Friday, 29 December 2017

171229 Guatemala, Brenda Katten, 2018


29th December 2017

Shabbat Shalom everyone – especially if you live in Guatemala!!

I hope your Christmas and Boxing Day celebrations went well and that your prayers for 2018 will come true.

Guatemala, Central America, about 16.5 million citizens and courage above anybody in Europe! Actually courage above any other country you wish to choose!!Garcia Granados, the Guatemalan Representative to the United Nations in 1947, headed the effort to establish the State of Israel. Guatemala was the very first to follow the USA announcement that they are moving their Embassy to Jerusalem. Guatemala, the only country to recognise the aid and support given freely by Israel, by accepting the fact that Israel has the right to choose her own capital city. When I think of all the African nations that have consistently received Israeli aid yet vote against us time and again it makes me sad. I know it reflects life, those of us who give seldom get, but nonetheless one lives in hope.

Brenda Katten is an amazing lady. Brenda served her community in the UK, indeed that is how I first met her, and since moving to Israel she has continued her determination to put forward Israel's point of view – she writes beautifully, concisely and after over 30 years I have yet to disagree with her! Here Brenda analyses the negative reactions to President Trumps announcement that he intends moving the Embassy of the United States to Jerusalem thus recognizing that Jerusalem is indeed the capital of Israel. An excellent read.

While the issue of Jerusalem vis a vis the Embassy is conceivably the most obvious event of this last year, it is most certainly not the only one. Perhaps one should note that the expected "uprising" among the surrounding Arabs barely took off; Britain yet again suffered horrific terror attacks; Norway announced it is reducing funding to the PA unless it goes to the people not terror; Saudi Arabia chose sides and Qatar became the big enemy; North Korea is testing ballistic missiles; the Palestinians claim Israel is committing cultural genocide because we say that Hummous is Israeli too; President Trump is celebrating a year in office; France elected a young President; Anti-Semitism became the new PC -  but then these are all things you already know so perhaps we can discuss some of the major events here in Israel.

First and foremost, Israel is thriving! Our economy is exceptional, a tiny country of just over 8,000,000 our GDP is a staggering $387.3672 Billion – compared to similarly sized Jordan $38.65 Billion. We still have a problem with the lack of parity in earnings between the top executives and the regular civil servant, but we are working on it. Our greatest asset is the "Yiddische Kop" – the Jewish Head. It isn't that we are cleverer, it is just that we are more curious and delve into areas that others do not. Having said that, many of our top researchers are Israeli Arabs. Our major fields of research are in medicine, pharmaceuticals, High Tech, agriculture and civilian protection, the latter spilling over from military research. I know that this news will possibly give the likes of Roger Waters and his BDS criminals a collective heart attack but we simply produce things that the world wants. Of course you helped too – 3,600,000 visitors this year! Well done!

Perhaps the saddest economic issue of 2017 is the closing of most of TEVA Pharmeceuticals due to a foolish act by company directors, with many losing their jobs.

The schism between religious and secular Israelis is becoming an abyss and I am not hopeful for change in 2018. This year has seen both political sides fanning the flames of hatred – something we really don't need. Instead of civilized debate both sides play the "three wise monkeys" game leaving the rest of us – from traditional to unobservant – trying to come up for air. I still stand by my belief that the status quo worked – especially in Tel Aviv but in many other Israeli towns – with many food shops, restaurants, cinemas, etc open on Shabbat, without needing a law for or against. The boat has been seriously rocked with ridiculous statements in response to the demand to close all of the above on Shabbat from Knesset Member Tamar Zandberg like "You want to leave the secular community stuck at home like prisoners?" After all – this is a Jewish country.

Last weekend was spectacular! Yosef Eliyahu read beautifully from the Torah, this time as a fully-fledged Jewish man with all the responsibilities that entails. Again a marathon eating experience which culminated in a truly magnificent party held at "La Belle" in Talpiot, Jerusalem. I have to admit that I didn't manage to get past the fish course – 3 down 3 to go!!!! I looked at my beautiful daughter and her exceptional family, all dressed for the occasion, and felt so proud that she chose to come to Israel, to  be beside me.

What do I want for Israel this coming year?
More brave people like Mosab Hassan Yousef! The great democracies of North Korea, Pakistan, Iran and Qatar condemn Israeli Human Rights but Mosab knows better - he was born in Ramallah became a member of Hamas................... what a brave proponent of true human rights

To expect the deaf, dumb and blind to suddenly see the light is too much to ask, but one can pray that
1.     Facebook and Twitter will ban hate speech
2.     Arab states will begin teaching tolerance in their schools
3.     Western nations will stop being neo-PC and reintroduce national and religious pride into their everyday lives. Pride in what one is does not have to be exclusive – it can be to the benefit of all.
4.     That the left and right in all countries will find a way toward the middle. Parallel lines never meet
5.     That many countries will follow the lead of the USA and Guatemala and bring their Embassies to Jerusalem, not giving in to fear of violence.
6.     That Israel can concentrate on medical research rather than defensive innovation.
7.     That scenes like this one, the Israeli Baseball team standing for Hatikva before their qualifying match in South Korea, will be common and no country will ban our athletes
8.     That Jews will stop fighting each other and realise that the danger outside is far greater than the power struggle inside.
9.     That the extreme Haredi community will join in the building of this amazing country instead of kissing our enemies.
10.  Finally, that we will all – each and every one of us, whatever his or her beliefs – will look to the right and the left and speak to the person beside him without asking his faith, income, origin or colour. That we will all remember that a beggar asks for money because he has no other choice and perhaps the most important issue is that donations to Israel had nothing to do with our GDP – it is all about working together, being together and forming a united front.

