Friday, 20 May 2016

160520 Bibi, Bougie, Bogie, Ivet and Sisi

20th May 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful wishes and concern for Talia and Ayala. They are doing remarkably well as their bruises begin to fade and their sleep is less disturbed. Indeed their school is gathering all 1,000 girls for a huge party of thanks today and Talia is speaking before the entire school!!

For anyone finding it difficult to follow the Israeli political scene and what just happened in our Ministry of Security, Zvi wrote a simplification for you
Bogie got upset with Bibi. Bibi wanted to get rid of Bogie, but then heard Sisi. Bibi turned to Bougie. Bougie was with Bibi, but while Bibi had talks with Bougie he also flirted with Ivet. So, Bougie left Bibi and went to argue with Sheli. Meantime, Ivet became Sisi so Bibi gave him the ministry of Bogie.
In short, Bibi stayed as Bibi, Bougie got Sheli, Bogie is out and we got Ivet Liberman! However – it isn't over so watch this space……………………….

Seriously though, I am sad that the Labour Party (aka Zionist Union) didn't jump at the offer to join the government thus giving it a much wider political range, indeed had Yair Lapid also joined it would have given us a more representative government. I know the press loves to hate Ivet Liberman but his bullish appearance belies a wily and able politician. Bougie (Isaac) Herzog is much stronger than his puppy-like appearance but is pulled down by his party and Bogie Yaalon, who was a Chief of Staff of the IDF, decided to go public with his disagreements rather than approaching the PM.

The disagreement over the punishment of the soldier in Hebron who shot and killed a terrorist who was already on the ground is clear. The soldier claimed, after the fact, that he thought the terrorist was dangerous, but we don't kill for no reason, yes a terrorist but we don't kill unless in a situation of mortal danger. That is the difference between the IDF and all other military bodies in the world. Can you imagine an American (or indeed any) soldier on guard getting placed on trial for murder for killing a terrorist? The young soldier is a proclaimed member of Kach (right wing Kahane party).

Yet another Egyptian aeroplane seems to have gone down for no apparent reason and President Sisi suspects terror. Why? Because he is fighting terror, together with us, and their answer is to kill innocents.

Terror is not only what you see reported on CNN, ABC, BBC, Sky or any of the other stations. Every day, every minute thousands are victims to the horrific terror of Islamic fundamentalism. If it isn't close to home we tend to wash over it. Nigeria is sinking and her Christians dying; Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Mali, Sierra Leone, I could go on and on but the sad fact is that Africa doesn't get the coverage and the carnage is diabolical. Boco Haram doesn't disappear after kidnapping 300 Christian girls from school and subjecting them to rape, beating and murder; our lack of concern encourages them to continue undisturbed.

Not everything is dark and ominous though, there are beams of light at the end of the tunnel that are not trains. My lovely friend Canon Andrew White has a new and truly magnificent project. In the Jordan Valley lie some ancient churches but most are inaccessible because both Israel and Jordan laid land mines along that length of the River Jordan during the Six Day War. One very important Christian site was cleared by Israel about 5 years ago "Qasr El-Yahud" or Crossing of the Jews, the site where Joshua led the Israelites and the Ark of the Covenant over the river to safety. More than 300,000 pilgrims come to the site where Jesus was baptized and enter the waters in white robes, blessed by priests on the Israeli and Jordanian sides of the River Jordan, just metres apart. It is wonderful.

Anyway back to Andrew White. Andrew and the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, together with the Halo Trust are clearing the minefields to allow access to the churches. Israeli authorities have been wary to clear up until now for fear of damaging the ancient structures but through negotiation and careful planning it is going ahead.
This is an excellent report except being the BBC they had to accuse Israel for the mines and emphasise the Occupied bit.

Khaled Abu Toameh is the journalist who dares. Here Khaled describes the awful methods of torture in the PA and Hamas

My love and admiration for Rabbi Jeremy Rosen is well known. This week he wrote about something that touches us all, helping someone in trouble – especially after the incredible generosity and help afforded to the girls after the bus crash. He writes

"In 1964 Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death late one night in Queens, New York by Winton Mosely who said that he simply wanted to kill a woman. He was sentenced to life, and a few weeks ago he died in prison. The case generated immense publicity because it seemed that a lot of people heard her scream and no one came to her rescue even after she was left bleeding to death. 
Israel has a law requiring citizens to go the help of another. Its legal system is a compound of Ottoman law and British law, and they do not require going to someone’s aid. But the third element, Jewish law, most certainly does. The Torah explicitly says, and we read it last week in Leviticus 19, “Do not stand by (while) the blood of your neighbor (is being spilt).” For us it is a moral, religious obligation to protect someone under threat of danger. Not only, but Jewish Law as reflected in the Shulchan Aruch insists that one should even be prepared to risk danger to do so. "

