Monday, 31 October 2011

Mid-week update. Moshe Ami z"l

31st October 2011

Halloween, for real.

30 rockets were launched by Islamic Jihad yesterday and the day before. All 30 created the terror intended among Israelis in the South sending them running for the bomb shelters and closing schools. 30 rockets over a short period; the 28th caused great joy in Gaza and horror here in Israel.

Moshe Ami was on his way home when Islamic Jihad decided to launch a Grad rocket on the town of Ashkelon. He called his girlfriend, Elah Kostin, to say he was nearly home, just two minutes away, when his car was hit by schrapnel from the rocket.
"We agreed that as soon as he arrived we would go to the supermarket. He called around eight when he arrived in Ashkelon and said that he can go shopping," she recalls. I told him I missed him and that he should come home. Moments later a siren was heard. I called him. At first he didn’t answer. I heard the explosion not far from my house. The second time he did answer and said that he was hurt by shrapnel".

Moshe was rushed to Barzilai Hospital where it was found that he had schrapnel wounds ot his abdomen. His condition was declared “light injuries” - not life threatening. In the operating theatre, sadly, the doctors found that they could not overcome Moshe's injuries and he died.

The media and the fact that we become inured to the pain of loss mean we don't really talk about the man, the family he left behind and his own pain in life. Moshe, 56, was divorced and father to four children. Unlike so many men he chose to stay in close contact with his ex-wife and children, affording warmth and kindness to ensure family life.

Just over two years ago he decided to place his name with a couples website called "Love me" and met Elah, they fell in love and moved in together. His life was good. This man who still missed his brother who died as a soldier in the first Lebanon War, finally found love and happiness.

I wanted you to meet Moshe Ami, to know that he, like all of those so horribly affected by this war of attrition, whether adults who lose their lives or children who have only known the fear of sirens and the 15 second dash to find haven in the bomb shelter. Hamas is no longer the most evil Islamic gang in Gaza, they actually wanted to call a ceasefire but the Islamic Jihad has the power now, Islamic Jihad is directly funded and takes orders from Iran without any go-betweens. As evil as Hamas is Islamic Jihad knocks them into a cocked hat. Islamic Jihad will not talk to anyone, they are not just evil they are the declared representatives of Iran and the despotic, evil tyranny that Iran represents.

If we respond, what will the world out there decide is a proportionate response? Are we allowed to do what others do and wipe out entire cities? Will we continue to fear what anyone says or will we do what we have to do? Just as no-one fully understood our high moral ground in our determination to bring back one young soldier in exchange for a thousand evil doers. Incidentally, our decision as to whether or not we bomb the hell out of Gaza is somewhat simpler now that Gilad isn't there. There is a new factor in the equation however. The Egyptians, post rebellion, are very unhappy at the ruling gangs of Gaza and want to regain THEIR control of Gaza. We don't know the outcome but it is more hopeful than the current situation.
Hamas wants a ceasefire, Islamic Jihad wants to continue the water torture of constant bombings.............. so the rockets continue. Iron dome works but we don't have enough, their war of attrition continues but we, Israel, hum silently in our heads “We will not be moved” This is our home – not theirs – we don't run – we speak softly and carry a very big stick.

Praying for peace, praying for anger at our constant suffering, praying for sorrow at the death of Moshe Ami. May his soul rest in peace and his family find comfort among the mourners of Zion.


Friday, 28 October 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


28th October 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. How are you?

The weather here in Israel is so glorious that “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” keeps running through my mind as the sun's rays become warm and welcoming rather than glaring; the pomegranates are red and ripe, bursting with health giving juice, the oranges beginning to develop a soft orange glow and the herbs filling out as the leaves rest from the searing heat of the summer. Faces lighten up and we all begin to feel the relief of autumn. The warmth in the air was conducive to gardening and I moved the annoying tree and created a wonderful flowering corner using the incredible orange and yellow hibiscus trees and the lovely fuchsias. I don't know the real name of the fuchsias but I called them Valerie's fuchsias because my girlfriend's garden was the first place I saw that variety!!!

