Friday, 26 October 2012

Shabbat Shalom from Las Vegas

12th October 2012

Shabbat Shalom from Las Vegas!!!!

Beautiful air, glorious mountains and a great host but let's start with the news, good and bad, and then I'll tell you about our San Diego leg.

The despicable Gideon Levy is creating and spreading calumny about Israel. Thank heavens for Ben-Dror Yemini to debunk Levy's claim that Israel is already an Apartheid State. He proves that there are "lies, damned lies and statistics"or polls!!!

Netanyahus Likud Party and Libermans Israel Beitenu have decided to unify under one party. It is time to reduce the number of parties in the Israeli system and hopefully the centrist parties will also amalgamate and so too the left and the Arab parties. A three or four party system is infinitely more logical.  

Hamas and Hezb-Allah, are Iranian backed terror organisations.  Hamas is currently raining salvos of missiles on Southern Israel - a virtual blitz - harming innocent people,  destroying homes , and wreaking terror among children who will never be the same. An attack from Hamas is tantamount to the puppet masters Iran attacking Israel every day. Ergo, Mr President, Israel is under attack from Iran through proxies so why is the United States still financially supporting that proxy? As this article says "Silence on Gaza rockets gives terror a green light!

The last Presidential debate, on foreign policy, turned into a battle of words at the end of which neither candidate stated that they would stand beside Israel if she were in danger of attack from Iran just that if Israel were attacked they will react. Gee thanks, by then it will be too late and another 6 million Jews will be at the end of a final solution! Listen to the rhetoric - when someone says he wants to kill you he means it!!

If you are pro-Obama then don't watch this video because you will be cross with me. Pat Condell talks about the plight of Christians in the ME since "Arab Spring". He tends to blame Obama but I would say that previous administrations, the West in general and the  predominantly churches that do nothing for their flock who are being systematically erased in the Arab countries, bear the blame.

If you want to see a true  leader then watch and listen to Canadas PM Stephen Harper. He is brave, moral, straight talking and incredible

If you believe the NY Times, Guardian, LA Times, CNN and BBC who claim that Israel mistreats her Arab citizens and or Palestinians then read this article by Arab Jerusalemite Khaled Abu Toameh, "Why Palestinians Want Israeli Citizenship" 

In Los Angeles Lidia took us to the Getty Museum Gardens and the Museum of Tolerance - which blew me away. The manner of the presentation and the deep effect it was having on the schoolchidren who visited left a deep impression. We visited the Pico region too - full of Jewish shops and kosher restaurants - we tested one with Pablo Nankin and found it good!!!!
We left Los Angeles on a high note after going to breakfast with my cousin Lynnes son Tim, his wonderful wife Elisabeth and gorgeous boys. I love being with friends, listening and watching and learning but you know guys - a cousin is a cousin!!! I am thrilled that this most British of gentlemen has settled into the Los Angeles life and even has a son with an American accent!!!

Later that day we said goodbye to our lovely hosts Lidia and Mauricio as Becky Guttin drove all the way from San Diego to collect us! Indeed, since they had no idea how much luggage we had Becky's adorable father Fallo came too! We all fitted into Fallo's car and Becky was an absolute trouper driving us down south to San Diego to cousin Becky's home.

The next few days were a blur of family, food and fun as it was Zvi's turn to be thrilled by family and memories, sweet and bitter, of his 5 years in Mexico as a teenager. These cousins, Becky and Sylvia, share his memories in a way no-one else can, no matter how close. We were honoured to see the fabulous art of Fallo and his love letter to his beautiful wife..on canvas.

