Wednesday, 4 May 2016

160504 Pesach and Yom haShoah

160504
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 http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/remembrance/multimedia.asp#!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 http://www.imj.org.il/exhibitions/presentation/exhibit/?id=1073

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY0FOPa-j-E

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 http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6798/temple-mount-cameras

The Holocaust was just a German thing- Prof Alan Dershowitz shows us the lie there too http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7964/holocaust-villains-heroes

As I look at the view from my veranda, I wonder why we are vilified. IsraAid is in Ecuador, Japan, Nepal, Haiti – wherever needed http://www.israaid.co.il/; Mashav, the governmental aid programme teaches agriculture to feed the hungry and provides medicine to the sick http://mfa.gov.il/mfa/mashav/Pages/default.aspx ; Save a Childs Heart Brings children to Israel irrespective of race or religion  http://www.saveachildsheartus.org/ ; 180,000 Palestinians were treated in Israeli hospitals https://www.standwithus.com/news/article.asp?id=1671  - 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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rnoQeukJP0

The second song is of greater importance perhaps. Al Kol Eleh – Above all this. The honey and the sting; the bitter and the sweet; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gbw2FTYHCTg

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.

Sheila






Friday, 22 April 2016

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

160422
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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fiytXErdpU
Finally Vehi She'amda from the Haggadah (story) of Passover. Believe in Hashem and he will save us – a truly magnificent song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ajGrQbpf8A
Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Pesach Sameach. Blessings from us to you, from Jerusalem to the world
With much love
Sheila




Friday, 15 April 2016

160415 Sanders, Pesach, weddings

160415
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. http://www.israelgives.org/amuta/580475085 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! http://www.agfestival.co.il/en

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! http://lovingclassroom.com/

I know you will love this  music sent to me by my friend Sheila Zucker.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0qsy32Hk4s

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XU-3IuzPEE

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.

Sheila






Friday, 8 April 2016

160408 UN Watch, Lord Carey, Impact-se, Kay Wilson, Rawlings, Gelb, Pesach

160408
8th April 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. How are you this week? I hope  you are feeling well. I know that your weather is probably very different to ours at the moment, especially if you live in North America. An Israeli girlfriend went to visit her son this week and found herself freezing in minus 3 degrees Celcius!!! Today Jerusalem is spectacular and the weather even better, a balmy 26 degrees, just perfect.

In the same way as I cannot control the weather I have absolutely no control over a biased media, wayward politicians or fanatical killers whose aim in life is to kill me – I don't have control but I will never sit back and accept it either.

I would not go as far as the Hungarian Prime Minister in his speech about enforced acceptance of immigrants but I do understand why he is speaking as he does about losing Hungarian identity. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/153c48885179c7ae?projector=1

Take note of this exceptional documentary which includes footage of Hillel Neuer, the director of UN Watch. Please watch this short preview of the final movie Beyond Paranoia – The New Anti-Semitism

We have listened to the horrific story of Ex-Pat Brit Kay Wilson who found her way back to relative sanity after watching her friend being hacked to death in a machete attack and surviving herself despite awful wounds – hearing the words Allah Uakbar ringing in her bloody ears. They were just walking in the hills! Kay found her way by telling her story over and over again throughout the world to Standwithus groups. Her speaking didn't stop the nightmares but it was cathartic in many ways. Your government, together with many others, gives aid to the Palestinian Authority which in turn pays those who acted in just a barbaric and cruel manner toward her. If you are a British citizen please sign this Click this link to sign the petition "Stop spending a fixed 0.7 per cent slice of our national wealth on Foreign Aid" https://petition.parliament.uk/signatures/14729474/verify/8Ro70Fxzu3038ErWwDfG
If you are not a British citizen….. start your own petition!!!

One story you can tell is that of a 5 year old Syrian girl who had the misfortune of getting caught between rival factions in Syria, was brought to Israel and treated. During her stay in Rambam Hospital the doctors discovered she had cancer, needed  bone marrow transplant and the IDF managed to smuggle a relative who was a match out of Syria to save her life.  http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-doctors-spies-rally-to-save-5-year-old-syrian-girl/

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, is an exceptional man. His rise to the leadership of the Church of England was clear, even as a young man, and his ability to see beyond the church is exceptional. It was Lord Carey who encouraged Canon Andrew White to come as his Emissary to the Middle East, thus for Andrew and I to have many adventures together! Lord Carey is a man who truly understands the Middle East, as few others, and has taken on the issue of anti-Semitism, both within and without the church. I am proud to say that Lord Carey reads my Shabbat Shalom letters and when invited to speak on Anti-semitism today at the Simon Weisenthal annual event he asked my counsel. Of course it was totally unnecessary since he is both eloquent and erudite, but I was flattered. Here is his speech, well worth reading. http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/pp.asp?c=lsKWLbPJLnF&b=9383833


