Beyond Words

By Monessa Shapiro

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

And so it is with the Israel – Palestine conflict.  Words have taken on new meanings, far distant from their original intent. They have become tools with which to obfuscate the truth.

Hamas fired a cavalcade of well over 4000 rockets into Israel targeting her civilians, aimed at murdering as many Israeli men, women, and children as possible. A rocket every 3-4 minutes, Israelis spent days and nights huddled in bomb shelters, terrified and traumatised. A proportionate response for any country under such threat would be the destruction of the rockets and rocket launching sites, as well as the killing of those firing the rockets.   But in our Humpty Dumpty, Alice in Wonderland world, “proportionate” is the new “disproportionate”.  The media and much of our leadership cry: “disproportionate”.  Not enough Israelis have died, all say. Israel’s actions are considered disproportionate because the number of Palestinians killed exceeds the number of Israelis. The only conflict in the world where proportionality depends on a quid pro quo of deaths.  No acknowledgement that Hamas does not build bomb shelters for its citizens but uses instead all her resources to procure arms and build tunnels in order to destroy Israel. No acknowledgement that Hamas fires rockets from within the civilian population, using women and children as human shields. No acknowledgement that 680 rockets fired by Hamas fell short and landed in Gaza killing in one instance, a Palestinian family of 8, and in another two mis-firings, 3 and 2 Palestinian children respectively.

Falling Short. Rockets fired toward Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14. Between 20-30% of the rockets launched in Gaza fell short landing in its OWN territory killing Gazan civilians. Over a period of 3 days early in the war, it was established that Hamas misfired 350 rockets that killed Palestinian children, women and men. (see a video by clicking here​). MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/GETTY IMAGE

Jews have been the indigenous inhabitants of the land of Israel for over 3,000 years.  King David built his city in Jerusalem.    When the Roman Emperor Hadrian conquered Israel in the second century CE he renamed it ‘Palaestina’ in order to remove any links with the Jews, whom he exiled. But even during the long 2000-year exile, there remained a Jewish presence in Israel, and during that exile, Jerusalem remained the epicentre of Jewish yearning.  Wherever Jews resided in the world, when in prayer three times a day, always faced towards Jerusalem and at the Passover Seder always recited:

Next year in Jerusalem”.

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in The Great War (1914-1918), Britain took control of Palestine. It was the Jews who, with the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948 in terms of UN Resolution 181, which divided British mandatory Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, decolonised part of the land and returned it to its indigenous people – the Jews.   Only in Humpty Dumpty’s language does an indigenous people colonise a land!

Following Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948, the Arab population numbered 156,000. In 2021 there are 1,890,000 Arabs living as free and equal citizens in the state of Israel.  Yet today, in our inverse world, this exponential growth is characterised as “ethnic cleansing”. Israel’s treatment of her minority Arab population will certainly go down in the annals of history as the most unsuccessful attempt at ethnic cleansing ever.  Or perhaps, in terms of the Israel-Palestine conflict, we must accept that “ethnic cleansing” just cannot have its rightful meaning. Perhaps, just perhaps it is used to merely inflame emotions and intensify hatred.

Disgraced former President Moshe Katzav was tried and found guilty of rape by an Israeli Arab judge.   Mansour Abbas from the Arab party Ra’am has just become part of Israel’s new government.  Moslems, Christians and Jews, blacks and whites live together freely in Israel as equal citizens. They shop together, dine together, go to the same beaches and parks, are cared for by the same doctors in the same hospitals.  There are Arabs in the IDF who serve their country Israel with the same love and pride as their Jewish counterparts.   Yet Israel is termed an “Apartheid state”. Apartheid was institutionalised racism.   Racial laws governed every aspect of the lives of black South Africans – where they lived, married, which park bench they sat on, which school their children attended, which beach they could swim at and so on.  Under Apartheid, only the white minority had the vote. And yet egregiously, Israel is termed an Apartheid state!  

Getting Country Back on Track. Hardly apartheid, when Dr. Mansour Abbas (left), a devout Muslim from a small town in the Galilee could prove the most important man in Israel re-mapping the country’s political landscape (AFP)

The Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. 

The embracing of the words “disproportionate”, “colonisation”, “ethnic cleansing” and “Apartheid” lends legitimacy to Hamas’s nefarious call. If the media, and those who glibly use these terms, understand this, then we must accept that they are knowingly calling for the end of Israel – the one and only Jewish state in the world.

In 1940 it was the Jews who had to be exterminated; in 2021 it is the Jewish state.  Draw your own conclusions.

Dark Side of Words. The latest round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas has exposed the dangerous abuse of words to slander and malign.

