Friday, 26 August 2016

160826 Holland, Anne Frank, Jewish Museum, Turkey, Kurds, Italy Earthquake

26th August 2016.

Shabbat Shalom from  Jerusalem! Yes we are back! There was no chance of my writing last week since we were deep in the countryside of Landal Migglenberg, Holland…… a delightful place, deep in the country. We had a big cottage for all 11 of us and the children had a ball. We cooked our own food and travelled all around to the places of interest. Watching clogs and cheese being made; windmills; theme parks; boating and of course shopping!  One of the days our beautiful Dutch friends Herman and Gerda Schotanus came to visit. It was such a delight – we love them very much.

It was fun in Migglenberg, I highly recommend the site but it was even more fun to set off for Amsterdam.
In Amsterdam we were very honoured to visit two marvellous museums. At the Jewish Cultural Museum we met the director Prof. Emile Schrijver, with grateful thanks to Jaap Meijers. A learned man of the book Emile showed great enthusiasm for his subject, Jewish life, books and this marvellous museum – we highly recommend a visit. A wonderful place which is of interest to those who know of the extensive Dutch Jewish history and an excellent teaching tool for both children and adults who want to learn who is a Jew.

Continuing the rich Dutch Jewish history we went to the Anne Frank House. There we had the honour of being met by the director Garance Reus-Deelder. The Anne Frank House has over 4,000 visitors a day and is a truly moving experience. As we climbed the impossible Dutch staircase she took us aside into a small locked area right into Otto Franks Office and kitchen/laboratory. I felt the presence of the family intensely and the children listened intently to the story of a little girl just a few years older than they. Standing in the office one could hear the creaking of the footsteps above, in the now famous attic where Otto, Edith, Margot and Anne Frank, Hermann, Auguste and Peter Pels and the dentist Fritz Pfeffer. They had to keep very still all day and only move at night lest the workers below hear their movements. Only one survived, Otto Frank who discovered the diary when he returned to the attic after the war and incredibly Fritz Pfeffer – Annes nemesis – sent his son to the UK with the kindertransport thus saving his life. Many years later his son, who moved to California, changed his name to Pepper and raised a family, came to the Anne Frank House – all 26 of them – and stood at the spot their father had slept. 26 people proved the Nazis did not win.

We intended taking a train to our flight in Brussels Airport but then decided that 7 people, including 3 children, 7 suitcases and umpteen packages was just too hard the delightful driver who came to take us to the station was happy to drive us to Brussels Airport. His price was reasonable and his company excellent. He is a marvellous driver and big, comfortable Mercedes van – he is well worth calling if you are in Holland and need an airport pick-up or to travel around. His name is Jan Lindeman, he speaks Dutch, English, Spanish and some French. ( +31 6 52 732 110) Just tell him Zvi sent you!!!!

We loved Holland, but there is something special about getting on to that El Al plane, hearing Hebrew, Israeli smiles, special meals for children, delicious food (I love the El Al pasta bolognaise!!!) and then a perfect landing on Israeli soil.

This morning I took off to Rachels to get the biggest and best hugs from the children and a ton of food from Rach so that I wouldn't need to cook for Shabbat……. That's why I have time to write to you!!! That oh so familiar drive over Samuels Tomb was all the sweeter for missing it. The difference between the rugged hills and the flatness of Holland was staggering!!!!

While we were away Italy suffered a horrific tragedy as an earthquake hit a small village close to Perugia. Such sadness when people die through no fault of their own. Yes I know, it is happening every day in almost every country in the world – even those that purport to be peaceful.

Turkey used the excuse of ISIS to invade Syria. Excuse? Yes. The purpose of the invasion is to attack Kurds. The Kurds, or rather Kurdistan, was split into 4 sectors in the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, each sector given to a different country – Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Since that time the Kurds have been fighting to get their country back. Turkey doesn't want to lose territory and has been fighting the Kurds (as have the others) and since the Kurds have been helping the Syrians it presented a fine opportunity. What a thoroughly mixed up part of the world!

