Friday, 29 January 2010

Shabbat Shalom letter from Sheila


29th January 2010.

The 27th of January was International Holocaust Day, the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by Russian soldiers and there were memorials and services all over the world. Perhaps the most poignant was still the sight of the Israeli President and Prime Minister speaking before the German Parliament. In spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles we have come so far, we have achieved so much and on Tuesday the Israeli Cabinet sat in the Reichstag and the German leaders visited Auschwitz. When President Peres spoke in Hebrew of his grandfather who perished in the Holocaust and then recited the Aramaic words of the Kaddish I for one was moved to tears.
One would think it couldn't happen again. Sweden supported the Nazi Regime in the Second World War by providing steel to make arms. This week Malmo Mayor Ilmar Reepalu, equated Zionism to anti-Semitism in an interview for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, urging the Jewish community to distance itself from Israeli attacks on Gaza population.,7340,L-3841278,00.html

Thursday morning our leaders went to Ben Gurion Airport to greet the phenomenal medical and first response teams who came home after performing miracles in Haiti. The work of those teams, the IDF, Zaka and IsraAid was above and beyond any expectations. Those who did nothing to help the beleaguered Hatians, or indeed anyone else, claimed that an American nuclear trial caused the earthquake and the IDF went there to harvest transplant organs. Israel is the solution not the problem and I refuse to give credence to anyone who tries to equate or compare our help to all nations in need after natural and imposed disasters to our neighbours determination to create Goebbels-like slanderous lies.

Yesterday I went for lunch at a restaurant nearby and sitting quietly with his wife was a soldier in uniform. Nothing exceptional in that, but then we noticed the English word ISRAEL on his shoulder and the insignia of the medical corps which indicated that he had arrived home this morning from Haiti. I didn't want to disturb his welcome meal with his wife but I smiled my thanks across our table.

Yesterday evening saw the induction of the new Attorney General of Israel Yehuda Weinstein. Unlike his predecessors Adv. Weinstein did not come from within the system, he was, until a few weeks ago a fine and upright private lawyer which gives him the infinite advantage of being apolitical and a man of independent thought; it augurs well for Israel's legal system. For me it was of special importance since Yehudas wife Averil (nee Wien), bright, elegant, funny and beautiful, grew up with me in the tiny community of Cardiff, South Wales. Cymru am Byth!!!

Very occasionally a journalist expresses an opinion which is in concert with everything I believe. Tom Gross did just that in an article published in the Wall Street Journal which he has now been asked to expand. Tom proves that the West Bank – with Israel's help, administrative knowledge and investment, is doing very nicely thank you. It proves that if we could be left alone to discuss our own discussions and settle our own disputes we would find a comfortable peace without demands which cannot and will not be met.

Barry Rubin told a great Israeli joke The UN secretary-general announces the creation of a great UN world soccer team, including all the member countries. "But", asks his deputy, "Then who would we play against?" "Well, Israel, of course," the secretary-general answers.

I went to Shouk Ramle on Monday. The stalls were still setting up and behind many of them men stood facing East and the Old City, putting on their Tefillin. It still amazes me and makes me so proud to see the freedom of performing a simple religious act.

The Tefillin Terrorist! I guess you all heard of the scare when a woman on a flight in the USA thought that a man's tefillin were a bomb. If you think that is funny the police spokesperson at the site said "the innocent man conducting his Jewish prayers simply put his OLEFACTORIES on is head and tied them to his hand"! Loved it!!!

Today is Tu b'Shvat, one of the four "New Years" of the Mishna. Children in every school in Israel go out to plant a tree. Not satisfied with the traditional dried fruits Israelis determinedly continue to make this the only country in the world with a yearly increase in trees.

Jerusalem is beautiful after the rains. The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is filling in the north and we watched the torrential floods in the Negev Desert in awe following the heavy rains of this week. It is truly amazing after 7 years of drought to see the waters flow from Jerusalem, 811 metres (2,660 feet) above sea level down the 15 miles through the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea 422 metres (1,385 ft) below sea level. Within a few weeks the desert will truly bloom as the thirsty but fertile sandy soil will bring forth latent seeds.

When I went on line to find you a video of the floods I was confronted by a site which claims that Israel – not Mother Nature – created the floods to try and drown Gaza!!!!

Thank you for your lovely notes and wishes for Zvi. He is now recovered and doing really well. He is feeling so much better that he no longer calls me "Florence Nightingale"!!!!

We wish you a Shabbat Shalom, a beautiful weekend and the strength to stand up and be proud of who and what you are. By continuing to be who we are and being the first and the best in any situation which demands aid, initiative, kindness and generosity can we hold out heads up high.

