Friday, 8 June 2018

180608 Oh What a Messi

8th June 2018

Shabbat Shalom everyone. I hope you are well.

To most of the world when one says football one refers to the game where one only kicks the ball with one's foot – hence the name! Well this week a friendly football match between Argentina and Israel became a foul and disgusting trick by a bunch of thugs. BDS

We are all very good at playing the blame game. Usually, if not always, the wrong person is blamed. Lionel Messi is not to blame, indeed he has been to Israel on several private visits; Minister of Sport Miri Regev is not to blame either, the fact that she wanted the game to be held in the Malha Stadium is valid, that's her job; the sport is definitely not to blame but there is much more than the BDS movement behind this. In Barcelona, where Messi plays, groups of thugs, very well organised thugs, waved Messi football Tshirts, with red paint spattered on his face, in front of him. These thugs threatened his wife and family and Messi himself. These thugs threatened the lives of the Argentinian players and you may well ask who was behind it all? Jibril Rajoub, the Palestinian Minister for Sport who is a criminal who was sent to prison for attempted murder and a pathological liar. Jibril Rajoub who has a vast fortune, his ill gotten gains from a corrupt society, stashed away in Israel, in an account in Bank Hapoalim under his pseudonym Gil Regev.

If you want to blame anyone, blame the man who organised the demonstrations and threats to Messi in Barcelona. Mario Firmenich was an ultra-left Peronista activist (violent) in Argentina, imprisoned for his crimes. His son, following in his fathers ugly footsteps, is the one who initiated and ran the vile demonstrations in Barcelona

The Independent newspaper wrote that the stadium on the site of a formerly Palestinian village – well it isn't!! The stadium is at least a kilometer from the once Arab village of Malha which was built on the ruins of the Biblical village of Manahat!!! How do I know? I live in Manahat!! I need you to write to the Managing Editor, politely, and point out his diabolical errors.

In the meantime, guess which country was the first to send aid and assistance to Guatemala?, well I can promise you it wasn't the Palestinians!

I am tired. I am so sad that so many countries are fooled by the narrative that Israel is the bête noir! I am sick and tired of Jews who just don't get it or are not willing to stand up and fight back – with words not actions. The more we do, the greater the outreach, the aid to third world countries and yet they still hate us!

Our fields are burned, vast quantities of crops lost and wild animals burned to death in violent arson attacks and somehow, we are blamed!!! Goerring is alive and well and living in Ramallah. I say that, yet, in order for the lies to stick one has to have willing ears. I wouldn't be surprised if none of you have heard that Erdogan, the Turkish megalomaniac, has seized churches and is making life for Turkish Christians unbearable.

Friends – our world is upside down! Good is bad and evil is praised!

Just 51 years ago a wonderful Israeli General, the Chief of Staff, made his way through the Lion's Gate to the Western Wall and we all heard the words "The Temple Mount is in our hands" – well it isn't! The sheer joy of that moment – the knowledge that after 19 years of Jordanian occupation; 25 years of the British Mandate, during which they tried to appease both sides and all the others too; 400 years of Ottoman occupation; we were back in King David's beloved city. We were so full of hope and the world was with us 100% well, the Western World anyway!  Ephraim Kishon presaged our predicament when he wrote the brilliant satirical book "So Sorry we Won"

Despite my depression at the world outside Israel we had a truly magnificent week. It began on Monday when Avi and I took two of my favourite people to meet with our friend Ehud Olmert in Tel Aviv. Kathleen and Earl Cox are true friends of Israel, which comes from the goodness of their hearts. The meeting was arranged by the ever loyal Rachael Risby-Raz who is another exceptionally loyal friend. I was so thrilled to see the former Prime Minister looking trim, happy and well and I finally got my hug. He wrote a beautiful dedication in Zvi's copy of his best-selling book, a dedication which moved me to tears. It is wonderful to know that one's friendship is appreciated. After a short but sweet visit Zvi and I left Earl and Kathleen to interview the former Prime Minister, and to recognise what a gracious man he is. We went off to the Interdisciplinary Center – commonly known as the IDC Campus to meet with Jonathan Davis, Director of the International School. Since it is a private University the IDC is known not only for its academic excellence, gorgeous campus, but for its insistence on Zionist/Jewish principles. Young people from all over the world, and Israel, study the varied and fascinating curriculum, but it is an Israeli school through and through.

The purpose of our meeting was to introduce Jonathan to Robi Croiterescou and to Gabriel ben Tasgal – and "Ha Tsad ha Sheni" the Spanish speaking information tool , in the hope that they can work with the incredible young people of the IDC who reach the young Tweeters and FB'ers at their own level. Truthtellers of Israel.

Tuesday was Goldman Day! We collected our Australian/Maccabi friends Tommy and Di Goldman from their hotel and went off on an adventure! We walked through Mea Shearim, getting very angry at the pro-Palestinian and openly anti-Israel posters on the walls yet sensing the warmth and comfort of old traditions. We really loved being with them although I had to cut my part of the visit short for two good reasons. One reason was that I wanted to be available to help Rachel (why is in the next paragraph) and because we couldn't have fitted the Pozniaks in the car!!! Zvi continued his incomparable tour then came home to change before heading off to Ramat Gan for a concert with his choir.

Now for the best part of all. Talia, Rachel's beautiful daughter, is Bat Mitzva and Rachel made her the most magnificent party in her in-laws garden, when I say magnificent I am not exaggerating. My daughter not only prepared almost all the food, created unbelievable decorations, a fabulous ball gown piñata and an awful lot of little girls danced the night away to a DJ!!!Actually all the Mums had a ball too including me! Mazal Tov Talia Beautiful.

