Friday, 31 December 2010

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

31st December 2010
Shabbat Shalom – and a happy happy new year.

Gosh, this year has been like a Chinese curse........ very interesting!!!!
The events that stand out fr me - in no particular order -
Former Israeli President Katsav was found guilty yesterday on two counts of rape and one of aggravated sexual harassment. The trial was held in camera with three judges who came to a unanimous decision. I am proud of our legal system, in Israel no-one is above the law, no crimes are swept under the carpet of diplomacy. As a hopeful augur of times to come the BBC reporter said that the trial showed what a healthy democracy Israel is.

The largest natural gas reserves ever were discovered off-shore by Israel. Apparently Moses knew exactly where he was going, and the Arab threat to drive us into the sea should have been a hint!!!!

Israel's economy is thriving while her detractors are still wallowing in a morass of fiscal disasters and terrorism threats. Christmas was deeply threatened in the USA, Germany, UK although the threat was thwarted. Now Denmark is threatened, both the newspaper which published the cartoons under threat and staff lives.

The fire in the Carmel Forest took the lives of 44 people. The fire itself was sad but the forest will regenerate with our help, the lives, lost through stupidity ,can never be recreated. The only positive is that we discovered that the world was willing to show us the same care we showed them and rushed to our help.

Israeli teams flew to Haiti the moment the extent of the tragedy was recognised. They are still there. Israeli police helped restore order, Israeli doctors heal the sick, Israeli bureaucrats helped restore civil authorities. We rush to every place that needs us.

The Mavi Marmara humanitarian ship was part of a flotilla to draw attention to the starving people of Gaza. There were more than a few errors of judgement. They were predominantly violent agitators; they had no real aid; Gaza doesn't need any aid; they took the ship apart to create weapons to beat the IDF within an inch of their lives; the IDF did not plan nor execute the boarding in a logical manner. It was a PR disaster in a world willing to accept untruths.

We sat glued to our television screens in fearful anticipation as the Chilean miners sang, exercised and spoke to their families while the rescue teams dug and dug - with unbelievable success.

Jesus was declared a Palestinian and the Temple Mount a Moslem site unrelated to Judaism or Christianity and Rachel's Tomb declared a Moslem Holy site – by the UN.

We got discovered in Dubai, not through the cameras as everyone thinks but through credit cards....... so dumb!

We joined the OECD and immediately went to the top in terms of our thriving economy.

We discovered viable options in the treatment of cancer and heart disease

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman says it like it is and the soft West doesn't like his truth. The good cop – bad cop act of Yvette and Bibi may not appeal to the PC sensibilities of the West but we live in a very nasty neighbourhood where standing tall and showing strength are the only defence.

This week we spent a delightful evening with Harry and Nancy Bloomfield from Montreal. Harry and Nancy are political opposites as far as Israel is concerned, Harry feels it important that we appear good in the foreign press and finds Avigdor Libermans direct approach offensive; Nancy says it is nobody's business except those whose sons and daughters fight for our country. Of course I am with Nancy, we need leaders who can stand up to our neighbours not those who look pretty on CNN.

Yesterday Saeeb Erekat, the Palestinian Chief Negotiator, spoke at a multi-cultural conference here in Jerusalem. I believe that peace will truly come when an Israeli negotiator is able to speak in front of a multi-cultural conference in Ramallah.... without being killed. Did you know that most of the top Palestinians enjoy the cuisine of the American Colony Hotel and the top, highly expensive restaurants in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Jerusalem?

Barmitzva buses are arriving in the thousands!!!! Families from around the world are running bar mitzva tours. The children have fun and the parents ensure their sense of continuity through a deep contact with their roots.
Weddings here are fun too! Some are humungeous, some are just family and close friends. The wedding of our friends Madeleine and Martins daughter Orly and her delightful new husband Lior was very special. It wasn't the food or even the lovely intimate hall, it was the incredible sense of joy and fun and love that the families brought with them. I even danced!!!!

