Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 10 September 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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The Israel Brief

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Articles

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Sights from the Saddle

A perspective on a “cycling revolution” in Israel and changing Middle East

By David E. Kaplan

Ready to Ride. From the Negev desert to the roads of Dubai and Paris, Israel pedaling proudly into the future.

As Israel participates for the first time at the 2020 Tour de France with team ‘Israel Start-Up Nation’, the brand Israel  as a modern democratic hi-tech powerhouse is resonating across new landscapes.

Sights from the Saddle

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(2)

The Holocaust is NOT Entertainment

“Trauma Porn” is the sickening new trend surfacing on social media

By  Rolene Marks

The Clock is Ticking. Time for action with TikTok swamped with disturbing antisemitic content.
 

A disturbing new trend is taking place on the social media platform, TikTok. Described as “trauma porn” – young people are re-enacting scenes in which they pretend to be victims of the Holocaust or 9/11 – not for educational purposes, but for “likes” and views.

The Holocaust is NOT Entertainment

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(3)

A New Dawn in Dubai

Once a gulf apart, now Israeli emissaries set to serve Jewish community in the Gulf

By  Michael Jankelowitz

Picture Perfect. An idyllic vista of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that will see an influx of Israeli visitors. 

Following the signing of the historic Abraham Accords in August, emissaries from the World Zionist Organisation  are being sent to the UAE to serve the Jewish community in Dubai – a FIRST to an Arab country! Is this a portent for a “warm” rather than the old familiar “cold peace”?

A New Dawn in Dubai

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(4)

A Corona Cry for Help

The JNF in South Africa responds

By Beverley Price

Stand and Deliver. The JNF distributing  food parcels to the needy community in South Africa.

It was Mandela that brought  a shidduch (match) between South Africa’s Mamelodi community and the Jewish National Fund so  when during the height of the Corona pandemic, a cry  from that community for food was heard by the JNF, it was a call for action.

A Corona Cry for Help

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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

Sights from the Saddle

A perspective on the road ahead as the wheels of Middle East progress are spinning in sync with the wheels of Israel’s top cyclists at the Tour de France

By David E. Kaplan

What a difference 7 months can make!

In February 2020, Israel’s pro-cycling team, Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN) took part in a cycling tour in the UAE that this August, signed a historic groundbreaking “normalization deal” with Israel  – a deal that not only formally ended an economic boycott but will likely lead to transforming the political landscape of the Middle East. “Normalisation” is the name of the new game and what was once “abnormal” is today peddling at high speed into “the new normal.”

If in February Israeli professionals were in Dubai cycling, in a post-Corona world Israeli tourists will be there shopping.

Israel Start-Up Nation. Confident, proud and ready to ride into the future.

More than seeing it coming was  ISN’s co-owner and the man behind Israel’s cycling revolution, Sylvan Adams, who played a sporting role in these welcome developments. A cycling enthusiast responsible for the Middle East’s first indoor velodrome  in Tel Aviv and who brought the “Grand Start” of Giro d’Italia to Israel in 2018 so  astutely observed before February’s 2020 tour in Dubai:

When our leaders decide  to make peace, we would already have prepared the GROUND for a warm peace.”

Literally on the ‘ground” as the signs were all too evident for Adams on the streets in Dubai in February:

 “Our cyclists had the national blue and white colours emblazoned on the front of their jerseys. They carry the name of our nation on their backs and fans were standing in line to receive autographs of our riders who they earlier had cheered in the streets of the United Arab Emirates.”

Up and Ready. Israel’s Start-Up Nation cycling team training ahead of the 2020 Tour de France.

And now in September, when both the UAE and – for the first time – Israel are participating in the 2020 Tour de France, we see developments of the new agreement between Israel and the UAE taking shape by facilitating easy banking, lowering financial impediments to making investments between the countries, and promoting joint investments in the capital markets. The word out is that there will soon be additional agreements in aviation, tourism, trade tech, research, energy and academia.

Adams is astute when it comes to marketing Israel through sport. In an interview with the writer with the Hilton Israel Magazine at the time of the start of the Giro d’Italia in Israel, Adams said, “It was not just the biggest sporting even in Israel but the biggest event in Israel’s history – period!”

Point taken. Where have a billion people watched an event – “any event”- in Israel?

Over a billion people worldwide,”said Adams, “watched the first three days of the race in Israel. What this TV global audience was exposed to was not an Israel as a ‘news item’ but as a normal country, basking in sunshine with exquisite scenery and wonderful warm people. They saw our biblical sites as well as modern Israel and learnt about our culture.”

History is Made. Israeli cyclists whizz through the streets of Nice in the south of France on the first day of the Tour de France. (Photo by Noa Arnon via Facebook)

Upping the Pace

And now with Israel Start-Up Nation participating in the 2020 Tour de France, the Jewish State is riding its way into the history books as the first Israeli team to participate in one of the most watched sporting events in the world.

Dynamite Duo. Cofounder of Israel Start-Up Nation, Sylvan Adams (left) and Israel’s first Israeli rider in a Tour de France, Guy Niv.

