“From Slavery to Freedom”

Transformation is in the air! Do you feel it?

By Justine Friedman

Here in the northern hemisphere, the start of spring is tangible and with it comes a sense of shifting from a winter mindset which lends itself to cocooning and insulation, to the newness and openness to growth that comes with the advent of spring. Globally, we are still in the throes of the corona pandemic. What an interesting year it has been and so incredibly challenging on many levels.

When we first entered lockdown, the impression I had was of a temporary closure with return to normality after about a month or so. In fact, when the world first stopped, I was relieved. It gave me an opportunity to breathe and pause the usual rushing around that life had become. As lockdowns have extended and become part of regular life, the halt on a rushed life is still appreciated, however the new reality has opened the door to some introspection that I find myself experiencing as well as many of my clients.

Passover during a Pandemic. Medical personnel sit down for a Passover Seder at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba on April 8, 2020. (Health Ministry)

I would like to share some of the areas that my clients and I have spent time unpacking, which is particularly relevant to this time of year as we enter spring and move towards the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover). This festival is marked in the Jewish calendar as the liberation of the enslaved Children of Israel in Egypt over 3000 years ago following some 200 years of slavery. Imagine what it must have been like to be enslaved for such an extended period.

Each year, we celebrate this freedom from slavery with a 7-day (8 days outside of Israel) festival where we are forbidden to eat bread. In its place, we eat the very flat and often tasteless matzah (unleavened bread seen as a symbol of our freedom from slavery. Many of my clients’ experience panic over the limitations of foods and the dread of what they are not able to eat over this time. I find it eases their concern to rather focus on what is still permissible (which is quite considerable when you start to list the foods).

Is the concept of freedom from slavery relevant to our daily lives? Are we able to use this as an analogy for our own lives? Could this shift in mindset and breaking of shackles be representative of self-transformation that can enhance the quality and very fabric of our lives?

How can we understand this slave mentality better? Another way of describing it is being locked into a fixed mindset which is synonymous with feeling constricted. In this frame of mind, there is a general feeling of experiencing obstacles and lack of flow in our lives that often seem insurmountable. It is a sense of being stuck in habits, thought patterns, belief systems and situations that we cannot see our way clear of. Often the feeling of being stuck presents itself repeatedly with similar situations coming to challenge us. Often, we feel a sense of frustration and helplessness in the face of them.

The opposite of this is a freedom or growth mindset. The nature of which immediately allows one to draw a deep breath, as with this comes a sense of expansion, flow, and a sense of being able to rise above challenge, accomplish and thrive.

Awareness of how this plays out in everyday life is the starting point to transformation. Setting an intention to move towards establishing habits that fit the freedom/ growth mindset model is really what gets the process going. It is very normal to be able to face certain situations in life from one mindset and others from the complete opposite.

An example of this is an esteemed businessman or woman who is soaring in their career but finds that they cannot break the pattern of bad eating habits and negative self-talk. Their own inner taskmaster/ critic runs like a radio in their mind analysing how they are handling eating experiences and their bodies. In their work life they thrive on challenge and work well to meet deadlines and stay focused, and yet in their private life they do not believe that they are capable of making the changes necessary to lead a life of health, vitality and wellness. What spurs them on in their work area, breaks them in their personal area.

Passover Under Lockdown. Three siblings in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem, wave to their grandmother in Haifa as she joins their Passover Seder via Zoom as Israel takes stringent steps to contain the coronavirus in April 8, 2020. (Photo Dan Williams/Reuter)
 

I often find that one of the greatest obstacles my clients face which keeps them stuck and enslaved to poor habits, is linked to negative self-talk and a feeling that on some level they are not worthy of wellness and taking care of themselves. Oftentimes, eating and food is used as a punishment and overindulgence. This can either be due to restricting intake as well as from overeating. It is so common to use food as a means of soothing emotions or repressing emotions, and situational triggers constantly keep one stuck in these negative cycles which leads to despair.

How does one move out of this mindset of enslavement, of behaving towards oneself as a cruel taskmaster?

Self-awareness is the first cog in getting the proverbial wheel to turn. This works best when locked into another forward moving wheel, that of an experienced practitioner who can mentor one each step of the way. There are many techniques available to assist in breaking the shackles of slave mindset and each is unique to the individual.

Where in your daily life do you find yourself feeling successful and rising to the challenge? Where do you feel the opposite? Stuck, enslaved and feeling blocked? How would you feel if the situations that you are currently feeling enslaved were to be removed? What would this mean for your daily life and for your future? Can you picture what that may look like?

This is a wonderful picture to have in one’s mind and despite your inner critic telling you otherwise it is very achievable to get there. All you must do is take that first step.

If given a choice between wellness and illness, I can confidently say that most people would opt for the former. It is this picture of wellness that can be used as the goal. How does one reach that goal? One micro-step and micro-achievement at a time. Try this on for size the next time you are faced with a choice involving food options that usually challenge you. Ask the question, is this moving me towards my goal or away from my goal?

I encourage you all to use the energy of this time of year to propel yourselves from feeling enslaved in your life, to experiencing freedom in those same areas.

May this bring a new meaning to your Pesach seder and allow for the usual recitation of a historical and biblical story, to spark the story of your own redemption.



About the writer:

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Justine Friedman (nee Aginsky), is a South African trained, Licensed Clinical Dietician and Mindset Mentor who has run a successful clinical private practise for over 20 years. She made Aliyah with her husband and two children in November 2019. Justine educates patients with the skills and tools of how best to develop a wellness mindset and adopt behaviours that lead to the integration and maintenance of healthier habits. She is based in Modi’in, Israel and is also available for online consultations via zoom.

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

The Jews who fought back during the Holocaust

By Gabriel  Groisman, Mayor of Bal Harbour, Florida.

Our communal sense of history and peoplehood, and our ties to our religion and traditions, will continue to give us the strength to continue being a light unto the nations while our enemies fall by the wayside.

Last week, leaders from around the world commemorated those who perished at the hands of the Nazis during International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, like most, there were statements recognizing and remembering those who were taken from us by people all over the globe. The recognition is critical and something appreciated by all from the Jewish community worldwide.

Much has been written about what needs to be done during the remaining days of the year to properly commemorate and educate the world about the horrors of the Holocaust, and what “never again” really means. A recent Pew Research poll proves that Americans’ Holocaust education is sorely lacking. For example, only 45 percent of Americans interviewed even knew that 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Even fewer knew that Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany by a democratic political process.

