioned into recovery with a moment of silence. When the IDF colonel spoke, he said:

 “Look at me in my eyes. I promise we did everything possible to find your loved ones.”

Even though there was despair and agony in hearing those words, there was gratitude and love that filled the room. Many have started to mourn their loved ones, who unfortunately did not survive this catastrophe.

There are no answers, just tears.

Rabbi Sholom Lipskar (right), of The Shul of Bal Harbour, prays during the search-and-rescue operation after the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside on Thursday, June 24, 2021, with Rabbi Mendy Levy(left), and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. (ALEXIA FODERÉ FOR MIAMI HERALD)

Where do we go from here? It will take an exceptionally long time to process what has happened and to ease this ache. I know for sure that we will be there for each other every step of the way. We are blessed to live in this loving community. We will forever have in our hearts the beautiful children, and people who perished on the collapse of Champlain Towers South, and we will continue to pray for their Neshamas.  (“souls”)

Surfside strong!











About the writer:

Ruthy Benoliel is Vice-President of WIZO USA and is based in Miami.









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).

JUNETEENTH – What’s in a name?

Could the Americans have learned from the Jewish heritage?

(Author’s personal observation)

By Craig Snoyman

While South Africans were celebrating the heart-warming hoax of decuplets, the so-called “Tembisa 10”, the United States of America was midwifing its own birth.  With little advance notice, and starting labour on Tuesday 15 June, pushing through the birthing canals of the House and the Senate at great speed, the new-born was announced to the world on 17 June 2021.  President Biden, who confirmed the signs of life, signed it into law and held the birth-certificate up high for everybody to see. Although officially, its date of birth was declared as 19 June it was officially named “Juneteenth National Independence Day” and proudly touted to the nation. Joining a group of ten other siblings, it became America’s eleventh annual federal holiday. Named in honour of an event which happened on June 19, 1865 – or “Juneteenth” –  it recalls an incident where General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas and announced that President Lincoln had freed the slaves almost three years earlier.

Usually, the creation of a national holiday is no easy task. Only four federal holidays had been added to the American calendar in the last one hundred years before this one. There had previously been several attempts to introduce a “Native American Day”, all of them unsuccessful. As a kind of substitute, a cultural “Native American Week” was introduced. Proposals for the introduction of new holidays is all about politics – the politics of identity, the politics of voting, the politics of affiliation, the politics of ethnicity, the politics of patriotism, even the politics of sport.  Yet somewhere amongst all of this congested political melee, Juneteenth National Independence Day – the fastest tracked Federal holiday ever- became law. If you were outside the USA, you might have missed it. While it was happening, it didn’t gather too much attention in the States either.

Juneteenth was initially only a specifically Texan celebration. There were other Emancipation Day celebrations commemorating the freedom from slavery. African Americans in South Carolina and Georgia had also been holding their own Emancipation Day programs but chose the date of January 1. Both groups memorialised the struggles of their people and sought to inspire upliftment in honouring those emancipated slaves. Why did the Carolinians and Georgians celebrate on 1 January? Simple, they followed historical fact. It was on 1 January 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all persons held as slaves were immediately free.  The Texans were only apparently officially informed of the Emancipation when Granger finally reached Texas on 19 June 1865. Ironically, notwithstanding the announcement, most of the slaves were only freed after the cotton harvest was completed, some months later.    The event of the announcement was thereafter commemorated annually mostly by the former slave, who combined the words “June 19th” into “Juneteenth”. As the Civil War became more distant, Juneteenth and Emancipation Day celebrations became less prominent, almost fading into obscurity until there was a cultural revival of Juneteenth, starting in Texas, in the 1970’s.

Jews also have also created their own holidays or “chags”.   When looking at the origins of these festivals, one can see the historic events which gave rise to the festivals. Each one of these Jewish holidays has a unified meaning for its followers. The aim of each holiday is to commemorate and remember the national, religious and world view identity of the Jews. The ideological connection between the Jewish holidays and with their national and cultural values is apparent. Jewish holidays, while established thousands of years ago, and grounded in the Torah, have not lost their relevance today. While the holidays may have been modified, they still continue to be celebrated with the same joy, unity, and cohesion as in ancient times.

