Friday, 27 May 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from jerusalem


27th May 2011

Shabbat shalom dear friends
How are you? I hope you are well and looking forward to fine weather, sunshine and kinder times.

Rarely have I heard a more varied set of opinions than those concerning President Obama's speech prior to Prime Minster Netanyahu's arrival at the White House! He certainly dropped a "J" bomb when he suggested "retreating" to the '67 borders… could it be that he doesn't realize that means us giving Jerusalem, the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Western Wall, Southern Wall, Ofel, Temple Mount and all the Christian sites that we negotiated with Jordan in exchange for peace after a mere 19 years that they were in Arab hands? Does he understand that there is no Palestinian people? Does he include my husband and many of his friends born into Mandate Palestine. When freezing building in the "settlements" he went further than Abu Mazen could have dreamed. We need YOUR voice to shout out to your representatives. Pastor Leo Giovinetti did it with his flock, now I want you and your synagogues and churches to do the same.

If you doubt the power of one look at the site of Philippe Karsenty of France. He fought against France 2 television after their rigging of the Mohammed Al Dura piece that convinced the world that a child was intentionally killed by IDF fire, when in fact he was not killed and there was no Israeli fire! Monsieur Karsenty fought, appealed and won; not that anyone on the Western media told you but France 2 is guilty of rigging a news item to intentionally disinform their viewers against Israel.
Philippe is now running for Mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine Sarkozy's former constituency, and he needs the votes of anyone with French citizenship overseas. Go to his Facebook site and find out how!

I met Philippe through Barry and Carol Shaw. Barry and Carol came to Jerusalem with four purposes. To hold a meeting with Philippe; to be introduced by me to meet and discuss hasbara with Jurgen Buhler the delightful new Director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem in their phenomenally beautiful home; to promote his excellent new book ISRAEL - RECLAIMING THE NARRATIVE and of course, to stand on our veranda to see the view.

I know that Jurgen Buhler will do a fantastic job because his heart is in the right place and his belief in Israel unquestionable. The outgoing Director, Rev. Malcolm Hedding is off to the United States but hardly leaving the Embassy behind and certainly continuing his incredible advocacy of Israel. Malcolm has spoken out for Israel for many years but of late the idea that Israel is an apartheid state has incensed him above all other accusations. A former South African who fought Apartheid with all his heart Malcolm is insulted that a free society such as Israel be compared to that oppressive and foul regime – thus insulting the Africans who fought so hard for their freedom. Malcolm, we wish you great success, happiness, fulfillment and await your return to the Jerusalem you love so much.

How can one compare the Palestinian Authority to Israel? An impossible question so vast its responses. I was taught that a society is as good as the way they treat their weakest members. These next two videos will explain that difference with need for further explanations. The first tells the story of a child with special needs taunted and persuaded to walk toward a group of IDF soldiers with an explosive belt strapped to himself and a detonator in his hand. The soldiers saw the belt, ducked and then gently took the button from his hand, disarmed him and took him to an Israeli hospital
The 2nd talks of Muhammad Kunbar and Jafar Tawil from the Arab neighbourhood of Beit Tsafafa, Jerusalem, mentally challenged young men who will represent Israel in the Special Olympics in Athens playing tennis.
One could point to the difference in the treatment of women, the IDF has appointed Major General Orna Barbiviai, mother of 3, the first Major General in the IDF

It's Maccabi time again! I love it when dear friends arrive from all over the world and gather in Kfar Maccabiah amid great celebration. The purpose is to plan the next Maccabiah but the warmth and joy of the Maccabiah family is exceptional. Allen and Maida Gerskup are here from Toronto and came to Jerusalem to see us before the big celebrations begin. They requested lunch in the Botanical Gardens, after my descriptions and were not disappointed! Not only did we get lots of OTH tasters because our neighbours daughter, the beautiful Gal, is a waitress there while studying, but because they know me! We sat beside the lake on a glorious balmy day, Oreganetto, sweet potato salads huge before us, and watched the display of children in various colour hats carrying Israeli and Jerusalem flags. As we left our delicious fare, Zvi stopped to ask one child from where they came. "Taibeh" was the response. Taibeh is an Israeli Arab town in the north of the country and here they were with their school, loving every moment of celebrating Jerusalem Day! Where are CNN and the BBC when you need them?

