Monday, 24 September 2012

Yom Kippur 2012


24th September 2012.

“The Middle East is replete with both new and old threats. One should not underestimate these threats, but not be alarmed by them either. Israel is stronger today than ever.” -- Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel 

It is almost Yom Kippur or Yom haKippurim – the Day of Atonement. My apologies have been made, my intentions reviewed and along with Jews wherever they may be- I promise G-d to be a better person this year than I was last.
Netanel Yahalomi, z"l aged just 20, was killed when terrorists opened fire on IDF soldiers securing the construction of the fence along the Israel-Egypt border. The terrorists, dressed in civilian clothing, followed a group of African migrants. When the migrants arrived at the border, several soldiers left their post to offer them water. The terrorists emerged from behind the migrants, and opened fire killing Netanel. When our soldiers returned fire, killing three terrorists, a suicide belt worn by one of the terrorists exploded. IDF sappers found a large number of firearms and explosives on the terrorists, including and RPD machine gun, a rocket propelled grenade, Kalashnikovs, ammunition, grenades, and more.
The riots and killing spree engendered by an ill conceived and badly made video, began with the rape and assassination of, Ambassador Christopher Stevens, a fine American diplomat who was dragged alive through the streets of Benghazi (I will not show you the horrific photographs I received as a journalist or refer to his diary because it is disrespectful to his memory) expresses an intolerance not seen in this world for 70 years. The rampages and attacks upon American Embassies throughout the Moslem world, the burning of American flags shows unbelievable ingratitude and bestiality unseen outside their own countries. The misuse of freedom of speech in OUR countries and its consequences was behind my short essay in the Times of Israel. "Never in their wildest nightmares did those who fought hard to achieve freedom of speech believe it could be turned on its head to deny democracy rather than defend it.   
Jon Stewart got it right. Reaction to a stupid internet video? What about Monty Python? What do Jews do if really riled by anti-Jewish material? We write a letter to the NY Times! Assessing the situation with humour he really hit the nail on the head. Pat Condell, on the other hand, also made a video about the riots – his views are somewhat less delicate! 
Sadly this letter began with some less than pious (but essential) thoughts but as Yom Kippur fast approaches I want to change my tone to a more contemplative and beautiful direction. I want to think of Jerusalem as she dresses herself for Yom Kippur. At first the city closes down much as she does on Shabbat, but the silence is deeper and the sense of prayer descends tangibly over the entire country, not just Jerusalem. Traditional "aruchot mafsekot" (pre-fast meals) are prepared as families sit down to foods their families have eaten over the generations. Some eat a hard boiled egg and bread whereas others eat a full meal with chicken soup and roast meats – each insisting that their way to prepare for the fast is the most effective!  Then each family dresses in white and as the siren calls out the beginning of Kol Nidre. Suddenly the streets are silent, not a vehicle moves, Israel is atoning, their entreaty as one for a kinder world. One cannot appreciate the beauty of a country without the daily hubbub and clamour until it happens. The silence encourages prayer, contemplation, peace and contentment while the chest beating promises to better ourselves are accompanied by atonement for the worlds ills.
Actually, I am not telling a whole truth. While it is true that the silence is (almost) complete; families walk to synagogue dressed in white and the sense of piety is tangible, there is another sound which pervades the "holy silence"……. Children having fun!!! The empty streets become one giant playground of scooters, bicycles and rollerskates. Young children run and play and yell and giggle in the streets without the fear of a car coming round the corner an activity that tends to continue until their parents come out of synagogue after Kol Nidre and well beyond.
Kol Nidre is a truly beautiful, mournful prayer which opens the Day of Atonement. Particularly soulful it has been sung by great and small my two favourite versions are a million light years apart – Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer" and Johnny Mathis, a non-Jew who puts so much soul into his prayer My Kol Nidre and Kippur will be spent on our veranda, quietly praying to myself from the prayer book I used as a child sitting beside my Mother in the old synagogue in Cardiff. My reasons for praying at home are multiple – the synagogues near us are Moroccan, Iraqi, Kurdish, Sefardi, Reform and many other unfamiliar forms – all perfectly good but unfamiliar -  and the Ashkenaz synagogue, our family synagogue, which prays with my childhood tunes and follows my Machzor, is too far for my legs to take me. In truth, I love the solitude which allows me to pray undisturbed. My style of religion is my own; my prayers go out over Jerusalem which lies before me as if a prayer within herself.
Jerusalem, ah Jerusalem. It is time to pay heed to King David and the Prophet Isaiah who understood that Jerusalem was our heart and if we do not honour Jerusalem and protect her she will stop beating. Come travel with me through Jerusalem, If I forget thee.. 

