Friday, 23 September 2016

160923 PM in UN, Kay Wilson Standwithus UK, London

23rd September 2016

Shabbat Shalom to all of you dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.

I'm sorry that I am running late, I really intended writing on time but…… well the truth is that I very efficiently prepared everything before heading off to get Talia and Ayala from school; I set the Shabbat table for all 15 of us tonight; made the salads; par-boiled the potatoes and put in the other veggies for roasting; indeed – was right on time. I collected the girls, drove them home via the fishmonger to pay my bill, the florist and the garden centre to get flowers for their Mummy, spent a delightful time with everyone, received my challot from Rachel and drove home………. Well almost! Just as I was about to turn into the driveway I realised I had forgotten the fish in Rachels fridge!!!! As much as I love the panoramic views about which I oft wax lyrical in my letters, I didn't expect to see it again quite so soon!!!! Anyway, I promise to try and give you a good letter today, but really fast!!!

First and foremost, to those who I didn't manage to see while in the UK, please don't be cross, I go to see my beautiful grandchildren, Sammy, Olivia and Zacky, Gideon and Stephanie and my siblings…….. If I manage to see anyone else it is a bonus but, hey, you understand I am sure.

Kay Wilson, an Ex-Pat Brit, was walking in the Judean Hills with a friend when two Arab youths attacked her and her friend with machetes. Her friend was killed but Kay miraculously survived, with horrific injuries, and crawled for help. Kay is an outstanding speaker, mostly for Standwithus, and Joy Wolfe brought her to the UK to speak. Here is what she said on FB about her experience

On another note, during the summer I saw lots of friends I had not seen for a long time and during my UK speaking tour for StandWithUs in England, I met lots of new ones.
One of the most profound moments on the tour happened after I had addressed a class of high school girls. In the class, there were Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and a couple of Muslim girls wearing hijabs. I told them that Palestinian Muslims took their knives to hack at my flesh, yet it was a Muslim Israeli surgeon who used his knife to save my life.
I will never forget what happened next. One of the Muslim children rushed up to me and hugged me tight. She didn't want to let me go. And it made me want to weep.
It made me feel hopeful. It may be only a drop in the ocean, but who cares? It is the little things in life that can change our world and perception of others. Just think, it was nothing but a flea that wiped out hundreds of thousands of people in the plague. Further, a microchip can send a rocket into space and most painful of all, it only took 3 chords in pop music to destroy the beautiful world of Jazz :D This child's hug made my summer. We never know the impact we have (for good or for bad) and how far our words and actions reach. I felt compelled to tell you this. That's why I'm back on FB - at least for a while. 

The Prime Minister of Israel has been in the States. He spoke at the United Nations and received a standing ovation – yes that is what I said, he received a standing ovation! His speech was excellent, but that isn't new, his words were strong, as always, so what has changed? Is it even remotely possible that the members of the UN are beginning to wake up?

Mr Netanyahu has also been busy inviting guests to Jerusalem – Ban Ki Moon and Mahmoud Abbas in particular. Hmmmmm wonder what the chances of them enjoying a meal at the PM's home is? The PM also met with over 15 heads of state, ensuring that they understand what Israel has to offer to friends – and we have many, don't be fooled by the media. The big meeting, the one we all want to be a fly on the wall, is with President Obama. I have a good feeling about it.

I am on the board of an exceptional organisation, well organisation is probably not the right word, it is a research institute in the Hebrew University on the Givat Ram Campus. IMPACT-SE researches the school curriculum of schools in Arab and other Middle Eastern Countries to see if they meet the UNESCO criteria for tolerance in education. IMPACT-SE also set the criteria for UNICEF. Any research that did not include Israeli schoolbooks would be irrational, so that is what we did – or rather what Prof. Eldad Pardo and his team did. The result is heartwarming. Israeli schools teach tolerance and emphasise our search for peace

The other evening (I arrived at 07:30 after a night flight from London and was at the event that night) Zvi and I were invited to an event celebrating 50 years of the Jerusalem Foundation. It was quite a spectacular but only one person received a standing ovation and that was former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, Rabbi Dr. Lord Jonathan Sacks. I don't have a transcript but here is another one

Zvi coped incredibly well while I was away – in fact he coped too well! He had cleaned out his crazy office and discovered a floor under all the boxes – it looks stupendous. I hadn't realised how big it was!!! He was busy with meetings and friends and the day before I returned he and hs friend Itzik Lev were guided around the Sefat Academic College by Gideon Selinger. They were both very impressed. The college encourages equal numbers of Jews and Arabs to attend, don't forget that the Arab population in the north is greater than the Jewish population, and has excellent results.

I did manage to meet with Carol Gould in Golders Green, Jill Lipman who came with Stephanie and I to St Albans, The Ryde family especially Beanie and finally, but far from least, Valerie and Martin Myers and Tony Perkin. Valerie and I not only "grew" our children together, we had our own business together and were the best of friends…..even more importantly, Valerie introduced this Indian Tonic Water drinker to something much more fun – Gin and Tonic!!!

