A highpoint of  a tour of northern Israel proved to be the highest point overlooking Rosh Pina

By Stephen Schulman

In the Upper Galilee, on the lower eastern slopes of Mt. Kna’an (Canaan), nestles Rosh Pina. This picturesque, small town founded in 1882, stands as a testament to the foresight, enterprise and tenacity of the early pioneers who helped lay the foundations of the modern State of Israel.

Steeped in history, the town is dotted with interesting historical sites. Walking up the steep hill from the main road, you encounter the Baron’s Park that marks the beginning of the old, original neighborhood and named in honor of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the settlement’s early benefactor. Continuing upwards along the walking path, you can visit the home of Professor Mer who searched for a solution to the problem of malaria that plagued the early settlers in the swampy Hula valley. Still higher up is the synagogue, Rosh Pina’s first public building, now restored and in use.

 Prime position. A reminder of Nimrod in the prime of his life, colourful flowers in full bloom as one approaches the observation terrace of Nimrod Lookout from the path below. (Photo: Stephen Schulman)

Ascending further, you enter the first street of the settlement, the cobbled Hanadiv Street that leads up to the highest point in the town: the Nimrod Lookout: a magnificent observation terrace that stands at an elevation of 500 meters, overlooking the town and commanding a clear view of the Hula valley, the Golan Heights to the east and Mount Hermon to the north.

Named after Nimrod Segev, this gem of tranquility and beauty tells a story of selflessness, sacrifice, loss, grief, love and affirmation.

Welcome to Nimrod Lookout. A smiling Nimrod welcomes visitors to the Lookout. (Photo: Stephen Schulman)

Nimrod, a fourth generation born and raised in Rosh Pina was imbued with a deep love of nature and the landscape. Growing up, wandering freely in the village and surrounding countryside, he developed an intimate knowledge of and attachment to them both. At the age of 25, he married Iris, the love of his life, who had brought with her little Vicky from a previous marriage. Nimrod adopted and loved her as his own and soon she was joined by a baby brother Omer.

After matriculating, he left the small town to study and graduate with a degree in computer engineering from the Microsoft College in Herzlia. The small family then moved to the city of Ramat Gan from where he commuted to and worked as a valued employee at the corporation’s center in Ra’anana and where his charm and warmth endeared him to all. At weekends they would return to visit his parents and reconnect with the countryside of his birthplace. His father Hezi recalls how Nimrod would stop the car to listen to the trickling of the stream that ran near their house, shake off the dust of the city and inhale the special atmosphere of the Galilee.

Deck this Out. A panoramic view from the Lookout deck of Rosh Pina below and the north of Israel all the way to the Golan and Mt. Hermon. (Photo: Stephen Schulman)

In March 1996, Nimrod was drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces and served in the armored corps. In the Second Lebanon War, whilst serving in the reserves, he was called up. On the 9th August 2006, while protecting his village, his parents’ home and the countryside he loved so much, his tank that was providing cover for bulldozers paving a route near the Lebanese village of Eitah ah-Shaab struck a roadside bomb and seconds later was hit by an anti-tank missile. Nimrod and his tank crew of Gilad Shtukelman, Nir Cohen and Noam Goldman were all killed. Nimrod was 28 years old.

War and Peace. The avenue alongside this peaceful lookout with the names of Nimrod Segev and his fellow tank crew comrades Gilad Shtekelman, Nir Cohen and Gilad Goldman who fell on 9 August 2006 during the Second Lebanon War. (Photo: Stephen Schulman)

The loss of a child is inconsolable and there is no salve for the wounds of grief and pain that do not heal with the passing of years. Hezi was determined to commemorate Nimrod’s name, to create a memorial to perpetuate his son’s legacy and pass it on for future generations.  An especially beloved place for Nimrod was a high vantage point above the town where, in his youth, he would come with his horse, sit in the shade of the trees, look out over the valley and enjoy the solitude and the silence. It was there that Hezi decided to create the memorial – a lookout.

The project was challenging. Being a private one, it would demand funding and the investment of much time and labor. Hezi was undeterred and set to work. With the help of volunteers and the generosity of donors, especially one from Canada who wished to remain anonymous, the site was completed in 2010.

Sights and Sounds. For up-close views of the countryside there is a telescope and to learn more about the area and Nimrod’s life, press a button to hear it all explained in your own language. (Photo: Stephen Schulman)

Today, Nimrod Lookout is a jewel in the crown of Rosh Pina. It boasts a magnificent observation terrace complete with a telescope, lighting, a computerized voice telling stories of and explanations of the landscape and plaques giving information on the topography and telling Nimrod’s story. Behind, in the cool shade of the trees, visitors can avail themselves of a drinking fountain, benches and tables. There is also Wi-Fi and the security of 24 hour surveillance cameras. The site is spotless, and surrounded with carefully planted and lovingly cultivated trees, shrubbery and flowers. Crowning it all is a magnificent fig tree that Nimrod used to sit under.

Hezi is in attendance daily, keeping a watchful eye on the place and giving talks to groups of visitors. He tells them about Nimrod, perpetuating the memory of his life, his cherished values and his legacy: of love for humanity and nature, the special love for the Upper Galilee countryside, its flora and fauna, the love of his country and in so doing, hoping to instill these same virtues in his listeners.

