About rolenemarks

Rolene Marks is a member of the Media Team Israel, a body of volunteers that monitors bias in the media. A passionate advocate for Israel, Rolene has appeared on radio, tv and in the print Media. Rolene lives in Israel.

The UNHRC’s obsession with Israel fuels conflict

This article currently appears in iol.co.za https://www.iol.co.za/opinion/letters/the-unhrcs-obsession-with-israel-fuels-conflict-81c441c9-6ac8-4d1d-acf5-4399c15b2e2e

OPINION – There is an inordinate amount of conflict and upheaval in the world. Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine razes cities to the ground and leaves a devastating trail of human rights violations, Christian communities in Nigeria are persecuted, Uighur Muslims in China are rounded up into concentration camps and have been ethnically cleansed and so many, others.

The United Nations Human Rights Council whose mandate it is to “protect human rights for all’ yet currently has Venezuela, Sudan, Libya and Mauritania amongst its council members and who have their own dubious human rights records, approved a “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate Israel and the Palestinian territories after last year’s 11 day flare up between Israel and Hamas, the internationally recognized terror entity that controls the Gaza strip.

The Commission of Inquiry was headed by Navi Pillay, a known anti-Israel agitator who has in the past endorsed the BDS movement which calls for the end of the State of Israel, applauded Iran for signing the 2001 anti-Israel UN declaration and has been proven to have personal ties with members of the PFLP, which is on the international terror list. It is no wonder Israel refused to cooperate with such an inquiry.

Add to that the preposterous op-ed written by Humairaa Mayet, titled “‘Israel has no intention of ending its occupation of Palestine’.

Mayet has forgotten a few facts including the origins of last year’s Operation Guardians of the Wall which saw Hamas fire the first shot by firing rockets towards Jerusalem. This was followed by over 4 300 rockets and projectiles, fired from civilian enclaves in Gaza towards sovereign Israeli territory – which also includes citizens. Israel has the right, as does every country, to defend her citizens. A vast percentage of those rockets fired fell short in the Gaza strip, killing and injuring many civilians.

The Commission of Inquiry managed to gives as little reference to the incitement of hate and acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas and other Iranian sponsored terror entities in the Gaza strip as possible.

Mayet, cites the international communities response to the inquiry but forgets that now 23 countries, spearheaded by the United States and includes countries as diverse as Israel, Austria, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Hungary, Eswatini, Brazil, Cameroon, Micronesia, Canada, United Kingdom, Togo, Colombia, Guatemala, Croatia, Liberia, Marshall Island, Nauru, North Macedonia and Palau denounced the Commission of Inquiry.

They were joined the next day by Australia who slammed the UNHRC’s “disproportionate focus on Israel and the Commission of Inquiry that does not serve the cause of peace”. There was an encouraging presence of African countries who also grow weary of having to take side when they could benefit from what Israel has to offer and play a concrete role as African Union members towards brokering a resolution to the conflict – a role which sadly South Africa who also harbours an unproductive obsession with the Jewish state, has forfeited.

The Commission of Inquiry was endorsed by North Korea though – and the Palestinian representative who called for the USA to be kicked off the UNHRC. It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious because some people still believe in the veracity of such an organization.

Mayet cites the Amnesty International report, another document that has been routinely dismissed by democracies concerned not only with its biased and unsubstantiated content; but that it could further fuel rising antisemitism.

French President, Emmanuel Macron, stated it was preposterous to call Israel, a country with Arab lawmakers and ministers serving in its parliament (something that would not have occurred in South Africa) an apartheid state. This past week, a UK based independent inquiry found Amnesty International UK, where the report originated from as guilty of “institutionalized racism and colonialist”. Hardly a ringing endorsement for this once venerated organization.

Human Rights Watch has been similarly discredited by its late founder, Robert Bernstein, who in an impassioned op-ed in the New York Times in 2009 raised the alarm that the organization was not upholding its mandate but rather headed into dangerous waters:

“As the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state,” wrote Bernstein.

Omar Shakir, the former director of HRW Israel-Palestine, was booted out of the country in 2019 for BDS activities that contravened Israel’s laws. He has now dedicated his energy and time to publishing reports accusing the Jewish State of war crimes during the May conflagration and a separate one accusing the country of practices of Apartheid – while scarcely a mention about any transgressions from Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Shakir even went so far as to totally redefine the term Apartheid to push his agenda.

Other accusations made by Mayet in the above mentioned op-ed are too ludicrous to even countenance.

In the interest of fairness and peace, it is not just Israel that should be found guilty of perpetuating an “occupation” or failing to ensure that there is a solution to the decade’s long and very complicated conflict; but also the Palestinians, the UNHRC, its commission and people like Mayet who perpetuate divisions and dangerous agenda with their farcical accusations.

