Mindsets to Markets

The Stef Wertheimer formulae for Middle East  regional stability where “the battlefield today should only be the market place”

By David E. Kaplan

Reading in the latest Forbes ranking industrialist Stef Wertheimer as Israel’s wealthiest citizen with a net worth of $6.2 billion in its annual ranking of the wealthiest billionaires in the world,  reminded me of my interview with him in 2011.

Israelis in the Pack. Twenty-one Israelis appear in Forbes 2021 billionaires list with  Stef Wertheimer as the country’s richest citizen with a personal fortune of $6.2 billion.

 It also made me think that Israel’s premier industrialist would not have been pleased with the nature of exposure!

Why do I assume this?

Well, before I even began that decade-old interview, Stef said:

I hope you were not planning on asking me about the Buffett deal?”

I was taken back!

Movers & Shakers. Stef Wertheimer showing Warren Buffett (left)  around  Tefen in northern Israel Israel. (Photo by FLASH90)

The “Buffett deal” of 2006 was not just any deal but the most highly publicised one at the time in Israel’s history. Yes, it was when Warren Buffett‘s investment company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.,  acquired 80% of Wertheimer’s  Iscar Metalworking Companies (IMC) for $4 billion. Not only was it a ‘big deal’  for Israel, but also for Buffett being his largest acquisition outside the USA! This was a huge endorsement of Israel, so yes, I had planned to anchor my article on ‘the Buffett deal’. I had also been  spurred on by Buffett revealing shortly before our interview in 2010 that he   he would like to invest more in Israel, believing that Israel has a sustainable advantage in the global competitive market place, saying:

 “If you are looking for brains – stop in Israel.”

Puzzled, I asked Stef why he was so against discussing the deal, after all, “it made your family and your company household names – globally?”

Man on a Mission. Stef Wertheimer – a warrior for peace and prosperity

His explanation was instructive.

“Why do you think that the Berkshire Hathaway deal is any more important than the first deal I did with my fledgling company operating out of my house in Nahariya in the early 1950s?”

Seeing my perplexed look, he continued:

It you disregard the amounts of money in the equation and focus on impact then the first 1950s deal was far more historically significant than the Berkshire Hathaway deal.”

The message was clear. Beneath the veneer of being bedazzled by billions, Wertheimer was directing the interview to a far more philosophical rather than simple monetary assessment of the word “value”.

Factory Floor. A young highly motivated Stef Wertheimer (center) in his backyard Iscar workshop in Nahariya in the early 1950s. (Photo: private)

Early Days

Stef Wertheimer was born in Kikenheim, Germany in 1926, the son of a musician and decorated war veteran of the Great War. In 1936, with the Nazis entrenched in power, the Wertheimer family fled Germany for Palestine.  “I was 10 years old,” he said, “so they did not ask me.”

Following learning a trade as an apprentice to a refugee, Stef, at age eighteen, joined the newly established Israel Air force flight school. Although he graduated as a pilot, the army was far more interested in his skills in metal processing. Given the important task of developing weapons, no one in those days would have imagined that young Stef was well on his way to becoming a global industrialist and ‘warrior’ for peace.

Rearing to Go. The refugee child from southern Baden, Germany, Stef Wertheimer as a teenager in Tel Aviv.

When the State of Israel came into being and the battles ended, he started his cutting-tool factory from his home in Nahariya – then a small coastal town in northern Israel – with a borrowed lathe and a loan from a local butcher.

“Living in Nahariya, I used to ride my motorbike to kibbutz Hanita where I paid for the use of a machine. I then decided in 1952 to work at home and started with small blade sharpener which cost 40 lirot. My ‘factory floor’ was the balcony off our kitchen. I called my business Iscar and it was a case of family and factory sharing the same premises. As the business expanded and required more space, I invaded the bedroom and shifted the beds into the corridor. In between all this, Irit, my baby daughter was riding around on her tricycle taking bites of food from my workers. That is how she cultivated a liking for harif (hot) cuisine from my Mizrahi (Eastern Jews) workers.”

These were humble beginnings but the makings of what would amount global news in the future.

Battlefields for Peace

Known as the father of Israel’s “Industrial Parks”, establishing his first Tefen Industrial Park in 1982  in the northern Galilee –  “to foster economic growth and job creation and so help create stability in the region” – it became the model for all the parks that followed. He became animated describing then his latest and sixth park, located in Nazareth that “will be managed by Arabs but essentially where Jews and Arabs will work together. It’s a model for coexistence, where people work with each rather than against each other. The battlefield today should only be the market place.”

Aiming High. The ISCAR World Headquarters and Central Manufacturing Facilities located in Tefen in the high hills of Israel.

This argument had added resonance at the time as the Middle East in 2011 was gripped in the turmoil of the Arab Spring that had begun in response of citizens across the Middle East rising up against their autocratic regimes for their low standards of living. This Wertheimer understood well and in a series of articles he penned at the time, was advocating a type of ‘Marshall Plan’ for the Middle East of mass industrialization as a tool for regional harmony. More than ideology or religion, they needed – JOBS and jobs in mass manufacturing

Explaining, he said, “if people are highly skilled, earning good salaries and enjoying job satisfaction, there will be less urge for individuals or nation states to resort to violence to achieve their aspirations. Religious fanatics only flourish where poverty and despair rule. But to achieve an industrial revolution, we need too, a revolution in our educational system to produce a skilled working workforce.”

