Friday, 24 February 2017

170223 Nikki Haley speech UN, Conference of Presidents, Shkediot

23rd February, 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

This has been a fascinating week which began with a surprise, a breath of fresh air, as Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations held her first press conference at the UN. She confidently walked to the podium and spoke out with rare honesty about the imbalance of time and money spent on the Palestinians when so many awful things are taking place in the world and time which should be spent on solving those problems was spent on castigating Israel, the only true democracy in the region. She was a phenomenally supportive saying, "The United States is determined to stand up to the UN's anti-Israel bias"

Israelis have been torn apart by the trial of a young soldier who killed a terrorist, who had attacked fellow soldiers but was already lying on the ground. Elor Azaria's parents chose to take the trial to the country rather than accepting the services of an IDF lawyer. They encouraged the media hype over what should have been an IDF court martial and left the country confused. Would it affect the way young soldiers reacted to attacks? Would they risk their own lives for fear of court martial? Would it embolden terror attacks? The matter was complicated by the fact that Elor Azaria himself changed his story many times and his parents turned it into a political issue. The verdict came out this week, he received a sentence of 18 months imprisonment, leaving everyone equally confused. Do we want to punish our soldiers for reacting? No, not unless they do it out of political conviction rather than necessity.

If you truly believe that the anti-Semitic attacks in the USA are caused by Donald Trump, think again. Louis Farrakhan has been determinedly campaigning for attacks "Disabuse the Jews" is his cry, "Disabuse the Jews of their belief that they are chosen and that Palestine is theirs" His hatred for Trumps pro-Jewish stance is obvious. If you have FB please watch this video

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen wrote a fascinating blog this week about the complexities of Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of Britain. Well worth reading.

I flew back from the UK on Sunday, Gideon took me to the airport and as always, saying goodbye to my family was painful. Without time to unpack, early next morning Zvi and I arrived at the Inbal hotel for a small but exciting taste of Dr Malcolm Hoenlein's ability to put together a brilliant programme for his Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. The speakers came from across the political gamut, from far right to fairly left – from Bennet to Boughie. Even those with whom I disagree had important and highly relevant things to say. Bennet made important statements about education, about the need for every child in Israel to have the opportunity to learn the 3 R's, history, geography and the sciences. Isaac (Boughie) Herzog is not on the left of the political spectrum unlike many members of his newly reformed party. He speaks clearly and when a questioner referred to the religious importance of Israel he reiterated that his family history follows his grandfather who was the Chief Rabbi of Israel and his father who was President, traditional Jews for whom Judaism was paramount. Herzog also referred to the secret Aqaba meetings and the plan set out by then Secretary Kerry. It is his belief that the talks were scuppered because Netanyahu made up his coalition with the far right after Herzog's own party vilified him for wanting to form a coalition with Netanyahu; however, the press claims that the talks ended because Secretary Kerry did not pressure the Palestinians to recognise Israel as the Jewish State – an obvious prerequisite.

Yair Lapid chose to be interviewed rather than stand and speechify. Currently the front runner in the polls, he has grown politically over the past few years. He spoke well and addressed the concerns of the questioners. When asked about the threats of violence from the PA if the Embassy is moved to Jerusalem, he said "Since when have the USA and Israel made policies under the threat of violence" He also quoted his late father whose last words were "Take care of our family and take care of our country". Yair Lapid feels strongly that this must be a Jewish State and doesn't believe in separation of religion and state. Both Lapid and Herzog believe that Israel is a country for all Jews and we must give the same tolerance to Jews of different leanings as we do for other religions.  Perhaps the subject which touches my heart and I am sure yours too, is hasbara, Israeli PR.

It was surprising how closely all the speakers, irrespective of party, right and left, had the same core beliefs in education of our children and the need for reconciliation work between the different Jewish factions. All feel that we must bring two sectors into our society, ensure that their children have a chance to improve their social and financial position through education – the Haredi Community and the Moslem Community – neither of whose educational institutions fulfil the basic learning requirements. That is a broad statement because more and more Haredi schools have improved their curriculum but nonetheless it needs attention.

