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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The remaining danger, Ian writes were:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

By David E. Kaplan

My physiotherapist expressed while treating my damaged knee:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Could her choice of wording be more divisive and dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

No longer.

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

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

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


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

By Rolene Marks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G-d save the King.

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


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

By David E. Kaplan

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

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

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

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

It’s not only about the numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli high schoolers sweep international math competition

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

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

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

Its also an extraordinary achievement for Israel.

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

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


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

By Andi Saitowitz

Dear Israel,

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

How deeply you are cherished. 

How precious you are to us. 

Even now, especially now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In just 75 years – you have achieved unparalleled greatness. 

In every field, you excel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wish I could heal some of your deepest wounds. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love that my children think in Hebrew. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel – thank you for inspiring me.

Israel – thank you for challenging me.

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

Israel – thank you for being my home.

I only wish you peace. In every single prayer.

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

You bring me joy. 

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

May you be showered with Hashem’s richest blessings. 

May you grow from strength to strength. 

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

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

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

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

We haven’t lost hope. 

עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו

About the author:

Heroes of Israel4

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

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


No timeout for Passover, Saturday night protests intensified

By David E. Kaplan

As I write, while the US is absorbed with one Stormy Daniels, Israel was enjoying a Passover respite from one Stormy Session – that is, in the Knesset and  I suspected possibly as well in the street. Our somewhat battered President too deserved a rest-and-recharge after investing his time, reputation and his presidency on trying to diffuse the explosive judicial overhaul issue that he lamented a “nightmare”.

Chaos in the Knesset. A stormy Constitution Committee meeting on the government’s planned judicial overhaul at the Knesset on February 13, 2023.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Adding to this “nightmare” as Israel tries to unravel itself from who it is, what it wants to be, and where it wants to go, is battling  – as I write – an escalation on multiple fronts with mortars from Lebanon in the north, rockets from Gaza in the south and from the east a seemingly endless queue of suicidal Palestinians rushing to kill and be killed. And if we needed any further reminder of our existential vulnerability it is what lies to our west  – the SEA!

No Israeli is unaware of the threats of our enemies to “drive the Jews into the sea.

And it was at “the sea” that the latest murderous attack occurred – Friday night –  when a terrorist in a stolen car started randomly shooting at pedestrians then careered the vehicle onto the boardwalk ramming people. Before being neutralized, he had killed one – a 36-year-old-Italian tourist – and wounded seven others.

In an ironic perverse twist, Tel Aviv was living up to its reputation as “the city that never sleeps”. The city was on edge – could there be more attacks?

And if this is how the day tragically ended, it began no less tragically with two British-Israeli sisters – aged 15 and 20 – killed, and their 48-year-old mother critically injured in a West Bank shooting attack when terrorists opened fire at their car, causing it to crash and then fired 22 bullets at it. The UK Foreign Office confirmed that the three were British nationals. The father of the family who was traveling in a separate car just ahead, turned back, and was present as medics arrived to treat his family.

It was in this seemingly insane scenario during Passover, that made me surmise that the protests might take a timeout. It was these thoughts that were percolating in my mind as I joined a bunch of friends in Kfar Saba as we made our way, armed with our Israeli flags, to the kikar (city square), thinking there would be less of a crowd than usual.

A Sea of Blue and White. Saturday night’s mass protest against judicial overhaul in Kfar Saba’s main city square, 8 April, 2023.(photo: D.E. Kaplan).

Affirming these thoughts was the quiet; not the usual loud music pulling in the crowd. This we very soon realized was expected in deference to the heart-wrenching loss of life the day before to terrorism. What was unexpected was what met our eyes as we rounded the crest and descended the ramp down to the kikar. It was a sea of blue and white from the mass of flags been held aloft. If the previous Saturday night had been a massive crowd, this gathering seemed even larger. Amongst this massive crowd were so many youngsters, kids on the shoulders of their parents, as well as many seniors in their battery operated vehicles – people who had helped build this country and fought in its wars.

Are these  what Netanyahu  has repeatedly slurred as “anarchists”?

It was visually clear that the protests now had a momentum – a dynamic – all of its own.