Jerusalem Day, a proud moment in our history when after 19 years of Jordanian rule Jerusalem was taken in a fierce series of battles culminating in the words of Motte Gur "Har haBayit beyadenu" The Temple Mount is in our hands. In the words of Chief of Staff Yitzchak Rabin
“I felt truly shaken and stood there murmuring a prayer for peace. Motta Gur’s paratroopers were struggling to reach the Wall and toudh it. We stood among a tangle of rugged, battle-weary men who were unable to believe their eyes or restrain their emotions. Their eyes were moist with tears, their speech incoherent. The overwhelming desire was to cling to the Wall, to hold on to that great moment as long as possible.”

Last night we went to Mamilla for supper with Deidre and Keith Beville who are here with The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council under the Directorship of Colin Rubenstein ‏ It was delightful sitting, talking about the world in the CafĂ© outside the very house that Theodore Herzl stayed in when he visited Jerusalem to speak with Kaiser Wilhelm; in the glorious city that we longed for and redeemed, on a wonderful soft Jerusalem evening with the full rainbow of humanity passing by in absolute freedom.

Gosh I am a lucky woman.
Shabbat Shalom and a memorable Jerusalem Day
With much love from Jerusalem, heart of our world

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Update letter - PM Netanyahus speech to Congress

24th may 2011

Benjamin Netanyahu's Speech before Congress may 24th 2011 received 50 rounds of applause and 30 standing ovations – yes I counted every one!!!! As you know I have not always been a fan of our current Prime Minister while never doubting his ability to speak brilliantly but today he said what is on our heart – OUR heart and I was very proud.
He said that we want peace above all but not at any price. We want recognition of our existence, we do not and will not give up on our capital city, we are the only democratic country in the Middle East and ironically the only Arabs who are free to demonstrate against their government are those who live in Israel! There were three subjects he did not raise which surprised me but it was a genius speech and his humour won the Congress.

My eyes were on Joe Biden whose hands were clearly seen behind the PM as he spoke. Mostly he applauded politely, several times he held himself back by grasping his hands together but ultimately his personal views broke through and he applauded heartily and then he stood to acknowledge the PM's words.

President Obamas speech prior to the PM's visit to the White House – don't be too quick to decry his words– look at them carefully and you will see that he is not giving into the Palestinians, indeed his words were careful but he made it clear that any land exchanges must ensure Israel's security and must include their recognizing the Jewish State of Israel. It appeared that his speech before AIPAC was softer because he had a Jewish audience but in fact that speech was also going before an American audience and he was very aware of the impact of those words too.

Prime Minister Netanyahu speech before AIPAC

Finally a small contribution by me -Let Obama come to Mahane Yehuda and see the freedom of all the incredible varieties that make up Jerusalems rainbow of people. When I can achieve that same freedom in our neighbouring countries I will be ready to talk to them.

With much love from a very proud Jerusalemite
As Bibi said "Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism."

Friday, 20 May 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from jerusalem

20th may 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear Friends. I decided, taking into consideration the current situation in the Middle East and the abominable misreading of the cultural, political, strategic and logical map by our world leaders, to see if you are more knowledgeable than they are and if you are, to understand why you aren't doing something about it? When was the last time you wrote to or lobbied your local politicians or congressmen about Israel? I am not talking about demonstrations because although they catch the headlines they don't get anything done! Anyway – I thought I would give you a question and answer test, not exactly multiple choice but you do have a choice of answer – then you get to hear what wonderful things happened in Jerusalem this week!!!! OK here goes!

