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

Friday, 18 November 2016

161118 Amona, Hitorerut, Noise, Elections

18th November 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends,

I was going to write about the incredible divisiveness of the American election, friends arguing and name calling, cities in turmoil, but Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says it all in his impromptu sermon and tribute to Leonard Cohen.
As always my amazing son Gideon gave me something to think about.
"Sitting in his hotel room in New York this morning, Rabbi Sacks suddenly had a thought about a connection between the late Leonard Cohen's song "You Want It Darker", the current state of the world and this week's parsha of Vayera. Apologies this is a little last minute, but it is definitely a different kind of parsha shiur! The lyrics to "You Want It Darker" - which is the music at the beginning and end of this video - can be found here: Shabbat shalom!"

I tried not to but I have to say one thing about the United States elections. Even when I wanted to speak out about one candidate or the other, I did my best to remain unbiased, even handed. In general this was accepted but many became angry with me because I wouldn't deride Donald Trump. Indeed I was told I support a sex offender and even worse. I didn't support anyone! I don't have the right to support anyone because as one Hillary supporter told me "you are an alien in this country, don't try to influence USA elections!" Well thank you for raising me to that level of influence but my words couldn't influence anyone!!
I do not know what the future holds but I wish the President elect a successful and elevated term of office, because without it we are lost. Charlie Chaplin wrote and directed the movie The Great Dictator and his speech epitomises all our dreams

Just heard that Donald Trump has approached Mitt Romney to be Secretary of State, if so it is a brilliant move. An honorable and graceful man, Romney would bring honour to the position. Zvi and I visited the Governors Mansion while in Boston and as we stood in the ante-room we admired the portraits of former Governors of Massachusetts, each standing in glorious solitude. We reached the portrait of Mitt Romney, who was told firmly that his wife could not be in the portrait with him and noticed something special – he was painted with a photograph of his wife on the desk beside him! Now that is a fine man who honours his wife and her contribution to his success.

In all the brouhaha over the elections, do you know about what is happening in Turkey? Do you care? I do because we have good friends there but also because it is a disgrace that nothing was said by world leaders or the media to criticise Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has virtually destroyed independent journalism, arrested many, arrested clerics – indeed all who disagree with him, but what does the Administration concentrate on in these last days?  Israel building houses in disputed territories.

The noise law. In virtually every civilized country there is a law concerning noise levels, decibels, whether it be your neighbor's party, a motorbike, indeed anything that harms your environment, including Church bells and the Synagogue on Purim. It also includes the Muezzins call to prayer in virtually all Moslem countries and certainly USA, UK and Europe. Of course in Israeli it isn't that simple. While Churches and Synagogues comply, the Muezzins claim racial discrimination and the left support them. Since many residents of many cities in Israel have a Mosque close by, yes even Tel Aviv, and the call to prayer begins at 04:30 for many (actually 05:30 but it is according to Mecca time) it is most disturbing to be woken at that hour by a very loud Muezzin from the apex of the Minaret. Surely the law should be equal for all?

Amona. Amona is an outpost of perhaps 20-30 families. The argument as to whether it should be removed and the residents given new housing in one of the official residential blocks has torn the Israeli government apart this week. It is irrelevant that it is beautiful and on private land, and I am the last to suggest that Yehuda and Shomron, the West Bank – however you want to call it – be Judenrein, but if a small group of activists can bring our government to the brink and cause anger in the White House then the balance of power has gone awry.

Hitorerut – Awakening – is the political group of young leaders who have taken the Jerusalem Municipality by storm! It seems incredible that just a few short years ago we met to decide whether or not to mentor this group of callow young hopefuls. Since the elections when they won an incredible 4 seats on the Municipal Council, they have made their mark, indeed one, Ofer Berkovitch, is a Deputy Mayor. Hitorerut's aim was to open up the city to attract young people. Jerusalem has a great party scene, pubs, clubs and restaurants aplenty and is a fun place to be. Jerusalem is spiritual and ancient but that doesn't mean we all go to bed at 7. Watch this space, Hitorerut is going places. We had a meeting in our home on Tuesday where Ofer outlined their achievements and aims. It gave me great hope because these young people are Jerusalem's future. Remember his name – Ofer Berkovitch.

A major subject for discussion on Tuesday, was the disgraceful attack on Jerusalem by the faux intellectuals of the TV satirical programme "Pride of the Nation". They slandered Jerusalem as the city where the latest courses teach one how to dig about in garbage cans for food and feed large families on one date. It went much further. It is a national disgrace when satire becomes slander. Eliezer Ya'ari, a highly responsible and intelligent commentator on radio, television and press, has responded. I intend translating his words for you after his broadcast. Jerusalemites are very angry at the injustice and inaccuracy of a gang of irresponsible, intellectual snobs who think that one has to leave Jerusalem by dusk or turn into a pumpkin – if they ever come here of course!