This has been a week of spectacular sunrises, I took many photographs, getting up at the crack of dawn to do so! I wish I was clever enough to put them on this letter but if you go to my Facebook page you will see them!

So let's try to think of which songs are appropriate for closing the past year and opening a new page.
Let's drink a cup of kindness dear for the sake of Auld Land Syne

Guard the world child, you have seen things a child shouldn't see, Guard the world child because we didn't

Perhaps the most relevant song as we enter 2018, the song that encourages us to stay hopeful in the face of great adversity. We Shall Overcome. The great Dr Martin Luther King believed it as he believed in the Jewish State -

I wish you a happy New Year, חי20, wherever you are, whoever you are. Remember to stand up for what you believe in, after all we have already proven the power of one exists.

With all our love from Jerusalem and our veranda
Sheila and her Zvi

Friday, 22 December 2017

171222 Jerusalem vote UN, Shikaki, Malcolm Hoenlein, Yosef Barmitzva

22nd December, 2017

Shabbat Shalom and  Blessed Yuletide greetings

The United Nations, after many years of proving its bias and uselessness, has put the final nail in the coffin of its relevance.

I will not write at length about their decision, or of an American President that was willing to go out on a limb and his representative in the UN who has shown great eloquence and bravery before that once august organisation – instead I will say – I don't give a damn! It is irrelevant where their Embassies sit and the predominantly Christian countries have condemned their own faith! Jerusalem is not only Jewish, the Christian connection to Jerusalem is of paramount importance and they have thrown it away with their stubborn Arabist leanings. I am ashamed of the country of my birth, Britain. Although not surprised I am deeply disappointed in those countries that abstained. Cowards.

For many years I said that the only way that the Middle Eastern countries will follow the USA lead on Israel is if the US administration decides to defund any country that burns their flag. Yes, as I have been told ad nauseum, it isn't illegal to burn the American flag but it is a sign of utter disrespect and why on earth would the American people fund a country that encourages its people to burn the flag and in the case of President Obama, to represent him in graffiti as a monkey.

Senator Newt Gingrich, Father of the Embassy Transfer Law said, as Ehud Olmert, Zvi and I stood in the Senate on that day in 1995 when the vote was taken to move the Embassy to Jerusalem "We have Embassies in 193 countries and the only country where we do not have our Embassy in the capital city chosen by the country is our best friend and ally"

Yesterday in Melbourne, Australia, a SUV ploughed into a crowded street of Christmas shoppers. At least 19 people were seriously injured, the driver had a clear agenda but the authorities claimed "He was mentally unstable". Of course he was – it seems most of the world is mentally unstable! An Australian Afghani. Why can't they just say it? Instead of stating the obvious Australia simultaneously abstained from the vote in the UN. So sad.

I've just about had it with confident condescension of the anti-Israel, ergo anti-Semitic puppets of the West. I expect it from the Moslem nations, even understand their wish to stick together, but……………………. Anyway I am moving on the good things!

Last Monday Zvi and I went to hear Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, speak at the Jerusalem Press Club. Dr Shikaki, who studied at Brandeis, conducts accurate and fascinating research into highly relevant areas of Palestinian life and his studies make fascinating reading. A quiet, charming, eloquent man he explained many of the results, it wasn't until he said "Palestinians feel that their education curriculum fairly portrays Jews and Israel and yet the Israeli curriculum portrays Palestinians in an unfair manner. That made me question everything I heard before and I challenged him because I am a minor cog in the fascinating wheel of which has translated the Palestinian curriculum and the Israeli curriculum and performed academic research of its own on Tolerance in Education which was presented to UNESCO. Shikaki was both taken aback.

Monday evening we went to the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre to applaud this years recipient of the Israeli Nobel equivalent – The Menachem Begin Prize, our dear friend Dr. Malcolm Hoenlein. Malcom is a powerhouse of innovation, initiative and determination to ensure that the case for Israel and of course the American Jewish community is brought to the attention of the Administration. Malcolm's ability to bring together Jews of every persuasion to Israel for the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations, to hear, see and understand our connection is a feat of gigantic proportions. A worthy recipient indeed. I hope that the Begin Centre will publish his speech – it was stupendous!