It is not difficult to see how these Jewish holidays were created. It is, however, difficult to imagine that the crossing of the Red Sea could  have been celebrated  on the day when Jethro announced to Moses that  he and his kinsmen has  heard about the event and not on the date that the Children of Israel actually walked through the water on dry land. Similarly, that the “international day of independence” could fall on the day that Moses brought down the second set of tablets, rather than when Mount Sinai smoked and thundered and a Divine covenant was created, would seem absurd. Equally preposterous would have been for all the Children of Israel to be ordered to observe a second Pesach simply because some of them were impure for the first celebration and they could not participate.

Exodus from Egypt

But this is what has happened with Juneteenth!

It celebrates an announcement made to the slaves of Texas, telling them that they should have been freed about three years before they heard the announcement. However, the real problem is not the timing or to whom it was said, it’s that the nature of Juneteenth doesn’t support the ideals expected of a holiday.  It doesn’t support unity or nationalism or patriotism. There is also an existing division amongst the ethnic groups celebrating the liberation of the slaves about the date as to when emancipation should be commemorated. It is a very sectarian holiday. On the face of it, it should be a cultural event celebrated by Texans and enjoyed by anyone who wants to participate, much like Native American Week. Both the name and its significance had lost their relevance until its re-introduction about one hundred years after it had faded into virtual insignificance. Even then, it was re-introduced as a cultural event and not a political event! Historically, American slaves were emancipated when Lincoln’s Proclamation was issued, not when the slaves heard about it, or even when they were physically liberated. Emancipation took place on 1 January 1863, in the midst of a civil war. It was Winston Churchill who said that a nation that forgets its history has no future.  Can the rewriting of a nation’s past lead to different future?

President Joe Biden signs the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)AP

Maybe this is all hair-splitting. After all, 48 states recognised Juneteenth as a state holiday before it became a federal holiday. But they recognised “Juneteenth”; they did not recognise  “Juneteenth National Independence Day”. This federal holiday embodies neither Nation nor Independence.  A re-announcement of emancipation that has already been throughout the rest of the country to a territorial group of people who believed that they are slaves when they are not really slaves, is not  a national event. By legislating that Juneteenth is an Independence Day when it was not and when there is already a nationally celebrated Independence Day on 4 July is divisive and confusing. When an event commemorates an occasion affecting a small ethnic group is made a national occasion it is can only serve to  encourage  fragmentation  and factionalism instead of nationalism and patriotism. This application of a mixed ideological agenda at this time in America’s history does not advance its national aims. In the politically dismembering climate that exists today one must ask whether this was not just a short-term advancement of the non-inclusive political agenda of “Black Lives Matter”.

Another  Federal holiday, Christopher Columbus Day, may be the harbinger of the trouble that Juneteenth National Independence Day may bring. Christopher Columbus Day was recognised by 45 states  before it became a federal holiday in 1968. Congress said  that the nation was honouring the courage and determination which enabled generations of immigrants from many nations to find freedom and opportunity in America.  South Dakota then objected to this view. It has called that holiday  “Native American Day” since 1990.  In 2014 , the Seattle City Council followed South Dakota’s lead and unanimously voted to rename Columbus Day “Indigenous People’s Day”.

Will the issues about  Juneteenth National Independence Day be more pervasive and more damaging? There are already certain groups  which have stated that they will not recognise it. Other militant groups will no doubt ensure the holiday receives its due recognition (or notoriety). Recognising the holiday as a National Independence Day brings with it the underlying inference of  the currently trending “existing systemic racism” and all the baggage attached to it. Is it unrealistic  to expect the “colonial Independence” of 4 July comes under further attack, bearing in mind the inroads into education of the 1619 project?  Will one see  the Juneteenth flag  waving, contests pride of place with  the Stars and Stripes? It also becomes quite feasible that other  existing federal holidays will now be subjected to attack due to their historical, but colonial origins. There is already a struggle to claim the foundations of American democracy, this holiday is only going to add to that struggle.  And by calling it a National Independence Day, it opens the door for  claims of  for  reparations for slavery.   With the stoke of a pen, has the nation unwittingly placed itself  back  into a civil-war, even if this is not yet visible?