1. Just one country was ever ratified by the United Nations and subsequently the condition that its borders be "safe and defensible" was added
Was it a) the Palestinian Authority or b) Israel
2. One "country" has in its declared statement of intent the complete annihilation of the other. Is it a) Israel or b) The Palestinian Authority
3. One country has successfully absorbed over 1,000% of its population all of whom were refugees from persecution and terror, at least 30% from Arab countries, while the other is the only "country"? in the world whose inhabitants are considered refugees for ever while those who flee dire and real oppression are not more than 2 years! Was it a) Israel or b) the Palestinian Authority
4. Which country has constantly given aid to the other and helped industry, agriculture, infrastructure and habitation of the other country even while under threat of terror attacks? The Palestinian Authority or Israel?
5. Was it Israel or the Palestinian Authority that sent rescue and medical teams to every corner of the earth when help was needed irrespective of diplomatic relations? A) Israel b) Palestinian Authority
6. Which country has complete religious freedom written into its laws and constitutional precepts and which country persecutes and kills Christians and has made their undeclared country Judenrein…. Sorry that one is obvious – no choice!
7. Which country has lied consistently and used Nazi material and cartoons to dehumanise and even demonise the Jews and the Jewish State? Israel or Palestine
8. Which country has a full democratically elected government without coercion or threats to those who demur? Israel or Palestine
9. Which country has taken the suffering of its inhabitants, from oppression in the past and terror in the present, and turned it into a productive, giving, economically successful country filled with initiative and innovation? Duh!!!
10. Which capital city has been ignored and diminished by constant governments by their refusal to place their Embassies in the Capital of the Jewish State despite, in the case of the USA a virtually unanimous vote in the Senate to do so? Jerusalem was never the Ottoman capital city – so it is not a return or they would have chosen Ramleh!!! Ooops sorry didn't give you the option of answering!
11. What is the only Jewish State in a sea, no an ocean of Islamic States?
12. Which country is an actual country with a centre of government and full civil service together with all the bureaucracy that comes with it and which country has been too busy hating to build anything including to form a country with viable leaders?
13. Finally – lucky thirteen. Which country would you want to live in? Want as your neighbour? Want to learn from? Want to live in? want to set as an example ot our children as to how they should look to the future with a strong and proud identity?


Ok – tirade over. I just don't understand why President Obama, who is clearly a clever man, would allow his State Department advisors to influence him to the extent that he really believes that the Pals are the beleaguered ones and Israel the aggressor!!!!

This week Zvi and I have been sorting through his parent's apartment and found the most incredible things. Quite apart from his birth certificate and his parents curfew night permits from the Mandate period – again declaring them as Palestinians – we found letter from Alas parents and her friends in Lodz written in Polish, exquisite tiny autograph books in which her school friends wrote little signatures and messages; both Kalman and Alas medals and ribbons from their Hagana service during the War of Independence; photographs from Ala's high school, the Gimnasia Lodz; breathtaking documents all which we need to go through, separate and put into albums and decide what goes to Yad Vashem, what goes to the Museum of the Diaspora and what stays in the family. Such incredible lives representative of a generation that understood why Israel must exist and thrive, people who lost everything because there wasn't a Jewish State and who survived because they were prepared to fight for one, but not just anywhere, right here where we started from.

The weather has changed and the warmth is creeping into our days although the nights are still very crisp. Children roam the streets searching out any burnable piece of wood, loading supermarket trolleys with their treasures and heading off to any available clearing. Tomorrow night is l'ag b'Omer
The 33rd day of the counting of the Omer – precedent for Lent – which, despite the somber time of mourning between Passover and Shevuot we celebrate the saving of the disciples or students of Rabbi Akiva from a plague which raged throughout the area.

