Thursday, 23 February 2012

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

25th February 2012

Shabbat Shalom dear friends!

It seems that the only country not afraid of Iran is Israel, a fact disconcerting to countries much, much bigger! We live in a tough neighbourhood and bullies are rife, if we were scared of them we would have packed our bags and run years ago. We made a decision, never again to be sheep to the slaughter. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama will meet over the Iran situation on March 5th and maybe the two countries which have the most to lose will listen to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait who understand that the current Iranian leadership is a danger to EVERYONE. What I fail to understand is how the world (through the IAEA) used Mohamed El Baradei, since exposed as Moslem Brotherhood, to be our watchman over the Iranian nuclear programme. The Iranian danger to the USA is known

Syria and the killing has reached diabolical proportions. In an insane attempt to silence the media the troops targetted the press centre in Homs killing senior journalist Marie Colvin whose final report described seeing a little baby die.

Khaled abu Toameh, Moslem Arab, Jerusalemite and outstanding journalist, speaks on behalf of Israel at many US campuses, was speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations here in Jerusalem, told us he feels safer with Hamas and Fatah than on some US campuses! In a panel discussion moderated by David Horovitz, Khaled told us of the horrific bus accident just a short way from his home when children died. Despite Palestinian claims, he said that the first people on the scene were the IDF, followed by MDA and Zaka. The Palestinians just stood by!!! Khaled also told us about the foreign press. Once he informed them of a situation that put the IDF in a good light and only two journalists responded, so he made up a story claiming Israelis abused Pal children and he would take them to see and every one wanted to go and report.. Khaled told them he would call them the next day to take them to the place and never did!

The Conference of Presidents, led by the exceptional Dr Malcolm Hoenlein brings Jewish leaders to Israel to hear our spokepersons, meet our politicians and IDF and transmit the information to leaders in the USA. One discussion was headed by Steve Linde, the new Editor of the Jerusalem Post, as we left the discussion I met Marc Belzberg of One Family Organisation. Unlike the JA Victims of Terror Fund which closed leaving survivors of terror attacks high and dry, One Family has never abandoned them and the founders, Marc and Chantal, ensure the survivors are cared for. as their nightmares never end.

One of the greatest bones of contention within Israel is the matter of obligations and rights. One third of Jerusalem's population pays income taxes; one third of Jerusalem's population serves in the IDF; one third of the population pays municipal taxes; but, everyone receives social benefits irrespective of his/her contribution. This situation caused a terrible social rift as both the Haredi community (ultra-orthodox) and the Arab community of Jerusalem are financially dependent upon those who go to the IDF and work and tend to feel little responsibility for the society they live in. I am not suggesting that all Haredi families are parasites nor all Arabs – I am more than aware that some work, pay their fiscal dues, although the level of illegal work (un-taxed) is high and serve their country. David Ben Gurion, at the founding of the State, naively decided that 300 Yeshiva students should be excused conscription, ensuring the Jewish character of the State and excluded Arabs from conscription that brother would never fight brother, although both Bedouin and Druze volunteer for the IDF as brave and true defenders of Israel. The Tal Law had to be changed to ensure that ALL citizens become useful members of Israeli society. Attorney Yehuda Ressler fought hard to bring about this change and this week the Supreme Court declared the Tal Law without legal basis and the government will introduce a new law to ensure that everyone pays his/her part in defending this country – if not in the IDF then in Sherut Leumi - Public Service.
In contrast Prof Gerald Steinberg writes of Israel's thriving society in the newly formed Times of Israel -

While in New York we had so much fun with our little grandson Joshua and his Mummy and Daddy. We went to see the Paper Bag Company performance with Nana Ellen, to the Natural History Museum and by train out to the Coney Island Aquarium where we all got blown away – literally! We had dinner with Lenny and Ruth Cole where we had a wonderful time with each other and with our waitress Jennifer Press; I met my lovely Arlene Wittels and Deborah Davidson at the Met; we ate Nattie Zonszeins haute cuisine and Zvi managed to spend lots of time with Yolli, Dr Joel Zonzsein, his endocrinologist and best buddie. We spent a glorious evening remembering a dreamy cruise with the Gandels with Josephine, Tom, Joyce and Fred and I met my childhood friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen -we never have enough time to say all we want to tell each other! We went to the 9/11 Memorial which is breathtaking and finally on our last morning we met up with Rivka and Michael.

