SIX DAYS IN JUNE

If it took the Almighty six days to create the world; 55 years ago it took the almighty IDF six days to perform another miracle

By David E. Kaplan

When Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran in May 1967 to Israeli shipping, it also opened the minds and hearts of Jews around the world who knew that war was coming. In the weeks that followed – before, during and immediately following the cessation of hostilities  – over 5,000 – mostly young people from Jewish communities across the globe, put their lives on hold to volunteer in Israel.

Unlike the earlier wars of 1948 and 1956, this time it was not to hold a rifle but the metaphoric rake, not to grab a grenade but the teat of a cow as they mostly served on kibbutzim taking the place of those who were in uniform. It kept the wheels of Israel’s still a very much agrarian economy turning.

The Volunteers of the Six Day War – 50 Years Later – Featuring former Director Solly Sacks, who takes a look at those volunteers who came from abroad to Israel in 1967 to assist the State of Israel during and following the Six Day War.

Leading the pack of countries from where volunteers came was England with 1,295.One of those volunteers was 23-year-old Barry Kester, who was articled in a West End accountancy practice and due to take his finals in December of that year. That was all to change Barry writes on his blog:

On the 20th May 1967 I was at Wembley Stadium cheering on my beloved Spurs as they defeated Chelsea in the F.A. Cup Final.  Had anyone told me on that day, that just a couple of weeks later I would be in Israel working on a kibbutz close to the Golan Heights, I would have thought them crazy.”

Following England in the largest number of volunteers was Southern Africa with 861. For a region with a small Jewish community – never more than 120,000 Jews in South Africa and 5000 in then Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) at its peak – the figure of 861 Southern Africans represented an extraordinarily high percentage. It also repeatedly matched with the over 800 volunteers who came from this same region in 1948 to fight in Israel’s War of Independence.

Responding to the Call.  Young adults, probably students, volunteer on a kibbutz in 1967.

Capturing the atmosphere at the time –  from the anguish in the build-up to the war to the jubilation following the overwhelming victory –  are the contemporaneous accounts and later recollections of people that lived through it. Apart from people I have interviewed over the years, we are fortunate to have letters written by many of these young people that were collated by the late Muriel Chesler in her book, ‘A Shield About Me’. In it, she writes:

 “I was in Cape Town during the Six Day War and thought the end of the world had come.”

She was hardly alone experiencing those apocalyptic thoughts!

Joy & Jubilation. Young men and woman in the IDF following victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.(Terry Fincher/Express, via Getty Images)

RESPONDING TO THE CALL

I was petrified of having to inform my accountancy firm of my decision to go,” recalls Solly Sacks of Jerusalem then living in Johannesburg. As head of Bnei Akiva, he would serve on the screening committee of his group. “People were shocked and tried to dissuade me,” but Solly would have none of that and by the time “I arrived at the third floor of the Fed [South African Zionist Federation] building, it was crowded with hundreds of people. I was unable to get out of the elevator.”

Having ensured that most of his youth movement group were booked or had already left for Israel, “I managed to ensure that the remaining few of us got on that last flight.”

One in his group is the founder of Carmit Candy Industries Ltd., Lenny Sackstein. Back in June 1967, Lennie was a 21-year-old law student at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). 

Studying was a serious business. You attended classes wearing a tie, submitted papers on time, and passed your exams or you were history.”

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

However, history was precisely what Lenny and his fellow volunteers were about to make!

On Thursday, the 11th June, Sackstein presented himself to Professor Ellison Kahn, the dean of the Faculty to advise him he was off to Israel as a volunteer.

He looked at me straight in the eye and said, “Sackstein, if you do not present yourself at class on Monday, you will be removed from the course for the year.”

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

Having discharged his duty as dean, Kahn then went on to say, “Well done Sackstein! Can I assist you in any way?

The Jewish community was united.

Lenny arrived with his group to Kibbutz Shluchot in the Beit She’an Valley in northern Israel .in 40-degree heat – a far cry from Johannesburg’s crisp winter. Welcoming them, the kibbutz representative said:

 “Freirim; vot you come for? Ve have already von ze var.”

Hearing this, the 40-degree temperature “was nothing in comparison to my blood pressure.”

The upbeat in Cape Town was no different.  In May 1967, Sidney Shapiro – who would later become Director of TELFED, the South African Zionist Federation in Israel – was then a student at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Being National Vice-Chairman of the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) and Chairman of the Student Jewish Association (SJA), he felt it was only natural that it fell on him to make the appeal on campus for volunteers. “We called a meeting during the day at the SJA centre in Mowbray hardly expecting too many students to pitch during lecture time.”

In High Spirits. Volunteer Gerald Abelson from Cape Town (top) on the ladder picking fruit at kibbutz Gadot.

How wrong he was!

The SJA hall was bursting at the seams with students piling into the garden and into the street. There I was, standing in front of these hundreds of students ready to read from a prepared speech, when I was suddenly caught up in the excitement and set aside my notes and spoke from the heart.”

Sidney had reservations about volunteering as “I was in my final year. However, I got caught up in my own words and volunteered.”

The excitement peaked when “some of the students grabbed the podium, turned it on its head and the next thing, students began throwing money in it.”

Sidney, like many Jewish students throughout South Africa, would have good reason to be apprehensive – not only because of the impending danger in Israel, but “we had to break the news to our parents. I knew I would be flying out on the first plane available, which meant not completing my degree that year. As difficult as this was, I knew there was no way that I could not have volunteered. My parents understood.”

In 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, Michael Cohen, Vice-Principal of Bialik College, Melbourne, recounted the atmosphere in Cape Town in the period leading up to the war when he was undertaking postgraduate studies in History at the University of Cape Town. “The local Zionist offices were flooded with applications from would-be volunteers; meetings were held in synagogues and at other venues to raise money for Israel, whose very survival was under grave threat; and potential volunteers, of whom I was one, were taken to outlying Jewish-owned farms to learn to drive tractors in preparation for work on Kibbutzim. The aim was to replace young Israelis who were being called to arms.”

On arrival in Israel, “we were sorted into groups after interviews. A select number of us, mainly those who had youth movement leadership experience or spoke Hebrew, were dispatched to Jerusalem to work as non-combat members of the Israeli army. We were accommodated in East Jerusalem, at the Jordanian Police School next to Ammunition Hill in tents while the girls were located in nearby hotels. Our task was to collect the ‘booty’ left in retreat by the Jordan army. We joined with Israeli soldiers, and each day we were transported to locations in the West Bank where we loaded equipment – barbed wire, army boots, large bombs in canisters and other items – into trucks.”

Later relocated to Shech Jerach in the Sinai Desert, “our duty was to collect the hundreds of abandoned Egyptian armed vehicles. I recall, on one occasion, being given a gun and being asked to accompany a group of Egyptian prisoners on the back of a truck to a nearby army base. My anxiety levels were exacerbated by the fact that I did not know how to use the weapon! I chatted briefly with one of the prisoners whose English was passable and who told me about his family back in Egypt. Those Egyptian prisoners who had earlier escaped, making their way to the Suez Canal in an effort to return home, and who had survived on water from the radiators of abandoned Egyptian armoured vehicles, quickly gave themselves up to our forces when they discovered that Egyptian soldiers returning to Egypt were being shot to prevent news of Egypt’s defeat spreading.”

UNDER FIRE

Not a volunteer but a conscript in the Israeli army was 31-year-old Ian Rogow, a former South African, fighting fiercely on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He recounts the battle in this letter to his family in Cape Town:

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

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

Homecoming. The war over, Ian Rogow returns to his wife Pearl and kids in 1967 after having fought at kibbutz Ramat Rachal, Mar Elias and the Jordanian front.

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

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

Preparing for the Worst. High school boys digging trenches in a Tel Aviv street on the eve of the Six Day War.

The remaining danger, Ian writes were:

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

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

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

One of the many South Africans who fought in the Six Day War was the late David “Migdal” Teperson. No surprise here – he held the exclusive honour in the IDF of having participated in every war from 1948 to Protective Edge – most in combat. It was only from the Second Lebanon War, he was no longer allowed in the frontline but could bring supplies by truck “to my boys.”

On the 5th of June 1967:

 “we were lined up under our camouflage nets, amongst the trees at the side of the road in company formation. We had orders not to move around too much so that we would not be spotted by the Egyptian air force. At daybreak, we saw our airplanes fly over us, flip their wings in salute, and continue towards the Sinai. Suddenly a dispatch rider on a motorbike came charging down between our columns shouting, “switch on your radios.” As soon as we did, we heard the password “red sheet” and the orders “move, move, move”! We launched our attack against the Egyptian forces in Sinai.”

Migdal’s division was ordered to break through a fortified stronghold at Rafiah, situated between the Gaza strip, Sinai and Israel. For Migdal, it felt like déjà vu. Following the War of Independence, the 1956 war and “now again in 1967 – this was the third time I was fighting in the same area.”

