Friday, 25 October 2013

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem - Special


25th October 2013

Shabbat Shalom everyone. Yes I know I didn't write last week but the reason will become clear in a minute or two.

Haim Saban lives in Los Angeles but his heart remains in Israel. Each year he throws a bigger and bigger bash for the Friends of the IDF and this year was spectacular with Lionel Ritchie and Simon Cowell taking part. The evening raised $20 million for our beautiful boys and girls.

I admit that I get very angry when people generalise, particularly when it come to Moslem Israelis, many of whom (especially Bedouin and Druze) give of themselves to the IDF and the country. Now a Druze officer has reached the high position of Commander of the elite Golani unit.

Poor Rihanna. She loves Israel and this week came for her second concert in Tel Aviv, having performed in the area. Someone who did not do her homework, in Ha'aretz of course, reported that Rihanna changed the lyrics of one of her songs to say something about loving Palestine. Rubbish – never did and never was!!!!

From Maurice Ostroff
The Methodist Church of Great Britain with its 6,000 churches has around 300,000 members. Although the Church already supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), it has now launched a public consultation with a questionnaire about the subject. The results will be debated next year at the annual Methodist Conference which has engaged in debate on Israel and Palestine frequently over the past 15 years. Background notes and the questionnaire are available at organizations have been quick to urge their followers  to strongly support BDS in their responses. Click here for a memorandum I sent to the Methodist Church"

Local elections took place throughout Israel. Some were more exciting than others but I concentrated on Jerusalems elections. Zvi and I supported Hitorerut "Awakening" a party made up of young vibrant, socially aware people who support and agree with the policies and intentions of Mayor Nir Barkat, the incumbent, who we also supported. The other contender was former Director of the Prime Ministers office Moshe Leon, a good man but not a Jerusalemite and backed by people who are, in the eyes of the voters, dubious. The final outcome was better than anyone could have expected with Mayor Barkat returning with 4 council seats, Hitorerut with 4 seats, Jerusalemites with 2 giving the similar minded group 10 seats - more than any recent Mayor on the 31 seat council. This will give them the ability to go ahead with their plans to provide cultural and physical amenities for all of Jerusalems citizens - without harming the spiritual and religious aspects that cannot and should not be ignored. Zvi was number 10 on the Hitorerut list - which gave them a boost but no-one expected him to get in. He was there as mentor and certainly elevated the average age of the group!!!!!

Now for my reason for not writing last week. My daughter underwent surgery and I was busy at Shaare Zedek hospital. You must understand that her ein Israel the families are very much part of the patients treatment, most having someone sleep beside them. We were in the ENT and otolaryngology department where the team, from the cleaners to the porfessors were phenomenal – incredibly caring and loving. I have to admit that my favourite nurse was a tiny lady from Ethiopia who was born to nurse, to care for others with the widest knowledge I have ever known. The doctors too – especially doctor Majiid and Doctor Hajaj.

Shabbat in Shaare Zedek is different to anything I have ever seen! It began with Zvi and Philip (my daughters father) singing a Kabbalat Shabbat for the room and continued with fun and stories into the night – relieving the pain and distress. Everybody has a parent of family member to stay with them. When I slept over I slept in the chair, when it was Philips turn to sleep over he had a bed but one night he went out of the room for five minutes and returned there was a young smiling Arab lady patient in his place!!!

This is a religious Jewish hospital yet each level of care is mixed – including the patients. The Yuri Shtern Foundation helped me so much with therapies at my daughters bedside and when I found a lonely American lady who had no-one I called them and before I could get to her to tell her about it they were at her bedside. I beg of you to read this, to open their link and recognise the importance of this group of volunteers – who need donations urgently to continue their blessed work.

On Wednesday we went for blood tests and the nurse in the Health fund clinic was a young and amazing Arab nurse who was so helpful and kind.

In other words – don't believe a word the media tries to tell you!!! This is a wonderful society, a caring society and all logical people know exactly what the truth is.

