Friday, 30 December 2011

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem and Revue of 2011


30th December 2011

Shabbat Shalom and I hope all my Christian friends had a wonderful and contemplative Christmas.

Gosh it is almost 2012! This has been a somewhat exciting year and not the most comfortable. From Arab Spring which the insanely naive politicians described as a blow for democracy we recognise today that it turned into a deep and bloody abyss of tyranny. In Libya anger overflowed into such violence that they stripped former leader Muammar Ghaddafi bare, beat and abused him until he finally died. His daughter is now seeking asylum in Israel.

The much lauded Egyptian freedom rallies turned into a feast of violence that the media refused to expose even when one of their top women journalists was raped. In Syria thousands are mown down and the Israeli press, freer than elsewhere, told of the wounded who when they arrive at hospital are kicked and beaten to death on government direction. A new form of triage which identifies rebels and ensures their demise.

In the UK demonstrations turned to riots and in the USA they turned to left wing “Occupation”. Israel's Social Justice demonstrations began with Cottage Cheese prices and crossed the social barriers. They were quiet and dignified, and as a result the government ordered the Trajtenberg Enquiry into social needs which are currently being implemented where appropriate.

The Fogel Family was slaughtered in their home by Palestinian “heroes” and the media described them as “a settler family” as if excusing the heinous crime. Supermarket Entrepreneur Rami Levi showed us that actions speak louder than words when the family sat mourning their loss they found a stranger filling their fridge. It was Rami Levi who promised to do the self-same thing every Friday until the remaining children reach the age of 18. What a mensch.

Gilad Schalit came home. A frail young man did what no-one else could – he weakened the resolve of Hamas. When he realised that his freedom was hanging by a thread he decided to go on a hunger strike until Hamas feared his death, thus losing leverage. Our price was high, we have yet to understand the cost, but I am in awe of his resolve and determination, clearly inherited from his father, his unbelievable psychological strength. Glad he is home.

Israel won another Nobel Prize. Prof. Dan Schechtman, held in disdain by his fellow scientists who blackballed him for his ground breaking discovery, persevered proving he was right all along.

There are 5 new women pilots in the IDF!!! As PM Netanyahu sat “If women can sit in the cockpit of an aeroplane they can sit anywhere” referring to back of bus!

UNESCO finally recognised that the PA textbooks are not just anti-Israeli but anti-Semitic when their Holocaust denial came to the light. The incredible work carried out by the likes of Palestinian Media Watch and IMPACT-SE ensure that such travesties in education are brought to the light.

A President was sentenced and went to prison for sexual harassment and rape. Moshe Katsav refused a deal early in the proceedings and received the full services of the Israeli legal system which worked to the letter of the law.

Religious tension overflowed in Israel when women were ordered to the back of the bus. I warned of not throwing the beautiful baby of Judaism out with the bathwater of extremism and here is just one of the reasons. Every home in South Korea has a Talmud and mothers teach their children the wisdom of the Talmud. Why? Because they realised that Jewish genius comes from religious learning. Think about it.,7340,L-4065672,00.html On Monday I will meet the South Korean Ambassador to Israel Young Sam Mah in the Knesset at a reception and Q&A organised by the Knesset Forum on International Relations. I know what my first question will be!

South Sudan declared independence from the oppressive Moslem North after many years of slaughter and Israel was proudly the first nation to recognise them and send aid.
The Palestinian Authority tried to achieve world recognition but when it didn't go their way they decided to join forces with Hamas.
US troops left Iraq in turmoil and the internecine killing became untenable – if you want to know the truth then go to Canon Andrew White's page on Facebook.

A North Korean President died to the most carefully dramatised wailing session ever seen. No changes there though.

Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu was declared one of the 10 most intelligent people in the world with an IQ of 180.

His determination to limit foreign funding for NGO's which threaten Israel's security is 100% right. Not just Machsom Watch and their ilk, but the Haredim went outside Israel to persuade 5 millionaires to pay for a private segregated bus line. Herem m'bifnim (Boycott from inside) raises funds overseas so that when HaBimah Theatre was invited to the International Shakespeare Festival in the UK they can demand from the British organisers to disinvite Israel's National Theatre because they performed in Ariel!!!! Mr Netanyahu – implement this law.

Finally and most dramatically – Iran has finally been recognised as the apex of the triangle of evil. Had the Allies had the courage to attack Iran originally, not Afghanistan and Iraq – maybe.......?

Our renovations are over!!! Gosh it was no picnic but it looks great! The bathrooms are gleaming, all doors, toilets and showers in perfect working order and no damp at the downstairs neighbours! Instead of a bath in our bathroom we now have a wonderful shower which makes it hard to limit the time spent in steaming hot water – but we have to protect the Kinneret after all. The apartment is slowly becoming less dusty and of course the veranda – ah the veranda. We had a delightful breakfast with Rivka and Michael Bertisch Meir this week and afterwards we came home to show them the view from our newly refurbished and gleaming veranda. They were thrilled!! It really is incredible looking out on Jerusalem in the wintry sunshine. Of course, they wanted me to tell Stanley that the tiny orange tree is healthy but denuded and the kumquats already made into marmalade!!!

