Friday, 8 December 2017

171208 Jerusalem


8th December 2017

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

After three days of rain and one clear statement by an American President Jerusalem is looking beautiful.

If one truly analyses President Trumps statement/declaration nothing has changed except the paradigm. From the vote in Washington in 1995 the question of Jerusalem has been carefully put on a back burner, pushed to one side every six months by Presidents who were fearful of their position and world reaction, this President decided that in a carefully worded, quietly presented statement, he would change the paradigm.

Let's just look at the situation logically, without emotion and without condemning him just because he is Donald Trump. Just because he is "The Donald" who isn't looking for political allies, he could make that statement.

Since Saddam Hussein, horrific despot, was deposed; since Hosni Mubarak, slightly less horrific but extremely effective dictator was deposed; since tyrannical dictator Muammar Ghaddafi was deposed, the Middle East has fallen into total chaos, as King Hussein of Jordan wisely predicted and warned. Libya has split back into 400 warring tribes, Syria is in a state of hellfire, Yemen is beyond saving, Iraq too although the Kurds are doing their best to control it, I could go on and on and then we come to Iran. Iran – oh yes that has become the centre of all evil since James Earl Carter decided it was not a democratic country and the relatively benign Shah was exiled. The Western policies until now have not worked.

Will the statement bring peace or war? Peace is not a reality in this arena, the fight must go on until ones religious pride is appeased. American flags and pictures of President Trump are being burned and defecated on. The supposed Israel/Palestinian conflict has been pushed forward by a world that doesn't want to see the true life or death conflicts of this and the African battles. Concentrating on Israel as the demon of the Middle East is convenient and currently politically correct – after all Jews as the scapegoat is hardly a new phenomena! Of course there will be riots – after all it makes good TV and will fulfil the Palestinian leadership's desire for front page; of course the fact that the President spoke of "two states for two people" was conveniently ignored by the Palestinians who hang on to their victimship with fierce conviction; of course people will die and be permanently scarred, not on the scale of our neighbours who are killing each other without a moments thought; Israel will be blamed again, but we will continue as before with tikkun olam.

President Trump stated the obvious. King David chose this hilltop because he wanted to unite the Jewish people. Until then we were 12 tribes, not a united whole, so he chose a place that did not belong to any tribe and was easily defensible and called it Jerusalem. He wrote beautiful poetry about it, each poem numbered and sung by Jews and Christians around the world. 3,000 years have passed and for 2,000 year Jerusalem became a prayer after the Jews were exiled, enslaved and spread all over the world. Here King Solomon built the Holy Temple, here the Second Temple was built; the streets where Jesus walked and preached. Jerusalem is Jewish, Jerusalem is Christian, Jerusalem is also Moslem. What is the difference between Jerusalem under Jewish rule and Jerusalem under Moslem rule? Under Moslem rule no other religion was free, under Jewish rule by definition and by declaration all religions are free to practice their faith as they see fit.

By stating the obvious President Trump has changed the Paradigm – the model, pattern, exemplar, example or archetype. He actually came out with the words that others only say after leaving office. He changed the way the USA looks at Israel – Israel is the country of the Jewish people and we have every right to be there. President Trump also said that the argument is between us not for the interference of others. That, perhaps is the most important statement of all. Those of you who have known me for a long time will know that I have always said that if other countries would just butt out of our business we could have reached salaam if not sulcha. Perhaps it is time to take Sykes-Picot and undo the infinite damage it created by splitting people and dividing countries.

For a short while we were able to escape from the rampant corruption in local and central government. It is exhausting and while desperately important to have clean and transparent governance it makes the regular citizen wonder if he is the only "frier" in town.

This week it rained!! Glorious, big ploppy drops rain which refreshed the city, indeed the country. The summer dust has settled, the trees and plants woke up and breathed in the fresh air as we all did too!

Just like half the people in the world we both have colds, but yesterday Rachel Risby-Raz came for brunch. I so enjoy her company and was happy to discover that she is now working as Ehud Olmert's private assistant, running his office with great efficiency. I made Shakshuka which is my favourite breakfast, totally Middle Eastern and delicious. Eggs poache din a delicious sauce of tomatoes, onions, red peppers which have been cooked for ever. The only bad thing about Shakshuka is that one needs bread to mop up the sauce!!! We spoke of wonderful friends we have in common, of Ehud who we all love, of the current police investigations and of who is behind it all – no I am not going to tell you but this man is super powerful and very proud of the case he "worked" to bring Ehud down. You will read it all in the book that is about to come out!!!

I went with Rachel to Netanya to see Valerie and Martin before they left for Britain. There is nothing quite like the friendship of someone who knows everything about you and only wishes you well. Rachel loves her Auntie Val and Uncle Martin!!! After Netanya we were in Bnei Brak, a firmly Haredi town, it is very different to Mea Shearim. People in Bnei Brak work, are less radical – or it's just the impression I got. Everyone we met was kind and open – and I wore trousers!!!

This morning we are off to Tel Aviv to the home of our friends Lea and Yehuda Ressler to wish Lea a very happy 70th birthday – 70+ is a club I am thrilled to belong to and welcome any friend who joins us!!!

Before I give you some songs of Shabbat and peace I want to take the opportunity to extend my deepest condolences to my sister in law Sandie who has taken care of her Mother for years with devotion rarely seen. Sandies Mother passed away two days ago and my heart goes out to Sandie, Ronnie, Sophie, Adam and Deborah. May her soul finally rest in peace.