Perhaps, in the same way that there is precedent as to how the Sanhedrin interpreted Zechariah’s word to eliminate certain fast days, the US government will not feel constricted to re-examine certain Federal holidays and their names. While one must always remember  and celebrate the abolition of slavery (were we not once  slaves as well?), one wonders if a holiday called Juneteenth National Independence Day  is the appropriate step in advancing an agenda of  national patriotism and common identity.

So while some South Africans celebrated hoax-babies on Saturday 19 June 2021, and some Americans celebrated Saturday 19 June 2021 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, some of us  also celebrated Saturday 19 June 2021 as ….. Shabbat.



About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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

Bolt from the Blue and Bennett Bolts

Opinion

By David E. Kaplan

What we don’t get done fast, won’t get done at all,” was the talk of the coalition builders – Messrs. Bennett, Lapid & Co.  That was early May when Israelis were dropping into restaurants before they were dashing to bomb shelters.

Lapid and Bennett knew they must form a coalition government quickly – or not at all.

It was ‘not at all’.

They weren’t fast enough against what most lawyers are familiar from the Latin – novus actus interveniens (“new act intervening”) that disrupts a chain of causation.

That new act came literally ‘out of the blue’ descending from  Israel’s cloudless blue summer sky when rockets from Gaza landed in the country’s capital – Jerusalem. The coalition efforts of Messrs. Bennett, Lapid & Co. were as much a target of the rockets from Gaza  than any physical location as was quickly revealed when far more disruptive than the rubble in the capital was the political fallout – the disintegration of what would have been ISRAEL’S FIRST EVER ARAB JEWISH COALITION AGREEMENT, only several days away from signing. Whatever one’s political allegiance, this would have been monumental. It went up in a puff of proverbial smoke. A direct hit.

Facing the Future. (l-r) Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid , Yamina chief Naftali Bennett and Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas  (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch, Elad Gutman, Yaron Brenner)

From Hamas and Iran’s vantage – the war  – in terms of  important ‘targets’ – was won on Day 1.

In the wake of a changing Middle East with Israel’s increasing regional acceptance and a country “to do business with” following the game-changing 2020 Abrahams Accords, Iran and Hamas were on the back foot. These developments were anathema to Gaza and Iran and the last thing they wanted would be to seal this deal of Israel’s increasing integration in the region was a political rapprochement between Jewish Zionist and Arab parties joining together in a coalition to form the next government of the Jewish state. This would have been an affirmation of gale force winds moving in a direction that horrified Hamas and Iran and had to be stopped at any cost!

An affirmation amounting to an abomination, Iran ordered and Hamas pulled the trigger.

So, in answer to those always quick to blame Israel:

Whose fingers were on the trigger initiating this 11-day war?  

And when one examines the consequences, the Director of UNRWA, usually no friend of Israel admitted  – to the outrage of Gazan citizens  – that the IDF strikes were “precise”:

So yes, they didn’t hit – with some exceptions – civilian targets.”

Exceptions not the rule unlike the Hamas rockets that were AIMED at Israel’s civilian population.

So, again, irrespective of one’s politics, can anyone argue that had an Arab party been part of a future Israeli government it would not have endeavoured to pursue the interests and needs of the Arab community in Israel as well as offering counsel on all issues pertaining to their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza?

Far more afraid of this than Israel’s intransient right wing was Hamas and Iran – hence the rockets. The pending evictions in Sheikh Jarrah over a  property dispute between title owners and occupants of a few homes  – although galvanizing passions in opposition – was a matter resting with the courts and not the causa belli. In legal matters, parties seek redress in the court, not commission hitmen!