Most of this week was spent with our dearest friend Kim Taylor who is here filming a documentary for his Children of Israel Website which will hopefully also be on PBS. I took a small part but Zvi, Zvi was a star, the camera just loves him and he knows how to talk to the camera.

I joined Kim, Deanna and Robert and of course Zvi, to film Member of Knesset David Rotem, leader of the Christian Caucus of the Knesset and Chairman of the Law and Legislature Committee. MK Rotem gave Kim's team and incredible interview. Actually, reaching his office was an adventure in itself, as we each got lost in different areas of the rambling new wing. The Knesset is such a beautiful building, walking up the main entranceway, past the eternal flame into the bustling halls and passageways of justice and democracy makes my heart burst with pride.

From the Knesset we drove out to the Community Centre in the Pisgat Zeev neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Pisgat Zeev comprises predominantly of new immigrants and the incredible Valla found a beautiful way to help absorb them and provide work for many musicians. The Pisgat Zeev music conservatory now has 300 young students and 30 music teachers. We were there to see a very special class of Special Needs youngsters who have learned to play instruments under the loving care of their teacher. Their disabilities range from Muscular Dystrophy, Downs Syndrome and Autism. The joy on their faces as they played “David Melech Yisroel” and “Ani Ma'amin” (I Believe) with great aplomb was plain to see. Achievement for those who fight so hard ot achieve is inspiring.

The next occasion that I joined the team was to the Municipality of Jerusalem and Mayor Nir Barkat. Nir gave a wonderful interview explaining the challenges of Jerusalem (he refuses to call them problems) and the pride and responsibility he feels in his Mayoral position. From the offices of the Mayor we went out to the Council Chambers where the Chairperson of the Social Services Department talked about the special situation of this city's residents, from abuse dchildren to drug addiction, from battered women to the elderly and homeless all made infinitely more complex by the varied religious elements.

Zvi explained the significance of the huge domed ceiling representing the myriad of thoughts and beliefs that make up this special city, the round table representing equality and of course the Biblical element of the circles of justice. While surrounded by columns – the straight lines of the law – the table is round to ensure justice always be shown in this decision making.

From the veranda of the Municipality one gets a 360 degree view of Jerusalem, its magnificent Old City, the modern buildings, the Hebrew University, the domes, towers and spires that represent the religious rainbow of this complex and fascinating city which has remained the centre of our world for 3,000 years.

I have a sneaky feeling that the highlight of Kim, Deanna and Robert's week was a visit to “Zion ha Gadol” the Middle Eastern restaurant where the display of salads was so incredible that Robert felt the need to photograph it! We always say that an Israeli salad contains just about every ingredient except lettuce! Shiny, succulent egg plant salad, bright beetroots and fresh garlic and lemon, carrot salad, rice salad, cabbage salad, beans, courgettes and potatoes all become a glorious cornucopia of delight! There is nothing quite like it. The array of salads each individual yet blending perfectly with all the other foods is so representative of Jerusalem's society – our very differences merging to make a delicious combination of colours and flavours.

The world is still trying to understand our willingness to release over 1,000 various killers in exchange for one incredibly frail and clearly ill treated son of Aviva and Noam Schalit, so don't try. It is something inexplicable, something so very Israeli, something so telling of our high moral stand and also our relative sense of what each human life is worth when dealing with peoples who hold death in far higher regard than life. One boys life is worth whatever it takes.

The same humanity made Israel the first to offer help and assistance to Turkey after the disastrous earthquake that befell that country. Erdogan, who initially refused Israel's help, is a highly unpopular leader, the Turkish people resent his determination to even further sour the relations between our countries. We sent sent caravans, blankets and other necessary aid to protect those whose homes were destroyed leaving them to fend for themselves in harsh winter conditions.

Ishmael Khaldi, Bedouin Israeli, is our former Consul in San Francisco and outstanding speaker on behalf of Israel. He was speaking at Kent State University when a Professor, not an ignorant student, a Professor screamed abuse at Khaldi he also shouted “Death to Israel. Do not be lulled into thinking it is not happening in the USA.

