The Man for all Seasons

By Rolene Marks

HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh leaves behind a tremendous legacy including support of Jewish and Pro-Israel causes.

He was the dashing naval World War II veteran and hero who was the very symbol of dedication and duty. The quintessential alpha male, he was to Her Majesty, The Queen, the love of her life for over 70 years, her unconditional support, her “strength and stay” and theirs was a love affair for the ages.

Theirs was love for the ages. Prince Philip and Her Majesty the Queen

At the great age of 99, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh passed away peacefully at his home, Windsor Castle.

When someone passes away, it is often only after their death when we find out the magnitude of the work that they have done or causes they supported. Prince Philip was no exception. Tributes have poured in from all corners of the globe and knowledge of his tremendous dedication and patronages to over 800 charities and endeavours, including various branches of the British armed forces; it appears that each community has been impacted by his work. Minutes after the news of his passing broke, tributes from Jewish leaders across the United Kingdom and Commonwealth were sent, expressing  gratitude for an extraordinary life, well lived.

HRH Prince Philip with Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, in an interview with the BBC shared the following anecdote. He recalled being invited to visit the Royal family at Windsor Castle, where Prince Philip “particularly wanted me to see one particular gift that Her Majesty the Queen had received in the 1960s. And in the Royal Library, he showed me a Torah scroll that she had received as a gift. And he wanted me to explain it to him.”

“It was one of the Czech scrolls, and I was able to first of all describe what a Torah scroll is; and that in addition, this particular scroll had been rescued from the former Czechoslovakia,” he said. “It had been intended to be part of what the Nazis wanted to be a museum to the people that used to exist. And therefore, in Czechoslovakia, none of the Torah scrolls were destroyed. A whole lot of these scrolls were brought to London and one was presented to the queen.”

Israeli leadership was no different and statements from President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, Lior Haiat and Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely paid tribute to Prince Philip, highlighting his exceptional dedication to duty and extending their condolences not just to the Royal Family whose loss is irreplaceable, but to all citizens of the UK and Commonwealth. It was noted that he would be missed amongst Israel’s people as well because we share a very special connection to the man affectionately known as The Iron Duke.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, third from left, poses with the Duke of Edinburgh, left, Queen Elizabeth II, right, Israeli President Ezer Weizman and his wife Reuma at a State Banquet in their honor at Buckingham Palace, London, in this February 25, 1997 file photo. (AP Photo/John Stillwell/pool)

Israelis have had a complicated relationship with the British Royal Family. Many have wondered over the years why there had been no official visits from Her Majesty, The Queen. Was it an unofficial boycott because of uprisings against the British Mandate before 1947? Was it to not anger Arab Royal Families? Or was it simply because the Foreign Office had not requested it?

Prince Philip and his sister, Princess Sophie, laying a wreath at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on October 31, 1994. (Photo by Beni Berk from the Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel)

This was until 1994, when HRH Prince Philip became the first Royal to visit – albeit in a personal capacity. The reason for his visit was very special. His mother, The Princess Alice was being honoured by Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum for being a Righteous Amongst the Nations. Princess Alice had been assisting the Swedish and Swiss Red Cross to help care for refugees, heard of the Cohen family who she knew personally and would soon be deported by the Nazi’s and opened the doors of the palace on the outskirts of Athens to them. The Cohens remained in the palace for 13 months, with the Princess regularly visiting and talking at length with Rachel the mother and assigned the family two Greeks who helped the family keep in contact with the outside world. Helping a Jewish family came with great risks, especially for Princess Alice. Three of her four daughters had married German princes, who were serving as SS officers. Suspicions of her loyalty were rife, and Philip, her only son had much earlier enlisted to the British Royal navy at aged 18 where he served throughout the war with distinction.

Prince Philip watering a maple tree planted in memory of his mother at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, October 31, 1994. (Photo by Beni Berk from the Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel.)

“I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with deep religious faith and she would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress,” said Prince Philip when commenting about his mother’s heroic actions.

During his trip to Israel, Prince Philip also met with members of the Jewish Legion who served in His Majesty’s Army. In 2018 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, made the first official visit to Israel and was received with great enthusiasm and admiration and Prince Charles has visited several times, one of them being for the funeral of slain Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin.

Jewish and Israeli causes were of great interest to the Prince. He often addressed Zionist organisations like the Jewish National Fund and critics of this were firmly ignored by him. The Prince did what he felt was right and did not suffer fools. He is famous for some of his salty gaffes which only endeared him more to people, especially at a time when woke culture seems to be taking over the world.

Prince Philip jokes with British WWII veterans Nathan Kohaen (right) and Arthur Stark, who immigrated to Israel, during a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Ramle, Israel, on Oct. 30, 1994, where he came to lay a wreath (AP Photo)

He was a great promoter of interfaith dialogue and was extremely dedicated to this work but for me, it is his Duke of Edinburgh Awards aimed at encouraging youth to excel, adopted here in Israel by WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) that is particularly sentimental.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme was set up in the UK in 1956 and operates in 140 countries around the globe. In 1982, Israel adopted the scheme, known locally as ‘Ot Hanoar – The Israel Youth Award Scheme. “It’s what I like to describe as a do-it-yourself growing-up kit,” HRH Prince Philip once said of the scheme, “it has helped countless young people on their sometimes difficult path to adulthood.”

The project involves four main principles set out for youth from the ages of 14-25, which enhances their abilities and potential, increases their awareness of the importance of public and communal affairs. The four main principles are: developing a hobby, physical exercise, volunteerism within the community, and challenging expeditions.

The scheme has changed the lives of so many young Israelis in WIZO Youth Villages and schools who have benefitted greatly from the vision of the late Duke of Edinburgh to become the very best version of themselves – going out in the world as ambassadors for WIZO and Israel. The hundreds of stories from graduates from this scheme are testimony to the living legacy of the man who dedicated his life to Queen, country and duty.

Celebrating 73 years of marriage. The last picture of the Duke of Edinburgh with Her Majesty The Queen, look at an anniversary card made by the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince Philip was the man for all seasons. Steadfast and strong, modest and universally admired, his passing will leave a void in the world. It is humbling to see the tributes flowing in and the people of Britain, despite restrictions due to the pandemic, expressing their love and admiration across the generations. We extend our condolences to Her Majesty, The Queen, the Royal family and the people of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.

Goodnight sweet Prince, may flights of angels wing thee to thy rest.






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)

New Land, New Life – Making it in Modiin – Part 2

Aliyah – immigrating to Israel –  is increasingly  on the radar of Jews around the world. In this the second of a  2-part ‘Aliya on the Agenda?’ series, Shelley Berman  relates her experiences in the transition from Glenhazel in South Africa to Modiin in Israel.

(Part 1 – Aliyah on the Agenda?)

We approached the whole investigation with a positive determination to find a way. In terms of practicalities, one important change was that after three visits to our children here, things were much more familiar. I was no longer so afraid of the change. I was overcoming my fear of the unknown.

Upon our return to South Africa, things moved at lightning speed. Before we had even had a serious discussion between ourselves about when or how to market and sell our home in Glenhazel, word was out in our community that we were making Aliyah, and within a week our home was sold to the daughter of an acquaintance.

The planning was exhausting and draining, both physically and emotionally. Clearing out and packing up our possessions was an arduous task, but we tackled it with the same precision that we tackled everything else. List  after list was drawn up, and all the admin of tying up our affairs was dealt with.

