WHAT’S NEW IN THE CITY OF DAVID

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

By Jonathan Feldstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REOPENING AN OLD ROAD

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

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



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





About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.






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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 22 January 2023

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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(1)

WHAT DO ISRAEL’S PM AND US HOUSE LEADER HAVE IN COMMON?

Both are captives – but so are we

By David E. Kaplan

Come Hell or High Water. Tel Aviv protest of 80.000 brave rain to reject the extreme-right direction of their country.

Having made deals with the extreme right who hold disturbing visions for their country’s future, both the new US House speaker and Israel’s Prime Minister are captive to their most radical fringe. Sadly, so are we!

WHAT DO ISRAEL’S PM AND US HOUSE LEADER HAVE IN COMMON?

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(2)

SOUTH AFRICA DARING TO DISCRIMINATE

As the 2023 president of BRICs, should the ANC government not apply foreign policy consistently?

By  National Chairman, South African Zionist Federation Rowan Polovin

Who is Missing? While Arab and African countries meet to seek productive partnerships, South Africa opts out.

With its support for Russia in its barbaric war on Ukraine and Iran that executes protesters, South Africa ignores the ambiguity and hypocrisy in its foreign policy when it obsesses over the Jewish state.

 

SOUTH AFRICA DARING TO DISCRIMINATE

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(3)

ISRAEL PARLIAMENTARY SOVEREIGNTY – A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS

A cautionary  tale from the South African experience

By former acting Judge, Lawrence Nowosenetz

Alarming Alchemy. Conjuring judicial changes, a PM and his Minister of Justice awake a public from slumber.

Revisiting Apartheid South Africa’s devious legislative past to de-franchise “non-white” voters, the writer – a former acting judge – cautions Israelis to be on guard against the machinations of wily politicians who profess to “strengthen democracy” while act to undermine it!

ISRAEL PARLIAMENTARY SOVEREIGNTY – A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS

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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).

The Israel Brief- 16-19 January 2023

The Israel Brief – 16 January 2023 Protests in Tel Aviv. New IDF Chief staff sworn in. Smotrich homophobic comments. WIZO celebrates MoR.



The Israel Brief – 17 January 2023 Hamas release video of captive Israeli. 90 countries ask Israel to lift sanctions on PA. Pres Herzog continues mediation efforts. IsrAid in Dnipro.



The Israel Brief – 19 January 2023 Deri ruling and other top stories.





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).

WHAT DO ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU AND US REPUBLICAN HOUSE LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY HAVE IN COMMON?

Both are captives – but so are we

By David E. Kaplan

Americans may well ask just how many deals did House speaker Kevin McCarthy strike with the extreme far-right to finally grab with glee; the prized gavel?

What more could he offer beyond his last pair of socks. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) places his hand over his mouth as he stands inside the House Chamber during the voting for a new Speaker of the 118th Congress. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

The sorry outcome was that while at the same time the USA marked the second anniversary to the January 6 insurrection, on the House floor, Republican lawmakers – who either supported the rioters or helped breathe life into former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” about the 2020 election – were on their nefarious path of not for “We the People” but “We for ourselves”.

Uproar in the House. The voting for the House speaker was tense as right and extreme right of the Repulican Pary battle for supremacy. In the end, ‘deals’ to the extreme faction assured Kevin McCarthy’s ascension to the ‘Hollow Crown”.

Sound familiar?

Israelis can similarly ask:

How many deals did its Prime Minister have to make to hold onto perpetual power?

It is only too evident when we ‘expose’ ourselves to the news, becoming a daily diet of political depravity. Today’s tarnished gem was reading the headline news in The Jerusalem Post that was nothing less than a threat:

Israel will have ‘no government’ if Deri can’t be minister, Shas MK warns

The report goes on to say that Shas MK Ya’acov Margi said he would recommend Shas’s Council of Torah Sages dismantle Israel’s government if Aryeh Deri can’t be a minister.

Deciding Deri’s Fate as Minister. Shas party members sitting in court to hear petitions demanding the annulment of the appointment of Shas leader Arye Deri as a government minister due to his recent conviction on tax offenses at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on January 05, 2023. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

“Dismantle” the Government? For Aryeh Deri? The same Aryeh Deri who in 1999, was convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust; and given a three-year jail sentence. In January 2023, Israel’s Supreme Court  ruled that Deri was not allowed to hold a position as a cabinet minister due to his conviction for tax offences, hence the proposed Deri Law which would amount to nothing less than what judiciously-minded MKs are saying is “state-sanctioned corruption”.