View from the Top. Nimrod’s father Hezi, on the Lookout deck, addressing visiting school children. (Photo: Stephen Schulman)

We were there one morning and joined a large group of teenagers from Venezuela who had come to hear the Outlook’s story. Hezi spoke softly and from the heart with an unpretentiousness and sincerity that kept his listeners in rapt attention. When he had finished, he said “You can ask any question you wish. I can only cry!”  Quite a few hands shot up and everyone was answered with patience and dignity. It was a moving experience.

When the group had departed, we stayed behind to chat to him and learned that his caring for and maintaining the lookout is not only a labor of love; it is a constant process that also involves great expense. Being a private venture freely open to the public, it has monthly bills for water, horticulture and electricity to be met plus the many other attendant expenses that the municipality also does not cover.

Father and Son. The atmosphere of his son all around, Hezi looks through the telescope upon the countryside below that Nimrod loved to explore from as a child to when his life was tragically cut short in 2006. (Photo: Stephen Schulman)

 According to the Hebrew calendar, Nimrod had died on the 15th of the month of Av; the Hebrew Valentine’s Day. Every year, on the evening of the anniversary of his passing, at the terrace, open to all, there is a short ceremony and then a show put on by a band for the enjoyment of everyone – remembering and celebrating Nimrod’s joy and love of life.

Getting to Nimrod Outlook presents no problem: you simply enter the town, turn into and go straight up the Main Road. If you do not wish to or are unable to walk uphill, you can arrive by car. There is ample parking and only the last 20 meters or so must be done on foot. The observation terrace is inspiring, the view is uplifting and meeting and listening to Hezi is an enriching experience. Highly recommended!

*Hezi Segev is a local tour guide. “If Walls Could Talk” is his award winning tour of the most special sites of Old Rosh Pina, telling the story of the place combined with the story of Nimrod. For booking, Hezi can be contacted at:   info@roshpina.org and at 050-532-5732
The upkeep of Nimrod Lookout involves substantial costs. Any donation would be greatly appreciated. Bank Details: Bank Hapoalim (12)Rosh Pina Branch542, Account No.22222, Account Name: Hezi Segev.

About the writer:

Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African 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.

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).


Discover Tel Aviv’s glorious yesterdays, in today’s rejuvenated Lilienblum Street and its rejuvenated first hotel.

By Motti Verses

Stretching over 14 kilometers along the Mediterranean, Tel Aviv’s sparkling coastline is today world-famous. Popularly referred to  “The City That Never Sleeps,” Tel Aviv boasts beaches that no other major European city will offer to those travelers looking to shed their clothes and their inhibitions for that short sunny seaside sojourn.

With all its diverse attractions, Tel Aviv is not short of a number of catchy nicknames – all tapping into its DNA. You will hear it called “party city”, “Nonstop City”, “startup city”, “gay capital of the world” and “Bauhaus Oasis” for its enriching concentration of Bauhaus architecture that is to Tel Aviv what Art Deco is to Miami or Modernism is to Barcelona.

Up Your Street. You will love it – Lilienblum street, one of the first streets of Ahuzat Bayit. ( photo by Motti Verses)

Many are unaware that while Israel is ancient, its second largest city, Tel Aviv, is very young beginning in 1887 when Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood, was built outside the old city of the ancient port of Jaffa. Only in 1909, 60 Jewish families established the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood – the foundation of Tel Aviv. Over the ensuing years, Neve Tzedek’s rundown properties have been renovated restoring the area to its former glory and is today one of the most fashionable quarters of Tel Aviv.

Riveting Rooftops. A spectacular view of Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood built outside Jaffa, seen in far left (photo by Motti Verses).

One of the first streets in Ahuzat Bayit was Lilienblum. While it begins at the border of Neve Tzedek, it features a totally different style of architecture and exudes its own particular vibe. Reflecting the city’s exciting history as well as meshing with the modern, it is well worth exploring it with a guide.

The 100 years old restored Kiosk carries a heartwarming story of

preservation that offers a special angle on Tel Aviv’s history.

Called ‘KIOSK EST 1920’, one can enjoy a coffee and snack with an authentic taste of Tel Avivian history as one reflects on the much earlier patrons doing just the same before entering the city’s fist cinema – the Eden –  which itself awaits future restoration.

Known in Hebrew as “Kolnoa Eden”,  it opened on the 22nd August 1914 with “The Last Days of Pompeii”. However, these were the ‘early days’ of the First World War and the Turkish authorities, fearing the generator might be used  to send messages to enemy submarines off-shore, closed  down the cinema by confiscating  the projector. The Great War proved “the last days” of Turkish rule in Palestine and following the British Mandate, the Eden reopened emerging quickly as a hub of cultural and social activity. It contained an outdoor theater and at a later stage an indoor one as well. Each hall could host 800 seats. Cultural life soured with  the debut performance of ‘La Traviata’ by the then newly formed Palestine Opera on the 28th July 1923 and famed Russian conductor Mordechai Golinkin, set up the Palestine Opera, which today is known as the New Israeli Opera. Its golden era was during the 1950s and 1960s and in the 1970s, when new modern cinemas were opened across the city, the owners closed it down. Today it looks like a neglected antiquity. However, there are plans to restore it to its former glory with one of the options being a boutique hotel combined with a stylish cinema.