On Wednesday we went out for dinner with our wonderful Melbourne friends John and Pauline Gandel, the most amazing, funny, lovely friends anyone could ever wish for. Their grandson AJ is here for Academy and joined us for a Moroccan meal at Ima Restaurant – the excellence of the company far outweighed the food but the evening was a great success!!! By the way Josephine – I came home and immediately had tea in one of the Galaxy mugs!!

I pray that next year, 2012, will be a kinder, less exciting year. My greatest prayer is that Israel will be recognised as the democratic island in a sea of oppression; the incredibly giving, innovative and generous society that she surely is.

I want to end with a song or two. “Israel The Tiny” is a wonderful video produced by Allan Pakes, with the young singers of Afula, a new song that expresses all our feelings

Finally – or as we say here “Aharon ve Chaviv” (Last and Happy) Happy New Year from the IDF!!!

In 2012 I pray that all of us will show pride in who we are, where we come from and where we are going and stand tall in the face of those who would rewrite our history.

Shabbat Shalom and love from Jerusalem, heart of our hearts, centre of our prayers, core of our being.

Sheila and of course Zvi

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Shabbat shalom, Chanuka Sameach and a Blessed Christmas


23rd December 2011

Shabbat shalom dear friends. Shabbat shalom, Chag Urim Sameach and of course a truly blessed Christmas to all our Christian friends.

Isi Leibler is a religious Jew, a truly erudite religious Jew. Isi recognises that the issue of Ultra-Orthodox attempt at control in Israel has gone too far. Confront Unbridled Religious Zealotry Now by Isi Leibler

After a Palestinian man in distress stopped beside an IDF camp his life was saved by two IDF medics using intensive CPR. “We make no distinction between patients and will treat anyone in need – Jewish or Palestinian, men or women. It’s one of our values both as doctors and as soldiers in the army.”

Chanuka. A single cruse of oil lasted 8 days to light the Jewish people out of the darkness of the hedonisitic ruling Hellenist culture to reconsecrate the Temple. The Greeks did not necessarily want to kill us, they were much cleverer than that; they stripped us of our traditions, our language, our rites and our identity imposing total secularity. Without Brit Mila, Kosher food, Shabbat and of course our festivals we were under threat of simply disappearing, until one brave man and his family stood up and fought. Yehudah ha Maccabee – the Jewish Hammer, son of Matthatias, a priest from Modi'in, led the revolt against Hellenisation and King Antiochus' cruel tyranny – and won! He restored our faith, our rights and our identity. The power of one.

Yesterday I met with Anne Ayalon, wife of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon. Anne is not just a silent partner she is determinedly and wholeheartedly working to bring Christians and Jews around the world together in an understanding of where we both started – right here in this wonderful land. Bright and eloquent she works tirelessly for Israel. Anne is deeply involved in a wonderful project called The Galilean to encourage all faiths to come to the Galilee to discover their roots here in Israel and learn about our wonderful country. We hope to work together in the future to keep YOU well informed and part of our mutual future. I am thrilled that she loved the idea of “Adopt a journalist” so please remember to do just that – right where you are. Take one home!!!
After our meeting we went together to the Christian Embassy in their exquisite home on Rachel Imenu Street, to celebrate the Festival of Lights honouring both Chanuka and Christmas and our mutual love of Israel. Director of the ICEJ, Jurgen Buhler welcomed us, talking of his pride as a Christian who loves Israel and honours Judaism and prayers that Christianity's black history of persecution of Jews is in the past. Shia Ben Yehuda from Yad Vashem spoke pointing to the modern miracle of Chanuka – a German Christian and an Israeli religious Jew representing a Holocaust Memorial standing together in Jerusalem to celebrate and honour each others festivals and their love of Israel. Finally Rev Goosan Aljanian, Director Liturgical Chanting at the Armenian Church stood and in a full operatic voice sang an Armenian Carol. Candle lighting, Maoz Tsur, A traditional carol and then this. The ICEJ truly brought us together.

From the Embassy we went to see a film at the Cinemateque produced by a friend – Avi Angel. The film took us on a journey, a truly incredible journey of two brothers, two year old Avner and three year old Itzchak, hidden from the Nazis of Cracow in a bunker by an Aunt, their parents taken to their death, the aunt throwing them on a Kastner Transport train saving their lives. Their journey took them through Poland, Bergen Belsen, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and finally Israel. These tiny children were adopted by a young woman along the way, their beloved Nomi , who like Moshe didn't see the Promised Land, until finally B'nei Akiva freed them from Atlit. Their Aunt survived the war thus they originally called the film “3 Mothers for 2 boys” but the final name is “Here I learned to Love” in honour of Nomi. From the story of Itzchak and Avner Weinberg it is both deeply emotional and uplifting- Izchak himself came and answered questions, he and his brother now 71 and 73 years old with thriving families and full lives. Standing near the Western Wall in Jerusalem Avner says: "This is the moment when I claim victory over the Nazis."

