Thursday, 31 December 2009

Shabbat Shalom and Happy 2010

31st December 2009.



Shabbat Shalom to you all – Shabbat Shalom and a fulfilling 2010



Personally I am quite relieved to see the 00's behind us and ready to turn over a new page and leap into the 10's!!



SMS/text messages, Skype, Facebook and Twitter, Webcams allowed me read bedtime stories to my grandchildren overseas but took away the intimacy of real conversations. We are living longer through unbelievable medical advances yet become hysterical over flu and through it all Israelis brought home more Nobel Prizes.



It was a decade where the sheer immensity of the terror imposed upon the world went beyond borders and beyond our wildest and most shocking imagination; buses, trains and planes became weapons of mass destruction and we had to learn a whole new vocabulary to say Islamic terrorists since the truth may offend someone!



It was the decade which taught me the meaning of real bravery as our nation lived through the horror of Intifada 2 and the kidnapping and murder of five young men to Hezb-Allah – the warriors of Allah. We came together because we are willing to risk hundreds more deaths of innocent victims in exchange for the child of Noam and Aviva. It was a decade when we came together with the people of the USA, of Bali, London, Moscow and a time when everyone seemed to care about Sderot. Most of all it was the decade which taught me that one should never give up hope because a miracle is always around the corner; it was the decade in which gave me the honour of loving Kinneret Chaya. Those of you who have not met Kinneret Chaya through my letters – ask me and I will send you her story- to everyone else I will give you news to brighten all hopes for the next decade… Kinneret Chaya and Amir are expecting another baby in January!!!



Last decade I heard the sweetest words imaginable "Safta Sheila" as four of our five children gave us 9 wonderful little people – we became grandparents!



For the next decade

I pray for leaders who possess greater understanding and bravery; leaders who are prepared to defend us and our way of life; leaders who recognize and have the intelligence to differentiate between friend and foe; we need to be proud of ourselves, our countries and our achievements; we, like our leaders, need to find the inner strength to stand up and create a world that we want to leave for our grandchildren. We need to care enough to be indignant and lobby until we become effective.

I pray for a world able to laugh at itself

I pray for the ability to fight for what I believe in yet be willing to listen to other views.

I pray for the strength to stand up for myself and my people

I pray for a generation which will grow up willing to see the other side while holding fast to their faith and beliefs.

I pray for justice, no more no less – justice in the judgment of Israel.

I pray for a time when all I write about is Mahane Yehuda, Shouk Ramle, the Old City, the wild cyclamen in the Valley of the Cross and of course our guests who sit and admire amazing view from our veranda.



Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem City of our dreams and our prayers.

Wishing you a fabulous 2010 which will give us all hope, joy, laughter and fulfillment to carry us all the way through till 2020



With all our love



Sheila and of course Zvi

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

091224



24th December 2009.



Shabbat Shalom, and a truly wonderful Festive Christmas Season of joy and love.



I don't intend depressing anyone this Festive week but have to address two subjects. This is the link to my "No Room at the Inn" letter concerning the plight of Christians in the Palestinian Authority http://shabbatshalom-theviewfrommyveranda.blogspot.com/ We can't continue to ignore the situation - we have to make the media and our leaders take this on.



The IDF recognises the situation and has given all Christian Palestinians unlimited access to Israel during the Festive Season http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=46771



The other subject on every Israelis heart is Gilad Schalit. It appears to be such a simple decision – give "them" what they want a get Noam and Aviva's son back home – but it isn't. Israel has already set a precedent of talking to terrorists unlike other allies because we cannot break our promise of bringing our soldiers-children home. It is so complex a decision that PM Netanyahu has had daily consultations with the most senior of military and diplomatic experts. It is a decision of Solomonic proportions; how many master terrorists can you release for one young lad? What are the risks? Where should the terrorists be deported on their release – knowing they fully intend fomenting hatred wherever they may be? How many Israelis will die as a result of their release? The simplistic approach does not work – the demand that they be released and the IDF, Mossad and Shabak be more alert is na├»ve, they do a brilliant job already but the risks change. On the other hand we all need to see Gilad at home with his family since that is what we stand for and who we are.