Cultural Relic. No entrance tickets for sale in Lilienblum’s Eden cinema! A neglected ‘monument’ to the past as the writer explores (left), it awaits future inspirational development. (photo by Motti Verses)

Preservation of the old alongside the new is what characterizes today this magnificent historical street with its impressive architecture. Many of its more historically significant buildings are marked with illuminating descriptions creating an open air museum for future generations. One such is ‘Tachkemoni’, the first religious school of Tel Aviv, built in the 1920s. Even the British High Commissioner at the time, Sir Herbert Samuel insisted on participating in the school’s cornerstone ceremony. Closed down in the 1970s, today it serves again as a religious school but this time for girls.

Lilienblum Street presents a collection of exquisitely restored buildings – a sheer joy to architecture lovers. But the most impressive eclectic architecture-style building on the street is the Elkonin, the first-ever hotel in Tel Aviv. Its story is no less historical and exciting.

Down Memory Lane. The writer takes a walk down Lilienblum Street’s historic past, capturing the diverse styles of architecture. (photo by Motti Verses).

Restored and reopened only a few months ago, I interviewed the General Manager, Morgan Mondoloni, and asked how this hotel  emerged at the time in what would have been in the middle of nowhere. He revealed a most fascinating story.

Journey of a Gem.  “Everything started in 1912 when Malka and Menachem Elkonin arrived in Eretz Israel with their six children,” says General Manager Morgan Mondoloni.

Everything started in 1912 when Malka and Menachem Elkonin arrived in Eretz Israel with their six children and wanted to build a warm home for the family,” he says. “This is what they did in only one year. They built this beautiful hotel; the first hotel of Tel Aviv. Famous people like Albert Einstein, David Ben Gurion and King Abdulla were some of our first guests.”

Early Days. City pioneer, Menachem Elkonin with Tel Aviv’s first hotel a 100 years ago. (photo: courtesy Elkonin Tel Aviv)

Over the years, as Tel Aviv developed rapidly to the north and the commercial gravitas shifted accordingly, the hotel followed the same fate as other businesses and institutions that either closed down or relocated. That was until 2004 when a visionary saw the enormous potential, both of the street and the structure. Zionist Franco-Israeli entrepreneur, Dominique Romano acquired it with the intention of not only saving the building – a cultural icon –  but of restoring the ‘vanished hotel’ back to miraculous life. Today, due to the inspiration of  talented architects and interior designers, the new Elkonim is ‘back in town’, transformed into a 44-room-and-suite elegant retreat in the center of the city.

We want to offer one of the very best hospitality experiences in the

City,” says General Manager Mondoloni. Under the Mgallery stylish

Accor brand and home to the city’s first Robuchon restaurant, ‘L’Epoque’,  following in the tradition of the late French “Chef of the Century” and restaurateur Jöel Robuchon,  it looks like the Elkonin boss is on the right track.

Our room on the second floor with a balcony facing Lilienblum Street, reminded us of a typical traditional Paris street getaway. The totally new room is not big, but well equipped with a small minibar and a safe and a standing shower. The advanced illumination system was challenging, but Millennials will probably manage it better than we did. Our sleeping experience was the best with no noise heard from the street.

Feeling French. Having experienced his delicious French cuisine, the writer (left) engages with chef Eugène Koval.(photo by Motti Verses)

The Spa contains five treatment rooms. It is located underground with quiet relaxation rooms, a Hammam (Sauna) and a small gym. We experienced classic treatments that was amazing and the Clarins cosmetics are by all accounts divine. The use of this major  European luxury skincare brand is certainly an additional plus at the Elkonin. On the roof, a cozy pool offers a breathtaking view of Jaffa and the Mediterranean with an adjacent bar and is certainly destined to emerge as an iconic meeting point in true Tel Aviv tradition.

Cool from the Pool. The roof’s cozy pool with a breathtaking view of Jaffa and the Mediterranean. (photo by Motti Verses)

The ground floor of the Elkonin is for my money, the best stylish designed boutique hotel in the city. The interiors were designed by Iconique Studio, the Paris-based studio founded by the talented Adriana Schor. The timeless and sophisticated European-style ambiance with custom-designed furnishings and lighting is a masterpiece. She drew inspiration from the early years of Tel Aviv reflected in Lilienblum Street and the ambiance of Paris. This floor hosts its Crown Jewels – the impressive dining room. The state-of- the-art French served breakfast felt like a culinary hop to Paris served in the hotel’s flagship Jöel Robuchon restaurant, L’Époque.

Taste of France. The irresistible La Côte de Bœuf enjoyed by the writer at the L’Époque restaurant. (photo by Motti Verses)

Dinner here presents exceptional gastronomy by reputed chef Eugène Koval. Obviously the restaurant is not Kosher. The food creations are poetry in motion. The menu also contains some of Robuchon’s reputed unforgettable signature dishes like the La Côte de Bœuf – the rib steak with the bone attached. A dish for two, it is a classic not to be missed, unless you are vegetarian.

Joining the MGallery Hotel Collection by Accor renowned for its unique boutique hotels, the Elkonin in Tel Aviv’s historical  Lilienblum Street, fits this concept like a hand in a glove.

