Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter-11 July 2021

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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What’s happening in Israel today?  See from every Monday – Thursday LotL’s “The Israel Brief” broadcasts and on our Facebook page and  YouTube by seasoned TV & radio broadcaster, Rolene Marks familiar to Chai FM listeners in South Africa and millions of American listeners to the News/Talk/Sports radio station  WINA, broadcasting out of Charlottesville, Virginia. You can subscribe to LOTL news from Israel and enjoy at a time of your convenience.

The Israel Brief

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Changing of the Presidential Guard

Guardians of the character of the state, Lay of the Land praises the exemplary tenure of  President Reuven Rivlin and wishes President Isaac (Bougie) Herzog all the success as unifier of all the people of Israel.


Articles

(1)

Battling for our Boys

By David E. Kaplan

One of the Boys. Rabbi Shalom Myers (centre) enjoying an afternoon  BBQ with active duty lone soldiers.

From helping English-Speaking lone soldiers to embracing soldiers from the Haredi community, a Jerusalem Rabbi  and former South African, Shalom Myers, pursues his vision of ensuring Israel’s lone soldiers are never alone.

Battling for our Boys

(Click on the blue title)



(2)

Shame, Shame, Shame, UCT?

By Stephen Schulman

Vision Impaired. UCT’s VC’s Phakeng’s worthy vision for UCT is undermined by unworthy conduct.

The unfolding and seemingly unending drama playing out at South Africa’s premier university UCT is of global significance as the script and plot is emblematic of the worldwide upsurge in antisemitism. Lay Of The Land correspondent  and a UCT alumnus, Stephen Schulman exposes the troubling acceptance of the “Hitler committed no crime” lecturer in his second Open Letter to the University of Cape Town.

Shame, Shame, Shame, UCT?

(Click on the blue title)



(3)

Of Men and Mensches

By Craig Snoyman

Portraits of a President. President Reuven Rivlin (left) and in a cuddly disguise in public (right).

Following a widely disseminated  photo-shopped picture of the former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma disguised in Arab dress thinking of fleeing to Dubai where it is rumoured he has stashed many of his illicit millions, the writer contrasts the “IMAGE” of Reuven Rivlin,  who in his last day as Israel’s President, disguised himself  spending several hours walking freely amongst his beloved fellow citizens.

Of Men and Mensches

(Click on the blue title)




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

To unsubscribe, please reply to layotland@gmail.com







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).

Battling for our Boys

From helping English-Speaking lone soldiers to embracing soldiers from the Haredi community, a Jerusalem Rabbi pursues his vision of ensuring Israel’s lone soldiers are never alone

By David E. Kaplan

Rome was not built in a day,” said Rabbi Shalom Myers  of Jerusalem describing a personal journey that began 8 years ago helping English-speaking lone soldiers from abroad to more recently widening the ambit to include Hebrew-speaking Israeli soldiers from the ultra-orthodox Haredi community. However, “we are well on our way,” Shalom affirms enthusiastically of his groundbreaking vision.

There was a particular resonance in the Rabbi’s use of the word “ROME”, which had begun the Jewish exile from the land of Israel 2000 years earlier, and which Rabbi Myers is working to ensure will never happen again as he helps lone soldiers in the Israeli Army protect and preserve the hard-fought Jewish state of Israel.

Home Not Alone. Rabbi Shalom Myers with lone soldiers – all paratroopers in a combat unit –  in a renovated and fully-furnished ‘Emek Lone Soldiers’ apartment in the German Colony Jerusalem

“Never again” means doing not only talking – and Rabbi Shalom Myers exemplifies both. He had just returned with his architect wife Lynne, “my partner” in his Emek Lone Soldiers’ initiative from an Ikea  outlet with a truckload of furnishings “for our apartment in Jerusalem for the Haredi lone soldiers.” The apartment at present houses  six soldiers, “three Israelis and three from abroad, two of whom are from orthodox communities in the USA.” Describing as “our pilot”, Rabbi Myers hopes to have apartments “for 30 plus by the end of 2021” but in the near future to have  a home-away-from-home complex “exclusively for Haredi soldiers.”

A “lone soldier” is a soldier in the IDF with no family in Israel to support them. This could mean a new immigrant, a volunteer from abroad, an orphan or an individual from a broken home. Highly motivated to serve in the Israeli army, most lone soldiers are placed in combat units. At any given time, these soldiers are guarding Israel’s borders by land, air and sea.

Time Out. Rabbi Shalom Myers (centre) enjoying an afternoon  BBQ with active duty lone soldiers near the front lines.

While regular soldiers regularly spend weekends and holidays at home where their parents provide for all of their needs such as food, laundry and a hug, “these basics” are absent for a lone soldier when they leave a base.

There are over 7,000 lone soldiers currently serving in the IDF of which about 45% are new immigrants, coming from Jewish communities all over the world. Another 50% are Israelis who are orphans or that come from low socio-economic backgrounds. And then there are those that come from ultra-orthodox neighbourhoods who are shunned by their families and communities because they decided to go to the army. Of the total, there are up to 1000 English-speaking religious lone soldiers serving annually in various units of the Israel Defense Force. They come from America, England, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Most have no immediate family in Israel and no place to call home.

Securing Israel’s Future. Combined English-speaking and Haredi lone soldiers at an army base with Rabbi Shalom Myers.

This is where the Emek Lone Soldiers – A ‘Home -away- from from home’ framework for religious lone soldiers wanting to maintain their religious lifestyle while serving in the IDF – came in 8 years ago with Rabbi Shalom Myers leading the proverbial charge. The Emek Lone Soldiers is an off-shoot of the flourishing Emek Learning Center in Emek Refaim, the German Colony’s main street, co-founded and headed by Rabbi Myers. So what began years earlier providing for English-speaking lone soldiers has in recent years expanded to embrace the Haredi community. Rabbi Myers  – who has had four sons serve in combat units in the IDF –  explains:

 “they are all our children, all our soldiers – I make no distinction.” It is the Beit Midrash (learning centre), the synagogue  and “our community” that are “our three pillars that we offer to the religious lone soldiers.”

Soft Landing. Far removed from the life they had planned, lone soldiers affixing mezuzot in their new fully furnished Emek Lone Soldiers’ apartment in Jerusalem.

