Friday, 24 June 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


24th June 2011

Gosh, what a week. I am late with the letter and cutting it too close to the line before we leave to go to a Kabbalat Shabbat and dinner with the World Zionist Organisation which follows the Presidents Conference on a better tomorrow but precedes the Keren Hayesod meetings and then the Jewish Agency and the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency...... but apart from that we have little happening.

The Presidents Conference on Tomorrow was filled with amazing people on panels and in the audience - academics, politicians, philanthropists, military experts of world standard, discussing the future of Israel specifically and the world in general in a series of panel discussions and plenaries.

They all give their time and brilliance freely for President Shimon Peres. The standard of speakers and the discussions were stimulating and disturbing. Malcolm Hoenlein, Irwin Cotler, Iain Ferguson, David Trimble and Tony Blair who was on the opening panel, were clever, funny and humble. John Gandel with his outstanding cheerleaders – the family and us spoke on the panel of philanthropy. Mike Evans who was there filming with his son and Mike Atkins told me of his adventure which led to an interview with Ahmedinejad. Dr Kimball Taylor of the Children of Israel Foundation, Michael Dickson of Standwithus, Prof Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor and of course their Lordships Stone, Trimble and Goldsmith.

Shakira impressed me deeply with her understanding of what is needed to right the world. She spoke intelligently and outlined the true meaning of hands on philanthropy.

Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan held one-on-one interviews with a varied group of people among them Jibril Rajoub of the Plaestinian Authority who was sitting in the front row between Yom Tov Samia, former Chief Officer of the Southern Command and President Shimon Peres while Arieh Deri spoke, quietly and elegantly. A democratic rainbow indeed. It bothered me deeply that Jibril Rajoub, who privately was able to be friendly got on the stage and immediately began to lie. 'Israel has not honoured any of her obligations otherwise there would be peace'........... aw c'mon.

In one panel on Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiations that Kim attended when asked what the result of a vote against the Palestinian state in the UN the confident response was 'A THIRD INTIFADA'

At the closing plenum Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that if Gilad Schalit is not freed from his underground dungeon where he does not receive even the minimum of human rights he will reduce the rights of Palestinian killers imprisoned here in Israel. Gosh – how cruel – no more doctoral theses or conjugal visits for them eh. Five years since he was captured and his friends killed. Five years and he has not seen a Red Cross representative; Amnesty isn't breaking down their doors to free him and no country has come ot our true aid. Shame on a world that does not hold out the hand of assistance and cut finances to the Hamas until he is back home.

Israels 5th President Yitzchak Navon, is a delightful man and a friend. When we left the conference and Zvi offered him a ride home Lord Stone could not believe that he did not have bodyguards and his own car. That generation was not like that though – humility was the norm.

Robert and Anita Simons and Saul Same and his sister Molly for Shabbat Lunch which is the fun part of these conferences – we get to see old friends. The next day we had guests too as Pauline and John Gndel and Saul Same with sister Molly got together in our home for supper. Both families have known Ehud Olmert for many years an love him dearly – as we do. I wish that you could meet him and hear his stories and receive one of his wonderful hugs to know the man – the real man not the one the journalists so love to hate. It was a delight and we all enjoyed the privacy of a family supper.

On Tuesday our dear friend Kim Taylor flew all the way from Cardston, Alberta to be with us during the President Conference and the Jewish Agency meetings. Kim is a member of the family in every way.

I just gave you a tiny taste of the last week. I most certainly left out huge chunks and many people but please forgive me – I raced home from a wedding to finish this letter before Shabbat.

Delta Airlines flies to Israel unlike most other airlines but they received the right to fly into Saudi Arabia on condition that no Jews be on the aeroplanes. There was no reason for the ban since Jews, not just Israelis, cannot fly into Saudi Arabia as their visa website clearly states. No Jews are allowed – by law - which by definition is racist.

My favourite news item of the week is
Orna Barbizai, mother of 3 children, regular soldier, exceptional woman was invested as the first woman general in the IDF. While women in our neighbouring countries are oppressed in Israel they blossom.,7340,L-4086464,00.html

Another piece of great news is that Ambassador Ron Prosor, our new man in the UN, has already come out with a strong statement about the next Flotilla. Most of you don't know Ron Prosor but I can promise you that he will not take any nonsense and will defend Israel in the way we want her defended – vociferously and determinedly.