Just incidentally, the Israeli road safety organisation Or Yarok just put out a report that found Tel Aviv the most dangerous city for older pedestrians………. No comment

Before the Hitorerut meeting, my friend David Geffen, Rabbi David Geffen, came to visit with his new business advisor Gedaliah Gurfein, in order to show me the amazing headway made by his organisation "Loving Classroom" The motto of Loving Classroom is Head, Heart, Hand and Help, teaching children how to interact with love instead of anger. Check out the link, it brings the ideal world a touch closer. It works.

On Wednesday we went to dinner with the Bloomfields.  I love going out with them, arguing with Harry and agreeing with Nancy! Their youngest son Jamie came too and he is a charming combination of his Dad's Barrister arguments and his Mum's loving care for the world. Jamie who studied Film is joining Standwithus to produce their videos. I am so proud. Michael Dickson, the Director of Standwithus here in Jerusalem, is a fantastic mentor and Standwithus a truly amazing organisation that has taken on racism on campus, BDS and created a support system for students worldwide.

Robert Ackerman posted something incredible on Facebook. In the words of Rabbi Nachman "The day you were born is the day God decided the world could not exist without you" What an amazing philosophy. We are all worthy, we are all meant to be here. We all have a purpose on this earth – we just need to find it and fulfil it.

Almost Shabbat. It is a glorious day, crisp and autumnal, rather windy, but absolutely beautiful blue skies. We all wondered over the so called "Supermoon" which is actually bigger and brighter over Jerusalem – well we are the closest to the heavens, like the joke about it being a local call. We, and all our friends, snapped merrily and posted on Facebook, WhatsApp and emails, our contributions to the rare phenomena. It was beautiful, less spectacular than we were led to believe but beautiful nonetheless.

What music to choose? Should it be Jewish or American? Maybe Jewish American?  "America" by Paul Simon has been constantly playing in my head, causing me to burst into spontaneous song all week, but chose a fabulous rendition of the American National Anthem by a young lady who sat at our Seder Table 18 months ago. Nadine Sierra sang for both candidates

Two songs now – one of spiritual Jerusalem and one of modern Jerusalem. First the dream and then the culmination as the dancers of Hora Jerusalem flashdance in the Mamilla Mall.

I wish you Shabbat Shalom, it is no surprise that Zvi has gone to his Parliament, hoping to right the world and I am on my way to see the children, collect my challa and goodies from Rachel and get the best hugs and kisses imaginable. I may well pop into the fishmonger to say hello to Abu Yosef and then visit my favourite plant nursery to say hello to its Palestinian owners – all in Givat Zeev. The steep climb up to Samuels Tomb always fills me with anticipation, you really, but really must do it. As one passes the ancient tomb atop a hill the magic happens, the panorama unfolds before your eyes and Jerusalem, a white mosaic dotted with red roofs, hill after hill after hill, laying before you in its modern entirety, the Old City lays hidden, waiting, in silence for you to fulfil your dream.

With much love from Jerusalem. Our prayers were never "Next Year in Tel Aviv" eh?


Friday, 11 November 2016

161111 American Election, Trump, Media, Remembrance and poppies

10th November, 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

I suppose one could call this the day after the day after the night before.