Breakfast at L’Époque. A state-of-the-art French served breakfast. (photo by Motti Verses)

One does not have to be a hotel guest to encounter this treasure. You can enjoy a breakfast or celebrate something intimate over dinner, or even experience a treatment in the spa. Do combine it with an hour walk to discover the street’s treasures. Gastronomy, terraces, cafés, aesthetic architecture and a romantic vibe, excuse me if I thought for a moment I was in Paris!

It sure felt like it.

* Feature picture – Almost check-in time for the writer at Elkonin Tel Aviv – MGallery. (photo by Motti Verses)

About the writer:

The writer, Motti Verses, is a Travel Flash Tips publisher. His travel stories are published on THE TIMES OF ISRAEL  https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/motti-verses/. 

And his hospitality analysis reviews on THE JERUSALEM POST, are available on his Linkedin page LinkedIn Israelhttps://il.linkedin.com › motti-verse…Motti Verses – Publisher and Chief Editor – TRAVEL FLASH TIPS

And his hospitality analysis reviews on THE JERUSALEM POST, are available on his Linkedin page LinkedIn Israelhttps://il.linkedin.com › motti-verse…Motti Verses – Publisher and Chief Editor – TRAVEL FLASH TIPS

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).


Wounded veterans from the UK and Israel compete in Veterans games in Tel Aviv

By Rolene Marks

I am writing this article during quite a poignant week. If you are a keen observer of military history, the first days of June are hugely significant. This week, we commemorated 56 years since the start of the Six Day War in 1967 that changed the landscape of the Middle East. The 6th of June marks 41 years since the First Lebanon War “Operation Peace for Galilee” in 1982 and a day that changed the trajectory of the Second Word War as Allied forces troops landed on the Normandy beaches in France in 1944. D-Day. We salute the remarkable men and women of the armed forces.

Why is mentioning famous historical military operations relevant to the veterans games that this article is dedicated to? Because it is a reminder of the fighting and sacrifices made for our freedoms and democracy. We owe these brave soldiers a debt we can never repay. They fight with everything they have – and return bearing the wounds and scars of battle, some carried deep inside the recesses of their souls. We bear reminding of the enormous sacrifices made by our armed forces and whatever generation deployed to battle, they deserve our acknowledgement, respect and support.

Sporting Snapshot. Competing British and Israeli teams pose together at the Veteran Games in Tel Aviv. (Photo Tomer Appelbaum).

Last week, Beit Halochem Centres in Israel played host to the Veteran games, welcoming 60 wounded warriors from the United Kingdom and their families. Beit Halochem (House of the Warrior) is an extraordinary organization. The organization provides unique rehabilitation, sports and recreation centers serving disabled veterans and their families. Beit Halochem provides a place where the wounded undergo the various treatments, which they need for as long as they live. The centre emphasises sport as a rehabilitative tool along with a wide array of social and cultural programmes.

The four Beit Halochem Centres in Israel – including the state-of-the-art complex in Tel Aviv, played host to the warrior athletes and their families as they engaged in friendly competition in events that included swimming, shooting and CrossFit.

War to Tug-of-War. Families of wounded veterans join a spirited game of tug-of-war.

Ex-servicemen and women from across the UK armed forces who have lost limbs in combat and other veterans who are battling crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were selected to compete. PTSD is often endured in silence and sports have a therapeutic effect for many suffering from trauma. What made this competition particularly unique is that competitors did not have to reach a certain sporting standard to qualify. This means that no matter what their sporting level or experience, everyone could compete for medals.

This is the third year that this event took place, and presents a great opportunity not just for veterans to compete, but to bond with each other as well as take in the sights and sounds of Israel.

Grit and Determination. Ashley Hall in competition in the X-fit

The games were organized by Beit Halochem UK and the IDF Disabled Veterans Fund. Beit Halochem UK raises awareness and funds to help support Israel’s wounded veterans. Beit Halochem in Israel helps 51,000 wounded soldiers and victims of terror by offering them support for the rest of their lives.

 “Physical activity, camaraderie and the family all play a crucial role in the successful rehabilitation of injured soldiers and the Veteran Games put both front and centre,” said Veteran Games co-founders Andrew Wolfson and Spencer Gelding. “Medals are a great bonus, but our goal is to provide an environment for veterans to challenge themselves in a way that will provide lasting benefits, while building friendships with other heroes and their families with whom they have so much in common.”

Pulling their Weight. Once putting their lives on the line for their countries, wounded vets from the UK and Israel engage in friendly competition in Tel Aviv. 

These remarkable warriors are absolutely inspirational.

Ben Roberts, 42 a veteran from Essex who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan said, “I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and in 2010 was diagnosed with Combat Stress Insomnia. I took part in the games last year and they have inspired me, shown me that I have a purpose and I have worth and that there are people out there that are willing to support us and show us British veterans that we can achieve things even with mental health. The games for me personally were a major spiritual level as well and the energy was just amazing here and it has helped me through the year where we are today”

Cheered on by the Competition. A British athlete is cheered on by Israeli staff and athletes during the third Veterans Games in Tel Aviv on May 29, 2023. (Courtesy Beit HaLohem UK)

Organizers ensured that families were front and centre and they stood on the sidelines and cheered as their loved ones tested their mettle in friendly competition. Family members often struggle when an injured veteran returns back home and the role they play in their loved one’s recovery is crucial. To keep children entertained, a soccer camp is simultaneously held. Nothing builds bonds quite like sports!