2010 was Israels best tourism year ever! Our family is increasing the numbers in the new year as my eldest son Daniel, his lovely wife Karen, adorable little boy Joshy and his loved mother in law Ellen are coming to stay with us this week. I am so excited!!! It means that I can walk through the Old City , the Israel Museum, the Biblelands, the Zoo, the Bloomfield Science Museum, Little Israel and of course.........Mahane Yehuda. It is strange how the sights and smells of that magical place capture ones imagination. Nancy Bloomfield said she was standing in the middle of Mahane Yehuda and all my description were rushing through her mind as she turned to see the colours of the succulent vegetables and fruits, the heady aroma of the spices and of course the yelling of the costermongers “Yalla Yalla – best in town only 10 shekels”. I love it!!!

We are starting 2011 with joyous occasions, my family coming here and us going to Florida to be with our “other “ family for the Lindenfeld Double Barmitzva of Ilan and Jeremy. It seems like forever since we spent time with them and we miss them so much so this is the perfect opportunity! Zvi will go to see his family in San Diego and Mexico City but I am resting after my ankle break – it is much better but needs a little time without chasing around!!!

Christmas came and a record number of Christians came to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to celebrate. It was beautiful.

My wishes for 2011,
I wish for less knee jerk loyalties in the world, more reasoned expectations understanding of democratic and strategic alliances and a vision of true friendship.
I wish that the democracies of the world would defend themselves and their rights and stop their false concern for those who claim to be oppressed yet become the oppressors of their hosts.

My resolutions for 2011
To stand up to bullies and be ready to stand up and fight for the cashier or clerk with the same vigour that I defend my country because they are my country.
To remember that there are people like Malcolm Hedding, Malcolm Hoenlein, Canon Andrew White, Irwin Cotler, Alan Dershowitz, Ileana Ros Lehtinen and of course Itamar Marcus in this world and emulate their incredible determination for Tikun Olam.
To tell those I love that I love them – at least once a day.
To use my ears and mouth in the relative ratio, just as my Mummy used to teach us

My wishes for 2011 are epitomised in this song -Tshmor al ha Olam Yeled – Child, take care of this world because we aren't capable

Jerusalem is slowing down already. The rain has washed the dust of the last few weeks away leaving the buildings glistening. The shiny roads are emptying, the buses heading off to the nearby bus depot and the Kurdiwsh families sit down to their kubeh soup. Salads of every nature, none of them with lettuce, are set out on heaving tables – Matbucha, Turkish salad, hummous, finely diced vegetables with chopped mint and lemon, couscous salads and the inevitable piping hot mushroom and spice salad which sits atop the humous..... alongside vegetables stuffed with spicy meat and rice, wonderful chamin or cholent and of course good old chicken soup with fluffy kneidlach.........

I wish you a truly wonderful and delicious Shabbat with people who love you. I wish you peace, joy, fulfillment and pride in who you are and the strength to shout it from the rooftops.

Shabbat Shalom from the most amazing, fascinating, spiritually satisfying city in the world


Friday, 24 December 2010

Shabbat Shalom Yuletide Sameach letter from Jerusalem

24th December 2010

Shabbat Shalom and Joyous Yuletide to all

Today we have almost entirely good news which seems appropriate to the date!

One piece of good news raised a huge question in my mind. Police and Secret Services both in the US and UK succeeded in finding and arresting some of those who planned major terror attacks over Christmas in the UK, Germany, France and the USA. The attacks were to take place in major population centres while people were either celebrating or shopping. That is the good news indeed, the bad news is that there is such evil in this world that Islamic fundamentalism chose to kill Christmas. It is clear that this is Islamic terror yet somehow it is non-PC to say so or to engage in ethnic profiling for either investigations or preventive security yet it has become quite PC to be anti-Semitic and anti-Israel despite the fact that we are not to blame for any of this indeed are at the sharp end of both sticks receiving hate from the street and censure from governments who should know better!! What contrary ethics bring our world to such conclusions I cannot even begin to understand.

Wikileaks is about to leak some new American documents relating to Israel, lets hope that the release of these internal documents will allow us to know what the US really thinks about Israel, her only ally in the entire region. Hopefully it will not be detrimental to our relationhsip. Especially after Condi's document saying Israel blew up the Syrian reactor (and if we did, and I am not saying a word, Kol ha Kavod!)