Tuesday was the first day of our week of excitement! I stood at the airport, excitedly waiting as the flow of passengers came through the doors at Ben Gurion Airport – yes Ben Gurion Airport because it isn't Tel Aviv, it is in Lod as always!!! Why was I waiting and what was so exciting? My eldest son Daniel was arriving for Yosef Eliyahu's Bar Mitzva!!! I miss my boys horribly, even though they are now grown with their own families and to see his smile as he walked across the greeting hall toward me was wonderful. Of course we went directly to Rachel's to see the children and as Daniel teased Yosef that he was getting a book for his present- he opened his suitcase to reveal a remote controlled camera drone!! Yosef's ultimate dream!!  In the night between Tuesday and Wednesday Gideon arrived to my absolute delight and by 05:45 we were in the Synagogue in Givat Zeev and Yosef was ready to get up and read his portion of the Sefer Torah. Oh my goodness he did an amazing job! His voice was clear and confident, he has a beautiful voice and was well practiced. My grandson is now a man in Jewish law. He is responsible for his own actions and has the responsibilities to his community and his parents that become a Jewish man. To me he is still my baby! We were thrilled that Peter Cooper, who has known my children since they were little, got up at the crack of dawn to be there. Yosef was surrounded by family and his Mummy, my Rachel, did us all proud with a fine "seudah" meal, for all the attendees.

Obviously the main reason that the family came for far and wide is to be with Yosef on his big day, but last night Daniel, Gideon, Philip, Barbara, Zvi and I went to Sima restaurant for supper. Gideon chose his very favourite food Meyurav Yerusahalmi – a Jerusalem Mixed Grill which he ate with gusto!!! After the meal we went to "Mahane Yehuda by night". When the market is over, the stalls are closed to reveal the wonderful graffiti on the metal blinds which close the stalls, the night life begins. Charis and tables come out of their storerooms, and from about nine at night until the wee small hours Mahane Yehuda becomes one big coffee shop/bar/night club/ music and nargillas as young people come from all over Israel, including from Tel Aviv, to have fun! I love it!!!

Anyway – it is time to get our bags packed and go to spend Shabbat in Givat Zeev. Tonight we will go to Igal's parents for Friday night Shabbat dinner, the entire family has been cooking for this, then tomorrow morning Yosef will read from the Torah and we will go back for Shabbat lunch, and finally back home after Shabbat to rest.

I am very disturbed this Christmas. The UN vote took away hope for the Christian sites, Christian life in the Holy Land. When Dr Shikaki spoke he said that the Western Wall would be accessible to Jews if the Palestinian State is formed – but that the Temple Mount would never be for Jewish prayer. What about Christian prayer? The Temple Mount is Holy for Christians too. Anyway I am sorry to be such a wet blanket.

Of all the music and rhyme that we share, perhaps King David's poem, the 23rd Psalm is the greatest. Written right here in Jerusalem it is sung throughout the world

Finally, the morning prayer that is said by every Jew. "Modeh Ani" I am granteful.

I wish all our Christian friends a truly magnificent Christmastide filled with joy and blessings. Please pray that the world will understand and regret what they do.

Shabbat Shalom, with much love from Jerusalem, Capital City of Israel.


Friday, 15 December 2017

171215 Chanuka, Nazareth, Education, Joy

15th of December 2017

Shabbat Shalom! Chag Sameach…… In Israel we tend to say "Festival of Lights" rather than just Happy Chanuka because our story represents the shining of light upon us all as well as the miracle of the 8 days of oil and the first time Jews decided to truly defend themselves.

Jerusalem is awash with highly fattening fried goods in the guise of sufganiyot (doughnuts) and Svinch (aMoroccan fried doughnut). Most Israelis are not happy with the traditional jam doughnuts so they come in every conceivable gourmet flavour with exquisite decorations. Some are crazy expensive and some are beautiful but inexpensive!

The famous Jerusalem Chanukiot are out on display outside the houses of the Old City and the Christmas trees are already distributed to the Christian communities. It really is the season of goodwill for most.

Sadly the Mayor of Nazareth doesn't understand goodwill for all his residents. He has cancelled all of the Christmas celebrations in Nazareth whose Christian community is declining. He claims it is because of President Trumps announcement on Jerusalem – or maybe he feels that the next pronouncement will be that Nazareth is Christian……..

I wonder what the European and British leaders would have to say about that one. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, hands out Christmas trees and hangs Christmas decorations and lights on the streets leading to Bethlehem while Nazareth and Bethlehem ………… no I am not going to spoil my Chanuka mood!!!

There is an Israeli expression "Any reason to celebrate" (kol siba le mesiba) which is what we tend to do – celebrate everything! Unfortunately it has become a negative expression too. The angry demonstrations which have taken place around the world because an American President had the courage to declare the obvious have been taken as any excuse to kill a few Jews. As always the South of Israel had rockets launched at her cities – in fact one rocket fell on an Israeli kindergarten, luckily empty, and another fell inside Gaza on an UNWRA school, but I can assure you they didn't report it!

This Chanuka has not been a happy one for everyone and the Israeli economy has taken a huge blow in the fall of a giant. Teva Pharmaceuticals had it all – then one very bad decision caused the entire company to fall like a ton of bricks. How one Director could borrow 32 billion dollars and invest it in a failed project must be examined but some 1,400 Israelis lost their jobs and many more throughout the world. A sad day indeed.

