Friday, 29 July 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


29th August 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat shalom to you and yours from Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has been sweltering this week, from many aspects that do not include the weather! The tent cities, protesting the immense cost of both buying or renting apartments, have been growing. Their basic cause is a good one but sadly there is little that can be done from the Knesset. If one wants to live in the major centres then one must pay the price. Israel is a free enterprise society and developers cannot be told to build cheap housing in city centres! However, the Prime Minister has already put forward a proposition to build 10,000 more student units and to build more public housing. When a Prime Minister makes such offers and is told that it is ludicrously little one understands that while there are many demonstrators who have genuine needs there are also political instigators who run the show. After the “Cottage Cheese War” which succeeded in persuading manufacturers and stores lowering the cost of this staple food many are on the badwagon.

This has been a week of evening activities and air conditioning! For the myriad of tourists who come from rainy Europe it is the perfect opportunity to don swimming gear and race to the pool but Israelis seek anywhere cool!

The South Sudanese secession has been very successful on the diplomatic front. Finally the Christians and Animists can live freely, no longer under constant threat of annihilation by the Moslem North Sudanese. The African Union has welcomed the nascent country and now Israel, one of the first to congratulate the decision, has formally established diplomatic relations. IsraAid has long been involved in helping the South Sudanese people.

I was staggered to read this article on MEMRI today US Serviceman refuses to serve in Afghanistan for religious reasons. He refused orders and is still free? I have 3 questions. Why is he in the US Army? Why isn't he out of the US Army for refusing orders? Would this have been accepted if he were not Moslem?​/0/0/0/0/0/0/5514.htm
In Washington, Mrs Clinton is “suggesting” that Israeli Defence Minister Barak makes reconciliatory moves toward Turkey. We make the moves? Turkey sends us boats which carry IHH members who attack our soldiers while carrying unnecessary, and non-existent “aid” to Gaza, they declare us diplomatic lepers, continue to insult us and WE should make the moves. Yet again Mrs Clinton, you expect Israel to be the Uriah Heep. Sorry we don't do that any more. Turkey needs Israel more than Israel needs Turkey and we want them to come half-way.
Israel's open society expresses itself in many ways. Not just in the rainbow of people who walk the streets, shop in the Malls, barter in the shouks, live, eat and party in their own special manner but also in our freedom of expression which range from the rabid Member of Knesset Hanin Zoabi who was not only on the Mavi Marmara but also after the heinous Itamar killing the Fogel Family announced “I condemn the horrendous murder of the babies in Itamar and the breeding ground in which it was conceived: The Israeli Occupation of Palestine.” to the wonderful Israeli Moslems like Khaled abu Toameh and Ishmael Khaldi. Khaled is a journalist, much quoted on this newsletter and Ishmael Khaldi a highly respected Israeli diplomat who is currently a cherished advisor to the Foreign Minister. “I am Bedouin; I am Moslem and I am Israeli; I am a shepherd; I am a scholar and now a diplomat. Listen to his words.

By the way, guess what? Saeeb Erekat, despite resigning from the PA still appears as their spokesperson, is very angry at the distorted facts in Danny Ayalons amazing video The Truth About the West Bank. Worth watching, very clever.

Last Shabbat Dinner was a great success. 17 of us sat around the ever extending table on our veranda, the night was perfect, Jerusalem stretching before us in her Shabbat gown of white, the table groaning with the delicacies of the Diaspora and a few local dishes (yes I was tired but thrilled and satisfied) and the conversation ran the gamut of politics and religion (without those two subjects Israeli conversation would not exist) and heated arguments while the children happily played and ignored the adults!

On Sunday my beautiful friend Arlene arrived. I fought the crazy traffic in order to be there before she arrived from the airport but of course as I entered the King David lobby there she was, sitting on the beautiful sofas, admiring her historic surroundings. In truth, for me the wonderful intricate ceilings and panorama of the Old City Walls paled in comparison to the sight of my wonderful friend. We immediately continued our conversation of last year and caught up on gossip when in walked our friend Dalia Itzik who was there for a meeting. Upon introducing Dalia to Arlene I soon found that she was as intrigued by this incredible lady as I am. The former Speaker of the Knesset and Chairperson of the Kadima Party sat and listened to Arlene while hugging me. As soon as she discovered that we would be at the Knesset the next day she invited us to visit.