What impressed me most throughout our trip, is the incredible support for Israel and unabashed determination to show Jewishness in every way from all our friends and family. Mostly not religious they are all deeply spiritual, honour the traditions and love Israel.
Ilana and Eddies children - Alan, Jessica and Denise are a perfect example. All three go to Jewish schools, all speak and read Hebrew, in addition to Spanish and English - even the little one who is only 6, and they are deeply Jewish in their souls. Their artwork from school oozes Jewish knowledge without the children even realising it. I loved it and I could see the pride in Zvi's eyes at his little cousins achievements
And so from Gan Eden to S'dom........... Las Vegas!!!! For Zvi the bright lights and constant activity is the ultimate fulfillment of man's imagination and for me it is the gaudy noise of obscene opulence!! Our host Richard is yet again incredible. After he and his wife Danit took us all over Boston and New England he has now volunteered to take us around in Las Vegas. Yesterday he took us to the Hoover Dam which, although not the largest dam in the world showed the innovation and determination of one American President to resuscitate a dying economy through public works bringing pride back to a despondent America. In the evening we went to see the Cirque du Soleil performance of "Love" - quite phenomenal especially since I could sing along with the Beatles songs!!

So dear friends, as we reach the last portion of our trip, we celebrate another Shabbat away from Jerusalem, the family and the view from our veranda. The mountains around Las Vegas are beautiful but nothing, nothing compares with the spiritual beauty of Jerusalem. This has been an amazing journey, seeing the United States as she goes through the election process. What amazes me most of all is the devotion to party, irrespective of candidate, that pervades all aspects of the elections. So few are willing to cross the line in either direction because the candidate fulfills their requirements. Amazing. In Israel the politicians cross the line if their own party doesn't fulfill their requirements!!!

Enough of politicians, enough of strife we must bring our thoughts to sweeter things; to the serenity of Shabbat. I leave you with a beautiful medley dedicated to Israel and Zahal (the IDF) by Dedi Graucher
Shabbat Shalom with love from Las Vegas

Friday, 19 October 2012

Shabbat Shalom from LA

12th October 2012
Shabbat Shalom from Los Angeles!

What a waste of public money!! The Israeli Public Prosecutor decided to lodge an appeal against the acquittal and mild sentence of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a decision that was reached unanimously by a panel of three judges in the regional court - a unanimous decision of such a panel is normally considered legally binding. The vast amount of money wasted on the continued public vendetta, which has halted all effective government for fear of reprisals for about 6 years, will continue despite the fact that the crime was risible and all other accusations proven false. Time to stop the charade and let Israel move forward. Politicians who fear prosecution at every turn have their hands tied and Israel cannot afford to stagnate. Having just visited Salem we feel that the world looks at Israel as conducting a witch-hunt of the most popular politician we have produced in many a year.

While getting on with life, however, Israelis should now make quite sure they drive slowly - speed cameras have been installed all over country!!!!!

Two Ambassadors presented their credentials to President Peres this week - Egypt and Jordan. The Egyptian also presented a warm letter from President Morsi to President Peres which created uproar in Egypt but has been approved by the Egyptian regime. Simply shows that rush to judgement is never a good thing.

The Jordanian Ambassador, however, was disowned by his entire tribe for taking the position and should be applauded for his bravery The Obeidat tribe condemned the appointment of Walid Khalid Obeidat as Jordan's new ambassador to Israel, saying that a person who accepts such an appointment is "violating all prohibitions, crossing all red lines and offending the nation and the tribe. " Why? Because they claim Israel has stolen Palestinian land etc etc etc - what and Jordan is made up of..........?

David Horovitz hits the nail on the head yet again with his article "Debates? Ugh! Who needs them". and comes to the conclusion that we Israelis really need them too. Zvi and I have had the privilege of watching the debates with great curiosity - particularly the  "He won -no he won" attitude of the press. Both participants are erudite, eloquent and well prepared. Both participants represent their constituencies and whether I agree with one over the other is irrelevant but I pray that people will choose a leader and not just follow a party.