I told you that I went to see the Israel National Library and Archives at the Hebrew University last week but forgot to give you a link to Sharon marks Altshul's site which shows you in enormous detail the treasures, ancient Jewish treasures, that we had the privilege to see. http://rjstreets.com/2015/01/28/israel-national-library-reveals-hidden-treasures/

Jay and Meridel Rawlings came to visit and reminded me that about 10 years ago they interviewed Zvi about Jerusalem. It really is an excellent piece of journalism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zothiZCOw0

The British Government decided to pull funding for an anti-Israel "charity" http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/02/charity-backing-anti-israel-rallies-has-state-cash-pulled/

We love guests, especially when they believe me when I say "Please, don't warn us, just pop in"! That is exactly what Elisabeth and George Gelb did. I should say that they didn't fly in from Western Canada specifically to see us, they are here for a month, but they did pop in despite warnings of a chaotic house as we come toward Pesach…………. And my washing machine broke down, apparently died, which left a total soggy mess.

We originally met when George was the "upstairs neighbor" of my sister Eddie in Toronto, before he sold off his amazing dental practice and went off to live in Yellowknife – but I digress for a change!!!  From the second they came in the door my husband fell in love with them! We sat together and talked, listened and learned. They were riveted by Zvi's knowledge of history, not just Israeli but world history, and we loved hearing about how to bring "Yiddischkeit" and Israel Advocacy to Yellowknife (in the Northern Territories where there are a surprising number of workers from Arab countries) and to Vancouver Island where they now live. It was such a joy to hear people who didn't whine and bemoan their inability to act – it was so refreshing to hear them describe their activities and successes. I am thrilled that they are here for a month – Zvi has already arranged our meetings for the next month!!!

Talking of meetings (was that a good segway?) We had a Board meeting of IMPACT-SE (www.impact-se.org) and what the coming year holds with our new Director Marcus Sheff and Chairperson Helene Eisemberg Bornstein. The organization will take the deep research into tolerance in education and use it to inform. The report on Islamic Schools in North America has already been sent to Congress and the House of Commons and hopefully will be published widely very soon. http://www.impact-se.org/research/northamerica/index.html

Israel before Pesach (Passover) has a strange atmosphere. Maybe I should rephrase that – the air in Israel has a strangely acidic redolence, of bleach, cleaning fluids and of course furniture spray. The abrasive sound emerging from virtually every home is that of scrubbing , floors, walls, cupboards and of course ovens. Manicurists bemoan their bad luck as rough and reddened hands come for a rescue treatment! Yes, folks – it's the true spring cleaning season……PESACH. I am so proud of my fridge – not a single drop of old yoghurt to be found!! My oven smiles back at me and the hob is whiter than it has been for a year. Yes I know that I have another , what, 10 days, but if it is all immaculate then it only needs a quick wipe over at the last minute!!! Best of all, I can see my reflection in the silver candelabras!!

Our biggest bane is that the Passover dishes (11 boxes) are a full three flights of stairs below us (no lift) in the machsan or store room. I have a feeling that since I cannot lift etc, I may just decide to bring up the bare bones and use disposable crockery and cutlery. One can buy such lovely things these days and it can all be recycled. Our current Seder night count is just 23 but who knows, one can always find room for more. My Mummy had a philosophy, when we had festival meals she always had a full place setting or two on the sideboard. Why? Because if we had last minute guests she could quietly make room and put them place setting on the table without making anyone feel awkward.

Tonight our Shabbat Dinner will be a quiet one! Zvi and I together, just us, alone and although it is odd, I love it. I love Zvi's Kiddush (blessing) over the wine, then the Challah, his voice, his incredible Bass-Baritone ringing out loud and clear with the inherited memory of thousands of years. As we sit at our table, facing Jerusalem, framed with the riot of bright scarlet blossom, I am confident that life is good. We have a phenomenal country and a feisty, proud people which reaches out to those less fortunate. We just need the world to recognize our beauty when they do not even recognize our existence.