The speakers – no lightweights – included the former Foreign Minister of Israel, deputy-Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, and Leader of the Opposition, Tzippi Livni and esteemed military and security analyst Reichman University’s Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad. All were warning and cautioning that Israel was on a dangerous path to “dictatorship” and all this government had to show for itself after three months in office was – CHAOS! Hardly a contested assessment when one examines its embarrassing scorecard.(See MEN’aces FROM THE MINISTRY)

Sounding the Alarm. Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni addresses protesters during a demonstration against the Israeli government’s controversial justice reform bill. (photo SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News)

Tuning in later to i24News, I tapped into an interview with retired Israeli diplomat and former World Chairman of Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal, Avi Pazner. Stressing Israel’s dire situation, “Something it has not been in a long time with confrontation on all its borders and terrorism within,” the last thing the country needs is to contend with is civil strife over the issue of the judiciary.  “This issue can hold over” he said and warned “what can’t hold over” is the multiple dangers converging all at the same time – in meteorological parlance – “a perfect storm”!

I urge the Prime Minister,” asserted Pazner, “to please concentrate on running this country and forget about for the time being the judicial reform.

If there was any need of a reminder of how bad the situation was deteriorating by the day, it came early Sunday morning in the form of more thunderous projectiles, this time from Syria, which fired six rocket in two waves towards the Golan Heights. This followed the earlier waves of rockets from Lebanon and the Strip.

Acknowledging the obvious, Netanyahu said “Israel is in a challenging security situation on all fronts.”

He is also in a challenging situation on the home front.

Is he still up to the job, when he still has the likes of Itamar Ben- Gvir in his position of National Security Advisor blaming the previous government for the deteriorating security situation. Is it any wonder that former defence minister, MK Benny Gantz responded with:

Ben Gvir’s statement is complete madness. There has never been a minister in the cabinet who has said so much about security and understood so little. There has never been a minister in the cabinet who, while rockets are being fired on our citizens and our daughters are murdered on our roads, choses to sabotage Israeli cohesiveness and damage its deterrence. Netanyahu must condemn the statement and fire him immediately.”

Close to Home. Anti-reform protesters near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. (Omri Taasan / i24NEWS)

It’s unlikely that Netanyahu will do either.

The story of Passover teaches too about character and leadership, making the tough but right decisions not for oneself but for one’s people.

Will this Prime Minister  rise to the challenges of a Moses and do right not for himself but for the people of Israel?

If not, the protests will only continue.

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 murder of a Christian Arab Israeli hero and his message to the world

By Jonathan Feldstein

It has been a year.  I was in Houston, about to go into a TV interview on CTN and got a text message from my wife.

Did you hear what happened?”  

It was an unnerving way to go into a TV interview, turning off my phone and not knowing what she meant.  Was it something with one of my kids? Grandchildren? Friends or neighbors? It was hard to focus and, as soon as the interview was done, I turned on my phone to find out.

What happened? Another terror attack, this time in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox central Israeli city Bnei Brak.  Four had been murdered.  One of them was a policeman, Amir Khoury, who along with his partner raced to the scene of the attack and engaged the terrorist in a gunfight. Amir was a Christian Israeli Arab, and a hero.  He engaged and killed the Palestinian Arab terrorist, but he was mortally wounded by the terrorist as well.  Had it not been for Amir – a Christian Arab Israeli police officer on patrol in a mostly ultra-Orthodox Jewish community – the potential carnage would have been unimaginable.

Hero, Comrade and Friend. Israeli police officers carry the coffin of police officer Amir Khoury, who was killed in a terrorist shooting attack in Bnei Brak, during his funeral in Nazareth, on March 31, 2022. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

I flew home the next day, realizing that we had 11 people murdered in four terror attacks by Palestinian Arabs while I was away, 11 more families grieving, and many, many others suffering PTSD.  While terror is too common in Israel, and the past year has been particularly difficult with dozens murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists, it’s not every day that one of the victims is a Christian Israeli Arab policeman who lived, and died, as a hero.