While in Amsterdam we met a young Kurdish waitress who had visited Israel with an Israeli/Kurdish friend. She loved the freedom of Israel and recognized the yearning to be returned to a land taken from them.
Our dearest friend Canon Andrew White reminded us that his weeks Parash is Eikev Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25
In the Parshah of Eikev (“Because”), Moses continues his closing address to the children of Israel, promising them that if they fulfill the commandments (mitzvot) of the Torah, they will prosper in the Land they are about to settle as in G‑d’s promise to their forefathers.
Moses rebuked them for their failings in their first generation as a people, recalling their worship of the Golden Calf, the rebellion of Korach, the sin of the spies, the angering of G‑d. “You have been rebellious against G‑d,” he says to them, “since the day I knew you.” But he also speaks of G‑d’s forgiveness of their sins, and the Second Tablets which G‑d inscribed and gave to them following their repentance.
Their forty years in the desert, says Moses to the people, during which G‑d sustained them with daily manna from heaven, was to teach them “that man does not live on bread alone, but by the utterance of G‑d’s mouth does man live.”
Moses describes the land they are about to enter as “flowing with milk and honey,” blessed with the “seven species” (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive and dates), and as the place that is the focus of G‑d’s providence of His world. He commands them to destroy the idols of the land’s former masters, and to beware lest they become haughty and begin to believe that their wealth was self-made.
A key passage in our Parshah is the second chapter of the Shema, which repeats the fundamental mitzvot enumerated in the Shema’s first chapter, and describes the rewards of fulfilling G‑d’s commandments and the adverse results of their neglect.
Today, more and more, we are building the golden calf of prosperity, of fine cars and big houses without listening to our spirit or our hearts. I am not suggesting we live in righteous poverty but rather to strive for success while remembering to be humble. If we think only of ourselves we will lose our identity and our homeland.

I finished reading our lovely friend Professor Michael Baums book The Third Tablet of the Holy Covenant and was thrilled to the very last word. I highly recommend his book which combines history, archeology, medicine and yet succeeds in being a thriller!

Music, ah sweet music
Modeh Ani is a prayer said each morning as we wake returning our soul to our bodies, our clothing and our food. Modeh Ani – I am grateful.
A truly Shabbat song – Matanot Ktanot – small gifts. This song is again sung by children – after all what is purer than the heart and song of a child

Shabbat shalom dear friends. It was wonderful to be with Zvi, his boys and their families but as always, there is no place like home and no hugs like those of Yosef, Talia and Ayala!! Yosef didn't even want his presents – he insisted I was enough!!!
Tomorrow we meet Harvey and Judy Sternberg – friends of Barry and Cristine Slawsky……. What a marvellous life we lead.
With love from the happiest Safta in the world right here in Jerusalem……… for one week then I am off to get more hugs from my British children – NYC, London and Jerusalem and a vacation with Zvi's boys – can't get better!!!
Happy birthday to the glorious Ms Callie – my adorable grand-daughter in New York.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

160811 Portugal, 9 b'Av, Yarden Gerbi, Oprah Winfrey Hassidim

1th August 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Did you miss me? We were touring the amazing country of Portugal and I just didn't manage to gather my thoughts last week.

So much has happened in the interim but I want to start with the past. On Sunday we honour the most fatalistic date in the Jewish calendar, one cannot say we celebrate this day, we honour the events and learn from them. Sunday or rather the 9th day of the month of Av is the culmination of 9 days of deep contemplation in which many things are sent to try us.

1. In 1313 BCE The 10 Spies sent to scout out the Land of Israel as a homeland for the Children of Israel after their miraculous Exodus from Egypt, claimed it to be a barren and ugly land, unlike Joshua and Caleb. Their bad judgement and mistrust made G-d angry and prolonged wandering in the desert for another 38 years, before settling the Promised Land;
2. In 423 BCE The First Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar who massacred 100,000 Jews and exiled the remainder.
3. Exactly 500 years later, to the day, the Second Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by Titus of Rome, massacre and expulsion of 1 million Jews
4. Bar Kochba Revolt against the Romans ended with his execution and  yet again Jerusalem was destroyed, 600,000 Jews murdered by the Roman Empire and one year later on this date the Temple Mount plateau was flattened.
5. The First Crusade (1096-1099) massacred tens of thousands of Jews in Germany, France, Italy and Britain;
6. The expulsion of Jews from from Britain (1290);
7. The Spanish Inquisition and final order of expulsion of Jews (1492);
8. The First World War (1914);
9. The 1942 deportation of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka extermination camp.

Nine of the most fateful events in Jewish history. Most certainly a day to pray, a day to fast, a day to contemplate why. Incredibly, it was the tears and prayers of the Jews, their recognition of the history of this day that reached Napoleon's heart and caused him to free the Jews.

One event that has taken on a deeper meaning for me is the Spanish Inquisition. Our journey through Portugal taught me so much, helped me understand the repercussions of yet another Jewish Dispersion and the difference between the Portuguese people and all the others who exiled and killed us. Portugal has not only taken responsibility for the events of 500 years ago, they celebrate their Jewish heritage (nearly 20% of all Portugal has Jewish ancestry), Anusim and those rare Jews who succeeded in retaining their Jewish purity throughout 500 years. We prayed in the synagogue of Belmonte and in and met with Jose Levy Domingos who is working determinedly to build the Isaac Cardoso Center in Trancoso  – he needs donations and visitors!

As we stood in the synagogue in Belmonte we sang and then stood outside for a photograph. Zvi brought the flag of Jerusalem and he quietly folded the flag and gave it to the synagogue President who could not hold back his tears. My Zvi is such a special man.