A portend of things to come, our interview also took place a few months before the Social Justice protests across Israel, when starting in July 2011, hundreds of thousands of protestors from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds opposed the continuing rise in the cost of living – particularly housing.

These were hardly the people with a mindset for factory floors but Wertheimer understood but pressed his case for a change in mindsets.

Sure, we prefer to pursue the ‘clean’ professions because we are pressurized by our parents. This is embedded in our culture where we have an aversion to roll up our sleeves and getting our fingers dirty. For this reason, Jews gravitate to commerce and the professions rather than into industry. This needs to change.”

And to my next question of how we break from tradition if it’s so imbedded in our culture, Wertheimer replied:

“One need look no further for a shining example than one of our revered Zionist pioneers, A.D. Gordon. Was he suited to work in the fields? Definitely not. He was an elderly intellectual, of no great physical strength and with no experience doing manual labour, but he took up the hoe and worked in the fields. By personal example, he provided the inspiration for generations of Zionist pioneers to create a Jewish economy by physically working the land. By personal example, he showed how manual labour, so essential to the creation of the state, was honourable and enriching work.”

His argument was we need that same insight and spirit of A.D. Gordon to move new generations not to the fields but to factory floors. “In the same way that tilling the land in the early days was considered honourable, so today we need to correct the erroneous notion that manual labour is “low”. Nations with the most dynamic economies such as China, India, Singapore, Switzerland, Denmark and France have introduced a dual system of technical education that combines classroom learning with on-sight internships in various industries. We need to do the same.”

Book of Revelations. Says Warren Buffett, “There’s no better way to explain the miracle of Israel than to examine the life of Stef Wertheimer.”

And as to what progress Wertheimer had made so far towards this goal, he explained:

“I have for over 50 years created and run technical education programmes. Along the way, I have established six technical schools, including one in the army and one in the navy. These are schools where young people can learn a trade and acquire skills of a very high standard.  I have also established schools where we teach teachers in vocational training because this is so lacking in this country. I cannot stress enough – we have enough bankers and lawyers; we need people with skills and when they receive the recognition they deserve, attitudes will change. This is the way forward for Jews and Arabs to stand together. Their battlefield is the factory floor, their common enemy – their competitors in the overseas markets.”

Making an Impact. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (right) with Stef Wertheimer at the “Collective Impact” employment project, in Nazareth, Israel, on April 6, 2016.
 

Embellishing on his Marshall Plan for the Middle East that there cannot be real peace in the region unless neighbouring countries enjoy similar economic prosperity, he explained:

“If Israel has been a success story, we could be more of a success by helping our neighbours more than ourselves. They need to believe that they are on the same path to prosperity as us. We need to expend far more of our resources on peace rather than on war. Can you imagine if we built Industrial Parks like we have in Israel all over the Middle East, the impact it would have on regional peace and stability? People don’t know, but the money the government spends on ONE fighter plane could pay for FIVE industrial parks. Think of it – which offers a better return on the investment?”

Imagine if there were hundreds of these “Pockets of Peace” all over the Middle East? “Who would have the time or inclination for war? People would be too busy creating than destroying.”

This vision has been passed onto his son Eitan, today the CEO of Iscar.

Fostering Peaceful Coexistence. At the grand opening in April 2013 of this industrial park in the predominantly Christian-Arab city of Nazareth, Wertheimer and Nazareth Mayor Ramez Jeraisy explained that the industrial park is part of a unique model to promote the advancement of Arab-Jewish Israeli export companies. During his visit to Israel in 2009, Pope Benedict had met with both men at the site of the future park and gave his blessing to the project.

“There are no bad people. There are just people without a future and people with a future. Once you create a future, peace will come. The model is already in place. It only needs to be adapted elsewhere – to build a region of conflict into islands of hope.”

“We need people like Stef, who live for their ideas and bring them alive through commitment and pragmatism,” expressed the German Federal Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Schaeuble in 2008 on presenting  the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal to Wertheimer for his contribution to Christian-Jewish understanding.

Possibly the accolade that best sums up Stef Wertheimer’s contribution to the State of Israel came from his good friend, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who said, “Stef, hopefully, if there were more people like you, not many, maybe just 20, the country would be completely different.”

Laughing all the Way to the Bank

A few years after Israel’s War of Independence (1948-1949), Stef found himself sitting on a bus with a young woman he had met in their days in the Palmach, the pre-independence, elite fighting force.

So Stef, what you doing with yourself now? Any plans?”

Yes, to go into industry; I want to start my own business.”

 “What?” she asked and laughed so loud everyone on the bus stared at them. After all, the country was poor; many foodstuffs were hard to come by.

However, six decades later, what began from a loan from a butcher and a borrowed lathe working in his backyard, grew into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of metal cutting tools, which are used by carmakers, shipbuilders and aerospace industries.

Who had the last laugh?







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

J’ Accuse!

By Craig Snoyman

The famous words have outlived their equally famous author. Author, Emile Zola published his open letter to the French President accusing the government of anti-Semitism and convicting Alfred Dreyfus without cause, simply because he was a Jew.

