WHAT’S NEW IN THE CITY OF DAVID

Step below modern Jerusalem to enter ancient Jerusalem and walk in the footsteps of  the pilgrims

By Jonathan Feldstein

Samuel 2 verse 11 recounts the beginning of the relationship between King David and Bathsheba. Wouldn’t it have been fascinating if, as part of his plan, David sent a letter to Uriah – the husband of Bathsheba – after he left for battle, so as to provide plausible deniability for Uriah being killed so David would be free to pursue the beautiful Bathsheba?  What if that letter was not only never delivered, but if it were found today, complete with King David’s seal, and if it were marked in ancient Hebrew with the phrase “Undeliverable. Return to sender”. Where would David’s letter been returned to?

If such a letter was discovered, it would be just one of numerous archaeological finds in recent decades pointing to the veracity of the Biblical account of King David and the Jewish people’s unbreakable connection to Jerusalem.  Until the City of David was discovered some 150 years ago, and excavations began just a few decades back, people could legitimately point to the lack of actual proof of King David’s existence, undermining the Biblical narrative as speculative.  Since then, the indisputable proof of all the evidence makes it impossible to refute with any integrity, and casts a cloud of dishonesty on those who would still deny David’s existence, establishing his kingdom in Jerusalem, making it the religious center of the Jewish people and remains so to this day 3000 years later.

‘Stairway to Heaven’. The Jerusalem Pilgrim Road – also known as The Stepped Street – was used in the ritual processions ascending from the pool to the Temple, Judaism’s holiest site.

The City of David is exactly where King David’s palace existed.  That’s where his letter to Uriah would have been written, and be returned to. Standing there, reading the account of him first setting sight on Bathsheba bathing, you can imagine exactly where that took place. In recent decades, the archeological evidence unearthed has been extraordinary. It includes something as mundane as an ancient toilet from which scientists have been able to determine what Jerusalem’s residents ate while under siege. It includes the excavation of the Pilgrim’s Road, upon which multitudes of Jewish pilgrims walked as they ascended to the Temple.  These pilgrims – that included ordinary Jews to more famous ones such as Jesus, would make their journeys from all across the Land of Israel to Jerusalem to visit the Temple Mount, significantly on the three major Jewish holidays of Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), and the Festival of Weeks (Shavuot). Among the remarkable evidence discovered on the Pilgrim’s Road are first century coins, and a bell from the garment of the High Priest.  But there’s much more.

A Step in the right Direction. A recent analysis of more than 100 coins found beneath the Stepped Street point to the start and completion of its construction under Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his crucifixion. (photo Jonathan Feldstein)

Recently, I asked Ze’ev Orenstein, director of international affairs for the City of David, “What’s new in the ancient City of David?” As well as talking about the ongoing excavations of the Pilgrims Road – still unopen to the public – he shared some of the fascinating ancient findings recently unearthed. Prior to our conversation, I had a private tour with Shira, an outstanding guide, who brought to life what life was really like  in ancient Jerusalem. This included walking along much of the Pilgrim’s Road which is not yet open to the public, and seeing how the excavations are progressing.

Beneath the Surface.  There is no denying the connection of Jews to Jerusalem observes the writer as he personally witnesses a buried past literally unearthed. (Photo Jonathan Feldstein)

Ze’ev revealed that in addition to the current excavations, plans were announced to excavate the remaining two-thirds of the Pool of Siloam, a Biblical site significant to Christians and Jews. The Pool of Siloam sits at the lower foot of the Pilgrim’s Road and is the place where the pilgrims would participate in a ritual purification before ascending the last stretch of about a half a mile to the Temple itself.

Christians point to the Pool of Siloam as the site at which (according to John 9), Jesus healed a blind man.  Indeed, there is little if anything about the City of David that’s not as significant to Christians as much as it is to Jews. Jesus was a first century Jew and literally walked and worshipped there.  Understanding his life and the centrality of the Temple as part of Jewish Biblical history is significant to understanding the Jewish roots of Christianity.

From Roman Helmets to Hard Hats. 2000 years later, still working on the same street. (Photo Jonathan Feldstein)

Miracles are not uncommon in Jerusalem, but even some seem unbelievable. Ze’ev also shared the ‘miraculous’ way in which the Pilgrim’s Road was only by chance rediscovered during repairs to a burst sewage pipe that had inadvertently covered a series of ancient stone steps that led to the pool of Siloam – and the rest is literally history.

Affirming the veracity of Jerusalem’s Biblical history is not just a matter of affirming one’s faith, although that is very important. Today, when people don’t know history, or know and deliberately revise history to fit their own narrative, the thousands of years evidence from the City of David debunks that. Denial of Biblical history in Jerusalem is particularly egregious because it endeavors to undermine the convictions of the faithful of both Christians and Jews. This tactic by antisemites is to so loudly voice opposition to Israel’s right to exist on the basis that Jews have no historical connection to Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular. Despite the historical evidence refuting this lie, it nevertheless is a narrative frequently promulgated by Palestinian Arabs, notably at the United Nations. Their aim is to try erase the Jewish people from their ancestral homeland.

Jubilation in Jerusalem. An artist’s impression of the Pilgrim’s Road during a Jewish festival. (Photo credit: Kobi Herati, City of David)

In the City of David, it is possible to play a Biblical version of connect the dots. One can see landmarks and artifacts that point to numerous Biblical verses, and to historical records by Josephus and others.

In a few years time, 21st century pilgrims will be able to walk the full length of the Pilgrim’s Road, starting at the Pool of Siloam up to the southern steps of the Temple Mount. While not yet able to purchase the items needed for offerings in the Temple at one of the many shops along the way, they can marvel at the archaeological evidence affirming their Biblical scripture of the precise places where it all took place. What is being unearthed is providing undeniable proof of the Biblical account of King David and the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem – literally at the feet of everyone.

Dipping into the Bible. Young tourists at a section of the pool of Siloam where Jewish pilgrims in antient times would purify themselves before the final assent to the Temple.

REOPENING AN OLD ROAD

When the Pilgrim Road reopens to the public slated in two years’ time, it will be the first time in two millennia, since the Romans conquered and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, that this ancient path will be open.  

I want to be there and welcome you to join in that celebration.



The Pool of Siloam (Episode 9) – City of David: Bringing the Bible to Life





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).

‘WARRIOR’ AT WAR TO ‘WORRIER’ FOR PEACE

A drive up north on Yitzhak Rabin Day led to recollections and reflections of more than a life cut short

By David E. Kaplan

While Americans of a certain age will ask each other where they were when they first heard the news in 1963 that President Kennedy was shot, Israelis are more likely to question of their own leader assassinated on November 4, 1995:

What would have happened had he lived?”

Reflections of “WHAT IF” have persisted unabated  every year around the time of the anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was gunned down in office while addressing a peace rally in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995. Despite his physical absence, his spiritual presence remains profoundly felt – even at places far beyond the borders of the country he so valiantly served.

Man of Destiny. Yitzchak Rabin as a young Major General in the IDF.

More than killing a man, the assassin killed a peace process leading to an accelerated and deepening polarisation in Israel  that has influenced the country’s domestic and foreign policy ever since. One wonders if Rabin had not been killed by Yigal Amir that fateful November Saturday 27 years ago, would Israel be different today?

These were the thoughts that I pondered as I traveled north with a JNF (Jewish National Fund) delegation from South Africa, who together with members of our Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee (Israel), were meeting with the Mayor of Megiddo, Itzik Holawsky and members of the Megiddo Regional Council to discuss joint projects in a region that is so enrichingly connected to the Jewish community of South Africa.

Memorable Meeting. With the photograph of Yitzchak Rabin in the background, members of the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee (Israel) and a delegation of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) South Africa meet in the Mayor of Megiddo’s office on Rabin Day. (l-r) Mayor Itzik Holawsky, Hagar Reuveni, Isla Feldman, Bev Schneider, David Kaplan, Peter Bailey, Michael Kransdorff and Nati Vierba (Rob Hyde absent). (Photo D.E. kaplan)

The day’s programme, although not intentionally connected with Rabin,  resonated with the spirit of Rabin from the moment we peered out the vehicle’s window as we headed north and saw the sign in bold – Yitzchak  Rabin Highway – the official name of Highway 6. Seeing that sign, jolted my memory back to my interview with Rabin’s trusted friend and confidant, the late Eitan Haber who said “that it was most fitting that Israel’s Cross-Israel Highway (“Highway 6”) was officially dedicated as the ‘Yitzhak Rabin Highway’. He was such a powerful force behind this project as he was in pushing ahead with road development throughout the country.” Nevertheless, the irony was not lost that on this anniversary of a nation mourning the loss of its visionary leader, the leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu was forming a coalition – whose collective mindset represented the antithesis of what Rabin stood and for what he was gunned down for.

