Friday, 30 March 2012

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


March 30th 2012

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

We are all still reeling from the diabolical shootings in Toulouse last week which left a young woman without her family and parents without their beautiful little girl. The father of the murderous brothers says he will sue the French government for killing his son – surely a clear example of the insanity of extreme Islam. As to Eva Sandler one asks “How can she go on?”, the question on all our lips. Sherry Mandell who lost her son Kobi in a terror attack now writes a letter to Eva Sandler. “One day you will celebrate life”

The slaughter is not new. 10 years ago families excitedly unpacked their suitcases as they prepared themselves for Seder night at the Park Hotel in Netanya. A young man walked into the hotel entrance and blew himself up taking 30 innocent people with him.

10 years ago on the 30th March, 2002 Zvi and I received a telephone call from Orly as we drove back from Tel Aviv. “There has been a bombing at My Coffee Shop on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv and Yaffa and Moshe's daughter Kinneret is in critical condition. Kinneret Boosani was working in the coffee shop and walked up to the young man to offer him a coffee, as she began to walk away he exploded the belt around his chest and the bar burst into flames, engulfing Kinneret. Itzchak Kochav was the first on the scene as a paramedic volunteer with Magen David Adom tending the injured and as they scoured the coffee shop he suddenly saw something move under the bar, just an arm protruded from the heavy wood; thus Kinneret's life was saved. She spent 80 agonising days in an induced coma, I saw her and even through the drugs she smiled at me. Kinneret was burned on 85% of her body and the exquisite dancer, model, student was never ever the same, she got better and better. That night Kinneret became Kinneret Chaya, Kinneret Lives and live she did. I saw Kinneret Chaya about twice a week at the hospital and the rehab and over the next 2 years was privvy to her first taste of a grape, her Mum's “ptitim”, her first step, her first shower, her first “real” clothes and her first visit home, and I wrote about every second of her rebirth. The greatest miracle is that today Kinneret Chaya is a wife and mother to two beautiful little girls. She is still beautiful, from the inside out. Beautiful, brave and a true miracle. Happy re-Birthday darling girl.

The elections for a new head of the Kadimah party were unfortunately low key and the incumbent, Tsippi Livni lost. She didn't lose because she is a woman, she lost because she gave us no hope, no positivity, only anti-Bibi rhetoric. The leader of the opposition needs to form a shadow government and provide a creative alternative not simply go against the current powers. The new leader is Shaul Mofaz, Israeli hero, former Chief of Staff who ironically was born in Iran. Maybe he came forward at a time when Farsi may just save us.

Ambassador Michael Oren wrote an outstanding article on the Plight of Christians in Arab countries. Finally the level of concern and honesty about the poor Christians is reaching higher up the diplomatic ladder and hoefully soon at least one Christian leader will admit this diabolical situation.

Talking of dishonesty.....Bravo America. Refusal of the State Dept to recognise Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel to the extent that they refuse to put Jerusalem, Israel on American passports as place of birth!!. Zvi and I sat in the House and heard the almost unanimous vote to move Americas Embassy to Jerusalem - how undemocratic can one get when 3 Presidents vetoed YOUR representatives! Friends it is up to you to demand recognition of Israel's capital city. For heavens sake your government recognises Tripoli, Damascus, indeed all other capital cities, even those of tyrannical governments, but not ours not their truest ally. To me that is racist!! See this video of a representative of the State Department facing a brave questioner

Forget your images of romantic desert nomads and read the truth in Ambassador Zvi Mazel's article “Lawlessness and Terror: The Bedouin Kingdom of Sinai”

Today March the 30th Buy Israel Goods day. Go BIG today – beat the boycott attempts with BUYcotts!!

Walk into any Israeli supermarket this week and every “special” is cleaning fluid, polishing spray or scrubbing brushes!! Pesach is one week away and the frenzy is full on! Carpets hang precariously over verandas as floors are scrubbed within an inch of their lives, dishes are schlepped from store=rooms and the receiving cupboards lined and ready. The supermarkets here, especially the one I go to, undergo a total change. Shelving is scrubbed down and all remnants of non-Passover foodstuffs disappear into depots or underneath sheets of white paper with big “untouchable” signs on them. The array of Passover goods is not simple however, being Ashkenazi has become a challenge! Ashkenazi Jews do not eat pulses or grains on Passover, really not a problem, but since Sefardi and Mizrachi Jews are allowed to eat self-same pulses and some of the grains it all gets complex! I cannot shop for Passover without my reading glasses any more.

We had wonderful rain this week interspersed with spring sunshine. The leaves are beginning to emerge in tiny green spikes from the bare branches and as I passed through Givat Zeev I saw fields of bright pink cherry blossom, heralding a fine crop later in the year. It is strange to see two societies beside each other. The modern Jewish town together with the Arab villagers who still use a donkey and plough to work their fields. Their children tend the flocks of goats and sheep rather than going to school to better their position and although some have started artisan workshops most simply do not move beyond their old ways. The plant nursery in Givat Zeev however is run by young Arab men who come in to work each morning in their Palestinian number plate cars and provide a wonderful service and marvellous plants and do a roaring trade, and their clients are almost exclusively Jews.

