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

Friday, 27 October 2017

171027 I'm back!

27th October 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Gosh, 3 weeks have passed since my last letter. I have reasons not excuses but I hope you understand anyway!

The first week was still Succot (Tabernacles) for you, even though it wasn't in Israel I have a policy never to offend anyone religiously (or otherwise I hope!); the second week I was in London and my beautiful son Gideon decided that since he took the day off work I should spend it with him not with you (logical); last week I simply ran out of energy since I spent a lot of time with my daughter Rachel who wasn't feeling well.

During most of this period Zvi was in Mexico and San Diego on a speaking tour and meeting up with old friends from the Yiddische Shule (the Jewish School in Mexico City where his parents taught Hebrew and he spent his teenage years) and family. His speaking tour was a resounding success, which hardly surprises me, or anyone who knows him!!!

My visit to my grandchildren in London was wonderful. I do not wander around, my purpose is to spend beautiful time with Sammy, Olivia, Zacky and their Mum and Dad, but while they were in school or cheder (Hebrew school) I managed to see a few friends who lived close by. Yaffa and Martin, an interminable bus ride to Brent Cross for a very short visit with Judith and Marcus, lunch with the Rydes to talk about Israel and British politics and catch up on the latest news of old friends and finally coffee with Judy and Michael Baum who I hadn't seen for ages. Michael has written a new book called Aaron's Rod. He researches his works so deeply he amazes me!! A trip to St. Albans with Stephanie and the rest of the time was spent enjoying the family. My greatest moment was when Olivia asked me to be on a WhatsApp with just the two of us so we can communicate when I am in Jerusalem!!!! Oh Joy!

So much has happened during my absence. More hurricanes (one popped over the pond to the UK), threats, rhetoric and general unpleasant noise from most of the world's leaders – noise which seems to get louder and louder and rhetoric which descends further and further into the realm of outright lies.

While I was searching the net I found this incredible video of Dema Taya, Israeli Arab defying the attempts of a Palestinian Television interviewer. I love Israel -  Dema, proud you are Israeli!

Since we are on the subject of speaking out, just watch the body language of the Palestinian delegates in the UN as a former Hamas member speaks out about their corruption, lies and lack of leadership.  Mousab Hassan Yousef you are a hero

Two things made me very angry this week. One was the demonstrations of the Haredim which paralysed Jerusalem and the other the disgraceful graffiti accusation that our wonderful President Rivlin was a Nazi. The former was disgraceful because of two aspects. The extreme faction of the Haredi community demonstrated against the IDF (ergo Israel) for purely political reasons. They refuse to go to the enlistment centres for their release from serving in the IDF – yes they are not forced into the IDF, they do not have to serve this country they so abhor, no Yeshiva student has ever been forced to serve, the object to going to the enlistment centre to receive their release! Their leaders have lied and spouted rhetoric to such an extent that they are a danger to us. They pay no taxes, do not participate in the country, support our enemies - I repeat, reiterate, this is not the average Haredi man who either studies or works, these are members of a fanatical faction who by disrupting traffic on the main roads stop those of us who love and serve our country from getting to work.

As to the graffiti, what disgusting anti-social fool would suggest that President Rivlin, a man whose service to Israel is absolute, is anything but a good man? I am happy to say that on Wednesday evening, President Rivlin and his wife Nechama came to honour the 50th Anniversary of the Khan Theatre in Jerusalem. The crowd of fine Israelis got to their feet and applauded them as they came in, showering them with warmth and appreciation. President Rivlin, known to this crowd as Rubi, was the Chairman of the Board of this tiny theatre, situated in an ancient Khan, or Inn and exuded love as he hugged his friends. The play which followed the celebration (great food by the way) was outstanding too.

Israel has a new President of the Supreme Court and for the third time in a row it is a woman. Justice Esther Hayut follows Justice Miriam Naor and Justice Dorit Beinisch. Israeli women are strong and have no constrictions to achieving high position.

