Wednesday, 18 March 2015

150318 Election Update

150318
18th March, 2015

It isn't Shabbat yet but I had a feeling that you would want to hear our views on the result of the Israeli elections. I have a feeling that even the PM was amazed at the result, which gave him (by Israeli terms) a landslide victory. Why? Well there are many reasons and I will try to give you my personal analysis.

1.The speech in the Congress and the enormous theatricals and threats which preceded it taught Israelis that Netanyahu is not cowed by anyone. President Obama made a serious error of judgement, had he kept silent the speech would have passed with little notice.
2.The Israeli media constantly maligned the Netanyahus and it brought them to the front and centre, the people began to feel that the left-leaning press did not represent them, and it was perceived by the people that they should defend their leader.
3. The left, and centre left, have some very good people but they are not seasoned internationally known leaders. Like him or not Mr Netanyahu is the only "manhig" - leader. 
4. Since every Jew sees him/herself as a Prime Minister, Israelis tend to form a vast number of parties, all jockeying for a limited audience of voters, so nobody really wins and we have no choice but to form a coalition government - usually by blackmailing the PM into giving high position because he wants you. The Arab and far left factions decided to join forces this time and ignore their differences thus succeeded in achieving  13-14 seats.
5. Many Labour voters, when faced with the new Zionist Union Party, were put off by the introduction of Tsippi Livni. Right or wrong she is not considered stable, having changed party too many times. The campaign was dirty, intentions, plans and manifestos were ignored and it became very personal.
Finally, and probably most importantly, the Israeli electoral system of proportional representation simply doesn't work. It is both democratic and anti-democratic. It is time for electoral reform moving to a constituency system whereby each representative is just that, representative of his particular constituency. Standing in the polling booth faced with 26 tickets, 26 parties (of which only 11 passed the watershed)  to choose from no wonder we are confused!!!

Such is the democratic process. It is said that the test of true democracy is in losing. It should give the left time to gather its strength and recognise where things went wrong. Whomsoever the Prime Minister, or whatever party/parties lead the country I will accept that leadership, never blindly but I will not lower myself to cheap digs at anyone. The smaller parties lost out to the two major parties which may be a move toward a more logical result. The surprise success was by Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu party - right wing politically but socially orientated.

Over the next days and weeks, Prime Minister Netanyahu will talk, discuss, interview and bargain with other party leaders or representatives to form his coalition - as will Boughie Herzog. Whoever forms the most stable coalition will be asked to form a government by President Rivlin. If you recall, Tsippi Livni had the greatest number of seats but could not form a a coalitition in 2009, ultimately conceding to Likud.

Perhaps the most appropriate song to end this section is Harry Secombes "If I ruled the World" Oh for a politician like Pickwick. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfbY2VITqxo

Now for something entirely different - an entirely different sort of party for sure. 
Three months in the preparation and secrecy of Mossad proportions ended in a surprise birthday party for Zvi!! My amazing, youthful and ever active husband is 70!! I am sure that there are some who will ask why they weren't invited but we were tightly limited to numbers and  had to stick to it. Zvi thought he was going to a singing evening and it wasn't until he suddenly saw all the Israeli grandchildren with T shirts saying Fabulous Saba is 70, that he understood something was afoot! then he saw the "election posters" with Zvi as the leader of all the parties in various disguises each fitting the party!! I can only tell you that as we walked into the room we were surrounded by love, pure love. We were surrounded by friends and family alike who just wanted to hug and kiss us - and express their love of Zvi. The choir sang (with Zvi) and the gorgeous Shiro sang a beautiful song written by our dear friend Eli Yaron, dedicated to and all about Zvi's life, decade by decade, which they recorded to CD and gave to everyone. Hopefully I will have a link to it before my next letter.  Amiad and Leor, Zvi's sons, created a magnificent slide show of photographs of Zvi through the years - including what they called the "Forest Gump" period with all the worlds leaders! Relations and friends from all over the world made congratulatory videos and then Leor spoke of his father. It was a truly wonderful speech, coming to the conclusion that although he loves to argue with almost everything Zvi says, since becoming a father himself he  appreciates the wisdom of his fathers words. It made me think of the Arik Einstein song - Oof Gozal, about leaving the nest as all our children have done with great success.

To sum up the elections for those who are surprised at Mr Netanyahus win, don't be. When the world is against you, you don't pick the sweetest guy on the block to defend you - you choose someone who will stand up to bullies and fight on your behalf. In the same way as one should not believe the media hype on other things, don't believe everything they say about Netanyahu. He is not ultra-right, he defends his country. If the centrist parties are able to join his coalition then I have a feeling he will try to reach an agreement with them. Remember that the diplomatic rules that apply in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada or Europe do not apply in this region.

Adlai Stevenson once said "Every man has a right to be heard; but no man has the right to strangle democracy with a single set of vocal chords." The media has been guilty of a single set of vocal chords for too long. 

Perhaps the whole political scene, yours mine and theirs, is summed up in this song - HaGashash HaHiver - Ovdim Aleinu - from the Israeli Elections 1981. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA1su_wvyHg&index=7&list=PL1WC0PL2DeIVjVwcYgdtTe80V-UhLomRk

I wish Prime Minister Netanyahu a successful term, the wisdom to choose partners who will not take us to extreme positions; the ability to listen; the competence to make the right decisions; the generosity of spirit to recognise his allies and the determination to make life better for our young people so that they will have the incentive to stay here and raise their families here............ and that the world will be kinder in its judgments. 

With much love from Jerusalem. 
Sheila


For those who still have a sense of humour, William Beebee sent me some political jokes!
 
If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.~Jay Leno~
 The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.~Henry Cate, VII~
 We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.                                  ~Aesop~
 If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these State of the Union speeches, there wouldn't be any inducement to go to heaven.   ~Will Rogers~
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.~Nikita Khrushchev~
 When I was a child I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it.~Clarence Darrow~
 Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.~Author unknown~
 Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.~John Quinton~
 Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.   ~Oscar Ameringer~
 I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.~Adlai Stevenson, campaign speech, 1952~
 A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country.
 


-- 
If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement   http://www.impact-se.org/   http://www.yurishtern.org.il/eng/content.php?id=17

Friday, 13 March 2015

150313 Elections


If​150313
13th March 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well and that the upcoming Israeli elections are not disturbing your sleep! I am afraid that I have reached the oint where I change programme or simply turn off the TV when the nightly political broadcasts begin. I still haven't decided where to place my vote but I think I will probably go with the  rare politician who tells me what he intends doing about Israel's standing in the world; about the nearing of ISIS/Daish and the PA; general security; solves the lack of reasonably priced housing; the fact that two large sectors of society do not contribute or take part in the life of the country and of course, security, the great big issue, security.
Israel is a very special country with very specific problems, and yes it is the most amazing country in the world but it wouldn't be a Jewish country if everything ran smoothly. We have enemies who want to annihilate us lurking on our very borders, our local allies are not our friends but they are our allies because we share a common enemy, both Egypt and Jordan suffer alongside us. Our allies in the world have fallen victim to the naive ideology  that if you treat your enemy with respect you can persuade him out of his murderous intent, sadly our social mores do not fit the neighborhood, strength, even force wins through. One cannot win over fanatics ready to die for their cause, to say nothing of to kill for their cause, by sweet-talking them.