His division’s objective was to cut off El Arish. “We captured close to 800 Egyptian prisoners of war, who we kept in a temporary stockade. I had taken prisoners of war around the same position in 1948 as a corporal; in 1956 as a platoon commander, and now again, in 1967 as number 2 company commander.”

While waiting to move on and listening to the Israeli news, “we heard that east Jerusalem, and the Western Wall had been captured by our paratroopers. On hearing the news, the boys cried, especially the old soldiers who had fought in the 1948 war.”

Migdal would fight all the way to the Suez Canal and remained there after the ceasefire.

HOME FRONT

Capturing the atmosphere at home are revealed in these letters to family in South Africa that appear in Muriel Chesler’s book.

A week before the war, Raie Gurland writes on the 28th May 1967,  to her family in Cape Town:

Blankets, sheets, towels and hot water bottles were collected. No-one refuses. We all give and more. It’s like caring for a child in danger – Israel is our child and we want to protect her. How extraordinary to be in a country expecting war. The stillness and partially empty streets – its ominously frightening, and I often feel butterflies in my tummy, but then it passes.

Journalists, like vultures are flocking in from the four corners of the earth with the prospect of disaster. The panic at the airport is over and most of the tourists have left….

No job is too menial or too small. Rabbis – with a special dispensation concerning the Sabbath – were digging trenches at the school yesterday, driving delivery trucks and writing out instructions – all on Shabbat!

….I would not be anywhere else – as a Jewess, this is where I belong.”

Dig This! Digging trenches on kibbutz Gan Shmuel in northern Israel before the Six Day War.

Capturing what a young wife must be feeling not knowing of the whereabouts or fate of her soldier husband are these two letters by Avril Shulman to her parents in Cape Town.

On the 9th June, she wrote:

I am so proud to be the wife of a sabra. In the last three weeks, I have lived a lifetime. Even as I write, I do not know where Amnon is or how he is. I hope and pray and wait.”

Avril had to wait until the 20th June when she again wrote to her parents:

It was two o’clock in the morning and there was a knock at the front door. I jumped out of bed, daring to hope, and on opening the door, there stood a hunk of man dressed in an Israeli uniform with Egyptian boots, a Russian gun, and a South African tog bag, covered from head to foot in Sinai dust, but looking very familiar. The reunion is something I cannot describe.”

On the 9th June, Muriel receives a letter from her sister Pat Slevin, a resident of Eilat.

It seems it’s all over bar the jubilation and the heartache of the families who have lost loved ones, and the pain and suffering of the wounded.

Who could have thought on Monday morning when the Egyptian tanks crossed the border, that on Friday morning I would be writing to you like this! Last night at 10 o’clock, we received the news of Egypt’s consent to a cease-fire; this morning at 7 o’clock Syria’s, and at 8 o’clock, the telegram from our Southern commander that our men were on the banks of the Suez Canal. I’m privileged to have been here and to have lived through this moment in Israel’s destiny.”

Fifty-five years on from the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, the nation is strong. Israel is a vibrant democracy in a neighbourhood of autocracies. Its economy is booming and its universities are churning out graduates that will spearhead our small country into a big future.

While the history of this land may read like a chronicle of ‘War Stories”, the Israel of 2022 is a resounding ‘Success Story’.


_____________________



List of countries from which volunteers came and their number as at the 5th July, 1967.

England                   1,295

Southern Africa          861

France                        607

USA                            301

Belgium                      285

Argentine                    277

Spain, Germany, Switzerland & Austria  262

Canada                        236

Scandinavia                135

Uruguay                       117

Australia                       111

Italy                              110

Holland                           90

Brazil                              68

Chile                               66

Venezuela                      55

Other Latin countries    164

Total                          5,043





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).

Farewell to Rodney Mazinter

A tribute to a South African Zionist who fought for his people through word and deed

By David E. Kaplan

Living in Israel, I knew this Cape Town-based writer, poet and published novelist, Rodney Mazinter, mostly by  his pen and what a mighty pen it was.

Rodney Mazinter

Imagining him like the proverbial knight  on his sturdy horse wielding in jousting position a pen as his lance, he pressed forward to do battle for his beloved Israel and the Jewish people. His extensive writings in support of causes close to his heart were warmly embraced by readers beyond South Africa.

In his first novel available through Amazon, the author recreates “the European world of the Jewish people in the first half of the twentieth century – a world of unimaginable hardship and hatred, culminating in the Holocaust.”

We at Lay of the Land in Israel, welcomed his contributions as did our readers across the world, and in paying tribute to this inspiring lover of Israel and community leader (he was a former vice-chair of the South African Zionist Federation, Cape Council), we are proud to publish one of his poems that so poignantly resonates as each stanza shares intimate similarities of his final days.

Having suffered a heart attack and finding himself in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Cape Town, it was a subject that Rodney had previously thought intensely about when he composed this poem set in an ICU not in South Africa but in one of Israel’s premier hospitals – Rambam in Haifa.

The most renowned of the Jewish medieval scholars, Maimonides changed the face of Judaism.

With so many superlative hospitals in Israel, why did Rodney choose Rambam?

Named after and honouring Rabbi Moses Ben-Maimon, called Maimonides or the “Rambam” an acronym of his name in Hebrew, Maimonides was a preeminent medieval Sephardic rabbi, physician, and philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. He is credited to  being among the first in Western thinking to propose that the health of the body and soul should be combined, in other words that the body is the home of the soul, and the soul guides the body  revealing the body and the soul as one unit. The Rambam’s medical writings constitute  a significant chapter in the history of medical science.

The setting of Rodney’s poem, Rambam Health Care Campus commonly called Rambam Hospital, is the largest medical center in northern Israel and is named for the 12th century physician-philosopher Rabbi Moshe Ben-Maimon (Maimonides), known as the Rambam.

All this I believe, intuitively, percolated in Rodney’s creative mind as he poetically applied his craft to his subject.

Whether Jew, Muslim or Christian brough to Rambam’s ICU due to illness, accident, war, crime or act or terror, the actions and thoughts of all who busily occupy this space from those seeking salvation to those trying to provide it “Like a team of lifeguards constantly on duty”, the poem moves to the rushed rhythmic beat of a pulsating heart.

Rodney captures it all……

ICU – TRUE HEROES OF RAMBAM

By Rodney Mazinter

A capsule of pain and fear − or an airlock

Waiting for travellers to pass through to a place they’re loath to enter?

Are there those among us who care enough to bring them back?

Jew, Muslim, Christian, some brought low by illness,

Or worse, by bullet, knife or car,

Victims of those weaned on hatred,

Bullied by brutes bereft of − bankrupt of − compassion.

Across the way in a darkened room,

A man struggles to bring his pulse down and his blood pressure up.

A woman whose teary eyes still hold the captured images of visitors,

Lies dying of the illness of old age, an oxygen feed clamped firmly

To her fine Semitic face.

Down the line of serried beds a man cries out incoherently −

It is a high-pitched supplication of dread, pain and pleading. Is he talking to God?

Monitors, the Argus-eyed guardians for the physicians,

Blink codes and messages to those trained to read them.

Through all this, doctors and nursing staff

Meander among the beds performing minor miracles,

Like a team of lifeguards constantly on duty

Ready to pluck a sinking life from the jaws of eternity.

They fight the battle and mostly win,

But there is no triumphant parade with flags waving,

And boastful thumbs stuck in lapels.

There is no time for that − a new patient is wheeled in from ER.

There are lines to set and veins to pierce,

And all focus is on the never-ending stream of humanity

On the road to recovery, if not survival.

Medical personnel wearing protective equipment treat a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care ward at Rambam Hospital, December 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

….

Following Rodney’s passing, a close friend  and fellow literati of his from Cape Town, Charlotte Cohen, sent me her poem What is a mensch? republished earlier this month in ‘Jewish Affairs’ a monthly publication issued by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, in which she asserts “epitomises the person who Rodney Mazinter was.” Who can disagree with her?

In selecting only two lines, I felt drawn to these:

“ A mensch sees the world as ‘we’ not ‘I’

A mensch is always there


Our sincere condolences to his wife Mavis and all the family from Lay of the Land.





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

He Died so that Others may Live

Remembering Christian Arab-Israeli officer Amir Khoury who bravely gave his life to save Jews

By Jonathan Feldstein

Normally, when one goes to express condolences to a family mourning a deceased relative, you know one of the family members, if not the deceased.  At a certain age, one goes to console a friend whose parent died, but with whom you didn’t have a personal relationship, if at all.  It’s rare to show up at the home of someone you don’t know, grieving over the loss of a loved one who you also didn’t know either.  But that’s what I just did.  Here’s why.  

During my last week of nearly a month’s trip throughout the US, there were four terror attacks in Israel. Eleven people were killed, and dozens injured. There have been many more attacks in which, thank God, there were no injuries, and as many as fifteen others reportedly prevented due to good intelligence followed by swift military operations.