On Track. Highway 6 (Hebrew: כביש 6, Kvish Shesh), also known as the Trans-Israel Highway or Cross-Israel Highway is officially dedicated as the Yitzhak Rabin Highway.

Our day would play out with constant  interludes of Rabin from entering Mayor Holawsky’s  office and noticing the photograph of Rabin on the wall behind his desk to visiting a school where the young students – boys and girls – were all singing songs from the Rabin era.

We all joined in. As I watched these youngsters,  I wondered what they knew of the life of the former Prime Minister.

Rabin Remembered. Members of the Isaac Ochberg Heritage Committee (Israel) and a delegation of JNF South Africa attend Rabin Day activities at Megiddo School with representatives of the Megiddo Regional Council.

My father was a happy man; he loved life and loved his tennis,” Rabin’s daughter Dalia Rabin told this writer in an interview at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv in 2010. We were standing next to the glass-encased cabinet of Rabin’s rackets and tennis balls, testimony to the relaxed side of a personality that carried the weight of a nation on his broad shoulders.

Earlier in the interview, Dalia explained the importance of the Center in outreaching to the children of Israel:

We need to reach today’s young generation. We are all concerned about the increased level of violence, a thread, I believe, traceable to the night of the assassination. People woke up the next day to a new reality they were not prepared for. Unfortunately, the shock was never dealt with by the leadership of all political parties at the time and that has impacted on our culture. When you have tensions that are not addressed, when your minorities do not have adequate platforms to express their ideas and beliefs, it leads to frustration. Seeking an outlet, this pent up frustration can lead to violence. We believe that our initiative to ensure every schoolchild in Israel should visit the museum and hopefully thereafter attend our workshops will help address some of the pressing issues confronting our society.”

Revealing Rabin. The writer interviewing Dalia Rabin about her illustrious father at the newly opened Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv in 2010.

I thought too of another image of Rabin that Haber had raised, a far cry from the  ‘cigar and champagne’ image of some of today’s leaders and that would be important for children of today to know about. Haber had told me that “The trappings of high office never got to Rabin, as it might others with less moral stature.” Supporting this observation, Haber revealed a feature of Rabin’s personality that was quite unique for a leader of a country.

Say your Peace. Eitan Haber reads lyrics from the anthem “Song of Peace” at Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in 1995. The sheet of paper had been retrieved from Rabin’s pocket after he was shot by the assassin at a peace rally. (Photo Nati Harnik/AP)

He constantly voiced to me the need to justify his monthly salary. He might have held the highest office in the land, but this man never forgot he was a servant of the people and that he had to give it his all.” It was that “all” that would later cost him his life.

On the return drive home later in the day and seeing once more the sign as we got onto Yitzchak  Rabin Highway, the name again sent my mind back in reverse, this time directly relating to ‘highways’.  I though back to the meeting I attended in the Prime Minister’s office in 1995 representing TELFED with a delegation of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) leadership from South Africa. After welcoming us each individually – there must have been twelve of us altogether –  he said:

I am not sitting behind a desk, please grab a chair and let’s sit in a circle.”

From what could have been a typical formal meeting separating the Prime Minister from his guests,  he immediately transformed it into a relaxed gathering with friends. He made us feel we were meeting with the first name, ‘Yitzchak’, and not the revered surname – ‘Rabin’.

And then, at some stage during our discussions, Rabin did the unexpected by breaking off from the intense conversation with this surprising question:

Do you know what still excites me?”

We all sat there puzzled.

The question, which came out of nowhere, was of course rhetorical, so no-one ventured an answer. No-one was expected to. But for sure, most were probably pondering:

 “What could still excite a man who was in his second term as Prime Minister; had previously been a Minister of Defense, an Ambassador to the USA, Chief of Staff and participated in some capacity in most of the major national events, from all the wars to the most famous rescue operations in history – The Entebbe Raid?”

What was realistically left?” all must have thought at the time.

We did not have to wait long.

Rabin answered:

Waking up on mornings knowing that I would be cutting a ribbon that day opening a new stretch of highway, a bridge or an underpass.”

After a lifetime of excitement, I thought that this sounded so mundane!

I was so wrong!

Only on that 1995 drive back from the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem to Tel  Aviv, did the proverbial shekel drop! It was not so much the “stretch of highway, bridge or underpass” where Rabin was cutting the ribbon that was so significant – it was what potentially lay ‘down the road’. The roads, bridges and underpasses were metaphors – signifying to the Prime Minister easier access to a better future – for they would lead to expansion – new towns, new factories and new lives as Israel developed. Rabin was a man of foresight; he looked not only at the road but down the road and beyond!

Of the many photographs of Rabin throughout his military, diplomatic and political careers, the one that resonates for me the most is one with the late King Hussein of Jordan, taking time out to enjoy a smoke together. It was taken at the Jordanian royal residence in Aqaba after the signing of the historic peace treaty between their countries on the  26 October 1994. Rabin is guiding Hussein’s hand as he lights his cigarette. Rich in symbolism, it captures the atmosphere of two former enemies who had waited a long time for this precious moment who were not only enjoying a ‘smoke break’ but enacting the symbolic ritual of smoking the proverbial  ‘peace pipe’.  

Light Up. King Hussein lights a cigarette for Yitzchak Rabin after their signing the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. Aqaba, October 26, 1994.

As they puffed away,  they had moved on from warriors of war to worriers for peace.

Later reflecting on the singing children at the Megiddo School, we welcome the day when future leaders will be ‘cutting ribbons’, opening new sections of the road ahead – to peace and prosperity.




Visiting a school where the young pupils – boys and girls – were all singing songs from the Rabin era.





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).

GETTING ‘HIGH’ IN HAIFA

Taking a ‘trip’ on Israel’s port city’s scenic new cable car

By David E. Kaplan

Looking for something different to do in Israel, consider taking the train to Haifa and experience something literally UPLIFTING – the new spectacular cable car ride up Mount Carmel.

I went with my son and grandson, where we caught the train from Tel Aviv – a super scenic ride hugging most the time the Mediterranean coastline – and disembarking at the Ein Hamifratz Mall just north of Haifa, which adjoins the cable car station. I had not been to this mega mall since 1992 when I visited – out of sheer curiosity – to see an intact Iraqi Scud missile that had lodged without exploding in the Mall’s roof in the course of the 1990-1991 Gulf War.  Although Israel had not participated in this conflict – a 35-country military coalition spearheaded by the US in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait – Saddam Hussein nevertheless tried to entice Israel by sending this malicious ‘gift’. He regrettably sent many more but Israel never took the bait.

Efficient Commuter System. Commuters never have to wait longer than a few seconds for a car. (Photo: David E. Kaplan).

There was talk at the time of leaving this ugly hunk there permanently as  a tourist attraction – it ‘attracted’ me – but no, it was wisely removed and today, during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, the mall was buzzing with Israelis from across the country. Many were there – as were we – to experience the cable car – a 17 minute ride up, well over a half-hour return. Its a total distance of 4.4 kilometres and an elevation gain of 460m. Called – Rakavlit (a diminutive of רכבל, meaning cable car, and itself a contraction of רכבת, train, and כבל, cable), it starts at the HaMifratz Central Bus Station that includes the railway station and Lev HaMifratz Mall then a short ‘hop’ to Krayot Junction, which Israelis are more familiar as “Check Post”, followed by Dori Street Station, then two stations covering the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and finally arriving at the University of Haifa at the top of Mount Carmel.

Looking and Learning. The writers grandson on the straight stretch before stopping at the second station, ‘Check Post’. (Photo: David E. Kaplan).

On the walk from the railway station through the Lev Hamifratz Mall to the cable car station, you pass endless restaurants and coffee shops with delicious confectionery and aromas that soon wear down any resistance – after all, the mountain is not going anywhere and can wait.

Using my ‘Rav-kav’ (a smart card for making electronic payments for public transportation across Israel) and being a senior, the ride cost only a paltry two shekels and to our surprising delight, despite thousands using the cable cars every hour, there is no waiting.  The cars arrive every five seconds and moves quickly – unlike Israeli traffic. The cars take six comfortably but we had a car to ourselves.

