Friday, 25 March 2016

160325 Brussels terror, Purim in Jerusalem

24th March 2016

It seems banal to say Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom when we, the entire world is seeing Purim without Mordechai and this Shabbat has no Shalom, excepting that which we bring to our holy day from within.

The connection between Purim, Haman, Homeini, domination, Turkey, Israel and Belgium is infinite but so complex that I will try to unravel it just a little.

The tragedy, the horrific terror attacks which hit Brussels this week should have been foreseen. Turkey warned the Belgians about the perpetrators who fled Turkey, but they checked them a month ago and let them go free. Why? Because we in the West don't believe anyone could be that cruel and utterly ungrateful.
We have the pictures of people running through the smoke burned into our brains, of terrified screams and, for me, the man running, hanging on to his luggage cart for dear life – literally.

May the souls of those killed be blessed and their families regain their equilibrium. May the injured heal quickly and receive help to wipe the unimaginable pictures from their minds.
Purim, which today is a day of celebration, was a time of horrific oppression; a naïve King who had a feminist wife and a taste for pretty ladies; his cruel advisor and Vizier Haman; a wise man and his beautiful niece who were todays equivalent of the Mossad; a plan and finally the determination to succeed. If you recall, Haman hated Jews and was so jealous of Mordechai he demanded that the quisling in the palace been paraded around Shushan on a white horse, sitting backwards, for all to see and pelt with garbage; King Ahazhverus listened carefully to his demands and agreed to them, but after hearing the truth from his beloved Queen Esther, who told her King that she was a Jewess and Haman was the quisling, the King set Haman on the horse in Mordechais stead. The moral is clear – stand up to evil, but do it cleverly. If you have a weak leader who is convinced that even those intent on killing you have good intentions, use wile to ensure he learns the truth.  

Since it is Purim I thought you would enjoy this very cute video of "What do Non-Jews think of Purim"

Kay Wilson is an Ex-Pat Brit, Jewish Israeli who just a few years ago was almost hacked to death by Palestinian terrorists while she saw her friend dying. Kay spoke before the Human Rights Council of the UN in Geneva

In Israel there are no prizes for killing Palestinians, even if they have just stabbed another soldier in an attempt to kill him. A soldier has just been arrested by the IDF after shooting a terrorist when he was already on the ground. We do not kill.

The great news is that all but 40 Yemenite Jews arrived on Israeli soil this week in a covert operation of the Jewish Agency. With them they brought an 800 year old Sefer Torah. Those who remain in that war torn country feel safe in a compound with Westerners, but sadly the chaos is closing in on them.

So AIPAC has been and gone. At least two of the candidates expressed determination to bring the American Embassy to Jerusalem but I have strong doubts. If every President since the day in 1995 when Zvi and I sat in the Chamber and heard the unanimous vote to move the Embassy to Jerusalem, all Presidents of both parties have vetoed the act. Indeed, the Jerusalem Consulate has changed all its staff to Palestinians not Israelis – a decision which begs an answer.

This is conceivably the most theatrical of all American primaries. The players are so easily identifiable and so diverse it is incredible. It is almost like a soap opera – or as if I was watching Scandal!!!

This week's newsletter from Rabbi Jeremy Rosen explains my feelings perfectly. It may be the Cardiff connection, the Carmel connection or the fact we have known each other since I was 4, but he captures my thoughts. This week he talks of "Why I Don't Criticise Israel More"

Zvi and I went to see Rachels children for a Purim Seudah (Purim Feast) yesterday. I wore a multicoloured wig, fake glasses and a red nose. I thought it would make the woman in the car beside us at the lights smile, but she stayed stoney faced. Then her Chihuahua saw me and went berserk!!!! The kids were excited at crazy Safta and delighted to show us the vast amount of sweeties they got as mishloach manot then went absolutely crazy with excitement as Leor arrived with his three girls – gosh they all love each other. My amazing daughter had a multitude of neighbours calling in to eat – she reckons between 25 to 30 of them. A real balabusta!!!! She even made green bread rolls!!!