For three weeks, Israel’s cycling team “is being watched by three-and-a-half billion television spectators as we represent the whole country,” says Adams, “showing our true face, warmth,  friendship, diversity, tolerance, bringing our message of peace to people all around the world.”

The 107th Tour de France got underway on the French Riviera on Saturday, 29 August, two months later than planned and under the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic.  That shadow, however, did not darken the spotlight on the state of Israel as it participates  in what is described as “the world’s most prestigious and most difficult bicycle race”.

For 26-year-old Guy Niv, the first Israeli to ride in the Tour, “It is a dream come true; I have goosebumps thinking about it,” he said before the race.

I am honored and privileged to represent my country and team in the biggest race in cycling. And to be the first Israeli to do so? It might sound cliché, but my dream of a lifetime has now been realised.”

On Track. With the Arc de Triomphe in the background at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, Gur Niv is fulfilling a childhood dream.
 

Niv’s journey, which hopefully will lead to crossing the finish line on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on September 20,  began at the same place in 2007 when he was thirteen years old.

“I went on a Bar Mitzvah trip to watch the Tour de France and now as the first Israeli rider in the 2020 Tour de France, I have the opportunity  to close a circle.” He had no illusions that it would be the ultimate challenge, saying, “I have concerns; it will be a mental challenge, not just a physical one, but I’m ready for this mission.”

Carrying the Colours. Members of the Israeli cycling team, Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN), training in northern Israel in May 2020. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

The Tour de France is certainly a “big deal,” not only for the riders but for Israel. To this point,  the dream of competing in the Tour de France was “almost unthinkable only five years ago when we launched the team,” says Adams. “Now it’s come true. A professional team with world-class Israeli riders alongside the finest international talents, racing with pride in one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events.” Adds Israel Cycling Academy co-founder,  Ron Baron that “when we founded the team five years ago, we dreamed of this moment. But we strive for more than just the glory of racing in the Tour de France. We want every kid in Israel to say, ‘I can be Guy Niv one day. I can get to the Tour”.”

Niv is the only Israeli on the team, which also includes Ireland’s Dan Martin, André Greipel and Nils Politt from Germany, Ben Hermans and Tom Van Asbroeck from Belgium, France’s Hugo Hofstetter, Latvian cyclist Krists Neilands and from South Africa, Daryl Impey, the first ever from that country to wear the ‘Yellow Jersey’  at a Tour de France. That was back in 2013.

Now in 2020, “Around 3.5 billion viewers in hundreds of countries across the world will see the Israeli flag and hear the message of the Israel Start-Up Nation team that this is a country bringing unrivalled innovation to the world,” said Adams.

The Road Ahead. The writer interviewing Sylvan Adams in  2018 in Tel Aviv following the the Giro d’Italia in Israel, where he said, “Next up, is the Tour de France”.

Taking on the challenges of navigating success in a turbulent Middle East or grinding up the Alps and Pyrenees in the Tour de France, it’s always “a lot of uphill”.

Equipped with boundless grit and chutzpah, little wonder for the mix-up sometimes of the ‘Start-Up Nation’ thought proudly as the ‘Upstart nation’!










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- 07-10 September 2020

The Israel Brief -07 September 2020 – Balkan states and Africa? The diplomatic warmth continues. Israel’s Corona Crisis. Terrorist responsible for murder of Rabbi Shai Ohayon indicted.



The Israel Brief -08 September 2020 – Israel’s Corona curfew balagan. Men in the media campaign against rape. Madagascar forms parliamentary alliance in support of Israel.





The Israel Brief -09 September 2020 – Trump Nobel Prize nomination. Is Israel headed to lockdown? Serbia warns Israel over recognising Kosovo.





The Israel Brief -10 September 2020 – Corona crisis lock down talks. Cooperation between UAE and Sheba Medical Centre starts. Fire in Beirut port.








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 Holocaust is NOT Entertainment

“Trauma Porn” is the sickening new trend surfacing on social media

By  Rolene Marks

Social media once the place of vacuous status updates and shameless selfies has fast morphed into something more insidious. While social media can be a very powerful tool for sharing information and educating people, it is often used by many to push a more nefarious agenda and the competition for “likes” and “follows” often prompts some to share some really questionable content.

An example of antisemitic content spread through TikTok.(photo credit: screenshot)

Social media platform giants, Facebook and Twitter have faced increased criticism over their perceived leniency on antisemitic posts.  Facebook is currently targeted in a campaign from several organisations and well known personalities that calls on CEO’s to suspend their advertising because of online hate and several weeks ago, Jews and their allies embarked on a Twitter “walkout”. For 48 hours, a silent protest was held in objection to twitter’s failure to block or remove anti-Semitic posts. Since then, there has been a lot more attention – and action paid to posts that may be offensive.

But social media is like the proverbial head of Medusa. Do away with one serpent; another one takes its place. The most recent iteration is Tik Tok. Most famous for being a platform for Quarantine dance offs, TikTok has become the platform for something truly appalling – “trauma porn”.

According to experts, TikTok users may be exploiting some of history’s biggest atrocities in videos due to a morbid fascination with traumatic events.

