Thursday, 30 July 2009

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


Thursday 30th July 2009- Tisha b'Av 5769

Today, Thursday, is Tisha b'Av - the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, the culmination of 3 weeks of mourning, a day when Jews fast and mourn the destruction of both our Temples in Jerusalem. Tisha b'Av was the final date set by King Ferdinand for the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. The history of Tisha b'Av is far from ancient. The beginning of the end of the Warsaw Ghetto coincided with Tisha b'Av; on Tisha b'Av, July 23, 1943, the first trainload of Jews arrived in Treblinka from where they were sent to the gas chambers. Israel will be silent. The theatres, restaurants, clubs and coffee shops close their doors tonight and many, many people will flock to the Western Wall – the Kotel – to pour forth their lamentations. As always Ambassador Yoram Ettinger explains Tisha b'Av in a brilliant manner.

The sages tell that the Temple was destroyed as a result of committing "unknown sins", and Sinat Hinam - baseless hatred. When guilty of internecine quarrels and hatemongering, one rarely believes oneself to be at fault; we feel that the other party rightly deserves the abuse or derision heaped on him! While baseless hatred is perhaps the most overt of sins, few actually recognise their guilt. Our infighting cannot cause the destruction of the Temple any more but let's ensure that it does not cause the destruction of the Jewish State. To quote Rabbi Hillel “He who refuses to learn deserves extinction.”

We judge those around us on their appearance believing that it indicates their thoughts and concerns are different to ours! Instead of enjoying the incredible diversity of humankind, we use it as a weapon in our arsenal of hate. When I lived in the Diaspora it was a fashion decision as to whether to wear a skirt or trousers; long or short sleeves; hat or hair; pony tail or a cute scarf; today, in modern Israel, it is both a political and religious statement! Kippa, yarmulke, scull-cap; crocheted or silk; coloured or black; large or small. The black kippa silk or velvet depending upon the depth of religiosity and then there is the variety of hats! My favourite is the B'nei Akiva knitted kippa which is always at a jaunty angle over one ear! Under each of those hats, within each of those garbs lies a person, a human being with hopes and fears – just like you. As for me - I dress to suit myself - I enjoy confusing people!!!!!

One of the most popular "anti-religious" claims was that circumcision of new-born boys was unnecessary, barbaric and disfiguring. How strange that time and horrific diseases have proven the ancient Jewish ritual to be a simple way to stop the wildfire AIDS virus spreading in Africa. African doctors have come to Israel to learn how to perform the operation and save lives.

The malaise of the free world is self-loathing. We despise and deride our leaders or put them on a pedestal so high that their feet of clay become apparent and we hate ourselves for electing them. Whether it is the USA, UK, Canada or Israel, we play into the hands of our greatest enemies - whose zealous desire is to use our self-loathing to advance their power in the world . It is time to change our view of ourselves. We have all the answers if only we would trust ourselves and if our leaders would clean their own houses before turning their citizen's eyes elsewhere. Remember when Margaret Thatcher was faced with huge economic problems in the UK? She declared war on Argentina after an invasion of the Falkland Islands uniting the entire country against a common enemy. A Royal Prince (Andrew) fought as a Naval helicopter pilot! Clearly the movie "Wag the Dog" is too late for the Falklands but not too late to watch and learn today.

"A light unto the nations" refers to the Jewish people, not only to Israel. We, as a people, must behave responsibly since our collective reputation depends upon the actions of each and every one of us. Israel is a marvellous inventive nation filled with people of incredible brilliance and initiative but not everyone is perfect. We have given so much to the world and have created a nation the Diaspora can be proud of...... but when it comes to the bottom line, we are just people and we must care for ourselves and our collective reputation. Again Rabbi Hillel spoke the appropriate words “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Deputy Health Minister Litzman have placed an order for an inoculation which has not yet been created in the hope that it will encourage the development of immunization for the Swine Flu which has overtaken the world. Israel has also been hit, no more and no less than other countries and since it is the children who are most at risk we must find a solution.