The discussion at the luncheon session was "Freedom of Press in Israel" with an esteemed panel whose political leanings were as diverse as their media. Each was disturbed by the Bibipaper "Israel haYom" which was, and is, funded by Sheldon Adelson and since it is free it is now the most influential with the widest readership and reports only positive things about the PM. While others report on the ongoing police investigation of the PM's gifts and possible corruption, Israel haYom does not. It was also suggested that the Prime Minister's Office tries to influence what is printed in the other papers and TV news. Remember – I am just reporting what was debated.

To understand the importance of the man and the mission one simply needs to meet with Dr Malcolm Hoenlein. His standing among the senior US politicians is without match, his work untiring and his determination unparalleled. I feel very honoured that we are invited to events. Just see the website to understand

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Australia! He was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with this excellent article in the Australian.  The reader comments were  disturbing but new trade agreements and travel opportunities eased my concern!!!

There is one problem to being a modern, dispersed family, while I adore being with each of the children and their families, I miss those I am NOT with! I had so much fun with my New York and London family and will return to my Friday school collection and hugs here in Jerusalem followed by Shabbat with Zvi's boys Leor and Amiad and their families… but then I want us all to be together around one big table. One can dream after all.

Spring is around the corner although the air is still crisp and winter is not over. The harbinger in the UK is the fields of snowdrops and crocuses; here in Israel it is the shkediot – the almond blossom which covers the Jerusalem hills like clouds of pale pink blossom. The desert is blooming, – Darom Adom – the Red South, the Negev blooms, the land is covered with scarlet poppies, Jerusalem too. Calaniot, scarlet poppies, Rakafot, pink wild cyclamen as the land drinks the rains of winter before the heat of summer. Perhaps the most famous song is Calaniot, by the late Shoshana Damari although she actually refers to the poppies of Flanders Field

Zvi is in the city with my "machutan" Nachshon, my son in laws father, sitting a restaurant on Ben Yehuda Street absorbing the passersby, enjoying the atmosphere. Perhaps he will go to Mahane Yehuda for me to see what fruit is freshest on season and buy himself some treats in Tzidkiyahus "hamutsia". Oh my I could go crazy tasting each one of the olives and salads!!!
The Shabbat music that Yaron Tzidkiyahu would love is Eastern or Mizrahi music – it is much happier than Ashkenaz music! Here Revivo sings Shabbat Songs with friends, get ready to clap!!

You always ask me for recipes, rather difficult for me because I rarely prepare things the same way twice! Today I found you a video of how to prepare Moroccan Hamin (Cholent) and I must say it looks so good I will do it next week!!!

So dear friends, finally Shabbat at home. Last week I lit the Shabbat candles with Stephanie and Olivia, tonight I will light candles in the knowledge that in each of our children's homes Shabbat candles will bring in the bride of Shabbat, the childrens faces lit by the glow of the candles as they follow the traditions of their grandparents and the generations before them.

I just went outside onto the veranda for you, to see the glorious view, to see Jerusalem in all her glory. I don't know if the US Embassy will come to Jerusalem soon, but come it will and then the dream of British Ambassador Gerard Cowper Coles will come true. He told me that each time he came to Jerusalem he used to go to the potential site of the British Embassy and touch the ground "One day the Americans will move their Embassy here and then I can follow suit immediately". Three British Ambassadors have passed through since, but his dream may just come true.

With love for a beautiful Shabbat all the way from Jerusalem, our city, heart of our faith, where King David wrote his psalms, where Jesus walked, where Abraham took his son Isaac, Jerusalem……………………….

Shabbat Shalom  


Friday, 17 February 2017

170217 Netanyahu Trump meeting, Melanie Phillips, Jeremy Rosen and Gideon QC

17th February 2017

Shabbat Shalom from London dear friends

Yes I am on my travels again but for very good reason, my son, Gideon Saul Cammerman, received his title as Queens Counsel Learned in the Law. More of that later, first of all we need to cover the political and diplomatic traumas and events of the week.