The first station we arrived at was still on the flat  before the ascent. This was ‘Check Post’ at a location that had been since time immemorial a junction or crossroads of sorts but was given this nickname during the British Mandate that came to an end in 1948. The name is derived from ‘inspection post’, indicating this had been a major British checkpoint at the intersection where they sought to apprehend Jewish underground fighters in the lead up to the 1948 War of Independence. Although today its official name is the “Krayot Interchange“, its old name is more in common usage. So,  as there remains no scud in the roof of the  Lev HaMifratz Mall, so too there remains no visible presence of the once British military administration. They are conflicts of the past and dwell only in the minds of those who remember. Most the people enjoying the day were born after these events,  and their sights were on the present and future, not the past.

Joy Ride. Having fun, the writer (right) with his son Gary (left) and grandson Yali in the cable car above forests and Haifa’s famed Technion. (Photo: David E. Kaplan).

From this station begins the sharp ascent, which solicited a sharp cry of joy from Yali, my grandson who was really enjoying the excitement. As we rose higher, the views were spectacular. I looked to the right and saw on a far mountaintop, moshav ‘Manof’, a community settlement started in 1978 by South Africans – including my brother Sidney Kaplan. Located on Mount Shekhanya in the Lower Galilee, where once the lingua franca was English with inimitable South African accents, today, the population of over 800 are Israeli speaking Hebrew.  From the cable car, it was a cluster of specs, one of which I assumed was my brothers house that was on the moshav’s ring-road.

Cresting over the City. Riding above forests and suburbia. (Photo: David E. Kaplan).

As we ascended higher, we peered to the very far north and could see the mountains separating Israel from Lebanon and to the west, the blue expanse of the Mediterranean Sea.  Straining the eye, we could see Nahariya in the far distance and then closer, Acre with its Crusader walls.  Haifa Harbour looked busy with many ships docking.  With so many people waiting for long ordered cars – a current global problem – I‘m sure there were murmurings, “I hope my car is arriving in one of those ships!”

We were now high above mountain forests and what I found most fascinating as I peered directly below was the size of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. A public research university established in 1912 then under the dominion of the Ottoman Empire, the Technion is the oldest university in the country. Offering degrees in science and engineering, and related fields such as architecture, medicine, industrial management, and education, the Technion is in the world’s top 100 universities in the 2022 Academic Ranking of World Universities. Its faculty members include four Nobel Laureates, three in Chemistry.   

Albert Einstein visits Technion in 1923

Peering below at the buildings between so many trees,  I wished I could have picked out that special palm tree planted by Albert Einstein when he visited the campus  in 1923. It still stands today in front of the Technion’s original building. He was later to tour America to raise funds for higher-education in Palestine, an issue he said he held “close to his heart.” As he expressed at the time, “I do what I can to help those in my tribe who are treated so badly everywhere.”

The Einstein legacy continues to this day with four Technion Nobel laureates in nine years. In 2004, Profs. Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko received Israel’s first Nobel Prizes in Science. In 2011, Prof. Dan Shechtman followed on, and in 2013, Prof. Arieh Warshel received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Ascending even steeper, we crossed above a serpentine mountain pass meandering through dense forest until finally we arrived at the last stop – the University of Haifa, next to the towering Eshkol Tower that pinpoints Haifa from afar. Even from my brother’s patio on moshav Manof, you can clearly make out the tower.

Fascinating & Fun. Best way to view Haifa and surroundings.

Founded in 1963, Haifa University has a student body of approximately 18,000 students with the largest percentage (41%) of Arab-Israeli students. However, being vacation there were few students about and before the cable car docked at the summit, we went past the impressive Hecht Museum of Archaeology and Art. It is well worth a visit. The museum features a special exhibit of an ancient ship that dates to the fifth century BC that was found off the Mediterranean shores of Kibbutz Maagan Michael in the 1980’s. The museum is the initiative of the late Dr. Reuben He​cht – founder of the “Dagon Silos” in the port of Haifa and a founding member of the University of Haifa Board of Governors.  From his youth, Dr. Hecht was interested in the archaeology of the Land of Israel. An ardent Zionist, he strongly believed that archaeology was an important expression of Zionism and that the discovery of ancient artifacts was proof of the link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.  The museum in his name is a reflection of his philosophy.

Also in close walking distance from the cable car station and well worth a visit, is literally the ‘high point’ of Haifa – the 30th-floor observation Eshkol Tower, designed by renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Take the elevator up to the 29th floor and from there take the stairs up to the lookout point which provides the best view in Haifa of Haifa and of all of northern Israel.

(Photo: David E. Kaplan).

Looking at the view from the top of the bay and the beautiful suburbs on the Carmel,  I could well understand why South Africans, particularly those from Cape Town, chose to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel) to Haifa in the 1950s and 1960s. It would have scenically reminded them of the home they left and the desire to fulfill their Zionist dream with one proviso – to be  near the sea. No wonder in those early years  of the State, there was such a strong South African community in Haifa. The way Israel’s third largest city is growing, and a South African Jewish community again on the move, Haifa may well again attract future generations of South Africans.

Final Station. On the top of Mount Carmel, University of Haifa with Eshkol Observation Tower on the left. (Photo: David E. Kaplan).

These were this writer’s thoughts gazing at the view of Haifa bay but the thoughts of my grandson was more of the expectation of the fun ride back on the cable car.

Let’s go,” the impatient four-year-old said.

Following Yali yacking to his cousins about the trip, I will be returning with the rest of my grandkids. After all, the cable car was undoubtedly the HIGHlight of our day in Haifa.







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).

PLANE LIES

The heaven reveal Jordan’s concern for Palestinians is a lot of hot air

By David E. Kaplan

Anything that could ease the lives of West Bank Palestinians should be welcome. Or so one would think!

Apparently not so for Jordanians if Israel is doing the ‘easing’ and the Hashemite Kingdom  feels they are losing out economically.

Literally go figure, for this brouhaha is all about money not morality!

Jordan reveals its true colours as self-interest trumps any interests of the Palestinians.

Instead of West Bank travelers, when flying abroad, having to take the cumbersome, bureaucratic, time-consuming and costly route of going through the ever-crowded Allenby Crossing into neighbouring Jordan for international flights out of Amman, now have a much simpler and far less costly option.

Sparks Fly. A partial view of the international Ramon Airport located some 18 kilometers north of the southern Israeli Red Sea resort city of Eilat sparks crisis between Jordan and Palestinians.  (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

They can fly out from Israel!

Compounding the Allenby Crossing is that it is not open 24 hours a day thus forcing many travellers to pay to stay in a hotel nearby before their flight. There are also travel costs and crossing fees that make the journey via Jordan an added financial burden.

The alternative is Israel’s offer of its relatively new international Ramon Airport near Eilat. Opened in 2019, tourists from abroad holidaying at Israel’s all-year sunshine resort now fly directly to Ramon Airport. The first group of West Bank Palestinians flew last week from Ramon Airport to Cyprus aboard a plan belonging to the Arkia Israeli Airlines.

Hopefully it will not be the last, but it might be if Jordan gets its way.

So why is Jordan upset? According to Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, some 255,000 Palestinians enter Jordan every year with each passenger spending at least 350 Jordanian dinars during his or her visit to the kingdom. Here’s the revealing truth:

Jordanian travel and tourism agents say that 45% of their clients are Palestinians.

Easing the lives of the Palestinians is the last thing on Jordan mind.  First thing on its mind is not to lose out on this revenue. Hence Jordan is sadly in sabotage mode.

The rhetoric from Jordanians – across the board from government officials to activists on social media – has been threatening, frightening and scrapes away the false façade of caring for the wellbeing of Palestinians. The tone and tempo indicates also a callous disrespect towards Palestinians.

Several Jordanian activists launched a hashtag on Twitter titled “Palestinian normalization [with Israel] is treason”, #palestiniannormalizatioistreason, accusing the Palestinians of “stabbing Jordan in the back”. Ironically, many Palestinians feel it is Jordan that has stabbed them in the back, and have been reminding Jordanians on social media was it not their country that signed a peace treaty with Israel!

Where then is the “treason”?

This menacing reaction from Jordan permeates from the top. Chairman of the Tourism Committee in the Jordanian Parliament (National Assembly), Majed al-Rawashdeh, said that Israel’s decision to open Ramon Airport to the Palestinians posesto the kingdom:

“a great economic and social danger”.

Really? Israel offers a solution to ease Palestinian travel and Jordan seeing it causing “social danger”!