While Aryeh Deri as a convicted felon, a fraudster, who should have no right to hold public office or be anywhere within striking range of public funds, now has his salivating pack of supporting party hacks attack the High Court in media interviews, in what appears to be a coordinated threat that the Knesset would respond to a ruling against Deri by curbing the High Court’s powers.

Deri, who is currently serving as Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Health and Minister of the Interior and Periphery, says:

 “I will not resign, no matter what the High Court rules.”

Future Uncertain. Currently serving as the Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Health and Interior, Aryeh Deri has been disqualified from holding office by the High Court that will have implications for the future of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the judiciary itself. (Reuters/File Photo)

Are these the characters we should get accustomed to representing us in parliament, never mind holding top positions in government that effect the destiny of the Jewish state and hence the Jewish people?

Is it any wonder that our steadfast guardian – the Supreme Court – is under threat with the proposed legislation conjured by a legal sorcerer by the name of Yariv Levin, who goes by the misnomer of  ‘Minister of Justice’?

As I wrote last week in my article ISRAEL UNDER THREAT FROM  ITSELF, we need to protect and not undermine the Supreme Court because unlike other democracies such as the US and UK that have two tiers of government offering checks and balances, Israel has only one house – the Knesset; and so the Supreme Court is all “We the People” have against an a reckless and unchecked legislature.

We cannot afford its weakening hence the mounting protests with last Saturday nights protest in Tel Aviv attraction over 80,000 people and many more protests to follow. Busses are being arranged from all over the country to bring people to these protests.

And who else is Bibi beholden to? It is all very well our wordsmith PM trying to reassure a sceptic citizenry with  “I did not go to them; they came to me,” when we see what he assembled to form his contrived coalition.

Another of his “came to me” coalition partners is Religious Zionism Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich, who in a recent recorded conversation is revealed saying to a businessman that he would actively take measures against the LGBTQ+ community and that it would not hurt him politically. Smotrich can be heard saying, “Sephardic, traditional people, you think they care about gay people? Nobody cares. They say that they don’t have a problem with them, ‘you think I care if you [Smotrich] are against them?”

Is this who Bibi has to be in bed with to survive politically? The question is rhetoric – we know the answer – it is emphatically “yes”.

No wonder Yesh Atid party leader MK Yair Lapid says:

 “The Smotrich tapes remind us time and time again how weak Netanyahu is and how dangerous it is that he is held captive by racist extremists.”

The sad truth is that if Netanyahu is a “captive”, so are we to this insane trajectory in our politics. This is not Zionism but the antithesis of Zionism.

Until recently, journalist, commentators and academicians were quick to voice their view that there is no ‘left’ in Israel anymore.  Well, who are the protesters congregating in their thousands to protest against this extreme Likud right-wing government?

Come Hell or High Water. It was both as over 80.000 people braved the intense rain to protest in Tel Aviv against judicial overhaul, viewed as undermining Israel’s democracy.

Actually, they may not be ‘left’ in a political sense, but all that is “left” of a sensible citizenry who see the present regime as a ‘clear and present danger’ to our future.

As I write, I read that the High Court on Wednesday 18 January 2023 has ruled 10-1 in a “Bombshell” decision that Deri cannot be a minister. He cannot retain his positions as Interior and Health minister! With all the threats, how now will Deri and the Prime Minister respond? Members of Deri’s Shas party have warned they may quit Netanyahu government if he is forced out. Clearly, this is not the last round but one of many more to follow.

There is now a war between competing visions for this country. Whose vision will prevail?





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).

SOUTH AFRICA DARING TO DISCRIMINATE

As president of the BRICs bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in 2023, should the ANC government  not exercise moral responsibility and apply foreign policy consistently?

By Rowan Polovin National Chairman, South African Zionist Federation 

(First published in Business Day)


Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, is fundamentally concerned with one international issue over all others, what she calls “the ongoing flagrant abuse of the human rights of Palestinians” which, in her view places “a moral responsibility on South Africa to act.”