Jerusalem is quiet – so quiet that I can hear all the dogs barking in the neighbourhood. It is so beautiful – the last few rays of the summer sun as we move toward Shabbat. Tables are laid, families waking from their afternoon siesta to gather around their parents tables. The shadows are deepening on the distant hills and the heat of the day changing to a gentle warmth. Time to wish you all a Shabbat Shalom
With love from the most beautiful city in the world


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


15th June 2011

This is an early Shabbat Shalom, but for good reason!

Sunday evening we drove down toward the Dead Sea on the Jerusalem -Jericho road, the one that Nomi Shemer wrote about in the last verse of “Yerushalyim shel Zahav” - the road to the Dead Sea via Jericho. It never fails to amaze me that once one leaves the glorious lushness of Jerusalem, through the tunnel beneath the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus, one emerges into another, unloved world of barren scrub and unkempt landscape, a world without KKL.

As one passes the marker of Sea Level and begin the steep descent toward Sodom, the bald hills soon give way to a moonscape of strangely shaped hillocks and startlingly white land in stark contrast to the deep purple mountains of Jordan on the far bank of the Dead Sea, mountains which hide the secret treasure of Petra. Down, down, down, and down some more to the lowest place on earth – the phenomenal Dead Sea, Yam haMelach.

We were invited by the Nancy and Harry Bloomfield to join them at an exceptional event to draw attention to the opening of the Bloomfield Family Visitors Center of the Negev .

Andrea Bocelli at the foot of Massada

The anticipation was evident in all those at the pre-concert reception as everyone hummed along with the piped Bocelli favourites. The site was magical, deep in the desert, hot and breezy, seemingly in the middle of arid nothingness until one looked up, up and up to the deeply emotive, historic site of Massada. Massada, scene of the most famous of Jewish revolts, Jewish refusal to be enslaved by another of the many armies that wanted control of this land. This revolt ended in mass suicide rather than capture by the Roman army. The Roman not only wanted control of the Jewish people, so extreme were their desires that they even changed the name from the Land of Israel to Palaestina – a change which was to cause so many problems. The site of Jewish resistance was now going to be the site of joy and music and culture. Sweet revenge indeed.

We sat in rapt anticipation as the orchestra struck up the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from Nabucco – so appropriate to the site. Our backdrop – Massada itself – was softly lit ensuring that we were aware of the glory of our position. Mr. Bocelli walked onto the stage to rapturous applause, his assistant bringing him to the stage and then the conductor placing him before the microphone. His shy smile seemed to light up the audience of 7,500 and as he began to sing, the sheer effortless purity of his voice rang out over the Mistral that threatened to spoil the evening. I didn't know that Barry and Carol Shaw were in the audience too but you can listen and understand our emotions and joy as you watch Barry's videos of the event.

Achinoam Nini, known in the world as Noa, is a close friend of Mr. Bocelli and they sang the theme song of “Life is Beautiful” together
Miri Awad is the Arab-Israeli singing partner of Achinoam Nini and here exhibits her exquisite voice as she sings with Bocelli
The concert was over, two encores had been received with standing ovations but we wanted more. As Mr. Bocelli was led back to the stage again, Zvi yelled out “Nessum Dorma” and a few seconds later the first notes rang out and Mr. Bocelli's effortless voice rang out beneath a starlit Massada. Magic. Magic. Magic.

The early greetings are for good reason. Our dear friend Saul Same arrives tomorrow all the way from Melbourne, Australia and we want to see him as soon as we can and then we have a wedding in the evening near Tel Aviv.

On Friday morning we have the stone setting ceremony for Zvi's dear mother Ala, the traditional ceremony at the graveside is followed by an equally traditional meal at our home whereby one presents food to enable four essential blessings of gratitude – wine or grape juice, the fruit of the ground and of the tree and bread. Her head-stone is etched in perpetuity, not only with her name Ala (Leah) Raviv-Hendler, but also the names of her family who died in the Shoah so that they too will have their names on a grave, as we did with Zvi's father Kalman. It is difficult to remember that she has gone, she was such a huge part of our lives. We are still finding treasures of history as we go through papers and letters which reveal parts of her life that we did not even realise. This was a generation of fiscal poverty and cultural and moral wealth – I hope that revealing evidence of their selflessness and dedication to the better of their fellow countrymen to others we can reclaim just a little of their strength of character.

