Friday, 31 March 2017

170330 United Nations, Kinneret Chaya March 30th, Pesach

31st March 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I bet you thought I wasn't going to write today! In truth I wasn't well yesterday and missed out on Zvi's big event of the year. 20 choirs from all over Israel put on a terrific show to the delight of a sold out audience. So proud of him. Anyway  got myself together this morning and went to congratulate everyone at the hotel where they are staying and came back home. I'm not ill by any means – I think I am just suffering from pre- Pesachitis!!!

I am delighted to announce good news from the United Nations!!! Maybe I should have warned you to sit down first. We discovered last week what a phenomenal friend of Israel, and justice, we have in United States Ambassador Nikki Haley  and this week Britain also called on the UNHRC making their feelings clear on their discrimination against Israel. “Israel is a population of eight million in a world of seven billion,” said a statement from the British Government "Yet since its foundation, the Human Rights Council has adopted 135 country-specific resolutions; 68 of which against Israel. Justice is blind and impartial. This selective focus on Israel is neither,” added the statement, which pointed out that that “Israel is the only country permanently on the Human Rights Council’s agenda. Israel is a population of eight million in a world of seven billion,” said a statement from the British government, yet since its foundation, the Human Rights Council has adopted 135 country-specific resolutions; 68 of which against Israel. Justice is blind and impartial. This selective focus on Israel is neither; Israel is the only country permanently on the Human Rights Council’s agenda."

If you had any doubt as to the horrendous bias please see these two links of Hillel Neuer speaking and being interrupted.

Andrew Neil is an old-school journalist, afraid of no-one. At the opening of his This Week programme Neil tells the "jumped up Jihadi Joes" exactly who they are dealing with. "you will never beat the British people – you have no idea who you are dealing with"  A real mensch

Yesterday was a very important date. The 30th of March, a date I can never forget. On March 30th 2002, in the middle of the Intifada, a beautiful young student was working as a waitress in a Tel Aviv Coffee Shop, right on Allenby Street. A young fellow walked into the café and she approached him, asking if he wanted anything to drink. As she walked back behind the bar he simply pressed a button and blew himself up. Our beautiful young woman lay on the floor, the blazing bar on top of her, certain she would not survive. The paramedic, Yitzchak Kochav, made a last check around the burnt out café and suddenly saw something move. With mighty strength he lifted the bar to find the horrifically burned body underneath. Even in that state Kinneret managed to smile at him. He took her to the hospital never leaving her side, even when her family arrived. I can never forget the phone call from Orly telling us what happened. Kinneret, daughter of our close friends Moishe and Yaffa, was given a 2% chance of survival, burned on 85% of her body. At her parents request we went to a Rebbitsen and Amiad took an amulet to place under her pillow. That night a Rabbi visited her in hospital and told the family to change her name from Kinneret to Kinneret Chaya – Kinneret Lives.

As those of you who have been with me for many years know, I recorded every move every new thing, every moment of her miraculous recovery. This young woman who defeated medical knowledge, is now a married lady with four children! Yes, with all the scars and damaged lungs she never gave up. I love her more, though we rarely see each other. I can never forget the moment I went to see her – the first visitor allowed – a tiny figure on a pile of green pillows, and through her induced coma she turned her head and smiled at me. Yes, the 30th of March is etched in my very soul. Happy rebirthday KC.

On Monday we went to see the wonderful "Bustan Sefaradi" a show all about the Sefardi community in Israel with all the neighbourhood traditions they brought with them. Adults and children alike, all amateur, put on a fabulous performance and we all enjoyed watching our friend Yitzik Mussachy take the lead role. Bustan Sefaradi or Spanish Orchard was written by the late President of Israel Yitzchak Navon with his inimitable wit manner. This is not the version with Yitzchak but it is lovely

Pesach. Oh my goodness Pesach is approaching fast. I always get a sense of purity once the cupboards are ready and scrubbed and the dishes changed but before I reach that stage I find life very hard!!! In just one week we will all sit around the Seder Table, enjoying the sense of difference, of freshness, as the dishes from Zvi's father from Poland and the Seder Plate from my family remind us of our heritage. We read in whatever language we feel comfortable, telling the story of our slavery in Egypt and our escape to the Promised Land. In general the story is quite child friendly as long as they are allowed to ask questions apart from the famous Ma NIshtana – What is Different?. I always feel that the part of the four sons is most appropriate to today – it is easy to recognise who is which. The wise son, learned and tolerant; the wicked son, also learned but utterly intolerant and cynical; the simple son who doesn't know to question and doesn't really get what is going on and finally the one too young to ask – now he is the one who is open and ready but hasn't reach the age of socialization yet.