What a strange part of the world we live in. As I write thousands of Arabs egged on by ill-informed, dis-informed or mal-informed non-Israelis are walking to our borders to stand and shout insults and tell us to go back where we came from...... the trouble is they don't accept that we came from here, right here, Judea, Samaria, Canaan....... here. What do you do when you live in the Diaspora and they tell you to go back where you came from (Israel) and then when you do just that they tell you to go back where you came from (Europe)!!! I'll tell you what you do; you create a brand new wonderful society right where you started from. You build a democratic country, great hospitals and universities, lead the world in research and technology and reach out to help those who suffer whether it be disaster of tyranny and help them. Yes that's what we did and what we do. That is Israel. Simon Deng says it best in this interview where the former Sudanese slave talks about Israel

The apartment is full of the wonderful aromas of a full Shabbat dinner. Courgette salad, aubergine salad, coleslaw, endive and lettuce salad with fresh orange juice, chicken in mushroom sauce, beef stew, yellow rice – and of course soup to start! Next week I wil begin my Passover shopping but don't worry I promise to write to you – it may be short but I will write. Now I am off to finish setting the table for supper – only 14 of us today! Zvi is thrilled that his family is here from Argentina and his boys are coming with their families to see them.

Shabbat shalom dear people, remember, we were slaves in Egypt, slaves to the Roman and the Greeks, but now we have Israel, OUR State, OUR home, OUR heart and that heart resides in Jerusalem. No service or gathering is complete without the chanting of the words “Next year in Jerusalem”. This year make it different – make it THIS year in Jerusalem, this year and every year.

With love

Friday, 23 March 2012

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


March 22nd, 2012

I want to wish you Shabbat Shalom but I cannot stop thinking about the funerals held in Jerusalem yesterday.

I am angry, very angry. The atmosphere created by media and Islamic fundamentalists allowed it to happen, sanctioned anti-Semitism through their disinformation gave him the right to shoot and us dispensable. Four people died, a father and his two babies after which the killer made another deadly pass to shoot a little, beautiful 8 year old girl in the head because he had "only" wounded her. Why? Because everything he learned from the French press (the Mohammed Al Dura case) - he was taught that Israelis kill Palestinian babies so he had the right of revenge.

Melanie Phillips says it better than I in her article Laying the groundwork for the Toulouse massacre -

Muhammed Mera travelled to Afghanistan, heart of the Taliban and Al Qaeeda and learned how to hate, who to hate and how to kill them. Muhammed Mera is no different to the young terrorists of 7/7 in London, from middle class families, 2nd generation immigrants from Islamic countries, comfortable homes, yet fertile ground for terror. It begins in the Mosques and continues through Afghanistan. Western countries must negate the rights of any young men who go to Afghanistan for any reason other than military posting.

Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the families, and after meeting the young mother who lost her husband and two elder children, sat clutching her surviving baby to her pregnant belly he trembled with anger as he said “How can anyone have so much hatred to kill children with such barbaric savagery? How can this young woman continue?

Rabbi Jonathan, Gabriel (6) and Arieh (3) Sandler and Miriam Mosonego (8) – May their beautiful souls rest in peace and their families be consoled among the mourners of Zion.

The United Nations is known for its inequity. Israel's exceptional Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, called for the dismissal of a Jerusalem based U.N. agency employee widely known for her blatant anti-Israel activism. Khulood Badawi, the information and media coordinator for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Je Ms Badawi tweeted a photograph of the bloodied body of a Palestinian child claiming it was as a result of IDF action. The photograph was a Reuters photograph of an accident in 2006. Zvi and I were made aware of the situation in the Jerusalem UN HQ when some 10 years ago we were invited to a personal dinner by the man then in charge of the UN Forces in the Middle East General Franco Ganguza and his delightful wife. He had a major problem getting us into the compound which is 98% Palestinian (not Israeli Arabs) and soon thereafter was “relieved of his duties for getting too close to the locals”!!!

To add insult to injury yesterday the United Nations' Human Rights Council passed a resolution ordering a first probe into how Israel's West Bank settlements may be infringing on Palestinians' rights. The resolution was adopted, 36 in favour, 10 abstentions. The United States voted against it.

Prime Minister Netanyahu respondedThis is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel. This council ought to be ashamed of itself. Until today, the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran. One only had to hear the Syrian representative speak today about human rights in order to understand how detached from reality the council is. Another proof of its detachment from reality came last week when it invited before it a representative of Hamas, an organization whose ideology is based on the murder of innocents.”

OOOOOOF! Enough bad news we must encourage the positive side of our schizophrenia and move to sweeter things, to raise our collective mood in time for Shabbat.

Last Friday night, for Shabbat dinner, we were invited to the Eldan Hotel by the Doppelt Family. Just like you, I met Michael Doppelt through my writings and we met one day in Cafe Caffit, since when we became firm friends. Michael ran in the Jerusalem Marathon last Friday – completing the course through torrential rain on the difficult surface of Jerusalem's streets (his father Steve completed 10k in his first ever marathon) before hosting a delightful group of Jerusalemites for Shabbat together with Mum Carol. It was delightful! There is a Yiddish word “heimische” which translates beautifully into English as homely, but means something less complimentary in American!! Now I know where Michael got his “Yiddischkeit” and his love of Israel.