The time I spent with the children was special. I don't want to be a distant figure on a Skype screen and every hug is worth its weight in gold. Walking them to school, playing with them, hearing their piano practice alongside my incredible daughter in law Stephanie, is the stuff of dreams. To sit with my son and see his face relax as he watches the Rugby on television is wonderful even if he supports the wrong team – what? Not Wales? I saw beautiful buildings, watched the beginning of autumn in the local park and saw a London which is diametrically opposed to the London the media present. We walked the highways and by-ways and were greeted warmly by people in the street. I heard Polish, French, Romanian, Russian as the predominant second languages, everyone was polite and kind. As I told you a hundred times – keep away from Oxford Street and Edgware Road and London is a fabulous city. One more thing – unlike virtually everywhere we visited this summer, food in London is amazing. The best food in the UK is pub food, but food is terrific and many tradition British dishes are making their gourmet comeback!!!

Talking of food, I need to get on with my cooking! Since we are so many for supper I am not doing an hors d'oeuvres, everything together with a surprise for dessert! I decided to do bananas in pyjamas for the children – my kids used to love it!!!

And so to music
I love this version of Shalom Aleichem, May peace be with you, because it encompasses tradition, children and spirituality. Not the first time I have given it to you and probably not the last!!!

The iconic Leonard Cohen has written some truly magnificent songs/poems. His smokey voice has enchanted and entranced, I can't quite feel his latest song but I seem to be alone in my emotions – Hineini – Abraham, Jacob and Moses all said it, but what dark meaning does Cohen hide in his words.

Heavy stuff eh? Let me lighten your faces with a 9 second song from the Smurfs – Gut Shabbes

With all my love from Jerusalem. Life is not always simple, gone are the days when children lived in the next street to their parents, today they find their own adventures and that is good. Whenever I leave my children or grandchildren my heart breaks and when I am with them my heart sings - emotions so ably expressed by Ella Fitzgerald

Shabbat Shalom from our veranda, the view, the flowers, the fruit and the herbs. Shabbat Shalom from me to you

Friday, 16 September 2016

160916 Shabbat Shalom from London


16th September 2016

Shabbat shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from rainy London. It has been glorious weather both here and in Wales, but today is raining cats and dogs and I love it! I don’t need to come to the UK for temperatures of 30 degrees C! This has been a truly wonderful trip, but more of that later.

Brexit is still on everyones tongues, it is still cause for discussion although a fait accompli. The pessimists believe that the British economy will never recover while the optimists insist everything will be fine within a few years. The reasons are many for both sides of the argument, interestingly the migrants being the lesser of those arguments. Euro bureaucracy and the imposition of ridiculous laws and sub-laws are almost always the reason given by the pro-Brexits and fear for the British economy and jobs for the anti-Brexits. Whatever happens it is going to happen and the process could take anything from 2 to 10 years to implement.

Former President Shimon Peres had a massive stroke this week, the man who represents so much of Israels history, and I know that those of you on  the far right have something to say about my admiration for this great statesman, but his career spans almost 70 years and even the greatest make some errors during that time – indeed every leader who dares makes mistakes. Despite his name as a left winger Shimon Peres was a pragmatic leader, as he was when he initiated the settler movement after 1967, as he was in his quest for peace. I wish him better, I wish him well. His incredibly alert mind, his ability to act on his instincts and his sheer eloquence would be horribly missed. One quote of his is perhaps most apt to Israels situation If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact - not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.

President Obama has signed conceivably the best military deal for Israel. Understand please, Israel doesn’t receive aid per se, Israel receives military aid, that is we “buy” American armaments , planes and helicopters rather than other countries which receive cash money. Israel has no problem with this distinction, indeed it is to her advantage most of the time. President Obama, as his predecessors, chose to ensure the arms deal with Israel before the next Presidency. I hope you have noticed that I refrain from mentioning the American leadership race – I am too confused, too concerned and don’t believe that I have to right to put forward an opinion. I want a healthy, thoughtful, seasoned American leader who is ready to have wise advisors and listen to them………….. and right now am very glad I don’t have to make that choice!! Israelis want the United States to have a leader who is good for America – because a good American leader will do what is right for the world. The current situation in the world demands very strong leadership, unafraid of being unpopular.

So, I arrived in London last Tuesday night, spent Wednesday loving my children and grandchildren, then Thursday morning went to Wales. I was met by my sister Doreen and spent the weekend reliving my childhood, with my brother Ronnie, sister in law Sandie and their children and Doreens son Stephen, Claire and family; a whole slew of lovely friends who came for a delicious dinner put on by Doreen on Saturday evening………. Gosh that was amazing. On Sunday Ronnie and Sandie, together with their daughter Sophie, took me to St Fagans Castle to a Food Fayre –amazing Welsh cheeses, wines, ciders (in Britain cider is a highly alcoholic apple drink), .  indeed fabulous herbs and vegetarian dishes and fish and chips of course. Walking on the “Green Green Grass of Home” is always special. It was so much fun and I love St Fagans Castle

Sunday evening and Eileen and Norman Berg came to Doreens to see me. It was wonderful! Eileen is a fantastic supporter of Israel, fighting the good fight on Facebook daily and Norman, well Norman, when he was our Madrich in the youth group Habonim, Norman formed an entire generation of Zionists in his quiet and humble manner. He helped a group of callow youth to be the leaders they became.