The 29th of December 2018 is a day that will be forever etched in my memory; the day that I left South Africa, my homeland, the land of my birth. It was with such a heavy heart that we bade farewell to family and friends. A very difficult goodbye was to my mother-in-law, who was in the Jewish old-age home in Johannesburg.

But the hardest of all was to our son and daughter-in-law and their children. By then they had been blessed with twins, and saying goodbye to those children before leaving for the airport was just gut-wrenching. Our final moments at the airport saw the four of us clinging to each other in an embrace that I wanted to never end, and left us running for the boarding gate in a haze of tears, literally at the last minute. It is my fervent hope that at some time in the future, they will decide that Aliyah is on their agenda too.

From Glenhazel to Modiin

The morning of Sunday 30 December 2018 dawned bright and clear as we disembarked at Ben Gurion Airport. My heartbreak and sadness lifted as I felt such enormous pride stepping onto Israeli soil. As a staunch Zionist ever since I was a teenager, this was, in its own way, a dream come true.

As we walked into the airport, we saw a familiar face standing and holding a sign that read “BERMAN FAMILY”, and my heart soared. Telfed – South African Zionist Federation in Israel – had notified us that he would be there to welcome us, and had sent me his picture in advance. What a thoughtful and helpful gesture that was!

Red Carpet. Ian and Shelley Berman are welcomed at the airport by Avraham (left)  – the representative from Telfed and the Jewish Agency – who guided them through all the bureaucracy.

Avraham guided us through all the bureaucracy at the airport, and we exited Ben Gurion as Israeli citizens, with our temporary Israeli Identity Documents and an envelope of cash given to us by the Israeli government. My sense of gratitude was, and still is, immense. I soon realised that our whole Aliyah journey would become a journey of gratitude.

We soon settled into life in Modiin. My daughter had found an apartment for us to rent, and we had signed the lease, trusting her judgment. It is a lovely apartment, and perfect for our needs. My daughter and son-in-law have been a solid rock of support to us. I am so grateful to them, not only for being there for us every step of the way, but for being the trail blazers who led us to take this journey.

With their help within the first few weeks, we had set up and moved into our apartment, and dealt with all of the bureaucratic red-tape that goes with making Aliyah. So many people had ‘warned’ us about how difficult it all is, and how we should expect problems here, there and everywhere. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Fell into Step

Every step of the way, we found people to be helpful, obliging and caring. We were welcomed and congratulated as new olim (immigrants), wherever we went. Every government department that we visited ran like a well-oiled machine. This was so refreshing for us, coming from a place where those offices are notoriously inefficient and unhelpful.

Of course, the language was a challenge, but we managed to get by with my imperfect Hebrew. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that most Israelis do speak at least some English, and in all government offices we were able to find someone who could help us in English when my Hebrew couldn’t cut it.

It only took a few weeks before we had received our permanent ID cards and drivers’ licences, and we had bought a car. Now, it’s all very well to have a car and a valid licence, but you may be wondering about the actual reality of driving here. Well, more about that later.

Certified Smiling Israelis. Newly arrived South Africans proudly flash at Ben Gurion Airport their temporary Israeli  ID documents on the path to receiving passports.

Things were going so well for us when we got a shattering phone call. My husband’s mother was seriously ill. We booked tickets and boarded a flight the next morning. Who would have believed that we would be winging our way back to Johannesburg, just four weeks after leaving?

Sadly, we lost our beloved Bobba Ros three days after we arrived. My husband sat shiva (week long mourning) with his siblings, and we returned to Israel enveloped in grief. This loss was a very hard aspect of our Aliyah. We had not yet found a shul that we felt we could call our own when my husband now needed a daily minyan (quorum of 10 Jewish adults). It was so hard for him to tackle this, and he had to do it alone.

Life  soon settled into a routine, and we felt calm and happy. Ulpan was going well, and we were both improving our Hebrew. Our grandsons were nearby, and our daughter was expecting her third child.

Walk in the Park. The Bermans with their grandkids in a local park in Modiin.

On Track

I found a part-time job teaching English at a school in Tel-Aviv, in a maternity replacement position. This was an eye-opener for me. Israeli teenagers are very far removed from what I was used to. But it was a great experience. The school was lovely, and my colleagues were very helpful.

Dealing with the Israeli Ministry of Education was a challenge, but eventually I was able to get my degrees recognised and I was so proud to be working and earning, only ten weeks into our Aliyah journey.

Taking the train to Tel-Aviv to go to work was such a treat for me. Israelis complain about the public transport system. They should only know how good they have it here. I still marvel at the efficiency and  the safety of the trains.

Getting crushed in the crowds on the station platform, and walking through the streets of Tel Aviv among the throngs of Israelis  – all talking on their cell phones  – made me so proud and happy to be a part of this society. This aspect of my day, which so many consider to be drudgery, gave me so much pleasure.

I was working three days a week, and going to ulpan (school for intensive study of Hebrew) twice a week, when I saw an ad for English teachers at an adult English school in Modiin. I sent them my CV, and they called me to invite me to an interview. After a lengthy interview process, I got the job.

Deciding Destiny. Only three months in Israel, new immigrants Ian and Shelley at a voting station in Modiin about to vote in a national election.

So now I was working three days a week in Tel Aviv, going to ulpan two mornings a week, and teaching English to adults three evenings a week. I was also, and still am, a very involved and dedicated Bobba, and spend as much time as possible with my precious grandchildren. (Our Israeli granddaughter was born six months after our arrival, and BH the three children keep us on our toes). I suppose you could say that I was very busy. But I was loving every minute of it.

The temporary school job soon came to an end, and life settled into a very comfortable routine. My work teaching adults was very satisfying, and I was really happy there. In terms of convenience, the school is in the mall, right opposite our apartment, so I couldn’t ask for more.

Towards the end of our first year, my husband was lucky to find a job that he really enjoys. He has a background in the retail world, and found a job at Superpharm, also in the mall. He is happy there, and we count our blessings that he found a job without too much difficulty. Many of the predictors of ‘doom and gloom’ led us to believe that it would be almost impossible for him to find work, because of his age and his lack of Hebrew. Thankfully, this was not the case at all.

Modiin Mall. The Azrieli Mall in Modiin where both Ian and the writer have found employment.

Shul and Socialising

One of the bigger challenges that we faced was finding a shul (synagogue) with a community where we would fit in. We came from a small, close-knit community in Johannesburg, where our shul was almost like an extension of our home, our community like family. We knew that we would never be able to replace this in Israel, and it remains a challenge for us. However, we have  joined a shul, an Anglo community in Modiin, where we feel really comfortable, even though most of the members are a lot younger than us. We were just starting to really enjoy shul, when Corona became the buzz-word and attending shul has become a distant memory. I really hope that we will be able to return to shul soon, as this is an important element to integrating as olim (new immigrants), and being accepted socially.

One of my biggest fears was my concern about making friends and building a social life. We knew exactly one other couple here (who have become good friends). While I was never a social butterfly, I do have numerous very close friends who have been my friends for many years. While they will always be irreplaceable in my life, I am also so grateful to the people who reached out and extended a hand of friendship to us here. We have been very lucky to build up a nice circle of good friends in Modiin, but Corona has made it difficult to cement new friendships. Please G-d, now that we have all been vaccinated, we will be able to start socialising again soon. 

