Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Shana Tova 5778

20th September 2017

Rosh Hashana 2017, in the Jewish year of 5778

Thank you one and all for listening to my musings and emotions, my thoughts and deliberations. I appreciate you all, each and every one of you and wish you
שנה טובה ומתוקה

I wish you a year in which the voice of moderation and reason will not be silenced.

A year of new friendships while holding the old ones close to your heart

A year of true friends who will never turn on you and always remember your kindnesses

A year in which Israel's innovation, desire for peace with our neighbours, outreach to less fortunate countries, almost excessive democracy will be recognised.

That after 5778 years the Jews the world over can finally say I am a Jew without concern and can pray in synagogues without the need for security

That Christians and Jews in Moslem countries will not be persecuted and that Moslem in the West will not be singled out – there are good and bad among all peoples.

That all children will be taught that when someone is different, it simply makes them more interesting.

That the State Department and the Foreign Office will play fair and the United Nations will perform the duties for which it was created.

Ayoub Kara, Israeli Minister of Communications, gave the most important blessing of all "May we all be blessed with a fair and honest media who will allow free speech to all sides"

If the blessing, of Ayoub Kara will be fulfilled then all of the above will be possible.

As we stand on our veranda surrounded by glorious colour, warmed by the sunrise in Jerusalem, Zvi and I wish you and yours a year of joy, of kindness, generosity, tolerance and patient understanding and of course great good health.

I wish Zvis boys Amiad and Leor and their amazing families; my family, my siblings Eddie, Doreen and Ronnie and families; my loving children Daniel, Gideon and Rachel and their spouses Karen, Stephanie and Igal; our warm, kind and beautiful grandchildren; cousins, including the new-found Jen and Frank in far off Nova Scotia, a sweet and fulfilling year. To all of them - I have a dream. My dream it that next year you really will be in Jerusalem.

Finally to my husband Zvi, my husband, my mentor, my historian and the man who told me I could build up a readership of over 10,000 people if I just tell the truth. Thank you my love.

David Broza sings Yiyeh Tov – It will be fine – and it will Yihyeh Tov

With all our love from our beautiful Jerusalem,


Friday, 15 September 2017

170915 Irma, Iraqi Jews, Slichot, Balfour


15th September 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you had a good week and are feeling well. I remember how we used to snigger at our elders when they wished each other a year of good health, but in truth it is our number one priority. We can overcome almost anything if we feel strong.

I often wonder how people live in Florida, the glorious Caribbean and of course California cope with the repetitive dangers of hurricanes and earthquakes. In fact one can include Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, so many places yet we are frequently asked how we cope with living in a dangerous place! Being Jewish and Israeli we obviously have many friends in Florida and were deeply concerned about the path of Irma, and watched reports to check constantly. Being Jewish and Israeli we were proud of the many aid groups who rushed to the aid of our greatest ally.  Hazalah, ZAKA and many first responders were in Florida and iAid and IsraAid were in Florida and the Caribbean Islands many of which were devastated. It is who we are, we take Tikkun Olam very seriously.

I was horrified to read this week that the State Department of the USA intends returning Jewish books, texts and documents of the Iraq Jewish community to the Iraqi Government. How can they do it? Iraq is in chaos, they decimated their Jewish population that had to flee and yet they give them precious documents, perhaps the last remaining proof of the Jewish Community of Iraq.

The law to include Haredi Jews in the conscription to the IDF passed this week. I have a sneaky feeling that despite Rosh Hashana and Slichot we may have trouble this weekend.

The new code word for the intelligentsia is "Intersectionality". I hate these cobbled together words with a vengeance but it explains the danger of labelling and factions beautifully. Professor Alan Dershowitz wrote "Intersectionality is another code word for Anti-Semitism"

Extremism comes in many forms, it is not the realm of the right, more and more it shows it's ugly head on the left. Michael Moore standing holding a poster "I am a Muslim" abusing the Je Suis Paris after the horrific terror attack there. Here in Israel the Screen Actors Guild of Israel has an award ceremony coming up, paid for out of government funds but the Minister of Sport and Culture has been uninvited because her political beliefs differ from theirs. Theatre, a law unto itself without accepting responsibility.

It is time we stopped labelling people, stopped trying to define "Who is a Jew"? -stopped putting people into boxes because underneath – we are all the same. Some good, some cruel, some exceptional, some mediocre, some brilliant, some stupid but we are all the same.

The essence of Slichot, the period before the high holy days where we beg forgiveness for our sins, is tolerance. Tolerance, Sovlanut. Sovlanut comes from the same root as patience in Hebrew – Savlanut – because if you think about it all we all need to achieve Sovlanut is Savlanut. The patience to listen, the patience to observe, the patience to recognise that even if someone is different from us they deserve our ear, not necessarily agreement but to listen to them and find out why they feel and think the way they do. Perhaps they never had the chance to learn otherwise because they were never taught the principles of Savlanut and Sovlanut.

At the risk of sounding like John Lennon - IMAGINE. Imagine that we each accepted the difference, the other, without expecting them to be like us. What an amazing world it could be. Impact-se  is making slow, but definite, progress toward that aim, through research and recommendations to introduce respect for the other – Sovlanut – into curricula around the world.