For those of you who think Wales is part of England – think again – it most certainly is not.

The train ride back to London was special. Since the Severn Tunnel, which runs underneath the Bristol Channel which divides England and Wales, is closed for modernisation the train travelled the long route through Gloucester, the Mendips and the Chilterns, soft rolling hills known as the Downs. The green of the lush fields is vibrant, the trees forming dark, leafy clouds along the track. I had forgotten how fertile the land is, the sheep and grazing cows fat with the richness of the grass in their undulating meadows.

The ride back to my childrens home was as fascinating as always, I have come ot enjoy the tube, Underground, over 100 years of use has given it a truly special character. I love to try and work out where fellow passengers come from, mostly Slavic countries, Romania and Poland.

Since that time I met with Carol Gould, conceivably the bravest proponent of Israel, going on in the hasbara world for Israel is Stephen Ryde and his partner and love Gaynor. I knew Stephen as a child and he absorbed his love of Israel by osmosis from his parents, Jaqui and Victor. I was doubly thrilled to discover that Stephen and Gaynors daughter Beanie has inherited their determination to stand up for right. Stephanie, Jill, my dear friend, and I went to St Albans, a lovey small town nearby and enjoyed the market.

Travelling around London with my daughter in law Stephanie, who I simply adore, I see such a different world to the one you all talk about. I see a very British country, with exquisite architecture, fabulous museums, amazing gourmet food, beautiful parks and friendly people. Yesterday we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum for an exhibit on underwear (yes really) and as we stepped outside the phenomenal Natural History Museum building was beside us – we walked through to the station – and a street of small restaurants and patisseries – loads of French people and a wonderful atmosphere.

On Tuesday night I will fly back to Jerusalem, to my Zvi, to Rachel and the children and my heart, as always will be torn between my children in London, my siblings in Cardiff and my love of Israel. Modern families are spread all over. My love of those in Manhattan, London, Cardiff, Toronto and Jerusalem is equal but my time with them isn’t.

Since my lovely Stephanies computer is driving me insane, leaping and jumping because it hates Word 10, I will find this weeks music and love you and leave you!

Synagogues around the world with Oseh Shalom - Yaaseh Shalom – He will make peace.

This song is for my beautiful son Gideon, I am so proud of him, as I am of each of my children. As a child he love the song Tumbalaika, which I sang for him as one of two favourites

Shabbat Shalom to each and every one of you. Tonight we will make Shabbat just as we do in Jerusalem. The candles will glow, the challah will be cut the wine blessed, the traditional foods eaten and another tradition passed on to the children, generation to generation. That is what we are about, giving our children the gift of tradition that our parents gave us.
With much love from London, next week in Jerusalem.

If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv

Friday, 9 September 2016

160909 Shabbat Shalom from Cardiff

9th September 2016

Shabbat Shalom from Cardiff, Wales! Actually in Welsh it would be Saboth da! I am in the UK visiting my family, the Welsh and English parts................ and loving every moment. Would you believe that by the time I get home I will have flown my 20th flight this year!!!!! I have absolutely no doubts as to where both my home and my heart are, but it is always good to come to visit the family first and foremost and the familiarity of my childhood.

Talking of childhood, my childhood friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, has written about sainthood. Sainthood, its relevance (or irrelevance) to Judaism and Mother Theresa in particular. Was her rushed canonisation a populist decision on behalf of the church or was it.................. read and see

The Paralympics was initiated by a Jewish refugee to the United Kingdom, a doctor, who fled Germany in 1939, without any English, began with a research position in Oxford and then worked in the Stoke Mandeville Orthopaedic Hospital. Watching the 1948 Olympics while helping a group of disabled soldiers in an archery competition he came up with the idea of the Paralympics. Dr Ludwig Guttman created the most important sports event.

Sadly the Olympic committee and the Brazilian Government do not feel the Paralympics are
​ commercial enough to be​
​a great deal of​
 money. At least in the Paralympics the sportsmanship is absolute. In a qualifier for the World Cup in Italy the Israeli team suffered boos and Nazi catcalls when they entered the arena and even worse - outside sports - a Dutch Member of Parliament refused to shake hands with Prime Minister Netanyahu at a reception line in Holland. Just don't go to the reception but snubbing is hardly politic.

Khaled Abu Toameh is an exceptional man and an honest reporter - a true rarity these days. It seems he is afraid of nothing other than lies. He talks about the invisibility of Palestinian women - take note all your lefties! "To remove a womans name from a ballot ticket is like a wedding invitation without the brides name"

An excellent article from an unexpected source - the BBC - about the skills of Haredi men in learning computer science and their entry into the work force. My thanks to Yitzchok Katz for sending it to me.