Our Navy is at the ready for the latest flotilla about to leave the shores of Turkey but I think that this is purely a media magnet - they are not bringing unnecessary aid to Gaza. Maybe the "aid flotilla" is really headed for the spa at the new Movenpick in Gaza. The people of Gaza are starving my foot!! This is amazing - just read through it!!! They used Israeli products because of the high quality!!!

Last night Jerusalem took on a strange yet spectacular sunset. I assume it was due to the thin layer of Eritrean volcanic dust that turned dusk into a magical glow on the white stones of our buildings. As I stood on our veranda looking out it was exceptional. Just in case Stanley was wondering, by the time you all come for the KH conference you will see the tiny orange tree with a dozen small hard green fruits already and the herbs – lavender, lemon pelargonium, melissa, basil, thyme, zatar, louisa, rosemary and more – reaching the peak of their pungency. I may even manage some pomegranate buds!

We just met Avraham and Mindele Jasqui of Mexico in the Mamilla project. Avraham told me about a project of the Syrian Chalabi community in Mexico City whereby they investigated the breakdown of Jewish continuity in the wider Jewish community in mexico. The result of an indepth invesitgation ws that it was the breakdown of FAMILY that was the cause. Family, the traditions of family, the warmth of family, the desire for family amongst the young women or young couples............. all ultimately contribute to the breakdown of traditions which hold us together as a community and a people. I agree 100% since most young people today dare to claim it boring to raise children so put it off and insist upon their own lives and careers even when they do make the huge decision. Me? I cannot think of anything more rewarding and fulfilling than raising children – I loved every second and now reap the rewards of my grandchildren – basar basari – flesh of my flesh. TRADITIONS!!!

I am now awaiting a full eclipse of the moon – the first shadow is already creeping across his face – I promise to stand on the veranda and watch it – trying to capture the miracle on film. I am so excited!

Finally, my favourite article of the week which embodies who and what we are. Israeli soldiers of the Israeli DEFENCE Force literally give their blood for Israel

Wishing you and yours Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, with all the love of this amazing city.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

10TH June 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope this letter finds you well.

The Shabbat dinner party I described last week went off like a dream. The conversation was delightful as were the guests and it felt somehow right to introduce our new friends to old friends and mix the past with the present making new future friendships. The mix of origins reminded me of dinner parties in the States, Canada or Australia where many are immigrants from other countries, the only difference is that here we all came home. The guests came from Morocco, Canada, Wales, Belgium and of course right here in Jerusalem, Palestine.

Palestine, Palaestina. The name was changed by the Romans to eradicate all resemblance and memory of the Jewish era of Judea and Samaria; they were less successful with the name Jerusalem, attempting to call her Ilia Capitolina, but Jerusalem is so musical, so prayerful, so powerful that they did not succeed. Now the “Palestinians” are insisting that the prayer “If I forget thee oh Jerusalem” is a Christian prayer and not Jewish at all!!!

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen has written an excellent piece about Jerusalem this week – well worth reading the words of a dove, a religious dove but as he says not a suicidal dove.

This week you are getting only good news. I am tired of the Syrian situation whereby everyone shouts and no-one does anything. I cannot but think what they would all be saying if Israel behaved in the amoral and inhumane fashion of Bashar Assad – the highly sophisticated, soft spoken and seemingly mannered tyrant whose cruel regime is still running rampant in Syria – a country created when the entire Middle East “divvied up” this time by the French a country which created the strongest links with Iran and Iraq of Saddam benefitting his country with armaments that no-one quite knows about. The refugees fled to Turkey where they will not be welcomed with open arms. Gosh and I said no politics eh?