We reached the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. We all know about the usual statements about it being unfair and illegal, even though it was neither, but every so often someone stands up to be counted. Sajid Javid, a British Cabinet Minister says Britain will celebrate the Balfour Declaration Anniversary with pride.

Incredibly it is a whole year since Shimon Peres passed away. His political journey from right to left led to him being a fine President, recognised for his brilliance and love of Israel. His famous quote perhaps typifies our situation here in the Middle East better than any other "If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact - not to be solved, but to be coped with over time."

The anniversary of his death coincides with the anniversary of the Entebbe Operation. An operation filled with derring do and heroism, the rescue of those captured in Idid Amins Uganda, Entebbe, is one for the history books. Shimon Peres was the Defence Minister and he spoke thus to the IDF who carried out the mission “You left a very worried country but you returned to a very proud country. We owe you our thanks for this,” he said. “You take a risk, perhaps greater than you realized… this was carried out in an exceptional and perfect way.” Here Peres greets the captives from the aeroplane as they landed in Israel

On Sunday I went with my friend Nitza to the Israel Museum where we saw the excellent Dan Reisinger exhibit then the official guide of the Ai Weiwei exhibit. It really is a magnificent exhibit and the explanation of each of his pieces brings his work to light.

On Tuesday I met a very special lady, Gloria Goldstein, at the First Station, together with her very pregnant grand-daughter Ilana and her husband Elad. Of course the talk turned to babies and birth and I was thrilled to hear that the birth will be at Shaare Zedek Hospital where my three Israeli grandchildren were born. I even gave her a few tips as to which midwife to talk to so she gets immediate attention!!! I love the First Station – it buzzes with activity and has great restaurants.

Talking of the First Station, one of it's first managers and initiators is Ofer Berkovitch. Ofer has moved on to become Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and activist for the city. Ofer sees Jerusalem as a city for all her residents, not any one sector and works his heart out to ensure it will happen. We heard his plans at a meeting of his mentors, we heard the problems he faces and the plans he has for the future. Ofer brings hope for a bright future for Jerusalem and I feel very confident that despite enormous difficulties that he faces in the Municipality he will ensure that Jerusalem stays multicultural and free.

The news just came in that a bomb exploded on a London Tube near Parsons Green Station. So far there are no deaths because it was a very amateurish device but many have burns from the device and injuries from the panic rush to get away from the station. What evil fanaticism can make a person take a bucketful of explosives (apparently also chemicals) onto a crowded commuter train and explode it? What teachings have brainwashed gullible minds? Why would the recipients of every possible social service and kindness decide to wreak havoc in the lives of so many? If they think it will make all infidels turn to Mecca and pray they are wrong. They do a huge disservice to their religion and to their host countries. I am angry.

It seems inane to go from reporting a terror attack to telling you how beautiful Jerusalem is. We are beginning to leave the searing heat behind and our evenings are cooler and breezy. Sitting on our Veranda is becoming a pleasure again. Oh how I love our veranda…….. it isn't just the flowers, fruits, herbs and the view, it is because all of the above are in Jerusalem. I really miss my family, spread all over the world and my friends, and wish they could all come to sit with us to look over the panorama of Jerusalem and understand why we love it so much – this house always has enough food and a warm welcome.

I was thrilled this week to discover that thanks to Dubi Gordon there are another 500 readers of this newsletter. Thanks Dubi, good Shabbes

Next Year in Jerusalem, the constant prayer of the Jewish people. Today's Torah Portion speaks of Moses prediction that after we spread all over the world there will be an ingathering. Jerusalem, Jerusalem – this song even talks about our Veranda!!

Peace will come to us, peace will come to all of us. Shalom, Salaam.

Finally, I need to lift my heart and yours with me so………. I Can Be, Yaakov Shwekey

With all our love from beautiful Jerusalem. Zvi and I have a quiet Shabbat in front of us as we prepare for the craziness of Rosh Hashana and Shabbat all together – no diets this coming week! I am going to take my rotten cough to bed now – Zvi has gone to his parliament at the Hebrew University Coffee Shop so I don't need to worry, all the ills of the world will be sorted by the time he gets home!

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Friday, 8 September 2017

170908 Irma, Mexico, Syria, Misuse of Power

8th September 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

What a week of worry! Hurricanes and monsoons, Texas, the Caribbean Islands, Florida, India, Nepal, Pakistan; the horror of natural disasters reminds us that we humans are powerless against the enormity of nature. The devastation left in the path of hurricane Irma is unprecedented in its scope. Unlike man made disasters natural disasters do not differentiate between rich and poor – St. Barts and St. Marten were hit equally with poverty stricken Haiti, everything in Irmas path is simply flattened. As I write the news comes in of a horrendous earthquake off Mexico We pray our family is alright.

Would you think I'm crazy if I ask the question "Are all todays freaky natural disasters a chain reaction after Kim of North Korea caused the initial earthquake and subsequent tsunami"? I know this is the season but…….. never mind it just passed through my mind.