It is 70 years since the SS St Louis was turned away by the American, Canadian and Cuban governments who refused to accept the Jews. The tragic journey from Miami Beach to Antwerp is legend and the story is told in Resolution 111 of the United States Senate. http://thestlouisproject.com/?p=491 The story was brought to me by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, great friend of Israel and the proud recipient of an Award by the St. Louis Project. Zvi and I are proud to call Ileana friend.



One of the greatest paradoxes of all time is why the Jews are always (or almost always) the scapegoats when they are the biggest givers to our world. In this interview with George Gilder he addresses that question and hopefully answers it as he did in his book "The Israel Test" Why hate the Jews in what he deems the Golden Age of Palestine? Because they failed the Israel test! http://www.road90.com/watch.php?id=PeTgdgQZmH



We went to a concert on Tuesday night in the Henry Crown Hall of the Jerusalem Theatre. "Life and Peace" presented and supported by Italian cities and the President of Italy and given in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. An amazing evening of brilliant musicians and great music the crowing glory was the phenomenal musical and emotional interlude of "The Intercultural Journeys Ensemble" consisting of a young Arab-Israeli violinist, Hanna Khoury, in a wonderful, "loud" suit (black on black stripes so shiny I swear I could see my reflection!) and a very soberly dressed Jewish-Israeli cellist, Udi Bar-David with Puerto Rican percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos. They played n perfect unison melding Yiddish Shtetl, Israeli and Arab melodies in a stream of harmony and joy, smiling at each other exuding love. It brought tears to our eyes and a standing ovation from the audience. Most of the invitees were Christian representatives of all denominations including the Nuncio of the Vatican. An audience filled with kipot, dog-collars and cowls.



Jerusalem will not have a White Christmas but many of my readers on the East Coast of the US and in Europe are snowed in and snowed under, but we had a Wet Chanuka instead! The sun is shining and the weather crisp as Jerusalem goes about her regular business giving tribute to those for whom this is the Holiest of Seasons.



Let's make a New Year resolution for 2010. Although I would never demean the influence of wonderful organizations such as MEMRI, Honest Reporting, Media Watch and so many others who have a profound effect on all of us and on the media – let's do something different. I was taught that if you speak badly of others then their sins reflect back upon you so let's start sending out positive news, positive vibes about us, without referring to our neighbours or their errant ways. Instead of pointing the finger outward let's wave our hands to draw attention to our own achievements on the scientific and the diplomatic level, on human rights, one big celebration on all the good things and the good news that happens here. Let's stop whining about the way the world treats us and start reminding them of how we treat the world!!!



Finally I want to send a special greeting to a very special man. Canon Andrew White, the Bishop of Baghdad, a pragmatic yet hope-filled curator of good relations between the faiths, is actually going home for Christmas. Andrew called me from Amman on his way to the UK and I was so thrilled with the effectiveness of his latest MS treatment in Baghdad. His voice came over the wires loud and clear. "Hey Andrew, have you given up the booze, you sound amazing?" "Yup" he answered "gave it up for Christmas!" No slurring and his voice of reason can again ring out to the world. Bless you Andrew you are one of a kind.



May G-d Bless you and keep you safe from harm – Shabbat Shalom, a blessed Holy Day, happy birthday to my big sister Eddie in Toronto and a happy anniversary to me! Christmas Day will be 18 years since my official Aliyah to Israel. Chai, chai chai!!! Always did have a sense of history and humour since I actually arrived here on April Fool's Day!!!!



With love from the heart and soul of our peoples, Jerusalem the truly Eternal City of David, son of Jesse; psalmist, romantic poet whose poetry lives on in the language it was written, 3,000 years ago in this City of Gold.