The very next day we had a meeting with Knesset Forum on International Affairs Chair Michael Gribov and Richard Wittman. We sat in the Coffee shop of the Knesset right next to the plenary hall. It was a hive of noisy activity, although we had an excellent meeting and we co-opted Arlene on to the Forum. Many MK's passed us, Arabs and Jews; left and right all friends and chatty outside the hall which demanded rivalry and dissonance from all of them! There were two major votes going on so the noise levels were high and the TV crews aplenty. We both arrived home exhausted!

Wednesday saw us at a truly amazing reception to honour the great Chazan and singer Richard Tucker on the lawns of the King David, overlooking the walls of the Old City at night

We were invited to the reception by dear friends Joyce and Fred Claar who have known the Tucker family for many years. The Tucker Foundation which was founded by the 3 sons of the man whose greatest loved was Jewish liturgical music, presented an outstanding concert here in Jerusalem with the Israel Philharmonic under the baton of Zubin Mehta. I was delighted by the awareness of Jewish life and Israel in particular that his sons carry in the blood and their hearts. This was not just another group of people mingling for the sake of being seen, this was a group of people who care for music, for Judaism and most of all for Israel. We missed the concert but for a good reason!

Last night, in Maaleh ha Chamisha we went to the wedding or Erez, son of our downstairs neighbour Shoshana. Jill had a ball as did we all. The bride and groom under the canopy, under a prayer shawl and under the Jerusalem skies, pledged to love each other and keep a Jewish household, food food food and then more food and then the young people danced off their overeating while we sat unable to move!

Today I am a happy woman! Finally and at last a member of my wider family will see where I live, what I do and what I write about. My nephews daughter Carly and her fiance James arrive for Shabbat with Auntie Sheila and Uncle Zvi. The next few days will be a flurry of museums and parks, history and fun, food and experiences that make up Jerusalem. I am so excited! My dreams came true as I take Carly and James on the journey of a lifetime and impart my love of this incredible city and beautiful, innovative, generous, outgoing, noisy, brilliant country to my niece to filter through the rest of the family and generate a run on the Raviv hospitality!!!

Tonight will be a special Shabbat.

Wishing you all a loving and generous hearted family to share Shabbat with – especially right here in the most beautiful city in the world.

The country is in shock at the death of Rabbi Abuhatzeira, grandson of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, known as the "Baba Sali", a leading Moroccan Sephardic rabbi and kabbalist who was renowned for his alleged ability to work miracles through his prayers. The Rabbi, a recluse who rarely left his home, held an open meeting at his Yeshiva where a member of the public stabbed him to death. May his soul rest in peace.,7340,L-4101678,00.html So strange, right before the 9th of Av – the fast day of mourning to commemorate the destruction of the Second Temple – destroyed by “sinat chinam” unwarranted hatred.

Friday, 22 July 2011


22nd July 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.
Isn't is amazing how we are constantly surprised by life? Sometimes it is less pleasant and sometimes more but life is an adventure!

As an Ex-Pat Brit, and a Jewish one at that, I learned that Lawrence of Arabia was just that – an out and out Arabist who only ever put forward the Arab cause at the expense of the Jews. Well apparently that was todays big surprise!!! Thanks to Yael I discovered this article describing the book by the erudite British Jewish historian Martin Gilbert called Lawrence of Judea. Apparently Lawrence was critical to the discussion between the Faisel family and Dr Chaim Weizman and he totally supported the founding of a Jewish State, believing it highly positive for the Jews to return to their Oriental origins.

Palestine - 'Occupation Incorporated' Tim Marshall

“An African UN worker in the West Bank recently remarked to a mutual friend 'When people see me coming they see a walking ATM machine'.