We, little Israeli, are sending aid to all of the above, through iAid, IsraAid, the IDF teams, ZAKA, MASHAV, no matter where, we have people on the ground helping at a human level and we stay to help them rebuild. I once sent information about the incredible aid work being done by Israeli organisations to a friend in Canada, around the time we sent help to Alberta after the horrendous fires which engulfed the state, to which he sent a letter of ridicule "Are you serious – how can Israel help Canada?" Well, Israel that sent people to help Texas and after Superstorm Sandy we were received with love and gratitude, does that answer your question?

And then there is Syria; the Syrian government has accused Israel of aggression after a mission was sent to destroy their chemical weapons research centre and stockpile. After half a million people were killed and hundreds of thousands horribly wounded by chemical weaponry they call Israel the aggressor? The mission was essential, finally, and coincidentally came on the anniversary of the bombing of the Syrian nuclear facility 10 years ago by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Israel is torn apart by the level of corruption within the political sphere from the top down. Indeed it appears that the political sphere controls our lives far more than we could imagine.  I know it happens everywhere but this is my home and perhaps unrealistically I believe that we should be more principled than anywhere else. The choice of leaders is rarely based on ability but rather on misuse of power – choosing the person who can facilitate power rather than the one who is suited for the position. When two excellent candidates for a major position, each with many years of service to the Jewish world (Colette Avital and Zvi Raviv), are overlooked in favour of person who is unknown in the Jewish world, allowed to continue his private business interests, does not live in Jerusalem near the office where he appears for just a few hours a week, one should understand that something is terribly wrong. I don't want to name names but one cannot deny simple facts. Those who chose the current World Chairman of Keren Hayesod, Mudi Zandberg, did not choose him because he was the best candidate but because they bent to the choice of the Prime Minister (or his wife) and now Mudi Zandberg is embroiled in the current investigations. Please understand, these leaders affect the morale of those of good will who work within the organisations without a rudder to guide the ship but do not reflect on the excellent projects executed by the KH and the good name which was hard earned over nearly 100 years of caring for the Jewish world.

Finally after 45 years of an unrelenting fight by the families, a memorial was inaugurated this week, in Munich, to commemorate the 11 athletes slaughtered at the 1972 Olympics. President Rivlin, present at the ceremony, said "We must condemn terror wherever it may be".

Sadly Zvi lost a good friend and a fine Jerusalemite, last week, Ilan Roman z"l. We went to the Shiva house to honour his memory and visit his widow Tsippi. Obviously we spoke of Ilan's full and interesting life but then someone mentioned the mystery surrounding the stolen Yemenite children. In a country of 2, 3, maybe even 4 children per family the newly arrived Yemenite families often had 10 or more children living in abject poverty as new immigrants. Many babies died at birth but some, in an act of misplaced and ill advised "kindness" were taken from the mothers who were told their babies had died, and given to wealthy childless families, both in Israel and in the "Goldener Medina" the USA. These children grew in loving families, needing for nothing although many questioned their dark features in a family of blonds. Over the last 10 years, children have been reunited with their birth mothers but for many it is too late. Two ladies at the shiva house had family members who were "placed". What fascinated me was that nobody, not even the two ladies of Yemenite origin, felt it was done with any but good motives, but the tragedy that ensued cannot be measured.

On Wednesday evening, I set off for the German Colony, to Bethlehem Road, searching for a building I didn't know existed! It was to be the site of a celebratory evening in gratitude to the volunteers of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre for Cancer patients and their families – a truly magnificent group of people. The building was exactly where Menachem told me it was – directly opposite Cremieux Street! As I drove through the impressive gates I was met with one of the most magnificent buildings of white Jerusalem stone, towering and a total surprise! The building of the first Jerusalem electricity station was opened for the first time ever to the Yuri Shtern Foundation by the Electricity company. I am not a healer, I am an admirer, a fan of these incredible, altruistic folk who give of their precious time each week to bring succour to both patients and families at Shaare Zedek Hospital and the Clinic. Under the auspices of the excellent stand-up artists we played fascinating games, laughed and then ate – under the watchful eye of Lena Shtern, widow of Yuri z"l . Lena's dream came true in this giving organisation which changes lives ably aided by Varda Hershkovitch and Ayala Goldman.

Just as I was thinking – wow it's that time of year again, nearly Rosh Hashana and high time to think about whether I, and all of us, have done enough to better this world. As always, my dear friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen was thinking exactly the same – and since I knew I couldn't possibly be more erudite or clever than he I have given you his thoughts directly!

Conan O'Brien spent a week in Israel. I was never a fan of his ascerbic humour but he proved himself to be much more fun and much nicer than his image. I love this interview with Channel 2's Yonit Levy

I survived last weeks Friday night dinner of 24 guests – survived and thrived! Everyone was happy with the food; the children took doggie bags with them to help feed the grandchildren during the week since Amiad, Noga, Leor and Shiri all work long hours. The children were happy with the games we provided and everyone helped get the salon back to its former glory!

