Friday, 16 February 2018

180216 Parkland, Guns, Iran-Syria, Netanyahu

16th February 2018
I wish you a good Shabbes, a peaceful Shabbat, a weekend without tragedy.

My heart is breaking for the families of those children whose lives were taken by a crazed gunman in Parkland, Florida. I cannot imagine what horrors the other children saw, but they will be haunted by it for the rest of their lives.  I am furious that a crazed criminal, known to the FBI, the police and the local school authorities could walk into a store and buy an assault rifle AND WALK INTO THE SCHOOL UNHINDERED. I am sick and tired of being attacked personally because I find the gun culture abhorrent – and equally tired of being told that crime in Britain is worse than the USA when all the statistics that I carefully researched say that petty crime is possibly higher but gun crime, murders etc is definitely not. It is irrelevant to yesterday's horror but if you wish here it the proof.

20 years ago there was a mass shooting in a school in Dunblane, Scotland after which the British Government introduced strict gun control laws and there have been no further such incidents – 22 years ago, in Port Arthur, Tasmania a gunman opened fire and killed 35 people, within 2 weeks Australia introduced strict gun control, there have been no more mass shootings. If the issue is freedom then give children the freedom to live. The amendment giving people the right to carry arms is hundreds of years old – time to change.

As to violence in schools – my family always called me Pollyanna because I try to find the good in all people and all things, but I am a realistic optimist! As Zvi taught me, there are no problems we just need to find solutions. I believe in Rabbi David Geffen and his incredible programme to bring love to schoolchildren, even in the most "difficult" schools. It works

The Prime Minister of Israel is about to be indicted on corruption charges after an interminable investigation and the country is in turmoil. The satirists are having a field day and I am sick and tired of hearing of the antics of the Prime Ministers household. I don't know if the Prime Minister is guilty of bribery or of extreme hedonism and misuse of friendships to feed his desire for rich friends, fine cigars and champagne, but we are at a terrifying crossroads in a confused world and we need someone whose mind is utterly on the good of the country. It was Benjamin Netanyahu who made a long speech telling Ehud Olmert that he had to resign during that investigation because Prime Minister Olmert could not concentrate on the job of Prime Minister – for charges that dim compared with the current charges against the Netanyahu family.  Netanyahu supporters have verbally attacked the Chief of Police, the Attorney General but when the leader of the Likud Party stood in the Knesset and called Yair Lapid a "nark" or "grass" because  he told the truth when asked by the police to testify before the investigation I understood that the Party had reached an all-time low.

I don't know if you received my midweek update concerning the Syrian/Iranian/Israeli cross border incident, please let me know if not. This is the potted history that brought us to the incident

A potted history since the first time I saw Lebanon
1.     Lebanon 1963 there was no real border between Lebanon and Israel– a Jewish country and a Christian country, not enemies. We stood and chatted with Lebanese soldiers the other side of a car park like barrier and wandered in and out of both countries for a photo-op
2.     1970 – Arafat attempts a failed coup in Jordan, causes deaths of at least 10,000 PLO supporters at the hands of King Hussein and is flees Jordan. Syria refuses to accept him and he and his cohorts are accepted by Lebanon – in a move of Christian sympathy.
3.     Since that date the advance of destructive forces of Hezb-Allah have grown in Lebanon, destroying that once Christian country from the "Pearl of the Middle East" (Beirut) into a war zone.
4.     Hezb-Allah is supported by Iran.
5.     Iran takes advantage of and encourages the dreadful war in Syria with the help of Hezb-Allah which until the insertion of Iran in the equation was a failing organisation.
6.     Iran is delighted to take advantage of the utter chaos and establish bases in Syria which gives them a strong foothold in the region.
7.     Iran brings "volunteers" from Pakistan etc to help them in the training of Syrian troops in advanced warfare and establishes military bases in Syria.
8.     Syria shoots an advanced anti-aircraft missile from an equally advanced drone at an Israeli aeroplane, successfully downing the F16i on Israeli soil, the first time that an Israeli aeroplane has been downed in very many years.
9.     Israel decides to retaliate successfully targetting 12 Syrian and Iranian installations – whose sole aim, apparently, is to destroy Israel – in the words of the Iranian leaders.
10.  There is a media message to the world, cleverly worded, that Israel is the aggressor even if the reaction is justified.
11.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has telephone conference with President Putin who is also trying to prevent the escalation.
12.  A world that stayed silent over the murder of over 500,000 Syrians at the hands of a despot leader is suddenly concerned about Israel responding to an attack on her soil.

Israel does not take the possibility of war with Iran lightly but since they have infiltrated virtually every one of our neighbouring countries (despite the best efforts of Jordan and Egypt), and have a Government Ministry dedicated to the annihilation of Israel I think we had the right to defend ourselves. I am happy to say that both pilots who ejected are now safe. The badly injured pilot is in a room beside a Syrian patient brought to Israel by the IDF for treatment. Just another anomaly in the story of this region.

Incidentally, the issue of Russian interference in the United States elections has risen yet again. Understand two simple facts. Everyone, every country interferes in every country's election!! It is a given!! Fact number two? Every country spies on every other country. What? You seriously thought that all the Embassy staff brought in are actually guards, clerks, attaches and secretaries?

