Friday, 27 February 2015

150227 ISIS Nineveh, Obama-Netanyahu, Rubio, BOG Gantz, IsraAid, Purim

27th February 2015

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

Just as I think we cannot be more deeply offended by the vile behaviour of ISIS by any other name, something else happens. The sheer inhumanity of their slaughter has gone beyond our worst nightmares exceeded by their determination to destroy history lest it contradicts their invented present was seen in Afghanistan and now in Mosul, ancient Nineveh, the destruction is recorded to prove their superiority.

I stay out of mudslinging and personal views of the American Administration. I care only that the administration makes decisions that are best for America. The highly personal row between an American President and the Israeli Prime Minister has become filled with unbecoming rhetoric. Deeply personal criticism by John Kerry, snidely suggesting that Mr Netanyahu doesn't know what he is talking about offends me deeply. Believe you me Mr Kerry, for us the enemy is not many thousands of miles away and our SecretService has been doing this for longer than yours. The nuclear devices may hit us on their way to Washington and New York - and head for Washington they will. It is not Mr Netanyahus speech that will affect the outcome of the Israeli elections,  most are ready for change anyway, but the derision with which the White House treats the PM may just cause the Israelis to vote for him!!! Senators Rubio and Ayotte say it best.

An American jury reached an historic decision regarding the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority for terror attacks, specifically during the 2nd Intifada. The precedent was set by the Lockerbie decision  making Libya liable for compensation to the families of those killed and other Libyan initiated attacks. Targeting civilians was "standard operating procedure" for the Palestine Liberation Organization, Fatah and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, plaintiffs' attorney Kent Yalowitz told jurors when the trial began. Yasser Arafat, the PLO's longtime chairman and the PA's president, controlled all those entities. Arafat's handwritten consent appears on PA documents detailing payments to terrorists and their families that were later seized by Israel. Those records became key evidence showing the PA's knowledge and support for the bloody wave of terror attacks. One 2002 report sent to the PA's General Intelligence Service chief praised a West Bank squad for its "high quality successful attacks."  The PA claims they don't have the money - so where did all that aid go?

The US Consulate in Jerusalem asked New York City Councillor David Greenfield to remove his Kippa when visiting Ramallah "for security reasons" and found nothing odd in their request. I am proud to say the Councillor Greenfield refused.

This week the Board of Governors Meetings of the Jewish Agency took place in Jerusalem. Zvi did not manage to go to all the meetings, busy taking care of me, but he managed to go to several. The speaker that impressed him most of all was  former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, for the first time wearing his "civvies" rather than his IDF uniform. Gantz outlined the major issues before the assembled leaders from around the world explaining that he leaves Israel with many problems but that his successor Gadi Eizenkott is more than capable of dealing with any danger that presents itself.
1. The Iranian situation. Gantz said he has nothing against Persians but their regime invokes deep concern
2. In countries to the North of Israel,  2 evil entities are fighting for control, religious control - the Shiites and the Sunnis. They are not armies but rather ideals which is a problem that NATO did not recognise for many years but now they do.
3. The aim of ISIS, clear in their name, is to make the entire ME ( and world) one Caliphate -  "The End of Sykes-Picot", from the 1916 secret agreement between France and Britain that split the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. They do not recognise any other entity.
4. Our internal problems can only be dealt with by encouraging social solidarity, not divisive policies.
5. Your role. Our role. Diaspora communities and the relationship with Israel must be nurtured. It is now of paramount importance from every aspect. Only by combatting ignorance with knowledge about this area in general and Israel in particular can we influence others. Learn and disseminate.
Finally, Lt General Gantz spoke of the lone soldiers. Boys and girls who volunteer to make Aliya and enlist in the IDF while their families are overseas. He asked us all to take care of them.
The Diaspora issue is addressed by Yair Lapid in this excellent letter to the Guardian Newspaper concerning the hundreds of artists who signed a petition condemning Israel.