School is back and I just got home from collecting the girls from school, Rachel's girls that is! I loved their excitement at seeing me back at my normal Friday job!!! As we drove over the peak of Samuel's Tomb they chattered on and on in that unintelligible language of girls aged 11 and 8, it was irrelevant anyway – I just wanted to hear their voices!!! Arriving at Rachel's on a Friday is a culinary and olfactory treat! The aromas emanating from her kitchen draw one in and all diets are forgotten as the plies one with cups of tea, home-made Danish Pastries and fresh hot Challa……. To say nothing of tasting each of her delicious salads just to check they are good!!! Then the drive back home – the panorama of Jerusalem, the hills and winding road back to our apartment and then the joy……………… I don't have to cook tonight!!!  We are invited to Mottie and Rivkas for Shabbat Dinner – Motti is an exceptional historian of all things Jewish (he built the Herzl Museum) and Rivka is not only a Balabusta ( a Yiddish expression for a good home-maker) but also a Judge. I am in awe of so many Israeli women who work in high position but successfully keep a happy family. Anyway, I love going to them, it reminds me of my childhood!

So, in honour of Motti and Rivka I think we should go with a Yiddishe Shabbat Song. Actually, this song will bring back happy memories for my children, Daniel, Gideon and Rachel, memories of my father laughing at their rendition of this song. Daniel my love, happy birthday, I do know you are a grown man with a family and your patients have no idea I call you my baby…… not until now anyway – but you are! The song tells the tale of the Rebbe  "Az der Rebbe"– when he laughs all his students laugh, when he sleeps they sleep, when he drinks they drink, he laughs they laugh – etc etc

As we see so many terrible disasters around us I wish you a Shabbat of blessings "May the Lord Bless you and Keep You"

May the skies be happy – Yismachu ha Shamyim – and may you be safe under clam skies

With love from beautiful Jerusalem, from our veranda which is blooming with bright scarlet flowers, the trees promising a good crop of pomegranates, kumquats, lemons and ……… oh I forgot, the orange tree, after the most phenomenal show of blossom decided to be on strike!!!

I pray you are safe, please let us know.


Friday, 1 September 2017

170901 Israel, 120 WZO


September the first, 2017

Shabbat Shalom everyone! Since today is the first day of the school year here in Israel I decided this would be a letter about Israel – we find it too easy to forget the wonderful country that gave us all a sense of pride that thousands of year of abasement determinedly bent us down like Uriah Heep. Our heads are high and we even have the courage to criticise ourselves. However, criticism is fine if it is positive – this country is the epitome of Jewish moral standards – we can't let them drop and we have to encourage. Sadly we live in a world where our national flags and monuments have been taken over by the far right, but that doesn't make them any less beautiful as legitimate symbols of our culture.

Disasters everywhere, North Korea Launches ballistic missile over Japan; Houston and areas of Texas are under water with people fighting to survive; the Monsoons this year led to horrendous flooding in Nepal, India and Pakistan which have led, thus far, to 1,500 people losing their lives and what is the headline in the US press? Melania Trump wore high heeled shoes!!!!

Thanks to idiotic priorities of the media, this week I want less media news and more real news, the things that ordinary people like you and me do to change the world. Take this young Israeli who couldn't bear the suffering in neighbouring Syria – see what he did

IsraAid and iAid are both in Houston, Nepal, India and Pakistan – and incredibly IsraAid is still working in Haiti. We don't give up! I am sure you remember the IDF field hospital set up hours after the Haiti disaster – that included ZAKA and Magen David Adom

The IDF field hospital on the border with Syria is still performing triage and first aid before the injured are sent to Israeli hospitals for treatment. A drop in an ocean of misery but we do our best.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs performs acts of aid and generosity that are unparalleled, over 140 countries have received Israel aid, not money but the power to help themselves. Please, don't forget this is a tiny country has just 8 million citizens… look at the website and look at MASHAV

Save a Child's Heart is performing lifesaving surgery on children from countries where they would surely die if not for the Israeli surgeons, often countries don't even recognise our existence…..particularly from the Palestinian Authority.

Eye from Zion and of course MASHAV send opthamologists to third world countries where ignorance, dirty water and infections cause blindness to give back sight using mobile operating theatres.

For Israel's 65th birthday in 2014, Israel21C introduced us to 65 ways that Israel performs "Tikkun Olam"

Tikkun Olam is our raison d'etre, in a world that is becoming more and more insular as telecommunications take away our ability to communicate Israel is reaching out.

Why all the self aggrandisement? We aren't supposed to prideful but there is so much to boast about! 120 years is a flash in time for most countries but just 120 years ago a man had a dream; not just a small dream but a gigantic dream. Teodore Herzl was an assimilated Jew from a well to do family in Austria – aware of his ancestors but not a practicising Jew. He was a writer and intellectual but worked as a journalist. He was sent to France to cover a fascinating story of a Jew who had a successful military career and through the jealousies of his Christian co-officers was shamed and stripped of his rank and position after a military kangaroo court passed judgement. Herzl recognised the reason for Dreyfus shaming, Dreyfus was a Jew. Herzl had a dream but he did not write Hebrew so when he wrote a book called Altneuland – New Old Land –  he wrote the immortal words 'Im tirtzu ein zo agada; ve'im lo tirtzu, agada hi ve'agada tisha'er' in Latin letters, אם תרצו, אין זו אגדה; ואם לא תרצו, אגדה היא ואגדה תישאר, meaning, 'If you will it, it is no dream; and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay. Herzl not only wrote a book about an old-new land he gathered the most influential Jews of the world together in a Swiss city called Basel in the first World Zionist Congress on September 1897. Teodore became Theodore and then Benjamin Zeev Herzl, his dream took many years of travel, disappointment which cost him his health but the First World Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland 120 years ago.