Sheila

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

No room at the Inn - Christians in Bethlehem

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration for Christians around the world. The paradox is that for Christians in Bethlehem it is far from joyous - it is a life of fear and desperation.

22nd December 2009.



No room at the Inn?



Public disregard for the situation of Christians in the PA is a disgrace which has few equals. Not only have their numbers been slashed through emigration under threat of death, killing and kidnapping, their dead are then exhumed, posthumously indicted of defiling the holy Moslem ground of Gaza. No-one cares, no one helps.



The local clerics of all denominations, are afraid to make a noise or tend to their flock for fear of retribution and as a result their flock is being killed off, one by one and two by two, by the marauding wolves. The clerics also maintain their delusions of denominational superiority rather than present a united Christian front. You may think that I am exaggerating and falling into rhetoric but I am not. Life for Christians in the Palestinian Authority (to say nothing of the persecution of Kopts in Egypt) has become a living hell, never knowing if one will wake up the next morning, if ones sons are dead or ones daughter has been kidnapped and married to a Moslem man to produce Moslem children and all attempts to rescue her could end in her murder.



P. is in a deep depression. He is trying his best to send his children to university so that they can find a way out of this living hell. He knows that he is in a smaller and smaller minority and no-one cares enough to reach out a helping hand. His formerly Christian home town is now about 85-90% Moslem and they make the few Christians who still live there into outcasts.



Most of the Christians of this town love Israel and would move here in a flash but they have the misfortune of being born in Jordan even though their home town is in close proximity to Jerusalem which frustrates them even more since they cannot escape.



What is their home town I hear you ask. The name of that town means House of Bread – Beit Lechem – or as you know it Bethlehem.



Bethlehem's Christians are dying out, being killed and shunned, physically and actually and no one seems to care. Not one major politician is willing to stand up and talk about it; not one diplomat is willing to make an international issue about it; not one representative to the United Nations has raised it; not one of the supposedly humanitarian organisations has offered help; incredibly none of the leaders of any of the church denominations has reached out; apparently, even now, as we enter the Christmas season there is no room at the Inn.



For the story of the Christians of the Palestinian Authority to reach the light of day we, each and every one of us must shout and yell and scream and demand until something is done by our leaders and representatives. We must be the brave and unafraid because our leaders spend too much of their PC time kow-towing to bullies.



Why does the media ignore the facts? I have a theory which seems to explain this deliberate shunning of the biggest scoop of such huge proportions. Until now the boundaries of this conflict have been clear – Israel is the evil occupier and the Palestinians are the underdogs. Good and bad – black and white – good and evil, a simplification of a complex situation satisfied everyone and the scapegoat was clearly defined. If Israel is not the “bad guy” then that would entail an entire rethink admitting that their self-created court of public opinion has indicted the wrong “criminal”.



Only by constant lobbying can we take off the public blinkers and change the judgement. Neither the Christians of the Palestinian Authority nor the State of Israel deserve to be on death row because of public ignorance or diplomatic convenience. The first steps along the green mile are already here.



It is Christmas, a time of joy and thanksgiving, a time to celebrate the birth of a Baby Boy who changed the world. I have a feeling that if we don't do something soon our leaders will throw out The Baby with the bathwater.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

17th December, 2009.



Shabbat Shalom and Chag Orim Sameach



Today's letter will be rather long but the information it carries is essential so please bear with me.



Due to an aberration in British Law, intended to protect and sustain the rule of justice, Former Deputy Prime Minister Livni, or for that matter any Israeli Minister or High-ranking army officer, can be arrested for war crimes during Operation Cast Lead if she goes to Britain http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article6958044.ece . British Foreign Minister David Milliband has issued a statement and personally apologised to MK Livni but can do nothing until the law, or the dangerous loophole, is repealed. Ironically this law was introduced post WW2 in order to enable us and the British to prosecute Nazis.