Clipper Kyle of the Los Angeles Clippers posted thus on Facebook
Americans are either despondent or overjoyed, but rarely are their emotions mixed.  I was not surprised at the result, nor was Zvi. We travelled in the less affluent areas of the USA, the rural areas, not the big and sophisticated cities and the citizens felt forgotten, ignored and abandoned by the big administration in Washington. Not a new feeling, I believe it has been brewing for a long time but the hope of Obamas election has been dissipated by the facts on the ground. We told friends how the vote would go but I guess we have too many journalists among our friends and the message didn't get through.
The intellectual snobs of the media got it totally wrong. They assumed that if you were white, educated and comfortable you would never vote for Trump. They got it wrong - again.
I do not take sides, am neither excited nor disappointed, just a fly on the wall of American politics, a fly who recognises the importance of change.
Donald Trump is unconventional and not in any way part of the Washington establishment, that was his attraction. Americans, particularly those of the periphery, were tired of the establishment because it hasn't worked for them. The poor are sick and tired of being ignored and see Donald Trump as their hope for job creation. Sadly so many people of colour, white, pink, caramel or black, feel that their hopes were dashed by past administrations. It did not take genius to foresee this result, perfectly explained in this article
The professional diplomats and specialists on protocol of the White House must now kick in with advice, smooth the very rough edges and teach him protocol and diplomatic double speak. He is highly intelligent and will step up to the plate.
Now is the test of democracy - accepting the new leadership when you didn't choose the winner.
I am staggered at the violent rallies against Trump in Los Angeles, Seattle and elsewhere, fighting with police and the burning of effigies of the President elect. Such actions are anti-democratic – democracy is accepting the bitter result, rallying ones thoughts, initiating new tactics and running for office or backing a candidate. The next elections start now and violent protest is not the answer. It reflects very badly on the USA.
British media reaction has also been one of dismay, many believing that Trump will take Britain into war and after Brexit, without the backing of Europe, Britain will be alone. It does not hold water. The last President who kept America out of war left Britain fighting Hitler for 3 years and Europe was never Britain's Ally, the Commonwealth that always stood beside Britain. Today, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month bears testimony to that. War has been raging in the entire Middle East for many years and Allied troops are dying daily at the hands of terrorist killers who hate the West. The very left wing Israeli media is licking its wounds too – indeed several members of Zvi's Parliament mocked him when he said Trump will win. One even insisted rather forcefully that Hillary would win by a huge margin.
Incredibly the world kept right on turning and the sun rose despite the results of American elections!!!
Russian Prime Minister Medvedev came to Israel for talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu (who I neither chose nor wanted but support as the democratically elected leader). We knew because we went out for dinner yesterday with our dear friends Teresa Strangeland and Don Hughes and Don, a history buff, chose the King David Hotel.  I was a little surprised that all the convenient parking spaces alongside the YMCA were cordoned off, and then we saw hundreds of police. Curiouser and curiouser!!!
We walked through the exquisite lobby out onto the historic King David balcony where Winston Churchill wrote his famous letter about the Jewish homeland, ( ) and Zvi gave a synopsis of the history and view of the Old City as only he knows how.  We carefully chose a table with a glorious view, Teresa and Don who live in Alberta, Canada, soaked up the warm balmy evening, I said "Shame Andrew isn't here" – "Call him" said Zvi, "I forgot my phone in the car" – Zvi volunteered to go and bring my phone and met Canon Andrew White in the lobby!!! Andrew recently underwent extensive tests and his MS has severely affected his brain and he has early onset Alzheimer's so he is driven even more to complete his blessed work. He has formed a new NGO since FRRME sacked him as Director for breaking the rules and releasing Yazidi sex slaves. I do not take sides, I just want him to be happy and fulfilled in his mission on earth. We had a brilliant evening and both Teresa and Don were thrilled at spending an evening with Andrew. We took photos on Medvedev's red carpet although not with him, the delightful young Israeli secret service guy said that the Russian guards would not be kind if Zvi poked the camera through the barrier to take a photo. Since I read the story of Flat Stanley for my children I know what a barrier on your head can do!
About three weeks ago I received a delightful letter through the post. It was a "save the date" for my nieces wedding. I was about to open the envelope when Zvi stopped me and demanded I look at the address. Someone had scribbled out Israel and replaced it with PALESTINE.  I was horrified on every level; quite apart from the racist aspect, defacing Royal Mail is a criminal offence. I spoke to two people, my son Gideon who is a Barrister (Advocate) and Welsh Member of Parliament Guto Bebb neither of whom are shrinking violets in the face of adversity. After many strong letters to and fro, from both Gideon and Guto Bebb, Guto met with the General Manager of the Royal Mail who sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers of apology and explained that actually finding the individual would be very difficult, so he decided to go to the offending central post office and have an expert give a talk on racism. Thank you to Guto and Gideon, and to Matthew Wake, GM of the Royal Mail.
Just one small fact about the Trumps, Ivanka Trump uses an Israeli baby buggy!! She has a Doona, the brilliant car seat cum buggy invention!  Amiad, Zvi's eldest son is a partner in the company so we are very happy that the future grandbaby in chief will be in a Doona
Other than that it was a good week, relatively quiet but good.
On Sunday I had meetings in Petah Tikva, Monday I met with Cardiff girlfriends in Herzliya, gosh I love being with them. We grew up together in Wales and it feels so good to know that one has nothing to explain - they know from whence you came. On Tuesday Rachel and I had breakfast in the Botanical Gardens to celebrate her birthday, before heading off to find her an appropriate present! Yesterday I had a call from my friend Irit and we decided to meet for lunch – in the Botanical Gardens! I love it, especially in autumn; the trees reflected in the lake, framing the shimmering water, the sun dancing between the lily pads, the occasional ripple of fish popping up to greet a passing fly. Good food, good company and glorious view.
As I left the Botanical Gardens a very Israeli thing happened. A bus driver beside me at the traffic lights tooted his horn, indicating to lower my window. This is Israel so I was not worried I simply complied. "Hamuda if you keep driving on that front tyre you will destroy it – go to the top of the hill and there is a garage with an air machine".  Of course the air machine was broken so I stopped at my usual car electrical specialist and he told me not to go to his neighbor who would cheat me, filled the tyre with air, called another tyre guy nearby and sent me there. The second tyre guy was just amazing, took a huge screw out of my tyre, repaired it and chatted merrily giving good advice. He charged me $10 and wished me safe driving. Incidentally all of the above kind people were Israeli Arabs.
Tomorrow night is already Shabbat again!
While looking for appropriate music I remembered the beautiful young woman who sat at our Seder Table 18 months ago, while on a visit with the Israeli Opera production of La Boheme. She was so much fun and then Zvi asked her to sing something, anything, and we both fell in love with her,  Nadine Sierra singing the American national Anthem for both candidates
I had already chosen the next song -  Leonard Cohen's Halleluya in Yiddish before the news of his passing May Leonard Cohen rest in peace his immense legacy assured. Baruch Dayan Emet