Spanish journalist and politician Pilar Rahola

I am not Jewish. Ideologically I lean to the left and I am a journalist. Why have I not adopted an anti-Israel stance like the majority of my European colleagues? It is because, since I am not Jewish, I know it is my historical responsibility to fight against hatred. Hatred of the Jews, and hatred of their homeland, which is Israel. The fight against anti-Semitism is not the Jews´s duty. It is the duty of the Gentiles. As a journalist, it is my duty to seek the truth, to go beyond prejudices, lies and manipulations. And the truth is not being told about Israel. Thus, as a person of the left who embraces progress, I am duty-bound to defend freedom, culture, peaceful coexistence, the civic education of children, and all of the principles that the The Tablets of the Law have rendered universal. Principles which Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. This means that, since I am a Gentile, a journalist and a leftist, I have a triple moral commitment to Israel. Because, if Israel were to be vanquished, then modernity, culture and freedom would also be crushed. Even though the world has failed to wake up to this fact, Israel’s struggle is the world’s struggle.
Thank you very much.
As the Hebrew saying says,

(Thanks to John Haddow of New Zealand for drawing my attention to this)

Shabbat Shalom to you all dear friends

With love from Jerusalem – most beautiful city in the world.


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Israel's disproportionate response - to Haiti


January 20th 2010.

Israel's disproportionate response.

Today, the 20th of January, is the 68th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference convened to discuss the details for the final solution for the Jewish people. Today – 68 years on Israeli soldiers not only defend the Jewish State but reach out their hands and knowledge to all people of the world in their time of need. What a lucky world that Wannsee did not succeed.

I am always proud to be Israeli but my heart is filled with pride for Israel and the various groups who made up the first response, aid, medical teams in Haiti. The IDF, IsraAid and Zaka have performed miracles. The IDF field hospital made seasoned journalists gasp in amazement and one American doctor when asked by the CNN journalist why Israel, a tiny country 7,000 miles away managed to create a tiny island of sanity in the disaster of Port O Prince responded "I can't explain it but it makes me feel embarrassed to be an American" Fox news Sky News ABC News CBS News ABC Miracle birth WABC Queens man rescued CNN Report- comparison by American doctors between what is available to them to save lives and the amazing Israeli field hospital with full equipment. BBC IDF site IsraAid

Israel's disproportionate response to Haiti in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) - go down page to Liz Lightstone, Senior Lecturer in Renal Medicine, Imperial College London Brilliant

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Shevua Tov


17th January 2010.

Shevu'a Tov

Our hearts went out to the people of Haiti – and not just our hearts. Israel has teams at the ready at all times to be the first response for disasters worldwide and the Israeli teams were ready to fly to Haiti to assist. I am so proud of the IDF search and rescue teams and the 40+ doctors and 400 other staff who flew to Haiti, landed on the supposedly inaccessible air-strip in an El Al aeroplane and set up a field hospital. I am also proud of Zaka teams who understood the essence of Pikuach Nefesh (saving a soul) is of ultimate importance, broke Shabbat and managed to save the lives of 8 people. Even CNN realised that the IDF were the heroes of the piece since everyone else just talked!!!



Arrival and work in Haiti

The rescue of a Government official


A few hours ago a happy event occurred in Haiti when a child was delivered in the field hospital and the name the proud parents chose for the baby? Israel!!!!

Zvi is recovering from surgery in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The staff are phenomenal; Israeli Jews and Arabs and Russian immigrants make up the medical teams from senior surgeons through department doctors, nurses and general staff. Each and everyone has proven to be caring and efficient. In the surgical waiting room for the families there is a screen showing the progress of the patient through anaesthetics, surgery, recovery and the time that the family can go to visit in recovery. In my enthusiasm for the surgery to be over I bought Zvi a huge Superman balloon and hung on to it for dear life for the long duration of the wait. As the doctor called my name to go in to see Zvi the balloon freed itself from its tethers and floated to the very high ceiling. Eight fully grown adults worked for ten minutes and finally retrieved the balloon so that it could take up its rightful place on Zvi's bed!!!!

The young Arab in the bed beside Zvi told us that he was driving his car without a licence which is why he didn't stop when challenged and wound up getting shot. We later found out he was drug-running!!! The care and attention he gets from the staff is equal to everyone else… although the Arab doctors make it clear they are not thrilled with him! On the other side of Zvi is a young Ethiopian from Ashkelon who is really unwell and no-one found his problem until he got to Hadassah. Opposite an elderly Haredi man who only spoke Yiddish and his American wife and daughter and beside him a marvelous Haredi doctor of psychology and his delightful wife. Yup – the full rainbow of humanity and out of the window…… Jerusalem Hills and the almond blossom!

