Thursday, 20 October 2016

161020 Succot, Russian Fleet, UNESCO, USA elections

20th October 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom, Moadim le simcha, Chag Sameach, Holy Tabernacles. Succot is on her way out and Simchat Torah is getting nearer. Our Succah this year is spectacular, I decided to have curtains on the side which faces the view so that we can hold them back and see the spectacular view while honouring the tradition of sitting in our Succah.

It is fascinating as to why we spend a week in the Succah….. why would a people with perfectly good houses suddenly build a relatively flimsy extension and eat and even sleep in it? There are many explanations from harvest time, remembering our 40 years in the desert, gratitude for what we have, to returning to nature…………. All of which seem fine but let's look deeper. Why did we have to wander in the desert for 40 years? Look I know they didn't have WAZE but 40 years? One explanation is that G-d wanted the generation of slavery to die off and the generation of freedom to build the new land; another says it was a punishment for their mistrust in Moses and the building of the Golden Calf (and all the subsequent revelry and orgies) and the hope that after 40 years they would have learned to accept the social, moral and religious rules of the 10 Commandments. Personally I think it is combination of them all.

Life in this crazy world didn't stand still just because it is Succot! If only.

The Russian fleet is currently passing through the English Channel, being carefully watched and followed by the British Navy, on their way to Syria. It doesn't fill me with hope, nor with dread; it deeply concerns me. It makes the choice of American President even more important.

Watching the debates make my heart sink. When will we hear policy? Who will set forth a manifesto? Who will stop the personal insults and name calling first? This is not a personal matter, they are not playing at school debates, Americans have to choose someone who can face down the impending threat of Russian intervention in an already inflammatory situation. My greatest fear is that neither of the candidates can do it. Sorry Americans, but I want a President who can lead the United States and thus lead the world. I don't want to be Czechoslovakia any more.

UNESCO, what is there to say? Inanity that has become both irrelevant and highly dangerous.   The denial of the Temple Mount's Jewish origins insults Judaism and Christianity equally. Zvi, who has strong Mexican ties, was very surprised at the Mexican vote in favour of the proposition since the President said no and the Ambassador to UNESCO is a pro-Israel Jew. You will be glad to know the vote was rescinded, the Ambassador is staying and all is well. Irina Bokova, the Head of UNESCO spoke out in dismay at the ratification of the proposition. As a result she received death threats!

As you know, I am on the board of Impact-se, an organisation that set the criteria for tolerance in education for UNESCO and provides data through research to many governments . If we can't educate the adults then at least we have to save the children.

Incidentally, if they want to claim the Holy Bible isn't Jewish we can show them this video of how the archaeological scientists have found a way to read the Ein Gedi Scrolls – the earliest scrolls of the 5 Books of Moses

Last week I failed to report on the killing of two people by an Israeli Arab terrorist. The incident, quite apart from our deep sadness at those who were killed, has caused an uproar because the perpetrator was supposed to be in jail but begged the court to give him an extra month before going into jail, to organise his finances. On the day he was meant to report to the police he acted out his Facebook threats. May the souls of his victims rest in peace.,7340,L-4864512,00.html

A major subject of discussion in Israel concerns the young soldier, Elor Azaria, who after a terrorist had attacked his fellow soldiers and was neutralized, still shot and killed him. His defence is that he thought the terrorist was reaching for his belt, a dangerous situation, but the soldier, rather than being tried in military court, is being very publicly tried in the civilian court. The media refers to him as the shooting soldier and in effect his life is paraded before the court and the cameras. Naftali Bennet has come out suggesting he has suffered enough and this very public trial will cause other young soldiers to be overly cautious in dangerous situations. Strangely enough, although I am a pacifist by nature, I agree with him.
I found this quote which fits the situation – although I still want our soldiers to think before pulling the trigger, they don't always have the time.
Sometimes to protect the flock we have no choice but to kill the wolves

Last night we were meant to go to one of the most exciting evenings of the Jerusalem calendar  - the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem's Israeli Spectacular. Thousands of Christians here for the Tabernacles celebrations gather in the basketball arena and put on a phenomenal show of support for Israel. Today there was a huge parade. I say we were meant to go because we didn't! I have a rotten cough and couldn't gather the strength to go out!! This gives you an idea of the excitement engendered . Of course our dear friend Canon Andrew White spoke at several sessions.

Talking of Christians, Bethlehem, that city so important to Christianity, has become a very difficult place to be Christian, indeed a tiny Christian minority. Our friend Boutrus, a wonderful man, lives in Bethlehem with his wife and 5 children and crosses over to Jerusalem every day to find work. Boutrus is a house painter and handyman, but he cannot make ends meet. He is in trouble, along with most of Bethlehems Christians. The world seems to have lost its moral compass.