Mr Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, flew for meetings with Mr Trump, President of the United States. Mr Trump arrived on time and did not keep Mr Netanyahu waiting, which was a good start. I was not in the room so cannot assess from persona knowledge but rather from collating knowledge from the media – left and right – and picking my husbands brains because I have been very busy absorbing my London grandchildren every moment.

Zvi’s assessment is thus, and you may well disagree but Zvi is usually right.
There is a shift from an unsuccessful policy that has not changed for 50years to a Policy of building a different coalition in the Mideast, one of similar interests rather than one of enforced alliances.
In spite of the Presidents overt pro Israel stance, there is none of the previous anger in the Arab World which already anticipated the United States of America to move away from the naive belief that they would abide by normal rules of engagement that  President Obama adopted -  to President Trumps very realistic view of the area

Mr Netanyahu also knows he doesn't have a free hand on settlements and that the dream of the far right members of his Cabinet are unrealistic. There is a strong feeling in the Middle East that there is a new Sheriff in town. In this region at least President Trump retrieved the credibility of America.

The main question is whether it can be sustained or whether American Society is too frail to reclaim the role of Superpower. I, Sheila, sincerely hope so because any alternative is terrifying.

As to the thoughts of Israelis on our particularly complex situation - the 2 state solution remains the preferred option. In a poll taken yesterday 46% of Israelis are still for the 2 State Solution . 15% for 1 state and 30% status quo.11% don't know!!!

I have been asked what I feel about “the settlements” and I never know exactly how to respond. Settlements according to CNN or BBC? Settlements in terms of the UN? Settlements in terms of legality? Well let me put it in one sentence because it is becoming tedious. I believe that there is no reason to leave large settlement areas; I believe that Jerusalem is not up for debate; I believe that those who sit on a hilltop, endangering their childrens lives and the lives of our soldiers who have to guard them are also endangering Israel and our relationship with the outside world.

Those of you who still think the UN is a good thing – read this

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist. Her page is fascinating and well worth listening to an interview she did with an American/Israeli on and listen Melanie speak about Trump Hysteria, double standards and bad manners in this weeks newsletter. A fascinating interview

Another fascinating interview (if I didn’t already give it to you) is with Canon Andrew White about the Middle East in general,

Whenever anyone in the media, on campus or just ignoramuses suggest that Israel is an apartheid state it makes me very angry; not because of Israel but because it demeans the suffering and brave fight of black South Africans and the many Jews who stood beside them to attain freedom from oppression. Rabbi Jeremy Rosen writes about his views on the matter through the eyes of the Pogrund family

I know you all want to hear about Gideon’s – well I want to tell you anyway!

We took the tube to the City then to the Chambers at 187 Fleet Street where Michael took over. Michael is the most senior Clerk of Chambers and it was his job to dress Gideon in his incredible  uniform, to ensure the wig was brushed, the cravat flowing and the gown spanking clean. The tights were a problem for someone not used to them however.

Our first stop was the ancient building of the Palace of Westminster – the real name for the Houses of Parliament - and our limousine was ushered through the gates of the House of Lords, stopping before the enormous Westminster Hall , a 900 year old structure with no heating. We froze as we sat inside, waiting for the ceremony to begin and 113 Barristers, solicitors and honourees received their Queens Counsel, Learned of the Law certificates signed by none other than her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We all stood as the Lord Chancellor (a very pretty young woman named Elizabeth Truss who is also Minister of Justice ) accompanied by her staff who led her down the steps to the podium, the ceremonial mace going before her. She addressed each and every one of them with a smile as they gave a nodding bow toward her.

From Westminster Hall we were collected by the limousine and taken to Gideon’s Chambers to be greeted by Head of Chambers Mr Andrew Trollope QC. The staff had organised a spread of snacks, sandwiches and sushi before we set off again for the Royal Courts of Justice just a few steps away.