About the writer:

Monessa Shapiro is a retired teacher and a member of the Media Team. Monessa also writes and blogs for the Times of Israel.

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

The Arab Voice – January 2021

Arab writers opine on issues ranging from the divisive damage of the Trump legacy on  sustaining democracy and unity in America to the prospects of Israeli generals salvaging the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and President Macron of France’s frustration with Lebanon’s ruling elite.


Trump’s Last Days in Office

By Abdel Monaam Said

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, December 19

What we’re currently seeing unfold in US politics is far from normal. Typically, a “lame duck” president – a term used to describe an outgoing president after his successor has been elected – simply focuses on the orderly transition of power from one administration to another. But Donald Trump is no ordinary president, and he refuses to abide by any political traditions or norms. Historically, incumbent presidents who lose the election call their competitor on the election night itself to offer their congratulations and accept their defeat. Then there is a ritual of meeting at the White House, with a customary handshake in front of the press pool. Furthermore, the outgoing president typically makes resources available to the elected candidate, in order to ensure that the new administration can begin working come Inauguration Day. However, with Trump, not a single one of these things happened. At the time of writing these lines, the Electoral College already cast its votes and affirmed Joe Biden’s victory.

On the Way Out. An advocate for the strength of America but does Trump leave office with the ‘State of the Union’ more fragile?

However, Trump refuses to accept these results and continues to pursue far-fetched policies, both at home and abroad, that presidents in his situation should avoid. The recent recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara and the normalization deal between Rabat and Tel Aviv is just one example. Trump remains adamant that the elections were rigged, despite the fact that all evidence points to the contrary. He took this issue to Congress and even the Supreme Court but failed to prove his case in these forums. America today is more divided, perhaps, than it has ever been before. The problem is not that 82 million Americans voted for Biden. The problem is that, after learning of Trump’s horrific stance on women, minorities and the world, some 75 million people voted for him. These voters, who constitute a significant portion of American society, are ready to take action to save Trump — including violence. In fact, one cannot rule out the possibility that some states might promote the idea of secession fromthe Union; a testament to how fragmented Trump’s America has become.

Abdel Monaam Said


Israeli Generals and Peacemaking

By Elyas Harfoush 

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, December 20

Israeli generals who have tasted the scourge of war are those who want peace the most.” This is a statement made by Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister and alternate prime minister. Unlike the politicians of the Likud bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu today, who are driven by religious ideology and by insistence on controlling the land and obtaining peace at the same time, Gantz and many other senior officers in Israel acknowledge that comprehensive peace with the Palestinians will come with a price, including a territorial one. When Benny Gantz talks about the role that the Israeli army generals can play in making peace with the Palestinians, one might think of Israel’s former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who, during his tenure as minister of defense in the 1980s, said Israel should “break the Palestinians’ bones.” Later, however, he signed the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat and called to “stop the bloodshed of Israelis and Palestinians.” This change in Rabin’s positions, from a “bone breaker” to a peace partner, was met with defiance by Israeli religious zealots, who considered Rabin a traitor. Their incitement eventually led to his assassination on Nov. 4, 1995, leading to an abrupt ending of Israel’s peace talks with the Palestinians. Like Rabin, Benny Gantz also seems to have come a long way from his military days. From the chief of staff of the Israeli military who led two wars on the Gaza Strip, Gantz became a “civilian” who admits that full and comprehensive peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without a settlement with the Palestinians. He went on to say:

The Palestinians deserve an entity in which they can live independently.”

Smiling in the Snow. Israel’s Minister of Defence, Benny Gantz who expressed recently that a “comprehensive peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without a settlement with the Palestinians” is seen on December 15, 2013  as the then-IDF Chief of Staff (left) enjoying a fun snowball fight with a family of Palestinians along the West Bank’s Route 60. (Judah Ari Gross/Israel Defense Forces)

Even the division of Jerusalem was not off the books for Gantz, who suggested that “the city of Jerusalem is large enough and has plenty of sacred sites for all religions.” This statement, coming from the most senior officer in the Israeli army, is very revealing. It is a stark reminder that Israel’s military superiority alone is not enough to end the conflict and provide long-term stability for the region. Notably, it is not usually the job of the military officers to make peace. In Arab countries, many leaders walked the opposite way, turning from civilians, who have no experience on the battlefield, to “generals” who hung stars and medals on their chests, and led their people and armies into defeats and disasters. In Israel, it is difficult to question the experience of military leaders. Therefore, they are often more willing to speak freely. And more and more of them are realizing that power and force alone cannot bring about peace. Of course, we all know that appeals alone do not make peace, and that moderate worldviews like that of Gantz’s are only good insofar as they resonate with a wide audience. Unfortunately, in Israel, the general public seems to identify with a more extremist worldview that seeks to maximize Israel’s gains without making any concessions. That’s why Gantz’s vision remains a mere slogan and not an implemented reality. Here, we return to the role played by extremist groups in any chance for peace. Those calling for extreme solutions on both sides of the conflict are not satisfied with any concessions. Israeli extremists raise the banner of territorial control and expansion, alongside military supremacy. Palestinian extremists rally around the idea of “resistance” and refusal to recognize Israel. Both of these camps are spoiling whatever chance there is to salvage the situation in the Middle East. And neither one of these groups is actually promoting their respective side’s long-term political interests.