In 10 days my favourite organisation, the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre, which cares for cancer patients and their families at Shaare Zedek Hospital, is putting on a spectacular evening at the Jerusalem Theatre with a special performance by the Bat Dor Ballet Company. If you are in Jerusalem come, I can tell you where to get tickets. November 1st, 2016. It is an outstanding cause

The family came for first night Succot and all 17 of us squeezed into the succah! I was a bit cleverer this time and put all the food out buffet style. It was much more fun and much less work!!! As always Zvi performed the blessings beautifully and somehow sitting in the succah as the full moon rose through the curtains it was even more special. After 20 years the view still takes my breath away. It was so much fun that on Shabbat we are again 17, 17 friends are coming for Shabbat lunch. I love entertaining, enjoy others enjoying our view, love to make people laugh, to let them know that they are always welcome. It is the way I grew up. Mummy always kept one extra place setting on the sideboard, just in case someone came unexpectedly she could quickly put the extra place setting without a fuss.

And so to music!
I can't decide if I loathe this song or if it amuses me. Shaking the Lulav! At least it teaches us how to shake the lulav in the succah!!!

For those of short memory, it isn't so long since we were not allowed near our holy sites. The sense of longing was intense and expressed by Naomi Shemer in a song of yearning. The song won the Israel song contest and then miraculously the yearning became reality over a war that lasted just 6 days – Har Habiyit b yadenu – the Temple Mount is in our hands. Naomi Shemer added an additional verse expressing our joy at finally reaching our cherished sites. Yerushalayim Shel Zahav – even UNESCO can't take that away from us

Zvi and I wish you and yours a peaceful Shabbat and a joyous Simchat Torah…… My childhood memories are of great joy and dancing in the synagogue in Cardiff and the children being given sweeties (still a rarity in post war UK) and "Callers Nibbits"!! It was a time we were allowed, even encouraged, to make noise! If you still don't believe our sheer joy in the Torah, in the Bible, just watch this amateur video

With love from Jerusalem, and remember, it doesn't matter what anyone says……… it is ours!!


Friday, 14 October 2016

161014 Kippur, Bob Dylan, UNESCO, Succot, ICEJ,

14th October 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

I hope that Yom Kippur passed easily, a day of reflection and of true determination to do better this year. I looked for synonyms for atonement but they all seem rather harsh, even penance is not quite the same, perhaps because our all-encompassing determination to be a better person, or a better people, softens the sense of punishment. Before heading out for the synagogue I wrote "Tonight is Kol Nidrei, heralding 25 hours of prayer, contemplation and atonement, a time to rethink our lives and question our motives, as a people. We must consider our loyalties, our words, to apologise is not to atone.......... to atone is to change, to admit our faults and do better."

Have you read Parashat Yona (The story of Jonah)? I mean really read it - the  Torah reading for Yom Kippur.
There are so many highly relevant aspects to this particular story.
G-d specifically asked Jonah to go to Nineveh (Mosul today) because the bad guys were taking over the city. Jonah didn't want to tackle the big city guys so he ran off to Tarshish on a boat. The historian Josephus said that Cilicia in Asia Minor and its capital is Tarsus, is Tarshish, however Jonah fled his responsibilities to the but ultimately after some time spent in the belly of a large fish (submarine?) because his shipmates realised he was bringing them bad luck and stormy seas, he decided he had better head of and take on the evil people of Nineveh. So many Jonahs in the world today are abrogating their responsibilities and heading for the easy route – and of course hurricanes, tsunamis and tornados are rocking our boat daily. Indeed, one just hit the Caribbean, Florida and Georgia. Message there somewhere?
Seriously, read it. It sounds straight from CNN!!!

Yom Kippur in Israel is different to anywhere else in the world. Not a sound, not a car, bus, train, motorcycle – nothing moves….. just children happily playing in the streets safe in the knowledge that no crazy driver will appear, and families walking to and from prayer or just enjoying the quiet opportunity to promenade. As Judy Lash Balint said – it is the festival of no traffic lights!

It seems nothing in life is easy for Israel and no sooner had we finished praying than the bombshell dropped – UNESCO. Yes I know that the UN is irrelevant but the UNESCO decision that the Temple Mount is not Jewish is insanity!! To deny the Jewish connection is of course to deny the Christian connection, after all when Jesus went to the Temple Mount he did not visit Al Aqsa. To deny the Temple Mount is to deny the entire Judeo-Christian belief system. Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, USA and UK all voted against the motion, all the other nations either voted for the motion or abstained. One person on Facebook said "The difference between UNESCO and G-d is that G-d doesn't believe He is UNESCO" Of course we are the stupid ones, you and me and our free thinking countries. We continues to pay our dues and homage to that ludicrous organisation called the UN that has Libya and Saudi Arabia on its Human Rights Council. Time to change the world and stop our leaders acting like Jonah, avoiding the evil that stems from Nineveh. In the words of King David, Psalms 83:4  They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!”

Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects is that both Haiti and Nepal abstained. Their gratitude is apparently tempered by their desire to stay in the good books of the oil nations.