Shades of South Africa.  In a familiar culinary posture,  Ian is ‘braaiing’ (barbecuing)  on his balcony in Modiin on Yom Ha’atzmaut. (Independence Day 2020)

Of course, shul and socialising are not the only aspects of our lives that have been affected by Corona. In March 2020, I was put on Halat, another buzz-word. Basically, unpaid leave. While I am still officially employed, I have not been working since the start of the pandemic.

Once again, I am deeply grateful to the State of Israel, for the incredible assistance offered through Bituach Leumi, or National Insurance. Registering with them and submitting my unemployment claim was a huge operation, but, with the help of my brother (who made Aliyah thirty years ago), fluent in Hebrew and familiar with the system, this too was overcome.

I have always been a busy, active person. I have always worked. It is not in my nature to sit around and do nothing. I have tried dabbling in a bit of content-writing, and would love to build up a practice for extra English lessons. It is my fervent wish that I will be able to get back to work soon. Now that the vaccination campaign is well under way, hopefully Burlington English will be allowed to reopen and I can go back to the job that I love.

Icing on the Cake. December 2020 saw the Bermans celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in Israel.

Shot in the Arm

Which brings me to yet another aspect of life as an Israeli for which I am deeply grateful. Vaccinations! I am proud to say, ‘Gam Ani Hitchasanti’, I have also been vaccinated. Nowhere else in the world would I have been amongst the very first group of people to be invited by my healthcare provider to have the vaccine.

Our healthcare provider proved another eye-opener. As South Africans, we were used to paying huge sums of money every month for private medical insurance. Sadly, it is a country where private health insurance is a necessity, not a luxury. We still marvel at the world class medical care available to us here, for a very small contribution. Sure, the Hebrew does sometimes make it daunting, and a little difficult to navigate the system, but we manage. And there is always help available if you need it.

When it comes to all the officialdom and red-tape, if you are really stuck and need help, the ladies at the Olim centre in Modiin are wonderful. I have reached out to them on a few occasions, and they are always willing to help.

In the Driver’s Seat

Unfortunately, the one difficulty that nobody could help me to overcome, was my fear of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. This was something that I had to tackle all on my own, and I did. I never used to be a nervous driver. In Johannesburg, with some of the notoriously worst taxi drivers in the world, I drove without hesitation. I zapped around in my little car with the utmost confidence.

Sea Breeze. Closer to the sea than they were living in Johannesburg, “Modiinics” Shelley and Ian enjoying a night out at the Hertzliya Marina.

Do I now feel the same way here? No! But I am getting there. It has taken practice and perseverance, and I’m pleased to say that I can take myself wherever I need to go. But do I enjoy driving here? Suffice it to say that I could probably write a book entitled “101 Reasons Why I Don’t Like Driving In Israel.”

Thankfully, the aspects of life in Israel that I don’t like are few and far between, and insignificant in the big scheme of things. I have been cooking for forty years, but had never cooked on gas before. It took a lot of getting used to, and I still don’t like it, but I deal with it.

The water is so different. It is much harder, and is filled with minerals. The kettle gets all gunky and has to be descaled regularly, while the dishwasher leaves horrible streaks on everything. In the winter, everything is Wet Wet Wet, and I’m NOT referring to the popular soft rock band. Hang up your towel after your shower. Tomorrow night it will still be damp, while the mould spores are growing prolifically on the bathroom ceiling.

These are minor irritations. You get used to them. You learn to adapt. Yes, even I, so resistant to change, have learned to adapt. When I consider the bigger picture, I have so much to be grateful for. Over the last two years, there has not been a single day when I have questioned or doubted our decision to make Israel our home.

Face the Music

I have recently discovered the music of the late Tom Petty. When I listened to the album, Wildflowers, there were three songs with lines that spoke to me, that could in fact have been written for me and my Aliyah journey.

You belong somewhere you feel free”. For me, this is Modiin, Eretz Yisrael. To have the freedom to go out for a walk alone, late at night, without fear of being attacked; to see my grandchildren riding their bikes freely through the streets, with gay abandon; to live in a home with one lock on the front door, with no security gate, no alarm, and no electric fence; you cannot put a price on such freedom!

Aliyah is not for the faint-hearted. I will never make light of the enormity of the undertaking. It is without a doubt the most difficult thing I have ever done. But, to quote Tom Petty again:

 “What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing” But….

I’m not afraid anymore!”

Belonging in Israel. The lyrics by Tom Petty of the Heartbreakers that so resonated with the writer.





(Part 1 – Aliyah on the Agenda?)



About the Writer:

Shelley Berman and her husband, Ian, made Aliyah from South Africa in December 2018. She has always been a staunch Zionist with a strong love for Israel. With a degree in English and an English teacher by profession, she is passionate about education. She has also always loved writing, and has worked as a content writer. She is dedicated to her family, and is a proud mother and grandmother.





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)

Aliyah on the Agenda?

Aliyah – immigrating to Israel –  is increasingly  on the radar of Jews around the world. Whether excited to be living in a thriving Jewish state, being a part of the “Start-Up Nation” at the cutting edge of the sciences and medicine, or as parents joining one’s kids and grandkids, folks are moving to Israel for a variety of – positive – reasons.

In a two part series, Shelley Berman from Johannesburg relates her thought process and experiences of the transition from Glenhazel to Modiin.


Part 1:

Leaving Glenhazel

By Shelley Berman

Aliyah? On my agenda? NEVER!

Or at least, that’s what I thought, until April 2016. But allow me to introduce myself and give you some background. I am Johannesburg born, a 60-something mother of two, grandmother of six, English teacher and writer.

My husband, Ian, and I were in our mid-to-late fifties, happily married for about 35 years, with two married children and two grandchildren. We were very comfortable in our secure (or rather, what we perceived to be secure) suburban life in Glenhazel, Johannesburg.

Family Ties

We had everything that we thought we needed: our children and grandchildren nearby, a very close extended family of siblings, nephews and nieces, a lovely home, good jobs, a warm community, and good friends.

Thank G-d we both enjoyed good health and were quite content with our lives and comfortable lifestyle. Aliyah, or any form of emigration, had never crossed our minds, was something that we had never considered, and that only other people did.

That is, until our daughter and son-in-law announced that they were going to be those other people. The rumblings first started one shabbat afternoon in early 2016, when we were having a general family discussion about emigration. I could see which way the wind was blowing in their minds, and fear gripped my heart.

The thought of my two precious grandsons being taken away from me made my blood run cold. I retreated to the bedroom and couldn’t face the rest of the conversation. I adopted an ostrich attitude, kind of like, if I don’t hear them talking about it, then it’s not happening.

But, as the weeks wore on, the rumblings became more of a constant topic of conversation, until they announced that they were going on a pilot trip, an exploratory mission to see if they could make this work.

Leaving their 18 month old and almost 3 year old boys with us for ten days, they went off to explore Israel, and the opportunities ‘She’ could offer them.

Emotional Roller-coaster

They came back with stars (of David) in their eyes, passionate about their decision to make a new life for themselves and their young family in Modiin, Israel. They started planning for a January 2017 departure, and begged me and my husband to join them on this adventure.

To say that this was a terrifying time for us would be to completely understate the emotions that were raging through me. To be parted from my beloved daughter and grandsons? Unthinkable!

But, on the other hand, to accompany them and, in the process, abandon my other child, my son and daughter-in-law, who at the time were going through their own challenges with trying to start a family? Equally unthinkable!