It takes a village to raise a child” reminds Rabbi Myers of the African proverb that means that an entire community of people must provide for and interact positively with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.

A child himself of Africa, Rabbi Myers is well familiar with the military. Formerly of Cape Town where he was the Reverend of Rondebosch and Parow synagogues, a Chazan at the Claremont shul, he was also a chaplain in the South African army as part of his compulsory military service.

In The Army Now. Rabbi Shalom Myers with lone soldiers at a pre sabbath dinner in the German Colony, Jerusalem organized by  Emek Lone Soldiers.

Shalom recalls when as army chaplain for Western Province Command, the Christian chaplain was suddenly unable to deliver his weekly sermon to the men on parade and “suddenly, I was called upon to fill in”.

I’m the Jewish chaplain,” he answered, “besides I’m unprepared.”

Maak nie saak nie, Myers (“makes no difference” in Afrikaans), proceed,” barked his superior.

Officer Myers looked out at the sea of men standing before him, and the words flowed. Afterwards, the officer congratulated him on the most inspiring sermon he had ever heard and his stature in the military henceforth was rock solid. “The point is,” Shalom asserts, “You need to be prepared not only with knowledge but the confidence to impart that knowledge when you might least be expected to.”

Bonding at the Base. Rabbi Shalom Myers following his shiur (Talmudic study session) to combat lone soldiers at an army base.

Such attributes are serving him well today as he pursues his vision.

Asking what inspired him in this direction, Shalom replies:

“Let me say this. When you get involved in the Rabbanut and you want to teach, influence and help, the Rabbanut is the ultimate Chesed.” And in helping the lone soldiers, “not only are we helping individuals but we are helping the Jewish people.”

I was reminded of the revered Rav Soloveitchik who was very meticulous and stringent in every phase of Hilchot Tefillah, the laws of prayer. However, when once visited by a student serving in the IDF and asked by the soldier in a tank division that involved cleaning and maintaining the tanks whether he needed to change his uniform when covered in oil and grime before davening Mincha, the Rav looked at him in amazement and said out loud:

 “Why would you need to change? You are wearing Bigdei Kodesh – holy clothes!”

Father and Son. A proud Rabbi Shalom Myers with youngest son Moshe at his induction into Sayeret Nachal. 

Rabbi Myers’ pursuit has not come without opposition from within his community. The following exchange is instructive.  He recalls some years ago a well-meaning friend cautioning him:

 “You should choose, either focus on the shul (synagogue) or  the lone soldiers; you cant do both.”

Capable of doing both and much more, Shalom is also a former practicing accountant,  has Smicha from Machon Ariel and taught for 14 years at Ohr Somayach, heading the Mechina program before founding in 2013 the Emek Learning Center.

So while there was no need “to choose”, Rabbi Myers is quick to add that had he had to choose, “I would have chosen the lone soldiers because while the learning centre could be done by others,  what I am offering the lone soldiers particularly now with the Haredi lone soldiers is unique.” Of all the soldiers, the ones “closest to my heart,” says Rabbi Myers are the Haredi Israelis.

Why?

They were not brought up from this; it is not their world and they are giving to their people but at a huge personal price; they have to start their lives all over again. They are the most in need, not only in preparing then for the army and offering them a warm environment during their military service but most important helping them after the army service in guiding them to then study to provide a financially sustainable future. Feeling abandoned, we are like their new parents.”

It’s a long and hard process but it is a fruitful process with huge rewards  not only for individuals but for Israeli society.

The Graduate. Rabbi Shalom Myers (right) at the graduation ceremony of a lone soldier.

Rabbi Myers could not have received a more enriching endorsement for his vision then from the late Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who expressed back in 2018, the following:

One of the core ideas within Judaism is contained in the famous Talmudic phrase: Kol yisrael arevim zeh lazeh, meaning all of Israel are responsible for each other. This is at the heart of the mission and work of the Emek Lone Soldiers Initiative. By caring and looking out for those who have no other support, we are taking responsibility for them in the most Jewish of ways. Linking this work to the writing of a Sefer Torah is a beautiful idea. We know that for a Sefer Torah to be kosher, every letter has to be correct, and no letter, word or phrase is more important than any other. Such is the same with the soldiers who risk their lives in defense of the State of Israel. Each soldier has put himself or herself on the line and as such we, as Am Yisrael, must do everything possible to ensure they are looked after both during and after their service. I wish all at Emek Lone Soldiers, blessings and best wishes for the future.”

Tucking In. Undergoing fitness training in preparation before their draft,  lone soldiers enjoying a meal at the Emek Learning Center in the German Colony, Jerusalem.

Trained for the temporal world with a lifelong passion for the spiritual – “I was born in a shul” – Rabbi Myer’s journey has been one of absorbing and processing experiences along the way that “has served as my GPS” directing him precisely to his present destination  – founding and heading first the Emek Learning Center and now the Emek Lone Soldiers.

May he continue his outstanding service to his community, the state of Israel and today and tomorrow’s lone soldiers.

I am very proud that when I stood under a chuppah 39 years ago, with my bride Hilary, the Rabbi officiating was Shalom Myers!



Having a Ball. Lone soldiers enjoying a game of American football  during a Shabbaton In Herzliya.





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).

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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 (0&EO).

Of Men and Mensches

By Craig Snoyman

South African social media has been scorching hot this week.  The former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, was sentenced to 15 months direct imprisonment for contempt of a court order. The order was handed down by the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court. It also ordered his imprisonment. Virtually the whole of South Africa was sure that he would do something to prevent his arrest, after all his so- called “Stalingrad Defence” has managed to stall criminal corruption charges against him for at least ten years . Cell phones were literally burning as discussion, speculation, conspiracy theories and humour jammed the internet.

One of the pictures widely disseminated was a photo-shopped pictures was of President Zuma disguising himself as an Arab, with him thinking of going to Dubai.  It is widely rumoured that many of his illicit millions are there. What we do know, is that his son owns a very expensive apartment there.  The Gupta brothers, who are alleged to have looted billions of rand from the South African fiscus in cahoots with Zuma, are also hiding out there.