In Israel it is an excuse for a party – of course – and for children to stay up all night while eating the burnt offering otherwise known as barbeques. Parents occasionally drop in but once they reach the age of 8 or 9 they take care of each other, most staying close to home. Children here are safe, they are very independent and love to feel that they are "grown up" enough to be out all night. Bonfires and singing in true cumzitz style – from my perch above Jerusalem I see the bonfires like a myriad of stars on the ground, the air redolent with burning wood and sausages!

Don't forget dear friends, most of our religious festivals and celebrations are because we fought back and so survived – we have to pre-empt and make sure that everyone in the free world can answer the 13 questions properly without hesitation and don't make the mistake of thinking that it is not worth standing up because you are only one…………… if all the ones stood together and yelled we could make one heck of a din!!!! THE POWER OF ONE IS HUGE – THE POWER OF LOTS OF ONES IN UNIMAGINABLE.

Shabbat Shalom dear wonderful friends
With much love from Jerusalem our Capital City

Friday, 13 May 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from jerusalem

Friday 13th May, 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, I hope this missive finds you well.

Isn't it strange how quickly one falls back into the swing of life? Zvi gets up at 05:30 each morning to go to morning prayers and will continue to do so for the next 11 months. He prays 3 times a day, chanting the mourners prayer as his father did for his brother and he did for his father, a last mark of respect for his late mother. Traditions are so important to Jewish continuity – if we do not continue with the traditions of our parents to teach our children, who will remember or respect them?

The headline says it all Satisfaction and stupefaction after Demjanjuk trial
Observers at the trial of John Demjanjuk expressed relief at the verdict, but many were stunned when the court ordered Demjanjuk’s release on the grounds of his age shortly afterwards. This most foul of human beings would have used his advanced age and health as an excuse to torture, slaughter and then burn people and should be treated accordingly.

Nakba or catastrophe is what the Israeli Arabs call Israel's Independence. A bill just passed in the Knesset so that public money could not be used to fund anti-Israel demonstrations – even riots – in Arab villages and towns across the country. They, of course, suggest that such action is anti-democratic- I say it is self-preservation and logical. Imagine demonstrations in the USA against commemorating 9/11 or American Independence!

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes no bones about his support for Israel. It cost him a position in the UN and he has absorbed discontent from some countries but he is a leader of a democratic country that supports the only democratic country in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement to mark Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) celebrations:

“Today, on the 63rd anniversary of Israel’s independence, I extend warm regards to the many Canadians who are celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut.

“Since its creation in 1948, the world has witnessed Israel’s unwavering dedication to affirm its right to exist and to achieve peace and security with its neighbours.

“This day offers an opportunity to remember the constant struggles facing Israel and its citizens, and to reaffirm our commitment to strengthen the bonds of our partnership. Through trade, investment and the exchange of knowledge in areas such as innovation, green technology, medicine and law, our nations can continue to grow together.

“Our Government understands the realities of the Middle East and we will not falter in our continued support of Israel, Canada’s friend and ally, in defending the values that both nations share – freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

“As we celebrate the creation of the State of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, I call on all Canadians to wish them peace and prosperity in the year ahead.”

Mr Harper leads Canada with his conscience not with an eye on the next election. Thank you Sir, thank you for being a true friend. To write to him

Former Speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzik wrote a short article for the Jerusalem Post "10 good reasons to love Israel". Personally I could find hundreds but I thoroughly enjoyed her lighthearted thoughts for Independence Day.

Most of the cast of the hit TV medical series 'House", all excepting Hugh Laurie, came to Israel this week to experience Remembrance Day and Independence Day. From all reports they had a ball really touring and seeing everything to the delight of their local fans!