In Court number 4, a wonderful and ancient room, a very British ceremony took place. 5 Judges in full regalia, with golden decoration sat up on the bench and each new Queens Counsel was called forward. Without a word he bowed to his left, right then turned and bowed to the young Barristers behind him who responded with a bow. He sat for a moment until one of the Judges asked "Do you move?" Without a word he bowed to them and walked to the next bench thus symbolising his first appearance before the court as a Queens Counsel. Incredibly Gideon’s name was called out by Sir Brian Levenson, President of the  Queens Bench Division, whose decision and encouragement early in Gideon’s career brought him to this day.

Formalities over Gideon thankfully walked at full pace back to Chambers and changed into civvies. Thereafter we went to a local pub where loads of friends arrived to celebrate. What a day!!!!
My favourite moment was when Olivia, Gideon and Stephanie’s daughter (my granddaughter) suddenly announced that Daddy was a tourist attraction because the milling tourists outside Westminster Hall were photographing him from all angles as he sported his ancient costume. 
Both children, Olivia and Zachary, had the experience of a lifetime and I was so proud of both Gideon and his beautiful (and equally clever) wife Stephanie without whose support and love, life would have been so much harder.

I go back to Jerusalem on Sunday, filled with stories and experiences that fill my heart.

So to music

Yaacov Shewekey is a favourite of mine and while I was looking for Ma Tovu, my grandson Sammy’s favourite ad very gentle song, I found this very unconventional version!

Since I am in the UK in winter I must give you Eli Luzon singing Rain from the movie Afula Express  

So dear friends, next week I will wax lyrical about Jerusalem but this week my emotions are no less as I think of Gideons beautiful baritone as he sings Kiddush and the children, Sammy, Olivia and Zachary, look up to him and absorb tradition. Stephanie, you make my stay so sweet, thank you.

Just went to visit my childhood friend Steve Isaacs in his new family bakery in South End Road in Hampstead . I love Hampstead, so very British – the Heath, loads of great restaurants and now……….. a great bakery!

Shabbat Shalom from London  

Friday, 10 February 2017

170210 Miami, Trump, Haredim, Miami, Gideon Saul

10th February 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends

Yes we are back home and I was very moved by the number of you who asked what happened to us! Well, I tried to write to you, indeed wrote but then found I didn't have the means to send it!!! Never mind, perhaps it was better that I didn't send it so that fewer feathers will be ruffled. Since we arrived in time for the inauguration we were also in time for some rather over-exmeited reactions!!!!

So, since we last spoke Zvi and I had a truly rotten experience with Expedia who forgot to tell me that our flight from Barcelona to Miami had been cancelled some 4 months ago (they continued sending me reminders) and we found ourselves having to stay overnight in Barcelona, not exactly a punishment but a rather large expense since none of the airlines took responsibility since they get at least one such incident every day with Expedia!!! Anyway, a delightful, if very cold, walk through the Ramblas and a night in a hotel we set off for Miami and David Efrons home.

I will not write too much about the elections and inauguration but just to tell you that Davids partner, Kathy Fernandes Rundle, Miami State Attorney who is very high up in the Democratic hierarchy, said it simply and clearly; the elections are over and it is time to move on and prepare for the next ones. In my opinion all the demonstrations against President Trump; the shunning of friends over their votes; the reactions of Democratic Congressmen; the angry and pointless outbursts and the fact that CNN still hasn't accepted the results do not enhance the USA or democracy.

Just by the way, it is not the first time that racial profiling was in place in the USA! President Obama did it against Iranians to such a ludicrous extent that our own then Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz was refused entry! Just 7 out of 56 Moslem States are on a hiatus of entry into the USA excluding Christians who seek refuge. Probably because not many Christians blow themselves up in either aeroplanes or shopping malls.

Incidentally, anti-Trump mania reached the House of Commons when the Speaker, who is by definition apolitical, announced that President Trump would not be welcome in the Houses of Parliament because he is racist and sexist! After all the tyrants, despots, and so on that were welcomed it is a disgrace and a fall from honour. Melanie Phillips talks about this and much more  iincluding the fact that nobody seems bothers that Jews and Israelis are banned from so many Arab and Moslem countries!!!!