Former South African President, Jacob Zuma has started his prison term

Normally it is completely politically inappropriate even refer to “black-face” or in this case “brown-face”, let alone circulate such a picture but these are very strange times in South Africa. President Zuma, once referred to “Msholozi” (number one) and now in whispered references as “Jailkop Zuma”, is likely to spend some of his immediate future behind bars. At the same time as he sets out on a new path, so does Israel’s former President, Reuven Rilvin.  Two pictures tell the difference between the two Presidents.

On his last day as President, photographs of President Rivlin in disguise, were released to the press. In the picture that appears in the Israeli press, President Rivlin is heavily disguised with a dark-haired wig, a bushy beard and spectacles (and possibly an altered nose and shoulder padding) and a long black overcoat. He certainly did not look like an 81 year old man.  His security detail said that he spend several hours walking around, disguised and incognito, amongst his fellow citizens. 

Deep Undercover. The President in his disguise, happily mingled amongst unsuspecting Israeli citizens.

From our perspective at the bottom of Africa, it never looked like President Rivlin put a foot wrong. He was the image of the perfect statesman, (almost perfect because he looked a little too cuddly) representing the State of Israel in an extremely dignified manner. And then these pictures were released! Not furtively onto a site on the internet, but publicly released to all the national newspapers.  Clearly an affectionate gesture by his secret-service protection, with his full consent.

All of a sudden, President Rivlin is seen in a different light! No longer the upright, ceremonial state representative.  In one fell swoop, he is seen as an avuncular scamp – a man with a sense of humour, your favourite uncle playing a trick on you! He is transformed and now, he’s just an ordinary person, one of us.  Sometimes we forget that the politicians are human to.  For me, this is probably going to be my lasting image of President Rivlin, all his other accomplishments will slip into the recesses of my memory. Farewell President Rivlin, may your future journeys be filled with joy and wonder and much good health and happiness… and lots more impish humour. I doff my kippa to you, President Rivlin, a People’s President.



About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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).

Shame, Shame, Shame, UCT?

The ongoing outrage at the insensitivity of South Africa’s premier university to the victims of Hitler

Following Lay Of The Land publishing an Open Letter by UCT alumnus Stephen Schulman to the Vice chancellor of UCT, Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, expressing outrage at the seemingly no action taken against a senior lecturer imparting to his students that “Hitler committed no crime”,  we publish the somewhat dismissive reply from UCT – received not from the Vice Chancellor but from the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Martin Hall –  and Schulman’s fitting response.

Excusing EvilActing UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) Prof. Martin Hall, responds to Schulman’s ‘open letter’.

This unfolding drama although set in Cape Town South Africa, is of global significance as the script and plot is emblematic of the worldwide upsurge in antisemitism and the tepid response of leadership as reflected in UCT’s lackluster interest and resolute willingness to take action.

Vision Impaired. Vice-Chancellor’s Professor Phakeng’s worthy vision for UCT of “Excellence, Transformation and Sustainability” is undermined by unworthy conduct of its lecturers and leadership.

Quick to support removing offending statues on campus or changing names of buildings for offending sectors of South Africa’s population, no such concern of sensitivity extends by UCT’s leadership to today’s Jews in South Africa!

Editor


UCT replies to Stephen Schulman:

Dear Stephen Schulman

The Vice-Chancellor has asked me to reply to your email of 27 June.

 It is not the case that Dr Lushaba issued a statement that : Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.” Rather, an unknown  person  extracted a short clip from a 30-minute recording of a first year lecture delivered on line, and posted the clip on social media.  The overall subject of the lecture was acts of genocide committed by colonial powers against indigenous communities, in the context of changing interpretative models within the disciplinary field of political studies. It is apparent from the full recording that Dr Lushaba’s reference to Hitler was intended ironically.

Understandably, the wide distribution of this clip on social media has caused extensive concern and distress.  The university is currently reviewing the full lecture in the context of the curriculum the context and our expectations of our teaching staff.  We expect this review to be completed shortly.

Regards

Emeritus Professor Martin Hall

Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Transformation

University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3,

Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa

Phone: 27 (0) 21 650 2175/6

martin.hall@uct.ac.za

dvc.transformation@uct.ac.za

www.uct.ac.za


Dear Professor Hall,

Thank you for your prompt reply of the 29th instant. It is much appreciated as I understand that Prof. Phakeng is heavily burdened with her onerous manifold duties and so is unable to reply in person.

The gist of your letter is that some of Lushaba’s students, those who viewed the video clip and all others (including myself and a large number of other UCT alumni) who read the words he said, unfortunately not being endowed with his elevated faculties, were incapable of understanding his lofty wit because according to your interpretation as official UCT spokesman: “It is apparent from the full recording that Dr Lushaba’s reference to Hitler was intended ironically”. Moreover, we should also understand that these words having been said by a black African in the context of his lecture on “…acts of genocide committed by colonial powers against indigenous communities in the context of changing interpretative models within the disciplinary field of political studies,” should evoke more understanding and empathy. Accordingly, in the light of these facts we are in fact doing this gentleman a grave injustice by displaying an acute lack of sensitivity and leveling unfounded accusations of Holocaust denial and blind racism at him.

Lushaba’s very words: Hitler committed no crime.” are abhorrent in any context and in no way absolves him from condemnation. In some European countries, Holocaust denial is a crime and Lushaba would spend time in court explaining his warped sense of humour. Even if, as you claim, he also spoke ironically about white people as being putative genocidal perpetrators, then this is a sick and dismal failure at trying to be witty and a flagrant disregard for the feelings of others.

Scary Signs. “Hitler committed no crime,” says UCT Political Science lecturer, Dr. Lwazi  Lushaba, with no action to date taken. What are South African Jews to think as to the direction of their country?

I find your explanation completely unacceptable and your attempt to paper over his racism and whitewash his words (I hope that at UCT this term is still politically correct!) wholly unconvincing and I do not retract one word from my previous letter. Moreover, judging from your reply, you have dispensed with impartiality and have already reached a conclusion, exculpating him on the grounds of a simple ‘misunderstanding’.

I find the behaviour of the University of Cape Town devoid of any sensitivity. It is both shocking and outrageous. Since his words were made public and caused widespread outrage approximately two and a half months have already gone by and still UCT “is currently reviewing the full lecture”!! Why this foot dragging?