Finally, Benny Gatz, Commander in Chief of the Israel Defence Forces wishes you all a Shana Tova, a Happy New Year.  

Gmar Chatima Tova dear friends – may you be inscribed in the good book and let's all pray that next year will bring enlightenment where there is darkness; wisdom to our leaders, whoever and wherever they may be; that the oppressed will break free; that the ideals of democracy may just filter through the wall of hatred that brings only bitterness and fear and that joy will come into all our lives.

With love from both Zvi and I and our beloved home, Jerusalem

PS If you go into my blog on Times of Israel please leave a comment   

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Shana Tova 5773


Dear Friends, dear loyal friends – Shana Tova 5773

Looking back over the last year I want to apologise if at any point I have offended you or said or written anything that may have hurt you or your sensibilities. It is my intention to inform but I am human and occasionally my emotions come through. You are important to me, important to us and very important to Israel so please forgive me.

My prayers for next year are multitudinous but I will make a list of my most important desires and prayers.
  1. Greater understanding that violence and anger bring only violence and anger
  2. Greater understanding that teaching hatred begets hatred
  3. Tolerance – Sovlanut – to understand each other and accept our differences with love (
  4. That the people of the great United States will elect the man who THEY deem best for their country and that he, whoever he may be, will recognize that his actions and leadership affect the entire world in every way.
  5. That our little but immensely important country will be recognized for her huge achievements and tolerance rather than for being endangered.
  6. I pray that the leaders of once great countries with ancient traditions will recognize the importance of their history and not allow it to be changed
  7. I pray that Jews, and Christians, but at this time of year I concentrate on Jews, will stand up and be proud of who and what they are. If you choose not to be religious or traditional that's your choice and none of my business, but be proud of who you are and our traditions and history and don't denounce them out of ignorance! Remember that Israel is based on the Tenach, on ancient teachings, on tolerance and acceptance and above all accept that we live in a very tough neighborhood – this isn't Westchester, Knightsbridge or Chadstone, but our life is joyous and our search for knowledge insatiable!
  8. JerusalemJerusalem – if I forget thee oh Jerusalem. I love this city, I love this heart, and I want to be free to pray and live as and where I wish and allow the same right to others, but demand that right from them.
  9. Finally I pray for your health, joy, fulfillment and determination for Tikkun Olam. Don't allow the media to dictate your mood, you be a vessel for change within your family, your circle, your town, your country… We can all do it!

So we are on the very edge of the five thousand, seven hundred and seventy third year of Judaism – 5773 – Be proud, be strong and be positive.

To my beautiful children, all of you, mine and Zvi's, I am proud of you and want you to be the upright, thinking, kind and honest people you have become. I wish you health and joy and that your children smile up at you with pride.

I wish you and yours a good year and much love and don't forget to Dip the Apple!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem


14th September 2012

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

I just heard a joke – Doctor tells patient “I am afraid you have hypochondria” Patient “Oh no not that sickness  as well” Our world is currently very sick and a hypochondriac to boot.

The world has become an upside down place and Nero is fiddling while Rome is burning. Israel was horrified at the news that an American Ambassador had been cruelly murdered in Benghazi in a trail of rage which hit this area because someone posing as an Israeli put a short video (badly made) on the internet lampooning Mohammed. On the one hand I disapprove of derision of anyones religion, on the other hand the Arab countries create cartoons of Jews and Christians which put Goebbels to shame and children's television programmes which teach entire generations that Jews are monkeys and Christians pigs and we should all convert to Islam or die.