Yesterday I met my Cardiff friends in Modiin, always a very special time. We grew up together and our parents knew each other and most of all we love and protect each other. Special. From Modiin my friend Madeleine took me to her home where I waited for Zvi because we raced to a wedding in the evening!!! Our neighbours stunningly beautiful daughter married the love of her life. Neta was a Scout leader, then after her army service in the border guard she chose to stay and work in that proud branch of the army as an officer in personnel. Wonderful.

Now I am talking to you and telling you about our very normal day, I went to pick Talia up from school and take her home, kissed all the children and my Rachel and came home to prepare Shabbat. Tonight we have guests, surprise surprise, very welcome guests. Faye and Sheldon Pozniak from Australia, Ruth and Josef Dudzuik-Justitz soon to be from Jerusalem and Irit and Itzik Lev who are coming all the way from Tel Aviv with Itziks famous chopped salad!!! We have Orange soup, Fresh salmon, fish balls in spicy chraime sauce, about 7 salads and roast potatoes and for dessert we are having home made cakes and cinnamon spiced poached peaches and apricots. Hopefully we can sit out on the veranda, contemplate the view and drink freshly picked herb teas and talk about anything but politics!  Tomorrow – tomorrow is a day of rest!!!

Today is a very special day. My beautiful, incredible, gentle and clever sister Doreen, aka Dordi, is 80 years old. My sister is a freak of nature in the best possible way. She is slim, despite 4 children, beautiful, agile and kind – and I love her!!!
This is not only the anniversary of our return to the Old City of Jerusalem, this is also the week of the Torah reading Shelach. Shelach speaks of the spies that Moses sent to scout out the land of Canaan. He sent 12 spies and 10 came back saying that although the fruits and crops were abundant the people were giants and we couldn't fight them. Only Caleb and Joshua were brave enough to lead the Children of Israel home as G-d had commanded. The people began to weep that they would prefer to return to Egypt than keep going – and were condemned to 40 years of wandering in the desert for doubting G-d's word. Why? Because the Diaspora mind-set meant they couldn't overcome the challenges set for them so a generation of brave warriors who understood their own strength, could emerge.

So what music should we play?  

This song, by Arik Einstein, which is traditionally sung when our children go off to the IDF, to watch over us, but leave us behind to worry – yet it could be in almost every situation. "Fly freely but remember that there are eagles in the sky"

The next clip isn't a song but it is Arik Einstein and is brilliant! It is called "The Lul" and basically is the story of each Aliya

How could I not give you the ultimate Jerusalem song, the celebration of our return to the Old City. Ofra Haza z"l and Yerushalyim Shel Zahav

We have been through worse, we have always survived, but we must stand up to lies and calumny. If we just allow it to happen around us, if we are not willing to risk opening our minds and hearts and defending our right to exist we are lost.
Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom


Friday, 1 June 2018

180601 Gaza, goldy, Maccabiah and Protea

1st June, 2018

Shabbat Shalom everyone. Hope you are well. Lots of good news this week and a short report on a day that hit the world headlines despite the large number of real wars going on in our region and further.

I woke this morning to a familiar yet rather unique sound. Do you remember the old "Rag and Bone" men who took their horse and cart to collect old clothes and housewares? Well in Israel it is different – firstly they use small trucks, secondly they are mostly Israeli Arabs and thirdly- they call out in Yiddish "Alte Zaken" – which means old things!!! It is so incongruous yet so very Israeli. It is one of my favourite of many incongruities in this fabulous country!

So, you want to know all about what happened in the South of Israel this week, and I will try to explain. First and foremost, understand that there is not a wall on the border with Gaza, it is a fence and not a very strong one at that; Gaza is a stone's throw (literally) from the towns and villages of Southern Israel; Despite the rhetoric of "occupation" – yet the disengagement from Gaza was 13 years ago, leaving them the agricultural infrastructure which they promptly burned, since when they have constantly instigated terrorist activity against us.  That's just a reminder of the historical background. Now for the recent conflagration – Iran understood that its power struggle in Syria was not going well and that the United States was not giving in to their demands thus decided to use their proxies to attack Israel and steal the limelight or take the attention of the world in a different direction. Who is the obvious target? Israel! Who are the proxies? Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Who are the targets? The farmers, villages, towns and kibbutzim in the border. Over 120 rockets and mortars were launched at Israel which involved at least 25 "Red Alerts" sending the civilians racing for cover. One landed in a kindergarten playground just before the children arrived and the calm reaction of a headmistress? "Kindergartens are the safest place for the children because they are all made of bomb-proof material" Of course she is right but it is so sad that little children need a bomb proof building! 24 hours of non-stop attacks and Hamas called a halt, which of course means that they were in control. Why call a halt? Because had it gone on any longer Israel would have garnered sympathy from the media whereas this way Hamas got its publicity without damaging its sympathy base. Now do you understand? No, neither do I!

Roseanne Barr – where do I begin? I find her crass and I always hated her programme and her Tweet was in terrible taste, I have no intention of repeating it now, but the reaction was so over the top that I am suspicious of the motives. Jimmy Kimmel, the Baldwins, Joy Behar, Kathy Griffin, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Maher – all are still working even after Kathy Griffin showed a beheaded American President in a supposed satirical skit!!! Why Roseanne? I leave that to your own judgement. Actually, after the Starbucks scandal in which Howard Shultz, a great philanthropist and supporter of the Democratic Party was vilified in the media Rabbi Jeremy Rosen wrote this wonderful piece on the misinterpretation of racism and its consequences

What do you know about Israel? Well although this was admittedly created for Israel's 68th birthday I love this youtube of Israel's many qualities

Faith Goldy is Canadian. I know very little about her except that my friend Jean Evans sent me a clip of hers and I was both surprised and pleased at the result. This clip is about breaking the myths about Israel.