Alfred Dreyfus

An assimilated Jewish Staff officer in the French army, Dreyfus was found guilty of treason. Then, in front of 5000 soldiers, he suffered the public degradation. The buttons of his military tunic were cut off, then the stripes of his trousers. Next came the removal of the insignia on his cap and sleeve.  The final humiliation was his sword being broken in two – all performed with excruciating slow military precision. He was then marched around the Ecole to calls for his death and that of the Jews. Stripped of rank and dishonourably discharged from the army, he was deported to Devil’s Island to serve a sentence of life imprisonment. Following Zola’s J’ Accuse, a public outcry and evidence of an army cover-up, he was brought back to France for a retrial – and again found GUILTY!

Falsely Accused. An illustration of the public military degradation of Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus.

The relationship between the French government and its Jewish citizens has always been a little uneven. Emancipated by dint of happenstance as a result of the French Revolution, the Jews were not trusted by the Revolutionaries that had unintentionally freed them. This distrust remained until Napoleon reconvened the Sanhedrin to satisfy himself that Jews could be good Frenchmen. It should then have been a case of Liberte, Fraternite and especially Egalite. It was not!

At the Dreyfus trial.  there was another assimilated Jew present. A correspondent for the Austrian newspaper, Neue Freie Presse, he had been sent to cover the trial. Watching the Paris mob baying for Dreyfus’ blood and with shouts that “The Jew must burn” ringing in his ears, he left with a changed world view.  He formed the opinion that the Jew had no place in the Diaspora. He concluded that the only hope for the submissive, discriminated, wandering Jew, was for them to have their own Jewish state in Palestine. That man was Theodor Herzl.

Storming French Injustice. Zola risked more than his career when on  the 13 January 1898 published “J’Accuse…!” as an open letter to President Félix Faure, accusing the highest levels of the French Army of obstruction of justice and antisemitism by having wrongfully convicted Alfred Dreyfus to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. (“J’accuse” postcard, 1902, Bibliothèques de la Ville de Paris, Public Domain)

Fast-forward about 120 years.  Herzl’s vision has been realised. France’s relationship with its Jews is still uneven. France’s recent record is something like this:

2006 – a young Jew, Ilan Halimi is kidnapped, tortured and murdered by a Muslim gang, who proclaim that “all the Jews in the world are enemies”. The French police reject the idea that the murder was motivated by Jew-hatred.

Life Cut Short. 23-year-old lan Halimi, kidnapped, tortured and murdered by an anti-Semitic gang in Paris in 2006.(Courtesy of Stephanie Yin/JTA)

2012 – an Islamist gunman shoots dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southern city of Toulouse, because “the Jews kill our brothers and sisters in Palestine”.

Terror in Toulouse. On March 25, 2012, a Jewish scout places flowers under a banner paying tribute to the victims of jihadist Mohammed Merah who killed three children and a teacher at the “Ozar Hatorah” Jewish school in Toulouse, southwestern France. (AFP / ERIC CABANIS)

2015 – Islamic gunmen take their hatred to the Hypercacher kosher supermarket and kill four Jewish customers at a kosher supermarket. One declares that he was murdering the people he hated most in the world. (or as then-president Obama called it “randomly shooting a bunch of people in a deli”).  The attack on Bataclan theatre is played down (sic). The Jewish ownership of the theatre is concealed from the public.

Jews Marked for Death. Republican guards stand outside the Hyper Cacher supermarket ahead of a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack against the store in Paris on January 5, 2017 that murdered four Jewish customers. (AFP/Christophe Archambault

2017– a 65-year-old Jewish retired doctor and schoolteacher, Sarah Halimi, is murdered in an anti-Semitic attack by her Muslim next-door neighbour. While torturing her, he is heard shouting the Arabic phrase Allāhu ʾakbar (meaning “God is the greatest”), and calling her a shaitan (Satan, in Islamic belief, a “demon” or ‘devil”). Then he throws her out of her third-floor window. The French authorities refused to classify this as an anti-Semitic attack.  The media ignored it.

French Justice! The sister of an Orthodox Jewish woman murdered in France in 2017  by being thrown out of her window of her Paris flat in 2017, is to file a legal claim in Israel in the hope of getting a trial against the killer, Kobili Traoré who cannot stand trial in France after a court deemed he was not criminally responsible due to his mental state  affected by drug-taking.

2018 – two men stab Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, set her on fire and throw her out of the window of her Paris apartment. One of the men is heard shouting Allāhu akbar.  

Grotesque Hate of Jews. Police red tape and a photograph of Mireille Knoll on the door of her apartment in eastern Paris where the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, who escaped anti-Jewish purges in Paris during World War II, was stabbed and burned to death in 2018.

Writer, Marc Weitzmann, then writes that French authorities have repeatedly denied the anti-Semitic nature of these crimes, calling them “lone wolf” attacks or resulting from psychotic episodes.  But then he’s not an Emile Zola, and the French government don’t have to listen to him. Neither do the French press or the French public. Lone wolves and psychotics can proliferate.

Émile Zola

It goes further than that. The French Courts don’t listen either. In 2021, the Country’s highest court, the Cour de Cassation, upholds a  lower court decision that  the anti-Semitic murderer of Halimi could not be held criminally responsible because his “discernment”  had been compromised . He is held to have attacked and killed Halimi not because he hated Jews, but because he was in a “delirious fit” (what we might term a “psychotic state”) brought on as a result of his cannabis abuse. 