Bravo Israel! Tal Flicker won the Judoka gold in Abu Dhabi, but was forced to mouth the words of our anthem since he was not allowed to have either flag or anthem to celebrate his win. If that isn't racism/antisemitism I don't know what is!!!!

A short letter – 67 words that barely covered half a page – changed history for the Jewish people. On November 2nd, 1917 Arthur, Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild, leader of the British Jewish Community, a letter which was to become the hope, the plan and ultimately the realization of a 2,000 year dream of the Jewish people to return to their homeland. 67 words which would become a cause for wars unimagined and anger from the Arab world. British Prime Minister Theresa May stands by her determination to honour and celebrate that letter both in word and deed. It is irrelevant as to whether it came about through convenient diplomacy or Chaim Weizmans discovery a method of mass producing acetone essential to the British war effort. Weitzmann was in high demand within the British upper classes and government circles, indeed he was an accomplished socialite, a virtue he used to achieve his personal dream of a Jewish State.,7340,L-5020262,00.html

On Wednesday Zvi and I spent a delightful few hours with Jaime and Eva Podolsky at the Israel Museum. We went to see the incredible Ai Wei Wei exhibit, an exhibition that requires explanation, which expresses his distain for the oppressive Chinese revolution through his art.

This week, yet again, I saw the idiocy, perhaps the evil, of the claims that Israel is a racist society. Through several visits to walk in Emergency, we met the most wonderful young Arab Israelis, doctors and paramedics, who are exceptional in their ability and very much part of Israeli society. Indeed, yesterday morning, we went to the special blood tests unit where there is the most incredible young nurse, in her colourful hijab. She can find even the deepest veins first time – and as I went in I saw a little sign on her door – "Smile – it's good for your health" . I asked her about it and she told me that she went to the car park of the American Independence Park in Jerusalem (where many Arab families picnic) and put her sign on every car.  She chose English rather than Arabic or Hebrew because it is neutral. Gosh she is amazing!!!

So did I manage to catch up?

For our musical interlude this week I chose this fabulous video of an audition for Israel's X Factor. 17 year old Eden Helena's voice is phenomenal and her presentation…………….. see for yourselves

Adon Olam (traditional Jewish song) as you have never heard it before!!! The IDF Rabbinical choir at home!!! In case you wondered the unbelievable tenor is the Chief Chazzan of the IDF Shai Abrahamson

As the Yahtzeit (memorial) of a year since Leonard Cohen's death approches it seemed appropriate to give you Hallelujah by the IDF choir.

Zvi is in Nes Ziona (Flag of Zion), watching over his little grand-daughters, actually going on a school walk and making sure they are ok, while their parents are in Eilat. He will then take them to Tel Aviv to Amiad and Noga where they will sleep tonight – imagine 4 little girls and one confused little boy in one 2 bedroom apartment!!! I am home, don't want to move anywhere, just to relax. If Zvi gets back in time I'll drive over to Givat Ze'ev to see Rachel and her family while Zvi goes to his parliament.

I love Shabbat in Jerusalem. I love to watch our world gently settle down, become a little quieter, the roads and the car parks empty and the city takes on a different flavour as families gather. As the younger members of the families arrive one sees huge saucepans and containers preceding the passengers as they bring delicacies to the Shabbat meal. Each family with their own epicurean traditions brought from the lands of their dispersion Israel is a melting pot of over 120 nations coming together because after 2,000 year they came home, for a million reasons.  

For many it is a day of family, excursions and adventure, for others a holy day of prayer and contemplation – and sometimes a mixture of the two. Each to their own but Shabbat is special, very special.

I wish you a special Shabbat and that your corner of our world will know peace and calm.

With much love from beautiful Jerusalem.


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

171004 Succot and Las Vegas

4th October 2017

Chag Sameach, Moadim le Simcha.