Since the trauma of the accident two days of visitors have cheered us up!  Claudio Grubner surprised us and it was such a delight to spend time with him. He had amazing, highly relevant questions about politics and diplomacy in Israel and of course Zvi was delighted to explain – in detail. Our second visitors were Roy Solomon and his lovely Binnie. They called us from a walking tour of the Old City "We have to see the Veranda"!!! Zvi went to get them and brought them home. Oh the joy of watching their delight to find every tree I had described and the view, oh the view. The weather chose to be perfect so we sat outside sipping a tisane of herbs from our veranda, talking and relaxing. They couldn't decide where to go after our visit, but I knew! Mahane Yehuda market…… on a Thursday evening it is full of Shabbat shoppers and fresh produce, of course they were thrilled with the idea and I await their report!

We are going away for a while so I may not be in a position to give you the usual reports. We are heading toward Denver, Colorado and Monika Minkoff; Helena, Montana to Barry Slawsky's 70th Birthday Bash then to New York to see my son Daniel's beloved family, Karen and the two children Joshua and Callie. Gosh I miss them! We will see lots of friends too and we are going north to Bedford, to Shaarey Tefila Temple to speak to Rabbi David Greenbergs community on June 8th. They haven't met Zvi so are in for a treat!

Music music music. This week I have a problem. Binnies favourite song is Al Kol Eleh, but I don't want to repeat my favourite songs too often. Will you bear with me? She is such a lovely lady and this version has transliteration!

Yaacov Shwekey is a musical phenomenon, his songs uplifting. We Are a Miracle is the ultimate , I can be stronger, I can be greater – Everything I need in inside of me.

Be well, be strong and believe in yourselves. Remember the power of one.

With much love from Jerusalem

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

160517 Miracles, Shaare Zedek, Statistics


17th May, 2016

Yesterday was a tough day! Talia and Ayalas school bus was in an accident, it spun several times and turned over completely after the driver veered to avoid another accident right in front of them. An idiot driver thought she could turn into a side road across the traffic, travelling fast.

16 little girls found themselves and their school bags flying against the side of the bus. Talia thought she smelled smoke so quickly managed to get most of the girls out through the broken back window and passersby stopped to help the others out. Everyone and gave their phones to the girls to call home - including cars with Palestinian licences whose drivers went out of his way to help them. In Israel, no-one simply walks by, the girls remember a huge wave of people coming to see how they were and gently seating them at the side of the road until the ambulances and first responders arrived.

Rachel raced to the scene almost immediately but couldn't get to the hospital when the ambulances left because all traffic was diverted  due to the accident. She called me and of course I raced to the Shaare Zedek Hospital, just 10 minutes from our home.

The children were all in shock. Some of the mothers had not yet arrived and the girls saw a familiar face in me.  Ayala had a bump on her forehead and Talia's shoulder and arm hurt - but by some miracle, none of the children was seriously hurt but all were silently traumatized, except Talia who gave a full description of exactly what happened. Ayala and Talias Auntie Shiran came too – so that we had one on one with the girls until Rachel could get there.

Shaare Zedek Hospital was incredible, over and above the call of duty. Not only the incredibly efficient and thoughtful medical staff who gathered the girls after triage, taking them to paediatric ER ensuring they were all together in one place. The social worker spoke to them, brought in the clowns (literally), medical clowns who helped them through their trauma, teasing, blowing balloons, tricks and gifts, the nurses brought them all gifts from a special cupboard of surprises, age appropriate; their headmistress, school supervisor, hospital social worker, school social worker, senior and incredibly patient junior doctors came to check on the girls. In fact the hospital social worker took them to the petting zoo up on the main children's ward, to break the tension before they were examined again.

The parents were also cared for and given hospital food to sustain them and a lot of love from the staff.

Talia received the recognition she deserved, her quick thinking was exceptional for a 9 year old. Both girls are now home, sore and bruised but OK.  Rachel, who finally managed to get to the hospital after about an hour, is my heroine. She kept her head, asked the right questions and eased the other mothers. Big brother Yosef was so worried that Saba Zvi went to get him from school and brought him to Shaare Zedek to put his mind at rest.

Shaare Zedek Paediatric ER - I cannot imagine any other hospital going all the way to ease the pain of 16 little girls the way they did.

This morning all 16 girls went to school and they were greeted with a room full of balloons and treats, the teachers all came to hug them and the other girls in the school waved and cheered. Good will can turn a trauma into a good experience, but both of the girls are in pain today as their bruises come out. Rachel is watching them carefully – an amazing Mother.