Driving through Ramallah, and then Jericho, the other day I was reminded of that quip as I looked at the smart restaurants, sparkling new hotels, and the scale of building work.

The Palestinian Authority likes to boast about the West Bank' s 8% economic growth, so does the Israeli government, which uses it to suggest that a prosperous Palestine would make an easier negotiating partner. They also know the Palestinians have more to lose if a 3rd Intifada breaks out.

What they fail to remind us is that there are well over 200 NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza, and 30% of the GDP here comes from international aid. Palestinians are among the most foreign aid funded people in the world and the place is awash with money.”

This is immoral, deeply immoral. While East Africa is starving the Palestinians and Gazans are bulding new shopping malls and hotels while feasting in overladen markets.

Danny Ayalon, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a brilliant video that I really want you to watch! “The Truth about the West Bank”

Danny Adino Abebe came to see us on Sunday. Danny who came from Ethiopia, is a major journalist here in Israel. Handsome, ebullient, with amazing dreadlocks, Danny has meticulously built a plan to encourage the brightest young Ethiopian immigrants in high school to take a course in communications. Ultimately this will give them entry to the highly academic Hebrew University. Kol ha Kavod Danny; your work is outstanding and your dedication heartwarming. Good luck with your fundraising to make this dream come true.

I went with Michael Gribov of the Knesset Forum on International Affairs to meet our dear friend Juergen Buhler at the Christian Embassy. The Embassy, housed in one of the most exquisite buildings in Jerusalem, does phenomenal work to put forward Israel's case in a most positive manner. The PR sector is run by David Parsons who joined us for the meeting. Most fascinating aspect was the fact that we delayed to meeting because of the fast of Tammuz and when we arrived at the Embassy we found that Juergen was himself fasting!!

My favourite organisation in the world is Stand With Us; not only because I deeply admire and love the Director Michael Dickson but rather because of the work they do involving and educating Israeli and overseas students in Israel Information – preparing them through intensive courses and projects to go out into the world campuses and understand their subject and how to present Israel in a totally positive and factual light. Jill and I went to the graduation ceremony for 150 students which was held in the leafy garden of Beit Anna Ticho, home of the famous Jerusalem artist. The young ambassadors were beautiful and enthusiastic – their projects impressive. Leader of the Opposition Tsippi Livni spoke of our challenges and then David Horovitz – former editor of the Jerusalem Post, brought his incomparable humour and wit to the proceedings – at about 10 minutes notice and wowed his audience. A proud evening indeed.

I don't only have meetings!! I have fun with friends too. We met with Rosa and Berele at Caffit in the German Colony because there was simply no table to be had in the Botanical Gardens. The German Colony was jam packed too and parking spots were at a premium! As we sat down I found that I had a delightful partner at the next table – Professor Irwin Cotler. Jerusalem is a small town pretending to be a big City!!

The next morning we met the delightful Marc and Elaine Oppenheimer at the Botanical gardens – this time we were luckier and found a table right next to the lake! Despite the intense heat, eating under the protection of their umbrellas, watching the black swans, turtles and egrets seemed to cool us as efficiently as the gentle breeze. Children in playgroups chatted happily as they ran up and down the hills.

Last night Jill and I set out for the Gerard Behar Theatre for the Premiere performance of the professional troupe of the Hora Dance Troupe. It was indeed and exciting evening and one that would have been quite wonderful ........... but we couldn't find a parking space free in the centre of town!! Jerusalem is popping every night but on a Thursday it is just filled with happy diners, theatre goers, promenaders, families, and despite investigating every conceivable alleyway and lane couldn't get there.
Tonight Leor and Shiri, Amit and Gilli, Jill, Amiad, Sagi and Ditti and Yehonatan, Dalia – daughter of Moise and Sandra who is here on tour from Mexico City. We will sit on the veranda – the table stretched to its utmost laden with all the salads, fried fish balls, stuffed vegetables and wonderful fresh Israeli fruits that I always talk about. As we eat we will look at Jerusalem, Jerusalem of Shabbat, of Gold. Shabbat Jerusalem is different, so very different to the rest of the week. Religious and secular alike enjoy the quiet, the peace of Shabbat Jerusalem embodied in the softening skies and the myriad of stars, intermingled with the sound of families enjoying their Shabbat meal. The sounds and aromas of Shabbat are different, the appearance of the city is different, the sense of family is intense all combine to make me grateful every week afresh of the fact that we are here – at home.