OK – another question. How much do you know about Maccabi World Union? Everyone knows that they hold the Jewish Olympics every four years but what else do you know? Did you know that Maccabi Youth is conceivably the largest Jewish Youth Movement in the world? Maccabi is inclusive rather than exclusive.  For me, every time we go to Kfar Maccabiah, in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, I get to meet old friends from all over the world, incidentally Eva Bensky you were missed, next time please come with Leo-Dan. For Zvi it is much more serious as he takes part in the policy and planning meetings. Friday night with Rabbi Carlos Tapiero and a wonderful group of young singers got everyone singing along and doing folk dancing after an excellent Shabbat meal and the interactions of people from diverse cultures in this social setting familiar to everyone is very special. At the huge party there on Monday night Einat Saruf was the star performer, she has a special knack of singing all the familiar songs and getting everyone to join in. As usual she recognised Zvi from previous events and got him to take a mike and sing with her! It was extra special because we all knew that within a few days we would all meet up again at the wedding of Maccabi CEO Eyal Tiberger and Ettie's daughter Orit. Until you have been to an Israeli wedding you haven't lived! Not only incredible food before the food (really I am not joking) with time to enjoy meeting old friends, but the sheer joy of the ceremony then the ebullient dancing of first Israeli songs with everyone jumping to "Moshiach" and "Ani Ma'amin" graduating into popular music and time for the youngsters to have fun with all kinds of funny noses, hats and sparkly things. As one would expect the food inside was also amazing! We drove back to Jerusalem happy but tired arriving on the dot of midnight. What never fails to amaze me is that the roads are almost as busy at midnight as they are during the day!!!

Also on Monday I went to my friend Susan's and at the invitation of Joy Goldman I spoke to the most adorable and fascinating group of people I have met in a long time. The talk was in a special community, purported to be for what in Israel is called "ha gil ha shlishi" the third age, in other words for retired people who still have a great deal of life left in them. If you wish there are courses in just about everything all day long!! Anyway I was not nervous, strange for me, and the moment I saw the crowd I understood why. Firstly I saw my lovely friend Sylvia Wallis who moved to Protea Hills recently and then after a short introduction by Joy, with Susan sitting next to me for confidence, I started to explain why the talk was called "The Power of One". Who I was and how I got started on my writing path. As the questions began another co-hasbarist, Stuart Palmer, joined me at the microphone to reinforce what I said. Everything went swimmingly and I was really having fun, then it happened! I had asked everyone how long they were in Israel and why they came here when Sylvia Dombey spoke up. Sylvia is a wonderful lady of 90+, bright as a button, who made Aliya a short few years ago, as she said "My house needed painting and I couldn't be bothered, so I decided to come and live in Israel"! I was so delighted by her story and her sheer joy at being in Israel that it really made my day!!!

We meet many people, every day ordinary folk and those who think themselves at a higher level - I am so impressed by the humility of Kathleen and Earl Cox. Their intentions are pure, on the edge of altruistic, and they have never let us down either as friends or in their love of Israel. They remember who helped them get started and have remained steadfast for the last 15 years or more despite great success. In fact I told Earl the true story of the day I took him to interview Ehud Olmert about the upcoming disengagement from Gaza……… I went in to Ehud first and told him to use the phrase Pikuach nefesh when talking about the disengagement. Pikuach nefesh means to save a soul – in Judaism one is allowed to break any rules, even Shabbat, to save another human being. Ehud did and Earl had a story!! Earl and Kathleen have gone on to great broadcasting success and I am very proud of them.

On Thursday Rachie and I met up with Daniella and Justin Selig and their children for a delightful lunch. That was when we heard about their daughter Mimi's incredible feat of raising 3,000 pounds for Zichron Menachem, a beautiful organisation which makes wigs for children with cancer and takes them on holidays and trips. Not only that but she grew her hair so that she could come to Jerusalem and donate it. Mimi – your grandparents would be so proud of you! What an amazing 10 year old.

I have a feeling that my beautiful grandson Zachary in London, an avid Chelsea supporter, will be coming to Israel more often since the owner of Chelsea, Roman Abramovitz, made Aliya this week. Britain's loss is our gain!!!

Zvi is in the middle of a meeting in the other room and then of course he will go out to Kiriat Anavim for his parliament, (they no longer meet at the petrol station), and I must go and get Talia and Ayala from school so that I can simultaneously take them home and see Rachel, Yosef and Igal too. Everyone is in the final throes of preparations for Talia's Bat Mitzva……… secrets about dresses and surprises abound and Rachel has made the most incredible Piñata I have ever seen. It is a ball gown piñata!!!

I know that you know about the panorama of Jerusalem on the way home but I rarely talk about the view from the girls school. It is a view of the ever growing Ramallah, creeping, or racing, closer and closer to the fence. Beautiful houses, one can see the huge, modern shopping mall and Ramallah is spreading in all directions. If we are supposedly committing genocide, exactly who is living in these newly built houses?

My salads are made, the table set, the candles ready for lighting…………..So let's think about music.
So often we take what we have in this world for granted. We forget from whence we came and how we got here. Yonatan Raza'el is a classical musician who writes beautiful music to Biblical texts. This is definitely one of my favourites. Katonti  - I am humbled

As a child I would say this prayer every morning as Mummy woke me from my sleep. Modeh Ani – I Give Thanks

Finally, also a song of thanks Matanot Ktanot – Small Gifts.