The court did see fit to mention that he had anti-Semitic tendencies!

I could find no reference as to whether he was using drugs in any  of his  previous (12) offences where he had been convicted. Nor was there any reference to a previous history of drug-induced “delirious fits”.

I have done more than my fair share of criminal cases and defended many substance abusers. Neither I, nor any of my colleagues that I have spoken to, can ever remember a marijuana abuser aggressively fighting.  Marijuana is a “downer,” a depressive drug, not one that is likely to render one both temporarily insane and violently aggressive.  The most aggressive behaviour that any of my clients ever showed while under the influence of marijuana, was throwing a bottle of pickles at the police who came to arresting him for housebreaking while he was trying to satiate his “munchies”.

In South Africa, and I suspect in most other countries, the voluntarily abuse of an abusive substance before committing a crime is an aggravating factor. It does not criminally absolve the abuser.  Even if you are in a “delirious state” or in a state mental incapacity, there are other competent charges that can be laid. Temporary insanity is a defence to be raised and proved by the defence. It’s an extremely difficult defence to sustain. While France’s legal system is different from ours, there was still an expert report of a psychologist before the Cour, which stated that this murderer was not temporarily insane.

And now we come up to speed. The French government’s relationship with its Jewish citizens is still uneven. However today, there are no big-name Frenchmen – no Emile Zola standing up for Halimi, no press shouting about injustice. A small voice of President Emile Macron, tainted by his politics and by his previous employment with Rothschild et Cie, can be heard calling for a change in the law.  But there are Jews protesting – in Paris and London and New York and Tel Aviv and elsewhere.

Vive la difference! The humiliated, cowering Jewish community had been too scared to protest the Dreyfus decision, either in Paris or at Rennes.  The voice of reason had to come from the Gentiles.  Now, thanks to the vision of Herzl, the existence of the State of Israel has given the Jews of the Diaspora a backbone and a voice. The fearful “Ghetto Jew” has disappeared. The new breed of Jew, in the knowledge of the support of the Israeli government is prepared to stand up and call for justice on their own. The murder of Sarah Halimi will never hit the world headlines like the death of George Floyd, but it will not be forgotten. It is not clear just how much Jewish Lives Matter to non-Jews and European governments. But Jews have very long memories, as Napoleon can attest – for those of you who remember your Gemarrah. So while the twitter-tags such as #JeSuisSarah and #JusticeforSarahHalimi may trend, a phrase not often used in the Diaspora, comes to mind which might be equally apt:

“Hashem yikom damma“(“May Hashem avenge her blood”)

Twice the French legal system has looked into the murder of Sarah Halimi and twice has been found wanting.

The double shadow of Dreyfus looms.

But now it is no longer an anti-Semitic murderer that is now on trial, it is again the French and their legal system. The scandal remains.  The Jews again have reason to distrust the French authorities, but they have a voice.  Where once there was the voice of an author proclaiming “J’Accuse”, it is now the voice of one nation shoutingJusticeforSarahHalimi”.  #MayHashemavengeyourbloodSarahHalimi

We, the Jews accuse!





About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.






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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 25 April 2021

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

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

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Flames over Cape Town. Students at UCT look with horror as they see their campus ablaze.

It was with personal sadness for many of our Lay Of The Land readers – alumni of UCT- to watch  this past week, historic buildings of their alma mater go up in flames, notably the 100-year-old library containing priceless books and manuscripts. Despite the distressing issues many alumni have with certain campus trends (see article below), all will share in our heartfelt message of solidarity with the people of Cape Town.





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

The Israel Brief

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Articles

(1)

Quo Vadis UCT?

By Stephen Schulman

Hitler – Not Guilty! University lecturer Lwazi Lushaba told his students that Hitler “committed no crime”.

Where are you going?” or more poetically, “Whither goest thou?” asks the writer of his alma mater regarding a lecturer in its Political Science department telling impressionable  first year students that “Hitler committed no crime.” Offending not only Jews but all decent and rational human beings, the writer sees UCT at a critical moral crossroad as to how it will respond?

Quo Vadis UCT?

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(2)

IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?

By Craig Snoyman

‘Judgement at South Africa’. Disturbing signs  in job interview of Jewish judge, David Unterhalter.

Having watched late into the night the interview on TV of Judge David Unterhalter for a position on South Africa’s Constitutional Court,  the writer, a practicing advocate, “battled to sleep”. What bothered him were questions focusing on the applicant once being a member of a leading Jewish communal organisation – the South African Jewish Board of DeputiesIs this the new direction of  South African justice?

IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?

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(3)

Jerusalem!

Poetic Perspective of Israel’s Capital

By  Gill Katz, journalist, author and TV script writer

Seen through a different Lens.  Colourful, vibrant downtown life in Jerusalem’s Old Jaffa Road.
 

While the walls of the Old City project a place of war and bloodshed, the writer reflects in poetry an old city – not in capital letters –  of “another Jerusalem”, not of “cultural clashes” but of bumping shoulders with bearded Greek Orthodox Priests and Haredi Jews to bare bellied tattooed teenage girls.

Jerusalem!

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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- 19-22 April 2021

The Israel Brief – 19 April 2021 – Masks come off – at least outside. Coalition update. Greece and Israel sign a historic deal.




The Israel Brief – 20 April 2021 – Coalition drama! Big vaccine deals! Remembering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.




