Friday, 17 April 2009

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


17th April 2009.

Shabbat Shalom

On the eve of the last night of Passover we had our daughter-in-law Shiris family over for the traditionally festive dinner. We sat around discussing the world situation, Israeli politics, the stupidity of Israeli tourists who spend their Passover in Sinai despite the government warnings, and the effect of Matza on our digestive system. I am not a big crowd person, much preferring to sit apart and watch, or sit with another person who doesn't like crowds! I already knew that Lior and Keti, (Shiri's sister's in-laws), came to Israel in the late '70's with one son, with the determination of those who understand that Israel is the only place on earth to be. After coming on Aliya, their second son, our family member, – Alon (meaning Oak tree) was born.

Zvi and I don't allow smoking in our house but if guests wish to brave the weather, be it steaming hot, high winds or very cold – they can sit out on the veranda and do whatever they wish. Something made me follow Lior and Keti onto the veranda and I am so happy I did! I heard the most phenomenal stories of life as the only Jewish officer in a unit of 10,000 soldiers in the former Soviet Union.

"You had to be stronger and cleverer than everyone else" Lior said. "I used to sleep with my men, not in the officers quarters, because I wanted them on my side and because that way I could monitor what they said. The other officers didn't understand my lack of desire for privileges, but I had the most loyal troops. The only privilege I accepted was sleeping on the lower bunk instead of climbing up to the top one".

"In April 1968 we began to move towards Prague, to Czechoslovakia. I can never forget when we arrived on the streets in our tanks and there were children and toys spread all over the place. I refused to move the tanks forward telling my superior officers that we are not animals to kill demonstrators like that, especially not children. I wasn't punished but after we retreated they simply brought in troops from behind, from the satellite states, Uzbekistan and so on, Moslems, and they did the job without blinking an eye. They saw only enemies not children

"This was not my only experience" he continued "as a very young soldier I was on a ship bound for Cuba. We arrived in Havana, Cuba and were told we were about to face our greatest enemy, the United States. Now they try to say that there were not really missiles or plans to invade, but it isn't true, I was part of the group that took the missiles off the ships and placed them on the launch pads, quite apart from the missiles and rockets which were already in place. Until the order came to stand down and unload, we were ready for war, and it would have been terrible."

"One of my worst experiences was when I became privy to and part of a plan to attack Israel. This was not going to be an attack with ground troops or any such thing. The plan was to lob a dirty rocket into the Kinneret to poison the waters. It is a fact, it is true" he said in response to my incredulous expression "that is when I knew we had to come to Israel. As Jews we couldn't be anywhere else"

Israel was the closest associate and ally of the United States. Then as now, Russia, the Former Soviet Union, chose the Arab side. When I think about it, so little has changed, so little in alliances and unions, even then Europe sat on the fence. Indeed, today the war is of words to justify a later war of far greater consequence against Israel and the Jews. It takes step two next week.

Durban 2 is not going away. The fact that it is led by some of the world's worst human rights offenders is irrelevant to the fact that the subject on every journalists lips will be Israel. We cannot just let it go – form your ownconferences within your communities to work out how to counter the undoubted news reports, write and respond to all and every article which suggests that Israel is deserving of such hypocrisy and cant. In the UK Joy Wolfe, Carol Gould and an entire army of good people are appearing on any and every radio show and debate to support Israel against the far left and Moslem leaders and they will continue to do so during Durban 2 – will you? For full information

This Passover, as all Passovers, was a time for family. My dear cousins Cyril and Irene Silver were visiting their two Israeli daughters and Zvi and I went to visit them at Debbie and Zeev's home in Gannei Tikva (Gardens of Hope). There is something so comfortable about being with people who knew you even before you were born! I am thrilled to say that they both look amazing and ill-health has not removed the smiles from their faces or the quick wit from their hearts. From there we went to family/friends Steve and Shuli Daren in Nes Ziona (Miracle of Zion) where we sat around a table with them and their sons Ofer and Sagi and Sagi's wife Ditti – chewing over the situation of country, family and friends…. From there we returned to Jerusalem to take part in the official and huge Mimuna festival attended by President Peres, Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat (decked out in fez and robe!) and the Sefardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. Star of the evening was Zvi dressed in his Moroccan Jelaba which he bought in a market in Marrakesh with Barry Slawsky. I would love you to check out the map of Israel to understand how tiny she is and how easy to get from place to place and when you enlarge the map you will see how tiny Israel is!

Mimuna is a festival of Moroccan origin a celebration of sweetness, joy and music on the night after Passover. Mufletas (crepe-like dough pancakes drenched in honey) every possible cake and pastry made with sweetened ground almonds and hot sweetened mint tea everywhere! I apologise for the fact that the video is in Hebrew but you get a real feel of the festival from this family in Modiin and the official Modiin celebrations. The man of the house who explains the festival is Ashkenazi (his family is 8 generations in Israel) married to a Moroccan woman who adopted the warmth and joy of the festival with both arms.

I hope you have enjoyed being introduced to some real Israelis. Like the USA, Europe, Australia and so many other places, we all come from different cultures and countries. The difference is that we didn't come to a new country without expectations or history – we came home. We came back to the land from whence we came, from which we were banished. Just as I described the joy of reconnecting with family and old friends, so is the sense of belonging and emotions felt only by those who share your inherited history- that is how we feel, those of us who came home and those of us who want to come home.

Dear, dear friends, only the blind cannot see what is happening in the world. We must stand up and be counted. Whether you prefer to act as an individual and respond to newspaper articles or television reports or to organize groups to promote and praise Israel's gift to the world of knowledge, innovation, initiative and Tikun Olam is your choice, but choose one.

Yom haShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom ha Zikaron (Remembrance Day for the fallen) and Yom haAtzma'ut (Independence Day) all come within the next short time to remind us of our past and future. Let's make a choice to be part of the future and not let the past fail us – again. We left Egypt and slavery behind us – remember?

Shabbat Shalom and much love from Jerusalem


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