Friday, 25 September 2015

150925 Succot, Tabernacles, David Efron, Pope

25th September 2015

Shabbat Shalom, Gmar Hatima Tova and finally -  almost Chag Succot Sameach,  a Blessed Tabernacles and a peaceful Eid-Ul-Adha, the Day of Arafat and Hajj.

Actually, looking at what I just wrote above, hopefully using the traditional blessings for the Jewish and Christian festivals, Succot is happy, Tabernacles blessed and Ei-Ul-Adha I chose to use the word peaceful because I do not know what is traditional. Our hearts should, however, go out to the families of the 700+ dead in Makka, men who simply wanted to walk past the Kaaba.

The next time someone tells you that it is dreadful that Israel wants to impose stronger punishment for the throwing of stones by Palestinian youth get them to watch this video of Israel soldiers stopping stones with their bare hand and shooting in the air. Look at the youngsters total lack of fear of the soldiers.

Another point is that Jews and Christians are not trying to go into Al Aqsa, we just want to go onto the Temple Mount and silently pray. How on earth is that offensive? I see Moslems stop work and kneel down to pray all over Jerusalem and no one bothers them.

This is going to be a relatively short missive. For some that in itself is a blessing but the reason is a good one. We are going away, as do many, many Israelis, for the long weekend. We are heading North to Lake Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, with Zvi's sons and their families. We try to go away with them every year since a long weekend is a rare occasion in Israel!

Our dear friend David Efron has received his papers!! These are very special papers however, honouring Davids devoted work for Israel. On the 29th of this month David will be installed as the Honorary Consul of Israel to Puerto Rico. In one year David became a grandfather for the first time, his youngest daughter got engaged to be married and now he will represent Israel in his beloved Puerto Rico. Well done David. Mazal Tov!

As Kippur ended the sounds of hammers began. Succot (Tabernacles) going up on verandas all over Israel. Traditionally one puts the first nails into the structure immediately after Kippur goes out. The trinket markets open on many street corners as decorating the Succah becomes quite competitive. Another Succot tradition is to welcome guests in to partake of a meal. Unlike in colder climes we don't hang fresh fruit from the slatted roof, in Israel we use either plastic fruits or something very close to Christmas decorations!!! Occasionally one hangs the yellow clusters of dates, fresh from the tree but rotting fruit in hot weather is really not a Succot tradition!!!

I often talk about our friend Professor Gabby Barkay and his incredible Temple Mount Sifting Project, well this time one of his visitors, a child, found a tiny stone seal from the time of King David. Such an exciting experience!

So today we leave the view from our veranda, drive to Tel Aviv to collect some of the children, hopefully going through Givat Zeev to kiss Rachel and her family Shabbat Shalom, then start up the coast. As we drive we pass history, ancient Roman (Caesaria), modern British (Atlit) and then cut across the country finally arriving at the Sea of Galilee and the town of Tiberias. We will make Shabbat in the hotel, it is fun watching all the other families stop what they are doing and look in amazement as Zvi begins to sing Kiddush. We are staying in the countryside so we will take long walks along the River Jordan (as Shimon Peres said the River Jordan has more history than water!) on Sunday the others (not me) will kayak and go down the Banyas fast waters. I still have memories of my son Gideon who decided to white water raft without the huge inner tubes they provide and got caught on a rock! He was only 16 at the time!

I wish His Holiness Pope Francis a wonderful visit to America, may his message of peace be heard and his followers enjoy every moment.

We return to a wonderful Tabernacles event by the International Christian Embassy – thousands of people who came to be in Israel, support Israel and celebrate their own religion in joy.

Succot in Jerusalem, such a happy time

What is a Succah? Well here it is – a hug from above.

As one enters the Succah in addition to the regular prayers one says a special prayer thanking God for bringing us to this moment Shehechiyanu We never miss a chance to say thank you!

With much love from both Zvi and I, here in Jerusalem. I will take a final look over our view before setting off, I find it hard to leave Jerusalem even for a few days, almost as hard as I find it to write a short missive!!!

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

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

150922 Yom haKippurim

22nd September 2015
Erev Yom haKippurim - Eve of the Day of Atonement

Dear Friends, Did you know that Yom Kippur has nothing to do with food? I know that the Jewish world is obsessed with fasting, "Well over the fast" "Easy fast", the morning television programmes are full of dieticians telling us how to eat leading up to the fast but few talk about the purpose, the reason behind the fast. We are supposed to be so deeply within our contemplation and prayer that we do not feel the need for physical sustenance since we are filled with spiritual sustenance.