The UN and the US Administration should prepare themselves for a massive building boom in Israel! It began after sunset on Wednesday and reached a peak today. Small huts with large palm fronds as roofing appeared on roofs, in gardens, on verandas – indeed throughout the country. No need to get a court order to pull them down though – they will only be in use for 8 days!!! Yes folks, it is Succot, Tabernacles! Fancy wooden sided Succot; flimsy fabric sides; some simple shanties; some just a string to form the separation – all count, all legal, all decorated with surprising Christmas glitter and Chinese manufactured hanging decorations!!! The weather is far too hot to hang fruit so we buy our glitter balls and multi-coloured ornaments, trinkets and sparkly chains and children paint pictures of fruits to hang on the walls. This is one of two harvest festivals and so much more. The huts, or Tabernacles, represent the 40 years of wandering in the desert; the Lulav and Etrog, blessed each day, contain palm fronds, myrtle, willow and the rather special fruit which is not a lemon (citrus medica or citron), translates as the fruit of the beautiful tree. Men spend hours choosing the finest Etrog, inspecting every millimeter for imperfections. Each Succah incorporates the seven species -
For the L-rd your G‑d is bringing you to a good land: ... A land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates; a land of oil-yielding olives and [date] honey
If "man is a tree of the field and fruit is the tree's highest achievement, there are seven fruits that crown the human and botanical harvest. These are the seven fruits and grains singled out by the Torah as exemplars of the Holy Land's fertility: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. The Succah is not only for the family, the true purpose is to invite guests and for guests to come and sit in the Succah. Of course, we will have many people visiting over Succot. The first night we will be 20 people sitting down to dinner, all family or in-law family then over the week many friends will visit. Traditional foods tend to incorporate fruits, but include memula'im, or stuffed vegetables, where one takes every imaginable autumnal vegetable and fill them with rice, meat, herbs and then slowly bake it for hours in a lemony, herb juice. Fruit cakes, strudels, baked apples, almonds and raisins……….. actually, almonds and raisins are traditional celebratory fare – there is even a Yiddish lullaby that my Mummy used to sing to me called Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen

The prayer for rain is central to Succot – without rain trees will die, crops can't grow and the earth will blow away. It is not an incantation, but rather a yearning for rain such as that given to Abraham………….

Next week we will attend the special Gala Israel evening at the new Pais Arena to celebrate Tabernacles. The evening, indeed the entire Tabernacles pilgrimage and events, is organised by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem under the watchful eye of its Director, the lovely Juergen Buhler. The Arena will be full to capacity as tens of thousands of Christians come to show their support of Israel, of Jerusalem and of their own faith. We are very honoured to be among the invitees, it amazes me each year that so many Christians love us – perhaps we are too used to being denigrated to notice the love that comes our way.

The week will end with Simchat Torah – indeed the story told in the Torah will end to begin again. Perhaps the UNESCO people should read it – or even part of it – to see who started what and where. The mere suggestion that the Temple Mount is not Jewish is an omen of what the world will become if we don't stand up and shout.

The people of Israel extend our love and consolations to the people of Thailand on the death of their King. Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as King Bhumibol the Great, was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri Dynasty as Rama IX was born in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1927 and served as a gentle and levelling influence on his people. While in Bangkok we saw the total reverence in which he was held. May his soul rest in peace.

Almost Shabbat again, the Chagim leave me very confused because the days seem to roll into one, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succot, Shmini Atzeret, Simchat Torah………… and barely time to shop and cook in between!!! Nothing and no-one will ruin the sense of festivity in the air in Israel – most certainly not the United Nations!!! We don't need UNESCO to tell us what is and isn't ours – we read about it every Shabbat and every Festival!

Who'd a thought it? Bob Dylan, aka Robert Allen Zimmerman – Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham is a Nobel Laureate! Such a brilliant choice. A brave one too. – Dylan summed up the story of Israel, not only in Neighbourhood Bully (Lyrics below)  but also in Blowin in the Wind. A genius of literature, of poetry, he captured our plight.

I owe you one more song, perhaps one that is joyful, to match our current festivals. This is for those who think Tel Aviv is just a place of beaches and restaurants. Simchat Torah – the Joy of the Torah, in Rabin Square

In case you are surprised – no I am not going to talk about the American elections. I think that both the campaigns have fallen deep into mud-slinging rather than policy statements and don't want to be involved. Can I just say, however, that in 1st Class – the armrests don't go up!

Today I am going to sit on our veranda, perhaps Zvi will come too before he heads off to his Parliament, no longer in the petrol station now it is held in the University Coffee Shop. I sit, often in the evening, to see the sun set on this fabulous, vibrant and special city. We have a hammock, what Americans call a garden swing, and I sit and slowly swing to and fro, taking in the sheer magnificence of what this tiny country has achieved in less than 70 years. From barren, uninhabited hills we have tree-lined avenues in sweeping neighbourhoods, Jewish and Moslem, and influx of millions of people who fled oppression – be it from the Arab countries, Africa or Eastern Europe – all in homes carrying on the traditions they brought with them, Jewish traditions. Football Stadium, Basketball Arena, Tennis club, Hi-Tech Centre, Open University, shopping malls, all open to all comers – this is a miracle and I have the privilege of sitting and swinging and reflecting………… before lighting the Shabbat Candles.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom – again a sweet year, A Holy Tabernacles and Chag Succot Sameach.