Surely, what is far less known is how many Jews fought valiantly against the Nazis.

A group of female Jewish partisans. (Source: USHMM.)

But fight they did!

Jews fought back alongside resistance groups around Europe, organized uprisings in the ghettos, created partisan units and even fought back in the concentration camps, attempting to bomb a crematorium in Auschwitz. To properly commemorate the Holocaust, these stories must be told as well.

Group of Jewish partisan fighters in Soviet territories (Wiener Holocaust Library Collections)

To that end, I commemorate and honor the story of the following Jews who courageously fought back during World War II and the Holocaust. Their stories represent the thousands who fought to the end.

Mordechai Anielewitz

Mordechai Anielewitz

In April 1943, this leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising led 750 Jewish fighters armed with a handful of pistols, 17 rifles and Molotov cocktails  – all smuggled into the ghetto – in a clash with more than 2,000 heavily armed and well-trained German troops. They held off the Germans for 27 days.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Leader. Mordechai Anielewicz (top right) amongst with members of Hashoer Hatzair wanted to show the world that Jews could counter the German oppressors in open battle. He died along with his brave comrades, defending a basement in Mila Street on May 8, 1943.

Boris Lekach

Boris Lekach

This one is personal. My wife’s maternal grandfather, Lekach fought for the Russians against the Nazis. He enlisted at age 16 with doctored papers just so he could fight. He was also well-known to many in the Jewish community in Russia for helping Jews escape during and after the war.





The Bielski Brothers

Made famous in a number of books and in the 2008 movie “Defiance,” the Bielski brothers – Tuvia, Asael and Zus – fled their city in Belarus after their parents and two other siblings were murdered. The brothers found shelter in the forest, where they created one of the largest and most effective partisan groups during the war, focusing on guerrilla attacks against the Nazis and their collaborators, as well as on preserving Jewish life even in their hideout. In a little more than two years, the Bielski group grew to about 1,200 people.

The Bielski Partisans. Named after a family of Polish Jews who organized and led the organization,  ‘The Bielski Partisans’ rescued Jews from extermination and fought the German occupiers and their collaborators around Nowogródek and Lida in German-occupied Poland.

Tosia Altman

Tosia Altman. A courier and smuggler to Warsaw Gehtto. Tosia Altman was captured suffering severe burn wounds and handed over to the Gestapo where she died.

A young woman who used fake papers to smuggle weapons and information in and out of Poland’s ghettos. She was an active member of the social Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair, active in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising alongside Anielewitz and the other brave fighters.








Eta Wrobel 

Eta Wrobel.  Eta’s exclusively Jewish partisan unit of close to eighty people, set mines to hinder German movement and to cut off supply routes.

A young woman in her 20s, Wrobel helped form an all-Jewish partisan unit in the Polish woods. Her unit attacked German troops as they traveled through the area and is credited for saving the lives of hundreds of Jews.




Rudolph Masaryk

Rudolph Masaryk. A prominent member of the Treblinka prisoner uprising, Czech prisoner Masarek was killed on 2 August 1943.

On Aug. 2, 1943, at the Treblinka extermination camp, Masaryk and other Jewish prisoners stole 20 grenades, 20 rifles and a few handguns. Together, they attacked the SS guards, while another doused a large part of the camp with gasoline and lit it on fire. Approximately 300 prisoners escaped and 40 Nazi guards were killed during the Treblinka uprising.



May their memories be a blessing.

While it’s critical for the world to remember on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and on every other day that the Nazis rose to destroy the Jewish people, it is equally important for all to remember that the Jewish people fought back, and ultimately, as a people, we survived.

Today, the Jewish people not only survive but thrive. Our communal sense of history and peoplehood, as well as our ties to our religion and traditions, will continue to give us the strength to continue being a light unto the nations while our enemies fall by the wayside, as did Hitler and all enemies before him.






*This article first appeared in the JNS.

About the writer:

Gabriel Groisman is the mayor of Bal Harbour, Fla., and an attorney at Meland Russin & Budwick, P.A., in Miami. He has been a leader in combating anti-Semitism and the BDS movement, having written and passed the first municipal anti-BDS ordinance, as well as the first codification of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. He is a co-founder of the Global Coalition of Mayors Against Hate and Discrimination.








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)

Scoring Hanukkah Goals

Follow in the ancient footsteps that gave birth to the Jewish “Festival of Lights” to this Hanukkah’s surprise at Jerusalem’s premium football club

By David E. Kaplan

Celebrating the start of Hanukkah today, I am watching my two grandchildren, Ariel and Yali enjoying their sufganiot (doughnuts). They may not know the history or understand the significance of this “festival of lights”  but these two and three year-olds  are enjoying the fun of Hanukkah roaring with laughter as they play with their spinning tops, known as dreidels (‘sevivon’ in Hebrew). One legend had it that during the time of the Hanukkah story,  Jews would grab a dreidel and start to play if Syrian soldiers entered the house while ‘illegally’ praying or studying Torah study. In the Diaspora, the four-sided dreidel displayed  four Hebrew letters –  ‘nun’, ‘gimel’, ‘hey’ and ‘shin’ representing the words ‘ne’s ‘gadol’ ‘hayah’andsham’, meaning “a great miracle happened there.”

In Israel, the last letter is changed to a ‘peh’, representing the word ‘po’, “here,” with the resulting declaration:

 “a great miracle happened here.”

And it sure has as modern day Israel – the Start-Up Nation testifies too. So what happened back then?

In around 168 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, the Hellenistic King of the Seleucid Empire stepped up his campaign to quash Judaism, so that they would share the same culture and worship the same gods.

Marching into Jerusalem, he vandalized the Temple and decreed that studying Torah , observing the Sabbath, and circumcising Jewish boys were punishable by death. To ensure his policies were carried out, he sent Syrian overseers and soldiers to villages throughout Judea to viciously enforce his edicts.

Entrance to Hasmonain Village.

When these soldiers reached Modiin, northwest of the capital, they demanded that the local leader, Mattathias the Kohein (a member of the priestly class), be an example to his people by sacrificing a pig on a portable pagan altar. He refused killing the King’s representative and with the rallying cry “Whoever is for God, follow me”, Mattathias and his five sons (Jonathan, Simon, Judah, Eleazar, and Yohanan) fled to the hills and caves of the wooded Judean wilderness and founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE. They reasserted the Jewish religion and reduced the influence of Hellenism on the indigenous Jewish population.