One beam of light at the end of this tunnel is the wonderful Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman, who is now rightfully one of the most powerful women in the world. Ileana knows Israel well after more visits than she can count, yet remains a fair and honest arbiter. Ileana is a no nonsense, feisty, determinedly honest politician at a time when everyone kow tows either to oil money or to the State Department; she will not tow anybody's line rather make her own judgements. Ileana Ros Lehtinen, friend, Zvi and I wish you Mazal tov and the strength to continue your path of determination to recognise just who is Americas ally and who her enemy.

About two weeks ago it came to our attention that the bus services of a suburb of Seattle were to carry a highly emotive message condemning Israel's actions in Gaza. The campaign has been rejected. This decision came following yesterday's meeting of Jewish community leaders with senior members of the King County Executive's office and Metro Transit management about the potential threat to the Seattle-area Jewish community, after over 2,000 emails, and after numerous organizations, including StandWithUs, announced plans to run ads either countering this ad and/or promoting the positives of Israel.
The biggest thank you here goes to all of you who responded to the StandWithUs Northwest alerts and flooded the King County government with emails and phone calls. Kol HaKavod!! Great job!
Write to Dow Konstantine, King County Executive to thank him and his council

As always, Barry Shaw captures what we all know in a few punchy words. This week his analogy of neighbours is exactly what I say about Israel and HER neighbours! A short and good read.

Not everything is rosey in Israel. We have some extremists here too although they do not preach terror and destruction, I find the idea that city Rabbis ban their congregants from renting homes to non-Jews abhorrent. That Moslems do so to both Christians and Jews in Arab towns both inside Israel and most certainly in the Arab countries is not an example I would wish to emulate. Equally the attempt at political blackmail by certain parties in the coalition not to recognise IDF conversions brings a sense of despair. It will not help but the attempt is a disgrace.

This week I have been out and about much more. Still not to markets but doing good things. Last night we went to a phenomenal concert at the Jerusalem Theatre, an invited audience to a concert in honour of KKL and played by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in its full glory! The programme was outstanding and the young Conductor, no the “child” conductor Daniel Cohen was impressive. They played Sibelius, Smetana, Mark Lavri and Vivaldis Four Seasons, so appropriate to the KKL's work. It was truly breathtaking. Persuade your city to invite this orchestra and feel yourself burst with pride.

At first we had amazing seats, middle centre, but of course I still need to stretch my leg out, otherwise it becomes rather uncomfortable so we moved down to the front row, suddenly seeing the expressions of the musicians, Russian faces, Israeli faces, Dutch faces, Italian faces all content with the evenings programme of delightfully melodic pieces. From our new vantage point I noticed shoes in a forest of legs. Obviously black shoes but there were winklepicking pleated ones and squared toed shiny ones; Laced and elastic, slip-on and boots; unpolished crackly ones and high heel fashion ones; unkempt and perfectly maintained; I tried to work out if the fiddlers were neater than the trombonists but it was so mixed there was no rhyme nor reason.....except of course for the patent leather shoes of the conductor jumping and tapping excitedly before my eyes. I felt it a fine lesson in humanity. We do not fit any categories or boxes, we are each different and as with shoes we all have a specific usefulness and comfort levels, some pinchingly “in” style and some just comfortable, but in a diverse fashion all equally pertinent and equally valid.

The days are shorter and the nights longer and Jerusalem's City council and KKL are handing out free Christmas trees to her Christian community; the government has made it easy for Christians to come to both Jerusalem and Bethlehem from the PA and Gaza easing restrictions and enabling them to come and celebrate this Holy time as they should and where they wish. It is a difficult time for Christians all over the Middle East but at least there is one country where they are free to pray and celebrate, right here in Israel. The road between the Talpiot neighbourhood and Bethlehem (Derech Bet Lehem – Bethlehem Road) is lit up with Christmas decorations to ensure a festive atmosphere for Christians on their way to Manger Square.

My dear friend Yitzchok sent me a note reminding me that there is nothing new under the sun. Each day in his synagogue Kind Davids 83rd Psalm is said – so relevant to our lives today and why we are here.
As fire consumes the forest, as the flame sets the mountains ablaze, Carmel forest tragedyso may you pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your hurricane! Which hit the beaches of Israel

Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O Lord. Recent wikileaks about Iran

Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace,

that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.