With love from Jerusalem

Herewith the words to Neighbourhood Bully
Well, the neighborhood bully, he's just one man
His enemies say he's on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He's the neighborhood bully.
The neighborhood bully he just lives to survive
He's criticized and condemned for being alive
He's not supposed to fight back, he's supposed to have thick skin
He's supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He's the neighborhood bully.
The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He's wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He's always on trial for just being born
He's the neighborhood bully.
Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He's the neighborhood bully.
Well, the chances are against it, and the odds are slim
That he'll live by the rules that the world makes for him
'Cause there's a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He's the neighborhood bully.
Well, he got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don't get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won't be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He's the neighborhood bully.
Well, he's surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn't hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He's the neighborhood bully.
Every empire that's enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He's made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one's command
He's the neighborhood bully.
Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract that he signed was worth that what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He's the neighborhood bully.
What's anybody indebted to him for?
Nothing, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits for feed
He's the neighborhood bully.
What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully.

Friday, 7 October 2016

161007 Hurricane Matthew,Prince Charles, Shiloh, Yom Kippur

5th October 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear Friends – did you know that today is International Smile Day?

I am sure that the people of the Caribbean Islands, Georgia and Florida are not smiling as yet another storm hits. Who said that it is paradise on earth in the Bahamas – right now it is closer to purgatory with many dead. We all have our challenges to face but this is dreadful. Haiti is, yet again, a victim of the worst of the Hurricane Matthew; partly because the housing is so poor and partly because their government and unending poverty has left them unprepared. One thing I do know is that the incredible people of IsraAid stayed on to help rebuild and give psychological and educational aid to the people of Haiti since the devastating earthquake. IsraAid is already on the ground.

This has been a week of late news – late because it is all after the fact! Prince Charles, as I told you, went to visit his grandmothers grave on the Mount of Olives. It was not an official visit (indeed his attendance at the funeral of Shimon Peres was private not official) it was respect for his exceptional paternal grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece who is buried beside her mother in Gethsemane, the Church and Convent of Maria Magdalena, a Holy Christian site and nothing to do with anybody's peace process. The media decided his visit was kept a secret, that he went over the green line………. Indeed, after the fact the media in general is making a real mish mash out of a private tribute. I am still delighted by his regal kippa!

If you heard that Israel attacked Gaza this week – we did. Actually not Gaza per se and we didn't attack but apart from that the reports are accurate. Israel responded to 2 rocket attacks on Sderot by searching and responding to the rocket sites. Sadly, while returning from the response Major Ohad Cohen-Nov z"l died after ejecting from his F16 fighter jet. May his soul rest in peace.

The American administration is angry that there is new building in Shiloh, (Yehudah and Shomron). What they don't tell you is that Shiloh is one of the "large areas of Jewish habitation", is in the Binyamina region and the houses are being built for those Jews evicted from the illegal, hilltop settlement of Amona by Supreme Court injunction. To suggest that the so-called peace talks are failing because of a few houses is ludicrous. It is failing because instead of attacking the crux of the problem the USA. Europe, UN and so many other bodies have failed to understand that one side, the one they see as belligerent, has done everything in her power to make peace and the other, the one they see as the victim, has not honoured any of its commitments, starting with their school curriculum. Go to the Impact-SE website  and understand that from birth Palestinian (indeed all Arab countries) schools teach hatred of Israel and of Jews and Christians. All the above organisations and countries need to start there.

A group of women decided to take a small boat from the southern tip of Europe and head for "war stricken and blockaded" Gaza. They were taken into custody by the Israeli Coast Guard, which included predominantly women soldiers. Trouble is that before they left they made videos saying that if the videos are seen by the world that means they were captured by the "Occupying Israeli Forces"! Oh come on! If these women, including a few Israelis and a Nobel Prize winner, really cared about Human Rights, surely there are many places in our region where the very existence of women deserves their attention? Do they recognize that the only entry for aid and goods to Gaza come through Israel's Kerem Shalom Crossing? Do they know that Egypt closed off Gaza entirely? No of course not.

Rosh Hashana is behind us and Yom Kippur before us. The ten intervening days ) are days of introspection, atonement – Selichot ( asking forgiveness) North African Jews perform the rite of Selichot for 40 days. It is a time to rethink our manner and way of life – hopefully finding reason to change and the strength to do so. The tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei; 10 days after the creation of man in the form of Adam; 10 days of repentance until the ultimate repentance, Yom Kippur. Why? Why should we repent if we didn't do anything bad? We are asked to repent the sins of humankind, the unintentional sins including those when we said "Gosh did you hear about ****, they say he did so and so" Admit it, we all do it!

If we are talking about repeating lies which have no foundation in truth perhaps the biggest lie, so prevalent and fashionable at the moment is that of anti-semitism and anti-Israel cant. Perhaps it is worth listening to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks theory as to what are the foundations of anti-semitism "The Mutating Virus"

We had family to us for first day Rosh Hashana lunch, then a group of diverse friends came for second day. It was wonderful, totally spontaneous and the food was basically ready for the 14 of us. Canon Andrew White came with Hano, Ilan and Cilla Horowitz, Leah and Yehuda Ressler, Rina and Yechiel HalOr, Dvorit and Meishi Schreiber and Prof Gabby Barkay and Ester. The conversations ran thick and fast because all had heard of each other but none knew each other! Andrew gave us a short insight into life in Baghdad for the last Jews and Rina and Cilla discovered they had a common close friend!