There is a way to change the world, slowly but surely. It can be summed up in one word – Education – or in three words – Tolerance in Education with the emphasis on love. I can hear you closing your minds as I write! Tosh I hear you say or maybe it is closer to Bah Humbug!! Well I am very proud to be involved in two organisations which can change your minds! One is very practical, that's which, through academic research on the curricula of our neighbouring countries, Israel and Madrassas around the world is introducing tolerance in education through UNESCO and the other appears more dreamy but is equally practical coming from a different direction. David Geffen is a happy man. Why? Because he has created a formula, already working in several countries, to teach children to love themselves and thus to accept, even love others! The incredible thing is – it works - using the four H's  Head, Hand, Heart and Help. I was not convinced at first but now I am and each time I meet David I learn more. . Both organisations will change Jerusalem, slowly but surely, from those amazing examples will change the world. I was introduced to David by my dear friend Andrew – Lord Stone of Blackheath – who has achieved enormous change through his quiet dreams and determined planning which he carefully brings to fruition. I will not embarrass him by outlining them now but I can promise you that he is the epitome of Tikkun Olam. How? How have these three examples succeeded while others fail? because they change the paradigm and do not veer from their course despite all the naysayers. No Bah Humbug can stop their path. I got to spend too short a time with Andrew this week – every time we are together I feel enriched and hopeful, and filled with our mutual childhood memories.

Talking of people who are not distracted from their path, Joy Wolfe celebrated her 80th birthday this week and I was thrilled, not only to be invited to her party but to manage a whole morning having a lazy breakfast in the glorious sunshine of Kiriat Anavim! Joy has never turned away from a challenge and lovingly supported by her late husband Brian, she has fought for her beloved Israel and the British Jewish community with all her heart. A warm and loving woman, Joy is a fine example of what one can achieve, simultaneously bringing up one's children, playing tennis, swimming and playing crazy games with her grandchildren. I have a feeling that had she been born at a different time Joy would have chained herself to the railings of Number 10 while making sure every woman there was fed and happy!!!! Joy, I am so proud of you. Happy Happy 80th – let's make a date for the 120.

I wonder what Joy would say about Jeremy Rosen's article this week. Jeremy says that perhaps the term Zionism is defunct and overly troublesome – maybe we should now change it to "Judaism". Personally I am inclined to agree with him – that way the anti-Zionists can't say they are not anti-Semites!!!!

I am filled with excitement. Next week is the Bar Mitzva of my eldest grandson Yosef Eliyahu (Joseph Elijah). He is a truly wonderful, warm and loving child and has promised me that even after his Bar Mitzva he will still want Safta-cuddles!!! On Wednesday he will be called up to the Torah, his first time as a man; in Judaism he will now be responsible for his actions and for his people, he can no longer hide behind "he's only a child"! 13 is a very important age – it entails moral culpability, obligation to behave properly toward others, to become part of the community and also be a member of a prayer quorum. Of course he will have a party but that is not the important part. His uncles – Daniel and Gideon are coming from New York and London to be with their little sister Rachel and stand in the synagogue as Yosefeleh is called up to read from the Torah. He is a lucky boy – his 3 Sabas, Pinchas, Nachshon and Zvi will all be rooting for him with his Abba Igal! Mazal Tov to all the family, I cannot promise I won't cry! We will all spend Shabbat in Givat Ze'ev, eating at every conceivable opportunity and celebrating!! It will be beautiful.

Since Joseph's story was in last week's Parasha (Torah reading) perhaps we should talk of his wisdom. He was thrown out by his jealous brothers, taken captive, used his abilities to curry favour with Pharaoh and his court, became a high officer of the court during a time of famine – ensured his family was fed and……… through his deep love for his Father and little brother Benjamin taught his brothers a lesson in tolerance. …..yet again love wins.

Of course, there is only one song which fits all of the above. The prophetic words of Tim Rice echo through -Close Every Door  

Songs of Chanuka are plenty
Quirky and even reggae!!  Which takes us back to the idea that miracles do happen! No matter what is done to us, it has been before and we are still here!!!!

So our family has an exciting week ahead filled with joy and dreams. Tonight we are with our daughter-in-law Shiri's family with Zvi's boy and OUR grandchildren (we each have our own children but our grandchildren are shared with love). Their faces lit with the candlelight and their hopes for a beautiful future – and it is up to us to provide them with that future, we cannot stand by and expect others to create a better world – remember what I always tell you THE POWER OF ONE. If each and every one of us does even one positive thing every day we can become and army for good…………..please.

With much love from Jerusalem as she prepares for a double candlelighting – first Chanuka then Shabbat. May the light of a million candles bring light and enlightenment to a world that appears to be sinking into darkness.

Shabbat Shalom, Chanuka Sameach

Friday, 8 December 2017

171208 Jerusalem


8th December 2017

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

After three days of rain and one clear statement by an American President Jerusalem is looking beautiful.

If one truly analyses President Trumps statement/declaration nothing has changed except the paradigm. From the vote in Washington in 1995 the question of Jerusalem has been carefully put on a back burner, pushed to one side every six months by Presidents who were fearful of their position and world reaction, this President decided that in a carefully worded, quietly presented statement, he would change the paradigm.