This was a quiet week – yes it happens on occasion! The heavens opened and the rain came down, probably because I bragged about the glorious spring weather last week! When I say a quiet week, it was a special week. Yuval came into the world! Yuval is the newest baby to join the Raviv family, a beautiful little girl, the fourth daughter for Zvi's son Leor and his wife Shiri. Of course the family is very excited, especially Amit, Gili and Ori who chose the name Yuval for their little sister. Mazal Tov to all concerned a fabulous start to the week!!

I am always fascinated by Israeli hospitals. This time it was in the Meir Medical Centre in Kfar Saba. The patients and staff run the full gamut of Israeli society, in fact there were far more Arab patients than Jewish – and that is great! We all wish each other "Refuah Shlemah" a complete recovery with nary a thought of religious leanings.  I just wish all those who claim Israel is an apartheid state would come and really visit Israel, especially the hospitals. Perhaps they should compare it to what happens when Israelis find themselves in a Palestinian town

This is a very special Shabbat for us. As soon as I finish writing I am going to the airport to greet the El Al flight 008 from NYC carrying my eldest son Daniel, his lovely wife Karen and my unbelievably incredible grandchildren Joshua and Callie! On our way home we will stop in Givat Zeev so that Rachel, Igal, Yosef, Talia and Ayala can get their hugs in and I can get my Challot and a load of photos to send to the "Londoners". Tomorrow we will spend with Leor and Amiad and their children, so that they can break the language barrier and play together. I am beyond excited. The Shabbat table has been laid and ready for two days and all their favourite foods cooked! Wow…………. This is exciting!!!

When the world appears too filled with hate and division I listen to music. David Broza "Yihyeh Tov"
Shiri Maimon with Shir le Shalom – a song to peace
Finally the answer to it all, right David Geffen? All You Need is Love
I wish us all a kinder world, one in which Yuval can grow up safely, surrounded by love.

In this weeks Parasha, G-d tells us how to put together a "tent" that He can descend to be amongst us. Perhaps the elements of the tent are symbolic and the true elements are love, compassion, empathy and humility.

With all our love, from the Veranda, from our home and from Jerusalem.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

180211 Midweek Update Syria-Iran

11th February 2018
Mid-week update
After the rather dramatic happenings of last two days I thought you deserve an explanation
A Russian missile
Shot by Syrian soldier
Backed up by Iranian officer
Downed an American plane
Flown by an Israeli pilot
Who was saved by an Israeli Arab Doctor
In an Israeli hospital
With a Syrian patient in the next room
Welcome to the Middle East!

A potted history since the first time I saw Lebanon
1. Lebanon 1963 there was no real border between Lebanon and Israel– a Jewish country and a Christian country, not enemies. We stood and chatted with Lebanese soldiers the other side of a car park-like barrier arm and wandered in and out of both countries for a photo-op
2. 1970 – Arafat attempts a failed coup in Jordan, causes deaths of at least 10,000 PLO supporters at the hands of King Hussein and flees Jordan. Syria refuses to accept him and he and his cohorts are accepted by Lebanon – in a move of Christian sympathy.
3. Since that date the advance of destructive forces of Hezb-Allah have grown in Lebanon, destroying that once Christian country from the "Pearl of the Middle East" (Beirut) into a war zone.
4. Hezb-Allah is supported by Iran.
5. Iran takes advantage of and encourages the dreadful war in Syria with the help of Hezb-Allah which until the insertion of Iran in the equation was a failing organisation.
6. Iran is delighted to take advantage of the utter chaos and establish bases in Syria which gives them a strong foothold in the region.
7. Iran brings "volunteers" from Pakistan etc to join Hezb-Allah in Syria and help in the training of Syrian troops in advanced warfare and establishes military bases in Syria.
8. Syria shoots a Russian made advanced anti-aircraft missile from an equally advanced drone at an Israeli aeroplane, successfully downing the F16i on Israeli soil, the first time that an Israeli aeroplane has been downed in very many years.
9. Israel decides to retaliate successfully targetting 12 Syrian and Iranian installations – whose sole aim, apparently, is to destroy Israel – in the words of the Iranian leaders.
10. There is a media message to the world, cleverly worded, that Israel is the aggressor even if the reaction is justified.
11. Prime Minister Netanyahu has telephone conference with President Putin who is also trying to prevent the escalation.
12. A world that stayed silent over the murder of over 500,000 Syrians at the hands of a despot leader is suddenly concerned about Israel responding to an attack on her soil.
I wish you a good week
With love from Jerusalem

Friday, 9 February 2018

180209 Poland, Antisemitism, Koreas, Spring


9th February 2018

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well and my family in North America and the UK are not too cold. Just to make everyone jealous, the weather here has been glorious. Yesterday was 25C and just glorious. The balmy spring weather has persuaded the Shkediot (almond blossom), nuriot (rununculus), the first Calaniot (poppies) and Rakafot (wild cyclamen –to burst into blossom. Indeed thanks to the recent rains then sunshine the fertile land of the Negev Desert are abloom with scarlet, blue and purple! Yes, spring may not have sprung but it is certainly springing!!!