Dr Einat Wilf, Member of Knesset spoke on the BBC about the Gilad Schalit deal and the lack of equivalence between the release of Hamas murderers and a kidnapped soldier, Gilad Schalit

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of he Technion University of Haifa they created a truly outstanding video – well worth watching.

Just in case you thought that Israeli chocolate was limited to Elite – think again. Gosh this makes ones mouth water. Look out Belgium, Israeli chocolates are phenomenal!!
The Shabbat food is prepared, food that reflects the change in weather. Autumnal salads (no lettuce of course), Chicken soup with kreplach and kubeh, thoroughly stewed beef with vegetables and chicken paprika followed by pecan pie and fresh seasonal fruit. The table is ready, a sparkling white tablecloth, best dishes, sparkling silverware and glassware and of course the new Challah cover. I love the sense of Shabbat covering our neighbourhood, the quiet descending, the aromas rising and the families arriving to be together. Kurdish Jews have a special treat, Friday lunch is a big family affair. 'Marak Kubeh” We have a great Kurdish friend who, when asked why she was cooking on Friday morning when she was feeling poorly said “If a Kurdish man doesn't have Kubeh soup for lunch on Friday he sets of to work on Shabbat morning because he doesn't know what day it is!!!”

Finally, you enjoyed last weeks music so much I decided to bring you Three Israeli Tenors singing Adon Olam. This is so great –

I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, the beautiful glorious centre of our world.


Thanks to Phillip Pasmanick for this wonderful greeting
✡(¯`´•.¸(¯`´•.¸ ________ღ✡ღ_________ ¸.•´´¯)¸.•´´¯)✡
..✡ שבת שלום ✡♥ ✡ I LOVE ISRAEL ✡ ♥ ✡ Shabbat Shalom✡
✡(_¸.•´´(_¸.•´´ ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯ღ✡ღ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯ ´ •.¸_) ´´•.¸_)✡


Friday, 21 October 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


21st October, 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends

In case you are wondering, for us Simchat Torah (Celebration of the end of the reading of the Torah and the beginning of the new reading from Genesis) was yesterday, today is a friday with all the normal cooking and preparations for Shabbat. Life has been so intense over the Succot/ Tabernacles period. First the incredible tension of fearsome expectation of what Gilad's condition would be when he got home ate at most of us. The relief at seeing his incredibly frail form tentatively lower itself from the helicopter and then the van was tempered at the physical realisation of what awful conditions he was held in. He clearly had not seen the light of day for five long years, his normally pallid complexion wan and ashen, his body unbearably gaunt, his gait uncertain – but his salute strong and determined. The tension of seeing the media around the world question our sanity yet describe the return of these multiple murderers as Palestinian prisoners equal to Gilad. How could they? Those disgusting excuses for human beings were tried and sentenced, imprisoned in controlled conditions, thoroughly well fed and educated with family and conjugal visits............ they certainly leapt off those buses – no unhealthy pallour or gaunt physiques here.

Incidentally anyone who thinks that the interview with Egyptian TV was voluntary or that the interviewer didn't know he was forced into it should check out the photo of the masked Hamas guy standing over him with a huge gun should he answer incorrectly! Melanie Phillips caught the mood

If anyone doesn't understand our actions or believe that our determination to return Gilad to his home and family is a sign of weakness then they just don't get it!!! We know all the horrible possibilities – we live them every day!!!! It was worth it, and if you remember I was against the deal but the second I saw him I burst into tears and thanked G-d for bringing him home.

Col Khaddaffi of Libya was a tyrant of the first water, he committed heinous crimes against humanity and well deserved to die but I do not understand all the Western leaders who merrily announced his death without talking of the foul manner in which he was bludgeoned, shot and then his dead body was further abused and bludgeoned before stripping his clothes. The world is better off without him but should we condone such animalistic behaviour?