Let's just look at the situation logically, without emotion and without condemning him just because he is Donald Trump. Just because he is "The Donald" who isn't looking for political allies, he could make that statement.

Since Saddam Hussein, horrific despot, was deposed; since Hosni Mubarak, slightly less horrific but extremely effective dictator was deposed; since tyrannical dictator Muammar Ghaddafi was deposed, the Middle East has fallen into total chaos, as King Hussein of Jordan wisely predicted and warned. Libya has split back into 400 warring tribes, Syria is in a state of hellfire, Yemen is beyond saving, Iraq too although the Kurds are doing their best to control it, I could go on and on and then we come to Iran. Iran – oh yes that has become the centre of all evil since James Earl Carter decided it was not a democratic country and the relatively benign Shah was exiled. The Western policies until now have not worked.

Will the statement bring peace or war? Peace is not a reality in this arena, the fight must go on until ones religious pride is appeased. American flags and pictures of President Trump are being burned and defecated on. The supposed Israel/Palestinian conflict has been pushed forward by a world that doesn't want to see the true life or death conflicts of this and the African battles. Concentrating on Israel as the demon of the Middle East is convenient and currently politically correct – after all Jews as the scapegoat is hardly a new phenomena! Of course there will be riots – after all it makes good TV and will fulfil the Palestinian leadership's desire for front page; of course the fact that the President spoke of "two states for two people" was conveniently ignored by the Palestinians who hang on to their victimship with fierce conviction; of course people will die and be permanently scarred, not on the scale of our neighbours who are killing each other without a moments thought; Israel will be blamed again, but we will continue as before with tikkun olam.

President Trump stated the obvious. King David chose this hilltop because he wanted to unite the Jewish people. Until then we were 12 tribes, not a united whole, so he chose a place that did not belong to any tribe and was easily defensible and called it Jerusalem. He wrote beautiful poetry about it, each poem numbered and sung by Jews and Christians around the world. 3,000 years have passed and for 2,000 year Jerusalem became a prayer after the Jews were exiled, enslaved and spread all over the world. Here King Solomon built the Holy Temple, here the Second Temple was built; the streets where Jesus walked and preached. Jerusalem is Jewish, Jerusalem is Christian, Jerusalem is also Moslem. What is the difference between Jerusalem under Jewish rule and Jerusalem under Moslem rule? Under Moslem rule no other religion was free, under Jewish rule by definition and by declaration all religions are free to practice their faith as they see fit.

By stating the obvious President Trump has changed the Paradigm – the model, pattern, exemplar, example or archetype. He actually came out with the words that others only say after leaving office. He changed the way the USA looks at Israel – Israel is the country of the Jewish people and we have every right to be there. President Trump also said that the argument is between us not for the interference of others. That, perhaps is the most important statement of all. Those of you who have known me for a long time will know that I have always said that if other countries would just butt out of our business we could have reached salaam if not sulcha. Perhaps it is time to take Sykes-Picot and undo the infinite damage it created by splitting people and dividing countries.

For a short while we were able to escape from the rampant corruption in local and central government. It is exhausting and while desperately important to have clean and transparent governance it makes the regular citizen wonder if he is the only "frier" in town.

This week it rained!! Glorious, big ploppy drops rain which refreshed the city, indeed the country. The summer dust has settled, the trees and plants woke up and breathed in the fresh air as we all did too!

Just like half the people in the world we both have colds, but yesterday Rachel Risby-Raz came for brunch. I so enjoy her company and was happy to discover that she is now working as Ehud Olmert's private assistant, running his office with great efficiency. I made Shakshuka which is my favourite breakfast, totally Middle Eastern and delicious. Eggs poache din a delicious sauce of tomatoes, onions, red peppers which have been cooked for ever. The only bad thing about Shakshuka is that one needs bread to mop up the sauce!!! We spoke of wonderful friends we have in common, of Ehud who we all love, of the current police investigations and of who is behind it all – no I am not going to tell you but this man is super powerful and very proud of the case he "worked" to bring Ehud down. You will read it all in the book that is about to come out!!!

I went with Rachel to Netanya to see Valerie and Martin before they left for Britain. There is nothing quite like the friendship of someone who knows everything about you and only wishes you well. Rachel loves her Auntie Val and Uncle Martin!!! After Netanya we were in Bnei Brak, a firmly Haredi town, it is very different to Mea Shearim. People in Bnei Brak work, are less radical – or it's just the impression I got. Everyone we met was kind and open – and I wore trousers!!!

This morning we are off to Tel Aviv to the home of our friends Lea and Yehuda Ressler to wish Lea a very happy 70th birthday – 70+ is a club I am thrilled to belong to and welcome any friend who joins us!!!

Before I give you some songs of Shabbat and peace I want to take the opportunity to extend my deepest condolences to my sister in law Sandie who has taken care of her Mother for years with devotion rarely seen. Sandies Mother passed away two days ago and my heart goes out to Sandie, Ronnie, Sophie, Adam and Deborah. May her soul finally rest in peace.

For those who think that we don't speak, meet and have deep friendships with Arabs – think again  A song of hope and peace from both sides

Rotem isn't famous, she is just a girl scout who sings of peace "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu" Peace will yet come to us and to all the world. Rotem with sign language  and children in Africa

Shabbat Shalom  dear friends. I wish you peace.