Sight to Behold. Craig Lundberg receiving a swimming medal in the visually impaired category

Craig Lundberg 37, was completely blinded after being hit by two rocket-propelled grenades that are usually used for targeting helicopters or armored vehicles while on his second tour of Iraq in 2007. “It feels amazing to have my family along that they can see no matter what life throws at you, you can focus and get around it. I am really honored to be here and I competed in CrossFit and swimming and won a silver medal. It wasn’t expected because there was some great competition. For the lifting of weights and running, my son stood at one end my partner at the other and called to me so I could hear and get from point A to point B so it was a real family event. It is massively important that they are involved. Every day the family live with the sacrifice of living with a blind partner which isn’t the easiest sometimes, so to have them here giving support has been top notch.”

Opening Ceremony. A veteran of Afghanistan, cabinet minister for Veterans Affairs, Johnny Mercer MP addressing the opening ceremony of the Veteran Games.

Accompanying the UK delegation was Minister for Veteran’s Affairs, Johnny Mercer. MP Mercer served in the Royal Artillery and retired in December 2013 with the rank of captain.  “We traditionally look at Israel and certainly the certainly the wealth of data you have accumulated over years of experience. I’m trying to make the UK the best country in the world to be a veteran and to do that we need to work with our friends and partners to understand what they’re doing that works really well, so that we can replicate that in the UK.” Mercer added that “it’s amazing to be out here in Israel. There’s nothing quite like an Israeli welcome, seeing the Veteran Games and using the power of sports as a vehicle for recovery. It’s extraordinary.”

Brother-in Arms. From different countries, these veterans share a bond understanding and camaraderie.

The games were timed to coincide with half-term (semester) vacation in the United Kingdom and the group had the chance to visit historical sites in Jerusalem, experience the healing powers of the Dead Sea and enjoy culinary and even graffiti tours in Tel Aviv.

Top Training. Veterans are seen ahead of the Veteran Games in Israel. (photo credit: Courtesy of The Veteran Games)

The bonds forged between these exceptional warriors from the United Kingdom and Israel will last a lifetime.

We could not be more proud to salute them. 

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 Jewish festivity of Shavuot brought back memories  of a kibbutz in Israel’s South and its South African connection

By David E. Kaplan

Where you spending Shavuot?” I asked my physiotherapist as I lay flat in his clinic in Ra’anana while he worked on my recalcitrant right knee. Known as the Jewish “feast of weeks” – although celebrated over one day – Shavuot commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people and celebrated with families eating dairy food.  

I’ll be spending it with my family, my parents, where I was born and grew up – on the kibbutz.”

Which kibbutz?” I ask.

Revivim. It’s in the south. You ever heard of it?

If Shavuot is a festivity of revelation, there was more revelation to follow.

Not only had I heard of it, I knew all about it having written years earlier about its South African connection that so few know, in particularly its connection to the small town of Parow, outside of Cape Town, where I grew up until the age of four.

Family Ties. With the old British Mandate police station at Kibbutz Revivim in the background – that in June 1948 a Palmach Brigade took at heavy cost from the Egyptians – pose the descendants of the Cape Town/Parow Berold family with the late Freda Pincus (née Berold) seated in the centre. Freda’s parents from Parow, South Africa, donated the land for Revivim.

The story begins in the 1930s when Jewish aspirations and nationalism were aroused by Zionist leaders touring Jewish communities around the world inspiring the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in biblical Palestine. They were followed by emissaries of the JNF (Jewish National Fund) encouraging Jews to invest in the future Jewish state by purchasing land in Palestine. One of the communities they focused on was South Africa and history records their efforts were well spent. One such inspired family was Barney and Fanny Berold from Parow, a developing town outside Cape Town. Barney was a successful industrialist who owned and ran Plywoods – Parow’s first factory. My late father, worked at Plywoods who used much of his salary of £12 a month (later raised to £15) to support a fledgling ‘Cape Gate Works’ of which he was a cofounding partner  – Parow’s second factory – to survive.  Cape Gate was started in 1929 during the Great Depression, and according to my Dad, that in the early months apart from his salary at Plywoods, “our only income came from selling petrol from a manually operated pump.”


A few years before the passing of Freda Pinkus in Jaffa, Israel, the then 94-year-old daughter of Barney and Fanny Berold, revealed to me in an interview her parent’s love for the Jewish homeland, “not yet Israel.” At a time when few visited Palestine, could even afford to travel there,  “My parents visited Palestine twice in the 1930s, first in 1932 and then 1936 when they met the Zionist activist Avraham G r a n o v s k y. Later he changed his name to Granot and would be a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, a member of the Knesset and chairman of the JNF. However, back in 1936, the JNF were negotiating with an Arab to buy his land in the Negev when this South African group with my parents arrived and Granovsky asked if anyone was interested in buying it.” The British Mandate Authority allowed Jews to purchase land, but not to establish settlements. “The land was totally out of the way, a desolate landscape some 36 kilometres south of Beer Sheva. There was nothing there except a British Mandate police station. During World War II, a large British army base was established, which served as a stopover from Suez to the centre of the country. Anyway, as far as I know, my father was the only one interested and he bought 825 dunams. Of course it did not sound financially attractive, but my father was a Zionist. He was not investing for profit but in the future of the Jewish People.”