Back to Jerusalem, where Shabbat is closer than I realised and my table is not yet laid! The aromas returned from rotten fruit and stuffed vegetables to the regular Shabbat tastes and sounds. The shopping mall car park is empty, the roads almost devoid of vehicles and families begin to prepare for the arrival of the Bride of the Sabbath. I paid my regular friday visit to my grandchildren in Givat Ze'ev, having invented a few new games ot allow my daughter to clear the house and finish the cooking. Their favourite is “Savta Says” and slight change of the original Simon Says!!!!

Coming home I pass the glorious sight of Jerusalem, white, glistening, the undulating hills so close to our heart spread out before me. It takes my breath away.

Oh my, almost Shabbat. Time to put the oven on, set the white cloth, the plaited loaves and the wine goblet ready for Kiddush and Motse. Zvi needs to be woken so he can go to the Synagogue to sing my favourite Shabbat song Lecha Dodi

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Please remember that in this tiny beautiful country every young soldier is our son; every young soldier is ours; every young soldier is prayed for and loved and we do not allow anyone to suffer in seclusion at the hands of terrorists.

With love from a hazy, silent Jerusalem spread before me as a gift.

A special addition is this story, sent by new friends I met just yesterday. It captures the very essence of Israel, our founding and our fights.
Tell Danny he had a Mother We met Danny yesterday
Finally a wonderful site with pictures from the founding of this Nation and before.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Letter from Jerusalem - Gilad Schalit is home


18th October 2011

Simchat Torah............... Gilad is home.

Dearest Friends

This has been a week of joy, anger, delight and compassion. We are a schizophrenic country at best – we smile during times of terror and we stand tall when the world tries to make us bow down............ today our schizophrenia reached its height. As a country we are thrilled to see this frail young man return to the bosom of his country and his family; we are angry at the murderers who are set free; we find the price of Gilads release too heavy to imagine yet I, like so many Israelis, hung our flags proudly at our windows as Noam Schalit requested.

Poli Mordechai, the IDF Spokesman, was the officer responsible for the search and information on Gilad Schalit for the last 5 years ws the man who announced Gilads return home today. Poli knows what it is to lose friends and is an exceptionally humane man. Gilad was checked by doctors and psychologists, changed into IDF uniform and smiled again. GILAD SCHALIT, SERGEANT FIRST CLASS, LEFT ISRAEL AS A SOLDIER AND RETURNED AS ONE.

The most emotional moment was when Gilad Schalit, IDF soldier saluted the Prime Minister who returned his salute with tears. “I love you Gilad” as he hugged him, Defence Minister Barak shook Gilads hand a little too firmly for the frail boy and Chief of Staff Gantz saluted his soldier, hugged him and walked him gently to the room where he met with his parents, Aviva and Noam after more than five years of solitude and despair.

Noam and Aviva Schalit fought a phenomenal fight, their determination to bring their son home has taken them, Noam especially, on a long and heart-wrenching ride. Noam never ever gave up, used his democratic right to fight for his son and travelled the world, ready to talk to the enemy if it brought Gilad home.

I am aware of and sympathise with the distress and dismay of the families of victims of terror and survivors of terror to see those who killed and maimed their loved ones go free – indeed as you read here in my letters I was not for this deal at all; however, I believe that Benjamin Netanyahu got the best deal possible, I believe that we had to bring Gilad home.

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke beautifully of his determination to bring Gilad home and Chief of Staff Benny Gatz said On June 24th, 2006, Team 2, from the 188th armored brigade in the "Barak" division of the Infantry Corps left for operational activity along the Gaza border, near Kerem Shalom. During the course of their mission, on the morning of June 25th, the tank's crew came under attack by terrorists. During this attack the tank's commander, Lieutenant Hanan Barak and Staff Sergeant Pabel Slozker, may they rest in peace, were killed. Staff sergeant Roei Amitai was injured and Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit was abducted. Today, upon the return of Gilad Shalit to his country, his nation and his family, their mission is completed.

The helicopter just landed in Mitzpeh Hila – Gilad finally and really came home – the streets of this tiny village filled with Israeli flags and joyous people.