So that is the excitement of the last two weeks. Thank G-d she is back with her beautiful children this Shabbat. I wish her, them and all of us a Shabbat Shalom

I want to dedicate this little video to my children. I'll love you forever or without Joey

For Shabbat – for all of us, the women amongst us and for my baby girl in particular – a true Eshet Chayil

Shabbat Shalom
With love from Jerusalem and the View from our Veranda

Monday, 14 October 2013

Letter from Jerusalem - 18 years Chaver


14th October 2013

Remembering a Prime Minister and praying for the future

It is 18 years since an Israeli Prime Minister was assassinated by a Jewish extremist sending the entire country into a tail spin of emotions.

Did Israeli leaders lose the quest for peace through fear of the consequences? No. Unequivocally no. We still search for peace, we still offer peace, we still desire and prepare for peace but our neighbours believe that the killing of a Prime Minister who wanted peace revealed our Achilles heel and we will give them whatever they wish expecting nothing in return. Our strength is in our determination for a better life for our grandchildren and the day we give up that determination we lose our battle.

I loved and admired Yitzchak Rabin. He was a hero, a soldier, a leader and nothing whatsoever like the revised version that the far left try to impose upon us. Yitzchak Rabin was a proud Israeli who cared first and foremost about the security of this wonderful country and put his life on the line for us many times, leading his troops to phenomenal victories and giving us, the world, the most famous photograph of Israel's history as he walked through the Lion's Gate toward the Western Wall in June 1967.

Last night was the Hebrew anniversary of his death and the traditional gathering in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, took place at the site of his assassination after singing Shir l'Shalom smaller each year but still strong.

18 years. 18 years have passed, 18 years since we lost a hero, 18 years in which the left re-wrote his history, 18 years since Israel lost her innocence.

This is what I wrote in my Shabbat Shalom letter three years ago

Incredibly on November 4th it will be 15 years since Yitzchak Rabin's assassination. The Hebrew date just passed with a large gathering in his memory but for me it is the dreadful date of the 4th of November that I remember.
Just ten days prior we stood listening to him speak before a crowded Rotunda, the Hall linking the Senate and the House, as we celebrated the opening of the United States Jerusalem 3,000 celebrations. The day was especially historic since the previous day, as my husband sat in the gallery, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem!
Just ten days prior to his death I received my last hug from this shy, exceptional man who preferred his “wounded soldier” citizen to the room full of politicians.
Just ten days prior to his death when Israel felt invincible from without and within.
Just ten days before a Jew raised his gun and took away not only a Prime Minister but our innocence and our invincibility.
I find it odd that the left have made him their symbol, although he was far from left-wing; the press has chosen him as their idol although he would have shown them his feet of clay, and the right have vilified him for deeds he never did.
Yitzchak Rabin, son of Rosa Cohen, was the archetypal soldier; Israeli; Sabra; hero; man, and I miss his shy disposition and humility horribly.
May his soul rest in peace, his memory be preserved and his prayer for a safe and secure Israel be fulfilled.

As the Knesset opened its Winter Session today, the Prime Minister spoke eloquently and the Arab Members of Knesset heckled him unashamedly about their lack of freedom. Life goes on, Prime Ministers come and go and our neighbours still hate us. It takes great courage to forge a relationship that can lead to a tenable future, courage and willingness to face disparagement.

May his soul rest in peace, his desires for this amazing country be fulfilled and his memory be honoured without revision as the incredible man he was. It was his pride in Israel and his honesty that drew world leaders to love him, a rare and beautiful thing in the world of politics and probably the most important aspect of policy toward Israel.

With love

Friday, 11 October 2013

Shabbat Shalom letter - Nobel Prizes, Jerusalem elections, Don Giovanni in Jerusalem

11th October 2013

Shabbat Shalom dear friends

Such a strange week, in a world of strange weeks. A week filled with oxymorons like “Arab Democracy” , of Israelis who won Nobels prizes for Chemistry as Americans, of a phenomenal young girl who fought the horrific religious powers in Pakistan was pipped at the post for the Nobel Prize for Peace by................ the UN Team in Syria! A week of continued killing in Syria despite the watchdogs of the UN; of the horrors of oppression in the Congo, Eritrea and so many other parts; the lack of understanding that the Egyptian Army is succeeding to bring some form of freedom to normal people where a “democratically elected” government did the opposite; and of course of the interminable discussions with the Iranians concerning the nuclear facilities that they claim are for electrical power yet they hide them in vast underground bunkers hidden from inquisitive eyes.

In Jerusalem a great Rabbi died at the age of 93 and hundreds of thousands of Israelis, predominantly religious but including many secular admirers, paid him the ultimate honour of going to his funeral, following the cortege to his final resting place in Sanhedria. His power and influence reached levels unheard of in Israel, far beyond his own Mizrachi (Eastern) community, yet his wonderful wisdom and unchallenged knowledge were slightly muddied as those around him drew him into politics in the Shas party that he founded. HaRav Ovadia Yosef was an undoubted Torah scholar of huge proportions, yet, as with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, lesser humans rode on his wisdom and used his spiritual power to more earthly ambitions. Two dear friends, coming from disparate religious backgrounds yet equally spiritual and pure wrote about the Rabbi. Canon Andrew White who knew Rabbi Ovadia well and admired his outstanding brain and Rabbi Jeremy Rosen who wrote.'s+Blog) May he rest in peace and may his family be consoled among the mourners of Zion.

I don't know if my last piece of local news counts as an oxymoron, more an inconsistency, but a non-Jerusalemite is challenging the incumbent for the position of Mayor without even bothering to move here! Although unashamedly pro-Israeli, I am not a political animal. I support the best man/woman for the job irrespective of party, which is why this time I have very clear cut views. Our Mayor, Nir Barkat, has all the necessary elements to put Jerusalem's case to the world, through visiting diplomats and politicians and of course the foreign press. His English is outstanding, he is bright and highly presentable and representative – and he knows this city having grown up here and bringing his children up here and is supported by the current government – he is not perfect and we have disagreements but he is doing a good job. On the other hand we have a very capable man, Moshe Lion, who does not live in Jerusalem, is the favourite of Avigdor Liberman and has already signed a political pledge with the Haredim. So you see, grammatically it is not an oxymoron, but the vagaries of politics distress me nonetheless. Nir Barkat, the secular Mayor, held up all civic events and culture to honour the Ovadia family during the week of mounring whereas the new Shas leaders stepped from the mourning tent and used the hiatus to push their candidate Moshe Lion!!!

I am sure of two things, Zvi and I are voting for Nir Barkat as Mayor and Hitorerut for the council. HITORERUT – Awakening – the fabulous group of young people who chose to fight for the Jerusalem they want to raise their children in and ensure it remains a city that young people want to stay in. Most importantly, although capable of fighting for what they believe to be right, Hitorerut is in tandem with Mayor Barkat which is a rarity in local politics.

Last night Zvi and I were invited to an exceptional performance of the Jerusalem Opera Company - Don Giovanni performed in the incredible beauty of David's Citadel. The architecture is phenomenal and the history even more so. The historical periods were clear in the ancient stones in four obvious architectural styles. The lowest area showed the Herodian style taken from the original Temple supporting walls for secondary use when Suleiman the Magnificent decided to refurbish Davids Citadel, which is when he also added the Mosque and Minaret. The incredible arched openings, the archers slits and the crenellations and the ramparts formed an incredible backdrop to the familiar story of love and betrayal.

We were invited by Yaakov and Nadia Shtrizak, our beautiful young new Olim from Russia. Yaakov, a resounding bass, sang with the Rimsky Korsakov Opera in Leningrad before he and his beautiful Nadia came home. After hearing him sing for a Jewish Agency event Zvi pulled every string in his arsenal to help Yaakov achieve auditions with both the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Operas both of whom accepted him to the their regular troupes. Yaakov sang the part of the old man, Commendatore, Donna Anna's father who is killed in the first act but makes a ghostly reprise in the last act resulting in Don Giovanni's ultimate demise. It was as much a delight to watch Nadias face as her beloved Yaakov sang to perfection as it was to hear him for ourselves!