Semantics- semantics - semantics. Polish Anti-Semitism has a long and broad history; while it is true that the Concentration Camps were not a Polish conception, nor did Poles bring the death camps to fruition, but, while the Jewish shtetl sounds romantic it was most certainly a form of concentration of the Jews to make controlling them and exiling them easier. Poles did not create the Concentration Camps but those who condemned the camps were few and far between and precious.

Talking about Antisemitism, be it from without or within, a growing trend among those who know no better.

Again a natural segway from those Jews who denigrate Judaism to the simple fact that despite the rumours that have been twisted and shouted from the rooftops, the egalitarian section of the Kotel is being extended

A young man. Just 29 years old and the father of four, was waiting quietly for a lift to town when a man suddenly, for no reason other than the fact he was there, crossed the road, stabbed and killed him. In most cities it is an everyday tragedy/crime but in Israel it is different. Itamar Ben Gal z"l was a Jew, not just a Jew but a Jew who lived in a "Settlement" so he deserved to die because ……….he shouldn't have been there. What? What utter nonsense, nobody deserves to die at the hands of a crazed killer just because he is a Jew! Settlements (the English word for small new towns) is a collective word in these parts for Jews who want to live in the antithesis to the shtetl – they simply want to live their lives, not to harm or interfere with anyone else. Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal was a kind man, father of four tiny children, teacher of excellence, whose death was described as "the death of a settler by stabbing" by the foreign media – if they bothered at all. His killer? A young man whose father is Palestinian and Mother is Israeli – he is Israeli, he has been in institutions since babyhood, a drug addict and a felon who has now added terrorism killing to his long CV.

Illegal immigration is a world problem. Israel has been relatively kind to its work-seekers who were mostly free until asked to voluntarily leave the country. Israel paid Ruanda, a relatively organised country, to take those who agreed to leave. In interviews in Ruanda they said Israel is good to them.

I feel deep concern for the people of Gaza. They suffer a corrupt and violent regime under Hamas and their entire economy is about to collapse. They have limited electricity supplies which means that they have no fresh water and limited electricity means their sewage cannot be treated……… and flows straight to the beaches of Ashkelon in Israel! During the time that international funding was constant, Hamas used those funds for arms and tunnels – neither food for its citizens nor payment of debts. Their border with Egypt is hermetically closed; with Israel there is strict security but Israel continues providing subsistence goods; the USA is stopping funding UNWRA, who misused the aid money but also provided food for children and the PA has stopped funding the poverty stricken area. Saeb Erekat announced last week that the USA decision to stop funding would cause starvation among Palestinian children yet Mahmoud Abbas just bought a $50 million private plane!  In the meantime Israel and Egypt are working together to wipe out the presence of Da'esh and Al Qaeeda in Sinai.

The Winter Games 2018 are beginning in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 92 countries and 2,952 athletes are participating, but as far as the world is concerned there are two countries that have come together as one. Incredibly North and South Korea are marching under one flag. If one thinks about the reportage of just a few months ago "Trump has brought us to the brink of war with Kim" it is a surprising result even before the games begin!

On Sunday I went to the Israel Museum to meet two wonderful friends who volunteer there. The Museum is a credit to Jerusalem and to Israel in its vast collections but for me, the most important collections are Judaica, with its ancient synagogues brought intact from Suriname, Cochin, Italy, Germany and Poland, and archaeology. On Monday I met my friend Ruth Dodziuk-Justitz for lunch at the Botanical Gardens. I love that place, it is so serene and the food outstanding. Ruth is a relatively new friend, she and her husband are here for a year's Sabbatical, but I have a feeling they will be here for much longer! I sincerely hope so!

On Tuesday I went to a lecture by Professor Avi Weiss, of the Taub Center, on "Israel's State of the Nation". It was fascinating! I suggest you look at their website and click on each report – or, if like me you find all those numbers difficult then go to the graphs. The information covers all aspects of Israeli life in all of the sectors.

Talking of the state of the nation of Israel, I hear the occasional voice "If things are so good in Israel why should we give money"? Well, as far as I know American Universities are hardly poor but one donates to ones Alma Mater. Israel is the Jewish peoples Alma Mater and as a people we desperately need that "kesher" that connection with our past and our heritage. It has nothing to do with charity, it has everything to do with a connection with family and ancestry. If you want charity then I can suggest several exceptional NGO's that do phenomenal work but get little help from governmental, municipal or organizational funding – but don't throw the baby with the bath water of religious or political differences. We are all family and family sticks together through thick and thin – and now it's thin.

Wednesday was full of meetings for both of us, and so was Thursday………….. when I wasn't cooking in preparation for Friday night and Shabbat!!! Tonight we are 17 for Shabbat Dinner. What? You want the menu? OK. We will begin with two kinds of soup – "Orange" soup (orange coloured veggies) and Pea soup for the children; moving on we have Oven Grilled salmon, Chicken balls a la Stephanie in tomato sauce and Chicken Korma with Basmati Rice, Aubergines with Tehina, Moroccan mushrooms, Hummous, roasted cauliflower, cabbage salad, chopped salad and baby veggies for the children, followed by poached pears in cinnamon and apple juice and fresh citrus salad. If I have time I'll do something chocolate for the children. Tomorrow we have 10 friends coming after Shabbat to celebrate the incredible achievements of Prof Gabby Barkay on becoming Yakir Yerushalayim. You know Gabby's story, I have told it often, but we decided to bring together a few of his (and Zvi's) childhood friends for afternoon tea and to raise a glass of bubbly to Gabby. I won't bore you with that menu – enough is enough!!!!

