Thursday, 31 December 2015

151231 Happy 2016

31st December 2015
New Years Eve.

Shabbat Shalom to you and yours. May the New Year bring with it a greater sense pf security and a far greater sense of injustice to those who supposedly lead us, wherever or whatever our nation.

This has been a tough year on so many levels, yet as always there were moments of joy.

Too many countries found themselves the target of those who they mistakenly thought just hated Israel and the Jews. Did I actually say "just"? If only our leaders understood that it has nothing to do with Israel, with Belgium, with France, Mali, the USA and UK…. It has predominantly, to do with the fight between the Sunni and Shia, before it becomes a fight against all who do not declare Islam as their religion and Mohammed as their spiritual leader. It is about "reclaiming" formerly Moslem lands……. Remember how we romanticized the Moors? Well they over-ran Spain, parts of Italy, the Holy Land and parts of the Caucasus… and that land must be reclaimed, but so much more. This is now global and a bid to fill the void left by the laziness of modern Western society. We in the West are too pampered and lazy to fight for our right to freedom – we take it for granted.

Benjamin Franklin said “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Words that aptly describe Western Society today.

This was a year in which the Israeli Prime Minister fought against the policy of an American President when he felt that the Presidents appeasement was a repeat of history.

It was a year of horrific bombings, killings in the West, ethnic cleansing in Iraq, slaughter in Syria and the terror and torture of individual knife attacks on Israelis.

It was a year when Paris woke up to a living nightmare, suffered terror and found that for a few weeks the world loved the French.

In 2015 we discovered that Jews can be terrorists too.  Extremist Israelis will stand trial over the next few months, but it is a truth that rocked Israeli society.

In 2015 the United Nations reached an all time low – as UN Watch shows

Khaled Abu Toameh wrote that the 5 terrorist involved in the kidnap of Gilad Shalit and the murder of  Lt. Hanan Barak and Staff-Sgt. Pavel Slutzker,  are all dead………. Each and every one of them has fulfilled his dream of becoming a shahid - a martyr.

The media reached new heights of misrepresentation and in many cases sheer lies when it came to Israel. The BBC received the Honest Reporting Award as the Dishonest Reporter – but it was a close thing!

Now to remember that there is still much to celebrate in our world- in Israel.

IsraAid and her Founder and Director Shachar Zahavi have done phenomenal work around the world. This selfless organization not only goes to disaster areas, they stay to rebuild. Still in Haiti, still in Nepal and currently holding out a helping hand to the folks of Missouri, USA. I am so proud to be part of IsraAid, albeit on the periphery.

MASHAV is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs international outreach organization. Mashav not only provides daily essentials to Gaza, including staple foodstuffs, medical assistance and essential drugs, fuel, building materials etc, Mashav's outreach is admirable

30,000 new immigrants came to settle in Israel in 2015 – and Philip and Dorothy Grossman are the oldest ever couple to make Aliya after 71 years of marriage!!  

In 2016 Israel will solve a world problem and a local one in a wonderful way. The Arava which lost much of it's agricultural market is about to become the centre of the flourishing Israeli wonder of medical marijuana.  When they say that we have gone to pot it is a huge compliment. Medical marijuana of high quality can provide relief from pain, neurological disease, ADD and ADHD without the side effects of hashish. Yet another product the BDS won't want to miss!!!! 

President Reuven Rivlin had an excellent year. President Rivlin has proven himself a true, proud and able representative of Israel. A fine man; a 9th generation Jerusalemite and a worthy owner of the title President of the Jewish people.

Former President Shimon Peres, still going strong at 92 sends a message to the world for New Year

We will stay at home this evening, another night of family preparations, cooking, writing, connecting people and happily watching the TV to see what others are doing! Zvi is making meat balls (known locally at kzitzot) for his grandchildren then hopefully he will let me into the kitchen to begin preparing for Shabbat.

This week we will have a Lord, a Vicar (you know who), two total strangers and a young Moslem convert to Christianity……from ISIS to Zionist – quite a big move isn't it? When I asked him how on earth it happened he simply said "I met Canon Andrew White and realized there is a different way. He showed me that love works and that Jews and Israel are not my enemies, they are my mentors"

I know you all think that Israelis are either quivering in our homes, scared to go out or pacing the streets with an Uzi at the ready. Well I would like you to know that neither situation is even close to the truth! Last week we went to a show at Zappa Jerusalem. It was fabulous, the songs of Arik Einstein and good food. The show ended at about 11:30 and as we came out there were throngs of youngsters going into the next-door club, a car park full of people enjoying the restaurants and activities of the First Station and streets full of promenaders. As we drove home the centre of town was buzzing – not a scared face in sight!!! We are a people who love to have fun, love to eat out at the amazing restaurants purveying every type of cuisine, from Sushi to Cordon Bleu; from Felafel to Fish and Chips; from exquisite linen service to a hundred salads slapped on to wooden tables with great expertise and good humour – salads which are just the hors d'oeuvres!!!