The vast quantities of food consumed over the past weeks will simply increase with a 25 hour hiatus over Yom Kippur. Since I have a vast number of guests over Succot I need to precook otherwise it becomes just too much. Yesterday, Zvi went to stay at his son Leors home to babysit the girls because Shiri, Leors wife, gave him a birthday treat and they had a beautiful night in a fancy hotel including dinner. What a great idea and it gave me time to cook!!! I made Potato Kugel, stuffed mini veggies (with rice and herbs) which I layered into a tall container, cooked and then when the time comes I will heat and turn out onto a platter, layer upon layer of tiny green courgettes, baby sweet peppers of bright red orange and yellow, onions carefully peeled off and rolled, cabbage leaves……….. I hope the plan works out!! I baked lemon cakes and fruit cakes and right now I have to go and make that most British-Jewish of dishes "Fried Gefilte" Mmmm delicious!!

Some people have already built their Succahs/Tabernacles. I wonder if someone will complain to the UN that there is a great deal of illegal building in Israel this week – perhaps the judgement is that the buildings must come down within eight days of usage!!!! Succah may be a simple job, special fabric that one wraps around poles on the balconies or it may be a more solid Succah made of sections of light wood – one thing all have in common is the "Schach" or roofing. In the UK we used any greenery that we could legally clip, but in Israel the  acceptable Schach is Palm leaves, huge fronds which cover even the largest of Succahs. In the religious communities most buildings forego their parking area for a communal succah, rather than each home building separately, but in general those families with children build their own.

I want to wish any Moslem readers a good Muharram – the Moslem New Year which fell almost at the same date this year. Here Druze soldiers celebrate

I must go and fry my fried gefilte fish, it really is delicious I promise. I already collected Yosef from school, hugged the girls and drove back home over the height of Har Shmuel – past Nebe Samuel (Samuels Tomb) past the panorama of Jerusalems hills back home to the best view of all – the view from our veranda. The stores are closing now, the last frantic shopping to replace the goods used in cooking for Rosh Hashana replaced, the aromas rising from busy kitchens whch means it is time to find some beautiful songs.

First and foremost I want to post something from The Boss, Bruce Springsteen who has decided that it is high time he came to perform is Israel. If Springsteen is looking for the Human Touch – I promise he will find it here

How can I take us to Yom haKippurim without Kol Nidrei, the opening prayer. Cantor Helfgott, together with Maestro Yitzchak Perlman – breathtaking

I am still deeply moved by David D'Or singing Avinu Malkeinu at the funeral of Shimon Peres z"l at the special request of Shimon Peres z"l. We say this prayer on both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – here it is with translation

Anyone in Israel on November 1st – the Bat Dor Ballet Ensemble is putting on a charity performance at the Jerusalem Theatre to raise essential funds for the Yuri Shtern Holistic Care Centre for Cancer Patients and their families. In fact - all donations will go to a truly magnificent cause

If at any time I have hurt you, though without ill intent, I beg your forgiveness and assure you I will do better in the coming year.

With love from Jerusalem, the most beautiful city in the world which will come to a total halt as the Rabbis prepare to sing Kol Nidrei and nary a vehicle will move until Ne'ilah (the closing) is ended. Nothing moves except emergency vehicles, Israel wears white and walks, families together, talking and conversing in a way they forget during the year as cellphones remain on bedside tables.

Shana Tova to everyone, whatever their origin, whatever their creed, colour or leaning. May we all learn to respect and show tolerance to the "other" whomsoever they may be


Sunday, 2 October 2016

161002 Rosh Hashana 5777

2nd October 2016

Rosh Hashana 5777
Yes 5,777 years of Jewish tradition

Shana Tova! We wish you a year of peace, love and fulfillment. We wish the world a year of tolerance and forgiveness and most of all the recognition that we have harmed others, even without ill intent, and need to be forgiven.

This was a vital week in Israel's history. A man who made Aliya from Belarus in 1932, joined by his parents in 1934, lived on Kibbutz Geva, studied agriculture, founded Kibbutz Alumot, fought for the nascent State, stood beside Ben Gurion and recognized the importance of defending this incredible State of Israel while searching for peace as the first line of defence for her people who he loved so much. He understood that Israel had to build Dimona and when the political, financial and defence powers of Israel said no, he ensured the building anyway; he gave the go-ahead for the heroic rescue in Entebbe, he was the history of Israel. Shimon Peres, President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister, brilliant mind.

Zvi and I went with several friends to pay homage, to walk past his coffin, lying in State in the Knesset forecourt. As we sat on the shuttle bus at the train station, waiting for the incoming train, we heard that people had come from as far afield as Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Beersheva with absolutely no idea how to get back home, just as long as they came to pay tribute to Shimon Peres.  

At 93 he was so alert and alive it is still difficult to imagine he has gone, but his life was well lived. As a politician he was always at the forefront but never a winner. Indeed one wonders how he continued fighting defeat after defeat – but as President he shone.

The funeral was televised throughout Israel and the world, although the only news outlet that I found televising it in toto was the BBC. The speeches were heartfelt and more than a tear or two were shed. The eulogies were beautiful, revealing a side to Shimon Peres that we didn't know,7340,L-4861812,00.html  Perhaps, indeed I am sure, the most moving eulogy was that of Prof. Tzvia Valdan, Shimon Peres daughter, who began with the words "Today I eulogise two men, one called President and one I called Abba. She told of a man who would rush home to prepare his childrens food, carefully cutting it into interesting shapes so that they would eat; she spoke of the deep and abiding love that he felt for her Mother who called him Busjik; she spoke about the man who loved his family above all else. She and her brothers saw a different man.