Finally the real reason for this Shevu'a Tov –


Mazal Tov! Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles…… Thank G-d a million times that Kinneret Chaya not only lives – she thrives and enjoys every second of her truly miraculous motherhood!

Have a wonderful week

With all my love from a still mild but about to become a very wet Jerusalem!


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Shabbat Shalom letter


13th January 2010.

Shabbat Shalom

Today I choose to talk of cabbages and kings not of terror and anti-semitism. After the first paragraph this is a GOOD NEWS bulletin!!

I have to begin with the sad but inevitable news that Hamas has chosen to insist upon the raised bar and the talks to release Gilad Schalit are at an impasse. They demand the release of prisoners who have wreaked slaughter; planned and caused the deaths of Israeli citizens. The Israeli definition of these prisoners is those "who have blood on their hands". We cannot take the decision which creates such an enormous risk to the safety of all Israelis. As I told you, this is a Solomonic choice and we can only pray that a solution will be found and the family will be reunited.

I am thrilled, excited and delighted to report that George Galloway, the nauseating anti-War politician who was barred from the British Labour Party and walks around with a kaffiyah around his neck, was unceremoniously kicked out, expelled and exiled from Egypt after he took part in a demonstration against the Egyptian Wall along the border with Gaza. Galloway, in his blind defence of Palestinians, believes that Israel is guilty of ethnic cleansing. Israel should take a leaf out of Egypt's book and expel a few of his ilk!

The Tel Aviv Cluster by David Brookes is an Op-Ed in the New York Times. It is a marvelous analysis of Jewish achievement against all odds. You will notice that in addition to his gathered information and research he refers to Saul Singer and Dan Senor's bestseller Startup Nation

In a scene which befits the Keystone Cops, runners in the marathon around the beautiful Lake Kinneret were somewhat surprised to meet a full-grown crocodile in the road! At one point the fierce-looking but somewhat inert creature was guarded by policemen as the runners leapt to the sides, only to discover that it was a stuffed crocodile a somewhat inappropriate publicity stunt for the crocodile farm of Hamat Gader!!

As I sit here at my computer I can hear the loud music of the "Torah-mobile" as a family in the parallel road beneath us is clearly celebrating a brit-milah, a bar-mitzvah, engagement or wedding with the gift of a Sefer Torah to their synagogue. The torah-mobile, festooned with brightly flashing coloured lights and very large speakers, wends its way slowly from the home to the synagogue---followed by dancing children and adults carrying beacons on sticks to light the way. It is so joyous.

This is my favourite time of year in Jerusalem. The weather is always special and even when it rains we have the promise of sunshine on the newly washed sparkling white buildings. To celebrate my imminent birthday Dana and Betty took me for lunch at a wonderful restaurant in the village of Nes Harim where we ate on a deck suspended high above the Jerusalem Hills. The view was breathtaking as the hills hung like so many horizons in the mist with Jerusalem visible in the distance.

The view was so spectacular that the very next day, after dropping Zvi off at Hadassah Hospital for tests, I took our dearest friend Kim on a trip back to the Hills to see the pink clouds of wild almond blossom (shkediot) amongst the green fir trees as the hills rose majestically above us. Kim who came to Israel to see us, refresh his soul and escape the horrific cold of Western Canada – in that order! I pulled over to the side of the road beside the hikers trail up to Sataf when I saw the ultimate prize…. a group of beautiful wild cyclamen (rakafot) seemingly growing out of the rocks. From the beauty of the rakafot we went to have lunch in the Caffit restaurant in the botanical gardens of the Hebrew University. As we sat in the gentle winter sunshine beside the lake life seemed complete.

Kim managed to pack a great deal into this visit! I took him to see Shouk Ramle which he loved and he went with Zvi to the Old City to see old friends. He had meetings and made arrangements for his next visit – just a few months away this time!

This letter is an early Shabbat Shalom since tomorrow is both my birthday (not saying how old I will be but the Beatles wrote a song about it asking if you will still love me!!) and the day on which my lovely husband undergoes elective surgery which will hopefully change his life and health for the better. Please G-d it will all go as planned and he will be home safe and sound by the next letter. Zvi ben Leah Raviv – please.

In the meantime – Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem with love.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


7th January 2010.

Shabbat Shalom everyone.