Last night we had supper with Canon Andrew White at the elegant King David Hotel. Everybody knows him there! It was such a joy and clearly Andrew has been in Israel for so long that he has taken our habit of inviting new friends to join us. A really nice rheumatologist from NYU sat at our coffee table as we waited and then became a dinner partner! I love it! The King David has that je ne sais quoi that none of the newer hotels – even the Waldorf – can touch. History folks, history.

Just in case you worry about the dichotomy of Judaism and the secular New Year…. Let me put your minds to rest.

Song time!
This is the most Israeli, the proudest Shabbat welcome. Only in Israel do the soldiers of the Navy stop to have a Shabbat meal – I love this.

When legendary Israeli song writer and poet Naomi Shemer heard the Beatles "Let it Be" she was inspired to write the song Lu Yehi –

שזו תהיה ה-ה-השנה של הצלחה, בריאות והרבה הרבה אהבה.
Happy 2016!
May this year be filled with health, fulfillment, love and the light of truth and peace at the end of a dark tunnel.

Shabbat Shalom, Shana Shketa. Shalom, Pax, pais, salaam, fred, shanti, mir, asti, beke, paz………

With love from Jerusalem, the View from our Veranda which inspires me anew every day– even through the blessed and welcome rain


Friday, 25 December 2015

151225 Christmas Day, Samir Kuntar, Terror attacks, Fanaticism

25th December 2015

Dear friends, Shabbat Shalom and of course a truly blessed Christmas to all our Christian friends.

This week has been a strange mixture of sheer joy and deep sadness, each entirely separate one from the other. First I will speak of the sadness and then continue to my joy.

The attacks continue, one at a time, from Raanana to Ariel, Haifa to Kiriat Gat, Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to ……… anywhere. We know not where the next attack will come from, we know not who is friend or foe; we want to feel friendship to all but the distrust has seeped slowly into our very beings. I don't want to mistrust the young fellow who walks down the street in front of me or to return to that sense of looking over my shoulder that I felt for so many years when alone on city streets outside Israel. Make no mistake, they are targeting "obvious" Jews and soldiers. This is racist………. No more no less and lives are tragically lost.

Yesterday two men lost their lives to hatred right near the Jaffa Gate, one because he tried to save the other. Ofer Ben-Ari raced to the aid of Rabbi Rueven Biermacher and another man when he saw a terror attack. He could have run away but instead he ran toward danger to stop the terrorists with his bare hands. Even when he heard warning gunshots from the Magav policewoman he continued to fend off the attackers from their victims all the while being stabbed and endangering himself. He was then caught in the line of fire. May their souls rest in peace.

Since fanaticism is what has brought the horror of terrorism upon us, I am deeply ashamed of the group of Jews who gave a disgusting display of hatred at a recent wedding, shouting and lauding the killing some months ago of a little Arab baby in the village of Duma by some Jewish zealots. We do not believe in zealotry, we are a compassionate people and I cannot bear the thought that any of us descend to the same kind of misplaced fanatical patriotism to which our neighbours succumbed. I want each and every one of those people present and seen to yell incitement to hatred to be sentenced and jailed.

Samir Kuntar was a very, very bad man. In 1979 he perpetrated a vile terror attack in Nahariya, Northern Israel. Kuntar killed Danny Haran before killing Haran's four-year-old daughter Einat by smashing her head with the butt of his rifle, while her mother watched from her hiding place. The mother sadly stifled her 2 year old trying to muffle her tears. They also killed policeman Eliyahu Shahar. Kuntar was sentenced to 3 consecutive life sentences. In 2008 he was given his freedom in the prisoner exchange for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Back in Lebanon Kuntar quickly rose to be in charge of Hezb-Allahs military actions and was lauded by the Iranians as their man in Syria. He finally met his martyrdom this week, in an Israeli targeted killing, as he sat in his Syrian home.

Britain has broken away from the US policy and declared the Moslem Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Following an intensive 18-month governmental study, the United Kingdom issued a startling indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). It described the organization as fiercely anti-democratic, openly supportive of terrorism, dedicated to establishing an Islamist government, and opposed to the rule of law, individual liberty, and equality.

Now to the happy news. Growing up in Wales I have many fond memories of the Christmas spirit and especially during the bad days, we must move forward and appreciate the good in life, pray for better times.

The joy began last Wednesday when I went to Ben Gurion Airport with Rachel to greet my eldest son Daniel arriving on his flight from NYC. Ever calm, ever low key it was so wonderful to be engulfed in his hugs, to feel confident in his loving presence. The drive back to Jerusalem was filled with an exchange of family stories, especially of Karen, Joshua and little Callie.  We stopped at Rachels apartment so that Igal, Yosef, Talia and Ayala could join the love fest and hug Uncle Dan, non-stop! No sooner had the excitement levelled out than it rose again to a crescendo on Thursday as Gideon, Stephanie, Olivia and Zachary were heard bounding up our stairs……. and rushed immediately onto the veranda to drink in the view. On Friday morning they all went sightseeing, determined that the children would get the very best out of Jerusalem. They went to the Israel Museum and saw the amazing exhibits, including archaeology and Judaica, exhibits that no other museum in the world can boast.