Today I wanted to make you laugh, to tell you about the tap tap tap tap tap of frantic succah building, long into the night after Yom Kippur; I wanted to describe the beautiful decorations made by our grandchildren, in Israel, Britain and New York; I really wanted you to know that our pomegranate tree has loads of sweet juicy fruits this year but somehow my brain can't reach that happy place – not after the diabolical insanity that hit Las Vegas.

I have been trying to think of how to express my sorrow and distress at what happened in Las Vegas. The sheer magnitude of the horror and evil are beyond imagination and certainly beyond my understanding. Clearly my heart goes out to the city, the families and the people, but so much more.

One question keeps running through my mind - not why did he do it, perhaps we will never know -  my question is - how, on G-ds good earth, did a man manage to buy, acquire and accumulate dozens of weapons. Not just weapons but automatic rifles adapted with "bump stock" to increase the speed of firing!!

There is a saying in the theatre -"If there is a gun in the first act then someone will die in the second"

Guns are death not freedom and nothing will convince me otherwise.

Natural disasters are natural – albeit horrific but other than taking cover or building strong homes there is nothing we could do to prevent the fatal destruction – guns are not natural…………..

If I hear one more person say that security checks are an insult to one's freedom I will shout! I do not live in a police state, as if having one's handbag checked outside public places and shopping malls is an insult to freedom. Honestly, grow up!!!! I can walk freely wherever I wish without fear, yet here in Israel where there is a relatively limited danger of attack, only soldiers and police have automatic weapons; no private individual is allowed more than one gun and in order to achieve that must go through psychological testing, training and have a clear police record.

Growing up in the UK where even the "Bobby" on the beat doesn't carry a gun it is anathema to me.

So you see, the horror of Las Vegas has taken over my brain.

We must not dwell too much because Sukkot is a joyous harvest celebration  and people of all nations will be in Jerusalem for the Tabernacles Festival

I am about to go to see Rachel, Igal and the children and inspect their huge Succah – which grows exponentially each year!!! Saturday night is Igal's birthday (Happy birthday Igal) and all the big Rabbis of the Jerusalem area come to visit the Succah to pay their respects to the young man who does so much Chessed. Rachel has been cooking for days of course but each and every one of them will have a feast – and the children will be a big help.

Up and over Har Shmuel – Samuel's Mount – past Samuels Tomb carefully glancing right over the phenomenal panorama of Jerusalem all the way to the sea. Coming home the car will be redolent with the aroma of Rachel's freshly baked Challot which will adorn our table tonight. Zvi's bags are packed as he leaves tomorrow night for Mexico to see old friends from the Yiddische Schule where he spent his teenage years and to speak to various communities. He will also be in San Diego to speak so if you want to hear his mellifluous tones – check out where he will be.

I will not be home alone – I am going to check out Gideon, Stephanie, Sammy, Olivia and Zachary's Succah!! I will dance on Simchat torah with my beautiful grandchildren and I will meet the new family member for the first time – Maple the dog!!!

I wish you a safe and joyous Succot filled with delicious fruit and waving palm branches with willow and myrtle and the Citron (the Lulav and Etrog). May your Succah (Tabernacle) always be filled with friends and family

One song keeps running through my head – Pete Seeger's Where Have All the Flowers Gone Not for Sukkot but for Las Vegas and every country that threatens another

To lift our spirits a beautiful Sukkot song

With love from glorious Jerusalem

Friday, 29 September 2017

170929 Har Adar, Mekel, Yom Kippur

29th September, 2017

Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova and Gmar Hatima Tova.

Tonight we have a chance to change, a chance to improve ourselves and to atone for the things we did or said. Forgiveness is not automatic, we must pledge to do better and most importantly of all, we must apologise in person to those we have offended or hurt. It is not enough to regret words that came out of your mouth like spears – one must go to the person we shot down and express our determination never to hurt them again. Yom Kippur is not just about refraining from food – it is about Tikkun Adam – it is a promise to elevate ourselves above petty, thoughtless comments.