It is remarkable that Pandor is able to command such exclusive action from the ANC government over a territory smaller than our beloved Kruger National Park, whilst remaining deafeningly silent to the cries of Ukrainians last year and numerous other serious human rights issues in Africa and around the world. Moreover, she blames Israel for the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, and absolves all responsibility and agency from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. 

Dressed to Discriminate. While consistently failing to condemn Russia’s barbaric war of aggression against the Ukrainian people costing the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor – feeling most at home in a Palestinian headscarf – will always rush to virulently denounce the Jewish state following any clashes between Israel and Palestinians.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), and the South African public, should hold Minister Pandor accountable for her statement. Indeed our government certainly does have a moral responsibility to act decisively to assist global communities when it comes to the protection of human rights. Especially when they are being abused at a rate that only South Africans could begin to comprehend. 

The United Nations has confirmed that 170 deaths were recorded as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2022. While the loss of innocent lives on any side of a conflict is tragic, the vast majority of those casualties were Palestinian militants. By contrast, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, over 6 900 people were killed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. It is estimated that 408 of these fatalities were children.

 
This is utterly devastating, and we are no strangers to this level of violence in South Africa, where over 7000 citizens were murdered in just the second quarter of the 2022/23 financial year. Tragically, over 550 of those deaths were children, according to the national crime statistics report as released by Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, last year.  

But, of course, it is easier for the government to deflect attention someplace else. 

Rampant Crime, Misguided Ministers. Nonthando Booi holds a picture of her murdered niece, Siphokazi Booi. While more than 7,000 people were murdered over three months (July-September) in 2022 in South Africa, the government prefers to deflect public attention elsewhere, like on the Middle East.  (Photo Kaylynn Palm / Action Society)

South Africa’s foreign policy appears to be singularly limited to Israel-bashing. This position prevents our country from playing any meaningful role in finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The ANC government’s obsession with Israel also precludes us from benefiting from the changing landscape of the Middle East and Africa. The Abraham Accords, where peace and normalisation has been achieved between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as Morocco and Sudan here in Africa, has effectively ended the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

More countries in the Middle East and Africa could follow suit in 2023. The Negev Forum working group recently concluded groundbreaking meetings between these countries, focusing on food security, water technology, clean energy, tourism, health care, education, coexistence and regional security. Does South Africa want to be left out in the cold, and lose out on the advantages of these strategic partnerships?

The Outsider. While initiatives like the Negev Forum Working Groups hosted by the UAE on January 9-10, 2023 in Abu Dhabi with senior officials from the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the UAE, and the US discussed opportunities to advance initiatives that “encourage regional integration, cooperation, and development, for the benefit of their populations and the wider region that include initiatives to strengthen the Palestinian economy and improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people,” South Africa opts to be left out in the cold and lose out on the advantages of strategic partnerships.

Back home, our foreign policy decisions are irrational. Last week, ANC International Relations Committee Chair, Lindiwe Zulu, confirmed that the ANC had resolved to simply not take sides in the Russia-Ukraine war. She added that it would also be supporting China in its dispute with Taiwan. But the ANC went further. Its January 8th anniversary statement of this year calls on Western governments to end sanctions on global human rights abusers such as Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. The ANC has a remarkable willingness to be on the wrong side of history just so long as it retains its Cold War friends.

The ANC could be positioned to act as mediators between warring factions, people and states, given its own experience of great pain and suffering at the hands of a political authority that abused South African human rights in ways we are only beginning to come to terms with today. The collective trauma suffered by millions of South Africans should have left us at war with one another for decades – and yet, under the leadership of President Nelson Mandela, the ANC was able to do something fundamentally extraordinary. It shifted people’s perceptions of one another, in a way that enabled us to see beyond any illusion, that we are all South Africans and that this territory is home to everyone residing within its borders. Different religions, traditions and languages were not barriers to our social cohesion – but rather a celebration of our diverse, yet collectively shared humanity.  

South Africa’s political leadership changed the trajectory of the conflict present in our country. And as such, our country is in a strong position to assist other states with doing the same. But when Minister Pandor turns a blind eye to almost all international human rights violations to discriminate over Israel, one cannot help but wonder what has happened to the ANC and its international credibility. 