Then it was Shabbat. Ah Shabbat. The joy of having my children with me, lighting the candles with Stephanie and Olivia, Zvi's melodious Kiddush, Olivia and Zacky's prayer with Zvi over Rachel's challa and the traditional meal, so special. It was very exciting for Amiad and Nogas two little ones who found new playmates in the "big" children.

Shabbat was not the usual calm Shabbat, my mind was filled with the family and thoughts of Saturday night when friends came for a special dinner at Caffit in the Botanical Gardens. I chose the Botanical Gardens simply because I love it – but it limited the number of guests, so please don't be offended if you were not invited – it doesn't mean I didn't want you! Zvi's sons, my sons and daughter, their spouses and of course OUR grandchildren! I love seeing the children all together.  I was overwhelmed by the love which came from every corner of the room, from the words of my Zvi, from the hugs and kisses of friends, from the glorious violin performance by Sasha (Alexandra Dennisov) and Adi Hayats guitar, as they played my favourite song and a beautiful presentation made by Mel Brickman showing me from birth until today, introducing my entire family to my Israel family and close friends. Now everyone knows I am 70 – actually I am not…….. as Zvi said I am the only woman willing to be 70 a month before my actual birthday so that my sons could be with me!!!!!

On Sunday, the family went off to Tel Aviv and Rachel, Yosef, Talia, Ayala and I met them on the beach at Kibbutz Palmachim. It is a deserted beach at this time of year and it was sheer joy to be the only ones there, except for one fisherman with a small trawl net who demonstrated his art to the children. The weather was glorious, clear blue skies and we saw egrets fishing, eagles hovering and cranes wading ; we raced and went shell picking and Yosef even went into the water – only to find he had no change of clothing!!!

Two crazy days later and my boys had gone, back to their lives, back to their British and American families, leaving us exhausted and wanting more, much more, it is never enough. The joy of a modern family! For Yosef the high point of the visit was when he beat Uncle Daniel at Rubiks cube……. admittedly about 30 years after Uncle Dan gave it up!

Jerusalem fascinates me. The Chanuka decorations still abound but now they have been joined by the Christmas decorations along the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City and in many other Israeli cities, especially Nazareth, Haifa and Jaffa. I told you of the ICEJ and the combination of the Chanukiah and Christmas tree on the balconies of their building, well that is the feeling of Jerusalem in a nutshell. Thank God a million times that Christians in this city are free to celebrate and express themselves in prayer and joyous singing, without anyone threatening them. Indeed the opposite is true, Jerusalem welcomes all religions.

My favourite story for this day comes through the wonderful Father Gabriel Naddaf, who encourages Christian Israelis to join the IDF and this year has provided the Christian soldiers with a special reception in Haifa. and especially this Christmas greeting from the IDF

My friend Bob Ackerman put a video on Facebook and because it came from a good source, I watched it. Steve Harvey is in hot water this week but here he shows another side of him as he interviews the Rabbi who found and returned $98,000 "because I was raised as a good Jew"

What songs should I give you today? What is appropriate for both Shabbat and Christmas? What shows equal and mutual respect?  What better than the 23rd psalm, written by King David right here in Jerusalem and holy to both Christians and Jews? Yes, I think that is special. Mizmor David, sung in Hebrew by Ehud Banai with English translation.

How better to end this letter than to play the ultimate song of hope. Louis Armstrong singing Wonderful World, because sometimes, when hope seems so far away, we need reminding of just how amazing our world really is.

With much love from Jerusalem, still the centre of our world, still the most beautiful city of diversity, humanity, faith, spirit and thousands and millions of prayers, which one by one reach up to Heaven.

Shabbat Shalom, a Blessed Christmas


For non-Brits – do you know the origin of Boxing Day? Do you know what Boxing Day is?

If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv

Friday, 18 December 2015

151218 Shabbat Shalom to my children

18th December 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

This Shabbat is going to be the most wonderful Shabbat – all three of my children are in Jerusalem together – plus my daughter in law and two of the overseas grandchildren. I admit to being greedy and wanting everyone but the sheer joy of knowing I wake up in the morning and the apartment is full of activity and chaos makes me swell with the sheer joy of it!! Daniel came a day earlier and Rachel and I were at Ben Gurion to greet him – with a welcome balloon and a bag of his favourite fried gefilte fish!!!!!