Elyas Harfoush


Will Macron Launch a New Initiative to Incite the Lebanese Against Their Ruling Class?

By Ali Hamadeh

Al-Nahar, Lebanon, December 18

French President Emmanuel Macron was supposed to visit Lebanon next week, as part of a series of visits he has been conducting to Beirut following the port disaster in August. During his last visit, Macron gathered representatives of Lebanon’s political echelon at the French embassy in Beirut and presented to them a political-economic reform initiative, sponsored by France. Those in the room unanimously agreed to accept it, in light of the deteriorating conditions in Lebanon. However, since then, nothing has happened. Despite announcing their approval for Macron’s stimulus plan, these lawmakers and business tycoons did what they do best: allowed the initiative to drown in Lebanon’s political bureaucracy. The cancellation of the current visit, caused by the fact that Macron tested positive for COVID-19, places an even greater question mark over the French initiative.

French Frustration. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (right) welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron (left) upon his arrival at the airport in Beirut, Lebanon August 6, 2020.

In his planned visit, Macron was slated to meet French forces operating in southern Lebanon as a part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). He also planned to hold meetings in Beirut with President Michel Aoun, to express his dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to assume any responsibility over the country’s dire situation. It is safe to assume that, during the visit, Macron also planned to address the Lebanese people in an effort to turn them against their irresponsible leadership, which is busy playing petty political games. He also was expected to criticize the country’s ruling class for its failure to accept the financial reforms presented to them. In light of the visit, Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted a brief to President Aoun, in order to sign the decrees that would allow him to form a government in line with the spirit of the French initiative. But the latter kept Hariri waiting and suspended the formation of a new government. Without a new government, the French initiative cannot move forward and Lebanon will not receive any of the aid it had been promised. In any case, it is possible that Macron will still want to address the people of Lebanon from Paris, despite canceling his visit. In doing so, he will send a message to the Lebanese leadership that Paris will no longer put up with Beirut’s political ineptitude. In fact, there are rumors that Macron might announce an entirely new initiative for Lebanon; one which calls on the Lebanese people to rebel against the ruling class and organize in new political groups ahead of the 2022 elections.

– By Ali Hamadeh

*Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb

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

The Israel Brief- 09-12 November 2020

The Israel Brief – 09 November 2020 – US Election results and Abbas makes demands. Is Pfizer closer to a vaccine? Remembering Kristallnacht. Tribute to Rabbi Sacks z”l.

The Israel Brief -10 November 2020 – Saeb Erekat dies. Israel Covid update. Normalisation updates.

The Israel Brief -11 November 2020 – Update on the F35 deal. Is Israel opening up more restrictions? Will Israel head to elections again?

The Israel Brief -12 November 2020 – What can we expect from the last 70 days of the Trump administration? Israel working to acquire Pfizer vaccine. Cooperation between Israel and Sudan.

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

The Israel Brief- 21-24 September 2020

The Israel Brief -21 September 2020 – Israel’s Covid lock down. Malka Leifer to be extradited. Honduras to open Embassy in Jerusalem. Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The Israel Brief -22 September 2020 – Covid lock down updates. Global leaders begin annual UN General Assembly speeches. Hizbollah operatives sentenced for terror attack in Bulgaria.

The Israel Brief -23 September 2020 – Israel headed to full lock down? Israeli officials off to Bahrain. Zoom says NO to terrorist, Leila Khaled.

The Israel Brief -24 September 2020 – Israel heads to stricter lock down. Palestinians lose nearly 85% of Arab funding. Facebook and YouTube also say no to terrorist, Leila Khaled.

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

Read All About It!

The Israel-UAE deal is a “Big Deal’ – an Arab perspective

By Lay of the Land founders  David E. Kaplan, Rolene Marks & Yair Chelouche

Whatever the motivations and machinations of those that  brought about the historic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that has animated some sectors of the media, what has been patently neglected  – particularly in the Western media – has been coverage of Arab commentary on this ‘game-changer’ issue.