Incredibly another excellent BBC piece (if you don't look at the rest of the ME articles) is about Professor Gabby Barkay, our amazing and unstoppable friend, and his latest discoveries in the Temple Mount sifting project - if you haven't been there you should!

I know how much you love my culinary tales so I thought you would like this Israel21c article

I hate to break all your preconceived ideas, but British food is phenomenal! Having travelled all over the place this year - I can promise you that food here is tasty, satisfying, sophisticated and of the highest gourmet standards. Oliver would not be given gruel any more.......... it would be a gourmet version with cut wholegrain oatmeal and fresh fruit!!! The fish is fresh, varied and from the sea or the rivers, not farm grown, the vegetables are flavourful - not Euroveg nor American exquisitely beautifu
 tasteless fruit! What do you mean I am biased - not at all............... just that the best fruit and veg in the world is British or Israeli. Well, stop pouting - do you have Cox's Orange Pippins, Loganberries, Tayberries or scrummy Bramley Cookers?

I will miss the quiet of Shabbat here - no traffic stops, no shops close, no aromas rise................ but that will come in 2 weeks.
Last weeks Shabbat lunch was a special one for many reasons. Canon Andrew White, Hano Ishaq and Steve Linde came for lunch - and for exceptional conversation. Of course I took Steve (former editor of the JPost) to see the photograph gallery in Zvi's office he was amazed but as Andrew and I spoke of our various adventures he felt he had entered an alternate universe!! Steve is an exceptional man himself - the only newspaper editor I have known whose entire staff speak of his as a mensch.

Time for music!
Actually thanks to Diane Steinffink the silliness continues with "Cold Chopped Liver" (to the tune of Old Man River.

​next ​
song is a beautiful barmitzva boy Natanel singing "Dear Father in Heaven, you are with me even when I forget you, you gave me everything in life even when I sin, thank you for my life, thank you for tears and laughter" 

This week I will not
​ sit on the veranda to look over​
 Jerusalem, but I will be with my British loved ones - see friends of my childhood and after all, wherever we are in this world, Shabbat comes with us. As Zvi's amazing father, Kalman, always said "We carry G-d in our heart". Always carry Him in your heart - the manner of prayer is irrelevant, the prayer for the good of mankind is the key.
With love from 2 of the Silver Girls in Cardiff, sending love to all our family and friends.
Shabbat Shalom from Cardiff, Wales

Friday, 2 September 2016

160902 Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem

2nd September 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem. Gosh it is wonderful to wake up on a Friday morning to the sunrise over this city and hear the clatter of pots and pans as the cooking begins. Men and women bring the traditional dishes of their dispersion and prepare them to celebrate Shabbat, irrespective of depth of religion, it is all about tradition. More of that later, first I must first perform my duty of informing you of what really happens in our region, then we can have fun with the myriad of dishes which make up our society.

We are all guilty of generalisation. Americans believe that anti-semitism is confined to Europe without looking at their own campus situation; Europeans believe that Americans are unwilling to take the plight of others into account but don't really do anything about helping themselves; Australia is so far away they don't care about anyone;  Asia is lost; China is insular with an eye to taking over the world; Russia, well that is a long story of corruption and the Arab world……. Oy Vey. You see? In one paragraph I generalised just about every nation! When you consider individuals you realise that there are those who are aware, tolerant, erudite in all societies. Please read this excellent article about the other Europe. There are other voices in Europe by Ariel Bolstein
Talking of generalisation, did you know that Arab Israelis compete on equal terms in all sports? I loved this story of the team captain of bell ball representing Israel in the Paralympics in Rio next week
Khaled Abu Toameh is a truthteller, however painful. This week he wrote about the 3,500 Palestinians killed in Syria without a word from the worlds media, because they were killed by Arabs not Jews.
The millionaires rocket blew up. The Zuckerberg/Musk financed, Israeli designed satellite was within a rocket which simply blew up during a test. The why and wherefore will follow. I do not usually quote "The Sun" newspaper (rag) but their report was perhaps the fullest.
As a people we tend to be somewhat paranoid, but with good reason, as the joke goes "Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean no-one is after you"! Rabbi Jeremy Rosen speaks about the John Loftus book which sets out precisely, accurately, the multitude of times foreign governments – including yours – have tried to blame Israel for their own spying blunders. Yes I know we also spy on others but let's face it, everyone is spying on everyone!
We are not a perfect society. We are made up of people from disparate nations, albeit through enforced dispersion by many Empires. From Russia and Yemen; from Morocco and Bulgaria; from Kurdistan and New York………… ad infinitum. Each new wave of immigration had its problems being absorbed, which is natural. Emigration and the ensuing immigration, even when coming home, is not an easy process. You go from being important to being impotent, the only thing you bring with you is your accent. It has been hard for the Ethiopian community. The children have adapted brilliantly flying high but, an ignorant sector of Israelis have never fully accepted them.  I know that some of you hate it when I point out faults in our society but if I ignore the faults then my reports are not valid. I am ashamed of any form of racism, but extra angry about this one. I promise you that as of this week I intend helping our dear friend Danny Adino Abebe, a senior journalist in Israel of Ethiopian parentage, to overcome the misconceptions. I want him, indeed many young successful Ethiopians to go into schools and ask each child where their parents came from, what hardships they suffered in their country and then tell of his peoples hardships. I pray it works.
When we were in Holland we met with Gerda and Herman Schotanus (Herman was key to the refurbishment of the Montefiore windmill in Jerusalem) and as we talked of world leadership today Gerda quoted the story from the book of Daniel and his interpretation of Xerxes dream. The Statue had a head of gold, a torso of silver, hips of copper, legs of iron and feet of clay. The interpretation can so easily relate to today where sadly our leaders take a body of gold and silver yet at the end they all have feet of clay.
Gene Wilder z"l. A proud Jew who made us laugh with his sad face and sudden hilarity. An actor who insisted he was not a comedian, he will be missed. Surely the Frisco Kid was a brilliant teaching tool of Judaism! A dear friend, Martin Myers, sent me this poem by said Mr Wilder, lamenting his lack of Yiddisch. May his soul rest in peace.
A YIDDISH POEM by Gene Wilder (Jerome Silberman)