Olivia and Zachary ran up the stairs to the apartment and immediately raced out to the veranda – you know the one I write about – and absorbed the panorama before them. Gideon, Stephanie and Daniel soon joined them despite the post-rain dampness. Zachary is convinced that he can see the whole world from there – a logical conclusion for a six year old, but Olivia was more interested in seeing the remains of the pomegranates on the tree, a rare sight in the UK! This morning they were even more amazed at the sight set before them. They had great fun with Saba Zvi, well children always do, and Zvi tried to persuade them to eat a Sabra, the delicious, juicy fruit under the spiky exterior, but it was just a bit too weird for them!!!!

So that is the reason I will skip through my newsletter this week. They all went off to the Israel Museum this morning – Gideon wants his children to see the model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period and of course the incredible array of Judaica and the synagogues brought from former Jewish communities. Rachel will soon be here with Yosef, Talia and Ayala and we will all have fun before she has to take them home for Shabbat.

Tonight Amiad, Noga and Zvi's little grandchildren Ella and Yonatan will be with us for supper, with all of my boys favourite foods, then tomorrow we may well walk to the Jerusalem Zoo nearby. Tomorrow night Zvi will take them all to the Kotel, the Western Wall because one cannot be in Jerusalem with the Kotel. Sunday – uncertain but I think we will go to Cinema City and the incredible Noahs Ark . Dan leaves Sunday night and Monday we may well go out to Little Israel on the way to the airport.

So only good news since I don't want to break my mood

Yitzchak Perlman is not only a brilliant violinist and maestro – he is a Mensch. I am happy to say he has been awarded the Genesis Prize

We had a wonderful visit with Andrew White again – and of course with Hanna – and Hanna told me all about Taybeh Beer, an apparently wonderful beer produced in one of the few remaining Christian villages in the PA. If you see it buy it!!!

So all of you preparing for Christmas – I mean the real thing not the gift part – I wish you a beautiful Advent and I will talk to you when I get my breath back after the visit ------ my Royal visit!! I suppose you can hear how happy I am!

And so to music
Al Kol Eleh is the most important song in Israel – for me. Above all these. The Honey and the Sting, the bitter and the sweet.

Finally – the traditional Shabbat Songs – hope you love them.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, which today is even more gorgeous than ever. My boys will sing Kiddush with Saba Zvi, I will light candles with my beloved daughter in law and little Olivia, Rachel is baking the Challot, Shabbat. Truly Shabbat Shalom enjoying the view from our verandah.

Much love to all

Friday, 11 December 2015

151211 Chanuka, Canon Andrew White, ICEJ, CAMERA

11th of December 2015

Shabbat shalom dear friends. We send love from our home to yours.
Apparently I may have a problem with my original address, according to a google warning, so in the future you may well receive the letters from sheerav2 or sheerav3 or even sheerav4 so check your spam in case it is rejected! Remember you can always find the letters on my archives
It has been a beautiful week filled with visiting friends for Hanukah candle lighting, sharing the beauty of this service and relating the miracle – no, not the miracle of one day of oil for the "Ner Tamid" the eternal flame of the Temple lasting eight days but rather the miracle of the unbelievable victory of a tiny people against a colossal and powerful Empire, who tried to oppress us. We need such leaders today, leaders who give us enough confidence to fight back against the ever increasing vision of an oppressive Caliphate.

I have been guilty of comparing the incessant violence in other places, be it in California or Timbuctou, with the relatively rare violence in Israel, however, as my son Gideon said "But Mum, in Israel it is different because they are specifically targetting Jews" Of course he is right about the insane teachings of the PA and Imams who encourage children to kill Jews, but I what about other parts of the world? – it is a Judeo-Christian problem.

Canon Andrew White came to visit yesterday, with horrific stories of kidnappings, killings and oppression which make one realise that it is not a local issue, it is a pandemic, deadly plague. Canon Andrew sees the very worst and cruelest situations, and in order to save the lives of many has to meet the most evil of human beings; Andrew is worried, worried that the situation is getting beyond control. I agree with him, admire him, know that unlike our leaders he will continue to give people hope, hope that someone cares enough to fight back in the most civilised of fashions – with love and succour.  Andrew is working with Shachar Zahavi of IsraAid on several projects– one of my better Shidduchs!!!!!!!

It was good to make him laugh and allow him respite from his exhausting work. His MS doesn't stop him reaching out with enormous reserves of love – defying Maslows Hierarchy of Needs and proving that one does not need to be healthy, rich or political to be philanthropic; generosity of spirit is not dependent up wealth. Of course this prolific author with millions of Frequent Flyers from his non-stop determination to spread the word of goodness, came armed with his latest book "My Journey So Far", I can't wait to read it!!!

Zvi and I went to the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem for Chanuka lighting by a lovely Rabbi and heard Anat Berko, IDF Officer, Physician and Member of Knesset, speak of her family, who fled Iraq after 2,000 years of tolerance and freedom in that country, and found safe haven here at home, in Israel. She said that it was appropriate that we celebrated Chanuka together in the Christian Embassy for what starts with the Jews continues with the Christians. Sadly her words have already proven true. It is always a joy to visit the most beautiful home of the ICEJ and talk to excellent people like Jay, Meridel and David Rawlings and Tim and Martha King.