However, we decided to keep an open mind and go on a pilot trip ourselves, thinking that it would empower us to at least make an informed decision.

In July we took a trip to Israel. We rented a small apartment in Modiin for ten days, and made lots of appointments to see people whom we thought would be in a position to advise us.

Majestic Modiin. Once the place of the ancient Maccabees, the  city of Modiin today where Ian and Shelley Berman have joined their daughter and her family.

Sadly, this trip was not a success. The people we met with were mostly unhelpful and very negative, giving us the impression that this would be a bad move for us, and leaving us feeling quite hopeless that we could make it work.

How wrong they were!

If only I had known it at the time, we did not choose the right people to advise us. From a so-called financial advisor to a recruitment agent, to a realtor, they all only served to amplify and exacerbate my fears.

Fears of what, exactly?

Well, really, of everything related to Aliyah. But primarily, fear of financial insecurity, of parting from all my loved ones in South Africa, of the physical hardship of such a massive move, and the enormous fear of change.

We returned from that pilot trip totally deflated and deeply sad. Our babies would be leaving us, and we were utterly bereft at the thought of being parted from them. But we knew that we just had to accept the situation.

January 2017 came faster than we could have imagined. When Juliet said to Romeo, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, she lied! There was nothing sweet about this parting. It felt like my heart was being ripped out. I was enveloped in a shroud of sorrow that lasted for weeks.

But my children were happy, and that is really what every mother wants for her children. Somehow, motherhood gives you the ability to overcome your own heartache by putting your children’s needs above your own.

We paid them our first visit over Pesach 2017, just three months after they had left. We could already see on that trip how they were starting to settle down and were enjoying life as Israelis in their homeland. We had a wonderful two weeks with them, and came again in December of that year.

A Walk in the Park. The local park in Modiin where the Bermans love to walk and have fun with their grandkids.

By that stage, we were becoming more familiar with Modiin, and were realising more and more just how much we loved Israel in general, and Modiin in particular. But nothing had changed in terms of our personal perspective.

Until April 2018. We were on our third visit, this time over Pesach (I had actually started a small home-based business to help to fund frequent trips to Israel, which thank G-d was doing very nicely). Pesach in Israel was so special. On this trip we finally concluded that this was the place we wanted to call ‘home’.

Aliyah was now seriously back on our agenda. We set up many meetings, this time with people who were better qualified and informed to advise and guide us, and by the time we stepped on the plane to go home, the decision had been made. We knew that our next trip would be on a one-way ticket.

So many people have asked me what, in fact, had changed that made us realise that Aliyah could actually work out. There is no definitive answer to that question, other than our attitude. On our original pilot trip, we came with an attitude of “Oh well, let’s see if there’s any chance that we could do this.”

I realise now that that was the wrong attitude. By April 2018, we knew that we had to find a way to make it work. Our approach changed from ‘Let’s see IF this can work’ to rather thinking ‘Let’s figure out HOW  this can work’.

“We are Home”. After collecting their baggage, Israel’s newest immigrants , Ian and Shelley Berman are welcomed by their daughter and grandkids holding up an Israeli flag.




About the Writer:

Shelley Berman and her husband, Ian, made Aliyah from South Africa in December 2018. She has always been a staunch Zionist with a strong love for Israel. With a degree in English and an English teacher by profession, she is passionate about education. She has also always loved writing, and has worked as a content writer. She is dedicated to her family, and is a proud mother and grandmother.



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)

Nhonho and Nomsa

By Martine Alperstein

A few days ago I had a really lovely zoom call with Nomvuyo, known by most as Nhonho (pronounced Nono). Nhonho is a very dedicated and pious Christian, and Zionist. Her love for Israel and the Jewish people is incredible. It was a lovely conversation, and hopefully the first of many.

I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa right in the middle of the apartheid era.

We were a regular middle class traditional Jewish family and we had (what in those days was called) a maid. Her name is Nomalizo Priscilla Zonke, Mama Zonke to her church, but we called her Priscilla. Priscilla had a husband, Elliot, one son, Theophelus and three daughters – Sylvia, Cynthia and Henrietta.         

When I was about 11, Priscilla came to tell us that she was leaving. She had decided to go back upcountry to the Ciskei, to build a house in the village where she came from. I was heartbroken. Literally sobbed for weeks.

Writer’s mother Vivienne Maron with Priscilla Mama Zonke

We lost touch for a few years. We had no way to keep in touch while she was in the Ciskei.

And then one day about five years later, Priscilla got in touch with my Mom. I don’t remember the details but she came back to help us three days a week. I was ecstatic. It was during this time that I really got to know Priscilla. We would talk for hours, and hours. She taught me so much. She was super smart, super intuitive and super forward thinking. Her religion and her G-d meant everything to her. As did her family. She was super proud of her daughters, and of her grandchildren. Her son, unfortunately, passed away young from an illness.  And she loved and adored me as much as I did her.  She named me NOMSA.

Priscilla Mama Zonke

Twenty-three years ago I made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel). My parents joined me just under three years later and my brothers both moved to Johannesburg. Priscilla and I kept in touch over the years. I would call her every few months. When I got married, she travelled from Cape Town to Johannesburg to celebrate with us. She was my 2nd mother.

And then one day, her phone number was out of order. I kept trying to call her but to no avail! Eventually, one day about three years later, the phone rang and someone answered. I was super excited only to be told that I had called the number of a shop.  The number I had was no longer hers!  I kept trying every phone number that I had. No luck.

Fast forward a few years to April 2020.

I see a DM in my messenger inbox from someone named Thandi Hlobo. I had no clue who it was and normally I would just delete the message without reading it, assuming it was spam.

But something made me read the message and jumped up shrieking with excitement.

Thandi Hlobo

I knew Thandi Hlobo. I knew her well.

I knew her as Sylvia Zonke, Priscilla’s oldest daughter.  Priscilla had moved in with her during the lockdown and they were chatting about us. Thandi decided to look for me on Facebook, found me and sent me a message. We quickly moved to WhatsApp messenger and video calls. Thank G-d Priscilla is doing well and keeping safe and healthy. I have since also connected with two of Priscilla’s grandchildren who I knew as little kids.

Priscilla Mama Zonke

Thandi and I started talking a lot. She is religious. She is pious. And she is an ardent Zionist. We have had some very interesting conversations. Thandi recently reached out to me, telling me that her friend Nhonho would like to connect with me, and asked if it would be okay to give her my number.  Nhonho got in touch and we arranged a time to talk over zoom.  And talk we did.

Nomvuyo (Nhonho)

Nhonho wants to start the conversation. She just wants to talk. We have to start somewhere and with what we have.  The bridges will be built slowly. We have set up a weekly call, which I am already looking forward to. Respectful dialogue to learn from each other, to discuss differences and similarities, to learn to trust. Nhonho is a Black African Christian Zionist and I am a White ex South African Israeli Religious Jew. We can only start small with us.

But as we all know the power of a butterfly’s wings, maybe us will be enough.

Nomvuyo (Nhonho) (R) chatting with the writer, Martine Alperstein Maron (Nomsa) (L)





About the writer:

Martine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.










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)

Weathering the Storm

By Gabi Crouse

Just about everything you read these days is corona-related. There are a million articles by know-it-all’s suggesting “5 ways to keep fit during Corona” or “How Corona saved my marriage” and I’ve even seen one titled “Corona and the great depression”.