Champion of the Desert. To offer encouragement, Chairman of the Provisional Government of Israel, David Ben Gurion (right) visits Revivim in 1943.

A few months later, “he passed away in Paris and my Mom returned to Parow. In 1939 our family received transfer of the property.” This might have been the end of the story until Freda’s brother George Berold, while stationed in Egypt during WWII “took leave to visit Palestine. He went to see Granovsky hoping to see the land and report back to the family in South Africa. Granovsky dissuaded him saying that there was a war on and there were no roads to reach this area. Probably the only way to reach the area was on camel, which I imagine would not have been too appealing to my brother with only a few days leave! Anyway, Granovsky then asked George if the family would consider donating the land to the JNF for the purpose of establishing a kibbutz.” It was quite a daring idea as it would be the southernmost kibbutz at the time with no access to piped water. It would demand of its members immense grit, determination and vision. It would also require the acquiescence of the Berold family of Cape Town. George said he would discuss with the family who all agreed. “This was the land that the JNF gave for the establishment in 1943 of Kibbutz Revivim.”

However, it was not so simple.

Pulsating Progress. Bringing water to the area meant survival. Revivim reservoir in 1946 with the old fort in the background.


While the small group received the Berold parcel of land to fulfill their dream of settling the Negev, they had to be careful as permanent settlements were illegal. To circumvent British Mandate regulations, Revivim was established as an “Agricultural Research Station” and formally named ‘Mitzpe Revivim’ or ‘Revivim Lookout’. Settlers pretended that the antenna they used for radio contact was essential in “testing climate conditions”, and were so convincing that the British bought the story. The radio was hidden in a first-aid kit!

A Golda Moment. Actress Anne Bancroft (right) is shown around Kibbutz Revivim by Golda Meir (left), whom she is to portray in the Broadway production “Golda” – a play by William Gibson based on Mrs. Meir’s “My Life”.

The first settlement began with only three men and as the research station slowly grew, eventually women were allowed to join. One of these brave women was Golda Meir’s daughter. The stars were not only a fascinating desert night sighting. They sometimes appeared to on the ground as it did when Hollywood star, Anne Bancroft was shown around Revivim by Israel’s former premier, Golda Meir.

However, in the 1940s, Revivim was isolated and fraught with danger.

Determined in the Desert. Six years after settling on the land, young Revivim residents at the time of Israel’s independence in 1948.

Battling the elements was tough but soon they would have to confront a new enemy – their fellow man! A portent of what was to come occurred in December 1947 when a Kibbutz Revivim car was ambushed and three members of the kibbutz were killed. Then in 1948, Revivim became the center of Israel’s defense of the Negev during the War of Independence. An airstrip was built to fly in supplies and the caves which were once home to the pioneers became the field hospital and main base. Kibbutz members valiantly withstood heavy Egyptian attacks and 34 soldiers, including one woman, fell in the ensuing fighting, all recorded in a museum there today.

Battling with the Basics. View of Revivim with underground ancient Nabataean caves, pitched tents and fortified building on top of the hill.

Riveting Revivim

After the war, Revivim emerged as a pioneering center for desert agriculture. It played a huge part in the massive success Israel has had in making the desert bloom and the story of its development as revealed in its Mitzpe Revivim Museum popular to tourists, presents a colorful insight of a hard-fought journey won. It mirrors the journey of modern Israel.  My physiotherapist regaled me the stories of his youth on Revivim:

 “What a wonderful place to grow up. I knew nothing of life outside the kibbutz. The kibbutz was our world. We didn’t watch TV; I had many friends and we played and explored and built things and developed a feeling of camaraderie. Everyone on the kibbutz ate together in the chadar ochel (communal dining room) and where we celebrated together the chagim (festivities). I am proud to say, the kibbutz today is still mostly a collective, adhering to its founding principles. I always look forward to returning. I’m not only visiting my parents but revisiting the values of what I still hold dear.”

Sabras planting Sabras. Planting cacti on TuBishvat on Revivim some years back, are the children of former South African Wendy Cohen- Solal (née Israel from Parow)


Google Kibbutz Revivim and you will find that it was established in 1943 by a youth movement group from Rishon LeZion that included new immigrants from Austria, Germany and Italy on land given to them by the JNF. You have to deep search to extract from whom the JNF acquired it, that is, the Berold family from Parow. 

Even many who live there are unaware of the South African connection to their home. One such was  Joyce Friedman (née Kanowitz) from the USA who was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1943 and when she was 18, immigrated to Israel and moved to Revivim where she became a member.  She wrote to me some years ago following the publication of my first article on Revivim:

When the 1967 war broke out, many groups of volunteers arrived, amongst them South Africans and it was my job to be their madricha [leader]. They did well for themselves and I was proud of them.

After living in Israel for 12 years, l met my husband who is an American, and we got married at Revivim. After two years, we moved to the USA in 1974.

Recently, my nephew in Israel sent me a copy of your article regarding Kibbutz Revivim and the financial link between it and the South African Jewry. It made for very interesting reading as this was the first time l had ever heard about it. Even while being on the kibbutz, no one had ever told me about the funding. Funnily enough my cottage faced the old fort, so l was constantly reminded of the kibbutz’s history.”