The Israeli Arab parliamentarians of the "Joint List", led by Ayman Odeh decided that it was Israels funeral not theirs, and did not attend. Aymans Facebook page was flooded with angry posts by the Israeli Arabs they are meant to represent who said it marginalized them in a way no political decision could.

Shimon Peres was the grandson of Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, Rabbi of the Wiszniev community. He left his parents' home and lived with his grandfather who taught him Talmud. When Shimon left Wiszniev, headed for Palestine, the last words his grandfather said to him were "Remember to be a Jew". Tzvia told us that on Friday night, at supper with the family, he was the first to don his Kippa and loudly sing Kiddush in his deep guttural voice. Thus, when asked what music he would choose at his funeral, Shimon Perski Peres did not choose a secular Israeli song but rather Avinu Malkeinu, a song of Yom Kippur begging G-d's forgiveness and protection.

Sadly, Rabbi Melzer and his entire congregation were burned to death when their synagogue was set alight.

Perhaps the greatest tribute came from an unlikely source. Mahmoud Abbas went against his people, his enemies, his parliament and came to the funeral to honour a friend. Mahmoud Abbas, came and although not mentioned in Netanyahus speech, they stood together and shook hands – perhaps Shimon Peres dream came a little closer?

And so to Rosh Hashana.
The pomegranates are ripe, the sun is lower, the air redolent with the aromas of millions of meals, the grind of chairs being pulled into place around extended tables to accommodate the family and friends, the tables set with white cloths and fine crockery.

In our rather Ashkenazi house we have the traditional tsimmes, which reminds me of my late cousin Freda, her one cooking expedition of the year. Freda who my Daddy returned to Poland, crossing the border from Austria dressed as a field worker, to rescue his little niece from the streets of Brzezini. The red cabbage is sweetly cooked like Mummy always did, the Boeuf bourguignon is hardly appropriate but the chicken soup and kneidlach bring me back to my roots! I don't make Gefilte Fish per se. In fact I depart from my roots entirely, I make Chraimeh – which is kind of the Moroccan equivalent – minced fish in a spicy, tomato-y, peppery sauce. Chicken and klops (like a large meat ball) bring me back but the salads are totally Middle Eastern!!! Remember what I said – Israeli salads rarely have any connection to lettuce!!!! Moroccan mushrooms; aubergines and pepper; courgette and onion; red slaw; mejadara; with roast veggies. I forgot what else because I can't see the back of the fridge!!!!

One day, my children will sit at our Rosh Hashana table and sing the traditional songs with us, but I derive great joy from Zvi's children and grandchildren who will be here. The day will come when we can have all 5 children their spouses and 13 grandchildren around one table to celebrate this beautiful festival. As we sit I know that our parents and grandparents – indeed all our ancestors sit with us around the table, proud to know that we are continuing their traditions.

I got up especially early so that I could write to you and still see my beautiful daughter Rachel and her amazing family. I could not possibly go into Rosh Hashanah without my hugs and kisses.

Each year I ask your forgiveness. It is done with a full heart and the intention to atone, repent try to be better. I always tell the story of the time I was a Sunday School (Cheder) teacher and two of the girls in the class were really not very nice to the others. I explained a very important precept of atonement to them. "If one sins, then over the next 10 days (actually and those preceding) you can ask forgiveness from the Almighty; however, there is one instance that one must ask forgiveness from ones fellow man because the Almighty considers it a sin above all others." They would look at me, very curious as to what this deep sin could be "If you harm another, shame them publicly or tell lies about them, you must ask for forgiveness directly from them. If they do not accept you must ask again, and again, if after the third time they do not grant you their forgiveness then the sin transfers to them" Judaism is such a logical religion. Like anything, if taken to extremes then it loses its potency and becomes about the minutae not the love of G-d, but every rule, law and tradition has its purpose.

The last frantic shopping is coming to an end as if there is not alrady far too much food for any refrigerator to possibly cope with. The shops, restaurants and malls will close, Israel will become quieter, more contemplative, and families will gather to celebrate the Head of the Year – Rosh Hashanah.

So to music
First is this great song by young Aish haTorah students
And back to tradition and prayer. A Chassidic video of Rosh Hashana Prayers

I wish us all a year of fulfillment, kindness, tolerance, tolerance and more tolerance. I end with the words of my dear, dear friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, who, while Headmaster of Carmel College, each morning at assembly, he would remind the predominantly Jewish students " You are equal to but not better than anyone else" . My children heard you Jeremy.

Shana Tova dear friend, a Gutte Yor, Bonne Anee, Buen Ano, blwyddyn dda, and for my beautiful great-niece Carly an easy birth so that yet another Bloom girl will be born today!

With love from Jerusalem, yes Mr President,  Jerusalem ISRAEL



Wednesday, 28 September 2016

160928 Shimon Peres z"l


28th September 2016

Shalom dear friends,

Shimon Peres 1923-2016
ברוך דיין אמת

At 07:00 this morning Israel awoke to the news that Shimon Peres had passed away. Despite his 93 years it came as a surprise, after all Shimon Peres was as spritely and alert as ever, wasn't he?