From there we took our now familiar route to Mevasseret, back to Sam and Frida to light the Chanuka candles with friends.

For our special celebrations I bring you two videos. One about a Dreidl or Sevivon Did you know that your dreidl is different to mine? In Israel the four letters on the dreidl are Nun, Gimmel, Heh and Peh, representing Ness Gadol hayah Poh (A great miracle happened here) whereas in the Diaspora you have a different letter on your dreidl – Nun, Gimmel, Heh, Shin - Ness Gadol hayah Sham (A great miracle happened THERE)!!!
Growing up in Wales I had no idea that Chanuka means Sufganiot or Doughnuts. We had potato latkes but no doughnuts! Here in Israel there are so many varieties that I needed a video to explain it all!!!

Chanuka this year came together with a very sad personal loss. My adored cousin Jean passed away. Jean and Stuart, Stuart and Jean, inseparable in name and in fact. Always part of my life since I was small they, and later their sons Ian and Bobby, were an integral part of my family. A totally positive couple, generous, sweet, loving, giving, they epitomise family. They always stood by me, my decisions and never let me down. They stood with me in lieu of my parents and siblings as our “unterfirers” or proxy parents, at my wedding to Zvi, proudly handing me over to Zvi with great love and unforgettable smiles. Family, more important than anything else in the world, family means “being there” for family celebrations and tragedies; family means never letting anyone feel left out; family means supporting one another - always forgiving.; family is being able to picture where your loved one is; family is knowing that whatever happens your family will be with you. I love my family and was especially moved by Jean's sister Shirley who, in her eulogy, spoke of their togetherness and the fact that they thought alike and never a day went by without them talking and checking on each other. Jean together with her beloved Stuart, left behind the greatest legacy of all – two sons and ten grandchildren all of whom are absolute family. I will always miss you dear Jean, thank you for being a fine example in my life and for loving me so much.

Christmas came to Jerusalem! Not only the many carol concerts or the festive lights, Chanukiot on the streetlights of Jerusalem giving way to stars and cedars on Hebron Road leading toward Bethlehem but in the vast numbers of visitors crowding the Old City, mixing and matching with the Chanuka celebrations. You don't have to be Jewish to go into Roladin to try out their exceptional flavours of sufganiot!!

I wish you blessed festive season, whatever your faith, wherever you are. We all pray for the same things, a healthy happy family; a stable economy; to stop famine and oppression and maybe we should add one that the media and our governments concentrate on the important rather than on the convenient – like knuckle rapping a tyrannical murderous regime in Syria while concluding that the idiotic and illegal decision of Haredim to make women sit at the back of the bus was an international incident! Allowing oppression of Christians in the PA to go by as if it isn't happening but building houses in Jerusalem is holding back world peace!!

So. Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat shalom and Chanuka Sameach.
Happy Happy birthday to my wonderful big sister Eddie – so far away in Toronto Canada. Eddie I love you and miss you more than you can imagine.

Love from Jerusalem

Friday, 16 December 2011

Another Shabbat Shalom

16th December 2011

Dear Friends, I won't keep you long but I feel a deep need to clarify my letter of yesterday.
I agree with everything I wrote, no regrets, but I do regret my omissions and want to apologise to Yitzchok. While angry, as I wrote, about the hijacking of certain aspects of Judaism and even more of Hillary Clintons decision to point out the actions of a tiny minority's demands concerning women while ignoring the major oppression of women in our region and in Africa, I regret not adding the following rider.

Israel is a Jewish country – a Jewish country showing tolerance and respect to all religions but a Jewish country nonetheless. We are here in this wonderful Biblical spot because we came home after 2,000 years of dispersion, home to Jerusalem; our home, traditions and faith after exile and slavery. If we do not honour our Jewish traditions and faith then we do not have the right to be here!