Why this prevarication?

At this pace of proceeding, it will take longer than the gestation period of an elephant to present the findings! 

In this lengthy period, the university as an influential public institution with an incumbent responsibility towards the community, well aware of the whole affair and its ramifications, has elected to remain silent.

Why the silence?

That silence speaks volumes. That silence has given Lushaba a tacit endorsement of his words and a license to continue disseminating his hatred. These are difficult times with increases in intolerance, racism and a rise in anti-Semitism.

The silence of UCT makes it complicit.

Even in the bad days of Apartheid, UCT was a liberal institution and would not have countenanced such behaviour by any staff member. The university is currently in the throes of transformation and from its treatment of this sad affair, we fear all is not well.

Talking of Irony! “Spes Bona” meaning “good hope” on the University’s logo,  South African Jews can be excused for questioning, “what hope?” when Hitler’s mass murder is explained as having been “no crime”.   

We call upon the University of Cape Town to promptly and publicly censure Lushaba, condemn his words and issue a public apology. If it wishes to continue bearing this august name, nothing else will suffice

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Schulman





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).

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter-04 July 2021

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

Home

Like this content? Please share and tweet it to your friends and followers.

To subscribe via email please send a mail noting your request to: layotland@gmail.com

Please visit/ join/follow our social media platforms: Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LotLSite/

Twitter: Lay Of The Land – @layoftheland5

Also available on YouTube @The Israel Brief  – Simply click on the red subscribe button to receive alerts when a new report is posted.



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What’s happening in Israel today?  See from every Monday – Thursday LotL’s “The Israel Brief” broadcasts and on our Facebook page and  YouTube by seasoned TV & radio broadcaster, Rolene Marks familiar to Chai FM listeners in South Africa and millions of American listeners to the News/Talk/Sports radio station  WINA, broadcasting out of Charlottesville, Virginia. You can subscribe to LOTL news from Israel and enjoy at a time of your convenience.

The Israel Brief

(Click on the blue title)




Articles

(1)

Crystal Clear

Resolving the complex spatial nature of crystals

By David E. Kaplan

Wise Guys. Professors Leslie Leiserowitz and Meir Lahav providing answers to  complex questions.

It took two Israeli professors, one a former South African from Belville near Cape Town to  solve a riddle left unanswered by Louis Pasteur nearly a century-and-a-half earlier. What began by noting “the patterns while observing my mother as a dressmaker,” led to Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz receiving the 2021 Wolf Prize for Chemistry.

Crystal Clear

(Click on the blue title)




(2)

Punching Above Our Weight

Israel on the frontline of support and rescue in a time of disaster

By Rolene Marks

Ready to Rescue. A team of Israeli experts taking off for Florida to assist in disaster relief.

Israel values human life and helps those in need – regardless of their location. From natural disasters like earthquakes and mudslides to disease and famine, time and again the Jewish state sends humanitarian aid missions to help save lives. The devastating collapse of a residential complex in Miami, Florida is the latest to see our “Blue and White” heroes providing such aid and support.

Punching Above Our Weight

(Click on the blue title)




(3)

A Call to Stop Hate Fell on Deaf Ears

The South African Muslim Judicial Council and South African Jewry

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

Role of Leadership. Anti-Israel sentiment in SA is spilling over into antagonism towards Jews.

Calls not to serve Jews”!!!! To cool religious tensions in South Africa arising from the conflict in the Middle East, the country’s Chief Rabbi extended an olive branch to the nation’s Muslim leadership, which not only it scornfully rejected but sought support from Christian leadership further inflaming antipathy towards the country’s Jews.

A Call to Stop Hate Fell on Deaf Ears

(Click on the blue title)




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

To unsubscribe, please reply to layotland@gmail.com






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).



Punching Above Our Weight

Israel on the frontline of support and rescue in a time of disaster.

By Rolene Marks

If we measured countries in weight according to their size, Israel could be determined to be a flyweight, at the very most a bantam weight. Boxing metaphors aside, Israel is so tiny, that it is almost impossible to find the country on a map of the world.

But when a disaster of any kind be it natural or otherwise occurs anywhere in the world, it is tiny Israel that packs a mighty punch by responding immediately where needed.

When the call goes out – and even sometimes when it doesn’t – Israel is the first to respond. This even extends to countries that Israel has no formal diplomatic ties with because humanity and helping your fellow man in a time of crisis trumps politics every time.

Israel has a long history of sending humanitarian aid and it is woven into the fabric of our society. Just ten years after the founding of the modern State of Israel in 1948, the country adopted an official humanitarian aid agenda, providing vital relief to more than 140 countries.

This effort does not just come from the IDF or government resources, but also NGO’s (non-governmental organisations) such as ZAKA, IsraAid, F.I.R.S.T, United Hatzalah Latet and others and is truly remarkable – even the United Nations has recognized Israel for its contributions. Rare praise from this embittered institution!

Israel has a unique ability to dispatch search and rescue teams and field hospitals fast and effectively. Unfortunately, we have had to learn this through difficult and sometimes tragic circumstances but it has become a skill that can be used to help others in times of distress.

“We Come to Help”.  Israeli government Minister Nachman Shai (6th from the left) and the IDF search-and-rescue delegation arriving on Sunday, June 27, 2021, in Surfside, Florida, to aid in recovery efforts at the building collapse. (Diaspora Affairs Ministry)

Called in Times of Crisis:

Since 1953, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has sent help for those in need, regardless of their location. Just this past week, a team of Home Front Command elite search and rescue soldiers departed for Miami, USA following the devastating collapse of a 12-floor apartment building, “Champlain Towers”. A short while after the news broke, Israel’s United Hatzalah’s psychotrauma team was deployed to help families and survivors cope with the profound trauma and stress of a catastrophe of this kind. Israel’s national carrier, EL AL said that they would cover the travel costs. Several days later, the Governor of Florida accepted Israel’s offer of IDF assistance and a team of ten elite search and rescue professionals including engineers, departed for Miami.

Sizing up the Situation. IDF Home Front Command delegation on site in Surfside, Miami

The scene on the ground is devastating. While the official cause has yet to be determined, the main priority now is rescue and recovery. Hope may be slim but it is still there.