For those who think that we don't speak, meet and have deep friendships with Arabs – think again  A song of hope and peace from both sides

Rotem isn't famous, she is just a girl scout who sings of peace "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu" Peace will yet come to us and to all the world. Rotem with sign language  and children in Africa

Shabbat Shalom  dear friends. I wish you peace.

With love from beautiful Jerusalem – the capital of the Jewish world


Friday, 1 December 2017

171201 Hotovely, N Korea, Trump, Hoenlein, Yuri Shtern


The first of December 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

I have to start with the ridiculous storm in a teacup after Israeli Minister Tsippi Hotovely said that American parents cannot understand what it means to have a child in the IDF. She's right!!! I have two step-sons, Zvi's boys, who served in the IDF in dangerous situations and with all the love that I have for them, I am not their parent and I cannot understand what it means to rear a child to serve in a constant war situation. I am here in Israel, I have friends who lost their children to war and if I cannot comprehend fully, how on earth can anyone thousands of miles away understand the parents here. It wasn't an insult!! It was a fact. The Minister never claimed that Americans don't support Israel or that no Americans have ever served in the IDF – far from it. There are those who are trying hard to build a wall between the United States Jewish community and Israel and this is just another attempt. Please, don't be fooled, the connection we have is of ultimate and deep importance for both of us because as the seemingly banal saying goes "United we stand divided we fall" or as Sir Winston Churchill said "When there is no enemy within then the enemies without cannot hurt you". There are so many enemies without, racist enemies, that we must stop our infighting and find the common denominator rather than emphasising our differences.

This has been a week of extreme rhetoric and a threatening ballistic missile launch. The insanity of Chairman Kim has nothing to do with whatever the American President says – it is innate, inborn, psychopathic megalomania. So determined is he to appear the mightiest leader of the world that he brought the strange television reporter out of retirement to report every move in her staccato, bellowing urgency to emphasise his actions.

We live in a time of extremes, of instant decisions rather than of labored and careful leadership. Everything is instant and encapsulated in a Tweet. Everything is in the words of headlines and people do not read in depth reports – it saddens me. It especially saddens me when the leader of the Western World is ridiculed daily on Western media. He isn't my cup of tea at all but he is the leader and every item denigrating him gives succour to our enemies – they laugh all the way to their growing arsenals.  Rabbi Jeremy Rosen

I am inundated with information from many and varied sources but this week I received a video, I believe from the lovely Roy Solomon, of a US Representative Jim Jordan speaking on the subject of the American Embassy and Jerusalem. It held me in rapt attention.

A man I have admired for many years, Dr. Malcolm Hoenlein, is the most respected of men. His quiet diplomacy and his behind the scenes work is exceptional. He is currently in direct contact with the Qatari government to obtain the release of Israeli prisoners, both living and bodies, held in Gaza.

On 29th November 1947 the United Nations voted to create two states, a Jewish State and an Arab State in the Middle East. Resolution 181 was very clear, the vote was legal and the newly formed Jewish State accepted 181 with both hands. The Arabs refused to accept it deciding that it was tantamount to causus belli. The result? A thriving, blossoming, cultivated society in Israel and poverty and unassuageable anger on the other.

With all the terrifying news around the world it is always special to hear good news from friends and even better when that good news involves a young Israeli doing well in sport. Or Nassi, the grandson of our friends Carmen and Yisrael, won Gold in the Junior European Championship in Judiko at the Championships in Rome including Gi and No Gi! Bravo Or, you have brought honour to us all.

I am a very lucky person. I have many incredible people in my life from whom I learn every day.
On Wednesday I learned what love can do.
I went with my dear friend Gloria Goldstein to meet Lena Shtern at Shaare Zedek Hospital Oncology Unit, to see and understand the work of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre. We met patients who receive the loving care of the specialized holistic therapists, therapists who give of their love and knowledge freely as volunteers for the Centre. Patients told of the life changing effects of these therapies, how lying in the therapy room they suddenly feel like human beings not pincushions for medication. They spoke of the psychological relief as well as the reduction in nausea and the inevitable side effects of chemotherapy - I don't have words to describe the outpouring of love from both patients and therapists.
Perhaps the most emotional of all, if such a thing is possible, was meeting Dani. Dani is a therapist in the children's ward, most of his therapies are for palliative care patients and their parents. Dani is an angel.
Each and every therapist has undergone very intensive training on top of their regular holistic training to understand and learn how to treat cancer patients and their families, a very different approach to treatment.... and now a new course on how to treat children, including courses in both the psychology of treatment and parenting to understand how to pass this knowledge on to parents of dying children.
Angels - each and every one.
Shaare Zedek medical staff has welcomed the treatments with open arms, recognizing that it really helps their patients overcome the most traumatic of times.

Just in case you are among those who think that all Israeli women are flag waving settlers who sit on a hill top and shoot Arabs or that all Arab women have a bomb under their hijab or teach their children to hate - watch this wonderful video and learn that everyone responds to love. Thanks to Diane Steinfink for sending this to me

Talking of love, David Geffen just left our home after updating us on the incredible work of his organisation "Loving Classroom". Loving Classroom reaches out to children and teachers alike teaching children love and self-esteem and ………. Wait, I am not explaining it correctly, what is a truly practical route to tikkun olam sounds flippant in my words so I will let David's words explain.

Almost Shabbat and Zvi and I are alone this week! We have both been stricken, along with half the world's population, with a rotten cold so even though we have generous natures we don't want to give our germs away!!!!