Almost all the Jews of Portugal and Spain became hidden Jews (Anusim) and melted into their surroundings retaining only some "strange" traditions. Reconectar, the brainchild of Ashley Perry, is helping people to connect to their ancestry

As you know we travelled with Zvi's choir and I became curious as to the provenance of each of the members families as they returned home from dispersion. Yemen, Turkey, Poland, Tunisia, Kurdistan, Germany, Sweden, Czech, Morocco, Iraq, Syrian Halabi, Chile, Wales, Iran – and that was out of 34 people!! Many talk of a melting pot, but in Israel the pot came home. The Lul is a TV programme of the 70's showing the reactions of each Aliya

There is a new "inquisition" taking place right under our noses and no-one seems to care. It is the persecution of Christians.

Avi Dichter, Head of the Knesset Defence Committee, says that 100% of UN aid workers in Gaza are members of Hamas. This of course is just the tip of the iceberg as we discover that World Vision, a Christian aid organisation, gives over one and a half million dollars to Hamas in cash

On the other side of the coin IsraAid and the marvellous Navonel Glick have been awarded the Muhammed Ali Award for their incredible work throughout the world

We won a medal!! Our beautiful young Judo champion Yarden Gerbi won the bronze medal. So proud of her achievement as she won her bout she touched her Israeli badge in pride. No matter how many buses they refuse to allow us to board or sports they refuse to compete – we are the champions and we. Little Israel, upholds the Olympic tradition of NO POLITICS.

On the 8th of August Zvi and I celebrated our first meeting – the day I walked into his office in Keren Hayesod in Jerusalem – hoping to learn how to do my job and met the man who would give me back my confidence and return me to be the woman my parents raised me to be by loving me, just loving me. Actually our first date was on the 14th of August but since that is Tisha b'Av this year I don't want to chance fate!!!!!

Yesterday Rachel and I met and incredible lady. Her name is Miri, she is Haredi and Miri simply spreads joy in unlikely places. Many years ago, depressed because she just couldn't get pregnant, she decided to spend her time helping others after she was told that giving of yourself could change ones fate. From her humble home she began making sandwiches, buying snacks and giving them to people in hospital waiting rooms for free, pushing her trolley with a smile and a kind word. She now serves in 3 hospitals, still privately from her home, because since starting her act of tsedaka she has 3 beautiful children. "I can't stop" she said "I can't stop giving joy". If you want to help Miri you can send me a donation and Rachel will make sure it gets directly to her.

Last night we went to the memorial seuda, meal, for our friend Bernardo Romanowsky. It is a year since he passed and we still miss him. His widow Rosa really did him proud and the gathered friends spoke of his exceptional strength and kindness. Rosa was surrounded by friends but her loneliness was tangible without him. The food was amazing and I had the honour of sitting with one of my favourite people Pola Sztrigler, while Zvi sat with her husband Jorge. Best of all my proximity to Pola meant I had first dibs of her unbelievably tasty herring dishes!!!!

The Haredi community is at best misunderstood and at worst despised. The renowned Jewish tolerance for others seems to end when it comes to our own. Oprah Winfrey went into the Haredi world of Brooklyn and her series was an eye opener for her and for all who have dire misconceptions of Haredi life.

My favourite Jerusalem supermarket is a Haredi one called Osher Ad. I call it Haredi because they have only very, very kosher foodstuffs that suit a specific clientele but they have all the American brands and wonderful fresh produce. Actually the produce is the best fun. They don't have a few cucumbers or tomatoes or aubergines or any fruit or veg – they have mountains! When choosing cucumbers one is faced with the edges of thousands of crisp green fruits piled high……. And of course there is always someone who wants the one at the bottom!!! Best of all one sees every variety of Israeli people shopping there irrespective of race, colour or leaning………….it is so much fun!! No silence at the checkouts here – everyone is helping everyone else and of course guarding their place and trolley in the line so they can run to get "just one thing I forgot"!!!

Since I have given you so many links, perhaps we should be satisfied with one Shabbat song. I'll see………………….
Lecha Dodi – Welcome my Beloved – refers to the welcome for the Bride of Shabbat. The words are wonderful and this is a Chassidic niggun with English translation.

Oh alright then I will find just one more!  Mi ha Ish – Who is the Man the song of tolerance from the words of King David's Psalms written here in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and still sung in the original language.

Tomorrow I will go to Givat Zeev to see Yosef, Talia and Ayala before Shabbat then come home to prepare to welcome Shabbat with Leor, Shiri and family. We leave for Holland on Sunday night, on our annual vacation with Zvi's boys and families. I hope I will be able to write to you next week but it all depends upon the WiFi where we stay!!!

I wish you Shabbat Shalom from our Jerusalem, each time I come home from afar I am dazzled by her beauty and the view from our veranda. By the way Stanley, my little lemon tree has at least 35 lemons on it this year!!!!

With love