To anyone who is not feeling 100% today, I wish you well. To our dear friend Andrew White, please go and get your treatment, but we may have some incredible news for you pertaining to your MS. Doing research right now.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Remember the power of one and please, remember my motto
IF THE MEDIA DOES NOT INFORM YOU, YOU MUST INFORM THE MEDIA

Music music music!!! This is such a wonderful and uplifting muciscal experience at the Shalem college – at the beginning you think it is just another performance – stay till the end and be as amazed as the audience!! https://www.youtube.com/embed/94PNOPxHbH4

We are all so different, yet all the same. The Friday night song all over the world, our welcome to the bride of Shabbat is called Lecha Dodi. Here you hear the Abayudea Jews of Uganda singing just as we do.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKFGk2XNWME&nohtml5=False

Shabbat Shalom
Sheila









Friday, 1 April 2016

160401 Kinneret Chaya 14, A happy letter today

160401
April 1st, 2016

Shabbat Shalom and no, I'm not going to do you an April Fool's letter, we have enough fools in this world already!!!

I decided that today I would write about good and hopeful items. I don't know about you but I have had enough of gloom and doom to last.

I must just begin with an excellent op-ed in the Times of Israel, written by Marcus Sheff, the new Director of Impact-Se, the research organisation on whose Board I am proud to serve. Impact's research is on Tolerance in School Curriculi. North Americans have a tendency to be rather smug (sorry but true) about extreme Islamic education in schools, believing that "it won't happen here". Well it already has. http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/muslim-textbooks-in-north-america-teach-tolerance-and-demonize-israel/

This has been a week of friends. The indomitable Stephen Ryde came to see us, fitting us in between his Israel Advocacy work. Stephen claims it was Zvi and I who set him on his brilliant path, but I know better, it was his parents Victor and Jaqui Ryde, who planted the seeds, the love of Israel, over many years, we just watered them and I am so proud of the amazing man that emerged. As one who knew Stephen as a child in Reading, Berks, I claim extra pride!!

Joining us at the Botanical Gardens (nu? Did you really think I was going elsewhere?) was Zvi's "cousin" Joe from Toronto. Joe is doing a semester in Tel Aviv University, and his girlfriend Monika was visiting. They are already involved in Israel Advocacy, but after listening to the conversation at lunch, they are definitely "in". I want them to join Standwithus and use their already wide knowledge. They could become avid letter writers like Stephen, and act as heralds of a better future. Three generations of Hasbara, Advocacy, those unafraid to speak out sitting together in Jerusalem. Wonderful. You can do it too – Stephen is the epitome of the power of one. He even has Jeremy Corbyns ear!!!!

On Wednesday night there was a terrific concert in Jerusalem. Zvi, and the wonderful friends of HaKol Yachassi put on a night to remember. The choir was in perfect harmony; the dancers didn't miss a step and raconteur Jacky Levi told stories of Jerusalem that had us laughing until the tears poured down our faces. A total success – Bravo.

Yesterday we had a surprise visit from Jay and Meridel Rawlings, founders of the International Christian Embassy. The group who founded the Embassy did so with pure and altruistic purpose – they were horrified that the worlds Embassies were not in Jerusalem. I love Jay and Meridel – who live here and have four sons who served in the IDF. Sitting with them on our veranda (Mirpesset in Hebrew) admiring the view, the flowers and of course Zvi's wonderful historic perspective of what is happening in the world. Gosh I love his incredible ability to explain, his ability to do so equally before 2 friends and an audience of 1,000.

Keren Sztrigler is the daughter and grand-daughter of dear friends. I don't know her personally but I know her family is proud of her and I am grateful to her.  Keren won a very prestigious prize, named for a young Israeli woman name Danieli Zonnefeld, who sadly died in a traffic accident. Danieli wanted to become a doctor and her family chose to honour her memory by creating a prize for Cancer Research and Keren won it this year. Bravo and thank you Keren. http://m.ynet.co.il/Articles/4784204

March 30th was Kinneret Chayas 14th birthday. I find it hard to imagine that it is 14 years since that awful day and the miracles that followed it. I often feel that Kinneret Chaya represents Israel, perhaps the Jewish people. I thought of writing again but then I re-read what I wrote 7 years ago and decided that it expressed everything I felt and more. So here it is –
There are moments in time which are burned deeply into my memory; times of great loss alongside times of great joy, somehow interlinked. Of all those experiences there is one which stands out, alone in its enormity – the night of March 30th 2002.
Driving back from a visit to Herzliya our friend Orly called


"Where are you?" – the question we all asked of each other when there had been a pigu'a – a terror attack.

"Where was it?" I asked "Where was the pigu'a?"