In Boston we went to the JFK Museum with our hosts Danit and Richard; a stupendous museum in an exquisite setting, exhibiting so much more than the life of JFK.  The exhibit that impressed me above all was inaugural speech in which JFK spoke about the United Nations and the deep relevance of that speech today. Congressman Mike Pence apparently feels as I do and spoke thus
"Following the defeat of tyranny throughout Europe in 1945, and in the ashes of the Holocaust, the United Nations was born. It was formed to create a forum to confront dictators before they rose to global power. President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address warned some four decades ago that the United Nations must not become a forum for invective against the West.
"But as we saw yesterday with the leader of Libya decrying Israel in the terms of the ‘Israeli demon.' As we saw the leader of the discredited regime in Tehran denounce the ‘barbaric attacks of the Zionist regime' and continue to deny the Holocaust in public forums, we see the United Nations has become not only a forum for invective against the West, but especially a forum for invective against our most cherished ally, Israel.
"Today, the American people provide 20 percent of the financial support for the United Nations. And today the American people are asking, ‘why?'"

Now for an amazing story. Zvi and I decided to go to Boston from NY by bus - a fast and picturesque way to travel. Our bus driver was Indian, very amusing and I loved the fact that I giggled at his jokes and Zvi couldn't understand his accent, sweet revenge for all the Spanish spoken on this trip! Half way through the journey the bus took a pit-stop and the driver came back to check the passengers had all returned. As he passed us he looked down at Zvi's Hebrew novel and said "I asked for that at the library but they didn't have it" Zvi laughed thinking it was a joke but then the driver continued in Hebrew!!!!! His name is Shlomo Benjamin - born in Bombay but raised in Israel who came to the States many years ago to learn to drive tour buses and stayed. Most of his and his wifes family are still in Israel. What a terrific story eh?

From Boston we flew to LA and to our gracious hosts Lidia and Mauricio Epelbaum who have opened their home and their hearts to us. Yesterday Lidia and I just sat and talked while the energiser bunny went to see friends who took him to see Rodeo Drive etc. Lidia took me to a ladies luncheon at the Jewish University where Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson spoke beautifully about the story of Abraham and Isaac. I loved his comment that in his imagination G-d first came to Sarah and asked her to sacrifice her son to which she answered "No way, are you kidding? I will not sacrifice the thing I love most in the world because you ask me and if you ask me such a thing then you are not the Almighty" G-d then went to Avraham who said "A test? OK I'll take my son and sacrifice him" When Abraham stood with the knife poised G-d realised that Sarah was right - it was not a demand that the Almighty would make and stopped Abrahams hand. Loved it!!!

In the evening two friends from my British past came to see us. Shirley and Ramon Greene, formerly of Reading, Berkshire, came over and it was as if nearly 40 years disappeared and we simply continued the conversation where we left off. We spent a delightful evening together and hopefully it was the first of many either here or in Israel.

Today Lidia took us on a drive-through tour of this side of LA. I love the UCLA campus, it really is beautiful, and then we went on to the Getty Museum where we walked thorugh the gardens and listened fascinated to the talk on the external architecture and its purpose - absolutely stunning. Sadly my energy levels dropped and we didn't see the inside - next time!!!

So this week we will spend Shabbat with Lidia and Mauricio before wending our way to San Diego and all our lovely family there. Becky Guttin is driving here to pick us up and take us down the coast.....nothing is too much for these wonderful people - they love us enough to put themselves out and believe me it is deeply, deeply appreciated.

I wish you friends and family who are always willing to put themselves out for you because they love you so much they need to be near you. Me? I would walk a million miles...........!!!

Finally, I leave you with my favourite Shabbat song. The song we sing on a Friday evening in synagogue, gently turning to greet the bride of Shabbat - Lecha Dodi - Come my beloved, come to welcome the bride of Shabbat 

Shabbat Shalom to you and yours. I wish you peace and gentleness to greet the Shabbat bride with love for each other and those who may annoy you but share your history and your future. Tolerance.
With love from Los Angeles - looking toward Jerusalem

Friday, 12 October 2012

Shabbat Shalom from Boston

12th October 2012

Shabbat Shalom from Boston!! We just arrived having caught a bus in NYC, travelled through beautiful countryside with the leaves just turning and arrived in Boston where Richard met us and helped us "schlepp" our multitude of suitcases on the train and tram to their house to be greeted with smoked salmon and a smile by Danit.