On Tuesday, PM Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the graduates of the National Defence College, I think it is worth reading and taking note of his words.

Yesterday morning I took two of our grandchildren to the phenomenal Bloomfield Science Museum, close to the Hebrew University Campus on Givat Ram, here in Jerusalem. They had a ball! There were huge pools of water and Yosef age 4 and Talia age 3 filled tanks and set in motion water-wheels; filled tubes which filled tanks which filled rockers and splashed everyone - very Heath Robinson; they created electrical currents by turning wheels and lighting lamps; they looked through microscopes, saw themselves a hundred times in folded mirrors and generally had fun without realizing how much they learned. The museum was packed. There were about 80 children of all ages from Ashkelon wearing yellow T-shirts; Arab teenagers from the north wearing white T-shirts with Shalom in English, Hebrew and Arabic and many, many children who came with their grandparents since Mummy and Daddy were at work! The assistants and supervisors, mostly science students, were also Jews and Moslems, religious and secular so the children learned that we can all have fun, play and learn together and hopefully live together. Israel at her best.

Another Shabbat, and this week promises to be special since we have Zvi's little grand-daughter Amit staying with us and then Arlene, my lovely Arlene, is spending Shabbat with us so that she can fill her heart with the amazing view of this exceptional city, right here, from our veranda.

With love from Jerusalem


Friday, 24 July 2009

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


24th July 2009.

Shabbat Shalom.

We are home after an amazing holiday with the most gracious hosts and wonderful fellow travellers. To quote Lewis Carroll "The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax-- Of cabbages--and kings" We spoke of all the above with time for dining, history, cruising and jokes.

Did you know that the Islamic Jihad in Iraq is currently celebrating their major victory over the United States? They claim superior military power made the Allies turn tail and run out of Iraq...... seeing the Presidents good-will gesture as an enormous defeat. Ambassador Yoram Ettinger writes on the relationship between Israel and the USA

The Dead Sea is one of the 28 finalists in the competition to become one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The lowest place on earth and its minerals will compete against the Amazon River, the Galapagos, Grand Canyon and others in a competition which will be decided in 2011">voting

One of Israel's most important and least understood issues is "settlements". What constitutes a settlement? The dictionary suggests that it is "a small community, village, or group of houses in a thinly populated area"

Nothing illegal or immoral, simply a place to live. Misinformation accompanied by a great deal of disinformation implies illegality and engenders thoughts of wild-eyed Jews pulling down existing Palestinian villages to build their fine and lush towns. One cannot ignore the fact that there are a few such settlements, a few too many, but the Prime Minister is already dismantling them. Ordinary settlement towns were built where nothing stood before. We took a journalist from Peruvian Television - Ricardo Muller z"l, to Maaleh Adumim. After driving 10 minutes to the south of Jerusalem, through barren hills, we came upon a beautifully kept garden town. We drove through the town to the far side and looked over the barren wasteland beyond, Ricardo said "I didn't expect this beautiful town but even more I did not expect to see this stark wilderness- nothing - but absolute nothingness. I thought, from the reporting, that I would find a small town filled with zealots surrounded by exiled Arabs!" The land we were standing on was occupied by Jordan after the 1948 cease-fire and deeded to Israel in our peace agreement. If you recall, Jordan and Israel constitute the original "Two State Solution"

Jerusalem, Yerushalyim, Ariel, Hephsibah, Ir Shalem, Ir ha Kodesh, Neveh Zedek; a few of the 70 names of Jerusalem in the Bible, our capital city, the only place in the free world where anyone attempts to deny Jews the right to build a home. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat had this to say on the subject.