In truth – it was the cover – to passionately inflame and justify the war.

It worked with the support of the international media.

Times can create surprising bedfellows. After it was reported Mansour Abbas (left) and Naftali Bennett (right) met for the first time, the reactions on Twitter from the right and the left were not long in coming. 

And although Bennett would soon bolt, Abbas displayed grit and resilience. On the very day the rockets began – 10May – it was reported in the morning local media that despite the unrest in Jerusalem, the Islamist Ra’am party of Mansour Abbas was still expected to actively back a unity government led by Yamina chief Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, providing the key backing that the pair needed to build a coalition. In return, the emerging government would honor a list of Ra’am demands that would meet the needs as listed by Abbas of the Arab and Bedouin communities in Israel.  By day’s end, the rockets and the ensuing unrest in Arab town and villages across Israel derailed the coalition as Bennett pulled out announcing that he was no longer willing to be part of a “change government” to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Poised to become Israel’s next prime minister in a “rotation” arrangement with current opposition leader Yair Lapid – Bennett nevertheless bolted!

The deal was always contingent on bringing an Israeli Arab party – Ra’am, led by Knesset Member Mansour Abbas – into the coalition and only days before, both Bennett and Abbas seemed ready to sign on the dotted line.

Looking for ways forward together. Mansour Abbas of Ra’am (left) meets with Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, April 19, 2021 (Courtesy)

Then came the rocket war with Gaza and the brutal and bloody street fighting throughout Israel between Jewish and Arab extremists and Bennett telling reporters:

 “I am removing the ‘change government’ from the agenda.”

Destination Israel. Amidst a civilian area, rockets are launched from Gaza Strip towards Israel on May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Abbas on the other hand said:

 “I am not giving up on future cooperation. It could be that these incidents emphasize the need for true partnership with understanding, initiating together.”

One positive note, President Biden said that contingent of US support for the rehabilitation of Gaza, any reconstruction aid would be provided in partnership with the Palestinian Authority and not with Hamas, which the United States labels a terrorist organization.

This is a powerful message to the international community and sound global leadership.

So who knows, maybe there will be more bolts out of the blue and not in the shape of rockets?

True Colours. The Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum brings children draped in the flags of Bahrain, Israel and the UAE to Jerusalem’s Old City, precisely the optics that Hamas and Iran want to prevent – with ROCKETS!  (photo credit: ISRAEL HADARI)






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)

I am a Jew

By Rolene Marks

I am a Jew. I am the daughter of Israel. I am the descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah.

I am the descendant of the great Kings David, Solomon and Saul.

I am the descendant of the wise Judges, the esteemed prophets.

I am Yael, the warrior. I hope by my actions to live up to Yael, the namesake of the heroine whose Hebrew name I bear.

My language is Hebrew. I may get my grammar wrong but it is the language of my soul. My soul and spirit belong to the land and now the State of Israel.

I am created from this land. I am its fruits. I am its covenant. I am its promise. I am the daughter of Zion, of Jerusalem.

I am bound by the chain of generations to the great sages, the learned Rabbis, the Nobel prize winners. I am the 12 tribes and the 1 tribe.

I carry the dreams of the scattered and the exiled because I am home.

I carry the hopes and the dreams of those who perished in inquisitions, in pogroms, in the Holocaust. I am the living dream of those who wandered the desert, marched through hostile lands to return to Zion.

I am a modern liberation movement, I determine my future. I have Jerusalem in my bones. Today I am hunted, I am vilified and I am abused. But I am not going anywhere for what was in my ancestors is in me.

I too, will survive. I too will be proud. I too will shout my name loud. The bitter words may wound me but will not defeat me. The violence may cut me but will not break me.

I stand strong. I stand proud. I will wear the symbols of my faith and identity with pride and strength. I will pursue peace with all my might but defend myself with all I am. I am a Jew. 