If the abuse of human rights is the starting point for Pretoria’s commitment to assist foreign states with local causes, where is the South African initiative on Ukraine or many other conflicts closer to home? Will we stand by idly while Russia continues to put hundreds of Ukrainian children in early graves? Why have we not seized the opportunity to become world leaders in changing perceptions and illusions that alienate human beings from one another? 

Blind Sided. While photos like this of death and destruction in Ukraine that will likely lay the groundwork for future charges of war crimes against Russia, South Africa’s ANC government prefers to look the other way, advocating instead “to not take sides” in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Our country should seek to apply its foreign policies with uniformity, and show a degree of courage and leadership at the same time. South Africa holds the Presidency of BRICS in 2023 – will we use this position of leadership to hold Russia and others to account? Or will the ANC government continue to pick and choose its moral responsibilities based on its nostalgic political relevance of yesteryear?




About the writer:

Rowan Polovin National Chairman, South African Zionist Federation 







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).

ISRAEL PARLIAMENTARY SOVEREIGNTY – A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS

A cautionary  tale from the South African experience

By former acting Judge, Lawrence Nowosenetz

Is it such a big deal that Knesset can overrule the Israel Supreme Court? That is the plan, it seems, of the new Likud government. The motives are cloaked under the mantle of judicial reform, but this may be a thinly veiled pretext for bringing to heel a judiciary which is an obstacle to the political machinations of the government of the day to protect or give immunity to elected politicians who actually have already crossed the line of the criminal law such as the new Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Health Aryeh  Deri a convicted fraudster  or newly elected Prime Minister Netanyahu who is  currently facing criminal  prosecution.  It remains to be seen whether by the time this is published, the unthinkable  has already have been done.

Courting’ Disaster. Architects of the proposed judicial overall, Justice Minister Yariv Levin (l) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While some on the Israeli street may think this is not a big deal – indignantly claiming on social media that the legislature reflects the will of the voters and why should unelected judges undermine Knesset  laws – the answer lies of course elsewhere –  in the doctrine of democracy that is not simply based on rule by an elected majority. It is far more complex than simply crass majoritarianism!

Democracy is far more.

It has evolved into a system of checks and balances. This is the idea  which forms the separation of powers of a Government consisting of three elements – the legislature, executive and judiciary. Each has limits and no single part is all powerful or sovereign. This is the model of modern constitutional democracy. Parliament may not exceed its authority. It is bound by the founding laws and values of the State and universal human rights (natural law) . These norms are found in the constitution of the state but are not necessarily written. The US, and many Western states have written constitutions which empower the courts to pronounce on the validity of legislation. A notable exception is England which has an unwritten constitution developed over centuries. Although its parliament is sovereign, it was historically set on course  by the Magna Carta of 1215, which acknowledged the now firmly embedded concept that no man – not even the king – is above the law.

Sending Clear Message. Over 80,000 Israelis protest in Tel Aviv against judicial overhaul. (Jack Guez/AFP)

This evolved over time into the idea of the  rule of law.  England presents a unique example of a constitutional democracy with parliamentary sovereignty which is not abused. Israel has no formal constitution but its founding document – the Declaration of Independence – and the body of basic laws are its constitutional values and norms. This is a grey area which is  in danger of being misused. There is no Bill of Rights which gives courts testing powers over legislative excesses or human rights abuses. The courts should be the guardians of the rule of law and should be independent  of political interference. 

The depravity of parliamentary sovereignty is illustrated by the constitutional crisis which occurred during  the 1950’s in what was then the Union of South Africa. In 1910 the Union of South Africa was formed by the fusion of four provinces, the Cape and Natal being former English colonies with the Orange Free State and the Transvaal being former Boer republics. The Cape Colony was the only province in which a group of non-White people of mixed ancestry called  Coloured  had the franchise. The South Africa Act of 1910, being the constitution, contained a clause guaranteeing  the Coloured right to vote in parliament. This provision was called an entrenched clause. It could only be changed by a 2/3 vote of both houses of Parliament  (a bicameral body consisting of the House of Assembly and the Senate) sitting in a joint session. The National Party, the Apartheid government of the day, viewed the Coloured vote as an obstacle to White rule and pushed through legislation called the Separate Representation of Voters Act which sought to remove Coloured voters in the Cape from the common voter’s role and provide a separate mechanism for the election of four representatives on a separate voters roll. The new law  did not however command a 2/3 majority in a joint sitting of  both houses.  Mr  Harris and a group of aggrieved Coloured voters in the Cape  challenged the validity of this law in court as Parliament had violated its own procedures. The Appellate Division, then the highest court, struck down the overriding legislation as illegal, being not in compliance with the constitution. The government  was most dissatisfied with this decision and then passed the High Court of Parliament  Act to constitute Parliament as a court and with the power to override the courts of law and of course the adverse judicial decision in the Harris case. However, Harris again approached the courts to remedy the  High Court of Parliament law. The Appellate Division again struck out the legislation as a sham as Parliament is not at all a court of law and has no judicial powers. A constitutional deadlock was reached. 