I wish each and every one of you a sweet Shabbat, time to be quiet with oneself, a time of calm and contemplation and of giving thanks for the wonders of every day.

Shabbat Shalom with love from Jerusalem

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Bimah Article - What is it like to live in Israel

Sheila Silver Raviv – What is it like to live in Israel?

Gosh, that is a huge question!

What is it like to live in Israel? It is wonderful, but that isn't what you asked.
Living in Israel means you are alive, alert and aware of the world in which you live, nothing is taken for granted except that if you need a helping hand you will find many reaching out to you.

I live in Jerusalem which is admittedly a little, maybe a lot, different to other towns and cities in Israel. Living in Jerusalem one is constantly reminded of the responsibility of the city and the incredible rainbow of humanity that lives here. This is not just the city of the three monotheistic religions it is a centre for just about every sub-sect of those religions! It is said that there are 52 Christian denominations, 8 Moslem denominations and a minimum of 600,000 Jewish denominations because everyone has at least 3 opinions!

Jerusalem is also the city that everyone wants to visit, to see our veranda, to spend time with us and enjoy the welcome found in our home – my lovely husband Zvi also comes from a welcoming family – so rarely a week goes by without somebody staying and a dinner party for long lost friends and family.

Our building has Jews from Poland, Morocco, Kurdistan, Iraq, Turkey, Tunisia and our cuisine is equally diverse. When one comes into the building on Friday morning the Shabbat aromas that permeate the very stones are of Hamin and Cholent; stuffed vegetables and gefilte fish; carp chraime and fresh salmon; indeed one can easily identify the part of the Diaspora by the scents emanating from under the front door!!

Living in Israel one need never be ashamed of who you are. You don't need to hide your kippa, keffiya or hijab, because nobody notices. The Armenian priest shops alongside the Haredi family and the Catholic Monk walks beside the Moslem family, we just do it, there is no sense of strangeness. Despite the media most of the so-called "settlements" house supermarkets for the entire area, whatever building they pray in! We become expert at distinguishing men's religious leanings by the colour, size and fabric of their kippa but that's another story!

We love to tour and last weekend we went with my husband Zvi's choir to the North of Israel and met with and learned about the Druze, Circassian and Bedouin communities that are an essential part of our society.

In Israel it is normal to ask a person how much they paid for their house, dress, furniture and obviously it is just fine to ask who they voted for. Truthfully asking about how much people earn is just a bit too much for this Welsh woman!!!

We talk to each other in the doctors waiting room, the bus and light rail, discover we are family while at the supermarket check-out and generally make friends very easily although it is certainly harder if you didn't serve together in the IDF.

Living in Israel is an adventure. I am never bored, rarely talk about the weather except to say that it is too darned hot in summer and moan about the lack of rain until it pours! Life is full to overflowing and people never give up and just grow old. All our friends are busier now than they were before retirement!!

Babysitting is much more than watching the telly while the parents go out to dinner, it involves collecting from school, kindergarten and taking them to the park, feeding them and bathing them until parents come home from work in the evening often several times a week. Women are just as likely to earn high position as men, and work as hard and without grandparents it would not work.

So, I have given you lots of reasons and facts about life here but haven't told you why I am so happy here. I suppose it is simple – I came home.

Friday, 25 May 2018

180525 Nero, Embassies, Turkey and Gaza

25th May 2018

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? I hope you are well or at least recovering!

When we were children we were told the story of Nero fiddling while Rome burnt and tended to take it as literal, whereas in fact our romantic version was allegorical the true story was filled with tyranny and corruption. Nero himself set fire to the Christian Quarter of Rome to build himself a huge palace. Today's media are the modern equivalent of Nero, they play their own fiddle irrespective of the flames that engulf most of the world, concentrating on their political agenda and the agenda of whoever pays their advertising. The days of believing what is reported in the press are over, done and dusted. As I always say to those who criticise Israel as a cruel overlord, "If all I saw was what the BBC I would probably feel the way you do" The view from there is so slanted that the violin has no strings.

This week's death tolls - Syria – 204, Sudan – 170, Yemen – 230, Ethiopia - "dozens", Nigeria- 1,351 in 10 weeks, Congo - 49 out of 5,000,000. So why did the media, UN and ICJ ignore those horrors and suddenly care about 50 Hamas deaths?

The violent "demonstrations" on Israel's Southern Border are slowing down as Hamas once again asks for a brokered Hutnah – cease fire. The question is whether the cease-fire will benefit the Gazan people or if they will use the hiatus to rearm and build new tunnels. The International Community has missed an essential element in the situation – education to hate.   The worst perpetrators? UNWRA schools.

There is a huge difference between the Palestinians of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority, and the Gazans. Quite apart from the ethnic differences there is another important element, the West Bank Palestinians have lived, and in most cases, worked, alongside Israelis. While the youngsters have been radicalized it is still a much smaller minority who call for the destruction of Israel. Their young people want the fine things in life, the pop music, the electric bikes, the fashionable labels on their sports shoes and clothes, they see that life can be good if they are. Let Khaled Abu Toameh explain, he does it better than anyone.

USA, Guatemala and Paraguay have already moved their Embassies to Jerusalem and Jerusalem has welcomed them with open arms and great ceremony. Two Embassies are within sight, the Guatemalan and Paraguayan Embassies are in the Technological Park right in front of our veranda. The irony is that they are in the same building as CNN and BBC!! Our neighborhood became hot news for ten minutes! The Czech Government chose to open an Honorary Consulate rather than an Embassy but their Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky spoke out loud and clear on the subject of the Gazan demonstrations. He said they have no connection to the return of the American Embassy to Jerusalem and are simply acts of terrorism. A brave statement indeed as the lone member of the European Union to speak out for Israel.