There, that's finished!

Israel has been on the back burner of the news, except for the issue of settlements (surprise surprise) and Prime Minister Netanyahus visit with Theresa May, the British Prime Minister which apparently went very well. Actually Mr Netanyahu has had his hands full recently with the legal authorities finally questioning his hedonism. This morning I heard an excellent interview on Israeli radio with one of the other cabinet members where the interviewer asked the MK "Had the person being investigated been Ehud Olmert who you castigated for his "gifts" while you were on the Opposition Bench would you have been as lenient as you clearly are to the PM's wrongdoings?" Incidentally PM Olmerts entire case was built on $15,000 whereas the extent of gifts Mr Netanyahu has received makes that look minimal. Isn't it strange, the case against Mr Olmert was because he raised election funds and Mr Netanyahu because he accepted gifts (a lot of gifts), both of which would not be considered a crime in most countries – except the two I have lived in!!!! No doubt that will raise a few eyebrows from all of you but, hey, that's why you read what I have to say!!!!

A very big issue here is that on the day we arrived there were riots. Haredi riots. The riots were not even against being called up to the IDF but rather because in order to get the title of conscientious objector you have to appear at the induction centre and that is what they are rioting about – harming the policemen who were sent to keep order and disrupting traffic. If they are so against this amazing nation, hate Israel, think we should all pray all day and not work or serve the country then they should also not receive social security to study; free medical service; social services; roads, transportation and all the services given by the taxpayers. I am all for religion; I adore our Judaism and our principles; I think that there is no religion with traditions of giving like ours; Many of them came here from elsewhere and have not taken Israeli citizenship so that if they do earn they do not need to pay taxes.  
If they don't want to be part of society and refuse to contribute to that society then let them leave. Gosh, you see, this normally very moderate and balanced author occasionally gets worked up. I don't want to offend my religious friends because as far as I am aware none of them fall into this category, they all work hard and contribute to society in general no matter where they live.

One constant question on peoples lips was "Why isn't Saudi Arabia on the banned list" Well, Saudi Arabia is as much in the line of fire as Israel, in fact even more so. In case you hadn't realised the Middle Eastern conflagrations are all about the Sunni/Shia divide. Iran is Shia Moslem and Saudi Arabia is Sunni which makes them a clear target. President Obama decided to fall on the side of the Shias who represent only 15% of Islam, including Iran and her satellite organisations of Heb-Alla and Hamas, leaving the others outside – not very wise. Saudi Arabia is Sunni and now turns to Israel for her defence weaponry and technology. The materials and operators fly to either Cyprus or Jordan and then on to Saudi Arabia in unmarked planes and set up the defence systems. Read here

"Safta and Saba, what was the high point of your visit?" asked Talia. Well obviously for me it was visiting my NYC family and getting to really know my little grand-daughter Callie who at 3 years old only kinda remembered me and spending time with the amazing Joshua – and of course Daniel and Karen and for Zvi it was going to Mexico and seeing his family there. Having said that our sojourn in Miami was filled with great experiences and wonderful visits. Our initial purpose for travelling was that after a talk in the community of Rabbi David Greenberg in Bedford, NY Bob and Faith Krasnow invited Zvi to talk at his wonderful synagogue in West Palm Beach. They really did us proud and Zvi was, as always, fascinating. I don't know how he does it, his eloquence is unmatched and happily the community of Bet El were thrilled. I was extra excited because a group of readers came especially. In shule the Rabbi asked a highly pertinent question "Who was the Mother of Jesus"? a somewhat surprised community looked back at him but almost everyone knew the answer "Now tell me what Moses mother was called"? almost silence – only two of us knew the answer Talia Carner confidently called out "Yochevet" while mine was an uncertain whisper. "Indeed Yochevet, and none of you knew the most important woman in Jewish history!" A point worth contemplating! How many of you knew Yochevet or the one who watched over baby Moses or the one who saved him?