Jerusalem is spectacular today. The sun is shining, the air crisp and as I sat on the veranda with David and Zvi, all wrapped up in a warm coat, I was again taken aback by our luck to live in such an exquisite place, overlooking the city we love. This city with it's widely diverse population, its troubles and beauty; its fun and intensity; its joy and deep sadness; its trendy bars and restaurants and its religious tensions – and of course its spirituality, perhaps most of all its spirituality. I believe that spirituality has no religion, it has no bounds, it doesn't know hatred and it has no demands. Spirituality is in the very stones, the paths that inspired King David to write the most beautiful poetry, still read today in his original language, Hebrew. Zvi always describes Jerusalem as a city from Wall to Mall – and he is right!

Back to the veranda………. The geraniums are stunning, their bright scarlet flowers prolific  through the lush green foliage. The little lemon tree is thrilled with the change in the weather and her fruits are slowly turning colour, absorbing sweetness from the gentle sunshine, the kumquats are bright orange and the pomegranates, too bitter to eat, are opening their bounty for the multitude of birds which come to feast on them. I was amazed this week to discover that the bird which sings the beautiful but unexpected song amongst the trees is the local parakeet – a bright lime green and simply stunning.

Zvi is downstairs now, renewing the mezuza of our building – just one of the tasks the Chairman of the Building Committee undertakes! I love that we have a building mezuza as well as each home……………..

As I said – almost Shabbat which means it is time for music

Shir l'Maalot this time with a Spanish translation  - so beautiful

A song most of you will recognise May the Skies be Joyous – Yismachu ha Shamayim sung by the Effi Netzer singers – because we bumped into Effi Netzer last week!!!

So that's it! I wish you a good shabbes – a beautiful day – a loving weekend and the opportunity to meet wise people to learn from.

With love to one and all from us, here in Jerusalem



Friday, 24 November 2017

171124 Rabbi Nati, Rivlin Azaria, Mummy


23rd November 2017

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? I hope you are well and not too depressed by the crazy world we live in and the medias obsession with our leaders.

Surprisingly this hasn't been a busy week. It makes a pleasant change and gave me time to cook and contemplate – my freezer was looking decidedly empty! I always keep a full freezer for unexpected guests and extra busy days. In fact I was given an extra day of quiet because Zvi went to babysit in Nes Ziona taking the little car key with him!!! He is an exceptional Saba (Granpa) and Amit, Gili and Ori were thrilled that he stayed over to care for them, so I excused him!!!

Tuesday evening found us at the World Mizrachi Union Centre for a Telfed event. Telfed is a South African group that has excellent and informative events – something I only discovered through the kindness of former Jerusalem Post Editor and current Jerusalem Report Editor Steve Linde. This particular event fascinated me, I was really looking forward to it and it lived up to my expectations. "A Swaziland Prince who became an Orthodox Rabbi" Rabbi Natan Gamedze lived up to my expectations and exceeded them by far!

Rabbi Natan – Nati – was born into wealth and privilege in Swaziland, to a devoutly Christian family. A quiet introverted child, he was clearly brilliant and like his siblings he went to Britain to study in Oxford University. Nati studied languages, today he speaks no less than 14 languages fluently! When he continued his studies at Witwatersrand University in South Africa, he found an Italian class rather boring and decided to take on a challenge and learn the language of the Bible – Hebrew. I will leave you to listen for yourselves – the following video is one of 4, but know that studying Hebrew brought him to Israel, to study at Ohr Sameach Yeshiva and to convert. He now lives in Tsfat (Safed) as Rabbi of a community there and is married to Shayneh Golda. He loves to shock his audiences by breaking into Yiddish and is a delightful and true Jew. It was only after his conversion that he discovered his real name was not the Swazi name he knew but he had been christened Emmanuel – "he who believes in G-d". and his whole story

Where are American Jewish Academics when Israel and other Jews are attacked? Where were the Jewish Academics in the fine American Universities when anti-Semitic, anti-Israel cartoons and activities take place? Where were they when offensive cartoons of Prof. Alan Dershowitz appeared? The loyalty of these academics is sadly lacking, their cowardice blatant. It has become fashionable to deny your heritage, after all being accepted in intellectual circles is more important! The following article is long but worth every word. 

President Rivlin made a brave decision this week to deny a pardon to Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot a terrorist who was already neutralised and no longer a danger. It is a basic and absolute rule within the IDF that no-one, not even a terrorist, be shot if he is neutralised. Azaria was known for his extreme right wing views, although until that day he was a decorated soldier; he went against the ethics of our IDF. The reactions made me very angry – the far right put caricatures of the President wearing a Kaffiyeh and even Nazi uniform - it cannot be countenanced. Yes I know the familiar chant of free speech – but I believe that democracy demands control, democracy is not absolute freedom. As I said at the beginning of this paragraph I, for one, am proud of our President who has brought great dignity and compassion to his position and to Israel.

The Likud Party has gone beyond the line of decency when Party Chair Bitan forced veteran and honourable Member of Knesset Benny Begin to leave a special Committee which intends to prevent prosecution of Knesset Members. Benny Begin disagreed with the party line so he was simply thrown out!!!  Disgraceful.

The history of Jewish persecution in Syria. Jews in Syria suffered some of the worst oppression under Muslim rule of any of the ancient Jewish communities - who existed in the Middle East even before the Muslim conquests in the region. This is their story, a story of struggle and oppression, for which reparations have not been made to this day by Syria or the Arab League. As we lead up to the Memorial Day for the Jewish Refugees from Arab countries, we share the stories of the ancient Jewish communities who were virtually wiped out by racism, extremism and violence in the Middle East.