Rolene Marks is the South African Zionist Federation Spokesperson

Israel – Kaleidoscope of Cultures

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/05/03/israel-kaleidoscope-of-cultures/

Ahead of Israel’s Independence Day, we look at the country’s incredible diversity

Israel is a land of many paradoxes. In this glorious juxtaposition of the ancient and modern, you can walk in the footsteps of the prophets but also be amazed by some of the world’s leading cutting edge technology, you can hear the church bells toll at the same time you hear the muezzin call the faithful to the mosque to pray; all while hearing the steady prayers in Hebrew at the Western wall. Israel’s cities have their unique personalities that serve to reinforce the country’s history, position in the region and story.

As Israel celebrates 74 years of Independence, we cannot help but marvel at all the achievements, extraordinary history and enduring legacy.

But it is Israel’s people who are the country’s true treasure. Israel is a kaleidoscope of cultures and much like a kaleidoscope, if you seek to look at a different, vibrant picture, all you have to do is adjust your focus.

Flight to Freedom. Over a million citizens of the former Soviet Union (FSU) immigrated to Israel since the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and now make up 15% of the Israeli population, transforming Israeli society.  

While Jews have had a presence in the land of Israel for millennia, we have been joined over the centuries by other nations, some have stayed but most have left and following the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, the country has served as home not just for the many Jews who have been here through the generations; but to those who responded to the invitation from Prime Minister Ben Gurion, to participate in the ingathering of the exiles.

From all four corners of the world they have come. Diaspora communities from every conceivable country, some voluntarily – but many because the threat of persecution meant they needed to leave – and leave quickly.

Israel’s modern history is a tale of daring and chutzpah, in the attempt to rescue Jewish communities under threat. No sooner than the State of Israel had been declared, then 850 000 Jews from Arab countries were forced to flee. Many made Israel their home and today the majority of Israel’s population trace their roots back to Morocco, Iraq, Yemen and other Arab countries. One of the great advantages of the recently signed Abraham Accords is that many Israelis of Morocco descent now have the opportunity to revisit and trace their roots.

True Magic. In 1949,Israeli transport planes flew “home” 250,000 Jews from Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet. The operation was secret and was released to the media only several months after its completion.

Following the devastation of the Holocaust which saw the genocide of two thirds of Europe’s Jews, many of the survivors who had lost their families and loved ones and saw no future for themselves on a continent that felt hostile, made their way to what was then British Mandate Palestine, joining the ranks of those pioneers that would help defend and build the fledgling country in the years after Israel was declared a state. Slowly, the exiled were returning home.

Hearty Hug: A cross-cultural embrace of a rabbi and Palestinian greeting each other as they meet at the Gush Etzion junction to hold prayers together in the summer of 2014. (photo: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

In the decades to come, Israel would send rescue missions to Yemen and Ethiopia to bring distressed communities home.  The result today is an Israel that has absorbed Jews from all corners of the world – from India and South Africa, Australia and America, Ethiopia and Russia – 82 countries, with many different languages and cultures all calling Israel home. Israel is once again helping the distressed come home. Over the last two months, thousands of Ukrainian Jews, including many Holocaust survivors, have found sanctuary away from a brutal war that is ravaging Ukraine in Israel.

Out of Africa. New Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia exit an airplane during a welcoming ceremony after arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 28, 2013. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Image)

Jews are not Israel’s only citizens. At least 20% of the Israeli population are Israeli Arabs. Israeli Arabs are fully franchised members of Israeli society and have contributed enormously to the country. While there are still many areas that need improvement, Israeli Arabs are represented in the Knesset, holding ministerial positions, lead civil society, serve in the military and are amongst the IDF’s most decorated officers, serve in the judicial system as judges, head multi-billion dollar corporations and more.  Arab Israelis follow either the Muslim or Christian religions. Arab Israelis are exempt from compulsory military service but recent statistics released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) see a steady yearly increase in the amount of volunteers from the community signing up to perform national service.

Seeking Sanctuary. Fleeing the war in Ukraine, passengers disembark from an airplane carrying Jewish immigrants upon arrival in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on March 6, 2022. – (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

“A covenant of blood”. The relationship between Israel’s Jewish and Druze population is so sacred that it is referred to as bond forged by blood. Israel’s Druze population makes up about 2% of the population and are fiercely loyal to the country. There are other significant Druze communities in Lebanon and Syria and Israel’s community live mostly in the Golan region in the north. Not much is known about the Druze religion but recent Pew research revealed that nearly all Druze (99%) believe in God, including 84% who say they are absolutely certain in their belief. But there are no set holy days, regular liturgy or obligations for pilgrimage, as Druze are meant to be connected with God at all times. Druze are active in public life and subject to the military draft. In fact, for more than four decades, the Israeli military had a primarily Druze infantry unit called the “Herev”, (sword battalion).

Coulourful Culture. Druze soldiers in the Israeli Army behind the Druze flag which combines 5 colors representing the 5 prophets of the Druze secret religion.