Israel's outreach to those in need is known, the IDF's role less so, but watch this incredible video and report from the British Daily Mail newspaper on the highly dangerous operation to save the lives of Syrians horribly injured, irrespective of which side they fought on.

Ynon Magal is a Member of Knesset (at the moment under a cloud) who chose to respond to the Arab Members of Knesset who criticize Israel…… in Arabic – absolutely brilliant

Maccabi USA President, and our dear friend Ron Carner sent us thoroughly disturbing letter yesterday. Ron was invited by the wonderful American Jewish leader Dr Malcolm Hoenlein to a Conference of Presidents function, to meet and hear an Israeli Member of Knesset speak. The Member of Knesset's name is Ayman Odeh of the Joint List, Arab and Jewish Party. Apparently MK Odeh arrived at the building in NYC, was told that the Jewish agency also has offices in the building and refused to enter – and to speak to the waiting group of dignitaries. This man who benefits from the open Jewish democracy called Israel, who swore allegiance to Israel on his induction, refused to enter a building because the Jewish Agency has an office there? What kind of aberration is that? A total abuse of his position and his citizenship, to say nothing of his lack of diplomatic nous. I think it is time to enforce their pledges to uphold the state which they abuse.

We have a truly delightful guest this week, his name is Michael Meir and Michael loves  and breathes Israel – of course! We haven't had time to take him everywhere but yesterday he went on the Ir David (City of David) Tour. He came home thrilled with the detailed explanations and sheer magic of the place. It really is an important stop of your Jerusalem visit

Yesterday was four days in one! Zvi and Michael went off to the Old City in the morning while I made antipasti – of course I do each of about 10 separate vegetables in a different fashion because that's what I do, and it took hours and hours. Then we went to friends for Chanuka lighting, which was a joy, then carried on to another candle lighting and an excellent briefing by Hadar Sela on bias in the BBC. It is so obvious, overt and unchecked that it demands careful sifting to find the most important issues to chase. CAMERA and Hadar are doing a fantastic job in BBC Watch. We know that the BBC is not alone in its bias but to understand that the English broadcasts are pro-Israel by comparison with the Arabic and Urdu programming is disturbing. Please see Hadar told the select group that the most important thing to do is complain, in concise terms, to their complaints department and COPY YOUR LOCAL MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT. If the politicians realise how many people are disturbed by the content of the BBC they will ensure that changes are made in order for the BBC to retain its public charter and receive the licence monies. We were invited thanks to Lola Cohen who with her husband Norman initiated many, many aspects of Israeli hasbara emanating from Israeli.

After the CAMERA briefing we set of for the Scottish Church in Jerusalem for a concert of classical Spanish Choral Music. The highlight was when a young guitarist walked onto the stage and played. His hands created heavenly music, his proficiency and love of the instrument clear and his talent unequalled. When I complimented him we found a common love of John Williams and Julian Bream!

As we walked out of the Church we were greeted by a truly magnificent view of the Old City walls, lit in Blue and white with an interchanging Chanuka display…………. It simply took my breath away. I couldn't help but feel that it was unfair that a church so anti-Israel that they refuse to sell the work of Israeli artisans in their gift shop, should have the gift of this view. Ironically, when the church sold off some of its land the Begin Centre was built and as they excavated the land for building our dear friend Professor Gabby Barkay found a tiny rolled up piece of -------- what? A dirty, very tiny, piece of scrap metal? When carefully unfurled it turned out to be the earliest and only ever example of a silver priestly blessing. Divine retribution for their anti-Israel stance – Of course!!!!!!!!

What is Chanuka? This video really explains the true meaning well worth watching "New Yorks Great Chanuka Blackout"

A Jewish man gave a refugee family a lift from Vienna to Budapest. On the way, to pass the time he sang – indeed he sang to them in Yiddish. This is a true gem, a rare and special video showing the one at a time, through kindness we can make a difference – on one family.

I love having Michael with us. Michael and his late wife Rivka, are very important in our lives, indeed Rivka is still with us in spirit and Michael is just a very special person who loves Israel and is curious, wants to learn and know and see and do. Tonight we will have an Italian Shabbat Dinner with Zvi's son Leor and his lovely family (hence the antipasti) who adore Michael. It will be Amit's 9th birthday and she is incredibly excited about seeing him.

There is a supermarket in Jerusalem called Osher Ad. Osher Ad is a Haredi supermarket but they have great stock and is really inexpensive……… they even import Costco products and sell them here!!!!! It has wide aisles and the most well set out displays. Of course that isn't what fascinates me though, it is the variety, the rainbow of both customers and workers. Haredi and Moslem; black, white and brown; simple and scholarly; jeans, hijab and sidecurls - and that is just the staff!!!!! The same goes for the customers, happily enjoying the convenience and familiarity.