My glorious friend Arlene is in Israel! I was so excited when she told me she was coming, I watched her aeroplane land on my computer and awaited her excited call from the baggage claim. Sadly she't come to Jerusalem and her boyfriend Adnan at the front desk of the King David (our joke) but rather to Kfar Shmeriyahu and Fegie! I managed to get one day from her, only one day to see the wonders of Jerusalem with a woman I love and admire, but better than nothing!!! We went to Yad Lakashish (all products made by old or infirm Jerusalemites) and then at Arlenes request we went to Shouk Mahane Yehuda. I loved watching her as she revelled in the sights sounds, hustle and bustle of that most Yerushalmi place in the world! The sheer variety of the passers by and the costermongers, many shouting hello, is overwhelming, the Shouk is the rainbow I so often talk about.

We went to the small but delicious coffee shop Cafe Mizrachi where one sits watching the world go by while eating, amazing freshly made food. The couple sitting next to us ordered a truly incredible looking soup which provided the perfect opener for conversation. Where are you from ? Norway; I expected antipathy the moment I heard Norway but persevered with a smile and curiosity. I found great sympathy, empathy and genuine concern. They were open and kind people, she is here for medical professors conference he as a tourist. Her husband spoke with such quiet considered gentleness of their recognition of Israel's situation that it warmed our hearts. As they left he turned and said “You know, the people of Norway are with you”. Arlene wanted to come back to our home to sit once more on our veranda, to watch Jerusalem while waiting for her lift back to Tel Aviv. Her tears flow naturally as she walks onto our veranda and she refreshes her understanding of Jerusalem's significance. Tel Aviv is fun, but Jerusalem is Israel; Jerusalem is significant and every day here is special. Arlene Wittels is exceptional, amazing friend, intelligent giving lady, hard worker for Israel and a special person. I always want more of Arlene; she is my mentor and my friend.
Sheri Arison is Israel's richest woman but she has a very strong sense of social justice and is always looking for new thoughts on doing good. Her “Good Deeds Day”, held this week, brought 250,000 Israelis into schools, old peoples homes, indeed every place that needs help to do good! Zvi volunteered in Gilo. He was thrilled at the incredible organisation, each recipient institution or home was asked what they needed and the tools and equipment awaited the volunteers so that they could simply do the job. He came home aching all over and covered in paint, but very very happy. Brava Ms Arison, Israel is pr of you!

Today is Betty Korman's birthday and yesterday five of us celebrated by taking her on a magical mystery tour south of Jerusalem into the Judean Hills. We drove to Maaleh Adumim, a beautiful dormitory town through the stark Judean Hills about 10 minutes south of French Hill. There we toured the archaeological excavations of one of the many Christian religious sites, a very special one, the Monastery of Marytius

From there we went to the Castel museum, the site, overlooking the breathtakingly stark Judean Hills, tells the history of the man and his work. Lauded by his peers in Paris, Modigliani, Chagall, Soutine et al, who were his friends in Paris where he went to study art when just a teenager. His family, true Sefaradim (exiles from Spain) and his absolute connection to Israel are evident in every piece. His Jewish roots deeply embedded in love for his family who lived in Hebron after Spanish Inquisition.

Miracles happen. In the Diary of Anne Frank she talked about the chestnut tree outside her window, and that tree produced saplings and those saplings grew and now one of them, one of those saplings will be planted in Yad Vashem – in memory of Anne Frank. A tree that grew out surrounded by hatred will be planted in love in a free, independent Jewish State, in Israel.

So that's that! The bride of Shabbat is on her stately walk down the aisle of preparations as the Jerusalem world slows down to welcome her. The supermarkets are bursting, the kitchens a flurry of activity, children are scrubbed clean, homes sparkle, tables are set and shining silver candlesticks are laid ready to receive the white candles which will be lit one hour before sunset. I love Shabbat, I love Shabbat in Jerusalem, I love Jerusalem.

Shabbat Shalom to you all

With love from Jerusalem, glistening in the gentle sunshine of spring.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


16th March, 2012

Shabbat Shalom dear friends

Unfortunately despite protestations from both Hamas and Islamic Jihad that they are doing everything in their power to stop the launching of missiles from Gaza onto Israeli towns and cities but they are failing. The terrifying conclusion that must be drawn from their failure is that Hamas and the more extreme Islamic Jihad are now considered too Western, too liberal, not extreme enough. While the barrage on Sderot, Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne and all in between has lessened but still continues. It seems odd that here in Jerusalem we blissfully go about our normal business while those in the South suffer dread and trauma with each boom, each Red Alert, even each successful deterrent missile from Iron Dome wreaks emotional havoc by its resultant explosion in the sky.

I half expected public outcry that Israel's amazing defensive innovation, Iron Dome denied the human rights of the Palestinians to bomb Israeli cities, but it didn't happen - to my amazement!!! Iron Dome is a game changer. When 90% of the missiles are taken out by this amazing defensive weapon the fear of death among the population is drastically reduced. Necessity is truly the mother of invention.