Szymon Perski born on August 2nd 1923, in Vishneya, Belarus fled persecution and the imminent war, and came to the nascent state.  From the very beginning he became involved  and ultimately his political career spanned an incredible 66 years.

Intensely intelligent and unafraid of confrontation Shimon Peres served in many governmental positions serving his country since the founding of the state yet political popularity seemed to evade him. It was not until he set politics aside and took the position of President of the State of Israel did he flourish into a true Statesman, representing Israel with great honour.

Shimon Peres believed one should seek peace but prepare for war. His critics always said he sought peace at any price but they were wrong. After the 6 Day War it was Shimon Peres who encouraged building in Yehuda and Shomron – Ofra was Shimon Peres special project and the settlement was built in 1975 when he was Israel's Minister of Defence with the backing of the Labour Government.  It was Shimon Peres who fought the entire Israeli establishment, political, financial and scientific,  and succeeded in building the Dimona Nuclear facility, raising the funds and importing scientists from overseas.

His relationship with Yitzchak Rabin was strained. It is said that he drew Rabin into the Oslo Accords and it is easy to criticise what turned out to be an untenable accord but Shimon Peres brought hope, however short lived. He never lost his determination to find a solution to Israel's insecurity. He said "One should never stop finding a solution to problems but there are problems that one simply has to learn to live with them"

He was fascinated by nanotechnology, indeed technology in general. His mind kept sharp by surrounding himself with young people, he loved to learn, to read……. He didn't watch television or go to the movies but he absorbed several books every day.
Very recently he suggested to the Chief of Staff of the IDF that every serving soldier be given funds to study at university, and that all schools teach a second and third language other than Hebrew and English.

He ate sparingly, mostly fruit and vegetables and performed suitable exercise every morning.  

Zvi and I had the privilege of being invited to his Presidential Conferences where no matter how renowned the speakers, how famous their works, how erudite their lectures, the highlight was always when he sat alone on the stage, 3,500 people waiting to hear what he had to say. He spoke without notes, his thoughts always expressed with exceptional clarity and enormous humour. His favourite sparring partner on these occasions was Tony Blair, no mean speaker himself. On one such occasion, the entire hall was silent, awaiting President Peres words of wisdom, and he sat alone on stage reading a newspaper! Unhurriedly he looked up from the page and announced that he was reading about India "Did you know that India has been unable to replace its official hangman for six months?" The assembled dignitaries jiggled uncomfortably in their seats, had the old man finally lost it? "You know I have no problem with a country that cannot find anyone to take the place of the official hangman having nuclear weapons. I have a problem with countries where everybody wants to be the hangman having nuclear weapons."

As President he garnered respect and love from politicians and statesmen from around the world. His regal manner and ability to respond to any situation brought him the popularity that had evaded him throughout his political career. Thousands  of Israelis, young and old alike, will walk past his coffin in front of the Knesset paying homage to a great Israeli; Leaders from around the world will come for his funeral on Friday paying apt tribute to someone who worked so hard to bring peace. He would have been very disappointed that neither King Abdullah nor General Al Sisi will be there.

Perhaps the life of Shimon Peres is best described in pictures. I leave you with this from the Times of Israel.

He will be sorely missed. May his soul rest in peace and his family be consoled among the mourners of Zion

With love from a sad Jerusalem


Friday, 23 September 2016

160923 PM in UN, Kay Wilson Standwithus UK, London

23rd September 2016

Shabbat Shalom to all of you dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.

I'm sorry that I am running late, I really intended writing on time but…… well the truth is that I very efficiently prepared everything before heading off to get Talia and Ayala from school; I set the Shabbat table for all 15 of us tonight; made the salads; par-boiled the potatoes and put in the other veggies for roasting; indeed – was right on time. I collected the girls, drove them home via the fishmonger to pay my bill, the florist and the garden centre to get flowers for their Mummy, spent a delightful time with everyone, received my challot from Rachel and drove home………. Well almost! Just as I was about to turn into the driveway I realised I had forgotten the fish in Rachels fridge!!!! As much as I love the panoramic views about which I oft wax lyrical in my letters, I didn't expect to see it again quite so soon!!!! Anyway, I promise to try and give you a good letter today, but really fast!!!

First and foremost, to those who I didn't manage to see while in the UK, please don't be cross, I go to see my beautiful grandchildren, Sammy, Olivia and Zacky, Gideon and Stephanie and my siblings…….. If I manage to see anyone else it is a bonus but, hey, you understand I am sure.