First Flight May Be Last. Making history, West Bank Palestinians fly to Cyprus from Ramon Airport Arkia flight to Cyprus from Ramon Airport, August 22, 2022. (photo credit: COGAT)

It gets even more vicious and libelous. Al-Rawashdeh added that the move was a “political decision par excellence” by the Israeli government to harm Jordan’s economy. The extent of this Jordanian parliamentarian’s lying was astounding when he claimed that the recent crisis of severe overcrowding at Allenby Bridge that saw thousands of Palestinian passengers stranded on the Jordanian side of the border crossing, was deliberately created by the Israeli government so that they could start flying from Ramon Airport.

In full throttle, Rawashdeh even castigated his own government for not taking any measures to thwart the Israeli move, and suggested that Jordan revoke the temporary (Jordanian) passports of Palestinians who travel through Ramon Airport.

Then steps in Jordan’s former Minister of Information, Samih al-Mayaita who accused the PA of collusion with Israel in opening the airport to Palestinian passengers. His Tweet read:

Yesterday, the first flight from the Israeli Ramon Airport arrived in Cyprus carrying Palestinians from the West Bank. Flights will continue to other countries at the expense of Queen Alia Airport and transit through Jordan. [This is] an Israeli move to serve its own interests in agreement with the Ramallah authority, which provided a service to Israel at the expense of Jordan.”

The Jordanian narrative is now of an Israeli plot in collusion with the PA to damage Jordan’s economy.  Can this hysteria get any more absurd? It can and does, and adding fuel to the fire is the Jordanian media.

Prominent Jordanian columnist Maher Abu Tair also accused the PA of being in cahoots with Israel to open Ramon Airport to the Palestinians. He writes:

The Ramallah Authority was complicit with the occupation. The rhetoric of the officials in Ramallah was soft and they did not prevent the Palestinians from using the airport.”

With venom creeping into the now offensive rhetoric, the Jordanian columnist referred to the PA as that “miserable Ramallah Authority” who would not “dare prevent travel and tourism agencies from promoting travel through Ramon Airport.”

Smooth Landing, Political Uproar. Palestinians at Larnaca International Airport after arriving aboard the first flight from Israel’s Ramon airport, in Cyprus on August 22, 2022 (Iakovos HATZISTAVROU / AFP)

He continues:

Most Palestinians travel by land to Jordan, and from Jordan they travel with the Jordanian airlines from Queen Alia Airport to Turkey and other countries. This means that opening Ramon Airport to them will negatively affect Jordan.”

This rhetoric was leading somewhere – a call for action.

That came from Jordanian parliament member Khalil Attieh who said that he would exert pressure on the Jordanian government to ban any Palestinian who uses Ramon Airport from entering the kingdom.

Long delays and Overcrowding. According to Palestinian sources, about 7,000 passengers cross daily from Jordan to the West Bank and from the West Bank through Jordan, reaching up to 10,000 passengers per day on holidays.

My message to the Palestinians is that anyone who uses this airport will not be permitted to enter Jordan. In addition, travel and tourism agencies that cooperate with this issue should be subjected to legal measures. The Palestinians need to know that they either chose Jordan that has always stood with them or the Zionists …….”

Where this will now lead for Palestinians travelling abroad is very much up in the air!





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).

PAST AND PRESENT MIX AT THE LOWEST POINT ON EARTH

By Motti Verses

(Photos credit: Merav Ayalon and Ein Gedi Hotel)

Traveling south along the shoreline of the Dead Sea from Lido Beach always brings back unforgettable childhood memories. Weeks after the 1967 Six Day War, I visited the Lido, a luxurious Jordanian hotel at the northern end of the sea. A road was paved to Ein Peshcha and it was possible to enjoy an immersion experience of the freshest spring water merging with the salty sea waters. The sweet salty connection etched my memory. The blue sea was then full and impressive. Great memories.

This is the Dead Sea, earth’s lowest point with an elevation of 430.5 meters below sea level. Due to the high salt content of the water, no living creature can live in the sea. 

Since then so many years have passed, and the sights of childhood are left only in mind. The sea is shrinking and drying at a frightening speed. In the northern section it can hardly be seen and only when approaching an oasis – Kibbutz Ein Gedi. The road winding up the ridge, a more optimistic picture is obtained. If the road had been paved in recent years, it certainly would not have had to be turned up. It was possible to continue south at a lower location aided by safety concrete piles. The tranquility, the wilderness, the colors of the blue sea with the drying salt are breathtaking, but so sad.

Desert Delight. Past and present fuse as the early morning sun rises above the mountain in Jordan illuminating a tranquil Dead Sea.

During my studies at the Hebrew University, when I lived in Jerusalem – my hometown, the escape east to the Dead Sea was frequent. The choices were either to Jericho to “wipe some hummus” and slide in the narrow concrete canal of the Uja Stream, or south to Ein Gedi for a hike in the Nahal David and Nahal Arugot streams. Today the first option does not even come to mind. The territory is in the hands of the Palestinian Authority and no one is willing to risk a trip experience turning into a question mark. Ein Gedi remains a popular option. Excursions to springs, streams, water ponds and tiny waterfalls in the heart of the arid wilderness were frequent and full of happiness. Later came the visits and stays in the Ein Gedi kibbutz hotel , which I always preferred over a stay in the Ein Bokek hotels.

Lovers in Paradise. Serene beauty, solitude and togetherness, a formula for fun.

I returned to Ein Gedi with my partner, who was born in Israel in the Sharon region, but it turns out that she is not familiar with this area. Full of excitement, I returned to walk in recognizable districts. The Nature Reserves Authority has made the visit to Nahal David an amazing experience, accessible to almost everyone and special in nature. The ibexes that used to hide away from sight, walk around with no fear and their quantity is quite large. A variety of small waterfalls await everyone to enjoy the cool and fresh water. This is compensation for the disappointing sign forbidding immersion in the pond of the rather powerful waterfall of David. Not many years ago, we used to bathe in the cool water enjoying the water falling on our shoulders.

Cool It. Nothing like a cold refreshing natural shower in the soaring heat of the desert.

After the ultimate Dead Sea mud experience all over our bodies, we found ourselves in our car – climbing on the winding road to the kibbutz on the way to the hotel. Same curvy road. Loud noise from the industrial chicken houses was a childhood memory. Years later, the chickens vanished but the rusty houses remained. This week the rusty structures had disappeared and only their concrete ramps remained. A strange sight.

My beloved hotel was still there, scattered over large areas dipped in greenery, with ancient baobab trees and desert flowers. A real oasis. The room where we stayed was clean and compact with an adjoining garden, overlooking the arid mountains. Meals in the hotel’s dining room remained as they were. Rich and basic. Who needs more? In the morning we enjoyed shakshuka, a salad and an outdoor coffee while the view of the powerful mountains left us speechless.

I was looking for the old bus painted blue to hop on leading the way to the hot springs and the beach; to enjoy the sea water and smear mud all over our bodies. The idea back then was to be photographed on camera using Agfa or Kodak film spools and wait a week for the prints. Today, with a state-of-the-art iPhone, the photos are instant, but the bus is no longer there. It’s been put out to pasture due to old age. Ein Gedi’s hot springs  are temporarily closed. 

Playing it Cool. While a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1980, the writer, Motti Verses (far left) with friends frolicking in Nahal David in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.

Challenges and improvisations in this unique area are endless. ”We had to close our famous hot springs facility next to the sea shores, as the water receded dramatically”, says Shahaf Homri, CEO of kibbutz  Ein Gedi. “Over recent years we have lost a staggering 50 meters and the waterfront that was part of the facility in 1982 when we opened, is now 5 kilometers away,” says Shahaf“No hospitality business faces a challenge like this globally. We are planning a totally different hot springs fascination to meet this new millennium, as the Dead Sea deserves a more modern attraction”, he says to me.

I was looking for Zalman’s cactus farm, an initiative of kibbutz member Zalman Dagmi. I loved enjoying the variety of plants in his compound. Unfortunately the farm is gone and the plants are now scattered all over the hotel and the kibbutz is now branded as a botanical garden. Nice, but for my money the older option was more desirable.

Road of Revelations. In contrast to the arid crust of the desert, the exotic flora along the coastal road provides a kaleidoscope of color.

The spacious swimming pool in the shade of the trees and at the foot of the mountains remains the attraction I really missed. On a sunbed overlooking the dying sea and the mountains of Moab, I was contemplating on my fortunate unforgettable vacation that connects past and present. 

Driving back home charged with energy with my partner at the wheel, I looked at my mobile phone, googling sadly about the Dead Sea, and a beacon shines via a surprising recent  announcement by Travel + Leisure, the prestigious American travel magazine with 4.8 million readers. It read:

The Dead Sea, Israel has been selected as the world’s number 1 healing spot around the world for 2022,  from hot springs to salt flats.