The Israeli Government has written a letter to Ban Ki Moon, complaining about the incessant missile attacks on Southern Israeli citizens . The United nations will undoubtedly ignore the missive as they ignore the missiles. How can one trust an organisation that insists Syria remain on the Human Rights Council?

As the Gazan missiles rain on the South Israel does not stop reaching out to help the world. One year after the catastrophic Japanese earthquake IsraAid is still there helping the Japanese people in the earthquake area deal with PTSD.

Nicky Larkin: Israel is a refuge, but a refuge under siege. Through making a film about the Israeli-Arab conflict, artist Nicky Larkin found his allegiances swaying. I used to hate Israel. I used to think the Left was always right. Not any more. Now I loathe Palestinian terrorists. Now I see why Israel has to be hard. Now I see the Left can be Right -- as in right-wing. So why did I change my mind so completely?

I am fascinated by the similarity between India and Israel. Not only did India have a woman Prime Minister in Indira Gandhi; twos Prime Minister were assassinated by radicals, Indira and her son Rajiv. India was a Hindu country with a large Moslem minority. After horrific fighting between Moslems and Hindus it was decided that the only way for peace in India was a 2 State solution - partition. Thus India was declared for the Hindus with a smaller Moslem minority and Moslems would gain their own state, or states in East and West Pakistan. The ensuing violence was overwhelming and continues to this day, the internal minority of Moslems within Hindu India growing and becoming more and more radical. Yes, the similarities are overwhelming.

Barry Shaw, like me an Ex-Pat British Israeli, went to South Africa to speak before groups. Barry wrote a response to BDS which we should use Barry spoke before the South African Council of Churches and his words are well worth listening to

A very important precedent was set in Israeli courts this week and went almost unnoticed. It is of ultimate importance and a legal precedent for women in divorce. The judges decision was that financial abuse (withdrawal of finances during the divorce process leaving a woman in dire financial straits) is equal to physical abuse. He said that any husband who uses financial blackmail to achieve his ends in a divorce is guilty of physical abuse. About time, too late for many but about time.

Last Shabbat We had visitors – yes I know you aren't surprised! Our dearest friends Irit and Itzik Lev wanted to bring a friend of theirs to talk to us. Susan is a dentist from upstate New York and she wants to come to Israel for several months to volunteer. The volunteer programme serves families who cannot afford dental treatment especially for their children. Well done Susan!!!

On Sunday Shirlee Finn came to Jerusalem. Shirlee, and Ex-Pat Brit, lives in Sydney, Australia and despite devoting her life to Israel and the Jewish community, she had never been to Israel. Her enthusiasm at all she saw, from Gilo to the phenomenal view from the Talpiot Tayelet (promenade), from Jerusalems centre to the Botanical Gardens. I loved watching her excitement, remembering Zvi's Mother's words “I am always jealous of people who have never been to Israel before.” When asked why she said “Because that sense of wonder is inexplicable and irretrievable”. Let me explain. Standing with Shirlee on the Sherover Promenade in Talpiot there were several groups there to soak in the view. One group was local, young Arab Moslem Israeli teenages with whom we had a fun time and then a group from Birthright USA. We spoke to their Israeli leaders, two young women from the USA themselves new immigrants. The enthusiasm of these youngsters was tangible – they were truly home. From the Promenade one has a phenomenal view of Jerusalem, Old City, new city and surrounding areas; down to the Arab neighbourhood of Abu Dis – thousands of houses on an area devoid of buildings until about 80 years ago – except for 3 Jewish three houses. The biggest difference between the new Jewish areas and the new Arab areas is trees. We plant trees everywhere. No new neighbourhood is created without parks and trees. One sees the King David, the YMCA, the Municipality and of course the walls of the Old City are central and- take a look yourselves!

I love collecting my grandchildren from school. It isn't just the look of delight on their gorgeous faces when they see it's me (they know that a treat is around the corner!), not only hearing all about their day in school, not only seeing them with their friends or the short drive to their home in Givat Zeev. Passing the Tomb of Samuel the Prophet and arriving in the thriving neighbourhood of Givat Zeev – it is knowing they are nearby. After hugging my daughter and playing with the children or going for a walk I find my excitement mounting as I drive to the top of the hill opposite Samuel's Tomb for the most breathtaking view of all. Jerusalem in its entirety. I often talk about the wonder of this particular panorama, but now, in spring it is even more glorious – the spring flowers are out! The panorama is framed with pinky white clouds of almond blossom, darker pink cherry blossom and of course the fields of poppies, bright red poppies and although the sight is fleeting as I wend my satisfied but weary way home, it fills me with joy.
As Israel again absorbs the might and fury of her neighbours while an uncaring world looks on, I find solace in the words of the Dalai Lama.
Although violence and the use of force may appear powerful and decisive, their benefits are short-lived. Violence can never bring a lasting and long term resolution to any problem, because it is unpredictable and for every problem it seems to solve, others are created. On the other hand, truth remains constant and will ultimately prevail.
I wish you a beautiful Shabbat for a still rainy Jerusalem. Next week my wonderful husband has a birthday, my daughter has her wedding anniversary and Arlene is coming to Israel. Sadly she only has one day in Jerusalem but this time I will put my foot down very firmly – and demand that next time she spends at least 4 days with me and Fegie will have to manage!