Israel is the one country in the Middle East where the Christian community is growing. Christians face persecution in many parts of the Middle East and constitute at least 2% of Israel’s population and this number is expected to grow. Christians make up 7% of Israel’s Arab population, and 76.7% of Christians in Israel are Arab. The largest Arab Christian population centers in Israel are Nazareth (21,400), Haifa (16,500) and Jerusalem (12,900). Arab Christian women have some of the highest education rates in the country.

Israel is often maligned in the media and definitely misunderstood but on closer inspection, this tiny, vibrant country is not only fascinating because of all its many paradoxes packed into a small patch of land but because of its people, the greatest national treasure.

This Yom Ha’atzmaut we drink L’Chaim to this plucky, innovative, passionate and diverse country and her people. The future looks bright for Israel – no matter what view you choose to see this vibrant Middle Eastern jewel from.

Teach Your Children Well

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/04/27/teach-your-children-well/

This year, it seems more important than ever to pass the torch of education and remembrance to the next generations

The responsibility to bear witness, remember and educate is so important for the next generations to continue”.

We say this this every year as we approach Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. Unlike the UN-designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day which takes place on the 27th of January to coincide with the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp and commemorates all victims of the Holocaust, Yom Hashoah focuses specifically on the Jewish victims and coincides with the Hebrew anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

This year, these words seem to have greater urgency.

Illuminating the Dark. Holocaust survivors light six torches representing the six million victims of the Nazi genocide during the opening ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seen here lighting one of the torches at the ceremony in 2018, is survivor Miriam Lapid.(Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The importance of Holocaust education is not a mere understatement, it is critical. As time marches on, we lose our remaining eyewitnesses and survivors of mankind’s most horrific genocide. As time marches on, so it becomes ever more urgent for us to bear witness to the first-hand accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust.

This year, the commitment has to be on us to ensure that we pass the baton on to the next generations, so that they can bear witness, using the mediums they know best, in the language that is the most appealing to their peers.

A 2020 survey carried out in the United States by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany found that among adults under 40, roughly 1 in 10 respondents did not recall ever having heard the word “Holocaust” before. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed did not know 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Over half of those thought the toll was under 2 million. These are staggering statistics and have exposed a glaring lack of Holocaust education in the USA.

Over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established across Europe during World War II, but nearly half of the respondents could not name a single one.

The most important lesson is that we can’t lose any more time,” said Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. “If we let these trends continue for another generation, the crucial lessons from this terrible part of history could be lost.”

Europe is no different.

A European based survey, shortly before the one in the US, found that antisemitic stereotypes are widespread; with more than a quarter of Europeans saying Jews have “too much influence in business and finance”. According to the CNN/ComRes survey into European attitudes towards Jews, 34 percent of those surveyed said they knew just a little or had never heard of the Holocaust, while 20 percent of French people between the ages of 18 and 34 said they had never heard of the Holocaust. You would think that on the continent that remains a graveyard for once thriving Jewish communities and where there are reminders in every major city, they would be a little more educated and aware; but alas, they are not.

A third of Europeans surveyed said Jewish people use the Holocaust to advance their own positions or goals.

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the UK based Holocaust Educational Trust, told CNNthe poll confirmed “a worrying increase in the number of people who believe traditional antisemitic tropes or hold antisemitic views, as well as a disappointing lack of knowledge about the Holocaust.”

These are not the only surveys and studies producing worrying results. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, named after the famed Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter, have raised the alarm over the increase in the amount of Holocaust denial, distortion and revisionism on social media. It is no great secret that social media platforms, especially Twitter, are a cesspit of hate. While Facebook has managed to clamp down on Holocaust denial, Twitter remains a veritable free- for-all. I have lost track of all of the times I have complained to Twitter about vile antisemitic content only to receive the message that the post in question does not violate their ”standards”.

Fading Faces. Images like these Hungarian Jews on the selection ramp at Auschwitz determining  those deemed “fit for work” or sent to the gas chambers are amongst millennials of ever-decreasing interest. (Photo: Yad Vashem, from the Auschwitz Album)

The role of social media platforms is critical. It is here where the younger generations interact and sadly, form their opinions on global events. On the one hand, these platforms create the opportunity for people to express themselves – and on the other, allows for predatory antisemites, Holocaust deniers and distorters to find a captive audience and create communities.

We do not need surveys to tell us how critical Holocaust education is. We are seeing a rise in antisemitism that is rivalling that of pre-World War II. Subsequent genocides and human rights violations have shown us that the lessons of history have not been learnt. Holocaust education is vital not just to help combat antisemitism; but to reinforce the lessons of history. NEVER AGAIN has to mean something, right?

We cannot rely solely on educational institutions and the media to educate – we have to take the responsibility on board ourselves as individuals, organisations and communities.

Has the like of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs, and their children, the next generation!” (1 Joel 2-3).

These words are inscribed at the entrance to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial and Museum. As we lose our last eyewitness survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust to the passage of time, so it becomes more of an imperative that our generation must bear witness, remember and teach the ones to come.