Two nights ago I went with Zvi's cousins Billy and Ruth to see the phenomenal sound and light show at the David's Tower Museum. First we walked through the old/new Mamilla Arcade and sat in Aroma to have a good cup of coffee and a famous Aroma sandwich. Walking through the Jaffa Gate one immediately comes upon the stately walls of the David's Tower, built by Suleiman the Magnificent, in the footsteps of those such a Allenby, Kaiser Wilhelm and Pope John-Paul, to enter the Museum on your right. The Museum itself is quite marvelous, situated at the Jaffa Gate, and the sound and light show is well worth seeing. The history of Jerusalem is portrayed through laser light show onto the ancient walls of the Citadel in a spectacular manner. One feels as if one lives history as the images and sounds surround you using innovative trompe l'oeil technology. Well worth a visit.

My dear friends Yaffa and Martin Glass came from Leeds for a very special event. Their youngest son Rafi had his passing out parade after basic training in the IDF last night at the Western Wall. Emotional, nervous but above all very, very proud, they have been overwhelmed not only by their sons decision to come to Israel, his mother's birthplace, to pause his medical training and serve in the IDF but most of all by the warmth and attention a "lone soldier" receives. The ceremony was amazing, the young men and women glowing and most of all they were given the respect the so deeply deserve. Mum, of course, cried her eyes out in pride.

One tradition in Israel is to help mourners after the seven official days of mourning during which time the bereaved sit and receive friends and relatives in their home. The emptiness after the seven days can sometimes be worse than the actual Shiva week. Frida made her famous mushroom rice; Shula made kubeh soup bright pink from the beetroot base filled with delicious meat filled kubeh; Shoshanna arrived from downstairs with delicious stuffed vegetables; Danby could not be outdone and made a full meal of chicken soup, chicken wings, salads and dessert even preparing the noodles (lockshen) for the soup! Friends kindness and the sense that one is not alone in the world is very much part of Jewish tradition. Zvi's "buddies" from the synagogue (Bet Knesset) in Gilo ensured a quorum each evening for the services during the Shiva and embrace him each morning as he goes to pray and say the mourners kaddish. Sometimes in the evening Zvi goes to the "Shtibelech" in the Old Katamon neighbourhood. The Shtibelech or little synagogues, was built for the Jews who lived outside the Old City but did not have where to pray. Services are every 15 minutes day and night until midnight and working men come to fulfill their duty of praying thrice a day at a time which suits them.

So now, Israel is an exquisitely beautiful 63 year old lady; ever wiser, ever more open to learning and to giving. As she learns and gains more knowledge she teaches the world fulfilling her promise of Tikkun Olam. This is an inquisitive nation which will not take no for an answer. We do not dwell on tragedy, although we do not forget it either. We use our past to build our future and to teach our children to be strong and successful.

Lag b'Omer is around the corner and huge bonfires are being built – we all hang on to our wooden structures lest they disappear during the night!!!! There is a Hebrew expression "kol siba l'mesiba" every reason for a party – that is the difference between Israelis and our neighbours – we build we don't destroy – we rejoice what we have we don't wreak revenge for what we don't.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. We wish you a peaceful Sabbath and a truly wonderful week. With much love from Jerusalem, not 63 years old but 3,000+ and without a wrinkle in her pure white skin.


Monday, 9 May 2011

Independence Day in Jerusalem

Mon, 9 May 2011
5th of Iyyar, 5771 -
Yom HaZikaron - Israel at 63 - 20th day of the Omer

The only sound one could sense over the mournful wailing of the siren was the fluttering of the flag high on its flagpole on our veranda with the view over Jerusalem.
Standing to attention together with the entire nation Billy and I, heads bowed, sensed the weight of Israel's bereavement, the grief of so many young lives lost to a struggle we did not invite nor do we want with neighbours who wish only for our demise.