Abuse of Power. Defying rulings of South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal (Appellate Division), a predatory parliament in the 1950s pushed through legislation to remove “Coloureds” (mixed race) from the voter’s role.

This stalemate was  overcome by the National Party government  enlarging the Senate with government supporters and also enlarging the Appellate Division with the appointment too, of government supporting judges. The whole sorry saga resulted in the Coloured people being disenfranchised until 1994 when South Africa enacted its democratic interim constitution. The franchise was restored to all South Africans.   

This constitutional gerrymandering  shows the moral depravity of a government armed with untrammelled parliamentary sovereignty, determined to use its powers to maintain power and trample on civil liberties. This approach was already implanted in South Africa by Paul Kruger, prior to the era of union when he  was president of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal. He took a dim view of judicial review, considering it the  work of the Devil introduced to challenge God’s law.  Such an absolutist view harks back to the divine right of kings. This worldview had already been discredited during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe centuries earlier.  

Sign of the Times. Guaranteeing English political liberties, King John signs – under pressure from his rebellious barons – the Magna Carta (“Great Charter”) at Runnymede, a meadow by the River Thames on June 15, 1215.

Democracy has been called a fragile flower. It is easily crushed, particularly by those whose intentions are less than honourable. There has always been a tension between the executive and the judiciary. A delicate balance needs to be maintained. Laws are of general application in most cases whereas a court decision is specific to the parties before it. When legislation is used to favour  an individual, such as a politician, it ceases to be legitimate and is an abuse of power.  In the Harris case, the parliamentary process was used to overturn an unfavourable court judgment. This is a red line which should be guarded against.

Israel is at the tipping point between a constitutional democracy and an unconstitutional pseudo democracy.



About the writer:

Lawrence Nowosenetz is a retired South African advocate at the Johannesburg Bar specialising in labour law; a former senior Commissioner of the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) and  served as an Acting High Court Judge in Gauteng. He has served as Chairman of the Pretoria SA Jewish Board of Deputies and in 2019, he immigrated to Israel where he lives with his wife in Tel Aviv. He retains an interest in international law.






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- 12 January 2023

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)

ISRAEL UNDER THREAT FROM  ITSELF

A ‘changing of the guard’ is set on changing laws  – a fear for the future

By David E. Kaplan

Under Threat. With Israel’s Supreme Court under attack, will the country’s democratic credentials suffer?

“HANDS OFF” is the message on the street from an ever-increasing number of protestors who fear the proposed “reform” of the judicial system will deform Israeli democracy. Interfering with the Supreme Court – asserts the writer – is ‘supreme’ folly.

ISRAEL UNDER THREAT FROM  ITSELF

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(2)

THE KINGS MISSPEAK

Questioning the claims by the King of Jordan to Protect Christians in the Middle East

By Jonathan Feldstein

Pursuing Peace. The writer’s father (r) and King Hussein (l) at reception before signing peace agreement.

While the writer’s father was “overjoyed to meet the King” mostly “because peace was coming” to Jordan and Israel, some thirty years later, the writer is saddened by the King’s son warning of “red lines” and directing blame exclusively on the Jewish state.

THE KINGS MISSPEAK

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(3)

IT’S A QUESTION OF HABIT

Some key ingredients to building lasting habits

By Justine Friedman

The Right Stuff. Implement lasting patterns and behaviours that will positively impact your life.

You are feeling “unfit, unhealthy, overweight or disorganised in your life” then you are not alone with most the population anywhere. Let the writer – who has over 20 years’ experience as a clinical dietician and a mindset mentor – guide you in pursuing practical and sustainable goals.

IT’S A QUESTION OF HABIT

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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 (0&EO).