I love operas that have familiar music, but this production held more than one surprise. In the first act as the young bride and groom walked across the grounds the audience was delighted to see that the groom and the groomsmen wore white kippot (skullcaps) and carried a chuppa (marriage canopy)!!! It just gave a perfect Jerusalem touch to this Jerusalem performance!

I admit it was hard to concentrate on the story as my eyes constantly wandered around the sheer beauty of the Tower of David Museum and archaeological site. It really is stupendous!

So, it is almost Shabbat. The buses no longer pass our window as the drivers are home with their families preparing for Shabbat, the cars have emptied from the shopping mall car park and that oh so beautiful peace is descending upon our incredible city. I want Jerusalem to be for all her residents but never ever to forget what she means to us all and the Biblical importance of every stone.

Talking of Biblical importance, Babylon (modern day Iraq) is so closely tied to our Bible, it is where we were taken from Zion in captivity as slaves. Today Iraq is suffering as never before as our dear friend Canon Andrew White tells us. Listen to the words of this simple song
Although this is not Shabbat Bereshit I absolutely loved this choir singing Lecha Dodi

I wish you love, joy and laughter in your lives and a special sense of gentleness and contemplation that comes with our day of rest. This weeks Torah reading, Lech Lecha in which Abraham and Sarai (Sarah) are rewarded by the Almighty for their goodness and their ability to rebuff temptation to evil. Maybe a few of our politicians should be reading this parasha.......... and understand its relevance.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Shabbat Shalom letter - Putin Nobel, Rouhani duplicity, Netanyahu USA


4th October 2013

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Here I am over my jet-lag, still smiling from the thought of baby Callie, my new grand-daughter in New York, my grandson (her brother) Joshua and Daniel and Karen. I saw a few wonderful friends and family but I was somewhat limited since I had a rotten coughing bug for half of my visit so saw few people but those I saw were a joy.

Since returning to reality I decided that the world has gone insane! Why is it even worse than the insanity of prior to my USA visit? Well try these for size.

While happy to see that the imminent cold war between the US and Russia was averted over Syria, can they really be serious in nominating Putin for a Nobel Prize?

I am not surprised that the UN accepted Rouhani's duplicity but when the real Rouhami expresses his Machismo and utter lack of respect for America with “Washington called us five times before we agreed to meet Obama. “ I cannot for the life of me understand why the White House did not respond. This administration sees fit to punish Israel but not those who wish death to the USA. They see weakness in our leaders and pounce on it like the scavengers that they are.

Mahmoud Abbas spoke at the United Nations General Assembly. What was clearer than his obvious political rhetoric is that Abbas is more concerned about Jews visiting the Temple Mount than thousands of Palestinians who are being butchered and expelled from their homes in Arab countries; he sees evil only in the actions of Israel and Jewish settlers.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, had he gone the obvious route, could have charmed the United Nations and the American leadership with the ease of a polished and experienced diplomat, but he chose to tell the unvarnished truth instead. Israel is under existential threat; Israel is on the front line but do not be fooled, if Israel falls the domino effect on Western Society will be fast and furious so if the current leadership is not willing to stand up to this threat Israel is. We will defend ourselves and do not need anyones permission to do so.

I have long felt that many of the problems in the Middle East, other than those caused by the dangerous naiveté (at best) of James Earl Carter, were created by the changing of borders, the introduction of leaders brought far from their future Kingdoms as a diplomatic pay-off and the ensuing ethnic mixing which forced previously unknown challenges on entire populations forcing old ethnic enemies to share a country.

I really want you to watch this brilliant video of South African Politician Kenneth Meshoe. He speaks on apartheid and Israel saying what I have always maintained, that to call the open and free society that is Israel an apartheid state is to insult the very real and horrific suffering of black South Africans and those who fought to end real Apartheid, many of whom are Jews who now live in Israel.

London has a brand spanking new Jewish Centre. Situated in North West 3 (NW3) it has been nicknamed JW3. A beautiful building donated by Dame Vivien Duffield, the JW3 makes a clear statement to Londoners – We are here and getting stronger. Well done London, Well done Dame Vivien.

In a situation diametrically opposed to the wonderful new London JCC a recent poll finds that 1 in 5 American Jews describe themselves as having no religion. Terrifying

Back here in Israel we are entering the run-up to municipal elections and all that that entails. Jerusalem is of course the prime target for all political parties, since the position of Mayor of Jerusalem carries enormous influence – and responsibility. Every politician, diplomat or film star who comes to Israel meets with the Mayor. He must be a diplomat, politician, linguist and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Jerusalem, her history and the sectors of this complex city. In other words he must be a Jerusalemite. Zvi and I are choosing the incumbent, Mayor Nir Barkat, for Mayor and the wonderful young people of Hitorerut (Awakening) for the City council. I normally keep my political leanings to myself but this is a special city and we need a Mayor who respects ALL sectors but favours none and wants to complement the definition of Jerusalem from the centre of government and religious capital of the world to a wonderful city to live in. Mayor Barkat grew up in Jerusalem and lives in the city, while having studied in the United States – he doesn't spout rhetoric, he quietly gets on with the work and does not see Jerusalem as the springboard to higher positions.

Gosh I didn't intend writing that much about Jerusalem politics but it is clearly very important to me

It was a delight to drive over to see my grandchildren and help the girls sort out their summer-winter clothes. Gosh they have grown!!! Lots of clothes to pass down from Talia to Ayala and even more to pass on to their younger cousins. As I did that ever incredible drive home past the panorama of Jerusalem at Samuels Tomb it was as if a great artist had painted the sky (well He had hadn't he!!) in a vivid azure blue with fluffy white clouds scudding across the sky creating patterns of light and shade on the white buildings of Jerusalem. No matter how many times I pass this site I feel the excitement rising as it nears.

Since we are a bit late today – almost Shabbat, Jerusalem has already gone into peaceful mode as Shabbat nears. The quiet is almost tangible, I know that if I could just reach out over the entire view from our veranda that I could feel the houses, the people, the culinary delights – I can tell you where they came from by the aromas wafting from kitchen windows, where they fled when they were dispersed from this land and from whence they returned, most of them fleeing oppression. What a glorious melding of traditions – culinary, musical, ritual – yet coming together with the same blessings, the same gentleness of Shabbat, the same candle-lighting, the same shining faces of children as they follow their family traditions. In every way, however you look at this country, it is a miracle.

Our veranda is at it's fruitful best. The tiny orange tree bears a surprising 8 fruits just beginning to turn from a rich dark green to the familiar orange colour; the pomegranate tree has 10 beautiful fruits which I will leave on the tree to feed the birds as their skins split to reveal the luscious red seeds within; The kumquat tree is absolutely full of fruits – tiny and ranging in colour from dark green through to their bright orange edible state; the lemon tree, ah the lemon tree, I saved from almost certain death and it is now full of young fruits; The herb garden, rosemary, lemon balm, louisa, mint, spearmint, garlic chives, lemon grass, thyme and myrtle are enjoying the slightly cooler weather – even the magical hibiscus flowers are showing their faces in the hope of a gentler sun!

You would think our veranda is huge but it is a mere 40 sq metres!!! It may not be huge but every time I walk outside I am amazed afresh by the view – the View from our Veranda.

I wish you well, I wish you Shabbat Shalom and I wish you hope. To end we have two videos of Shabbat songs – one Mizrachi (Eastern) and one Ashkenazi about the prayer for the 3rd Temple and because I love you an extra just because it is exceptional! Adon Olam, Lord of the Universe

With much love from Jerusalem, the most amazing city in the whole world.