Living Testimony. French Holocaust survivor Victor Perahia, interned as a child in the Drancy camp outside Paris and then deported to Bergen-Belsen, speaks to students during a January 2020 workshop dedicated to Holocaust remembrance at Drancy. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

This Yom Hashoah as we remember our 6 million and honour the individuals and the communities targeted for extermination simply because they were Jewish, we need to not only renew our vow of NEVER AGAIN, we need to commit to the 6 million martyred, that we will continue to bear witness, to testify on their behalf and to educate.

Seeing is Believing. A photo taken April 12, 1945, shows just some of the bodies found by U.S. troops when they arrived at Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany. (Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library)

Their voices cry out to us; they implore us, they remind us of the urgency of their plea. It is a plea we will hear. It is a vow we will honour.

May the memories of our 6 million be forever blessed.

Education is the Key. Young people at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem looking above at the dome displaying photos of the victims of the Holocaust and then below at the water, reflecting those NEVER to be forgotten faces.

Mazel Tov, Your Majesty

This article appears in the South African Jewish Report: https://www.sajr.co.za/mazeltov-your-majesty/

This weekend, the answer to a question that has baffled many for 70 years was finally revealed with the help of a very famous bear – what does the Queen carry in her ever present Launer handbag?

Her Majesty taking tea with Paddington Bear, complete with marmalade – or is that Ma’amalade? – sandwiches, as the lovable bear thanked the monarch for her extraordinary 70 years of unparalleled service during this past weekend’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, brought two great British icons together.

Though we may know that Her Maj carries around a marmalade sandwich, probably lipstick, and some device that signals courtiers to remove her from a trio of erstwhile family members, not many know about the relationship between the royal family and Jews.

The Queen has faced intense criticism over the years for never visiting Israel. What many don’t realise is that foreign trips are made at the behest of the British Foreign Office wanting to deploy the soft diplomacy and convening power that royalty has.

Respected historian Andrew Roberts once said that the British government had a de facto ban in place on state visits by Queen Elizabeth II to Israel. “The true reason of course, is that the FO [Foreign Office] has a ban on official royal visits to Israel, which is even more powerful for its being unwritten and unacknowledged. As an act of delegitimisation of Israel, this effective boycott is quite as serious as other similar acts, such as the academic boycott, and is the direct fault of the FO Arabists. It’s therefore no coincidence that although the Queen has made more than 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, she has ever been to Israel on an official visit,” Roberts told attendees at a gala dinner in London.

Another little-known fact is that the Queen hired an Orthodox Jewish mohel to circumcise her son, Prince Charles. The tradition of British monarchs hiring mohels goes back centuries.

Even though the Queen has never visited Israel, she has had strong ties with the Jewish community and has met Holocaust survivors on many occasions.

One such meeting was at an event marking 60 years of liberation of Bergen Belsen. The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks who was present, later recounted, “When the time came for her to leave, she stayed. And stayed. One of her attendants said that he had never known her to linger so long after her scheduled departure. She gave each survivor – it was a large group – her focused, unhurried attention. She stood with each until they had finished telling their personal story.”

Though the Foreign Office forbade royal visits to Israel, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh visited in a private capacity several times for a very honourable reason. His mother, Princess Alice, who is buried in Jerusalem, has been honoured by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Amongst the Nations for saving the lives of a Jewish family during the Holocaust.

But it’s the two future kings and their wives that have really built strong ties with Israel.

Prince Charles, once ridiculed for his propensity to prefer conversing with plants than politicians and famously intellectual, has said that he prefers to regard himself as the defender of faiths rather than of “the faith”, that being the Church of England, which the monarch heads. To this end, he works hard to promote coexistence. The Prince of Wales counted Lord Sacks as a close friend, and lamented his passing.

Prince Charles is patron of World Jewish Relief as well as the Holocaust Memorial Trust, a patronage that once belonged to the Queen. He’s also patron of the Jewish Museum, JLGB for Jewish youth across Great Britain, and numerous others. To coincide with International Holocaust Memorial Day, the Prince commissioned portraits to be painted of several Holocaust survivors accompanied by a documentary on the BBC. The Prince has made several official visits to Israel, including for the funeral of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. He gave a notable private donation to The Peres Centre for Peace. His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, visited Auschwitz, representing the Queen.

Camilla is also known to enjoy a hora or two. During her visit to Jewish Care’s Brenner Centre in East London to celebrate the organisation’s 80th anniversary, the duchess danced with delighted residents.

Prince William was the next king in waiting to visit Israel. The Prince struck all the right notes visiting the Kotel, Yad Vashem, the grave of his late great-grandmother, met young innovators, took a stroll with Eurovision sensation Neta, and even played volleyball on the beach and football with young Israelis and Arabs – all without breaking a princely sweat. The Prince also proved that he could navigate some tough political terrain, shuttling between Israeli and Palestinians leaders without going “there”. Royals are above politics.

On a state visit to Poland, Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, visited Stutthof Concentration Camp. It would be a life changing experience for the duchess.