We saw many friends and family, in fact I don't want to start naming names because I don't want to hurt anyone!!! Friends gathered friends to hear our views on what is happening here and our relationship with the USA and the new President. I must mention one name though, Rabbi David Steinhardt who invited me to speak to a small group at his shule in Boca Raton. We have known David for some time and despite my reticence at speaking his warmth gave me confidence and for the first time in my life I stood up and spoke clearly and even Zvi said I did well! Perhaps it was because very special friends were in the audience – I have to mention Audrey in particular. Her tears of joy when we met, having been through so much together during the time when Kinneret Chaya was injured, were joined with those of Sari Singer, Jane and Harvey. Kinneret Chaya, one of the main reasons I will never stop writing. Kinneret Chaya, daughter of close friends, blown to smithereens by a terrorist in Tel Aviv, given a 2% chance of survival and now a mother to 4 exquisite children. Those of you who do not know her miraculous story – just ask me and I'll send it to you.

Rachel collected us from the airport together with a vast amount of luggage – Zvi cannot go to Mexico without going with his cousin Ruth to the markets, and buying, and buying – all good stuff but it took one whole suitcase!!! We managed to get everything in and then dropped Rachie home before heading off to our freezing cold apartment! I didn't have to strength to unpack just dropped into bed leaving it all for the morning.

As I drove to see the children this morning it was as if we had never been away. Climbing the hill of Ramot, over Samuels Tomb, down the other side to Givat Zeev, the children calling every two minutes to see where I was – happy. Their excitement was total and I realised I was home – where I am meant to be. Driving back to Jerusalem I couldn't help but glance over that phenomenal panorama of Jerusalems many hills set out like a beautiful white puzzle of small houses, behind them small apartment blocks growing in height until the tall modern buildings of the city completed the horizon. It really is spectacular.

My veranda survived the cold and the flowers are blooming, even the hibiscus said hello! Tomorrow we will be with Zvi's boys and their children which made me think – what a glorious month this will be – I got to see all of my children, all of Zvi's children and all of OUR grandchildren all within a short period of a month. Life couldn't be better.

No sooner have landed than I am off again, this time to London on an extremely exciting visit. On Monday morning my amazing son Gideon Saul is being invested as a Queens Counsellor in the House of Lords and then at the Court of Appeals (like the Supreme Court) and I will be there to burst with love, admiration and pride. My son will be a bigwig – literally – as he dons a new robe and a long wig which will be his court uniform from now on. Gideon Saul is a special person who has a strong sense of justice and determination which foretold of his calling. Thanks to his beautiful and equally clever wife Stephanie he has achieved his dreams and long may it continue.

Zvi just got back from his parliament where the main topic of conversation was all of the above!!!!!

Music, music is the spice of life, the reason to smile the reason to cry – music brings back memories almost as easily as scents, smells aromas, so let's try to bring back some good memories with the following:-

Tu b'Shvat is generally known as the New Year for Trees, but that is a misnomer, it is the festival of potential both human and agricultural – it is a time to plant, a time to grow a time to think of future crops. Here is a short song of Tu b'Shvat in Yiddish

Perhaps this little video about Israel is also appropriate for Tu b'Shvat - All about Israel in 4 minutes

Naomi Shemer is arguably Israels greatest poet/songwriter. One day she heard the Beatles Let it Be and decided that she would write a song of hope in the same vein - her prayer for peace is clear and beautiful Lu Yehi

Oseh Shalom – May He make peace

So dear friends, old and new, it is time for Shabbat. I am sorry I didn't manage to talk to you for a few weeks but here we are now, deep in our conversation as if there had been no break. I have to admit I missed you too.

Tonight it is just Zvi and I but the prayers will be full, the traditions complete and the light that Shabbat brings will fill our home. It is always good to be back but no matter where we are Zvi's glorious voice will fill my heart as he sings the Kiddush – the blessing over the wine.
May G-d bless you and keep you safe from harm.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, ever beautiful, ever golden, ever ours.