There was a very important vote in the Knesset this week and for once I agreed totally with Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg. For diplomatic reasons Israel did not recognise the Armenian Genocide, the forced exile of at least a million and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Turkey.

Our relationship with Turkey was healthy on military, economic and tourism levels even during the beginnings of the more and more megalomaniacal regime of Tyepp Erdogan. His rantings and ravings are more like Hitlers every day, his hatred for Israel, Turkey's former ally, his deepening alliance with extremist Islamic groups deepening by the minute.  We no longer have to bend to the will of Turkey, on this subject we never should have. Israel, of all countries, must recognise the Armenian genocide – and we must honour the Armenian community who found safe haven here in Jerusalem.

It is ironic that a Turkish leader accuses Israel of genocide in Gaza, a miserable place to live but with a burgeoning population, yet chooses to ignore Turkey's decimation of Assyrians, Armenians, Greeks, Maronites and Dersim Kurds. Attaturk is spinning in his grave. See this article by Ambassador Zvi Mazel
I try my best to stay out of the politics of other countries, but I must express my disappointment concerning the meeting that apparently will not take place between North Korea and the USA, Kim and Trump, in Singapore. Let us hope it has simply been deferred to another date. Meanwhile the posturing continues!!

So who watched the wedding – or as my Daddy would have said "de vedding"? I thought it was spectacular. Elegant to the last white flower; what about those elegant, interesting and funny sideways hats which for some strange reason are called "fascinators"? Since we no longer have the BBC on our TV provider and it seemed inappropriate to hear the commentary in Hebrew I watched CNN. Richard Quest clearly knew what he was talking about as did Iysha Sasey, both raised in the British traditions, but I must admit the statement from a lovely American lady "specialist" brought a fast response from Mr Quest, not known for holding back…. She said "Now that there is a feminist woman of colour in the English (British please) Royal Family she will no doubt change many things" to which Richard Quest quipped "Hardly likely. Even the Queen can't influence policy"! I love these occasions which bring out that old fashioned British loyalty to Queen and country, which has become unfashionable. Union Jacks abounded, laughter and joy were the order of the day and the handsome couple brought romance back into a very tough world. Gosh the Brits know how to perform ceremonial occasions.

Talking of the Royal Family being unable to influence policy, the Royals have made several private visits to Israel, Prince Charles for both Peres and Rabins funerals, Prince Philip for the honoring of his Mother, Princess Alice of Greece, as a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem. Both Charles and Philip visited Princess Alices grave on the Mount of Olives. All of these visits were unofficial, that is without the official consent and organisation of the Foreign Office which is about as pro-Israel as the State Department! Anyway, whatever the reason, Prince William is headed our way. On June 24th he will arrive in Amman to meet King Abdullah then he will visit Jerash, a truly magnificent site which we had the honour of visiting with King Abdullah's Royal Archaeologist years ago. From there he will travel to Tel Aviv then Jerusalem, finally to Ramallah before heading home. As the future King of Great Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth I believe this to be a very important step.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is an exceptional woman. Her contribution to her country and her loyalty to her heritage are unequalled. The first Cuban woman to enter Congress she is also a proud defender of Israel. Please read all about her.

Before we get to the happy, clappy part of my missive I have to let off steam. Not only the idiots who held a very public Kaddish, prayer of mourning, for the 50 Hamasniks who died in the "peaceful demonstrations"  …they called themselves Jews yet felt no allegiance whatsoever to Israel or our need to defend ourselves. Perhaps even worse than that is the ignorant spoutings of some members of ………. No I won't say it, some people we know who left Israel and went to California and the good life. They are so ignorant of the truth that they support anti-Israel groups, and have lost even the tiniest iota of moral relevance. I am so mad I feel sick! I don't expect anyone to love us or everything we do but to totally deny the amazing contribution this little country has given to the world is ignorant, infuriating and treacherous. OK Rant over. Now to good things.

Last Saturday evening Zvi and I found ourselves in the Baka neighbourhood of Jerusalem in the wonderful garden of Rami and Yael Erez where we were all dressed in white! White is traditional apparel for Shevuot, even though in Israel Shevuot ended as dusk. It was such a delightful evening with many, many old friends. One person I had long wanted to talk to, to and spend time with is Dassy Stern, wife of Yair Stern, the son of Avraham Stern the leader of the Lehi. Our conversation was of today not of the past and I hope we will continue over a cup of coffee!

Why is IKEA Israel different to all other IKEA's? Because the food is all Mehadrin Kosher and the stores are not open on Shabbat. Rachel and I always try to get there before opening, drink the excellent free coffee and order one of their outstanding breakfasts.

Despite the horrendous heat – 41 degrees two days ago – the veranda is looking spectacular! Geraniums need no looking after, just dead-heading but to my amazement the Hibiscus bushes are all doing really well, rewarding us with orange, yellow and pink blooms. The remnants of the Sahara which fell upon us last week have now been cleaned away and the garden chairs are in place for the balmy Jerusalem evenings.

I am about to go to Givat Ze'ev to see the family which is fun and I won't need WAZE to get me there, I will follow the aroma of Rachel's freshly baked Challot! I don't need to cook this Shabbat because we are going to Kfar Maccabiah, the Maccabiah Village for Shabbat. Imagine, me not cooking!!!! Tonight will be amazing, meeting up with old friends especially Leo-Dan and Eva Bensky from Finland, very excited they will be here together.