The self-righteous Danes are hosting the world conference on global warming and ecology whereby world leaders came to Denmark to find solutions on Global Warming without even one speech reviling Danish ecological transgressions when they cruelly "cull" dolphins for sport. http://www.nowpublic.com/environment/whale-dolphin-massacre-europe-2



Why stop only Jewish building in Yehuda and Shomron and for how long? Yosi Sztrigler asked the highly relevant question why should the IDF be asked to "fight' with other Israelis, since many of the young men who stand up and defend our nation are totally against the building freeze. I believe that he is absolutely right this should not be the job of the IDF but rather the police. Chief of Staff Ashkenazi agrees.


The Cabinet has approved a list of National Priority Areas which will receive fiscal aid from civil funding toward creating jobs. What does "priority" mean? Some of the areas deemed eligible for inclusion are in the "building hiatus" regions in Yehuda and Shomron. Very confusing! http://jta.org/news/article/2009/12/13/1009692/cabinet-vote-on-priority-map-postponed



Sad pre-Christmas news - "Hamas digs up the bodies of Christians from Christian burial sites in the Gaza Strip claiming that they pollute the earth," said Reverend Majed El Shafie, President of One Free World International http://www.onefreeworldinternational.org/ . "Every three minutes a Christian is being tortured in the Muslim world, and in 2009 more than 165,000 Christians will have been killed because of their faith, most of them in Muslim countries." Where are the Human Rights groups when we need them? http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1260447421970



Last night the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem http://www.icej.org/articles/about_us held a reception for Rev. El Shafie in the King David Hotel. I spoke to two exceptional people about the situation and how to "get it out there". Dr Jay Rawlings www.jerusalemvistas.com compared the abhorrent Hamas behaviour toward the dead to the Jewish one. He told me that ZAKA, http://www.zaka.org.il/index_e.php the first responders who devotedly collect body parts after a terror attack, collect the remains of homicide bombers and return them to the family for burial.



I also spoke to Dr Malcolm Hedding of the ICEJ a former South African who found haven in Israel when he was banned for publicly opposing Apartheid. Malcolm is incensed at a world which compares Israel to Apartheid South Africa believing that it is not only a gross misrepresentation of Israel's open society but an insult to 80 million black South Africans who suffered real Apartheid. Dr Hedding finds it hard to understand those Jews who accept the media-fed, Arab initiated, idea that Israel is anything but democratic and benevolent.



The Jews who burned the Mosque in Kfar Yassuf disgust me. If we descend to the nadir of human behaviour how can we expect to engender respect either in ourselves or others? Don't claim that synagogues and churches are regularly burned and blown up in the Islamic world - we must behave according to our mores not imitate lesser standards. Jewish residents of the area brought new Korans to the people of Kfar Yassuf as an expression of their dismay. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1134687.html



President Shimon Peres released a statement harshly condemning the burning of the mosque in Kfar Yasuf. "This grave act of arson stands against all the values of the State of Israel and its obligation to respect all faiths and beliefs. The government, security forces, and enforcement officials must use all means possible to find those guilty and bring them to trail for their grave acts. An extremist group cannot jeopardize Israel's fundamental respect for the law and tolerance of all faiths."



British Historian Andrew Roberts believes that the Foreign Office is the reason that Queen Elizabeth has not visited the Holy Land, unlike her husband and eldest son. The Foreign Office is the UK's equivalent to the State Department, and has similar policies on Israel with a long history of Arabist leanings. Mr. Andrews also believes that the current government in the USA is the least pro-Israel since Eisenhower. Full article http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1260447430804&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull



Since I don't want to test your patience by writing too much today I want to point you in the direct of three exceptional and deeply important articles.