She went very quiet and her voice broke as she said "In a coffee shop in Tel Aviv and Sheila, Yaffa and Moishes daughter Kinneret was seriously injured, we don't know if she will survive"

The moment we got home I called Yaffa at the hospital who told us the terrible news that Kinneret was burned over 80% of her body and the doctors gave her a minimal chance of survival let alone recovery. That night Zvi's son Amiad took an amulet from a Jerusalem Rabbanit to place under Kinneret's pillow. A Rabbi came to the hospital and as he blessed her he asked the family to change her name from Kinneret to Kinneret Chaya – Kinneret Lives; and so began an incredibly tough, miraculous journey toward the phenomenal woman, mother and wife that is Kinneret Chaya Boosany Twig today.

Kinneret was a slightly aloof, exceptionally beautiful young woman who was searching out her place in the world. When she came back from her travels to the Far East she did a bit of modeling and studied alternative medicine, financing the studies working as a waitress, or "barmanit" in a Tel Aviv café called "My Coffee Shop". The coffee shop did not have a guard, as so many places in Tel Aviv at that time, and no-one suspected the young man who walked in and asked for a cup of coffee. Kinneret walked behind the bar/counter to prepare the coffee when he blew himself up. Nearly 40 people were injured that night and Kinneret was one. As he detonated the explosive belt on his body, the inferno caught the alcoholic drinks behind the bar which burst into an inferno and her frail young body went up in flames. The firemen put out the flames and the paramedics began to clear the injured. Itzik Cohav, a volunteer paramedic, sensed something was missing, he returned to check the site and suddenly, under the overturned bar he saw a small hand. Itzik moved the bar with supernatural strength and found a tiny burned body underneath. To his amazement, Kinneret spoke to him. Itzik carried her to the ambulance and travelled to Ichilov Hospital with her, never leaving her side. It was Itzik who called Kinnerets family.

Days, weeks and months Kinneret Chaya remained in an induced coma, 88 days to be precise. I kept a full diary of all visits and events. The Boosany family rallied round and aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings kept the family going at the hospital, bringing food and love. Zvi and I were honoured to join the family but I can never forget the first time Kinneret Chayas mother Yaffa took me aside and asked me if I wanted to go in to the sterile room and see Kinneret Chaya – who was beginning to come out of the coma. I was terrified but desperate to see this amazing child/woman. As I walked down the corridor in the Sheba Burns Unit I could see a tiny body on a sea of green air cushions atop an improbably high bed. Barely recognizable as a human being, she suddenly turned toward me and smiled a smile that defeats description, I was hooked. I was in love with Kinneret Chaya.

From that day on my diary of a terror survivor was not about the family, nor about my feelings, it became essential that the world know about this amazing woman who has defeated death and even through her pain was able to smile. I recorded her first mouthful of food – gosh I can still see the absolute joy on her face as her Mum peeled a grape and fed her half, chewed carefully as if it were the elixir of life – which it was. One day I came in to the ward and found Kinneret Chaya on her feet "10 steps, I walked 10 steps" she said as she hung on to the arm of her sister Anat. The entire family played its part in Kinneret Chayas recovery. Yaffa, who devotedly slept beside Kinneret Chaya, Moshe who gave love and support, Anat whose determination drove KC on, and Nitzan whose quiet practical help kept everyone sane – and Kinneret Chayas former boyfriend Tal (now Shlom Zalman who ives as a Haredi man) who slept beside her and made her feel as a loved woman. You all helped too, every one of you who sent her a letter, gave her a gift, expressed love to her, but there is one man who helped her put her thoughts into perspective.

Pastor Mike Evans came to visit Kinneret Chaya with us at her parents home, on her first weekend visit from rehab. Zvi, Martin, Yaffa, Moshe and Yaffas sister sister looked on as Mike Evans and his friend Mike Atkins gently asked permission from this traditionally Jewish household to pray for Kinneret Chayas recovery. Very moved the family gave permission and the two Mikes prayed. At the end Mike Evans looked into Kinneret Chayas eyes and said

"Kinneret Chaya, there are two ways to look at everything. To move forward you must turn your scars into stars and bitter into better."

We all gasped and a look of understanding washed over Kinneret Chayas face.

Kinneret Chaya has turned her scars into stars. After many painful operations, much at the hand of surgeons who gave their skill and their hearts to this amazing young woman, Kinneret Chaya is a beautiful woman. Her scars are irrelevant. Kinneret Chaya met the love of her life Amir, seeing him across the synagogue they both attended. Their marriage was joyous and now, as a religious Jewish woman, miracles happened, Kinneret Chaya Boosany Twig is the doting mother of Odaya (thanks to G-d) a beautiful little girl.