This has been a dreadful week in Israel. Beyond the tragedies that befell the world at the hands of nature we have the tragedies that man causes man.

Imagine living in a sleepy dormitory town, beautiful houses, manicured gardens, professional people, generally left wing on "Kav ha Tefer" the seam-line; you have someone who comes to work as a handyman cum cleaner every week and he becomes a friend. Jamal Nimer was one of the workers and was specially loved by those in whose homes he worked. One woman described him as a family member, sitting for breakfast with the family before work and chatting over coffee at his break he claimed to be repulsed by the extremists who became terrorists. He worked for her for 4 years. Jamal was not all he appeared to be.

Jamal was 37 years old, married with 4 children but he had a secret – he beat his wife and she left him escaping to Jordan, leaving him to fend for the 4 children. This week, when he came to the checkpoint, the guards sensed something different, called the IDF Border Guards and when they approached he pulled a gun from his sweater and shot them all at point blank range. He knew them all, had exchanged friendly words with them, but he shot and killed them. He need no longer worry about his children's financial situation because his family will now receive a pension for life from the aid your country sends to the PA.,7340,L-5021069,00.html

It reminded me of Hassan, who was, we thought, a close friend but after he killed an Israeli officer and was killed himself, we found out he was a senior member of the Tanzim, the military wing of Fatah. How can anyone in pastoral Har Adar ever trust again. Many Palestinians will no longer have work for that reason.

I met Rachel and the children in the Garden Centre in Givat Zeev (according to CNN, BBC, a "settlement"). The garden centre is owned by two young Palestinians who do very well. I was unsurprised to see soldiers, Rabbis, locals come in and hug the Palestinian owners, chat and talk about families. That's what we do!

I have an amazing friend called Merav. Merav has two beautiful daughters, both of whom are autistic. She is very involved in Shalva, an exceptional organisation which gives love to the whole family of autistic children  I love Merav and we met for lunch in Caffit, in the Botanical Gardens. As we sat in the gentle autumn sunshine, beside the lake, I looked around at the people sitting enjoying the food – Arab women in Hijab, Religious people, tourists and people like Merav and I – just having fun. It is something that most miss – we actually live together in harmony – it is the exception that destroys all our lives.

Here there was huge uproar because Interpol is admitting the Palestinian Authority to its ranks. No, they will not be privvy to sensitive information, yes it means they will have to take responsibility for their criminals and perhaps terrorists can now be extradited!

Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, most of the Caribbean, Florida, Texas, Mexico, India, Pakistan and Nepal are all reeling after terrible natural disasters. Most are complaining of the slow response to their plight but incredibly Israeli aid teams are already in most of those countries. It seems that the wheels of bureaucracy grind very slowly because I remember the howls of dismay after Katrina and I hear them again. Tikkun Olam needs no bureaucracy.

The German people are in a state of shock. Angela Merkel won the elections but the far right party made huge gains, taking third place. Last night Zvi and I went on a Jerusalem Press Club tour of religious neighbourhoods to experience Selichot. We met two delightful German journalists and I spoke to Jose-Julio about the election results. As in many places in Europe the fear of xenophobia is replaced by the fear of terrorism and drastic changes to German society both socially and demographically by the huge influx of immigrants. The right is winning on the fear front.

I'm sure you won't be surprised to know that we had another crazy week! Friday night, which coincided with Rosh Hashana, we were 20 people at our Shabbat Dinner. As usual I made too much food but the children always take some home anyway!!! Saturday night we popped into Irit and Itzik Lev's in Tel Aviv to wish Irit a very happy birthday and then went on to the Cameri Theatre for an excellent show.