The Israel Brief- 09-12 January 2023

The Israel Brief – 09 January 2023 US Secretary of State to visit Israel. Supreme Court overhaul. Negev Summit underway. Harvard University denies Ken Roth a fellowship due to anti-Israel bias.



The Israel Brief – 10 January 2023 Ben Gvir gives directives on protestors. Concern as Minister of Communications wants to shut down public broadcaster. Concerns as Israel sanctions PA. Mural in support of Iranian women unveiled in Jerusalem.



The Israel Brief – 11 January 2023 Ben Gvir says no arrest for opposition leaders. Pres Herzog appeals for calm. Judicial reform protesters meet with police chief. Oh Harry!



The Israel Brief – 12 January 2023 AG’s, States Attorney’s write unprecedented letter. Energy cost of living plan. Smotrich and Gallant discuss shared responsibilities. Azerbaijan appoint first ambassador to Israel.






Rolene Marks sits down with HonestReporting’s Editorial Director, Simon Plosker as he names “Dishonest Reporter of the year”

Editorial Director, Simon Plosker, speaking live on Modiin – and Beyond with Rolene Marks.



Rolene Marks speaks to Newzroom Afrika about the Taliban’s alarming rollback of women’s rights.

US plans to hold Taliban government accountable






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).

ISRAEL UNDER THREAT FROM  ITSELF

A ‘changing of the guard’ is set on changing laws  – a fear for the future

By David E. Kaplan

Israel does not have a Constitution. Nor does it have a two-tier system of government like in the US (a House of Representatives and Senate) that protects “We the People” by providing structural checks and balances.

Israel has just one house – the Knesset – but what it also has – and cherishes – is an internationally respected and sometimes envied Supreme Court that boldly protects ALL its citizens equally.  The Israeli Supreme Court is not merely a magnificent building, it also provides a magnificent service. It is ‘designed’ not only to attract each year multitudes of tourists but to safeguard for all time –  the rule of law.

Under Threat. With Israel’s Supreme Court under attack from the Netanyahu’s hard-right government, will the country’s democratic credentials suffer?

Now however there are ominous forces in play that want not only metaphorically but to literally ‘change the rules’ that will undermine our esteemed Supreme Court posing a threat to civil liberties and minority rights. They are plotting nothing less than an overhaul or more accurately, an overrule by the legislature of the Supreme Court.

Where will the checks be against a – hardly an impossibility these days – reckless legislature without the constraints of the country’s judicial watchdog – a robust Supreme Court?

Yes, Bibi and his new coalition cohorts are on the warpath against the Supreme Court and let us not be fooled by their pretentions of “protecting” democracy. If Israeli democracy needs protecting, it needs protecting from THEM – the Prime Minister and his Justice Minister – Yariv Levin! Under the facile façade of “judicial reform”, the new ultra-right Likud government want the freedom to pursue what could be reckless agendas without any judicial obstacles and to provide as well, protection and immunity to wayward politicians – starting at the top with the Prime Minister himself facing serious criminal charges and then moving down his list of ‘the usual suspects’ in his cabinet. This cabinet includes the Vice Prime Minister serving as well as the Minister of Health and Minister of the Interior and Periphery, Aryeh Deri. Deri has also served time for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, convicted in 1999. Are ‘we the Israeli people’ expected to place our trust and our futures with convicted fraudsters?

Is it any wonder the protests have begun against Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister, Yariv Levin.

These protests are not a case of the “left having lost an election that they can’t come to terms with it” as rightwing journalists daily jibe but of Israelis who love and respect democracy but now fear losing it.

Wide Awakening. Thousands turn out on a cold wintry Saturday night to protest at Habima Square in Tel Aviv against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s new government, after Justice Minister Yariv Levin unveiled plans earlier in the week to overhaul Israel’s judicial system. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The protests on Saturday night the 7 January 2023,  which drew more that 10,000 people to Habima Square in Tel Aviv – “is just one example,” writes the editor of The Jerusalem Report  in his November 9 editorial “of how a large segment of the Israeli public finds these reforms scary and dangerous. People are afraid of the loss of basic civil rights.” The editorial continues, stressing that “Combined with extreme remarks made by some members of the new government about the LGBT community for example, their concerns are not “, as the Prime Minister refutes, “baseless.”