Yiddish was the secret code, therefore I don't farshtaist,
A bisseleh maybe here and there, the rest has gone to waste.
Sadly, when I hear it now, I only get the gist,
My Bubbe spoke it beautifully; but me, I am tsemisht.
So oi vei as I should say, or even oy vai iz mir,
Though my pisk is lacking Yiddish, it's familiar to my ear.
And I'm no Chaim Yonkel , in fact I was shtick naches,
But, when it comes to Yiddish though, I'm talking out my tuchas.
Es iz a shandeh far di kinder that I don't know it better
(Though it's really nishtgefelecht when one needs to write a letter).
But, when it comes to characters, there's really no contention,
No other linguist can compete with honorable mentshen:
They have nebbishes and nebechels and others without mazel,
Then, too, schmendriks and schlemiels, and let's not forget schlemazel.
These words are so precise and descriptive to the listener,
So much better than "a pill" is to call someone 'farbissener'.
Or - that a brazen woman would be better called Choleria,
And you'll agree farklempt says more than does hysteria.
I'm not haken dir a tshainik and I hope I'm not a kvetch,
But isn't mieskeit kinder, than to call someone a wretch?
Mitten derinnen, I hear Bubbe say, "It's nechtiker tog, don't fear,
To me you're still a maven, zol zein shah, don't fill my ear.
A leben ahf dein keppele, I don't mean to interrupt,
But you are speaking narishkeit.....
And ...A gezunt auf dein kop!"

Another good friend, Elisabeth Gelb, takes on all subjects concerned with Israel and Judaism. She is a great warrior and a super person. A subject close to her heart right now is that of Jacobs Sheep. Interested? Read on

Yosef came to sleep over last night. Since he is 11 years old I was thrilled he still wants to be with us! We sat together, talked, enjoyed each other, went out for a pizza and I realised that I am the luckiest Safta (Grandma) in the world. Between us we have 13 grandchildren each and every one of them a pearl, and Yosef will always be our first. He met Zvi's cousins Victor and Mirtah Solnitsky and Prof. Yitzchak Srugo yesterday as we sat in a restaurant in Mamilla and I noticed that Victor was very taken with Yosef. I loved it when he turned to Yosef and carefully explained to him that the world rests on his shoulders because we didn't do a good job…….. Shmor al ha Olam Yeled.

Soon, I will take him home to help his Mum prepare for Shabbat. Undoubtedly the aroma of fresh Challot will waft down to the street as we approach their apartment. My daughter is a brilliant cook a real balabusta and all the children join in the preparation for Shabbat. That is how traditions are passed on, by doing things as a family. Next week I will be with my sister Doreen and her family for a Welsh Shabbat then the following week I will be with my son Gideon, daughter in law Stephanie, Sammy, Olivia and Zachary for an "English" Shabbat. I love hearing Gideon's strong baritone belt out the Kiddush as we sit around the table together. Tradition!

Diane Steinfink sent me a wonderful link about modern Jewish music – or rather the Jewish contribution to music. It is fascinating and very surprising. After all, whoda thought that White Christmas was written by a Jew?

Time to cook, as much as I enjoy talking to you. Zvi and Yosef are sitting in their pyjamas playing dominoes and if I don't move they won't either!!!

Before I begin the preparations for Shabbat, I will go and sit on our hammock and contemplate the View from our Veranda. We shared that view with Judy and Harvey Sternberg last week and they confirmed the number of lemons on the little tree, the fact that there is a humungeous orange on the orange tree, the pomegranates and of course the kumquats to say nothing of the flowers and herbs. They were as enchanted as I am each time afresh, by the phenomenal view. Jerusalem lays before us in her beauty and diversity for our delectation each day anew.