Crushing Catastrophe. Workers search in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. One hundred fifty-nine people were still unaccounted for two days after Thursday’s collapse, which killed at least four. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

I have had the immense pleasure and privilege of visiting Miami and spending a little bit of time with the Jewish community, many of whom come from South America. This is a strong, close and cohesive community, proudly Zionist and is as dedicated to Israel as they are to each other. This past week the women of WIZO USA Florida have rallied around the community of Surfside, doing as much as possible to try and help ease the burden of suffering. These exceptional women, who anxiously await news of their friends, associates and family members are working around the clock to feed and comfort the bereaved and provide nourishing kosher meals to rescue workers, sensitive to their religious dietary requirements as well as collecting necessities for those who have lost everything.

Helping Hand. Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai (right) speaks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the site of a building collapse near Miami on June 27, 2021. (Diaspora Affairs Ministry)

Israeli teams are joining their American counterparts working day and night, trying to recover the lost loved ones for anxious families. The United States may be a juggernaut in comparison to tiny Israel and may have many resources equipped for these kinds of disasters but for Israel this is a chance to help out our greatest ally, show our love for our brothers and sisters affected and also share our tremendous, world leading skills. Our prayers and love remains with all who have been affected by this tragedy.

Wonderful WIZO. Coordinating help and aid coming in from the community for those affected by the collapse of Champlain Towers are WIZO USA Florida’s Ruthy Benoliel (left) and Judit Groisman.

Other countries where Israel has helped include Mexico, Armenia, Cambodia , Pakistan, Haiti, Nepal, Romania, Argentina, Croatia, Kenya, Turkey, Democratic Republic of Congo and more.

Humanitarian aid in time of war

Every couple of years (and as recent as May this year), Israel seems to be embroiled in another flare up with Hamas in the neighbouring Gaza strip. As rockets and mortars fall on Israel and we defend our civilian population with retaliatory strikes on military targets, so we also ensure that much needed humanitarian aid continues to enter the beleaguered strip. During this recent flare up, humanitarian convoys were fired on with mortar shells but this did not stop them coming through. Israel continues to maintain a humanitarian corridor and works closely with the United Nations and necessary authorities and NGO’s on the ground, despite an ongoing precarious security situation.

Israel has sent much needed Covid-19 assistance as well as medicines, food, perishable good, fuel and other necessities.

Friends in Deed. Grateful Kenyan expresses thanks for  the help Israel sent that country in a time of crisis.

Tikkun Olam

Theodore Herzl, the founding father of modern Zionism had a vision for his future Jewish state. He wanted the Jewish tenet of “Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) to be something that was synonymous with the country. In keeping with this philosophy, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has a special department called “MASHAV”, which is the Hebrew acronym for “Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation” and today there are projects all over the world, most notably on the African continent.

The work of MASHAV is to contribute to developing countries and this is done in fields where Israel has relevant expertise accumulated during its own history as a young country facing similar challenges.

Agents for Change. MASHAV trains women from around the world so they can be agents for change in their communities. (photo credit: MASHAV)

The belief is that ‘training the trainers’ and human capacity building activities are the best way to achieve maximum impact for development. Education and the transfer of skills is empowering and guarantees sustainable growth.​

​​​The seeds planted by MASHAV are bearing real fruit that will grow from generation to generation.

Saving the Children

Operation Good Neighbour

For years Syria has been embroiled in a bitter civil war that has had a devastating impact on civilians. Witnessing the shattering impact of conflict on civilians, especially children, the IDF launched “Operation Good Neighbour” with the intention of bringing civilians into Israel, at great risk to them and our soldiers, to give them access to life-saving medical attention.

Saving Syrians. Seen here in 2017, an IDF soldier feeds a Syrian baby in Israel as part of the army’s humanitarian aid program to assist Syrians impacted by the civil war in their country. (Israel Defense Forces)

In the cloak of night as battle raged around them and with no help from the UN stationed close by, Israel’s soldiers brought thousands of civilians into the country and gave them the help they needed. The IDF also helped transport members of the NGO, White Helmets and their families out of Syria and into safety in nearby Jordan.

The impact of Operation Good Neighbour will last generations as Syrians who were raised on the education of incitement that Israel is the enemy have now seen first-hand that when the world pretty much turned its back on them, it was Israel who opened her arms.

Save a Child’s Heart

Their mission is simple. Perform as many life-saving procedures on children with life-threatening heart problems. Israeli humanitarian organisation, Save a Child’s Heart, treats children suffering from congenital and rheumatic heart disease who have little access to care in their own countries.

Israel in Africa. The prestigious UN Population Award was awarded to Israel’s non-profit medical charity ‘Save a Child’s Heart’ for saving the lives of thousands of children around the world. Seen here in March 2018, an Echo Technician from Wolfson Medical Center in Israel, examining the heart of a child at the Save a Child’s Heart clinic in Zanzibar. (Nati Shohat/FLASH9)

To date, over 5000 children have been brought to Israel from nearly 60 countries where they have little or no access to the medical care that they need and given them the paediatric care they need as well as providing an in-depth outreach post-graduate training program for medical personnel from these developing countries, some who Israel has no or even hostile relations with. Countries have included Ethiopia, Iraq, at least 50% from Gaza and the West Bank, Syria, Ghana, Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, Moldovia, Romania, Vietnam and many more.

In 2018, Save a Child’s Heart was honored with the UN Population Award, in recognition of its outstanding contributions to population and health.

Israel may be a real bantam weight in size but the tiny Jewish State knows how to deliver a knockout punch when it comes to contributing and helping the world. Size does not matter when it comes to punching above your weight – skill and the right intentions are what is needed – and appreciated.



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

The Israel Brief- 21 June – 01 July 2021

The Israel Brief – 28 June 2021 – IDF Search and Rescue on site in Miami. Diplomatic spat brewing between Poland and Israel. Rivlin in US, Lapid in Rome.




The Israel Brief – 29 June 2021 – Israel opens Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Bennett and Sisi speak. Biden and Rivlin meet.




The Israel Brief – 30 June 2021 – Israel opens Consulate in Dubai. Rivlin at the UN. Updates on devastation in Surfside.




The Israel Brief – 01 July 2021 – Covid spike in Israel. IDF soldier stabbed, weapon stolen. Israel welcomes German President.