Hot Off The Press!  Newspapers featuring headlines from Israel’s deal to normalise relations with the United Arab Emirates. The deal marks the third such accord the Jewish state has struck with an Arab nation. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images)

Hasan Saleh Al Mujaini, a senior executive at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and an activist for peace and regional reconciliation, titled his August 14 article for the Arabic international newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat headquartered in London:

The Warm Peace between Israel and the UAE is a Victory for Us All

Reaching Arab Readership. A front page of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, the Arabic international newspaper headquartered in Londonwhich has praised the Israel-UAE deal.

His subhead was no less telling of his enthusiasm:

 “Real and lasting victories are the victories of peace, not the victories of war.”

Al Mujaini chategorises the deal as being:

 “…. at the gates of a historic era of peace between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates. This will be a warm peace because unlike Jordan or Egypt, the UAE has never fought a war with Israel.

Peace and coexistence are the pillars of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It is no wonder that the hearts of both Israelis and Emiratis are filled with joy after news of the historic agreement between our two countries!”

Reassuring to Al Mujaini was the reception of the news of the deal in the UAE:

There is a great sense of optimism in the UAE today and a real desire to get to know Israelis better, on a personal and human level.

Most residents of the UAE are excited to visit Israel, to see your beautiful country and to meet Israelis. Likewise, let me assure you that whenever you visit the UAE you will be warmly welcomed in our country.”

No doubt, Israelis who are perennial travelers, will look forward to the end of the Corona and setting their sights on the Gulf!

Al Mujaini counsels to view the deal as a building block to even wider ties in the region and beyond:

 “A forward-looking attitude and a real commitment to change are always necessary in order to overcome past conflicts and to break down barriers. This peace accord between our two nations provides precisely this kind of opportunity, which we must grasp and use as a foundation not only for peace between Israel and the Emirates, but a broader peace between Israel and the Arab world.”

Operation Outreach

Most important, asserts Al Mujaini, is the hyped publicity of the deal on Arab social media. There is nothing secret; the news is out there to share:

The atmosphere in support of peace and the interaction we are witnessing through social media platforms in the UAE and Israel, and increasingly in more Arab countries, give us a great sense of hope that such lasting peace is indeed possible.”

What is more, the news has not only been welcomed by the general populace but by the leadership in all strata of UAE society:

 “Many prominent people in the UAE have praised and congratulated this agreement ……. We must let the past be the past and look forward to the opportunities of tomorrow, full of sincere cooperation and synergy.”

Al Mujaini does however lament – hardly unexpected – that:

 “Although we also have empathy for the Palestinian people, it is regrettable that instead of grasping this opportunity to advance their own situation, their leadership has yet again dismissed an outstretched hand for real and meaningful change.”

Most encouraging is Al Mujaini’s vision for the future:

The peace agreement between Israel and the UAE is intended to put an end to conflicts  in the region and to spread the values of peace among the peoples…….

After the historic peace agreement last week, we feel a real mutual sense of excitement and hope for a better future. It is our dream that others, especially in the Arab world, will see it also and join us!”

Breaking Barriers

Also writing in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat was Mishary Al-Dayidi, whose article on the Emirati-Israel agreement, said it all succinctly and simply in the title:


For this writer, the UAE “achieved a major political, psychological and security breakthrough in the Middle East with the announcement of its historic agreement to normalize ties with Israel. This agreement not only protected the Palestinians’ right to establish their own independent and sovereign state, but also preserved the sanctity of all Muslim sites in Israel.”

Changing Mindsets. A man holds the daily Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper at a coffee shop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia covering the issues of the Israel-UAE deal.Credit: Amr Nabil,AP

According to Al-Dayidi,the deal:

 “strengthened the moderate Arab world and united it against the Muslim Brotherhood, the Mullahs and the Arab nationalists who have been rearing their heads in the Middle East,”

while at the same time:

  “The UAE reaped a tangible gain for the Palestinian cause, not by words but by deeds: It brought to an immediate and unequivocal end to the Israeli encroachment of West Bank territory, an achievement explicitly outlined in the tripartite statement released by the UAE, the US and Israel.”

Under no illusions, Al-Dayidi warns what to expect next with the “well-oiled propaganda machines in Turkey, Iran and Qatar, alongside radical groups like al-Qaeda, Islamic State and the Houthis,” all rushing “to attack the Emirates. They will describe the UAE as a “traitor” and as “weak.” But the truth is far from that. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was vehemently attacked after signing a peace treaty with Israel. But the fact of the matter remains that in historic perspective, he liberated Egyptian lands and prevented a bleak future for his country. He was a true hero of war and peace, and Egypt is still reaping the fruits of the peace he created.”