At the beginning of this missive I described the glorious spring weather in Israel. The bonus, one of many, is that the almond blossoms, the shkediot, turn every hillside into puffs of pink and white clouds. It is really spectacular. In the middle of the country they travel for a long time to see the almond in blossom, here in Jerusalem, even rubbish dumps become sights of beauty as the almond trees emerge! The sunrise has been breathtaking each morning giving me cause to go out onto our veranda, still chilly at 06:00 in the morning, to breathe in the crisp air and watch the sunrise over the horizon while sipping my coffee, Jerusalem silhouetted in the foreground. The first daffodil has emerged, like a ray of sunshine in itself and anemones are tentatively peeping through ready to burst into colour, the tulip leaves give promise of a colourful spring. The kumquat tree is laden with fruit and the lemon tree is bravely holding on to her bright yellow gifts so that my frozen New York grandchildren Callie and Joshua can pick them when they arrive next Friday.

I leave the pomegranates on the tree so that the birds can visit during the lean winter months and eat their crimson ripeness. It provides us with a delightful selection of garden visitors. My favourite is the "Tsufit" a tiny iridescent blue-black bird, which dips its long beak into the fruits (and flowers) like a humming-bird, all the while whistling its distinctive song.

It is time to finish cooking and set the tables (one isn't really enough for 17 people). I haven't yet decided whether to have a grown-up table and a children's table and put games on their table for entertainment, or constrain them to sitting at the big peoples table……. Not that anyone will be sitting for very long. Actually that isn't true, little Yonatan, age three and a half, sits and eats like a gentleman! His favourite food? Salmon in any form! This will be the last full Friday night dinner with Zvi's boys and families for a little while because Shiri, Leor's wife, is about to give birth to their 4th girl…………. May it be with great ease and beautiful results, or as we say here in Israel "B'Sha'ah Tova".

Gosh is it really that time already? Music…………

Calaniot – Anemones – bright red carpets of them even in the desert after the life-giving rains, are the second harbinger of spring. The calaniot of Kibbutz Shekonda are probably the most spectacular in Israel although I love the wildness of the Valley of the Cross in Jerusalem where they mix with the wild cyclamen The Calanit is the national flower of Israel but it was recently renamed in this region as the Palestine Poppy………. Even though it is an anemone! Shoshana Dimari sings her traditional song to this spectacular flower

With Holocaust denial on the rise alongside horrifying incidents of anti-semitism perhaps we should think about how we, as a people, survived to fight another day. We learned to shrug off the horrors around us, and no matter how diabolical the punishment for being Jewish we dared to hope for a better day.

Time to go, I want to see what Zvi's plans are for today and to drink our coffee together. He already brought in the table extension and moved the lounge furniture around so that I can make the major seating plans and bring out the beautiful crockery and decorations for Shabbat. Of course he will go to his parliament because how can the world be put to rights without it?

Happy, happy birthday to the lovely Gloria Goldstein. Dear Gloria – I hope you will come home soon – we miss you!

Shabbat Shalom with love from Jerusalem and our beautiful mirpesset (veranda) with its view of Jerusalem.


Friday, 2 February 2018

180202 Poland, Nikky Haley, State of the Union, Chelsea,

2nd February 2018

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope this missive finds you well.

With devastating irony, less than one week after the whole world supposedly remembers those who died in the Holocaust, the Polish Parliament passed a law that made it illegal to use the terms "Polish Death Camps" or "Polish Concentration Camps".  They insist that they be called German or Nazi camps. True, they didn't initiate them but they did initiate over 100 years of pogroms and they willingly accepted the role of landlord to the camps. Perhaps the most apt letter written about International Holocaust Day is that of one of my heroines in this world, Kay Wilson, Jewess, Israeli, survivor of a diabolical hatchet attack while guiding a friend who was killed before her eyes right here in Israel. Read her words, even if you don't want to.

Talking of women who are heroines, I have a new one! Nikky Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, is a tenacious and steadfast prolocutor for her country and the USA's moral stance in a highly immoral and duplicitous organisation. The United States "pays a high price to be disrespected"

Last week I promised you the Jerusalem Press Club link to the outstanding lecture by Brigadier General Yossi Kupperwasser on the security situation in the Middle East. Here it is – it is fascinating.

An incident in Bethlehem was virtually ignored by the international media. A group of United States officials was invited by the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce to give a workshop on digital commerce and had to flee because of the riots against them.