We tried to go each evening to the Shiva to spend time with the Lindenfeld/Sheinfeld family and honour Marta Sheinfeld z”l Mother of our friend Helene. One night Zvi took the evening service and on the final night the family's Rabbi from Chabad Coconut Grove, Yaacov Fellig gave a wonderful speech about Marta z”l; her character, her humility, her generosity and her legacy to her family. The Shiva is an essential ritual giving the family time to mourn, remember, talk and relate their feelings to friends.

The flight home was long, very long, but we arrived happily to the hustle and bustle of Israel's ultra-modern Ben Gurion airport, our luggage arriving at the baggage claim before we did, and raced to Tel Aviv to clean up, change clothes and go to the sumptuous wedding of Yair and Yuliah. It was fabulous. The next morning I saw my grandchildren and got all the hugs I had missed for 3 weeks while Zvi went to the parliament, I wrote a quick Shabbat Shalom to you and the children came for Friday night supper – in other words back to normal!!

Jerusalem, ah Jerusalem. Nothing changed in our absence except a change in neighbours and the sound of the power drill as they pull up the floors and make their mark on their new home! So good to be home, Shuk Ramle, walking in Mamilla with Rosa, even my visit to the supermarket was special, no small packs of plastic covered plastic fruit and veggies, the vegetables, morning picked, are piled high in mountains of shiny purple aubergines, small green cucumbers, wonderful juicy red tomatoes, large, moist, crispy bunches of parsley, coriander, mint and dill; potatoes, yams and huge onions which still have the life giving soil on them, bright orange pumpkin hacked into irregular shapes, seasonal, cheap, imperfect shapes and perfect taste. Multi-coloured hills of spices perfume the air - Israelis say “ta'am shel pa'am” the taste of yesteryear. Israelis don't buy a few, we buy huge bagsful!! Cooking is a national hobby and it's good to get back home to the aromas of 140 traditions!!!

Purim is creeping up on us and the shelves are filled with “Hamantaschen” Hamans Ears, filled with dates, or poppy seed, or raisins, or jams indeed almost every possible flavour. It is probably the most appropriate of festivals right now as one talks of the evil coming from Persia, from the town of Shushan as the Grand Vizier, Haman, spoke evil of the Jews, convincing the King that they wanted to take over his world. It took a woman, Esther, guided by her Uncle Mordechai, to convince the King that indeed the evil one was Haman and thus saved the Jews while Haman was led through town, backwards on his own white horse for all to see his idiocy. Ahmedinejad – take note. Every Purim families prepare “Mis manot” - gift packages (of food of course!) to give to friends and neighbours – usually of sweet treats to ensure that those you know have a truly festive Purim to celebrate our success over the evil Persian. Zvi has a philosophy that every Jewish festival is “They tried to kill us, we won now let's eat”!!!

Good luck to Joseph Cedar and his film “Footnote” in the Oscar voting. “Footnote” is an outstanding movie, go and see it!

So I have written enough, much more than usual! I would hate to bore you! However I have two Mazal Tovs in the family.
The first is my beautiful, adored grandson Samuel George (aka Samsam) who is 7 years old this week. Samsam who taught us all so much and is going to show the world that he can do ANYTHING.
The second is my big brother Ronnie who is exactly 10 times older than Samsam this week. Happy 70th birthday Ronnie - can't believe you are that old.............. gosh I will soon be catching you up!!!!

I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, heart of our hearts and our faith, most beautiful and multifaceted city in the world, city of white stone which glistens in the rain, glows in the sunrise and turns gold in the sunset and draws at my heartstrings each and every day.