Al-Dayidi notes that the King of Jordan, Hussein bin Talal, “was also attacked after reaching an agreement with the Israelis, but he refused to submit to these accusations. This led his country to the great Wadi Araba Treaty, which ensured Jordan’s territorial integrity and water rights with Israel. Therefore – and because he is a realistic and responsible Arab leader – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took the initiative to commend this development.”

Exposing hypocrisy and advocating pragmatism, the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat writer continues”

Most ironically, those very countries that responded with criticism – Turkey and Qatar – are also those maintaining the most extensive covert trade and tourism ties with Israel. Whether one supports it or not, the Emirati-Israeli agreement will not come at the expense of the Palestinians, but rather in their favor. Like it or not, Israel is one of the countries of the region.”

As far as Al-Dayidi is concerned, “this historic diplomatic achievement will enhance peace in the Middle East and preserve the two-state solution on the ground, not in the imagination. This is a historic agreement that brings back memories of great leaders who dared take risks to bring about peace.”

Headline News. A man reads a copy of UAE-based The National newspaper, with a headline about the UAE-Israel agreement and Israel’s suspension of annexation moves in Dubai on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace/AFP)

Thoughts of an Arab Student

We felt it instructive and illuminating to conclude with a perspective from a young Emirati writer, Maryam Al Zaabi, a 19-year-old student at Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi.

Majoring in history and international relations, Al Zaabi reveals that that she also learned “how Israel is very multicultural, multi-ethnic and very diverse, which is what I love, coming from a country that has more than 200 nationalities living in it.”

She reveals that she only started hearing about Israel at the age of eleven and had “no misconceptions regarding the Jewish state that Israelis and Jews might think an Arab would have. I was even ignorant about it, because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not an interest of my parents or my school, so the topic barely came up.”

Failure of Leadership. Following the Israel-UAE deal, the Palestinian Authority refused to accept a shipment of life-saving medical aid, including ventilators and the shipment is still undelivered. It is the latest example of the Palestinian leadership’s hatred of Israel being stronger than their desire to ensure the health and well being of their own people.

She then started learning “by myself about the history of Jewish people and Judaism. I learned that being Jewish is also a peoplehood and that they have a connection to the land (Israel).”

With no inherited baggage and acknowledging that she has made many Jewish and Israeli friends –  she writes:

I do not have a reason to hate the country, and I don’t look for one. Every country has its flaws, including Israel, but its existence is not one of them.”

What was so amazing for her was having “this dream” for her country – the UAE – and Israel to work together,  when “All of a sudden, after a busy day,” she reads a tweet announcing the deal. She responds by tweeting herself:  

I’m so shocked, happy and honored.”

In an article published in JNS, Al Zaabi writes that:

As an Emirati, what I truly hope for after establishing bilateral relations between our countries is for us to have real and warm relations. Not only between governments, but very much between the people as well. I don’t wish for merely a “cold peace,” which is only for preventing war. I would love for people on both sides to learn from each other, exchange ideas, become the best of friends, and most certainly break stereotypes.

Warm Embrace. Welcoming close ties between the people of the UAE and Israel is Maryam AlZaabi, a 19-year-old student at Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi. You can follow her Twitter at: @MaryamAvia

It only makes sense for us to be the closest of allies in this region. After all, we are cousins.”

How uplifting!

The wise counsel from much of the Arab world to the Palestinians is that it is time to get over their shock at the deal; to not categorise it as a “betrayal” and begin to see the Israeli-Emirati breakthrough as a potential bridge to restart talks with Israel. The time may be ripe  to turn a “crisis” into an “opportunity”.

Increasingly, more and more countries in the region and beyond will hopefully see the value in peace and mutual cooperation. A “Winds of Change” once having blown across the African continent is blowing through the Middle East, hopefully starting to sweep away ancient hatreds and bring about a new season of brotherhood.


*Lay of the Land thanks Asaf Zilberhof for some of the translation from the Arabic.

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

The Israel Brief- 24-27 August 2020

The Israel Brief -24 August 2020 – US Secretary of State in Israel. Election averted? Update on Eilat rape case.

The Israel Brief -25 August 2020 – IDF attack Hamas targets in response to ongoing arson balloon terror. UAE and Israel begin health cooperation. Gaza Covid numbers increase.

The Israel Brief -26 August 2020 – Terror attack. IDF strikes Hizbollah targets. Direct flight to UAE Monday. Speaker pulled from RNC for supporting anti-Semitic posts.

The Israel Brief -27August 2020 – Israel lays Rabbi Shai Ohayon to rest. Gaza Corona cases increase. Israel and German Foreign Ministers meet. Lebanese assassin of Rafiq Al Hariri a member of Hizbollah hit squad?