So what should I play for your enjoyment this week?

Richard Shavei-Zion is a former South African who lives in Israel and produced this outstanding international rendition of Oseh Shalom  

The next song makes me very happy – in fact I can't imagine it not making anyone happy!! A wonderful Jerusalem version of Pharrell Williams song "Happy"

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, I will think of you as I go over the hill next to Samuel's Tomb and look over the breathtaking panorama of Jerusalem. Maybe next time I'll take you with me!

With love from Jerusalem and our amazing veranda

Friday, 18 May 2018

180518 Gaza, Embassy, Shevuot

18th of May 2018

Shabbat Shalom! There is so much to write about and so little that you think you already know about our current situation that I am going to precis the entire political and diplomatic scene into one paragraph.
1.     Yes, Israelis are thrilled about the American Embassy moving to Israel even though it should have happened in 1995
2.     No, the Gaza riots have nothing to do with the return of the Embassy to Jerusalem
3.     The Guatemalan Embassy is here too – I can see the big banner on their offices from our veranda! The strange thing is that they are in the same building as the journalist who basically ignored them!!!
4.      Yes at least 50 of the 62 who were killed in the Gaza border riots were members of Hamas.
5.     Yes Hamas successfully blew up the lifeline for food, and fuel at Kerem Shalom
6.     Yes Hamas refused Israeli medical aid
7.     Yes rockets and live ammunition hit Sderot and firebombs hit Kibbutz Nahal Oz
8.     No, Israeli soldiers do not want to kill and are not trained to kill without very good cause
9.      Yes the Gazans are downtrodden and oppressed, without food or services but not because of Israel. Hamas is a cruel regime that kills its own people without a second thought; stones gays; performs honour killings on a daily basis and does not allow any freedom.

My answer is to do as the Egyptians did and cut a swathe between the current unsubstantial fence and a wall to separate the two entities completely. A wall that goes deep enough to prevent tunnels.

If you think about it , we have peace with Jordan because they wanted peace with us; we have peace with Egypt because they wanted peace with us – they accepted our hand of friendship. We do not have peace with the Palestinians because they do not want it – they spurn all attempts.

I am past being angry at the media – their ignorance of the true situation is astonishing but even more I am furious, but furious at the mental incapacity of Jews who believe themselves liberal and sophisticated actually saying Kaddish (prayer for the dead) over those killed in the Gaza demonstrations with big black signs with their names.

It actually thrills me to say that both the NYT and the Guardian wrote with great intelligence about the rioters aims.

My niece Ruth sent me this excellent and concise article in the Toronto Sun which sums up the situation

CNN asked David Keyes, the PMO spokesperson "Doesn't the fact that all the deaths are on one side mean the response is disproportionate?" David Keyes – "How many Jews need to die to make it even?"  Keyes is brilliant, just brilliant. I hope you have Facebook because I cannot find it on the Prime Minsters spokesperson site.

What can one say about the Turkish President? He actually accused us of genocide of Palestinians – Yeah sure the Armenians just dropped dead alongside the greeks and Kurds? If we really committed genocide than why is the number of Palestinians increasing ever year? Well one could say he is an insane meglalomaniac!!

Sunday and I met my lovely friend Ruth Dodzuik-Justitz for lunch at the Botanical Gardens. It was wonderful eating our favourite Sweet Potato Oreganatto salad facing the lake where all the water lilies were putting on a fabulous show, earning their real name Lotus.

Monday was especially exciting for Rachel and I as we set off to brave the ghastly traffic jams of Tel Aviv – actually WAZE took us a roundabout route which helped us avoid the worst of the traffic. Our purpose was intense, we were about to meet up with my son Gideon (the QC) who had business here for 2 days. It was every bit as exciting as we thought and while he had meetings we decided that we should go for a walk to Shouk HaCarmel. It's OK but has nothing in comparison to Mahane Yehuda. It hasn't got the spirit, the joy, the fun of Mahane Yehuda. The people pushed and shoved instead of chatting to everyone. Just not the same!!!

We went back to collect Gideon and head off to Jerusalem. Even WAZE couldn't save us from the traffic!!! My voice on WAZE is Simon and Simon was terribly apologetic, changing his mind every so often to try to extricate us from the standstills! Finally we began to move and found ourselves on the main highway Route Number One, still pretty busy and then turned off to the 443 and headed home, but not without a visit to Rachel's where Igal, Yosef, Talia and Ayala pounced on "Dod Gidi"

That evening I intended going with Zvi to the presentation of the "Yakir Yerushalyim" awards to see our dear friend Prof Gabby Barkay receive his well deserved award for his undaunting work on the Sifting Project and many other archaeological projects. However……… I have no intention of going anywhere that wasn't next to Gideon so we just "hung out" which was my greatest joy. I didn't feel bad since the driver came to pick him up for the airport at 06:30 next morning!

On Wednesday I was to meet Canon Andrew White, Hanna and Esther for Gefilte Fish at the King David. Easier said than done when the entire street was a security area….. Both the Prime Minister and the President were at the Hotel for a reception for the Guatemalan President and Ambassador!!! It was wonderful for people watching but not for parking!! As always our supper was a joy, not just the food but we are never lost for things to tell each other! Andrew and I have had many an adventure together. Sadly he can no long get up our stairs to hear Zvi's wonderful rendition of Kiddush, but we always get together. We sat outside on the veranda of the historic hotel as the sun came down. The impeccable veranda overlooking the walls of the Old City is also for people watching and greeting friends. Alan and Bonnie Cohen came to say hello and I introduced Member of Knesset Tsachi Hanegbi to Andrew – an important connection for both.

