Thursday, 23 June 2016
23rd June 2016
Shabbat Shalom dear friends! Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.
It seems so long since we spoke, last week I just couldn't gather my thoughts after a phenomenal trip to the USA and awful jet lag! More about our sojourn in the Land of the Free later, but first, as always, we need to discuss the news.
While in the US the diabolical shooting at a club in Orlando. 49 people lost their lives and many many more are scarred for life, be it physically or psychologically, or both. What made Omar Mateen go on his rampage is unknown; the theories abound, the truth is yet unknown but while accepting that he would have found a way to avenge his dismay at his own sexual preferences one thing is clear to me – and I know there are many who will disagree –guns, the easy availability of guns. This man, Mateen, was under the eye of the FBI yet he simply walked in and bought a assault weapon, was a security guard with a weapon. Sorry but under any law that is crazy. Growing up in a country where even the policemen do not carry guns I find it terrifying – living in a country where one has to go through physical and psychological testing to obtain a gun of any nature and then, if you fire that weapon you need to go through court to explain why and can be indicted. Guns kill but in truth with so many guns already out there it is too late to do what Israel did which is to declare an amnesty on any weapons or ammunition held without licence (left over from army service) and gather them in. To paraphrase Chekhov, "If in the first act you hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following act it will be fired." Simple.
Today it is happening, Britain will decide whether or not to stay in the European Union. It is well known that without Britain and Germany the rest of the EU would collapse financially and Britain already has the advantage of keeping her own currency rather than being dependent upon the vagaries of the Euro, but can Britain cope with the few years of famine before the fat cows that would certainly ensue leaving the EU? She lost her natural markets when she joined and the only solid reason for leaving is political – or is it? Since the borders went down the politics and open door policy of Europe have impacted Britain and British society enormously – as has the European determination to go further and further left. Luckily I no longer need to vote – I have enough problems voting in Israel!!! For anyone who is interested Dame Helen Mirren is voting to stay in Europe – but more of that later.
Yesterday President Rivlin stood before the European Assembly and presented Israels case on the instability of the French "Peace Initiative". Truthfully Israel is tired of being the only one to pay in this complex situation and most certainly sick of being blamed for Middle East chaos when we are the only stable entity in the entire area! President Rivlins speech was calm, eloquent and explanatory. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4819218,00.html
The American Presidential race gets racier by the minute!! One candidate is so unpredictable that his mouth runs off before his brain is in gear and the second is under threat of criminal charges. Now rumours are running fast that her husband has a love-child! It is so exciting that the normally boring process has us all on the edge of our seats. Trouble is that whoever is chosen will be the leader of the free world – and the free world is in dire peril.
Former Egyptian President Morsi has been sentenced (yet again) to life imprisonment. Morsi, of the Moslem Brotherhood, was ousted by President Al Sisi in a military coup. Morsi was elected democratically but his regime wa anti-democratic and oppressive – something important to learn from that.
100 years after the disastrous Sykes Picot Agreement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sykes%E2%80%93Picot_Agreement in which the Middle East was divvied up between the British and French irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliations, the Kurdish leader suggests that Iraq returns to being 3 separate states. Kurdistan (parts in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria) and the Sunni and Shia areas. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4816877,00.html
And so to the good news!
The Genesis Prize is the brainchild of Michael Fridman and his partners with the prupose of reviving and invigorating Jewish identity worldwide and to strengthen support for Israel. Unlike other such prizes they choose people with great personal wealth to give their million dollars to. Sounds strange? Seems illogical? Actually it is very wise. Their first choice was Michael Bloomberg, not known for his Jewish commitment, who through the Genesis Generation Challenge found 9 teams around the world who epitomised the Jewish values of Tikkun Olam. Last years recipient was Michael Douglas, who, through his son's determination to come closer to his Jewish roots, chose projects which brought families of intermarriage back into the fold. So important was that project that philanthropist Roman Abramovitch added another million dollars to the project.
This years laureate is a personal hero of mine – strangely not because he suffered the ravages of polio as a child but rather because he represents everything good about Israel to the world. A moral leader, his musical genius over-rides all barriers. Yitzchak Perlman.