Last night Zvi, Rachel, Leor and I took six grandchildren, in age order, Yosef, Talia, Amit, Ayala, Gili and Ori, to the colossal Cinema City here in Jerusalem to ice skate! Leor was an absolute champion and took al six children most of who had never been on ice in their lives, onto the rink. Yosef immediately took to the ice and sped off, Talia almost followed him and fell and got up a hundred times (that's my girl!) and the others clung to the sides except when Leor came to take them for a little run! The Cinema City was heaving!!! Crazy costumes abounded, music blared and it was only when one saw a Haredi man dancing with a girl in skinny mini skirt you realized it was a costume!! Religious men came in skirts and fancy hats and Superman was the favourite costume for tots!!! Afterwards we all went for Pizza and then home to sleep. Leor and the girls are staying over and today we hope to go to the Gazelle Valley with Rachel's children, so that they can run around while the weather is good.

I am still taking life a bit easy, although feeling much, much better. I was thrilled that our dear friend Gloria Goldstein came to Jerusalem on Monday and we managed to meet for lunch. I love Gloria who is thankfully spending more and more time in Israel rather than her Sydney home. We always have so much to talk about.  

Tonight Amiad, Noga and the two little ones, Leor and the girls are with us for Shabbat Dinner so we have a mixture of sophisticated Eggplant Parmesan, fresh salmon and roasted vegetables and "Clean Pasta" for the children – of course preceded by the latest favourite soup which is Pea – good old fashioned, infinitely easy, pea soup. The girls don't know that Safta bought them some treats, don't tell their Mum, little bottles of Yotvata Choco, chocolate drops with sprinkles and……….. well, if I tell you then I really will be in trouble!!!!

Today is Good Friday, which precedes Easter Sunday. In Jerusalem it has an even deeper meaning than anywhere else in the world which is why Canon Andrew White and Dumisani Washington are here, both celebrating the festival and praying for a kinder, saner world. Dear friends, only by honouring each others beliefs and traditions, joining hands in love, can we possibly hope to fight the evil that would change our lives and the future of our children and grandchildren. May your prayers take wings.

I wish you all a good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom, a Holy Easter. This will be a week of songs because on Thursday HaKol Yachassi, Zvi's choir, are holding a huge concert in honour of the late great President of Israel, Yitzchak Navon, right here in Jerusalem. On Sunday I will meet with Stephen Ryde, star letter writer and proponent of Israel, of course in the Botanical Gardens.

I couldn't resist this Purim version of Pharrell Williams song, Happy!

Finally, when one comes down to it, Purim is a festival that the children get to enjoy, more than any other. They become their heroes. My favourite costume was a little boy in a wheelchair whose parent built a whole Gotham City around him with legs flying behind. He was so pleased! If you want to see the photo just go to my FB page. Back to children – this is the top Purim song

I send love and strength to all my friends who are having a tough time, especially Sue and Doron. Can't wait to dance with you next Purim.

I wish you a safe week, a happy week, a kind and gentle week and most of all Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, centre of our dreams.

Friday, 18 March 2016

160318 Meir Dagan zl, Russian withdrawal Syria, Purim

18th March, 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from beautiful Jerusalem.

Meir Dagan passed away this week. May his soul rest in peace for he has definitely earned his place in heaven.
As a young man he was given a photograph of his grandfather, Zvi. The photograph was of his grandfather being beaten and derided by the Nazis just before they killed him. Dagans parents managed to survive and escaped Russia while he was a small child and the family came to Israel. The young Meir swore to his grandfathers picture that such horrors would never happen again.

As Head of the Mossad, Dagan lead with a hard hand and great love for his soldiers. He blew up both the Iranian and Syrian nuclear facilities, presenting photographs of the destroyed Iranian facilities on the desk of the American Security Chiefs, saving Israel and the world from horrors of gigantic proportions. He also ensured that several of the most nefarious among the terrorist leaders of ISIS, ISIL, Al Qaeeda etc, met their doom.  His love and deep respect for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was legendary, and their work together was seamless, Olmert backing Dagan's decisions, recognizing his superior knowledge.  Sadly his relationship with our current PM was not quite as smooth.

While watching Israel Channel 10, I learned an enormous amount about the leader and the man from an outstanding report by Alon Ben-David, who brought us the man and the deeds.
Meir Dagan, hero, leader, determined soldier who protected his people from another Holocaust and made his late Grandfather Zvi proud. To his family he was a loving, husband, father and grandfather  - ברוך דיין אמת

Russia pulled out of Syria. Well actually, Russia pulled her fighting troops out of Syria. They went in to support the evil Assad, which may seem a strange thing to do, but in fact the evil Assad is a mere pussy cat next to those who took advantage of a civil revolt against a dictator and brought with them a regime far, far more dangerous and certainly more evil than Assad could even dream of.  Actually, I haven't heard the inane expression "The Arab Spring" for some time now – I wonder why!