Yesterday Talia and Ron Carner and Barry and Monica Gurland came for lunch. Barry and Monica brought their adorable grand-daughter Karen with them – she is an absolute delight and exceptionally adult for 11. Today they went first to Yad Vashem and then to the Herzl Museum – always a good mix – from desperation to hope.

Tonight is Shabbat and tomorrow Shevuot – we will be 20 for supper. I have already made most of the salads (remember Israeli salads don't have lettuce!!!) Aubergine and Labaneh; Courgette and egg; stuffed mushrooms; Moroccan mushrooms; Rachel's cucumber salad; mushrooms in balsamic vinegar; gosh a load more – I had to stop cooking because the fridge is full. Yes Arlene – my fridge is full!! I'll bake salmon, lasagna and pasta for the children and all will be well.

Of course Shevuot is much more than cheesecake and blintzes. It is the celebration of receiving the Torah – the 2 tablets of stone – that have guided our lives for thousands of years.

My favourite part of Shevuot is the reciting of the Story of Ruth – Megillat Ruth. If you read the story carefully it teaches us tolerance, acceptance, the wisdom of Naomi in recognizing her daughters in law and of course the beauty of her relationships with those daughters in law. When the three women, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah, lost their husbands Naomi decided to go to a new land, the land of Moab and Ruth chose to go with her (the famous saying "Whither thou goest". At that time Naomi didn't need her daughters in law to take courses and exams to prove they were good Jews – it was obvious and clear. The reward for Ruth's loyalty and love, caring for Naomi through thick and thin, was that she met a new love, a good man called Boaz. I have the honour of having two incredible friends and one family member who chose to be Jewish and they are the most incredible Jewesses I know – real Yiddische Mommas. We have a lot to learn from Naomi who for me is the real heroine of the story.

I know I keep mentioning the Yuri Shtern Holistic Center for Cancer Patients and their Families but I love this organisation! Now a big big Mazal tov to the Yuri Shtern Center we just received an award from the Minister of Health! Kol hakavod to Lena, Varda, Sivan and Orit and all the volunteers and administrators!

Shevuot! 10 Commandments – This song – it is actually for children but hey! It's great!

I love our President! Reuven Ruvi Rivling is so amazing at bringing the people together. The beginning and the result  and

Mazal Tov to the Windors, the Royal Family who have a simcha this weekend!

So – Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach and remember that we must be proud of who and what we are.

With much love from our veranda – with its view over Jerusalem. Jerusalem Capital of the State of Israel.


Friday, 11 May 2018

180511 Iran, Trump, Bibi and life in general

11th May 2018

Shabbat Shalom! Hope you are well and happy.

The flags are up all over Jerusalem, the Stars and Stripes shine on us and in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona, on the border of Talpiot Mizrach, the road signs are alreay in place pointing their way to the American Embassy! It is very exciting and Israelis love nothing better than a reason to celebrate, and we are already in celebratory mood! It is finally going to happen, starting with the American Embassy, then Guatamala, then………… who knows. I will always remember the words of former British Ambassador Sherrard Cowper-Coles "Every time I come to Jerusalem I go to the site of our Embassy, it's still just a piece of land, and stand and pray for the United States to move its Embassy to Jerusalem so we can follow suit" OK So now you can!!!!

I can hear you saying "Why is she so happy? Israel is at war with Iran!" Well I have news for you, no we aren't. We are not happy that they sent missiles and rockets (16 didn't even reach Israeli land, they flopped, and the others were shot down before reaching Israel) but then we responded and wiped out some 50 Iranian bases and arsenals in Syria! The "peaceful" demonstration in the South, on the Gaza border, isn't peaceful and it isn't a free expression of the downtrodden Gazans for the "siege". Israel is the only country of the area that isn't denying Gazans their basic needs, in fact providing them, but they are scared to demonstrate on the Egyptian border and anyway they can't get near the Egyptian border because the Egyptian troops came in, cleared a swathe of land next to the border and put up a wall! This "peaceful demonstration is sending kites, ordinary paper kites, with inflammable material to add to the effect, and they are burning down whole fields of carefully tended crops before the Kibbutz farmers have time to harvest. Quite apart from the evil ingenuity of their actions, the fear is that a farmer on his tractor could be trapped in a burning field, but then that is the aim!

In the meantime, Israelis are carrying on with life, obviously preparing for the worst but we don't scare that easily. We are never complacent and the IDF is on alert, in this neighborhood one cannot be sure of anything. This isn't a new situation, but the paradigm has changed. We managed very well on our own against all enemies, but now we know that the USA is behind us with all its weight with a leader that doesn't fear rejection.

Let me explain. Iran has proxies who do not have to heed consequences for their violent actions against Israel (or Saudi, Kuwait etc), like Hamas, Hezb-Allah, even Al Qaeeda and ISIS, however, Iran is a country, a state, and if they wreak havoc they will pay with embargos from the world community, even if their aggression is against Israel!!! For most countries it was a convenient excuse to come out against their actions this week, countries that is, not of course the NYT. Nobody will take action, yet, and the United Nations will find a way to blame Israel but the Iranians know they walk a fine line.