Actually there are some good politics too. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is at the forefront af a Congressional move against the declaration of sttehood by the Palestinians and the cessation of American financial aid to any government including Hamas. Prime Minister Steven Harper has yet again chosen the side of moral truth and sided with Israel publicly and openly – KOL HA KAVOD TO CANADA

Danny Adino Abebe is a handsome young reporter who began his journalistic career in the IDF and works with Yedioth Aharonot, one of the 3 majors newspapers in Israel. Danny is from Ethiopia but just as his identity never bothered him so it has never impeded his progress. Easily identified by his dreadlocks and enormous smile at any major event, Danny feels that many Ethiopians use their colour or origin as an excuse not to succeed - read all about Danny in this marvellous article by Ruth Eglash

Shevuot , the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost was wonderful. We were invited to friend both on Erev Shevuot – the night before Shevuot – and for Shevuot Lunch. It always fascinates me how different families have different traditions all of which include cheeses, milk, quiches, fish, anything but meat- but Zvi raised the question Why?
Why when we are expected to celebrate all festivals with meat and plenteous dishes do we stick to white foods – milk foods, on Shevuot. Most of us learned about receiving the Torah and not knowing how deeply the question of the calf in its mothers milk took us.......but no......... Zvi's response was much more interesting. Halav......... milk..... is made up of three hebrew letters hey, lamed and bet. In gematriah – the mathematical calculations of hebrew letters this adds up to 40. Moses was atop Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights while receiving the Torah. Since Shevuot is the celebration of receiving the Torah – ergo milk!

In a few minutes I will leave for Ramot to collect my little grandchildren Yosef and Talia from their schools and take them home to play for a while before Shabbat preparations take over my mind. From Ramot we drive out to Givat Zeev on the main road, passing Samuels Tomb and driving down the long hill to Givat Zeev – named for Zeev Jabotinsky, one of the major founding fathers of modern Israel. Despite the searing heat of a Sharav or Hamsin, the air atop the mountain is fresh and the views spectacular. Givat Zeev is a pretty town, basically a dormitory neighbourhood of Jerusalem, although CNN and the BBC would call it a settlement! The homes are white, just like Jerusalem, and the local Arabs walk freely and tend their land, crops and animal herds without anyone bothering them – unlike Arab towns which do not allow Jews within a stones throw – literally.

The drive back home is even more spectacular as one climbs again to Samuels Tomb on the opposite side of the road one is taken aback by the panorama – a spectacular carpet of white buildings as far as the eye can see as Jerusalem, Israels Capital City and the the largest by far, spreads out before one in splendour. The number of towers is growing, once only the Augusta Victoria Hospital, St Georges, the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus and those few in the centre of town stood proud of the homes, now one has the Holyland Tower, the Calatrava Bridge, and many hotels and offices – Jerusalem is not only a city of ancient stones – Jerusalem is a thriving, bustling city of three-quarters of a million people whose ethnicities form a glorious rainbow evident in our skyline.

Each and every visitor to our home is mesmerised by the view. Jerusalem is so special, so heartwarming, spiritual, contentious and thoroughly embedded in our souls that to see her laid out before us is a gift of such magnitude that we must never ever forget her “If I forget thee oh Jerusalem, let my right hand becoem useless and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth”. The Palestinians can say what they wish – we know that this came from Psalm 137 "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion." The psalm mourns the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army in 586 BCE, is part of Jewish tradition and liturgy and has appeared in Jewish sources for thousands of years. Before you consider their statements check out their lies.

I wish you Shabbat shalom and those who are preparing to arrive for the Presidents Conference on Tomorrow – see you there.

With much love from Jerusalem, the most beautiful city in the world.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from jerusalem


3rd June 2011

Dear lovely people, today I not only nearly missed the Shabbat boat – cooking too much as usual – but I was trying to get my brain around the number of things I want to tell you without boring you to death!!!

This week Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day with wonderful parades, shows, specials at the museums, children's activities, rejoicing and prayer. The reports in the media were only of the unnecessary rumpus, on both sides of the political fence, of those who don't want to celebrate but rather want to make points and be right – rather than to be happy for one day of the year. I feel that one does not always have to create dissention. I love to see the flags out, hear the children singing Jerusalem songs in the nursery school down the road, appreciate the parties and barbeques in the evening and know that in 1967 Israeli soldiers re-united Jerusalem after a 19 year period of Jordanian rule in which we were not allowed to pray at our shrines and ancient Biblical sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was left to crumble, the Via Dolorosa uncleaned and the Mount of Olive tombstones smashed and used as road paving. When Shuly Natan sang Nomi Shemer's song "Jerusalem of Gold" just before the 6 Day War, it came from a place of longing and yearning for the very heart of our ancient beliefs; when she added the final verse after the 6 Day War – which says that we can now go to our Holiest of sites – which then included Jericho – our hearts sang with pride. Somehow time and the tide, nay Tsunami of lies has washed away the truth and made us appear to be the occupiers of our own land. after this original recording we returned to the Old City, we pray at the Western Wall, we were allowed on the Temple Mount for a short period, we drove to the Dead Sea via Jericho but still they call our Biblical Jerusalem Arab East Jerusalem – only 19 years and they talk of time immemorial.