IsraAid, founded and run on a shoestring by the amazing Shachar Zahavi, is the jewel in the crown of Israels outreach to those in need. While governments ponder, IsraAid acts. You already know about Haiti, Phillipines, New Jersey, and so many other places in turmoil but this latest IsraAid project deserves more funding and more publicity.  Relief for the Yazidis of Northern Iraq

Charlie Chaplin was not known for his politics, rather for his portrayal of the little man who proved to be our hero. Never more than in this video, the final speech from the movie The Great Dictator

If you ever have doubts about Israeli behaviour in Operation Protective Edge - just watch this

Almost Purim. What is Purim and what do we celebrate? That's not so difficult - Wicked Vizier, weak King with an eye for a pretty lady and an overpowering wife, decision to kill Jews, wisdom won through and yet again we eat at the end.  Why do we dress up? Once upon a time we dressed up as Queen Esther or Mordechai and the bad boys were Haman. Why do we get Tipsy? So we won't be able to differentiate between friend and foe thus not hate anyone. One needs to be either blind deaf or dumb - actually all three - not to recognise the similarities between today and those days of yore. I saw the similarities but Rabbi Jeremy Rosen recognised another similarity - between now and Munich. -
Israel is awash with "Hamantaschen" Pastry triangles alternatively called Hamans Ears,  Hamans Hats, Hamans Pockets in fact almost anything that relates to Haman! These delicacies can be traditional, filled with either dried, spiced fruit or poppy seeds, or with just about any sweet or savoury delicacy the conditory can invent including Green Tea!!!

We haven't had a Hebrew lesson for ages, so now is the time for a spectacularly Israeli phenomenon. The MAKOLET. Makolet, convenience store, corner shop, neighbourhood grocery and general meeting place. In most countries the makolet has given way to large conglomerates and supermarkets but here they are a growing business, rather than closing down they are thriving!!! Our makolet owner is Oren and he knows everyone by name. If someone is missing a carton of milk or a pat of butter he will have one of his people pop it round in a jiffy, or one can make large orders - all free delivery and one can pay tomorrow or the next day. The young men who work with him, Itzik, Bar and Uzi, are equally fun and Orens fruit and vegetables are the very best in town. When you go to the makolet for HALAV (milk), BAYTZIM (eggs), SHOKO, a delicious chocolate milk shake which traditionally came in individual plastic bags that children successfully bite off the corner and drink; for YERAKOT (vegetables) or PAYROT (fruit) you will find everything from simple potatoes and onions to crispy asparagus and long white leeks straight from the ground. Peppers,PILPEL, juicy red, yellow, orange and green or tiny multicoloured sweet peppers not to be confused with the fiery PIPEL HARIF (hot peppers) or three types of courgette - in fact everything is so diverse including the shapes because we don't necessarily eat the evenly shaped ones - we sell them to you!!! I always choose the Siamese twin bananas, the bulbous cucumbers or the piggy back peaches just because that's how nature made them, not straight and tasteless but strange and scrumptious!! 

If you doubt for one minute that Israeli food is the freshest and best just read this!

That's it! Time to make my final touches for Shabbat. Zvi has been absolutely phenomenal this week, taking care of me, cooking, tidying and entertaining visitors. He really proved his nurturing side! My neighbour Shoshana came bearing food and the other neighbour Michal baked a cake but other than that he took on his role with great good nature.

It may sound strange but last Friday, waking from the anaesthetic I looked up at both Zvi and my wonderful eldest son Daniel and felt great gratitude and love wash over me- Dan, you are such a special person, you and your beautiful family. This week our second eldest grandson Samuel was 10 years old. Sammy, you have taught us all the meaning of absolute love, absolute trust and fine dining!  I am the luckiest person in the world that all three of my children and both of Zvi's and their partners in life, exude love and are really good people. Lucky, lucky, lucky. 

Tomorrow Steve and Shuli Daren are coming to visit and various other friends- I am so much better but haven't managed to get out for a whole week! Unfortunately that meant that I haven't seen Rachel and her family this week since they have all been struck down with flu - real flu and not very nice at all. Wishing them better soon.

Shabbat Shalom everyone.  Hope you have a wonderful Shabbat filled with love, contemplation and peace.

This week I realised once more how fortunate I am as I lay in bed absorbing the view of Jerusalem from our window - The View from Our Veranda!