Besides being absolutely breathtaking, this landlocked salt lake has long been touted for its health-giving properties. From slathering the black mud over your skin for exfoliation and alleviating skin conditions like psoriasis, to its professed natural power to remedy asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, and other issues, the body of water also boasts a low content of pollen and other allergens. At 400 meters below sea level, harmful UV rays are filtered through an evaporation layer above the Dead Sea, the ozone layer, and an extra atmospheric layer. This is said to mean that sunbathers can absorb the beneficial effects of vitamin D from the sun’s rays, without risk of sunburn and ensuing skin damage,” the leading travel iconic magazine highlights.

Looking at the great view with that new knowledge my optimism soars. I am indeed fortunate to have had such a unique experience.





About the writer:

Motti Verses is a Communications Executive, Video Presenter, Writer, Marketing and PR Expert. He was Head of Public Relations for Hilton Hotels Israel for more than 30 years. Now he is the publisher of Travel Flash Tips.

http://linkedin.com/in/motti-verses-a7369913





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).

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HOTEL

Reflecting on a South African ‘dreamer’ and ‘doer’ at Rosh HaNikra – Israel’s rocky border outpost with Lebanon

By David E. Kaplan

I started the week with a visit to Rosh HaNikra, the scenic grotto with a cable car reputed to be one of “the steepest in the world”. It’s the most northern point in Israel’s Mediterranean coastline – next stop lies an historic enemy – Lebanon.

Poetry in Motion. A kaleidoscope of colours and sounds pervades the alluring grotto at Rosh HaNikra.

A turbulent past of thunderous shelling, this day I was happy to absorb the thunderous crash of the waves on the rocks which reminded me of those onomatopoeic lines of  W.H. Auden in his poem ‘On This Island’:

“…Oppose the pluck
And knock of the tide
….”

These words resonated as I listened to the “pluck” of the wave as it receded within the grotto back to sea and then returned with a crashing “knock” against the rocks. It was an endless noisy battle from time immemorial  – much of what transpired only metres above as armies ‘crossing’ from the ancient to the modern world physically crossed here on the coastal road. Among them were the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, the Crusaders up to and including the British who in the 1940s paved a rail line between Haifa and Tripoli in Lebanon. Bombed by Jewish fighters in June 1946 in the prelude to the War of Independence, it was at this rehabilitated relic of a railway line – today a historic site – that I was looking at when I noticed in the information plaque of the contribution of the South African engineers as part of the South African Engineering Corps. It was then that I remembered that this was the very spot that Norman Lourie, the founder of the South African Habonim youth movement in 1930, had come to cover as a war correspondent attached to a South African engineer unit.

Stopped in its Tracks.  The railway line at Rosh Hanikra from Haifa to Beirut and Tripoli in Lebanon that was inaugurated in 1942 but abandoned only three years later.

Was it fortuitous, I thought, that the Habonim movement reached its 90th in 2020 but due to COVID, will be celebrating this milestone event this coming October 2022 in Israel?

While studying at university in the UK in the late 1920s, Norman Lourie heard a young man like himself, Wellesley Aron, speak about starting a Jewish youth movement in the poor East End of London. So inspired, Norman returned to South Africa with his ‘dream’ and what emerged was to become the largest Jewish youth movement in Southern Africa. Initially modeled on the scout movement, it soon emerged into an ideological powerhouse, whose young bogrim (graduates), would settle in Israel making a superlative impact in every field of human endeavour.

Eye on the Future. Holding his camera, South African visionary Norman Lourie was a poet, war correspondent, pioneer film producer, successful hotelier in Israel and the founder of the Habonim Jewish youth movement in South Africa.

Some  would emerge recipients of the country’s highest civilian award –  the  Israel Prize – for reaching the pinnacle in their field. This year, on Independence Day, Prof. Ruth Berman who was born in Cape Town in 1935, and grew up in Sea Point and attended Habonim – which she says “influenced my decision in 1954 to make Aliyah” – was awarded the Israel Prize for her trailblazing work in linguistics.

In an interview with the SA. Jewish ReportProf. Berman (née Aronson)  expressed that she dedicated the award to her fellow South Africans:

 “who came to Israel in the 1940s and 1950s, who haven’t always received acknowledgement for their tremendous contribution to building Israel. This is especially in regard to those who came from the Zionist youth movements and went on to become leaders in their fields, from medicine to academia to the arts. This award isn’t only mine, but theirs.”

Riveting Ruth. A graduate of the Habonim movement in Sea Point, Cape Town, Ruth Berman is an Israeli linguist, Professor Emerita, Tel Aviv University and the 2022 Israel Prize laureate in linguistics.

One such individual from this early period deserving of recognition is Norman Lourie, whose dream of the youth movement was to influence the lives of so many.

But Norman himself had another dream. While Habonim means ‘the builders’, it was about building in Israel, that Norman’s next dream physically took shape and not too far from where I was standing at Rosh HaNikra.

The seed of that dream germinated during World War II, when Norman, as a war correspondent attached to a South African engineer unit tasked for maintaining the stretch of rail from Haifa to Beirut, found himself on a train that stopped at a sandy station “in the middle of nowhere.

Norman alighted.

Where are we?” he asked.

Shavei Zion,” someone told him. He quickly learnt it was a moshav on the coast started by German immigrants who fled Nazi Germany in 1938. He instantly fell in love with the place and pledged to return.

After the war, he returned and negotiated with two sisters for the purchase of their small hotel that in their advertisement, boasted “running water in each room.”

Norman’s dream was to transform it into a luxury hotel. He formed a syndicate of South African investors and over the next few years built a 5-star hotel, called Dolphin House (Beit Dolphin).

It became the summer home of Israel’s state presidents and a favourite resort for visiting dignitaries and celebrities.

Hollywood in Holy Land. Dolphin House , the meeting place for visiting celebrities to Israel, didn’t just bring Beverly Hills style living to Shavei Zion (Return to Zion), it raised the entire quality of life of the moshav.

Israel’s presidents of the fifties – Chaim Weizmann and Yitzhak Ben Zvi – mixed socially with the likes of Danny Kaye, Sophia Loren, Ralph Richardson, Israeli actress, singer and model Daliah Lavi who was born on Shavei Zion, and many others of the movie industry’s celebrities – most notably, the entire cast of the movie blockbuster – Exodus.

5-Star Hotel for the Stars. The famed Jewish film star Danny Kaye at Dolphin House in the 1950s was a “regular” at the hotel on moshav Shavei Zion.

Dining with the Stars

During the filming of Exodus, another South African fell in love with Shavei Zion and experienced a brush with stardom. In 1960, Ivor Wolf of Ra’anana was in Israel as a volunteer in Nachal. The movie’s director, Otto Preminger, had negotiated with the IDF, to hire some Israeli soldiers to play the part of British soldiers stationed in Acre during the famed breakout scene of the prison, where on May 4, 1947, 28 Irgun and Lehi prisoners were freed. “I was one of those British soldiers and was happy to let the Jews escape,” laughs Ivor. During shooting, Ivor would frequently share meal tables at Dolphin House with the likes of Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Peter Lawford, Lee J. Cobb, Sal Mineo, Hugh Griffith and Ralph Richardson.

All ‘Set’. Staying at Dolphin House, Paul Newman and director Otto Preminger on the set of the film Exodus (1960).

Shavei Zion had also a more direct connection to the movie’s plot. Following the breakout of the Acre prison, all the prisoners killed in the action, were carried by the escapees and buried on the moshav, the first refuge on route following the escape.

Well into the 1960s, Dolphin House was riding a crest of a wave, “actually a metaphor,” says Ivor, “because it still stands next to one of Israel’s finest beaches.” On Sundays, an orchestra used to play on a band-stand and people from all over the north came to enjoy open-air music “in this piece of paradise.”

The movies and the music however did not last. The ‘final curtain call’ on this era came when the property was acquired by Kupat Holim Klalit and turned a 5-star resort into a medical facility. Even this use of ‘Norman’s Dream’ had its time as the property fell into disuse until Ivor again stepped into ‘the picture’, this time not as a ‘walk-on-part’, but as a major actor in the on-going saga of Shavei Zion and Dolphin House.

Shifting Currents. The Prime Minister of Ghana at Dolphin House, the first African country to have diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.