Since this seminal meeting, the duchess has dedicated herself to Holocaust education and has taken photographs of survivors for the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition, included them in her book Hold Still, engaged with survivors and young educators via Zoom, met with Windermere child survivors, attended Holocaust Memorial Day events, and more.

Though the history of the royal family, Jews, and Israel may have had its awkward moments in recent history, it looks like the future is extremely positive. Just in time to lift a glass of the best kosher champagne and toast to Her Majesty, the Queen, on the remarkable achievement of 70 years on the throne. Mazeltov, Ma’am, ad 120!

**A fascinator may have been worn for the writing of this article!

We will not be Broken!

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/04/06/we-will-not-be-broken/

Israel endures a wave of terror and like many times before, we will prevail

Once again Israelis have bowed our heads in sorrow. Once more our hearts have been broken.

Over these past two weeks, Israel has endured another wave of terror that resulted in the loss of 11 lives. Terror waves are not a new phenomenon but they bring with them a whole gamut of emotions. Fear, overwhelm and heartbreak are just some of them.

I don’t know about you but I am angry. I am angry. I am angry at a world that has ridiculous expectations of Israel while ignoring the unique security challenges that we face on a daily basis. I am angry at the world that expects Israel to do everything in our power to supply military weapons in a conflict that has nothing to do with us. The fact that the weapons that people are demanding we send may not be the right kind for this particular war; or that their own countries have yet to provide military aid says more about the critics than Israel. Israel is already making an enormous contribution and will continue to, despite our own precarious security situation, which we have been reminded of yet again this week.

While it is greatly appreciated that foreign ministers have condemned the recent wave of terror, the hypocrisy of those that proclaim to be social justice activists but stay silent when our citizens, including a Druze soldier and Arab Christian police officer, are murdered is staggering.  Who cares about some dead Israelis right?

I am angry at a world consumed with the slap of one self-absorbed actor of his peer at an awards ceremony that is so out of touch with reality; but cannot spare a thought for victims of terror. I am angry, so angry that those who consume their days with sham “human rights” reports, which contains the bitter language that whitewashes terror, stay silent about the murders of our civilians. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others who denigrate Israel can shove their accusations of Apartheid. Israelis live, work and die together. These past two weeks, Jews, Arabs and Druze and two Ukrainian refugees were murdered. We have mourned them, together. At the funeral of slain Druze officer, Yazan Falah, which was attended by thousands, his uncle spoke about how he left behind “an army of friends”. This was evident in the sea of people holding their mobile phones with the torches lit up in tribute to him. Falah had insisted on joining the Border Police, despite being exempt from combat service as an only son.

Taken in their Prime. Seen here at their base are Border Police officers both 19, a Druze Yazan Falah (left) and Shirel Aboukrat, a French immigrant who were killed a few hours later in a terror attack in Hadera, on March 27, 2022. (Israel Police)

During the mourning period that followed, a group of Jewish school children on a trip took time out to pay a visit to his family. The message was simple. Yazan was a son of Israel – and all of us mourn his loss.

The same respect and love was exhibited for murdered police officer Amir Khoury. Several busloads of Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) departed from Bnei Brak, the scene of a horrendous terror attack where 5 people, including Khoury who had tried to eliminate the terrorist were murdered. The buses were emblazoned with signs that read “Khoury is an Israeli hero” in Hebrew and were filled with scores of Haredim, bound for Nazareth to pay their respects to the slain officer. Khoury was buried in a Christian ceremony, with his coffin draped with the Israeli flag, bearing a wreath in the shape of a cross and surrounded by thousands, including his fellow police officers, United Hatzalah rescue workers and heartbroken Haredim.

Nation that stands Together. Israeli police officers carry the coffin of comrade Amir Khoury, 32-year-old Christian Arab motorcycle cop during his funeral service in Nazareth, after he was killed in a terrorist shooting in Bnei Brak when he drove straight into the line of fire with his partner.(photo credit: David Cohen/Flash90)

This is the Israel that the Amnesty Internationals and Human Rights Watches don’t want you to see. There is no Apartheid here, no separation, just unity in grief.

 I am angry at the disproportionate obsession of the media, global institutions and political pundits who gleefully point fingers at Israel but are silent when our citizens are murdered. The UN Human Rights Council just passed four resolutions against Israel but barely managed to scrape any together to excoriate Iran, Syria or Belarus!

I am angry at the forces of evil who want to derail the sincere, hard work by many towards peace in our region that has seen far too much bloodshed and sorrow. One of the stated intentions of the terrorists who carried out the Hadera attack that killed two 19-year-old Border Guards, Yazan Faleh and Shirel Abukart, stated that they wanted to disrupt the historic Negev Summit that was taking place at Sde Boker. This historic summit, hosted by Israel and attended by the foreign ministers of the USA, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco was a seminal moment for the advancement peace efforts and increased cooperation in the region. The terror attacks were roundly condemned by all the visiting dignitaries.