It’s all very well that our smooth-talking Prime Minster is trying to reassure an anxious half of the Israeli population that the claims of his proposed judicial reforms will lead to “the end of democracy” are “baseless”. But are they? After all, he too was once in opposition to the very reforms he now champions.

Demonstrating for Democracy. “We will continue to fight for our democracy,” Merav Michaeli, leader of the Israeli Labour Party, tweeted from the protest in Tel Aviv attended by thousands.  (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Does Netanyahu – who boasts frequently of how “smart” Israelis are – really believe that Israelis will be duped by the self-interest assertions of a Prime Minister facing criminal charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in bed with cabinet ministers who some themselves are convicted felons or hold extreme positions? Noting the caliber of the characters Netanyahu has assembled in his governing coalition, are we really to expect that these reforms will be carried out as he asserts “responsibly” and in a “level-headed manner”?

Who is the Prime Mister kidding? Not any people I know.

And who is Netanyahu listening to? It appears only to himself, while at least one person who he should be listening to is his greatest supporter abroad, emeritus Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

If I were in Israel I would be joining the protests,” Dershowitz told Israel’s Army Radio, referring to the protest attended by thousands in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Asserting that “It would be a tragedy to see the Supreme Court weakened,” he cautioned that “It will make it much more difficult for people like me who try to defend Israel in the international court of public opinion to defend it effectively [in the future].”

Courting Disaster. Prepared to join the protests, staunch defender of Israel in the court of public opinion, American jurist Alan Dershowitz is troubled by the Prime Minister’s proposed Israel court reforms. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

It was a surprise awakening to hear Dershowitz – who has written bestselling books supporting Israeli policies and is close to Netanyahu – to so forcefully oppose the proposed judicial reforms. Dershowitz added he had informed Netanyahu of his “very strong” opposition to the reforms, warning they would also expose Israel to legal challenges by global bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

Even Israel’s president, a position largely ceremonial, has joined in the public outcry to Netanyahu’s judicial reforms. Breaking his silence on Tuesday, President Isaac Herzog  vowed to defend the country’s founding values expressing concern that the proposed reforms by Justice Minister Levin could violate the “moral compass of the country.”

Changes to Israel’s Supreme Court will be ‘supreme’ folly. At the moment the Prime Minister is not listening. It will be up to an awakening public to shout louder.





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 endeavors 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) .

IT’S A QUESTION OF HABIT

Some key ingredients to building lasting habits

By Justine Friedman

That’s it! You’ve made a decision. You reach a point where you have had enough of feeling unfit or unhealthy or overweight and uncomfortable or disorganised in your life. You are finally going to be happy and have the relationships you have always wanted. It’s now time to start to make changes so that you can finally succeed in the area you’ve been desperate to succeed for so long. This time it’s going to be different! This time you are not going to break the diet or stop until you get to your goal!

Can you relate to these sentiments? Have you been in a position or are you currently feeling this way? That spark of motivation and inspiration can be so powerful. It is the driving force behind every persons push to finally start to improve the quality of their lives.

So, the question is how do we go about making positive changes and implementing habits that will allow us to reach our health and wellness goals? These can be food or lifestyle related (improving relationships with self and others). In fact, any habit that will improve day-to-day life falls into this category. When we decide to achieve a specific goal and we are very “psyched” about it, it is easy to feel motivated and positive. Unfortunately, the reason so many people find themselves giving up too soon may arise due to not setting realistic or achievable outcomes. It is so human to feel overwhelmed and fall off the wagon if you’re trying to do too much all at once. 

In over-reaching and attempting to take on too much and too soon, as well as expecting perfection from oneself, we set ourselves up to fail. Can you relate to the feeling when you try to do everything all at once and then you miss a step of the process? The sense of disappointment and failure can make you think:

 “This is impossible, I just can’t do this, so why should I even bother?”

When we try to use our willpower to resist temptation and impulses, we can end up exhausting ourselves, particularly when we are trying to change too much all at once. In fact, we each have a limited amount of willpower that we use each and every day. If we are finding that we have other challenges to face, our newer habits that we are so desperate to implement, fall by the wayside as we use any energy towards addressing these situations. It is so common for people to find themselves, even after a few weeks of managing to build a new habit to be faced with a trigger that causes any old and more entrenched habit to take over. This can lead one to feel frustrated, despondent, and annoyed at one’s inability to just do what they set out to do.