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

Israel – The Front Line of Defense

By Rolene Marks

Enough. Forgive me if I sound angry this morning but I am. I have watched these last two weeks as a moral equivalence has been drawn between a democratic, sovereign state and an entity recognised internationally as terrorists. I have watched accusations of genocide being leveled at our army who has embarked on a military campaign with pinpoint precision, where warnings are given to civilians to head to safety instead of Hamas who glory in the death of their civilians because it gets YOUR sympathy.

This same Hamas in whose charter (https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp) is ingrained the destruction of Israel and the genocide of the Jews and then the Christians. Yes, Christians as well. Israel is your front line of defense! What is happening to the civilians of Gaza is a humanitarian tragedy but it is not a genocide. Harsh as these words may be, genocide is what happened in Syria, including to thousands of Palestinians who were gassed by Assad. And the world remained silent. Genocide is what is happening to Uighur Muslims in concentration camps in China. And the world remains silent. There are no swimsuit models, instagram stars and celebrities racking up social justice credentials for them. The conflict between Israel and her neighbours is decades long and very complex. Understand it before you opine! If you don’t understand, ask us who work in the fields of analysis and politics who do.

In the wake of this current escalation, the conflicts have been imported into the streets of London, Los Angeles, Johannesburg and everywhere in between. 11-year-old accuse Jewish kids of “genocide”, Jewish women are threatened with rape, Jewish men beaten in the streets. We asked ourselves how could the Holocaust have happened? Why did educated, cultured people commit genocide? The fuel that fans the flames of hatred we are witnessing in real time. In the streets. On social media. And by silence. If this offends you, you are welcome to de-friend me. I am a proud Jew, a proud Israeli and a proud Zionist. I wish nothing but peace and dignity for my Palestinian neighbours but they will not attain that under Hamas. My heart hurts for the many displaced. The civilians killed including those when rockets have fallen short of our borders and into Gaza. As reported yesterday a family of 8 was wiped out by Hamas’s rocket. Hamas fired mortars at aid convoys. Ask yourself, is this who you want to support in the name of freeing Palestine? Truth is a casualty of this conflict. The facts themselves are under siege. Israel’s fight is disproportionate – because it is not a fight just for us, it is a fight for anyone who values freedom, democracy and humanity. It is a fight for YOU! You don’t have to choose between supporting Israelis or Palestinians. If you are going to choose sides, choose humanity.



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)

I Placed a Tile on the Wall of Peace

By Rolene Marks

I once placed a tile on the wall of peace. It was on the wall that divided Gaza from Israel and very close to the Kibbutz of Netiv Ha’asara. I left in there in the hope that it would leave just a little bit of a dream of peace on the barrier between Gaza and Israel.

Writing on the Wall. The wording on the tile the writer affixes to the mosaic, includes – peace, happiness, unity, tolerance, hope, love, freedom, kindness and laughter.

Earlier in the day I had heard from the brave residents of the kibbutz situated just metres away about their experiences of living a life under constant fire and threats of infiltration from terror tunnels being built underneath their homes.  Many people don’t realise that there is a metro, a network of terror tunnels that are designed with the intentions of smuggling weapons but also as a springboard to launch attacks on Israeli civilians by reaching into the sovereign territory and kidnapping or murdering civilians and soldiers.

 I had been inside a terror tunnel that the IDF had secured. It was a shocking reminder of a pervasive threat, its intentions deadly. I have been to the south of Israel many times. I have seen the bomb shelters that dot the landscape, heard the stories of the incredible, courageous citizens and seen the fear in our children’s eyes. I know there is fear in the eyes of the children of Gaza too. I know that Hamas and their ilk keep both of our populations under hostage of terror.

Spreading Hope. The writer adds her tile to the ‘Path to Peace’ mossaic

For the past week, Israel has been engaged in a defensive operation called “Operation Guardians of the Wall” to protect citizens against over 3000 rockets and mortars fired on the country and rout out Hamas’s terror infrastructure and top brass.