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel – the heart and soul of the Jewish people. If Jews can buy and build homes anywhere they choose in New York, Paris or Moscow, surely too, a Jew can live and build anywhere they choose in the city of Jerusalem. No Mayor of any city in the U.S. would prevent construction of a home based on race or religion, and I surely as Mayor of Jerusalem will permit Jews to build in all areas of Jerusalem, in the same manner as Muslims and Christians can. We will stand strongly against any intervention to try and divide Jerusalem. I am proud that there has never been greater freedom of religion in the city of Jerusalem than under the flag of Israel – where everyone is free to practice their beliefs in public and visit their holy sites. The future of Jerusalem is quite clear - it must stay the undivided capital of the State of Israel. “

See Daniel Pipes opinion.

Tuesday was an exceptional day, the high spot of a wonderful holiday with dear friends. We visited the newly refurbished synagogue and museum in Rhodes. The Jewish community of Rhodes has a fascinating and long history – but the period of the Holocaust is the most unexpected. The Jewish community numbered about 4,000 in 1940 and the Germans conquered Rhodes in 1944. The Turkish leader and the Moslem religious leaders warned the community of what was about to happen and many escaped but 1,604 remained and were captured by the Germans and transported to the camps. However the Turkish Ambassador discovered that some 42 members of the community had Turkish citizenship and he fought tooth and nail against the invading Germans to prevent those Turkish Citizens from transportation. He succeeded and although their lives were made difficult they stayed and survived. The history of the community was told to us by Shmuel Modiano, one of the few islanders to have survived the Holocaust. Shmuel was to have had his bar mitzvah in Kahal Shalom in 1944, but instead “celebrated” it in Auschwitz. Today, at 79, Modiano leads tours of the synagogue and La Juderia “I am obligated to tell,” Modiano says sadly. “There is no one else." He turned his arm to show the tattooed numbers and told us how he was found by the Russians amongst a pile of bodies when they saw him lift his hand to indicate that one skeletal frame was barely, but still alive. Shmuel now lives in Rome where he finally celebrated his long delayed bar mitzvah in 2007, but he comes to Rhodes for 5 months every year to tell his story and the story of his survival in the camps. As Shmuel finished his story, our tear-filled group spontaneously said Kaddish (prayer for the departed) in memory of those who perished and Shmuel who chose to speak out.

I love coming home! Straining to see the beaches and skyscrapers of Tel Aviv as the aeroplane glides the last miles over the Mediterranean Sea I know that every moment brings me closer to Jerusalem. The ground crew smile as they call out "Bruchim ha Ba'im" Welcome; Israeli flags, Israeli stamps and Israeli gleaming marble floors. As one leaves the air-conditioned modern terminal and steps into the searing heat of a July day the sounds and aromas feel like home and then there was Rachel – ready for her first hug. We called into Givat Zeev to see our little grandchildren who couldn't hide their curiosity as to what "matanot" (presents) we brought them, and then, on our homeward journey, we passed the Tomb of Samuel the Prophet and the breathtaking sight of Jerusalem spread before us as an undulating, sparkling white mosaic; refreshing our bearings according to its towers.

Zvi left me to the unpacking and he drove to the closing ceremony of the highly successful and thoroughly enjoyed 18th Maccabiah in Latrun. What a show!

Tonight we will bring in Shabbat in the time honoured manner, welcoming the bride of Shabbat with the glow from the candles, the Kiddush and the blessing over the Challah, with Zvi's wonderful mother, 95 year old Ala. Ala had a fall when we were away, but shrugs off her multiple sutures saying "It was nothing" – they don't make them like that any more!

I wish you all Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, heart of our world, the glorious city which Zvi and I are lucky enough to call home.


Sunday, 12 July 2009

We're in the Semi-final


It is now 02:00 and I am exhilarated!!!

Little Israel made history yet again!!!!

Andy Ram and Yonni Erlich sealed Israel's phenomenal win over the Russian team in the tennis Davis Cup by winning their nail-biting match, 6-4 in the 5th set. Israel's team, Ram, Erlich, Dudi Sela and Harel Levi managed to topple one of the major countries to reach the semi-final of the Davis Cup.

The win was obvious as we travelled to Tel Aviv for the Gala concert in honour of the 18th Maccabiah. Drivers were waving to one another and raised their hands in victory – wonderful.

The concert was also amazing. Maestro Zubin Mehta began the programme with a rousing rendition of Hatikva and Murray Perahia played both of his pieces with exquisite poetry. Zvi was the MC and did everyone proud.
What a marvelous day, what a glorious night – it almost made me forget the violent Haredi demonstrations taking place in Jerusalem to stop the opening of public car parks on Shabbat.
Shevua Tov – have a brilliant week and be proud… we did it! Israel is in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup…. Who'd've thought it?
Much love

We've won our way to the semi-final


It is now 02:00 and I am exhilarated!!!

Little Israel made history yet again!!!!

Andy Ram and Yonni Erlich sealed Israel's phenomenal win over the Russian team in the tennis Davis Cup by winning their nail-biting match, 6-4 in the 5th set. Israel's team, Ram, Erlich, Dudi Sela and Harel Levi managed to topple one of the major countries to reach the semi-final of the Davis Cup.

The win was obvious as we travelled to Tel Aviv for the Gala concert in honour of the 18th Maccabiah. Drivers were waving to one another and raised their hands in victory – wonderful.

The concert was also amazing. Maestro Zubin Mehta began the programme with a rousing rendition of Hatikva and Murray Perahia played both of his pieces with exquisite poetry. Zvi was the MC and did everyone proud.
What a marvelous day, what a glorious night – it almost made me forget the violent Haredi demonstrations taking place in Jerusalem to stop the opening of public car parks on Shabbat.
Shevua Tov – have a brilliant week and be proud… we did it! Israel is in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup…. Who'd've thought it?
Much love

Friday, 10 July 2009

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


10th July 2009.

Shabbat Shalom!

Israel is often the target of the frustration of the West who fail to understand the Arab States. Before considering the condemnation of Israeli troops on the battlefield read what Col. Richard Kemp, former military advisor to the British Government, has to say. His views are diametrically opposed to those put forward by the media.

Maurice Ostroff does not just sit back and complain that the world is against us – he acts. Maurice has been corresponding with Judge Richard Goldstone of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza (Operation Cast Lead), he also created an exceptional video which was presented to the UN Committee. I want to congratulate Maurice on his outstanding contribution and for approaching the UN team with such honesty.

Are you aware of the incredible initiative of Israeli medical and technological research? Many supposed academics wish to boycott Israel, believing her to be an apartheid state (how far from the truth can one get?). For those who wish to boycott Israel or denigrate her in the public eye – this is our response

Just a few days to go before the second largest gathering of athletes in the world (over 7,000) will take part in the 18th Maccabiah Games. They said we wouldn't have a country, they never believed we would become athletes ( who bothered with Harold Abrahams and Mark Spitz) and here we are, in Israel with strong, athletic, proud competitors of all ages taking part in this celebration of who and what we are.

In between his activities for the 18th Maccabiah, Zvi found a certificate from June 1935 declaring (in Polish) his late father's participation in the Maccabiah Games which took place from the 7th to the 9th of June in Bialystok, Poland. He also found a certificate from 19th of September 1950 appointing his father, Kalman Rybak (Raviv) as a referee for the 3rd Maccabiah athletic competition to be held on the 6th of October that year. Finally there was also a certificate of excellence for his active assistance in the 5th Maccabiah in 1957.

Kalman had a brother, Joseph, who was a fine athlete and a physician. Joseph Rybak played for the Polish National Soccer Team. His social and sporting successes made him decide to stay in Poland, believing he was protected from the horrors of 1938, despite the fact that his brother Kalman came all the way from the nascent Jewish State to persuade his family to leave Poland and join him in Palestine. Joseph went on to become famous, but not for his sporting prowess; Joseph Rybak became the doctor of Treblinka – taking care of the 600 Jewish workers. He is famous for responding to their thanks when he cured them "Do not thank me for sending you back into hell" Joseph did not survive the Holocaust.

Kalman's sportsmanship and determination to be part of the Jewish world imbued his eldest son with the will to become part of the Maccabi family – and family it is. Zvi is luckier than I because he has been part of this incredible organization for decades, but his friendships and involvement allowed me to understand the incredible influence Maccabi has on the lives of youngsters and what an amazing social tool it is for Jews all over the world – young and old. You don't have to be super athletic, you can always play bridge or golf, but the energy of the next week or so is phenomenal.

For me one high spot of these games is the appearance of my sporting hero, Bobby Charlton, as a leader of the British Team. Bobby Charlton was not only a great footballer, a gentleman and a man of peace – he is remembered for his survival of the fatal plane crash in 1953 which decimated the English football team.

Mahane Yehuda stands above all other Israeli markets! Netanya is good, Shouk haCarmel in Tel Aviv is OK but only Mahane Yehuda represents the epitome of all that is Israeli. This week there was a culture programme on the television, with a very "Tel Aviv" presenter. He was amazed to discover the cheese store with kosher cheeses of the highest quality from around the world (including one which costs 800 NIS a kilo); the Indian restaurant; the superb coffee shop; the spices piled in mountains and the herbs in deep sacks; the fish so fresh it is still a-jumping (really); the little "Bet Knesset" (synagogue) so that the costermongers can always pop in for a quick minyan (quorum). This covered market has the freshest fruit and vegetables, dried fruits to die for and halva of every possible flavour that you can even taste!!! For one supposedly sophisticated Tel Aviv television presenter, this was the biggest eye-opener imaginable….. Jerusalem has everything!

The Dead Sea is still dead, but it can become one of the 7 natural wonders of the modern world rather than curing psoriasis! Go to and vote, vote, vote – I think it has to be at a specific time, and you can also suggest that they hold the ceremony to announce the 7 natural wonders of the world in Jerusalem, Israel!!

The opening concert for the Maccabiah (Emceed by my husband) will take place on Motse Shabbat at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv. This Gala salute to the Maccabiah Games with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Zubin Mehta and with solo US pianist Murray Perahia will kick off the greatest Jewish celebrations ever!!!!! Good luck to all the contestants, participants and fans.

Shabbat Shalom and much love from Jerusalem heart of our world.


Sunday, 5 July 2009

Shevua Tov and Happy Birthday America


Happy Birthday America!!!!!

Gosh 233 years old – just imagine - if you had enjoyed a good cuppa tea while paying your excessive taxes you would still be part of Britain!!!! George III is undoubtedly spinning in his grave at your phenomenal success! You stand as a fine example to the world; you stand head and shoulders above most countries, not by size but by achievement. Your heroes are as multi-faceted as your history, and their battles as diverse. You have extremes, extremes which can only blossom in democracy since they range from right to left across the full spectrum of thought. I fear that your openness, your strength, is also your Achilles' heel. Remember that your greatness does not protect you from attack; your power does not make you immune; your vast intelligence does not make you the wiliest and it is wile and guile which win the current war. In the war of words and lies which purport to be about the Middle East, The United States is the target, together with her allies Canada, the UK and of curse Israel…. no that was not a typo, for "them" Israel is the curse.

Yoram Ettinger, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States reminds us that thanks to the United States Congress our distress and concern for US/Israel relations may well be exaggerated.,2506,L-3741070,00.html

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey amazed me with his eloquence and fervour, subsequent to President Obama's Cairo speech. In this oration his grasp of history is apparent, his understanding of Israel and her enemies exceptional.

One American stands above all others as the champion of equality and freedom in the US, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr King was also a great proponent of the Jewish State, recognizing the similarities in our battles and aims.