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

Fabulous Phyllis

Lifetime volunteer for Israel and WIZO turns 100

By Martine Maron Alperstein

Seven months after the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) celebrated its centennial at a conference in January 2020 in Tel Aviv attended by leaders of Jewish communities from 40 countries around the world,  one of its devoted volunteers turned 100.

Family Ties. Phyllis with her daughter Devorah (right), and granddaughter Simone (Left) at Protea Village, Israel.

Born on the 29th July 1920 in Glasgow, Phyllis (Wolf) Lader moved to Newcastle with her husband Benni Lader in 1940 and then to Bournemouth where she raised her family. At the tender age of 90, Phyllis made aliyah to Protea Village – a retirement home in a rural setting in central Israel. It was to this scenic spot where we visited her just a week after her 100th birthday.

Love it. Love it. Love it….. They are all mine,” says Phyllis as she gazes lovingly at a photo of her children, 23 grandchildren, 95 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandchildren.

image002 - 2020-08-16T180258.198
Letter from the Queen. Queen Elizabeth congratulates Phyllis on turning 100.

Phyllis is an absolute delight and a force of nature. She came shooting down in her motorized scooter, burning up the sidewalk. She was moving so fast that her helper could not keep up and was almost running behind. I was so expecting to see mag wheels and racing stripes. Once she’d applied brakes and come to a gentle (!!) stop, she smiled and her whole face lit up.

On The Move. Still “driving” at 100, Phyllis Lader with Rolene Marks (L) and the author, Martine Maron Alperstein (R) 

Phyllis grew up surrounded by WIZO chaverot. She relayed stories of garden parties, coffee mornings and other WIZO related events. Her mother would knit feral sweaters in pastels for the summer and fall colours for the winter that were donated to WIZO to be sold to raise funds. She would also donate a very special white sweater to be used as a raffle prize. The WIZO chaverot were fiercely Zionistic and worked to support Jewish women and children in Palestine. Glasgow at the time had a very large Jewish community that was centered around 12 different Synagogues. On a Wednesday, her mother took her to the Board of Guardian’s soup kitchen in a very poor part of Glasgow where they helped to feed Jewish refugees who had fled Europe. Every day was something else. Wednesday was soup kitchen, Thursday was a clothing and boots bazaar. Everyone helped. No Jew went hungry.

Fabulous Phyllis1
The Phyllis Files. All you ever wanted to know – and more – about Phyllis.

Over the years, Phyllis spent time as both the WIZO chapter co-chairman and the secretary. Her daughter remembers the dining room table would always be covered in WIZO logoed paper.  Women’s week was an annual event where the chaverot would go door to door, educating about WIZO work and projects, and raising money for the women and children in Palestine. At 42, 4 older kids and very involved with both WIZO and Emunah, she discovered she was pregnant. But even a young baby did not hold Phyllis back. Baby Sharon attended committee meetings, events, coffee mornings and was pushed door to door in her pram while Phyllis went about collecting donations.

image001 - 2020-08-17T004522.280
Star Centenarian. Celebrating 100 Years of WIZO (1920-2020) a timespan share by the women’s organization star volunteer, Phyllis Lader.

To celebrate her Silver Wedding Anniversary, Phyllis flew to Israel for a 3 week tour with WIZO. Her husband did not like to fly, so she filled the freezer and came on her own while he stayed in Bournemouth and took care of their 5 kids. Phyllis and the chaverot spent a week in Haifa, a week in Herzlia and a week in Jerusalem, spending time with the group and visiting various WIZO projects around the country. In Haifa, she broke away from the group, deciding to explore a bit on her own and low and behold what did she discover??? A WIZO shop. She was so excited and would not leave without buying something. She bought a gorgeous amber ring which she loved for all the right reasons and is now worn affectionately by her granddaughter, Simone.

Ring True. A gorgeous amber ring purchased at the WIZO Haifa store today worn lovingly by her granddaughter, Simone.

Phyllis’s message to the younger women of today, is get involved, give of yourself and of your time. Charity is not only about money, it is about doing. Helping and enabling someone who is mentally, physically or financially challenged, is priceless. You change their lives by helping them in whatever way they need, and you can. It is a team effort and every part, every effort, every gesture big or small, is valuable and makes a difference.

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Full Bodied and Smooth. Phyllis is a perfect example of a single malt.

Corona virus has forced us all to pause, take a look at our lives and think carefully about what is important and meaningful. Take the time to appreciate the flowers.

Places to go! Things to do! Turning 100 has not slowed Phyllis down!