On Sunday, I drove to Nazareth where Amir lived, and his family still does.  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 person relationship.  It’s rare to show up at the home of a complete stranger, grieving over the loss of a loved one who you also didn’t know either.  But that’s what I did.  I wasn’t alone.

Because Amir was being hailed as a national hero, thousands of visitors came from all over the country and around the world to a large tent outside their home adorned with Israeli flags. Thousands of Israelis, from all walks of life.  As diverse as the visitors were, I stood out a bit.  I am a “settler”, a Jew living over the “Green Line”, what people pejoratively call the West Bank.  Biblical Judea. The assumption is that because I live there, I have a hatred for or at least a disrespect of Arabs. Nothing can be further from the truth

“Hero of Israel”. His colleagues in tears, Arab police officer Amir Khouri, who bravely thwarted a terror attack in the ultra-Jewish orthodox city of Bnei Brak is mourned at his funeral on March 31, 2022 in Nazareth as a “hero of Israel’.

Unlike most other visitors, I stayed around for hours.  I spoke with Amir’s father, brother, and cousin in the tent, and others from their community.  Then, I went into the house where I thought I might meet more relatives.  Immediately, I saw a group of women sitting on a couch, dark circles under their eyes.  Not knowing who was who, I approached the couch.  One woman stood to greet me: Amir’s mother. We embraced, and talked as if we were old friends.  But she didn’t know me, not even my name, and didn’t care.  My presence was a comfort. 

I met Amir’s sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew.  I don’t know how to describe it, but we simply became fast friends. On one level it felt terribly inappropriate to be in a house of mourning and to be able to enjoy the company of total strangers.  On the other hand, I went there to comfort them, and I know my visit did that. We talked for a long time, just us, in a corner room of the house.

When I went back outside to the mourning tent sometime later, people were surprised to see that I was still there.

Because of the wider conflict, heightened this year during the Islamic holy month Ramadan often marked by increased violence in Israel, thinking of Arabs as loyal Israelis is not the norm, nor is it understood by most because it contradicts the simple narrative of Arabs hating Jews and Israel. Thankfully in recent years, it’s become less of a contradiction.  In fact, Israel has seen a growing number of Christian Arabs volunteering for the IDF, making a commitment to serve their country with honor, despite the risk of threats from the wider Moslem Arab population which sees many as traitors.

Savior of Lives. Cut down in the prime of his life, Amir Khouri will be remembered as a hero.

When I shared about Amir on social media and that I was going to be visiting the family, the outpouring of love, sympathies, and support from a wide range of people around the world was a comfort to me.  I made it clear to the Khourys that I was there in person, but scores were with them in spirit, praying for them all over the world. 

As my visit was not just idle conversation but a genuine outreach of friendship, Amir’s family were keen to know more about me. I shared my background, what I do building bridges between Jews and Christians, and that we wanted to do something in his memory. They appreciated this and told me to be in touch. I stayed in touch and went back to visit two months later.  In the interim, I saw my new adopted family featured in national media multiple times, honored with front row seats at Israel’s national Presidential Independence Day celebration and more.

Mourning a Hero. Visiting the family home in Nazareth, the writer (right) with Amir Khouri’s sister and brother-in-law.

I went back to the Khourys with my wife, knowing that she would be blessed by getting to know such lovely people too.  Condolences and comforting people who lost a loved one can never come too late. Ideally, we would have never met.  Amir should still be alive, and we would never have anything to do with one another. After the Khourys asked what they could serve us since we keep kosher, and we ate and talked together for at least two hours, Amir’s father asked what we had come to talk about.

I had a few ideas which I shared as a way to memorialize Amir and share his life and legacy with others.  The family liked one the best which I agreed would be the most impactful for it would bring the story and message of Amir to the world. It will take time to achieve – involving a hefty budget – but when it’s done, it will be impressive, well worth the challenge.

How I wish I never met the Khourys, certainly not under these circumstances.  Whether one believes in destiny, that everything is somehow ordained from God, or not, the reality is that as a result of Amir’s death, this is one positive outcome.

Dear Khourys, I wish I never knew you.  But now we have met, and we need to make something purposeful from that.”