A great example that is often used is trying to run a marathon. You wouldn’t go out and try to run 42km in one day. You would need to slowly build distance over time, pushing yourself a little more each day, and setting yourself realistic goals. 

Working towards a new goal is the same. Even though it may not seem like you are doing a lot by taking baby steps each day, when you manage to do things in bite-size amounts, that’s where the greatest power lies. Changing and implementing lifetime habits are best achieved by taking small, manageable steps so you don’t fall over at the first hurdle and fail or give up. 

So, what are habits? They are behaviours that are influenced by cues, routine, and rewards. When we consistently repeat the same behaviour over time it becomes a habit. Our habits can be so layered and enmeshed in our lives. Each habit is built on another. It can feel like peeling an onion. Each layer that is removed reveals another underneath until you get to the core. There is always a lot discussed about how long it takes to either break or create a new habit. In general, most people settle on 21 days as the accepted average. I feel that it takes far longer (not to put you off!) for with each new behaviour there are many components to it, just like the many layers of the onion, and if we wish to ensure that the new habits that we are forming over time are there to stay, then each element of the old behaviour needs to be addressed and each aspect of the new behaviour needs to be consistently practiced. It is very human to desire something greatly and then revert to a comfort zone in old habits and behaviours the minute we feel uncomfortable or experience emotions that trigger us.

So how do we go about ensuring our success? One of the first steps is putting perfection on notice. When we expect perfection, and we can’t sustain it we will give up very easily.

The next step is identifying what it is that you wish to improve or change. Without judging or criticising the behaviour that you would like to shift, become curious about why you practice it and when you are most likely to do it. For example, if you find yourself snacking or grazing from 3pm in the afternoon all the way until dinner time, you can become curious about what you are eating and drinking at the beginning of your day until 3pm. Are you trying to be too strict? Are you so busy that you ignore your hunger signals? Are you out and you haven’t taken any food with you so that by the time you get home you are over-hungry? Does this lead you to making poor choices or desperate to fill what feels like a bottomless pit? There are many different situations that can either set you up for success or trip you up along the way.

Once you have identified potential hurdles then you can work to avoid them. You can ensure that you take a break during the day to eat more regular meals and snacks, ensuring you keep your energy and blood sugar levels balanced. If necessary, you can set an alarm on your phone to remind you, particularly if you get too busy. You can make realistic choices about what you will eat at different times of day and pay attention to whether you are drinking sufficient water. Planning ahead of time is always more likely to lead to success. The key is to be able to be flexible if it doesn’t pan out exactly as you anticipated.

This is where one of the most crucial elements comes in. The element of forgiveness. It is the opposite of perfection as it allows us to feel compassion for when we simply can’t follow through or when we find ourselves in front of a hurdle. If we expect perfection in this moment the hurdle may act to block our path. However, if we are more forgiving of how we feel in the situation we become open to reassessing where we are and more likely to find a different way to deal with the obstacle. There are always many ways to reach the same destination and it may not always be the shortest or most anticipated path that gets us there. If we are to truly succeed on this journey, allowing ourselves to experience the steps and “scenery” along the way will make it more meaningful. Not only will reaching our destination seem more victorious but we will have stretched ourselves and grown as the process unfolds.

Does this all sound like too much? Would you rather stay in your safe and comfortable zone, wishing you weren’t? Change is always possible! With the right support you can implement lasting patterns and behaviours that will positively impact your life. Each person and situation is unique and the path to success is too. If you truly desire to reach your destination setting yourself up for success will get you there.

So many wait for January 1st to make new year resolutions. And while these are generally well meaning, the long term success of them are rather short lived. If you truly wish to see positive change in your life, start small and start now, building lasting habits is within your grasp, you just need to take the first step.



About the writer:

Justine Friedman works as a clinical dietician and a mindset mentor. She has over 20 years experience in supporting clients to make sustainable and practical lifestyle adjustments. Her focus is empowering women over 40 to make the necessary changes to feel confident with their food choices and at peace with food, while at the same time managing their weight without restriction or guilt. She works with women both 1:1 as well as in her online signature group program, “The Wellness Upgrade”. For more information visit her website on www.justinefriedman.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 endeavors 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) .