Every year I fear the question – what were you doing when JFK was assassinated, especially this year since the "secret" papers were disclosed. It isn't that I am not emotional about the assassination, it was a terrible, terrible tragedy which shook the world. No, sadly, the question distresses me because something much greater shook my world and the world of my siblings Eddie, Doreen and Ronnie on that day – indeed at that hour.
22nd November 1963 - I was 17 and it was conceivably the saddest day of my life.
Friday night and Daddy was in the lounge with two friends, Lionel Moore and Norman Cohen. The television was on and although we heard the front door bell the nurse answered, since my brother Ronnie and I were held in rapt attention by what was happening in Dallas, Texas. A President was shot and fighting for his life.
As the announcement came over the airwaves that President Kennedy has died from his wounds I heard my father's scream. He never yelled, he was a quiet man. We left the room to find Dr Grossman holding my father close, his friends crying as Dr Grossman conveyed the news that my beautiful Mother, Betty, had passed away.
She had breast cancer at a time when there was no way to discover it, no mammography, no US, no chemo, no radiation, she simply lived too early to be saved.
She gave me, indeed all her children, the love and confidence to live our lives as thinking loving, confident people. We were very lucky. She left a wonderful inheritance to the world - loved and loving to all she met from the greengrocer to royalty.
I want to thank todays incredible doctors, like Professor Michael Baum who dedicated their lives to healing women with breast cancer throughout the world. Michael, proud to call you friend - I wish Mummy had known you
As a founder member of Cardiff WIZO Mummy would be so proud that I am living in Israel.

Kate Humble is a journalist and a very special lady. She created a series call Extreme Wives and this week I watched her piece about Haredi Women in Israel. It was generous, unbiased, honest and very special. If you have the opportunity I suggest you watch it.

Gosh, a quiet week but I found lots to write about!!!

Yesterday was the last Thursday in November and thus it was Thanksgiving in the USA. The Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth Ho in search of a place where they would not be persecuted for their religious beliefs, they set off without knowing what lay on the other side of the ocean and upon landing they found food and freedom. That is the lovely fairy tale version – and that is the one that America rightfully celebrates. However, I beg of you to honour the most important tradition, giving thanks for what we have. We have become accustomed to whining and winging about just about everything but we have running water, food in our bellies and rooves over our heads – and if we are lucky we are surrounded by those we love and love us. I hope your Thanksgiving was good. Just to stir up the pot, here is Rabbi Jeremy Rosen's take on this unusual festival  I believe that all reasons to celebrate should be grabbed with both hands – but why are your settlers celebrated and ours excoriated?

Perhaps the ultimate thanksgiving is Modeh Ani the Jewish prayer said every morning upon waking. "I give thanks before You, my King living and eternal, for You have returned within me my soul with compassion; abundant is Your faithfulness"

Last week I promised you Adon Olam and gave you Oseh Shalom – so this week I'm going to give you Adon Olam but not in the way you expected!!!

This morning we will commemorate 2 years since the horrific killing in Mali of our dear dear friend Shmuel Benalal z"l, His passing has left a vacuum that we cannot fill. They say that a person has 3 names; the one he was born with, the one he is called and the one he leaves behind. Sammy, Shmuel, you leave a beautiful name behind you – rest in peace dear friend. For purely selfish reasons I want you to see this video of our visit to Ein Gedi with the choir. Shmuel shines in every picture – his amazing personality clear, his voice standing out with Zvi.

The blessed rain finally arrived! Suddenly everything is clean, shiny and the buildings return to white instead of dusty grey!! I swear I could hear my plants heave a sigh of relief as they absorbed the life giving drops. The grey skies don't bother me because I know that the parched land is going to blossom, even as far as the desert. I started making winter soups again and even put the heating on in the apartment!!!

A very special couple arrived in Israel today, Valerie and Martin Myers. Valerie and I grew our children together in Reading, Berkshire. We spent our Shabbatot together, Passover Seder and Rosh Hashana, Valerie and I decorated our little synagogue together on Shevuot, had a business together and shared our secrets. I still make cookies and fried gefilte fish according to Valerie's late Mums recipes. They aren't staying with me, actually they are based in Netanya with Pamela and Stuart, also from Reading, but today we will see each other and Valerie and Martin will come to Jerusalem, hoping to see Rachel! Martin, I can't believe you are 80! Happy birthday lovely man – you don't look a day over 79!!!

Wishing all of you a truly wonderful Shabbat. More news next week.

With love from us to you

Friday, 17 November 2017

171117 Congress-Knesset on PA, Begin and Sadat, Krembo

17th November 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Why is it that as soon as I get used to writing 2017 it is almost 2018???

The most important news for Israel this week barely made the headlines, certainly not around the world! The Knesset and Congress have made a joint declaration urging the US Administration to demand that the Palestinian Authority recognise the existence of the Jewish State of Israel. It is a groundbreaking declaration – the question is that, even if it comes to fruition, whether it will be implemented or whether it will be another decision that is "deferred" by an American President who, surprisingly for a democracy, can over-ride any decision made by the elected representatives! If you don't believe me then ask yourselves why the unanimous decision to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, has been "deferred" since 1995!

Simultaneously Congress passed a motion that would rescind funding to the Palestinian Authority unless they cease payments to the families of terrorists. If the proposed union of Fatah and Hamas goes ahead this will be highly unlikely.