Talking of Russia, Israel's President Rivlin visited Russia this week. It appears to have been  successful visit, both leaders prepared to listen. In the meantime a former President, Moshe Katzav, brought his case up for review with the possibility of early release. It is now in the hands of the Attorney General since Katsav has never shown any regret for his actions or admitted he did anything wrong. It is a tough decision.

I am the first to acknowledge my own ignorance on certain parts of Israels history. While at a wonderful reception for the launch of our dear friend Dr. Motti Friedman's new book about Herzl, I not only learned a great deal about Herzl himself but also about Operation Agatha "Black Sabbath", when the British army took action against the Lehi. Worth reading – this report doesn't take sides.

Anyway, Motti's book delves deep into the man and the motivation of Herzl. Apparently his charisma was vast, enabling him to reach many leaders who knew nothing of him or his dream. Herzl's greatest achievement was not really the re-creation of the State of Israel, but rather of his determination to create a common purpose behind which to unite the Jewish Diaspora . His World Jewish Council, from Basle onward did just that. Sadly today we are going in the opposite direction, not understanding that dream, how essential it is that we pull together rather than forming factions, fighting factions over who is superior. The book is in Hebrew but the moment it is published in English I will let you know.

I loved this video telling us exactly how to Boycott Israel properly

It is so difficult to understand statistics and the sheer numbers of people in this world. Watch this and you will get it! If the world were just 100 people, a brilliant explanation of our world in just a few minutes.

You already know how I admire the Maccabi World Union people. Their motivation, like Herzls, is to unite the Jewish world, but under the umbrella of sport. We are approaching the next Maccabiah already! On April 20, Maccabi USA will kick-off their fundraising efforts for the 2017 World Maccabiah Games with their 20thMaccabiah Launch Gala at Gotham Hall in New York City. Funds raised from this event will be used to ensure that qualified Jewish athletes from the USA and around the world are able to participate at the 20th World Maccabiah Games in Israel, Summer 2017, where 1,200 American Jewish athletes will join 8,000 athletes from 75+ countries to compete for Jewish pride, for country, and to unite as one Team in support of Israel. You can be a part of Team USA by supporting the 20th Maccabiah Launch Gala!

As I was driving over Samuels Hill, next to Samuels Tomb, I slowed the car down to take in the panorama and see how many towers and steeples I could count!!! It started with the Calatrava Bridge, working through to Augusta Victoria and the radar tower of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. In my very limited glimpse there were about 10 prominent ones and in Jerusalem's crazy building spree many more are coming up but not of the historic variety, rather to provide dwellings for Jerusalemites. Had I glanced to the left rather than the right I would have seen Ramalla, with an equal number of high rises, but all new, al built recently, all during the time that Israel is told to stop building in disputed territory. Annoying? Yes.

The EU has built more than 1,000 buildings on that self same disputed territory that they tell Israel not to build on!!!!!

Purim is approaching and the fancy dress costumes are out in full bloom!!! Still a very few Queen Esthers but little Israeli girls are just like little girls everywhere and Nici, Elsa, Batgirl and so on are the favourites with boys still going for cowboys and Superman! Supermarkets are filled with the makings of Mishloach Manot – food parcels for others – for friends and family. Mini packaging of all sorts of goodies, joined by home made Hamentaschen are the usual contents – happy children delivering and receiving. Here Rabbi Jeremy Rosen explains Purim; Serious or Fun

I am inordinately proud of the IDF. Israelis defy Maslo's pyramid of needs, not only by being happy but despite imminent danger we still reach out to those less fortunate. Watch this and feel yourself swell with pride – I did. By the way, Angelina Jolie came to visit IsraAid aid camps in Greece this week. Tikkun Olam indeed.

Our veranda is ablaze!! I have never seen anything quite like it. My petunias have opened in one carnival of colour, absolutely smothering the entire wall. It makes me smile! I love seeing the results of planting a tiny little seedling and reaping the reward of gentle nurturing. It's a bit like Israel Advocacy – one plants seeds of truth, ensure they are watered by compassion and watch the fruits of our labour.  Yes, I still believe in the power of one.

So Shabbat is close – Zvi's birthday cake is made and iced and the food is ready. Actually I didn't have to work because we are going to the inlaws for Friday night and to celebrate – they still don't want me to work!!! Rachel made the Challot and I know they are incredible because she saved a little one for me to have for lunch!!!

When you arrive at Ben Gurion Airport you will see this amazing display. The 50 Most important Israeli discoveries

This week I give you the Chief Cantor of the IDF singing the Prayer for the safety and peace of Israel. So moving. He talks of his pride at singing with the IPO giving such honour to the song and its meaning.

Yaakov Shwekey sings this emotive song of a child in the Holocaust. I cannot quite decide why this is so appropriate today – perhaps because I see what is happening around the world and fear a recurrence of evil. It starts with a beautiful Yiddish cong that my Mummy used to sing to me as a child.

With love to all of you from Jerusalem, this incredible city of love that incurs such hatred.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom


Friday, 11 March 2016

160311 Biden, Primaries, 3 attacks one day, Cramim

11th March, 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

I am happy to report that I am almost over my surgery which was for a hernia repair repair. No that isn't a typo, I meant a repair of a repair!! Why don't the surgeons tell you that about 50% of laparoscopic hernia repairs need redoing? Anyway, things are much better this week and I have no problem sitting to talk to you! In fact I want to tell you about Shaare Zedek Hospital. It is not only an exceptional hospital whereby the staff from top to bottom are like one big family, but the full range, gamut indeed rainbow of Israeli society work there and are treated there. It is a place of medical and social excellence.

On Tuesday, Vice President Biden arrived. He went straight from the airport to meet with his old friend Shimon Peres at the Peres Centre for Peace, so that once in Jerusalem he would stay there. Sadly he was welcomed by another spurt of foul terror attacks; one in Jerusalem, two border policemen severely injured; one in Petah Tikva, a Haredi man was attacked but fought back; finally one in Jaffa. Jaffa? Jaffa where Jews, Christians and Moslems live together in harmony? Sadly one person was killed, believed to be an American tourist, 8 others injured including a pregnant woman. The terrorist, from Kalkiliya, ran along the Tel Aviv promenade, stabbing at the open windows of the inevitable traffic jams. Those at the site of the attacks hit the terrorist with iron bars and a busker hit him with his guitar – indeed anything they could lay their hands on, but his insane stabbing spree didn't stop until he was taken down by the police.

VP Biden didn't hold back. Here he doesn't need to be PC and decried the terrorist acts and declared, or reiterated, his absolute loyalty to Israel.

That brings me very neatly to the American elections. May I insult every party equally? I don't understand primaries and even less the politics of insult. We suffer it here but I thought the USA candidates would be cleverer. Voters don't want to hear about the faults of other candidates – they want to hear what plans each and every one has to put forward; a true manifesto on which to base ones choice. Thus far the insults have been flying, the leading candidates …………… gosh I don't want to insult my lovely American readers but I feel that they insult your intelligence with every word that leaves their mouths – even my favourite Marco Rubio! John Oliver is irreverent as only the Brits can be – and please excuse me if it offends you but -

Mr Netanyahu stood up in front of the Knesset and expressed gratitude to those Arab states that have outlawed Hezbollah/Hamas. He continued by expressing horror and disdain on those Arab Members of Knesset who – wait for it – were against the Arab States decision. "Just wait until rockets fall on your house or your village. They don't differentiate between blood and blood. Will you still support them?"

The Iranians are really generous. They decided to dedicate one of their trial missiles with my name and the names of my children and grandchildren! What a magnanimous gesture to take the time to write the words on the side of the missile!

Who are the indigenous people of the land of Israel? Would you like to hear about it from a man who really understands the meaning? Ryan Bellarose is a Native Canadian, an indigenous rights activist who supports Israel because he is a moral and ethical human being.

To back up, yet again, the words of the Bible, Our history, in the steps of the Bible, uncovered. Walk slowly in the steps of our ancestors newly uncovered. From the Shiloach Pool to the Temple Mount

I wanted to tell you all about International Women's Day in Israel but we don't have Mother's Day, we have Family Day. Israeli women are so independent we don't need a special day! This is even more apparent in the IDF

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen's letter this week is entitled "We Will Survive". In his letter he talks about the rifts and disagreements within our own

Last Shabbat Zvi and I went to the new Gazelle Valley Park. It is so beautiful, tens of acres of wild land, ponds and lakes, all reachable through a series of paths and signs. Of course the signs are in 3 languages, Hebrew, English and Arabic, as were the visitors enjoying this new green lung. As yet there are only 12 gazelles (4 pregnant) but hopefully there will be more and soon there will be ducks and geese on the large pond. It was delightful and the gentle paths were perfect for my first outing!