President Trump, gave his "State of the Union" speech. He spoke of and reported on achievements in finance, international trade, employment and introduced people he felt worthy of praise. In a country that claims to be the birthplace of democracy and the flagship thereof I was horrified to see a video of Democrats in San Diego throwing shoes at the screen as President Trump spoke. Firstly, that is not an American tradition, it is a Moslem expression of scorn and contempt, secondly – are you serious? Freedom of expression? I didn't vote for Benjamin Netanyahu, wouldn't vote for him, but, when he does good things I applaud because that is good for our country, I could never imagine showing such contempt for the democratically elected leader of my country. I may criticise, roundly criticise, but show such idiotic contempt – never. Just incidentally, the media concentrated on illegal immigrants but in fact I checked and I have a video of both Clinton and Obama saying virtually the same thing about illegal immigrants – perhaps even stronger!!!!

Having said that, the sheer hedonism of the Netanyahu family is currently deeply distressing to most Israelis. I would be lying if I were not worried that a Premiere's wife wields such power. However that argument is for another day.

There is uproar about Israel's illegal immigrants being sent to a second country – at least, there is uproar about the African illegals being sent to a second country, nobody said a word about all the Eastern European illegals who were a) the vast majority and b) were also "repatriated".

Great leaders have great advisors. Moses was a wise and great leader but it was his Father in Law, Jethro, who taught him the rule of leadership – surround yourself with wise people who are capable of dealing with the day to day problems and ensure that you have to deal only with the earth shattering ones. Perhaps it would do several of our world leaders to read this week's Torah portion to understand that principle.

I absolutely adore my grandson Zachary! This week I realised that he is not just beautiful and clever, he is also wise. Zachary, or as he is known in the family Zackaroony, is an avid fan of Chelsea Football Club. When I say fan I mean he knows all the players, their families, history and if they are nice people; Zacky collects books and stickers of the club. I always thought it was a normal 9 year old fad. This week I found out that it is so much more. Chelsea football club is on an all-out battle against antisemitism. Before the match huge screens showed players and Israeli personalities speaking out against antisemitism and a huge circular sign held the motto. Bravo Zackaroony – bravo Chelsea

This week was a good week. I went to two shouks (markets) a wonderful uplifting lunch with incredible women and a meeting of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre which brought huge hope.

It started on Monday morning when I went to Shouk Ramle, not in Ramle but rather in the Malha Train Station car park. Arriving early, 08:30, since I hate the seething mass of shoppers later on, I went in, bought the little jackets I set out to buy, found Zvi some amazing guavas and left…… all before most of the stalls had been set up!!!! From there I drove to Modiin, a dormitory new town about half way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There I met up with my 5 soul-mates – friends from our childhood in Wales. None of us would live anywhere else, we love our lives here in Israel, but there is something very special about being with women who already know who you are, your achievements and your tragedies, so that one can simply relax and speak of Cabbages and Kings.

That evening I headed to the German Colony and the tiny apartment that creates miracles for Cancer patients and their families. As you know, I am on the Board of the Yuri Shtern Foundation, Holistic Centre created by Lena Shtern to honour her wonderful husband MK Yuri Shtern z"l. Thanks to the incredible work of all the staff and the giving volunteer therapists this has been a wonderful year of increased activities. We have extended into the Paediatric Oncology department of Shaare Zedek Hospital and have increased the course together with the Reidman School of Complimentary Medicine. We never have enough money, despite the efforts of Varda and Ayala, but when there is a loving determination to help others, to give of ones innate talents to ease the pain, anything is possible.

On Wednesday I went to your favourite place - Mahane Yehuda. Actually Zvi was there earlier in the week for a good Hummous and a chat with Ron and Rena Katz and Ron's Mother. I love that place. As I pull into the car park I feel the excitement grow and then walking down the few steps into the market itself, nothing like it. "Shalom, ma shlomchem"? Shalom how are you? from all the costermongers who take a break from shouting their wares to greet us. This week the market was even more colourful than usual since it was Tu b'Shvat – the new year for trees and a delightful harvest festival – the festival of dried fruits. I bet you didn't realise how many fruits can be dried!!! Everything from pineapple to mango, kiwi, strawberries, mango, forest fruits, apples, prunes, apricots and fruit tisanes. It was a joy – the colours and aromas were amazing. Of course we went through Tzidkiyahu's stall with it's myriad of olives, pickled and cured in a hundred ways; Middle Eastern delicacies glaore – I highly recommend his beef patties with tehina in the centre!!!

I didn't really understand the titles of the Blue Moon, Blue Bloody Moon but it certainly brought back memories of sitting on the grass in Lady Margaret Beaufort High School for Girls in Cardiff, with my buddies and singing………. or

Tonight we have guests. All the children are busy so we took the opportunity to invite friends for Shabbat Dinner. The table is laid, white cloth, beautiful dishes, and most of the food is already prepared. Tonight is a milk meal, "orange" soup, salmon, roasted with sweet chilli and garlic, charred, roasted aubergine with tehina, Zvi's famous courgette salad, stuffed peppers, a big green salad, sliced beefsteak tomatoes with Israeli buffalo mozzarella, and a dessert that has not yet been devised! Of course we begin with singing – Shabbat Shalom and Shalom Aleichem n – and then Zvi may, or may not, recite Eshet Chayil, Woman of Worth – it's not that he doesn't love me just that we sometimes forget!!! Kiddush, the blessing over the wine then bless the Challot, Rachel's delicious intricately braided Challot. Oh yes, of course I am going to see the children just as soon as I finish writing to you!