About the writer:

Martine Maron Alperstein.jpgMartine Maron Alperstein Chairman of WIZO Modi’in English Speakers, made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.

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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter – 06 August 2020

Unveiling the contours and contrasts of an ever-changing Middle East landscape

Reliable reportage and insightful commentary on the Middle East by seasoned journalists from the region and beyond


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Look Who’s Watching

Why is Israel today such a powerhouse in global entertainment television?

By David E. Kaplan

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Fauda Phenomenon. The series about a team of undercover operatives hunting terrorists is captivating audiences worldwide.

With Israel’s TV shows offering such contrasting, compelling characterizations from the lives of undercover operatives in “Fauda, to the ultra-Orthodox communities in “Shtisel” to Jewish ethnic divisions in the romantic-comedy series “The Baker and the Beauty”, Israeli TV producers display a magic touch that transcends international boundaries.



The Crisis of Zionism

By Alex Ryvchin

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Determining Destiny. From ‘idealists’ in a hotel in Basel in 1897 to tinkering ‘mechanics’ today in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

The price of Israel’s success is that the existential imperatives that drew Jews to Zionism – pioneering, state-building and the salvation of Jewish communities – are seemingly now much less “imperative”. With less “to connect a young Jew of Johannesburg, Sydney or Toronto” to Israel, what is the purpose of Zionism today?



Unbreakable Bonds

The Relationship between the USA and Israel

By Lay of the Land USA correspondent

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Friends in Deed. Warm assurances and smiles at a recent meeting of US Secretary of State and Israel’s President.

The biblical bond the Jewish people have with the land of Israel and the bond of common values Israelis share with the American people were the core themes addressed by US Jewish leader and philanthropist, Simon Falic during a recent ceremony in Florida honouring  US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.



The Arab Voice – August 2020

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Arab writers from the Middle East and beyond, opine on a rapidly declining Lebanon and on the behaviour and ramifications of two presidents – USA’s Donald Trump and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


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LOTL Cofounders David E. Kaplan (Editor), Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche

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

The Israel Brief- 27-30 April 2020


The Israel Brief – 27 April 2020 – Israel eases Covid 19. Preparing to mark Yom Hazikaron.




The Israel Brief – 28 April 2020 – Terror attack Kfar Saba. Yom Hazikaron. Covid updates.




The Israel Brief – 29 April 2020 – Special Yom Haatzmaut Edition




The Israel Brief – 30 April 2020 – Covid updates. Germany bans Hizbollah. Mayor de Blasio offends.

“Deep Down, What Do You Feel?

An ‘illuminating’ perspective of the Shoah from the ‘darkness’ of a collapsed mine

By David. E. Kaplan

Pedestrians stand solemnly in silence, while buses stop on busy streets and cars pull over with drivers standing at the side with their heads bowed. This collective conduct of the citizens of Israel is set off by a two-minute siren wailing across the country marking Holocaust Remembrance Day or known colloquially as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה). It is observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.

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Siren Sounds. Israel comes to a standstill as motorists stop their vehicles at the sound of the siren and stand solemnly for two minutes.

This year – 2020 – will be different as Corona transforms everything usual into the unusual.

The siren will still wail for  two minutes but the streets will be mostly and ominously quite as most the citizens of the country will be home under some form of lockdown.

In cities and towns, people will stand on the balconies or poke their heads out of apartment windows for the two minutes as the siren wails and look down at the empty streets below.

The image of “looking down” made me think 10 years back  to another perspective of the Holocaust, that of the inverse of  “looking up”!

I always wondered what someone who had no knowledge of the Holocaust would feel following a visit to Yad Vashem – Israel’s official memorial in Jerusalem to the victims of the Holocaust. It was a thought that had intrigued me for many years, and an opportunity  to answer this thought arose in 2011, when 24 of the 33 Chilean miners who had been rescued after spending 69 days trapped in a collapsed Chilean mine the year before arrived in Israel. Hosted by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism for a 8-day visit, including their families, I had been invited as editor of the Hilton Israel Magazine to spend the day with the miners as they toured  Jerusalem, one of the sights being Yad Vashem.

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Close Encounters.  Hardened by their own close encounter with near death, the Chilean miners and their families processing the horrors of the Holocaust inside the ‘death-factory’ designed Yad Vashem. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

One forgets, but as the Coronavirus dominates the news today,  in 2010, what dominated the news – for at least 69 days –  was the plight of the 33 miners trapped 700 metres below ground in the collapsed coppergold San José Mine located near Copiapó, in the Atacama Region, Chile.