In Israel
Shabbat should have religious content – even for those who prefer a trip to the beach than the synagogue.
Shabbat should be a day of rest – after all we gave the world the greatest social gift of all time so why dishonour it today?
Children should learn the age old prayers in school because their parents do not know how; however they should also be taught physics, chemistry, geography, history, English and literature too. The US and UK stopped teaching Bible in school but we won't.
Rabbis should be our ethical mentors.
Marriage, for Jews, should be under the Rabbinical traditions, but we must make it easier.
Conversion should be under Rabbinical supervision but an acceptable set of rules must be created and adhered to and the course for those who choose to be Jewish made smoother.
Kosher food should be the norm for supermarkets, with opportunities for those who choose not to follow it; but there should be a general standard of kashrut not a snobbery of higher and higher demands of kashrut for different sects according to a Rabbis whims.
Not all religious people are either zealots or extremists – as long as they respect me I extend deep respect for them – just ask them to give back to this glorious country – to respect the demand to work, pay taxes, educate their children as they must in Britain, USA or Canada.
Zaka and Yad Sarah , wonderful institutions, came as a natural extension of religious Judaism – Gamach and Tahara.
Not all modern orthodox people are right wing extremists and most “settlers” are good honest hard-working folk who pay taxes, defend the country and are a very important part of Israeli society.
Not all secular people are lacking spirituality, they take their goodness from the same sources and ethics and should be equally respected for that.
Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, my friend and religious advisor put it beautifully in his letter
Let's stop judging, we have enough enemies without in-fighting. “Torah im Derech Eretz” Torah with respect.
After all, as Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl said “If you will it, it is no dream”

Shabbat Shalom and as I learned to say in the sixties “Peace and Love”

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


15th December 2011

Shabbat Shalom! How are you doing? Well I hope.

This has been an odd week since we haven't been sleeping at home, but rather staying with friends in Mevasseret and coming in early each morning to let the workmen in to the apartment for a days work on our epic renovations! The journey has given me a whole new perspective of Jerusalem from the other side. But more of that later.

This should have been a wonderful week to report. Prof. Dan Shechtmans acceptance speech at the Nobel Award Dinner was amazing and Israel's Lee Korzits won a gold medal in the ISAF World windsurfing Championships. Apple, in an unprecedented, but wise, move, have chosen Israel for their first R&D centre outside California. Instead of being able to gloat at our successes I am angry, very angry.

As you know I rarely express anger, though sometimes offended, but this week I am furious. This is an amazing, free, busy society with women as leaders of two political parties, with important roles in finance, business, the law and the IDF but because of the determination of the media to chip away at any weakness here and the intolerance of a certain sectors the world now thinks that we are a society where women sit at the back of the bus, have to walk on the other side of the street and cannot sing for fear of offending Haredim!!! That is not Israel! I am furious that a few religious zealots are trying to impose their will on all of us. I am not in any way anti-religion or anti-religious, on the contrary, I love Judaism, the warm and gentle Judaism that I grew up with in a home with a Yeshiva educated father. This sector of society must understand that rights are earned by fulfilling ones obligations. Israel is a society of strong women and the rule of law, equal rights were hard earned by the pioneer women. If it wasn't tragic it would be funny that Shas Member of Knesset Nissim Zeev suggested that religious soldiers who don't want to hear a woman's voice should carry earplugs!!!!

Young right wing religious zealots, boys and girls, decided to test the border with Jordan and then threw stones at soldiers – injuring a senior officer and shouting “Nazi” at him. He is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and the shouts hurt him more than his actual injuries. I am disgusted. They should go to prison just as anyone who throws stones at our soldiers. If they want to be protected by them then honour them. These are not “settlers” these are hooligans and should be treated as such. Having vented my ire I must add a rider; had these young hooligans been Arabs then Im Tirtsu and Shalom Achshav etc would have demonstrated for their release – apparently “human rights” only belong to the enemy. Those same groups never decry the demolition of Jewish homes on the “disputed” territory – only Arab. On the other hand, when the same hooligans defaced a disused Jerusalem Mosque it was the ordinary people of Jerusalem who went in to paint over the grafitti and repair any damage. Now THAT is Israel.

Equally Israel is the “Haiti Grows” project launched by IsraAid just a year ago. The President of Haiti , Michel Martelly, visited the site two days ago, lauding the agricultural ability of Israel, our generosity in sharing that knowledge and the fact that we did not just help and go but stayed to rebuild. IsraAID just sent three delegations to support its missions in Kenya (famine relief), South Sudan (supporting a girls rape victim shelter) and Haiti (medical, social and agriculture programs). Tikkun Olam.

I spoke about my pride in Professor Dan Schechtman winning the Nobel Prize for his work on quasicrystals. He was shunned and derided for his discovery by his scientific peers around the world until finally, after 30 long years his work was accepted, applauded, lauded and he was awarded a Nobel Prize for it. His speech displayed his determination and humility.
“Science is the ultimate tool to reveal the laws of nature and the one word written on its banner is TRUTH. The laws of nature are neither good nor bad. It is the way in which we apply them to our world that makes the difference.
It is therefore our duty as scientists to promote education, rational thinking and tolerance. We should also encourage our educated youth to become technological entrepreneurs. Those countries that nurture this knowhow will survive future financial and social crises. Let us advance science to create a better world for all.”

Now back to Mevasseret!!