Next week is a truly exciting one. ARLENE IS ARRIVING!! I will have two wonderful days with her just being together and enjoying each other and then she is off to Tel Aviv and Opera.

Oh well, that is all I have time for although there is so much more to tell. The French Yacht was stopped before arriving in Gaza – which was lucky since they didn't have any aid on board and anyway the Gazans don't need it!!!
Shabbat Shalom to you all. I wish you could be her,e in Jerusalem with us to “feel” the incredibly special Shabbat that this city elicits. There is no city like this in the world – it is beautiful, it is special, it is proud, it has depth of meaning and history and IT IS OURS.
Shabbat Shalom

Friday, 15 July 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


15th July 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well and that you had a good week. So much has happened since our last conversation but I chose to talk about the beautiful things we did this week rather than world news.

One event which warmed my heart however was the declaration of Independence of South Sudan. Finally and at last the Christians and Animists will finally live in peace, separated and no longer oppressed and massacred by the Islamic North Sudan. The Moslem states are furious and blame Israel for the separation – well I can only say that whatever part we played in this is blessed. We simply sent doctors, engineers and civic managers to help them when the world forgot their existence.

The week began with a tour of the Tel Aviv German Colony, one of the Templar sites in Israel. I loved being with our friends but quite honestly – anyone from Jerusalem or Haifa should not go on that tour!!! As we walked I spoke to Surka. Surka and her husband Rafi and all their family live on kibbutz Nahal Oz. Yes, you have heard the name many times as rockets from Gaza rain down on their idyllic farming community. “Each time there is a barrage of rockets, rather than send us running it strengthens our community. During the worst times we had the best films showing, the best music playing and we all gathered for parties every night to keep up morale. Our house enjoys an extra room as each of us gained a “mamad” or bomb-proof room. Of course it is hard but why should we give in to them and leave the land, which is right here in Israel, because a group of terrorists say so” Right on Surka, right on.

Every summer something exceptional happens in Jerusalem on a Monday and Thursday. Shouk Mahane Yehuda becomes a giant nightclub!!! Jill, Irit and I went for supper on the pavement of Jaffa Street , right near Ben Yehuda Street. We sat watching to world go by – religious Jews, Arab Moslems, Arab Christians, secular Jews indeed everyone was out to promenade on that balmy Jerusalem night providing us with a constant floor show! After supper we walked up Jaffa Street, together with many, many others, until we came to the shouk. Throngs, nay masses of people, the sounds of Jazz, pop, classical and Latin music called to us from each of the alleyways as people danced in the street. The music mixed with the usual calls of “One shekel, only one shekel” drew us in despite my dislike of overly crowded places. We found a corner near the trendy coffee shop and stood listening to an excellent jazz group, dancing quietly to the rhythm. Yet again the people were of every conceivable race, creed, nationality and colour.

Tuesday was a truly exceptional day. It was the day Lauren became Liba!!! Lauren Efron, daughter of our dear friend David, made Aliya from Florida to Israel on a Nefesh be Nefesh flight. Last year Lauren chose to come to Tel Aviv University for a semester, Aliya being the las thing on her mind.... it was about 73 after ensuring her hair was perfect and wearing the latest fashion! After a 3 week army volunteer programme and generally living the Israeli lifestyle the hair dryer was forgotten and Aliya moved up to first place. Lauren has been working toward the day she can come and live here and three days ago she fulfilled her dream and now she is fighting jet lag, asleep in our spare room. Last night she discovered one can go to a wedding in jeans and no-one will object! WELCOME LIBA – WELCOME HOME.