Independence Day came and went with a wonderful party in Ramat HaSharon and a beach birthday party for Gili. Friday night we had dinner with Sam and Debbie Bettsak at the Dan Panorama here in Jerusalem. It is always good to catch up with the Bettsaks, great friends.

I thought you may like some general statistics and wonderful videos about a 68 year old lady, more beautiful every year – Israel of course!!!
68 Things you didn't know about Israel
Finally the somewhat dry but very accurate statistics of Israel at 68

May 19th sees the 100th anniversary of the Sykes Picot agreement. The entire region was divvied up according to interests by Britain and France, with Italy and Russia taking a minor role, basically cutting Germany out of the equation As a result of the division of said countries, with no consideration of ethnic or national divisions, we have had incessant wars, displacement, extremism and revolutions ever since.

I am usually the optimist - I tend to love everyone but something made me furious this week.
A religious friend was walking on the Tel Aviv beachfront with her sister when suddenly a lunatic began throwing bottles and other things at them yelling (in an American accent) "I love to see Harediot run" Nobody helped them - no-one, not a soul despite the fact that the promenade was full.
I am angry at the lunatic but much angrier at all the Tel Avivim who allowed it to pass............ shame on them.
All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

My mind is still on my grand-daughters – I'm sorry if I haven't written in a well constructed manner but I think I am also a little traumatized!

Let's go straight to music
The first song is a beautiful melody sung by Zvi's choir Hakol Yachassi – lyrics by Eli Yaron (Ladino) Music by Adi Hayat; dancer Liron Mussachi and violin solo Alexandra Denissov

Arik Einstein (z"l) wrote Ani ve Ata – You and Me, about changing the world together, no matter what anyone says

So friends, let you and me change our world. You know we can do it one person at a time. Don't leave anything to the politicians and diplomats, their self-interest is evident and their populism and desire for control obvious in every move. The quiet revolution is the effective one, the war of words, the determined letter writing, the talking to journalists, the simple act of standing up to be counted.

Miracles happen. They did for our family yesterday.

With love

PS I will try to give you a Shabbat Shalom but felt the need to tell you about yesterday too.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

160511 Remembrance to Independence

11th May, 2016

יום הזכרון 5776

Remembrance Day for soldiers who died fighting so we could be free and for those who fell to terror.

Only two nights ago we celebrated a truly special wedding. The groom, my nephew Ofer,  stood under the chuppa with his father Steve and his brothers Sagi and Yair watching with deep emotion as his beautiful bride Rifka Talia walked up the aisle on her mother and Shulis arms. It was a wonderful night of pure joy for Steven and Shuli to see their Ofer married. The celebration was absolute, the evening perfect.

Just one night later, last night, the entire country stood in silence in the knowledge that Ofer, Sagi and Yair all lost friends in war and Shuli, Steve, Zvi and I all knew parents who lost sons and daughters – indeed Steve and Zvi also lost friends, this war to prove that Jews also deserve their own country is seemingly never ending. Remembrance Day in Israel is not a shopping opportunity or even a visit to the Senotaph, it is all encompassing.

Let me take you to the ceremony we attended on Mount Herzl, in the Military Cemetery. I made notes when we got home so that I would not forget one moment, one event.

Breeze, pines, Jerusalem, scouts, silence waiting, siren rising filling the hearts, massua lit by beautiful young widow, names and lights around water.
Shelley Silver and friends reading poems
and singing beautiful songs.

The ceremony was given by Modiin Troupe of the Israeli Scouts, in honour of those from their troupe who fell in war since the founding of the nation. Each troupe had a ceremony all over the country; there was a ceremony in the Knesset; every municipality held a ceremony and today all schools will do so too. The main ceremony, or Tekes, was held at the Western Wall, the Kotel, for the bereaved families. The President takes part and of course the Prime Minister who is himself a bereaved brother, his brother Yonni died as a hero in Entebbe.

We sat under the pines of Mount Herzl, young scouts standing to attention on the natural platform waiting for the siren which would express our deep and abiding heartache at the loss of friends, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters and a life that was cut short by fury so great that it kills. We waited, the silence of Jerusalem complete. The breeze ruffled the trees and then the deep, throaty rise of the siren began reaching a wailing crescendo of tears. As the siren tapered off we couldn't speak, it held us in a grip of grief.

The scout leader asked one of the widows to step forward to light the beacon, the flame of remembrance. She was very young, very beautiful and as she walked forward, her head held high, it hit home yet again, another widow, another life in tatters.

The ceremony continued with beautiful songs, written of hope and sadness, poems by great Israeli poets, our lovely Shelley read so beautifully with true pathos; then they began to read the names of the fallen, the screen showing their faces……… 20 years old, 19, 27, 21, 47, 18…… their age irrelevant. As they read the names of the 34 members of Modiin Troupe, scouts lit a remembrance flame around the shallow pool representing the sea, the flames reflected in the water. It was a magnificent tribute to those who died so we could be free.