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

Thursday, 19 February 2015

150219 Herzliya,Benny Gantz, Politics, Daniel and family,

19th February 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. For a change I am not looking at the view of Jerusalem from our veranda but rather the stormy waves of Herzliya.With the impending snowstorm hanging over Jerusalem we came a day early to Herzliya, where I undergo minor surgery tomorrow.

This has been a turbulent week in an ever less stable world, but for me it has been a glorious week as my eldest son Daniel, his wife Karen and their two amazing children came to visit us in Jerusalem. Seeing our city through the eyes of a 7 year old child and watching all the children of our now extended family playing together was absolutely amazing. Children manage to cross language barriers so much more successfully than we do. I will tell you about our adventures and visits later but I owe you a short description of our upcoming elections before the sweet dessert of talk of small people.

Actually, I am beginning to think that all politicians are small people too. They don't have the verve and elan of children but they don't seem to have learned how to put the brakes on their tongues either.  This election is about dirtying the reputation of ones opponents rather than informing us of what they intend doing.  As a Brit I learned about Party Manifestos, the intentions and plans of each party set out clearly so that any choice will be educated rather than rumour driven. When the accusations are flying about profligate spending in the PM's house I assumed it was more politicking but apparently it was already in the works.

Then one comes to the international interference in the Israeli electoral process. I always try to stay out of the politics of other countries but sometimes they don't stay out of ours which demands a response. At a time when it is fashionable to kill people for being Jews and even more fashionable to demean and malign Israel it does not behoove an American President to allow his White House press briefings to contain strong condemnation of the Israeli Prime Minister. There is not another country in the entire region, and possibly further afield, that has given such unconditional support to the United States and the current slap in the face is unwarranted.

Mr Netanyahu has stated clearly and unequivocally that he does not wish to electioneer but rather to express his deep concerns about the current policies concerning Iran. Iran is of clear and present danger to Israel and also to other American Allies in this region and I cannot begin to quote Shimon Peres yet again about countries where many citizens are willing to become hangmen. This is a time for all Allies to work together, to listen to each other and to speak out very clearly against evil regimes and the horrors that are taking place in the world as I write.

Sorry, I know I tend to "bang on"about this particular situation but it is devastating when ones greatest friend and ally hits the headlines of popularity at ones expense.

As you know, I am not particularly right wing - nor left wing actually - but rather a pragmatist, an intensely pro-Israel pragmatist, but pragmatist I am. My girlfriend Sheila Zucker (some of you New Yorkers will remember the SheilaShow) is probably right of my thoughts but we have the same convictions as to our right to live in peace in our own land. Sheila wrote this piece in 2004, but it rings true today - even more so.

The fact that we wake up and switch on the news, then watch or listen to news every hour on the hour is not a matter of obsession but rather of the need to know what is happening. We are a happy people that wants to be informed........... just in case.

To my own amazement I am about to give you a link to the Guardian newspaper. Yair Lapid wrote a very interesting article about the 700 second class artists who signed their evil pact to boycott Israel.

Another lady who is not for turning is Maureen Lipman, outstanding actress and wit, and proud Jewess, she gives her honest opinion about the boycotting actors, especially the Jewish ones.

I am not certain that the Supreme Courts decision to overturn the Election Committees ban of two electoral candidates, Haneen Zoabi and Baruch Maazel, extremists from the very opposite side of the political map, is a good or wise move. Both are dangerous, both have taken their right of free speech to places outside democracy.

This week we have all been racing to show Joshua (my grandson) everything possible in Jerusalem without disturbing his baby sister Callie. We went to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, a huge and beautiful zoo, so big and beautiful it really impressed my NYC family with the sheer variety of creatures in natural settings; then we went to the Bloomfield Science Musem which he adored, the Herzl Museum which set him thinking and which he also loved. Inevitably we went to the Kotel on the new shuttle bus from the First Station and as we were leaving that incredibly spiritual site we saw two big black cars arrive, Israeli flags aflying alongside the IDF flag and out stepped both Benny Gantz and Gadi Eizenkopf - the outgoing and incoming Commanders in Chief of the Israel Armed Forces. After their official ceremonies they both came to the Kotel for the swearing in ceremony - where else? Soldiers have their passing out parades here and it is the one place on earth where to swear an oath - especially a Jewish oath to protect the Jewish State - is right at the very core of our faith. Joshua was so impressed, as were the adults!  May G-d bless our new Commander in Chief and give him the wisdom to make the right choices. Benny Gatz talked to Christiane Ananpur on CNN, a brilliant man

My favourite part of the entire week was watching the children playing together. Watching them enjoy each other and seeing my daughter Rachel soaking up her time with big bruvver. I admit to being whacked but it was fabulous and Rachel actually hosted them and also their cousins Sagi and Ditty and the children and making them home-made pizza, felafel, tehina, and all the amazing goodies that she makes so beautifully.