With too many Israeli families in mourning and many more suffering injuries and trauma, I took a full day to visit one of them.

Face of a Hero. Police officer Amir Khoury from Nof Hagalil put himself in the firing line without hesitation in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022 (Courtesy of the family)

As of this writing, the deadliest recent terror attack took place in Bnei Brak, a city in central Israel with a large ultra-Orthodox population.  Five people were killed including two Jewish Israelis, two Ukrainians, and a Christian Arab Israeli police officer, Amir Khoury. Some may be confused by the idea of a Christian Arab Israeli being a victim, much less a hero as one of the security forces that stopped the terrorist. Amir is credited with racing to the scene of the terror attack, opening fire and neutralizing the terrorist. But he was also mortally wounded in the process.  His partner, who finally killed the gunman, would later eulogize his fallen comrade with these shining words:

My children will grow up and remember your name because you were my flak jacket, dear brother.”

This week, I visited Amir’s family. Hailed as a national hero, this Christian Arab family were receiving visitors from all over the country in tents outside their home adorned with Israeli flags.  Had Amir not acted as decisively as he did, the carnage would have been much worse. 

In Jewish tradition, mourners remain seated on low chairs and visitors approach them.  As soon as I walked into the larger of the two tents, Amir’s father rose and embraced me, speaking to me with warmth, wanting to know who I was, were I came from, and why. As we spoke, we stood together, hands clasped.  He pegged my American accented Hebrew and asked where I was born, when I immigrated to Israel, and about my family. If one didn’t know that he was mourning the murder of his son, one would never imagine that he was not just being a gracious host. As I sat down, I was served strong black coffee.

I spent considerable time speaking with Amir’s father, mother, brother, sister, and brother-in-law.  As we sat together, I couldn’t help but recall the verse from Psalm 133:

 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.”

The original Hebrew says “shevet achim gam yachad” which can be interpreted as dwelling, but also sitting.  There we sat together, mourning a victim of a hate-inspired terrorist who wanted anything but for us – Jew and Arab –  to dwell together in unity.

The terrorist failed.

Visitors came from across the country to pay tribute to this hero – Amir Khouri. There was one person who drove six hours from Eilat, visited for thirty minutes, and then drove back. There were Jews of every background, Arabs, government cabinet members, present and former ambassadors and rabbis. People emerged from the family’s distant past like a former neighbor in Tel Aviv from decades earlier when he was first married.

While I didn’t come from the furthest distance, the family was impressed that I came from Gush Etzion in the Judean mountains south of Jerusalem, because there is a stereotype about “settlers” and Arabs. That’s part of the political baggage with which we live and, like many stereotypes, is built on myths.  We didn’t talk politics at all. It was a wide-ranging visit about Amir, about them, and about our shared society.

They were moved that Bnei Brak, a mostly ultra-Orthodox Jewish city, will be naming a street after their Amir, a Christian Arab. I sensed that all the family wanted was for Amir to be remembered.

He undoubtedly will be and by you reading this, you’re contributing to Amir’s remembrance and ensuring his legacy.

Final Journey. Casket draped with the flag of Israel, Amir Khoury is carried to his burial site by his fellow police officers. (Getty Images)

I didn’t just go visit myself, but brought with me dozens of condolences and prayers from others.  The night before, I posted through my social media and chat groups that I was going to visit the Khoury family. I invited others to send notes. In just a few hours, dozens of people sent their condolences and prayers, along with donations, so we can do something meaningful in Amir’s memory. That so many people sent their condolences in writing was a comfort.  More continue to do so.

A person I spoke to wept while recounting how the family found out about Amir’s death.  They were watching the news with live reports of the terror attack.  They had a bad feeling because calls and text messages to Amir went unanswered.  Each shared how they dealt with this, but that they had each lost it when seeing the police outside their front door a little after 10:00pm, two hours after initial reports of the attack. At that moment, all their fears were realized. As they were recounting, I held back the tears seeing the dark circles under their eyes testifying to their endless tears and lack or sleep. 

Condolence Call. Khoury’s father Jereis (center) and Amir Khouri’s fiancée Shani with Police officers paying a condolence call on March 30, 2022. (Channel 12 screenshot)

While hailed a national hero, the sad tragedy is that by the enemies of peace he is not considered a hero to all! There are those extremists who look at him as a traitor. It’s hardly a public secret that Christian Arabs live under threat from Muslim extremism and another visitor confided in me that Amir’s death was being celebrated amongst some within the Palestinian Authority and among extremists in Israel. There was fear to talk too much about this because with Amir’s heroism being cast into the spotlight, there was a concern that others in the Khouri family might find themselves possible targets.

Sitting with this family of devout Christians, I couldn’t help but think that Amir, like Queen Esther, was put in a situation “for such a time as this.”(Esther 4.14)

I couldn’t bring myself to pose this thought to Amir’s family. Both saved lives and I wondered if like Esther (Esther 4:16), Amir raced to the scene of the terror attack thinking:

If I perish, I perish

One thing for sure is that Amir was an angel for a whole community.  Had it not been for Amir, it’s unthinkable how many more people would have been killed. 

In meeting and speaking with people, I avoided saying “nice to meet you” but rather “it’s an honour to meet you”. I’d have preferred that I never had the occasion to know them, or know of them for it was brought about by personal loss. However, the reality is that tragedy brough us together and in parting, an Amir  family member poignantly expressed:

We not just friends; somehow God ordained it.”

Mourning a Hero. Thousands including ultra-Orthodox residents of Bnei Brak were among the mourners at the funeral of 32-year-old Christian Arab Amir Khoury from Nof Hagalil. “He gave his life for others,” said Yaakov, an ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak resident interviewed on Channel 13. One of the buses transporting ultra-Orthodox Israelis from Bnei Brak to the funeral. displayed the message: “Amir Khoury, hero of Israel.”

While the formal mourning period has ended, the grief and loss have not and anyone who wishes to send a note to Amir’s family can do so at https://genesis123.co/blessasoldier and send condolences, prayers, and words of comfort which will be delivered to them directly.  A donation of any size will go toward a project in Amir’s memory.  For further information, please be in touch at Gen123Fdn@gmail.com.

Please join us to be a blessing to Amir’s family, honor his memory, and pray that he will be the last victim of hate-inspired terror.


EPILOGUE

I would later learn that on the previous Sunday, Amir Khoury had sat at home with his fiancée Shani Yashar watching the news of a terror attack in Hadera, in which two police officers were killed.

He had said to her “If I see a terrorist in front of my eyes, I’m going to crush him. I’m not going to let anyone get hurt; that’s why I’m a cop.”

Shani recalled pleading with her beloved to “not be a hero”.

He could be nothing else – he lived and died a hero.

  • At the time of publishing this, another attack took place in Tel Aviv and three Israelis were killed.



“Hero of Israel”. Amir Khoury’s grieving comrades at the funeral.  
 



About the writer:

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





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

Foreign Affairs

Finding love in Israel but also finding oneself in a new country – help offered!

By Oren Ben-Arieh

“What’s love got to do with it” so goes the Tina Turner classic. Well everything in my case!

Let me begin – I am a born and bred Israeli. When I began my academic life – a Batchelor degree in geography and humanities, and an MA in City Planning at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – I decided to pursue a minor in Latin American studies.

Why? Well, as I was fascinated with different cultures I wanted to understand how they could contribute to my life as well as their impact on Israeli culture. Little did I know that years later, I would fall in love with a woman from Peru that by fate was studying for her MA at Tel Aviv University. Our paths crossed and now we are journeying on the same road together.

We are hardly alone on this journey!

Nowadays, more and more foreigners are romantically involved with Israelis, and many decide to settle here in Israel. This, of course, requires the foreigner to adjust to life in a country that can be complicated even for those of us born and raised here. Even though numbers are on the rise, it appears that the phenomena is rarely talked about, and hence hardly addressed. To prove my point, just consider: there are no statistics as to the number of non-Jewish partners living in Israel today.

I find it crazy that this growing trend is largely ignored.

Experiencing the bureaucratic process together with my now Latina wife of obtaining a temporary residence permit so she could start her life with me in Israel, opened my eyes to Israel’s burgeoning diversity. It also  at the same time revealed that these new arrivals are hardly recognised and do not have a voice.  They are, after all, part of our society and deserve to be included in every aspect of it.

Man with a Message. The writer, Israeli Oren Ben-Arieh and initiator of ‘Mixing it Up’ with his wife Ana from Peru.

After speaking to several such people, I learned that many feel excluded not by society but our public institutions. This was further proven – after all it takes two to tango – when I spoke to a number of their Israeli partners. This drove me to action. I realised they needed a platform, a warm comfortable and friendly ‘meeting place’ to exchange views, talk about their situations and learn from each other’s experiences.