Traditionally we ask for forgiveness from our fellow man as well as from the Almighty, we take the sins of the world upon ourselves, not just our own, and promise to be better people - to be more tolerant, less arrogant, to open our hearts and minds to others - it is most certainly not only the obvious ones of murder, blasphemy, coveting ones neighbours belongings and adultery. Indeed our prayers go far deeper than that - we beg forgiveness for our thoughts. Does this mean we get a clean slate and begin all over again - not in Judaism, the forgiveness comes with a condition - we must create a new reality without the stains that mar our lives and the lives of those around us.

Our world today is one of fear and uncertainty, especially if you are a Jew yet we are told to be tolerant. There is no mention of revenge, only of tolerance. 

This has been a year of paradoxes. Saudi Arabia heads the Human Rights Council; Russia (and most other leaders) back the vile regime of President Assad for fear of what will replace him, accept his killing of hundreds of thousands, yet find it rational to lambaste Israel for defending herself; Israelis rush to provide aid and sustenance to those fleeing oppression in Moslem countries yet are labelled Apartheid; the IDF created a field hospital on the Syrian border to treat the most severely injured in the Syrian civil war yet the UN claims Israeli medical system is anti-Moslem; Christian leaders criticise Israel which is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian community is thriving and growing yet remain silent about the dire situation of the Christians in the PA; young Palestinians throw stones and Molotov cocktails on Israeli civilians yet when we attempt to impose firmer laws to deter them we are criticised; Palestinian police beat a 15 year old half to death - on camera - yet the media is silent! The list is unending and deeply distressing.

We are not perfect and I am deeply ashamed of the behaviour of our Chief Rabbinate this week in their proclamation against the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. They claim that they are proselytising. I am ashamed at such a public show of lack of tolerance and diplomacy. The ICEJ is conceivably the finest organisation of Christians who support Israel through thick and thin, bring thousands upon thousands of Christians to Israel, particularly now at Tabernacles time and all our Prime Ministers and Presidents have proudly taken part in their events.I beg forgiveness from all of our dear friends, past and present leaders of the ICEJ, for forgiveness.

I would hate you to think there are no rays of sunshine in this troublesome year. While the UK Labour Party elected Jeremy Corbyn, Australia has a new Minister, Josh Frydenberg, sworn in on a Chumash - Hebrew Bible

IsraAid workers discover "To the refugees it doesn't matter that I am Israeli"  Israelis continue to give sustenance to the world

We must never lose sight of who we are. Many have tried, some succeeded, to dehumanise Jews so that no-one would care when we are killed. Others didn't kill us, they simply stop us performing our rites and traditions. Many Jews are in danger of losing their inherited memory, inherited traditions, inherited identity by joining the hedonistic, egotistic society of today, unwilling to give up one day a week, a month, a year without shopping. We do not have to forego even one joyful or fun activity to be a traditional Jew. We must be proud and give our children the genetic justice that is inherent in true Judaism.

To remind us of who we are this beautiful video shows the traditions passed from grandparents to children-

And so to Jerusalem. Take all of the issues above and bring them to one simple fact - Jerusalem. Jews do not claim to be the sole owners of the Temple Mount, we do not wish to desecrate the Moslem Holy places, far from it we choose to honour their rights, all we ask is that they honour ours. The Temple Mount is Jewish and Christian too. 

Qanta Ahmed provides a beam of tolerant light "This is my prayer in these Days of Awe. This is my appeal, as I reflect and account for my actions. That for each and every Jewish person at these times of holy worship, reflection and redemption, we as Muslims might welcome them as gently and wholeheartedly at the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa on Mount Moriah as I was once welcomed at the Kotel."

The music of Yom Kippur is famous. Kol Nidre which opens the prayers has been sung by many famous stars, from Andy Williams, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis - and their renditions are exceptional, the spirituality of the music rising above their lack of Hebrew. Al Jolson sings the traditional Ashkenaz niggun; Moroccan; Sefardi; indeed we come in every colour, a veritable rainbow, yet we all, from whence we came home, turn to Jerusalem in prayer and lamentation. 

Unetaneh Tokef sung by Lt Col. Shai Abrahamson expresses our prayers - with translation

Finally, a niggun from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. It is so familiar, often used between the words of the Priestly Blessing.