A far-right TikTok user account. (Photo credit: Screenshot)

“It’s easier to go viral on TikTok than it is any other platform,” explains leading social media expert Unsah Malik, author of Slashed It. “Users are clearly attempting just about anything, no matter how offensive the subject matter, to end up on the ‘For You’ page and get a higher engagement rate.”

One of these subjects of “morbid fascination” is the Holocaust. The genocide of over 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis as well as the Roma, Sinti, LGBTQ and any others, the murderous regime deemed undesirable, has become fodder for “likes” on this social media platform.

Young people are taking to TikTok to “reenact” scenes of videos of themselves with fake injuries or the appearance of suffering the effects of starvation – and then talk about being murdered in the Holocaust, claiming that they are now in heaven. Some are even re-enactments of scenes inside gas chambers. This profoundly offensive trauma porn is unfortunately, garnering views and likes in the hundreds of thousands. They are even accompanied by a soundtrack.

While the videos do not appear to be comedic, they are often accompanied by the song “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars.

TikTok is swamped with shocking antisemitic content.

The Auschwitz Museum has also weighed in on this saying:

“The trend visible on TikTok can be indeed hurtful and even considered offensive,” the museum said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Some of the examples online are dangerously close or are already beyond the border of trivialisation of history and being disrespectful to the victims.”

Some of the videos were created not to commemorate anyone, but to become part of an online trend. This is very painful,” the museum added.    The ‘victims’ trend on TikTok can be hurtful and offensive. Some videos are dangerously close or already beyond the border of trivialisation of history.

 But we should discuss this not to shame & attack young people whose motivation seem very diverse. It’s an educational challenge.

And a challenge it is.

There is an important distinction to be made between movies and documentaries that exist for the preservation of memory and education – not videos for likes and shares. Although it is not just the Holocaust that is the subject of these TikTok videos (some have “reenacted” what they would imagine being a victim of serial killer, Ted Bundy, or killed in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York must have been like), the Holocaust has become trivialised by many seeking to either compare Coronavirus restrictions to the singling out of Jews for persecution or used to justify flouting mask rules. No; wearing a mask to prevent the spread of a potentially deadly virus and save lives is NOT akin to having to wear a yellow star that labels you as an inferior race!

TikTok is rife with racist, antisemitic content. (Photo credit: Screenshot)

It is more than evident that Holocaust awareness and education is sorely needed. The lessons that we should be learning from one of the grossest examples of man’s inhumanity to man and genocide of the Holocaust is how important it is to educate future generations. As time marches on, so we lose our precious survivors – and firsthand eyewitness accounts.

The onus is on us to ensure that we continue to bear witness by educating responsibly to ensure that genocide is widely understood and that perhaps the worst example of it in human history  – the Holocaust –  is neither trivialised or ever happens again.









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

A New Dawn in Dubai

Once a gulf apart, now Israeli emissaries set to serve Jewish community in the Gulf

By  Michael Jankelowitz

Following the signing of the historic Abraham Accords in August, no less historic will be the sending of long-term emissaries to the Jewish community in Dubai by the World Zionist Organization (WZO). Why this is monumentally moving is that this will be a first time Israeli emissaries are sent to serve a Jewish community in an Arab country!

The resounding message is that far more than a ‘practical peace’ – something Israelis are accustomed to  –  but a portent of a ‘warm peace’ – what we all aspire to and embodied in the spirit of the Abraham Accords.

Picture Perfect. An idyllic vista of Dubai that will be seeing an influx of Israeli visitors. 

After all, the name of ‘Abraham’ in the accords holds special meaning to Jews, Christians and Muslims as the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

By so naming the deal, Israel and the UAE hope to publicly display their ancient ties and a commitment to a future of peace and prosperity.

It is to this warming milieu in the Gulf that the WZO is sending its emissaries – a young married couple Yaacov and Zolty Eisenstein.

The Eisensteins will work with a South African expatriate in Dubai, Ross Kriel, who is President of the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE), an umbrella group established by Jews living in the country.

Destination Dubai.  World Zionist organization emissaries  to the UAE, Yaacov and Zolty Eisenstein (photo credit: Courtesy)

The small Jewish community of the United Arab Emirates has welcomed the historic agreement between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi to formalize relations, praising the Arab Gulf state for its pluralism and religious tolerance.

I am so moved by the many messages of hope that I have received from Emirati friends of our community on hearing this news,” says Kriel. “Our community members look forward to direct flights to Israel and welcoming Israeli friends and visitors to the UAE.”

Winds of Change. Fluttering in the wind, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) flag waves alongside an Israeli flag. (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER PIKE

Food for Thought

A Jewish community has been operating in Dubai for about a decade with estimates as to the size of the community in the UAE ranging from the low hundreds to 1,500. There are three functioning congregations – two Orthodox and one egalitarian – and one kosher eatery called “Elli’s Kosher Kitchen”. Clearly it has established a reputation as it has caught the eye – or more the palette – of UAE Culture Minister Noura al-Kaabi who gastronomically observed that it has added “a new chapter in Gulf food history”.