I would love to continue - there are so many events that I missed this week including seeing my hero Malcolm Hoenlein and joining the Conference of Presidents Jerusalem conference and hearing Khaled Abu Toameh speak -  but actually, I am going into hospital for minor surgery tomorrow so am conserving my energies!!!!

As I told you I am writing facing the window of our hotel, watching the stormy sea lashing the sands, sands that are more used to laughing tourists than powerful rollers crashing on the unsuspecting shoreline.
Hopefully by this time next week I will be writing to tell you that it is all behind me and will be back looking at my favourite view - the View from our Veranda.

I wish you Shabbat Shalom with this song Shabbat Menucha - Shabbat Rest.

One of my favourite songs of all time is "Tishmor al ha Olam Yeled" Guard the World Child - sung by the Israeli counter tenor David D'Or. The words are so important that I give you those too. The song tells that we, our generation has done a poor job of saving our world so it is up to our children. 

So I wish you Shabbat Shalom, with all our love from Herzliya, with our hearts in Jerusalem.
With love

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

Friday, 13 February 2015

150212 Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem. Netanyahu Congress, Justin Welby, CBS Simons, Ron Carner, Daniel arrive

12th February 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well and that life is being kind to you.

As you know, I search for songs and poems that express my thoughts. This quote from Edward Yashinsky perhaps is the most fitting, the most apt.
“Fear not your enemies, for they can only kill you. Fear not your friends, for they can only betray you.
Fear only the indifferent, who permit the killers and betrayers to walk safely on the earth.”

The big debate of the week concerns the Israeli Prime Ministers decision to appear before Congress despite extremely vocal opposition from the White House. The American administration claims that a speech this close to Israeli elections is considered electioneering. The White House was, apparently, informed by the Speaker of the Congress of Mr Netanyahus visit. Here in Israel Isaac Herzog of Israels Labour party, now called the Zionist Group, maligned the PM's decision in a speech during his visit to Europe, suggesting that the speech before Congress breaks the election rules - but publicly maligning ones political adversary before elections is not. Our Attorney General, Adv. Yehuda Weinstein, has investigated the proposed speech in detail and came to the decision that it was not electioneering and was completely legal by the very tough Israeli election regulations, thus, despite the best efforts of Meretz Zahava Galon, the speech will be broadcast in Israel.

William Booth witnessed a chilling event in the Gaza Strip on Thursday: thousands of youths lined up “in crisp military fashion” for a “graduation ceremony” after a week of training by the armed wing of the Hamas movement. Even as thousands of Gazan families struggle to survive amid the rubble of last summer’s war with Israel, and children are reported to be dying from exposure, Hamas is once again investing its resources in preparing for another unwinnable battle. 

The reality defying news this week tells us that the PA studies details of each terrorist act before issuing salaries to the families. Newly obtained documents show meticulous process by which martyrdom status, payment levels, honorary ranks are determined

I need you to write to CBS to complain!!  Bob Simons the legendary reporter was never a friend of Israel and often gave deeply slanted reports. In this interview Simons disgraceful statement was given as proof of his honest reportage. "When Bob Simons was talking to an Israeli General he said Sir you are one of Israels finest generals so why do you kill children"  Disgusting!!!!