Leaving Sam and Fridas home in the small hours we turn the corner at the end of their quiet and leafy suburban road in this dormitory town to a view of distant Jerusalem all the way to the Calatrava Bridge. Young children stand on each street corner near the primary school, wielding large “lollipops” to stop the traffic and allow the younger children to cross. These youngsters, known as the “Mishmeret ha Zahav” or Golden Guards were formed on the initiative of a certain Kalman Raviv, Zvi's amazing Father to take care of the youngsters as they cross the road to schools all over Israel.

Driving thorough Mevasseret we ease our way into the traffic as we head off onto the side roads to avoid the dreadful traffic jams into Jerusalem on the main road. Within moments the hill of the Castel, or Mount Ma'oz, looms on our right, ancient citadel scene of so many battles, including the battle for control over the entry into Jerusalem during the War of Independence.

Next, winding our way through the tree lined hills, stripped bare by the Ottomans until KKL -JNF began to plant trees in 1935. Today Israel is the only country in the world with positive afforestation. On the right a large Tel looms, ancient buildings on its apex. The Russian Orthodox Church, its gold onion shaped roofs glistening in the sun; St Mary's Well, where Mary (Miriam) stopped to drink on her way to Bethlehem; St James Franciscan Monastery with its multi-lingual blessings and of course – this is Israel – the wonderful coffee shops and restaurants.

The last roundabout and Adwan waits with his baigeleh stand, Jerusalem baigels and zatar. These baigeleh are not like the sticky doughy bagels you know nor are they the same size or shape except for the hole!! About 10 inches long, 6 inches wide, soft and covered in sesame seeds one tears it apart and with each and every bite one dips the delicious bread in the paper twist of zatar, a herb mixture composed of savory, thyme, sumac, salt and sesame seeds. He knows us now, after all we are on this route for 10 days, and in response to my smile he goes to a separate bag to bring me the very freshest. Fauz also sells hard-boiled eggs – again nothing that you would recognised, these eggs are cooked for hours in a spicy mixture until the eggs inside turn brown – truthfully not my cup of tea but adored locally!

Munching our wonderful local breakfast we come to a sharp turn in the road and there above us a different kind of marvel, the huge modern form of Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem its helipad like a huge plate on the roof. Up, up a little bit further on the Aliya to Jerusalem. Nearly home!

To make life complete, apart from the constant drilling, sawing, dust and noise (to say nothing of tea, coffee and Turkish coffee on tap) I had an inner ear virus (Labyrinthitis) which turn my world upside down – but that too will pass!

Our house is upside down and Shabbat will be somewhat strange but no matter what the state of the renovations – I want to move back home to have the peace of Shabbat here, on my new, if dusty veranda and its breathtaking view. I need ot light my Shabbat candles at home – to be with my husband in our Jewish home. Candles, Kiddush, Challah and whatever meal I am able to garner from the remains of my half empty fridge.

Shabbat Shalom, with love from Jerusalem – the most fascinating, beautiful, spiritual, sadly contentious city in the world.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Shevua Tov special update

Motse Shabbat - 12th December 2011

Shevua Tov - a good week to you all.
I decided to send you a special updae today because of three special issues. The first is the new video produced by Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon; the second a new book from the Palestinian Media Watch team and the third a conversation I had with Canon Andrew White.
Spread the word about the third and latest YouTube video by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, 'The Truth About the Refugees'.
The video explains the issue of the Palestinian and Jewish refugees in a clear and concise manner, providing important messages for those interested in Israel. Send it out far and wide - it should be seen by as many people as possible to break the myths and ensure the truth becomes common knowledge.

Press release:
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israeli research institute studying Palestinian society and its leadership through its Arabic language media, today announced the release of Deception: Betraying the Peace Process, a new book describing the systematic hate speech used by the Palestinian Authority (PA) even as they portray themselves to the world as pursuing peace
I am thrilled to tell you that this Ancient Sefer Torah has been rescued in Baghdad and on its way to Israel, but 365 remain.
Please read what Canon Andrew White says - you or your community can save these precious Torahs. Canon White will do the rest but it must be soon before the troops leave Iraq.
" We have 365 Sefer Torah Scrolls in the museum. They all live thrown on the basement floor amongst the rats who are eating them. Iraq does not look after anything Jewish properly apart from Ezekiel's tomb. Every thing Jewish has been taken and plundered and the Jewish homes just taken."
When another correspondent suggested one should not take antiquities from Iraq Andrew responded -
"The Torah Scroll is not a museum item, it is for worship. I am not in favour of removing things from Iraq but they have no appreciation of any thing jewish. They forced 100,000's of Jews out of Iraq with nothing. This scroll does not belong to Iraq as a land it belongs to Iraqi Jews and it should go back to them. You can't rid the nations of the Jewish people, kill them and still threaten them and keep their things.
You know how much I love Iraq but I hate what the have done to the Jews and how the masses still talk about them with hatred."
Wishing you a fine week
With love from Mevasseret - right next to Jerusalem

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

8th December 2011

Shabbat Shalom to you and yours!