Terrorists cannot and MUST NOT win! I am angry and filled with sorrow that there are now 11 families that in the space of one week have been shattered forever. They will never be the same.

Terrorism is nothing new. Israelis have experienced waves of terror before and two intifadas and even though every attack and every incident feels very personal, we will not let it break us.

Shaken but not Broken. Scenes like this at the shooting terror attack in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022 that took place across Israel have not dented the resolve of Israelis – never has; never will. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Israelis have bowed their heads as victims were laid to eternal rest. We have cried rivers of tears.

But we will remain hopeful for peace to prevail. We will remain resilient.  We will remain unbroken. Because that is how we win. That is how we defeat terror. We will hang our blue and white flags, the symbol of hope of thousands of years, proudly. We will stand strong. We will let the anger and sorrow wash over us and we will triumph over terror. We will remain resolute, resilient and grateful for our security forces working around the clock to ensure our protection and stamp out terror.

May the memories of all who have been killed by terror be blessed. Am Yisrael Chai!

Dear Golda – The Sequel: A Shining Star

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/03/23/dear-golda-the-sequel-a-shining-star/

If Golda Meir was alive today, would this be the conversation we have?

Dearest Golda, we haven’t had a chat for a while and the last time we spoke, we certainly had a lot to talk about. This time it is no different. Golda, you continue to inspire so many around the world, not just because you blazed a trail in many arenas, including becoming Israel’s first female Prime Minister; but because in times of strife and hardship, we still continue to seek your wise council. It is your words of wisdom that are as relevant today as they were when you led our country through war, insurmountable tragedy and also great triumph.

I write this, wondering what you would say to the world or offer as we watch with horror and broken hearts as yet another war ravages lives.

Dear Golda, I cannot imagine what you must be thinking as you watch on from high. You were born in Kyiv, Ukraine, during a dark time in our people’s history. You have often recalled that your early memories were of your father having to board up the front door because of an imminent pogrom. Even though you would move from Ukraine to the USA and finally come home to what was then British Mandate Palestine in 1921, you never forgot your roots. You were imbued with the fire of Zionism and longed to see our hope of 2000 years realised.

Israeli medical personnel off to Ukraine where they will help man the “Kochav Meir” field Hospital in the western Ukrainian town of Mostyska to provide medical care and humanitarian aid to war refugees. (Marc Sallem, Jerusalem Post)

As the years progressed, you would see many pioneers arrive from the Pale of Settlement and then you would watch with sorrow and frustration as our people endured the darkest time in our history. The soil at Babyn Yar on the outskirts of Kyiv still cries with the voice of our ancestors.

Our memories of Ukraine are painful but over the decades something extraordinary happened. The once decimated Jewish communities started to grow again. Jewish life was once more present in Kyiv and in Kharkiv, in Dnipro, Odessa, Lviv and more. The image of Tevye leaving Anatevka, bowed, broken and with his fellow villagers was replaced with the Chabad synagogue giving spiritual strength and shelter to many. To top it all, a Jewish President had been elected, who is proud of his roots and family history – and who is very much the man of the moment for his outstanding leadership. Volodymyr Zelensky’s unshaven face in his combat green, leading from amongst his people is in stark contrast to the anemic, bloated looking Putin, dressed in a suit and seated at a bizarrely long table.

Equipment for the Israeli field hospital being loaded onto a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, March 17, 2022. (Sivan Shahar/Anaba/GPO

As I write this, Ukraine enters the fourth week of a brutal war with Russia, who invaded under many pretenses, one of which was intention to “denazify” the country. Most countries have appalling elements within society; but the accusation of “denazification” is particularly painful given the dark past and resurgence of Jewish life in Ukraine.

Dear Golda, millions have fled, becoming refugees – but many have stayed to fight. Dearest Golda, it is your example that many cite as their inspiration. They quote you by comparing the will of the Ukrainian people to live to a famous saying about the enemy laying down its weapons and brave soldiers like Aleksander Gorgan, who made sure you are with him when he went into battle by taking a copy of your autobiography in his combat backpack.

A Ukrainian officer shows off a biography of Golda Meir that he carries into battle with him. The Kyiv-born Israel premier has become a symbol of hope for Ukrainians.
(Screen capture: Twitter)

None of us can watch what is happening in Ukraine without feeling a profound sense of sorrow. We all want to help as much as we can.

Dear Golda, you were one of the founders of the modern state of Israel, your signature is on our founding documents; and you had a clear vision of how our tiny country could live up to the tenet of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). We have always said NEVER AGAIN after the Holocaust and try wherever we can to help and Ukraine is no different.

As you know, Israel’s position is very precarious. We face an ever growing threat from Iran and the presence of Russian troops on our borders who control the airspace over Syria means that we are able to strike when our security is threatened. We have to carefully coordinate this with Russia. We have good bilateral ties with both countries and are now faced with the role of mediator, however delicate it may be. President Zelenesky thinks Jerusalem, our capital could be a venue for mediation but we have endured many wars and realise how cautious we have to proceed with negotiations but it is our moral duty to do what we can for the sake of saving lives.