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom – a Shabbat of peace and contemplation, of acceptance and the will to fight for the good of mankind. Remember, Tikkun Olam is the basis of Judaism – or as Rabbi Hillel, who was born in Babylon in 110 BCE, said "What is hateful unto you do not do unto your neighbor"

With love from our blossoming, fruitful verandah. Yes Daniel, I am successfully gluing the lemons and kumquats to the tree (haha) so that Joshua and Callie can pick them in two weeks!!


Thursday, 25 January 2018

180125 Yakir Yerushalyim Gabby Barkay, Pence visit, Kerry, Arab MK's


28th January 2018

It was the best of times it was the worst of times, so said Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities. It is a time of huge achievement and a time of unutterable misanthropy, so said Sheila Raviv in Jerusalem.

It is with enormous pride that I begin with the great achievement of our friend, Zvi's childhood friend, Professor Gabriel Barkay. Gabby has been named as a recipient of the coveted title "Yakir Yerushalyim" – Beloved of Jerusalem. Gabby is a renowned archaeologist but his work to return the earth dug out and discarded by Sheik Rayeed Salah from underneath the Temple Mount has, over the last 11 years, revealed vast numbers of priceless relics of our history including pre-First Temple. When the various authorities told him it was too dangerous to go and retrieve the hundreds of truckloads of ancient earth Gabby was undaunted. I am so proud of him.,com_adsmanager/page,display/tid,436994/catid,99/Itemid,361/

Among the worthy recipients is Professor Avi Rifkind, who during the Second Intifada created the Hadassah Trauma Unit, saving the lives of innumerable patients; Chef Shalom Kadosh who, in his humble manner, has done so much to ensure that Israeli and Jerusalem epicurean delights are known throughout the world. Chef Kadosh organised the amazing King David's Feast to celebrate Jerusalem 3000, with major chefs from all over the world, all producing incredible dishes using only kosher ingredients.

I don't know if I would go so far as to call John Kerry a misanthrope, but in my secret thoughts I do. Zvi and I met him some 12 years ago and were deeply unimpressed, finding him an utterly unsympathetic and harsh character from every aspect. His "work" during the Obama Administration caused many deaths in the Middle East and now his true character is once again emerging. In "private" meetings with Hussein Agha, personal advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry advised them to ignore the Trump Administrations negotiations "to stay strong in spirit and play for time and not break and not yield to Trumps demands". The word is that he intends running for the Presidency. G-d help America.

Apparently the Administration in the USA is in shutdown. What on earth is shutdown? Anyway I looked it up and discovered it happens quite frequently!!!!

The Mike and Karen Pence visit to Jerusalem was both emotional and important. His speech in the Knesset, his stammered uttering of the Hebrew prayer "Shehechiyanu, vekimanu, vehigiyanu lzman hazeh" Who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this day. During the Vice President's speech the members of the Arab List suddenly held up placards announcing "Jerusalem is the Capital of Palestine" breaking every conceivable ethical and moral code of Knesset Protocol. It is high time they decided if they represent Israeli Arabs or Palestine – currently they do not represent their constituency here in Israel.

The usual formalities took place, visits to both the Prime Ministers and the Presidents homes, to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, their stay at the King David, all were reported; his announcement that the US Embassy would move to Jerusalem within a year caused the usual ripples; his private visit to the Kotel, the Western Wall, with his wife was considered a hugely positive visit except for a few Israeli women journalists  who strongly objected to the "mechitsa", the fence which divides men and women at the site. Had they just turned around they could have captured a story the men could not – Karen Pence quietly reciting the Psalms at the women's section. I know my words may be unpopular but these same women tend to admire major women journalists such as Christiane Annapour and Lyse Doucet who cover their heads and arms in Arab countries in order to show respect – I have never been a fan of double standards. Had they spent more time working instead of complaining then they would have also captured some truly amazing photographs as did Sharon Marks Altshul. Since a picture is worth a thousand words……..

Israel is a tiny country. For many years, because of our open door policy, African immigrants suffered the horrors of a long trek and the cruelty of the Sinai Bedouin in order to cross into Israel. Some were genuine asylum seekers but the vast majority are work seekers. It was against Jewish moral code to throw them out which sadly left us with a conundrum that is appears to have no solution. To allow them all to stay here, tens of thousands, is not an option, to discover who are genuine asylum seekers and who are not is virtually impossible and the option of sending back from whence they came seemingly immoral. The option of sending them to a third country is, however, an option. The cries from outside Israel are loud and harsh but when one think about it, their treatment here is better than most countries where they would be held in jail at the airports, in mean conditions, until deportation. The hypocrisy on the subject is phenomenal. In the USA currently there is outrage at the Presidents statements on illegal immigration but…….. wait…….. isn't that exactly what President Clinton said just a few years ago?