David Horovitz, Editor of the Times of Israel, gives a concise and clear explanation of the Iran deal's history

Now, love him or loathe him, President Trump is fulfilling his promises. He has gone quiet on the immigrant situation, but since most of the wall with Mexico was already built by President Obama he didn't need to continue – now I admit that was rhetoric. However, he is standing fast on the Iran deal, which is dangerous in its inadequacies. The Iran deal was based on the Clinton North Korean deal and we know where that led!!! His public shaming of President Kim of North Korea horrified those who do not understand the region, but look where it led - a meeting between the two Koreas and with the American President. Finally, he decided to honour the vote in Congress to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel. Newt Gingrich and Daniel Moynihan went against President Clintons warnings of conflagration in the area if they went ahead with the statement "We have diplomatic relations with 184 countries and Israel is the only one where the Embassy is not in the functioning capital". The vote was in 1995, the intended move in 1999 and all it took from any sitting President was to say nothing, simply not to defer the move. This fascinating reading

Perhaps the strangest outcome of recent events is that Prime Minister Netanyahu is the go-between for any negotiations or talks between Putin and Trump. Both talk to him but not to each other. It is surely a machisto situation between the eagle and the bear but incredibly Israel is acceptable to both. I said that whether one loves or loathes Trump one must accept his successes and so it is with Mr Netanyahu. I didn't vote for him or his party but he has done everything right over the last two weeks.

Perhaps now is the time for us to hear the song We Are a Miracle by Yaakov Shwekey – more from him later

The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem was established in 1980 by three dear friends, Tim King, Jay Rawlings and Malcolm Hedding, among others, when most countries chose to have their Embassies to Tel Aviv. The Embassy was founded in recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital city of the Jewish people. Quite apart from their incredible work in support of Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular, they throw a wonderful party twice a year, Chanuka/Christmas and Jerusalem Day. Last Monday was the Jerusalem Day party, on a day which produced rain, high winds and almost every conceivable weather threat! As Beverly Dwyer said "We prayed and prayed that the rain would hold off" and it did!! The exquisite building once housed the Czechoslovakian and Ivory Coast Embassies and the incredible work of the ICEJ in ensuring the return of the Embassies to Jerusalem may just backfire since the building belongs to the Ivory Coast!! Zvi and I went with "my friend Sheila" the wonderful broadcaster Sheila Zucker and we were again in awe of the beauty of the building, the grounds and the support of people like Juergen Buhler. The Embassy does not proselytise as has been suggested, they give enormous political support worldwide.

Israel is through to the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest with Netta Barzilai singing I'm not your doll. Of course the BBC complained that she uses swear words in the song…….. quite incredible when one considers the fact that the first time **** was heard on the air was Kenneth Tynan on the David Frost Show oh and all the British late night show presenters in the USA use the word non-stop to say nothing of rappers!! We are vaunted to be the winners but only if politics stays out of the competition.

Last night we went to Tel Aviv for two reasons, one was to meet Perla and Carlos Jinich two lovely Mexican friends of Zvi's from his high school days in Mexico City. My complaint? I only just met them when they have been coming to Israel for many years!! What a delight! Perla mad coffee and I brought an Orange Cake (Rachel's famous recipe) and suddenly we realised that time has flown and we needed to leave for our next appointment!!

One day, Zvi was at a Maccabi World Union event and met a new friend called Ron Carner of the USA. Ron introduced his wife, Talia, and to his amazement she and Zvi hugged each other as old friends……….. because they were and are! Talia and Zvi went to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem together when Zvi was a student leader! Of course once I came on the scene we because friends too. In the meantime Talia has become a famous author of 4 books and last night Talia and Ron threw a big birthday bash for Talia's 70th and we had fun! I had the huge fortune of sitting next to Ilan Horowitz (he told me to say that) and Zvi sat with Cilla Horowitz, and the men regaled stories of their past and sang together in Russian. To our amazement, a crowd gathered around us and sang the Russian songs with them!! It has never happened before! I knew that Ilan is a great storyteller of the stand-up mode, but for anyone to have the courage to sing with Zvi's booming bass-baritone is rare. The only one in our life who willingly does so is Martin Lindenfeld but he a too far away in Florida!!!

We have some wonderful occasions coming up, tomorrow Yonatan ha Katan will be 4, a beautiful boy and Zvi's only grandson – not that we are complaining about the grand-daughters!!! Rachel has made him a fabulous piñata, a yellow duckling with big blue eyes and  I will take the far less interesting "memula'im" stuffed vegetables and my new favourite salad – roasted aubergine and labaneh whizzed with a stick blender. Try it! It is easy and delicious!!!

Rachel is already creating incredible things for her Talia's Batmitzva in a few weeks. Fabulous flowers atop pens and pencils for the girls, unbelievably beautiful invitation reminders – cards and invites printed on clear plastic with flowers attached and with magnets for the fridge…. And little favours that she makes from scratch. I love it!!

On Monday we have the honour of watching Zvi's close friend, Professor Gabby Barkay, receive the Yakir Yerushalayim Award for his amazing work on sifting the earth removed from underneath the Temple Mount by Sheikh Raeed Salah.

For me, of equal if not even greater importance (sorry Gabby) is the fact that my middle son, Gideon, is in Israel for a flying visit from London and I will get to hug him and he will get to hug Rachel and family. I am madly thinking of what food to make for him that he loves, he has gone healthy on me so not sure!

And so to music. Perhaps something about the Golan Heights? About Jerusalem, although the choice is daunting; no, I think I have the perfect song for this week – Ani Ma'amin

We are so grateful to our incredible IDF for protecting us and for all they do to help our supposed enemies. Yaakov Shwekey sings the blessing for the soldiers of Israel. 

The blessing
He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our God, from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.
May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.
May He lead our enemies under our soldiers’ sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is the Lord your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you.
Now let us respond: Amen.

With love from Jerusalem, our veranda and the view all the way to the newly established American Embassy in Jerusalem.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom