Friday, 21 August 2009

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


21st August 2009.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sweden believes that Israeli soldiers capture innocent Palestinians, kill them and cut out their vital organs for transplantation.

Claims to that effect can be found in an article in the popular Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in yet another abuse of "free speech". The article is a disgrace to a country which believes itself a beacon of Western society. The printing of articles and accusations worthy of Goebbels in Swedish newspapers without censorship or repercussions is reprehensible and the authors of such incitement to hatred should be punished – I said SHOULD be punished but will they? The Swedish Ambassador to Israel immediately published an apology, but the Swedish Government censured him for his statement. The response of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was to say "Sweden, we have not forgotten your actions in WWII",7340,L-3765046,00.html and

The Goldstone Commission –Prof. Irwin Cotler on the Goldstone Commissions report for the United Nations on the actions of Israel in Operation Cast Lead. Needless to say – they barely touch the actions of the Palestinians.

Part I (16Aug09) :

Part II (18Aug09) :

The unthinkable happened on a Scottish hillside on December 21, 1988, when an aeroplane exploded over Scotland and 259 passengers of Pan Am flight 103 and 11 people on the ground died when it crashed into the town of Lockerbie. The perpetrators died together with their victims but one of the planners, just one, was captured and imprisoned by the Scottish Courts for his heinous crime. Abdel Baset Megrahi was serving his prison sentence until the Scottish Courts chose to show compassion and released the terminally ill Megrahi, at the behest of that most compassionate of leaders, Libyan Muamar Ghadaffi. Apparently, despite a request by Mr. Obama, Libya gave him a heroes welcome, flying both Libyan and Scottish flags in celebration. As long as these rogue nations celebrate criminals as heroes and denigrate the innocent they will remain on the outside – thank G-d.

The Taiwan Typhoon. On his 07:00 report from the scene of Taiwan's tragic typhoon CNN's John Vause was the only international journalist to announce that the first lifesaving team to arrive in that beleaguered country was a group of Israeli doctors and specialists. Well done John, I have a feeling that you are not only the first but the only one to make that announcement!

It is official. The Wall Street Journal reports that Israel's economy is the first in the Western World to recover. As I have said many times, Israel's is not a manufacturing based economy but rather an intellectual and agricultural based economy, and we have an outstanding Governor of the Bank of Israel in Stanley Fisher whose policies have produced a stable financial situation.

Britain in the early '60's had not yet recovered from economic doldrums which followed the Second World War. Carnaby Street and the Beatles, Mary Quant and Vidal Sassoon all began a world wide social revolution but in addition they facilitated the "I'm Backing Britain" campaign! Union Jack Minis and knickers appeared and Brit's began to buy British goods displaying the flag. Now Israel's Industry, Trade and Labour Minister Binyamin (Fuoad) Ben-Eliezer intends introducing a "Buy Blue and White" Campaign to boost Israeli Industry. We have terrific products, great initiative and although our economy is the most "well managed" in the world we still have an unemployment problem. You are going to buy, aren't you?

Clever thoughtful debate is not necessarily the impression given by most Israelis, but it is essential to our future in a world which must function on logic and pragmatism rather than emotions. Two students, Yoni Cohen-Idov and Uri Mehav, headed the Israeli team to the European Debating Championships in Newcastle, UK… and came home triumphant, having debated themselves to the finals!!!

Misconceptions are Israel's greatest enemy, mostly created by our enemies and some even by our own lack of self-esteem and appreciation of what we have achieved under the most difficult of circumstances. First timers in Israel or those who have not been here for a number of years may have absorbed the press impressions of a somewhat backward, dusty, aggressive, unwelcoming country. Their amazement at our fine modern architecture, wide highways, great restaurants and marvelous night-life is pure joy! Zvi describes Jerusalem as a "City from Wall to Mall", in other words a city which satisfies the spiritual and the secular joys of life. Unlike Tel Aviv we have a wonderful climate which even on the hottest day (it is now 35 c – 95 f) but we know that by evening it will cool down, the breeze will take away the lassitude induced by the extreme heat and we will sit outside on our veranda and take in the view, sipping a cool drink. We overlook a wonderful green hillside planted 60 years ago by KKL, a green oasis in a big city. To the right we see the houses of Gilo on the crest of said green hillside – Gilo a Jerusalem neighbourhood of 45,000 residents; after Gilo comes Beit Safafa, predominantly Arabs who were born in Jerusalem and a few who were Jordanian citizens but chose to become Israelis. Across from Beit Safafa is the Industrial zone of Talpiot, which changes from industry during the day to nightclubs at night. On the horizon Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, then Arnona, Baka, German Colony and Katamon all lay before us in a glistening white mosaic. Usually the streets are filled with cars rushing to and fro but now, today, as Shabbat nears, the traffic slows and thins and the shops close, one after another and families begin to gather, daughters and sons bringing huge pots of unknown content to their parents as they share the cooking. I am jealous of the large Eastern families whose children would never think of eating a Friday night meal with anyone but their mother! My family is dispersed and I miss them every moment of every day, but particularly on a Friday night.

So, it is time to wind down my letter. The cooking is done and in the refrigerator, the table prepared, the candles are set on the sideboard and the tempting aromas of Shoshanna's Kurdish Kubeh Soup is wafting up the stairs. I am no mean cook but when she knocks on our door, saucepan in hand I admit to a sudden rush of joy!!!

I wish you Shabbat Shalom and joy from and with your family.

With much love from Jerusalem; heart and soul of our world.


Friday, 14 August 2009

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


August 14th 2009.

Shabbat Shalom

This week President Peres celebrated his 86th birthday. The President retains his mental and physical agility by testing his exceptional, dynamic intellect constantly, surrounding himself with young innovative minds. Happy Birthday Shimon Peres. Your path to popularity was long and hard but you represent Israel with pride, passion and dignity.

Rumours abound concerning the "imminent" release of Gilad Schalit . Zvi and I spent many an hour with Haim and Edna Avraham, parents of Benny, one of three soldiers kidnapped to Lebanon by Hezb-Allah. The Avrahams together with the Souad and Avitan families were promised and lied to by their sons' captors, as is happening now. When Hezb-Allah promised to send the boys home depending on the Israeli decisions, they waited three years before admitting that their sons were already dead. Gilad's 4th birthday in captivity was honoured by a prayer vigil at the Western Wall. The irony is that according to the Hamas demands, one Israeli soldier is worth 1,600 Palestinians in Israeli prisons including the infamous Marwan Barghouti.

My understanding of recent elections in the Palestinian Authority, especially in Gaza, is extremely limited. Reports suggest that the new guard is less belligerent than the old guard, but I see little difference! Yet again we are fooled into thinking that a democratic election will bring democracy which will filter down to the ordinary people. I believe that the finest writer on the subject is Israeli Arab reporter Khaled Abu-Toameh

The press is not even-handed – we know and bemoan the fact frequently, complaining that we can do nothing about it – when we can. If we choose to we can change the world. "The power of one" exists. There are many individuals who take that responsibility and respond to or pre-empt articles and news items by ensuring the truth has its say. David Frankfurter wrote an excellent blog this week with some suggestions as to what we can do. David and I are in awe of the effectiveness of men like Maurice Ostroff a fine example of what an individual can do – please watch the video he produced. Maurice took on the United Nations report on the War in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead). This Ministry of Foreign Affairs report and the IMRA Report of a MFA press briefing can inform YOU. We must be informed in order to respond- and respond we must. I cannot emphasise enough your responsibility to write to your local papers and TV stations giving them facts. It is easy to complain that the Israeli Government does not present the facts yet here we see that they do – it is simply falling on deaf ears, it needs a local presence.

Rabbi Irwin Katsof is a remarkable man. For the last 15 years Irwin has brought top quality groups of politicians to Israel accompanied by movers and shakers from around the world who he believes will put forward Israel's cause by being informed of the facts. Zvi had the honour of mentoring his work during his tenure as Advisor to the Mayor of Jerusalem. Irwin's work is largely unrecognized outside Israel, but the quality of the people his groups meet is testament to his determination to bring only the worthy. The current group, including the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry

and his invitees met with President Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political advisor Ron Dermer and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder of the Shurat Hadin . This is a proud week in Irwin's life as his eldest son, AY, graduates his IDF officers course. The course is tailored for Haredi young men who wish to defend their country. Kol ha Kavod AY – Kol ha Kavod Irwin and Judy.

Our favourite American politician is among Rabbi Katsof's current group. Republican Congresswoman and great supporter of Israel Ileana Ros Lehtinen and her husband Dexter. The Congresswoman has not wavered in any form in her support of Israel. Ileana and Dexter do not just talk the talk, they come to Israel on vacation with their daughters also. Go to Ileana's facebook tell her how much you appreciate her!