The result is a podcast that I have created called: MIXING IT UP, that  will serve ‘MIXED’ couples in the Holy Land.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR

What is so important is also that we Israelis need to hear from the foreigners how they feel about living in Israel; what they like; what they don’t like; what they miss from their native countries, and what they have found here in Israel that excites them. We Israelis can learn from this experience. It is not only the foreigners that need to adjust to their new environment.; we too may need  to mend our ways to accommodate the new additions into our society. Its love that has brought them to settle here and so we need to embrace that love and spread it.

So far, I have found the initiative loads of fun but more important it has proved illuminating as couples open up with their stories. For instance, I’ve discovered that Indians and Israelis have much in common; their cultures revolve around close family ties and  are obsessive about their kids. We sure are. I’ve also learned – and this was a surprise and amusing – that some see Israeli culture as “laid back” ! Really?  Us – laid back?

Another revelation from many of the partners in relationships coming from counters all over the world, was less of a surprise and so  true  – the personal safety on individuals on the streets of Israel – particularly at night. This is not a given in most cities around the world today. As Mariana Salas, formally from Mexico, remarked recently:

 “Leaving my home after dark is a new experience altogether; in my hometown this would be out of the question – unthinkable; it was simply not safe.”

Her next observation I found stunning as Israel is like one big construction site, with building going on all the time and all over the country. Mariana continued that while living here, she for the first time in her life walked alongside a construction site. When I asked why is that a big deal, she replied that where she is from, there is the perception – not unwarranted – that construction sites are dangerous for single women to be near as they are likely to be harassed.

You can listen more about her experiences on the soon to be published episode #3 with Mariana Salas.

In another episode, you will hear a European perspective on life here in Israel, as a British interviewee from Manchester explains how different things are here. This is just a taste out of the first of many interviews to understand what it means to be a foreigner living in Israel. So If you – locals or foreigners – wish to learn how it is to live in Israel while building a life with your Israeli partner, enjoy listening to our podcasts and contact me; I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can find us in Instagram and follow us on Spotify, as well, if you wish to contact me directly, you can email me at obenarieh@gmail.com

Teaming up with an Israeli you are contributing to Israel’s beauty by contributing to its diversity. You now have an online meeting place where mixed couples can all learn from each other.

Whatever the season in Israel – “Love is in the air” and we would “love” to hear from you.



About the writer

Oren Ben-Arieh who holds a BA in Geography and humanities, an MA in City Planning, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is presently pursuing a PhD.

He has lived in Jerusalem most of his life, apart from a few years living in the USA. He has worked in both the public and private sector in the city planning world, where he currently serves as an environmental consultant in a private firm.

Oren is married to his Peruvian wife, Ana, who he met when she was studying for her MA in Tel Aviv. Both now reside in Jerusalem and are avid readers. Under her influence, Oren has been exploring Latin American writers, along with classic Latin musicians and typical foods.  





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

From the ‘United Kingdom’ to the ‘Divided City’

Openly gay UK visitor finds city of Hebron full of surprises 

Written by Lay of the Land UK correspondent

For the purposes of this article, I have kept some of the names of Jewish and Palestinian leaders that work for co-existence in Hebron private. I have done so for their safety, fearing threats of violence and/or imprisonment from the Palestinian Authority (PA) with possible extra-judicial killings from local extremist religious groups.

I had not planned to visit Hebron. Hardly surprising as it’s a city that I, living in the UK, never paid much attention to, considering it far removed both geographically and cerebrally. Even when I did think of Hebron, what came to mind were images of a remote turbulent city with troubled communities – Palestinians beset by internal violence and Jews governed by strict religious laws.  

While I have been in contact with Israeli-Jews and Palestinians from Hebron on social media and personally found the city of very little personal interest, it was by a twist of fate that I would visit it. I had been contacted by an Israeli ‘social media friend’, who lived close to Hebron and works in the city insisting that I visit.

Illuminating Visit. It is important to hear both sides as both local Jews and Arabs have their own stories to tell.

After months of ‘pestering’, I finally agreed while on a holiday on Israel. Although I was anxious about visiting a strictly religious Jewish community as an openly gay man, I was surprised to find the community very accepting of LGBT+ people.

My ‘social media friend’ and contact, Shlomo, picked me up from Tel Aviv. Abandoning my customary caution, I hopped into a car with essentially a stranger and began my visit to a city once described as one of the most dangerous and conflict-ridden cities in the world. The two-hour drive felt like an eternity.  We passed through two easy security points, which where nothing more than a single guard with a toll style security. Checkpoints are often derided and dismissed by anti-Israel protagonists but are critical in providing security.

THE LONG SHADOW OF WAR

The city of Hebron is one of the most historically and religiously important cities to Jews and one of the most important cities, politically, for the PA. It is also a frequent flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The first thing that struck me about Shlomo as he gave me a private tour, was that he and his community just wanted to be heard. Giving me a private tour starting at the Cave of the Patriarchs and then moving on to the other local historical sites, I got to ask him as many question as I wanted.

Hebron’s Holly of Hollies. The Cave of the Patriarchs or Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Jews as the Cave of Machpelah and to Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham, is a series of caves in the heart of the Old City of Hebron.

We visited the gravesite of Baruch Goldstein, the infamous Israeli terrorist and mass-murder, where he immediately warned me that the local Israeli authorities closely monitor the site and any public support for Goldstein would be met by an arrest.

I had no desire to stay and while Shlomo reassured me there were no security concerns,  he cautioned me to avoid drawing any attention to myself.

Touring Jewish Hebron, I was able to get a close-up of Palestinian Hebron. An old broken-down chicken wire fence – replete with wide gaps – was the only significant separation between the Palestinian and Jewish Hebron – a rather tenuous ‘barrier’ I thought, considering the tensions I was under the impression, fractured the city.

As I walked through the old quarter of Jewish Hebron, memorials for Jews murdered were common at every corner. They represented a sad reminder of the steep price in lives to choose to live in the second holiest site for Jews after Jerusalem. As I walked around, I saw bullet holes in old walls and doors with l potholes in the ground which I suspected were once caused by explosives.

Writing on the Wall. Hebron graffiti articulates peoples thoughts and dreams.

Shlomo introduced me to a local Jewish community leader and elder called Y, who with the kindness of his wife, invited me to stay at their house for regular vegan meals. Y and his wife were a jolly and inspiring couple with enthralling stories. 

They shared their past in the former Soviet Union being members of the underground and engaging in resistance activities to support persecuted Jews. Other stories from Y, included secretly hosting in Hebron leading LGBT+ Iranian dissidents as well as welcoming Hollywood celebrities.

SILENT PALISTINIAN COEXISTANCE

With Y as our guide, we handed out sweets to the IDF and were joined by two young, religious women. As we walked through the city’s broken pathways, handing out the sweets to the IDF soldiers, I saw many soldiers speaking and some playing football with Palestinian children. I quickly discovered that Y, was well-liked and known around to hand out sweets to the Palestinian children.

Y was extremely proud to show me Palestinian businesses popular with the city’s Jewish residents, notable dentists, pet shops, clothing stores and auto repair shops.

We came upon a cluster of small, very ordinary Palestinian stalls, one of which was owned by a friend of Y – his close contact within Palestinian Hebron.

His friend broke into a wide warm smile when he saw Y but it quickly disappeared when he spotted me. Feeling uncomfortable or suspicious by my appearance, I left the two of them alone to speak as I explored the stalls. I found beautiful, handcrafted items and was fascinated by  the daily co-existence so contrary to the image I had imagined  from the international media.  

Business is Brisk. Despite the tensions, life goes on in Hebron.

Creating their own security network, Y revealed that he and  his friend would secretly pass information to each other about which Jewish or Palestinian children were committing violence against each other in their communities, bypassing the local authorities. They believe that these local Jewish and Palestinian children are best served by being punished by local community leaders rather than subject them to Israeli or Palestinian justice. In this way, it is a far better way to maintain social calm between the two communities.

Y would later tell me on our tour that he believed that 60% of Hebron was supportive of Hamas because of their alleged anti-corruption agenda.  Many are frustrated with the corruption and lack of services from the Palestinian Authority.

The further we travelled around in the areas we were legally allowed to, we passed Palestinian housing estates that were burnt-out – not from clashes with Israelis – but the result of clan-based violence between the Al-Jabari and Awiwi Clans.

ECHOES AMONG THE CHILDREN 

Y openly regaled me with stories of battles that exploded across Hebron on street corners involving sniper, tank, and gun fire – where he was occasionally caught in the middle. Walking around Hebron, I was surrounded by Jewish and Palestinian children going about their daily lives, born after the horrors of the Second Intifada.

It is clear that neither Jews nor Palestinians will be leaving one of the most previously divided and war-torn cities of the conflict. I can only hope that the children that I saw will be able to grow up without the horrors of the past.

It was so reassuring to see children happily playing around, appearing unscarred by street battles that once raged across the city.

I shall carry with me forever the moment I saw a group of young Jewish children skating and rollerblading down a long street, which had once been the site of a fierce firefight.  Where once war characterised this street, the vista that embraced me was of Palestinian children playing football and chatting with IDF soldiers.