120 years since the idea of Jews returning to their homeland became more than a prayer; 120 years since those first Zionists gathered to create a basis for the Jewish State, 120 years since that fateful Congress and now 69 years after the dream came true just think about our achievements!

To fully understand the circumstances which led to the Congress and the travail and travels of Herzl himself one should visit the phenomenal Herzl Museum in Jerusalem. The Museum, a spectacular audio-visual experience was put together by our dear friend Dr Motti Friedman.

UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres was in Israel and our President chose to tell him like it really is…….. and he responded favourably but nothing like Nikki Haley who is just an amazing honest and brave lady, standing up for Israel as never before.

The other day Zvi and I set off to the Municipality Square for a very special event to honour the memory of Israel's 5th President, the much loved Yitzchak Navon. President Navon was (like President Rivlin) born in Jerusalem and even as a child he loved to learn about the various neighborhoods and their peoples, Polish and Bukharian; Iraqi and Hungarian; Arab, Jew and Christian, his curious nature led him to learn all the languages, fluent in 10 –  Ladino, Yiddish, Arabic, English and many others so that he could converse with the entire rainbow. Navon was also a poet and playwright – writing the famous Bustan Sefaradi about his own neighbourhood and community. The most famous Ladino song "Adio Querida" (Farewell my love) is thought to be a love song that expresses disenchanted love for Spain, the country that persecuted, killed and then expelled its Jews from the land they loved

Our friend Advocate Gideon Fisher has been honoured as a Fellow by the International Institute of Chartered Arbitrators – a rare achievement. Mazal Tov Gideon – remember you couldn't do it without Dafna!!!!

This week was our usual race – beginning on a special note with a coffee and chat with my adored friend Andrew Stone (Lord Stone of Blackheath who to me is still my childhood friend and Habonim madrich) where we talked about the past and our future – a future both of us are fighting to make a kinder, more tolerant and gentler one.

Impact-se is an amazing organisation which translates and researches the school curriculum in Israel and our neighbouring countries, and Madrasses in Europe and the USA, to enact changes to ensure tolerance of the other – according to criteria of UNESCO which we set up. We had a Board meeting two nights ago at the Hebrew University and I am so proud of our Director Marcus Sheff who has created wonders in reaching governments and Ambassadors with our results. Bravo Marcus. Read the material – you will be surprised.

Tonight we celebrate Amiad's 41st birthday here at home for our Shabbat Dinner – with about 24 guests! Don't worry, I got up really early so that I could write to you before continuing the three day marathon cook-in! We have… Pea soup that the children adore, barbequed spring-chicken fillets, beef stew, Meat balls in sauce, grilled salmon fillet, Vienna sausages, Salads of the following varieties- Cauliflower, Sweet potato, mushroom, beetroot, courgette and toasted aubergine (chatzilim) with tehina and of course huge green salads. I will also do rice to go with all of the above and oven chips (French fries) for the children! At the same time I have prepared a veggie lasagna for tomorrow night's big pre-Rosh Hashana party for Zvi's choir to be held at our friends, Eva and Eli Yaron, home in Tsur Hadassah. I can't even begin to tell you what this week-ends programme entails visiting Nitza and Ronit Dotan Hofesh is organizing a huge party for her husband Gedi's 80th!!!

The beautiful and mournful Adio Querida expresses the pain of expulsion from so many countries so many eras of oppression, so now it is time to try a happier note – How would we present Herzl and his dream today? Would it have the same elegance or be as effective?  Cantors Hefgott, Adler and Schachat sing………. O sole Mio!!!!!

As the old year closes and the new year is before us with all the hope and opportunities it presents I chose Lu Yehi – Let it be - as my closing song

With love from Jerusalem the beautiful, fascinating spiritual heart of our people. I have the privilege of seeing its ever changing face every single day from our veranda. Israeli children returned to school today and we wish them all a year of study, learning, friendships and fun.

Shabbat Shalom to you all wherever you may be. Stay safe and stay strong.


Friday, 25 August 2017

170825 Barcelona, Charlottesville, Tuscany

25th of August 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Back from a delightful sojourn in Italy, in glorious Tuscany, with all of Zvi's family and thrilled to be back in Israel. Last night I made our favourite salad and believe you me, there are no vegetables, anywhere in the world, like those in Israel. I know that every cucumber, tomato and lettuce was picked within the last day and brought straight to the supermarket without any preservatives. Scrummy!!!

While we were away, horrific terror attacks took place in Barcelona, beautiful Barcelona, and in Russia and Finland. They are getting braver and more daring – unafraid of detection because they operate in closed communities where even the most modern of Moslems doesn't dare to tell the authorities because he fears for the lives of his children and the police fear to tread.

