Friday, 27 December 2013

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila - Good news bad news - Christians oppressed



27th December 2013

Shabbat Shalom to all my wonderful friends – I hope you had a good festive season and to my Christian friends, I pray that you had a peaceful one.

Tis the third day of Christmas and instead of joy, love and peace the world appears to have gone mad. Killing Christians has become a sport that Christian leaders are allowing through their apathy and refusal to fight back. Indeed in general this has been a bad news/good news week

A rocket lobbed from Gaza fell on Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, thankfully no-one was injured

Bombs on Baghdad Churches. Two churches were bombed on Christmas Day as the worshippers celebrated the Holy Service. 37 Christians died and many were injured on a day that should have been one of peace

The Pope, undoubtedly a wise man, called for peace between Israel and Palestine without mentioning the above situations. It is time to recognise the diabolical oppression of Christians in this area, everywhere except Israel.

The good news. A brave Greek Orthodox priest is proud to stand up and talk about freedom in Israel. Kol ha Kavod

More good news Canon Andrew White sent me gorgeous photographs of the synagogue in baghdad. I wish I know how to add them to this newsletter!!!

As to Iran. Rabbi Jeremy Rosen has it all explained in a nutshell, or according to Jewish tradition, standing on one leg's+Blog)

The following article is concise, honest, clever and really should be read and spread as a devout Christian puzzles as to why the academic world appears to hate Israel.
This week’s news about ASA’s boycott of the Israeli academy has me asking myself once again why so much of the world despises the State of Israel. As a Christian Zionist, this spite naturally puzzles me. But I think that any logical human being with enough honesty will admit that the animus directed toward Israel is profoundly disproportionate to that country’s size and influence in the world. 

The good news is that many American Universities and academics have openly objected to the ASA demand for an academic boycott of Israel and Oxford University voted unconditionally against it. In Oxford University, the highest of Higher Education, the student union voted by a huge majority against the bid by the BDS movement for an academic boycott of Israel. 
The amazing news is that the 200th wounded Syrian refugee was brought into Israel by the IDF for medical care at the Ziv Medical Center in Sfat on Monday night. The 21-year-old patient was in serious condition with gunshot wounds to his hip and stomach and underwent surgery at Israels expense and with Israel's good will. If doctors on both sides of the border can work together why can't politicians?

So the snow has almost melted, still big piles of the yukky stuff at the sides of roads where it was cleared and stacked and the trees, oh the trees, are being hacked back in an attempt to save the tree itself when most of the branches fell from the sheer weight of the snow. The lorry with the “tree eater” the pulper, has been working overtime trying to clear the huge piles of branches from the narrow winding roads of Jerusalems old neighbourhoods like Talbieh and Rehavia, known for its towering avenues. Hopefully they will grow back even stronger.

Jerusalem is coming back to life as the markets reopened and the happy shoppers enjoy the post-snow sales. It never fails to amaze me how much unnecessary items people are willing to buy because they are reduced!!!!! Israel is no different to anywhere else in the world – we love to shop!

This week Rachel and I went to Shouk Ramle down in the new train station. The shoppers love the yells of “Everything for 10 sehkels” “Come and get the bargains – spectacles for 5 shekels” and especially the one that drives me nuts “C'mon ladies, you know you can't resist a bargain”!!!! The full rainbow of Jerusalem walks up and down the narrow aisles between the stands – Arabs and Jews, religious and secular, Hijabs and sheitels (wigs), jeans and long humble skirts, blonde and black hair and every conceivable colour of skin....... I love it!!! Rachel and I knew what we wanted and were in and out very quickly, our prizes clutched firmly in the ever growing mass of humanity!! Actually, a thought just ran through my mind, Shouk Ramle is right under the windows of the CNN and BBC offices and studios – shame they never show that side of this multi-cultured, cosmopolitan city!

This week was the birthday of the creator of modern Hebrew, spoken Hebrew, Eliezer Ben Yehuda. Ben Yehuda, (you see it is not just a street) was obsessive and would not allow his children to play with other children lest they speak Yiddisch or English or Ladino or anything but the language he was determined be the language of the Jews of this nascent country. However, the beautiful language which came out of his efforts and obsession has mutated and changed so dramatically that he would not be best pleased. Too many English transliterations and slang expressions have crept into a language that was formed before internet!! As I came back from Givat Ze'ev and bathing the grandchildren to get ready for Shabbat I listened to Yehoram Gaon on the radio. Yehoram Gaon, son of a Hebrew teacher, speaks the most beautiful Herbew and tells the story of his generation and their pride in their language, in getting the grammar perfect and speaking the way that Ben Yehuda would have wanted. Word games were part of the learning process and conjugation was a competition – not like to taday kids who say esser shekel instead of Asara shekalim – mixing but or completely ignoring their masculine and feminine conjugations in their laziness. Yehoram Gaon quoted Bialik who said that “Language is the key to the nation” it is what binds us together and creates communication between the classes and the ages and the more it is misused the less the communication. Our language is above and different to others, it is how we pray and how our forefathers wrote their commentaries, it is the language of King David. Time for the Knesset to declare Hebrew our official language too!!!!