The Smadar Cinema is a Jerusalem Institution. Situated in the German Colony, surrounded by Templar buildings, it is a small cozy cinema, which has been totally refurbished and we went to the celebratory re-opening. Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkivitch spoke beautifully about the history of the Smadar, and then we saw a marvellous French movie called "Burgundy". The next day we collected Ella and Yonatan from their new kindergarten, played in the park and then took them for a delicious ice cream in Vaniglia in Tel Aviv, left them with their Mummy Noga then went on to the Cameri theatre again! The play was funny and clever about the intended marriage between the children of a Tel Aviv secular, left wing family and a traditional, right wing settler family. It was fascinating and many truths were told through humour.

Last night we toured the Haredi  Geulah and the Bucharian Quarter to see and hear the Selichot. Our guide Zippi, herself a Haredi woman, is an expert on the streets where she grew up, a journalist and very open to life in general. It was fascinating to see the flurry of activity as people rushed to Selichot (repentance) services and tried to finish preparations for their Succot (Tabernacles) choosing decorations from the gaudy stock of the local shops.

What is Selichot? In Judaism it is not enough to apologise, one must truly repent ones sins and if one has sinned against another human being one cannot expect forgiveness from the Almighty, one must achieve forgiveness from the person. To walk around these neighborhoods and absorb the way of life which hasn't changed in hundreds of years is incredible – to do so with people who are not Jewish and are unfamiliar is even better. We ended the night with a super meal at Shtissel Restaurant – Potato Kugel, Cholent, Tsimmes, Gefilte Fish……….. yes of course it was Ashkenaz yet surprisingly familiar to the German journalists!!!

I was trying to think what to write to you about Kippur. How do I relate to it? How do I choose to repent? Then I received Rabbi Jeremy Rosens missive of the week and I found it.--
"Our task on Yom Kipur is to spend time thinking about where we stand in this world. Who are we? What are we? Every year we should go through this cathartic experience. This painful process of self-examination. In my case, it is all the more necessary and painful, because I really am a crazy, mixed-up kid. I live in two cultures: Jewish and non-Jewish. Within Judaism I exist in my own cocoon, part conformist and part anti-establishment. I can recognize the need for authority, and I rebel against it. I am a rootless cosmopolitan and proud of it. Yet I am passionate about my homeland, for all its problems. Of course, I reflect on this a lot of the time. But somehow Yom Kipur gives it an added urgency and time without distractions."

Yom Kippur is not about fasting, about suffering hunger pangs and making them the central point – one fasts in order to concentrate upon praying and repenting. The very prayers are so deeply meaningful – the Torah readings appropriate – Yom Kippur is about who we are and what we can achieve as individuals if we just understand our mistakes and try to put them right.

In the past I was hurt in ways I cannot describe by those who should have protected me, but I wish them no harm, I wish them only good health, clear conscience and a life full of sweetness. Make your vengeance about making your life as fulfilling as you possibly can

The solemnity of Kippur, the Day of Atonement, means there are no songs that will fill you with joy. There is one however, the prayer which heralds Yom ha Kippurim, Kol NIidre. Cantor Helfgot and Yitzchak Perlman – two men of high and beautiful character.

Instead of another song I want to give you the Story of Jonah (which we read tomorrow) as told by a marvellous little girl.  Nineveh is Mosul in Iraq, its near destruction by evil forces is as relevant today as in the Bible.

I am about to go to Givat Zeev to see Rachel and the children before the Chag and give them hugs. It is an essential part of my Shabbat/Chag.

Tonight everything will stop. No cars, no buses, no taxis, no trucks; the silence broken only by the squeals of children as they ride their bikes on the empty roads. We will walk up to the synagogue in Ramat Sharett, I love it because it is traditional, tiny, accepting and a beautiful mix of Sefardi and Ashkenaz. Tucked away in a little alley beside a supermarket it is everything I need to allow me to pray.

If I have ever offended you apologise from the depths of my heart, I promise to do better in the future – it was never my intention to hurt you.

 I wish you a Gut Yomtov, Chag Sameach, Gmar Hatima Tova – May you be inscribed in the good Book.

With love from beautiful Jerusalem,