British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould declared his commitment to Israel and the principles of Zionism on Thursday, at an evening dedicated to his new pet project: raising awareness and support for Kibbutz Eshbal, a young community in the Lower Galilee dedicated to helping children at risk from all segments of the population.

“I hope that this is not controversial, and if anyone believes that it is then they need to take a good look at their values and ask why they would object to me supporting a project like this,” said Gould, who is the first Jewish ambassador to represent Britain here.

Talking of Ambassadors, arguably the best Ambassador in a long time has been Ron Prosor, Israel's Ambassador to the Court of St. James and prospective Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Prosor did us proud under impossible circumstance. Thank you Sir and good luck in the unfriendly waters of the United Nations.

To quote Monty Python - And now for something completely different!!!!
Let's take a look at the real Israel, the genuine wish for Tikkun Olam and the desire to help.
Sir Bob Geldof was here in Israel to receive an honour from the Ben Gurion University. He stated that Israel's care for the poorest areas of the world should bring great accolades. He should know, he didn't trust the "aid" organizations and their wasted monies, he began with Band Aid and each year went to Africa to ensure the money went to the intended communities.
Issraaid not only reached out to Haiti with the first field hospitals but while others left Haiti and Japan they remain to ensure social and psychological help continues long after the headlines.
Save a Child's Heart reaches out to children the world over to provide the best care imaginable to cure heart diease. At least half of their patients are brought in from the Palestinian Authority.
Golda Meir went to Africa in the 50's and came home with the idea for Mashav the International Centre for Women "How can a country move ahead if it ignores 50% of its population" Initially only for women this incredible training centre is thriving and changing the third world by empowering women and teaching men to understand their importance.
The Hebrew University in Jerusalem has an exceptional programme to improve the way of life for African countries. Senior Pears Foundation alumni cite valuable Hebrew University experience in helping them to cope with health issues in Africa.
ZAKA formed as a first response team within the Haredi community during Israel's horrific time of terror attacks ZAKA has proven itself more than capable of acting as first response in international disasters.
These are just a few of the true faces of Israel, not the media cant, the Palestinian lies – by the way, when was the last time you heard of a Palestinian team going to the aid of Japan, Turkey, Haiti or anywhere else? Tiny Israel, tiny, beleaguered Israel still looks out to find those to help.

Today as I went on my morning walk I saw many children walking to school with decorated plates of fruits. Almost Shevuot, Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, the end of the counting of the Omer (the 49 days after Passover) a time of begging forgiveness and of prayer – of reading the book of Ruth. The Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “re-gives” the Torah. We wear white for purity and eat cheese, cheesecakes, blintzes…indeed anything with cheese, milk or yoghurt!

Back to the cooking, tonight we have a wonderful and varied list of guests. Nancy, Harry and Jon Bloomfield are here from Montreal Canada, Lea and Yehuda Ressler, Prof. Shimon and Miri Shitreet and my wonderful friends Jenny and Brian Bell who haven't been to our place for Shabbat dinner for probably 30 years – and since their home in Ra'anana was my support and bolt-hole when I most needed it I think it is high time we returned the compliment!!!! I cannot wait to see their faces when Zvi begins the Kiddush in his incredible bass-baritone voice using the simple glass Kiddush cup his father sang over for so many years rather than the multiple silver ones – the view of Jerusalem at night behind him. Traditions hold us together and make us who we are, without traditions we have no past and little future.

I wish you Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Take out some small item from your past, from your parents or grandparents home and enjoy it. As Michael Doppelt said this week as he sat on our veranda "I can never forget my grandparents – I carry them with me at all times" We are what we are because of what they taught us.
Shabbat Shalom, Chag Shevuot Sameach and much love from Jerusalem, East, West, South or North, divided for 19 years of her 3,000 year history and free, beautiful, flourishing and ours.