The Israel Brief – 21 April 2021 – Israel continues to open up. Israel’s Foreign Ministry criticizes French court over decision for murderer of Sarah Halimi not to stand trial because he was high on marijuana. Will Palestinian elections be postponed.






The Israel Brief – 22 April 2021 – IDF investigating failure to intercept errant missile. Former ZAKA head, Meshi-Zahav, attempts suicide. UN appoints Iran to Commission of the Status of Women.






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)

Jerusalem!

By  Gill Katz

Jerusalem!

The news will depict the old city as a place of war. Conflict. Bloodshed.

A place where cultures clash, and old and new don’t tolerate one another.

A place of political turmoil. Of suicide bombers. Of death.

But there is another Jerusalem.

A city old and rich in culture, steeped in the golden light of God’s eye as He watches with a fierce love, and I know that His city will for all times be a very special place.

From Hillel Street and it’s quaint coffee bars to the Holy sites where Jew, Christian and Moslem seek and find their roots, to the Mount of Olives where one can stand and look out over the peach coloured Jerusalem stone buildings, the city is incomparable.

A trip to the Old City, and a delightful barter with Arab stall sellers, and the joy of walking back to ones residence carrying a basket of fragrant smelling fruit and succulent vegetables from the shuk.. ahh.

What can compare?

I bump shoulders with Haredi Jews, bearded Greek Orthodox Priests and bare bellied tattooed American teenage girls. There are old and young, firm and infirm – all on their own private mission.

The presence of soldiers is but a comfort to me.

I contemplate their absense.

I know in time they will be, but for now I see them as warriors of Biblical times, fierce in their desire to protect God’s chosen city.

It’s all good…

God chose well.

Jerusalem – City of Gold.








About the writer:

Gill Katz. Former children’s book author, journalist, member of Media Team (South Africa and International) and television scriptwriter, now retired in Florida USA.







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

IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?

By Craig Snoyman

Every now and then I have occasion to use the word “timeous” when typing on my computer. The automatic spell-checker will spew out the word “timorous” as a substitute for the word that it did not have in its dictionary. Both of these words came to mind when watching the interview of Judge David Unterhalter, as he applied for a position as judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Judge David Unterhalter
 
 
 

I have never been a great fan of watching job interviews. I have never watched the Judicial Services Commission ever interview candidates for the position of judge, although there have been many live transmissions of this. This all changed when a WhatsApp group to which I belong, published a letter from the South African BDS Coalition objecting to the candidacy of Unterhalter on the grounds of his association with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBOD). (In full disclosure – I am a proud Jew, but with only a passing interest in the Board). Viewing this letter as an anti-Semitic attack by a bigoted organisation, I resolved to watch the interview.

The interviews before Unterhalter’s were sometimes personal, but the was a marked emphasis on the need for (racial) transformation of the judiciary. One expected a similar pattern to be followed with the Unterhalter interview.

After the opening “comforter” questions in the interview by the Chief Justice, it was the chance of the commissioners to ask questions. First off the bat was Commissioner Lutendo Sigogo. He wasted no time in raising the issue of Unterhalter’s association with the SAJBD, referring to a letter from the Black Lawyers Association which had requested that he resign from the organisation. Unterhalter acknowledged the letter stating he had considered the grounds in the letter but had chosen to resign from the Board on the basis of a possible perception of judicial bias. He also explained the non-political nature of the Board. This was not satisfactory to Sigogo, who then questioned the necessity of Unterhalter’s resignation.

The situation didn’t get much better with some of the other Commissioners. Commissioner Mmoiemang asked Unterhalter about a “two-state solution” to the Palestine-Israel question while Commissioner Notyesi asked him why he shouldn’t take a cooling off period because of his stint on the Board. Commissioner Mpofu (yes, that Mpofu) then linked Zionism with Apartheid and asked for comment about whether organisations that opposed Zionism should be viewed as supporting equality.  The most noticeable commissioner, who stuck to the original pattern, was Commissioner Dlepu who rejected his candidacy holding that Unterhalter, as an elitist white male, had done nothing transformative. To round it off, Commissioner Ronald Lamola, who is also the country’s Minister of Justice saw the need to comment about Unterhalter being “the leader of a Jewish organisation.”

Degrees from Trinity College, Cambridge, the University of the Witwatersrand and University College Oxford, David Unterhalter was appointed in 2018 to the High Court as a judge and since been appointed as an acting appeal court judge of the Competition Appeal Court and of the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Having watched the interview, which finished quite late at night, I battled to sleep. A jumble of thoughts kept running around in my head. While Untehalter is clearly the most intellectually capable of the candidates for the position, it was the attitudes of the commissioners that was most revealing.

There is this vein of anti-Semitism running through the various layers of society. I don’t know what the BLA letter said but it clearly asked Unterhalter to resign from the Board, that commissioners can delve into Israeli politics because the candidate is Jewish, or tell him to give up  posts because of his affiliation to a Jewish organisation or  make allegations of Zionism = Racism, can be mentioned casually at this level to a national audience is  very worrying to me. I think that it should be equally worrying to the Jewish organisations that represent us.

I followed the media this morning, which was equally revealing. There were reports on the interviews, including that of Unterhalter – with headlines that he admitted that he had an elitist education, but no mention of the issues raised here.

