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Former United Nations Peacekeeper Going 'Home' to Israel

· israel,Jewish National Fund,CAEF,CILR,Mark Vandermaas

Israel Truth Week's Mark Vandermaas heading back to Israel after 41 years thanks to JNF, CAEF and supporters 

My adoptive parents lived under Nazi occupation in Holland and had seen Jews taken away to be murdered. Although they never talked much about that time, the bitterness of their wartime experiences showed its face from time to time. Their experiences led me to learn about the Holocaust when I was young and I recall swearing to myself, after reading Pastor Martin Niemoller's famous poem No One Left To Speak For Me that I would never be silent if Jews were under attack again.

It never once occurred to me that in my lifetime Jews would again be victims of boycotts, hatred and violence, or that I would have any role in defending the state of Israel against false allegations of 'occupation.' Or, that I would one day be invited to participate in an 'Educators Mission' to Israel by the Jewish National Fund Canada.

In 1978 I served with the Canadian Contingent of the United Nations Emergency Force II (UNEF II) where I was based in Ismailia, Egypt on the west side of the Suez Canal. The October 1973 War was only 5 years in the past, and Israel still held the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.

That's me below on parade. I'm 3rd from the right with the mirrored glasses.

Mark Vandermaas, UNEF 1978 (3rd from R)

We went on R&R (Rest & Relaxation) trips every chance we could get. I did take a day trip to Cairo to visit a mosque, a market and the King Tut exhibition. Culture shock in the extreme! We saw people hanging on to the mirrors, windows and windshield wipers on the outside of buses. We saw the City of the Dead where the poorest of people lived among the graves. We finished at the pyramids and Sphinx where we watched the after-dark 'Son et Lumiere' show in which lights shone on and off at the pyramids and Sphinx in dramatic fashion as the booming narrator explained how the people came willingly to help the pharaoh build his pyramids (no mention of slaves). Cairo is a large, dirty, stinking city and, by the end of day I was glad to leave, and never returned.

Most of our R&R was to Israel-proper or Israeli-controlled areas, my first trip being south to Sharm-El-Sheik at the tip of the Sinai on the east side of the Gulf of Suez. After some amazing snorkeling in an ocean garden of incomparable beauty, cliff jumping into the clear waters, and dinner we slept, then climbed the traditional Mount Sinai after driving in with our 10 wheel-drive 5 ton diesel cargo truck. The road was brutal, so we had our mattresses piled in the back to try (try!) to reduce impacts from the bumps as we drove into the middle of Sinai where few other vehicles could go.

We arrived at the Monastery of St. Katarina at the base of the mountain, and got up at about 3:00am on Easter Sunday, 1978 to start the hike up the thousands of stone stairs winding up to the summit of Mt. Sinai to watch the sunrise. We were all young, fit (sigh!) soldiers and most of us were on hands and knees as we arrived at the top...exhausted. As you can see, it was worth the effort:

Photo by Mark Vandermaas. Easter sunrise at top of Mount Sinai, 1978

We visited Dahab (now occupied by Egypt), between Sharm El Sheik and Eilat, a place where it is believed Moses and his people gathered before crossing the Red Sea. In 1978 it was a nude beach with a blue hole nearby where I lost my dive knife but was fully compensated by seeing a large turtle swimming below me as I gazed into the darkness of the sea below.

My next trip would be to Tel Aviv to buy a guitar, a beautiful Yamaha classical instrument which, sadly, I never was able to learn how to play. I still have it today. We drove through minefields on our way to Gaza, and over roads like this one near El Arish, Egypt, west of Gaza. The Mediterranean Sea is on the left:

Photo by Mark Vandermaas. 1978 El Arish on way to Gaza. Mediterranean Sea on left.

I didn't know much about the Arab vs. Jew conflict, but I recall thinking, as we drove through the Gaza Strip past beautiful, lush Jewish areas on our way to Tel Aviv, 'Wouldn't it be great if the Jews could work with the Arabs to improve their living standards? They could learn so much from one another.'

It would be many decades later that Israel's government under war-hero-turned-PM Ariel Sharon would try to do that by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza and leaving perfectly-maintained greenhouses for the Arabs to use to improve their economy for the new state they were now free to build. As we know, however...sadly...the Arabs destroyed the Jewish greenhouses and brought terror group Hamas to power. Israel's generous gifts and bold peace initiative were rewarded with rockets, terror and wars.

Not a single Jew has lived in Gaza since 2005 yet the world still dares to accuse Israel of 'occupation' of the area. Today, the only 'interference' by Israel in Gazan affairs is a necessary embargo to prevent weapons and war materiel getting to the murderous Hamas terrorist 'government.'

I was fascinated by my time in Israel. I didn't get to Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, or the Jordan River, but I drove throught the birthplace of Jesus, Nazareth, on our way up to Tiberias where I swam in the Sea of Galilee. I surveyed the valley where the world will end at Har Meggidon, the Hill of Megido, more commonly known as Armageddon. We ate delectable Israeli oranges thrown to us by farmers as we passed by, and returned the favour by giving ice-cold cans of Pepsi to the Israeli border guards at the buffer zone.

When I came home, I told my then-wife that if I couldn't live in Canada, I would want to live in Israel. I was thoroughly captivated by these people and their country, people who had been vilified, murdered and dispossessed of their land by empires throughout history yet had somehow managed to reconstitute and defend, against incredible odds, the state stolen from them.