Yohanatan Geffen is a poet, some would say a major Israeli poet. That he is on the left is fine, we need diversity of thought especially in the arts but, what is left and what goes too far? In a recent poem he compared Ahed Tamimi to Anne Frank and Hannah Senesh. Who is Ahed Tamimi? The 16 year old Palestinian girl who since the age of 6 or 7 has goaded, punched, kicked, hit and spat at Israeli soldiers to great attention from the international press. Yohanatan Geffen, nephew of Moshe Dayan, father of Aviv Geffen – shame on you.

Last week, in my extremely hurried missive, I spoke of people we met on the cruise. One morning as we sat at breakfast I noticed the two wonderful boys at the next table "Your children are so well behaved they are a pleasure" I told the parents. We began talking, Carla and Alex Tetievsky and their two boys are from Argentina, now living outside Barcelona and travel some 120 kilometres each week to bring their boys to Kabbalat Shabbat in Barcelona. We became firm friends and it seems they have never been to Israel but want to. My dream is that they will come to our home for Pesach. We also met up with and became friends with Jaquie and David Sackwild from London which was great fun as we travelled around the Canary Isles together. Indeed, as I have recently learned, our habit of talking to everyone, loving new people, getting to hear of their lives is perhaps the healthiest route to stay young.

This has been a good week. On Tuesday I met with my friend Merav at the beautiful coffee shop in the "Shalva" building. We had a marvellous time, chatting about everything and then as we left we remembered……… The Pence retinue was on its way to Yad Vashem, very close to where we were, and we were stuck. Thinking I was very clever I turned left ionstead of right and Merav, also thinking I was very clever followed me. We spoke about 10 times as we sat immobile!! Finally she said she had turned and was on her way home, my route cleared as the bus that was stuck beside the road works got through and we both put it down to "That's Life" when US dignitaries come to visit!!!!

In a few minutes I must leave you for a while and head off with Zvi to the Jerusalem Press Club in the glorious Yemin Moshe neighborhood overlooking the Old City walls descending and then ascending the 150 steps to the JPC, to hear Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser speak. I will report!!! Oh my goodness that was incredible! What a genius speaker! We covered Iran, the Shia-Sunni power struggle; European blindness; the importance of the new American alliances; the importance of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem (if you remember I have been saying that for ages); the poor me attitude of the PA is wearing thin with the world – it is no longer sufficient excuse for failing as an authority or getting funding for terror. As soon as the video is put onto the Jerusalem Press Club site I will put it on FB.

In life if one is really lucky, friends become family. So it has been with the Selig family. My Daniel and Justin became firm friends at Carmel College and Justins parents Daphne and Abba, his sister Eliana with my Rachel became inseparable. Daniel and Justin did their "gap year" together in Canada, the USA and Israel. As time went on Daniel went to the USA and Justin and Daniella to London where the friendship continued with Gideon and Stephanie. Special people. Last year we lost Ivan (Abba) and a few days ago Daphne went to her peace. The world was a better place for their lives. Miss them but they were meant to be together. May their souls rest in peace. Love you Paddy.

In 1979 Israel didn't try to be "international" for the Eurovision Song Contest. We sang in Hebrew and sang a very Israeli song with Galia Atari's lovely voice at front. We won

The legendary Bob Marley loved Israel, loved Jerusalem. He passed that love on to his son Ziggy, who later married an Israeli woman! "If you have no past you have no future" In concert in Jerusalem Ziggy sings about tomorrows people "How long will you last without remembering your past" Wise words

On the same theme, but from a very different singer – Matisyahu and Bob Marleys's Jerusalem

The sunrise each morning gets more and more spectacular lighting the view from our veranda with magenta, red and orange flashes of colour, as the sun rises behind the scuttering clouds. Gosh I am a lucky person.

Tomorrow is going to be stormy, rain, hail, thunder and lightening with a chance of snow in Jerusalem – already snowing heavily on the Hermon – so we are going to stay overnight at Noga and Amiad's new home. They have set us up with our own King-size bed for my King size husband, and the children, Ella and Yonatan, are already over-excited at the thought. On Shabbat the family arrive for Ellas 5th birthday party. Afterwards Zvi and I will go to eat cholent with Nomi and Daniel Furman, after all we are already in Tel Aviv!!!!

We wish you a beautiful Shabbat, a Shabbat of joy and peace, with friends and family.

With love from our Jerusalem



Friday, 19 January 2018

180119 Cruise, Jenin, PM in India

19th January 2018

Shabbat Shalom everyone! Gosh three whole weeks since I last wrote and so much has passed!! To start with, the world is a year older, I am a year older and Zvi and I went on a cruise!!

The best part of the cruise was being with old friends and meeting new ones. I suppose that we are, above all, people people – we love meeting new people and talking about ……..Israel!! The cruise left Barcelona for Casablanca but in fact we went to Tangier where we took a tour to Tetuan, birthplace of many friends especially of our dearest friend Shmuel Benalal who was killed in a terror attack in Mali. Sadly the tour passed by the Jewish Quarter and was generally disappointing. The most incredible part is that the Old City of Tetuan, dirty, poor and distressing, is considered worthy of the prized title of a UNESCO site while the Old City of Jerusalem – multicultural, thriving, beautiful, is not.