Mesmerized in front of TVs, a global audience was drawn to this heart-rending and nail-biting unfolding drama who rooted for the rescue of these miners buried beneath in what was referred to at the time in the media as the “Deep Down Dark”. People of the world identified with the families of the miners as we all became “one family” hoping and praying for the success of the incredible rescue operation.

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Mesmerized At The Murder. So near to death themselves, some of the younger rescued Chilean miners including a couple with their new-born baby inside Yad Vashem’s ‘Hall of Names’ absorbing the enormity of the Holocaust. (Photo D.E. Kaplan)

Thankfully this story of the 33 miners sealed inside the mountain by a “megablock” of collapsed stone, some 770,000 tons of it -“twice the weight of the Empire State building” – had a happy ending.

Over 1 billion viewers around the world watched the rescue unfold live on TV on Oct. 13, 2010 as all 33 of the miners were raised to the surface of the earth.  Staring at that flat, smooth wall, Luis Urzua, the crew’s supervisor, thought at the time:

It was like the stone they put over Jesus’s tomb.”

Continuing in the biblical parlance  of Urzua, it was as if the miners had been unbelievably – “resurrected”.

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The Hero Of San José. The writer interviewing at Yad Vashem the 54-year-old shift leader Luis Urzua, who had been the last miner to be rescued. His level-headedness was critical for the survival of his men in the San José mine. (Photo. D.E. Kaplan)

In Israel’s invitation to the miners, which was extended to members of their families, the Israeli tourism minister, Stas Mesezhnikov, wrote:

Your bravery and strength of spirit, your great faith that helped you survive so long in the bowels of the earth, was an inspiration to us all.”

From San José to Shoah

With my Spanish interpreter tagging besides me, I caught up with the miners as they exited the Hall of Names – a  repository for the names of millions of Shoah victims. Close to four million eight hundred thousand of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices are commemorated here.

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People visit the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in May. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

The miners came out looking emotionally drained.

They stood in groups, clustered together on the platform overlooking the forests and the city of Jerusalem – the capital of the state of the Jewish People.

I began to interview them – all revealing their unfamiliarity before their visit to Israel of both Jews and the Holocaust.

Some men are blessed with “nine lives” I thought interviewing 33- year-old Victor Zamora, a mechanic who only went into the mine on the day of the collapse to fix a vehicle. This same man had also been a victim and survived the Chilean earthquake seven months earlier. The 14th miner to be rescued he said, “Before coming to Israel, I knew nothing about the Jewish Holocaust.  I’m still feeling claustrophobia, it’s a feeling that stays with you; hard to shake off but,” and then stopping to shake his head, he continued, “whatever I experienced, it hardly compares with what I’ve just seen here now [at Yad Vashem].”

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Salvation Soon. The underground trapped miners celebrating inside the San Jose mine near Copiapó, Chile, as drilling equipment made its way into one of the caverns, September 17, 2010

Standing next to Zamora, was his former shift manager, the 54-year-old Luis Urzua, who had been the last miner to be rescued. His level-headedness was critical for the survival of his men and his gentle humour was all too evident when later describing the 69-day ordeal as:

It’s been a bit of a long shift.”

And to my question of “How important was your faith in God?” he replied:

We were 33 miners; God was miner number 34.”

However, it was this leader of the miners that revealed to me a perception of the Holocaust that resonated more than much of the academic writings I had come across.

I asked:

“Having been so close to death with your fellow miners, how did you feel after having walked through Yad Vashem revealing how the Jews in Europe too faced death?”

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Miners Avoid Kotel Tunnels. Celebrating Chileans in Jerusalem’s Old City understandably declined on touring Jerusalem’s underground tunnels to avoid reliving the trauma.

This brave and resolute man answered wiping away tears:

“There is one big difference. While we may have shared with the Jews in the concentration camps that feeling of always being close to death, we at least enjoyed one luxury – HOPE. We knew there were people rooting for us, praying for us all over the world and working non-stop to save us. Now, having spent the last two hours walking through Yad Vashem, I know the Jews in the Holocaust had no hope. No-one was coming to rescue them. There lies the big difference – we at least had HOPE!”

Four letters but it incapsulates the DNA of the State of Israel. Jews today in the direst of circumstance can HOPE. From rescuing 49,000 Jews of Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet (1949-1950), Jewish passengers of a hijacked plane in Entebbe, Uganda in 1976, to rescuing thousands the Jews of Ethiopia in operations Moses and Solomon and now in 2020, to sending planes all over the world to bring back “HOME”, Israelis stranded because of the Coronavirus.

Today, Jews can not only HOPE, they can depend on the Jewish state to come to their rescue!

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Let There Be Light. The tour ends with a view of forests and beyond the city of Jerusalem – the affirmation of light and life after darkness.