Representing a group of investors, like Norman had done before, “we bought the premises comprising the old, desolate hotel and adjacent buildings and built 22 fully-equipped holiday bungalows called Dolphin Village.”  Norman’s vision was restored – from Dolphin House to Dolphin Village.

Ivor, who had been a leader in the Betar movement in South Africa before making aliyah, is proud of promoting a project that was the brainchild of the founder of Habonim. “After all,” says Ivor, “the bottom line is that our youth movements at the time were all about promoting and building a strong Jewish state. This is what we did, and this is what I feel I am still doing today.”

Shavei Zion is a far cry today from when its founders absorbed the illegal immigrants off the ships evading the British blockade, or when Norman Lurie alighted from a train at a stretch of dirt and saw a property that prided itself on offering “running water”.

‘Sign’ of the Times. Joshua Malka (right) watches as the Prime Minister of Burma (today Myanmar),  one of the first countries in Asia to recognise Israel, signs the guest book at Beit Dolphin (בית דולפין / Dolphin House.)

It is somewhat poignant that  Norman Lourie, who would go on to become as well a prizewinning filmmaker was born in South Africa in 1909 – the same year the first Tel Aviv dwellings were erected on empty Mediterranean sand dunes.  But there is another striking meaningful coincidence. When in 1935, Norman captained a team of South African athletes to the second World Maccabiah Games in Palestine, he met Lord Melchett (Sir Alfred Mond, Bt), a British industrialist and ardent Zionist, who wrote to Norman’s father on his behalf urging him to allow his son to remain in Palestine. Although it would take another decade for Norman to follow his dream and settle permanently in Palestine in 1946, Lord Melchett’s support was never forgotten and when in 2014, a luxury boutique hotel named after Norman Lourie called ‘The Norman’  opened in Tel Aviv, its location was none other than on the corner of –  Melchett Street!

The Norman Conquest. Drink a L’Chaim to Norman Lourie at Tel Aviv’s top boutique hotel ‘The Norman’ named after the visionary who founded the South African Habonim youth movement in 1930.

Tel Aviv today is not short of good bars and pubs but when the former members of South African Habonim  from all over the world gather in Israel this October to celebrate the long-awaited 90th anniversary, they may want to pop into the Champagne and Wine Bar  or the Library Bar at The Norman and toast a L’Chaim to their founder.

EPILOGUE

Staring at the long unused railway line at Rosh HaNikra – a casualty of war –  one can only add to the ‘dreams’ that one day in the not to distant future, that line that Norman came to film will be reopened as Lebanon gets on track in pursuing peace.

But that’s a script that still needs to be written by future dreamers and doers.





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).

CELEBRATING JERUSALEM EVERY DAY

By Jonathan Feldstein

This week, Israel and Jewish and Christian friends all over the world celebrated Jerusalem Day, 55 years on the Biblical calendar (the 28th of Iyar) corresponding to the day on the secular calendar in June of 1967 when Jerusalem was miraculously reunified during the Six Day War.  Indeed, the restoration of Jewish sovereignty to all of Jerusalem for the first time in 2000 years is yet another fulfillment of the many promises God made to the Jewish people, and many prophesies that continue to play out before our eyes right here in the Land.

For Jews and Christians, there is no place more central or significant to our faith than Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is the place that Kings built, prophets prophesied, where the Temples stood, where Jesus preached and was crucified, and much more.  Jerusalem is mentioned several hundred times in the Bible. It’s the only place by name that God specifically tells us to pray for, and to be guardians on the walls of. 

Sadly, not everyone understands that and the significance of Jerusalem to us today.  Not only doesn’t everyone understand that, but some people deny the significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Christians, deny that there was ever a Temple on the Temple Mount, and talk about Jerusalem being “defiled” by Jews and Christians, and “Judaized”.

David Rubinger’s iconic photo showing Israeli paratroopers (from left: Zion Karasenti, Yitzhak Yifat and Haim Oshri) standing in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, June 7, 1967 .(Photo credit: David Rubinger/GPO)

This narrative is not only not Biblical, but it undermines the very foundation of Judaism and Christianity. It is the mother of all replacement theology, to erase actual Biblical history and our deep roots in Jerusalem as Jews and Christians to the Holy City. 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre sacred to all the Christian faiths as the site of the Resurrection of Jesus following his Crucifixion. (CC-BY-SA Anton Croos)

This is all the more reason why we need to celebrate. Last year, Hamas and other terrorists used the occasion of Jerusalem Day to start an 11-day war, launching over 4000 rockets at Israeli communities.  As bad as that is and was, I prefer to look at the cup half full.  Yes, we have our challenges, but there are far more blessings. In fact, our cup runneth over.

While I am not a prophet, this year I felt a little bit like a prophet of doom, joking with friends that we should hold off plans until after the war starts.  My daughter, with a two-week-old baby, nervously told my son-in-law that if there is a war, he has to tell the army he can’t go and be among the first 5000 reservists called up as he was a year ago. Thankfully, no major war or conflict broke out and Jews were able to march and celebrate throughout the city.

Being a Jew in Jerusalem, I feel the blessings every day. From the balcony of my apartment, I can see the golden dome on the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount . I am overcome with joy and emotion that 17 years ago, my youngest son was born in Jerusalem. He is named for two relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust and no doubt prayed for the restoration of Jerusalem.  I suspect that they could never have imagined how that has become a reality today as a thriving diverse city that is the capitol of the State of Israel.  As overjoyed as they would be seeing a young man carrying their name, born in Jerusalem, who is finishing high school and preparing to go serve the country as a member of the IDF, they would be speechless to know that now, I also have three grandsons born in Jerusalem, representing another generation of Jewish life thriving in Jerusalem.

But don’t believe me. This month I had conversations with two dear Christian friends who live in Jerusalem and have been part of life here for decades.  We discussed modern and Biblical history, the blessings that they experience being here, and the significance of Jerusalem’s reunification and why we celebrate today.  Chris Mitchell is the veteran head of the CBN Jerusalem bureau for more than two decades.  He’s reported on thousands of aspects of life here and is well known to Christians around the world.  He’s a journalist with the highest of integrity who speaks about being at the intersection of history and prophesy. Hear his invaluable insight here.

Orthodox Christian worshippers take part in the Good Friday procession, along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City, on 22 April 2022. (AFP)

John Enarson works on a theological basis to help Christians understand the significance of Jerusalem to them.  He has had the privilege of living and raising a family in Jerusalem and speaks with unwavering moral clarity rooted in Biblical tradition.  Together, Chris and John offer extraordinary personal testimony and insight about living in Jerusalem and the significance of how and why celebration of Jerusalem Day is so important.  

Yesterday, I was watching a TV talk show broadcasting from Jerusalem with the Old City as the backdrop.  The panel was discussing the significance of Jerusalem’s reunification, in light of current events including the annual “flag march”, as well as the threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, and others.  This is particularly relevant given that last year on the eve of Jerusalem Day, Hamas used this as an excuse to launch rockets at Jerusalem (to “protect” Jerusalem!), beginning an 11-day conflict during which terrorists fired more than 4000 rockets at Israeli communities.  I suppose that “protecting” Jerusalem means different things to different people.

Organized by the Elijah Interfaith Institute, Abrahamic Reunion, and the Tantur Institute for Ecumenical Studies, a multi-faith prayer in Jerusalem welcoming Jews, Christians and Muslims. (Courtesy Abrahamic Reunion)

One of the panelists talked passionately about the significance of Jerusalem’s reunification and our celebration. She spoke ardently, as a proud Israeli. Before my mind could ascribe any political association, she described herself growing up in a (left-wing) kibbutz environment and noted that even for her, celebrating Jerusalem and not caving in to Hamas threats was a priority. 

That’s when it hit me. 

The reunification is indeed a national thing. Jerusalem’s reunification is not something I take for granted.  Years ago, I was moved to hear from a friend’s father, Moshe, how that very year, hundreds of thousands of Israelis flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate its reunification.  For him, it was like a heart transplant, bringing a new pulse to the State and people of Israel, one for which we waited and prayed for nearly 2000 years. 

Cobbled street through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Jerusalem

Today, too many do take Jerusalem’s reunification for granted.  That’s wrong. Jerusalem is our heart.  Its reunification is fulfillment of a Divine promise on which we could bank, and is now fulfilled. Even if it took two millennia.

Not everyone looks at the significance of Jerusalem’s restoration from the same perspective. Some look at it as just part of modern history, some as fulfillment of a Divine promise, some as one of the greatest things to happen in the State of Israel, and some, a combination of all these.  But remembering Moshe’s moving words, along with the passionate comments of the “left-wing” woman on TV, things clicked in a way that haven’t before.  That’s part of the beauty of living here. It’s not just academic.  I live in my own Petrie dish.  I am part of the experiment and can observe the outcome all at the same time.