Engaging for a better Tomorrow. Jewish visitor from Israel meeting with a young Palestinian girl in Hebron.

What next for Hebron?

It is hard to say what its future will be. I once thought of Hebron of as a remote, impoverished, dull and deary and overly religious city – but I was wrong.

I felt honoured to be so warmly welcomed by everyone I met  and to have been so unexpectedly accepted by the religious Jewish community as gay, was for me, a pleasant surprise!

Having thoroughly enjoyed my visit, I hope to one day revisit and again connect with Hebron’s Jews and Palestinians that are making history and forging a destiny together.







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).

Fleeting Moments

Images from Ukraine that are universal and eternal

By David E. Kaplan

Away from the mass reportage in the written media and television, there are those brief ‘events’ – whether in word or deed – that encapsulates the enormity of the tragedy playing out in Ukraine but also reveals that spark in the human spirit to prevail.

Such was that bravery of the Russian woman who  went on live state TV news with a sign protesting the invasion of Ukraine. Marina Ovsyannikova is a name to remember. For those few brief seconds, Marina defied the might of Putin and his aspiring re-run of a Russian empire and achieved more than a fighter plane or tank. An editor on the Russian TV channel Pervyi Kanal (Channel One), this mother of two, boldly ran behind the newsreader and held up a sign during the main evening show, Vremya, that said:

Stop the war! Don’t believe propaganda! They’re lying to you here! Russians against war

It was Homeric heroism at its best! Lesser defiance in Russia’s Soviet past would have been met with a bullet in the back of the head in a dark underground room in Lubyanka or be exiled to a gulag in Siberia. In present Putin’s Russia, there is talk that Marina could be facing 15 years in prison! All for less than 5 seconds of telling the truth, a commodity being denied to her people.

Marina knew the risks but she also knew the need and the urgency. To surprisingly address her duped nation separated from reality, she  was prepared to expose  herself and her family to the wrath of Putin.

Maybe, just maybe,” she must have thought, it could awaken her people to  “stop the carnage.”

Will she be sacrificed like Joan of Arc by her own people or will she inspire that people to challenge their oppressor – Putin?

Russia. First channel. Marina Ovsyannikova. No war! (2022) News of Ukraine

THE PIANO PLAYER

The second image was in the midst of the carnage, another mother of two, Irina Maniukina playing her grand piano for one final time before leaving her bomb stricken home in Bila Tserkva near Kyiv. Before Irana sets about playing Chopin’s Étude Op. 25, No. 1, she dusts off the debris caused by Russian shelling scattered over her Steinway & Sons Essex piano. It may be the last time she will ever see, never mind play, this piano.

The beauty and grace of the music contrasts with the discord and disfigurement of her home captured in the video filmed by the pianist’s daughter, Karina. Melody juxtaposes over mess, as we see a living room  no longer for the living!

To the sounds of Chopin, we gaze in horror at the debris, shattered glass and rubble. The bomb, that landed 30 feet from the home, blew all the windows out and left a huge crater in the ground.

It blew a larger crater in their lives!

It was poignant to discover that the Chopin piece Irina played is also known as “The Shepherd Boy” following a tale that the composer advised a pupil to picture a shepherd boy taking refuge in a grotto to avoid a storm playing the melody on his flute.

To escape this Russian ‘storm’, where will this Ukrainian mother and daughter now take refuge?

The image of music rising from a home reduced to a ‘wasteland’ was reminiscent to this writer of a plant sprouting in an arid desert – the human spirit survives and will thrive again.

VLADIMIR vs VOLODYMYR

The third image is of a president, who has not only risen to the proverbial occasion but quite literally, rises daily from under the rubble. Like Spartacus, the Thracian gladiatorial slave who defied the might of Rome and is revered today more than the generals who opposed him, so to this young Jewish leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, defying the brutality and imperial arrogance of wannabee Tzar Vladimir Putin. Drawing his line in the proverbial sand in his capital Kyiv, this former actor and comedian  – now wartime leader  – is an inspiration to his people and the world.  Whatever befalls the body of the man, the image of this man is secure for all time.

Unlike the Afghan president, Ashraf  Ghani who only seven months ago fled his country as the Taliban approached his capital Kabul, Zelenskyy’s response to the offer of  leaving Ukraine and to set up a government in exile, was markedly different. While Russian troops were storming towards Ukraine’s capital, this president urged his people to “stand firm”. To the surprise of many around the world, he declined help to evacuate, saying on a street to the cellphone camera in what has become one of the most cited lines of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.” 

Spartacus could hardly have said it better to inspire his army of slaves over 2000 years ago!

With such Churchillian leadership, no world leader today could get away treating Ukraine the way British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain treated Czechoslovakia in 1938 referring to its existential plight with Nazi Germany as a “quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing”.

On the contrary, Ukraine is country of whom the world today knows everything about – every horrific detail. As Zelenskyy reminded the American Congress in his video address that the people of Ukraine were experiencing a Pearl Harbour and a 9/11 “every day”.

‘Plane’ Truth. With his hand to his chest appealing for either a no-fly zone or planes to protect their skies, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses members of Congress from Kyiv.

Zoning in on the two most iconic attacks on American soil, Zelenskyy’s words and warnings could not fail to resonate on the American soul!

There is a message from the placard holder, the pianist and the President to the people of Russia about its leadership:

If you don’t remove the rubbish, it just piles up.

At some stage, they will be engulfed by the stench.

As I wrote in my last article and needs to be repeated:

Putin will not stop; he needs to be stopped.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s full speech to Congress






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).

NOTHINGNESS

It’s not a matter of whether Russia waging war on the Ukraine is politically motivated. It is simply a matter of good versus evil.…” writes Charlotte Cohen from South Africa.  Distraught, anguished, frustrated and questioning the direction of humanity at what is monstrously unfolding in Ukraine,  the poet weighs in on the horrific repercussions for all mankind when the  reigns of leadership are held by those with unbridled evil intent.

(David. E. Kaplan. Lay of the Land editor)


By Charlotte Cohen


The world needs an alien invasion

By unknown creatures from outer space

For us to know that despite our differences

We’re all part of the human race


That whatever our upbringing or culture

Or language or colour of skin

Our DNA is snipped from the self-same strip

We are all family.  We are all kin


But there are some who demand deference

And command subservience to domination 

Who compel control and impel their will

By executing destruction and ruination




Without respect for life, we’ll demolish and kill

We’ll strike again and again and again

Till we blow up the planet and everything that’s in it

Only then will we cease  – only then ….



But then, annihilated and eliminated 

It will finally be too late

A once-inhabited planet extinguished

No edifice left to hate


No more man-made hell on earth

Just vacuous, numbing peace

No consciousness, no living thing

No day begins; nor will it cease


And when we are knocked into nothingness

Our demise won’t dent the sky

When our planet finally perishes

No angel will blink an eye



In the timeless stillness of no future or no past

Will these tyrants hang in shame?

Will these demonic maniacs be accountable –

The diabolic madmen who were to blame?





But all spirit is regained and retained

And the aberration of each fanatic weighed

And for those whose delusions destroy life itself

An undreamed-of debt remains to be paid.



About the writer:

Charlotte Cohen  writes in diverse genres –  inspirational articles, poetry,  memoirs, short stories and  political commentary. A recipient of several  literary and poetry awards that include: The first South African three-time winner of English Association’s  annual writing competition; Winner of the Gitlin Library’s 25th anniversary  short-story writing competition; National award for a book on Drug and Alcohol Abuse; 1st prize:  Old Mutual’s ‘Siyakula’ Poetry competition; Winner of West Coast Writers  Poetry and Writing competitions 2013 and 2015.  Her articles and poetry have been published in ‘Jewish Affairs’ since 2006 and her poetry has been recited at Jewish Literary Festivals.





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).

Final Landing of one of those “Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”

Farewell to a hero who participated in the greatest adventure for a Jew in 2000 years

By David E. Kaplan

Less than two years ago on the occasion of his 100th birthday, Lay of the Land interviewed Harold ‘Smoky’ Simon, who passed away this week a few months shy of his 102 birthday.

Thumbs Up. At 100, Smoky Simon in 2020 again takes to the skies over Israel in a Tiger Moth he once helped repel the enemy in the War of Independence.

And what did this former South African and Chairman of World Machal (Mahal is the Hebrew acronym for Mitnadvei Hutz La’aretz – volunteers from abroad who came to fight in Israel’s War of Independence) do on that occasion?

Most blokes of a seriously senior age might settle for a thin slice of birthday cake or a “medicinal” scotch; but not Smoky. Donning a helmet and goggles and grinning from ear to ear like a mischievous teenager, the centenarian climbed  into a single propeller Tiger Moth and flew over the very area where in 1948 he and his comrades helped repel the advancing Egyptian attack.