I suppose that this weeks music choice must be about Jerusalem otherwise the Segway will be incomplete.

The Ethiopian community in exile dreamt and prayed about one place. Jerusalem. This song tells their story

Usually I give you traditional music – this time I am going against convention! Matisyahu and Jerusalem

Oh alright……… If I forget thee oh Jerusalem……. How could I not?

Shabbat Shalom to all, wherever you may be, to you, your family and your loved ones.

I wish my beautiful friend Arlene a full and painless recovery. I love you dearest friend.

With love from Jerusalem.

Friday, 26 August 2016

160826 Holland, Anne Frank, Jewish Museum, Turkey, Kurds, Italy Earthquake

26th August 2016.

Shabbat Shalom from  Jerusalem! Yes we are back! There was no chance of my writing last week since we were deep in the countryside of Landal Migglenberg, Holland…… a delightful place, deep in the country. We had a big cottage for all 11 of us and the children had a ball. We cooked our own food and travelled all around to the places of interest. Watching clogs and cheese being made; windmills; theme parks; boating and of course shopping!  One of the days our beautiful Dutch friends Herman and Gerda Schotanus came to visit. It was such a delight – we love them very much.

It was fun in Migglenberg, I highly recommend the site but it was even more fun to set off for Amsterdam.
In Amsterdam we were very honoured to visit two marvellous museums. At the Jewish Cultural Museum we met the director Prof. Emile Schrijver, with grateful thanks to Jaap Meijers. A learned man of the book Emile showed great enthusiasm for his subject, Jewish life, books and this marvellous museum – we highly recommend a visit. A wonderful place which is of interest to those who know of the extensive Dutch Jewish history and an excellent teaching tool for both children and adults who want to learn who is a Jew.

Continuing the rich Dutch Jewish history we went to the Anne Frank House. There we had the honour of being met by the director Garance Reus-Deelder. The Anne Frank House has over 4,000 visitors a day and is a truly moving experience. As we climbed the impossible Dutch staircase she took us aside into a small locked area right into Otto Franks Office and kitchen/laboratory. I felt the presence of the family intensely and the children listened intently to the story of a little girl just a few years older than they. Standing in the office one could hear the creaking of the footsteps above, in the now famous attic where Otto, Edith, Margot and Anne Frank, Hermann, Auguste and Peter Pels and the dentist Fritz Pfeffer. They had to keep very still all day and only move at night lest the workers below hear their movements. Only one survived, Otto Frank who discovered the diary when he returned to the attic after the war and incredibly Fritz Pfeffer – Annes nemesis – sent his son to the UK with the kindertransport thus saving his life. Many years later his son, who moved to California, changed his name to Pepper and raised a family, came to the Anne Frank House – all 26 of them – and stood at the spot their father had slept. 26 people proved the Nazis did not win.

We intended taking a train to our flight in Brussels Airport but then decided that 7 people, including 3 children, 7 suitcases and umpteen packages was just too hard the delightful driver who came to take us to the station was happy to drive us to Brussels Airport. His price was reasonable and his company excellent. He is a marvellous driver and big, comfortable Mercedes van – he is well worth calling if you are in Holland and need an airport pick-up or to travel around. His name is Jan Lindeman, he speaks Dutch, English, Spanish and some French. ( +31 6 52 732 110) Just tell him Zvi sent you!!!!

We loved Holland, but there is something special about getting on to that El Al plane, hearing Hebrew, Israeli smiles, special meals for children, delicious food (I love the El Al pasta bolognaise!!!) and then a perfect landing on Israeli soil.

This morning I took off to Rachels to get the biggest and best hugs from the children and a ton of food from Rach so that I wouldn't need to cook for Shabbat……. That's why I have time to write to you!!! That oh so familiar drive over Samuels Tomb was all the sweeter for missing it. The difference between the rugged hills and the flatness of Holland was staggering!!!!

While we were away Italy suffered a horrific tragedy as an earthquake hit a small village close to Perugia. Such sadness when people die through no fault of their own. Yes I know, it is happening every day in almost every country in the world – even those that purport to be peaceful.

Turkey used the excuse of ISIS to invade Syria. Excuse? Yes. The purpose of the invasion is to attack Kurds. The Kurds, or rather Kurdistan, was split into 4 sectors in the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, each sector given to a different country – Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Since that time the Kurds have been fighting to get their country back. Turkey doesn't want to lose territory and has been fighting the Kurds (as have the others) and since the Kurds have been helping the Syrians it presented a fine opportunity. What a thoroughly mixed up part of the world!