Why do I feel that Nero is fiddling? Read this article which shows that the Ambassador, may G-d rest his soul, was in a temporary facility without bullet proof windows or armed guards and that it took 5 hours to find his body. When his body was found it was discovered he had been sodomised before his death. I am sorry but it is true. Time to rethink the State Department which has constantly given bad advice to the leader of the free world and think about who accepts that advice unthinkingly. Remember the last time that an American Diplomat was assassinated? During the term of James Earl Carter, sadly an Obama advisor.

Bret Stephens on the trailer, yes trailer for an video which caused all the furore, killing and burning of American flags 
There never was an Israeli involved, the amateur filmakers are Klein, an Evangelical Christian and “Bacile” is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula a Coptic Christian. Yes, it is the American flag they burned and the American Ambassador they killed. Time for President Obama to admit that Israel is his only ally and not allow petty personal dislikes to change the face of the Middle East. He doesn't have to love our Prime Minister just stand by his allies when they are threatened with extinction! Today is a repeat of 1939, and, not through evil intent but rather through a decision toward insular policies in an attempt to save the American economy, Americas allies are being left on the sidelines and the USA is fighting the wrong war.... whoever the President.

Condoleeza Rice was wrong about the Syrian nuclear facility and Hillary Clinton is wrong now, Iran is a threat to us all and on the 11th Anniversary of 9/11 we appear to have learned nothing.

Canada, has a strong sense of moral history history, severed diplomatic relations with Iran, closing its embassy in Tehran and asking Iranian diplomats in Ottowa to leave - because “the Iranian regime is providing increasing military assistance to the Assad regime; it refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program; it routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide.” Canada we love you!!!

It is irrelevant to most of the media but missiles are falling on on Southern Israel. No-one cares when it sells more advertising space to show the 18 work-seekers we didn't let in through the border rather than destroyed Israeli houses.,7340,L-4278748,00.html

Rosh Hashana is around the corner and I am tired of bad news. There are plenty of great things happening in the world.

For instance, Noam Gershony was already an Israeli hero when he wheeled up to the winners podium to receive his Olympic Gold in the Paralympic Tennis. His tears were of joy, joy at beating the odds and surviving and joy at hearing his country's anthem play.

Another instance is Boris Johnson, Mayor of Greater London who gave this wonderful speech the other day

Last night I travelled to Tel Aviv on the bus, together with my friend Sue. We started at the bustling Jerusalem Central Bus station with its huge shopping mall and happy faces, soldiers and Moslem women rubbing shoulders with priests and religious Jews, climbed on board and rapidly found ourselves in the Tel Aviv Central bus station, and seemingly another world. Dirty, creepy, crime ridden and abandoned shops at all levels. On our onward journey we passed large open areas filled with Eritrean and Sudanese work seekers with nothing better to do than lay around..... oddly enough around the police station. It was so sad to see the local residents tentatively making their way to their homes, both black and white Israelis seemed like frightened deer in the headlights.

We were on our way to a concert in honour of a dear friend of ours who died as a result of breast cancer, at the same time as her daughter suffered the same fate. It was then discovered that of the 5 daughters 3 had inherited the gene from their mother. Lisa, one of the three daughters, has worked hard here in Israel to get recognition of the situation, persuading health authorities and the government to ensure greater screening and awareness in order to save lives. The concert was brilliant. Held in a beautiful building on the renovated Bauhaus Bialik Street, the young violinist who performed gratis, came all the way from Austria. Jaleh Perego, born to a Jewish father,had a difficult childhood but when she visited Israel with her orchestra she found peace and home on a Kibbutz. Her performance was a fitting memorial to Joyce Freed Cohen z'l and the women who were not saved because they did not know they carried the gene. The evening was amazing and as always it was wonderful to spend time with our beautiful Cardiff friends. We left Tel Aviv from the Arlosorof bus station, not risk going back to the Central, but although clean and safe it was deserted by 11 o'clock at night!!! We scrambled onto the bus and suddenly everything came to life! Jerusalemites chattering and snoozing, discussing and laughing and of course when we got back to the Jerusalem bus station everything was lively again. Those Tel Avivim......... they need to come to Jerusalem to discover night life and fun!!!!