Perhaps the best example of what Judaism is about comes on Yom Kippur. While we beg forgiveness from the Almighty for our general sins, if at any time we publicly or privately embarrassed someone by our words or actions, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we do not ask for G-ds forgiveness, we must go to that person and ask for their forgiveness.One continues to ask for forgiveness three times,  after thrice asking for forgiveness they remain adamant in their refusal the sin reverts to them. There is so much to be learned from that simple tradition/rule. 

If I have in any way offended you or hurt you, if my writings have been sharper than they should or if you felt indignant, exasperated or piqued by my words I beg forgiveness. I promise to do better in the future. Although I do not know many of you I feel close to you. I love your responses to my outpourings, love the contact with you all.

As I look out over our veranda, Jerusalem before me, the pomegranate tree has several fruits hanging from its branches, having revived from our Greek sojourn; the little lemon tree given to me by my Cardiff girlfriends has loads of fruits, tiny and green but aplenty, the kumquat tree is filled with blossom and the little orange tree, well the little orange tree is a bit like the Jews - although it lost all its leaves and seemed unable to revive it is now filled with greenery and ready to produce juicy fruits next year.

From tonight no cars will travel on the lanes, streets, highways and byways of Israel. A wonderful silence broken only by the delighted shrieks of children riding their bicycles freely on the empty roads. That silence that was cruelly broken in 1973 as Israel was attacked on the one day our enemies knew an entire nation would be at prayer.
It was conceivably the most traumatic of wars waged on Israel, when every border was attacked. May those who lost their lives be remembered and rest in peace. 

I wish you well over the fast - may it be filled with contemplation and may your lives be enhanced and advanced by your thoughts over this day of awe.

With love from Jerusalem.


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

Friday, 11 September 2015

150911 9/11, Rosh Hashana

11th September 2015

14 years. Incredibly 14 years have passed since we all thought that we were watching a movie reconstruction, a disaster movie.
14 years since the worst 8 hours of my life, then the best moment of my life when Kim discovered that both Rachel and Daniel were OK
14 years since the world changed and 3,000 families would never be the same
14 years since we discovered that the Fire and Police services were our heroes
14 years and we learned nothing.

Those days after the Twin Towers fell I was on Manhattan and found a different city where the profound trauma of the attack softened the New Yorker and  they greeted strangers and cared for them, irrespective of creed. Sadly, NYC returned to minding its own business. 
We forgot who did it. We forgot that vengeance only works if you cut the root not the branches. We forgot to be proud of who we are - and I am not only talking about Americans, it fits the Brits, French, Germans, Jews, Christians............. and Israelis. Being proud of ones identity is a far cry from xenophobia, indeed only when one loves oneself can one love others. Until we stand proudly 9/11 is just the beginning. Until we learn from the past we can never improve the future.

And so to Rosh Hashana!
Rosh Hashana is both very personal and has a much wider perspective. We beg for forgiveness for our sins and the sins of our world, not through another being but straight to the Holy One - to God. We learn to forgive but not forget; to atone and not repeat; to be humble yet never bend down to another human being; to be a better person than we ever imagined we could be. While the devout do so through Slichot prayers, being secular does not preclude atonement nor self-improvement.

Strangely, even though we call it New Year - it isn't, not the first Jewish paradox!!!! It isn't even the renewal of the reading of the Torah - that is after Sukkot on Simchat Torah - the Joy of the Torah- so what is it? Rabbi Jeremy Rosen will explain. My mentor and my wonderful old friend is not only wiser than I, but I owe him for not being angry when I lost his white mouse in his grandparents greenhouse!!!

Ashley Perry is a British Jew, who came on Aliya and like my children, had Rabbi Jeremy Rosen as his headmaster at Carmel College. Since his Aliya, Ashley held a number of important positions as Advisor to MK's. Now Ashley has taken his family heritage, indeed family pedigree, as a member of the Spanish and Portuguese community as a project. Ashley does not do anything with selfish intent, thus he is not just researching his own family history but helping those whose ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition and its aftermath, yet feel in their bones that they have Jewish blood, to research their families. This project in no way encourages religious changes, just a way to find out who or what we are. Watch this space - I will post the website just as soon as it is ready.

My childhood friends Michael and Shirley Fine, travelled all the way from Perth Australia to come to Jerusalem and despite the three days of the worst dust/sand storm I have ever had the misfortune to see in Jerusalem /Israel as a whole, and crippling heat (not I am not exaggerating) they had a wonderful time. They used public transport, especially the light rail, to get about and became Israelis for that short 8 day trip. We managed to go out, to visit and to spend time together although not enough - and to Zvis dismay, we spent a lot of time reminiscing our Cardiff childhood. 