We wish you a truly wonderful weekend, however you celebrate and whatever you celebrate. As we reach a new year, twenty eleven, let's pray for a reawakening of understanding, acceptance and that oh so important word SOVLANUT- tolerance.

Hey, you wouldn't kill someone for wearing different shoes would you?

Shabbat Shalom and Yuletide Sameach
With much love

Friday, 17 December 2010

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

Friday, 17th December, 2010

Shabbat Shalom and a wonderful Advent as the Christian world joyously moves toward Christmas Festivities

The United States feels that it is far from the fighting in the Middle East yet Ahmedinejads proxy is right on their doorstep and building an arsenal that should really concern the United States Government and the people of the USA. Chavez is not a joke, Chavez is a very, very dangerous megalomaniac who is willing to lie down with snakes to gain world domination.
Chavez gets better missiles

“Decoy Jew” is a new phrase in the Netherlands. Jews are no longer safe in major Dutch cities such as Amsterdam. Since 1999, Jewish organizations in the Netherlands have been complaining that Jews who walk the Dutch streets wearing skullcaps risk verbal and physical attacks by young Muslims. Being insulted, spat at or attacked are some of the risks associated with being recognizable as a Jew. It is often said that the Jews are the canary in the coalmine. When the Jews feel compelled to leave, the light of freedom is being extinguished. Something is badly wrong when the police need to deploy “decoy Jews.” Once again, the spectre of anti-Semitism is haunting Europe. If the Europeans do not stand with the Jews, they deserve no freedom themselves and cities such as Amsterdam and Antwerp will soon be Islamic cities.

Kissinger, Court Jews and Anti-Semites by Isi Leibler

Few would be shocked with details of further anti-Semitic outbursts by former president Richard Nixon revealed in the latest transcripts of tapes released from the Nixon library. He was a vulgar man whose foul mouthing extended beyond Jews to Afro-Americans, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans and other ethnic groups.

It is nevertheless ironic that Nixon's name tends to enrage most Jews who view him as an evil psychotic, whilst they continue to adore President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who during the Holocaust, denied entry to the US to Jews who could have been saved and was personally responsible for vetoing all efforts to intervene on behalf of European Jews being butchered by the Nazis. In fact, one could say that he acted in accordance with the Kissinger formula that "putting Jews into gas chambers was not an American concern."..............

To me, Nixon was the president who, despite his unsavory character and negative traits, will be recorded in history as the leader who during the 1973 Yom Kippur War overruled his Jewish Secretary of State who sought to delay arms to Israel in order to boost Sadat and make Israel more pliable in negotiating with the Egyptians. Nixon's massive weapons airlift provided Israel with desperately needed arms. That he harbored dark prejudices against American Jews [who voted overwhelmingly against him] but admired Israelis, is ultimately of minor consequence. We should remain eternally grateful to him for having avoided countless additional Israeli casualties and possibly even having averted a disaster for the Jewish State.

Richard Holbrooke, American Diplomat supreme, who achieved the Dayton Accords which brought an end to the war in Bosnia, passed away this week. Dore Gold considers how very different the Middle East would look - If Holbrooke had been given the Israel-Palestinian file.

MK David Rotem was furious that the IDF conversions supervised by the Chief Rabbi of the IDF were being undermined by Rabbis whose children never went into the army or served Israel. His bill received a vast majority in the Knesset vote to accept IDF conversions. It is not acceptable that young people serve their country in IDF yet become second class citizens and have their conversions revoked retroactively.
Rabbis, raise your voices against extremism Isi Leibler

While Israel is handing out free Christmas trees, and the Mayor of Jerusalem and Prime Minister Netanyahu are meeting and greeting leaders of Jerusalems 52 Christian denominations and preparing Jerusalem for the influx of Christian Tourism for the Holy Festival of Christmas; in almost all other countries in the Middle East Christians are oppressed and even killed.