With love from beautiful Jerusalem – the capital of the Jewish world


Friday, 1 December 2017

171201 Hotovely, N Korea, Trump, Hoenlein, Yuri Shtern


The first of December 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

I have to start with the ridiculous storm in a teacup after Israeli Minister Tsippi Hotovely said that American parents cannot understand what it means to have a child in the IDF. She's right!!! I have two step-sons, Zvi's boys, who served in the IDF in dangerous situations and with all the love that I have for them, I am not their parent and I cannot understand what it means to rear a child to serve in a constant war situation. I am here in Israel, I have friends who lost their children to war and if I cannot comprehend fully, how on earth can anyone thousands of miles away understand the parents here. It wasn't an insult!! It was a fact. The Minister never claimed that Americans don't support Israel or that no Americans have ever served in the IDF – far from it. There are those who are trying hard to build a wall between the United States Jewish community and Israel and this is just another attempt. Please, don't be fooled, the connection we have is of ultimate and deep importance for both of us because as the seemingly banal saying goes "United we stand divided we fall" or as Sir Winston Churchill said "When there is no enemy within then the enemies without cannot hurt you". There are so many enemies without, racist enemies, that we must stop our infighting and find the common denominator rather than emphasising our differences.

This has been a week of extreme rhetoric and a threatening ballistic missile launch. The insanity of Chairman Kim has nothing to do with whatever the American President says – it is innate, inborn, psychopathic megalomania. So determined is he to appear the mightiest leader of the world that he brought the strange television reporter out of retirement to report every move in her staccato, bellowing urgency to emphasise his actions.

We live in a time of extremes, of instant decisions rather than of labored and careful leadership. Everything is instant and encapsulated in a Tweet. Everything is in the words of headlines and people do not read in depth reports – it saddens me. It especially saddens me when the leader of the Western World is ridiculed daily on Western media. He isn't my cup of tea at all but he is the leader and every item denigrating him gives succour to our enemies – they laugh all the way to their growing arsenals.  Rabbi Jeremy Rosen

I am inundated with information from many and varied sources but this week I received a video, I believe from the lovely Roy Solomon, of a US Representative Jim Jordan speaking on the subject of the American Embassy and Jerusalem. It held me in rapt attention.

A man I have admired for many years, Dr. Malcolm Hoenlein, is the most respected of men. His quiet diplomacy and his behind the scenes work is exceptional. He is currently in direct contact with the Qatari government to obtain the release of Israeli prisoners, both living and bodies, held in Gaza.

On 29th November 1947 the United Nations voted to create two states, a Jewish State and an Arab State in the Middle East. Resolution 181 was very clear, the vote was legal and the newly formed Jewish State accepted 181 with both hands. The Arabs refused to accept it deciding that it was tantamount to causus belli. The result? A thriving, blossoming, cultivated society in Israel and poverty and unassuageable anger on the other.

With all the terrifying news around the world it is always special to hear good news from friends and even better when that good news involves a young Israeli doing well in sport. Or Nassi, the grandson of our friends Carmen and Yisrael, won Gold in the Junior European Championship in Judiko at the Championships in Rome including Gi and No Gi! Bravo Or, you have brought honour to us all.

I am a very lucky person. I have many incredible people in my life from whom I learn every day.
On Wednesday I learned what love can do.
I went with my dear friend Gloria Goldstein to meet Lena Shtern at Shaare Zedek Hospital Oncology Unit, to see and understand the work of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre. We met patients who receive the loving care of the specialized holistic therapists, therapists who give of their love and knowledge freely as volunteers for the Centre. Patients told of the life changing effects of these therapies, how lying in the therapy room they suddenly feel like human beings not pincushions for medication. They spoke of the psychological relief as well as the reduction in nausea and the inevitable side effects of chemotherapy - I don't have words to describe the outpouring of love from both patients and therapists.
Perhaps the most emotional of all, if such a thing is possible, was meeting Dani. Dani is a therapist in the children's ward, most of his therapies are for palliative care patients and their parents. Dani is an angel.
Each and every therapist has undergone very intensive training on top of their regular holistic training to understand and learn how to treat cancer patients and their families, a very different approach to treatment.... and now a new course on how to treat children, including courses in both the psychology of treatment and parenting to understand how to pass this knowledge on to parents of dying children.
Angels - each and every one.
Shaare Zedek medical staff has welcomed the treatments with open arms, recognizing that it really helps their patients overcome the most traumatic of times.

Just in case you are among those who think that all Israeli women are flag waving settlers who sit on a hill top and shoot Arabs or that all Arab women have a bomb under their hijab or teach their children to hate - watch this wonderful video and learn that everyone responds to love. Thanks to Diane Steinfink for sending this to me

Talking of love, David Geffen just left our home after updating us on the incredible work of his organisation "Loving Classroom". Loving Classroom reaches out to children and teachers alike teaching children love and self-esteem and ………. Wait, I am not explaining it correctly, what is a truly practical route to tikkun olam sounds flippant in my words so I will let David's words explain.