While some have derided Israel for not sending military aid (other countries could also do more but singling out Israel is preposterous!) and Iron Domes (which are not effective against the kind of Russian military strikes being used), it must be understood that we have to protect our citizens against opportunistic attacks that could come from Iran and proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

It is not just in mediation where Israel is playing a vital role. We have endured several wars throughout our existence and this has given us an ability to mobilise help quickly. As I am writing, the Israel Population and Immigration Authority report that 13,500 Ukrainian refugees have entered Israel with 5,000 making Aliyah under the country’s Law of Return.

Israeli national emergency response service Magen David Adom send four armored ambulances to war-torn Ukraine to help treat the wounded and evacuate them from the field.

Dear Golda, today those same Olim who come from what was the Pale of Settlement come into Israel as refugees with one major difference – they are home. As soon as the Russian tanks rolled in, we mobilised our diplomats from Ukraine, Romania, Poland and Slovakia along the border to evacuate Israelis.

Tasked with providing initial aid, assessing needs, and building a comprehensive long-term treatment plan, seen here is the first group (jump team) of United Hatzalah’s humanitarian aid mission from Israel to Ukraine comprising 12 EMTs, paramedics, doctors, a dentist, and members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit.

Israelis aren’t the only ones they are helping – they have evacuated civilians from Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Gaza and the Palestinian Authority who were stranded by their leadership. I cannot keep up with all the aid Israel and Jewish organisations are sending but a basic account  says four armoured ambulances from Magen David Adom, United Hatzolah and IsraAid medical care in Moldova and Romania, including safe spaces for moms and babies; Ukrainian and Russian speaking police from Israel’s Police Force to help refugees find out where to go; Jewish Agency emissaries along 14 points on the border; 100 tons of humanitarian aid from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; aid packages from Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer club in partnership with organisations; ZAKA rescue; 6 large generators for hospitals in Lviv and countless others.


The real shining star is the field hospital, organised by Israel’s Ministry of Health and Sheba Medical Centre. Operation “Shining Star” has commenced with over 17 tons of medical aid and over 50 medical personnel. So far, it is the only field hospital on the Ukrainian side of the border. It will have wards and state-of- the-art equipment and provide sanctuary and medical care for civilians and soldier.

Trucks carrying equipment for Israeli field hospital in Ukraine. (photo credit: Construction team for Kohav Meir hospital)

Dear Golda, the hospital is named “Kochav Meir”. Yes, Golda, it is named in your honour.

Dearest Golda, all these decades later, through tragedy and triumph, war and peace, the building and rebuilding of countries and communities, you continue to inspire and empower. I hope the next time we chat, it will be a conversation about peace in both the country you were born in and the one that you helped build.

Erecting the Israeli “Kohav Meir” (Shining Star) field hospital in Mostyska, Ukraine.
(photo credit: Construction team for Kohav Meir hospital)

Read the Room!

This is featured in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/03/10/read-the-room/

Ukrainian suffering and the Palestinians cannot be compared

For nearly two weeks, the world has watched with horror as Putin’s troops have invaded Ukraine, decimating and laying siege to cities and creating a grave humanitarian crisis. The United Nations estimate that the number of Ukrainian refugees is roughly 1.45 million; and growing by the day.

The world has also been inspired by the incredible courage of the Ukrainian people, men and women taking up arms against the invading Russians, led from the front by their President Volodymir Zelensky (who is Jewish and has compared his country’s fight against Russia to Israel saying “we should become like the Israelis defending our territory”) and have taken to the streets, social media platforms and philanthropy to show their support. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter et al is awash with the blue and white colours of the Ukrainian flags and passionate cries of “Slava Ukraini” (for the Glory of Ukraine). In a world that has become so polarized along so many different lines, solidarity behind the Ukraine and her people has been unifying.

The Power of One. Inspiring his nation and the world, Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, addresses his people by video from an undisclosed location in what has become his customary morning address.

With attention rightly squared on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, the anti-Israel folk have ramped up their efforts in chastising the media and the west, to lament that the focus of the world is on Ukraine and not the Palestinians and that the situation for both peoples is the same.

The lack of concern about the plight of Ukrainian refugees and Russia’s merciless bombing of civilians, including humanitarian corridors is staggering. The “whataboutism” is astounding – and more than a little obscene.  There can be no comparison between the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign state and the situation for Palestinians, whose leadership have refused every offer of a state and have engaged in steady incitement for decades.

Anti-Israel activist, Iqbal Jasset, tweets on response to Rolene Marks.

Unlike the Palestinians, egged on by decades of incitement of hate against Israel and the Jewish people, the Ukrainian people have not fired thousands of rockets into Russia, have not dug tunnels to kidnap Russian civilians, thrown Molotov cocktails into fields and cars, stoned Russian drivers or shot and stabbed civilians in malls and on streets. President Zelensky, like a modern day Maccabee, is leading his people from the front. Nobody can forget his famous refusal of President Biden’s offer to airlift him to safety when he responded with “I need ammunition, not a ride”. This is unlike the leadership of Hamas who enjoys 5-star hotel and private jet hospitality in Qatar or Hezbollah’s Nasrallah who is hunkered down in his bunker, while doling out his threats against Israel.