Looking Ahead. The Minister of Culture and Youth, Noura Al Kaabi looks ahead to cultural exchanges between the UAE and Israel. (Chris Whiteoak / The National)

Also a former South African, Elli is the wife of Ross Kriel. She reveals that after receiving repeated requests for kosher food over the years while living in Dubai, she started Elli’s Kosher Kitchen “to provide fresh, wholesome, homemade kosher meals to travellers.” 

Man on a Mission. President of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, former South African, Ross Kriel in Dubai.

Describing the newly formed Jewish Community of the Emirates, Elli says it “grew organically out of the homes of a few expat families living in Dubai. These families used to get together occasionally for Shabbat. After we moved to Dubai in 2013, my husband did not want to pray alone and was determined to create a functioning Jewish community. Striving for a minyan, he started weekly Shabbat services in our living room using a wardrobe as the Aharon Kodesh. Chagim were also initially observed in our home. The development of the community continued in my home for two years until more space was required. Our community, albeit small, is vibrant, warm and embracing, diverse, inclusive and eclectic in its makeup.”

Kosher Cuisine. Opening her business in response to growing demand, Elli Kriel preparing Shabbat bread in the kitchen of her Dubai villa. (Pawan Singh / The National)

It is to this “vibrant, warm and embracing” community that emissaries Yaacov and Zolty Eisenstein will soon be arriving to serve on behalf of the World Zionist Organisation.

Clearly, this is “history in the making” avers Chairman of the WZO, Avraham Duvdevani, asserting: “This is an important milestone in the existence of the World Zionist Organisation.”

In a process started a few months before the announcement of the Abraham Accords, the WZO, which has a framework of hundreds of emissaries worldwide – including in small, dispersed communities – has been in touch with the Jewish community in Dubai. This followed a request from the Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations of America to send emissaries for the first time to Dubai’s Jewish community and now with the historic decision to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, what could be more “normal” than sending such ideally suited emissaries.

Changing Perspectives. A man sporting a Jewish ‘tallit’ looks out over the Dubai skyline in the United Arab Emirates. (video screenshot)

The Eisensteins will establish and run a Jewish kindergarten, teach about the heritage of the Jewish People and Israel, will establish an Ulpan for learning of the Hebrew Language and will organize community events around the Jewish festivals. Highly motivated, they have already begun working in time for the upcoming Jewish Festivals.

The emissaries are part of the “Ben Ami” programme of the Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora of the WZO, which has 36 emissaries operating in 23 countries. Most of these Jewish communities are small and dispersed, however, these are the first emissaries that are being sent to a Jewish community in an Arab country.

Says WZO Chairman, Avraham Duvdevani:

This is an important milestone in the history of the Zionist Movement through all its years of existence. We will continue to operate in every way to strengthen the connection between the State of Israel and Jewish communities in the diaspora and to strengthen the Jewish identity of our people throughout the world, including tiny dispersed communities.”

Monumental Milestone. Upbeat over the sending of emissaries to the UAE, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization Avraham Duvdevani  aims to strengthen the connection between the State of Israel and Jewish communities throughout the world.

This news has been received with great enthusiasm by communities around the world and what has been truly moving, has been to see the reaction from the Emiratis, who are looking forward to welcoming their new Israeli friends.

With Israel working on a direct airline route from Israel to Dubai that will fly through Saudi air space, Elli’s Kosher Kitchen will definitely have many more mouths to feed!




About the writer:

Michael Jankelowitz, has worked for the World Zionist Organisation and Jewish Agency  for Israel in various capacities since leaving the National Union of Israeli Students in 1978. He has worked in the WZO’s Student Division in New York and Jerusalem and was the Jewish Agency’s representative to the Jewish organization, Hillel in Washington DC and advisor on World Jewry to the JAFO treasury. He has also worked as spokesperson for JAFI.

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

A Corona Cry for Help

The JNF in South Africa responds

By Beverley Price

Domestic Fundraiser.   A familiar sight in most Jewish homes around the world, the KKL-JNF Blue Box served as a cherished and popular means to realize the Zionist vision of establishing a state for the Jewish people.

Jews over a certain age will remember the iconic little blue Jewish National Fund (JNF) collection boxes they had in their homes where any spare coins were deposited in the slit that went towards planting trees in Israel. Whether they were dimes in the USA, pennies in the UK or pennies and later cents in South Africa they added up and over time helped transform Israel’s landscape from desert brown to fertile green. They contributed to changing the landscape of  a Palestine from what  Mark Twain derisively described in his 1867 visit as “repulsive and dreary…..hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere” to being the only country in the world to have a net gain of trees in the last 100 years!

However, there would be further changes following the changing fortunes of South Africa and Israel.

If in the post-1948 Israel independence years, South Africa JNF was in the vanguard in supporting state-building projects in Israel, in more recent years, a new paradigm developed with JNF supporting projects in South Africa. Israeli expertise in overcoming harsh environmental challenges could and is benefitting South Africa.

One such project is  the community in Mamelodi,  a semi-rural town located 90 kilometres from Johannesburg.  In the  early 1990’s, the JNF initiated a long-term sustainable development project there on behalf of the Jewish community in South Africa by opening the Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre. They did so in the presence of another icon, the President of South Africa – Nelson Mandela, who had earlier suggested the area to the JNF, close to the Mandela Park Peace Garden that  teaches pensioners to grow and sell their own food.