On Wednesday Zvi and I went to the Opening event of the Knesset Forum on International Affairs. Every time I walk through the gates and along the huge area to the impressive Knesset building I feel a deep sense of pride. The organisers asked me to choose a few good people to join me there and I thought deeply and invited Barry Shaw and his wife Carol, Phillip Pasmanick, Juergen Buehler, Professor Irwin Cotler (who was certainly welcome without my intervention, particularly as the latest victim of Ha'aretz misquoting) and others. My choice was those who not only do outstanding work in the hasbara field but more importantly not those who simply complain about others but who really appreciate the incredible society we have built right here in Israel. I wish Michael Gribov and all his team great good luck in the coming year, I vow to work hard and long to help and keep the values and intentions of the Forums founder, the late Yuri Shtern. The Forum is non-partisan and will work hard to ensure that what we stand for and what Israel truly represents will finally and at last reach the world. Finally though it is up to YOU and your actions to ensure your local media tells the truth and that individuals speak out – not in defence of Israel – we don't need defending we just need ot shout our wonderful truth.

Wednesday night found us at the Sheyan restaurant celebrating the birthday of an exceptional man. We met Alan and Bonnie Cohen about 18 years go, during the Jerusalem 3,000 celebrations when Alan walked into Zvi's office asking for assistance with some very high quality groups he and Rabbi Irwin Katsof, through Aish haTorah, were bringing to Israel. Not only did we meet and befriend many of the participants of those groups, we found true friendship. So great a friendship that when Zvi and I married, the Ketuba (marriage contract) was signed in Alan and Bonnies lounge, the Chuppa (wedding canopy) which was held by our children, was placed at one end of the street (Zvi “moved” some police barriers to ensure privacy!!!) and the party in their street. We have not always been able to meet up but it was such an honour to be included in that small group of close friends to celebrate a man – half of a couple – who changed the shape of so many lives giving them purpose and a Jewish perspective. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALAN!!! AD ME'AH C'ESRIM

Yesterday was the wedding that Lauren came to in jeans. Our neighbours daughter was married in a wonderful traditional ceremony with every conceivable tradition interlaced and every conceivable Israeli equally enjoying the fun. - Arab Moslems, North African and Ashkenazi Jews, everyone doing what we Israelis do best – eating, eating and eating some more and then dancing it all off!!!!

Tonight and tomorrow Steven Gandel is visiting from far off Melbourne – only one or two Gandels left to see this month!!!

Now to the cooking – Steven loves his food so tonight we will have wonderful spring chicken, stuffed vegetables, cabbage salad, green salad, chopped salad, aubergine salad with tehina, courgette salad a la Zvi, and a few others and I must go to buy a ripe, juicy, red and ready water melon (avatiach) for dessert. Gosh the menu looks good, especially since I haven't even started yet!!! Tomorrow he will get cake! Tea-time in Jerusalem, sitting on our veranda in the shade overlooking the city we all love is a special time as the searing heat lessens (slightly) and the breeze gently kisses the flowers and trees.

In order to cook I must shop and the supermarket will be filled to capacity as frayed cashiers try to deal with the Shabbat shopping of a nation preparing to welcome the bride of Shabbat. Shopping, cooking, resting and then........ and then...... a glorious gentle quiet descends upon Jerusalem. Even the colour of the city changes from a bright, glaring white to a gentle pink glow as the sun sets and a city of white table clothes and laden tables slowly rests.

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom and although I promised no politics I must send special wishes to Carol Gould who speaks fearlessly on behalf of Israel in the most unfriendly of place – left wing university campuses. Carol, bless you. You are appreciated and your words do not fall on deaf ears, you are the living proof of what I call the power of one. Kol ha Kavod. Remember the cruel words of anti-Semitic, self-hating Jews can never drown you out. We are with you every step of the way and than you for your determination.