It is to this beautiful area I visited during a Hanukkah before Corona in the center of Israel. It lies amidst historical heritage sites and the national forest of Ben Shemen, all home to the ancient Maccabees and present day Israelis mostly living in the modern day city of Modi’in, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Past and present merge in a colourful kaleidoscope  of nature and history.

Welcome back to the Past. The brainchild of Zohar Baram and his late wife Naomi, Zohar explains Hasmonian Village as a reconstruction of life in ancient times. (photo D.E. Kaplan)

Genesis

To get a taste of “authentic Israel” where the ancient Maccabees once lived and worked, I visited the reconstructed Hasmonian Village in Shilat and met its founder and Director, Zohar Baram.

He explains how it came about.

“After a tough day of fighting in the Sinai  during the Yom Kipur War in 1973, we were sitting around our tanks and armoured cars and turned on the radio when we heard the famous British actor, Peter Ustinov say that it had been “a mistake to create the State of Israel” and that “the Jews have no historical connection to the land – it’s a myth!” I was shocked.”

Voice in the Wilderness. The English actor, Peter Ustinov, whose tirade against Israel heard in the Sinai, spurned Hasmonain Village.

Only the year before he met and got to know the British actor when Ustinov stayed in Eilat for the filming in the Negev desert of a British-Israel film Big Truck and Sister Clare. Baram was taken on as Ustinov’s official guide, ‘So you can imagine we spent a lot of time together and we got to know each other quite well”.

Well, not quite!

A tank commander and fearless in battle, Zohar was brought to tears. “Hearing his tirade in that unmistakable voice, I made an instant decision. It was not enough to defend the land; I needed to defend our history. I realized in the sand dunes of Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments that I had to dedicate my life to the education of future generations of the historical connection of Jews to the Land of Israel.”

The result of this ‘revelation’ is today Hasmonaim Village which Zohar Baram established with his late wife, Naomi. “I love working with the youth and it is so important to show and explain to Israeli children who live in apartments what the homes of their ancestors over 2000 years ago looked like. How did they dress; what furniture they had; what decorated their walls and how they made a living.” The village which has a main road and homes on either side “is typical of the size of a village at the time.”

Back to the Grind. Zohar Baram showing the writer how people during the period of the Maccabe ground
 wheat with an ancient stone grinder. (photo D.E. Kaplan)
 

He passed me some wheat, placed it in an ancient stone grinder and then left it to me to produce grain that I placed in a plastic bag to take home. We then walked to the village mint, where Zohar hammered three coins “for your children” with motifs from ancient Judea. “The children love this and get the feel what life was like here two thousand years ago,” said Zohar.

Home Truths. At the time of the Hanukkah story, a sense of inside a home showing the furnishings and clothing worn at the time.

Leaving the village, I noticed the words taken from the Bible and inscribed in Hebrew, which translated reads:

When you see it, your heart will be happy”.

I left the village with a ‘happy heart’ and could well understand why filmmakers – mainly American – use it as a location for movies and documentaries. The most celebrated filmmaker that Zohar has worked with is the American Ken Burns noted for such documentaries as The Civil War and The Roosevelts. “When I work with such celebrated artists, I too enjoy a “happy heart’ when thinking back to that British actor in 1973 whose venomous words directed me on my life’s mission.”

Coining it. Activities include minting coins the ancient way. Zohar Baram passes me a newly minted ‘ancient’ coin. (photo D.E.Kaplan)

Field of Dreams

No visit to this area is complete without a visit to the Biblical Nature Reserve called Neot Kedumim, which in Hebrew means “pleasant pastures (or habitations) of old.” Covering an area of 2,500 dunams (2.5 km2; 0.97 sq mi), Neot Kedumim is a recreation of a biblical landscape.

A Visual Visit of the Bible. The Biblical landscape of Neot Kedumim near Modi’in, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

In 1964, land was allocated for the project with the help of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and today comprises: the ‘Forest of Milk and Honey’, the ‘Dale of the Song of Songs’, ‘Isaiah‘s Vineyard’ and the ‘Fields of the Seven Species’. Signs are posted throughout the garden quoting relevant Jewish texts in Hebrew and English.

On arrival, my tour guide explained that when Ephraim and Hannah Hareuveni immigrated to Palestine in the 1920s, they dreamed of developing a biblical landscape reserve that “embodied the panorama and power of the landscapes that both shaped the values of the Bible and provided a rich vocabulary for expressing them.”

Their son, Nogah Hareuveni, a physicist, dedicated his life to implementing his parents’ dream. To build the park, thousands of tons of soil were trucked in, reservoirs were built to catch runoff rain water, ancient terraces, wine presses and ritual baths were restored, and hundreds of varieties of plants were cultivated.

It started in 1964 with Nogah and we teach,” continued the guide, “what he taught us. Working with the Bible in one hand and a spade in the other – he made the connection between the scriptures and nature.”

Noting how Jewish festivities have to do with a certain time of the year and a particular type of fruit, “he planted only those trees and plants that were indigenous in biblical times. He wanted visitors to understand the text of the Bible better by using their senses – seeing, smelling, touching, hearing and tasting.”

He reasoned that because the Bible conveys abstract ideas through parables using images from everyday life thousands of years ago, it had less traction in the 20th century, where people are more attuned to the imagery of consumerism. The idea of Neot Kedumim is to ‘experience’ the Bible in the context of an authentic Biblical landscape.  Nogah wanted Neot Kedumim “To be the photo album of the bible.”

Tapping into the Past. Extracting water the ancient way at Neot Kedumim. (Photo by Reut Shai Dror)

It was not surprising that in 1994, Neot Kedumim and Nogah Hareuveni, were joint recipients of the ‘Israel Prize – Israel’s most prestigious civilian award.

“I always tell my groups that while Israel today is known for its innovative start-up companies, it emanates from our past. To survive in this harsh land one had to come up with ideas; so, the tour will stop at the cistern and see how water was stored; different types of oil lamps and how someone had to think of the idea that one could extract oil from the olive to fuel the lamp, and the type of plant that provided the wick. Here at Neot Kedumim we see how ideas were nurtured in nature and how the ancient Israelites survived and thrived. Here is the beginning of Israel’s status as the Start-Up Nation.”