Today there will be more ceremonies, families will go to the military cemeteries to light a Yahzeit candle and cry. At 11:00 precisely the country will come to a halt. Cars will stop on the highway, buses will stand by the roadside letting the passengers stand beside them; schools will stand in silence, the children dressed in white as they learn of the history of our little country; religious schools will stand in silence and read Tehilim – Psalms.

This evening it all changes. At the huge ceremony on Mount Herzl, as the guard is changed and the flags handed over to a new Troupe of soldiers, the mood does 180 degree turn and the celebrations begin. Only in Israel can you go from deep grief to sheer joy in a split second! From beacons to barbecues!

The parties begin, the ozone layer thins as barbecues are lit all over the country and Israel will celebrate being an exquisitely beautiful 68 year old lady. Of course we have the right to exist – anyone who claims otherwise needs to come here and see our achievements – indeed to share in our achievements, we are not only innovative we are generous!

Tonight we will go to a huge party, laugh with friends, dance and enjoy a glass of wine and great food…………. Tomorrow we join other friends for another party and our joy at being Israeli will be complete. It isn't that we forget the fallen, we honour them by celebrating the very country they died defending.

There are so many songs I could give you but one always stands out. Mark Knopfler, the lead singer of Dire Straits, wrote this song for the IDF and no matter how many times I hear and watch, it reaches into my heart. Brother in Arms

Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu – Peace will come to us and to everyone.  Salaam Shalom

Finally, of course, Hatikva, the Hope. The Hope for peace, for life, for joy…………… 

כֹּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה
Kol ‘od balevav penimah
As long as in the heart, within,
נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה
Nefesh yehudi homiyah,
A Jewish soul still yearns,
וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח, קָדִימָה,
Ul(e)fa’atei mizrach kadimah,
And onward, towards the ends of the east,
עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה,
‘Ayin letziyon tzofiyah;
an eye still gazes toward Zion;

עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ,
‘Od lo avdah tikvateinu,
Our hope is not yet lost,
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם
Hatikvah bat sh(e)not ’alpayim,
The hope two thousand years old,
לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ,
Lihyot ‘am chofshi b(e)’artzeinu,
To be a free nation in our land,
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.
’Eretz-Tziyon viy(e)rushalayim.
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

May G-d bless you, Israel and all peace loving people in this world

With love

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

160504 Pesach and Yom haShoah

4th May, 2016

Dear Friends,

It isn't Shabbat, Pesach has been and gone and it is almost Holocaust Remembrance Day here in Israel.

Those who can tell their story and those who heard their stories are slowly leaving this earth and we must, we have to honour their memory and the memory of those who perished. How we ensure they are never forgotten is up to you, up to me, up to all of us. This link of Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum gives you the testimonies of the survivors. Click on a town and hear the words!prettyPhoto

We are not a people that wreaks revenge, we are a people that avenges the deaths of millions by thriving, by celebrating life, which is why I want to begin by telling you of our Passover, our Pesach.

We set the tables in a "Chet" shape, an open rectangle, with everyone sitting around the outside so we all faced one another, a feat achieved by putting our lounge suite onto the famous veranda to leave space for the tables. All achieved with the incredible help of Elisabeth and George Gelb. It really was delightful. 26 people, 4 languages, rapt attention and space in the middle for the little children to play. We ate all the traditional foods – from the parsley dipped in salt water (karpas), the sinus clearing freshly grated horseradish (maror), the delicious combining (charoset), the hard boiled eggs in salt water and then the real food. The traditional foods depend upon the provenance of the family, being Ashkenazi we don't eat rice or beans or any legumes (kitniot) which may seem to limit the menu but really doesn't! The reading of the Exodus was fascinating, especially as the children are getting big enough to join in and of course the songs at the end great fun – especially when singing about "only One Kid" (Chad Gadya) we make the appropriate animal sounds!!!

Passover continued with a short visit to Tel Aviv to see our lovely French friends Alain and Martine. We went to the Tahana and discovered the IDF Museum next door. Somewhat dilapidated for lack of funds it is still a fascinating museum, full of history and artefacts. Well worth a visit. Imagine my delight at finding a kosher for Passover Pizza place (Mehadrin even) in Tel Aviv – really!!! I had Matza Spinach Lasagne which was absolutely delicious.