Revivim Relic. While today a relic of the past, it was once the kibbutz’s lifeblood bringing in supplies when it was cut off from the rest of the country.

Revivim has another connection to Parow in Wendy Cohen-Solal. born in Parow to Ivan and Raiza Israel and who settled on the kibbutz. In subsequent visits to Revivim during the 1950s, Fanny Berold kept up the connection with the kibbutz her family made possible, by donating money towards a rose garden and a library.  During the 1967 Six Day War and the aftermath,” said her daughter Freda, “there were many Southern African volunteers on Revivim; I’m sure some of them, their forebears, could have come from Parow.”  Today the kibbutz is held in high regard for its pioneering use of saline and brackish water. One of its members, Yoel de Malach, received the prestigious Israel Prize for his efforts in this field. Despite being a desert kibbutz, Revivim’s dairy farm once  won the prize for the largest quantity of milk produced by any farm in Israel. No less surprising it also has a “fish farm” – in the desert!

On the occasion of Revivim’s 75th anniversary some years ago – the Pincus and Berold families were honoured for their family’s enriching history embedded to the kibbutz no less embedded than the Negev’s desert rock. While many Jews donated money to buy land in Israel, “As far as I know,” said Freda, “Revivim is the only case of actual privately-owned Jewish land being donated for this purpose.”

By George! While stationed in Egypt during WWII, George Berold visited Palestine hoping to see the land his parents had bought years before in the Negev and which he was encouraged to impress upon his family back in South Africa to donate for a strategically important kibbutz for an emerging Jewish state.

From Cape Town’s ‘Northern Suburb’ to Israel’s southern desert,  South Africans have been fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah that in “A dry and thirsty land, where there is no water” they shall make the desert bloom.

While Revivim became the heart of the Negev it was the heart of South Africa’s Berold family that made it all happen.

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


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

By Andi Saitowitz

Dear Israel,

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

How deeply you are cherished. 

How precious you are to us. 

Even now, especially now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In just 75 years – you have achieved unparalleled greatness. 

In every field, you excel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wish I could heal some of your deepest wounds. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love that my children think in Hebrew. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel – thank you for inspiring me.

Israel – thank you for challenging me.

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

Israel – thank you for being my home.

I only wish you peace. In every single prayer.

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

You bring me joy. 

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

May you be showered with Hashem’s richest blessings. 

May you grow from strength to strength. 

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

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

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

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

We haven’t lost hope. 

עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו

About the author:

Heroes of Israel4

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

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


An illuminating crossover visit to kibbutz Ha’on and the formerly owned now privatized Daria Resort on the Sea of Galilee

By Motti Verses

Some of the most inviting beaches on the Kinneret – the Sea of Galilee – are along its eastern shore. They are located some distance away from the bustling but ancient city  of Tiberias with its restaurant-lined Yigal Allon Promenade, hotels, marina and a fish market on the western shore, as well as the connecting arterial highways from central and northern Israel.

It is here, under the shadow of the imposing Golan Heights that three shorefront Kibbutzim were established during the pioneering era preceding and following Israel’s independence in 1948. They are Ein Gev more to the north established in 1937, in the south Ma’agan  established in 1949 and sandwiched between the two, Ha’on, founded the same year.

Seaside Setting. With the backdrop of the majestic Golan Heights, the beautiful beachfront of Daria Resort. (photo M. Verses)

Only a terrifying stone’s throw from the once pre-1967 militarized Syrian border, these settlements were a display of Israeli defiance – bravely staking ownership and permanent presence. Syria had used its hold of the high ground of the Golan Heights up to the 1967 Six Day War  – not as a tourist lookout – but as a military stronghold from which its troops would randomly shoot at the farming Jewish communities below. While mostly abandoned before Israel’s independence in 1948, this threatened eastern side of the Sea of Galilee in the immediate post-independence began a new chapter of permanent settlement and in 1949, Ha’on was founded with 120 members.

As a child living in Jerusalem, I kept hearing this name – Ha’on and the constant confrontations with the hostile Syrians from across the raised border. The kibbutz residents trying to live ‘normal’ lives were at the mercy of the Syrian soldiers above and children my age were forced to sleep in bomb shelters. Photographs of this daily deadly routine appeared at the time in all the newspapers. As a child, I could never understand why they stayed there but these pioneering settlers hung on bravely. Ha’on steadily grew in membership and following the 1967 war, when Israel took control over the Golan Heights, the settlers below began to enjoy for the first time peace and tranquility. In the mid-1980s, believing in tourism, they adventurously decided to invest in establishing a pastoral resort village next to the beach.

That was all history.


When I recently walked on the beach of Ha’on, I knew the scenery in 2023 would be totally different. Until July 2007, Ha’on operated as a kibbutz, but debts of NIS 50 million meant that it had to sell its businesses and return its land to state ownership. Only 30 families live there today. Most of the houses look neglected with backyards covered with weeds and thorns. The Kibbutz synagogue too had seen better days appearing in a state of sad decay. A large structure, one could only imagine all the lively activities and celebrations that had taken place within. It reminded me of a beach shell, its owner within long gone.