With much love from Jerusalem, love from Israel, new home to Lauren/Liba.


Friday, 8 July 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


8th July 2011

Shabbat Shalom to you all and a special big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my son Gideon. Only one year til the Gideon Saul book.

This week Israeli news broadcasts are all about the 'mashat' – the flotilla from morning to night. Turkey and Greece decided that they would not allow the flotilla to leave their countries and most Western nations warned their nationals not to take part. Indeed on Facebook we had a funny discussion about – flotilla, flotzilla but decided that all will be fine when G-d-zilla comes into the equation. It wasn't meant to be an impious comment – rather a rational one.

I am not afraid of a few boat-loads of misinformed Infidels and a lot of ill-intentioned Moslems, I am however incensed at the idea that Gaza needs aid. They do not. While Sudan, North Korea, Eritrea and many other parts of the world are worthy recipients of sympathy, food and medicines, Gaza flourishes. It is unfair, unjust and Un-nations to pity the fed and ignore the starving. Please read Tom Gross' outstanding report this week on that subject.
Truth of supposed aid to Gaza – Tom Gross

As the threat of hundreds of pro-Palestinian passengers arriving at Ben Gurion Airport loomed one Government Minister came up with a great idea. Each and every passenger arriving at Ben Gurion would receive flowers and a warm greeting. The hoards of press photographers waiting for angry troops would have been very disappointed as beautiful young people handed out Israeli grown flowers. Flowers at the airport
The latest news is that five activists did land and tried to make a major demonstration but were generally ignored. Our thanks to the airlines who decided to stop their futile efforts and not allow them onto the planes.

Talking of a very different air operation, it is 35 yeas since the flight to Entebbe to rescue the 254 passengers on an Air France aeroplane. Jew and Israelis separated from the others no-one knew what would happen. Palestinian and German terrorists were responsible. This video tells the story of a truly heroic rescue enabled by personal knowledge of Idi Amin who trained in Israel.

It is 6 years since the horrific 7/7 bombings in London when local, British born, middle class young Moslems drove their fathers Mercedes to London with the prime and only intent of killing as many infidels as possible. They attacked the buses and the tubes and many died and even more were horribly injured. It should have been a lesson but Britain is too lenient a society, still believing in the ultimate good of mankind and sadly I believe will suffer more before understanding that not every Moslems is good, just as not every Moslem is bad. Our hearts go out to the families of the dead and to the injured – may they be healed in heart and body. May they occasionally remember that we not only empathise- we KNOW what they went through – IT IS THE SAME SYNDROME AS ISRAEL SUFFERS AND IT IS TIME EVERYONE REALISED.
Jerusalem scientists at Hadassah Hospital identified a molecular basis for DNA breakage, which results in the development of cancer. This is one the most hopeful pieces of research thus far.

Walid Shoebat was a Palestinian Terrorist. Walid Shoebat understands and speaks out. Please, if you watch nothing else watch this 40 minute video and you will understand the Middle East and your own country.

Not everything in our lives is serious. We had a special treat this week as Australian friend arrived in Israel for the very first time. It was special because Dermot Molloy brought his lovely wife and two children with him, special because young people are more susceptible to media influence than adults and more honest about their reactions. As we sat around a table, yes you guessed, at Zion ha Gadol, in the busy Talpiot neighbourhood of Jerusalem, the table laden with never-ending salads, I asked them how the reality of Israel compared to the impression they had from the television news. 'EVERYTHING' was the instant response. Israel is modern, mixed, fun, busy, noisy, beautiful and we have loved every second. Most of our family and friends told us not to come but, my goodness, it is marvellous.' Now folks, that is what I have been trying to tell you – don't listen to the news – listen to me.