Yesterday The Jerusalem Press Club gave a reception for Perlman and for this years presenter, the brilliant actress Dame Helen Mirren. Seated just a couple of metres from them I could see their faces and would have recognized politalk, Yitzchak Perlmans love for Israel and wonderful nature shone through. When asked what his dream is in life – it is that people would look at his face and not think of his legs. His Genesis projects relate to raising awareness of accessibility to public areas and ensuring that young Israelis return to classical music – that Juilliard will again be filled with brilliant Israeli musicians.
My favourite quote from Maestro Perlman was "This is a very Jewish Award. No sooner do they give it to you than you have to give it back"!!!!
When Dame Helen Mirren came on stage one was aware of the humility and power of this small person with a great talent. Everyone was smiling until the Guardian reporter asked her how it felt to be involved in a ceremony which meant she would have to meet the much hated Israeli Prime Minister with his policies of occupation and oppression!!!! Through the cat calls of the audience she avoided the question elegantly, but when asked why she is such a fan of Israel her response was "I am not a fan of Israel I BELIEVE in Israel". Her first visit was in '67 with her then Jewish boyfriend and in recent years she has made many films here.
Our American sojourn ended in New York. For me it was heaven. I loved every moment of our journey through Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota – indeed middle America, and the glorious friends we made and renewed on our journey. New York is different though – in New York I have my amazing eldest son Daniel and his gorgeous family. Spending time with Daniel, Karen, Joshua and Callie brought light into my life. My natural obsession with my family meant we had little time to meet friends but we went upstate to visit the community of Shaarey Tefilla Temple at Rabbi David Greenbergs home (I was so thrilled meeting old friends there) where we both spoke, Zvi 's history and political knowledge doing us both proud; we met with "Arlenes Buddies" again a renewal of old friends and time to hug my beautiful Arlene; we managed to have lunch with Joyce Claar and bump into the lovely Josephine Linden and our host with the most Martin came up from Miami to be with us which really was the icing on the cake.
This is a long letter because I am making you pay for not having one last week!!!!
We came home on the Thursday for a very important reason – on Friday morning Avi Benalal got married. Avi is the son of Flory and our dear friend Sammy/Shmuel Benalal z"l who was killed by terrorists in Mali just a few months ago. It was such a wonderful wedding and Avi's youngest brother Natanel sang a song composed by Shmuel in anticipation of the wedding. Beautiful, happy, fun – just as Shmuel would have wanted.
This week was crazy – for a change! Lots of time with Yosef, Talia and Ayala; lunch with Ilana and Eddie Podolsky and their lovely children; going to Tel Aviv with Rachel to see Rachels cousin (my niece) Debbie and Rosey Larks and their beautiful girls; I went to a Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre Board meeting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sbk511x4oYI ; Cooked veggie soup for Sue then Chicken soup for Danby – and happily took it to them and spent wonderful time in each home and even managed to go shopping yesterday so we coud have Shabbat in Jerusalem.
During my travels there is one element missing from my diet – freshly picked fruit and vegetables. In Israel we get all our fruit and veg the day after they are picked. They still have the dust and mud on them and they taste phenomenal! We eat salads of every variety morning noon and night and very few have lettuce in them!! Aubergine salads abound – with freshly made tehina or mayo or just with coriander and lemon, same with courgettes and the couscous salads are to die for. Moroccan mushrooms, spicy carrot salad, Russian potato salad and bog ordinary coleslaw……… but we make them all fresh! I am going to enjoy this weeks Shabbat preparations!
I love being home. I love our veranda and the spectacular view over Jerusalem. I love the relaxed urgency of people on the streets……. Relaxed urgency I hear you ask, must be a typo! No not a typo, people are rushing around getting to engagements or meetings but the moment one sees a friend (which is every few paces in Jerusalem) it is as if one has all the time in the world!!!
I love being with all our Israeli grandchildren, watching their new games, hearing about their studies, which friend is friends with whom, seeing their anticipation as they try very hard not to ask what we brought them from America!! I love my journey back to Jerusalem over the height of Samuels Tomb rounding the corner to catch the spectacular panorama of Jerusalem set before me as a relief map of our incredible city.