Religious Relic. Prayer and singing once dominated within these walls. Today, the kibbutz synagogue today is in a sad state of decay. (photo M. Verses)

The only occupied residences, clearly unmaintained, were for students of the nearby Kinneret Academic College who rented accommodation. I thought, “Hardly an ideal home for them,” seeing the place littered with  old furniture and scattered laundry and the public walls telling their own stories by its graffiti!

The paths were cracked; broken and assaulted by overgrown weeds – a metaphor of the direction not of the paths themselves but the failed future of the kibbutz itself. They led to decrepit buildings that seemed to have voluntary collapsed by themselves with no reason to be  – casualties of emptiness. Occasionally the imagery of collapsed walls and roofs which didn’t seem like anyone was in a hurry to clear, was met, like an oasis, by a well-kept house, one that had life within.

Seen Better Days. Once the homes of the kibbutz residents, these aging structures are the residences of students studying at a nearby collage. (photo M.Verses)

The dining room – once the hub of the kibbutz where all the residents would have congregated for meals, events and festivities  – has been closed for years. A group of dogs bark at us, protecting a land without people. The only pleasing sight remaining from a once-pulsating past was a tree, an impressive tree – a gigantic Ficus benghalensis right in the center of Ha’on. So sad!

Almost 20 years have passed since the government decided to dismantle cash-strapped kibbutz Ha’on saddled with heavy debts. The plan was to sell its assets, divide the land and establish a community settlement in its place. This is still pending. What a sad story for the Kibbutz movement that was traditionally based on agriculture and its visual vegetation today – for the most part – weeds!

While Ha’on’s land is perfect for banana growing, it is really its paradise beachfront with its mountainous backdrops that makes projects catering for tourism so much more appealing.

And so on these banks on the Kinneret, kibbutz members with a vision embarked on a private venture creating Ha’on Village Resort, which in recent years was rebranded as the Daria Resort, within the Rimonim hotel portfolio chain. The operators were determined to continue running the hotel with the same pioneering concept as the founders with the result that Daria offers today environmentally friendly accommodation – chalets that blend into the pastoral landscape, providing an authentic Kibbutz-style feeling. There are different styles of rooms to choose from, all of which are surrounded by luscious green lawns and incredible views with direct access to the beach. The paths of the village have been named after celebrated Israeli poets and singers that are the pillar stones of Israeli culture from the past to the present. It pleased me to see how a resort chose to immortalize its country’s cultural icons. Usually Israeli songs can be heard in the background while walking the streets of the resort, although unfortunately not while we were there.

Poetic Passage. The paths of Daria Resort are named after acclaimed Israeli singers and poets. (photo M. Verses)

That’s an ‘unfinished symphony’ for next time….

I met with the Hotel Manager Dor Sircovich, formerly a successful young Israeli businessman in Jerusalem, who during the Covid pandemic, was forced to pursue alternate options. He moved with his small family to live and manage Daria Resort and it looks like he made a wise choice.

I am very proud that we carry the torch and preserve the feeling of the Kibbutz. This is Israel at its best,” he says. “Ha’on founders focused for years on overseas tourists, mainly pilgrims. We are still hosting them, however we have learned like most hotels in Israel that domestic tourism is no less important. The pandemic taught us a lesson”, he says.


For those less familiar with the traditional lifestyle of an Israeli kibbutz, a reminder may prove instructive to better understanding and appreciating Daria. While not “luxury” in the traditional sense, it  exudes a ‘traditional’ charm – a special type of ambiance synonymous with Israel’s unique collective country living. With Daria however, it’s even better being at the water’s edge of the majestic Sea of Galilee – and its breakfasts in the dining hall are totally Kibbutz style offering an array of farm-fresh Israeli produce.

The gorgeous stretch of beach is clean, the water crystal clear and we experienced there moments that I can only describe as ‘heaven on earth’. Is it any wonder that this region is so associated with the Bible?

Picturesque and Pastoral. Daria Resort chalet a steppingstone away from the water’s edge of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). (photo M.verses)

Daria and Ha’on coexists shoulder to shoulder with open gates separating the two and one is free to cross over. However doing so, like we did, was like entering another world, an age past. Even the old kibbutz beach was charmless, overgrown with bushes stretching all the way into the water. It was a picture of man having retreated, leaving nature to reclaim it.

Serene Setting. The newer homes of the kibbutz residents on Daria Resort. (photo M. Verses)

Standing there and staring at the two worlds – the old, failed kibbutz with its rusting relics of yesterday and the vibrant and successful lakeside resort of today’s Daria, I could not resist pondering the question whether passing through that gate was like the passing from the past to the future –  from failed kibbutz socialism to the triumph of modern capitalism embodied in the Israel of today branded as the ‘Start-Up Nation’.

Sadly in this case, it is.

Stunning Sunset. The ageless tranquil transition from day to night from Daria’s delightful beachfront. (photo M.Verses)

About the writer:

The writer, Motti Verses, is a Travel Flash Tips publisher. His travel stories are published on THE TIMES OF ISRAEL  https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/motti-verses/. 

And his hospitality analysis reviews on THE JERUSALEM POST, are available on his Linkedin page LinkedIn Israelhttps://il.linkedin.com › motti-verse…Motti Verses – Publisher and Chief Editor – TRAVEL FLASH TIPS

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).


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.


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).


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).


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).


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).