Really?

Let’s not kid ourselves, nothing in our lives has not been affected by this pandemic and anything you read will somehow relate to the upside down world that has now become the ‘norm’ – including this article!

Allow me to reflect on some of my observations as a mother, employee and an Olah (“immigrant”).

The Mask Mistaker!

So, the first thing I need to say about all this is that I have accepted that ‘Karen’ is my new nemesis. For the sake of clarity I will admit that I’m not so brazen to be above wearing a mask. Of course I’m not – I wear my mask! On the contrary, I have mastered the choreographed new corona dance called “Oy, I forgot my mask!” The steps are easy: it’s a brisk three-step forward – quick left spin with a simultaneous perfectly timed slap on the forehead – back three steps into the house. That’s it!!! In fact any idiot can do this dance – and often does.

As I was saying regarding the Karens of the world – you know who they are – the power trippers that seem to have nothing better to do than wield their power over suspected corona carriers. They seek out to destroy the slightly falling-off-the-bridge-of-the-nose’ mask wearer. Heaven forbid your nose sticks out by mistake!

So whenever I encounter one of these ‘police’, I take full advantage of my hidden mouth and I spew forth a few profanities that I know they can’t see. Although the eye-roll is a little harder to disguise.

‘Lift’ the rules?

One of Karen’s many duties includes being the bouncer to entrances to stores. This, you should know, is not an easy job. She has to count the amount of people entering and leaving the store as to keep the 2 meters distance between shoppers. Then by waving her magic thermometer-charged wand, allows/denies entry.

Put Your Mask Where Your Mouth Is. Jerusalemites at the Mamilla Mall near Jerusalem’s Old City on June 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

My confusion comes in when all shopping is said and done, and we gather round the elevator – or lifts. I have noticed that most people don’t seem to be as enthusiastic as Karen. Everyone squeezes into that small space and I just know that good old ‘Rona’ rubs hands together relishing at the all-you-can-infect buffet.

In those situations, I don’t need Karen to remind me to lift my mask!

Inspector Zoom

It’s easy enough to laugh at these idiosyncrasies, but when it comes to the education of our children, or lack thereof, the situation becomes less humorous. What does make tears roll down my cheeks (maybe laughing / maybe crying / perhaps both) is the amount of pressure applied on parents, students and teachers. Parents who work full time jobs with homes to run, now find they have a new role. I, for one, do not remember applying for position of teacher/principal/personal assistant. It is not a job I want or am

qualified to do! Besides that, I am not pro pro-bono work! And I am still expected to pay school fees.

Accepting my fate though, I decided to be the best I can be under the circumstances. I printed out forthcoming schedules, set up work-stations for each of my non-obliging students and ensured they each had what they needed. I was ready … I was so ready!!! The cables, the work stations, the time slots for each child who share one laptop and the time prep for food breaks etc. Boy was I ready. This quickly faded.

Once the group chats started firing away like explosions of the 4th of July, my head began to spin. I know I must have reprinted those schedules a hundred time before I finally gave up and left them to stew for a while on my desktop folder.

Some of the WhatsApp groups look like this: ‘Tap this link for this week’s schedule’, followed by ‘no sorry, this one’, then a new one the following week. Then this ‘teacher may not be available today’ and we are sorry but ‘we’re experiencing technical issues’ followed by ‘this class to reschedule in place of the other one’. It’s frenzied. And that is just for one of my children! Did I mention that these are in a language foreign to me and I spend my life jumping to google translate?

It’s one thing to be on top of class schedules for the day but it’s a whole different story getting your students to comply. Some children – God bless them – are willing participants but there are other kinds of children also.

A Student unto Himself

Appealing to the other kind of student with bribery negotiations, warnings and scary face tactics become less and less affective and rewarding for good behavior becomes nonsensical – leaving us parents feeling pretty hopeless. Why? To threaten with punishment or offer a reward is a double edge sward!

What’s the leverage?

What do kids want these days? Screen time, junk food and hanging out with their friends.

If you don’t do your school work, I’ll take away the phone/screen… wait what? That’s not going to work out too well – they need those.

Alternatively, I’m not thrilled by the idea of offering more screen time as a reward all the school screen time. Junk food so they can get sugar highs and crash while sitting at their screens? I think not. And as for friends during lock-down? Poor kids – they lose all round.

Shush! Daddy Needs to Focus. Managing the kids and work at home.

On a more serious note, kids have borne the brunt of the situation from all sides. However, if a positive is to be found, the kids have had to become self-reliant and assume responsibilities. They have had to take ownership of their own education in a lot of ways. This is at best very overwhelming and even more so for olim chadashim (new immigrants) who have yet to come to grips with Hebrew.

For example: each of my children have several different ways of on-line learning and interacting with their schools and teachers. Mashov, Teams, Zoom and one other which is beyond my spectrum of memory (I am NOT tech savvy and God help the child who isn’t!). The kids have to know how to access the lessons using the codes provided, know their schedules which keep changing and have enough Hebrew knowledge to know what to do. It all takes twice the amount of time back and forth to google translate before they even get started. The scope of pressure on these poor olim kids is beyond the realm of reasonable expectation.

Credit Due

I will say that some schools are supportive and worthy of appreciation. In our family, we are exposed to three different school institutions but only one of the schools fully understand the difficulties the olim kids experience. They are helpful and concerned and do everything in their power to support. For the other kids, whose schools are less compassionate, I am forced to outsource assistance which comes at an additional cost. So it goes.

Full House

On the plus side I get to have my kids at home all the time. All day. Day in and day out. How lucky am I?

In addition to keeping me company while I work, they are free to raid the kitchen at any time they feel a slight peckishness – I know this because of the evidence they leave behind. I mean, who needs a clean house anyway? Goodbye to shining clean floors, hello to friendly footprints and crushed pretzels to remind me of my full house.

I am a little sad that my dishwasher handed in its resignation and I am slightly concerned about the black hole in the fridge where there used to be food. Also, the laundry basket has disappeared under its heavy burden along with the cat.

School at Home. An Israeli youth seen during a remote learning at their home in Moshav Haniel, on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Chen Leopold/Flash90)

Change of Heart

Finally though, I would like to mention that we have been dealing with this for long enough to know that we, as humans, are adaptable. However, when we fail to exercise a willingness to adjust some of our ways to accommodate the needs and interests of others, this frequently results in conflict – personal and social.

In the final analysis, while different and divergent thinking around the world is welcome as it reflects the beauty of individuality and creativity, when it is met by intolerance, the results can be regrettably  – and avoidably – destructive.

Perhaps adaptability and flexibility is exactly what the world needs today.



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

The Year of “Awokening”

By Rolene Marks

At the beginning of 2020, the world was filled with glorious positivity for the dawn of a new decade. There were even the memes and joke exchanges to prove it! Then a little understood virus that seemed to be confined to the Wuhan province in China, eventually would become a global pandemic that brought the world to its knees. Millions have contracted this terrifying virus or have died as a result and the global economy is in crisis.

At the outset; and as country after country went into lock down, many took a philosophical or spiritual approach and saw this as an opportunity to “reset”. A chance to re-evaluate what is important in our lives, go back to times that seemed simpler, to learn a lesson in gratitude and to emerge from the crisis with a new perspective and willingness to help each other. We have been in this together and would surely emerge stronger. Wouldn’t we?

When a crisis happens, it often defines those that are in positions of leadership or in the public eye.