Shabbat Shalom wonderful people. I leave you with a truly Israeli version of the song Lecha Dodi – welcoming the bride of Shabbat.

With love

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Mid Week update - Rocket attacks on the South


11th March 2012

Update on the South

Over 100 rockets, both Kassams and the longer reach Grads, have been launched from Gaza onto the citizens of the South of Israel.

It is almost impossible to find the launchers since they are on the backs of small trucks and move from place to place – but we find them and dispose of them – and any 14 year old children who are injured are part of the launch team. Hamas says they are trying to stop the barrage, but apparently the launchers were discovered to be members of Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad. Apparently they are jealous of the world's attention concentrated on Iran.

The Israeli defensive innovation called Iron Dome has saved many lives already – with a 90% accuracy in intercepting and preventing the missiles ever reaching their targets on the ground. There is still danger and universities and schools from Beer Sheba south have been closed and people told to stay within 15 seconds of a shelter. Inquisitive Israelis have been leaving the shelters to see the Iron Dome interceptor missiles in action but the local defence authorities have warned everyone to remain inside because of the danger from falling shrapnel

By the way - we all laugh at the binocular incident with Amir Peretz during the Lebanon War but he is the one who encouraged the R&D of the Iron Dome defence system devised, innovated and built by the Israeli Rafa'el Armaments company. He may have left the covers on his binoculars but former Defence Minister Peretz's foresight in this instance deserves credit. Now who looks dumb?

Can you imagine any other country suffering such an onslaught without extreme consequences and outcry? The plight of the children in the South goes unnoticed – and most suffer PTSD to a greater or lesser extent – every day for 12 years they have been bombarded with shorter and longer range missiles.,7340,L-4200738,00.html

It makes me very angry – we did everything expected and demanded of us – leaving wonderful communities in Gaza because the world told us it would solve the problem but this is the result.......................... We saved Jewish lives from death at the hands of Hamas in Gaza but brought these terrible barrages upon ourselves by our very humanity.

Have a good week – remember that Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Zeelim, Ofakim, Netivot, Gan Yavneh, Yavneh are all on alert. Imagine it were anywhere else? Oh well- apparently Jews are disposable. Some things never change.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

9th March 2012

Chag Shushan Purim Sameach!!! Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom to one and all

As one reads the “Megilla” or story of Esther, Uncle Mordechai, King Achasueros and the evil villain Vizier Haman it is really difficult not to make comparisons to today and the situation with Iran. Few leaders are willing to speak out about the true danger of the Iranian nuclear programme, preferring to pull the wool over their constituents eyes by suggesting it is only those pesky Jews in Israel who are in danger.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, however, openly expresses his concerns over the Iranian threat. Speaking to Members of Parliament on the House of Commons liaison committee, the Prime Minister said Tehran is “clear very dangerous for the region because it would trigger a nuclear arms race,” but that Iran is also “a danger more broadly, not least because there are signs that the Iranians want to have some sort of intercontinental missile capability.”
“So we have to be clear this is a threat potentially much wider than just Israel and the region,” he said.

I wonder what role Muhammed El Baradei plays in this modern day Purim spiel? When discussing the new findings of the IAEA no-one mentions the fact that he was the worlds watch-dog on the Iranian Nuclear programme for the years that Iran was secretly developing a very sophisticates system yet he has since been exposed as a member of the Moslem Brotherhood. How did this happen? Who was watching the watchdog?

While threatening the world the Iranians kill Christians. 32 year old Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was charged with apostasy, found guilty and sentenced to death. According to this article the sentence was carried out today. The crime according to the court record? “He has frequently denied the prophethood of the great prophet of Islam and the rule of the sacred religion of Islam. And he has proven apostasy by organizing evangelistic meetings and inviting others to Christianity, establishing a house church, baptizing people, expressing his faith to others and, denying Islamic values. “

Pat Condell is a highly irreverent, typically outspoken Brit. He says what we all think and fear to voice. In this most recent video he speaks of the ludicrous situation whereby Syria sits on the Human Rights council an Israel is vilified!
Shimon Peres is a RAPPER!! The eternally young 88 year old President of the State of Israel has produced a new rap video for his Facebook page call (what else) “Be my friend for peace”. I love it!! Send it to all your lists and let's make it go viral.

Yesterday Zvi and I met up with the Mexican/San Diego artist Becky Guttin in Jerusalem Becky is here to build a wonderful Magen David shaped amphitheatre close to the home of Hora Jerusalem's David Efron Dance Centre to provide a venue for small performances to groups and a place to sit on a balmy Jerusalem summers evening. We went to the Botanical Gardens for lunch – the first opportunity for months since the rains started. The weather was perfect, the gentle spring sun shone down on us to warm our hearts and the black swans glided on the water of the little lake. We watched fascinated as a turtle sat immobile on a rock in the water, soaking up the last rays of sun then wearily, as if to say that he understood there was no more, he slid into the cold water to seek food. The gardens are waking up, the trees beginning to leaf and the spring flowers to show their startling beauty against the brown earth. What a lovely place and the food........... mmmmmmm. I of course took my regular delight – Oreganatto Sweet Potato Salad.