Remembrance Day in Israel has a solemnity and unity rarely seen. It is not a few who honour our fallen around a monument or cemetery, it is a nation of stopped buses and cars – no restaurants or places of entertainment. Zvi and Ruth, Billy's wife from Mexico, were in the market and experienced the eerie sensation of a world standing still in that crowded place that only seconds before and after were bustling hives of humanity. In a few hours the face of grief will drop from our public face and the joy of Independence will take its place, almost like theatrical masks which change from tragedy to comedy. To hear and see Israel go to,com_adsmanager/page,display/tid,145780/catid,99/Itemid,361 and of course each year I make you cry with pride

Ruth and Billy will go to the National Ceremony on Mount Herzl with Rosa and Bernardo since Zvi is in the 30 days of mourning for his late Mother. The lighting of the beacons is both beautiful and deeply symbolic. The lighters come from all walks of life and are those who changed our society for the better. Holocaust survivor Michael Goldman Gilad, who still bears the Auschwitz number 161135 on his arm; Physicist and former Refusenik Zeev Dashevsky ; MK Matityahu Drobeles, who headed the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency ; Orit Dror of Kibbutz Lavi lost her 15-year-old son Netzer and donated his organs thus saving other lives; Sa’ar Shapira, a volunteer firefighter will be joined in the ceremony by Arij Rahab, the first female Druse officer in the Prisons Service. Col. (res.) Omer Bar-Lev, who was a General Staff commander in the IDF, today chairs Aharei (After Me), an organization dedicated to persuading youth from peripheral communities to join the army; Hosha Friedman Ben- Shalom, a colonel in the reserves who does 165 days a year of reserve duty and heads the pre-military training school Beit Israel, which has a mixed religious-and-secular student body; Zahava Dankner, who engages in numerous volunteer activities particularly in beleaguered Southern Israel; Gadi Bashari, founder of the Sweet Heart organization, which assists soldiers, the disabled, and new immigrants of every background; Yobi Teshuma, who immigrated from Ethiopia in 1984 and in 2005 founded Friends in Nature, an organization committed to helping Ethiopian immigrants; and American immigrant Barbara Goldstein, the deputy director of the Hadassah Office in Israel, who has been a fervent Zionist all her life and Moishe Holzberg, whose parents Gavriel and Rivka were killed in Mumbai Habad together with his grandfather Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg.

There the transformation from tragedy to comedy is most noticeable as the music changes and soldiers parade with their company flags to change the guard after which the young dancers and musicians of Israel will take on their role and Israel celebrates with music, fun, fireworks and pride. We move seamlessly into a nation of barbeques and parties determinedly moving forward while always holding our grief in its special and private place.

For Zvi last week passed in a haze of hundreds of visitors to his parents tiny apartment to pay their respects to Kalman and Alla Raviv, two phenomenal people, true representatives of a selfless generation of nation builders; students, pupils and fellow teachers; friends and admirers from a different way of life when people thought only of the common good and not of their own.

Zvi related incredible stories of their life and heard new ones. He found his parents marriage certificate from the British Mandate and his own birth certificate – both of which proclaimed both he and his parents as Palestinians; he found his Mothers baccalaureate certificate from the Lodz Gymnasia and the breast-feeding report of the local nurse for his Mother. Incredible memories as Former PM Ehud Olmert and Mayor Nir Barkat came to comfort Zvi. Former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik came and told wonderful tales of the days when she and Alla were political rivals and friends learned incredible new stories that made my husband the man he is. The seven days of mourning are a time of story telling and prayer; of respect and even humour; of open grieving. As the Shiva came to an end we went to the cemetery to part from Alla as she was finally reunited with her Kalman laying side by side in a beautiful tree lined section for those rare people named "Yakirey Yerushalyim" literally those dear to Jerusalem – exceptional people. On Kalmans gravestone Zvi wrote the names of his family that perished in the Holocaust and have no graves and that is what he will do for his Mother – two lonely people who found each other and loved each other as only those who have lost everything can know to love. May their souls rest in peace - together again.

As we lead toward our joyful Independence Day don't forget those who gave their lives to make it possible. Cherish every second of independence for it is under constant threat.

Chag Atzma'ut Sameach – Happy Independence Day
With love from Jerusalem - festooned with blue and white flags