I just spoke Kinneret Chayas mother, Yaffa to wish her Mazal Tov on Kinneret Chayas rebirthday. Yaffa said that Kinneret Chaya celebrates on the Hebrew anniversary the 17th of Nissan. KC is out with her husband Amir doing her Pesach shopping. Yaffa proudly told me that Kinneret Chaya is the most amazing mother, with little Odaya on her hip most of the day. She has a warm and welcoming home, a good husband, a beautiful child and life is good.

Whoever claimed that miracles don't happen should look to Kinneret Chaya Boosany Twig who made her own miracles with the support of her incredible family and all of us who love her. I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because I watched the emergence of a glorious flower called Kinneret Chaya Boosany Twig.

The greatest miracle is that Kinneret Chaya now has four of the most beautiful children imaginable, is a deeply religious woman and cannot stop smiling because life is so amazing.

Shabbat shalom dear friends. My prayer as I light the candles tonight will be that I always have good news to report – with a modicum of reality but nonetheless, we cannot find hope without hearing the good news too.

After a positive letter there is only one song that fits the bill. Heveinu Shalom Aleichem – We Bring You Peace - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0o2H_Gvs2Y

May I be selfish and give a song for my amazing son Gideon? It was the song that he fell asleep to and the song he always asked for. I miss him every day – I miss him and his family and Daniel and his family every day, every hour, every minute. I have Rachel and her family here! Tumbalaika. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_mGvB8hlIw

With love to you all from Jerusalem.
Sheila


Friday, 25 March 2016

160325 Brussels terror, Purim in Jerusalem

160324
24th March 2016

It seems banal to say Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom when we, the entire world is seeing Purim without Mordechai and this Shabbat has no Shalom, excepting that which we bring to our holy day from within.

The connection between Purim, Haman, Homeini, domination, Turkey, Israel and Belgium is infinite but so complex that I will try to unravel it just a little.

The tragedy, the horrific terror attacks which hit Brussels this week should have been foreseen. Turkey warned the Belgians about the perpetrators who fled Turkey, but they checked them a month ago and let them go free. Why? Because we in the West don't believe anyone could be that cruel and utterly ungrateful.
We have the pictures of people running through the smoke burned into our brains, of terrified screams and, for me, the man running, hanging on to his luggage cart for dear life – literally.

May the souls of those killed be blessed and their families regain their equilibrium. May the injured heal quickly and receive help to wipe the unimaginable pictures from their minds.
Purim, which today is a day of celebration, was a time of horrific oppression; a naïve King who had a feminist wife and a taste for pretty ladies; his cruel advisor and Vizier Haman; a wise man and his beautiful niece who were todays equivalent of the Mossad; a plan and finally the determination to succeed. If you recall, Haman hated Jews and was so jealous of Mordechai he demanded that the quisling in the palace been paraded around Shushan on a white horse, sitting backwards, for all to see and pelt with garbage; King Ahazhverus listened carefully to his demands and agreed to them, but after hearing the truth from his beloved Queen Esther, who told her King that she was a Jewess and Haman was the quisling, the King set Haman on the horse in Mordechais stead. The moral is clear – stand up to evil, but do it cleverly. If you have a weak leader who is convinced that even those intent on killing you have good intentions, use wile to ensure he learns the truth.  

Since it is Purim I thought you would enjoy this very cute video of "What do Non-Jews think of Purim" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYIJyWEORuI

Kay Wilson is an Ex-Pat Brit, Jewish Israeli who just a few years ago was almost hacked to death by Palestinian terrorists while she saw her friend dying. Kay spoke before the Human Rights Council of the UN in Geneva https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhgR84OdL88

In Israel there are no prizes for killing Palestinians, even if they have just stabbed another soldier in an attempt to kill him. A soldier has just been arrested by the IDF after shooting a terrorist when he was already on the ground. We do not kill.

The great news is that all but 40 Yemenite Jews arrived on Israeli soil this week in a covert operation of the Jewish Agency. With them they brought an 800 year old Sefer Torah. Those who remain in that war torn country feel safe in a compound with Westerners, but sadly the chaos is closing in on them.