Seeing the Light. A guide explaining how the sage was the inspiration for the Menorah

Walking along the path feasting my eyes on the exquisite scenery, my guide suddenly raises his hand to stop a tractor coming towards us. Its driver Zachariah Ben Moshe stops, climbs off with a jump and introduces himself as being in charge of tree planting.  Explaining that I will be writing an article, he quickly points to the branches on a sage tree.

Holy Moses! Is this what Moses saw? The image of the Menorah is unmistakable in this flowering sage. (photo by Noga HaReuveny)

What does this remind you of?” he asks.

It stared at me in the face – it was so obvious.

The Menorah,” I answered. Described in the Bible as the seven-lamp ancient Hebrew lampstand made of pure gold, the Menorah was used in the portable sanctuary set up by Moses in the wilderness and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Fresh olive oil was burned daily to light its lamps.

Exactly,” replies Ben Moshe. “The Menorah was taken from the sage. We read how God instructed Moses on how to build a Menorah who said: “Go out to the mountain and see its image.” Clearly, it was the sage he saw and as we say , the rest is history.”

Scoring a Goal for Normalisation

After endless enmity and divisions on the land, “history” was surely made before this Hanukkah with the announcement that the UAE royal family bought half of a top-tier Israeli soccer team –  but not just any team. It was Beitar Jerusalem Football Club – an Israeli soccer team with an anti-Arab reputation amongst its fan-base!

Cowers for an Enlightened Future. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family (left) and Beitar Jerusalem F.C. owner Moshe Hovav pose for a photo in Dubai.

This barrier-shattering deal is among the fruits of Israel’s nearly three-month-old normalisation agreement with the Emirates and  sends a strong symbolic message – that “winds of change” are blowing across the Middle East. The deal puts a Muslim Sheikh at the helm of Beitar Jerusalem, the only Israeli team that has never fielded an Arab player.  

So no Arab player, but now an Arab co-owner.

Times are changing – the will and optimism is there.

Says Beitar Jerusalem’s owner, Moshe Hogeg about the deal:

On the eve of Hanukkah, Beitar’s menorah is lit in a new and exciting light. Together, we will march the club to new days of coexistence, achievements, and brotherhood for the sake of our club,  community and Israeli sports.”

With the belief of influencing hearts and minds, UAE’s Sheikh Bin Khalifa, a first cousin of the de facto Emirati ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, proudly asserted that his investment represented:

 “the fruits of peace and brotherhood between the nations”.

When asked in a live video-linked interview about the reputation of the fan-base of the club he had invested, Sheikh Bin Khalifa replied in the spirit of Hanukkah:

They are mostly young, in their twenties. We should extend them the hand and show them the light.”

Setting New Goals. Israeli Arab midfielder Diaa Sabia (right) with a club official during his presentation at Dubai’s Al-Nasr club.

The new Emirati co-owner added that the Israeli soccer club was open to recruiting Arab players. Already an Israeli Arab midfielder, Diaa Sabia has signed for a Dubai club.

There is this Hanukkah, a movement, momentum and message in ‘play’ – shining  LIGHT on a path ahead towards greater understanding and outreach.



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 (O&EO).

Remembering Rabbi Sacks – Giant of the Jewish World

Global Jewry mourns one of its greatest.

By Rolene Marks

Acts of kindness never die. They linger in the memory, giving life to other acts in return.” – Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

The Great Communicator. Towering intellectual giant and warm endearing personality, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

This past weekend, on Shabbat, the Jewish world lost one of its greatest. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l, passed away at the age of 72 after a battle with cancer. As tributes pour in from around the world, from people of all faiths and backgrounds, we too, add ours to the growing international chorus wishing to show our deep appreciation for a true gentleman whose work impacted many and transcended boundaries.

A titan of the Jewish world, with a towering intellect, whose voice could at once stir and soothe, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was more than just the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth; he was seen by many as the Jewish people’s Ambassador to the world.

Ambassador for Faith and Morality. Former prime minister Tony Blair (right) presents Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (left) with a Lifetime Achievement award at the Jewish News’ Night of Heroes (photo credit: BLAKE EZRA PHOTOGRAPHY)
 

Known in equal parts for his majestic intellect, unwavering faith as well as his commitment to interfaith dialogue, Rabbi Sacks was a noted bridge builder and humanitarian whose wisdom and dulcet toned voice appealed to the religious and the secular, Jewish and non-Jew alike.

For many, regardless of faith, his gentle wisdom delivered in his unique soothing timbre would make any challenge seem surmountable, any conflict, resolvable.

Hope and Courage. Facing the future, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s TED Talk #174 was on “Navigate the corona pandemic with hope and courage”.

Renowned for his exceptional intellect, Rabbi Sacks penned many articles, books and other notable writings and would parlay this into a successful career as a speaker and media personality.  He was a sought after speaker on issues such as war and peace, religious fundamentalism, ethics, and the relationship between science and religion, among other topics. Sacks wrote more than 20 books and was lauded by many for making Judaism accessible to all.

Rabbi Sacks served as Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013 and was knighted by her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in 2005; he was awarded a life peerage four years later in the House of Lords.

Rabbi Sacks made no secret of his great love for the State of Israel – or his concern for growing antisemitism and the threat it posed to world Jewry. He was a fierce advocate for the Jewish State and often her most vocal supporters in times of strife.  Rabbi Sacks was passionate about engagement with the youth, encouraging them to feel proud to be both Jewish and Zionist. He raised the alarm on rising antisemitism in a recent address to the UK parliament, warning that there were no longer any countries in Europe where Jews feels safe. He also courageously took a stand against former UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn who was emblematic of rising antisemitism in the UK.

The Prince and the Rabbi. Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks in conversation with Prince Charles (left) at the Chief Rabbi Sacks royal tribute dinner.

Rabbi Sacks was the consummate English gentleman. Perhaps it is HRH Prince Charles who said it best in his moving tribute when he said that Rabbi Sacks would be missed more than words can say.

We may never see the likes of this great scholar and humanitarian again. His passing poignantly reminds us of what we so sorely miss – and need.  Our deepest condolences to his family.

May his memory be eternally blessed.





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

To my Breslov and Balfour Brothers and Sisters

….And to all brethren who prioritize acting upon their beliefs and desires at the risk of spreading COVID-19 by flouting the regulations

(Courtesy of the Times of Israel blog)

By Richard Shavei-Tzion

I feel your pain!

Having to desist from the sacred acts which you have been performing zealously for decades and which define your lives, seems intolerable.