The indomitable Brenda Katten's article in the Jerusalem Post entitled Zionism - a tarnished word? http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1260447441083

Tom Gross' important article in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/dec/07/obama-interference-independent-palestine

Finally the erudite Isi Liebler on British Jewry

http://wordfromjerusalem.com/?p=1951



Israeli wines have advance considerably since the days of sickly sweet sacramental Kiddush wines. The Israel 21C article

Israeli wines are out there on the circuit, garnering great reviews. Just last year, renowned American wine critic Robert Parker reviewed wines from 40 Israeli wineries and awarded high scores of over 90 points to 14 different wines. That's impressive in the wine world, where a score of over 90 points places a wine in a class of exceptional character and complexity. Moreover, 11 of those wines happened to be kosher, and Parker pointed out that the kosher label was simply not relevant to the quality of the wine. That's another major statement and one that puts the Carmel Kiddush wine reputation to rest, and for good. http://israel21c.org/culture/quench-your-thirst-with-israels-eight-best-wineries



Boris Abramovic Gelfand, Israeli, won the World Chess Championship!! Yet another brilliant infusion from the FSU! Gelfand was born in Minsk, Byeloruss and made Aliya to Israel in 1998. Bravo Boris, we are proud of you. http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3820150,00.html



With the start of Advent the lights go up on the road to Bethlehem. Border controls are lightened as Israeli Christians head for Bethlehem during the Christmas period. The Jerusalem Municipality is handing out free Christmas trees and between our two wonderful Festivals everyone is smiling.



Chanuka is upon us; Chanukiot are displayed on street corners, highways and windowsills and the Jerusalem Chanukiot are placed outside homes http://www.slideshare.net/off_nick/hanukkah-in-jerusalem-presentation . The air is redolent with the sickly sweet, fried aroma of "sufganiyot" - doughnuts of spectacularly heavy dough, to say nothing of the equally healthy latkes! Rather than dwelling upon the desecration of the Temple we concentrate upon the wonder of an amphora of oil and pieces of cast lead – and food! Zvi's definition of a Chag is "They tried to kill us, we won, now let's eat". We mustn't forget that this is predominantly a festival of survival - of a very few great heroes (Maccabees) who stood up to a tyrant and succeeded in protecting our faith. On the way to Tel Aviv on road 443 on passes Modiin, Maccabim, Hashmona'im the young Haredi border guard wishes you Chag Orim Sameach (Happy Festival of Lights) and at dusk breaks into his duties and lights a huge chanukia!!



I had a truly amazing time in London with my children and grandchildren. I was washed with love, my daughter-in-law spoiled me rotten and I got to see the historic Temple and Inns where my son spends his days. Amazingly I travelled beside old friends both on my way there and returning on El Al – Jewish geography only works on El Al! Today our eldest grandchild is 5 years old. Yosef Eliyahu has chosen to spend his birthday, the sixth candle of Chanuka, with Safta Sheila and Saba Zvi. I took on the number 99 Jerusalem tourist bus http://www.egged.co.il/eng/main.asp?lngcategoryid=2773 and let him wonder at this amazing city as we do. Then we got down to grandparent business in the toy store.



Diane Steinfink sent me the best Hanuka/New Year wish ever. A wish that sums up all that is important in life- Optimism, joy, humour and health



Shabbat Shalom, Chag Chanukah Sameach, 6th day of Advent and every good thought you wish yourselves and your family.



With love from Jerusalem, as beautiful, spiritual and meaningful as ever.

Sheila

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Midweek shalom from London

Dear Lovely Friends
I thought I would drop you all a line from London where I am with my wonderful children and their children out in the greenest of green parts of London. The constant rain ensures the lush pastures even though the dampness seeps into ones bones - especially mine since I am not used to it any more! To all the friends and family who feel that I should have contacted them - I have just one week with my beloved grandbabies and will not give up a precious second - sorry it doesn't mean I don't love you or care about you - it means I want to be with them and only them!