Jill arrived this week for her annual months sojourn in Israel. It never fails to amaze me seeing Israel through her eyes. I always thought that I appreciate the beauty and wonder of Israel, until she arrives and reminds me of the little things that are so very special. Today we went to collect Yosef and Talia from gan, kindergarten. The sheer freedom of the children is so refreshing. Watching tiny children being carefully walked home by big brothers and sisters with a freedom so few countries afford. Children are loved here – they come with us to restaurants and shopping, they are not told to be quiet and speak when spoken to – they are free souls since responsibility comes all too soon. After taking the children home, reading a story to all of them and then showering them before Shabbat, such fun with the baby Ayala, we drove home past Samuels Tomb and the spectacular panorama of Jerusalem.

We went to Mahane Yehuda, not so much to shop but rather to breathe in the aromas and activity that sums up that wonderful place. The yelling of the costermongers, the incredible summer fruits piled high – nectarines, peaches, figs, cherries – white and rich juicy black -, firm cucumbers in pyramids and vine tomatoes giving off the smell of summer. The people are as varied as the fruits and vegetables but much noisier. I feel that I live and breathe Jerusalem each time I go there.

The German Colony has a very mixed history. Built to house the German pilgrims to the Holy City the houses are a wonderful mix of Middle East and European. The roads have changed name though, once German streets are now call 'Lloyd George' and 'William Deedes' and 'Josiah Wedgewood' proving that one can change history to suit the times. Many of the roads have taken on the names of the Twelve Tribes and the Matriarchs, gosh this is such an interesting place.

Jill is now sitting on the veranda, reading my Jerusalem Post and watching the City slow down, become drowsy in the summer heat and then give in to tiredness after a weeks work. Sleep comes easily to the men but the women are still tweaking the spices in the cornucopia of delicious dishes – not with Egyptian Fenugreek though. The most popular spices used here are Hawiej, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamon, tumeric; with lots of hot pepper and garlic thrown in for fun. The helpings are generous and the variety enormous. Don't forget that Israel is the only country where you can have twenty salads on the table and none of them contain lettuce. I will pop down to Shoshana soon, to wish her Shabbat Shalom and then cross the entrance to Michal and Kobi before Zvi comes home from his Parliament.
We have another busy week ahead of us which makes Shabbat all the sweeter. In fact it is a very exciting week but.................... you will have to wait til next week to hear about it since I am off to set the table, finish off the gefilte fish and tweak my spices.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, love from Jerusalem, the most precious and beautiful jewel of our crown.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


1st July 2011

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

Two days ago I did something I have never done before; I took the face of a grown man in my hands and simply said “Thank you”. The grown man in question was retiring Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency Richie Pearlstone. What makes Richie different to almost all other leaders? It isn't his wonderfully dapper exterior or his ear-ring, Richie didn't enter the four year honorary post for self-aggrandisement; Richie Pearlstone put his entire heart and soul into the good of the Jewish Agency and Israel, 24/7. So I took his face in my hands and thanked him. I guess one should really thank his delightful wife and partner Amy for “giving him up” to the Jewish people.

The Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings include Keren Hayesod, UJC (by any other name), the Orthodox Movement of America, The Reform Movement of America, Keren Kayemet and of course Maccabi (Zvi is their representative) and many others. These are good people, people who want to better the Jewish world, to move us forward, to include and improve the small and large communities the world over. The internal politics and strife of any large organisation are evident but most of those present just want to advance the cause of Israel and ensure Jewish continuity.

Old friends like Jack Smorgon, Carol Solomon, Nancy Polchuk, Sondra Sokal the delightful and aptly named Paul Israel and many new ones too including impressive new faces to the world of Tikkun Olam. When we brought Saul Same and his sister Molly to the final cocktail party to introduce and welcome James Tisch as the new Chairman everyone wanted to say hello and shake Saul's hand. It is through the incredible example of this superb man's love of Israel that generations have followed suit.

Carol Solomon said something very important during her morning session “WE LIVE IN A 90 SECOND SOUND BYTE WORLD” It's true and we mustn't give lengthy explanations we must write concise and catchy letters and responses to the media. Push the fact that ZIONISM IS NOT A DIRTY WORD indeed it is the culmination of a dream. For instance, I cannot stand the word “deligitimisation” indeed can't even say it why can't we just say ISRAEL DENIAL?