Dubbed the “Flight of the Century”, the video made of the 2020 historical flight went viral on YouTube.

Exhilarating,” was the way he  described to this writer in one word of that flight.

It had truly been a “family Affair” for in separate planes alongside their dad’s aircraft were his two proud sons, Saul and Dan, who after their schooling, followed in their father’s ‘flightpath’ by becoming top pilots and flight instructors in the Israel Air Force (IAF). What a joy for the birthday boy when he alighted  from the plane an hour later to be met by his adoring grandchildren screaming proudly, “Saba,Saba” (“grandfather, grandfather”).

If the experience at 100 felt personally liberating”, the nuance was not lost on Smoky who told this writer:

 “You know, the area I just flew over  – the central Negev – was the very first area to be LIBERATED in the War of Independence.”

While the War of Independence was Israel’s longest war lasting eight months from May 1948 to January 1949, “it was also its costliest with 6,373 military and civilian lives lost out of a population of 650,000,” said Smoky. “What’s more, it was also Israel’s most fateful war for if this war had been lost, the prayers, hopes and dreams of 2000 years would have vanished into thin AIR.”

To ensure that did not happen, it took the likes of this plucky South African aviator, who in 1948,  – took to the AIR to fight for Jewish survival and independence.

Fine Tuning. Final preparations before taking off on his 100th birthday.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR

There are not too many couples who can say  they selected a war to come on honeymoon, but that is what Smoky, and his young bride Myra did in 1948. “When the South African Zionist Federation began recruiting ex-WWII servicemen and it became clear there was going to be an imminent war, we brought our wedding date earlier.

“Howcome?” I asked. 

“Well, when  I said to Myra,  ‘We have got to postpone our wedding,  because I’m going to Palestine,’ she replied, “Not postpone, advance because IF YOU’RE GOING, I’M GOING!” 

Dynamic Duo. Saluting one of the last living heroes of Israel’s fight for independence in 2019, Harold “Smoky” Simon displays his Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Sylvan Adams Bonei Zion Lifetime Achievement Award, together with wife Myra, who had been a meteorologist in the SAAF and  joined the South African Zionist Federation group to volunteer to fight alongside her husband for the emerging Jewish state. (Source: Nefesh B’Nefesh via Facebook Sept. 24, 2019.)

This is how Smoky and Myra were part of the first group of volunteers from South Africa. “We arrived on the 9 May 1948 and the next day we signed on to serve in the new-born Israeli air force, although on that day we did not know yet it was Israel – we spoke of Palestine.” While Myra had served in the SAAF during WWII as a meteorologist  and became the first instructor in meteorology in the IAF, Smoky, who had flown for the Royal Air Force (RAF) over the deserts of western Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and later over Sicily and the rest of Italy, was about to again ‘take off’ into history. “Fighting the Nazis gave us the skills and the experience we needed to fight for Israel,” he said.

And fight they did!

Hearing from a Hero. South African-born accountant Smoky Simon, who became chief of air operations of the nascent Israeli Air Force in May 1948, speaks at Tel Aviv’s Beit Hatfutsot Museum. (PHOTO JUDY LASH BALINT)
 

On the 14 May 1948,  while David Ben-Gurion was declaring the State of Israel in Tel Aviv, Smoky was one of three people who had a clear disturbing view of what was about to befall the new state. The other two were fellow South African, Boris Senior and an Israeli photographer, Shmulik Videlis who were flying in a Bonaza in what was the first reconnaissance flight over enemy territory. Boris was the pilot, Smoky, the navigator.

They observed with sinking hearts; the roads leading from Transjordan and Syria lined with hundreds of vehicles, tanks trucks, half-tracks, and armoured cars, “all moving in for the kill.”

They could see Kfar Etzion “had already been overrun and was on fire,” and would soon learn that some 200 members of Kfar Etzion had been killed in its defense, including South Africans.

Returning to Tel Aviv for their debriefing, they could hardly conceal their anxiety.

We know,” said Yigal Yadin, Head of Operations.

What Smoky did not know but discovered on landing was that while he had been in the air, Ben Gurion had declared independence and the new state had a name – “ISRAEL

I always say,” said Smoky, “that when I left on that reconnaissance mission,  I took off from Tel Aviv Palestine but when I  landed at the same location it was  Tel Aviv Israel! Our world had  changed forever.”

AGAINST ALL ODDS

The anxiety felt by all was understandable. “All we had were a few Tiger Moths, Cessnas and Austers. This made up our ‘Bomber Command’. Egypt had 62 frontline aircraft, including British Spitfires and Italian Macchis and here we were completely exposed without a single combat aircraft or anti-aircraft gun. I keep reminding myself – and I thought of this when flying again for my 100 birthday in the Tiger Moth –  that we are really living in a miracle.”

Planning & Plotting. With Israel’s future ‘up in the air’, standing around the table are (l-r) Aharon Remez (Chief of Israel Air force), Smoky Simon (Mahal – Chief of Operations), Shlomo Lahat (Squadran Commander and latyer Mayor of TYel Aviv) and Chris (Map section of Air Force).
 

The leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine at the time were aware that a declaration of statehood would be met by an immediate invasion by Arab armies.

And the warning was clear in the words of US Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal:

 “There are thirty million Arabs on one side and about six hundred thousand Jews on the other. It is clear that in any contest, the Arabs are going to overwhelm the Jews. Why don’t you face up to the realities? Just look at the numbers!”

Jew could expect no quarter. These words by the first Secretary-General of the Arab League, Abd Al-Rahman Azzam Pasha were chilling:

 “It will be a war of annihilation. It will be a momentous massacre in history that will be talked about like the massacres of the Mongols or the Crusades.”

What was going through Ben Gurion’s mind to proceed with a declaration of independence?  “You know,” says Smoky, “I have asked myself a 1000 times, what sort of inspiration  and courage and determination  he had. Only answer I can find, is  Ein Br’eira – “No Choice

Israel’s position was bleak. It was a David and Goliath scenario of bringing the proverbial staff and sling to a battlefield against five well-equipped armies.

In our few Austers and the few Cessnas brought over from South Africa, we flew off into battle with a pilot, navigator and what we called “bomb-chuckers”. These fellow held the bombs on their laps  – 20 and 50 kilograms –  and at a height of 1500 to 2000 feet,  they would chuck ‘em out and drop them on the  enemy. We would then fly back to base  counting our lucky stars, ‘reload’, and then off again on our next trip.”

Incredulous, I ask:

Wasn’t this very dangerous?”

Well, before opening the aircraft’s door and pitching-out the bombs, we would tie the bomb-chuckers to each other with rope, so that they would not fall out of the plane along with the bombs. Sometimes, for good measure, we also threw out crates of empty bottles which made a terrifying noise scarring the hell out of the population below. If we did not have the goods, we had to pretend!

This is how the IAF in this modest way, developed into this amazing world class air force of today.”

AN OFFICER AND A MENSCH

MODEST” it was, as Smoky attested in this delightful anecdote. On being made Israel’s first Chief of Air Operations in 1948 with the rank of Major or the equivalent of “Squadron Leader”, he needed to display his new rank. However “we didn’t have any.”

Man on a Mission. Air navigator, Smoky Simon, Machal – Chief of Operations in 1948.

So what did you do? “Not me, Myra. She went to a haberdashery shop in Allenby Street and purchased a few pieces of ribbon and sowed it on to my uniform to display my rank.”

To lighten the tension, the night before Smoky’s aerial attack on Damascus on the 10th of June 1948 – the first attack on an enemy Arab city – Smoky said to Myra:

 “Now at least if I get shot down, they will know I am an ‘Officer and a gentleman’!”

Smoky’s plane did six runs over Damascus that night creating the impression “that we were part of a large formation.”

As it was mostly subterfuge causing negligible  damage besides  “a few fires”, the next day, “all the foreigners fled Damascus as they feared our ‘air force’ was about to hammer them.”

MODERN DAY MIRACLE

While Egypt and Jordan were equipped by the British, Syria and Iraq in the early days of the war, Smoky reminded that “Israel had only one friend in the world and that was Czechoslovakia. You know, we owe such a debt to that country. It was Israel’s lifeline and I still keep in touch with guys in Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic) to this day.”

Amplifying on the contribution, Smoky continued:

Firstly, they provided 25 German Messerschmitts,  and what was so remarkable was  – I call it a miracle within the bigger miracle – was that the first four Messerschmitt’s,  which  were brought in parts to Israel and reassembled under the strictest security,  were ready on the 29th of May –  two weeks after the declaration of the State – for an operation that literally saved the war and the State of Israel.

Taking a deep breath, Smoky continued:

“The Egyptians had overrun the kibbutzim in the south and reached Ashdod,  and the next day they would have been in Tel Aviv, where Ben Gurion and the provisional government was located, and the War of Independence would have been lost.”

So who flew these planes to counter the Egyptians?