Since leaving Israel many stories have emerged which tend to fit the category of "same old same old" - without any resolutions. The usual claims that Abbas wants to declare independence unilaterally and of the marvellous agricultural co-operation between the West Bank and Israel which has produced a source of income for the PA. The papers are still talking of Gilad Schalits release yet we see no results. The reason for the delay is clear - we are being asked ot release so many killers, some of whom are serving multiple life sentences for their heinous crimes- and as much as every single Israeli wants to see Gilad home with his family, the government cannot take their release, indeed the release of even one lightly. Popular opinion wants us to just get Gilad back without thought of the consequences but having seen an interview with Palestinians released in a former deal for the bodies of our boys in Lebanon, listening to them living their lives in Dublin while still preparing the next attacks on Israel, we cannot, cannot think only of the emotional knee-jerk reaction. Yes the IDF is the caring army which always cares for its soldiers but ordinary citizens much be protected too.

Fabulous news for Israel - we have a new Attorney General. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/134631 Yehuda Weinstein is different to any of the more recent AG's and is the choice of the Minister of Justice. I feel that the legal conundrums of the country are in the hands of someone who understands the questions from all aspects - the academic, the defence attorney, the legislature and the citizen. I am content with the choice.

My article about Zvi's meeting with Golda Meir was published in the Jerusalem Post last friday http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1259831449853&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull. The heading for the article was not my choice and misleading, but every word I wrote within the article was true. There were a few very cranky people who misinterpreted what I said, suggesting I denied the phenomenal work of those who preceded and followed the historic meeting, but they are mistaken. I fully appreciate what was done, who did what and that without the incredible concerted effort of those who both led and followed, the dream could not have been achieved. It was a single meeting, a catalyst to a government decision - a truly momentous government decision - no more no less. It is irrelevant whether I wrote it or a stranger. He is not a braggard and few knew of his story so who better to write it than me? I am inordinately proud of my husband and to demean his achievement would be churlish, mean-minded and historically inaccurate.

I leave for Jerusalem on thursday morning. It is so hard ot leave the children- although they may be glad to see the back of me!!! I love travelling El Al since it feels like home the moment I get on board! faces are friendlier, the sense of urgency to find the "bestseat" irrespective of the fact that we are all assigned - the determination to put all sixteen pieces of handluggage into the overhead bins and of course the food. I don't know why but El Al food is the best!!! I may not be the hottest, but seeing that little pretend parchment scroll denoting which Rabbi gave his seal of approval just seems ot make it taste right!!!!! Breakfast is almost always an omelette and lunch and supper "Off u Bakar" Chicken or Beef? The crew are prepared to do almost anything for families - no matter how noisy the children and they smile so much - and tease each other. Landing may not smell the way it used to in the days when one walked down the stairs to get the bus to go inside the terminal with the legend "Welcome to Israel" over the portal. Now the scent is of a bright new terminal then it was the phenomenal mix of pine, orange groves, humidity and ......... gosh I don't know how to describe it.... of ISRAEL!!!

Zvi will collect me at the airport and will drive along highway number one. The road is wide and easy and fairly level until we reach Latrun which the climb through the Jerusalem Hills begins. I can never hide my excitement as we near the city and the joy of arriving home and rushing to open our shutters to reveal Jerusalem before me. Oh joy! My heart is split between London, New York and every place my dearest family and friends may be - but home, my home and our home, is Israel - Jerusalem. Actually, maybe we will come home through road 443 instead. That way I can ease my longing for the London and NY children by calling in on the Jerusalem ones!!! After all, why should Zvi carry all the presents up to the house when I can just drop it off on the way!!!

Hope to talk to you before Chanuka
With much love from London where after all the Balfour Declaration was signed after poor Herzl had travelled the world looking for someone to help him reach his dream.
Sheila

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Shabbat Shalom letter

091202

2nd December 2009.



Shabbat Shalom is coming early this week since I am off to visit my London grandchildren tomorrow at the crack of dawn. I spend one week immersed in them and rarely see anyone else or do anything else and am happy, satisfied and loved!