Perverted Competition. In twisted form of obscene jealously, pro-Palestinian supporters are upset with images such as this horrendous damage to residential building at Koshytsa Street in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on February 25, 2022 as it diverts focus from their story. (GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)

More than 1 million children have fled Ukraine in the less than two weeks since Russia first invaded the country, says UNICEF spokesperson James Elder, calling it “a dark historical first.”

This means that children represent around half of the more than 2 million people that have fled the war, an exodus that the UN refugee agency has called the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Comparing the situation in Ukraine is astoundingly disingenuous and shows a spectacular lack of self-awareness. Not content to appropriate the South African narrative and suffering during the Apartheid years, the grave, lived experience of the Ukrainian people and the many civilians from other countries who are trying to flee the military onslaught is up for grabs. Heaven forbid they get any news coverage!

They put the blame squarely on the west and render the media complicit. Palestinians have dominated the headlines for several decades and there is a disproportionate focus on the nearly 80-year-conflict between Israel and her neighbours. A conflict that the world is growing weary of. In the last two years, several Arab countries have normalized ties with Israel with others poised to do the same. The Kuwaiti editor-in-Chief of the Arab Times Ahmed al-Jarallah stated in a recent op-ed that “When [the Palestinians] are happy, they curse the Gulf leaders and people. When they are angry, they use all of the defamatory and abusive words in their dictionary against us.” The editor-in-chief continued:

We, the Gulf nationals, overlook all that by sending them aid.”

In an editorial, titled “Normalize, let insulters fend for themselves,” al-Jarallah pointed to the Palestinians support for Saddam Hussein, Jamal Abdul Nasser, former Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi and IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, saying that this was “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Strong words indeed.

The world is focused on assisting Ukraine while isolating Russia through aggressive sanctions and other means. Failure to do so could lead to a war that threatens to engulf Europe and there is no doubt that China and Iran are watching with bated breath, looking to see how the West reacts and if they can flex their military muscles on China and Israel respectively.

Striving for Peace.Tying to mediate  an end to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for a cabinet meeting at the PM’s Office in Jerusalem on Sunday, on the heels of his talks in Moscow and Berlin.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

At the time of this writing, Israel’s Prime Minister has embarked on a shuttle diplomatic mission to Moscow and has spoken several times to Putin in an attempt mediate, at the behest of President Zelensky. This serves to emphasise the increasing role Israel is playing on the world stage and the regard that the Jewish state is afforded. Israel has also sent an extraordinary amount of humanitarian aid, including 100 tonnes and three plane loads of medicines, supplies, tents, blankets and more. In addition, Israel’s Ministry of Health is building a field hospital that will be manned by 50 medical personnel from Sheba Medical Centre on the Ukrainian side of the border, while United Hatzalah and IsraAid are already manning field hospitals in neighbouring Moldova.

Israel Field Hospital for Embattled Ukraine. The emergency room tent that is part of the field hospital going to Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Sheba Medical Center)

Diplomats from Romania, Poland and Slovakia are stationed on the border helping to evacuate not just Israeli citizens but have helped many from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and others. Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that in addition to absorbing 100,000 Jewish Ukrainians as citizens, Israel will host 25,000 other Ukrainians until the danger subsides in their country.

Israel Responds.  From trying to mediate an end to the hostility to sending aid to Ukraine, Israel is in the vanguard of support.

Israel will likely be the country offering safe refuge to the most amount of people from Ukraine from a non-bordering country. Jewish organisations like Chabad whose Rabbi’s will never abandon the communities they are sent to serve, are also giving shelter and help to many, including this Palestinian doctor and his family:

It is a pity that the anti-Israel contingent aim their focus, much like the Soviet era propaganda that gave impetus to the narrative they peddle, in scuppering peace and not building bridges. It is astounding that they are disgruntled that they are not dominating the headlines like they are used to doing. This is what separates the true social justice warriors from the imposters.

This is a great pity – but not as staggeringly disingenuous as trying to appropriate the suffering of Ukrainians. As the kids would say, READ THE ROOM.

A team from United Hatzalah, Arabs and Jews welcome 120 Ukrainian refugees to Israel

Future’s Fuel

This currently appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/03/01/futures-fuel/

Israel in pole position leading a competitive pack in hydrogen innovation

Rolene Marks

Countries around the world are looking for alternative solutions to fossil fuels. One of the alternatives is hydrogen. Israel is a leader in many fields and innovation around hydrogen is no different. View Lay of the land Co-Founder, Rolene Marks insert on CNA (Channel News Asia) by clicking on the link below:

Efforts to develop alternative energy solutions in Israel amid climate change | Video