I wish Gilad and the Schalit family Chag Sameach, Shana Tova and time to repair the abyss of experience that they must cross to come back together as a family. Chicken soup and hugs may just do the trick for now.

Simchat Torah – this year we have good reason to dance and be jubilant and may Bereshit herald a new beginning. We already did our time in the desert, time to recognise that we came home........... just like Gilad.

Chag Sameach, Moadim le Simcha


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Succot Sameach from Jerusalem


12th October 2011

1935, 1935 days – Will he come home for Simchat Torah? Will Aviva and Noam Schalit have reason to dance? Will Hamas perform yet another turn-around breaking the hearts and spirits of this family that fought so hard to bring their son home?

Israel is on tenterhooks. We all want Gilad Schalit at home, every mother cried to see the smile finally cross Aviva Schalit's face, we are all proud that we finally did it, late but we got there............. but my goodness, we are filled with trepidation. One fear is, who will they give us back? Will the man who returns from more than 5 years of solitary confinement bear any resemblance to the boy who left? Will Gilad's psychological torment allow him to receive the love and comfort his family is so desperate to offer him?

Then come the fears, the deep concerns of over 1,000 killers whose sole purpose in life is to kill Jews and remove Israel from the map.

Finally comes the anger. The bile rises in my throat when I think of all those “humanitarian” organisations whose humanity lost its way when it came to demanding a single visit in all those long days and endless nights. They ensured that the killers who walk to freedom had conjugal visits, time to meet together, religious rights including prayer facilities and halal meat, education right up to doctorates, good food and entertainment, but one child, one young soldier whose only sin was being Israeli, not Amnesty, not the Red Cross, not the unChristian Christian Aid, no-one forced Hamas to allow a visit. Not one visit in all that time, not one word to say his parents love him. Nothing. Gilad was alone because we are alone........ and we are alone because no-one is out there demanding that we receive equal treatment.

Please G-d, help the Schalit family to become whole again.

The hammers have been tapping on every veranda, tapping into the night. Some people have wooden frames and fabric Succahs, some have fancy wooden panelled ones, some are built in the street and some on the roof................ the streets of the religious neighbourhoods are filled with stalls selling Etrog (Citrus fruit special to Tabernacles Festival) Lulav (the tall palm fronds woven at the base and of course decorations for the Succah. The strange sight of cars driving carefully down the road with what seems to be a whole palm tree on the roof, to be placed on the top of the Tabernacle to form the Schach or cover elicits thoughts of childrens toys with the expectation that they will metamorphose into a magic Succah! Dried fruits abound at the supermarkets, Dried fruits and nuts to eat in the Succah and one fruit that I cannot develop a taste for, fresh dates. Fresh dates bear no resemblance to the sweet sugary brown dates we are all familiar with, they are still on the stems and are a strange yellowy/beige colour and so dry to the mouth!!!

Thousands and thousands of Christians are here in Jerusalem for the Tabernacles Festivities and parade where Christians from around the world come to honour their beliefs and the City of Jerusalem. The parade is delightfully colourful, with national dress and flags of the myriad of countries represented, almost inevitable accompanied by Israeli flags. The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem organises most of the events surrounding this shared festival and Zvi and I will go to the International Conference Centre to the huge Tabernacles celebration. Thank you Jurgen Buhler for inviting us so elegantly. Welcome everybody, welcome. Your presence is just another message to Israelis that we are not alone. Thank you for your prayers for Jerusalem, for Israel and for Gilad Schalit.

The favourite occupation of many Jerusalemites is “Succah Hopping” going from friend to friend, family to family just to say hello, to sit in the Succah (Tabernacle) and bless the food which is inevitably presented to you!!!! Sweet stuff, fruity foods, stuffed foods, aromatic herby foods and …....... well to be honest just food!!!!

I wish you a wonderful Succot and a Holy Tabernacles.

With much love from Jerusalem which in less than an hour becomes a tent city of temporary homes to remember our years of wandering in the desert. Well folks, the desert is now blooming and we came home!