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).

Crystal Clear

A co-recipient of the 2021 Wolf Prize, Israeli scientist – a former South African – solves a 140-year-old complex riddle

By David E. Kaplan

Israel’s prestigious Wolf Prize – an annual international award given to outstanding scientists and artists from around the world –  have been handed out for the past 43 years to 354 leading scientists and artists including Israel’s Prof. Ada Yonath, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2009. To this illustrious list, we can now add  the 2021 recipients,  that includes a former South African, Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz  who with his longstanding collegial partner Prof. Meir Lahav, both of the Weitzman Institute’s Molecular Chemistry and Materials Science Department for their collaborative establishment of the ”fundamental reciprocal influences of three-dimensional molecular structure upon structures of organic crystals.”

Awarded for “achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among people … irrespective of nationality, race, colour, religion, sex or political views,” there is no doubt that Leslie and Meirs’ scientific discoveries have truly contributed towards “the interest of mankind and friendly relations among people”.

They have at the same time solved a riddle!

The Wolf Prize ceremony at the Knesset, Jerusalem

Resolving a Riddle

Crystal formation is one of the most fundamental phenomena in chemistry and the structure of organic crystals is of particular importance because the crystal shape (morphology) reflects the three-dimensional structure (stereochemistry) of the molecules assembled in that crystal. In 1848, the famed French chemist microbiologist. Louis Pasteur conducted his famous experiment, physically separating the two crystalline forms of a tartaric acid salt, which mirror one another. Pasteur’s experiment became the basis for modern stereochemistry, and it was followed by the study of the first Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Jacobus H. van’t Hoff from Holland. However, neither Pasteur nor van’t Hoff, nor many of the other famous chemists  that followed would come to understand the relationship between crystal morphology and molecular stereochemistry until 140 years had passed and two Israelis, Professors Lahav and Leiserowitz conducted their milestone experiments in the Mid-1980s. These experiments demonstrated for the first time that the absolute configuration of molecules can be derived from their crystal morphologies. They not only solved the long-standing puzzle; but according to the Wolf Foundation press release:

they also pioneered the science of organic crystals’ stereochemistry. They directly related the stereochemistry of the individual molecule to the shape of the macroscopic crystal. They founded the links between molecular structure, crystal morphology, crystal growth’ dynamics, and molecular chirality (the structural property of an object, which makes it different from its mirror image, like the human hands). Their findings laid the foundation for our current knowledge of the selective self-assembly of organic molecules. In this way, their rules powerfully complement our understanding of organic chemistry for covalent assembly and macromolecules’ self-assembly.”

When Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz was awarded the 2016 Israel Prize for ‘Chemistry and Physics’ with Prof. Meir Lahav, he was only the third South African Israeli to receive Israel’s highest civilian award. The other two recipients had been Dr. Ian Froman in 1989 for his contribution to society through sport, and the late Hillel Deleski in 2000 for the study of English literature.

Interviewing Leiserowitz at the time, he explained to me by posing these questions:

How and why do artery-blocking chunks of cholesterol form?”

What happens at the very first stage of the transition from water to ice?”

What can be done to prevent the formation of gallstones or the crystals in the joints that cause pain in gout?”

These are all questions about one of the more important processes in nature: crystallization, and Leslie and Professor Lahav have worked separately and together over their careers to investigate this process.

Collaborating on Crystals. Recipients of the 2021 Wolf Prize in Chemistry,  Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz (Left) and Prof. Meir Lahav of the  Molecular Chemistry and Materials Science Department at the Weizmann Institute.

Indebted to Mom!

Born in Johannesburg in 1934, Leslie obtained a BSc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and during an ensuing 18-month period “of work, unemployment and travel,” he became fascinated in a field of chemistry that drew him to an illuminating work – “The Crystalline State” by Brag & Bragg. “The symmetry of the crystal structures therein,” intrigued Leslie, reminding him “of the patterns my mother worked with as a dressmaker in Johannesburg.”

This curiosity, coupled with a knowledge of “microwave interference”, led him to his next marker on his academic path – “The Optical Principles of the Distraction of X-rays” by R.W. James, who was Professor of Physic at UCT. With now a clear direction, the young budding scientist studied for an MSc in X-ray crystallography in the Physics Dept. at UCT.

Following his travels to London and then on to Israel “with my good friend”, the future South African Jewish leader Mervyn Smith, who he knew “from our Bellville days,” he joined in 1959, the research group of Gerhard Schmidt at the Weizmann Institute of Science as a PhD student in solid-state chemistry.

Leslie’s journey of research, took him to academic posts abroad, and in more recent years, focused on a childhood fascination with the study of malaria – a project, which he says, “in some ways is a continuation of my original research with Prof. Lahav on crystal growth. It was not generally appreciated that this infectious disease is intimately connected with crystallization.” Leslie reveals that growing up in Johannesburg, “I learnt from my father, who had spent long stretches of time in Central Africa, the full ravages of the disease.”

It was an area of study that Leslie felt compelled to study and most assuredly gels with the spirit of the wording of the Wolf Prize of contributing towards “the interest of mankind and friendly relations among people”.

If Leslie’s mother, who died young – “only in her forties” – was today looking down from her celestial perch, she would be amazed and proud that from the simple patterns of her daily dressmaking, lay the complex mysteries that would inspire her brilliant son to pursue a journey of scientific exploration culminating in the 2016 Israel Prize and the 2021 Wolf Prize.

Maybe, she had a “crystal ball”, and foresaw it all coming!

The 2021 Wolf Prize in chemistry that was awarded to Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz and Prof. Meir Lahav.






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 call to stop hate fell on deaf ears

The South African Muslim Judicial Council and South African Jewry

By Adv. Craig Snoyman

MEA CULPA!

I spent the last couple of weeks trying to hawk this article to South Africa’s main-stream media but to no avail – maybe too hot to handle.

I sent the article first to the newspapers that had first published the raging issue distressing the Jewish community, then to the larger media houses and eventually to the South African Jewish press. Maybe the language was too strong or too emotive, but then religious issues generally are.

I confess my sin in advance – hence Mea Culpa!

While there was no media interest – and one can question the reasons why – I believe it’s an important issue that needs to be aired.  So I took the article, dusted it off, spruced it up at little and here it is. Forgive me but this non-South African website, with a large South African readership, was at the back of the line.