Countries have been supporting Israel recognizing the threat that Hamas poses, however many have urged the use of proportionality in our response all the while failing to explain how they see that happening. Israel endures a conflict with its neighbours in Gaza who are hell bent on our destruction, having this intention ingrained in their charter. No other country has endured a perpetual conflict where the enemy entity hides within its civilian population and commits a double war crime by firing from within their own into ours, aiming for maximum casualties. On the one side, the intent is to murder as many Israelis and on the other, it is to inflict harm on their own so that they can rack up those devastating optics in the media. So far several hundred rockets fired have landed in the strip and 40 civilians have been killed as a result, including at least 5 children.

But it is a strategy that is working.

Model Behaviour? Daughters of Palestinian real-estate developer Mohamed Hadid  and Dutch model Yolanda, supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid are among celebrities who have been posting about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

We cannot underscore the role of media, and how it has been weaponized against Israel. At a time where ratings rather than lives matter, facts have become a casualty. Journalists and networks no longer care about context, nuance and the reality on the ground but rather views, engagement and ratings. Celebrities and social media influences have globbed on to this as well and in their haste to drive up their likes and shares and boast social justice credentials. To this end, they are playing a large part in sharing mistruths and propaganda. It also feeds into the never ending drip feeding of woke perpetual victimhood culture. They have little knowledge but massive reach – and that is dangerous. The supermodel Hadid sisters have a combined reach of over 100 million and other celebrities as well. This is many, many more times the total number of Jews in the world. Now, most would scoff at the idea of learning about the Middle East conflict from swimsuit models and comedians but here we are. It is dangerous and contributing to a climate of hate for Jews around the world.

While they have been astoundingly silent of issues like the Syrian civil war where 4000 Palestinians were slaughtered or have failed to drum up a march for the Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, Israel and global Jewry is fair game.

What has become disproportionate as the result of poor reporting and ignorant but eager social media posting is the hatred spilling over into the streets of cities around the world. It is entirely possible and probable to draw a line connecting what is reported in the media and a rise in anti-Semitic sentiment that is starting to become inherently violent.  In the past week, Jewish communities around the world have faced a tsunami of hatred from London, where Jewish women were even threatened with rape, to Toronto where a Rabbi was beaten to New York, Brussels, Cape Town, Montreal, Sydney and everywhere in between.  Many are wondering if they will ever be safe again and if it is not time to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel).

Social media has become a free for all and many like me who have been doing double duty as frontline activists in the war against misinformation have face a blitzkrieg of hate invective. I use the term blitzkrieg intentionally because I have lost count of how many death wishes I have received, including pictures of Hitler telling me that this is the “cure for me” and disappointments that a rocket – one of over 3000  – has not killed me yet!

Pursuing Peace. Visitors standing before the “Path to Peace”, a joint mosaic creation, by thousands of people, towards hope, love, and happiness among all people. The creation is placed upon the border wall that divides Gaza and Israel.
 
 

But I will tell you what I know for sure at the risk of sounding glib. At Pesach time we read the ancient words that in every generation there are those who rise up to act against us. We have survived millennia of persecution and hatred and whatever it was that sustained our ancestors, is what we have inside us now and no matter how dark it seems we will prevail.

Israel’s army and our Iron Dome will continue to defend the country physically. The battle in the media and in the court of public opinion will continue and it is up to each of us to form that shield against misinformation and lies, a human Iron Dome if you will. Israel will continue to pursue and dream of peace while defending ourselves with all our might. And so it will continue.

 I placed that tile with a sense of hope. Because hope allows us to dream big. To believe in better days to come. I once placed a tile on the wall of peace, hoping it would be part of building a solid foundation, no matter how dark and hate filled the climate of the world is right now against Israel. It represented my hopes and dreams, for our people and theirs. Will my dreams be realized? I can only hope.



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)

Jerusalem!

By  Gill Katz

Jerusalem!

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

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

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

But there is another Jerusalem.

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

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

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

What can compare?

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

The presence of soldiers is but a comfort to me.

I contemplate their absense.

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

It’s all good…

God chose well.

Jerusalem – City of Gold.








About the writer:

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







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