From beautiful Jerusalem, the centre of our world I wish you Shabbat Shalom. From Zvi and I Happy Birthday to Rachel, Ayala, Shiri and Ori……… yes it was an expensive week!!!

Shabbat Shalom and remember, this week's Torah reading is where the whole Isaac and Ishmael story begins.
With love

Friday, 4 November 2016

161104 Rabin 21 years, 99 years Balfour, Press Club, Yuri Shtern Gala

3rd November 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

It is 21 years since an evil and inflamed Israeli man killed our Prime Minister and in many ways our hope, not for peace but for a unified Israeli society. I was sitting on a beach in Acapulco with Cecilia Bayon when I heard the diabolical news and subsequently in Billy and Ruth Shapiros home in Mexico City glued to CNN in disbelief. I couldn't stop crying, I wanted to be home to mourn the friend, the Prime Minister and the rare leader who garnered the love of leaders from around the world. He was a fine soldier and a great defender of Israel. My last hug was in the Rotunda in Washington just 9 days previously when his prime concern was for my health instead of the assembled dignitaries and politicians– how could he be dead? I miss him and his humility horribly. General, Chief of Staff and Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin z"l

I am sure you remember my friend Jill. I often write about her visits to Israel. Jill is very excited because she is coming back in a very short while and she wrote this wonderful note "Recently realised that tomorrow is a very special anniversary for me. 3rd November 1966 I stepped ashore in Haifa, and so began my new life. 50 years, Sheila, and I remember it like yesterday. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Israel that has only grown stronger through the years. I will be reliving that day step by step all day long."

Standwithus is a magnificent organisation which prepares students as ambassadors in academic gowns for Israel. Almost every day they educate me and I am far from being a student! This week is the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, conceivably the most important letter in modern Jewish life.

Kim was here, Dr Kimball Taylor, travelling 30 hours from Western Canada to be here for the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings and to see us. Many aspects of Jewish life around the globe are covered in those meetings, some decisions will address the problems we face, some are not sufficiently brave. The Jewish Agency meetings were followed by the World Zionist Organisation meetings where Shlomo Avineri gave a brilliant talk about the genesis of the Balfour Declaration. Prof. Avineri says that the Balfour Declaration never said a Jewish Homeland – it says clearly that the British Government would view with favour a homeland for the Jews but that whatever entity is formed it must ensure the safety and wellbeing of the locals.  

Actually, Kim recorded Zvi on stage singing to the assembly – can anyone tell me how to download to youtube so I can send it to you?

Hen Mazziz is a Standwithus star. Hen went to speak at University of London's University College last week. He and his pro-Israel audience were attacked, some physically, a truly disgusting situation. All over the world this violent behavior is perpetrated by misinformed, or rather disinformed students. One way to protest is to do why my dear friend Yitzchok Katz did. He wrote and asked to be taken off the University College London's alumni list.
Christians United For Israel (CUFI) is doing a fantastic job of lecturing  and informing. They took a series of wonderful ads on buses in San Francisco thanking Israel for defending our  faith.