News in brief

Egypt's Wall You may or may not have heard it on the news but Egypt is building a deep, wide, long and heavy "fence" between Egypt and Gaza, to prevent the digging of arms tunnels. Food and basic needs will still be provided by Israel and the aid groups, but arms and murderers will no longer have easy access through tunnels. Hamas and their followers are furious, their violent hold on the people of Gaza endangered, and they demonstrated next to the fence, throwing rocks, stones and other missiles at the Egyptian soldiers. Since they know only violence they shot an Egyptian soldier dead. I told you, this battle has nothing to do with Israel.

Britain's patience is snapping. This most open and tolerant of societies is paying dearly for its open doors. During a homecoming parade for soldiers fighting in Iraq a group of 7 Moslems stood and hurled foul abuse at the soldiers. They touched a very sensitive point and were immediately arrested. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan is not Vietnam; a war for survival against an enemy which is imposing its rotten credo upon us all.

We will all be affected by the attempt to blow Northwest 253 to smithereens over Detroit in the name of Allah. Current profiling will not work since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was Nigerian, was well travelled, well educated and came from a wealthy Moslem family so did not fit the bill. Little by little the world is recognising that Israel has it right - on many levels - but in particular our approach to airport security checks.

Yesterday Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon gave an excellent and detailed presentation entitled "Challenges for Israeli Foreign Policy" in which he explained the problems which face us all.

Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation will vote on a draft law by which every Member of Knesset will be obliged to pledge allegiance to the State of Israel. Arab MK El-Sana who enjoys absolute freedom, said: "Attempt to legitimize racism through legislation. We are citizens, not Zionists. Nor will we be." This potential abuse of his freedom, the ludicrous news that South Africa is considering arresting Israelis and cries of human rights abuses by Israel from the far left take on a new light when one sees real human rights abuses in the much lauded Saudi Arabia where racism extends to the lane one is allowed to travel on the highway.

Alan Dershowitz- The Case for Israel: Democracy's Outpost is without question one of the most important programmes ever made. The interviewees are carefully chosen and the emphasis is on what Israel does right not on the undoubted sins of our foes. Here are some clips
Buy it for your community; demand your politicians watch it. Screenings

'There are more new innovative ideas . . . coming out of Israel than there are out in [Silicon] Valley right now. And it doesn't slow during economic downturns." The authors of "Start-Up Nation," Dan Senor and Saul Singer, quoting an executive at British Telecom in the WSJ article. This book has succeeded in changing perceptions and shining a radiant light on Israel and Israelis in a way no amount of bewailing our fate can achieve.

Bravo to Howard Schultz of Starbucks for his incredible effort to raise money for AIDS research. Starbucks invited and collated people from 156 countries around the world to sing "All you Need is Love" simultaneously on December 7th

We have a wonderful friend who spent his life fighting Breast Cancer always looking for the treatment most beneficial and least invasive, travelling the world to explain why. Michael not only gives himself 1,000% to his life's work he still finds time to put forward the case for Israel in places that heed his words because of his reputation. Professor Michael Baum has been nominated for a major award by the British Medical Journal. I have no reservations in asking you to vote. This is the link to vote

We went to the Jerusalem Theatre to see an Israeli movie "5 Hours from Paris". Brilliantly executed the movie is subtle, sensitive and surprising I highly recommend seeing it.

Global Warming seems to be taking a break! One expects freezing temperatures from North America and Northern Europe but when hear that Florida's West Coast and Atlanta Georgia are cold…and that even London, usually protected from extreme temperatures, is snowed in, I begin to wonder if the whole scare is a political issue. Jerusalem is exceptionally beautiful right now. There is a chill in the air but even though it is cold (relatively) everyone is out walking because the sun is shining! Shouk Ramle was heaving with a myriad of shoppers, taking on the usual rainbow of characters and colours. I try to get there early, park, run in, buy and get out as fast as possible, but even the best laid plans of mice and men!! Today I may well go to Mahane Yehuda with my daughter Rachel, I thirst for the plethora of aromas, colours, and noisy banter and maybe will take her for coffee in one of the coffee shops. CafĂ© Hafuch is on the cards!

Life goes on sometimes joyous and sometimes very sad. My beautiful daughter-in-law Karen lost her adored and adoring father Claus this week. A gentle-man we will miss him. I wish I could be in the USA to hug Karen, Daniel, Ellen and all the family but I can't. I wish them a long life and pray that they will know no more sorrow. May his soul rest in peace.

Shabbat Shalom, I hope that the 12 days of Christmas were peaceful and thoughtful for you.

With much love from Jerusalem, glistening in the sun, centre of our world.