OK now I really have to run, the fish is waiting for preparation and cauliflower cheese souffle barely begun and I have very little time to do it before Shabbat, before the bride of Shabbat pulls her mantle over Jerusalem and as the dusk draws close a nation bows its head and lights the candles to welcome that bride. We will speak the language of our forefathers in our prayers and I promise you the dikduk the grammar will be correct because as Yehoram Gaon said – it is what binds us.

It seems appropriate to give you Yehoram Gaon, the ultimate Jerusalemite, singing a medley of Shabbat songs singing my favourite song “Al Kol Ele” (Above all this) with Naomi Shemer and finally a video I have shown you before but I love it!!! Kinderlach singing Shalom Aleichem – Peace be with you in a deep prayer that peace will indeed be with you, whether you are here in Israel or far far away; Jew, Christian or Moslem may peace be with you.

Shabbat Shalom everyone, especially to my beautiful heroic and amazing daughter who is back home with her husband and children, cooking up a storm and preparing for her special Shabbat.

With love from Sheila, looking out at the view from our veranda, the view of Jerusalem


Friday, 20 December 2013

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem


20th December 2013.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope this missive finds you well.

First and foremost I must apologise for last weeks typos. Of course it was Mandela not Mandel.  I was probably traumatised by the snow!!!!

Miracle after miracle after miracle - Kinneret Chaya just gave birth to a baby boy. The ultimate revenge - she is now the mother of four amazing children. For those of you who do not know Kinneret Chaya, on 30th March 2002 a homicide bomber tried to end her life and almost succeeded. Despite 85% burns KC survived, thrived and despite her multiple scars and being told it was far too dangerous for her to have children she is beautiful and a phenomenal mother. If you want to know more let me know and I will send you her story. I was proud to be beside KC from the first moment, recording every miracle as it happened.

Palestine (Palaestina) is Judea. Politics aside – If irrevocable proof were needed here it is.

A rocket fired by Hamas landed in Bethlehem. Few reported it but it happened. The star in the sky was not a sign for the Magi but rather a Hamas rocket.

I was horrified at the brutal and very public murder of a British soldier in London and joined the outcry at the pride of the perpetrators actions but found it so sad that when the same happened to an Israeli soldier, killed by his Palestinian "friend" in an equally brutal fashion the world kept quiet. The Moslem converts who killed Fusilier Rigby in a London street were British citizens who did so in the name of Allah. The fact that they are black Moslem converts amazes me - for it was the Arabs, Moors, who cruelly captured and enslaved them so long ago.

In direct defiance of the announcement of a Dutch water company that it intends boycotting Israel the Dutch Prime Minister rejects the decision.

Yet again Canada does it rightCanada called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to dismiss its special investigator Richard Falk after he accused Israel of “genocidal” intentions against the Palestinians in a brief English language interview on Russian television.  “Canada has previously called for Falk to be fired for his numerous outrageous and anti-Semitic statements and these comments underscore once more the complete and total absurdity of his service as a UN Special Rapporteur,” Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement he issued on Monday.

Maybe the USA will get it right too as the House considers a new bill on the Iran sanctions in direct defiance of the White House.

It is now 25 years since the horrific terror attack over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. Muammar Ghadaffi commissioned the Lockerbie attack but it was Palestinians who were more than ready to carry it out.

Leo Dan Bensky is a special person. Apart from being among the very few people who can claim to be a lot taller than Zvi, he is a serious, genuine and intelligent leader who is deeply involved in sport, Israel, the Finnish Jewish Community and Maccabi World Union. Leo-Dan was a fine Vice-President of MWU until the untimely death of President Guiora Esrubilsky. It was with absolute confidence that MWU decided that Leo-Dan take over the position - possibly the first European to do so. I know that Leo-Dan will do a fantastic job supported by his delightful wife Eva. Hazak ve'Amatz Leo-Dan.

Those of you who read my missives and know how amazing Jerusalem is will not
be surprised to know that Tripadvisor puts Jerusalem right up there in the top five!,7340,L-4462647,00.html

Snow, Oh boy did it take us by surprise! It just seemed to go on and on; at first beautiful then annoying and ultimately dangerous. I have to congratulate the police who controlled the traffic and use of lethal highways with great caution and it paid off. Thousands of trees fell or were damaged, most of them on cars, but after all the children who managed to get out of their homes had a ball! Here are some wonderful photos.

Jerusalem is almost back to normal. There is still snow on the ground but we are able to get around and almost everyone now has electricity. Many trees were either lost or huge branches fell from the weight of the snow and the huge cleanup is under way. Our veranda suffered – not many of the plants but the pergola is a mere skeleton as all the roofing parts fell in an interesting form!

Mahane Yehuda Market is back to bustling shoppers and the cooking has begun for another Shabbat. It is definitely the time of year for cholent, hamin or whatever name you choose to call it. Thick meaty, with tons of root vegetables and beans it sits in the pit of your stomach warming you for hours on end – and repeating the honour frequently!

For me this is a very unusual and special Shabbat to be spent with my beautiful daughter Rachel. Zvi is Nes Ziona with his younger son Leor and his gorgeous family where he will be joined by Amiad and family and I am here with Rachel, just us, for the first time in many, many years. Hopefully we will have a chance to sit out on the veranda and think of our incredible fortune to live in Jerusalem as she spreads her beauty before us in that wonderful panorama and thank the Almighty for putting us here, together knowing that we have loving families who miss us just for this one Shabbat, Mother and daughter. Right now my mind is filled with how to make her all her favourite dishes – since she is strictly vegetarian!!!!

I wish you Shabbat Shalom from cold and crisp Jerusalem. Shabbat Shalom and much love

Friday, 13 December 2013

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem of White!!!!


12th December 2013

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem – gosh that sounds good!!!

I don't think it will be a white Christmas but it surely is a white advent!!!! We had 50 cms of snow last night and the city is closed. Yesterday I went to see Rachel and family in Givat Zeev and got stuck on the main road back for one and a half hours as the police closed road number one into Jerusalem, telling everyone to drive on route 443, then closed route 443!!! Everything looks wonderful but in fact is slushy and quite revolting!! Thousands of people driving up from Tel Aviv to see the snow at night, got stuck on the main road and are now sleeping in Binyanei haUma hall, rescued by the police!!!! The Sheraton at the entrance ot town has offered free room and board to 50 stranded people too. The call is out from the Municipality for Jerusalemites willing to put these lost folk up for Shabbat.

I walked up to the corner shop this morning to be met with great good humour by several men wearing plastic bin bags instead of boots! Of al the people I saw, every single one offered me help. Either I look older than I am or it was the fact that I took hiking sticks with me to aid my stability!!!

What a week!

Mr Netanyahu was criticised for not going to the Mandela funeral, but no-one asked him if he was invited!
Mr Obama was caught together with David Cameron, flirting with the Danish Prime Minister – an extremely attractive blonde, much to the chagrin of Michelle. No-one is sure whether it was the flirting or the lack of respect during the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Not only that but the South African authorities brought in a sign language translator to stand right next to the President and he turned out to be schizophrenic. Absolutely ridiculous.

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen wrote a truly excellent article about Nelson Mandela, the man, the leader and the diplomat.'s+Blog)

The furore over the agreement with Iran has not abated. The mistrust is natural, after all we were fooled for so many years by the overseers and are fully aware that the leadership in Iran is bent on destruction of all that is not Islamic.

While in the airport at Bangkok we were in a lift with a very very Moslem gentleman in a wheelchair and his grandson. “Where are you from”? Asked the grandson. “”From Israel” we answered. “We are from Saudi Arabia – may I shake your hand”!!! I felt great warmth and then thought of the reasons behind their friendship, which are purely Sunni/Shia infighting. How sad.

We got back from Thailand on Wednesday morning, raced to see the grandchildren and then home. Thinking about our trip I decided that Melbourne was phenomenal, our hosts outstanding and friends delightful; Sydney also, just gorgeous and the highlight was probably the tour of the harbour in Ian's yacht with friends. Loved it. Bangkok was stressful, noisy and too many prostitutes, despite the exquisite Temples. Chang Rai and Chang Mai amazing, truly incredible. Walking with elephants and hill climbing with the hill tribes of the Kings Project – The Kings determined effort to stop the opium fields and provide a living for the hill tribes with genuine crops. Then Phuket – which is noisier has even more prostitutes than Bangkok. What I love is arriving on board the El Al flight home. El Al – warmth, friendliness, efficiency and a sense of home. Gosh I love it!!! I sat beside a lovely lady who began to chat – and we discovered she is the niece of our Melbourne hosts and Zvi knows her entire family!!! Also sitting near me was Professor Shechter – Nobel Prize recipient and if Zvi has anything to do with it – the next President of Israel.

That's it! We are currently trying to bring my daughter and family to our home in Jerusalem because they have no electricity or heating – not a good thing with three young children. The problem is that the roads are closed in anticipation of the next blizzard.

So from a white and cold Jerusalem, we wish you a warm and cosy Shabbat.

I cannot tell you that the shops are closing because they didn't open! I cannot tell you that everyone is going home because they didn't leave home! I can only tell you that behind the cold exterior of a Jerusalem snowscape the homes are warmed by the sense of Shabbat, the glowing faces of the children and the traditional Shabbat meal – even if it is cold rather than lovely warming cholent!!

Shabbat Shalom to all
With much love

Friday, 6 December 2013

Shabbat Shalom from Chiang Mai

Friday 6th December 2013

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom from Chiang Mai, Thailand

It will soon be Shabbat but I wanted to send you a quick greeting. Today we rode elephants, went in a cart drawn by oxen, Zvi travelled down river on a bamboo raft (I had a well deserved coffee) and then saw the natural wonder of orchids.

However I receivbed a letter from a friend, American Jewish artist Brian Shapiro and his wife LK which deeply moved me.

Dear Sheila and Tzvi,
L.K. and I just got back from our usual forest walk. There are some steep hills that cause a bit of a sweat.  As I have grown older the climb seems to get a bit tougher.  I told we walked that when the hill seems the toughest I think of when I was in Israel and you took me to an event in the desert. I recall that it was an induction of Israeli soldiers into the officer corp.  You pointed out your son marching with his comrades with their heads turned towards us. It was thrilling!  I have never seen such strength.  It was the exact opposite of the photos I have seen of Holocaust Jews or poor Jews throughout the centuries of persecution. What was downtrodden was transformed into strength, I straighten up going up our hill and remember those strong Jews and try to be a little like them.

Russian Piano Maestro Evgeny Kissin is proud of Israel too.
"When Israel's enemies try to disrupt concerts of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra or the Jerusalem Quartet, I want them to come and make troubles at my concerts, too: because Israel's case is my case, Israel's enemies are my enemies..."

Nelson Mandela was a great leader who took his people from oppression to freedom. Apartheid was a diabolical regime which should never ever be equated to anything we have in the West for fear of degrading the heroic fight of many brave souls for the right to exist as equal human beings. Mandela served his time in jail and thanked G-d that his single violent plan was stopped by the authorities that he could live his life with his head held high. His words about Israel will undoubtedly take pride of place for CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera but frankly my dears, I don't give a damn. He retracted his unwise words and his greatness should not be tarnished by a slip of the tongue. May he rest in peace. 

Here in Thailand we celebrated the 85th birthday of Rama 9th, the King who is the only monarch to serve  longer than Elizabeth of the UK. The demonstrations in Bangkok not only stopped predominantly in honour of the birthday and the demonstrators cleaned up their own mess in the streets. The people of Bangkok elebrated into the night but here in Lana Province they remember that they were a separate people with their own King until Siam absorbed Lana and became Thailand. The celebrations were much quieter here  but then this is a gentler and quieter people than those of Southern Thailand. Here too there are check points - here too there are infiltrators - here too there have been wars with their neighbours and here too there are illegal workers from Myanmar and Laos.

I am ready to go home - it has all been fun, especially Australia. Thailand has been fascinating and the people kind but home is home. I had two high points  one was seeing my old Thai friend Waow in Bangkok and the other was the unbelievable, nay exquisite beauty of the White Temple of |Wat Rong Khun My problem is the gold and jewels fo the Temples and the abject poverty of the people.

It is just another reason I love Judaism. We do not need an edifice, there are no bejewelled idols, we do not even need a Rabbi (sorry to all my friends) all we need are the simple tools of prayer as described in the Shema Yisrael and a Torah Scroll.

As we waited for the elephant ride, surrounded by the nomadic Children of Israel who are all over Thailand, I chatted to three sisters. One of them, Lily, said she is from Jerusalem and volunteers in Shaare Zedek. Ah, said I, I am on the board of the Yuri Shtern Foundation which helps many people in the oncology department of Shaare Zedek "But that is what I do! I volunteer for Yuri Shtern at Shaare Zedek" What a small world - she is a close friend of Lenas and a wonderful lady. We both decided that we are asking friends for donations for the Yiuri Shtern Foundation - so please
Please please look at the video and read the material.......................

We need support desperately, it is the most incredible place.
Since everyone except the essential staff is a volunteer overheads are minimal. In Shaare Zedek all treatments for both patients and family of oncology are free and in the clinic a 50 shekel charge is made for those who can afford it.
We don't need a great deal of money - a thousand dollars each from a few good friends goes a long long way.
Watch the video - see Lena, the amazing woman who founded the Yuri Shtern Foundation in her husbands memory.

On that note I wish you a Shabbat Shalom wherever you are
With love from us to you
Sheila and the Mahout Zvi