From Tangier we sailed for the Canary Isles (so named for the local dogs) through very stormy waters which did not agree with my equilibrium. Grand Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote were absolutely wonderful, beautiful and incredibly clean. I love what our taxi driver said when Zvi commented on it "There is no fine imposed if you throw rubbish, it is taught from birth that you just don't dirty your own land"

Malaga. Malaga is simply gorgeous! We did an excellent walking tour and toward the end were rewarded with a fine sculpture of Shlomo ben Yehuda ibn Gvirol – the irrascible but brilliant Jewish poet born in Malaga. Our final stop before returning to Barcelona was in Alicante, but my thoughts were still filled with Malaga. Barcelona for my birthday and a visit to the Kosher restaurant Maccabi with Danny, Eva and Eli to celebrate. We were all amazed that while people are scared to visit Jerusalem where they are safe thousands and thousands walked the Ramblas. Despite the protests of the Mayor of Barcelona, large cement blocks now protect the walkers, a bit.

During the cruise I read one of the most informative and fascinating page turners of all time! Our dear friend Professor Michael Baum has yet again come up with a rollocking story filled with Biblical and archaeological facts. Aarons Rod – you must read it!!!

While we were away there was a cowardly terrorist attack killing Rabbi Raziel Shevach z"l, father of six. Two nights ago our special forces entered Jenin and killed those deemed responsible. The newscasters describe Jenin as a refugee camp but those who have been reading my letters for many years will remember my visit to Jenin with Dr Malcolm Hoenlein, together with a group of major politicians. The Gilboa Regional Council worked tirelessly with the Jenin Mayor to rebuild the town, with a fine museum, municipality, beautiful housing on a fine square, a fun fair for the children – the slums of poverty gone – so what happened? How long can a town be called a refugee camp when it is a town?

As I said, Zvi and I love talking to strangers and getting to know about them. One of our favourite lunches was spent with a family from India who, like me, were searching for vegetarian food! The conversation started when I overheard the fathers voice and said "With that voice you must be a Barrister" He, and his wife and son, burst out laughing because I was right!!! Our conversation led to the fact that they live in South Africa and how similar the Indian and Israeli societies are and how we have common enemies. Neither of us knew that as we spoke Prime Minister Netanyahu was on his way to India to be greeted with great warmth by Prime Minister Modi at the airport. The essential photograph beside the Taj Mahal was overshadowed by the PM's visit to the Mumbai Bet Chabad with little Moishy who parents were killed in the horrific Mumbai attack. Moishy is now 11, just 2 years away from his Bar Mitzva and the PM requested an invitation to the big event, which Moishy happily extended,7340,L-5063887,00.html

One question that was on everybody's mind was "Why was it a surprise that President Trump intends moving the Embassy to Jerusalem? Why is it in question that it is the Capital of Israel? Yet again, Rabbi Jeremy Rosen speaks my thoughts in his latest offering.

The moment I step onto the El Al aeroplane I feel happy, I feel at home. The crew are friendly, the language mine, the food really good and the service outstanding. Landing at Ben Gurion Airport gives me a true sense of coming home – no matter how many times I do it! The voice of Idan Raichel came over the tannoy system welcoming us home. My excitement rises as we near the terminal and this time, for unknown reasons, we came in the old entrance which proclaims "WELCOME TO ISRAEL" and found ourselves in the baggage claim to sound of cell phones ringing out their welcome back! Rachel waited excitedly outside the terminal and of course we hugged before putting the luggage in the car – not only are we a huggy family but this is a huggy country! I love to see the children racing into the big circle of the greeting area, balloons flapping and big smiles and squeals of delight when they spot a family member!

We dropped Rachel in Givat Zeev and climbed up to the panorama of Jerusalem from the Prophet Samuel's Tomb, as breathtaking as ever. Arriving home is always special but before climbing our stairs I went across the road to our local supermarket to be greeted as a long lost friend!! Gosh I love it!

The day after arriving we went to Tel Aviv to help Amiad move into their new home. Collecting Ella and Yonatan from kindergarten, their joy at seeing us, was very special. It was so much fun to see the children running around and playing football with Saba Zvi in their garden, quite a change from the tiny apartment they had until now!!!

I'm about to go to collect Talia from school, on a rainy, hailing, thundery day. When we get home we will be greeted by the phenomenal aroma of fresh Challot, just out of the oven. My children tell me that their memory of coming home from school on a Friday was the aroma of my Challot, hot and dripping with butter as they walked in the door. Tradition? Tradition!!!!

Shabbat. Last week we celebrated Kabbalat Shabbat on board ship, this week in our home. Shabbat. Of course we sand Lecha Dodi, the beautiful song to welcome the bride of Shabbat.

Friday night, Erev Shabbat, a time for family, for traditions, prayer, contemplation and for joy at the arrival of Shabbat. Not the first time I send you this song but I love it so much

Years ago, as we landed in Israel, at Ben Gurion Airport, we did so to the sound of this song – and loud applause!! I wish we still did! Hevenu Shalom Aleichem – We Brought Peace unto you

Shalom Aleichem – Salaam Aleikem – Peace be with you

Shabbat Shalom and much love from glorious Jerusalem