Shabbat Shalom

With love

Friday, 17 February 2012

Shabbat Shalom letter


17th February 2012

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem!!! Yes we are home!

We had a wonderful time in Puerto Rico, Miami and New York and although I miss my NY family it is so good to be home!

The last week was a blur of friends and of course the glorious Joshua. My little grandson is so amazing, he really is a star and of course he loves Saba Zvi who does all the “naughty” things with him as one would expect! Joshua is not only beautiful, he is just a sweet and wonderful boy – well done to my son Daniel and Mummy Karen!!

While in New York we were able to be with Helene and Martin and attend the Shiva for Helenes beloved Mother Marta Sheinfeld. Zvi held hot discussions on the Middle East with Helenes wonderful father Norman proving that one can be an intensely intelligent man and still not quite “get” the situation here. Israel isn't necessarily to blame, indeed our share of the blame for what is happening in our immediate neighbourhood is minute. Rabbi Yaacov Fellig gave an outstanding drasha (sermon) on the last evening of prayers talking of Marta Sheinfeld and her legacy to the world. I promise to explain it to you on Monday or Tuesday.

One evening we went for dinner with Lenny and Ruth Cole (more of that later) and our waitress was exceptionally good and we got chatting. She told us that she is a graduate of Brandeis University and was so disappointed by the lack of Israel support there – lack of identification of the students with Israel. Jennifer Press impressed me so deeply by her enthusiasm and determination to change the way things are and go out into the world ot speak about Israel. Someone should grab her and use her in hasbara! Thanks Jenn for making all our evening!!!

Anyway I am going to write a quickie today because we arrived on Israeli soil of Ben Gurion Airport at 15:00 yesterday, went to Tel Aviv, slept for an hour, got all dolled up and went to a phenomenal wedding arriving home at 02:00!!! Despite our exhaustion it was worth every moment of Ya'ir and Yulia's wedding – what a wonderful, happy event it was.

As we climbed up the Jerusalem Hills toward home I felt the excitement grow and then as we come over the final crest there was Jerusalem before us...... lights glistening in the rain, almost ethereal as it his behind wispy clouds. Closer and closer to home and the veranda – our mirpesset!! Finally exhausted we climbed the stairs to our reward.............. opening the blinds there it was, wetter and windier than we left it but all the plants are thriving after the wettest January on record!

I am so happy to be home. This morning Zvi went to his Parliament to put the world to rights while sitting in Angels Coffee Shop in the Petrol Station and I continued to be hugged and kissed and told how much they missed me by my beautiful grandchildren, Yosef, Talia and Ayala and of course my daughter Rachel who is equally beautiful!!! Loved driving home past the incredible view of the whole of Jerusalem, set before me as I pass Samuels Tomb (Nebe Samuel). So happy to hear Hebrew, to be greeted by all and sundry with “Shabbat Shalom” and a big smile – so happy to know that tonight I will be lighting the candles to welcome the bride of Shabbat into our own home, surrounded by our wrap-around view of the most beautiful city in the world. Tonight we will sit around a traditional Shabbat meal with Zvis children and grandchildren. Life is good.

Will write about Iran, US elections, bombs in Embassies and …........Iran Iran Iran next week when my brain catches up with my body.

With love to you all from Jerusalem

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Shabbat Shalom from Florida

7th February 2012
I know it isn't Shabbat yet or even close, but since we are going to be in New York with my glorious grandson Joshua this weekend I decided to write to you now. Priorities are priorities after all, but I couldn't let the events of this week go by without comment.