This is a year where many have had the perfect chance to step up and lead – but have failed miserably – safely afloat on a raft made out of self-indulgent virtue signaling woke twaddle. This is the year that apart from dealing with the overwhelming effects of the virus on our collective mental, emotional and physical health; we now have to deal with this rapidly growing phenomenon – the growing “woke” movement.

The term “Woke “is a political term that originated in the United States; and refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice. It derives from the African-American vernacular English expression “stay woke”, whose grammatical aspect refers to a continuing awareness of these issues. Today, it has become very fashionable to be “woke” – and woe betide you if you aren’t.

This movement seems to be permeating every aspect of society and has been given a tailwind by the growth of celebrity culture and social media. At the beginning of the spread of the pandemic, the voices of celebrities were diminished and the everyday heroism of frontline workers took centre stage. And then something changed. The world seems to have tipped on its axis. When did we lose the ability to engage in polite, tolerant debate – even if we have divergent opinions?

Freedom of speech is an imperative in a democratic society and we have the right to disagree with each other but lately identity politics has become an overriding factor and the first casualty seems to be tolerance. Anyone not agreeing with the prescribed “woke” doctrine is effectively cancelled. And the offences seem to be everywhere. If you look hard enough you will find something to be offended by.

Can It. An exasperated reaction to Wokeism.

In 2020, the bar seems to be low. Perhaps it is the frustration of lock downs and statistics and political unrest that has many of us at times, taking complete leave of our senses. 2020 has been a tumultuous year politically as well. The Black Lives Matter movement that spread like wildfire across the world became more than just being aware of racial injustices. Elements within and external to the movement saw it as an opportunity to push their various agendas including anti-Semitic rhetoric and a new phenomenon – taking the knee. Anyone seen to not do this is immediately ostracized or branded a racist. Choosing whether or not to kneel is a personal choice, but when diners enjoying a little al fresco dining are routinely harassed for not kneeling with immediate, we have a problem.

Self Service! When demonstrators entered the outdoor dining space in Pittsburgh, USA, one person took a couples’ drink and drank it before leaving. 

Woke culture is not restricted to racism. Search engine juggernaut, Google, almost as famous for its graphics as it is for its search capabilities had to remove the egg from its salad graphics for “not wanting to offend vegans”. In a time where nearly everything is about identity politics and you are nobody unless you are an activist, everyone from social conscious millennials to big corporations are jumping on the woke wagon.

In fact, when it comes to big corporations, a new issue is starting to take form known as “woke washing”. Woke washing can be described as the appropriation of ethical and progressive values as a form of advertising just to make more profit while hiding the dark side of conventional capitalistic business management.

An example of recently woke washing is Tumblr. Two months after banning adult-content, the social media still let Nazis thrive on its platform.  White supremacist propaganda that contravenes its  guidelines is now co-existing with Tumblr’s promotion of Black Excellency for Black History Month.

Razor maker, Gillette also helped to set the tone of 2019 by “woke washing” with the January debut of “The Best Men Can Be,” a campaign fighting toxic masculinity by referencing #MeToo, the movement fighting sexual harassment that was growing at the time. Some critics decried the initial short film as painting all men as poorly behaved or even predatory. Others wondered why a razor maker, and not necessarily a brand with a ton of baggage, was getting so righteous.

 Or take former/maybe not somuch/aretheyoraren’t they royals, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. Famous for their support of whatever issue seems hot at the time, the two woke royals have lectured on topics as diverse as the environment, unconscious bias, racism and not to forget universal kindness. All this while traversing the world in private jets and zooming from a $16million dollar mansion. They are not the only woke schlebs on the virtue signaling bandwagon. They are joined by many in Hollywood extolling the virtues of defunding police (while being able to afford private security), lecturing on saving the planet (while zipping around the world on private jets) and talking about inclusiveness (while cancelling those who may have divergent political opinions).

A Battle Royal.  Mega voices on a range of  popular issues, Harry and Meghan constantly dodging controversy with the Royal family and a fickle public in this Woke milieu.

It would appear nobody is safe from the “woke” offensive. The BBC’s radio station R4 was taken to task for referring to fishermen as “fisherpeople”.  Critics said that seeing that women only made up 2.7% of staff on a fishing trawler, the BBC with their right on woke politics was unnecessary.

Billionaire creator of Harry Potter, JK Rowling, has also been cancelled for allegedly being “transphobic”. Rowlings reference to people who menstruate as women was seen as discriminatory to the trans community.

Twitter users accused her of being exclusionary to transgender men and women but also to cisgender women who no longer menstruate. The result has been an aggressive campaign against her, including vocal criticism by Harry Potter stars, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson whose careers were started by the successful franchise. Rowling responded by saying ““I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” Rowling replied. “I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

The list of transgressions according to the “awokened” is endless. As mentioned before, if one is looking for offences, they can be found everywhere. The danger lies in the pursuit of a kind of liberalism that becomes so intolerant of a different opinion that it borders on fascism.

A Touchdown. Woke-washing is when companies cynically prey on customers’ social awareness. A decision by Nike to feature athlete-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick in its 2018 ad paid off, with the ad going on to receive an Emmy nomination.

For a society to function, people must be able to feel free to express themselves and debate, discuss and disagree respectfully. While there are lines like hate speech and incitement that should never be crossed, in order to understand each other better and build a more tolerant and respectful society, we need to listen to each other.

Failure to do so just contributes to an epidemic of intolerance.




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

We are just like you

By Diana Petrank Peledd

Like most of you here in Israel, we are trying our best to live with Corona (sounds nicer than Covid-19). But it is tough.  

Since its outbreak and the mandatory lockdowns and health regulations, we have all had to adapt to a new reality. If there is anything positive about the Corona pandemic and there really isn’t much, the long days in lockdown insolation and the imposed social distancing provided us with ample time to take stock of our lives – to re-evaluate what really matters.

So many of us began seeing things differently, leading us back to the basics. Suddenly, we had time to revisit long filed away memories; nostalgia; stored away items came back to life, filling us with so many deep hidden feelings; the values we were brought up upon – things we usually take for granted. i.e.  family, friends, compassion, kindness. We rediscovered the joy of cooking, baking, knitting, reading a book and when possible walking around the block – simply taking in what nature has to offer.

Private Lives. Residents stand on their balcony as they watch Israeli soldiers assisting civilians observing government stay-at-home orders to help fight the spread of the coronavirus disease in Tel Aviv, Israel April 7, 2020.(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Corona affects all aspects of our life. No one is exempt.  It not only affects our health, but is detrimental to our finances, our social life and our mental and emotional frames of mind. For some, it is easier than for others, as this brief encounter will reveal.

While at the supermarket, as always, I stopped to chat with the chief cashier. She tried hard to hide it, but she wasn’t her usual chirpy self.  This is what she told me.

I am worried about my children and grandchildren. They are on furlough. Even worse, they  don’ t know if they will have a job to go back to or if they will have to make a total change in occupation. The uncertainty is terrible. I try and help as much as I can. I am especially worried about my eldest daughter. She is at home with her kids and lately she is showing signs of depression.  She is worried about the kids, the cut in income, expenses, the future. I do my best to raise her spirits and help, but it doesn’t. I am really worried“.

I told her to speak to her GP who could probably provide her with hot-lines or a list of relevant councillors. She said she planned to and thanked me for listening.