You cannot imagine this week!! So many of you think Zvi and I are the energiser bunnies at home but right now we are doing  far more!! Let's think about the week..................

Let's start on Sunday evening in the town of Bedford, NY, after a day which began at 05:00 when Joshua wanted to know if it was morning yet so that he could climb into bed with me for his cuddle!! I had no intention of speaking to any groups but I have a special soft spot for Sari Singer who garnered great support from her community for Kinneret Chaya and find it hard to refuse her anything and I took Rivka and Michael with me for support! Sari and  Rabbi David, promised me about 20 people and question and answer, well it was actually about 60+ people but the minute the delightful people began to talk to me at the pre-talk reception it all worked out. Ron Meyerson, with whom I have had a wonderful email conversation for some weeks turned out to be a truly beautiful man who is now a dear friend, David Weinstein who helped Kinneret Chaya so much was also at least as charming as he appeared and Harriet who is a long time reader was just as much fun as I imagined................. indeed when my turn came to speak I was ready and relaxed.

I began by reading about Kinneret Chaya, since the community already knew about her and helped her, the story only I knew, Kinneret Chaya before and after, and how she reached the after of a beautiful, strong, spiritual, devoted woman with two and 8/9th children!! From that point on the questions came thick and fast - but almost all were about war, will we attack Iran, the Haredim, what I think of Obama and such like and all I wanted was to tell everyone about the incredible life we lead. I wanted them to know that  we have fun, much more than most, going out to theatre, restaurants, shows, each others homes, Israeli singing and sometimes just "schpatzeering" or for coffee, rather than sitting home and worrying about Iran! I wanted them to hear about Friday and how we shop til we drop and then cook until................. Shabbat with the family!!! I wanted them to know what a full and fulfilling life we lead that is filled with joy and purpose......... but sadly Rivka's question was never asked as I ran out of time arguing with people that our problem is not the religious Jews but that both Israeli Arabs and Haredim must take part in society and that both are now beginning to do so. Basically - I wanted this audience of marvellous people to realise jut how marvellous it is living in Israel and how privileged I am to live in Jerusalem.

Obviously we are overpowered and over-newsed- out by the debates........DEBATES!!! When will the politicians realise that people hear what they want to hear? OK so the first debate was probably a Romney win, but then he was attacking and the President had to defend his policies - always a difficult position. I felt the whole Big Bird campaign was ridiculous - conduct unbecoming of a President. The second debate had a handsome, smiling older statesman against a rough around the edges very young and inexperienced, but practically clever, politician. One either heard that Joe Biden smirked or that he was clever and smiling - and that Paul Ryan was either a poor debater or a refreshingly naive politician depending upon whether you are a Dem or a Rep!. Me - I don't know!

The next day Lenny and Ruth Cole called in and Lenny told us of his latest academic publication concerning anti-Semitism. Both Lenny and Ruth are fierce defenders of Israel and very much initiators rather than responders.

Then it all broke out as House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa made it very clear that the government attempted a cover-up concerning security and premeditation of the horrific attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, a cover-up which distressed me, a cover-up of the extent of the attack and the dreadful personal attack on the Ambassador and the claims that it was an inside job. He said "Well, some of the diplomatic correspondence from the ambassador himself described a deteriorating situation. It described continued problems. It described the volatile nature. And these were in actual cables. But more importantly, they were reporting on an almost successful attempt to murder the ambassador, the successful looting of the Tunisian consulate nearby in Benghazi, 234 separate attacks, and I think, oddly enough, Ambassador Kennedy said, well, only 20 percent of them were in Benghazi. Now, 20 percent of 234 sounds like an awful lot of violent attacks, and it was." Read more:

American Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice comes out worst but Hillary Clinton a close second. Were their statements under White House directive or are they following State Dept. line?

Directly on the heels of this inquiry followed another attack, this time on the American Embassy in Yemen. How many flags must be burned for the US leaders to know that they are hated? Not hated because of policy, hated because they represent the antithesis to Islamic Fundamentalism and thus the greatest  obstacle.
Moslem Brotherhood supporters and anti-Morsi rebels fought violently in Tahrir Square where it all started. Who knows what the outcome may be. 

Israel? Well we downed a drone.......... a big drone which was on its way from Hezb-Allah to Dimona, a gift from Iran. Iran testing the waters I guess. A Grad rocket landed in a school, but no-one really cares about that unlike the rocket that landed in Turkey to which Turkey reacted by attacking Syria - of course Turkey is considered correct wheras when we respond........... forget it it depresses me!!!
As brilliant as our hosts are, as amazing it was to grab seconds and minutes, hugs kisses and giggles with children and grandchildren, I miss Jerusalem. I miss the "View from my Veranda"; I miss the hustle and bustle, the laughter and chatting to anyone next to you on the bus or tram; I miss the glorious food, the variety of "Shabbatot"; I miss the friendliness of the ladies on the cashier desks at the supermarket and the open rowdy arguments on just about every and any subject because we all care SO MUCH.We may not always be polite but we are honest and straighforward and we DO talk of politics, religion and even ask strangers how much they paid for their purchases, how much they earn and what they paid for their home!!!!
Tonight we spend Shabbat with Danit and Richard Farwell, right across the road, and tomorrow we will walk around Boston.

We wish you Shabbat Shalom from Boston with a song that the lovely Michael Bertisch Meir is particularly fond of Amir Benayon and here Amir sings the most "Shabbesdik" of all Shabbat songs. Shalom Aleichem.......... Peace be with you
Shabbat Shalom dear friends
With love

Friday, 5 October 2012

Shabbat Shalom from Fort Lee

5th October 2012

Dear Friends Shabbat Shalom

We are not sitting on the veranda nor are we preparing Shabbat, not even salivating at the aromas of ethnic Jewish foods wafting from our neighbours........... we are in Fort Lee New Jersey at the home of our unbelievably kind hosts Drs Rivka and Michael Bertisch Meir. It isn't Jerusalem but the sheer warmth and "nedivut" generosity and warmth of both Rivka and Michael and their infinite patience with three tiny girls and four adults taking over their home is worthy of the Israel prize!!!!

The Middle East has gone even more berserk since we left with the Syrians lobbing a mortar over Turkey and the Turks responding with an armed attack. Of course the world reacted - after all this isn't thousands of missiles over Jews this is one idiotic missile launched by Syrians over Turks - yes yes I know that the world ignores the suffering of Israelis and furies over any response we make while accepting Turkeys response but, hey nothing is new in this world. I wonder if Turkey has apologised to Syria for bombing the heck out of them!

The situation in Syria worsens daily. Why isn't someone doing something rather than talking about it? Thousands of people lose their lives between the two sides and the world talks.......... talks........... talks. The powers that be talk when a huge and infinitely wealthy fanatic Islamist country threatens to wipe out a fellow member of the United Nations and burns the flags of the two greatest democracies in the world - actually the three greatest democracies in the world. There is a point when talk is not sufficient one has to confront the bully. Confrontation on a genuine level can prevent war - bullies do not respond to reason but calling their horrendous bluff may just work. The most common question asked here is "Is Israel going to attack Iran"? Sorry guys but it annoys me.......... why should the smallest possible country, surrounded by enemies just waiting for an excuse to join Iran's attack on her, attack a huge and highly armed country to save the world when the rest of the world can't be bothered to stand by our side? Henry Kissinger may be brilliant but his comment that no-one else has the right to decide on Iran apart from the United States is more than a little arrogant. The American decision to reject the Iranian 9 part proposition may well be right but surely it should be discussed.