Even more terrifying is the evidence given by captured Al Qaeeda operatives in Iraq of concrete plans for terror attacks in Europe and the USA over the Christmas period. Foul plans to kill on this joyous occasion makes me angry. When will we wake up? When will the idiotic need to kowtow, fawn and lick the boots of those very countries which threaten our very existence end?

Finally and at last I have been venturing out and meeting people again as my ankle allows me to do more and more things. It was so exciting for me to finally meet Barry Shaw and his beautiful wife Carol who came to the Inbal Hotel for the Honest Reporting conference (which I didn't make!). Barry is a wonderful writer and “hasbara” man who lives in Netanya – he wrote the now famous letter about Boycotting Israel -
On Monday we were invited by Albert Dadon AM, Chairman of the Australia Israel Leadership Forum to a Dinner at the King David Hotel. Among the guests were Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the wonderful Australian Ambassatrix to Israel Andrea Faulkner. Paul Israel is the appropriately named representative of the Forum in Israel and does a grand job of putting everything together. The event was greatly oversubscribed but it was to our advantage since we found ourselves at the same table as Itamar Marcus, one of my hasbara heroes, who runs the outstanding Palestinian Media Watch. I am happy to tell you that Itamar has decided to take on the plight of Christians in the Middle East as one of the NGO's projects.

On Tuesday we went to our lovely friends the Resslers in Tel Aviv for an amazing dinner at which we met a lovely couple from Texas here to set up the Israeli gas prospecting, the President of the Diplomatic Women and just delightful people. Life is becoming so much more than my bed and the orthopaedic surgeon!!!

Jerusalem is closing down. Zvi has gone to a rehearsal for his choir and I have finished the cooking and preparation for Shabbat. The bright skies are turning a gentler blue and the skyline becomes sharper as the sun goes down in the sky. The horrendous rains and sandstorms of last weekend are past and the city is sparkling again. The aromas rise and every Kurdish Israeli sits down to a Friday lunch of Kubeh soup, the aroma of Chicken soup and kneidlach sit on my senses together with the stuffed vegetables and spicy fish of the Eastern Jews. Life here is amazing, as varied as the culinary delights! Next week I will hopefully tell you of my visit to Shouk Mahane Yehuda with Judith.
I wish you a Shabbat Shalom and peaceful Sabbath, and pray that we will all have a truly joyous holiday period whereby our enemies will be recognised and the world will understand that the battle has nothing to do with a few houses being built in Jerusalem
With much love


Friday, 10 December 2010

Letter from Jerusalem - Carmel Forest fire

10th December 2010

Shabbat Shalom! Todays letter will be just a little different from the usual info-mail, since I am in a strange, rather maudlin state of mind. Last week stupidity started the dreadful fire in the Carmel Forest Park, when a 14 year old from the village of Usfiya, bunked off school to smoke a nargila (hubble bubble), finished smoking and simply threw the coals and silver paper away. He ran scared the moment he saw the start of the conflagration, scared that he would be blamed, he didn't tell anyone. Of course the tinder dry brush and trees burst into flame and the winds carried it further and further.
A teenage folly turned into a national tragedy with 42 dead and two horribly burned. Haifa's police Chief Ahuva Tomer died of her woulds sustained while trying to help the firefighters and prison warders who perished in the bus succumbed to her injuries only after the fire was out. The national tragedy became a test of friendship as the most surprising countries came to our aid, including the PA, Egypt and Jordan and the Bulgarians became the favourites. The real heroes however were our own firefighters, police and first responders who put their lives on the line for days on end without thought of their own safety, leading the hundreds of overseas firefighters who came to help. In their excitement at the countries who came to our aid, the media hype seemed to gloss over our own heroes who lost 40 of their own. When the skies opened and the rains came down the day after the huge supertanker flew over the fires many people thought that the heavens were laughing at us but I believe that G-d waited to see who came to Israel's aid in her time of need before putting out the flames.