Today is a very special day. 20 years ago we sat in the home of Bonnie and Alan Cohen together with my cousins Jean and Stuart Lipman z"l and our Rabbi David Rosen as Zvi signed the ketuba (the written promise of the groom) then walked through our amazing friends from all over the world who laughed and smiled and hugged and kissed on Yismach Melech Street. We had "borrowed" some police barriers and closed off the street, brought in caterers and fairy lights on that magical day. Our children and Zvi's parents surrounded us with love as we stood under the chuppah, the Old City Walls lit for the very first time, and pledged our love and devotion to each other and to Jerusalem. The 7 blessings were sung and then a surprise – the amazing Re'im Duo, Benny and Yisrael, not only sang the final blessing but gave us, and our guests a fabulous show, our wedding gift from them. Every day has been worth it. We are a pair, a couple in every sense of the word. I write and he speaks; he is history, I am emotion; I am utterly loved and love him completely.
Tomorrow is Shabbat and I loved this video of James Corden in a Jewish Deli – wonderful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1O-JBj7ECmg
Perhaps the most traditional of all Jewish prayers is Oseh Shalom – asking the Almighty to bring peace to Israel. The Re'im Duo entered a competition with a new version and won! Now so familiar - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJjUmHaC8f4&index=11&list=PLWkfrFkdyL1FoUmn58cgnEXb_fe_vDgHQ
My last song is dedicated to my Zvi, without him I am half a person
Shabbat Shalom dear friends
With all my love from Jerusalem, our veranda and of course our home.
Friday, 10 June 2016
9th of June 2016, New York City
Before anyone gets upset, we are here in New York for a very limited period (made shorter by Deltas overnight delays and Lufthansa breaking our suitcase) and my grandchildren come before anyone else. I wanted to see lots of you but life ran away with us for a change.
Yesterday I learned how difficult it is to be away from home when a terrorist attack takes place. When I am in Israel every channel carries news, minute by minute - we can call our friends to check on them, learn the situation etc - here in the USA I went totally crazy! CNN reported on a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv and blamed it on the "occupied territories" Occupied Jerusalem" ad nauseum and I thought I would smash the telly! Two terrorists, in business suits and speaking English, sat in a coffee shop, slowly sipped their coffee, ate a cake and paid then ran amok killing and maiming those around them. When they were refused entry to the main part of the Serona Market in Tel Aviv they headed for an area where people sat relaxing in a restaurant and opened fire killing 4, maiming many and terrifying far more. Despite their heinous crime the surviving terrorist was taken to Ichilov Hospital and underwent life saving surgery. For me, what added insult to injury to pain......... Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Hulda'i also blamed the "occupation". Is he insane? Did we occupy Syria? Yemen? Iraq? all the other places where terrorism is far worse than ours? Shame on him.
Did you know that my name is (((Sheila))), my husbands name is (((Zvi))) and chances are that your name is in triple parentheses too. It is the new code for a Jew. It is a foul anti-Semitic way to indicate a Jew, famous, political or just a Jew, without actually saying so. http://www.vox.com/2016/6/
Another, much more serious - did you know - is something I saw with my own eyes. Did you know that in the USA and Canada, someone who was born in Jerusalem Israel cannot have Israel on his passport? That is he cannot have Jerusalem, Israel on his passport as the site of his birth. You can have Paris France; London, United Kingdom; Amman Jordan; but not Jerusalem, Israel. I was flabbergasted and horribly disturbed. Time to get writing to your representatives North Americans.
Dame Helen Mirren is a brilliant, accomplished actress, a truly magnificent woman who does not need plastic surgery to be beautiful at 70+. Helen Mirren is also a fine spokeswoman for Holocaust survivors as she stood before Congress urging them to help the families of Holocaust victims recover their art stolen by the Nazis and held in museums and homes all over the world.
I really want to tell you about the last two weeks, but will start in reverse.