Just as thousands came to comfort the Khourys and honor Amir from across Israel and around the world, today, we need a coalition of Jews and Christians, of people of good conscience, to join together in a sweeping project that will not only memorialize Amir, but do so much more, just as he would have done if he were alive, if only by his existence and doing what he did.

Portrait of a Hero. The writer (left) with Amir Khouri’s father proudly holding a poster of his hero son in police uniform.

Undertaking this on behalf of the Genesis 123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel, there is no better way to be able to bring Jews and Christians together for such a purpose. Prospective partners who share this broad vision can be in touch at Gen123Fdn@gmail.com.

May Amir Khoury’s memory continue to be a blessing, and his family continue to derive comfort from the support of friends, new and old, and even total strangers.

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).


Reporter’s recollections covering judicial reforms and counter protests

By Rolene Marks

I hate slow news days. They unnerve me. I like a steady stream of news to ensure I have loads to comment on when I report daily on radio. Slow news days are the calm before the storm, an ominous sign that something bigger this way comes. While 2023 has not been short of news – Israel’s coalition government’s proposed judicial reforms and the antics of some the ministers have given journalists like me a lot of grist for the mill, the events of the last couple of weeks have been extraordinary, a seminal moment in Israel’s history.

The role of reporters in a functioning democracy where we have a free press is to report the situation on the ground as we see it – and shine a light on those dark corners we believe to be in the public interest. Often, this entails exposing any actions or decisions made by the government that may not be in the best interest of the country. Granted, there are many global news outlets that push specific agendas, but for most of us, especially in Israel’s robust media, we just try to get on with the job.

Saturday Night Live’. Israelis protest in Tel Aviv against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system on Saturday, March 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg))

Covering Israel is a lot more complicated than any other beat. There are the added layers of the vested, emotional interest of diaspora communities; and the ever-present fact that Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, held to a different standard in the international media. The challenge for many consumers of news from Israel, because there is such an emotional connection, is how difficult it is for many to discern between the news and Israel advocacy.

Since 7 January this year, Israelis have been taking to the streets every Saturday night to protest the proposed judicial overhauls. Armed with Israeli flags, which have become the symbol of the protests, and chanting “democratia” and “shame”, Saturday night protests have become a fixture in the weekly calendar. From Eilat in the South to Haifa in the north, Israelis are exercising their democratic right to protest.  Anti-overhaul protests over the last 12 weeks have become progressively larger and diverse in participation – a reality many do not want to accept, preferring to see this as a left versus right issue, or a reluctance to accept election results. It is a pivotal moment in Israel’s history. While there have been small pockets of scuffles between protesters and police, these protests have been peaceful. The media have been on hand to cover events, which escalated last Sunday night when Prime Minister Netanyahu fired his Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant.

I have covered and explained Israel for two decades and lived here for 12 years and I have never seen events as extraordinary as we witnessed this past week.

In the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s firing of Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, which many Israelis viewed as a step too far, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest, furious about the firing of Gallant, canned for calling for a halt to the overhaul because they pose a significant threat to national security. The Histadrut, Israel’s largest labour union, called for a general strike. “We are all worried about Israel’s fate,” Histadrut Chief, Arnon Bar-David said.  “Together we say, enough!”

MobIlizing the Masses. Participants sang Hatikvah – the national anthem – following Histadrut chief Arnon Bar-David declaring a general strike in protest of the judicial overhaul at press conference in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

We have lost our way — this is not about left or right,” the union head says. “We can no longer polarize the nation.” “I did everything I could over the past weeks to stop the situation,” Bar-David said adding that the efforts were in vain.

We are all joining hands to shut down the State of Israel,” he declared. “The malls and the factories will close.” The airport shut down, flights grounded, hospitals, malls, businesses started to close in quick succession like dominoes. Israel had shut down.

A strike of this magnitude coupled with growing protests was unprecedented.

Even top journalist and TV host, Piers Morgan recognized the magnitude of events and sought out an exclusive interview with the Prime Minister, en route home after meeting with British PM Rishi Sunak.