Is it because it is simply a non-issue? That this kind of attitude is acceptable?

That statements like those made don’t deserve sanction?  That the media and the policy makers regard these statements as an acceptable norm in South  Africa?

I remain outraged that so little was said. So little about BDS objecting to Unterhalter’s candidacy on anti-Semitic grounds – but then I was equally outraged that so much was said when Chief Justice  Mogoeng’s call for peace in Jerusalem was adjudged an unacceptable intrusion into a  “political controversy”.  That so little is said when anti-Semitic canards are spouted at the highest levels of decision making.  That the BLA can call on a judge to resign from a Jewish organisation, simply because it is a Jewish organisation. But most of all I remain outraged that it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone in South Africa, Jewish or non-Jewish, who is prepared to stand up against this invasive, maybe even institutional, anti-Semitism.

So much for constitutional rights!

Why are the Jewish organisations in South Africa so timorous in defending the rights of Jews in South Africa? Surely it would now be timeous to stand up and say that Zionism is a fundamental part of Judaism and it is not racist. That calling out anti-Semites may cause waves, but it needs to be done. That the underlying current of anti-Semitism, so prevalent at the hearing, should be allowed to triumph simply because good organisations do nothing.

Five judges were recommended for appointment to the Constitutional Court, which excluded Judge Unterhalter who faced questions  from commissioners about coming from a privileged background to having served as a member  of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. (File photo. Image: GCIS)

It’s time to call out this anti-Semitic behaviour for what it is – a violation of our religious constitutional rights and Jewish identity. A good start would be getting the internationally accepted IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism adopted in South Africa. We saw what happened at the Durban Conference, let’s not let it permeate South African society.

If not now, then when?


Epilogue

Update: As a result of this article it was also drawn to my attention that in the same set of interviews, but this time of the position of judge in the Northern Cape,  secular and non-observant  Jewish candidate Lawrence Lever (SC)  was asked by Commissioner Madonsela (SC) whether observing of the Sabbath would interfere with his judicial duties.  Would Muslim and Christian applicants for judgeships be asked whether observing a Friday or Sunday respectively “would interfere with your judicial duties”?




About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.



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

Quo Vadis UCT?

By Stephen Schulman

On the eve of Israel Holocaust Day, it came to light that in a pre-recorded lecture shared online with first-year political science students, Lwazi Lushaba, a lecturer in the department of political studies at the University of Cape Town, said:

Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.”

That statement is shocking in itself, displaying bigotry, racism, anti- Semitism, a brutal callousness toward all the victims of Nazi oppression and an insult to the living survivors and their families. Its ignorance of and willful distortion of history is doubly shocking as it comes not from the mouth of a dyed in the wool member of a racist and Holocaust denier organization or from Louis Farrakhan but from a black South African whose people had suffered under the apartheid regime and who would have been expected to show some sensitivity for others who had suffered too. Moreover, his intense hatred blinded him to the obvious fact that had Hitler prevailed, his race – in the most optimistic scenario – would have been reduced to serfdom and slavery and he would certainly not be at UCT today.

Free Pass for Hitler. Dr Lwazi Lushaba told first-year University of Cape Town political science students in an online lecture that Hitler “committed no crime” because “all Hitler did was to do to the white people what white people had normally reserved for black people”.

Lushaba’s despicable statement flies in the face of all that a university stands for: an institution of higher learning  with teaching and research facilities, unfettered from bias, prejudice and current politically correct doctrines, guided by an objective, disinterested intellectual curiosity, an acceptance and tolerance of conflicting opinions and a moral integrity untainted by influence of interest groups.

Noble sentiments indeed, but unfortunately divorced from reality! Universities do not exist within vacuums. They function within communities and societies each with their own historical background, socio-economic composition, dominant creeds and narratives. Understandably, their academic staffs are not immune to these influences and whilst being influenced by all these factors, it is incumbent on the institutions to uphold all the values that constitute this institution.

Truckloads of Evidence. Dr Lwazi Lushaba, UCT political science lecturer, fails to see any “crime” here of the bodies of Jews being transported from the gas chambers to the five crematoriums of Auschwitz

Just over a quarter century ago, the country regained majority rule after many years of oppression by a white minority. Despite attempts to right past injustices, there still exists a huge reservoir of bitterness and rage. South African universities are faced with an especially difficult task in piloting a true course. They must acknowledge the past, incorporate its lessons in their teaching and devise curriculums that can benefit the country for the future. No less important, to ensure their academic status, they must also retain their academic and ethical standards.


Bird’s-Eye View. The idyllic setting for Africa’s premier university belies an academic situation that is far from idyllic.

Even though having left South African decades ago, as an alumnus of UCT I still have a link to and feel affection for my alma mater. Consequently, I follow with interest the developments in the post apartheid era as the institution seeks to define itself as an African university. While there have been many laudably positive achievements, sadly to say, there are those that I have found to be distressing.

The annual hate fest known as Israeli Apartheid Week has become a regular campus fixture. As a citizen of Israel, I had written an open letter to the Students Representative Council (supporters of the event) explaining my opposition to it as being libelous and defamatory to my country with a blatant misuse of the epithet “apartheid”. I offered to engage them in an open discussion with an honest exchange of views in order to correct this injustice. Needless to say, my challenge was ignored and I never even received the common decency of an acknowledgement.