On Wednesday we went to Mahane Yehuda on the light rail. It was packed. The display of fruit and vegetables was back in soft fruit mode. Amazing nectarines and peaches, piles of cherries and grapes, everything aplenty. We went to Tzidkiyahus for our pickles, then across to Shmulik for the cheeses – wonderful, tasty, local cheeses, every single one kosher for Passover. The sound of the costermongers and the aroma of their wares don't change – they are as sweet as their displays.

On Thursday we celebrated the second days of Passover by inviting 11 friends to dinner on Thursday and then Shabbat dinner by inviting another 10. It was so much fun!!!! I loved the discussions, some arguments and their delight at hearing my Zvi's melodic Kiddush. Many Israelis are amazed to find I change all my dishes, as per the tradition of Passover, and we do not allow any food into the house unless Kosher for Passover. A few try to tell us the "in the modern day" one doesn't need to do all those things but I do it for my parents, and their parents and theirs……….. and for our children, for Jewish continuity, and because I love it!!!

Sunday Zvi and I went on a special Press Club Tour of the new Israel Museum "Pharaoh in Canaan – the Untold Story" Exhibit. Highly recommended

Sunday night my Cardiff friend Adrienne came to stay with her Abe. They had a Bar-Mitzva at the Kotel the next morning and stayed with us rather than schlepp from Haifa early in the morning. Adrienne and I talked of our childhood and our traditions, old friends and new lives, and I got to know Abe as we sat out on our veranda overlooking Jerusalem.

Why on earth would I bother with such normal stories when the world is going crazy? Because that is how we cope. We do not try to find logic in a world where a Palestinian terrorist who was shot by a soldier makes more news than ethnic cleansing in Africa, hundreds of thousands murdered in Syria and bombs in Churches in Iraq. We do not try to find logic in a world which denies the Holocaust to excuse their deeply rooted racism. We do not try to find logic in hatred for Israel which gives the world Tikkun Olam on every level, hatred based on lies and rhetoric. We cannot find logic in the media which spits hatred on Israel, ignores the killing of Christians, while kowtowing to Islam.
We do not try to find logic in the Shoah because there is none.

This afternoon all places of entertainment and restaurants will close, throughout Israel. The television will show only movies about the Shoah, testimonies of Survivors, stories of the greatest horror the world has ever known. Tomorrow morning, at 10:00 precisely, Israel will come to a standstill as the siren wails our grief. It is an eerie, all-encompassing grief, as if the souls of those who perished are screaming out "But you said Never Again". The siren wails over our amnesia, over our determined obliviousness to what is happening in our country – in your country. Jews are again the scapegoat after a clever, thorough and intentional campaign of anti-Semitic rhetoric by a very clever enemy.  

We believed it could never happen again but it has and is. Ethnic cleansing has taken place many times, cruel and determined. The Tutsi genocide in Rwanda; the Armenian genocide by the Turks; Cambodia, Bosnia, Darfur, Iraq, each horrific, each created by intense hatred, but none as precise, as calculated, as organised as the Holocaust. I cannot envisage 6 million Jews, or 10 million victims, I really cannot. Two nights ago we went to see a prize winning film at Yad Vashem "Son of Saul". The film doesn't follow the "usual" Holocaust movies – no foot-clicking Nazi guards or emaciated bodies; a hand-held camera follows the  face of the hero as he goes about his robotic gruesome business just trying to survive, until he decides to save the body of a young child. A harrowing and important movie. Tonight we will see a new production of "Anna" the story of Anne Frank at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv. I cannot imagine 6 million, but I can identify with one young girl.

Will our children remember? Will our children care? Can our children recognize the warning signs? Can we?

To set one lie aside, one that is perpetrated constantly as a great excuse to hate Israel, The Reverend Dumisani Washington speaks on Prager University about refugees – the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

To set another lie aside – The Temple Mount and UNESCO. Khaled Abu Toameh explains why the Palestinians don't want security cameras on the Temple Mount

The Holocaust was just a German thing- Prof Alan Dershowitz shows us the lie there too

As I look at the view from my veranda, I wonder why we are vilified. IsraAid is in Ecuador, Japan, Nepal, Haiti – wherever needed; Mashav, the governmental aid programme teaches agriculture to feed the hungry and provides medicine to the sick ; Save a Childs Heart Brings children to Israel irrespective of race or religion ; 180,000 Palestinians were treated in Israeli hospitals  - all this and so much more yet we are vilified. Why? Sadly, there can be only one reason.

Now do you understand why I began with the stories of a wonderful Passover? What holds us together as a people are traditions. What will keep us safe is our pride in what and who we are. The second we regret our inheritance as Jews and go back to the groveling, apologetic, Uriah Heep stance, we are lost.