". . . You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist.' And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews--this is God's own truth." "Antisemitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently antisemitic, and ever will be so. " "Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend," Saturday Review_XLVII

So it is with settlements, when it concerns Israel. Settlers of the United States, of Canada, of Australia, of South America are all lauded as heroes; the US even has a day devoted to a turkey for them! The word "settlers" has been misappropriated and misused and has absolutely no bearing on peace, indeed it negates the truth. "Settlers" conjures up a picture of violent reactionaries on a hilltop brandishing cudgels at innocent Palestinians which is far, in the case of legal settlements, far from the truth. Last Thursday I was driving along road 443 from Modi'in to Jerusalem and wondered at the barren beauty which surrounded me. Nothingness. I was travelling through the "shtachim" the disputed territories, on a highway which ends up very close to our home. Shortly after driving past the thriving new city of Modi'in, one crosses a checkpoint (un-manned) into the disputed area; one feels no danger, indeed the road is the same but the landscape is utterly different. The barren, stoney, uncared for hills with occasional houses, are strikingly different to the beautiful flower laden streets of the few Jewish settlements along the way. The Jewish towns are not built by destroying existing homes they do not disturb or harm anyone; they bring trees and trade, schools and scholars to the area. The area is disputed not occupied and those Palestinians who choose to build not fight are doing really well as the new luxury shopping malls in Ramallah and Jenin shows,7340,L-3322614,00.html

Some people come into ones life and enrich and strengthen your soul. Shalom Dror was such a man. Hero, gentleman, mentor, friend, proud Jew, and Israeli to his very core, Shalom passed away yesterday, still a hero but he lost the battle. Shalom was so much more than a hero of the book "O Jerusalem"; tall, handsome, charming, clever and loving, he was husband to Nehama and adoring father to their four children. Tragedy brought them even closer with the devastating news of their eldest son Danny's death in the Six Day War battle for Jerusalem and that of their grand-daughter who died at the hands of a crazed robber in San Francisco. Despite their tragedies the Dror's never complained, always supported; Shalom was a child of the Holocaust yet responded to the Nazi call for death with the Zionist call for life. Shalom and Nehama fought in the Hagana and then in the fledgling Israeli Defence Force in the War of Independence. The story of his part in the battle for the Katamon area of Jerusalem, is told in the book "O Jerusalem" . Shalom realised how exhausted the Jordanian troops were and with 2 fellow soldiers beside him he captured the area and secured it for Israel. In the view from my veranda I see Katamon and know that Shalom Dror displayed the determination and hope which re-built this country, the country of his ancestors. Farewell dear hero, dear friend - may your soul rest in peace.

On Tuesday July 7th at 7 in the morning Israel time, 232 North American new Olim to Israel arrive on one of 15 Nefesh benefesh flights to Ben Gurion Airport. If you want to watch their emotional arrival live go to This particular Aliyah has special meaning for Zvi and I since Zvi's cousins Jacobo and Rachel Hans and their three children are among those arriving on the 21st of July. Behatzlaha and Bruchim ha Ba'im habayita (Welcome home) to all the Olim.

Today it will rain in Israel!!! We all treat it as a freak meteorological phenomenon but equally know that it occurs every two years!!!! Just a few years ago a full 20 cms (7.9 inches) fell in one day in Acre!!! The rain is deeply welcome as long as it doesn't come along with half the Sahara desert! I am certain that the plants on my veranda will welcome the unexpected miracle – should it materialise. Actually Stanley, my pomegranate tree has recovered from its neglect during our visit to the States and has decided to flower again! Who knows maybe we will have pomegranates for Rosh Hashana (New Year) after all!

Instead of me trying to convince you of the incomparable beauty of Jerusalem, watch these videos- they cannot bring you here but they can assuage your longing for a short while. and finally

I love this city, I love its familiarity and its diversity; its exquisite beauty and its deep meaning. Even though I am one of the lucky ones who live in Jerusalem I still say the ancient prayer of yearning "Next Year in Jerusalem" because if we don't protect her we are lost. "If I forget thee Oh Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue stick to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my greatest joy" (Psalm 137). Written by King David as he walked the streets of this city 3,000 years ago.

With love