40 years ago this week two men, two warriors, decided to lay down their arms and meet to talk. Anwar Sadat, leader of Egypt, stood in Jerusalem and said "In the past, yes, we didn't agree to your being here – but now I came here to tell you that we agree" such simple words such huge consequences. Menachem Begin responded "With God's help, no more war between our nations". Menachem Begin was lauded and applauded – Anwar Sadat was assassinated. Our peace is a cold peace, we don't spend our time hugging, but we do spend our energy in preventing wars, in ensuring peace, in co-operation and military teamwork. Hosni Mubarak fulfilled Sadats promise, although brought down by a misguided US Administration; Mubarak was Sadat's military leader and continued his Presidents course with a very hard hand. The West doesn't understand the Middle East where only a hard hand, a sometimes harsh regime, can control the multiple clans and paramilitary rebels which infest the area. Egypt, under the military rule of Al Sis, which ousted the Moslem Brotherhood from its elected but terrifying position, is ensuring peace in our region. Andwar Sadat and Menachem Begin both earned their place in heaven – may their souls rest in peace.

Iran suffered a horrific earthquake, destroying housing and killing people. As is our wont Israel offered humanitarian assistance – an offer which was instantly rebuffed! As Denis MacEoin wrote – "In Persian, we say 'che khabar?', 'what's the news?' Well, here is some. Iran, badly handling a massive calamity after an earthquake, turns down help from one of the world's top rescue and relief countries." Many blame the outrageous corruption for the flimsy and unstable housing which caused the loss of life, I blame a leadership which is so full of hate that it is unwilling to accept assistance for fear of being proven wrong.

Education is the road to success or failure. It can be the way to learn about the wide and wonderful world or to narrow and close a child's mind depending upon the curriculum. It can widen one's views or close it to everything that is not acceptable to your leaders. At Impact-se we, or rather our brilliant Hebrew University Professors and doctoral students, under the watchful eye of Dr. Eldad Pardo, translate and research the curricula of many Moslem countries, of Israel and of Islamic schools around the world based on one subject – tolerance – sovlanut. Impact set the criteria for tolerance in education for UNESCO, who admittedly are slow to implement it, but governments and organisations around the world benefit from Impacts reports. The CEO of Impact, Marcus Sheff, is our roving Ambassador, speaking to parliamentarians and organisations and opening their eyes to what is possible. The most recent report is on the PA  Reform or Radicalisation.

One prayer in Israel is that we will have nothing better than the weather to talk about! This week it almost happened – not weather but something far more serious – the shortage, insufficiency nay dearth – of Krembo!!! Krembo is half Munchmallow, joined with mallow cups and is the favourite winter alternative to ice-cream for Israeli children. The newspapers were full of the lack of Krembos !! I loved it!

I know we are creeping toward Israel's 70th birthday but I loved this video sent to me by Larry Elowsky. 68 facts you probably didn't know about Israel.

Arlene and family have returned to the USA, sad to say because I miss knowing she is here! However Frannie and Julian Greenebaum are here from Michigan with a group of Conservative and Reform movements. They are just the most delightful people, and very aware of what goes on in this part of the world. We spoke of the campaign for recognition of Conservative and Reform Judaism in Israel, which although tacit is not overt and often leads to deep misunderstandings.  In general Israel is a liberal country, based on Jewish principles. In recent years the natural flexibility of Judaism has taken a back seat creating a chasm between religious and liberal Jews. As an individual I have always believed that each person does as they wish within their own home, and have never ever told anyone what to do, but on the other hand I am an individual, not a country, not a Jewish country which must uphold traditional Judaism, to be Jewish in order to exist as a Jewish State. On the other hand…………… we have become "Fiddler on the Roof" and I am becoming closer and closer to Tevye in my decisions.

If one wants recognition; if one wants the law of the land to change then one must become part of the society, run for political office and fight for change through the political process – it cannot and must not be enforced from outside Israel. The Haredi Members of Knesset serve their public well, the secular Members of Knesset do not! The secular MK's are far too busy politicking to be concerned about their secular public and their needs.

This weeks Torah reading is Toldot, all about Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Esau. I have always been uncertain of who I support in this complex story, Having favourites among ones children, lying to ones blind husband, cheating one son out of his birthright………. And then to cap it all Esau's third wife is the daughter of Ishmael!!!! Quite a confusing one I am sure you will agree. Perhaps that is the purpose – to show that nobody is all good and sometimes the rough diamond is the kind one.

Wednesday night was special – in fact Wednesday was special. It began with breakfast with Frannie and Julian at the King David at 07:30, collecting 4 little girls from school, taking them to Rachel's, helping with their homework (Gideon don't laugh) hearing about their day then taking two of them to a course in bar decoration for weddings and bar-mitzvas!!! Fabulous!

The evening was extra special. Thanks to my dear friend Sue Yakir, a Cardiff girl, I went to an event of a predominantly women's group, held in the home of my old friend Joanna Kushnir. It was a music evening of guitar and reminiscences as we sang along to songs of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Pete Seeger, John Denver and the musician herself Kaley Halperin. I wish you could have seen all our faces as we sang along to the oh so familiar songs  remembering every word– revealing our ages one and all!!!! Perhaps the most poignant of songs is If I had a Hammer– so relevant today.  For me it is sitting in the woods beside Castel Coch, at a Pesach picnic with Habonim and the late Theo Christie singing this song.

In this wonderful rendition of Lecha Dodi to welcome the bride of Shabbat I want you think about how many different types of kippot and head coverings you see!!!