While the issue is about the South African Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and South Africa Jewry, I believe it may well be of global interest. Anti-Israel voices have a habit of morphing into anti-Jewish voices. Ignoring incitement and hate-speech doesn’t solve problems. Incendiary cyber-messaging and vicious online-abuse isn’t going to stop on its own. Disinviting an Israeli-owned food truck from a Philadelphia food fair is not going to cause a stir unless the issue is aired. Inflammatory rabble-rousing demanding that a particular school, which has mixed Jewish-Muslim learner ratio have to debate the Israel-Palestine issue, while insisting that only a pro-Palestinian radical speaker participate, does not contribute to a climate of calm. The flood of antisemitic tropes – only some of them masquerading as anti-Zionism – can be anticipated to lead to violence against Jews in the streets; or BDS activists deciding that they won’t tolerate Israeli products in shops. Once antisemitic violence has happened, it can’t be undone.  Unfortunately, this behaviour is not only expected, but is clearly foreseeable.

It was for this reason that South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Warren Goldstein extended an olive branch of peace to the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and Jamiatul Ulama South Africa. He called on them, by all accounts privately and discretely, to sign a Joint Statement, in which they would publicly call on their  respective constituents to respect each other as citizens of South Africa; and not threaten each other  because  of  their differing views on the Middle East. What he was really asking for, was a public statement by the MJC calling on its constituents to stop harassing his flock and make the clear distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

It was a call stop the hate

Call it out so that it will stop.

The Muslim Judicial Council took the proffered olive branch, broke it in two and then poked the Chief Rabbi’s eye with it!

It was not the MJC‘s constituents that were being harassed or intimidated. They could speak from a position of strength, and they did. The MJC unequivocally and publicly rejected the Chief’s overture and their rejection published in the national papers. They also went running to the Anglican Archbishop seeking him to agree that the offending eye should be plucked out.

Really?

Why does the rejection of a request make by a Jew to a Muslim require the sanction of a Christian?

Reacting to Rabbi.  South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council  publicly and scornfully rejected the Chief Rabbi’s overture for tolerance and understanding between their religious communities.

The MJC – in further justifying their decision not to issue a joint statement – stated that:

  “The stance by members of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, headed by Chief Rabbi Goldstein, is diametrically opposed to our moral position that most of the freedom-loving people have adopted in so far as it refers to condemning the violence and apartheid policies meted out against Muslim and Christian Palestinians on a daily basis by the apartheid regime in Israel.” 

Factually, the justification is incorrect. The Chief Rabbi has no official position in the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). The SAJBD is a separate independent body.  The Chief Rabbi acted in his position as head of the Union of Orthodox Synagogues and as titular leader of the Jewish community. On several interfaith functions, where the MJC has participated as well, the Rabbi has acted in this capacity. It is therefore surprising, at the very least, that the MJC could make such a clearly fallacious allegation. But the statement goes further. There is an inferential blaming of the South African Jews for the actions of the regime in Israel.  This skates very close to, if not on, a long-existing, well-worn antisemitic canard, that  Jews can be denigrated simply because they hold the “wrong” position on Israel.

While the MJC added that it did not support or condone intimidation, threats or violence at any level and called on all peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters to maintain the necessary discipline at all times, this was hardly the case and the Chief Rabbi  was, and is, well aware of the turbulence that has racked and continues to rack his community. Apart from two reported physical assaults – one a Jew, allegedly by Muslims returning from a pro-Hamas rally and one in a shopping centre largely frequented by Jews – the threats of death (“Khaybar, Khaybar, the army of Mohamed will return”, “We’ll finish off Hitler’s work”) the other vocal abuse ( e.g. “Nazi’s” “Zio-Nazi’s”) are in a completely different class to the very vocal  chant of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”. Virtually every Jewish personality in South Africa with a public profile was overwhelmed with vitriolic antisemitic (as opposed to Anti-Zionist ) comments on their social media sites. The spate of  the vicious antisemitism that flooded social media may have died down, but it has not disappeared. There are still calls NOT to serve Jews, from certain shop-owners.  Most, if not all of this, seems to have originated from the MJC‘s constituency. The ongoing call to boycott Jewish citizens because they are stereo-typed as  supporters of  Israel  and the call for consumers to stop shopping at stores because they stock Israeli product, is also unabated. That the Chief Rabbi felt that the need to reach out to the Muslim leaders is understandable. One can be reasonably sure that these issues and perceived consequences, were raised by him in discussion. However, the MJC‘s bland response calling on “all peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters to maintain the necessary discipline”  does not adequately address the issue; and allows for simmering intolerance.

Sowing the Seeds of Discord. Inviting the conflicts of the Middle East into South Africa.

When one looks at the MJC‘s declaration, stating that they do not condone violence and intimidation, it does not address cyber-hate  or ongoing threats to Jewish South Africans or even the relationship between Muslim and Jewish South Africans. Only the MJC‘s “peace-loving pro-Palestinian protesters” (does one hear of any other type of protesters?) are called on to maintain discipline. The issue of private individual conduct is not dealt with, nor is the aspect of on-line hate and other forms of specific ethnic harassment or ethnic interaction. The MJC could not have been oblivious to them. It issued a “catch-all” boiler plate statement to be wheeled out for all occasions.

Stocking Hatred of Jews. Demonstrators marching through the city centre in Cape Town on May 12, 2021 holding banners falsely accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza while ignoring the over 4000 rockets fired from Gaza into civilian areas in Israel.(RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images.)

The casual attitude taken by the MJC is confusing and a matter for concern. On the one hand its position seems to be: “Yes we acknowledge that there should be respect and tolerance between the different religions in South Africa”  while on the other hand it states that  “we cannot be seen to agree with you publicly on the issue of peace and tolerance, because then  we would be betraying the Palestinian cause”. 

These positions are a non-sequitur! 

  • Can one not support peace and tolerance in South Africa and still support the Palestinian cause? 
  • Can one say that one is obliged to refuse to sign a document supporting peace and tolerance because to sign it constitutes a betrayal of the “Palestinian cause”?
  • Can one say that the MJC‘s position is that the “Palestinian cause” is more important to the MJC than peace and tolerance between Jew and Muslim in South Africa?
  • Can one say that the MJC‘s position is that it is not necessary for the incidents of abuse of Jews by Muslims in South Africa does not need to be called out in an effective manner?