With love from Jerusalem – heart of our world

Chag Sameach one and all


Friday, 7 October 2011

Shabbat Shalom - Gmar Chatima Tova


Friday 7th October 2011

Yom Kippur is almost upon us. Hopefully we have all spent time in contemplation of our own actions and the actions of those around us to seek ways to make our world just a little better.

This week one Israeli made me so proud I could burst and others made me angry. I will begin with the latter because I want to leave a sweet taste in my mouth and yours.

Some Israeli vandals, nay Israeli hooligans, burned a mosque in an Israeli village which has always been friendly with its neighboring kibbutzim and true to Israel. I am incensed and disgusted. They have been arrested and President Peres and Israel's chief rabbis are among the Jews in Israel and abroad who have strongly condemned an arson attack on a mosque in northern Israel.
The rabbis made a solidarity visit to the Israeli Arab village of Tuba Zanghariya, near Galilee, on Monday (Oct. 3), soon after vandals torched the mosque. I beg “Slicha” from the villagers and pray that it will not harm their relationship with all of us, normal Israelis who wish them no harm.

Now that is out of my way........ I am so proud of Professor Daniel Shechtman. Not only for winning the Nobel Prize for chemistry, not only because he brought our tenth Nobel home but because despite being vilified and shunned by his fellow scientists he knew what he saw and he continued with his research until it was proven beyond all possible doubt.......... and made them eat their insular snobbery and refusal to think outside the box.
Professor Shechtman won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his controversial discovery of non-repeating patterns in atoms called quasicrystals.

A strange, almost eerie silence is descending on Israel, on all of Israel – no cars, no buses, no trains, no noisy motor bikes, no movement that isn't by walking. The shops have already closed, families are preparing the “Aruchat Mafseket” the final meal before the fast. Wherever I went today (indeed this week) shopkeepers and shoppers alike called out “Gmar Chatima Tova” Shana Tova – Tsom Kal (Fast easily). Religious and secular alike say these familiar, traditional blessings. Today all over the country people are doing “Kapparot” - few still use a live chicken to dispel their past sins, most use a cloth with money in.......... it is more politically correct and less cruel!!

Zvi and I went to shouk Mahane Yehuda this week, to buy in all the root vegetables and non-perishable foods before the insane rush next week. The Arab costermongers, along with the Jewish ones were wishing everyone Chatima Tova.Shana Tova and the colours seemed even brighter than usual, the voices had a sense of urgency as everyone chose the best fruit and vegetables, and of course the freshest fish. When I say fresh fish I am not joking, they are still jumping! Sometimes they jump out of the crates and straight into the path of unwary shoppers!

I asked Israeli friends for their forgiveness for anything I may have done, unwittingly, which may have hurt them as I do of you now. I beg forgiveness and promise to gather strength through my prayers to think a little harder before putting words to paper or opening my mouth!!

So, as I said, the kneidlach are bobbing merrily in the chicken soup – soup filled with the vegetables we picked so carefully in Mahane Yehuda. Leeks, Carrots, Onion, Courgettes, Parsnip, parsley and of course the herbs and spices that make that special aroma and taste....... turmeric, garlic, black pepper, hawiij, and of course a few sprigs of thyme, sage, rosemary and the scent of my veranda.

Almost silent, expectancy – both religious expectancy and the excited expectancy on the faces of the children as they wait for the last car to pass and parents allow them to ride their bicycles up hill and down dale to their hearts content!

Remember to pray for kind thoughts and change – change for positive thinking, different, out of the box thinking to bring about peace and tranquility in our insanely instant world. It took over 20 years of ridicule for Professor Shechtman to receive acceptance – it will take us longer. Think like Mahatma Ghandi and Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr, like Theordore (Benjamin Zeev) Herzl, have a dream and make it come true.

Gmar Chatima Tova

With love from Jerusalem, centre of our lives, our hearts and our prayers.

Not just Shana Tova, Shana ha ba'ah b'Yerushalyim!