Friday night, the house changes personality and becomes a place of family, love, prayer and reflection the entire family changes focus around the Mother, the woman. It is the time that every Jewish husband is expected to praise her for being the centre, the heart of the home. For me it is irrelevant who does the cooking or who brings home the biggest salary, and it is irrelevant in Judaism too – she is the very heart and soul of the household. Before beginning the Shabbat meal a Jewish husband declares his love for his wife.  Eshet Chayil – Woman of worth.  

This morning I woke early and opened the electric blinds onto the veranda…….. and caught my breath at the beauty before me. It wasn't just the incredibly display of flowers and fruit, it was what lay beyond – the most incredible view of sunrise – bright orange, red and yellow reflected on the scudding clouds, and it was phenomenal! I took a photo to put on Facebook but even that didn't do justice to the sheer miracle.

Zvi has had a relatively easy week, rehearsing and recording a disc with his wonderful choir Hakol Yachassi. I can't wait to hear it! Here is an older recording with fond memories of our dear friend Shmuel (Sammy) Benalal who was killed in a terror attack in Mali.

That's it! I am off to pick up my Challot from Rachel and see the children of course. Her home will be very busy since she has a family of about 12 people coming for Shabbat Dinner. She refused my help insisting that while she can she will do everything herself! The children each have a task, from mopping the floor, setting the table, cutting the salads and breaking up the kitchen paper towels ready for use. There is a special expectancy in a religious home as Shabbat nears. Everything sparkles, the best china is on the white tablecloth, the glassware is sparkling and the children scrubbed within an inch of their lives……….. it is so special.

With much love and wishes for a truly magnificent Shabbat and of course – Shabbat Shalom from our Veranda

Friday, 10 November 2017

171110 Casting Couch, Kristallnacht, Patel, Armistice Day

10th November, 2017
Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

What a strange world we live in! I never thought, not in a million years, that good could come out of the revelations of Harvey Weinstein's diabolical predilections but it opened the floodgates for women who feared the publicity of admitting they had been raped. As children we heard about the "casting couch" without understanding the implications to those who were so desperate to work that they gave themselves to that depraved world. Is any work really worth debasing oneself or was the sense of "no choice" prevalent in a different time? I don't know because thank heaven the theatre is not my milieu, but it happens in all spheres, work, jobs. It has to stop. I must add however – too many women are calling abuse over a compliment, a friendly pat on the shoulder and such, it demeans the plight of those who suffered and lessens the impact of their pain.

Between the 9th and 10th of November, 1938, the first visible incidents of what was to follow occurred in Germany. The Night of the Broken Glass – Kristallnacht. Synagogues and Jewish businesses were burnt and their windows smashed, and over 100 Jews died that fateful night. That night proved to be the physical culmination of careful manipulative disinformation of the masses. 79 years and the manipulative disinformation is back.

Headlines scream that Priti Patel, British International Development Secretary, was "thrown out of the British Government for meeting Israelis" which is true but untrue – as usual a twisting of the facts. Ms. Patel is in the British Parliament and protocol demands that if one meets with ANY foreign politicians one must report it. It is true of any country, any government not just Israel. Ms Patel was in Israel on a private holiday but met with Israeli officials including Prime Minister Netanyahu. Even if she just had a nice cuppa with them it should have been reported to her seniors. She offered her resignation with apologies and sadly Theresa May accepted it. That's all.

Another diabolical shooting incident in the United States. The First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs Texas was the scene of tragedy, tragedy that could have been avoided. The shooter should never have obtained a gun of any nature let alone an automatic weapon. I was at the receiving end of much anger when I said that the gun laws must be reconsidered, but a change is essential. The laws of purchasing automatic weapons should be of the highest priority – why would anyone who is not in a war situation want an assault weapon? This is not a matter of civil rights – this is a matter of life and death. Yes I know I am interfering in American politics but should this be a political issue?

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. On that date and at that hour in 1918, millions of people stopped butchering one another and lay down their arms. Armistice Day. It has come to mean much more as the soldiers of the British Commonwealth are honoured at the Senotaph, the memorial to the Unknown soldier in London. Royalty, Military, Politicians and Old Soldiers alike, lay wreaths and stand for a 2 minute silence. In Britain and the Commonwealth most people wear red poppies on their lapels to commemorate the dead. Why Poppies? Flanders Field, near the town of Ypres in Belgium, was the scene of one of the fiercest battles of WW1, the poppies flourish crimson but the dead cannot return. John McCrae wrote
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.   Short days ago, We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
 Loved and were loved, and now we lie,       In Flanders fields.

Last weekend Zvi and I went to Northern Israel with the choir "Hakol Yachassi" for a fascinating tour arranged by our friend Eva Yaron. We went to the Bedouin Village of Shibli, home to the Shibli family who have milled grain for many many years and learned of the proud history of the Northern Bedouin and their love of Israel. Our next stop was the Circassian village of Kfar Kama. The Circassian history is proud and exceptional, the museum well worth a visit. Circassians, who originated in the Caucasus, are Moslems and have the highest percentage of men in the IDF of any sector including Jews!  Our final stop for the day was in the Druze village of Nebo Shu'eb, Jethros Tomb, where were received the most fascinating lecture from a pious, beautiful man who was open to explaining their history, his personal journey and his devotion to Israel.  As a result of the loyalty and bravery of the Israeli Druze the IDF made the decision to try and rescue the encircled Druze in Syria, despite the fact that most of the men were fighting Israel in the past. Total loyalty to the country of ones origin is essential to the Druze. We arrived in Nazareth and relaxed, rested then went to the dining hall for Kabbalat Shabbat. As always Zvi's mellifluous bass-baritone was joined by the entire choir to the delight of the other diners. That night we sat around and sang – gosh it is wonderful! Our musical Director Adi Hayat is a fine musician, indeed often accompanies Andrea Boccelii on his tours.