Passion is a potent component of the human experience. Without it, there would be no oomph to life. It is the catalyst for great love and joy, spirituality and depth, but it can drive hatred and war, destruction and death. None of us have the monopoly on fervour. We do not share Muslim and Christian beliefs, but we can agree that their adherents are as ardent as us in their devotion. Yet this year St. Paul’s Square, the Catholic Holy of Holies, stood empty through Easter as the Pope conducted virtual video services. The Hajj in Mecca was performed by 1,000 symbolic pilgrims rather than the regular two million worshipers.

My Breslov brothers, we have something in common. For many years, we have met at the airport as I too set out annually to far off lands for the High Holidays, to sing the melodies and invoke the magnificent liturgy which has become wrapped around my soul. I will sorely miss this pilgrimage of sorts, made all the more painful by our local rabbi’s judicious decision to strip our services of much of its sublime poetry. While I cannot comprehend the spiritual value of the Rabbi Nachman experience, ordinarily I would defend your right to participate in this ritual as long as it did not impinge on the freedom and safety of others.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pray close to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in the Ukrainian city of Uman. (File photo: Reuters/Konstantin Chernichkin)

As for my brothers and sisters who gather en mass every Saturday night outside the Prime Minister’s house in Jerusalem’s Balfour Street, I admire your commitment. While I am not a great proponent of taking to the streets, I do support your fundamental democratic right to protest and commend your efforts in pursuit of your political principles.

However there are times when we are faced with the competing right to personal freedom and the societal need for order and control. We must all sacrifice one for the other to a degree. Without balances, we can have no liberty to pursue our dreams, mutual and personal.  There are times when matters of life and death, tilt the scales, when sacrosanct individual privilege is outweighed by the right to personal safety, to the protection of life itself. It is our communal misfortune to be living in such times, when the gathering of multitudes has become the seed of suffering and death.

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem, June 27, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

While there are those who claimed at the beginning of the pandemic that they had the “Ear of God” who said that “He would protect the pious”, it turns out that God’s word got lost in the translation. Finally, now that many of the pious of all religions have been stricken by the plague, we must accept what Paul Simon has known for decades. “God only knows, God makes his plan. The information’s unavailable to the mortal man.” (Slip Slidin’ Away.)

As for our Balfourites, you will agree that actualizing your license to protest thereby exposing thousands of heavy breathers to contact with one another has not managed to tilt the balance of power an iota. In addition, perhaps gathering outdoors reduces risk but it does not eliminate it.

So many people have sacrificed so much in compliance with the harsh decrees imposed upon us. If there is great disappointment in being deprived of a seminal once-a-week or annual event, consider the anguish young couples have experienced as their once-in-a-lifetime wedding dreams have been shattered. (That is of course unless you are related to the Belz Rebbe or an insider in the celeb scene in Tel Aviv or family of an important hamula.) Think of the heartache of parents, siblings and offspring who this year on Remembrance Day, with great, silent forbearance, forfeited their holy right to visit the graves of their loved ones who have fallen in the defense of our nation, in order to protect us all.

For the first time since Israel’s founding, military cemeteries on Israel’s 2020 Memorial Day to the country’s war dead were blocked off due to Covid-19 with people asked to pay their respects in private. Seen here  was the normally busy market in Jerusalem during the sound of the siren.

Representatives of both your camps point fingers at each other, reminding us of the other side’s transgressions. Please understand, not only do two wrongs not make a right, they also make fertile ground for disease and hardship.  This is not the time to assert one’s claims to freedom of individual expression based on the other’s wrongdoing. This is the moment for cooperation and compromise in a cause that unites us all.

“One Voice” A Gift to Israel. A first-of-its-kind video 15 Choirs from around the world sing “Oseh Shalom” in honor of the State of Israel’s 70th Anniversary. Music: Roman Grinberg. Concept and production: Richard Shavei-Tzion

Imagine the impact you Breslovers would make by declaring that you were ceding your holy experience, just this once, in favor of the safety of the House of Israel. Consider the Kiddush HashemPikuach Nefesh and Or Lagoyim, three of the loftiest Jewish principles achieved by one act of Loving Kindness.

I believe Rabbi Nachman would agree.  

Think of the material support you would accrue for your heartfelt cause if you Balfourites announced that henceforth your protests would be implemented through social media rather than on the streets, in order to ensure the wellbeing of the thousands of attendees and by extension, every citizen in the country.

What a great paradigm of leadership and unity you would all display. How many healthy souls and hearts could you win over to your great causes?

Gratitude in the Corona Age. 60 People share their gratitude for special moments and to special people

Our decrepit leaders have raised the “Divide and Rule” maxim to a new level. Defy them.

Think bigger than the confines of your communes to our greater commonality and we will all be blessed.

[The author has been traveling for many years to serve communities in the Diaspora over the High Holidays]


You’ll Never Walk Alone. The Ramatayim Men’s Choir, Jerusalem sends a blessing in this time of Carona



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Richard Shavei-Tzion is a widely published poet and is the author of “Poetry in the Parasha” and the Prayer for the Preservation of the Environment. His occasional articles on human and Jewish topics have been published around the Jewish world and his photographic images have been displayed in solo and group exhibitions Richard is the director of the Ramatayim Men’s Choir. He manages commercial property and a medical center in Jerusalem.


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 Jewish Double Standard in Action

Evil of One Kind is Denounced, Evil of Another is Given a Pass

By Jake Donnelly

The Jewish double standard was on display this past week in the wake of DeSean Jackson and Stephen Jackson’s social media posts promoting Louis Farrakhan and erroneously quoting Adolf Hitler. While it appears many people were rightfully taken aback by such blatant antisemitism, the resulting outcry – or lack thereof -was the perfect microcosm to highlight the double standard many Jews, and specifically, American Jews, live with on a daily basis. The Jewish double standard is quite simple:

When Jews see something bad, racist, or evil, they join in the fury and call it out, but when something antisemitic occurs, there is little by way of resulting uproar.

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Posting Online Hate. The Philadelphia Eagles condemned social media posts by DeSean Jackson, the team’s star wide receiver, saying they were “absolutely appalling”.

In the most basic terms – because of the history of Jews – they will almost always call out evil, but they are naive if they expect a reciprocal response.