The shops of Jerusalem are fast emptying themselves of stock as everyone is out buying clothes, gifts, food and of course honey. There is a wonderful sense of expectancy in which world turmoil is forgotten, or put on a back burner with the Tzimmes and chicken soup on the front. Rosh Hashana – time for new beginnings and family – selichot (atonement) and repairing relationships. These are the days of contemplation and kindness......... wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone in the world spend more time in contemplation and forgiveness than hatred and bloodshed?

The inimitable David Attenborough, zoologist and teacher of nature to the world shows us that everything can be beautiful in his rendition of "What a wonderful World" SHANA TOVA TO YOU ALL

Time to get back to the cooking, this is a long festival. Shabbat will come tonight, with her gentle peace and a chance to catch our breath and spend time resting and praying, talking and laughing before the final “onslaught” of foods!!! What is is about the Jewish religion that imposes vast quantities of food on all of us? It is irrelevant if the air is redolent with Kurdish Kubeh; Romanian Mamliges; Russian peroshkies; Moroccan stuffed vegetables; Bukharian Cholent; Ethiopian Doro Wat Chicken and of course Hungarian Goulash - as Zvi is wont to say, the basic precept of all Jewish festivals is “They tried to kill us, we survived, now let's eat” However, the High Holy days are different, they provide the answer as to why we survived........through food!!!!!

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, please please, whatever your religious leaning, pray for a kinder, more aware, enlightened and tolerant world.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem with a special treat thanks to Yaffa Glass who sent me this beautiful song Hu Yuvarech which literally means He will Bless or "Protect our soldiers" 

We will talk before the New Year but in the meantime – remember that Jerusalem is our heart, the centre of the world and we should never forget it.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


7th September 2012

The seventh of September is a very, very special day for me because it is the day I became a Mother. 7th of September 1969 my incredible son Daniel was born and he has been enriching and warming my heart every day since. Happy birthday beautiful man.

Now that I have warmed my heart, and yours, by talking of my son, a just and kind man whose aim in life is to heal the bodies and minds of children, I must, unfortunately move to the unjust and unkind world of journalism. A war is raging against the ordinary people of Syria, Sunnis are killing Shi'as and both are killing Copts in Egypt......earthquakes hit China, floods hit the Southern states of the USA, indeed tyrants wreak havoc everywhere including Ahmedinejad the puppet of the Ayatollas of Iran and who do the media choose for their “shocked” headlines? Israel, of course! Why? Because we built a fence between Egyptian Sinai and Israel because they are two separate countries and after being inundated by work seekers from Eritrea and Sudan we did not break the fence to let another 18 in. We gave them food through the fence, we gave them water but we said enough. British police put illegals into holding cells at the airport before returning them; France – well the French send them to the UK; The USA patrols their fence and shoots at those who climb over or under; indeed every country worth its salt has a problem of people trying to come in illegally and after some 40,000 already came in we are singled out for sending them back home and now for not letting them in. Double standards at their worst.

Another case of double standards is of refugees. Many years ago when Jews who lived in Arab countries suffered terrible oppression we brought them home. We did not claim compensation or rights, we absorbed them into society, just as forlorn and ragged as any picture of modern refugees. Their plight was just as dreadful and their need for succour and a home just as real. 900,000 Jews had to leave Arab lands – time to recognise their right of return and compensation maybe?
Last night Zvi and I saw an investigative programme “Kolbotek” which the State Prosecutor tried to ban – and the Supreme Court allowed it to air. It has long been known that the entire case against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the “Holyland” building project was built upon the testimony of a known liar but the programme revealed the fact that the States Witness is not only a pathological liar but that Scotland Yard has a series of fraud cases against him and that he fiddled money from the rich and famous claiming to be dying from just about every serious illness and is a totally unsavoury character. This is the basis of the case which forced a Prime Minister to resign. For those of you who understand Hebrew (there are sections in English too)  Go to the video with "Ed ha medina"

Raphael Shore made a film several years ago, a film which told the story so clearly that it is still utterly relevant. It is the story of Israels relentless search for peace. Relentless

Danny Adeno Abebe was born in Addis Ababa but today Danny is a highly successful journalist. His head is not turned by his success however and he chose to do everything he could to set up an NGO to encourage young Ethiopian Jews to find their way into journalism too. Kol ha Kavod Danny. Proud of you

Alan Dershowitz expressed his anger at the current trend in Germany to ban circumcision of baby boys. They took a poll – I wonder who they asked and what.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer was very surprised at the Democratic Convention at the omission of Israel being the US' greatest ally in the ME and Jerusalem being the Capital of the State of Israel. It was partially rectified and while I believe that the Democratic Convention and all things pertaining should be about the USA not Israel – to specifically remove such mentions is somewhat ominous. Glad we are back in.