We live in a world of easy superlatives, I have been guilty of falling into that trap myself. A few too many exclamation marks, calling a clever person a genius - we all do it. However, once in a very rare while one meets a real hero. He isn't a soldier, nor a politician, in fact chances are you have never heard his name but he is still my hero, and that of Zvi. Izaak Verbitsky has fought Multiple Sclerosis for 53 years. He never allowed it to put him into bad humour, or lose hope. This week Isaak came to Israel. It was no small feat, performed by Zvi, to arrange for him to fly here - Isaak is a quadriplegic, in an electric wheelchair. He came with his nurse and helper, his son and daughter-in-law and told Zvi, through his nurse, that he has a few special wishes. To go to the Western Wall, to climb Massada and to spend both his 79th birthday and Shabbat in Jerusalem. He indeed went to the Western Wall, his muttered prayer of deep significance as he kissed those ancient stones, we will have Shabbat in Jerusalem, tonight Zvi and I will eat dinner with them at the King David Hotel, Zvi's kiddush bringing a smile to Isaaks lips, and he will go up Massada. My amazing husband made it his project to ensure all promises were fulfilled and Chaim Shkedi, Manager of the King David gave Isaak a grand reception in the Royal Suite on the 6th Floor of the Hotel. 

What do I wish us for the coming year? Peace - always peace. We say it when we meet or part; we pray for it at every occasion; Shalom. I loved it when, in the old days, as the El Al flight landed in Israel the planes tannoy used to play Hevenu Shalom Alaichem

I wish us an IDF that does not need to fight and has no necessity to defend because our enemies will understand that we do not threaten them.

I wish us the determination to retain the traditions of our forefathers, the beauty of our heritage, whoever and whatever it may be. I love this blessing given to children, especially girl children on a Friday night before sitting to a traditional meal. "May the Lord bless you and keep you"

May the Lord bless you and keep you through this coming year, remember that we enter year 5776 of Jewish life. We may not be huge like China or India but we reached 8.4 million Israelis - and they said we'd never last!!!!

A special hug over the miles to the best Rosh Hashana present any grandparent ever received -  my glorious little grandson Joshua - Happy Birthday beautiful boy.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova. Traditionally we say a sweet year, so I leave you with a song Shana Tova U Metuka.

With love


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

Friday, 4 September 2015

Reuven Rivlin and Pope Francis, Iran, Israel best, Canary Mission

4th September 2015

Shabbat Shalom dear friends and a special one to Zachary David, my grandson, Chelsea fan and gorgeous boy, who was 7 years old yesterday! Happy birthday darling boy. Incredibly my wonderful, wise eldest son Daniel celebrates his 46th birthday this week too.  How did that happen?????

My favourite story of the week came out of President Reuven Rivlin's visit to His Holiness Pope Francis. While discussing the wave of anti-Semitism plaguing the world the Pope agreed with the President that anti-Semitism should be seen as an evil malady, while all those who sought to threaten Israel’s existence were rooted in anti-Semitism. President Rivlin told the Pope stories of his childhood, growing up in Jerusalem, playing near the Western Wall. They continued to cover world issues then His Holiness asked the most important question of all "Who is the best footballer the world has ever known - Pele or Maradonna"? President Rivlin thought deeply about the question and responded "Each generation produces its football heroes, all are excellent". Yet again you did us proud Mr President.

My least favourite story is the ongoing and seemingly never ending story of the "Iran Agreement". I fully accept keeping ones enemy close, but how can one make an agreement with a country whose leaders do not cease deriding, berating, calling for the destruction of your country, burning your flags and creating hate-filled cartoons of your President. I am not talking about Israel, we are the hors d'ouevres, it is time the USA understood that you are the main course.
If you want to know where YOUR Senator or Congressperson stands on Iran

One of the most believable and pragmatic journalists that I know, David Horovitz, wrote an op-ed on the political battle between PM Netanyahu and former PM Barak over Iran. I love David's no-nonsense approach and agree with him!

The Guardian is hardly a pro-Israel newspaper, but they held a marvellous photographic exhibit of Israelis and Palestinians playing football together. The city of my birth, the Welsh Capital city, Cardiff, has a City Council that prior to the major football match on Sunday evening - Wales/Israel in the qualifying rounds of the European cup - it was not politically correct to hold the self same exhibition. Why? Perhaps it shows that all preconceptions of our region are false

The Canary Mission is a logical extension of our concerns as to the political leanings of people we employ. No I am not talking about which party one votes for, whether you smoked pot in university or stood on anti-war rallies, or even if you are an anti-Semite or not; this organisation keeps records of those who openly threaten life and limb of Americans, Jews, Israel etc. Do you want to check if the person you trust with teaching your children International Affairs is a radical?