The “Jackson and Jackson” saga following the almost cultural revolution of the George Floyd murder is the most obvious example of this. When George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin, almost everybody agreed that this was a despicable act that needed to be condemned. It was such a heinous act that most people from every walk of life came out and admonished Chauvin and anybody that took part in the incident. And I mean everybody: black, white, Asian, Jews, and even cops said:

This is beyond the pale and something needs to be done.” Something was done  – Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder.

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No Defence For Antisemitism. Initially defending DeSean Jackson posting of antisemitic messages, Stephen Jackson (above) later apologizes – following the furor – for using ‘wrong words’ in his defense.

 

While Floyd’s death is an absolute tragedy, the coming together of all types of Americans was – ironically – something beautiful that emerged out of the ashes. Politicians, corporations, sports teams, schools and athletes all came out with strongly worded messages denouncing the murder. It appeared that everyone agreed – for one of the few times in recent American history – that something evil had occurred, and that this injustice needed to be seriously addressed. Everybody sent out messages and missives because it was so obviously evil.

In the midst of all this, I worried that this communal consensus would only last so long as the victim was black. Once something terrible happened to Jews or an antisemitic incident occurred, this thought of “everybody is on the same page” would disappear. I was too soon proven right!

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Monsey Machete Murderer. Grafton Thomas, the suspect in a stabbing at a Hannukah celebration, leaves Ramapo Town Hall in Airmont, New York, after his arrest in New York City on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019.Kena Betancur / AFP – Getty Image

In the ‘Jackson and Jackson’ saga, there were some brave voices that spoke out like Steelers lineman Zach Banner, and retired football players Emmanual Acho and Geoff Schwartz. Banner and Acho should be lauded for doing so (I expected it of Schwartz because, well… Schwartz). However, where were all the other voices? What DeSean Jackson wrote and posted and what Stephen Jackson said and doubled down on, were also so beyond the pale it should have appalled everybody. But it did not because there is a Jewish double standard. All those politicians, corporations, teams, schools, athletes and owners, were as silent as an unmarked graveyard on a moonless night.

What is making matters worse is the excuse that so many are readily giving both the Jacksons; mainly, that they were simply “ignorant.” People like Stephen A. Smith are jumping to their defense and claiming they were ignorant and did not know any better. Both DeSean Jackson and Stephen Jackson are both claiming ignorance and that their words and intentions are being misconstrued. But that is what is so telling; what they both posted and said is so antisemitic it is the equivalent of calling Jews “K—s.” If anybody sad something similar about any other race or religion, nobody would be excusing them of ignorance, especially because these tropes have been around for eons! But this is why the utter lack of response is so disappointingly not surprising; the Jewish double standard is simply a fact of life.

Even such noted and powerful Jews in sports like New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft did not say a word even though the Kraft Foundation pledged $1,000,000 to fight “systemic racism a month ago”.  In his defense, Kraft is a mensch who does great for Jews and Israel.

What of the famed NFL McCourty twins,  Devin and Jason, who are also community leaders and speak up on issues and stress to do the right thing? Not a word from them even though their teammate, Julian Edelman, is one of the most outspoken Jews in the NFL.

And what of all those cadre of players – both active and retired – that Robert Kraft takes to Israel every year to inspire Israel football players? Not a word!

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Field of Dreams. New England Patriots owner and philanthropist Robert Kraft (center, blue blazer) with most of the 18 NFL ‘Gold Jackets’ in Israel and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in June, 2017 for Israel’s first full-size American football field, part of the new Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Nor is this some mundane gripe. Jews die over posts and messages like the ones distributed by DeSean and Stephen Jackson. The 2019 Monsey murderer, who stabbed five people at a rabbi’s house in New York state, was a devotee of the Black Hebrew Israelites movement and enjoyed listening to Louis Farrakhan and the teachings of the Nation of Islam. If you care about White Supremacy (and you should), you should also care about Black Supremacist groups like the Nation of Islam and the Black Hebrew Israelites. Both White Supremacists and Black Supremacists are as evil as the other and the only thing they agree upon is that Jews are evil.

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Man of his Word. Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan really misses the opportunity in his speeches to include incendiary antisemitic comments and tropes.

If you actually care about ridding evil you are correct to denounce President Trump’s weak response to Charlottesville, but you are also allowing it to prosper if you remain silent to the Jackson posts.

You need to care about evil no matter its source. If you call out heinous crimes and messages because it attacks one race, but then zipper your mouth shut when a different race is attacked, you are revealing to the world your own prejudices and hate. In the words of Edmund Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

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Hardly Generating Mass Support. A small protest following New York city police’s hate crimes unit saying it was investigating eight antisemitic incidents reported in December, 2019

When evil is directed at the black community, we rightfully speak out. However, when that same evil is directed at the Jewish community, there is silence and that evil spreads, the same way it has spread for millennia.

That is the Jewish double standard and that is why we are seeing an increase in antisemitism yet again.

 

 

 

About the writer:

jake_smiling_teeth copy.jpgJake Donnelly is a broadcast journalist specializing in articles and content about Judaism and Jews in America as well as United States politics, history, and culture. Jake is a graduate of Trinity College (Hartford, CT), where he B.A. in Jewish Studies, and Syracuse University (Newhouse School), where he received his M.S. in Broadcast and Digital Journalism. He is a professional play-by-play sports broadcaster specializing in hockey, baseball, basketball. You can find all of his work on his website, JakeDonnelly.com, and reach him on Twitter @JacobDonnelly31.”

 

 

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 City of Jaffa is in The State of Israel!

Open letter by Stephen Schulman

During Ramadan, South Africa’s online newspaper, The Daily Maverick published a food article by Cape Town writer Ayesha Mukadam entitled, “Celebrating Ramadan by Sending ‘boeka’ Plates around the World.”

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Careless With Cuisine. Founder of ‘Boeka Without Borders’, writer Ayesha Mukadam chooses to deny Israel’s existence in her food article.

A Cape Muslim Afrikaans word for breaking one’s fast at sunset during Ramadan, “Boeka”, explains Mukadam, “is synonymously celebrated in the Cape with the sharing and exchange of boeka plates with neighbours, family and friends.”  

Not possible during Covid-19, the writer laments “It is the first Ramadan that I can recall, where no boeka plates are being exchanged. I missed this Cape tradition that is inherent to my culture and upbringing.” 

To compensate, Mukadam created an Instagram platform and invited people during the month of Ramadan while under lockdown, to share their “virtual boeka from across streets, neighbourhoods, countries and oceans.”