Help!! The world has gone crazy......... or should I say crazier? Women are buried to their waists in sand and stoned to death on the say-so of their husbands, honour killings are rife, women are fourth class citizens in most of our neighbouring countries and Hillary is bothered because a few nutters insist (against Israeli law) that their women must sit in the back of the bus? She is equally bothered by the suggestion – not the actual implementation, of women not singing in the IDF choir. Talk about disproportionate responses!! It is time to start demanding rights, any rights, for women in places where women are oppressed not here where women have led the country, are judges, IDF officers, senior MK's... we are the easy target not the real one.

I feel the same way about the NGO issue into an international issue. The government wants to prevent overseas GOVERNMENT funding of questionable NGO's These NGO's are extreme on the right and left and are deemed dangerous to the country's security. In case no-one noticed we have a security situation!! Would the UK or USA allow outside funding for Al Qaeeda? The Attorney General says that the legal standing of such an act is questionable so it has been temporarily shelved

British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould had his loyalty to the United Kingdom questioned because he is both a Jew and a Zionist. The Member of Parliament who raised the question would never have doubted a Catholic in Rome, a Moslem in Saudi Arabia but he questions the loyalty of an Ambassador who has brought only love and respect to his position.

Former President Katsav is in prison. He was offered an easy way out early on in the proceedings but chose to take his case through the courts, appealed up to the Supreme court and now must pay the price of a considered legal process which culminated in the decision of a panel of three highly respected judges. Even at the gates of the prison he was declaring his innocence. “Time will prove that you have buried a man alive”. I think not. He will share a cell with former Minister Shlomi Binizri.

The Jerusalem Marathon will take place in March 2012. The course will take the participants through many picturesque neighbourhoods, through the Old City and then back into the centre of town. Even this wonderful event is deemed controversial! How dare the Jews have an event which brings joy to the Old City of Jerusalem which is not theirs anyway? This video takes you helter-skelter along the route, showing you Jerusalem at a pace the runners will never achieve! You may well enjoy the spelling mistakes in the descriptions of where you are; working on that with the Mayor!

Sheikh Nasrallah the leader of Hezb-Allah in the guise of a religious man, came out of his bolt hole – rat hole – surrounded by bodyguards, in order to express his hate for Israel. His negative policies which brought Lebanon to disaster are all he has to offer. Positivity incorporated.

Yesterday I agreed with two things Pres Assad of Syria said. In an interview by the inimitable Barbara Walters, in which his fixed smile and denials of ill will chilled the soul, she asked him why he doesn't accept the rulings of the United Nations he declared the United Nations irrelevant - “Sir you have an Ambassador there” to which he responded “It's a game we play. We don't believe in it” United Nations – OK no-one believes in it. However my blood ran cold as he said “Only insane leaders order the death of their citizens” believing himself sane and innocent.

A group of StandWithUs Israel Fellows at Tel Aviv University has organised a unique conference on developing medical and humanitarian missions for victims of international conflicts and natural disasters. The three-day program for medical students and others will be held from July 25th to July 28th, hosted by the prestigious Sackler Faculty of Medicine of Tel Aviv University.

Until about a year ago I had never heard of Col. Allen West yet more and more people I trust believe he should run for President. A decorated war veteran and a man of honour, Col. West would not only be good for the United States, he would raise awareness and restore respect for the leadership within and without the United States. Will he accept the challenge? Actually, I hope so.

I know you want me to speak about the Ministry of Absorption advertisements in the USA, and I will but in short. I thought the campaign was overtly and overly honest and the outrage was extreme and came from the wrong place. ...... never mind I don't want to anger you.

Just as I was getting used to the idea that we are in the year 2011 Chanuka looms!! This year seems to have raced by without my noticing. Sure the grandchildren have grown bigger and we have a new little one called Ori, teeth have fallen and new ones grown, knees scuffed and noses bloodied, beautiful creations in artwork and the sudden magic of reading what is on the page.......... but December – you have to be kidding!! .......For your delectation Aish ha Torah has produced a wonderful Chanuka video. I know it is early but I love it!!