The T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture on academic freedom is a prestigious annual event that has drawn distinguished speakers to address students and academic staff. In 2019, in order not to exacerbate existing campus tensions and/or not to offend Moslem students, the university disinvited Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed on the grounds that his lecture would sow discord and contribute nothing to the campus culture.

Double Standards. While UCT had no problem disinviting Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed  because it might offend Muslim students, the university showed no such sensitivity to Jewish students when it invited an advocate for academic boycotts of Israel, Dr Steven Salaita, to give its annual academic freedom lecture.

Somehow, this sensitivity did not extend to the Jews!

The organizing committee of academics, scraping the bottom of the barrel, in its stead, saw fit to invite Steven Salaita. Salaita, the holder of a dubious doctorate and odious views and that no American university wishes to employ, is notorious for his vituperative anti-Semitic sentiments that he crudely expresses and freely disseminates. His lecture, the text of which I ploughed through, was an object lesson in verbosity, obtuseness and obfuscation replete with sniveling self pity, plugging a brand of soft drink and the obligatory tropes of a Jewish conspiracy responsible for his plight. How sad that UCT had debased such an august event and sunk to such a nadir by honouring a third rate academic, bigot and anti-Semite.

Beneath the Veneer. Having removed the statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes that had become the focus of protests, is it no less important for UCT to address living offenders on the campus like Dr Lwazi Lushaba who dispenses to impressionable young students, that Hitler committed no crimes?

UCT prides itself on being a leading African university. Nevertheless, it remains remarkably silent on burning issues such as misrule, poverty and other injustices that afflict the continent. South Africa suffers from a government with its cronyism, nepotism and institutionalized kleptocracy to the great detriment of its citizens. It cries out to its universities, both students and staff, to condemn and correct the misuses of power. My alma mater, like all the others, remains conspicuously mute. However, approximately 18 months ago, the university council and senate found time to devote themselves to a far more burning issue: the promotion of a boycott of Israeli universities! In due time the initiative was quashed as the more pragmatic senate, faced with a wave of protests, realized the repercussions of such a drastic move: the condemnation of the academic world with a consequent loss of links and funding.

Events on the campus have not been propitious for the creation of a tolerant atmosphere. A philosophy professor has written an article exposing abuses: In the name of “social justice” there have been instances of vandalism and wanton destruction of university property. Teachers and staff including the previous vice chancellor have been physically assaulted. All of these acts have gone unpunished. There has been discrimination and expressions of racism against white students including accusations of “settler and colonialist mentality”. Pressure has been exerted on academic staff to conform, compromise their standards and give poor students passing grades on account of their skin colour for if they failed them, it was a clear sign of overt racism. Cancel culture is very much in evidence as those who disagree are stifled and sanctioned. It is sad to think that such prejudiced behaviour on campus has become a mirror image of the very hatred and bigotry of despised apartheid proponents that they condemn!

In 2019, the University of Cape Town extended an invitation to all alumni who had graduated over fifty years ago to participate in a “golden graduation” where they would attend the end of year graduation ceremony and be honoured by taking part in the academic procession. I replied, expressing my thanks, but declining the invitation. I felt that, with a clear conscience, in light of all the past and present events, I could not participate and be part of the window dressing for my alma mater that had betrayed so many of its ideals.

Questionable Standards! Lecturer at UCT’s faculty of political Science, Dr Lwazi Lushaba, who makes the case, “Hitler committed no crime.”

In the context of the prevailing campus climate, it is perhaps not surprising that Lushaba expressed such an outrageous statement that exceeded all bounds of common decency. He is a member of the political science department and as such, his lecture was given under the aegis of UCT. Undoubtedly, he was fully aware of the weight of his words, their fallout and his confidence in his impunity. His vile utterances are an affront to the bedrock upon which the university is based and he should be made fully accountable for them. The campus academic community cannot and must not remain silent. To stand true to its principles and retain its credibility, the senate of the University of Cape Town should unequivocally condemn his words, dismiss Lushaba or at the very least, suspend him from his teaching position. The senate must unhesitatingly react and use its authority, for its decision will have far reaching consequences in setting the future course of my alma mater as a worthy educational institution.   





About the writer:

Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.






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

Lay of the Land Weekly Newsletter- 18 April 2021

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

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

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

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Articles

(1)

The Man for all Seasons

Duke of Edinburgh leaves behind legacy of support to Jewish and Israel causes

By Rolene Marks

Prince Charming. Prince Philip engages with WWII veterans at Commonwealth War Cemetery in Ramle, Israel in 1994.

Revealed with his passing the number of Jewish and Israel causes he associated his esteemed name with, Prince Philip, is fondly remembered in the Jewish State as having been the first member of the British royal family to visit Israel and that his mother is revered for sheltering Jews in Nazi-occupied Greece during the Holocaust.

The Man for all Seasons

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(2)

From Bombs to Babies

Israel at 73

By David E. Kaplan

Be Fruitful and Multiply. Israelis delight in fulfilling the divine injunction from Genesis.

With the country coming to an immediate standstill at the sound of the siren to honour Israel’s fallen, to the sudden switch of joy celebrating the country’s independence, the Israeli temperament is attuned to life’s sudden changes.

From Bombs to Babies

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(3)

Decked out in Blue and White

By Rolene Marks

Colourful Character. People of Israel celebrating Independence day.