Shabbat was a walking day – through Christian Nazareth. A fascinating day indeed. The winding cobble roads suddenly give way to a vast variety of churches and chapels, while the muezzin calls to prayer. A true rainbow of people.

Now for an incredible man, Sheikh Noor Dahri - devout Moslem, he now explains why he is a Zionist. His logic should be played to many Diaspora Jews who just don't get it.

The 3,000,000th tourist arrived in Israel yesterday!! Yup, 3 million in 2017 so far, including some famous people who came on private visits. We got to meet just a few of them, Nancy and Harry Bloomfield invited us to supper together with their good friends from Montreal, Rosemary and Mel Hoppenheim. We met at the newly revamped Anna Ticho House restaurant which is no longer very "Yerushalmi" but rather a very classy gourmet restaurant. Zvi couldn't come but I was thrilled to accept (I can't refuse Nancy) and we spoke of everything pertaining to Israel, world Zionism and generally putting the world to rights.

Miraculously, my BFF Arlene Wittels came to Israel with her family – husband Milty, daughter Rona and Rona's husband Jack. I cannot explain Arlene and my friendship, it was love at first sight. A phenomenal lady, a leader, a "doer", a fine woman and ardent Zionist, to say nothing of the fact she is an amazing friend. Arlene's love of Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular made her determined to come here, to hug Jerusalem, Zvi and me not matter what. She came, she saw and we both cried and laughed together as always. Tears of pride fell as Arlene told us about grandson Jordan who is currently working with the Israeli Delegation at the United Nations, a difficult task which he absolutely adores. What an amazing woman, extreme physical difficulties were not enough to stop her coming here – no excuses – no pseudo- justifications, Arlene came to her beloved homeland with her Milty.

On Tuesday I went to visit a truly magnificent organisation. Shalva. The building is amazing, the restaurant delicious and the work of Shalva ground-breaking. Shalva supports the families of special needs children of all ages. My dear friend Merav took me there. I won't go further because next week Gabby, the Director is going to give me a tour and I promised I wouldn't write about it this week.

Jewish music has evolved through the years, sometimes following the current trends, sometimes going off on a tangent known only to other Jews! Here we follow the trail of Jewish Music with grateful thanks to my Rachel for sending it to me

Almost every Jewish and Israeli song refers to or prays for peace, perhaps Adon Olam more than any other. This recording was made in 2008, for Israel's 60th birthday, in the same studio as Band Aid.

With much love from our veranda! The pomegranates are ripe, the kumquats and lemons almost ready and the hibiscus blooming but all of the above are overpowered by the brilliant crimson of the geraniums – gosh what a show! In a minute I am leaving to see Rachel and family, and pick up my Challot straight from the oven. As always I will gasp at the sheer beauty of the panorama from Nebe Samuel, and the hive of activity in the religious neighbourhood of Ramot. Tonight I will try out the Freekeh produced by the Bedouin of Shibli, everyone said it is the new superfood. Of course I will give it a Middle Eastern twist and stuff juicy red peppers with it!!!

May peace be with you and your family. If I have a prayer above all others it is that we truly lay down our swords and plough the fields to feed the world instead. We have done it within Israel, why can't the Moslems outside Israel accept our prayers for peace?

Peace, Shalom,  שלום, , Paix, Pax, السلام معكم وعلى الجميع


Thursday, 2 November 2017

171102 New York City attack, Yitzchak Rabin zl, ANZAC Beersheba


2nd November 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. An eventful week indeed.

A man who was given safe haven by the United States of America after suffering oppression in his home country of Uzbekistan, an undoubtedly cruel dictatorship and finds work, as an Uber driver, and a new life. This is surely a story with a happy end, but no, it isn't. Saifullo Sayepov planned his attack, his revenge on America, the West and all things non-Moslem, for over two months, going over his intended path and finding a soft target without any concrete bollards on the cycle path in the Lower West Side, overlooking the glorious view of the Hudson River. He rented a pickup and drove onto the cycle path mowing down those in his path, killing 8 and injuring at least 13. He intended continuing to the Brooklyn Bridge but his speeding van rammed a school bus and stopped in its tracks. He ran amok shouting Allahu Akhbar until he was shot in the stomach by a policeman. I know you have all read most of the details above but, but, I don't understand – this man was "interviewed" by the FBI some 2 years ago because he attended a questionable Mosque and then released. Why was the Mosque not raided? If he was indeed radicalized while at prayer then others have also been radicalized in that same Mosque by the same Imam. Why was the Imam not arrested?
Our hearts go out to the families of those who lost their lives in such a cruel manner and to Manhattan, the city we all love.

About 4 or 5 years ago, in Jerusalem, I met a delightful, warm and humble young man called Kaz and spent a wonderful couple of hours listening to him and drinking coffee and eating brioche. Kaz is his pet name, his real name is Kasim Hafeez. He told me of his incredible revelation as he went from an angry, anti-Jewish Moslem to an excellent outspoken proponent of the Jewish state. Listen to his words and you will understand what drove Saifullo Sayepov

Yesterday Israel mourned the loss of innocence of an entire nation when an extremist, nay fanatic, Jew killed the Prime Minister of the Jewish State; we mourn the loss of hope because Yitzchak Rabin z"l presented us with hope that the impossible may just be achieved and our children would know peace. Yitzchak Rabin was the Prime Minister of Israel and rare a human being who was loved by all who really knew him, from humble cleaner to Presidents, Kings and Queens. I know that you have heard my story many times, of the last time Zvi and I were with him in Washington for the opening of the Jerusalem 3,000 celebrations and I had my last hug. I tell the story not to show my own importance, quite the opposite, it is to show the man Yitzchak Rabin was. We were in the Rotunda together with most of the Senate and some Congressmen and a lot of very important people. Yitzchak Rabin was not interested in them, he entered the room with his head down, hands behind his back, and suddenly saw me – I was not of any political importance, indeed not of any importance, apart from being Zvi's wife, yet he saw me and made a bee line toward me, ignoring the "important" people, deeply concerned that I had come out without my neck brace, having undergone surgery. That is the man we lost. Incidentally that was the day after we heard the vote in the Senate stating that the USA was behind moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem as the rightful Capital City of the State of Israel. Another broken dream.

100 years ago a Jewish scientist, a chemist, beloved of the aristocrats of the British political and social scene, succeeded in mass-producing artificial acetone, an essential element in the bomb making industry. As with all things political that fact, and his easy, suave personality, helped Chaim Weitzmann reach the ears of both Lord Balfour and Prime Minister David Lloyd George. His request? A letter, presented to Lord Rothschild, leader of the British Jewish Community, stating that the British Government looked kindly upon the formation of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. That letter, written by Lord Balfour, became the basis of the State of Israel. The words are adhered to, giving absolute rights to those who live on the land already. It is a short letter, not many words, that led to the realization of a 2,000 year dream.
Perhaps Professor Simon Schama's brilliant and emotional words speak to me more than any other.

On a different subject with the same anniversary, we celebrate 100 years since the Third Battle of Gaza on October 31st, 1917 – the Charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade, a huge military victory over the Ottoman Empire by the ANZAC troops (considered the troops of the British Empire) in the Battle of Beersheva. The battle is little known outside Australia and New Zealand, even here in Israel although of recent years it is widely publicized. Here you see the proud horsemen, descendants of the Aboriginal cavalry. For the full and heroic story

This week the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings took place in Jerusalem. Zvi is deeply involved as the representative of Maccabi World Union to the Board. I did not manage to take part this time and missed seeing my lovely friends Helena Glaser, Ellen Hershkin and Nancy Falchuk and many more brilliant and powerful women who fight hard to move the proceedings in the right direction. I am not sure they succeeded, although they, Danny Lamm and my Zvi tried very ,very hard. The most important subjects should be finding unification in that which splits us apart - accepting the diversity of the Jewish community worldwide. The second issue is taking the boredom out of the Board and bringing in young people to continue the work and finally, to organise adequate, effective PR for Israel.

One special event took place this week – one that lifted my heart and healed my troubles. 6 Cardiff women came from Jerusalem, Petah Tivka, Ra'anana, Herzliya and Shoresh and travelled north to a place close to heaven – to Tsippori. Tsippori is an ancient city, excavated to reveal exquisite mosaics, including the Jewish Mona Lisa, but while amazed at the work that isn't why it was so incredible. Our friend Rachelle Samuels Noymeir together with her husband Micha and their 6 children turned the misfortune of a falling seed industry into the fulfillment of a dream on their smallholding. They cold press olive oil from their own olives, they make soaps and creams and their home, Rish-Lakish, is open to groups from all over the world. They work hard, have little time for play, yet their life is complete. I loved every second. You really ought to visit Tsippori and when you do, pop in to say hello to Rachelle and tell her Sheila sent you. You won't regret it!!!

So, tomorrow at the crack of dawn Zvi and I will climb aboard a bus (what in Wales we called a charabanc ) and, together with members of the choir and their spouses, head up north to Nazareth. We will visit the Circassian village and Museum, A Druze village, a Bedouin town and finally to our hotel in Nazareth where we will hold our Kabbalat Shabbat. I can already hear Zvi's Kiddush and the surprised look on the faces of others in the hotel at his mellifluous tones! On Saturday we will walk the town, see the historic and Biblical sights and sites and sing. In fact we will sing on our journey to Nazareth and on the way back as well as during our day there!!! We come home after Shabbat filled with good memories.

For your music this week I thought of Shir ha Maalot, the song of Ascents, Psalm 121. Here 8 year old Shelly Markolov steals our hearts

On the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin it is only right to hear the last song he sang in his wonderfully off key growl. How appropriate that it was Shir Ha Shalom – the Song of Peace
Time for bed and dreams of peace. Who knows? As Theodore Hertzl said "If you will it, it is no dream" and here we are, a thriving, fascinating rainbow of people who come together in one nation under heaven.

Jerusalem is exceptionally beautiful in autumn. The cooler temperatures give the flowers a chance to bloom without the harsh rays of the sun burning them. Everything is cleaner after the rain, sweeter for the gentler weather, softer and somehow even more stunning. We just had a meeting here in the apartment and one of the visitors wandered out on our veranda and caught her breath "How can so much beauty be in one place" she asked. "Because God gave out 10 portions of beauty to the world; nine he gave to Jerusalem and the remaining one to the rest of the world" I said quoting the Babylonian Talmud. Gosh I love this city and next week it will be even more exciting as my dear friend Arlene Wittels, with Milt, Rona and Jack are coming. I know Arlene will cry when she sees me but not because she doesn't love me, it's because we love each other so much!!!

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Pray for an uneventful week. Pray for more Kasim Hafeez's and less of those who believe the evil words of their leaders.

With much love