Last night we went to the Jerusalem branch of the Israel Cancer Society Ball. Held at the breathtaking Bible Lands Museum which donates the venue It seemed so incongruous, nay surreal as hundreds of Israeli cowboys were walking through the normally hallowed hallways of the ancient history of the Middle East. Yes, you heard me – pure bred Israeli cowboys!!! It was so much fun as the normally elegant elite of Jerusalem dressed in chaps, stetsons and boots, ready to dance, sing and empty their pockets for a wonderful cause. One of the highlights was a young stand-up artist called Reshef Levi who amazed us all when he told us that he has seven children (“but then I have a crazy wife who thinks that's normal”!). Reshefs humour is gentle and personal as he took us into his home life and then asked questions of the audience. Of course he couldn't think of anything funny to say about the fact I was Welsh (he doesn't know the truth!!!) except to ask the age-old question “Are there really Jews in Wales”?

Do you know what an Adloyada is? Well most Israelis don't either!even though many go to one!! There are Adloyadas or parades in town centres all over Israel but few know what the name means. Ad lo Yada (until he didn't know) refers to the level of “enjoyment” one is supposed to derive from a generous tipple on Purim so that one cannot differentiate between Haman and Mordechai – between evil and good – as I told you in the past. We are not supposed to hold grudges, wreak vengeance so tradition suggests that we create just enough haze to make us happy. OK back to Adloyadas! Children and adults in fancy dress watch other people in fancy dress on floats as they float and dance and march through the town centre. Here in Jerusalem we tend to do things differently! Tomorrow, Shushan Purim, there will be street performers and singing on Ben Yehuda and Mamilla and we intend taking the grandchildren to see the spectacle. Meanwhile tonight the parties have started and the aromas of barbeques fill the smoky air as Israelis celebrate the triumph of good over evil with more than a little prayer that it will happen again in the near future.

By the way, did you notice my (un)deliberate mistake? Wheres there certainly was a miracle here – there wasn't a dreidle to be seen – they used them all onChanuka!!!

Shabbat shalom dear friends. Never give up hope even when things look more than a little bleak. It is said that we get the leaders we deserve so let's ensure that we deserve the best because otherwise … no I refuse to be miserable!!

With much love from a joyous Jerusalem, as stunningly beautiful as ever.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Purim Sameach


6th March 2012

Happy Purim!

Before I talk of Purim, here is the full story of Ezekiels Tomb on the new news website from Israel - The Times of Israel

Purim in Jerusalem

The world celebrates the festival of Purim on Wednesday night and Thursday but Jerusalem, Jerusalem celebrates on Friday – Shushan Purim. Shushan (Susa) was home to Esther and Mordechai and Jerusalem, only Jerusalem celebrates this special day. As Jerusalem goes into fancy dress, schoolchildren walk in the street wearing costumes which range from Goths to Princesses, brides, cheerleaders, Breslaw Haredi men and of course Esther and Mordechai. Staid, sober, black suited lawyers and businessmen sport faces painted in strange designs and Mohican wigs! We play games such as spinning the dreidel – a spinning top with four sides which in Israel say Nes Gadol Haya Poh - A great miracle happened HERE and in the Diaspora say Nes Gadol haya Sham – a great miracle happened THERE.

Chag Purim Sameach to everyone. Tradition suggests that one should drink sufficient alcohol so as not to differentiate between Haman and Mordechai – between good and evil so that we do not retain hatred or the desire for vengeance. All well and good, however, don't lose the meaning, relevance and importance of this festival in the vodka bottle.

As we enjoy Purim, sending each other “portions” of gaily package goodies, reading the story of Esther, noisily expressing our distaste for Haman and marvelling at Esthers audacity and genius which saved the Jews from a different Persian baddie, it is appropriate to think of another time, another place but the same threats to annihilate the Jewish people.......

Solly Ganor is a wonderful speaker, author, writer and blogger who lives in Herzliya. His story of survival is both heroic and essential reading.



They arrived from Auschwitz in several groups. Each group counted about twenty people. Of course, they didn’t look like people. They looked more like walking skeletons. They had triangular faces with pointed chins, and sunken cheeks. Even the lips had shrunken to thin blue lines. The only prominent feature were their eyes; they were unusually large and with a strange sheen, almost luminous. They were known in concentration camp slang, as ‘Muselman’. That was usually the last stage before death.

They spoke Yiddish with an accent, which to us Lithuanian Jews, sounded strange.

They told us that they came from the ghetto of Lodz through Auschwitz, before they were sent to our camp. Our camp was known as the ‘Outer camp of Dachau, number 10’ and it was situated near the picturesque town of Utting, by lake Amersee.

Our camp was sitting in the middle of a small forest with surrounding green meadows and beautiful landscapes.

I remember the day when we were brought there, I thought to myself,

‘How can anything bad happen to us among all this beauty’?.

I soon found out that the beauty was in the landscape only. the Germans in charge of us were sadists and murderers.

The Lodz people fell into the same deceptive trap. They thought that after Auschwitz, our camp looked like paradise. Most of them died soon after their arrival, from hard labour, beatings and starvation, still they preferred to die here than in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

It was from them that we heard the incredible stories of gas chambers, and crematoriums, where thousands of our people were murdered every day.