There is an even more serious reason why their terror attacks succeed. The Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan Jose Omella and the Barcelona police warned the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, of the impending attack, suggesting putting barriers at the entrance to the Ramblas; Ms Colau, a far left representative who chose to ignore the warnings created a situation which allowed the deaths, nay slaughter of 13 innocents and many more injured, to say nothing of those who saw the attack and will never be the same. The Barcelona police wisely did what had to be done after the attack and reached the remaining perpetrators discovering the cache of gas cannisters set to perform an even worse attack. The Barcelona supporters have been asked to hide their identity at the upcoming international football match for fear of being singled out for attack – sounds all too familiar.

Strangely enough the Italians take no such chances. Last year we were in Rome and Florence and saw the immense security, Huge police presence and soldiers with armoured cars and automatic weapons cocked and ready at almost every tourist and religious site, this year we saw it in even the much smaller towns. We thanked many of them personally.

The cause of the reaction of Barcelona's Mayor and many Europeans is clear. A continent that lost over 30,000,000 people to xenophobia has gone to the other extreme, trying to repent its history. They rejected their Jews, rejected many other immigrants and those of different views and appearances for many centuries and their reaction is to provide a welcome and open society – which is proving their downfall. When you have a constant trickle of immigrants, they thankfully absorb the customs and traditions of the host society, when you have a tidal wave it changes the host society forever. It can be positive, as happened in Israel with the Russian immigration most of whom are now more Israeli than the average Sabra, or it can be negative as with the extreme Islamic immigration to Europe and elsewhere who expect society to change to their religious views and laws threatening the host society and all ordinary hard working Moslems.

So you think it all started a few years ago? You think it's all about Palestine? 87 years ago they blamed it on the Jews for endangering Al Aqsa – the Hebron and Jerusalem massacres

Remember, when you feared coming to Israel because of terror attacks, I told you that Israel is just the hors d'oeuvres, your country is the main course? Well apparently I forgot the soup course, which is Europe – the main course is still the USA as representative of all that is free and Western.

Since our villa had no television and I barely managed to reach the outside world I was amazed to realise the extent and repercussions of the riots in Charlottesville. From the outside it is hard to know who started it, who came ready for a fight and why. Clearly the ultra-right like the KKK and their devotees waded in with their vile hate speech but were they the only ones? The extremes of both sides tend to have their instigators but it certainly looked as if it was the white supremacy base who began the fight, using the lax Virginian gun laws to arm themselves,  although every other faction seemed ready wade in. I find it so confusing as a non-American and I prefer not to state opinion but it saddens me that such division still exists.

We arrived back in Israel to all the usual problems. The PM's wife is under investigation, the PM too, all those surrounding the Israeli purchase of submarines from Germany. The Germans are threatening to invoke the clause in the purchase agreement that no corruption or back handers be involved in the deal which is causing huge embarrassment and may well mean that they will back out of our deal.

President Trump is concerned that PM Netanyahu is meeting with President Putin to complain about the Russian involvement in Syria and other Middle Eastern issues. Israel is not cosying up with Russia but as Sir Winston Churchill said "Better to jaw-jaw than war-war".
Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are back despite the Presidents belief that the talks are unlikely to bear fruit. I am just happy that they have not given up.

The relationship between United States Jewry and Israel worries me. We should be like a big family, with our differences but loyal and true to each other. I understand that all strands of Judaism want their say, and rightly so, so the answer is the same as in any democracy – if you want change run for office!!!! One cannot dictate the policies of another country on any level without taking part in the political process. With-holding support whatever form is takes, is negative on every level, for you, for us and for our family.

The Lebanese beauty queen chose to visit Israel and has been stripped of her title – so much for good neighbours!!!

Our journey back from Bologna, Italy took a slightly odd course (as did our journey there) through Istanbul Airport. Turkish Airlines deserves its position as number 3 best airline and flies several times a day from Ben Gurion Airport. The airport itself fascinated me, its range of peoples so extreme from the heavily black-clad Moslem women whose eyes looked furtively through a tiny slit in their garb, who had to half-lift their veil to pop food carefully underneath to everyday tourists and a Duty Free with as much alcohol as anyone wished to buy!!!

As we sat at the gate we talked to Latino Evangelical Christians from the USA on pilgrimage to the Holy Land; two Israeli Arab youth soccer teams who proudly held their first place cups from an international meet (the stupid Turkish security people almost stopped their coach from boarding the plane!); a young couple coming to judge the Salsa festival in Tel Aviv; students from Nepal who are studying agronomy at the International Agriculture School in the Negev; Israeli Moslems who were holidaying in Turkey and Israelis of all varieties. Again I was struck by the infinite rainbow that makes up Israel.

It was a time for family. Zvi and I were in Italy with Zvi's boys and their families while Rachel and the children were in the UK with Rachel's father and her big brother Gideon and family. We travelled to every possible Tuscan town, my absolute favourite being Lucca, we did the Pasta, Pizza, Gelato tour and after our arrival home with fond memories found a message on Zvi's phone from little 4 year old Ella speaking clear as a bell saying that she loves us very much and thank you to Saba Zvi for all the presents and her holiday!