All of these propositions would seem to be justified.

The MJC then takes the matter a step beyond a domestic national issue of ethnic tolerance. Rather than address the issue directly,  the MJC deflects and introduces foreign politics and “the Palestinian cause into the equation or  can  one say  the Palestinian cause is made the totality of the equation?

How should one understand “the Palestinian cause” and “support for the besieged people of Gaza”? Does support for the besieged people of Gaza also include support for Hamas, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation, which rules the territory? 

Quo Vadis? Chief Rabbi calls on Muslim religious leaders in SA to issue joint call for tolerance over Gaza conflict was totally rejected.

Do they support the firing of over 4 300 rockets toward civilian targets in Israel from the Gaza strip? The MJC is silent on the issue of the conduct of Hamas but embraces the noble Palestinian cause as “a dignified struggle that requires demonstrating the highest integrity and discipline”. Is Hamas viewed as being included within this dignified struggle? Is Hamas – whose charter declares it seeking the destruction of Israel – also part of the dignified struggle of the noble Palestinian cause which it embraces? 

Where does one draw the line?

And why should this political opinion affect its conduct and attitude toward the safety of South African Jewry?

The MJC is aware of the opinion of its constituents in South Africa.   Numerous rally posters called for “Free Palestine”  nd  “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”. The MJC has not disassociated itself from these sentiments. So what is this noble Palestinian cause which requires a dignified struggle of the highest integrity and discipline?

Is it supporting one Palestinian state from the river to the sea, necessitating the elimination of the State of Israel?

Or is it supporting the existence of an independent Palestinian state, co-existing with an independent Jewish state of Israel?

Or should one then accept that the MJC support of the “noble cause” includes the violent overthrow of the Jewish state and condones the launching of rockets against Israel’s civilians? 

Does the noble cause include Hamas’ fundamental position that Jews are to be killed wherever in the world they are to be found?  By rejecting the offer of peace between South African Jews and South African Muslims in favour of the “noble Palestinian cause”, is the MJC stating that the noble cause includes the elimination of Jews in South Africa? 

Is the MJC conflating antisemitism and  anti-Zionism?.

The seemly-obligatory defamatory attack on the State of Israel by the MJC is revealing. The public and political posturing of the MJC could only be for public consumption for a simple and polite rejection to Rabbi Goldstein would have been adequate. It is clear that the MJC‘s battle is one to win hearts and minds of third parties. Why the need to falsely declare Israel an Apartheid state, which is a distortion of the facts as well as a distortion of the definition of Apartheid?

Clearly there is a battle to win over the Christian communities. It sought support from the Anglican Archbishop in order to solicit an unconditional Christian endorsement of the Muslim rejection. So the MJC went public; they rejected the Jews and sought the endorsement of the Christians.

The South African Jews, save for Chief Rabbi Goldstein, almost – unforgivably – kept quiet!

So again to spell it out. Israel is not an Apartheid state, even if it is a catchy jingle. Every Arab citizen of Israel has the same political rights as any other citizen of Israel. There was never an African party allowed to represent its constituents in parliament during the period of Apartheid. Robert  Sobukwe was never offered a position in B. J. Vorster’s  Nationalist cabinet. However, Arab parties have been in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, since the inception of the State of Israel. Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am Arab Islamist  political party are part of a new Israeli government, with Abbas an equal amongst equals. Any specific allegation of Apartheid can be easily refuted.

Distortion and Deception

Following the MJC emotively and publicly seeking the support of the Christian community with its inflammatory false allegations against Israel, it was left to the Chief Rabbi to warn South African Christians to be on guard and at least question what was being fed to them by the MJC.

Those well versed in what is happening in the Middle East know the true situation of Christians living under Muslim rule. While there are more Christians living under Israeli rule than there have ever been, the same cannot be said for Christians under Palestinian rule.  In Palestinian Gaza, the Christian population had dropped from 5,000 to under 1,000 in 2018. From 5% of the population under the control of the Palestinian Authority, the Christians now constitute less than 2% and the Christian population in the disputed territories continues to decrease. In the “little town of Bethlehem” the beleaguered Christians once constituted over 80% of the  population. Today, under the Palestinian Authority they now count at less than 10,000 or less than 10% of the city’s population and continues to decrease. This is the real “Christ at the Crossroads” and has nothing to do with Israel as the MJC would like South African Christians believe.

The Chief Rabbi sought to protect his flock from foreseeable harm and alleviate a climate of increasing hostility. He extended a gesture of peace. The MJC scorned it.

The Chief Rabbi sought to avoid the issue of religious sectarian hate, violence and intimidation arising in South Africa. The MJC chose instead to play politics, importing issues of the Middle East into South Africa.

The Chief Rabbi called for a statement of peace. The MJC chose the Palestinian cause over peace.

The Chief Rabbi opened his hand in peace. The MJC redefined the concept of peace and figuratively spat on his hand.

Resolute Rabbi. Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein who had earlier stood up to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-Israel statement in the media, when asked for Muslim leadership to join him in calling for tolerance and non-violence was met with angered rejection.

It is time that the Muslim Judicial Council come forward and set out its position publicly, in the same way it did when it summarily dismissed Chief Rabbi Goldstein’s approach.  Where does it stand  and what lines are crossed if one calls for ethnic tolerance in South Africa? Similarly, having announced that it supports the “noble Palestinian Cause”, one should be able to understand if this a policy rather than a slogan. If support for a distant Palestinian cause is preferable over peace and tolerance toward fellow South African citizens who happen to be Jewish what then is the MJC‘s attitude toward Christians who are also supporters of Israel? Will they too be attacked or are they too large a group to be bullied as was the case with South Africa’s Chief Justice, who also called for peace in Jerusalem? Are they also to be sacrificed on the high altar of the Palestinian cause? The Muslim Judicial Council’s strategy of public rejection has a concurrent obligation – a reasonable explanation not simple slogans of “noble Palestinian causes”. 

Talk policy, don’t mouth slogans! 




About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.





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).