Some of them told us that they were standing naked before the gas chambers when they were suddenly ordered to get dressed and were sent to us .

Towards the end of February 1945, there were only a few of them left alive.

One of them was known as the ‘Chaim the Rabbi’. We never found out whether he was actually a rabbi, but he always washed his hands and made a bracha before eating. He knew the dates of the Jewish calendar,

and also knew all the prayers by heart. From time to time when the Germans were not looking, he would invite us to participate in the evening prayers,.

Our Jewish camp commander, Burgin, heard about him and tried to get him easier jobs. Most people died when they had to carry a hundred pounds of cement sacks on their backs, or other chores of heavy labour. He wouldn’t have lasted a day on a job like this. He once told me that if he would survive he would get married and have at least a dozen children.

Around the end of February, we were given a day off. It was a Sunday.

The camp was covered with snow, but here and there the first signs of spring was in the air. We heard vague rumours of the American break through into Germany and a glimmer of hope was kindled in our hearts.

After breakfast, consisting of a slice of mouldy bread, a tiny piece of margarine, and brown water, known as ‘Ersatz Coffee’, we returned to our barrack to get some extra sleep.

Suddenly we noticed ‘Chaim the Rabbi’ standing in the snow and shouting " Haman to the gallows! Haman to the gallows!"

On his head he had a paper crown made of a cement sack, and he was draped in a blanket which had cut out stars from the same paper attached to it.

We stood like petrified before this strange apparition, barely able to trust our eyes, while he performed a dance in the snow, singing:

"I am Achashwerosch, Achashwerosh, the king of the Persians."

Then he stood still straightened himself out, chin pointed to the sky, his right arm extended in an imperial gesture and shouted:

"Haman to the gallows! Haman to the gallows! And when I say Hamann to the gallows, we all know which Hamman we are talking about!"

We were sure that he has lost his wits, as so many did in these impossible times.

By now there were about fifty of us standing gaping at the "Rabbi", when

he said:

"Yiddn wos iz mit ajch! Haint is Purim, lomir shpilen a purim shpil!" "Fellow Jews, what is the matter with you?! today is Purim, let us play a Purim Shpil!"

Then it dawned on us that back home, a million years ago, this was the time of the year when we children were dressing up fro Purim, playing draidlach, and eating ‘Hommen Taschen’.

It took the ‘Rabbi’ to remember the exact date by the Jewish calendar when Purim was.

He then divided the roles of Ester Hamalka, Mordechai, Vashti and Hamman among the onlookers..

I was honoured to receive the role of Mordechai, and we all ended up dancing in the snow. And so we had our Purim Shpil in Dachau.

But that was not the end of the story. The "Rabbi" promised us that we will get today our ‘Shalach Manot’, and we thought that it was hardly likely to happen.

But, miracle of miracles, the same afternoon, a delegation of the International Red Cross, came to the camp. It was the first time that they bothered about us. Still, we welcomed them with open arms, because they brought us the

"Shalach Manot" the ‘Rabbi’ promised. Each one of us received a parcel, containing, a tin of sweet condensed milk, a small bar of chocolate, a box of sugar cubes, and a pack of cigarettes. It is impossible to describe our joy! Here we were starving to death as suddenly on Purim, we received these heavenly gifts. Since then we never doubted the ‘Rabbi’ anymore.

His prediction also came true. Two months later ‘Hamman-Hitler’ went to the gallows, and shot himself in Berlin, while we, those of us who were still alive, were rescued by the American army, on May 2, 1945.

I lost track of the ‘Rabbi’ on our ‘Death March’, from Dachau to Tyrol,

but I hope that he survived and had many children as he always wanted.

I always remember him when Purim comes around, for the unforgettable

‘Purim Shpil’ in Dachau.

Solly Ganor

Herzelia Pituach.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

2nd March, 2012

Shabbat shalom dear friends. I hope you are all well.

This was a busy week in Jerusalem, Zvi was deeply involved in the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency where many discussions of the future of the Jewish World take place. Zvi's contribution is vociferous and innovative but not always welcome by those who enjoy sameness even when change is essential. There are many wonderful people who travel from all corners of the globe to take part in the discussions and decision making but the Jewish Agency is like ship without a captain or navigator. Expressing my views is unpopular but as I recall the Jewish Agency was a powerful glue between Israel and the Diaspora but that glue has come unstuck as Aliya and youth lose priority. The Agency must take great care that like Italian cruise liner, they do not go aground saying hello to people on the shore instead of piloting the ship.