Almost Shabbat and Zvi and I are alone this week! We have both been stricken, along with half the world's population, with a rotten cold so even though we have generous natures we don't want to give our germs away!!!!

Jerusalem is spectacular today. The sun is shining, the air crisp and as I sat on the veranda with David and Zvi, all wrapped up in a warm coat, I was again taken aback by our luck to live in such an exquisite place, overlooking the city we love. This city with it's widely diverse population, its troubles and beauty; its fun and intensity; its joy and deep sadness; its trendy bars and restaurants and its religious tensions – and of course its spirituality, perhaps most of all its spirituality. I believe that spirituality has no religion, it has no bounds, it doesn't know hatred and it has no demands. Spirituality is in the very stones, the paths that inspired King David to write the most beautiful poetry, still read today in his original language, Hebrew. Zvi always describes Jerusalem as a city from Wall to Mall – and he is right!

Back to the veranda………. The geraniums are stunning, their bright scarlet flowers prolific  through the lush green foliage. The little lemon tree is thrilled with the change in the weather and her fruits are slowly turning colour, absorbing sweetness from the gentle sunshine, the kumquats are bright orange and the pomegranates, too bitter to eat, are opening their bounty for the multitude of birds which come to feast on them. I was amazed this week to discover that the bird which sings the beautiful but unexpected song amongst the trees is the local parakeet – a bright lime green and simply stunning.

Zvi is downstairs now, renewing the mezuza of our building – just one of the tasks the Chairman of the Building Committee undertakes! I love that we have a building mezuza as well as each home……………..

As I said – almost Shabbat which means it is time for music

Shir l'Maalot this time with a Spanish translation  - so beautiful

A song most of you will recognise May the Skies be Joyous – Yismachu ha Shamayim sung by the Effi Netzer singers – because we bumped into Effi Netzer last week!!!

So that's it! I wish you a good shabbes – a beautiful day – a loving weekend and the opportunity to meet wise people to learn from.

With love to one and all from us, here in Jerusalem



Friday, 24 November 2017

171124 Rabbi Nati, Rivlin Azaria, Mummy


23rd November 2017

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? I hope you are well and not too depressed by the crazy world we live in and the medias obsession with our leaders.

Surprisingly this hasn't been a busy week. It makes a pleasant change and gave me time to cook and contemplate – my freezer was looking decidedly empty! I always keep a full freezer for unexpected guests and extra busy days. In fact I was given an extra day of quiet because Zvi went to babysit in Nes Ziona taking the little car key with him!!! He is an exceptional Saba (Granpa) and Amit, Gili and Ori were thrilled that he stayed over to care for them, so I excused him!!!

Tuesday evening found us at the World Mizrachi Union Centre for a Telfed event. Telfed is a South African group that has excellent and informative events – something I only discovered through the kindness of former Jerusalem Post Editor and current Jerusalem Report Editor Steve Linde. This particular event fascinated me, I was really looking forward to it and it lived up to my expectations. "A Swaziland Prince who became an Orthodox Rabbi" Rabbi Natan Gamedze lived up to my expectations and exceeded them by far!

Rabbi Natan – Nati – was born into wealth and privilege in Swaziland, to a devoutly Christian family. A quiet introverted child, he was clearly brilliant and like his siblings he went to Britain to study in Oxford University. Nati studied languages, today he speaks no less than 14 languages fluently! When he continued his studies at Witwatersrand University in South Africa, he found an Italian class rather boring and decided to take on a challenge and learn the language of the Bible – Hebrew. I will leave you to listen for yourselves – the following video is one of 4, but know that studying Hebrew brought him to Israel, to study at Ohr Sameach Yeshiva and to convert. He now lives in Tsfat (Safed) as Rabbi of a community there and is married to Shayneh Golda. He loves to shock his audiences by breaking into Yiddish and is a delightful and true Jew. It was only after his conversion that he discovered his real name was not the Swazi name he knew but he had been christened Emmanuel – "he who believes in G-d". and his whole story

Where are American Jewish Academics when Israel and other Jews are attacked? Where were the Jewish Academics in the fine American Universities when anti-Semitic, anti-Israel cartoons and activities take place? Where were they when offensive cartoons of Prof. Alan Dershowitz appeared? The loyalty of these academics is sadly lacking, their cowardice blatant. It has become fashionable to deny your heritage, after all being accepted in intellectual circles is more important! The following article is long but worth every word. 

President Rivlin made a brave decision this week to deny a pardon to Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot a terrorist who was already neutralised and no longer a danger. It is a basic and absolute rule within the IDF that no-one, not even a terrorist, be shot if he is neutralised. Azaria was known for his extreme right wing views, although until that day he was a decorated soldier; he went against the ethics of our IDF. The reactions made me very angry – the far right put caricatures of the President wearing a Kaffiyeh and even Nazi uniform - it cannot be countenanced. Yes I know the familiar chant of free speech – but I believe that democracy demands control, democracy is not absolute freedom. As I said at the beginning of this paragraph I, for one, am proud of our President who has brought great dignity and compassion to his position and to Israel.