While in Amsterdam we met a young Kurdish waitress who had visited Israel with an Israeli/Kurdish friend. She loved the freedom of Israel and recognized the yearning to be returned to a land taken from them.
Our dearest friend Canon Andrew White reminded us that his weeks Parash is Eikev Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25
In the Parshah of Eikev (“Because”), Moses continues his closing address to the children of Israel, promising them that if they fulfill the commandments (mitzvot) of the Torah, they will prosper in the Land they are about to settle as in G‑d’s promise to their forefathers.
Moses rebuked them for their failings in their first generation as a people, recalling their worship of the Golden Calf, the rebellion of Korach, the sin of the spies, the angering of G‑d. “You have been rebellious against G‑d,” he says to them, “since the day I knew you.” But he also speaks of G‑d’s forgiveness of their sins, and the Second Tablets which G‑d inscribed and gave to them following their repentance.
Their forty years in the desert, says Moses to the people, during which G‑d sustained them with daily manna from heaven, was to teach them “that man does not live on bread alone, but by the utterance of G‑d’s mouth does man live.”
Moses describes the land they are about to enter as “flowing with milk and honey,” blessed with the “seven species” (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive and dates), and as the place that is the focus of G‑d’s providence of His world. He commands them to destroy the idols of the land’s former masters, and to beware lest they become haughty and begin to believe that their wealth was self-made.
A key passage in our Parshah is the second chapter of the Shema, which repeats the fundamental mitzvot enumerated in the Shema’s first chapter, and describes the rewards of fulfilling G‑d’s commandments and the adverse results of their neglect.
Today, more and more, we are building the golden calf of prosperity, of fine cars and big houses without listening to our spirit or our hearts. I am not suggesting we live in righteous poverty but rather to strive for success while remembering to be humble. If we think only of ourselves we will lose our identity and our homeland.

I finished reading our lovely friend Professor Michael Baums book The Third Tablet of the Holy Covenant and was thrilled to the very last word. I highly recommend his book which combines history, archeology, medicine and yet succeeds in being a thriller!

Music, ah sweet music
Modeh Ani is a prayer said each morning as we wake returning our soul to our bodies, our clothing and our food. Modeh Ani – I am grateful.
A truly Shabbat song – Matanot Ktanot – small gifts. This song is again sung by children – after all what is purer than the heart and song of a child

Shabbat shalom dear friends. It was wonderful to be with Zvi, his boys and their families but as always, there is no place like home and no hugs like those of Yosef, Talia and Ayala!! Yosef didn't even want his presents – he insisted I was enough!!!
Tomorrow we meet Harvey and Judy Sternberg – friends of Barry and Cristine Slawsky……. What a marvellous life we lead.
With love from the happiest Safta in the world right here in Jerusalem……… for one week then I am off to get more hugs from my British children – NYC, London and Jerusalem and a vacation with Zvi's boys – can't get better!!!
Happy birthday to the glorious Ms Callie – my adorable grand-daughter in New York.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

160811 Portugal, 9 b'Av, Yarden Gerbi, Oprah Winfrey Hassidim

1th August 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Did you miss me? We were touring the amazing country of Portugal and I just didn't manage to gather my thoughts last week.

So much has happened in the interim but I want to start with the past. On Sunday we honour the most fatalistic date in the Jewish calendar, one cannot say we celebrate this day, we honour the events and learn from them. Sunday or rather the 9th day of the month of Av is the culmination of 9 days of deep contemplation in which many things are sent to try us.

1. In 1313 BCE The 10 Spies sent to scout out the Land of Israel as a homeland for the Children of Israel after their miraculous Exodus from Egypt, claimed it to be a barren and ugly land, unlike Joshua and Caleb. Their bad judgement and mistrust made G-d angry and prolonged wandering in the desert for another 38 years, before settling the Promised Land;
2. In 423 BCE The First Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar who massacred 100,000 Jews and exiled the remainder.
3. Exactly 500 years later, to the day, the Second Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by Titus of Rome, massacre and expulsion of 1 million Jews
4. Bar Kochba Revolt against the Romans ended with his execution and  yet again Jerusalem was destroyed, 600,000 Jews murdered by the Roman Empire and one year later on this date the Temple Mount plateau was flattened.
5. The First Crusade (1096-1099) massacred tens of thousands of Jews in Germany, France, Italy and Britain;
6. The expulsion of Jews from from Britain (1290);
7. The Spanish Inquisition and final order of expulsion of Jews (1492);
8. The First World War (1914);
9. The 1942 deportation of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka extermination camp.

Nine of the most fateful events in Jewish history. Most certainly a day to pray, a day to fast, a day to contemplate why. Incredibly, it was the tears and prayers of the Jews, their recognition of the history of this day that reached Napoleon's heart and caused him to free the Jews.

One event that has taken on a deeper meaning for me is the Spanish Inquisition. Our journey through Portugal taught me so much, helped me understand the repercussions of yet another Jewish Dispersion and the difference between the Portuguese people and all the others who exiled and killed us. Portugal has not only taken responsibility for the events of 500 years ago, they celebrate their Jewish heritage (nearly 20% of all Portugal has Jewish ancestry), Anusim and those rare Jews who succeeded in retaining their Jewish purity throughout 500 years. We prayed in the synagogue of Belmonte and in and met with Jose Levy Domingos who is working determinedly to build the Isaac Cardoso Center in Trancoso  – he needs donations and visitors!