So AIPAC has been and gone. At least two of the candidates expressed determination to bring the American Embassy to Jerusalem but I have strong doubts. If every President since the day in 1995 when Zvi and I sat in the Chamber and heard the unanimous vote to move the Embassy to Jerusalem, all Presidents of both parties have vetoed the act. Indeed, the Jerusalem Consulate has changed all its staff to Palestinians not Israelis – a decision which begs an answer.

This is conceivably the most theatrical of all American primaries. The players are so easily identifiable and so diverse it is incredible. It is almost like a soap opera – or as if I was watching Scandal!!!

This week's newsletter from Rabbi Jeremy Rosen explains my feelings perfectly. It may be the Cardiff connection, the Carmel connection or the fact we have known each other since I was 4, but he captures my thoughts. This week he talks of "Why I Don't Criticise Israel More" http://jeremyrosen.blogspot.co.il/


Zvi and I went to see Rachels children for a Purim Seudah (Purim Feast) yesterday. I wore a multicoloured wig, fake glasses and a red nose. I thought it would make the woman in the car beside us at the lights smile, but she stayed stoney faced. Then her Chihuahua saw me and went berserk!!!! The kids were excited at crazy Safta and delighted to show us the vast amount of sweeties they got as mishloach manot then went absolutely crazy with excitement as Leor arrived with his three girls – gosh they all love each other. My amazing daughter had a multitude of neighbours calling in to eat – she reckons between 25 to 30 of them. A real balabusta!!!! She even made green bread rolls!!!

Last night Zvi, Rachel, Leor and I took six grandchildren, in age order, Yosef, Talia, Amit, Ayala, Gili and Ori, to the colossal Cinema City here in Jerusalem to ice skate! Leor was an absolute champion and took al six children most of who had never been on ice in their lives, onto the rink. Yosef immediately took to the ice and sped off, Talia almost followed him and fell and got up a hundred times (that's my girl!) and the others clung to the sides except when Leor came to take them for a little run! The Cinema City was heaving!!! Crazy costumes abounded, music blared and it was only when one saw a Haredi man dancing with a girl in skinny mini skirt you realized it was a costume!! Religious men came in skirts and fancy hats and Superman was the favourite costume for tots!!! Afterwards we all went for Pizza and then home to sleep. Leor and the girls are staying over and today we hope to go to the Gazelle Valley with Rachel's children, so that they can run around while the weather is good.

I am still taking life a bit easy, although feeling much, much better. I was thrilled that our dear friend Gloria Goldstein came to Jerusalem on Monday and we managed to meet for lunch. I love Gloria who is thankfully spending more and more time in Israel rather than her Sydney home. We always have so much to talk about.  

Tonight Amiad, Noga and the two little ones, Leor and the girls are with us for Shabbat Dinner so we have a mixture of sophisticated Eggplant Parmesan, fresh salmon and roasted vegetables and "Clean Pasta" for the children – of course preceded by the latest favourite soup which is Pea – good old fashioned, infinitely easy, pea soup. The girls don't know that Safta bought them some treats, don't tell their Mum, little bottles of Yotvata Choco, chocolate drops with sprinkles and……….. well, if I tell you then I really will be in trouble!!!!

Today is Good Friday, which precedes Easter Sunday. In Jerusalem it has an even deeper meaning than anywhere else in the world which is why Canon Andrew White and Dumisani Washington are here, both celebrating the festival and praying for a kinder, saner world. Dear friends, only by honouring each others beliefs and traditions, joining hands in love, can we possibly hope to fight the evil that would change our lives and the future of our children and grandchildren. May your prayers take wings. http://www.itraveljerusalem.com/events/easter-in-jerusalem/


I wish you all a good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom, a Holy Easter. This will be a week of songs because on Thursday HaKol Yachassi, Zvi's choir, are holding a huge concert in honour of the late great President of Israel, Yitzchak Navon, right here in Jerusalem. On Sunday I will meet with Stephen Ryde, star letter writer and proponent of Israel, of course in the Botanical Gardens.

I couldn't resist this Purim version of Pharrell Williams song, Happy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-2skUqszCU

Finally, when one comes down to it, Purim is a festival that the children get to enjoy, more than any other. They become their heroes. My favourite costume was a little boy in a wheelchair whose parent built a whole Gotham City around him with legs flying behind. He was so pleased! If you want to see the photo just go to my FB page. Back to children – this is the top Purim song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSYEiHkMDUA

I send love and strength to all my friends who are having a tough time, especially Sue and Doron. Can't wait to dance with you next Purim.

I wish you a safe week, a happy week, a kind and gentle week and most of all Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, centre of our dreams.
Sheila