Actually I only told you about a couple of our Hanuka candle lighting experiences this week!!! We lit candles and sang great songs at the Yuri Shtern Holistic Care Center; at Yossi and Nitzas with friends and of course at home, just Zvi and I, quietly contemplating  the light emanating from the Chanukiah, praying that its light would spread out ….. one can but hope.

Your first song is Chanukah oh Chanukah in Yiddish – love it!

The second is a cute Chanukah songs from an American perspective, Six13 singing Dreidle Spin

The third is pure Shabbat and very Jewish. I dedicate it to all my girlfriends and the men lucky enough to marry them.  It is called Eshet Chayil mi yimtsah – Noble Woman who can find – and every Jewish husband should sing this to his wife on Erev Shabbat, Friday evening. This Yaakov Shwekey singing in honour of good women the world over.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from our home to yours, from our veranda and its incomparable view of Jerusalem as she quiets down in preparation for the joy of Shabbat. I wish you peace and strength, the strength to stand up and fight, to be a Maccabee.

With love


If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv

Thursday, 3 December 2015

151203 Putin, San Bernadino, Penn, IsraAid, Turkey

December 3rd 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I promise that this weeks newsletter will be positive, it has to be positive because otherwise Harold will be disappointed. The last two weeks were filled with loss but life goes on and, in truth, many good things happened this week, even those that are not initially apparent.

Russias Mr Putin is very, very cross with Turkey's Erdogan on many levels. Shooting down his fighter plane was sufficient reason, but when he refused to apologise Erdogan invoked Putins wrath – not a comfortable position to be in. However, we are talking about silver linings today, aren't we? Well, here is that lining; Putin decided to cancel his country's purchase of Turkish agricultural produce and intends buying from…………… Israel instead!!!!

The COP21 conference on climate change was held in Le Bourget, near Paris. 121 world leaders participated, including both Israel and the PA - and despite Abbas of the PA's insistence that Israel caused the ecological disasters in the Palestinian Authority, Mr Netanyahu walked up to a surprised Mahmoud Abbas and shook his hand! Brilliant! Mr Netanyahu also outlined Israel's advanced work on ecological issues

Israeli Environment Minister Silvan Shalom and Jordanian Water and Irrigation Minister Hazim El Naser met this week and announced the issuance of a new $800 million water project which will increase water supply for both countries and increase inflow to the Dead Sea, whose water depletion is of major concern.

British aeroplanes are already in the air after a decisive vote in Parliament yesterday to conquer, to eradicate ISIS, at least in Syria and Iraq. This video of Margaret Beckett's speech in Parliament fascinated me.
Strange bedfellows. In two World Wars American Presidents chose isolationist policies and Russia proved her determination to fight, and so it is now. The Russian President Putin, who refuses to put the words "politically correct" into his lexicon, especially when he sees chaos and danger in the world, stepped in in Syria. Obviously he finally has what he always wanted – a seaport on the Mediterranean. Putin is also holding very positive talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Herewith, a quote from Mr Putins communication:-
"Very many dramatic developments, including dramatic ones have been happening globally. But let me start with congratulations on the coming Chanukah holiday. It’s a very good and bright holiday that symbolizes the victory, the triumph of light over dark. I really hope that in international affairs we’ll have it this way as well. We are satisfied with the progress of bilateral relations. I wish to note that the mechanism promoted by you and proposed by you presupposes contacts between the militaries to prevent incidents due to the dramatic developments in the region, has been efficient; we have advances in other spheres as well."
You would think that with foul neighbours and constant security issues Israel would stagnate on innovative projects. Israel is the most innovative country and the greatest outreach to the poor countries, per capita and in real terms, in the world. If you don't believe me believe Warren Buffet and Bill Gates!
The United Kingdom Parliament voted yesterday to act against ISIS in Syria and the aeroplanes are already in action.
Abu Dis is an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem, south of the Temple Mount, in one of the many valleys of this beautiful city; after all, if you have hills you must have valleys too!  Anyway, I digress, Abu Dis was built over the last century or so on a site known as the Ofel. The Ofel was the area beneath the steps leading up to the Temple Mount, where those making Aliya, ascending, to pray would walk up the hundreds of steps. The only people coming down the steps were mourners so that those ascending would know to console them. The current residents of Abu Dis claim it was never Jewish or part of Judah (Judea) and is ancient Arab land, which is fine, we can all claim whatever we wish but it doesn't make it true. This week it was revealed that an 8th century bulla, or seal impression, bearing the name of Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, King of Judah was uncovered by archaeologists in the Ofel. Hezekiah ruled the kingdom of Judah from around 715 and 686 BCE. During his reign the kingdom was invaded by the ascendant Assyrian Empire and the capital, Jerusalem, was besieged by the army of King Sennacherib. The Book of Kings II 18:5 says of Hezekiah that “after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among them that were before him.”
Hezekiah or in Hebrew Hizkiayahu, created an ancient water tunnel which runs beneath the Old City including the Shiloah Pool. It is amazing, an incredible sight and this week Sean Penn went to see its wonders.
Sean Penn was in Israel to be the keynote speaker at an IsraAid event about the future of Haiti, held in Tel Aviv, funded by the Pratt Foundation's Peter Adler. Zvi and I were honoured to be invited by Shachar Zahavi and sat in the front row to hear the words of Ambassador Michael Oren who introduced Ambassador Danny BiranProf Nachman Ash (IDF Chief Medical Officer) and Dr Efraim Laor, the Head of IsraAids mission to Haiti, experts who race to the world's trouble spots, tornados, floods, tsunamis and war, to provide aid and succour.
After the multiple horrors that hit poverty stricken Haiti in 2010 Mr Penn decided to go and see what he could do to help. With minimum funds he succeeded in setting up a small aid station but when the second half of the cleared area was given to IsraAid he began to understand how to achieve real work. His team could barely manage to get drugs and water for the people and here was a team that had their kosher food flown in daily! He understood that IsraAid knew how to help on every level and it galvanised him into action. "The indirect impact of IsraAID is that everything that JP/HRO has accomplished would not have existed without the inspiration and support that they provided".  A shy, quietly spoken man he realized that the most important item on his list of needs was morphine for the injured, not an easy acquisition in the cautious west.  After watching the immense suffering of those in dire pain, he was ready to deal with the devil to obtain the essential drugs he found a willing partner in Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and the people of Haiti benefitted.
Penn had been under enormous pressure to cancel his trip but thanks to his confidence in the exceptional founder and director of IsraAid, Shachar Zahavi he chose to come, not only to come but he stayed extra days and toured Jerusalem, Massada, the Golan Heights, the Galilee and came away loving it all. In Jerusalem he went to the Western Wall, the Old City shouk, Yad Vashem, and sang with David Broza in a multi-cultural school. I suggest you visit the IsraAid Facebook page to see for yourselves.
Sadly I cannot speak only of beauty and delight – a diabolical thing happened in San Bernadino in California. A married couple, a former restaurant inspector for the local authority and a pharmacist, shot former workmates at a Christmas party, in a terrible attack in which Syed Tizwan Farouk and his wife Tafsheen Malik killed at least 14 people. Our hearts go out to the families of those murdered.
I have a quiz for you! Let's see what you know about Israel and whether you do better than the Birthright participants
I hope Harold enjoyed this weeks newsletter. His words reminded me how much we have to be grateful for and I am grateful to him for that. In a world where so many are harming so many, it is good to remember the good news. Positivity galvanises us toward Tikkun Olam.
And so to music
David Broza, exceptional Israeli singer and musician wrote a song from the heart -  Yihyeh tov – It will be alright. A song that reflects our fears and our hope for a better tomorrow
Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu v'al koolam – "Peace will come to us and to all peoples. Salaam, to us and to the entire world, Salaam Shalom"
Finally, for Shabbat and for Harold and Stanley, Yismachu, "They Will Rejoice". Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgott and the incomparable violinist Yitzchak Perlman, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week
Almost Chanuka, when despite dire conditions, threats and destruction, the Jews fought back.
I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem. Jerusalem, a truly magnificent city, a deeply spiritual city The Talmud tells us "Ten measures of beauty descended to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem."

With love

If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv

Friday, 27 November 2015

151127 Trudeau, 29th November, Hamas, Shmuel Benalal

27th November 2015
"Black Friday"

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. It is so incongruous that in the United States people are willing to risk life and limb, even get into fisticuffs to buy something they don't need for the sake of "saving" money when half of the world is in utter turmoil and fighting for its life and sanity.
Our world is in a dark state and we are unable to see a way out because the predecessors of our current leaders did not have the vision, were unable to imagine the unimaginable, of human beings so filled with rigorous, unerring belief that all who do not believe in their version of Islam should die. I am not talking about your neighbor, your friend or mine, I am talking of those who would take the world back into the Middle Ages through acts of foul slaughter inducing terror into the hearts of all of us.

In Israel we have an additional problem. Our terror attacks are not on the massive scale of NYC, London, Bali, Paris or Mali, but every day, mostly in disputed land, against soldiers and "settlers", apparently sane people are persuaded to take kitchen implements and attack, stab or their cars and ram and kill people – and the world says we deserve it! Why do we deserve it? because we stole land from the indigenous people. What a gullible world we live in. A world in which people are ignorant of the Bible and even more ignorant of recent history believe the rhetoric over the facts. So lacking in a sense of history that the United Nations made the 29th of November Palestinian recognition day!!!! 29th November – on that date in 1947 the United Nations itself declared the State of Israel!!!!

Just in case some gullible and naïve person still thinks it is all about land and settlers, it's not, of course it isn't. By the way do you see the absurdity of comparison between Thanksgiving in the USA which glorifies the settlers and the denigration of Israeli settlers?  Rhetoric wins again. Just ask Fawzi Barhoum

We all feel sympathy with the genuine refugees from the dire situation in Syria and other ME countries. Well, perhaps not all. Christian refugees in a little dinghy had their dinghy pierced and were left to die had they not been saved by a passing boat.
 I am sitting before the computer and the tears run freely down my cheeks, in preparation for what I must write next.
 Shmuel Benalal, was a dear friend, wonderful man, incredible husband to Flory and a fine example to their sons, Avi, Asher and Netanel. Clever, kind, the ultimate gentleman - was killed in the attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in faraway Mali. Mali, when just a dozen kilometres from their home young soldiers are being attacked every day. Shmuel, sweet of voice and manner, travelled the world setting up systems of education in many countries, in all corners of the globe. The Ministry of Education of Mali requested his help to set up an education system that would give the children of Mali a chance in todays world.
The murdering fanatics, after entering the hotel shooting in all directions and throwing hand grenades, killing those eating breakfast, took hostages and went from one to the other asking if they could quote the Koran - if not they died.

I am so incredibly angry that our leaders have not found a response to this deadly disease of death and oppression.

After a week of uncertainty his body finally came home on Wednesday night and his funeral yesterday gave evidence of the level of love this man, this giant of a man, emanated. Everyone spoke of his genius, humour, patience and tolerance. Zvi also spoke of his beautiful voice, as lyrical and tuneful and his person. Sammy was a beacon of light in a dark dark world.
Steve Linde, Editor of the Jerusalem Post wrote a beautiful editorial about Sammy. Shmuel, Shmulik, Sammy - Loved you so much. יהיה זכרו ברוך

If you wondered how on earth these young people become so fanatical, so incredibly hyped that they can perform these acts of terror – read on.

Many were concerned at the election of another Trudeau as Prime Minister of Canada, having trounced the incumbent and strong proponent of Israel, Stephen Harper, many of our fears were allayed when PM Justin Trudeau voted against numerous propositions against Israel in the United Nations. His decision comes as great relief to many.

Canon Andrew White is globetrotting again! His enthusiasm for human contact never waning. This article captures his personality, devotion and honesty as few have.

I have often written about IsraAid the amazing Israeli NGO, run by Shachar Zahavi, that provides aid and succor around the world. This Monday, the 30th of November, IsraAid has a fabulous conference in Tel Aviv, with Sean Penn, concerning their work in Haiti. I am honoured to have been invited and of course will attend.  

This week has been a flurry of cooking for the bereaved family, shiva without the funeral, a nightmare of uncertainty. I made them a huge pot of warming vegetable soup and then another huge pot of stuffed vegetables. Israeli stuffed vegetables bear no resemblance to those of the West – probably closer to the Greek dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) – but wrapped in onions, carefully boiled and separated into individual layers; cabbage leaves, also parboiled; aubergine slices carefully grilled; tiny baby multicoloured peppers, all filled with herbs, round rice, Tivol mince and lots of love. The first batch went so quickly that one of the sons didn't manage to eat even one, so the next day they received another potful. Even at the funeral he said "But I still didn't get any" to which of course I already planned the next batch, then he relieved my distress by admitting that he did eat, they were delicious and he just wanted more!

Tonight, once the Shabbat table is set, the challot baked, the food prepared (actually I am in the middle of grilling the antipasti, running between keyboard and grillpan) I will light the candles in the silver candelabra that I stood beside my Mother so many years ago, and the light from the Shabbat

Lighting the Shabbat candles fills my heart and brings light into our lives. Only then we will be able to rest, relax a little before the children and grandchildren arrive. Once Zvi's children and grandchildren arrive everything is crazy, and we love it. The food will disappear at a rate of knots! Their favourite oven baked cauliflower in turmeric and paprika; a mangold (swiss chard) and feta roll; Moroccan mushrooms; spicy carrot salad; chopped salad; roasted potatoes; and for the children their favourite sausage rolls (I use the wonderful Tivol vegetarian sausages); Tuna and sweet potato patties;  all this after two soups, my famous veggie soup for the adults and a pureed courgette and sweet potato soup for the children. We will round it all off with jelly cups for the children and fresh fruit for us.

I love Shabbat. It allows me to rest and catch up with myself.

Your songs this week include a beautiful song by Hakol Yachassi The choir that Zvi loves, where we have so many friends and Shmuel was an integral part of every event. You will see a tall, bespectacled, kindfaced man next to Zvi, that is Shmuel. The song Israel Mio, My Israel,  sung in Ladino, written by Eli Yaron, music by Adi Hayat both of whom mourn with us.

Yom ze l'Yisrael. "This day, for Israel (Jews) is a day of light, joy and rest; Shabbat rest, Shabbat rest".

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom. I wish you, your country and our beautiful Israel a week of peace, a week of respite, a week of light.

With all my love from Jerusalem the spiritual home and City of Light.


If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv