Friday, 30 December 2016

161230 UN, Kerry, Mahane Yehuda and Chanuka

30th of December in the year 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. It is now the 7th light of Chanuka and the 7th night of Christmas – a rare coincidence.

I admit I have been putting off writing to you. I am still in shock from the UN vote but even more so by Mr Kerry's speech. Israel is the main, seemingly only obstacle to peace in the Middle East? You have to be kidding! Since I have spent my entire journalistic life determinedly fighting against harsh condemnation of any government, be it mine or someone else's, I had to spend time calming myself before writing, then I came across this rather exceptional speech in the United Nations by  Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen yet again wrote my thoughts in his weekly musings. He writes about Resolution 2334, America, Kerry and Chanuka. Please read his words, it is really worthwhile 

No logic explains this Administrations obsession with condemning Israel while giving in to all the demands of the Palestinians irrespective of Israel's Biblical, historical, legal or factual claims or making demands or conditions that they cease and desist their aggression. . Sadly, my hero and one of the most erudite of American leaders, Dr Malcolm Hoenlein, believes there may be an even bigger parting shot from President Obama.

Israelis, left, right and centre, feel utterly betrayed. As if the vote was not enough, Kerry's speech left us reeling. The subliminal messaging has been working its cruel magic through the media and the politicians and we are perceived as evil.

As Syria burns, most Moslem countries are in total meltdown with cruel despots at their helm and thousands of innocents are killed every week, the world believes that Israel is the problem instead of understanding that we are the answer.

How was Kerry's speech accepted in the PA? PLO Executive Committee member Mustafa Barghouti issued a rejection of the peace plan outlined in Secretary of State John Kerry's speech on Wednesday, indicating how far from compromise the Palestinian leadership remains on the core issues. Barghouti said, "First, you cannot make the issue of Palestinian refugees only an issue of compensation," claiming a "right of return." "Second, recognition of Israel as a Jewish totally unacceptable." "Third, his formula about Jerusalem is absolutely something that the Palestinians cannot accept....East Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine. How can it be a capital of two states?" Ronald Brandt

On Sunday Zvi came with me to the beautiful Jerusalem Press Club in Yemin Moshe, overlooking the walls of the Old City, indeed overlooking Mount Zion. The talk was intended to be on Mr Trump and Israel but with the UN vote – we went in a totally different direction. Prof Eytan Gilboa gave a riveting speech about the entire highly personal decisions and the UN fiasco. Please take the time to listen

I then went on to see old friend Rabbi David Greenberg from Temple Shaarei Tefila in Bedford, NY and a very few but highly educated people from his bat mitzvah group. It pleases me no end when those who ask questions have really done their homework! Relevant and piercing I just hope my responses were up to the standard of the questions.

Monday morning and I went to a meeting at the "Jerusalem Baby Home", the incredible WIZO centre in the leafy neighbourhood of Bet Hakerem, Jerusalem. The Director, Kobi, is an amazing person, his clear love for his work is apparent in everything he does. The building houses a day centre for small children with working Mums, a haven for battered women, vocational school for young people who would otherwise drop out of society, special classrooms for autistic chilren and so much more. The building is in community use every day of the week except Shabbat. For me it is a very special place. I walk in through the front doors and I sense my beautiful late Mother. My mother, Betty Silver, was deeply involved in the "Baby Home" so named because originally it housed orphans from WW2. I look out of the windows and see the grassy lawn where she danced with the children, the hallways and classrooms where she too walked. It makes me very proud. The Baby Home, indeed WIZO, is generational, and my sister Doreen and Cardiff WIZO are holding an event for the Home.

A meeting with Varda of the Yuri Shtern Foundation, another with my Cardiff friend Angela to organise a St David's Day  Welsh celebration on March 1st, then a trip up North for a meeting and another meeting with Angela at the Caffit restaurant in the Botanical Gardens where we have decided to hold the Welsh event. Then, ah then, Zvi and I went off to Mahane Yehuda market! Actually we had to go to the city for a meeting but used the opportunity to go to our favourite place!!! We park up on Mount Herzl, in the car park underneath the Alexander Calder Stabile, and catch the light rail into the city. I love the light rail for so many reasons. 10 minutes into town, no parking tickets after a long and tiring search for a rare parking spot and most of all the unbelievable rainbow of Jerusalemites in each carriage. It amazes me that everyone is happy, smiles and chatting all around with complete strangers!

After our meeting we began to walk up the pedestrian road (except for the light rail) of Jaffa Street toward the Shouk. First we discovered an open market  and then at the bottom of Ben Yehuda we giggled to see a very jolly Haredi man, dressed in full regalia with Shtreimel and robes, guitar in hand, singing and playing – or as I called him "The Bearded Busker of Ben Yehuda"!!! the walk up Jaffa Street is fascinating – a myriad of small shops and filled with coffee shops on both sides of the road, it has really come into its own.

Then the prize – Mahane Yehuda of course! First Zvi popped into Marzipan, the bakery that emits unbelievable aromas of freshly baked cookies, cakes and rogelech…. always teeming with buyers. Then to the confectionary shop separated into Mars Bars, local produce and lots of Mahedrin sweets and chocolates in a pick and bag form. Already somewhat laden we headed off for our favourite stop – Tzidkiyahus! The phenomenal array of olives – at least 20 varieties including the bright green Italian olives – and salads and freshly prepared kubeh, knishes, latkes and …….. wow mouthwatering!! Best of all we both love Yaron Tzidkiahu, who has more stories of Mahane Yehuda than you can imagine!!!

And so to Chanuka. It started with all the Israeli children coming to us after Shabbat to light the first candle. I was so excited!!! Zvi's two boys, Leor and Amiad with their amazing families and my daughter Rachel with hers. It is so rare to get everyone together and we decided to turn it into Yosef's birthday party too, even though it was a week early. He was so excited! 12 years old! We ate our meal of soup, salmon, salads and latkes (including carbohysrate free ones for the dieters) and then I came out with my proudest moment…….. homemade sufganiyot (traditional doughnuts) which looked amazing with chocolate and sprinkles  or lovely Demerara Sugar– and as we bit into them we realised they were somewhat reminiscent of eating very tasty shoeleather!!! I will give in and buy next year!! After all if you have a sophisticated choice like Roladin……..  Just flip through the flavours!!!!

Watching all 8 of the Israeli grandchildren lighting their own Chanukiah (Chanuka menorah) the glow of the candles reflected in their cheeks, was a very special experience. It was quite hard to get good photos because I was too busy crying with joy!!!

Don't forget the story of Chanuka. Don't forget that it is the story of triumph over insurmountable odds, triumph over those who wanted us to give up our rights to what is the essence of Judaism. All those who put us down, killed us, fought us, oppressed us, all are gone……….. every last kingdom and empire that tried to kill us off has disappeared!!  
Music. As I listened to the Kerry speech, just one song kept running through my mind. It comes from Joseph and the Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat. Close Every Door. I first heard it sung by Paul Jones on the dummy tape made by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber  as my children sang along, but please, listen to the words

Kan Noladeti means Here I was born -

Finally the true song of Israel, the song of the Jewish people, of the honey and the sting -

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Chanuka Sameach, the continuing days of Christmas and of course a good 2017. My prayer, invocation, imprecation, plea is that 2017 will bring the world to it's senses, that friends will not stab us in the back and that finally and for all we will be recognized as the positive, giving, generous and innovative country we really are.

With much love from Jerusalem, a truly beautiful city the Capital City of Israel for all her citizens.

Friday, 23 December 2016

161223 Berlin, UN, Christmas and Chanuka


23rd December 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.
This missive was meant to be one of Chanuka and Christmas joy – just a happy letter talking about the meaning of those festivals and our wish to honour each other's celebrations and religious connotations. I wanted to but too much has happened this week so I will try to keep the sadness and anger short and move on to the happy and blessed.

Perhaps the sadness of the first subject explains our anger at the second.
Berlins Christmas Markets are a festive and a joyous tradition.  There are several - at the Alexanderplatz, Charlottenburg Palace and the largest at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The atmosphere was shattered when a Tunisian citizen, who the German police had been "watching", stole a truck and ploughed into the happy crowds changing joy into tragedy. At least 12 people died and umpteen were injured. I am angry. Angry because 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri had expressed his desire for Jihad and the German police put him under surveillance without arresting him. I understand the German fear of xenophobia but it should not paralyse the law to the extent that a potential killer could wreak havoc with the lives of ordinary folk just because they were celebrating Christmas. He backed out of actually committing suicide but met his death in Italy, having used Europes open borders to escape.

Two Israelis were in the square, a couple who loved Berlin and went back at every opportunity. Rami Elyakim is in a coma in a Berlin hospital unaware that his beloved Dalia's funeral is taking place today in Jerusalem.

In Turkey the Russian Ambassador to was shot to death on camera. Yes, again the cry was Allahu Akbar – G-d is great. "This is for Aleppo" was the killers cry. As I said at the beginning the link is clear and the incitement to kill by extreme leaders, predominantly Iranian. Aleppo, Khaleb, is a tragedy beyond all imagination but not a reason for further killing. The greatest tragedy is that our Western leaders have done nothing, but NOTHING to prevent the killing. They went marching into Iraq and Afghanistan but Syria, where the situation could have been contained………. Nothing.

My last piece of sad news cuts me to the very quick. Israel feels abandoned by her "closest Ally" – the United States of America. In a United Nations whose President admits extreme anti-Israel bias it was not the USA that tried to prevent a vote that Jerusalem's Holy sites are not Jewish, it was our real ally – Egypt that asked to defer the vote. The United States was going to abstain rather than veto the proposition. Do you understand the implication of a vote stating that Jerusalem is not Jewish? It means that now, just before Christmas, the Temple Mount has no relationship to Christianity! Bethlehem is almost lost and the Christians there are suffering, the only Christian sites that are honoured are here in Israel or under Israeli care. Think about it – America, conceivably the most Christian country in the West – allowing the most holy Christian sites to be overtaken? There is no dichotomy here – if it is not Jewish it isn't Christian and that worries me intensely. We can live without fancy, new-fangled aeroplanes but not without Jerusalem.

The United Nations has run its useful course. During the past session there were 223 resolutions against Israel and only 8 against the Syrian regime. Ban Ki Moon, at the end of his term of office, said “Decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel. In many cases, rather than helping the Palestinian cause, this reality has hampered the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.”  We know Sir, we know.

Incidentally, Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad, together with a delegation of security experts, met with President Elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower this week, to apprise him of the situation in the Middle East in general and Israel in particular.

I really need to cheer up. I have no intention of entering this unusual celebratory season with a "downturned mouth" If we learn anything about the Maccabees – it is that we have to keep our faith in ourselves and fight against those who would take us down.

Dumisani Washington is an American Pastor. His aim in life is to inform fellow black Americans of the truth of Israel. I particularly loved his words this week.
The human tragedies within Syria, Iraq, Libya (ISIS), Nigeria (Boko Haram), Kenya (Al Shabaab), Yemen (Iran/Hezbollah), Egypt (Christians being slaughtered), Gaza (Hamas)...are all horrific examples of the price the world pays while the United Nations spends its time demonizing, delegitimizing, and attempting to destroy the one and only Jewish State on the planet.
And what does Israel do while much of the world burns in Islamist terrorism and violence? Produce life-changing technology that literally makes the world a better place.
On behalf of the Israelis, you're welcome.🇮🇱

How about this article about the 15 ways that Israel improved our lives in 2016

Going back to the insane idea the Jerusalem isn't Jewish an archaeologist found a coin from the time of Antiochus, the time of the Greek determination to prevent Jews from honouring their laws, the time of the Maccabees. Right next to the Tower at the entrance to David's City, beside the Jaffa Gate digs revealed a coin dating from the Chanuka period with Hebrew writing!! Go take that to the UN and chew on it!

Chanuka in Jerusalem is a very special event. This video shows the joy of this special festival . Chanuka is not about sufganiyot (doughnuts) any more than Christmas is about trees – or either of them about gifts and chimneys! Christmas celebrations have a clear foundation but Chanuka? What is Chanuka in modern terms? Yes I know we all talk about the miracle of one jar of oil lasting for eight days but in truth – that isn't the real miracle. The real miracle is that we are here, as a people. I looked up references on Dr Google but decided to do my own, much shorter, explanation.

Imagine, the Greeks were different to most of our former enemies, they didn't want to kill us they just wanted us to be………. Greeks! When we decided we prefer being Jews they introduced all sorts of new laws – no kosher slaughter, no circumcision, no Shabbat – in fact a bit like Sweden today! Many of the Jews decided to abide by the lack of restrictions, it was much more fun that way anyway. However a few, a very few, decided to rebel; they were proud of being Jews, loved the fact that those restrictions enriched their lives by providing an enriching way of life. One family decided to form a peoples army and fight the Greeks to preserve their heritage. The Greeks ultimately gave up because this troublesome Jewish people was not worth their effort and so we celebrate our heritage when we celebrate Chanuka. It was the first time the Jews fought back. I think that's quite a miracle!

I was thrilled to meet Sari Singer and her daughter Sam, in Mahane Yehuda Market. "Where should we meet" asked Sari, since I was coming from home and they were in the Old City. "Tsidkiyahus right next to Agrippas Street" was my answer! Everybody knows Tsidkiyahus! We had fun showing Sam the vast array of foodstuffs and fruit and veg. I sometimes worry at the gentrification of the market but luckily it is still a crowded, fun place with lots of action and costermongers shouting their wares. Strawberries are just coming into season and they are the size of apples and red and juicy and really taste of strawberry!!! We then went up to Gilo to see over to Bethlehem and then back down to the Central Bus Station – I hope they come back to Jerusalem before returning home. I love Sari!

Very quickly I want to tell you where Zvi and I were last night. We were invited to a little chanuka party by the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre  to celebrate a year in which the organisation has made great strides. It was held in Piccolino Restaurant on Yoel Solomon Street. As we went in the front door I was thrilled by the authentic Jerusalem house, conceivably belonging to Yoel Solomon, the man who built Nahalat Shiva – the first family compound built outside the walls of the Old City. Since we arrived early we walked through the building to find ourselves in a wonderland of beautifully set tables under a huge awning taking up an entire plaza between the buildings of Nahalat Shiva. On one side the Music Museum and on another a stage with young musicians playing. The food is incredible and the atmosphere wonderful – and we didn't know it exists!!!

Coming back to the Yuri Shtern Foundation, I just want to tell both Varda and the indomitable Lena, that it has been an honour to provide any help I could to a singular organisation that is manned by volunteers. As one of those present said "Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre is a place where ordinary folk become angels" So often all cancer patients, or family members, need is the touch of a human hand, the "ozen kashevet" the ear of one who has the rare ability to listen, as well as therapies to complement the medical staff.

My musical choices this week were obvious. Chanuka. Festival of lights. One song is of the miracles the other the prayer/poem we sing over lighting the candles each night for 8 days. The children will all be here tomorrow night and we will also celebrate Yosefs birthday. Lots of homemade food including sufganiyot in an attempt to limit the sugar intake!!! They will get gifts but just token ones…………………………I don't believe in going broke- I prefer to give them love.

Growing up my favourite Christmas song was All Through the Night – usually sung in Welsh but I will spare you that

With much love to all of you, whatever your festival may it be blessed and pure – and traditional.


Friday, 16 December 2016

161216 Friedman Ambassador, Benny Begin, National Library, Aleppo

16th December 2016

Shalom Shalom! Shabbat Shalom from sunny, cold and crisp Jerusalem.

President Elect Trump has chosen his future United States Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Friedman was a senior Advisor to the President Elect during his campaign and is an open and clear lover of Israel. His appointment has created an eddy of opinions from "Trumps Ambassador is a pro-settlement bankruptcy lawyer" – this of course from the Guardian immediately suggesting that there is something sleazy about the man – to the delight of most Israeli news media. My feelings are mixed. Delight at the thought of the American Embassy finally being moved to its rightful home in Jerusalem; elation that all the other countries that waited for this opportunity will follow suit; concerned that the Ambassador will have problems in the Consulate which has no Israelis working there, only Palestinians (not Israeli Arabs); fear that the repercussions will be extreme. In the final analysis, by moving the Embassy (Embassies) to Jerusalem the statement that Jerusalem is the Capital City of the Jewish State is absolute. It is a brave move with cause for concern because those who would deny Jews the right to even a tiny corner of this land will rebel – not against us, against any country that moves its Embassy creating a fait accompli. In other words – terror will reign.

On Tuesday I went to the Israel National Library on the Givat Ram Campus of the Hebrew University together with a group from the Jerusalem Press Club. The Library has metamorphosed from a small building in the centre of Jerusalem, to the Hebrew University Campus on Mount Scopus, from whence the books were brought in a clandestine operation to Terra Santa after the Jordanians took the surrounding land allowing a small enclave of students to remain. The scientific books have predominantly been returned to the Mount Scopus site with all the Humanities on Givat Ram. National Library sounds boring but this Library is so much more than books. Quite apart from concerts, lectures, manuscripts (Isaac Newton, Einstein, Maimonedes and much more) and exhibitions the building houses the most incredible collection of Jewish writings – both by and about – maps and Islamic and Christian works relative to Judaism. We were there to see a new exhibit, although not open to the average public everything will change when the new, accessible and people friendly Library will open next to the Knesset.

The Middle East is in turmoil with the deaths of innocents growing daily. Aleppo, or Chaleb – was a beautiful, thriving city and as with so many beautiful cities in the Middle East it is a shell, its citizens dying by the thousands due to the corruption and tyranny of its leaders and the negligence of ours
The Israeli news showed the argument between the United Nations representatives for the USA and Russia concerning the current horrors in Aleppo.
I paraphrase
USA: Are you incapable of shame?

Russia: Don't claim to be Mother Theresa, you didn't do anything to stop the killing

Both are right!
The other culprit of negligence is the UN who after half a million dead have final made a statement.

Israel has a major internal problem at the moment – over and above our usual ones. One concerns Amona, an illegal settlement (aka village) which the government decided should be removed and the villagers rehoused. They would mostly move a short distance away in accepted village, still in Judea and Samaria. The villagers and a large number of young zealots, have chosen to stand and fight to stay. They have taken Amona as their Massada, and some of their leaders have suggested they fight the young soldiers who come to move them. This is a disgrace – it is wrong on so many levels. How dare they suggest fighting with the youngsters for whom the last place they want to be is in Amona; it looks awful in the foreign media who love to portray us as zealots; it ruins our chances of keeping the accepted areas and presents the government and the Supreme Court with a Catch 22 situation. Shame on these few who make life difficult for the many. I believe in my heart that Judea and Samaria are Jewish from the days of the Bible but one must also recognize that sometimes one must accept the small sacrifices to attain the far larger goals.

Going back to Syria, 35 years ago, Hafez Al-Assad, the father of the current Assad, said he would not make peace with Israel even in 100 years.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin had recently signed an agreement with Egypt, accepting that for peace he had no choice but to agree to rehouse the residents of the town of Yamit and all Jews on Egyptian land.

Assad's statement made Begin realise there would never be even a cold peace with Syria and decided to go against American advice and officially annex the Golan Heights.
From his decision to the passing of the law took just one day.

By coincidence, on the 35th anniversary of that historic decision, Menachem Begins son, Prof. Benny Begin, came to speak to us at the Jerusalem Press Club. Prof Begin is a geologist, so much more than just another politician, and he spoke with great eloquence and knowledge. He spoke of the Balfour Letter, of the changes made in the final Declaration, of the understanding of both David Lloyd George and Lord Balfour, as devout Christians, of the Holy Land and its connection to Jews and of Chaim Weitzman's disappointment at the changes made. Iranian leader, Ali Khameine'I stated very clearly "Israel has no right to exist. This is not based on European Anti-Semitism but on well-established Islamic principles."  As he said, we have done so incredibly well under the worst of conditions so let us simply carry on, fight the battles that face us and continue being the best we can be. As to annexing Judea and Samaria he responded "How can you annex something that is rightfully yours? You simply extend your jurisdiction" You can hear the whole talk

News in short
Turkey's new Ambassador came to Jerusalem, to the Presidents House to be sworn in and made reference to the renewed relationship.
New F-35 super fighter jets were due to arrive in Israel with great pomp and large crowds – but unfortunately it was delayed by fog (what?????) and the crowds went home disappointed and the planes landed in darkness without a single soul to cheer!
Prime Minister Theresa May has decided to adopt a specific definition of anti-Semitism according to the Holocaust Remembrance Day outlines.

I think it is time to talk about rain! Amazing life giving rain fell this week and cleared the air, unfortunately flooding large areas of the north and along the shore but being lucky enough to live in Jerusalem with all our hills, we just enjoyed getting wet!!! At one point I looked out of our back window to see the most perfect rainbow, a fabulous arc against the black skies promising a great deal more rain!

Chanuka is imminent, Christmas is around the corner and everyone is shopping!!! The incredible array of sufganiot (doughnuts) is ever more varied and the Christmas lights have gone up on the road to Bethlehem and all over the Old City Christian Quarter. This wonderful video from last year shows the Chanuka display next to the Jaffa Gate of the Old City   The display of chanukiot (menorah branched candles) has taken on new proportions but the traditional Jerusalem chanukiot are definitely my favourites – glass boxes with oil lamps within kept outside the homes so that all can see the miracle of that essential battle expressed through eight days of light.

Perhaps the most Jerusalem of all songs is Jerusalem of Gold. The words express our longing, yearning, and of our return. Truly magnificent it brings tears to my eyes no matter how many times I hear it.

I sang lullabies to all my children, in Welsh, Yiddish, English indeed any language that helped them go to sleep. My younger son Gideon loved three songs "You are my sunshine"  "Calon Lan" and "Tumbalaika" so for Gideon and his Stephanie, who celebrate their anniversary tomorrow, here is Tumbalalaika in Yiddish with the real words not my made up ones!!!!

No cooking this weekend! Tonight just Zvi and I so we will eat well but whatever is in the fridge and tomorrow we are with Zvi's son Leor with Shiri and the girls because it is Amit's 10th birthday. My contribution is already made – Delia Smiths grilled peppers except that I do it with wonderful Israeli mozzarella!

With much love from Jerusalem, wherever you may be remember that Jerusalem is in your heart and in your prayers – you can't help it – King David made sure of that!!!! Shabbat Shalom


Friday, 9 December 2016

201209 Shmuel Benalal, Tour of Valley of the Springs


9th December 2016

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem. Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

About 4 years ago I met a wonderful young man called Kasim Hafeez – aka Kaz. Kaz was born in the UK, grew up a Moslem, thought Jews were the evil enemy of mankind and then read "The Case for Israel" by Alan Dershowitz and realised he had been brainwashed. Kaz went through a really tough emotional period, his family basically disowning him, and I met him in a Jerusalem café near the Standwithus offices where he told me he felt more at home in Jerusalem than in his home town. The story is long but Kaz worked with Standwithus, moved to Canada, became a fan of all sport Canadian and made a fantastic video for Prager University.  THE VIDEO HAS BEEN BANNED ON YOUTUBE!!!! This gentle, sweet man has been banned for saying he loves Israel whereas hate videos and pornography is allowed. Unreal.

Israel is in turmoil about the proposed removal of an outpost, Amona, presumably illegal, on disputed land. It is an outpost of perhaps 20 families and the government proposed moving them to new housing in a legal village, but the far right are up in arms at the mere thought of moving Jews from Biblical lands. In principal I think they are right, you know I don't believe that anywhere should be Judenrein, but life isn't about right and wrong, it is about practicality (the soldiers who have to guard them) and international acceptability. Those 20 families make Israel look as if we don't want peace, and makes Prime Minister Netanyahus job even harder than it already is.

Since I last wrote Jill and I visited the BibleLands museum excellent exhibit of David and Goliath. It shows the archaeological digs to find if this was a true story or a moral fable; it gives and exceptional overview of the site, which we visited with the Parliament just about a year ago. I strongly recommend a visit to the BibleLands – a quiet walk through history.

We had delicious dinner in the Botanical Gardens, walked through the Gazelle Park, met old friends for a chat and of course paid a visit to Shouk Ramle! Indeed Jill and Zvi are in Mahane Yehuda right now buying last minute fruit and veg for tonights Shabbat Dinner Party and Jill wants to buy her special treat – oriental flavourings for rice dishes! Indeed it was a busy week and I decided that I wouldn't write about politics and diplomacy (or lack of both) but rather about our amazing day yesterday.

Yesterday Zvi's Parliament went on another incredible tour, arranged by Eitan Carmon and Avraham Kalman, to the North of Israel, to the Valley of the Springs. Shahar Hermelin is the sole member of the incoming visitor department of JNF/USA, and he is brilliant at his job. Indeed JNF/USA is a wonderful organisation, just 5 or 6 people running the offices in Israel instead of the top-heavy, administration loaded organisations we are used to. For those of you who think that the JNF is just about trees, think again. Ecological projects, housing loans, water and irrigation projects indeed anything that enhances Israeli life. After the horrific fires in the North they provided the Israeli fire service with 8 new fire engines and much needed equipment.

We travelled north on Israel's excellent roads toward the Valley of the Springs a major project of JNF/USA. . We climbed up and up to the top of the world with the most spectacular view over the springs in the valley below. Fish ponds and clean water ponds have been created to serve the area and new villages pop up beside the old ones, encouraging young families and clean industry to the area. As we descended to the ponds or springs we saw exquisite park areas with wonderful walks and hikes for all ages.

We went to Gan haShlosha, Nir David and Kfar Ruppin  where we had a fascinating talk on the birds which flock to Israel on their path to and from Africa/Europe. Israel is the only country in the world which actually grows fish to feed the pelicans which spend four to five months a year here alongside hundreds of thousands of cranes, white pelicans,

For lunch we went to a Kurdish village, founded and maintained by a wonderful group of people who not only built a museum to their ancestors but cook up a storm, and a kosher storm!!!! We started with a short explanation by Yuval and then the food arrived, and arrived, and arrived!!! Wonderful salads, kubeh soup, special rice dishes, chicken, tiny delicious meatballs and all served by the family. Gosh I highly recommend a visit
The special ending was when I found a photograph of my son in laws 116 year old great-great-uncle on the wall!

Our last stop was Kibbutz Gesher and Naharayim. Gesher literally means bridge and the kibbutz is right on the river Jordan with a fascinating history spanning Roman, Ottoman and British history in building the viaduct for the railway to Damascus. Gesher was also the site for the first Jordanian Israeli collaboration on the huge power station built by Mr Rutenberg. Yet another amazing place to visit,_Israel  

Zvi and I just came back from the Memorial Service for our beautiful friend Shmuel, Sammy Benalal who was cruelly killed in a Mali terror attack a year ago. One is used to hearing superlatives and complimentary speeches when someone has passed, all their sins forgiven, but Shmulik was a simply exceptional man. Tall, handsome and impressive his qualities went so much deeper than his pleasant exterior. In Hebrew one says he was "naim halichot" pleasant in his ways, but it means so much more than that. Shmulik was a brilliant man, ready to help everyone but not his way, in a way that they could accept, in a way that did not leave one beholden, he gave one the confidence to make ones own decision based on his advice. An incredible father and husband, an amazing friend and beautiful person taken by vile terrorism when he was in Mali, helping the government set up a rational, non-Sharia, education system. Miss you dear Sammy but know the family is surrounded by love.

Tonight we have our Tel Aviv friends coming for dinner. I am excited because not all of them have heard my Zvi's Kiddush. The table is set, the candles ready to light, the wine and Challot  in place and the food all cooked and prepared

The choir sang "Har Hatsofim" at the ceremony for Shmulik. Adi, the musical director managed to separate Shmuliks voice and everyone sang along. Now you can hear

Welcoming the bride of Shabbat takes place in the Synagogue as well as at home. This song Lecha Dodi, typifies our love of this special day

Shabbat Shalom dear friends
With love from Jerusalem

Friday, 2 December 2016

161202 29th Nov. 1947, Wars, BBC

2nd December 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Thanksgiving has been and gone, with many Americans enjoying the festival but not allowing themselves to give thanks for the democratic process. However, Turkeys were devoured and families got together, which is a good part of the celebrations.

Kaf Tet b'November has also been and gone with 98% of us not even noticing or remembering. Quite incredible that we don't remember and do not give thanks, because the 29th of November 1947 was the most important day in Jewish life for many, many centuries. It was the day that the State of Israel was officially brought into being at the United Nations. So often misinterpreted, so often ignored, we were ratified! To understand the many misconceptions and the truth please read this fascinating article by Eli Hertz. While disagreeing on some issues this is a clear explanation of a complex issue.

Misinterpretations and lack of compassion have become a sad part of some Rabbis – a very few I am happy to say – who make proclamations without thought of situations. After losing their homes to fire one Rabbi in the North announced that since their Ketubot (Jewish marriage licences) had burned along with their homes, married couples could not live as husband and wife. It earned well-deserved outrage, both Chief Rabbinates denounced the edict since every Ketuba has at least two more copies, and was the epitome of the "sticking to the rules and throwing compassionate interpretation to the winds" of recent years. Reading my thoughts as always my dear friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen wrote about this very subject this week. It was more personal, talking about a wonderful Glasgow family, but expresses my feelings on the subject.

An aeroplane crashed with an entire football team on board and it made headlines; what barely touched the news - thousands more innocents died in Syria; hundreds more innocents died in Iraq; wars continue unabated - Central African Republic (armed clashes between Muslims and Christians), Democratic Republic of Congo (war against rebel groups), Egypt (war against Islamic militants of Islamic State branch), Libya (civil war), Mali (clashes between army and rebel groups), Mozambique (clashes with RENAMO rebels) Nigeria (war against Islamic militants), Somalia (war against al-Shabaab Islamic militants), Sudan (war against Islamic rebels in Darfur), South Sudan (clashes with Islamic rebels), Nigeria (war against Boko Haram) and so the list goes on and on, yet what distresses the media and the current Administration? a few houses on disputed land. Our world has gone mad! We cannot fight every war or settle every dispute but we can at least be given the truth. When will journalism return to being just that – a journal, a diary, reporting the truth without opinions, without determinedly twisting our knowledge to their point of view?

Combining the UN vote of 1947, the media and warfare, let's watch this excellent video explaining why despite the fact that Israel is given special status by the WHO and the UN for her medical education to third world countries and the fact that Palestinians have the best healthcare in the entire Middle East, in Israeli hospitals (190,000 of them) we are condemned more than any other country by the supposedly august institution

A large delegation of African Diplomats created a diplomatic tidal wave yesterday. Why? Because they flouted diplomatic protocol and visited the Old City of Jerusalem. Why on earth would anyone be offended? The Palestinians were of course! The visit of the African Diplomats reflected the increasingly warm relationship between Israel and her African friends. When the West betrays us we obviously turn to friendlier nations.

Following the diabolical UNESCO vote denying Jewish and Christian connection to Holy sites in Jerusalem, Mayors from countries on five continents, including the United States, Ukraine, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Portugal, and Panama came to see the situation for themselves. The delegation, headed by American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen, told the Jerusalem Post that its goal is to show potential decision makers a side of Israel not shown by media outlets – "To see facts on the ground, so that they be a voice of reason concerning issues surrounding Israel"

The BBC made a series of programmes called Jihad in the UK (a title too similar to Steve Emersons prophetic book Jihad in America just before 9/11) Here you have the full series. Essential viewing. Britain and, for once, the BBC have faced the dragon, unlike many other countries. GENERATION JIHAD - BBC SERIES - MUST WATCH

And so it rained!!! Yes the rain finally came, too late for the horrific fires set all over the country but welcome nonetheless. When I say rain I mean RAIN! High winds, sheet lightening with no sound, no thunder, and blessed, beautiful water. The blue skies have given way to heavy clouds but that is fine, tomorrow will be glorious again except that Israel will be sparkling clean, all the dust of summer washed away.

When I see Jerusalem, I see the wonder of a city that is diverse, troubled, exquisitely beautiful and so important she became the heart of conflict – many so jealous of her beauty and spirituality they chose her as their enemy and their goal. Why? The answer is simple, they know how deeply important and central she is to Jews and Christians so made her the way to control and conquer.
That is my view, Jill sees it differently. For Jill, Jerusalem gives her life, warms her soul and renews her faith. Each time she returns she feels the tingle of excitement as we wend our way ever upwards toward the Golden City. The tall buildings, the modern City – all gleam white in the wintery sun, giving a special magic even before going to the Old City, where our faiths were born. Whenever a guest comes to Jerusalem I think of Zvi's amazing late Mother. She always said "I am jealous of those who come to Jerusalem for the first time. No matter how many times you come back the magic of first seeing the city for which we yearned for 2,000 is the most magical"
This week's parasha, Torah reading, speaks of the exquisitely beautiful Rebecca's difficult pregnancy. She waited 20 years to become pregnant and was carrying twins. It was so hard that G-d told her "You have two nations fighting within you". So Jacob and Esau were born, Jacob the second twin clutching Esau's heel. Esau was rough and ready, Jacob gentle and thoughtful.  Their Mother caused untold pain and division when she and Jacob stole Esau's birthright from their father Isaac – causing Esau to leave the fold, marry out of his faith and ultimately marry the daughter of Ishmael. As always the moral is absolute – as we speak our birthright is being taken from us by a wolf in sheep's clothing. The script is different but the plot remains the same.

Jill and I are about to go and collect the children from school. It is always early on a Friday, before Shabbat, which barely gives Rachel time to prepare our Challot! The panorama from Samuel's Tomb will be doubly spectacular today, the rain still glistening on the undulating hills that make up the city.
Supper is ready. We have both pea and pumpkin soups; salmon in plum, sweet chilli, garlic and ginger marinade; Nile Perch in Chraimeh, a multitude of salads and Hassenback potatoes; plain rice for the children; and Oh my goodness, I forgot the homemade ice-cream I promised little Ella!!!!
Zvi has gone already, his Parliament is in the Coffee Shop of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Givat Ram, where he also goes to the luxurious gym and health spa.
Music, music music!
Hallevai! Is more than "if only" even more than a prayer, one word incorporates our hopes, dreams and desires. Boaz Sharabi sings
Uzi Hitman wrote the ultimate Israeli song "I was born for peace"
I couldn't resist one more. "Rain" sung by the exceptional Eli Luzon. It was the theme song for the movie Afula Express (well worth seeing)

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I wish you a wonderful Shabbat, be it Friday, Saturday or Sunday. To all men and women of peace, of love, of tikkun olam, I wish you a joyous day.
With love from Jerusalem

Friday, 25 November 2016

161125 Haifa, Arson, Walls, Thanksgiving

25th November 2016

Shabbat shalom dear friends. Sadly I cannot write the letter I intended writing, one of Thanksgiving, because Israel is ablaze. Hundreds of fires were set, using simple but clever devices, all over the country, using the tinder dry trees, undergrowth and high winds to fan the carefully planned flames. Over 60,000 people have been evacuated in Haifa including a hospital and an old peoples home.  The fires were set with simple but ingenious devices.
Help has come in the form of firefighting aeroplanes from Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Croatia, Romania and Russia but the help we really need is to stop the arson – todays form of terrorism. I couldn't help thinking of the difference in outlook. Israel ensures that her tree population grows each year and the Palestinian's ensure that they burn down and destroy that beauty. If only they used their ingenuity for good instead of evil they could thrive.

We Israelis are inclined to say "Who is going to take over the country when our generation goes. There is no-one who is capable or charismatic enough". Yesterday I met two. I would happily put Israel into their capable hands. Amir Ohana, MK for Likud and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin  MK for the Zionist Union

Their debate took place at the Jerusalem Press Club, in the beautiful Yemin Moshe neighbourhood, and the very first thing they did was hug, say they are great personal friends and that their approach is similar despite being in different parties. Both are strong Zionists, both are pragmatists, both are wonderfully polite…….. not a given in Israeli politics! They agreed that we must find a path to peace, but that security is out prime goal, indeed our search for security should be the impetus to find peace, or at least agreement. After much discussion and agreement they were asked whether they had a future plan; they both feel that it is an Israel/Palestinian problem, no interference wanted, but that Egypt is the common denominator to finding our way. Only with economic security can we find our way to bringing hope to the next generation of Palestinians toward a 2 State solution. When opened to questions mine was short; "Is there a way to reintroduce Salaam Fayad into the picture?" Salaam Fayad was very short-lived as Palestinian Prime Minister because he didn't want to waste the vast aid monies, he wanted to build infrastructure, both physical and administrative. Unfortunately the moderator didn't let them respond fully but both agreed he was one of the important factors. What fascinated me was the level of agreement and debate, not argument, between the two. I also learned that the PA Government Building in Ramallah is named for Yahya Ayyash – chief bomb-maker of Hamas and leader of Izz Adin al Qassam – a terrorist of huge proportions.  

Another point of agreement was that education was our only tool to teaching the next Palestinian generation to live without hate and I told both MK's about the work of IMPACT-SE in that field

According to the media, fed disinformation by the Palestinians which is then hungrily swallowed, the Israeli security fence is the main cause of the "troubles". Well try this - When you consider how many photographs of the Israeli Security Fence (aka THE WALL) are in the media one would think it is the only wall in the world. Well it isn't! There are at least 65! See and be amazed.

The sun just came up and the winds are slightly lessening; the incredible Israeli fire men and women have the fires under control; several countries came to our help with aeroplanes and equipment; so now, I can concentrate on Thanksgiving and Judaism – my original theme for this Shabbat Shalom.

I have wonderful American friends and most importantly I have an American son who has an American family, my amazing Daniel, Karen, Joshua and Callie; this in itself brought me to understand what Thanksgiving really is and its relevance to us all. For many it seems to have been degraded to a matter of pumpkin pie and turkey, but somewhere, deep inside, the idea of giving thanks for what we have is still of great importance.

Just in case you hadn't already worked it out, I am a lateral thinker. One subject always links to another in a constant chain of thought and Thanksgiving is no different.

The Pilgrims suffered terrible oppression which caused them to go in search of a homeland, a place where they could live in peace and flourish. They cleared the land and planted crops and began farming animals. Thanksgiving was a day for giving thanks to G-d for bringing them to their first harvest, although since then it has become a day for barbeques and sales. Thanksgiving is still a tradition, an important tradition of giving thanks and celebrating as a family.

So what does that have to do with Judaism? Tradition!

I see young Israelis, although it is much wider than Israelis, who see no purpose in traditions, in Shabbat, in standing before Shabbat candles, ones children's faces shining in the light. They see no reason to bless the wine (thanksgiving for the vines which gave us the fruit) or the Challah bread (thanksgiving for the rich land which gave us the crops) and certainly not to say grace after meals. Indeed Shabbat has for many become a weekly Black Friday for shopping. In Israel we are lucky because one tradition has remained – Friday night is family night for secular and religious families alike. It is sad to lose the traditions, whatever our religion, whatever our faith – it is what keeps us together as people and teaches us respect for others. Thanksgiving is just that, giving thanks for freedom, for civil rights, for the ability to pray and believe as you choose accepting the rights of others to so do too.

This has been a full week beginning with Jill's arrival on Sunday. I love our airport. It is not Tel Aviv airport by the way, it is Ben Gurion Airport, once known as Lod Airport, and its site was chosen as the first flat-lands between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  Since it is a Jewish airport it is also a very greeting friendly airport – the meeting place is a large round area so that more people can wave and smile and cry and race toward the grinning arrivees! It is the site of both Rachels and my Aliya. Jill is never as happy as when she walks through the automatic doors and finds herself in Israel, her gait lightens and her face relaxes.

On Monday Irit and Yitzik Lev, Ron and Rena Katz came for lunch. They intended going out but I had all the usual salads and soups and general food ready, just waiting for guests in the fridge – and to Rena's amazement it was sugar free and tasty!!!!  Then on Tuesday Jill and I met with Dana and Betty, great friends, in Bet Hakerem, to catch up on all our family news. Wednesday we travelled up north for fun with my beautiful Rachel who calls Jill her second Mum! We already noticed the vast number of fire engines, police and ambulances racing up the main highway, which was when we understood that the fires were even worse than we thought. Thursday was the Jerusalem Press Club debate and that brings us to today!
This Shabbat we are going to stay with Rachel's family. Zvi, Jill and I will enjoy a beautiful Haredi Shabbat with Rachel, Igal, Yosef, Talia and Ayala. I am very excited although Rachel is even more so, it is quite difficult to organise but we made it! I think she has prepared just about every traditional dish in the book! Two types of fish- hot white fish in tomato marinade and beautiful fresh salmon for Friday night and chicken cholent (Hamin) for Shabbat. The additions will be matboucha, aubergine, tomato, cucumber, tabouleh, bean, potato, egg salads and incredible roasted vegetables, she is an amazing cook.
So that's about it. Just the music now. As I was researching my choice one song jumped out. Yismachu ha Shemayim – May the skies rejoice. May the skies rejoice and the tears of joy fall – in the form of life giving rain.

We are a miracle. Yes we are. The great Empires of our enemies have all fallen, the Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Ottoman and Reich but here we are. This is not the first time they have tried to burn us but here we stand. Yaacov Shwekey "We Are the Miracle"

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Remember to give thanks for who we are and what we are.

With all our love from Jerusalem