Perhaps two songs relate to our constant struggle against hatred. Vehi Sheamda,  our Passover Prayer (English translation). The song has haunted me for days – I cannot stop singing it, praying

The second song is of greater importance perhaps. Al Kol Eleh – Above all this. The honey and the sting; the bitter and the sweet;

This morning I am meeting some very special friends at the Botanical Gardens Caffit. Surrounded by beauty, nature, kindness and personal history I can better understand the importance of our inherited memory of a time without beauty, nature, kindness and the determined attempt to wipe out our inherited memory.

Bring a little love into the world and the light will brighten a million lives. Bring honesty and morality and it will brighten a billion.

Remember, it starts with you.

With much love from Jerusalem, the Golden City, the core of our dreams and prayers.


Friday, 22 April 2016

160422 Shabbat Shalom Chag Pesach Sameach, Hillary, Trump, Bus bomb

Fri, 22 April 2016 = 14th of Nisan, 5776, י״ד בְּנִיסָן תשע״ו
Erev Pesach
Gosh, I really didn't think I would manage to write today, with 27 people coming to us for Seder night, but all is cooked and prepared, the tables are laid and I couldn't leave you in the air with such an important week.
Jerusalem was shaken out of her sense of "The Singles Intifada" when I suddenly looked from my veranda, as Rachel and the children left our place, to see a pall of black smoke rise from distant Talpiot, right next to Beit Tsafafa. The ambulances, fire-engines and police sirens began invoking memories of the 2nd Intifada and although the Israel police took time to confirm it, at first believing it was a mechanical fault in the bus engine – it was indeed a homicide bombing. The bomber, the terrorist was severely injured but didn't die. He was taken to Shaare Zedek hospital and given medical care equal to that of the young girl whose life he changed utterly in his moment of hatred. Ultimately he succumbed to his injuries. We are so sad, so sad, that the hatred continues to the extent that in the Ramallah people stood handing out candies in celebration.
UNESCO has decided…………. The Temple Mount, the wellspring of Judaism and Christianity, is not Jewish and therefore not Christian. If the Temple Mount is not Jewish and Christian then we don't exist presumably.
Through a friend, Michael Gal, I learned a new expression – confirmational bias. It means that one only listens to information which confirms your prior and self-serving thoughts. It clearly represents most students, a large number of politicians and certain Israelis who disappoint me most of all. I learned this week that there are Israelis who support BDS, who support Breaking the Silence and other disgraceful organisations. They take the very best out of Israel, growing up in an open and democratic society; socialized medicine for all; politically open; unfettered as to sexual preference; indeed living free then claiming we are a tyrannical occupying force!! I am sorry but such people have absolutely no concept of the truth and do not understand the oppression of our enemies on their people. It makes me cross.
Joe Biden disappointed me this week. He spoke out against our Prime Minister, who as you know I didn't vote for, but all but blamed him for the difficulties of negotiations. Perhaps he should look to the past and understand that without Hosni Mubarak to force the PA leaders into an agreement of sorts we stand no chance!!! They really don't want and agreement as Hillary Clinton told Bernie Sanders loud and clear.
Which brings me nicely to the Presidential candidates! And then there were two. Now it is The Donald against the Hillary -  we wait with bated breath.
Last Friday we went to a "veddink"! It was Libi Lauren and Eitans wedding in Tel Aviv. She looked gorgeous, her flower girls were amazing (Zvi's littlest grand-daughters) and their vows beautiful. We wish them a fulfilling life together, always taking the best, enjoying the ride and putting back even more. Her Daddy, David Efron (Honorary Consul for Israel to Puerto Rico) and Kathy Rundle walked Libi up the aisle to her Eitan, the biggest smile on their faces.
David brought a group of friends with him from Puerto Rico, most for their first trip to Israel, and they loved every moment – especially Zvi's guiding through his beloved Jerusalem and Hannas guiding in Bethlehem.
Jay Massirman came last weekend together with an excellent group of Real Estate Agents from Miami, on a Federation VIP trip. We were thrilled to see jay and his friends graciously allowed us to be part of their Shabbat. Jay – love you more each time!!!
Finally, but certainly not least, Elisabeth and George Gelb are here! They came ot help us rearrange our home yesterday and are joining us at our Seder table tonight. What joy!
That's it! Can't stop any longer, Seder awaits. Jerusalem has closed down – even though Zvi found me some kosher le Pesach borekas for lunch!!!!!
I just want to return to Michael Gals expression of confirmational bias and thought about the Four Sons of the Passover Story. The wise son, who wants to learn and works hard to understand; The wicked son who disregards out of hand any of the teachings; The Simple Son who in todays society doesn't know to ask because he was never shown the beauty of traditions and finally the son who is too young to ask……….. but perhaps is open to being taught. Remind you of anyone? Perhaps the middle two sons are lost, although love can bring them back, but the youngest can be shown. Without seeing traditions he can never make an educated choice.
I wish you a joyous Pesach, one filled with family. Remember when you sing the songs tonight – there is one you need to sing so loudly that someone outside your home will understand…… Le Shana Ha Ba'a B'Yerushalyim.  Next Year in Jerusalem – 2,000 years of yearning
Finally Vehi She'amda from the Haggadah (story) of Passover. Believe in Hashem and he will save us – a truly magnificent song
Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Pesach Sameach. Blessings from us to you, from Jerusalem to the world
With much love

Friday, 15 April 2016

160415 Sanders, Pesach, weddings

15th April, 2016

Shabbat Shalom to you, to yours and to all those for whom you care.