We were met in at the airport by our friends Amit and Chona, bearing that days newspapers. It was such a pleasure not to worry about taxis and Sheruts! After two wash loads I went to bed and awoke to go and choose our new car – seeing our old dead one revived with a new engine made us think twice but while we decide our friend and owner of the agency lent us his own care for the weekend which enabled me to set off to see Rachel and swap stories of our vacations. It energized me to travel the familiar route over Samuel's Tomb and down the other side to Givat Zeev but the welcome I got was the very best! As I walked in the door I suddenly saw my Yosef wearing his brand new Tefillin (phylacteries) as his Dad Igal taught him how to put them on as in the time worn tradition. Hard to believe that the baby I saw come into the world is nearly Bar Mitzva!!!

Tonight we will go to Rachel and Igal for Shabbat Dinner. It is very special to be part of a Haredi Shabbat. The children, Yosef, Talia and Ayala absolutely adore Saba Zvi and we will be surrounded by love and tradition – with the songs and prayers of the Eastern Traditions. Rachie is a brilliant cook so it will also be delicious!!!

And so to music
Every Friday night as the family sits down to the Shabbat meal the husband sings this song of praise to his wife. Today there are claims that it is sexist but I love it and believe it shows rare honour to womankind

In the light of what happened in Charlottesville and all over our confused world.
Shed a Little Light to honour Dr Martin Luther King's Dream by the Maccabeats and guests Naturally 7

Finally, the question we all ask of ourselves – How many roads must a man walk down before they'll call him a man? The answer is indeed Blowin in the Wind

That's it! I am sure I missed something out but I try!!!

This week the Shabbat Shalom from Our Veranda comes from

Zvi and Sheila, Daniel and Karen, Gideon and Stephanie, Leor and Shiri, Rachel and Igal, Amiad and Noga and of course Yosef, Sammy, Talia, Olivia, Amit, Joshua, Ayala, Zachary, Gili, Ori, Callie, Ella and Yonatan………Why everyone? because family is all

With much love from beautiful Jerusalem

Friday, 11 August 2017

170811 North Korea, Bibi rally, Danny Liwerant and Alex barmitzva


11th August 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

As I looked at the date I suddenly remembered that a saga began on this day – a romantic saga. On August the 11th 1935 two incredible people held their wedding in Walm Lane Synagogue in London and a young fashion designer chose to leave the hip centre of design in the West End of London for the simpler beauty of Wales to start a family and raise four children in a fairy tale environment. Yes, Betty (Regina) Glicker became Betty Silver as she stood under the chuppah and married her Jack, the were to become my parents. They set the standard on many levels, of how to express love. I always remember how our family room had a traditional 3 piece suite, two armchairs and a sofa, and we children used to sit on the sofa and my parents in the armchairs to watch the television on our 12" screened Baird, black and white television. Before long, Mummy would remove the seat cushion from the armchair and lay it on the floor next to Daddy and sit with her head on his knee as he stroked her hair. Simultaneously he would hook his leg over the arm of his chair and with his slipper he would tap tap tap on the carved dark oak fire surround next to him which drove her crazy! Such is marriage, the amazing with the annoying – it all depends on the ratio!

Talking of ratio – a very strange event took place this week. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud party held a huge rally in support of the PM, basically against the judicial system and the police, because of the projected charges of corruption and misuse of power against Mr, Mrs, and young Yair Netanyahu. I can't remember such an event although many people in power faced investigations and worse – but to be the main speaker at an event which suggests that the judicial system and police are colluding to bring your government down is more than a little surreal. That famous line from Hamlet "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Comes to mind. Equally from Hamlet is the famous quote "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

Denmark to North Korea is quite a leap and hardly a leap of faith. Both Democrats (Clinton) and Republicans (Bush) signed nuclear proliferation treaties with North Korea  which should have been a bitter example to President Obama in the case of the treaty with Iran. Broken promises and dire threats began with attacks on South Korea and now their ballistic missiles are capable of reaching your land and certainly mine. Kim Jong-Un is not what one would call the most stable personality on the world stage. He is a demagogue, with aspirations to world domination. His outbursts are made all the more frightening by the strange staccato language of his lackeys in the media who make announcements to strike fear in the hearts of his people and all of us. We are not used to straight talking, if somewhat ineloquent, statements from the White House. We are used to elegant, wordy, diplomatic statements which have sadly been ineffective; perhaps a bit of straight talking is what is needed. I am reminded of the elegantly eloquent but equally spontaneous President Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The standoff was no less dangerous and the threat on the USA's doorstep. By not backing down and clever use of the power of rhetoric, the missiles removed by Russia without consulting Castro and the threat slowly disappeared. Castro would never be Americas friend but that is better than a state of war.

Sunday night the Feinsod family returned to stay with us. Silvia, Avraham, David and Alex carefully prepared for Alex's bar mitzvah beside the Kotel the next morning. His actual bar mitzvah took place in Mexico but his dream was to say his brachot (blessings) beside the Kotel – and his parents obviously wanted to make his dream come true. Zvi organised a Rabbi and Silvia did what she does best – raced around finding everything she wanted to make his special occasion perfect, right down to a kippa (skullcap) with his name embroidered on it!!! They set off early with Zvi and after a few hiccups managed to meet up as Zvi determinedly grabbed a table for the Sefer Torah and family only to find that Avraham had beaten him to it! The ceremony took place to great joy with members of the Mexican and Israeli family. I met them later in Mamilla for breakfast and everyone seemed very satisfied. I was extra thrilled to see Rosie, Jaime and family there – Rosie promised me some of her phenomenal Mexican catering any time I want! In addition some frozen avocado and tortillas so I can make guacamole any time I want!!!