Two Mahalniks (volunteers from abroad), Lou Lenart an American who led the attack and Eddy Cohen a South African, who was sadly killed in the operation, and two Israelis, Ezer Weitzman, later President of Israel and  Modi Alon.  And I call that day, Israel’s day of survival. It was one of the IAF’s greatest moments.”

War & Remembrance. Mahal heroes (l-r) Migdal Teperson, Smoky Simon, Joe Woolf and Ruth Stern at a Guard of Honour of Mahal volunteers at the Mahal Memorial on Yom Hazikaron 2011

The attack came as a shock to the Egyptian commanders who had believed Israel to be without combat aircraft and suddenly this air attack by the four Messerschmitts halted their advance. Says Smoky, “The Egyptians fell on the defensive and would not be in Tel Aviv in 48 hours as their government-controlled media had boasted. Tel Aviv receded from their grasp! I always think of Churchill’s words of the Battle of Britain, “Never has so much been owed by so many to so few”.”

Amongst that “few” was Smoky, who served until his passing as Chairman of World Machal (Organisation representing the volunteers from overseas in the Israel Defense Forces). In the words of Israel’s founding father and  first prime minister, David Ben Gurion:

The Machal forces were the Diaspora’s most important contribution to the survival of the State of Israel.”

Saviors of the State. Two of the founders of the Israel Air Force, Smoky Simon, Chief of Air Operations (left), Sid Cohen (right) who commanded 101 Squadron and Maurice Ostroff (centre), commander of radar station Gefen seen here in 2005 at a TELFED (SAZF in Israel) event honouring all the MACHAL volunteers, some who attended from overseas.  Click here to listen to a March 2015 Voice of Israel interview with Smoky Simon telling the authentic story about the creation of the State of Israel.

Seventy-two years on from those fateful days, Smoky – at the wonderful age of 100 – was back in the cockpit, revisiting in a similar plane over a familiar terrain and reflecting “what was achieved.”

In his professional life after the war, Smoky would make a huge impact on the insurance industry in Israel eventually selling his agency to one of Israel’s largest insurance companies. However, it was because of people like of Smoky that offered the best INSURANCE for Israel’s survival.  Ensuring that story of survival remains alive for future generations, Smoky dedicated his life to engaging with youngsters in Israel and abroad, including recruits in the IDF, educating them on the vital role of the ‘Machalniks’ in securing a future Jewish state.

Smoky was a man of initiative and action, and what better way to paraphrase that there was:

‘NO SMOKY WITHOUT FIRE’





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 Great Aliyah of Soviet Jewry

By Jonathan Davis

Recently, a popular Israeli singer composed a song called “Kakdila”.  Many Israelis   interpreted this song as an insult to the character of Israelis of Russian origin. In my opinion, this song was uncalled for. The many wonderful contributions of Russian Aliyah to the State of Israel is well known. Their economic, cultural, and demographic impact on the country and to Israel, the Start-Up Nation, has been profound. However, this controversy led me to travel down memory lane on a personal and nostalgic journey. What I experienced on this journey refutes everything this song implies.

Forty three years ago, I was an Aliyah emissary of the Jewish Agency for Israel, based in the office of the Consulate General in Boston. I was approached by the Office of the Prime Minister and the Nativ Organization to travel on a mission to the Former Soviet Union to visit Jewish activists and refuseniks. In 1979 there were of course no diplomatic relations between Israel and the Soviet Union.  My partner on this mission was Mark Sokoll, then the regional director of the American Zionist Youth Foundation for New England campuses, and later served as the President and CEO of JCC Greater Boston.  Our mission included visits to Moscow, Leningrad, Tashkent, Bukhara, and Samarkand.

Men on a Mission. Posing as university lecturers, Jonathan Davis (left) and partner Mark Sokoll in Tashkent, one of the many places in the Former Soviet Union they visited to engage with Jewish activists and ‘Refuseniks’.

Our cover story was that we were university lecturers in the USA.  We were briefed on how to behave during our few weeks as “tourists” in the Soviet Union. For example, we were told to not bring written lists of the activists, but memorize them instead; do not talk about anything sensitive in the hotel rooms as they may be bugged and that our tour guide was probably working and reporting for the Soviet Government.  We were instructed to update the activists on current events in Israel and encourage and reassure them that we in Israel were fighting for their freedom.  Strange as it may seem now, we were to provide them with duty free items from the local tourist shop called the Birioska, as gifts for their livelihood. At night we were to quietly reach out to the Jewish Activist destinations in the most subtle way possible.

Free at Last. The writer enjoying a meal and kosher wine with a Jewish family in Bukhara who he would meet again five years later, free in Israel.

We were honoured to participate in this Zionist mission.

Amongst many memorable experiences was celebrating in Leningrad a Pesach seder – somewhat poignant as the Passover festival spotlights ‘freedom’ by celebrating the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt . The seder was held in a small apartment, with at least 70 people squeezed in.  We had brought Matzot and wine from the USA, a real treat and delicacy for the locals. We led the Seder with great vigour including singing traditional songs, “Let My People Go” and “Next Year in Jerusalem“.  This was a Seder I would never forget. To my amazement the guest of honour at the Seder was Yuli Kosharovsky, the famous refusenik and Jewish activist who had been released from jail just 24 hours earlier. What an honour it was to meet this Jewish hero. Yuli was an outstanding engineer in the Soviet Union, but his ‘crime’ was to request the right to make Aliyah.

Celebrating Freedom. The writer (right) with Yuli Kosharovsky famous refusenik and Jewish activist who had been released from prison 24 hours earlier (left) and family at Seder in Leningrad.

As a result, he was persecuted and imprisoned. Together with other engineers, they clandestinely taught themselves Hebrew and prepared their Aliyah (immigration to Israel).  In every way, this hero exemplifies the qualities of a modern-day Joseph Trumpeldor, embodying courage, tenacity, leadership, and Zionist values. Ten years after our visit at the Seder, Yuli managed to receive his permit to come to Israel, where he succeeded in becoming an important advisor to the Jewish Agency and helped found a political party.  Yuli, of blessed memory passed away in 2014, but his Zionist values and spirit lives on with his family and grandchildren.

Risky Business. Trying to revive Jewish national life by teaching Hebrew, Judaism and Zionist values in the Former Soviet Union was a dangerous activity. Here, under the noses of  the KGB, the writer  (Center: fifth from the left) meets with Hebrew teaching activists in Moscow

In Moscow we had the opportunity to address 30-40 Jewish activists packed into a small apartment to help explain the current events facing the State of Israel in 1978.  They were hungry for knowledge and were carefully taking notes. Each of them was teaching Hebrew to a few dozen activists and were going to repeat what they perceived to be our Zionist words of wisdom to their students. Years later, when visiting the Knesset, the late Member of Knesset Yuri Stern, a refusenik and Zionist activist in the Soviet Union came up to me and told me:

Jonathan, you were the first paratrooper I ever met in person“. 

Memorable Moment. Hitting home the enormity of the success of the mission to the Former Soviet Union was years later when the writer bumped into  famed former  refusenik and Zionist activist, Yuri Stern at the Knesset. Then an MK, he reminded the writer that he was once one of the many sitting in a parlor meeting in Moscow listening to Jonathan and said  the impression it made meeting the first Israeli paratrooper in person.

I felt proud that he remembered.

Ten years later while working for the Jewish Agency for Israel I was sent on a special mission to Italy.  My assignment was to reach out to tens of thousands of Russian Jewish refugees in Ladispoli, Netuno, Santa Marinella and other locations to create awareness of the importance of living in Israel.

Full Circle. Jonathan Davis (right) in a fundraising event with an orphan of a fallen Israel paratrooper preparing to jump  from a Hercules aircraft in the sea off Haifa was later picked up in a rubber dinghy with the outstretched hand of a Navy Seal born of Russian immigrant parents.

It was a hard job to compete with the “easy life” in the USA, Canada, or Australia.  It was an almost impossible mission, but in the end together with a dedicated team, a few hundred families emigrated to Israel. They were mostly young couples with small children, and professionals in the fields such as medicine, music, art, engineering, and others.

Their life choice to become Israelis has certainly enriched our country. 

In 2000, I participated in a parachute jump into the sea, near the Dado Beach in Haifa.  Lt. General Shaul Mofaz led this fundraising event for orphans of paratroopers. Each veteran paratrooper jumped with an “orphan buddy“.  Navy seals in rubber dinghies were awaiting to assist us back to shore. A tall and handsome navy seal with a Russian accent assisted me. He was born in Novosibirsk and had been living in Israel for less than a decade. The navy seal, son of Russian immigrants who chose to serve in one of the most elite units in the IDF, was lending me a hand. This brought me full circle in my appreciation and recognition of an immigration which changed the face of the State of Israel.

Fruits of one’s labor. Today as head of the international school at Reichman University, Jonathan Davis savors the joy of having an ever-increasing number of students  from the Former Soviet Union.