1984 in 2012 United Nations a must watch - 

Last weekend Zvi and I met with Anne and Rafi Behar and Orna and Nir Baroz at the Lavan restaurant, sitting on the veranda of the Cinemateque overlooking the walls of the Old City eating outstanding food, great conversations and the inevitable cafe hafuch to finish it off. Who could ask for anything more?

This has been a week of visitors, the most important of all was my nephew Adam who came ot Israel with Birthright and then came to see “Auntie Sheila” and Zvi. It was so much fun!!! We started his visit with a car tour of Jerusalem through Gilo, Beit Tsafafa and then coming down the hill to the phenomenal panorama of Jerusalem from the South. We went to the Botanical Gardens and Caffit for lunch with Becky Guttin and her father Rafael Marena after a “train” ride around the gardens to see the various continents foliage and flora – stopping for a quick and very hot look at the Tropical House and its orchids.

In the evening we all went to the Bloomfield Museum of Science at the invitation of Gideon Sellingerof the Hebrew University. We wen tot a truly riveting lecture by Re'em Sari, a returning scientist who is part of the reverse brain drain. The lecture was , as I said, rivetting, although Sari is a professor of Astro-Physics we all understood every word of his lecture and even found it amusing

From the lecture we made our way to the Ron Arad installation at Israel Museum. It was truly incredible. The 720 degree exhibit (360 within and 360 without) was extraordinary, the Jerusalem sky above us, the view before us and the reflective plastic fibres which form a curtain of pictures, cartoons and music all around us.

The next day saw us at the Herzl Museum where any cracks in information are filled in a truly entertaining manner followed by an introduction between Adam and his first cousins – my grandchildren. Happy to report they adored their cousin and wouldn't leave him alone!!! Adam and I spent most evenings sitting out on the veranda waiting for the moon to give us a spectacular show as it rose over the horizon and for the geckos to make an appearance for his photographic delight. The moon gave us the usual delight but the geckos stayed indoors!!!

I made two visits to Mahane Yehuda this week – one with Adam to buy fruit and veggies and one with Becky and Rafael. The sounds and sights thrilled them as they thrill me. The noisy fish shops, the fragrant spice shops, the colourful fruit and veg and of course the herbs which emit their aromatic scent over the whole market. On both occasions I went to Cafe Mizrahi, once for coffe and brioche with Adam and once for lunch with Becky and Rafael. The atmosphere, the people-watching opportunities, the hubbub of humanity passing by as one eats a veritable feast of local flavours. Amazing.

Becky and Rafael (Fayo) are here to put the finishing touches to the plans for a beautiful amphitheatre which Becky has designed and her parents are giving to the children of Jerusalem, right opposite the Efron Dance Centre for Hora Jerusalem. The dancers will have a beautiful setting for their performances in the Magen David shaped amphitheatre. Thank you.

I am late writing today because I decide to finish my cooking first. Chicken soup of course, kneidlach, home made challah, real British fried gefilte fish, herby, spicy potato and onion roast, chicken paprika, green salad, chopped salad, courgette salad and beautiful baby aubergines seared, skinned and served with home made tehina sauce.......... and of course a great big bowl of grapes, watermelon and peaches to finish.

Having whet your appetites I looked over the view from my veranda. The mall is already empty and the roads are following suit, the neighbours have finished their Shabbat cooking, the Kurdish neighbours have already eaten their Kubeh soup and gone home to a pre-Shabbat siesta... and so must I.

I wish you a Shabbat shalom from Jerusalem, beautiful, spiritual, contested and oh so Biblical Jerusalem. Our Capital city.