Kay Wilson, an Ex-Pat Brit, was walking in the Judean Hills with a friend when two Arab youths attacked her and her friend with machetes. Her friend was killed but Kay miraculously survived, with horrific injuries, and crawled for help. Kay is an outstanding speaker, mostly for Standwithus, and Joy Wolfe brought her to the UK to speak. Here is what she said on FB about her experience

On another note, during the summer I saw lots of friends I had not seen for a long time and during my UK speaking tour for StandWithUs in England, I met lots of new ones.
One of the most profound moments on the tour happened after I had addressed a class of high school girls. In the class, there were Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and a couple of Muslim girls wearing hijabs. I told them that Palestinian Muslims took their knives to hack at my flesh, yet it was a Muslim Israeli surgeon who used his knife to save my life.
I will never forget what happened next. One of the Muslim children rushed up to me and hugged me tight. She didn't want to let me go. And it made me want to weep.
It made me feel hopeful. It may be only a drop in the ocean, but who cares? It is the little things in life that can change our world and perception of others. Just think, it was nothing but a flea that wiped out hundreds of thousands of people in the plague. Further, a microchip can send a rocket into space and most painful of all, it only took 3 chords in pop music to destroy the beautiful world of Jazz :D This child's hug made my summer. We never know the impact we have (for good or for bad) and how far our words and actions reach. I felt compelled to tell you this. That's why I'm back on FB - at least for a while. 

The Prime Minister of Israel has been in the States. He spoke at the United Nations and received a standing ovation – yes that is what I said, he received a standing ovation! His speech was excellent, but that isn't new, his words were strong, as always, so what has changed? Is it even remotely possible that the members of the UN are beginning to wake up?

Mr Netanyahu has also been busy inviting guests to Jerusalem – Ban Ki Moon and Mahmoud Abbas in particular. Hmmmmm wonder what the chances of them enjoying a meal at the PM's home is? The PM also met with over 15 heads of state, ensuring that they understand what Israel has to offer to friends – and we have many, don't be fooled by the media. The big meeting, the one we all want to be a fly on the wall, is with President Obama. I have a good feeling about it.

I am on the board of an exceptional organisation, well organisation is probably not the right word, it is a research institute in the Hebrew University on the Givat Ram Campus. IMPACT-SE researches the school curriculum of schools in Arab and other Middle Eastern Countries to see if they meet the UNESCO criteria for tolerance in education. IMPACT-SE also set the criteria for UNICEF. Any research that did not include Israeli schoolbooks would be irrational, so that is what we did – or rather what Prof. Eldad Pardo and his team did. The result is heartwarming. Israeli schools teach tolerance and emphasise our search for peace

The other evening (I arrived at 07:30 after a night flight from London and was at the event that night) Zvi and I were invited to an event celebrating 50 years of the Jerusalem Foundation. It was quite a spectacular but only one person received a standing ovation and that was former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, Rabbi Dr. Lord Jonathan Sacks. I don't have a transcript but here is another one

Zvi coped incredibly well while I was away – in fact he coped too well! He had cleaned out his crazy office and discovered a floor under all the boxes – it looks stupendous. I hadn't realised how big it was!!! He was busy with meetings and friends and the day before I returned he and hs friend Itzik Lev were guided around the Sefat Academic College by Gideon Selinger. They were both very impressed. The college encourages equal numbers of Jews and Arabs to attend, don't forget that the Arab population in the north is greater than the Jewish population, and has excellent results.

I did manage to meet with Carol Gould in Golders Green, Jill Lipman who came with Stephanie and I to St Albans, The Ryde family especially Beanie and finally, but far from least, Valerie and Martin Myers and Tony Perkin. Valerie and I not only "grew" our children together, we had our own business together and were the best of friends…..even more importantly, Valerie introduced this Indian Tonic Water drinker to something much more fun – Gin and Tonic!!!

The time I spent with the children was special. I don't want to be a distant figure on a Skype screen and every hug is worth its weight in gold. Walking them to school, playing with them, hearing their piano practice alongside my incredible daughter in law Stephanie, is the stuff of dreams. To sit with my son and see his face relax as he watches the Rugby on television is wonderful even if he supports the wrong team – what? Not Wales? I saw beautiful buildings, watched the beginning of autumn in the local park and saw a London which is diametrically opposed to the London the media present. We walked the highways and by-ways and were greeted warmly by people in the street. I heard Polish, French, Romanian, Russian as the predominant second languages, everyone was polite and kind. As I told you a hundred times – keep away from Oxford Street and Edgware Road and London is a fabulous city. One more thing – unlike virtually everywhere we visited this summer, food in London is amazing. The best food in the UK is pub food, but food is terrific and many tradition British dishes are making their gourmet comeback!!!

Talking of food, I need to get on with my cooking! Since we are so many for supper I am not doing an hors d'oeuvres, everything together with a surprise for dessert! I decided to do bananas in pyjamas for the children – my kids used to love it!!!

And so to music
I love this version of Shalom Aleichem, May peace be with you, because it encompasses tradition, children and spirituality. Not the first time I have given it to you and probably not the last!!!

The iconic Leonard Cohen has written some truly magnificent songs/poems. His smokey voice has enchanted and entranced, I can't quite feel his latest song but I seem to be alone in my emotions – Hineini – Abraham, Jacob and Moses all said it, but what dark meaning does Cohen hide in his words.

Heavy stuff eh? Let me lighten your faces with a 9 second song from the Smurfs – Gut Shabbes

With all my love from Jerusalem. Life is not always simple, gone are the days when children lived in the next street to their parents, today they find their own adventures and that is good. Whenever I leave my children or grandchildren my heart breaks and when I am with them my heart sings - emotions so ably expressed by Ella Fitzgerald

Shabbat Shalom from our veranda, the view, the flowers, the fruit and the herbs. Shabbat Shalom from me to you