2019 -a peacekeeper's 2nd visit to Israel

If you had told me in 1978 that in 2012 I would found something called Israel Truth Week and organize conferences in response to the BDS vilification and the targeting of Jews at a Canadian university, I would have laughed. Ditto if you insisted that as of 2019 I would have personally trained over 650 Zionists on Israel's land titled deed, the Mandate For Palestine, and that I would be flown in by Hasbara Fellowships Canada to speak to hundreds of Toronto Jewish high school students about Israel's land rights (photo below).

March 2019; Mark Vandermaas speaks to Jewish high school students in Toronto, Canada at invitation of Hasbara Fellowships Canada

Also 'laugh-worthy' at that time would be the foretelling of an invitation by the Jewish National Fund to attend their upcoming July 2019 Educators Mission to Israel with 40 other pro-Israel educators.

Yes, I'm finally going 'home' to Israel after 41 years! I still can hardly believe it.

Not only is JNF covering the tour cost, I was stunned when the Canadian Anti-Semitism Education Foundation, whose projects include Canadians for Israel's Legal Rights ( and the Speaker's Action Group (, offered to cover my airfare cost with help from land rights activists Joe and Renanah Gemeiner who are tireless voices for all that is good in the world.

The Educators Mission will last 7 days and include Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, including Yad Vashem, the Knesset and Ammunition Hill, a military base, schools, nature park, a youth village and the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot.

Jewish National Fund Canada Educators Mission, 2019

The three Jewish leaders in the photo below who were instrumental in arranging my tour of Toronto Jewish schools (L-R: Goldi Steiner, co-founder of Canadians for Israel's Legal Rights; Toronto CHAT high school teacher extraordinaire Aviva Polonsky; and Rob Walker, Hasbara Fellowships Canada leader) all recommended me to the Jewish National Fund as a candidate for the Educators Mission, and I am so excited and grateful.

broken image

After the Mission... 'Liberating Israel' Tour

Part of the selection process for the Mission was articulating a related 'project' for the upcoming year. I informed JNF that it was my dream to carry out a cross-Canada tour in order to bring my unique Liberating Israel training to as many schools, churches and synagogues as possible. My partners at CAEF and CILR would like to duplicate the amazing success of my March 2019 tour of Toronto Jewish schools, provided funds are available.


The false 'occupation' propaganda, which is so easily disproved by the mere existence of the Mandate For Palestine, must be destroyed if peace can ever have a chance. There can be no peace without truth, and the truth is that Jews are owners, not occupiers of Israel/Palestine because they have a land title deed from the ORIGINAL two-state solution outlined in the Mandate and accompanying Note re Trans-Jordan. Jewish land was already divided once in 1922 when the world recognized Jews as the rightful owners of all land west of the Jordan River.

In 1922 the world restored Jews to their homeland, and now it's trying to take it away. It is immoral. Jews should be able to trust the world's promises, and I want to help remind the world of those promises. My mission is to train 10,000 Mandate ambassadors to help me liberate Israel from the false 'occupation' narrative.

What you can do to help...

1. DONATE TO JNF CANADA: You can donate to the Jewish National Fund Canada here and/or you can have them plant a tree in Israel in the name of a loved one here (one of our favourite gifts to give!).

2. DONATE TO CAEF: If you'd like to help the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation fund a Liberating Israel tour, you can make a tax-deductible gift here.

3. GET YOUR ORG ON THE 'LIBERATING ISRAEL TOUR' LIST: Things are mainly in the concept stage, but if your organization, church, school or synagogue would like to be included in a Liberating Israel tour, please email me with your contact information: Mark Vandermaas,

4. JOIN ITW: If you're not already receiving updates as a member of Israel Truth Week you can join here for free.

5. TAKE MY 'LIBERATING ISRAEL' TRAINING: You can download my Mandate For Palestine workbook and take my Liberating Israel training online here at Learn why Jews are owners, not occupiers AND how to take control of the debate.

Thank you!

Thank you, JNF and Yifat Bear-Miller.

Thank you, CAEF and CILR.

Thank you, Robert Walker, Aviva Polansky, Irving Weisdorf, Goldi Steiner, Andria Spindel.

Thank you, Renanah & Joe Gemeiner.

And, thank YOU all for supporting Israel Truth Week over the years! I have been so very blessed by their friendship and support.

UPDATE 190711: JNF Atlantic (Canada) sent a link to this article out to their email newsletter subscribers. Thank you!

POSTED BY: Mark Vandermaas

Mark Vandermaas is the founder of Israel Truth Week and creator of the Liberating Israel training program that teaches students how to use Israel's modern land title deed, the Mandate For Palestine, to destroy the false 'occupation' propaganda. He was mentored by the late land rights expert/author Salomon Benzimra, co-founder of CILR with Goldi Steiner with whom he closely works. Mark has been called a ‘Damn Zionist’ by his enemies and an ‘Honorary Jew’ by his allies. He has organized pro-Israel conferences, appeared on Jewish and Christian TV for Israel, and personally trained over 650 Zionists and Jewish students with his 'Jews Are Owners, Not Occupiers!' message. His rule-of-law activism during the Caledonia crisis in Canada has been recounted in two books: the bestselling Helpless, by Christie Blatchford, and in Gary McHale’s Victory In The No-Go Zone.