Our “shiputzim” or renovations are still going strong. As of today we have no bathrooms in the apartment, no shower, no sink, no loo......... and an awful lot of noise as the jack-hammers tear up the last bathroom to reach the pipes guilty of causing damp on our neighbours ceiling! At least the veranda – heretofore referred to as The Mirpesset, is finished. It is stupendous! The tiles, a beautiful gunmetal grey, are of European standard non-slip which means the grandchildren will no longer go skating every time they get out of the paddling pool! The workmen did a phenomenal job, not only in their accuracy but in the way they cleaned and rubbed every single tile to ensure it was perfect, the grout level exactly in line and the finish to standard. Our somewhat thirsty and sun-deprived plants are about to go back outside and enjoy the imminent rain. I am so thrilled that my search of the internet to find 7 rain-free days worked exactly!! Having discovered that one of the apprentices is only 14 years old I asked the builder why he isn't in school. “He won't go to school, doesn't want to learn so I decided it is better to bring him with me, teach him everything I know including how to do the job properly so at least he is not on the streets and easy pickings for the extremists.” The risk for Arab Israeli children is just as severe as those in the West Bank and I realised that Faiz was not preventing Asai from learning – he was in fact teaching him to be a useful , hardworking and productive citizen. Not everything is what is seems.

All of the workers are Israeli Arabs except for one fine artisan, the tiler. Abu Moussa (a common name so I am not divulging anything) comes from Bethlehem. Only 39 years old he looks at least 50 and has multiple medical problems – all easily healed with a little care. When I asked him why he didn't go to the doctor in Bethlehem he told me “They won't give us medication and the doctors are all Jordanian and really no good” We are trying to help him but it is difficult since unless his situation becomes serious he will not be brought over to hospital in Israel. It makes one wonder where all that aid money has gone........... obviously not to the people.

The jack hammer is disturbing the peace as we speak and I am finding it difficult to collect my thoughts. I rose at 06:00 to write to you before they arrived, while my brain was still intact!! Tonight we move to Sammy and Fridas home in Mevasseret Zion – peace and quiet and most importantly – a toilet!!! Back tomorrow morning to the smell of Turkish coffee, no, I don't make it I put everything ready for them and they help themselves.

Next week I will write again of the mirpesset and the view and about the beauty that is Jerusalem.

I wish you a wonderful Shabbat, one filled with family, friends, contemplation and love.

With love from Jerusalem, heart of our heart, centre of our world.

With love from Zvi and Sheila
PS Bank Leumi has launched their “Two million good reasons” drive for charitable NGO's in Israel. All it takes is a vote. Lev Binyamin is a wonderful organisation which cares for and gives to the Special Needs community. find them on the Bank Leumi Site and vote vote vote where it says הצבע

Friday, 2 December 2011

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


2nd December 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Having read a horrific story in the paper about an Afghani woman who was raped, imprisoned for adultery because of the rape and then released from prison on condition that she marry her rapist I couldn't keep quiet. This is ultimate inhumanity, only surpassed by slaughter. Indeed maybe even worse because she will die every day of her life. It brought to mind the wonderful words of philosopher Bertrand Russell who wrote: I cannot see how to refute the arguments for the subjectivity of ethical values but I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don't like it.

Do you know what the Salafim are? Well neither did I until very recently. Salafim are those who think that the Moslem Brotherhood are just too lenient and lovers of Western society!! Yes really. When one considers that the Egyptian elections have produced a Moslem Brotherhood victory (you read it here in April), that Fatah are romancing Hamas to the extent that they are spouting extreme anti-Israel, anti-West rhetoric again, I think that we have to understand that the borders of Islam have broadened to the extent that extremism is not enough. My natural tolerance is also being stretched to its limit.

This weeks Parasha (Torah reading) is fascinating and varied. It talks of greed and envy which not only caused brother to raise hand against brother; it talks of Jacob who ran away from his home and security in order to avoid the anger of his brother Esau; Jacobs travels and search for love and so much more. A very important, and much ignored aspect is that while on his journey to Padan Aram where his uncle and family lived, Ya'akov slept on the place where the Temple would be built by Solomon many years later. The Torah states:
"And Ya'akov woke up from his sleep and he said, 'The Almighty is in this place and I did not know it' " (Gen. 28:16).
Rashi's commentary explains that Ya'akov said, "If I were to have realized the sanctity of this place, I would not have slept here."
Jacob was unaware but understood it, today too many people are unaware of the sanctity of the Temple Mount – its sanctity in Judaism. As with so many Jewish sites the Temple Mount has been taken over and we are not allowed to pray there – yes exactly what I said – we are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount (not Jew not Christian) because it will offend the sensibilities of the Moslems for whom it is holy. It seems ludicrous. I do not demand from Moslems that they do not pray wherever they wish in Jerusalem but I expect equal respect to be allowed to pray on this holiest site.

An explosion in Iran, what exactly exploded is unknown but it is not difficult to guess. The Times of London, a dedicatedly accurate newspaper, says it was a uranium enrichment plant. Please G-d it has delayed the meglaomanic plans of Iran for long enough that our leaders recognise the danger!

Incredibly an Iranian plot was recently uncovered to attack Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Just las tweek I mentioned this possiblity, that they were in greater danger than Israel, but was told that idea was ludicrous.