Two nights ago Zvi and I went to Sha'arey Tefillah Temple in Bedford, NY to speak to some amazing people. Our gracious hosts were Rabbi David and Cindy Greenberg and their guests included our dear friend Sari Singer and many of my pen pals, my readers. I won't mention names in case I forget someone! Zvi covered the political issues with great aplomb and I took the emotional ones - with a little bit of stand-up in between! It was great fun and we were surprised and delighted to discover a very Israel educated crowd. One person approached me with a brilliant idea to link Israeli children and children around the world - specifically his 4 year old grandchild. Classes can communicate so easily today, through specific Facebook pages (closed to the public) Skype, emails and WhatsApp and classes in Israel can communicate with classes elsewhere. Language isn't always a problem because they can sing to each other etc. It is a brilliant bridge builder. Stuart and I would love to hear what you say.
We met with Joyce Claar who gets younger every day, and with Josephine Linden. We met through our lovely friends the Gandels from Australia. Avi and I listened enthralled during a delicious lunch as Joyce had diligently made notes from the Washington National Conference of the American Jewish Committee from which she had just returned.
OK my head is spinning so I need to go back and start from Colorado, although I think I told you about our hostess Monica Minkoff her wonderful husband and their generosity and wonderful tour of the beauty of Denver, Vail and the Colorado National Monument. From Denver we flew to Edmonton where we had a lovely weekend with Barry and Cristine and relaxed......... Then the fun began!!!!
In Edmonton we got on Barry Charter to Helena Montana when seated we were greeted by a pilot with a wall-eyed mask and upon arrival at the hotel everybody received crazy bags full of Montana goodies including plastic bows and arrows and toy guns...... and wondered why. Zvi and I were on bus number 3 (of 3) which became known as the fun bus. Over the next 6 days we refought the Battle of the Little Big Horn (using aforementioned guns, bows and arrows) and I was waiting for CNN to report 140 Jewish settlers attacked the indigenous people of the Little Big Horn led by (((Custer))); ate supper in a ranch cookhouse; wondered at Mount Rushmore; went into an old mineshaft and dipped our feet in Radon water (!!!!!) and discovered that Deadwood was founded by Jews!!!! we heard talented cabarets and in general enjoyed the incredible generosity of our host. We found that at some time Barry had helped or been unduly kind to every one of us - all 140 - and we fell in love with him anew at Barry's 70th Birthday Bash. Cristine, his beautiful wife managed to join in all the activities despite being 8 months pregnant. A true hero.
Our bus became a Standwithus outpost as wonderful people wanted to know more, hear more, learn more about Israel. I have to mention two people here - Wayne and Harley both of who are ardent Zionists who cannot bear what is happening in our world and want to do what they do best - stand up and be heard.
So we were in Colorado, Alberta, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and possibly somewhere else but I have no recollection!!!
Although having fun in New York, my main, perhaps sole purpose is to spend time with my family, my Daniel, Karen, Joshua and Callie and Karens Mum Ellen. Last night I had the privilege of babysitting - a great privilege when you live thousands of miles away from them. I was extra proud of Joshua who, when asked to bring a special food to school decided he would bring an Israeli Salad and gave an explanation which ended with "I like Israeli salad and I love Israel" Tonight we will all have Shabbat dinner together with them and with Martin, our lovely friend, host and kinda brother!
I know I have to return to yesterday, the third day of Ramadan, just a couple of days before Shevuot, a time of prayer, thanksgiving and contemplation, the end of the counting of the Omer, remembering a time when we were given the 10 commandments - of which the one we all pray for is "Thou shalt not kill". To take anothers life is to steal from him, his family, of children unborn and lives unlived - it is heinous.
We fly home on Tuesday - home to Jerusalem, to my city, to our city. I hope our veranda is as beautiful as when we left and I am sure the city, the Golden city is just as exquisite as ever. I will go to Mahane Yehuda and buy freshly picked fruit and vegetables, a veritable cornucopia of natural delight............. all seasonal and tasty. I will call my friends to make sure they know we are home so our salon can ring with tales and laughter.
I am writing on Martins computer which is a Mac and I don't know how to copy the links for music videos so you will have to imagine me singing you Shabbat Songs and you'll get double portions next week!!!!
I with you a Shevuot (Pentecost) filled with more than cheesecake and blintzes -
With all our love from Manhattan