Friends came and went, not giving me the chance to be bored. Dana arrived with hot, fresh bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon which was a special treat! I missed one of Zvi's concerts with HaKol Yachassi, but I must give him a big compliment and thanks. While not a natural Florence Nightingale he really did his best!

Wednesday and Thursday we took a short drive past Abu Ghosh and up to Kiriat Anavim, to the luxurious and beautiful new hotel spa – Cramim . Our treat was a gift for Zvis birthday from all his friends in the choir, actually for hs last birthday and we thought this was a perfect time to relax. I wasn't allowed to do any treatments but it was Zvi's gift after all and he had a ball. Best of all, even above the gorgeous surroundings, exquisite decor and wonderful rooms, was the food. Absolutely scrummy, proving that one can provide food for large numbers and still ensure its high quality and sophisticated delicacies.  Zvi's younger son Leors schoolfriend, Tomer Kasir, was incredible. He takes responsibility for the food and wine of the dining area very seriously, smilingly ensuring the staff beneath him do their jobs efficiently and politely.

Dustin Hoffman, who never denied his heritage, looked into his ancestry and recent past in a TV programme, and was overcome to discover his Holocaust connection. His emotional utterance  "I'm a Jew, I'm a Jew" was very moving

"I will know Safta is OK when she comes to collect me from school" So said Yosef, who always worries about me. So today, of course I went to collect him from school!! In fact I collected him, then Talia and Ayala and took them home. I was thrilled to see how happy they were! As we neared Rachel's home the aroma of freshly baked challot caused all of us to quicken our steps – she is a champion!!! Today she made some special little tiny challot for Zvi's grandchildren, with whom we will spend our Shabbat Dinner. I can just imagine their excitement at opening the little packages I will prepare for them!

I felt so free to be driving again!!! On my way back home I popped into see the fishmonger, Abu Yosef, who was so distressed by the attack right outside the shop three weeks ago. Abu Yosef always thought that no-one from his village could ever do such a thing, and was absolutely devastated. Sadly he, and other friends, couldn't get in to work because their village was closed off by the police until they were sure it was not due to incitement. Every time, but every time, it is not only the Israelis who suffer but the normal ordinary folk who just want to get on with life. Indeed in this weeks three attacks, two Arabs and one Christian were victims.

I opened my windows to let in the wonderful spring air, drove with the wind in my hair and drank in the panorama from Samuels Tomb afresh. Gosh I love that view.

Now the shops are closing, the trains giving a last tired toot before retiring to the sheds, families sit on their verandas, enjoying time together before Shabbat, indeed the entire country is slowing down, changing mood, irrelevant if one is religious or secular – the country changes.

What music do you want this week? Traditional? Modern? Israeli? Liturgical? Let me see what I can find.
I never tire of Dire Straits rendition of Brother in Arms, written by lead singer Mark Knopfler in honour of the IDF. Dire Straits just announced they are coming to Israel again in the Autumn so hope you don't mind my playing it again.

Finally, a reminder of Shabbat, Shabbos, Shabbes, Sabbath and what it really means. It is in English so you won't have to work so hard!!!

With much love from Jerusalem, from our veranda and its display of brightly coloured petunias. Even the birds are chirruping their delight that Shabbat is almost here.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends
Shabbat Shalom

Friday, 4 March 2016

160304 Post Op

4th March 2016
Shabbat Shalom everyone.
Just a quickie note to say that I am not writing today – will do on Sunday or Monday. I underwent surgery, nothing serious but rather uncomfortable, so prefer to wait and write later.

Zvi has been excellent, my daughter Rachel has cooked up a storm and brought it all around for our Shabbat and friends have been kind.

To keep your attention until then here are two items
One a quiz  from the BDS (Bigoted Destructive and Sociopathic)
The other a beautiful song with a story that reached out to me. At the 2014 Oscars, they celebrated the 75th anniversary of the release of the “Wizard of Oz” by having Pink sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, with highlights from the film in the background. But what few people realized, while listening to that incredible performer singing that unforgettable song, is that the music is deeply embedded in the Jewish experience.  Here is Pink singing

I finally made it big as Bob Parks and Laura put my newsletter on his website.
That's it can't sit any more.
Miss you and love you all
Sheila – at least this means I had time to really appreciate our veranda and the fact that the petunias are about to burst into a riot of colour.
Shabbat Shalom