Watching the Republican Primaries is fascinating. The candidates stand like soldiers at a Court Martial and respond to questions from the jury - I mean audience. The moderator, usually a journalist, keeps them to their time limit. Sadly too many questions were met with personal insults about the others rather than presenting policies for important issues. Santorum is too young and green but wants to make his name- a rather disturbing aspect of the man is that he is a member of Opus Dei. I knew nothing of Opus Dei apart from Dan Brown, but close Catholic friends are very worried. Ron Paul - ah where do I start? His views are so off the wall that I will not bother although he speaks to the people as if he is serious. I know who I want for the Republican Candidate and that is the one who not only is good for America but is attractive enough to win.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas knows full well that Hamas slaughtered Fatah in Gaza and that he cannot achieve international recognition as long as he is aligned with Hamas but he has chosen to dine with the devil in order to gain power. Prime Minister Netanyahu made this statement on the situation

Few are willing to acknowledge that the Arabs of the West Bank, who predominantly came from neighbouring coutries in the Middle East over the past 60 years and have always had relations with Israel, are very different to those of Gaza - they are two diverse societies and most certainly not one nation.

President Assad of Syria is systematically killing off his citizens and the world barely says a word. 350 people died at his hands on Saturday and yet Russia and China vetoed a motion condemning him in the UN!!! They support every motion against Israel yet when real killers get going they stand by and watch. TIME TO DISBAND THE UN. When the members of the League of Nations realised they were incapable in preventing WW2 they decided to disband and regroup in a different and more effective format - surely now is the time to do just that with the United Nations - conceivably the most morally bankrupt organisation in the world.

Niall Ferguson on Israel and Iran The biggest threat to the Middle East is not the risk of a brief Israeli war against Iran. it is the risk that Western wishful nonthinking allows the mullahs of Tehran to get their hands on nuclear weapons. This war is against leaders who deny the last Holocaust and prepare for the next.
Richard Cohen in the Washington Post "Americas Red Lines in the Sand" There are three red lines when it comes to Iran’s nuclear pro The first is the moment when Iran tunnels so deeply underground that Israeli bombs will be incapable of doing real damage. The second is when the tunneling goes even deeper, and the United States’ “bunker buster” bombs will be insufficient. And the third — well, that has already passed. It is the conviction that the current Iranian regime will never let Israel live in peace.
Essential listening - British Parliamentarian Douglas Murray speaking at the Cambridge Union on teh dbate "This House would rather have a nuclear Iran than War"

By the way one of the Iranian missiles has a range of some 8,000 miles when Israel is only about 1,000 - which means the Iranians are not interested in Israel, they are interested in YOU!!!
We are in Coral Gables in Florida where Zvi and I experienced a Super Bowl Party. We were told that the adverts are the best part! It's true!!! Of course Madonna made a terrific show but the ads - Wow! Aish ha Torah decided to make a Super Bowl style advertisement but better

On Friday we met with Nora and Marcelo Agudo, dear friends we met through David Efron. We had such fun as they drove us around Miami, old and new, showing us where everything started when the Myaamia Indians, who spoke Algonquin, settled beside the river ultimately giving the city its name. We saw where the Jews settled, the Cubans and all the immigrants began their lives. Fascinating!

On Friday night Zvi went to a local Young Israel synagogue before coming home to Friday night supper with the Lindenfelds. Helene and Martin invited the Silverwasser Family with David Efron and Kathy Fernandez Rundle to make it complete! The conversation covered many subjects, as a Friday night supper does, but then we concentrated on the question of young people and Facebook, misbehaviour and sexual predators - Kathy is the State Attorney for Miami Dade and I admit that I was surprised at some of the consequences when one is arrested but not charged. We did talk of Shabbat but these issues were important when the ages of the children involved in the conversation were relevant. For us, as Israelis, it was an eye-opener to the big wide world where children are at risk.

Then came Sunday. David Efron has his 60th birthday coming up in November and Zvi is determined to make it a brilliant affair! David donated the Efron Dance Center to the Hora Yerushalyim Dance Troupe and we want them to come and dance for David and also give several performances in synagogues and halls around Florida. To this purpose my energiser bunny husband is working hard, travelling back and forth and speaking to communal leaders. One of our stops was at the Bnai Torah Temple in Boca Raton. We met with Rabbi Dr David Steinhardt amid wild activity as the bar mitzva class was holding a "wrapathon" learning to put on their tefillin (phylacteries) It was such a joy! We then sat and spoke with the Rabbi in his office - another pleasure.