About the writer:

Jonathan Davis is head of the international school at Reichman University (formerly the IDC) and vice president of external relations there. He is also a member of the advisory board of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism. Mr. Davis also serves as a Lieutenant Colonel (Res) in the IDF Spokesman’s office.






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).

Rebels with an Unjust Cause

On the centenary of South Africa’s 1922 Rand Revolt, the writer shares his late father’s intimate childhood recollections and personal experiences

By David E. Kaplan

The  centenary this 2022 of the armed uprising of white miners in the Witwatersrand region of South Africa  – known as the ‘Rand Rebellion’ ,  the ‘1922 Rand Revolt’ or the ‘1922 Rand Strike” and by some even the ‘Red Revolt’ – will likely pass ignored as the experiences, passions and issues of yesterday’s long dead no longer resonate with today’s living.

Rioting on the Reef! Fear of civil war is the lead in this Cape Times March 11 1922.

Relegated today to a footnote in history,  it was on foot many years ago  that I learnt firsthand of what happened through a child’s eyes – my late father, Solly Kaplan.

Steely Resolve. The writer’s father, Solly Kaplan as a young man in Cape Town having left Johannesburg the year following the 1922 Rand Revolt and would with his brother Ike Kaplan and Solly Kushlich start a steel business, Cape Gate, in 1929.

On a family visit to Johannesburg shortly after the end of Apartheid, we were idly sitting at a hotel  breakfast table when my father said, “Son, come I want to take you downtown to Fordsburg;  show you a chapter of my childhood when South Africa teetered on the brink of civil war.”

Turmoil at the Toilet. The historic Fordsburg public toilet building on the south western corner was fortified as a blockhouse by the strikers and still showed – until the 1980s – bullet damage to the walls. Anticipating attacks, strikers dug trenches on the perimeter of the square bordering Mint and Commercial Roads.

With violence in the streets of downtown central Johannesburg rife at the time and my father well in his senior years, I cautioned against it but he replied:

 “Violence! You don’t know what violence is. I was a youngster here back then and I was in the thick of it, darting between bullets.”

I was fascinated.

The Homefront. A typical Victorian semi-detached house with corrugated roofs like the one Solly Kaplan lived in as a boy and from where striker commandos fired at the ILH (Imperial Light Horse). (Photo SJ de Klerk).

I threw back my coffee and said lets go. On the way, he explained that his exposure to civil violence began a good few years before the 1922 Revolt, when as a young lad of five, he disembarked at Johannesburg Central Station in 1913, “in the midst of a violent miners revolt.”

He explained:

What stated as a dispute over working hours of a few miners at the New Klipfontein Mine led to sackings and a strike that soon spread to other mines. By the time I arrived in Jo’burg, rioting had broken out in the centre of the town. Soon thereafter, Park Station was set ablaze, as were the offices of “The Star” newspaper. Union government troops soon joined the fray, and in the first two days of open hostilities, over 100 strikers and innocent bystanders had been killed.”

Squaring Off. Directly opposite the historic Sacks Hotel, later the Orient Hotel (seen here), was the Fordsburg Market Square and the two-storey Market Building used by strikers as their headquarters which has since been demolished. (SJ de Klerk).

This was Solly’s baptism of fire of life in Johannesburg, and by the time my father left the ‘Golden City’, for “the quiet and sedate Cape” in 1923, he would experience firsthand – “virtually on our doorstep” – the far more serious and violent miners’ rebellion, which history would record as the 1922 Rand Revolt.

Waiting Attack. Preparing for an assault, a sandbag barricade at Johannesburg’s Town Hall.

When the hostilities broke out, Solly, now 12, was living with his family in downtown Johannesburg. “It was not a Jewish area, more a mixed bag of locals and immigrants, with a plethora of rough and ready types, who had  gravitated to this grubby, dusty boomtown. People tried to eke out a living the best they could.” His father, Max, worked in a small factory in West Street  manufacturing wrought iron gates – an expertise that would sow the seeds with his sons and emerge as the global wire and steel manufacturing behemoth – Cape Gate.

“We had settled in Anderson Street in one of those typical small houses with a corrugated tin roof and a front porch close to an area known as the Jeppe Dip. It was here that white miners set themselves up in a makeshift stockade and from where they indiscriminately shot at any blacks within firing range.”

Country at a Crossroads. Anderson Street in downtown Johannesburg where the writer’s  father lived at the time of the 1922 Rand Revolt.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

The revolt began, explained Solly, “as a strike in Witbank on 2 January 1922, when coal miners downed tools over proposed pay cuts.” What then inflamed the crisis was the announcement by the Chamber of Mines to increase the employment ratio of black to white workers, which would have resulted in a substantial diminution of white jobs. Adding fuel to the fire was a further proposal to abolish the paid holidays of May Day and Dingaan’s Day, both enormously symbolic to the English and Afrikaans workers respectively. On February 7, Johannesburg was greeted by the sight of striking miners marching through the streets under the banner:

 “WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE FOR A WHITE SOUTH AFRICA’.

Ready, Aim, Fire! The seat today of the Constitutional Court of South Africa,  some of South Africa’s major corporations and the University of the Witwatersrand, the central suburb of Braamfontein is seen here in 1922  reminiscent of a scene from the Great War with soldiers in trenches squaring off against the strikers. (Picture SAR Magazine)

So, what began as a strike supporting job reservation,” explained Solly, “rapidly exploded into an armed rebellion, where Afrikaner Nationalists had no problem joining forces with English speaking communists.”

This sudden solidarity between natural foes, “showed that  when expedient, traditional ideological antipathy can quickly be dispensed with for the shared common cause of self-interest.”

STREETSMART

Although only twelve, “I was very conscious of what happening, mainly because of the risks I had to take. My stepmother used to send me out daily to buy provisions from the store in Commissioner Street, some three blocks away. I would dash along, and then when crossing intersections, I would constantly be on the lockout, ducking and diving when necessary the bullets coming from the stockades and roadblocks. Any unfortunate blacks in the area were moving targets and would attract a fusillade of gunfire.”

One day, recalled Solly:

We heard shooting outside our house. We ran out onto our stoep (porch), and saw a black man writhing in pain on the road. He had been shot by a dum-dum bullet, filled at the head to implode on impact. The poor fellow’s leg was completely shattered. We had no phones in the area, so I ran to the nearest greengrocer, run by the Regalsky family, and asked someone to phone for an ambulance. We did the best we could for the fellow as he lay bleeding profusely on our stoep. It was clear that he would lose his leg.”

Under Fire. Cross the centre of a main street, government forces raise their rifles behind sand bags to face an attack by the strikers.

SMUTS STEPS IN

By mid-March the strike leaders lost control of the mobs that had virtually seized most of Johannesburg and were calling for armed insurrection and the overthrow of the state. It was then that Prime Minister Jan Smuts made his move. He declared martial law; travelled by train from the Cape to the Rand and “alighted at Potchefstroom and continued the journey to Jo’burg by car. He was acting prudently, afraid he could be bumped-off if word got out that he would be arriving at a given time at the central station,” related Solly who had remained fascinated by the turbulent history surrounding this early chapter of his youth. “Smuts then personally took control of more than 20,000 troops backed by airplanes, tanks and field artillery.”

Sending in the big Guns. With tanks sent onto the streets of Johannesburg, a Whippet tank is seen here approaching Fordsburg.

Walking around the streets where this drama played out,  Solly continued:

There were mass arrests of strikers, and many of the ringleaders who had been trapped in their headquarters in the Trades Hall were picked up and then jailed at The Fort. Fierce retaliation on police stations followed, mainly to replenish arms, but after five days of fierce battles against trained government troops, the insurrection was brought to a climactic violent finale. Brixton Ridge, which was captured by troops on March 12th, provided the ideal position from which the artillery could open fire on the main rebel strongholds in Fordsburg. It was subjected to a thunderous pounding and on March 14th, government troops  swept into town. Rather than face the inevitable charge of treason, two of the strike leaders, Spendiff and Fischer, committed suicide.”

Revolutionary Road. Following strikers congregating at the Rissik Street Trades Hall (above),  police reports described strikers armed with bicycle chains, old swords and bayonets, poles barbed with spikes and a variety of firearms. Overnight, striker violence seemed to spread across the Rand. (Wikipedia)

In the legal proceedings that flowered, Solly continued, “118 strike leaders were sentenced to death of which four were finally executed. They walked defiantly to the gallows singing the communist anthem, “The Red Flag”.

The Aftermath. Fordsburg Market Square after the revolt. In the foreground the trenches dug around its edges and in the background McIntosh’s store damaged by artillery fire.

Walking through the area of his youth, it took a lot of imagination on my part as too few buildings remained from that period, only the street signs like Anderson, Fox, Rissik, Eloff, Jeppe and Commissioner. Bustling with traffic and pedestrians, we had to carefully look out for oncoming vehicles as we crossed these same streets.

A far cry from dodging bullets,” observed Solly wryly.





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)