The Church of All Nations also known as the Basilica of the Agony  on the Mount of Olives next to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Our joy and celebration should be unbridled. No exceptions. This year, thank God, it was, more or less. But we don’t have to wait once a year to celebrate Jerusalem. Like our heart, it’s part of who we are, central to Judaism and Christianity. Let’s celebrate Jerusalem every day.



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).

Can women across the world move freely in their cities?

A British study says no – an Israeli app now says yes

By Diana Grosz

Most people would say that life today is far safer compared to previous centuries. International agreements and treaties protect us from wars; innovative medicine saves millions of lives from diseases, and local and international laws provide security and a feeling of safety on the streets in a majority of Western countries.

However, despite these monumental developments, half the world’s population is not truly protected – even in highly developed states!

Even though politicians and the media constantly talk about equal rights of all citizens and the growing success in the fight against gender inequality in recent years, feeling safe and secure is still a privilege reserved mostly for men.

According to a research in 2019 bythe British international Internet-based market research and data analytics firm, YouGov, around half of all women feel unsafe in various routine situations. Men however, in the same context, feel relatively secure and safe.

50% of women say they always or often feel unsafe walking alone at night.

The insecurity and awareness of women in this study are related to them moving from one place to another; whether it’s a walk from work to their home or traveling to another country. For instance, the average man is able to easily travel by hitch-hiking, while among women this practice is considered high-risk. Such an evident polarity in opportunities leads to thoughts about the difference in men’s and women’s freedom, which are in the end validated and maintained by our own societies.

The situation seems even grimmer after realizing that the surveys from 2007 have very similar data as the same surveys from 2019, and the data hasn’t significantly changed during the last twelve years.

For instance, 62% of women that had to go out at night were afraid to go alone, and 66% of interviewed women were afraid to go through certain neighbourhoods.

Women are as insecure while using public transport, walking in the park, or going out alone as they were more than ten years ago. This is according to the data provided in 2007 by Stéphanie Condon, Marylène Lieber, Florence Maillochon in their research entitled:

FEELING UNSAFE IN PUBLIC PLACES

understanding women’s fears’ .

From the data, it appears that society is indifferent to the problem of women’s safety and hence makes little effort – if at all – to effect change. The statistics reveal that women’s freedom of movement is constantly violated and somehow it has become the norm, sadly even for women themselves.

As a consequence, women might not even try to move freely anymore, their mindset programmed to accepting this ‘reality’ as a normal part of life.

Regrettably, this constant sense of danger leads women, instead of availing themselves of various creative methods to protect themselves to instead succumb to their feared situation and restrict their lifestyle accordingly.

Six in ten women – fearing a sexual assault or street harassment – will avoid walking in certain areas or walking alone preferring instead to travel in their own vehicle or take a taxi.

Most women say they regularly take steps to avoid being sexually assaulted.

The point therefore is that women adapt their routines and daily activities to meet safety considerations, when safety should not even be an issue.

What do women need to do to feel and be safe?

The evident obstruction of women’s rights and freedom due to safety concerns has challenged people towards creating solutions to protect women in potentially dangerous situations.  The market already offers women and girls access to self-defense tools and techniques that might be useful for particular live situations.

On such is the Israeli app SafeUP, a social network for women that allows them to help each other in real time to feel safer and prevent incidents of harassment and sexual assault.

For those 50% of women who feel safer when accompanied, SafeUP is the perfect and simple solution to their day-to-day worries.

No neighbourhood will ever be too scary or dark when knowing that a community near you will have your back.  Just pull out your phone and within seconds our SafeUP guardians will be with you.

It was an incident as a girl that sowed the seed for 30-year-old Israeli Neta Schreiber Gamliel to made her first steps in the hi-tech world and cofound  SafeUP. The start-up’s CEO explains:

I went out with some friends to a party at the villa, when one of my friends disappeared from us. We went to look for her and after a few minutes we found her in one of the rooms with two men, half naked, half conscious. When they entered the room, the men ran away and we realized that we had saved her life. From that moment on, we created a system of internal laws between our friend group that was designed to protect each other.”

Co-Founder and CEO of SafeUP, Neta Schreiber Gamliel.

A decade and a half later, this event ignited the creation of SafeUP, which she launched with her partner Tal Zohar together with the Tel Aviv Municipality. Within three months, they had reached 11,000 users and six local authorities paying for the service. Breaking into the US market, the Israeli duo have created communities of female guardians in Boston, New York and Washington that protects women walking alone at night.

TIME TO CHANGE

But these solutions are for real-time situations. It is still imperative to change society and its vision on women’s safety. We should all be able to comprehend that actions such as catcalling, whistling, unwanted sexual comments, unwelcome sexual touching, or following girls as an attempt to demonstrate interest, joke or to get her phone number is not acceptable. 

Any of these inappropriate behaviours that are usually perpetrated by men, even if they think it’s funny or not, are the main reason why women do not feel safe while out on their own.

However, until the process of educating people on gender violence, its roots and how we can solve it,  women must have the right and opportunity to create communities and safe spaces in which they can share their experiences and perspectives on the subject. The idea of creating empathic and trustworthy communities, where its members could assist each other in dealing with difficult and even harmful situations – is one of the main goals of SafeUP.

We are trying to not only provide women with a useful and secure app but also to show them how important and meaningful the power of community can be. By joining SafeUP,  women are provided the means to connect with women willing to help and support them, and the chance to be the ones who provide this support and help.

Only by combining powers and aspirations to protect our right to feeling confident regardless of whether we are walking at night, during the day, wearing a mini or maxi dress, can women begin to change the reality we live in.

The greater our numbers, the greater our power. By joining SafeUP and becoming a guardian, you can easily take an active role in helping women feel safer wherever they are going.


Join a global solidarity of women, to belong, be free and be safe together



About the writer:

Diana Grosz  is a history teacher, Middle Eastern specialist, and a women’s rights advocate. Diana’s mission is to raise awareness about women’s issues and promote equality. She started her journey in South America and later immigrated to pursue her passion of helping women in the Middle East.






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 ‘Israel Open’  – Not Tennis but Tourism

Jewish state ready to warmly embrace the return of its tourists

By Jonathan Feldstein

A hopeful and dominant topic of conversation at this week’s National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) convention in Nashville has been the re-opening of tourism to Israel for all, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Two years ago, at the same event and location, the early impact of the COVID virus started to be felt with early reports of Israel’s national airline laying off the first 1000 employees. Ultimately, nearly all tourism would be shut down leading to millions of cancelations, tens of thousands of Israelis in tourism and tourism related industries losing their jobs, and deep economic hardships, the ripple effects of which are still being felt.

Two years later, the sense of returned opportunities to visit Israel and restored tourism are breeding hope and optimism. 

Restarting Tourism. After two years of closures and devastating losses, tourism is back in business.(photo credit: MICHAEL DIMENSTEIN)

Eyal Carlin, Israel’s Tourism Commissioner for North America, amplified the hope. 

We are already seeing tourists coming back, and bookings for peek seasons in the fall are near pre-pandemic levels. One of the important reasons to be at the NRB convention this week is because while Israel opened for all tourists as of March 1, many people do not know that yet. We want to get the word out that Israel is open for tourism again, so people can plan their trips that have been delayed because of the pandemic, or just the dream trip that people have been looking forward to.”

The sense of optimism was echoed by Robert Vander Maten, President of Noseworthy Travel which specializes in Christian tourism to Israel. The past two years have been devastating for many specializing in Christian tourism to Israel. Noseworthy has deferred dozens of groups tours, rescheduling some groups repeatedly, while waiting for tourism to reopen.

Tourists visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, on November 1, 2021, as Israel reopens to tourists vaccinated against Covid-19. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Vander Maten spoke very personally, noting that bringing Christians to Israel is more than a business, but a passion. He described his first trip to Israel in 1986 as “life changing”, and has been bringing Christians to Israel ever since. “Before I got to visit Israel that first time, I prayed to be able to do so for ten years. Then in 1986, God gave me the opportunity to go.” He gave voice to what many Christians feel about Israel, that despite the frustrations of not being able to come visit, there is only one Israel and there is always the desire for Christians to visit. 

Open Season. Happy travelers arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Photo by Flash90.