From streets, buildings and people ‘dressed up’ in Israel’s national colours for the emotional rollercoaster  journey from “somber memorial” one day  to “celebration and jubilation” the next,  the citizens of Israel reveal the country’s ‘True Colours’.

Decked out in Blue and White

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(4)

Israel Is All You Have

By Martine Alperstein

Rebirth of a Nation. David Ben-Gurion pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv.

Reflecting on the character of Israel by the nature of its characters –  from its citizens who have to fight to survive to those who fought to arrive here enduring imprisonment as “Refuseniks” or walking barefoot through a never ending African desert – the writer cherishes this Independence Day the long-fought for freedom of a People and a Nation.

Israel Is All You Have

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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)

ISRAEL IS ALL YOU HAVE

By Martine Alperstein

Read that title again.

Because believe it or not, this beautiful, complicated, tiny little country that is steeped with your ancestral heritage, is all you have.

I have never understood how people of Jewish faith could ever denounce Israel. I have never understood how some people imagine you can be anti-Zionist and not be antisemitic. Zionism and Judaism are intrinsically intertwined. The history of Israel and the story of the Jewish people, are the same story. And Israel exists because a Jew had a dream.

I am not sure if it is ignorance, naivety or the ostrich syndrome that enables any Jew to believe that without Israel, they would be safe and protected. Tonight we light a yahrzeit candle on Erev Yom Hazikaron in memory of the 23, 928 soldiers who gave their lives to protect our existence, which acts as a reminder of the price we have paid in order to ensure that the yahrzeit candle we lit last week on Erev Yom HaShoah in memory of the 6million Jews that were annihilated in the holocaust, will NEVER happen again. Ever.

Maybe it comes from being privileged, having never encountered antisemitism in any form? Maybe it is ignorance thinking it is happening to other Jews because of x, y or z but that it will never happen to you?. Maybe it is being raised in an environment that is desperate to blend in, to be part of the crowd, to be unrecognised? Maybe it is from having lost the  connection to your roots, to your traditions and customs out of necessity or something else?

Those who know me well, know that I despise conflict and will avoid it at all cost. I believe in the value of giving and the value of love. I teach my children that respect and tolerance are basic human rights, that people are all just people, irrespective of colour, race, religion, position, financial status, sexual orientation or political beliefs. We won’t change the world through hate, through violence, through arrogance, through intolerance or rigid barriers.

In order to make a difference on our planet, to be able to build bridges and stretch out a helping hand, you first need to know yourself, your roots, your history, your traditions and customs. You need to believe in yourself and your heritage. You need to understand that first you stand strong, you stand tall………..  And it’s from that place of confidence, strength and courage, that you can reach out and connect, lift up, assist, aid, collaborate, communicate and facilitate the change.

On an airplane we are taught to first put the oxygen mask on ourselves and to then help others because without that oxygen, you will be useless. The same is true for a Jew and Israel.

Denouncing, belittling, and removing yourself from Israel will not bring you any love, respect or acceptance, it will not make you courageous nor a hero. It will not make a difference and it will not bring change.

Earn your respect by being true to your heritage and to yourself. Show your strength by loving who you essentially are. Find your heritage, your individual and communal spark….honour those who came before you, and shine.

Shine your light.

Be true.

Rebirth of a Nation. David Ben-Gurion publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel, beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl in the old Tel Aviv Museum of Art building on Rothschild Street.

Take a good look at those who fought hard, sacrificed and suffered to fulfill their dream of aliyah, those who walked barefoot through a never ending desert, those who sat in jail, those who risk their lives to light Chanukah candles underground…. and those 23, 928 neshomot who gave their place on this earth to ensure that you have a home.

The Young and the Adventurous. A new group of young olim  (immigrants) arriving in Israel (Photo: Sason Tiram)

 

And from YOUR place of brightness and truth, start to close gaps, give with loving kindness and do the desperately needed tikkun ha’olam (Jews bearing responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare, but also for the welfare of society at large).

A Homecoming. On February 12, 2021, some 302  immigrants from Ethiopia were flown into Israel on a specially chartered flight sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) despite Ben-Gurion Airport being closed and the borders being sealed off tight to lower COVID-19 infections.
 

 

Israel is the reason that you are. Israel is the reason that you can. Israel is the reason that you will always be able. Israel is the reason that we are free to be.

“Were you there when the camps were liberated?

Are you with us now as we rebuild?

Were you standing next to David Ben Gurion when a two thousand year old dream was fulfilled?”

Raise Your Hand – Julie Geller





About the writer:

Martine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.

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

The Israel Brief- 12-15 April 2021

The Israel Brief – 12 April 2021 – Sabotage at Natanz nuclear plant – who did it? The race is on for Israels next President. Israel remembers HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.




The Israel Brief – 13 April 2021 – Natanz blast update. UNRWA promises Biden “no antisemitism”. Israel to observe Yom Hazikaron.




The Israel Brief -14 April 2021 – Israel remembers and mourns her fallen. Biden Administration approves the sale of F35’s. Israel to celebrate 73 years of Independence.









The Israel Brief -15 April 2021 – All your Tom Haatzmaut coverage! Sudan to send the first ever delegation to Israel next week. Abu Dhabi business exchange opens in Tel Aviv.

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)