I was thrilled to receive a call from Canon Andrew White from Baghdad. If you recall Canon White travelled to Ezekiels Tomb about 18 months ago to check the veracity of rumours that the local Sheikhs had destroyed the Jewish element of the Tomb. Happily he called on Jerusalem Day to inform me that not only was the Jewish element intact but the local Al Kifl Sheikhs were determined to preserve and refurbish the entire site. Over time we conversed and I sent photos of the original texts for the artisans to copy. This call from Canon White was different, he had Sheikh Al Gahalivi with him in a meeting. The Sheikh wanted to speak to me. I was overcome with emotion as he came on the line through an interpreter. He said “I was praying for many years that someone would care about the Tomb. I wanted to preserve the Tomb for us all and prayed that I would find someone to communicate with out there in the world and you sent Canon White to me and the work began in earnest. I want you to know that the Jewish shrine is safe with us, Ezekiel is important to us too. I want to build a visitors centre around the Tomb to protect it and to make it ready for when Jews, Christians and Moslems can all visit the Tomb together. I just wanted to thank you for caring and being prepared to act. Shukran and Salaam”
What on earth could I say to this brave man? Through the interpreter, and Canon White, I thanked the Sheikh for his care and determination to retain the Jewish identity of this important shrine in a world that might cause him harm.
Lior (Lotseh) Weinberger z”l was a fine man. I loved to sit with him at family meals to listen to his stories, his incredible history as an Officer in the Soviet Missile Corps. He told me everyone knew he was a Jew but it meant a great number of scuffles and name calling especially as he advanced through the ranks, a fact that toughened him up. One story in particular stuck in my mind. There was a plan in place to launch a rocket containing chemicals to poison the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Serving his National Service in the Soviet army Lior's Jewish identity was strong and his relief when the plan was scuppered was total, he said that he even thought of mutiny. Years later as he made Aliya to Israel with his wife he vowed to prevent any such actions by anyone ever again. Their two sons served in elite units in the IDF. Yesterday a criminal driver drove his truck into Liors car killing him instantly and drove off. The Police caught him but it doesn't bring Lior back. Baruch dayan emet.

A few interesting details from the news.
Israel has appointed her first Ethiopian born Ambassador
As Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch steps down from her position Judge Asher Grunis takes his place as the new President. I wish him wisdom, good counsel, health and strength.
Denis Prager video – Is Israel an Apartheid State?

Yesterday was St Davids Day, March 1st and Welshmen all over the world celebrated the patron saints day – yes even religious Jews in Netanya. Sadly I didn't make it to the annual festivities this year , due to the inclement weather but I wanted to capture the Welsh spirit for you and found the answer in a marvellous film “The Englishman who went up a hill and came down a mountain” Really really Welsh.
To fully understand you have to go to Cardiff's Millenium Stadium, scene of great Rugby Football and incredible breathtaking singing. This is the Welsh National Anthem. Happy St David's Day to all my Welsh friends. Cymru am byth.

As a child back in Cardiff I spent a great deal of time with the Danovitch family. It seemed so exotic that one of them was married to a beautiful Israeli lady called Tova – even her name meant “good woman”. I loved her instantly and even though very young she was active in the local WIZO group, going with her mother in law Gertie and my mother Betty. Today, the Cardiff WIZO group is named for my wonderful mother and Tova Ben Dov is the world President of WIZO – and I – I am the exotic one living in Israel too!!! Mazal Tov Tova my love – you deserve it!!!

Yosef Eliyahu (Joseph Elija) is our 7 year old grandson and now he and his classmates, each and every one of them, is King of the school! They mastered the art of reading and the Chabad school held a Chumash Party. Each had to read his part in the programme, which is hard for a shy young man but little sisters cheered him on and stole his sweeties! After receiving their Holy Five Books, the boys then danced their hearts out, not as scholars but raucous little boys! My heart burst with pride.

The rain is phenomenal – it is March already and the fine spring weather is normally upon us but the rain is strong and wonderful. The snow is thick on Mount Hermon high in the Golan Heights, children tobogganing and adults skiing down her slopes, The formerly trickling streams are filled and rushing down toward the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) which is filling nicely – still some to go but really blessed rainfall. Last night it snowed in Jerusalem too but the ground was too wet for it to settle properly. Our veranda is looking more beautiful than ever – here in Israel the cyclamen is not a fragile house plant but rather a sturdy spring flower which loves the snow! The Jerusalem hills are covered in a pink cloud of Almond blossom (shkediot), bright red poppies (calaniot) wild pink cyclamen (rakafot). I ws worried the season would be over before we got home but they are still flowering. The Valley of the Cross is phenomenal and the only thing I missed is the incredible black Iris in Netanya which flowers at the end of January.

Purim is around the corner and children know what they want to dress up as for school! Children large and small walk through the streets dressed as everything from Superman to Mordechai – Tinkerbell to Queen Esther. The only aspect of Purim I don't like are the exploding caps and fireworks that the older children find amusing. This is a week filled with parties for young and old. We are going to a wonderful party organised by the Jerusalem Cancer Research society – and believe it or not we are all going as “Cowboys”

It feels so good to look out over our familiar, almost private scenery. Finally the hills around us are coming into view; they were hidden in the snow-filled clouds until a few minutes ago. Gilo over to my right, followed by Beit Tsafafa, Ramat Rachel, Talpiot, Baka, the German Colony around toRamat Sharret and the Holyland Project. Gosh it looks wonderful. Home.

Shabbat Shalom dear friend. I wish you a peaceful contemplative Shabbat filled with family and happy memories.
With all my love from Jerusalem
PS Shhhhhhhhhh I didn't even mention Iran or the horrors of Syria and the worlds refusal to act!!!!