Incredibly a love story came out of the flames. He is Swiss Air Force's deputy commander; she is an Israeli from Rosh Haayin. They met two years ago, but Carmel disaster rekindled their love as he arrived to help fight wildfire. Now, Colonel Stefan Balsiger plans to move to Israel for good,7340,L-3996074,00.html

Benjamin Netanyahu - 'As the fire that burns the forest, and as the flame that sets the mountains ablaze.' This past week...we saw it in all its strength....on Mt. Carmel, where the prophet Elijah brought down fire from Heaven... brave people from all over the world came to help Israel in this hour of need and joined our brave firefighters and police... The People of Israel are an ancient people with long memories.
If you wish to donate to Israel's firefighters

At the foot of this letter I will give you the emails of newspapers in the assisting countries to write and thank them for their help.

When I asked you to write to Canadian Prime Minister Harper after his statement that Canada would stand by Israel no matter what the cost you responded. I was delighted to hear that Mr Harpers office replied to each and every one of you. It seems that Mr Harper is a true friend and a true statesman.

The support of Mr Harper and Australias Julia Gillard has been soured by the EU and South American countries who have declared support for the PA. They do not live with the pain of being bombed daily or hearing calls for our destruction among denials of our right to the Temple Mount, Rachels Tomb or any of the major Judeo/Christian sites. They hear calls for Israel to stop building in the disputed territories yet do not demand a stop to Palestinian attacks; the uproar over civic Rabbis demand that Jews do not sell homes to Arabs in Jewish areas (which horrified me) was not met with similar dismay at the Arabs who beat up a Jewish family that wanted to buy in an Arab neighbourhood.

One should choose ones friends with care, knowing that one will be identified with their principles. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has expressed his personal support for the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, who is responsible for the genocide in Darfur.

We are the most innovative country, a giving country which sends her scientists and agronomists to help build third world countries into viable self-sustaining entities yet we are called racists.......... indeed the standards by which we are judged is inverse morality where the greatest criminals of human rights are the policemen of human rights at the UN.

Tonight the real rain will fall, the exceptionally hot autumn and winter temperatures will swoop downward and snow will fall on the Hermon and maybe even here in Jerusalem! The storms will bring respite to the parched earth and water to the Kinneret. Maybe it will refresh the air and wash away the tears as Israel once again rises as a Phoenix and begins to plant her trees......... after all Israel is the only country in the world to increase the number of trees consistently each year thanks to the KKL.

This has been a sad week, dear friends have passed on and it makes one understand just how precious our loved ones are and how easily we take them for granted. Remember to tell your family how precious they are to you and make your Shabbat even more blessed.

With much love from Jerusalem, still sunny but cooling down.

Palestinian Authority

UK Guardian
USA NY Times

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Letter from Jerusalem - Carmel Forest fire


2nd December 2010

This morning the fire department of Haifa and the Carmel Forest region were informed of a forest fire which began in several separate areas, suggesting arson. They raced to prevent the fire spreading but could not succeed. The flames spread toward kibbutzim and moshavim, villages and towns all of which had to be evacuated now there is concern for the Druze town of Tirat ha Carmel.

The exceptionally dry autumn and winter mean that this exquisite nature reserve was tinder dry ensuring the effectiveness of any arson attempt. Fire crews arrived from all over Israel to no avail. The authorities realised that one of Israels jails was in the line of the flames and decided to evacuate the prisoners to other prisons. The difficult exercise involved bringing in warders and warder cadets from other areas to assist. As the bus travelled road number four the flames suddenly engulfed the bus and 40 warders and cadets lost their lives. Following closely behind the bus was Major General Ahuva Tomer, Haifa Police Chief. The Major General is fighting for her life with over 80% burns.

Our fire brigades have exhausted their resources and currently we await assistance from Italy, Cyprus and Greece.

This fire is the worst in Israel's history, but is not the first that has started in suspicious circumstances.

Prime Minister Netanyahu declared a national state of emergency calling an emergency meeting with the fire, police, ambulance, IDF, and all first response orgnaisations to take combined action against the fire. Mr Netanyahu has asked for help from all the friendly nations nearby and for the United States to send any firefighting aircraft that can reach us in time.
President Peres asked us all to pray for a new Chanuka miracle that this fire will cease.

Druze Member of Knesset Ayoub Kara spoke with anger of the lives of Israels finest lost due to a diabolical crime of arson “Whoever did this should receive the death penalty”.

Israel is burning and praying that even a few of those nations we have helped will return the favour.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanuka Sameach as we face yet another trial.