Market is Down. A message of hope decorates the empty Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

I am sure her story sounds familiar.

There are currently many people all over the world, experiencing various levels of depression or Coranatitis (ok – so I just made it up), due to the Corona fallout. The elderly, self-employed and small businesses are the most vulnerable

Here in Israel, there is never a dull moment, the events (the good, the bad, the amazing, the miraculous), the pace of life here, is sometimes mindboggling. Now, while we can’t all be politicians, diplomats, scientists, researchers, doctors etc.. and reach great achievements, we can all be a BA – Ben Adam – a human being.

“Just the Two of Us”. An Israeli couple gets married without guests due to coronavirus restrictions (Photo: Reuters)

At the end of the day, we are like everyone else in the global village, pursuing happiness, a decent livelihood, comfort, and a good future for our kids. Simple, mundane, uncomplicated.

Play Nice. Intel donates game sets to families coming to drive-through coronavirus testing centers in Israel. (Photo Magen David Adom)

Nonetheless, we still need human interaction – a smile; a kind word; a simple act of kindness.  Moreover, granting someone else a simple gesture can make our day that much brighter, and us better people and that leads to a healthier society – and that even Corona cannot contaminate.  Helping an elderly person reach a shelf in the supermarket or use the ATM; listening to someone in despair, smiling at someone who may be lonely, does more for their state-of-mind that you can imagine – it costs nothing, just a little compassion, a small act of kindness and guess what, we profit as well : “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” Booker T. Washington

So next time you read about Israel, remember also, that its citizens are just like you – no more, no less.

Yarden Saxophone Rooftop Quarantine Performance



About the writer:

Diana Petrank Peledd  is an Executive Bilingual Secretary and Translator. Over the years, professional and creative correspondence and writing has been a major part of her work. Born in England, Diana is an Anglo-Israeli (10th generation Israeli on her paternal side) and has spent most of her life in Israel.








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

Braving Bidud

My ‘bidud diary’ or exasperated rant!

By Martine Maron Alperstein

Day 11 of bidud (isolation due to exposure to a positive covid-19 person) and I’m tearing my hair out. The level of irritation, impatience, anger and frustration is through the roof. I don’t know what to do with myself. 

I had seen friends who had been in bidud and were traumatised, doing everything they could to avoid repeating the situation. I did not understand. What is the big deal? It is no different from lockdown.

Oh boy, was I mistaken! 

I am fully aware that things could be so much worse. Thank G-d our bidud is just precautionary and that nobody is sick. I appreciate that we have a garden and a mirpeset (balcony), which so many don’t. I am beyond blessed with my incredible network of friends and family who have gone out of their way to help. I have WhatsApp and Zoom and online shopping. Yeh, I know.  But for now I just want to allow myself to feel, to be in the moment and to let it all out. Because until now, I have been numb.

Ice cold, stoney, brick wall numb. 

In Bidud. Staring out the window. (Photo: d3sign/Moment/Getty Images)

I have not been able to focus on the job search. I have not been able to work on my CV, my branding, my elevator pitch or my LinkedIn. It has been almost two months and no sign of Dmei Avtala (Unemployment payments). I am unable to continue with any of the courses to improve my skill set. I cannot reach out and network. I cannot pick up the phone and connect with the amutot (Israeli charities) that I am planning to donate my time to. I am not able to work on our current proposal.  I am not able to be there fully for my kids who are both anxious at the best of times, levels of which are currently through the roof. Their need to be close and for attention is on a whole new level. I haven’t cooked a meal in two weeks (and I love to cook). I cannot support my husband who is in the middle of his annual stress – US tax season. And I am not answering the phone. You want to connect with me – send me a WhatsApp or an email. I cannot sit through a conversation. I have not had what it takes to get off my butt and exercise (yes, I know it probably would have made the world of difference to my mood). And I have zero patience for teachers right now – the most engaged, involved and connected parent always – leave me the $#(@ alone.

I am disconnected. I have not been present. I have not been living in the moment. I have been numb. Numb. Numb. Numb. The only way I could cope was to be numb. Totally numb.

But really I am angry. I am pissed. I am hurt. I am frustrated. I want to scream and swear and stamp my feet. I want to punch the wall. But most of all…. I want to cry.

Big Brother is Watching. Mobile data allows authorities to know where users are at any time

In two weeks I have not seen my parents, and at this stage of life, every minute counts. I have not been able to see and connect with my dearest friends who are like family. I am such a social person. I am so happy surrounded by my peeps. I have had to watch the world continue around us while we sit still. I have had to watch my child breaking down because her class is carrying on without her – my child who was so badly bullied in elementary school, who has struggled and fought so hard to find her place, who is finally thriving (she was voted onto the Moetset Talmidot – Student Council) – down and miserable because she is being left behind.

But the real volcano in me is pushed to the limit, to the point where the lava is starting to shoot out with force, is when I see, read and hear the stupid, selfish, arrogant and irresponsible actions of so many. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. The numbers are increasing again worldwide. We have not come close to containing, controlling or eradicating this revolting virus. Get a grip! Follow the guidelines! Be super responsible – go above and beyond. You are not G-d and you are not above it all. You are a person with a head and a heart. Use it properly.

Those who know me are very aware that I am normally with a smile on my face, I tend to look for the silver lining and the pot at the end of the rainbow. But this time, it was beyond me.

Yes, my faith is rock solid. Yes, I believe the universe has my back. Yes, I know everything happens for a reason. Today, I choose to stay authentic and let the anger and frustration have a voice. I still believe and I still trust.

Maybe next time I’m in bidud (based on what I see around me the probability is high) I will choose gratitude; I will write a gratitude diary and change my perspective.

But for today I am pissed.


(The song that has gotten me through this time)







Martine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.









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

The Right Kind of Notorious

A tribute to the extraordinary Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg

By Rolene Marks

It has been said that if someone passes away during the High Holy days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they must have been a righteous soul.  This past weekend, US Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, died at the age of 87 due to complications from pancreatic cancer. It was first day of Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year.

(Illustration Credit :Casey Wood ’23/The Hawk)

Ruth Bader Ginsberg or Kiki, as she was affectionately called; was one of the most loved and respected public figures in the United States. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the promising young lawyer earned her Bachelor’s degree at Cornell University before studying law at the prestigious Harvard University. One of 9 women in her class of 500; she had married Martin D. Ginsberg and became a mother and balanced all of this with her studies. Theirs was a love story for the ages, and the jurist often referred to her falling for her husband because he valued her for her brain. Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School, where she graduated joint first in her class. After law school, Ginsburg entered academia, becoming a professor at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School, teaching civil procedure as one of the few women in her field.

Apart from her stellar academic record, Bader Ginsburg  was a trailblazer for women’s rights, having spent much of her legal career as an advocate for gender equality and winning many arguments before the Supreme Court. She was famous for saying, “women belong in all places where decisions are made” and certainly made sure that women were represented – not merely token placements. Five of the most significant gender based laws that she  helped pass include employers cannot discriminate against workers based on reproductive choices, state-funded schools must include women, the right for women to have financial independence and equal benefits, men being entitled to the same caregiving and social security rights as women and juries to include women.