What cannot be disputed is that whether you support the reforms or oppose them, Israel has become a country divided. President Herzog and other officials have been ringing the alarm bells for months, warning of the growing chasms in society that may take us beyond the abyss.

As Israel approaches her 75th year of Independence in a few weeks’ time, many are asking:

 “What will the country look like?”

The media has withstood the worst of the frustration of many. It does not help that in his overhaul announcement, the Prime Minister blamed the press – a tactic he routinely deploys. As a public figure, he must understand that both he and his government are open to scrutiny. Democracy demands it.

I have lost track of the ugly accusations and names that my colleagues and I have been subjected to since the debate on reforms started growing momentum.

Journalists learn to develop a thick skin because we are routinely insulted and know that it comes with the territory but in recent weeks dangerous lines have been crossed.

After writing a series of op-eds and reporting on radio and television, I have been called a “left wing fascist”, told to “go to your room little girl and let the adults run the country”, been told that if we criticize the proposed reforms we simply “do not understand democracy or are brainwashed”, accused of being “funded by the CIA and infiltrated by Antifa”. These are the polite comments. As long as they spell my name correctly!

I have also seen exchanges on social media between both sides really go beyond the limits of polite disagreement.

Sometimes the news is not what many may want to hear but they are the facts and developments on the ground and not “spin”. A lot of the insults I have been able to shrug off or roll my eyes.

I can tolerate many things – but what is intolerable are accusations calling my fellow citizens, exercising their democratic right to protest and colleagues reporting on them, “domestic terrorists”. This goes for either side. The abusive rhetoric needs to be dialed back – and quickly.

The world is becoming increasingly vulnerable to populist type language and the ability to engage in critical thinking is a skill that is fast eroding. The dangers are that we are being conditioned to think in a binary manner – left vs right, black vs white. You are either for, or against. Where are the grey areas?

Defiance in Defence Force. IDF reservists saying will refuse “to serve in a non-democratic regime”.(Photo: Shaul Golan)

In a few weeks’ time, Israelis will celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. This is a time to reflect on the miracle of our independence; and it is no coincidence that it follows Yom Hazikaron, when we remember the price we have paid to live as a free people in our ancestral homeland.

It is my belief that no matter what side of the reform debate, Israelis deeply love our country. We all want the best possible Israel – journalists as well. It is vital that in a democratic country the press is free to report about what we observe. If we are witnessing great swathes of the Israeli populace form diverse sectors engaging in protests, we have to report it. We are not the enemy.

Perhaps this Yom Haatzmaut, as we reflect on 75 years of the Zionist miracle, we need to be reminded of the sacrifices made, lest we head down a path where we can never return.

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).


Unlike King George VI who inspired his people in its hours of despair, ‘King Bibi” added to his people’s despair by smearing judicial overhaul protestors as misguided and uncivil delinquents

By David E. Kaplan

At 11.00am on Israel’s ‘National Day of Paralysis’ when hundreds of thousands of people from across the country were converging on the Supreme Court and Knesset in Jerusalem, and Bibi was preparing to get to Ben Gurion Airport to visit the UK, I was attending the unveiling of a good friend at a cemetery in Ra’anana some 30 days after his sad and untimely passing. One of the first tributes about the late Danny was that if he were alive today, he would, if he could, “even in his wheel-chair and oxygen tank”, be in Jerusalem protesting with those masses.

Such is the ‘Passion of the People’ against what is happening in Israel today, that it permeates Israeli gravesites.

Bibi has long since been treating his premiership as his throne; his family as royalty, and any attempts to ‘dethrone’ him, as tantamount to treason to be countered by any means possible.  Morality and ethics does not come into play – only survival, personal survival. Yes he has in the past “done good for Israel” but what he is now doing is neither good for Israel nor good for the Jewish world. Worse – as he is constantly cautioned and counselled – it could prove catastrophic for Israel’s security, its economy and even its global status. An early warning sign on all three of these concerns was its unsettling of the monumental Abrahams Accords – one of Bibi’s star achievements, which could end up before all our eyes a “falling star”!

The build-up to Bibi’s speech was in itself telling. We knew he was going to speak but we did not know when or what he would say. To paraphrase ‘The Great Barb’, “To suspend or not to suspend, that is the question,” was on most people’s minds. And even if he did suspend the rush to vote in the Knesset on one of the core components of the controversial judicial overhaul, the next thought was: “What is his game plan?”

In the minds of the protestors, the commodity in short was  –TRUST.

 “Were totally out of stock!” 

And it appears it will remain so after ‘The King’s Speech’.

Peddling to Peddlers. When looking for support, ‘King Bibi’ goes on a royal tour of Jerusalem’s famed market, Machanei Yehuda.

The words that flowed from Bibi as he stood solemnly at the podium had only one effect on me – revulsion.

Imperious, King Bibi began by posing as wise King Solomon who  three thousand years earlier, “here in Jerusalem,” faced in a famously biblically recoded judgment two mothers who came before him claiming a baby as theirs’. While Bibi continued that “King Solomon commanded that a sword be brought and that the baby be cut in half,” and that “one woman was prepared to render the baby in two while the other woman absolutely refused and insisted that the infant stay alive and whole”,  we knew where this was leading.  

While King Solomon was wisely  seeking the truth, to separate the true mother from the false pretender, Bibi, on the other hand, was cunningly arming himself with the Bible to defame much of the people of Israel.

It was sickening and despicable. 

Like a conniving smooth-talking charlatan,  the Prime Minister went on:

Today as well, both sides in the national controversy claim to love the infant, to love our country,” and like King Solomon being aware so “I am aware of the enormous tension that is building between the two sides.”

Israel at a Crossroad. An aerial view shows protesters attending a demonstration against the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul, in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023(credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

In other words, while Bibi’s judicial overhaul supporters are the “true mother”,  the one responsible for causing this tension  – of splitting the nation today like splitting the baby of 3000 years ago – are the irresponsible protestors. Asserts King Bibi:

There is an extremist minority that is prepared to tear our country to pieces. It is using violence and incitement, it is threatening to harm elected officials, it is stoking civil war, and it is calling for refusal to serve, which is a terrible crime.”

Terrible crime?

The hypocrisy of this man, when his so-called democratic coalition is only being held together by the extreme theocrats who advocate for their followers to defiantly NOT SERVE IN THE ISRAELI ARMY!

Road Revolt. In counter demonstration, Bibi supporters of overhauingl the judiciary, hold Likud flags and signs reading “high court dictatorship”.(Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times)

Is it any wonder that his words stir a bile reaction?

Characterising the opponents of his judicial overhaul as an “extremist minority”  because by his reasoning, the vast majority voted for him in the last election, is it any wonder he is not believed beyond his diehard sycophants when he says he only wants “to strengthen democracy.”

With the credibility today of a snake-oil salesman hawking his questionable wares, anything and everything about Bibi today is questionable.

Taking the High Road. Israelis block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv during a protest against the government’s planned judicial overhaul on March 26, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

While defaming those that are opposing his assault on democracy, Bibi had only praise to his protestors who arrived later in the day and who he warmly addressed as “… not second-class citizens. I appreciate that you turned out today in the streets of our capital in order to make your democratic voice heard. Nobody will silence your voice, our voice.

I must say something else: You came spontaneously, unorganized and unfinanced, not pushed by the media, with all your heart and soul. You have touched me.”


What outright lies.

The protest was organized by right-wing groups  that included Regavim, Im Tirzu, Ad Kan, Bezalmo and Torat Lehima. What’s more, advertisements for the protest that were published online stating that the Right is in an “emergency situation,” warning that “they will not steal the elections from us” were shared on Twitter by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who added:  

today we stop being silent. Today is the day the Right wakes up. Share it forward.”

And these very protestors who King Bibi so fondly admired and refers to them as “our voice” held up signs reading:

 “leftist traitors”, “Kahana was right”, “I am a second class citizen” and “they’re stealing the election from us.”

It is so frightening and sickening that even high-profile defenders of Israel have spoken out. These range from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said Israel’s government was “courting disaster” and Miriam Adelson, wife of the late American casino magnate and a mega Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, who said Netanyahu’s hasty rush to enact changes was “naturally suspect” and that “bad motivations never bring good outcomes” to David Friedman, the former US ambassador to Israel who is close to Netanyahu, describing the past few days and weeks as “one of the hardest things I’ve had to watch”.  He continued:

We see the whole of Israel as a miracle and as something that is at the core of our Jewishness, and watching that social fabric disintegrate was more painful than if Israel were attacked by an enemy from the outside.”

Black-Eyed Bibi. Following the Prime Minister and his partners bringing the country to the brink of “civil war” (his own words) through their race to take political control of the courts, Netanyahu addresses the nation temporarily suspending the judicial overhaul bills before the Knesset.

Bibi’s speech exposed where he is taking this country under his mismanagement. I disdain to use the word leadership, for this ship -of-state has his passenger understandably paranoid – an unsteady captain and an unstable crew and no one too sure whose hands are on the wheel!  Is it any wonder why we collide daily into avoidable icebergs?

If there was any doubt in the minds of level-headed citizens of Israel – irrespective of their politics – why this judicial overhaul must stop, it is evident in the score card to date of this three-month coalition government under Netanyahu. Bibi has botched it.

The glaring incompetence and clumsiness that characterises Bibi’s coalition shows exactly why Israel needs a STRONG and INDEPENDANT judiciary – to protect the country from THEM!

While there is much controversy over President Joe Biden nixing inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu anytime soon to the White House, I myself don’t blame him.

Once seen as Israel’s savior  and now little more than a cynical politician who will stop at nothing to retain his power, I would not have him over at my house either!

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).


Committed once to his country, now more committed to himself not being committed – the extraordinary complex journey of Israel’s Prime Minister

By David E. Kaplan

DEMOCRACY IS STRONGER THAN THE COALITION” a protest placard read sending a strong message to the Israeli PM and his coalition.

No sooner had I read this placard, when someone standing next to me at a protest asked:

How do you think this is going to end?”

Built into this question is not only “how” but “when” will it end?  

To paraphrase Churchill, is it “the beginning of the end” or “the end of the beginning”? It matters because the country cannot continue like this indefinitely. If there is any doubt as to the fortitude of the protestors, it was expressed to a global TV audience in a huge banner at the Tel Aviv protest that simply and succinctly – again very Churchillian – read:


“NEVER SURRENDER”. Televised around the world, the banner carried aloft at the demonstration in Tel Aviv.

Now into its eleventh week with no side backing down, it’s a fair question. This predicament was lamented by Labour leader Merav Michaeli, who following an all-night Knesset vote immunizing the Prime Minister from prosecution while in office, said:

 “this is our second War of Independence, and we must win it.”

Approaching Israel’s 75th Day of Independence, the atmosphere is hardly celebratory as people reflect how we have only recently come out of three years of Covid. How do we now come out of this affliction?

Hard to predict. Politics today has shifted from the national to the personal. “Like thieves in the night, the coalition has now passed an obscene and corrupt personal law,” wrote opposition leader Yair Lapid on Twitter referring to this impeachment law hurriedly designed to protect one man – Benjamin Netanyahu. “The citizens of Israel [should know], just before the holidays, while the cost of living is skyrocketing, [that] Netanyahu once again only cares about himself.”

How has Bibi allowed, over nearly three months, for the country to be in such a dire state. After all, did not candidate Bibi assure an anxious electorate when he was making deals with highly-questionable potential coalition partners before the November 2022 election that he would be in control. His big line – or lie – was:

They are joining me, not I joining them.”

In other words, if he won, he Bibi, would be calling the shots.

That turned out more to be a shot in the foot and people are now concerned about his grip of reality, struggling less as he had in the past for the country to strive and now just for himself to survive.

Israel at a Crossroad. Masses of demonstrators converge at major Tel Aviv crossroad to protest against the proposed judicial reforms, in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 25, 2023. (Photo credit: REUTERS)

People are asking whether he is buckling under the pressure; whether he has lost control over his coalition whose members appear to enjoy free reign to propose and express publicly on any issue they fancy, indifferent to how crazy, impractical or reckless it might be. Whereas it was once expected that he would control any wayward ministers, it appears that they now control him.

In light of this depressing scenario, it is fair to question:

“Is Bibi losing it?”

To this point, Susan Hattis Rolef in her March 26 Jerusalem Post column writes that:

 “A more embarrassing and even worrying  event occurred when in recent cabinet meetings Netanyahu referred (twice in a row) to “the extremists, who are leading the reform….”.

 Whereas he intended to say:

 “the extremists who are leading the demonstrations.”

Was this a cognitive misstep – albeit repeatedly – or do we have to be seriously concerned of who actually is running affairs?  For a country in crisis, it is strange that the PM is suddenly traveling so frequently abroad – France, Germany and now the UK!

Truth be Told. A placard by a protestor conveying exactly what she thinks of the Israeli cabinet under Benjamin Netanyahu.

Every day, Israelis wake up to the morning news with a groan.  It is not that the government is failing to avoid crises; it is creating them! Just take  22 March’s  front page news in The Jerusalem Post.  The main headline was the following:

Justice minister threatens to disobey High Court

Lapid: If Levin refuses to obey the law, why should citizens obey the government

Is this not a recipe for chaos?

With the rest of the front page covering  – not threats from “the usual suspects” of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas or other terrorist groups – but threats from ourselves. Most concerning was hints of the unraveling of the cherished Abraham Accords with the UAE and Jordan considering reducing diplomacy with Israel. Once the pride of Netanyahu’s achievements – the Abraham Accords – a “game changer” for Israel as it began a journey of “normalization” with Arab countries in the Gulf, it now is like a leaky boat. Will it sink?

National Day of Paralysis”. Israelis take to the streets in mass protest in Tel Aviv, March 23, 2023.

We are now at the 11th hour. So desperately felt by Jews worldwide that on the 21 March 2023, a letter was sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid, Leader of the opposition signed by:

Mark Wilf Chair, Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Doron Almog Chair, Jewish Agency Executive; Yaakov Hagoel Chair, World Zionist Organization; Julie Platt Chair, Jewish Federations of North America, Steven Lowy Chair, World Board of Trustees, Keren Hayesod; Eric Fingerhut President & CEO, Jewish Federations of North America and Sam Grundwerg World Chair Keren Hayesod. In this letter by Jewish leaders of major Jewish organizations around the world, they write:

We have been witnessing an increase in serious polarization among Israel-loving Jews around the globe. The various opinions surrounding the proposed judicial reforms as well as heated public discourse are concerning to not only Israelis but to Jewish communities worldwide who feel an innate bond to the destiny and unity of our people. Today too many among us are experiencing real concern as we view the tension coming from all sides. Given the centrality of Israel in their lives, we find it our duty to share with and convey to you our concerns of so many among us regarding the future of Jewish unity. Looking towards the future of the State of Israel and world Jewry, it is essential that all sides seek dialogue at all cost, and take the time to reach, through an inclusive and wide-ranging conversation, without preconditions, the broadest possible consensus. Essential as the judicial reform may be, it cannot trump the risks of a, God forbid, brotherly war. Preventing internal strife between us is truly Pikuach Nefesh, a life-saving matter. The Jewish thing to do in such a situation is to seek dialogue at all cost, and to take the time to reach, through an inclusive and wide-ranging conversation, the broadest possible consensus.”

As I presently write this March 23, I can hear from my 5th floor study in Kfar Saba the blaring noise of drums beating, the shrill of bugles and voices over loudspeakers. This cacophony of noise is punctuated by the sound of loud car hooters, whether in support or frustration. This is a microcosm of what is playing out today across the country in every city, town and rural areas in what was is being called a  “National Day of Paralysis”.

“Knock, Knock. Whose there? Dick. Dick Who? DICKtatorship”. So reads a placard by British Jews protesting the Israeli government’s judicial coup in London.(photo Ben Combe)

Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu is off again today – this time to the UK.

If he is trying to escape the loud sound of opposition in his home country, he will not escape it by fleeing to the UK where he is expected to be meet with more protests. The message from London is clear  “Don’t expect a relaxing weekend”.

Bibi can hear. But when will he listen?

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).