We do not have a Prime Minsterial election. The electoral system is a party system and the leader/leaders of the winning party are asked to lead the government -  in principle. Actually even that system is not necessarily the fact because the Israeli President can choose the leader/party most able to form a stable coalition to form the government. So complex.

The potential leaders are:-
Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu - we already know his policies and potential so I won't waste your time and energy.
Zionist Union. Buji (Isaac) Herzog and Tsippi Livni represent policies that are also familiar. Labour by any other name, although Livni has run the gamut of political leanings, going from hard right to soft left.
Yesh Atid. Yair Lapid, Central to their platform is the inclusion of both Arabs and Haredi, religious Jews, into the society through either military service or community service and social change. On defence they are very security minded.
Kulanu (All of us) Led by Moshe Kahlon. A seasoned politician who although right wing politically, his list, including Michael Oren, puts social issues above all.
Shas.  Religious and Social led by Arieh Deri emphasising the influence of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, exclusively Eastern Jews, refugees from Arab countries

Yahad. Eli Yishai. Left Shas in break with Arieh Deri but they share policies and ethnic leanings

Meretz. Zahava Galon, True to their policies for many years. This is a party that has never wavered from its leanings or policies. They believe that we should negotiate with the Palestinians and leave the West Bank returning to 1967 borders.

Then come many of the smaller parties.  Israelis vote but not everyone cares to honour that right. I love the current government ad which says that one has no right to moan about the government unless you played your part in the elections. No vote- no moan.

We are a nation of newsaholics. We listen every hour, indeed every half hour on the radio and even the smallest event (like the recent snow) involved all day newscasts!!! While we are learning a little about sales on election day, it is taken very seriously because we, like the USA, need a strong leader, one who will act as a true leader, defending his/her people with every process at their disposal recognising that the final count when presented with causus belli they have the guts to carry out threats. 

We were horrified by the Taliban destroying ancient artifacts, aghast at the removal of proof of Jewish life under the Temple Mount and now the destruction of Assyrian statues. I hate all of the above, but to declare it a crime against humanity surprises me since surely the slaughter, the ethnic slaughter, massacres we hear of every day demands greater outcry? http://abcnews.go.com/International/video/isis-destruction-ancient-artifacts-war-crime-29439648

The IDF is a very special army. The clue is in its name, the Israel Defence Force. In recent years the IDF has taken exceptional measures to include people with special needs. If a youngster with Downs Syndrom wants to enlist, and he/she is able, there is a special unit. Someone understood that many types of autism give people the ability to see and understand what they see in a manner that normative youngsters could never achieve. Thus the special unit for map reading and deciphering satellite information was developed. http://www.timesofisrael.com/soldiers-with-autism-give-army-rare-view-into-intel-and-disorder/

Israel21c is a website which tells us about the latest innovations and inventions in Israel, a good news site. Here they talk about 19 outstanding young Israelis aged under 19 http://www.israel21c.org/headlines/19-under-19-outstanding-israelis-to-watch/?utm_content=buffere7f2e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Sandy Hollander is a leading light in the MetroWest community having served in just about every voluntary position that touches on Israel. Although Sandy grew up in the USA, he and I have something very important in common, we both grew up as a tiny minority in a small town, Jews who are not surrounded by other Jews. It intensifies ones sense of identity. Sandy's wife Roslyn is a renowned artist and perfectly balances Sandy's love of politics with her family and art orientated viewpoint. We ate at a fine restaurant in the First Station complex in Jerusalem. All the conversations were lively and enlightening but one phrase sticks in my mind. Sandy said  The sign of a great country is not in the way they fight a war but how they behave in victory. I am sure that if we ever lost a war, or if YOU lose the current war, the victors would simply oppress or wipe out everyone.

Last night we went to Tel Aviv for a very special reason, Zvi's long time friend, Yitzik Lev, who shares a birthday with Zvi, had his 68th birthday party. Itzik told the story of how, in her later years, he and Zvi convinced the wonderful Alla, Zvi's Mother, that Yitzik really was Zvi's brother. The party was a total surprise, organised by his wife Irit and daughter Mali. We sang to the wonderful sounds of Gidi and Linda, we ate and danced and it was really fun.

Today was the Jerusalem Marathon 42.2 kilometres, 21.1 kilometres, 10 k, 5 k,  and the hand-cycle for those with disabilities. They changed the route this year, sticking to the centre of Jerusalem and looping toward the Hebrew University at Givat Ram. Marathon Day is a holiday in Jerusalem because the roads are closed so many children turned out to cheer the runners along. Luckily the rain cleared and the heat stayed away, perfect running weather - not that I speak as an expert! 25 thousand runners, from every corner of this earth running through Jerusalem. Brilliant!

The city looks spectacular, the dust of the last few weeks washed away by the cleansing rain. As I drove over the high point of Samuels Tomb yesterday, I soaked up the panorama. I never tire of it just as I never tire of the view from our veranda. There is something so magical about this city. It has everything, intense spirituality, great beauty, culture and diversity, everything that makes it special. As someone said yesterday, living in Israel isn't necessarily easy but it is so worthwhile that one cannot imagine living anywhere else. The usual rules of "no religion, no politics, no race" in conversations fly out of the window! Here everyone talks politics, obviously each firmly believing that his is the only truth; religion, ah religion is an essential topic and one prays for the rare person who is either secular but really understands Judaism or religious but understands that not everyone has arrived at the same conclusions. The vast majority do not fit either category! Either ignorant of Judaism or ignorant of the world and convinced everyone else is wrong, I prefer to be a bystander because it is an argument one cannot win. If I am presented with the question "Where do you stand" I simply tell the questioner that I am a traditional Jew. I honour the memory of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents back through the ages. When I set the Shabbat table I see what my mother saw, when I prepare the food the aromas are those of my Mothers kitchen, when Zvi and I bless the challot, the wine we use the words of my Father and our ancestors back hundreds and hundreds of years.  Tradition, Judaisms glue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRdfX7ut8gw

So my dear friends. It is that time. Zvi is wending his weary way back from his Parliament, the last one before the elections. I have no doubt he will be exhausted from the pure amount of opinions around their table. He also went to visit Hasem, his barber in Abu Ghosh, so he will be tired but handsome!  Next week Zvi has his 70th birthday, just 2 days after the election. Wouldn't it be nice if he won a tangible and stable government into the next decade.