From the Temple we visited Cecilia Kleiman whose nephew is a very new Oleh to Israel. Zvi spoke to him and gave him great advice and hopefully we will be able to spend time together in Jerusalem. As we struggled to find our way to Cecilias we asked an old man directions. In a strong accent he said "If you give me a ride I will tell you". It turned out that he was from Kishniev in Romania, went to Haifa where he worked in a tank factory then emigrated to the USA where he was reunited with his son. He worked as a taxi driver in South Beach for many years. The conversation and his life story were conducted in Yiddish. Amazing Jewish geography. We then raced to hug Maida and Allen Gerskup - Snowbirds from Toronto and Maccabiah Family.

Our Florida sojourn is shorter this year and we head off to New York on Thursday. New York and Joshua!! Gosh I cannot wait to hug him. It is a symptom of the modern family, but being able to actually hug, smell, feel and kiss these wonderful babies is so different to Skype!! We will spend 6 days making memories until their next visit to Jerusalem. Strangely this week I have been talking to my Jerusalem grandchildren by Skype while on this side of the Atlantic!! While I was gone Yosef fell out of the trampoline and Talia learned to ride a bike without stabiliser wheels, Amit bent to smell her first Calanit (anemone) and the others just carry on with life til we get back!!

Today is Tu b'Shvat also known as the New Year for the Trees. If only the world would adopt this festival we would never have soil erosion or climate change again!!! Keren Kayemet (JNF) has planted no fewer than 240,000,000 trees! Israel is the only country in the world with an increase in tree population over the last century! Get planting everyone, here, there or in Israel........... trees are our oxygen and our earth.
So, that is that. Today we drove north again to Palm Beach to have breakfast with John and Jamie then to meet Ron and Talia Carner and hear Talia speak about her novel From there we met with a delightful gentleman called Sig, ate supper and so back to Coral Gables.
Yaacov Shwekey is an Israeli singer, my little Jerusalem g adore him, he sings Yerushalayim, a traditional song, sung under the chuppah (marriage canopy) to remind us of our dream, our prayer and our longing to return to Jerusalem, yearning for thousands of years since King David walked the stones and wrote his beautiful Psalms. If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right arm be forgotten- let my tongue cleave to my palate, if I don't remember you, if I don't elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy.
From the Office of Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen - a truly magnificent representative of the United States. Ileana knew and was proud of her Mothers Jewish heritage, indeed at the memorial ceremony after her mothers death just one year ago, which I was proud to attend, the family honoured her Jewi roots. Now, in a visit to Turkey the Congresswoman met her mothers family
With love, dreaming of wonderfully rainy Jerusalem.
Yesterday we heard the sad news that our hostess Helene's mother passed away. We met and grew to love Helenes parents over the years and the last time we were together was at the twins bar-mitzva just a year ago. Our hearts go out to the Sheinfeld Family - Norman, Helene, Joel, Richard and their families. May her soul rest in peace and the family know no more sorrow.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Shabbat Shalom Letter