What a week! As you probably noticed I have done my very best to stay out of American politics, after all I get cross when our politics are misunderstood and those outside Israel think they understand when they don't, so do my best not to make the same mistake. However, even my wonderful personal watchdog couldn't keep me away from something that made me furious this week. The "proudly Jewish" Bernie Sanders took a new advisor. If I may paraphrase (with some careful editing to keep the language clean) Caroline Glick, with whom I rarely agree "Let us note that Bernie Sanders is running the most openly anti-Jewish campaign in presidential history. And like him, the chief purveyors of his animus to Jews, are other Jews. His new "Jewish outreach coordinator" Simone Zimmerman is a frothing at the mouth, potty mouthed Jewish anti-Semite who constantly demeans and derides Prime Minister Netanyahu using foul language to do so.

I have no love lost for Cruz and one can fairly criticise policies or personalities of both Trump and Clinton, but both have expressed pride in their daughters adoption of Judaism, even Trump has refrained from overly criticizing Israel and now this populist, supposedly proud Jew has thrown us to the dogs. If I have overstepped the mark then I apologise now to my Daniel, but that is how I feel. Sanders is equal to Member of Parliament Gerald Kaufman, the most anti-Semitic, anti-Israel Jew in Britain who also claims to be proud of his ancestry.

This campaign is not about Israel, it is about the United States, her standing as the leader of the Western world and her need to reduce the enormous fiscal debts. However, all of the candidates have made this about Israel. In a debate yesterday Hillary Clinton responded to a Sanders barb about mistreatment of the Palestinians with
'And let me say this, if Yassar Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the late 1990s to the offer that Prime Minister Barak had put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years already,'

That's it. Believe you me we have enough problems with our own politics and certainly with our own politicians. When you look at the Knesset, some are in prison, some are on trial, some are going to prison and then we have those who are so anti-Israel it is tantamount to treason!!! Haneen Zoabi was on the Mavi Marmara and worst of all we have one Member of Knesset whose wife won't be in a hospital bed next to an Arab, or treated by an Arab midwife or obstetrician and her MK husband agreed with her. You know what – that is also treachery.

Gosh, before Pesach I didn't want to speak of such distressing things but we all have to face facts. This is a time for cleaning our houses, both personal and national. It is up to us, up to our ability to speak out and stand up for what we know is right. To an extent we can only do that with our votes but we can also do what Stephen Ryde has done with his letters to Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour Party. Every single day Stephen writes an "Anti-Semitism Report" to Corbyn and other Labour leaders.  Every single day, they receive a report, written politely and strongly, and they now take note. They really do. Stephen, our one-man right-fighter. Kol ha Kavod.

I am really going forward with my Passover preparations, but managed to have a busy and fascinating week too.

On Sunday our lovely Australian friend Gloria Goldstein came from Tel Aviv (her car goes directly to the car park of the David Citadel so that is where we met) and headed off to Mahane Yehuda market. After mooching around for a little while, enjoying the sounds and aromas of that magical place, we walked down one of the many little alleyways and found ourselves at the "Casino de Paris". The purpose of our visit was not to eat but rather to meet with a very special group of people. The founder, staff and patients of the Yuri Shtern Foundation. for a little "haramat cosit" a raising of glasses to those who give of themselves selflessly, to help Cancer Patients and their families. One beautiful lady spoke, I didn't know her but now I cannot forget her. She spoke of her brush with cancer, the fears and uncertainties of treatments and most of all of how this unique organization, based in Shaare Zedek Hospital, eased her life and the lives of her family. I was deeply moved and felt enormous pride to be involved in an organization which struggles financially yet soldiers on to ensure that the toughest time in most peoples lives is met with kindness and therapies which ease their healing. Gloria now joins me in her admiration of their work and I was proud to introduce her to the staff.