The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was “often deeply embarrassed” by failures of the Church of England in tackling anti-Semitism. Justin Welby said people should be shocked by the rise in anti-Semitism and described it as “blasphemy”, as he hosted the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism at Lambeth Palace. “The need for increased police patrolling of Jewish neighbourhoods in response to security concerns was a “peculiar and remarkable obscenity when we are in the midst of commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz”, he said.  For those who think that nothing is being done in the UK against anti-semitism - hear this wonderful speech against the recognition of Palestine. Baroness Deech at her very best. According to Lord Stone, Lords Mitchell, Mendelsohn, Palmer, Leigh, Winston, Farmer and Baroness Ramsay also spoke with great eloquence.

The Israeli elections reflect the ultimate democracy - I don't like the system but the safety nets are outstanding. For instance not only is the Supreme Court Judge overseeing the election committee an Arab but two people were before the Central Elections Committee facing disallowance to stand for the Knesset, one Hanin Zoabi and the other Baruch Maazel Today  Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran, a Christian Maronite, chaired the first stage of MK Hanin Zoabis defence against being excluded from taking part in the Israeli elections for her constant support of Hamas and being on board the Mavi Marmara and Baruch Maazel for his extreme views concerning Israeli Arabs. Ultimately th eSupreme Court will make the decision

We love Ron Carner. We never made a secret of the fact and now, after this interview we love him even more! The President of Maccabi USA Ron says "When we bring our young people to Israel, sport is the hook but they have a 6 day experience of loving Israel." 

If any of you had any doubts as to the future leadership of the Jewish people - fear no more. This is a video of the Standwithus Israel in Forcus Conference as they spontaneously broke into song "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu" - Peace will come to us.

 Alan Parsons was the brains behind so many hit records he has lost count, from the Beatles to Pink Floyd and many more. Alan Parsons chose to ignore the words of Roger Waters (formerly Pink Floyd currently anti-Israel activist) and performed before a huge, appreciative audience this week in Tel Aviv, appeared on Israeli television and generally came out as a really good guy.,7340,L-4625372,00.html

There are some people in this world who are natural leaders, irrespective of physical stature or gender. Neri Bloomfield z"l was one such person. To be with Neri was not only to enjoy her exceptional wit and elan but to understand that one was in the company of a strong leader. Sadly this week Neri passed away leaving her children, Harry and Evelyn and her daughter in law Nancy and son in law Raphael and grandchildren mourning, yet enjoying a rare and precious legacy. Neri Bloomfield philanthropist extraordinary. Rest in peace.

Shir ha Maalot - Song of Songs, is both ancient and  modern. It is beautiful, haunting and a prayer to Hashem to hear our imprecation

I loved this video about non-Israeli (non-Jewish) reactions to Israeli food. Very funny, I don't know what they expected!!

Today one of my two greatest prayers will be answered. My eldest son Daniel is coming to visit us in Jerusalem with his beautiful family, Karen, Joshua and Callie. It is so hard to be far far away from ones children to say nothing of grandchildren, and today I will be waiting at the airport, arms open wide, waiting for my hugs. I love Skype but there is nothing like the real thing, no matter what their age the pain of missing them never leaves. This year I have not been able to visit New York, which makes this Friday night dinner all the more important. Rachel and her family are waiting on tenterhooks to see their cousins and Rachel to get her "big brother hug".  

On Shabbat Zvi's boys and their families will come to see their cousins and get to know each other. Gosh I can't wait to show Joshua all the incredible childrens activities in Jerusalem - the Childrens Wing at the Israel Museum, the Bloomfield Science Museum, the Latrun Tank Museum, Ein Yael Nature Park and the Biblical Zoo and hopefully he will also get to fulfil his dream of an archaeological dig. Maybe we can go to the chocolate making course at Kiftsuba!!! 

So that's it from a very dusty Jerusalem. We couldn't see a thing for two days because the Sahara came to Israel in the shape of incredible sandstorms and gusting winds. It has almost cleared from the air but most gardens and verandas are filled with sand. Apparently the sand is full of minerals which enrich the soil which proves that even the Sahara could bloom if only they would spend their money on irrigation instead of irradiation!

I can't wait to see Joshuas beautiful little face light up when he sees his cousins and as we drive back from the airport to Jerusalem and he sees the incredible vista, nay panorama, of Jerusalem laying before him as we go over the heights of Samuels Tomb. The sun came out for him this morning......... just for Joshua.