The Likud Party has gone beyond the line of decency when Party Chair Bitan forced veteran and honourable Member of Knesset Benny Begin to leave a special Committee which intends to prevent prosecution of Knesset Members. Benny Begin disagreed with the party line so he was simply thrown out!!!  Disgraceful.

The history of Jewish persecution in Syria. Jews in Syria suffered some of the worst oppression under Muslim rule of any of the ancient Jewish communities - who existed in the Middle East even before the Muslim conquests in the region. This is their story, a story of struggle and oppression, for which reparations have not been made to this day by Syria or the Arab League. As we lead up to the Memorial Day for the Jewish Refugees from Arab countries, we share the stories of the ancient Jewish communities who were virtually wiped out by racism, extremism and violence in the Middle East.

Every year I fear the question – what were you doing when JFK was assassinated, especially this year since the "secret" papers were disclosed. It isn't that I am not emotional about the assassination, it was a terrible, terrible tragedy which shook the world. No, sadly, the question distresses me because something much greater shook my world and the world of my siblings Eddie, Doreen and Ronnie on that day – indeed at that hour.
22nd November 1963 - I was 17 and it was conceivably the saddest day of my life.
Friday night and Daddy was in the lounge with two friends, Lionel Moore and Norman Cohen. The television was on and although we heard the front door bell the nurse answered, since my brother Ronnie and I were held in rapt attention by what was happening in Dallas, Texas. A President was shot and fighting for his life.
As the announcement came over the airwaves that President Kennedy has died from his wounds I heard my father's scream. He never yelled, he was a quiet man. We left the room to find Dr Grossman holding my father close, his friends crying as Dr Grossman conveyed the news that my beautiful Mother, Betty, had passed away.
She had breast cancer at a time when there was no way to discover it, no mammography, no US, no chemo, no radiation, she simply lived too early to be saved.
She gave me, indeed all her children, the love and confidence to live our lives as thinking loving, confident people. We were very lucky. She left a wonderful inheritance to the world - loved and loving to all she met from the greengrocer to royalty.
I want to thank todays incredible doctors, like Professor Michael Baum who dedicated their lives to healing women with breast cancer throughout the world. Michael, proud to call you friend - I wish Mummy had known you
As a founder member of Cardiff WIZO Mummy would be so proud that I am living in Israel.

Kate Humble is a journalist and a very special lady. She created a series call Extreme Wives and this week I watched her piece about Haredi Women in Israel. It was generous, unbiased, honest and very special. If you have the opportunity I suggest you watch it.

Gosh, a quiet week but I found lots to write about!!!

Yesterday was the last Thursday in November and thus it was Thanksgiving in the USA. The Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth Ho in search of a place where they would not be persecuted for their religious beliefs, they set off without knowing what lay on the other side of the ocean and upon landing they found food and freedom. That is the lovely fairy tale version – and that is the one that America rightfully celebrates. However, I beg of you to honour the most important tradition, giving thanks for what we have. We have become accustomed to whining and winging about just about everything but we have running water, food in our bellies and rooves over our heads – and if we are lucky we are surrounded by those we love and love us. I hope your Thanksgiving was good. Just to stir up the pot, here is Rabbi Jeremy Rosen's take on this unusual festival  I believe that all reasons to celebrate should be grabbed with both hands – but why are your settlers celebrated and ours excoriated?

Perhaps the ultimate thanksgiving is Modeh Ani the Jewish prayer said every morning upon waking. "I give thanks before You, my King living and eternal, for You have returned within me my soul with compassion; abundant is Your faithfulness"

Last week I promised you Adon Olam and gave you Oseh Shalom – so this week I'm going to give you Adon Olam but not in the way you expected!!!

This morning we will commemorate 2 years since the horrific killing in Mali of our dear dear friend Shmuel Benalal z"l, His passing has left a vacuum that we cannot fill. They say that a person has 3 names; the one he was born with, the one he is called and the one he leaves behind. Sammy, Shmuel, you leave a beautiful name behind you – rest in peace dear friend. For purely selfish reasons I want you to see this video of our visit to Ein Gedi with the choir. Shmuel shines in every picture – his amazing personality clear, his voice standing out with Zvi.

The blessed rain finally arrived! Suddenly everything is clean, shiny and the buildings return to white instead of dusty grey!! I swear I could hear my plants heave a sigh of relief as they absorbed the life giving drops. The grey skies don't bother me because I know that the parched land is going to blossom, even as far as the desert. I started making winter soups again and even put the heating on in the apartment!!!

A very special couple arrived in Israel today, Valerie and Martin Myers. Valerie and I grew our children together in Reading, Berkshire. We spent our Shabbatot together, Passover Seder and Rosh Hashana, Valerie and I decorated our little synagogue together on Shevuot, had a business together and shared our secrets. I still make cookies and fried gefilte fish according to Valerie's late Mums recipes. They aren't staying with me, actually they are based in Netanya with Pamela and Stuart, also from Reading, but today we will see each other and Valerie and Martin will come to Jerusalem, hoping to see Rachel! Martin, I can't believe you are 80! Happy birthday lovely man – you don't look a day over 79!!!

Wishing all of you a truly wonderful Shabbat. More news next week.

With love from us to you