These were landmark cases and earned Bader Ginsberg the respect and support not only of her colleagues and peers but civil rights activists around the world. A feminist who supported not only gender equality, LGBTQ+ and civil rights, Bader Ginsburg was called a new nickname from the one she grew up with – Notorious RGB.  This was a reference to the late Brooklyn-born rapper The Notorious B.I.G., and she later embraced the moniker. RNG was the right kind of “Notorious”!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court during the Clinton administration, becoming the second woman and first Jew to serve on this most esteemed body. Her Jewish heritage was something the jurist was extremely proud of and had a clear bearing on her career and decisions.

“I had the good fortune to be a Jew born and raised in the U.S.A. My father left Odessa bound for the New World in 1909, at age 13; my mother was first in her large family to be born here, in 1903, just a few months after her parents and older siblings landed in New York. What is the difference between a bookkeeper in New York’s garment district and a Supreme Court Justice? Just one generation, my mother’s life and mine bear witness. Where else but America could that happen?

My heritage as a Jew and my occupation as a judge fit together symmetrically. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition. I take pride in and draw strength from my heritage, as signs in my chambers attest: a large silver mezuzah on my door post, [a] gift from the Shulamith School for Girls in Brooklyn; on three walls, in artists’ renditions of Hebrew letters, the command from Deuteronomy: “Zedek, zedek, tirdof” — “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” Those words are ever-present reminders of what judges must do that they “may thrive.”

More recently this famous self-confessed dissenter expressed her outrage that Jewish women who are Zionist were told that they could not be both Zionists and Feminists. “That is simply not true”, the indignant RBG told Zioness, a movement founded in response to this ridiculous accusation.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg will become the first woman to lie in state until her funeral. This is testament to her massive legacy and extraordinary reputation and level of respect she commanded.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing leaves a gaping hole in the continued global feminist movement.  She joins the great women of Jewish history who  left an indelible mark on the world. She was more than notorious, she was righteous.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg (RBG) with Israeli Chief Justice, Esther Hayut



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

His Name was Navid Afkari

Iranian Wrestling Champion murdered by the regime for protesting.

By  Rolene Marks

His name was Navid Afkari. His life was full of promise. A talented sportsman, Afkari was a champion wrestler, proudly representing his country, Iran. He was 27 years old with a glorious future ahead of him. The Iranian regime recently executed champion wrestler, Navid Afkari.

Navid Afkari. Former wrestling champion executed by Iran despite calls to stop death sentence.

Iran is not a country that is synonymous with human rights. In fact, their record is as dismal as it gets. Some of their gross violations include the hanging of members of the LGBTQ community by crane, regardless of age, using lethal force to subdue protests, sometimes even killing hundreds of protestors, suppressing any rights to the freedom of expression and gender discrimination with women’s rights activists also face abuse. Ethnic and religious minorities endure entrenched discrimination. Torture and other ill-treatment, including through the denial of medical care, remain widespread and systematic; and committed with impunity. The right to fair trials is often denied and cruel, inhuman and degrading judicial punishments are carried out. Scores of people have been executed, sometimes in public; several under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

Iran is routinely called out by human rights advocates for their ongoing violations.

The irony is that global powers who are aware of this, still allow Iran place on international bodies like the UN Commission on Criminal Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration and various others.

Looking Back with Anger. Iran executed champion wrestler Navid Afkari despite widespread pleas to spare him, prompting angry reactions from Iranians at home and abroad on social media platforms.

Why would Iran execute one of their star sportsmen? The circumstances surrounding this execution, which many are calling cold-blooded murder smack of conspiracy because Afkari dared use his voice.

Navid Afkari was among the vast crowds who took to the streets during the 2018 protests in Iran, opposing the totalitarian dictatorship of Khamenei and the rapidly deteriorating living conditions. He was arrested and charged with multiple offenses shortly after the protests. Among his charges were “insulting the supreme leader”, “waging war against God (aka. moharebeh)”, and the alleged case of “Hasan Torkman’s murder”.

Hasan Torkman was a secret security agent of IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) which were tasked with silencing the protests and after his death he was buried as a “martyr” by the regime, signifying his position. Akfari strongly denied this blatantly bogus murder charge and there was no evidence linking him to the case. The court sentencing was influenced by two sources that they claim showed him as the murderer. It was obviously a situation where Afkari was framed but what was the Iranian motivation?

Crushing an Icon. Afraid of his influence, Iran executes 27-year-old champion wrestler, Navid Afkari.

It could only have been his high profile as a young champion posed such a threat that he had to be silenced permanently. They could ill afford having their tyrannical views challenged by young people following in his example and demanding change and a better way of living.

Akfari was given two death sentences. 

While Afkari initially confessed to the murder charge, he would later retract stating he had been tortured into making a false confession.  During the hearings he stated:

   “I told the inspector that neither do I know the secret agent (that has been killed), nor have I heard his name! But under torture, and to save my family, and for Vahid (one of his imprisoned brothers), I gave them what they wanted.

Once I had been freed from the pressure of solitary confinement, the basement, and the tortures, once I stepped back onto the prison, I immediately wrote to the judicial offices and filed my complaint (against their use of torture) and screamed that I am not a murderer. I requested them to take me to the forensics bureau (for medical examinations of his scars). Per their report and eye-witness account (of my torture) and other evidences, it was made clear that I had been tortured. No matter the countless times I wrote and pleaded that all my confessions were obtained under torture; or how there is not a single shred of evidence in this damned case that could prove my guilt, but they did not want to hear our voice. I figured they were looking for a neck for their noose.”

Many campaigned to save his life. From human rights groups, online social media campaigns by Iranians, to important people and organisations including U.S. President Donald Trump, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, and UFC President Dana White. A global union representing 85,000 athletes called for Iran’s expulsion from world sport if it executed Afkari. All appealed for Afkari’s life to be saved, but to no avail!

On Saturday, the 12th of September 2020, Navid Afkari was executed. For many, this was cold blooded murder.

The European Union (EU), Olympic Committee and countless others condemned the killing of Afkari:

The European Union condemns this execution in the strongest terms. Human rights remain a central feature of our engagement with Iran. We will continue to engage with Iranian authorities on this issue including through the local EU representation in Tehran and also on individual cases such as this recent execution,” an EU foreign affairs spokesperson said in a statement.

A German foreign ministry spokeswoman also condemned the execution, saying, “There were considerable doubts about the rule of law in the proceedings, and we also take very seriously the allegations that Navid Afkari confessed only under torture.”

The Olympic Committee expressed their outrage and shock.

Condemnations are not enough. Many are calling for Iran to be banned from sports and political bodies for their gross violations of human rights. It cannot be forgotten that Iran is not only guilty of gross human rights abuses; but is also the world’s foremost supporter of state sponsored terror and is responsible for the loss of life in attacks from Buenos Aires to Jerusalem. The killing of a champion to push a political agenda and make him an example to the millions who want to exercise their fundamental right to protest is extremely concerning.

Protests Abroad. Iranian opposition supporttyers of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) protesting the execution of Iranian wrestling champion Navid Afkari on September 12, 2020 in Berlin, Germany

While there were many campaigns and condemnations, the killing of Navid Afkari did not dominate headlines or garner major global reactions. There will be nobody taking a knee for Afkari. Hollywood celebrities will not be putting out impassioned social media statements.

There needs to be justice for Navid Afkari and the countless others killed by the despotic Iranian regime. This will only come when the global outrage is so strong that Iran feels the shame of exclusion from major international agencies and bodies and is roundly condemned and isolated.

His name was Navid Afkari. He was a champion. May his memory be blessed.

Navid Afkari’s last audio message from prison before his execution





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