Conservation Champions. The Jewish National Fund (JNF), Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre in Mamelodi, Gauteng Province, South Africa is an environmental discovery centre that aims to develop community “conservation champions” for the environment.
 

The JNF Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre is an environmental education and resource centre encompassing 72 Mamelodi Schools, the 186 schools in the Southern Tshwane Educational District and the surrounding community to learn about the environment and to create “champions for a sustainable future.”

And the reason it is named after Walter Sisulu is that he visited Israel as part of his “five Nation Tour” in the early 1960s so there was the connection between his name, Israel, the Jewish community of South Africa and the Mamelodi region.

Honing in on Heritage. Schools book their visits well in advance for the JNF-Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre where students are inspired and motivated to preserve and utilise the wealth of South Africa’s natural heritage.

Based on Israeli expertise, the Centre imparts knowledge about recycling, water conservation, cultivation of crops and waste. Every year, over 12,000 students from the region enroll at the centre to receive education in sustainable development from trained instructors.

Going Green. A major focus of the JNF supported centre is to work in the schools themselves, where it helps support “Green Clubs” that also participate in a regional quiz and a school greening competition. The center has won numerous awards including the Mail and Guardian’s “Greening the Future Award” in the education category.

However, when the Covid-19 pandemic began, alarm bells sounded leading National Chairman of SA JNF, Isla Feldman, to exclaim in alarm:

 “People are going to be hungry. We have to raise money and help our people in Mamelodi.”

And so began a fundraising drive by JNF-SA  to purchase much-needed food parcels, each of which contained 6.5 kg of food that Boxer Superstores supplied. The management of the JNF-WSEC, Frans Mamogobo and Miko Khalo found volunteers to assist with the distribution. After much operational planning, the delivery site was set next to the local police station in order to provide safety and security.

Back to the Roots. Students learning the techniques of planting flowers, fruits and vegetables.

To bring the good news to the people in the region, notices went out in both Sepedi and in English. Volunteers from the organisation, Cadena – a member of the global Jewish network delivering hand-in-hand assistance around the world – helped with the distribution on the day. Thabisile Vilakazi of the Tshwane Municipality and Shaun Wilkinson were also part of the team.

Project in Progress. Mendy Graumann of Cadena South Africa (left) checking names of prospective recipients for food parcels with Frans Mamabolo.

The initiative was not without drama.

The day before the scheduled delivery, there was civil unrest in Mamelodi, and in order to ensure the safety of all the volunteers, the deliveries had to be shortly delayed until the area was deemed sufficiently safe.

Stand and Deliver. The Jewish National Fund of South Africa distributed 500 food parcels to the Mamelodi community in Tshwane on 11 August with the assistance of volunteers from the Jewish philanthropic organisation Cadena.

That day was Tuesday the 11th of August and in the midst of a deadly pandemic, the food parcels, with the help of many kind volunteers and many generous donors, the JNF food parcels were distributed to the needy Mamelodi community.

People-to-People Project. Food parcels from the JNF wait to be dispersed  to a hungry community.
 

The Jewish National Fund has come a long way since it was founded with the sound of Theodor Herzl’s banging down his gavel at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel in December 1901. It was a momentous moment with the message resonating beyond the Conference walls in Basel that Zionism actually set foot in Erez Israel – not by mere words and declarations, debates and resolutions, but by land reclamation through a national fund of and on behalf of the Jewish people.

Helping Hand. Frans Mamogobo, Manager of JNF WSEC (right) with recipient.

So too when it comes to the JNF in South Africa, it is less about words and more about deeds as it looks to support the people of Mamelodi.

The Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre, Mamelodi. A JNF South Africa initiative



__________________________

Progressive Partnerships. JNF South Africa is currently seeking expat South Africans abroad to partner with its new “bridge-across-the-pond” project with JNF of America and with Israel. You can contact the writer at  bevp@beyachad.co.za.


About the writer:

Beverley Price. Educated at King David School, Lindfield and graduate of the University of Witwatersrand (Speech Therapy), Beverley Price is Education Officer at the Jewish National JNF South Africa in Johannesburg.







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- 04 September 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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Articles

(1)

Under Construction” – from Buildings to Human Relations

Israel’s Trade Union Provides Safety Training During COVID Crisis for Palestinian Construction Workers

By David E. Kaplan

“Stayin’ Alive”. At a building site site in Jerusalem, a Histadrut organized safety training workshop for Palestinian construction workers.

Something “constructive” has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel – an innovative programme  to save the lives of Palestinians not from disease but from preventable accidents in Israel’s bustling construction industry. The message from the “Histadrut” – Israel’s national trade union – “Unionised Labour Recognizes No Borders”.

Under Construction” – from Buildings to Human Relations

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Remembering Munich

Survivors recall the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics

By Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche

Murdered at Munich. The 11 Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Summer Munich by Palestinian terrorist group ‘Black September’.  

Who would have thought that in the very country that we believed “Never Again” Jews would be targeted yet again for murder. Following joint Israeli Airforce – German Luftwaffe memorial flyovers over Germany on August 18 paying tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and the 1972 Olympiad, the writers revisit the saga and the scars by interviewing survivors of the Munich massacre.