Joel James, another specialist in Christian tourism to Israel, vice president of Inspiration Cruises and Tours, shared optimism while noting how much potential was lost. “We are thrilled to have groups going back to Israel.  Right now, we have 300 travelers from the US finishing a tour with pastor and author Max Lucado, and in two weeks we will have 650 Join Dr. David Jeremiah for his tour.  It’s very encouraging to be able to bring people back to Israel.  These numbers seem like a lot after two years of virtually no tourists entering the country, but the truth is that both of these would be double their size had it not been for the previous rules and mandates.  Unfortunately, several other tours canceled due to uncertainty.  Nevertheless, we are blessed to know that the mandates have been lifted and things will be easier for people to come to Israel in the future.”

At the NRB’s Israel Breakfast (about which there will be a parallel report), a related topic and new initiative was discussed regarding the phenomena of churches giving their pastors a trip to Israel, often on their retirement. Many have realized that such a gift should be made as an investment when a pastor is young, not retiring.  Carlin and others mentioned that it’s a trend that people are discussing how to change, because a trip to Israel is such a life changing spiritual experience.

Food for Thought. At a breakfast honoring Israel at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville 2022, there was intense discussion on the value of initiating new programmes to facilitate group visits to the Holy Land. (photo credit: All Israel News Staff)

Speaking of all possible tourists, Carlin said:

 “Now that tourism is back, people should plan to make that trip soon, not pushing it off as a bucket list item, but to change their lives forever.”

Looking ahead, Carlin believes that by 2024 at the latest, Israel’s tourism will fully return to the pre-pandemic record level.  Asked if they worried that another variant of the virus might set things back and shut tourism down again, Vander Maten observed that we’re now seeing a two-year pent-up demand being able to be realized.  “I really don’t see Israel shutting down again.”

Western Wall. As from March 1, Israel is welcoming all tourists, vaccinated and unvaccinated of all ages.

Carlin agreed. Israel has turned a corner.  He joked that he’s not a prophet, but if something unforeseen were to happen again, it wouldn’t be just in and about Israel and that the problem would be much greater.



Israel Is Open Again!




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).

A BDS Black Eye from Black Eye Peas

By David E. Kaplan

It was music to our Israeli ears. What’s more it was LIVE music, something foreign to Israelis for nearly two years because of the pandemic.  And if Covid was the enemy  preventing international bands performing in Israel, BDS thought they would provide the perfect  ‘backup’ – just in case.

WRONG!

The Black Eyed Peas with will.i.am born William James Adams, Jr., apl.de.ap, Taboo, and new member J. Rey Soul, performed at Jerusalem’s Pais Arena on November 29, 2021, the first major international show in Israel since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Ahead of the concert, the BDS-supporting Artists for Palestine UK released a statement calling on Black Eyed Peas to cancel the show. It was a call emphatically rejected by the  Grammy-winning group.

“Hello Mishpocha”. Taboo, will.i.am, J. Rey Soul and apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas performing at Pais Arena in Jerusalem, on November 29, 2021. (Ethan Freedman/The Times of Israel)

At a press conference will.i.am explicitly responded to the call to boycott Israel saying:

I’m a musician and a tech enthusiast and people like our music. Do I turn my back on people that live here because of politics? No, that’s not the way we were built. So, you know, there’s beautiful people here as well as beautiful people in Palestine. And one day we want to go there too.”

Not only has the frontman for the Black Eyed Peas over the years

consistently resisted calls to boycott Israel, but will.i.am has strengthened his ties with the country through his “core passion” – technology. Back in 2016, his tech firm i.am + acquired an Israeli startup Sensiya and regularly visits the country “catching up” on Israel’s vibrant tech scene.

In fact, on the morning the Black Eyed Peas performed on the 29 November in Jerusalem, will.i.am participated in a panel discussion at an innovation conference organised by Improvate, an Israeli organisation that works to advance Israeli technology.

Introducing will.i.am as “Musician, producer and frontman for the supergroup, Black Eyed Peas that you can hear tonight,” the panel moderator then continued, “you can hear him now about his second career as a technology entrepreneur and futurist who is sought out by corporations to get insights how technologies, innovations behavior patterns could impact their business.”

Man of Many Talents. Advertising both the Black Eyed Peas concert in Jerusalem and band’s frontman will.i.am’s participation in the IMPROVATE innovation conference.

Before questioning wil.i.am on technology,  the moderator asked how he coped with the harassment from BDS about visiting Israel.

Every time we are asked to come to Israel, we come.” And the reason he says can be summed up in one word “Mishpocha” (Yiddish for “family”) 

He explained how one of his childhood friends inspired him to throw some other Hebrew words into one of the band’s most popular songs, “I Gotta Feeling” – a big hit at most Israeli weddings, where guests invariably go wild on the dance floor, familiar with all the words. In that song, will.i.am famously shouts out “mazel Tov”, explaining how so many Israelis refer to it fondly as the “Mazel Tov Song”.

How did this “mishpocha” develop?

Will.i.am explains:

I have friends and family here; my first girlfriend ever – when I was 16-years-old –  was from Israel. When you have friends and family you don’t follow the babble; you follow your heart. I remember her saying, “I am moving back to my homeland”  you will one day come to Israel. I said I’m from the Ghetto, be realistic, I’m never going to get to Israel. And I came… And when they [BDS] told us not to come, I said I’m going to see Orly and her family. I wanted Orly’s mom to see what we became. So every time I am asked the question, I think of family, I think of friends.“

When they started the group, “it was in my friend Benjamin’s bedroom; and sometimes it was late Friday’s and I ended up having Shabbat dinner with them…and when I said Mazeltov and LChaim,  Benjamin’s dad said, “We are so glad to have you here, you are Mishpocha.

So when I say mishpocha, I mean that dearly because I am connecting you to my upbringing, my friends, the people that encouraged me, and this place – ISRAEL- is magical to me.  And I wont let politics get in the way of where my heart is.”

Where there is a “will” there is a Way. “I always wanted to come to Israel growing up in Los Angeles, a lot of my friends are Israelis,” said will.i.am at technology conference.

Will.i.am also worked the word “mishpocha” into a music video for a song the Black Eyed Peas made with the Israeli pop duo Static and Ben-El in 2020. “What’s up, mishpocha?” he asks at the beginning of the music video.

In recent years, the musician cum innovator has created a series of wearable devices, including smartwatches and headphones, that have yet to be widely adopted. But he said he measured his success “not by sales, but rather by how much he learns from his experience.”

So, while BDS has had some success in influencing the likes of Lorde and Elvis Costello to cancel  concerts in Israel, it lost big time with the Black Eyed Peas.

You don’t mess with “mishpocha”!

Making it Work. American musician will.i.am, frontman for Black Eyed Peas (second left), speaks on a panel at an innovation conference held by Improvate, in Jerusalem, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

As a show of defiance on stage, will.i.am gave a shout-out to producer Yonatan Goldstein as an example of his “mishpocha”. Goldstein co-wrote or co-produced much of the Black Eyed Peas’ latest album, and produced their collaboration with Israeli musical duo Static & Ben El.

Crowning Glory

Unlike the rapturous reception to the  music of Black Eyed Peas,  the call for boycott by BDS fell on deaf ears.  Less than two weeks after the Black Eyed Peas concert in Jerusalem, the 2021 Miss Universe pageant took place in Eilat, Israel, which was won by Miss India. To ‘crown’ it all,  Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, who bravely resisted pressure from her own government to withdraw from the competition was second runner up.

Bravo Miss SA! Defying her government and BDS, Miss South Africa participated  and was crowned as the second runner-up at the 2021 Miss Universe in Eilat, Israel on the 12 December {Photo: Creative Community for peace).

Responding to this good news, South African Friends of Israel penned the following in its press release:

Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, has brought pride and honour to our nation by being crowned the second runner up at the 2021 Miss Universe pageant in Eilat, Israel.  South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) congratulates and celebrates Lalela’s stunning achievement. She has raised the status and visibility of South Africa across the globe. We are bubbling with joy to witness how she had the courage and conviction to stand up as a proud South African on the world stage, and against the anti-Israel bullies and hatemongers who tried to intimidate her for going to Israel, including the short-sightedness of the South African government. Lalela truly represents the millions of South Africans who are standing behind her and celebrating her achievements.”   

Not cowering to pressure and standing up for what they believe is right, that is the message from the Black Eyed Peas and  Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane  as we close out 2021. Taking to heart the emotive lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas,  let’s embrace 2022 in the spirit of “mishpocha” and remember:

I gotta feeling that its gonna be a good good night….”







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).