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


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