President Peres went to visit King Abdullah of Jordan in his palace in Amman. Once our closest friend, the King has been wavering recently. Hopefully King Abdullah learned from his fathers mistake of siding with our enemies in '67, an act he came to openly regret.

Our friend Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen stands firm on her support of Israel, not only from her emotional ties but through considered reason of what is best for the USA

We went northward last Friday morning to spend a wonderful weekend in Deganiya Bet. We travelled the route down past sea level, down down until we turned left, seeing Jericho on our left – another place taken over by the PA. Our friend Eva is a tour guide and gave us a running commentary, she is so good that even Zvi learned new things!! We pulled off the road at Qasr el Yahud, which translates, from the Arabic, to Jewish Castle, a religious site which ws unattainable due to old Jordanian land mines on the site. The land mines are cleared and we walked down to the River Jordan and to the original site where John baptised Jesus. It was a very spiritual site, one need not be Christian to appreciate the spirituality, and we watched in fascination as pilgrims stood in the trickle of the Jordan (it is said the River Jordan has more history than water) to be baptised. At this point the River is only 5 metres wide and as we stood on the Israeli bank, just five or six metres away, on the Jordanian side, pilgrims were doing just the same. Glorious sunshine, wonderful site, beautiful ritual and good friends. It was an amazing experience.
From Qasr al Yehud we drove northward, the skies above us filled with arrow shaped skeins of cranes leaving the Hula Valley Reserve, heading for warmer climes. Our next stop was at Kibbutz Kinneret, home of Naomi Shemer whose most famous song is Jerusalem of Gold, written just before the Six Day War and triumphantly finished when Jerusalem was re-united. Naomi Shemer was prolific and many of Israel's favourite songs were written in this haven, well worth a visit.

Finally we arrived at our destination, Kibbutz Deganiya Bet. Ah, leaving the hurry and scurry of the big city behind we arrived in the green miracle that is the North. I asked you a question last week and most of you made the same mistake I made until corrected! Moshe Dayan was not the first child born to Deganiya Aleph, the firstborn was Gideon Baratz and the second was the future and legendary Chief of Staff born so close to Naomi Shemers birthplace – to be irrevocably connected through the reunification of Jerusalem. Friday night was spent in the “chader ochel” of canteen of the Kibbutz, the kibbutznikim turning in curiosity as Zvi sang out the Kiddush and his choir joined in. We just relaxed and sang for Shabbat – and wandered in the rustic beauty of the kibbutz, one of the few which still keeps to the communal principles of kibbutz life.

This week has been really strange. Our veranda is floorless and bottomless – as we try to cure our neighbours damp problem. All our plants – yes Stanley including the little orange tree, are sitting in our lounge which doesn't give much room for manouevring! The noise was phenomenal as the power tools worked away at the base level and took the tiles from the walls. Since we are simultaneously enlarging our bathroom, therefore removed all clothes and ourselves from the bedroom, life is hardly calm! I was fascinated to discover that two of the young workers were only 14 and 15 years old – and the 15 year old was married! Faiz, their boss, told me it was a familiar story in the neighbourhood of Jabl Mukabr – next to French Hill, but that he was determined that his 7 children would become doctors, lawyers, architects …..... anything but builders. However just in case, after school and at weekends he brings them along so that they will know how to work hard and appreciate what he is doing to ensure their future. Faiz laughs, talking away in his perfect Hebrew “No-one believes I am an Arab and sometimes I don't either” Faiz works with his brother, both speak perfect Hebrew and understand that the way forward is not through fanaticism but rather through hard work and teaching your children to stand on our shoulders and reach for the sky.

By next weeks letter I hope that I can report a beautiful clean and renewed house – but Zvi has the bug and is already talking of doing the other bathroom............. maybe he is right.

Thank heavens we have great friends and are invited out for both Friday night and Shabbat lunch. Indeed Shabbat lunch will be hamin – North African Jewish Cholent, a stew which is left on a hot-plate all night to honour the laws of Shabbat, and we will eat it with delightful friends. I cannot wait to have my home back and invite friends to sit on the veranda and see the view I try to bring to you each week, but on beautiful new chairs on a beautiful new floor. The view hasn't changed, the beauty of Jerusalem is constant as it lays before me. From Gilo on the right, through Beit Safafa in the middle with Ramat Rachel on the ridge of the hill opposite forming a green horizon; Talpiot, Baka, the German Colony and of course the Holyland Project to our left, it is all there, all waiting for us to return to our usual position, admiring the view. The flag is still flying proudly in the corner, framing the tapestry of white houses and green trees. The shopping mall below us busy, but the car park is slowly emptying as the city winds down towards Shabbat.

By the way, Egelbert Humperdink and Red Hot Chilli Peppers are the latest famous people to visit – why didn't you?

I wish you Shabbat Shalom, may your Fridays always be bright and clear and never “black” because if there are too many black Fridays your account will be in the red!!!

With love