David Ben Gurion was a founding father, but was sorely mistaken in his belief that once we have a country we no longer need Zionism. The implication of the word may have changed but the significance remains. Today it means that we understand why we came back and that if we do not pull together it will be a different "gerush" (exile) but an exile nonetheless – and probably no less bloody.



IDF Chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi expressed the malaise of our society at a conference with school principals. It is the malaise of Israeli society, which I care about as our standard bearer, and Western society in general.

"We witness the problems young people take with them into the army, from excessive alcohol consumption to dropping out of the education system.

"There are soldiers who do not know the country and its heritage. A
third of the soldiers visited Jerusalem for the first time within the
framework of their army service. There are soldiers who think that we conquered Masada in the Six Day War. There are immigrant soldiers who don't know the language."



Our youngsters do not understand why Israel is, where it is or why, because neither parents nor teachers have bothered to spend the time to teach them. We take Israel for granted, both here and in the Diaspora. We have forgotten how to be proud of whom we are which is why we whisper to ourselves when leaders emasculate Israeli leaders – when Italians and Swedes dare to tell us to give our Capital City to the Arabs! Unless we learn to be proud of our heritage and stand up to be counted we stand to lose everything. Israels survival does not depend upon the phenomenal advances in science and hi-tech nor its brilliant doctors nor its agriculturalists who teach the poor countries to feed themselves – Israel's survival depends upon us being proud of who we are – Jews and Christians alike.



The Jewish and Christian leaders who have the guts to really lead with brilliant initiative are few and far between. I can think of maybe half a dozen that stand head and shoulders above others. If our leaders cannot lead from the front we must lead from behind. Lobby, lobby, lobby.



We had the painters in this week; they came from Bethlehem, Christian Arabs from Bethlehem. They told us tales of unspeakable persecution, of loneliness, of their desire to attempt to fund their children scholarships to local universities so that they can get out of what is now a 90% Moslem city.



B. came into our study and was able to put a name to every photograph of every Israeli leader from B-G to BiBi – few of our Israeli friends could do so with such confidence. We are their hope. C. stood on our veranda – the one I always talk about – and said "You do realize it isn't ours, the world has given it to them already. Jerusalem is not Jewish, Jerusalem is not Christian, Jerusalem is Moslem because no-one will stand up and say otherwise."



It looks as if it will really happen – Gilad Schalit will come home. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/About+the+Ministry/Behind+the+Headlines/Behind+the+Headlines-+Six+months+in+terrorist+captivity+11-Jan-2007.htm The last video sent to his distraught parents showed him even frailer than his natural boyish frame and it broke his parents heart. The captors promise and renege so frequently that we are scared to believe it will really happen and not be just another ploy like the Hezb-Allah return of dead bodies. The price is heavy, maybe too heavy – the long list of prisoners for whom freedom is demanded includes many masterminds behind terror attacks. They underwent trial and were convicted of triple and quadruple life sentences but will spend their lives in freedom in Europe planning Israel's downfall. But that is who we are. Israel doesn't leave her boys and girls behind – if a child s taken prisoner he is brought home.



Life goes on as always. We laugh, we cry, we shop, we create and go to theatre and we eat fabulous local food We don't sit and mope, this is a society which knows how to live life to the full but we are aware of the dreadful lies being told about us and it hurts. To quote Shylock "When you prick me do I not bleed"?



I am off tomorrow at the crack of dawn in time to see the scarlet sunrise over the Jerusalem skyline before heading off to Ben Gurion Airport. For one whole week I will wallow in babies smiles and giggles and innocence and have long talks with my amazing daughter-in-law, argue hotly with my adorable son and try to see a few friends. It will rain, skies will be grey and I will love every second! Being with ones children means one always misses the one you are NOT with but relishing the one you are.



I can but think of my friend Jill. When asked about her feelings toward Israel she said "Israel is my Mother and my child. I feel protected as by a Mothers love and feel intensely protective as one is of ones child."



Shabbat Shalom to you all

Sheila