Monday is Shouk Ramle day!!! I raced in going directly past all the costermongers yelling out their "just 5 shekels – everything for 5 shekels" and arrived at my destination – the sticker stall!! They had everything we need to ensure happy children at the Seder. Haggadas (the story of our Exodus from Egypt) which double as colouring books, quiz books about pesach, stickers for Pesach, indeed everything – and all at 10 for 10 shekels!! I managed to get back out in five minutes without being tempted by the cookware, shoes, spices, linens and underwear so that I could get to Osher Ad in time for opening. Osher Ad is a humungeous supermarket where all the goods are "Mahedrin" (super duper kosher) but every sector of Jerusalem society goes there to shop because they have great goods. As we stood outside, trolleys at the ready as if at the starting gate of a Grand Prix, we began chatting and at one point the lady next to me notice that I had a list of Passover necessities in my hand. "Can I see your list. I know I will forget things" Of course I gave her my list and then we began exchanging recipes at which point many others joined in. That's Israel!!!!!

On Tuesday I joined the Press Club at the Benedictine Abbey in Abu Ghosh, where we met Father Olivier. If you can imagine a French Benedictine Monk in a Moslem village singing Adon Olam in Hebrew with the phenomenal acoustics of the crypt of the Abbey……… you may begin to understand Israel!! Abu Ghosh is the name of the family, or clan, of Abu Ghosh who came from Chechnya many centuries ago. They are not Arabs, are totally attached to Israel, study the Israeli curriculum in schools and although predominantly Moslem, is a modern integrated town which enjoys economically from being a part of Israeli society. On the main Jerusalem Tel Aviv highway – it is well worth a stop and their hummus is absolutely scrummy! The Abu Ghosh music festival is an essential part of Israels cultural scene and simultaneously the Abu Ghosh Hummus Festival is a wonderful sidetrack!

We went to a gorgeous wedding last night and today, ah today is the culmination of a fascinating rite of passage for the daughter of one of our closest friends. Lauren Libi Efron came on a Masa trip about five years ago. As she studied, served, learned and volunteered I saw a complete turnaround from a fashion conscious child/girl to a socially conscious young woman who today will become "Sadie Sadie married lady"!!! Libi is marrying Eitan in Tel Aviv. Zvis little grandchildren are the flower girls (and boy) and I can already see her father Davids pride as he walks her up the aisle. David Efron is the Honorary Consul for Israel in Puerto Rico and outspoken proponent for Israel. Mazal Tov! The Efrons, David, Kathy, Libi and Eitan, will join us for Seder night as they have done for many years.

If I were to describe the ultimate Jew, it would be a kind, gentle, honest, proud Jew who works for Tikkun Olam, loves the country in which he resides while supporting the country of his ancestors. In fact I would be describing Saul Same. Saul, proud Australian, beloved of Prime Ministers for generations, never missing a chance to tell everyone he was born in Beer Tuvia in Palestine. Saul Same, whose love for his Lucy was legendary; Saul Same who never missed an opportunity to tell you he loved you. Saul, who was described by one Australian Prime Minister as the epitome of a Mensch, finally went to join his Lucy. Saul passed away two days ago in Melbourne leaving behind him a legacy of honest and love. We miss you dear Saul – miss knowing such a fine man exists in our every increasingly difficult world. May your sweet soul rest in peace.

Tonight we return for Shabbat and will have Shabbat dinner with Jay Massirman who is here on an Israel trip and loving every second. Adventures galore including a helicopter tour of Israel from above, north to south (it doesn't take very long we are a tiny country!). So happy he is here and thrilled with every moment of his trip.

I guess that is it for this week. Next week the final "shvung" into Pesach. Zvi is already complaining that he can't find anything but that is normal. We have 27 for Seder night and I am relieved to tell you that I finally learned to ask for help. George and Elisabeth Gelb are stepping up and helping out at whatever I need! I no longer have an excuse to hold back since my surgeon announces he is really pleased with me yesterday – but admittedly warned against overdoing it…….. trouble is I don't know how to underdo it!!!!

I know this is a bit of a long letter but I must tell you one last thing. I happily made a shidduch between Elisabeth and David Geffen, creator of Lovingclassroom and it worked out! David is going to British Columbia in May!

I know you will love this  music sent to me by my friend Sheila Zucker.

Each Seder Night, after we have told the story of our Exodus from slavery to freedom and all the reasons and explanations – and eaten ourselves silly – we sing. One of the songs the children love is Ehad Mi Yodea – who knows one. Here is a translation and wonderful version.

I hope I will manage to write next week but am not sure. Between easing Zvi's back after schlepping our Passover dishes and utensils up 3 flights of stairs from the store room - to cooking and preparing for our big Seder night -I may not quite manage it but promise to try.

I know I have missed many aspects of this weeks news, but sadly, in our world of today, every day becomes more distressing. We live in interesting times.

On that happy note – I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem. Remember the importance of standing up and standing out. The fear of being seen and heard is our greatest enemy.