Some American Yeshiva students, visiting Israel, decided to go to Hebron in their own car, took a wrong turn and wound up in a problematic Palestinian neighborhood. They would have been lynched by a group of youngsters but Fayez Abu Hamdia saw something was wrong and took the men into his home and safety. I tell you for two reasons. Firstly that there are good people everywhere and secondly, go to Hebron but go with someone who knows the route or take a tour!!!!

And so to something entirely different. I intend putting a smile on your face this tough week.

Young people, and young families travel these days. They travel far and wide and parents would be much happier if they knew their companions and that they had somewhere to spend a Shabbat, Yom Tov or just a name to keep in contact. Especially important before Rosh Hashana. That is where Jewgether comes in! This organisation gets young Jews together to travel, matches them with hosts appropriate to their religiosity and generally gives them information relative to the country they want to travel to. I think it is terrific. Takes a bit of parent concern away when children a a long long way away on the adventure of their lives.

A Palestinian entrepreneur tired of waiting for the PA to build housing so he took the situation into his own hands and built an entire town!!! Rawabi. Rawabi has opened its doors and people are moving in. Excellent - finally someone got it right. Happy families in happy homes.

Do you remember the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld? "No soup for you" was his cry to those who broke his stringent rule. Well, the Soup Nazi was in Israel

Bravo Haisam, when you arrived from Egypt to study in Israel you learned far more than a Masters Degree from Tel Aviv University - You learned that one must always question our assumptions. Your world changed when you saw an IDF soldier reading the Koran an a train.The one thing one should expect from life is that life will defy your expectations. Haisam's valedictorian speech at Tel Aviv University.

10 ways that Israel feeds the world. Yes, not through Aid, nor outreach, this is serious folks

Which are the top ten cities in the world? Well, I will give you a clue - Jerusalem is 10!

Which are the best countries to raise a family? This is independent research and Israel came in number 4 after Austria, Finland and Sweden

I AM AN ISRAELI. That isn't a hollow statement, it is something I am so proud of. This video makes me cry and before giving it to you I saw it several times and cried my eyes out in pride every time. I dare you to try and watch it without a Kleenex nearby - it's like trying to eat a sugared doughnut without licking your lips!!!

What a week (again). This week we saw all sorts of people that I really love! Gloria Goldstein is a wonderful lady and she brought us Dorothy, Michael and Ilanaas a special treat. Gloria shares her time between Sydney and Israel and Ilana is getting married in Jerusalem so life is busy for them. We had lunch in the Botanical Gardens then they came and ate Raya's 7 minute Chocolate cake on our veranda. It was so lovely and I especially loved it when Michael asked to have a photograph on himself with the Israeli flag and Jerusalem behind him.

Yesterday we spent time with Dalia Herman and her sister and brother. Dalia is the Mother of Flory Hariton and her face lit up when we took her to see the music centre that Flory and Paul donated. That is where HaKol Yachassi recorded this song, My Israel in Ladino

Tonight I have a special treat as my dear Cardiff friends, although they emigrated to Perth Australia many years ago, Shirley and Michael Fine are coming for supper. I will collect them early and take them for a ride around Jerusalem before Shabbat then to ours for candle lighting.

Each week I find you songs to welcome Shabbat - but this time I thought you would love this video of an IDF soldier playing Shalom Aleichem on his violin. and another rendering of Shalom Aleichem with a modern twist.

Now I am off to see Yosef, Talia and Ayala. I will climb over the high point of Samuels Tomb, down toward Givat Zeev. I know it cannot be true but I think I can smell Rachels Challah already! My children say they still remember coming home from school on a Friday, the aroma of freshly baked, hot Challah wafting toward them as they got off the school bus. I always made them little "bulkes" which would come out of the oven as they walked in the door, broken open and spread with thick butter (it was considered healthy then). After all my hugs and stories of school from all three children (Yosef took his first exam in a new school this week and got 102%) I will come home and set the Shabbat Table.
Supper will be just the four of us, but no Welsh food. Moroccan fish, Teriyaki salmon, baked potatoes and the usual multitude of salads. 
Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, the city most worth visiting - in my view!!!!!



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