Amongst those sharing is Basel Agbaria from Jaffa, Israel, who Mukadam describes is from Palestine.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-05-21-celebrating-ramadan-by-sending-boeka-plates-around-the-world/

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Sea’ing Is Believing. Famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah and the whale and King Solomon, Israel’s ancient port city of Jaffa with neighbouring Tel Aviv in the background (left).

A Lay of the Land contributor, Stephen Schulman replies in an open letter to The Daily Maverick and its writer:

Dear Ayesha Mukadam,

I read your article about your site in The Daily Maverick, the online publication bringing news and views from South Africa, on “boeka” a Cape Muslim Afrikaans word for iftar – breaking one’s fast at sunset during Ramadan. In it, you declared your purported aim of using food in the Muslim month of Ramadan as a means of connecting and bringing people of all faiths together – a most laudable initiative in these turbulent and troubled times.

Mention of the Cape brought back many memories. Growing up in the 50’s on the Lower Main Road in the suburb of Claremont, Cape Town where my parents once had a shop. We lived in amity and mutual respect with our many Muslim customers and neighbours. Whilst we did not partake of “Iftar”, we were well aware of the Muslim faith, its beliefs, practices and customs. Cape Town had its own particular cuisine and I can still taste those marvelous samoosas that have no equal anywhere in the world!

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Taste Of Tradition. Celebrating Ramadam by ‘sending’ beoka plates around the world.

Tolerance of all faiths was the accepted and unspoken norm – an absolute sine qua non. In my student days, I worked part time at a Claremont dry cleaner with its large Muslim staff many of whom I remember well. There was friendship, harmony and cooperation for we could not see it otherwise!

I note that in your article, you referred to the city of Jaffa as being in Palestine. Your correspondent Basel Agbaria resides in Israel (NOT Palestine) in Jaffa, an historic town close to Tel Aviv that is located next to the sea and has a mixed population of Muslims, Christians and Jews who peacefully co-exist and where iftar is practiced openly and freely.

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Nasreen Khan shares this boeka meal from Seychelles with her siblings and parents in Ladysmith. (Photo: Nasreen Khan / @msnasreen)

You have intentionally omitted the word Israel and supplanted it with Palestine. There is indeed a Palestinian Authority on the West Bank but it spews out antisemitic hatred and bankrolls terrorists. Bethlehem that once had a thriving Christian majority and mayor, after relinquishment of Israeli control to the Palestinians, has seen its residents emigrate in droves, leaving a rapidly shrinking Christian minority – presently only one eighth of the population. Hamas in the Gaza Strip, with its avowedly Jewish genocidal aims also persecutes Christians, many of whom fear for their lives.

No ‘boeka’ there, I’m afraid!

How unfortunate and tragic that in the Middle East, tolerance has been long swiftly defenestrated and replaced with hatred and persecution. Those days in Walmer Estate, so fondly recalled by Nadia Kamies where all faiths lived side-by-side and come Ramadan, Muslims would share Boeka with their Christian neighbours, here, in the countries bordering Israel (NOT Palestine), are sadly extinct. In Syria, in the ongoing civil war, more than half a million of its citizens – have been slaughtered by their co-religionists. In Iraq, the Sunnis and Shiites share a mutual hatred while the Christians are caught in the middle. Jewish communities in the Middle East that existed long before the advent of Islam, are long gone.  Most of these inhabitants were disenfranchised, expelled or having fled for their lives.

I live in Israel (NOT Palestine), a country of 9,000,000 citizens, a state that is a member of the United Nations and whose blue and white flag, amongst all the other nations, proudly flutters at their New York headquarters, a state whose name appears on any reputable atlas, a sovereign state recognized by the community of enlightened nations. It is also the sole democracy in the Middle East, where Jews, Muslims and other faiths live and work side by side. Israel is an oasis where the freedom of worship is guaranteed by law. A national radio broadcasts for its Muslim listeners, official times of beginning and ending the daily Ramadan fast.

Your blatant disrespect for my country and denial of Israel’s existence and its centrality to our faith is an insult to the Jewish people and their religion and makes a mockery of your so-called respect for all faiths.

How sad that your professed aim of bringing people together is marred by bigotry and bias and how hollow your words of creating “community and solidarity… among people of different religions and nationalities” sound.

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Stuart Coffey shares this Thai pineapple fried rice with a friend in San Diego, US. (Photo: Stuart Coffey / @stucoffey)

I suggest that next time you cook up your site that “is centered around the universal value of sharing food to connect and unite”, that you dispense with the ingredients of hatred and denial and liberally spice it with tolerance and a genuine acceptance of the rights of others and other nations to exist. If so done, dear Ayesha, it would be truly palatable for us all.

With best wishes,

Stephen Schulman,

Israel

 

 

About the writer:

image001 (4).pngStephen Schulman is a graduate of the Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

 

 

 

*Title Picture: The Jaffa clock tower dominates Clock Square, a landmark at the entrance to the Jaffa section of Tel Aviv. Photo by JekLi/Shutterstock.com

Clash Of Cultures To Cultural Understandings

Ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak Meets Unorthodox Aviv Geffen

By David E. Kaplan

Addressing the plight to the entertainment industry caused by Corona, Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher (“The Other Story,” “Past Life”) asserts:

Culture is not a luxury, but a global strategic asset.”

How true it has been revealed during these months of Covid-19.  People may have been physically ‘confined’ but not their minds – nor their senses. And this is partly thanks to our entertaining artists who have been finding ways to entertain us in our living rooms; as if we were sitting amongst a live audience in an auditorium, open air park or amphitheatre.

Aviv Geffen in an acoustic performance – Shuni Amphitheater – 07 April 2020

For some, it has also brought new understanding on issues of what is important in life and understanding the “other”!

In a touching and at times emotional interview with Dana Weiss on Israel’s Channel 12, Israeli rock musician, singer, songwriter, producer, keyboardist, guitarist and proudly secular, Aviv Geffen, laid himself bare before the Israeli public.

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Face The Music. Seen here at the EMI, the Israel Artists Association, lifetime achievement awards ceremony in 2016, Israeli singer Aviv Geffen has never shied away from taking on the establishment. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

To the question as what lessons Corona taught him, the artist responded with new-found humility that “I was a pig! I always went for the label or brand, whether to buy the tomato from Spain or the Louis Vuitton bag; it was disgusting, and then came the Corona and said, “Friends here I am, good night and goodbye”.”

“So that’s it;  you are ready to discard all that was so important to you?”  asks a surprised Dana.

Yes,” answers Aviv. “I have outside a luxury car that I stupidly bought; I’ll also sell it because it completely embarrasses me now”.

“What,  suddenly everything was foolish, and your life is all about vanity?”

The brands yes; I think the world has positively opened its eyes.”

For Geffen, yesterdays prized possessions are today irrelevant. This has been the first lesson of Corona. More were to be revealed.

image008 (62)
Rebel With A Cause. Geffen hit the Israeli scene in 1990 and became known for Goth-like makeup, a Mick Jagger-like snarl and being an outspoken peace activist.

Geffen then relates about performing ALONE at the old amphitheatre in Shuni near Binyamina. Yes, it was a LIVE performance but there was no audience, at least not in front of him. His audience were all at home watching on TV. They could see him; he could not see them!

I had not prepared what I would say,” he told Weiss, and then the thought came to him about what was most dominating the news – the ultra-religious community in Israel; how they were suffering more than most with Corona. How they were experiencing the most cases diagnosed and the most deaths and then being blamed because of their beliefs. As if they deserved it!

The media was full of it; being battered by the disease and then by the media. The worse hit of the ultra-orthodox communities were the citizens of Bnei Brak who had been “fenced off” like in a “ghetto” with roadblocks at all entrance points.

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Under Scrutiny. An Israeli police officer speaks to a strictly Orthodox student in Bnei Brak. Not since Corona has the lifestyle of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel come under such scrutiny in the media. (Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Suffering And Stigmatised

These were the thoughts that percolated in the rock musician’s mind between performing his numbers when he appealed, to let them be; to leave them alone. Suffering enough, they did not need to be subjected to public ridicule and rebuke.

Explaining to interviewer Dana Weiss:

I said, “leave Bnei Brak alone. They are not guilty; they believe in God; I believe in Google.”

Laying bare the cultural chasm, Geffen might have thought that was the end of the matter until he finished the show. Suddenly:

 “I leave the stage and I see on my telephone, without exaggeration, 420 messages. I start opening them, scrolling, and learn that someone had given my number to all of Bnei Brak. And I cried. I could not leave the empty amphitheatre. The love, the division in the nation, suddenly everything came together. The love I received came from people I had denigrated since I was nineteen and now responded with love and tears. ‘Thank you so much Aviv for thinking of us,’ I read.” I was sitting on the stairs, the amphitheatre was empty, and I was reading the messages and crying. At four in the morning, the theatre staff got me up and told me: ‘Go home.'”

Relating this in the studio, Aviv again breaks into tears, soliciting from the interviewer:

“Wait a minute; you cried why? Because you feel guilty of what you once thought of this community or about the sudden love you discovered from them? Do you really know why you cried and why you are crying again?”

Clash Of Cultures To Cultural Understandings3
Up Close And Personal. A tearful Aviv Geffen relates in interview on Channel 12 how moved he was to the online personal messages he received from the ultra-Orthodox citizens of Bnei Brak.

Aviv does not hide the fact that artists by nature are egoists. They feed off the audience; they need that reassurance, that affirmation. However, all this is denied by Corona because there is no real audience only a virtual one. “And then suddenly, I receive these hundreds of messages from Bnei Brak” that were genuinely moved by his words and  the song  Kotzim (‘Thorns’) that he had dedicated to the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel. (See the words in English at the end of the article).

Trying to make sense of it all to the bewildered interviewer, Geffen continues:

 “I cried because of all those years we learned how to hate the other – the religious and the secular. ‘He’s religious, he’s secular.’ I, too, was a soldier in this game. Suddenly I saw the other. You ask: So how did the corona change me? Just like this: I learned to respect. A flame of love, simply amazing, was lit. I cannot even describe it in words, only in tears.”

Still not completely satisfied with this answer, Dana Weiss persists in her enquiry:

So what! Are you thinking that your attitude back then about the ultra-Orthodox was a crime or a sin? Is this what brought on the tears?”

Geffen answers emphatically and an admission:

No, not at all. It was because for the first time I saw them.”

Hope For The Future

Aviv Geffen’s next appearance would again be before a live audience but this time not in front of their TV’s but on Tel Aviv beachfront at the Charles Clore Park. The concert on the 21st May was the biggest gathering since the Corona virus struck Israel.

Most appropriate for Corona, Geffen broke into “The Hope Song” an iconic hit he wrote following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that is often compared as Israeli version of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Let’s go dream,
Without race and nationality.
Let’s try.
Until it’s good,
Until it is.

We’ll bury the guns,
And not the children.
Let’s try.
Until it’s good,
Until it is.

Let’s go dream,
Without race and nationality.
Let’s try.
Until it’s good,
Until it is.

We’ll bury the guns,
And not the children.
Let’s try.
Until it’s good,
Until it is.

We will conquer peace,
And not the territories.
Let’s try.
Until it’s good,
Until it is.

To eternal freedom,
To my children.
Let’s try.
Until it’s good,
Until it is …

Until it is …

(The Hope song- Aviv Geffen & Shahin Najafi – 06:30min)

Geffen’s peace hymn was all the more powerful and poignant; when partnering him on-stage before an audience of 6000 was exiled Iranian artist Shahin Najafi. What is more, they sang in Farsi – the language of Israel’s archenemy Iran  – and in Hebrew.

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Language Of Love. Iranian Shahin Najafi (right), and Israeli Aviv Geffen (left) rehearse in Tel Aviv. Geffen and Najafi say their Hebrew-Farsi fusion offers hope in a volatile region. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

The pair showed that despite the bitter enmity between their countries, ordinary people can find common ground.

From the ultra-Orthodox to Iran, Corona was providing a platform for revealing “common ground” and giving credence to Avi Nesher’s astute assertion that:

Culture is not a luxury, but a global strategic asset

Thorns -קוצים (Kotzim)

(English translation)

Thorns are all that is left of me

The flowers you have given me have died by now

Ways I have walked in

I am now retracing my steps

After not finding that which I have searched for

Everyone can dream

Paper boats in water

I just wanted to sail as far as I could

I am a man from nowhere

Just searching for a reason to breathe

Look, I have built us a house

When he was born I gave all that I didn’t have

Thorns, forcefully reminding

Not granting me forgiveness

Cutting through us and not letting go

https://lyricstranslate.com/en/kotzim-thorns.html-0