Remembering Munich

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Back to School in Tel Aviv – of Sorts!

By David E. Kaplan

Floating an Idea. Israel’s ‘beach city’ has come up with some exciting ideas to get kids safely back to school during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Israel’s “City of Big Ideas”, Tel Aviv-Yafo, has come up with some innovative ideas on meeting the COVID-19 challenge of students returning to school. “We have prepared for every scenario that we are expected to confront,” assures Mayor Ron Huldai. What does this mean?

Back to School in Tel Aviv – of Sorts!

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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- 31 August – 03 September 2020

The Israel Brief -31 August 2020 – Historic flight from TLV to Abu Dhabi. Nasrallah threatens to kill Israeli soldiers. Arson fires in South.



The Israel Brief -01 September 2020 – All the updates from the UAE! Back to School for Israel’s kids! Ceasefire in South.



The Israel Brief -02 September 2020 – Eilat rape case and Malka Leifer updates. Saudi Arabia greenlight’s airspace for Israel – UAE flights. Terror attack Tapuah junction.






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

Remembering Munich

Survivors recall the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

By Rolene Marks and Yair Chelouche

“They’re all gone”.

They were the words that reverberated around the world. Television viewers across the globe were glued to Jim McKay, who anchored ABC’s coverage of the unfolding terrorist attack in Munich during the 1972 Olympics. The words are seared into our conscience. We can never forget that moment when we heard that 11 members of the Israeli Olympic Team had been murdered by Black September terrorists. Germany, once emblematic of painful memories for the Jewish people, had become a place where Jews were targeted for murder yet again.

Proud Presence. The Israeli delegation at the opening ceremony in Munich. (Credit: Agence France-Presse-Getty Images)

On the 5th of September, we will remember how these terrorists first killed two members of the Israeli delegation and held another 9 hostage, until they too, were slaughtered.  Israelis are far too familiar with terrorism, having endured attacks from terror groups since the birth of the modern state; but for it to happen like this on foreign soil, at the Olympic Games, the very essence and symbol of brotherhood and the human spirit, made the pain that much more acute.

Several weeks ago, history was made when the Israeli Airforce entered German airspace for the first time to train with the country’s Luftwaffe.  Apart from practicing complex maneuvers, the premise of the joint exercise was to strengthen ties – and pay tribute to the past. Sharing the commitment to fight antisemitism and declaring “Never Again” the two allied forces flew over the Dachau Concentration Camp in tribute to victims and survivors of the Holocaust as well as those who were murdered on that tragic day in September, 1972.

Yehuda Weinstain has often been called the “Flying Fencer”.  Weinstain was just 17 when he participated in the Olympics as a Fencer.  He recalls the excitement of being in the Olympic Village, sharing the camaraderie with his team, being a bit star struck at seeing the famous athletes and practicing with intense focus. It was the Olympics after all! The Olympics symbolise the best of the sporting world and the very spirit of international goodwill, devoid of the partisan politics that plague global discourse. This was shattered with the attack on the Israeli team.

“Flying Fencer”. Future Israeli pilot, Yehuda Weinstain  was just 17 when he participated in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a Fencer. 

Yehuda Weinstain recalls how it was a twist of fate that saved his life. Having visited the city to acclimate so that when it came to choosing his accommodation, he chose the same room that was in between that of the coaches and other team members. This decision would prove lifesaving.

The sportsmen were assigned a room in a complex with three bedrooms, with two in each room.

Touché. Israeli fencer Yehuda Weinstain (right) scores a hit in a fencing bout in the 1972 Munich Olympics before the massacre.

When the terrorists started their deadly attack, they went to the rooms on either side of Weinstain and roommate, Dan Alon; but not theirs. They heard the shots that killed wrestling coach, Moshe Weinberg. They knew that something horrific had occurred. Weinstain remembers seeing a blood puddle at the place where Weinberg’s body lay as he peered through the window.

“It could’ve been me,” he says, “Because the terrorists, passed by my window twice and didn’t come in. Later on we believed that the terrorists’ omission on our door was a deliberate act by Moshe Weinberg who wanted that the people who will face the terrorists are those, he thought, could resist stronger. So it was my luck”.

Desperate Situation. Held hostage, fencing coach Andre Spitzer (right) and marksmanship coach Kehat Shorr (left) negotiating with the German police.

He recalls making the decision to run to safety. “I ran about seven metres around the corner. It felt longer. I had the feeling that someone could shoot me in the small of my back”, he says. It was Alon’s turn, then some of the others to make the run for safety and he, Weinstain and the remaining survivors were taken to safety by German police and isolated before being sent home to their worried families in Israel.

40 years later (2012) – “The 11th Day” – Munich ’72 massacre survivors.

Yehuda Weinstain, Olympic athlete for Fencing enlisted in the army as is required of Israeli citizens and became Lt Col Weinstain, a combat pilot in the IAF, flying many important missions for the Jewish state.

 His latest mission was addressing the delegation from the IAF that participated in the training exercise in Germany – a poignant and important moment.