So, what's in the news this week?
The Flotilla of course -Alistair Burt, the United Kingdom's Middle East envoy cannot understand the Gaza Flotilla and advised British citizens not to join. “There are recognised ways to get humanitarian aid into Gaza which is supported by the Israeli Authorities and the UN, and anyone looking to make a humanitarian contribution should do just that” The members of the “Flotilla of peace” (now there's a misnomer) think that IDF divers “nobbled” 2 of their ships but ignore the fact that the Greeks and Turks do not want the flotilla to leave their shores ruining their improved relationship with Israel. One man actually admits it is political not humanitarian

The Hezb-Allah killers of Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri have been indicted and found guilty in Lebanon. Justice is not always executed in our neighbouring countries and it is of great import that this case ran its full course.

Delta Airlines is accused of agreeing to ban Jewish passengers on flights to Saudi Arabia – duh! Of course they did! Jews cannot go to Saudi Arabia at all – not on any airline! Delta is one of the few airlines that flies directly to Israel – don't punish them.

The week started with a visit to “Zion ha Gadol” with John and Pauline Gandel from Australia. Picture simple wooden tables, filled with never ending salads, chopped vegetable salads, tehina, hummous, cabbage, tomato, garlic and lemon, fire-hot Yemenite schug, rice, bean and onion salad – and that's just the first course. It was fun, noisy, crowded, busy, redolent with the smoky aromas of meats on the fire and very Israeli and so much nicer than sitting in a posh restaurant! In the evening we went to a beautiful reception at the Israel Museum – out on the veranda overlooking the Knesset and the Jerusalem sunset. We first did a tour – I never tire of the phenomenal collection in the Israel Museum especially the Judaica and Synagogues.

Monday. I managed to escape and meet my lovely friend Rosa to meander through the Mamilla Arcade, next to the Jaffa Gate, shopping a little and admiring the statues exhibited there especially those of Irit Lev, dear friend and artist, who has some spectacular models exhibited.

Yesterday, after Zvi took them to the Kotel and the Old City, Saul, Molly and I left Zvi at the Board meetings and escaped to the botanical gardens and “Caffit” for lunch yesterday. Sitting beside the lake, watching the black swans floating by as families laugh, eat and enjoy the freedom of an Israeli coffee shop.

I made it to Mahane Yehuda for a few glorious moments this week. I ran through, absorbing the aromas, noise, hustle and bustle, people and of course the sight of multi-coloured piles of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, as I rushed into the throng to get my fish. Mahane Yehuda. So “Yerushalmi” and the epitome of everything we stand for – free enterprise, free movement, free speech, freedom of prayer, freedom, freedom.

Zvi will soon be off to his parliament where they will vociferously solve the problems of the world.....a process carried out in coffee shops all over Israel. I wish a few of our leaders would play fly on the wall and find some answers too. Whether governmental or voluntary; NGO or Quango it is time our leaders listened to their constituents. Too few are Richie Pearlstone, too few care for the work more than their own seats or ambitions.

Jerusalem is slowing down as the epicurean aromas fill the air, happily replacing the exhaust fumes. My downstairs neighbour Shoshana brought us “Marak Kubeh” Kurdish kubeh soup which we will eat alongside our gefilte fish for supper! The local convenience store brings in wonderful stuffed vegetables, sigarim, pastellas and kubeh for busy housewives to add to their already burgeoning tables.

Soon I will set the Shabbat table with the white dress of a bride adding the Challah cover my lovely sister Doreen and her husband Melvyn gave us for our wedding, place Zvi's fathers kiddush cup and then light the candlesticks which stood in my parents home. We are the culmination of our traditions and we must remember to endow our children with the rich traditions we inherited.

Finally we must never forget what an amazing country this is -in the words of Dick Hirsch “WE CAME TO ISRAEL TO BUILD IT AND WE WERE BUILT BY IT”

With all my love Jerusalem, city of our inherited dreams.