Moslems rioted on the Temple Mount and rushed the Mugrabi Gate requiring a strong reaction from the Israeli Police who held the crowd back. Since the Mugrabi leads directly to the Western Wall where Jews pray one would assume that even the foreign press would understand the need to hold the hordes back although I'm sure they concentrated on the cruel Israeli police! 

The Christians of Nigeria, although the vast majority, have been suffering terrible terror attacks, particularly on churches for some years. This week they chose to respond. Finally and at last the Christians of Nigeria are fighting back against the Islamic Extremists in that nation.

Flying home to South Africa after visiting Toronto for a family function should be a straighforward affair. It should be but it isn't if you land in an Arab country in transit. 77 year old  Dr Cyril Karabus thought he was just resting in a hotel before his onward flight only to find himself arrested, suspected of murder. Some years ago Dr Karabus treated a young girl for leukemia and she sadly died and that is the case held against him. Doctors of the world unite and express your disgust.

I am usually a very "on the ball "news fiend and it is a little strange for me to be on vacation and not in touch......... except for the Presidential Debate, vacation or not I had to watch it! It fascinated me to see the formality of the debate, the precise timing and the questioner or chairman demanding fair play........ loved that! I thought both men performed well, it is much harder to be the defendant than the accuser/prosecutor and Mitt Romney was, of course, the prosecutor who found all the holes in the current administration, with extreme civility but very strongly and it was the encumbents duty to defend his policies. Mr Obama pointed out that economic problems are inherited but didn't reveal that the problem goes back through many Presidencies to Mr Carter!! As you well know I do not comment on who I would support, and certainly want the best man for America but I think round one went to Mr Romney in terms of debate, he was cool and ready with answers but then his position in the debate was easier to defend because he is not the man in the hot seat.

I love Manhattan - not only because my little grandson Joshua is here although that is a great reason - but I love the city. I am very very much a country bumpkin yet the trees and of course Central Park make this a wonderful place to be. It is a city for people watchers and shoppers, the variety of folk is quite incredible and their reactions to the homeless that increasingly occupy their sad positions on the streets tell the story of their characters. As always, the sound of Hebrew permeates the stores, museums and streets as Israelis find each other. Israelis love travelling and absorbing the cultures around them........ especially the store culture we are great shoppers!!!!

Going to Joshuas school was the absolute highlight for me. Watching his face light up as he realised that Safta came with Daddy obviously helped but the beauty of his classmates was exceptional and warmed my heart. Joshuas class is special with normative and complex needs children sharing a curriculum that includes communication, not of the Steve Jobs variety but of actually communicating and touching and talking. I loved it!!!!

Two days ago I met with our wonderful friend Daniel Schwartz, my favourite Zionist!!! Daniel grew up in a home that understood the importance of teaching children responsibility through example especially responsibility of being a good Jew. Daniel understands the need to act instead of just talking.
On Sunday night I will be going with our friend Sari Singer to speak at her synagogue and take a Q&A about Israel. I hope to explain the joy of Israel as well as the reasons we must defend ourselves.

Tonight we will celebrate Shabbat with our hosts, with Zvi's son Leor and his beautiful family and with friends and my son Daniel who will pop in to wish us all good Shabbes as Jews all over the world have been doing for centuries. Tradition, tradition in the food, tradition in the blessings, tradition in the songs. Tradition we pass on to our children and to their children and their childrens children. Tradition as three little girls - our grnd-daughters Amit, Gili and Ori - help light the Shabbat Candles, the light leaving a glow on their faces that is so much more than candlelight, joining Saba and Michael in singing the Kiddush and then the blessing over the two challot........ followed by Rivkas epicurean delights. Tradition.

 I leave you with a special song, one that I have given to you before but it embodies the spirit of Shabbat as no other.

Shabbat Shalom from the great USA with my heart in Jerusalem.