We seem to be continuing themes today so I will continue with the Mexican theme and take you to a very special ceremony and award to one of the most amazing men in the Jewish world. Daniel – Danny- Liwerant is a good man. He is a leader, an example, a man who has given his life to the Jewish world in general and to Latin America in particular. Yesterday the Latin American Olim Society chose to give Danny a special Yakir award for his unending support. The title Yakir means dear or special – and Danny is just that.  The ceremony and those who came to honour Danny show love for the man. Danny is a mensch, as Zvi's school friend they have remained tight friends and Zvi loves and admires Danny enormously. A man of his word who understands that our Jewish world needs strong leaders who are willing to stand up and be counted.

Mario Lev is the motor and the heart behind the OLA (Olim Latin America) Society. An incredibly kind and humble man he made it his project to help those who came on Aliya to become acclimatized and absorbed into Israeli society. Natan Scharansky and Greg Masel (Chairman of KH) spoke and both remembered being new Olim. Greg made me laugh when he realised that Natan, Greg and I were the only people in the room who couldn't speak Spanish!!! His memory of Aliya, like mine, was of the British Olim Society Offices in Jerusalem. After a full week of standing dutifully in the queue for the bus Greg noticed the same sign I found in the office "10 ways to become an Israeli" Number 10 stated clearly that you become an Israeli when you are the last in line for the bus but the first on board!!!!!

I cannot speak about Danny without mentioning his wife Judit. Judit is wonderwoman in real life.  Professor Judit Bokser Liwerant is Professor of Political Science at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM); Distinguished Visiting Professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Member of the Mexican Academy of Science and a Member of the National Research System; Principal Editor of the Mexican Journal of Political and Social Science and Co-editor of the Brill Book Series on Jewish Identities in a Changing World, Despite all this Judit is an incredibly supportive wife, mother and grandmother… and friend.

Just as I whispered to Judit that I was surprised Zvi had resisted getting up to sing in Spanish with the young vocalist – he did!! To the surprise of the delighted audience he sang in his incredible bass baritone – thrilled as the response!!!!

One hears about incidents all over the world where women in hijabs are harassed in the street (to say nothing of Jews with kippas) I thought this video of women in hijabs in Israel was pertinent  In Israel no hijab is derided or removed from fear. Pertinent? Well Rabbi Jeremy Rosen discussed the question of hiding ones Jewish or Israeli identity for fear of being harassed or attacked. Have we returned to pre-1939 fears? Are we trying to be inconspicuous? Would I still walk around London with my Ani Zioni badge? Have we become the archetypal Uriah Heep character, submissive and compliant rather than daring to stand up? Perhaps one should take our bravery from Shylocks speech in the Merchant of Venice

Another option is to take on the might of Twitter like this amazing young man

This weeks parasha – Torah reading is Eikev and it describes how Moses upbrades his people, he was so disappointed that they displayed ingratitude and disobeyed the word of G-d after He had sustained them with manna and guided their path, yet they still built the Golden Calf. Gosh is it ever appropriate today?

So we are off to Tuscany with Zvi's boys and their families. We will rest and play, swim and walk, enjoy the beauty of Tuscany and search out history. I may not write next week so please excuse me. I pray that there will be nothing important to break into our rest time.

Sometimes understanding the words of a song is irrelevant. So it is with Yiddish, the language of my forefathers which is so expressive it needs no more. Dudu Fisher and Sassy Keshet

Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu ve al coolam - means Peace will come to us and to everyone. It is a prayer, a yearning, a plea – Shalom Salaam

The smells and sounds of Shabbat have begun in our neighbourhood; the air redolent with the aromas wafting through the air, evocative of the provenance of each family. Morocco and Kurdistan each have their own Kubeh soup – essential pre-Shabbat lunch even on steaming hot days of summer. One is sour with celery and lemon, the meaty dumplings satisfying hunger and the other is sweeter, rich red with beetroot. Tunisian hamin with brown eggs and lots of beans and fiery fish chreimeh; Yemenite Kubana and Jachnun (if you never tasted jachnun with grated tomatoes you haven't lived); Ashkenaz chicken soup, gefilte fish, cholent and roast chicken; and probably that singularly Jerusalem delicacy that I am learning to like Jerusalem kugel. It is a weird combination of sweet and peppery, made with noodles and oil, and eggs it is conceivably the least healthy dish yet is also incredibly popular!!!

So that's it!  Are your tummies rumbling with the thought of all that epicurean travel in one country? No burgers, fish and chips or pasta for us………… although we love them all – it's not Shabbat and it's not tradition!!!!

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. With all our love from our beloved Jerusalem

A special Mazal Tov to my niece Sophie and her new husband Rhys and to Ronnie, Sandie, Adam and Deborah. So sorry I couldn't be with you but my heart was right there.