I was deeply moved by this video of the Israeli Navy celebrating Shabbat on board ship. What are they singing? Peace unto you, angels of peace. Only the IDF.

With much love from Jerusalem, the heart of our prayers, the 2,000 year dream that came true....because we willed it.


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

Friday, 6 February 2015

150206 Burning of Jordanian Pilot, PM before Congress, Tu b'Shvat

6th February 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom.

The moment Zvi and I heard that a Jordanian pilot had been captured by Da' ish/ ISIS we looked at each other in dismay. We knew that he would not only be horribly tortured, not uncommon for their captives, but would suffer horrifically simply because he was a fellow Moslem and deemed to have joined the enemy. In our worst nightmares we could not have imagined that they would put him in a cage and burn him alive. The sheer extent of their barbarism is a direct reflection of their danger.

The bruhaha over Prime Minster Netanyahus visit to speak before Congress is building, and building. I don't know what is best, who is right and who is being adamant. The fact that it is being played out in public rather than a quiet word in Mr Netanyahus ear infuriates me however. What happened to diplomacy? When a leader is invited by the speaker of the House to speak, well before we knew that elections would be imminent, it seems rude to decline. When the invitation is withdrawn very publicly by the President it put Democratic Congressmen who support Israel in a very difficult position and for the Speaker to retract the invite of for Mr Netanyahu to refuse the invite was already a matter of principle.  Yet another public embarrassment for the Israeli leader. I truly don't know what to think except that it seems a very strange way to treat your greatest ally, indeed your only ally in the region. 

Sir Martin Gilbert was arguably the greatest biographer of his time, certainly the greatest Jewish biographer of our time. Sadly Sir Martin passed away this week. I quote his words‬ on Israel: “It is the country I have lived in, taught in, played in, seen my children grow up in — and hold in the highest esteem, for all its faults, which are in my view far outweighed by its virtues.”
Baruch Dayan Emet Sir Martin. One of the world's preeminent historians on the Holocaust, Israel & the Jewish people. An official Churchill Biographer. Zionist. Intellectual. Mensch! You may no-longer be with us, but your words and books will live with us forever!

I remember my high school geography lessons about the rotation of crops and laying fields fallow to regenerate the soil and now, here we are in the middle of that very concept, but the ancient variety, Jewish ecology. Not only is it a year of laying the land, trees, soil fallow during the mandatory seventh year - Shmitta - but we just celebrated Tu b'Shvat, the New Year for Trees. Children all over Israel plant new trees or bushes but this year they refrained, because it is a shmitta year, the seventh year of the cycle and thus the land must lay fallow.

Although trees are not bearing fruit at this time of year we delight in eating loads of dried fruits, fresh fruits and so on. Indeed the shopping malls, supermarkets and shouks were filled with delicious baskets of dried fruits of Israel. Plump prunes, dates, raisins, sultanas and cranberries to say nothing of the unbelievable dried pineapple. Our dried pineapple bears no resemblance to the ones you buy! No sugar, no additives they are simply slices of sun dried pineapple of such intense flavour that your tongue immediately expressed delight. "Wow". What is Tu b'Shvat?

Talking of nature, do you know what a large synchronised flight of starlings is called? I found out this week. It is a murmuration. The news stations around the world were full of a miracle in the South of Israel, a murmuration of starlings over the Bedouin town of Rahat. It is breathtaking.

Anti-Semitism is the mark of Cain of modern society. It is the canary in the coal mine, it is the proof of the collapse of our society as we know it, it is proof positive that we learned nothing from history. Goebbels is alive and well and living in the minds of our enemies but Winston Churchill is not here to expose their evil  and fight back.

Last Friday night we went to our friend Itzik Mussachy for supper. It was such a delight to take part in their traditional Shabbat dinner. There were some differences, like the zatar oil that they pour over the challah after it is broken, but it was Shabbat, Shabbes, Friday night dinner with the self-same traditions that our ancestors brought to that same table. Itzik has four daughters, each very different and each absolutely wonderful. We loved it to say nothing of Itziks amazing cooking!!!!

On Shabbat, Ella Raviv reached the vast age of 2!!! She was so excited by the fuss, although too shy to say anything. She loved the fact that we sang happy birthday in English, Hebrew and then sang Yom Huledet Sameach too!!!! Ella, as I told you, so called because she was born on Tu b' Shvat. The foods all related to trees, nature, fruit and veggies........ delightful.