I leave you with a favourite, one you have seen before but it holds a special place in my heart. Jews sing about peace, pray about peace and teach peace. Shalom Aleichem Malachei ha Shalom- May peace come to you angels of peace  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x8aomc_kinderlach-idan-yaniv_music 

Shabbat Shalom and much love
Sheila

-- 
If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement   http://www.impact-se.org/   http://www.yurishtern.org.il/eng/content.php?id=17

Friday, 6 March 2015

150306 Netanyahu in Congress, Purim

150306
6th March 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom and Shushan Purim Sameach.

Shushan Purim, the day after regular Purim (the 14th not the 13th of Adar) is celebrated in walled cities around Israel. Why? Well the battle against the people of Shushan, who were filled with deep hatred for the Jews, lasted an extra day, so while the Jews of other cities rested and celebrated on the 13th of the month of Adar the brave soldiers of Shushan continued their battle an extra day so their day of celebratory victory came one day later. So here in Jerusalem we read the Megilla ( the story of Esther) on the eve and day of the 14th, today. More of that later!

This week has been very emotional for both Israel and the USA. Should he shouldn't he? Why is it such a big deal? What is so insulting about a speech? What business is it of Israel to speak out about Americas Iranian policies? Why insult your closest ally? Well, sorry, but I refuse to comment on the rights and wrongs but simply say that it was a brilliant and highly respectful speech. Time will tell of the wisdom of Mr Netanyahus determination and resolve to speak out about Iran but I wanted to give you just one quote and ask if it in any way seems insulting to America or the American President. The final words of Benjamin Netanyahus speech
"Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years. I leave you with his message today, ‘Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.’ חִזְק֣וּ וְאִמְצ֔וּ אַל־תִּֽירְא֥וּ וְאַל־תַּעַרְצ֖וּ מִפְּנֵיהֶ֑ם
My friends, may Israel and America always stand together, strong and resolute. May we neither fear nor dread the challenges ahead. May we face the future with confidence, strength and hope.
May God bless the State of Israel and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you. You are wonderful. Thank you, America.” 

The Arab world agrees with Prime Minister Netanyahu! Actually the Sunni world agrees with him and Saudi Arabia in particular. Al Arabiya complimented him on his accurate assessment of the situation! Before their fight against the West Shia Iran's hatred for Sunni Saudi Arabia is paramount. Indeed Sunni-Shia hatred is above any other fight. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-16047709

Col. Richard Kemp, British soldier, soldier and spokesperson for Israel feels  there are striking similarities between the objectives of Churchill's speech nearly 75 years ago and Netanyahu's today; both with no less purpose than to avert global conflagration. And, like Churchill's in the 1930s, Netanyahu's is the lone voice among world leaders today.

I would not have made the comparison, but, Winston Churchill was unsuccessful in his quest that the USA fight beside him against Hitler and also unsuccessful in persuading Roosevelt to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz. History does repeat itself because we forget - we live today forgetting that today is built from a million yesterdays.

Who would understand Israel's position better than a Czech President?
“Now we all must say, ‘I am a Jew,’” he told a packed auditorium in Washington, DC. After extended applause from the audience, he repeated the sentiment in Hebrew, saying, “Ani Yehudi.”  “Of course, your discrimination is our discrimination,” he added. “Your victims are our victims.” http://www.algemeiner.com/2015/03/02/czech-republic-president-milos-zeman-we-all-must-say-i-am-a-jew/
 
Dr Dan Schuftan spoke at the Centre for Jewish Affairs in London. His speech was eloquent, erudite and amusing, telling the absolute truth about Israel, the Middle East and the world. Well worth listening. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9ZQGiBubb0&feature=youtu.be

One of my readers castigated me for not writing about the diabolical, terrorist killing of Dan Uzan z"l, a volunteer guard of a synagogue in Copenhagen three weeks ago. I was remiss, not because I didn't care but because I was remiss. I do not compare my error to the omission of any reference of ethnic slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities around the world - Nigeria, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Philippines, Iraq, I could go on ad infinitum or should I say ad nauseum because it sickens me that the media ignores these atrocities completely. Know that I honour the memory of Dan Uzan, but mine was an accidental omission, not the medias intentional and politically motivated disregard of the suffering of millions of Christians, Yazidis, Assyrians and so many others. Balance. Quite apart from the fact that I was in hospital undergoing surgery when I wrote two weeks ago.

This week in the Judaism, we read about a weak leader, a strong and ill-intentioned royal advisor, and the victory of a wily Uncle and his beautiful brave niece. In our celebrations we are not allowed to hate our enemies, not even Haman. We are instructed to drink until tipsy, until we cannot distinguish between friend and foe, to forget hatred and blame. Adloyada - Until he will not know. Festivity, dancing and joy there is no religious vengeance in Judaism. Haman coined one of the most infamous anti-Semitic canards: That the Jews are a clannish and alien people who do not obey the laws of the land. At Haman's contrivance, a decree is then issued for all Jews in the Persian Empire to be massacred. But, as the Book of Esther subsequently relates, Haman’s plot was foiled and, “The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor...a feast and a good day.” How does it relate to today apart from the obvious Iran/ Persia plot?  Read Jeremy Rosens wonderful piece this week, "Purim Torah" http://jeremyrosen.blogspot.co.il/

Talking of Adloyada, that is the name of the Carnival of Israel! Towns hold their Adloyada Carnivals in the main streets, children and adults dressed up and dancing, floats of brightly coloured laughing tableaux of Purim and politics, music, sweets and Hamentaschen!!!  Most important are the children, well this is Israel after all! Each school gets to parade https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSZgsW2imHY While I am not thrilled with the music this video gives a better view! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ImekKsGi5M

Isn't it strange how perception is rarely close to truth? When the uninitiated talk of Israeli apartheid they not only insult a monumental and historic struggle for freedom in South Africa but totally misrepresent Israel. Last night I had cause to go for tests at a walk in emergency unit. No don't worry it was only tests, and looked around at both patients and medical staff. A fantastic mix of Jerusalems rainbow. Doctors, nurses, laboratory staff an equal mix of highly qualified Arabs, Jews, Moslems, Christians, men and women and the patients sitting with uncharacteristic patience we of an even greater mix! This is Israel. Whether directors of vast hospitals or shop assistants in Kosher delis - there is no discrimination. Fine restaurants or local Mahedrin Kosher felafel stalls - you will see every possible combination of race, colour and creed. That is what i love best about Israel. Perhaps the ultimate example is the Arab "Rag and Bone" man who calls out "Alteh Zachen"as he passes ( alteh zaken is old things in Yiddish!)

Today is a glorious day. The sun is shining, the air has a seasonal crispness and the spring flowers dance in the breeze. The desert is blooming literally, pink wild cyclamen, bright red poppies and anemones and a wild panoply of colour as the sun shines on the rain drenched earth proving yet again that the Negev desert is fertile, just parched.