As Young fencerAvishay Jakobovich at the Munich Olympic village
Dr Avishay Jakobovich

Dr Avishay Jakobovich was also at those fateful games – albeit in a different role. Host country Germany, wanted to show the world that it had moved forward from its Nazi past and invited all participating countries to send separate delegations  of youth under 21 that would serve as cultural and social Ambassadors. In retrospect, many would criticize the lack of police presence and security. Jakobovich, delighted to be part of the Israeli delegation, remembers the incredible happy and inclusive vibe, with dancing and singing amongst the different global representatives and enjoying the games as a spectator.

Israel’s Young Ambassadors. Avishay Jakobovich (left) as a member of the Israeli youth social ambassador’s delegation to the Munich Olympics.

This was until the massacre of the Israeli coaches and athletes. “We were quickly removed from where we were staying and isolated. I called my parents to let them know I was okay. The hardest parts were when we represented the State of Israel at the main memorial held by the Olympic committee the day after the massacre and accompanying the coffins of the victims and the flight was difficult and emotional, knowing the bodies of those murdered were underneath us, in the belly of the plane. I sat next to Ankie Spitzer, now the widow of Andre Spitzer the Fencing coach. Very hard,” he recalls.

Dr Jakobovich served as Chief Gynaecologist for the IDF and is a leader in his field today.

This and every September, we remember them – the 11 coaches and athletes, slaughtered in their prime in one of the most nefarious and infamous terror attacks in recent history. The recent IAF-Luftwaffe flyover may have been history in the making and a great tribute to remember and heal wounds but it is the message of that auspicious occasion that we take heed of – NEVER AGAIN!

Munich Olympics Opening Ceremony. Israeli Delegation enters the Olympic stadium onr the 26/08/1972 (left). The ceremony (centre). Ending the opening ceremony by freeing pigeons of peace (right).

Murdered in Munich. The 11 Israeli sportsmen killed at the Munich Olympics on the 05/09/1972

Right handed fencer. Co-writer Rolene Marks (L) with the “Flying Fencer” Yehuda Weinstain (R), Sept. 2020


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

“Under Construction” – from Buildings to Human Relations

Israel’s Top Trade Union Provides Safety Training During the COVID Crisis for Every Palestinian Construction Worker

By David E. Kaplan

Something “constructive” has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel – an innovative programme to save Palestinian lives; not from disease but from preventable accidents in Israel’s bustling construction industry.

In Israel’s entire workforce, construction workers are in the greatest danger, and for decades have suffered the highest rates of fatal workplace accidents – 6.6 times more than that of the average worker in Israel.

Like in most societies, the victims of these fatal workplace accidents are disproportionately the most vulnerable members of society and in Israel it is Israeli Arabs, Palestinians  and other foreign workers consistently over-represented in the number of construction-site fatalities and injuries.

Caught in the Act. Captured on camera, repeated safety offenses at a construction site in the center of the country. (Photo: First thing)
 

A breakdown shows that the highest incidence of fatal workplace accidents from 2017 to 2019 were caused by falls from heights, followed in descending order of falling objects, vehicular accidents, collapsing walls and scaffolding, electrocution, explosions and other.

Yes, society demands expansion and rapid development, but humanity no less morally requires that there is a limit at what price and every effort should be made to safeguard work environments.

To this end, over the past few months, a construction site in the Beit Zafafa neighbourhood in Jerusalem was rented by Israel’s largest trade union – the Histadrut – and converted into a “hands-on classroom” for the safety training of Palestinians in the construction industry. Already more than 500 Palestinian construction workers have participated in the training course at the “Safety Headquarters” with the primary aim “to prevent the next casualty.”

“Stayin’ Alive”. Safety training for Palestinian workers in Israel as the  Beit Zafafa construction site in Jerusalem. (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)

The Histadrut or the General Organization of Workers in Israel was established in 1920 in Mandatory Palestine and soon emerged as one of the most powerful institutions in the Yishuv (the body of Jewish residents in the region prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948).

In extending their services to the wellbeing of non-Israeli workers in Israel, the Histadrut proudly subscribes to the motto:

Unionised labour recognizes no borders

The one-day training sessions were planned and implemented by the Histadrut in partnership with the Israel Builders Association, who utilised the prolonged stay of Palestinian workers in Israel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to carry out the safety workshops. The morning of the training, workers were transported from their places of accommodation across Israel to the on-site “classroom”. Upon arrival,  they would register at the reception station, where after the workers were divided into small groups that underwent the training, each one separately, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the restrictions of the Corona virus.

Certificates of Safety. Proudly displaying their certificates are Palestinian safety training graduates with Avital Shapira on the right. (Photo: Avital Shapira)

Work like a Dream

Eyal Ben Reuven, Chairman of the Safety Headquarters, explained that “The training is both theoretical and practical and is based on scenarios of real accidents in the industry.” The training sessions, said Reuven, “dealt with scaffolding, ladders, dangerous mechanical tools, electricity and preventing objects from falling.”

With the thousands of Palestinians working in Israel’s construction industry, the programme has a long way to go, but it’s a start – “a constructive start.”

My dream is that only workers who graduate safety training will be able to work on construction sites,” says Ben Reuven. “But for that to happen, the government needs to help us.”

According to Reuven, the course costs approximately NIS 450 per worker with current funding being provided by the Fund for the Encouragement of the Construction Industry. With the government showing little interest in supporting the initiative at present, “we are trying to fund-raise to continue the course,” says Reuven.

Striving for Safer Working Environments. Meeting with the Palestinian delegation in the office of Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar-David (4th from the left). (Photo: Histadrut spokeswoman)

The success of the programme depends on the support of the constructive industry, which according to the Deputy Director General of the Israel Builders Association, Itzik Gurvich, has come to the table with construction companies “agreeing to pay their workers a full days wages to participate in the training.” The result has been that “Both employers and the workers have been satisfied with the course, and we’re hoping to expand the pilot.”

Ahmed Ghanaim, who heads Al Ola College, a vocational training  college in the Western Galilee; and whose instructors are responsible for the training itself, explains that even veteran Palestinian workers “who have been working in Israel for decades and are experienced in their field, don’t know Israeli labour and safety laws. This information doesn’t really exist in the Palestinian Authority and also the employers don’t always give workers all necessary knowledge. Once workers have this knowledge, they’ll know what to ask for from management in order to return home safe and sound.”

Constructing a Safer Tomorrow. The construction site hired by the Histadrut in Jerusalem offered a perfect “classroom” training ground. (Photo: Nitzan Zvi Cohen)
 

After a most instructive hands-on session about scaffolding and ladders, the workers gathered in a circle to discuss the regulations as it applies in practice. One concerned worker remarks to the instructor:

But out there on the site, it doesn’t actually happen like that!”

The instructor replies:

Listen, at the end of the day there’s a hierarchy of responsibility. You have to speak to your foreman, and he needs to report to the contractor.”

And what if the employer tells me to break those rules?” asks the employee.

Contact the Histadrut,” the instructor replies. “Remember that we’re talking about your life, don’t agree to work in dangerous conditions.”

Avital Shapira, Director of International Relations of the Histadrut, addressed the Palestinian workers in fluent Arabic. Shapira’s fluency in Arabic  stems from her stay in Egypt where she was the first Israeli student to study at the American University of Cairo, back in 1994.

This is a great opportunity to show that the Histadrut is the home for all workers, regardless of origin, religion or gender,” Shapira told Davar, the Histadrut’s online news outlet.

This is also an opportunity to use this platform to convey to Palestinian workers the message that the Histadrut sees them as a bridge to peace. I think the presence of so many Palestinian workers in the Israeli labour market is a platform for cooperation and coexistence.” The presence of these Palestinian workers, according to Shapira, also strengthens the relationship with the Building and Wood Workers’ International organization (BW).

Safe and Sound. Histadrut’s Director of International Relations, Avital Shapira, addresses the Palestinian workers in Arabic  at a safety training workshop at Beit Zafafa in Jerusalem. (Photo: Nitzan Zvi Cohen)

It is important to understand that in the construction industry there is no difference between a Palestinian, Israeli, or migrant worker,” adds Tal Burshtein, Vice Chairman of the Construction, Related Industries and Wood Workers’ Union. “Everyone is covered by the same collective bargaining agreement and is entitled to the same rights.”

Most of the Palestinians who came to the safety training chose to become members of the Histadrut, a process that began in recent years.

And for good reason!

Think of the abhorrent conditions foreign workers are treated in countries where they have found employment, notably in the Middle East and Africa. Too frequently they are exploited, with few legal rights to protect themselves.

In Israel, on the other hand, the Histadrut, will aid Palestinian foreign workers who have been fired, help them receive their vacation and sick days, and even represents them against the National Insurance Institution in events of workplace accidents. “First and foremost, the Histadrut is a sympathetic ear – we want to help.” During the COVID-19 crisis, the Histadrut distributed tens of thousands of masks and gloves and more than 2,000 liters of hand sanitizer to Palestinian workers.

Meeting with them has shown us that they lack a lot of knowledge about their rights,” said Burshtein. “Since we’ve been distributing pamphlets on workers’ rights and signing them up to the Histadrut, we’ve been getting many more inquiries from Palestinian workers to our information service center, asking for help with problems at work. The workers who’ve gotten the pamphlets in Arabic also serve as ambassadors who disseminate this knowledge to additional workers.”

Building Bridges

Peter Lerner, Director General of the Histadrut’s International Relations Division, is totally upbeat about the joint venture safety training programme for Palestinian workers. “The pilot was an initiative,” he told Lay of the Land,  “that we hope will become the new standard for saving the lives of workers in the construction sector. I believe that it is a joint obligation to combine efforts and produce a safer working environment for the workers, empowering them and sharing knowledge about safety in the workplace and workers’ rights.” 

Thumbs Up. An inspired Director General of the Histadrut’s International Relations Division, Peter Lerner.
 

Lerner asserts that this project is part of the Histadrut’s “expanded activities with Palestinian workers” adding that while “designed to ensure the health and welfare of Palestinian workers, they also promote co-existence.”

In Israel’s ever-expanding ‘urban landscape’, the building of new inspiring edifices is welcome. No less welcome in the country’s frenetic ‘social landscape’ is the building of improved relations between people!

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