This week has been a bit crazy. As my Facebook friends know I was meant to undergo a very small surgery last Monday but it was deferred for further checks and test by a truly incredible surgeon who does not like to take chances with his patients. Dr. Aviad Hoffman really is exceptional and a lovely person too. Anyway - between us we decided to save the date after my beautiful New York family comes to spend time with us in Jerusalem. I just want to be able to cuddle my little grand-daughter and play with Joshua who is so much fun! The food is all cooked, all of my son Daniel's childhood favourites, just because he is well over 40 doesn't mean he shouldn't be spoiled with fried gefilte fish balls, potato kugel, chicken soup with kneidlach, stuffed peppers and red rice, beouf bourguignon.......... and so many other foodstuffs all ready for their arrival. For my lovely daughter in law Karen I also bought some beautiful fresh fish, both whole and filleted so that she would not be forced into eating only Dan's favourites!

The weather has been a beautiful this week. Gentle sunshine, relatively warm with glorious red, dappled skies at both sunrise and sunset. Next week we expect anything from snow on Tuesday to gentle rain - hopefully the latter. I am not worried about amusing the children, we have so much for them to do in Jerusalem even when it rains. The Bloomfield Science Museum which has experiments and activities for every age, from 1 though to 90!!!! The Ruth Wing of the Israel Museum too and hopefully the weather will be good enough to go out to the Latrun Tank Musuem where they can clamber over the old tanks where they have cut the sides out so the children can see the workings. Nothing to do with teaching war, just about tanks and adventures.
My downstairs neighbour Shoshanna just popped up to say hello. Actually everyone is our downstairs neighbour because we are on the top floor of what are called step housing. Jerusalem is all hills so rather than flatten a hill (remember that Jerusalem is rocky) we build on the slope like steps. Anyway, Shoshanna was hoping to see what I am cooking for Shabbat but my kitchen is surprisingly clean and tidy today- we are out for both meals!!!!  Yesterday she came with a gift for Zvi, some delicious pasta dishes! 

Israel is all about food and family - hardly surprising since we are Jewish after all. Talking of Jewish and food, I had a note from Canon Andrew White, who is doing really well, to say that he was in the King David with the British Ambassador Matthew Gould, and they were eating his very favourite dish........... gefilte fish!!!!

So here we are! Another Shabbat, another chance to contemplate on the week that passed and try to change what will be. As Zvi gets ready to go to his Parliament, we stand together in front of the windows, looking out from the veranda on the blue skies, small clouds scudding across the blue sky, the sun warming Jerusalem after a cool night. The spring bulbs are beginning to emerge, fooled into believing that spring has sprung by the warm air and giving hope for future colour and joy. 

On the way down to the Dead Sea the desert is blooming from the rains of a few weeks ago. The land is fertile and the sleeping seeds suddenly wake up and provide a carpet of red poppies and anemones over the formerly sandy ground. Israelis flock to see the wonder of the flowers in the desert and the black Iris in both Nes Ziona and Netanya. Gosh this is a beautiful country.

To honour Tu b' Shvat and the national flower of Israel here is the late Shoshanna Dimari singing Calaniot (Anemones)

The Almond blossom, harbinger of spring, turns the Jerusalem hills into clouds of pink and the open fields and parks are covered in poppies, anemones and wild pink cyclamen which seem to grow out of the very rocks which are an integral part of the Jerusalem landscape.

I wish you a Shabbat shalom and remind you to stay positive and hopeful in a seeming terrifying world. More than any other song, my feelings are expressed by Al Kol Eleh – Above all this. Read the words and feel the melody and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. We have so much to be thankful for

My favourite quote of the week is from actor, satirist and traveller Michael Palin - I know that we shall meet problems along the way, but I'd far rather see for myself what's going on in the world outside, than rely on newspapers, television, politicians and religious leaders to tell me what I should be thinking.
I must rush because I am very excited to tell you that my girlfriend Sheila (we call each other " my friend Sheila") is about to come and visit me.

With love from Jerusalem