As the very noisy and celebratory Shushan Purim draws to a close it will bring several hangovers but more importantly it brings the peace of Shabbat. 
  
Shabbat. Shabbat. A day of rest. The first song we will sing in the synagogue is Lecha Dodi, Come Friend, which welcomes the bride of Shabbat as she enters our homes, bringing light and joy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx4IaNQGo4I
Shebahi Yerushalayim ( Bless Jerusalem, Bless the Almighty) , one of my favourite songs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByWfUx0QnyE

Finally, Judaism is feminist! Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear the gasps of dismay! Truly, by the standards of time, not of todays determination to be the same, the prayer, the blessing of the woman of the household every Friday night at the Shabbat table, is exceptional. Read the words with the wisdom of history, not of today. Eshet Chayil - Woman of Worth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh-JCjOraTs

Actually, today Zvi is the feminist (he is anyway). I don't need to cook today since we are invited out but being Israeli one always takes at least one dish to the host's table. Today a delighted Zvi is cooking!!! Normally he complains that I have either already prepared everything or that I won't let him in the kitchen! Today he is preparing his two favourite salads - Potato salad (known in the States as Russian salad) filled with potato, onion, gherkins, peas and carrots; the other is known in our house (by Zvi anyway) as "The best salad in the world" - Zvi's courgette salad! A wonderful mix of grated courgette and onion, lightly caramelised, then cooled and mixed with grated hard boiled egg and mayo - it is delicious!!!!

So dear friends, another week of world problems and personal joy.
I leave you with the clever Pat Condell on British Universities and freedom of speech. Don't be smug - it is true of the University near you too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XPHIfgFwsY&feature=em-subs_digest

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom and much love from our beautiful, sun drenched, thriving and vibrant city - Jerusalem.

Sheila
Just in - news of a terror attack http://www.bicom.org.uk/news-article/24687/


-- 
If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement   http://www.impact-se.org/   http://www.yurishtern.org.il/eng/content.php?id=17

Friday, 27 February 2015

150227 ISIS Nineveh, Obama-Netanyahu, Rubio, BOG Gantz, IsraAid, Purim

150227
27th February 2015

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

Just as I think we cannot be more deeply offended by the vile behaviour of ISIS by any other name, something else happens. The sheer inhumanity of their slaughter has gone beyond our worst nightmares exceeded by their determination to destroy history lest it contradicts their invented present was seen in Afghanistan and now in Mosul, ancient Nineveh, the destruction is recorded to prove their superiority. http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/4801.htm

I stay out of mudslinging and personal views of the American Administration. I care only that the administration makes decisions that are best for America. The highly personal row between an American President and the Israeli Prime Minister has become filled with unbecoming rhetoric. Deeply personal criticism by John Kerry, snidely suggesting that Mr Netanyahu doesn't know what he is talking about offends me deeply. Believe you me Mr Kerry, for us the enemy is not many thousands of miles away and our SecretService has been doing this for longer than yours. The nuclear devices may hit us on their way to Washington and New York - and head for Washington they will. It is not Mr Netanyahus speech that will affect the outcome of the Israeli elections,  most are ready for change anyway, but the derision with which the White House treats the PM may just cause the Israelis to vote for him!!! Senators Rubio and Ayotte say it best.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODjcm7U4lo0 http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/191893#.VO9l9PmUePn

An American jury reached an historic decision regarding the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority for terror attacks, specifically during the 2nd Intifada. The precedent was set by the Lockerbie decision  making Libya liable for compensation to the families of those killed and other Libyan initiated attacks. Targeting civilians was "standard operating procedure" for the Palestine Liberation Organization, Fatah and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, plaintiffs' attorney Kent Yalowitz told jurors when the trial began. Yasser Arafat, the PLO's longtime chairman and the PA's president, controlled all those entities. Arafat's handwritten consent appears on PA documents detailing payments to terrorists and their families that were later seized by Israel. Those records became key evidence showing the PA's knowledge and support for the bloody wave of terror attacks. One 2002 report sent to the PA's General Intelligence Service chief praised a West Bank squad for its "high quality successful attacks." http://www.investigativeproject.org/4784/jury-finds-palestinian-authority-liable-for#  The PA claims they don't have the money - so where did all that aid go?

The US Consulate in Jerusalem asked New York City Councillor David Greenfield to remove his Kippa when visiting Ramallah "for security reasons" and found nothing odd in their request. I am proud to say the Councillor Greenfield refused. http://www.algemeiner.com/2015/02/26/new-york-councilman-visiting-ramallah-refuses-to-remove-kippah-when-asked-by-us-consulate-security/

This week the Board of Governors Meetings of the Jewish Agency took place in Jerusalem. Zvi did not manage to go to all the meetings, busy taking care of me, but he managed to go to several. The speaker that impressed him most of all was  former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, for the first time wearing his "civvies" rather than his IDF uniform. Gantz outlined the major issues before the assembled leaders from around the world explaining that he leaves Israel with many problems but that his successor Gadi Eizenkott is more than capable of dealing with any danger that presents itself.
1. The Iranian situation. Gantz said he has nothing against Persians but their regime invokes deep concern
2. In countries to the North of Israel,  2 evil entities are fighting for control, religious control - the Shiites and the Sunnis. They are not armies but rather ideals which is a problem that NATO did not recognise for many years but now they do.
3. The aim of ISIS, clear in their name, is to make the entire ME ( and world) one Caliphate -  "The End of Sykes-Picot", from the 1916 secret agreement between France and Britain that split the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. They do not recognise any other entity.
4. Our internal problems can only be dealt with by encouraging social solidarity, not divisive policies.
5. Your role. Our role. Diaspora communities and the relationship with Israel must be nurtured. It is now of paramount importance from every aspect. Only by combatting ignorance with knowledge about this area in general and Israel in particular can we influence others. Learn and disseminate.
Finally, Lt General Gantz spoke of the lone soldiers. Boys and girls who volunteer to make Aliya and enlist in the IDF while their families are overseas. He asked us all to take care of them. http://www.fidf.org/page.aspx?pid=282
 
The Diaspora issue is addressed by Yair Lapid in this excellent letter to the Guardian Newspaper concerning the hundreds of artists who signed a petition condemning Israel. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/19/why-no-petition-to-protect-jewish-people?CMP=share_btn_link

IsraAid, founded and run on a shoestring by the amazing Shachar Zahavi, is the jewel in the crown of Israels outreach to those in need. While governments ponder, IsraAid acts. You already know about Haiti, Phillipines, New Jersey, and so many other places in turmoil but this latest IsraAid project deserves more funding and more publicity.  Relief for the Yazidis of Northern Iraq http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/Aid/Pages/IsraAID-scales-up-winter-relief-operation-in-northern-Iraq-9-Feb-2015.aspx

Charlie Chaplin was not known for his politics, rather for his portrayal of the little man who proved to be our hero. Never more than in this video, the final speech from the movie The Great Dictator https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcvjoWOwnn4

If you ever have doubts about Israeli behaviour in Operation Protective Edge - just watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKKM3GvjRa8

Almost Purim. What is Purim and what do we celebrate? That's not so difficult - Wicked Vizier, weak King with an eye for a pretty lady and an overpowering wife, decision to kill Jews, wisdom won through and yet again we eat at the end.  Why do we dress up? Once upon a time we dressed up as Queen Esther or Mordechai and the bad boys were Haman. Why do we get Tipsy? So we won't be able to differentiate between friend and foe thus not hate anyone. One needs to be either blind deaf or dumb - actually all three - not to recognise the similarities between today and those days of yore. I saw the similarities but Rabbi Jeremy Rosen recognised another similarity - between now and Munich.  http://jeremyrosen.blogspot.co.il/ -
 
Israel is awash with "Hamantaschen" Pastry triangles alternatively called Hamans Ears,  Hamans Hats, Hamans Pockets in fact almost anything that relates to Haman! These delicacies can be traditional, filled with either dried, spiced fruit or poppy seeds, or with just about any sweet or savoury delicacy the conditory can invent including Green Tea!!! http://www.timesofisrael.com/green-tea-hamantaschen-in-paula-shoyers-kitchen/

We haven't had a Hebrew lesson for ages, so now is the time for a spectacularly Israeli phenomenon. The MAKOLET. Makolet, convenience store, corner shop, neighbourhood grocery and general meeting place. In most countries the makolet has given way to large conglomerates and supermarkets but here they are a growing business, rather than closing down they are thriving!!! Our makolet owner is Oren and he knows everyone by name. If someone is missing a carton of milk or a pat of butter he will have one of his people pop it round in a jiffy, or one can make large orders - all free delivery and one can pay tomorrow or the next day. The young men who work with him, Itzik, Bar and Uzi, are equally fun and Orens fruit and vegetables are the very best in town. When you go to the makolet for HALAV (milk), BAYTZIM (eggs), SHOKO, a delicious chocolate milk shake which traditionally came in individual plastic bags that children successfully bite off the corner and drink; for YERAKOT (vegetables) or PAYROT (fruit) you will find everything from simple potatoes and onions to crispy asparagus and long white leeks straight from the ground. Peppers,PILPEL, juicy red, yellow, orange and green or tiny multicoloured sweet peppers not to be confused with the fiery PIPEL HARIF (hot peppers) or three types of courgette - in fact everything is so diverse including the shapes because we don't necessarily eat the evenly shaped ones - we sell them to you!!! I always choose the Siamese twin bananas, the bulbous cucumbers or the piggy back peaches just because that's how nature made them, not straight and tasteless but strange and scrumptious!! 

If you doubt for one minute that Israeli food is the freshest and best just read this! http://www.timesofisrael.com/israelis-among-the-healthiest-eaters-study/

That's it! Time to make my final touches for Shabbat. Zvi has been absolutely phenomenal this week, taking care of me, cooking, tidying and entertaining visitors. He really proved his nurturing side! My neighbour Shoshana came bearing food and the other neighbour Michal baked a cake but other than that he took on his role with great good nature.

It may sound strange but last Friday, waking from the anaesthetic I looked up at both Zvi and my wonderful eldest son Daniel and felt great gratitude and love wash over me- Dan, you are such a special person, you and your beautiful family. This week our second eldest grandson Samuel was 10 years old. Sammy, you have taught us all the meaning of absolute love, absolute trust and fine dining!  I am the luckiest person in the world that all three of my children and both of Zvi's and their partners in life, exude love and are really good people. Lucky, lucky, lucky. 

Tomorrow Steve and Shuli Daren are coming to visit and various other friends- I am so much better but haven't managed to get out for a whole week! Unfortunately that meant that I haven't seen Rachel and her family this week since they have all been struck down with flu - real flu and not very nice at all. Wishing them better soon.

Shabbat Shalom everyone.  Hope you have a wonderful Shabbat filled with love, contemplation and peace.

This week I realised once more how fortunate I am as I lay in bed absorbing the view of Jerusalem from our window - The View from Our Veranda!
Love
Sheila


-- 
If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement   http://www.impact-se.org/   http://www.yurishtern.org.il/eng/content.php?id=17

Thursday, 19 February 2015

150219 Herzliya,Benny Gantz, Politics, Daniel and family,


150219
19th February 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. For a change I am not looking at the view of Jerusalem from our veranda but rather the stormy waves of Herzliya.With the impending snowstorm hanging over Jerusalem we came a day early to Herzliya, where I undergo minor surgery tomorrow.

This has been a turbulent week in an ever less stable world, but for me it has been a glorious week as my eldest son Daniel, his wife Karen and their two amazing children came to visit us in Jerusalem. Seeing our city through the eyes of a 7 year old child and watching all the children of our now extended family playing together was absolutely amazing. Children manage to cross language barriers so much more successfully than we do. I will tell you about our adventures and visits later but I owe you a short description of our upcoming elections before the sweet dessert of talk of small people.

Actually, I am beginning to think that all politicians are small people too. They don't have the verve and elan of children but they don't seem to have learned how to put the brakes on their tongues either.  This election is about dirtying the reputation of ones opponents rather than informing us of what they intend doing.  As a Brit I learned about Party Manifestos, the intentions and plans of each party set out clearly so that any choice will be educated rather than rumour driven. When the accusations are flying about profligate spending in the PM's house I assumed it was more politicking but apparently it was already in the works.

Then one comes to the international interference in the Israeli electoral process. I always try to stay out of the politics of other countries but sometimes they don't stay out of ours which demands a response. At a time when it is fashionable to kill people for being Jews and even more fashionable to demean and malign Israel it does not behoove an American President to allow his White House press briefings to contain strong condemnation of the Israeli Prime Minister. There is not another country in the entire region, and possibly further afield, that has given such unconditional support to the United States and the current slap in the face is unwarranted.

Mr Netanyahu has stated clearly and unequivocally that he does not wish to electioneer but rather to express his deep concerns about the current policies concerning Iran. Iran is of clear and present danger to Israel and also to other American Allies in this region and I cannot begin to quote Shimon Peres yet again about countries where many citizens are willing to become hangmen. This is a time for all Allies to work together, to listen to each other and to speak out very clearly against evil regimes and the horrors that are taking place in the world as I write.

Sorry, I know I tend to "bang on"about this particular situation but it is devastating when ones greatest friend and ally hits the headlines of popularity at ones expense.

As you know, I am not particularly right wing - nor left wing actually - but rather a pragmatist, an intensely pro-Israel pragmatist, but pragmatist I am. My girlfriend Sheila Zucker (some of you New Yorkers will remember the SheilaShow) is probably right of my thoughts but we have the same convictions as to our right to live in peace in our own land. Sheila wrote this piece in 2004, but it rings true today - even more so. http://zioneocon.blogspot.co.il/2004/05/voice-from-jerusalemisrael-is.html

The fact that we wake up and switch on the news, then watch or listen to news every hour on the hour is not a matter of obsession but rather of the need to know what is happening. We are a happy people that wants to be informed........... just in case.

To my own amazement I am about to give you a link to the Guardian newspaper. Yair Lapid wrote a very interesting article about the 700 second class artists who signed their evil pact to boycott Israel. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/19/israel-boycott-painful-truths-middle-east

Another lady who is not for turning is Maureen Lipman, outstanding actress and wit, and proud Jewess, she gives her honest opinion about the boycotting actors, especially the Jewish ones. http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/maureen-lipman-shame-jewish-boycotters/

I am not certain that the Supreme Courts decision to overturn the Election Committees ban of two electoral candidates, Haneen Zoabi and Baruch Maazel, extremists from the very opposite side of the political map, is a good or wise move. Both are dangerous, both have taken their right of free speech to places outside democracy.

This week we have all been racing to show Joshua (my grandson) everything possible in Jerusalem without disturbing his baby sister Callie. We went to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, a huge and beautiful zoo, so big and beautiful it really impressed my NYC family with the sheer variety of creatures in natural settings; then we went to the Bloomfield Science Musem which he adored, the Herzl Museum which set him thinking and which he also loved. Inevitably we went to the Kotel on the new shuttle bus from the First Station and as we were leaving that incredibly spiritual site we saw two big black cars arrive, Israeli flags aflying alongside the IDF flag and out stepped both Benny Gantz and Gadi Eizenkopf - the outgoing and incoming Commanders in Chief of the Israel Armed Forces. After their official ceremonies they both came to the Kotel for the swearing in ceremony - where else? Soldiers have their passing out parades here and it is the one place on earth where to swear an oath - especially a Jewish oath to protect the Jewish State - is right at the very core of our faith. Joshua was so impressed, as were the adults!  May G-d bless our new Commander in Chief and give him the wisdom to make the right choices. Benny Gatz talked to Christiane Ananpur on CNN, a brilliant man http://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2015/02/16/intv-amanpour-benny-gantz-retiring-gaza-iran-isis.cnn

My favourite part of the entire week was watching the children playing together. Watching them enjoy each other and seeing my daughter Rachel soaking up her time with big bruvver. I admit to being whacked but it was fabulous and Rachel actually hosted them and also their cousins Sagi and Ditty and the children and making them home-made pizza, felafel, tehina, and all the amazing goodies that she makes so beautifully.

I would love to continue - there are so many events that I missed this week including seeing my hero Malcolm Hoenlein and joining the Conference of Presidents Jerusalem conference and hearing Khaled Abu Toameh speak -  but actually, I am going into hospital for minor surgery tomorrow so am conserving my energies!!!!

As I told you I am writing facing the window of our hotel, watching the stormy sea lashing the sands, sands that are more used to laughing tourists than powerful rollers crashing on the unsuspecting shoreline.
Hopefully by this time next week I will be writing to tell you that it is all behind me and will be back looking at my favourite view - the View from our Veranda.

I wish you Shabbat Shalom with this song Shabbat Menucha - Shabbat Rest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uphFhOEHf5Y

One of my favourite songs of all time is "Tishmor al ha Olam Yeled" Guard the World Child - sung by the Israeli counter tenor David D'Or. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7EV4IWgR2A The words are so important that I give you those too. The song tells that we, our generation has done a poor job of saving our world so it is up to our children. http://www.hebrewsongs.com/?song=shmoralhaolamyeled 

So I wish you Shabbat Shalom, with all our love from Herzliya, with our hearts in Jerusalem.
With love
Sheila

-- 
If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement   http://www.impact-se.org/   http://www.yurishtern.org.il/eng/content.php?id=17

Friday, 13 February 2015

150212 Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem. Netanyahu Congress, Justin Welby, CBS Simons, Ron Carner, Daniel arrive

150212
12th February 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well and that life is being kind to you.

As you know, I search for songs and poems that express my thoughts. This quote from Edward Yashinsky perhaps is the most fitting, the most apt.
“Fear not your enemies, for they can only kill you. Fear not your friends, for they can only betray you.
Fear only the indifferent, who permit the killers and betrayers to walk safely on the earth.”

The big debate of the week concerns the Israeli Prime Ministers decision to appear before Congress despite extremely vocal opposition from the White House. The American administration claims that a speech this close to Israeli elections is considered electioneering. The White House was, apparently, informed by the Speaker of the Congress of Mr Netanyahus visit. Here in Israel Isaac Herzog of Israels Labour party, now called the Zionist Group, maligned the PM's decision in a speech during his visit to Europe, suggesting that the speech before Congress breaks the election rules - but publicly maligning ones political adversary before elections is not. Our Attorney General, Adv. Yehuda Weinstein, has investigated the proposed speech in detail and came to the decision that it was not electioneering and was completely legal by the very tough Israeli election regulations, thus, despite the best efforts of Meretz Zahava Galon, the speech will be broadcast in Israel. http://www.jpost.com/Israel-Elections/Attorney-general-calls-broadcasting-Netanyahus-Congress-speech-kosher-390678

William Booth witnessed a chilling event in the Gaza Strip on Thursday: thousands of youths lined up “in crisp military fashion” for a “graduation ceremony” after a week of training by the armed wing of the Hamas movement. Even as thousands of Gazan families struggle to survive amid the rubble of last summer’s war with Israel, and children are reported to be dying from exposure, Hamas is once again investing its resources in preparing for another unwinnable battle. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sharing-the-blame-for-gazas-tragic-cycle/2015/02/01/223ddc7e-a8ac-11e4-a7c2-03d37af98440_story.html 

The reality defying news this week tells us that the PA studies details of each terrorist act before issuing salaries to the families. Newly obtained documents show meticulous process by which martyrdom status, payment levels, honorary ranks are determined http://www.timesofisrael.com/pa-studies-details-of-each-terrorist-act-before-issuing-salaries

I need you to write to CBS to complain!!  http://www.cbsnews.com/contact-us/  Bob Simons the legendary reporter was never a friend of Israel and often gave deeply slanted reports. In this interview Simons disgraceful statement was given as proof of his honest reportage. "When Bob Simons was talking to an Israeli General he said Sir you are one of Israels finest generals so why do you kill children"  Disgusting!!!!  http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/scott-pelley-bob-simon-had-enormous-courage-sharp-intolerance-for-injustice/

The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was “often deeply embarrassed” by failures of the Church of England in tackling anti-Semitism. Justin Welby said people should be shocked by the rise in anti-Semitism and described it as “blasphemy”, as he hosted the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism at Lambeth Palace. “The need for increased police patrolling of Jewish neighbourhoods in response to security concerns was a “peculiar and remarkable obscenity when we are in the midst of commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz”, he said.  http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/archbishop-welby-backs-anti-semitism-report-tackle-online-hate/  For those who think that nothing is being done in the UK against anti-semitism - hear this wonderful speech against the recognition of Palestine. Baroness Deech at her very best. According to Lord Stone, Lords Mitchell, Mendelsohn, Palmer, Leigh, Winston, Farmer and Baroness Ramsay also spoke with great eloquence. http://www.israellycool.com/2015/01/30/must-watch-baroness-deech-pulls-no-punches-in-opposing-uk-recognition-of-palestine/

The Israeli elections reflect the ultimate democracy - I don't like the system but the safety nets are outstanding. For instance not only is the Supreme Court Judge overseeing the election committee an Arab but two people were before the Central Elections Committee facing disallowance to stand for the Knesset, one Hanin Zoabi and the other Baruch Maazel  http://www.jpost.com/Israel-Elections/Israeli-Arab-Supreme-Court-Judge-to-oversee-Israeli-elections-384078 Today  Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran, a Christian Maronite, chaired the first stage of MK Hanin Zoabis defence against being excluded from taking part in the Israeli elections for her constant support of Hamas and being on board the Mavi Marmara and Baruch Maazel for his extreme views concerning Israeli Arabs. Ultimately th eSupreme Court will make the decision  http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/189064#.VNyfbvmUePk

We love Ron Carner. We never made a secret of the fact and now, after this interview we love him even more! The President of Maccabi USA Ron says "When we bring our young people to Israel, sport is the hook but they have a 6 day experience of loving Israel." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmXISr_V_p0#t=615 

If any of you had any doubts as to the future leadership of the Jewish people - fear no more. This is a video of the Standwithus Israel in Forcus Conference as they spontaneously broke into song "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu" - Peace will come to us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1422579428&v=B6nRz5i3lOY&x-yt-cl=85114404#t=130

 Alan Parsons was the brains behind so many hit records he has lost count, from the Beatles to Pink Floyd and many more. Alan Parsons chose to ignore the words of Roger Waters (formerly Pink Floyd currently anti-Israel activist) and performed before a huge, appreciative audience this week in Tel Aviv, appeared on Israeli television and generally came out as a really good guy. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4625372,00.html

There are some people in this world who are natural leaders, irrespective of physical stature or gender. Neri Bloomfield z"l was one such person. To be with Neri was not only to enjoy her exceptional wit and elan but to understand that one was in the company of a strong leader. Sadly this week Neri passed away leaving her children, Harry and Evelyn and her daughter in law Nancy and son in law Raphael and grandchildren mourning, yet enjoying a rare and precious legacy. Neri Bloomfield philanthropist extraordinary. Rest in peace.

Shir ha Maalot - Song of Songs, is both ancient and  modern. It is beautiful, haunting and a prayer to Hashem to hear our imprecation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlCUTwruDZw

I loved this video about non-Israeli (non-Jewish) reactions to Israeli food. Very funny, I don't know what they expected!!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1421914688&v=zhMSlWmUaK0&x-yt-cl=84503534

Today one of my two greatest prayers will be answered. My eldest son Daniel is coming to visit us in Jerusalem with his beautiful family, Karen, Joshua and Callie. It is so hard to be far far away from ones children to say nothing of grandchildren, and today I will be waiting at the airport, arms open wide, waiting for my hugs. I love Skype but there is nothing like the real thing, no matter what their age the pain of missing them never leaves. This year I have not been able to visit New York, which makes this Friday night dinner all the more important. Rachel and her family are waiting on tenterhooks to see their cousins and Rachel to get her "big brother hug".  

On Shabbat Zvi's boys and their families will come to see their cousins and get to know each other. Gosh I can't wait to show Joshua all the incredible childrens activities in Jerusalem - the Childrens Wing at the Israel Museum, the Bloomfield Science Museum, the Latrun Tank Museum, Ein Yael Nature Park and the Biblical Zoo and hopefully he will also get to fulfil his dream of an archaeological dig. Maybe we can go to the chocolate making course at Kiftsuba!!! 

So that's it from a very dusty Jerusalem. We couldn't see a thing for two days because the Sahara came to Israel in the shape of incredible sandstorms and gusting winds. It has almost cleared from the air but most gardens and verandas are filled with sand. Apparently the sand is full of minerals which enrich the soil which proves that even the Sahara could bloom if only they would spend their money on irrigation instead of irradiation!

I can't wait to see Joshuas beautiful little face light up when he sees his cousins and as we drive back from the airport to Jerusalem and he sees the incredible vista, nay panorama, of Jerusalem laying before him as we go over the heights of Samuels Tomb. The sun came out for him this morning......... just for Joshua.

I was deeply moved by this video of the Israeli Navy celebrating Shabbat on board ship. What are they singing? Peace unto you, angels of peace. Only the IDF. http://israelforever.org/interact/multimedia/Video/shalom_aleichem_on_idf_navy_ship/

With much love from Jerusalem, the heart of our prayers, the 2,000 year dream that came true....because we willed it.

Sheila

-- 
If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement   http://www.impact-se.org/   http://www.yurishtern.org.il/eng/content.php?id=17

Friday, 6 February 2015

150206 Burning of Jordanian Pilot, PM before Congress, Tu b'Shvat

150206
6th February 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom.

The moment Zvi and I heard that a Jordanian pilot had been captured by Da' ish/ ISIS we looked at each other in dismay. We knew that he would not only be horribly tortured, not uncommon for their captives, but would suffer horrifically simply because he was a fellow Moslem and deemed to have joined the enemy. In our worst nightmares we could not have imagined that they would put him in a cage and burn him alive. The sheer extent of their barbarism is a direct reflection of their danger. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31121160

The bruhaha over Prime Minster Netanyahus visit to speak before Congress is building, and building. I don't know what is best, who is right and who is being adamant. The fact that it is being played out in public rather than a quiet word in Mr Netanyahus ear infuriates me however. What happened to diplomacy? When a leader is invited by the speaker of the House to speak, well before we knew that elections would be imminent, it seems rude to decline. When the invitation is withdrawn very publicly by the President it put Democratic Congressmen who support Israel in a very difficult position and for the Speaker to retract the invite of for Mr Netanyahu to refuse the invite was already a matter of principle.  Yet another public embarrassment for the Israeli leader. I truly don't know what to think except that it seems a very strange way to treat your greatest ally, indeed your only ally in the region. 

Sir Martin Gilbert was arguably the greatest biographer of his time, certainly the greatest Jewish biographer of our time. Sadly Sir Martin passed away this week. I quote his words‬ on Israel: “It is the country I have lived in, taught in, played in, seen my children grow up in — and hold in the highest esteem, for all its faults, which are in my view far outweighed by its virtues.”
Baruch Dayan Emet Sir Martin. One of the world's preeminent historians on the Holocaust, Israel & the Jewish people. An official Churchill Biographer. Zionist. Intellectual. Mensch! You may no-longer be with us, but your words and books will live with us forever!

I remember my high school geography lessons about the rotation of crops and laying fields fallow to regenerate the soil and now, here we are in the middle of that very concept, but the ancient variety, Jewish ecology. Not only is it a year of laying the land, trees, soil fallow during the mandatory seventh year - Shmitta - but we just celebrated Tu b'Shvat, the New Year for Trees. Children all over Israel plant new trees or bushes but this year they refrained, because it is a shmitta year, the seventh year of the cycle and thus the land must lay fallow.

Although trees are not bearing fruit at this time of year we delight in eating loads of dried fruits, fresh fruits and so on. Indeed the shopping malls, supermarkets and shouks were filled with delicious baskets of dried fruits of Israel. Plump prunes, dates, raisins, sultanas and cranberries to say nothing of the unbelievable dried pineapple. Our dried pineapple bears no resemblance to the ones you buy! No sugar, no additives they are simply slices of sun dried pineapple of such intense flavour that your tongue immediately expressed delight. "Wow". What is Tu b'Shvat? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x40fgG3wcgw

Talking of nature, do you know what a large synchronised flight of starlings is called? I found out this week. It is a murmuration. The news stations around the world were full of a miracle in the South of Israel, a murmuration of starlings over the Bedouin town of Rahat. It is breathtaking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btC2OmiSR0s

Anti-Semitism is the mark of Cain of modern society. It is the canary in the coal mine, it is the proof of the collapse of our society as we know it, it is proof positive that we learned nothing from history. Goebbels is alive and well and living in the minds of our enemies but Winston Churchill is not here to expose their evil  and fight back.

Last Friday night we went to our friend Itzik Mussachy for supper. It was such a delight to take part in their traditional Shabbat dinner. There were some differences, like the zatar oil that they pour over the challah after it is broken, but it was Shabbat, Shabbes, Friday night dinner with the self-same traditions that our ancestors brought to that same table. Itzik has four daughters, each very different and each absolutely wonderful. We loved it to say nothing of Itziks amazing cooking!!!!

On Shabbat, Ella Raviv reached the vast age of 2!!! She was so excited by the fuss, although too shy to say anything. She loved the fact that we sang happy birthday in English, Hebrew and then sang Yom Huledet Sameach too!!!! Ella, as I told you, so called because she was born on Tu b' Shvat. The foods all related to trees, nature, fruit and veggies........ delightful.

This week has been a bit crazy. As my Facebook friends know I was meant to undergo a very small surgery last Monday but it was deferred for further checks and test by a truly incredible surgeon who does not like to take chances with his patients. Dr. Aviad Hoffman really is exceptional and a lovely person too. Anyway - between us we decided to save the date after my beautiful New York family comes to spend time with us in Jerusalem. I just want to be able to cuddle my little grand-daughter and play with Joshua who is so much fun! The food is all cooked, all of my son Daniel's childhood favourites, just because he is well over 40 doesn't mean he shouldn't be spoiled with fried gefilte fish balls, potato kugel, chicken soup with kneidlach, stuffed peppers and red rice, beouf bourguignon.......... and so many other foodstuffs all ready for their arrival. For my lovely daughter in law Karen I also bought some beautiful fresh fish, both whole and filleted so that she would not be forced into eating only Dan's favourites!

The weather has been a beautiful this week. Gentle sunshine, relatively warm with glorious red, dappled skies at both sunrise and sunset. Next week we expect anything from snow on Tuesday to gentle rain - hopefully the latter. I am not worried about amusing the children, we have so much for them to do in Jerusalem even when it rains. The Bloomfield Science Museum which has experiments and activities for every age, from 1 though to 90!!!! The Ruth Wing of the Israel Museum too and hopefully the weather will be good enough to go out to the Latrun Tank Musuem where they can clamber over the old tanks where they have cut the sides out so the children can see the workings. Nothing to do with teaching war, just about tanks and adventures.
My downstairs neighbour Shoshanna just popped up to say hello. Actually everyone is our downstairs neighbour because we are on the top floor of what are called step housing. Jerusalem is all hills so rather than flatten a hill (remember that Jerusalem is rocky) we build on the slope like steps. Anyway, Shoshanna was hoping to see what I am cooking for Shabbat but my kitchen is surprisingly clean and tidy today- we are out for both meals!!!!  Yesterday she came with a gift for Zvi, some delicious pasta dishes! 

Israel is all about food and family - hardly surprising since we are Jewish after all. Talking of Jewish and food, I had a note from Canon Andrew White, who is doing really well, to say that he was in the King David with the British Ambassador Matthew Gould, and they were eating his very favourite dish........... gefilte fish!!!!

So here we are! Another Shabbat, another chance to contemplate on the week that passed and try to change what will be. As Zvi gets ready to go to his Parliament, we stand together in front of the windows, looking out from the veranda on the blue skies, small clouds scudding across the blue sky, the sun warming Jerusalem after a cool night. The spring bulbs are beginning to emerge, fooled into believing that spring has sprung by the warm air and giving hope for future colour and joy. 

On the way down to the Dead Sea the desert is blooming from the rains of a few weeks ago. The land is fertile and the sleeping seeds suddenly wake up and provide a carpet of red poppies and anemones over the formerly sandy ground. Israelis flock to see the wonder of the flowers in the desert and the black Iris in both Nes Ziona and Netanya. Gosh this is a beautiful country.

To honour Tu b' Shvat and the national flower of Israel here is the late Shoshanna Dimari singing Calaniot (Anemones)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaL7mllWVG4

The Almond blossom, harbinger of spring, turns the Jerusalem hills into clouds of pink and the open fields and parks are covered in poppies, anemones and wild pink cyclamen which seem to grow out of the very rocks which are an integral part of the Jerusalem landscape.

I wish you a Shabbat shalom and remind you to stay positive and hopeful in a seeming terrifying world. More than any other song, my feelings are expressed by Al Kol Eleh – Above all this. Read the words and feel the melody and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. We have so much to be thankful for  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gbw2FTYHCTg

My favourite quote of the week is from actor, satirist and traveller Michael Palin - I know that we shall meet problems along the way, but I'd far rather see for myself what's going on in the world outside, than rely on newspapers, television, politicians and religious leaders to tell me what I should be thinking.
I must rush because I am very excited to tell you that my girlfriend Sheila (we call each other " my friend Sheila") is about to come and visit me.

With love from Jerusalem