As we stood in the synagogue in Belmonte we sang and then stood outside for a photograph. Zvi brought the flag of Jerusalem and he quietly folded the flag and gave it to the synagogue President who could not hold back his tears. My Zvi is such a special man.

Almost all the Jews of Portugal and Spain became hidden Jews (Anusim) and melted into their surroundings retaining only some "strange" traditions. Reconectar, the brainchild of Ashley Perry, is helping people to connect to their ancestry

As you know we travelled with Zvi's choir and I became curious as to the provenance of each of the members families as they returned home from dispersion. Yemen, Turkey, Poland, Tunisia, Kurdistan, Germany, Sweden, Czech, Morocco, Iraq, Syrian Halabi, Chile, Wales, Iran – and that was out of 34 people!! Many talk of a melting pot, but in Israel the pot came home. The Lul is a TV programme of the 70's showing the reactions of each Aliya

There is a new "inquisition" taking place right under our noses and no-one seems to care. It is the persecution of Christians.

Avi Dichter, Head of the Knesset Defence Committee, says that 100% of UN aid workers in Gaza are members of Hamas. This of course is just the tip of the iceberg as we discover that World Vision, a Christian aid organisation, gives over one and a half million dollars to Hamas in cash

On the other side of the coin IsraAid and the marvellous Navonel Glick have been awarded the Muhammed Ali Award for their incredible work throughout the world

We won a medal!! Our beautiful young Judo champion Yarden Gerbi won the bronze medal. So proud of her achievement as she won her bout she touched her Israeli badge in pride. No matter how many buses they refuse to allow us to board or sports they refuse to compete – we are the champions and we. Little Israel, upholds the Olympic tradition of NO POLITICS.

On the 8th of August Zvi and I celebrated our first meeting – the day I walked into his office in Keren Hayesod in Jerusalem – hoping to learn how to do my job and met the man who would give me back my confidence and return me to be the woman my parents raised me to be by loving me, just loving me. Actually our first date was on the 14th of August but since that is Tisha b'Av this year I don't want to chance fate!!!!!

Yesterday Rachel and I met and incredible lady. Her name is Miri, she is Haredi and Miri simply spreads joy in unlikely places. Many years ago, depressed because she just couldn't get pregnant, she decided to spend her time helping others after she was told that giving of yourself could change ones fate. From her humble home she began making sandwiches, buying snacks and giving them to people in hospital waiting rooms for free, pushing her trolley with a smile and a kind word. She now serves in 3 hospitals, still privately from her home, because since starting her act of tsedaka she has 3 beautiful children. "I can't stop" she said "I can't stop giving joy". If you want to help Miri you can send me a donation and Rachel will make sure it gets directly to her.

Last night we went to the memorial seuda, meal, for our friend Bernardo Romanowsky. It is a year since he passed and we still miss him. His widow Rosa really did him proud and the gathered friends spoke of his exceptional strength and kindness. Rosa was surrounded by friends but her loneliness was tangible without him. The food was amazing and I had the honour of sitting with one of my favourite people Pola Sztrigler, while Zvi sat with her husband Jorge. Best of all my proximity to Pola meant I had first dibs of her unbelievably tasty herring dishes!!!!

The Haredi community is at best misunderstood and at worst despised. The renowned Jewish tolerance for others seems to end when it comes to our own. Oprah Winfrey went into the Haredi world of Brooklyn and her series was an eye opener for her and for all who have dire misconceptions of Haredi life.

My favourite Jerusalem supermarket is a Haredi one called Osher Ad. I call it Haredi because they have only very, very kosher foodstuffs that suit a specific clientele but they have all the American brands and wonderful fresh produce. Actually the produce is the best fun. They don't have a few cucumbers or tomatoes or aubergines or any fruit or veg – they have mountains! When choosing cucumbers one is faced with the edges of thousands of crisp green fruits piled high……. And of course there is always someone who wants the one at the bottom!!! Best of all one sees every variety of Israeli people shopping there irrespective of race, colour or leaning………….it is so much fun!! No silence at the checkouts here – everyone is helping everyone else and of course guarding their place and trolley in the line so they can run to get "just one thing I forgot"!!!

Since I have given you so many links, perhaps we should be satisfied with one Shabbat song. I'll see………………….
Lecha Dodi – Welcome my Beloved – refers to the welcome for the Bride of Shabbat. The words are wonderful and this is a Chassidic niggun with English translation.

Oh alright then I will find just one more!  Mi ha Ish – Who is the Man the song of tolerance from the words of King David's Psalms written here in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and still sung in the original language.

Tomorrow I will go to Givat Zeev to see Yosef, Talia and Ayala before Shabbat then come home to prepare to welcome Shabbat with Leor, Shiri and family. We leave for Holland on Sunday night, on our annual vacation with Zvi's boys and families. I hope I will be able to write to you next week but it all depends upon the WiFi where we stay!!!

I wish you Shabbat Shalom from our Jerusalem, each time I come home from afar I am dazzled by her beauty and the view from our veranda. By the way Stanley, my little lemon tree has at least 35 lemons on it this year!!!!

With love