Last night we drove out with the group to "Eretz Bereshit" right in the middle of the barren wastes of the Judean Hills, close to Jericho. The atmosphere is astonishing as "Abraham" welcomed us and took us back to ancient times when the Jews wandered and lived in this very desert. General Effie Eitam spoke to us of his upbringing, parents who lost everything in the Shoah, and his determination to overcome fear in battle in order to ensure a safe homeland for his children, a safe homeland for his wandering people. He pointed into the distance, to the lights of Amman, Jordan, to prove that we can come to a lasting and stable peace with our neighbours, if they will just show willing. General Eitam said "We do not want to fight, we are not an aggressive people, but anyone who attacks our homeland must expect an appropriate response"

Today the group spent the morning learning about the REAL Jerusalem! They went to the centre of town and walked to Shouk Mahane Yehuda for lunch and to the Shouk itself to watch the frenetic buying of fine fruit and vegetables in preparation for the Shabbat meal. I am jealous! I haven’t been to the Shouk for a few weeks and my senses cry out for the pure Jerusalem of the colours, aromas, shouts of the costermongers, cries of the barrow-boys as they close in on unwary shoppers with "Allo Allo Allo" sounding more like a comment than a request! The coffee shops are filled with laughter and the "ptillia" the Yemenite restaurant whose owner arrives at 03:00 in order to cook huge pots of delicious Yemenite food which stands on the "ptilia", the candle flame, until the pots are empty. The array of stuffed peppers, aubergines, vine leaves and artichokes are a treat to the senses to say nothing of the meat-balls and chicken rice, yellow with turmeric and spices. Shouk Mahane Yehuda is the very heart of Jerusalem where all the faiths and denominations meet up with a sole purpose………. To find the best tasting fruit and vegetables, fish and meat in the world presented with humour and chutzpah unknown elsewhere!!!!

Jerusalem is slowing down, working Mum's are cooking the produce they bought at the shouk or the supermarket, houses are being cleaned – often by the men folk since this is an equal opportunity country! Ever lessening amounts of water is sloshed on the marble terrazzo floors to be collected up with the trusty "squeegee" or "sponger" into any appropriate receptacle, such as a dust-pan, before said floor is mopped with a clean cloth to a gleaming finish. The aromas currently wafting around our building are scorched egg-plants and peppers – to be made into salads and rice – mixed with lentils, onion and again the essential turmeric. Israeli tables are always laden, and not necessarily costly……. Shabbat holds a world of traditions which all came home again – home to Israel.

Come and see us soon. With much love from Jerusalem, heart of our world.


Friday, 7 August 2009

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


7th August 2009.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Last week the unthinkable happened. Israel, unlike her neighbours, is an open society, honouring, if not always individually accepting of each others differences. A crazed man pushed his way into a club for young people who have accepted their gay identity and receive counselling to help them find their place in society, he began to shoot wildly, killing two young people and injuring many more. The perpetrator is believed to have left the country but rest assured that the search for him will be thorough and he will pay the price for his crime. We are not homophobic as our Arab neighbours who consider killing gays a matter of honour, we are a civilized society which abhors killing, even those whose lifestyle may not concur with theirs. Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the site to talk to club members and President Peres will attend a vigil in memory of Nir Katz and Liz Trubeshi – May their souls rest in peace.

As you know, I adore Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, my childhood friend, mentor, my children's headmaster and brilliant debater. This week I disagreed with him – a rare occurrence indeed! I quote from Jeremy's blog in which he expresses the opinions of many toward the current Israeli Government.

Netanyahu was educated in both traditions, Sabra derring-do and American diplomacy and PR. So why is he such a disaster? Why am I embarrassed by him? .......... But no. Netanyahu appoints Lieberman as Foreign Minister to represent Israel abroad, an unappetizing a man of dubious financial probity, with links to all sorts of unsavory people, with a mouth that takes off before his brain clicks in. Could not be worse for Israel's image abroad. …………Whatever other faults he had, Olmert at least put on a good show. And what does Lieberman mean by insisting Arabs accept Israel as a Jewish State? Has he considered the difference between a Jewish State and a State for Jews? How does he propose to enforce it, by pulling down people's pants at immigration? Will he expel Karta because they proudly proclaim that they are anti-Zionists who refuse to accept the State of Israel?

My response:

Dearest Jeremy
I didn't vote for Mr Netanyahu but I don't think he is doing a bad job at all!!! He is swimming upstream against a raging tide of hatred - not from the USA particularly and not from Obama, who has simply placed a few extra obstacles in his way. He was elected to serve Israel not the outside world. Lieberman talks to the Russians eye to eye, something we have never done before - not since Perestroika when Russia became an important part of the equation. His manner is brusque but he does not talk in a stupid manner. I heard him speak before a closed audience and his attitude was so different from that reported in the press. To answer your question - YES! He does want the Haredim who won't serve in the IDF, do Sherut Leumi or swear allegiance to the State to go elsewhere, maybe in Borough Park as they constantly threaten when asked to defend the country they live in, ditto the "tsfonim"(North Tel Aviv lefties) and the Arabs..... just not in Borough Park! Remember that some of our finest officers and men in the IDF are Druze and Bedouin so it clearly doesn't harm their society. Do Americans not swear allegiance to the flag?
As to the demolition of the Sheikh Jarah house; it didn't happen just now, the court case is now. There are about 20,000 illegal Arab buildings in Jerusalem, most of which prevent good Municipal services since their positions are impossible!!!!! Right here in Beit Tsafafa, just a few weeks ago, they pulled down a very exclusive, beautiful, but illegal, apartment building. It takes a three year legal process to pull down an illegal building (Jewish or Arab) including a Supreme Court decision- it is neither a hasty process nor a rash decision. What happens in London, New York, Toronto or Sydney if one builds without planning or building permits? When judging Israel we have to judge her according to HER needs and demands, social, legal and security, not our sensibilities or concern for how WE look.

I had cause to visit an emergency medical centre here in Jerusalem this week. Initiated by a group of American born doctors it is privately run in conjunction with the Health Services and serves as a perfect response to non-life threatening situations, leaving the hospitals to deal with serious cases.
The attending doctor was an Israeli Arab, (I felt I should call him Dougie he was so young), trained and specialized here in Israel and he was fabulous. He analysed, checked, treated and exuded great confidence in what are undoubtedly the best of conditions. A proud, highly educated Israeli in a responsible, well paid, important position, who by chance happens to be Arab.

Last Friday brought great joy to our home as my lovely Arlene came to visit. A true Eshet Chayil, Arlene is a loving Mum great wife and still manages to give time, effort, initiative and love to her community and to Israel. I am proud to call her friend. After Shabbat we went to the home of our friends Nurit and Danny Baram together with Jehudit and Danny Liwerant of Mexico. Jehudit is here on a lecture tour and Danny is busy with his Jewish Agency responsibilities. This couple also fits the Arlene pre-requisites of giving, loving, doing. Danny and Nurit live in the moshav/village of Shoresh just outside Jerusalem – on the main road from Tel Aviv. It is a wonderful moshav with big homes, gardens and glorious views over the Judean hills. Israelis are increasingly choosing to live outside big towns, opting for the views, fresh air and more relaxed atmosphere.

This week we were thrilled to have 3 of our beautiful grandchildren staying with us. As one would expect from 3 and 4 year olds, they are highly energetic. We bought a paddling pool, seesaw and a huge sun-cover for the veranda. We took them to parks, museums, and the Ramat Gan Safari Park where Saba Zvi showed them the animals great and small. (click on the tabs even though they are in Hebrew – it is worth it!) This really is a child-friendly country in which the adults do all they can to make life fun for the children, especially during vacation time. The facilities are phenomenal and even the finest restaurants have children's menus. Every shopping mall runs children's programmes with interactive clown and fairy tale shows every couple of hours and large soft-play areas for the little ones. Museums run special children's programmes too with child specific tours and activities – and of course the Bloomfield Science Museum – my grandchildren's favourite!

Having celebrated the Jewish Valentines Day – Tu b'Av – this week – happily without Zvi chasing me around the orchards to propose marriage – the week is slowing down.

Tonight, after lighting the Shabbat candles, I will sit with my grandchildren on our veranda, awaiting the moonrise on the horizon. Last night it was red and glorious but the sun had not yet set so it was not as spectacular as it will be tonight. Translucent, massive, red and rapid it rises above the trees of Ramat Rachel in the distance, seemingly occupying half of the horizon, and climbs in the sky with amazing speed, gradually shrinking and taking on the bright white light one expects. Jerusalem will be quiet as hundreds of thousands of people sit in their homes after lighting the Shabbat candles, white tablecloths on food laden tables. Religious or secular, Shabbat is Shabbat – a time for family, prayers, blessings, friendships and conversation.

I must go now to prepare house and table for the bride of the Sabbath. I wish you all of the above – family, prayers, blessings and friendship.

With love from Jerusalem