3rd February 2012

Shabbat Shalom everyone - Shabbat Shalom from Florida!!
My goodness me - leave Israel for a couple of weeks and the neighborhood goes berserk! Assad is about to fall - a leader who has wantonly killed his own citizens while the world just tsk tsk's is finally about to get his just desserts. Egypt's violence is overflowing into sport and Tahrir Square is again filled with demonstrations.
Ban Ki Moon went to the Middle East to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the table. After the first discussions in Jerusalem he travelled to the Gaza Strip, as he crossed the border his car was pelted with shoes (an enormous insult for Moslems) and stones. Of course the press barely reported it - they only reiterated Ban Ki Moons statement on Israeli building in "occupied" territories!!!!
Talking of repeating themselves - Panetta is the latest to claim that Israel is planning an "attack" on Iran. Now maybe I am too simplistic but why on earth would Israel do something as stupid as telling the Iranians that they intend attacking their nuclear facilities in April? Surely the whole point is the element of suprise? I know the USA has announced that it will attack in July or some such but I do not understand the principle behind it! If Iran is truly the enemy we believe it to be then we must attack now and not in 3 or 6 months and if the world is waiting for Israel to do their dirty work so that they can blame us for killing innocent Iranians then I am even more confused. Every time we even defend ourselves we are treated as if we are the neighbourhood bully so what will happen if we really do choose to defend the world?
The Guardian newspaper is biased - but truly biased against Israel. Unlike its American counterpart, the NY Times, it often allows pro-Israeli op-eds. This is an excellent one in response to a Guardian article accusing Israel of mistreating Palesinian child prisoners
At a time of increasing darkness as the world gets closer to a repetition of the Inquisition and Holocaust, and Israel resembles the sacrificial lamb of Czechoslovakia there are rare beacons of light as shown in this multi-faith visit to Auschwitz -maybe we will not forget after all.
Israel 21c often tells us about wonderful Israeli innova but this weeks edition told us of one that can make a huge difference to the lives of those undergoing chemotherapy - removing nausea from the rotten equation
Puerto Rico was great and the Efron/Duffy wedding even greater! The guests were from diverse backgrounds yet thanks to the amazing hosts, David Efron, Kathy Duffy and Simon Duffy, we all truly gelled. We were taken on a tour to the rain forest where we were introduced to incredible flora and fauna including millimetre high orchids and a large rather foul snail that excretes through its mouth! What amazed me most of all was that these glorious guests were even noisier than busloads of Israelis!! We were wined and dined and amused until the day of the wedding then came Jenny, radiant in her exquisite gown, on her way to the chuppah to become a Jewish wife. We made amazing new friends who have joined the Shabbat Shalom family. David Efron, father of the bride and of the Maiden of Honour, Lauren, did his daughters truly proud - and us too. There were almost as many events after the wedding as there were before and we rounded off our visit with a delicious dinner at the home of Sara and Efraim Kier.
Now we are staying in Florida with our dearest friends Martin and Helene and family and last night I thoroughly enjoyed myself making a "Great Balls of Fire" fancy dress for Jeremy!! The "energiser bunny" (aka Zvi) has us visiting lots of old friends racing up the I95, starting with David Weissman (Maccabi) Flory and Paul Hariton, Raquel and Jacobo Skolnik and David Bassan (all old friends from Keren Hayesod). Visiting friends is what our visit is all about. While here Zvi is introducing the outstanding Israeli dance troupe Hora Yerushalyim to South Florida and Puerto Rico!
One fascinating aspect of Florida life is that virtually ev is an immigrant and most of the Jewish immigrants brought their strong sense of communiy with them. The Venezuelans brought their natural philanthropy, social conscience and "Yiddishkeit" (a natural sense of Jewish principles) with them, bringing to assimilated America a richness of tradition that was disappearing. They understand that Diaspora and Israel are interdependent rather than believing us to be emotional baggage in the pursuit of happiness, a magen david around the chain that binds. Please please - if you believe I am wrong then tell me - but then I am not talking about YOU - you are already aware!!
When tragedy hits, even when expected, it takes your emotional breath away. A month ago I told you about the loss of my adored cousin Jean and last night her son Bobby, my amazing, generous, funny, loving cousin, Jean's son, passed away and I feel so far from the family and so filled with pain. Bobby together with his wife Eleanor have given our world a wonderful legacy of six gorgeous children and memories of a loving, giving Jewish family. Bobby "arms and legs".
Shabbat this week will be spent with Helene and Martin and family, and David Efron and his partner Kathy will come too. I can't wait to hear Jeremy, Ilan and Martin's harmony to Zvi's kiddush. After all, tradition is tradition wherever you are.
Next week we will be in New York and I will be hugging my little grandson Joshua and his Mummy and Daddy, not Jerusalem, no veranda but my goodness it will feel good.
With love from your friends Sheila and Zvi, on their way back to Jerusalem.