The Jerusalem Press Club under the guidance of Uri Dromi, has excellent lectures for both local and foreign press. This week Ambassador Alon Bar came to talk about the current fiasco at the UNESCO Heritage Committee which has been hijacked by the Palestinians. They have been full members for 5 years, but we are not. Their repetition, ad nauseum, of illegal, occupation etc have tainted the processes and taken over the entire agenda. Their power in that previously august institution has given them the courage to change the highly flexible status quo concerning the Temple Mount, the agreements with the Jordanian WAQF, so that instead of specific times when Jews and Christians can go up to the Holy sites, they now decided that we are allowed only onto a tiny area and, to boot, deny our heritage. Their "bravery" aka chutzpah has taken them to the stage whereby if the Temple Mount is now Harm al Sharif then the Western Wall is also Moslem and the Plaza beside it. What bothered the Ambassador most of all is that despite the great work by the Vatican which has been working together with Israel to counteract the disinformation, many countries voted with their interests not their conscience.

When it comes to my Judaism I am something of a traditionalist but accept the ways of others. I accept Women's Minyans (Quorums); mixed services, but when it comes to the Western Wall, the Kotel, I draw the line. The government decision whereby  women can pray at the further section of the Western Wall, actually women pray together all the time at the Kotel, was not enough; this involves reading from the Torah and wearing tallit and kippa too. Jewish law has no problem with women praying together, but this week, headed by Anat Hoffman, they decided to flaunt their beliefs and walk men and women together, carrying Sefer Torahs, along the Western Wall Plaza. It is pushing too many buttons and flaunting their stance in the face of tradition, the word that kept us Jewish for 3,000 years. Tradition. A  rather unseemly dispute broke out. When one lives in a holy city with so many options – why flaunt your rebellion if not to create publicity?

Well – it happened!!!! Two nights ago the Yuri Shtern Holistic Center held a gala performance, despite the burglary and subsequent mayhem.

The Jerusalem Theatre was packed! Lena Shtern made a beautiful opening speech, referring to the volunteers blessed work of easing the physical and emotional pain of cancer patients and their families and to the donations which make their work possible. She praised Yonatan Halevi, the Director of Shaare Zedek Hospital whose foresight enabled the facilities within the hospital to be given gratis to all patients and families in the four Oncological Departments. The Mayor praised the work of the Center and promised more financial help and then a marvellous standup comedienne Elinor Sela, poked at all the things most polite society won't touch. She laughed at cancer, baldness and Lena Shtern's ever present optimism that calls cancer "the visitor"! The phenomenal young dancers of the Batsheva Dance Company gave the performance of their lives. It was breathtaking. Such agility and ability – and then they came down into the audience and took individuals to dance with them on stage! The finale is the irreverent but quite phenomenal "Ehad Mi Yodeya"

The result of the performance was that the Yuri Shtern Holistic Center staff – headed by Lena Shtern and Varda Hershkowitz managed to turn lemons (the burglary and ransacking) into the most spectacular Lemonade. Thank you to all who donated, you made a huge difference, especially the one friend, a glorious woman by name and by nature, who covered the monies lost in the burglary. I am still walking on air!

Last night our dear friend Michael Goldstein, from Sydney, came for supper. I love Michael! He came to help his newly married daughter Ilana move in to her new apartment and is such a great father he is busy building, painting and repairing. He even brought his own toolkit all the way from Australia!!!

Nearly Shabbat again! Gosh it is hard to believe how quickly the time goes. Zvi's children and families are coming for Shabbat Dinner – of course all their favourite foods. Since the weather has cooled we have Veggie soup, Pea soup, chicken shishlik, meat balls in tomato sauce, ptitim (a kind of farfel) and a whole slew of salads because Leor and Shiri are off carbohydrates!

I love the autumn – we don't have the stunning autumnal colours of the British forests but we get life giving rain. Almost time to collect Yosef, Talia and Ayala from school and take them home to the aroma of fresh challot……… it must be a generational thing because that was my children's favourite memory – coming home from school on a Friday to the aroma of freshly baked challot knowing that a hot and steaming bread roll (bulke) was waiting for them, dripping with butter. Well in those days we considered that a good thing!!!

Music music music!!!
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach – tells the story of Jews in Vienna in 1939. His story is becoming all too familiar on the streets for Jews in Europe once again.  You must, but must listen to his mesmeric voice and pay attention.

This song is so exquisite that I had to give you the translation  As he sings I dare you not to shed a tear. "When the heart cries"  by Uziah Zadok, aged just 13, who turns a song into a prayer

I wish you Shabbat Shalom; I wish America an election that will bring you a good leader for the United States - A leader who will lead the United States and the world to a better place.

Election Day falls on my beautiful daughter Rachel's birthday – Happy, Healthy and joyous birthday amazing woman. Just 8 years ago Rachel spent her birthday giving birth to Ayala – whose birthday is on the 9th……… this birthday she will rest!!!!

With much love from Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish world.