I have decided upon the menu for Seder night, after everyone has filled up on bitter herbs and cement……… what? Cement? Well actually it simply represents the cement used by the slaves in Egypt – or so I am told. It is incredibly delicious and different to everyone elses. My beautiful late Grandfather – Zeidy Yosef – used to make it each year. Good crisp apples, grated; a little ground almonds; a dash of sweet wine or grape juice and very finely shredded lettuce. I have no idea of amounts so please don't ask……. Keep tasting and leave it overnight; oh and make tons because the kids love it!!!!

Hard boiled eggs in salt water also sounds about as tasty as cement, but it really is good! The eggs represent rebirth – Spring. Chicken soup with kneidlach; Roast lamb, chicken, salmon and Mullet Chraimeh with green salad, Broccoli and cauli bake and Roasted root veggies. Of course if Canon Andrew White comes too then I will have to create gefilte fish!!!!

Shopping is quite an experience. In the UK it was simple; Valerie and I used to go up to London to shops that opened just for Pesach (Passover). It was easy and we knew that everything on display was kosher for Passover. Here life is much more complex! First of all the Kosher for Passover shelves are not all in one place so one must take care to check and then……………… oy gevalt! Then comes the problem of "To pulse or not to pulse that is the question" Pulses, Kitnyot in Hebrew include beans, lentils, rice, etc etc and Sefardi and Eastern Jews eat them over Passover whereas Ashkenazi Jews do not. Yes I know it is crazy but I cannot make the change much to my husband's dismay!!! So I walk around endangering everyone in my path, wearing my reading glasses to see labels!! If you think it sounds simple you should try pre-Pesach shopping in Israel!

My veranda is really worthy of its view today. Spring has sprung in a huge way, delighting me every time I walk outside with a cup of coffee to take a break from Pesach cleaning. Freesias are just coming out and filling the entire place with their heady fragrance, the tiny orange tree is about to burst into hundreds of heads of blossom, daffodils, tulips, rununculus and grape hyacinth and even the good old geraniums have woken up. All over Jerusalem one can see the crabapple and cherry blossom as the almond blossom dies back, indeed it is a glorious time to be in Jerusalem. Actually, any time is a glorious time to be in Jerusalem! I hope that the weather doesn't get too hot for the tulips and they last until our Seder guests see them.
I am so proud of my little country. We don't always get it right and on occasion get it wrong but we always try to be fair, to help those in need, send aid to third world countries and  perform Tikkun Olam. In many ways Israel is like Kinneret Chaya – nobody expected us to survive but here we are, surviving and thriving, beautiful as ever, smiling through our pain.

See how incredible Israel is through the eyes of an aerial camera. Thank you Roy Solomon.

As the Seder food has been eaten and sleepy diners say grace after meals we all wake up to the traditional songs – Chad Gadya – Only one Kid and my favourite Who knows One?

The service ends with the most important prayer, "Next year in Jerusalem" Once it was a distant. Unachievable dream but today it is ours, we can dream our dreams right here in the steps of King David.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, from Zvi and I and from all our family to yours.
With love


Friday, 24 March 2017

170324 Westminster Bridge, JCC, UN, Azzam Azzam

24TH March 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. This week has been overtaken by deep sadness as terror strike again, this time in the heart of London. 4 people lost their lives including an unarmed policeman, Constable Keith Palmer, just 44 years old, who, through his incredible bravery, stopped the slaughter by halting the terrorist in his tracks.

For those who do not know the area surrounding the Houses of Parliament, the bridge over the River Thames leading to the exquisite architecture of the Palace of Westminster, is a favourite tourist site, giving a wonderful aspect of the embankment and the Parliament buildings including the Elizabeth Tower which houses the Big Ben Bell. Security is always heavy; protecting both tourists and parliamentarians alike – secure in rational terms but nothing can protect us from the insanity of vehicular terror attacks. My heart goes out to Londoners and tourists alike, those who were killed and their families, those who were injured and those who saw sights that nobody should ever see. May the souls of those who died rest in peace.
 Col Richard Kemp Tweeted Police: "London attacker was inspired by international terrorism." No, he was inspired by violent Islamic doctrine.

The Metropolitan police work closely with Israeli security services on how to fight terror and they reported that over 100 potential attacks had been prevented but even the highest level of security cannot stop each attack. Prison, prison is the school for terrorists and hatred. Be it British prisons, Israeli, American, European, indeed all over the world jails are the pressure cookers of Islamic fundamentalist recruitment. Those within are often disenchanted with society, social misfits who never found their place are suddenly part of a group, find religion and become soft targets for extremely clever manipulators who convince them that their acceptance is dependent upon the death of infidels wherever and whenever they may be. Most are not immigrants, many like Khalid Massoud, are born in Britain. Massoud was born and brought up in in area near Birmingham where many Asians settled and thrived. If you want to understand the process of indoctrination you need to understand the Imams who teach  young people hatred of the country which welcomed their parents and grandparents and everything Britain (indeed anywhere) stands for. Please see the clever and terrifying Allah Islam by Zvi Yehezkeli who went undercover in Europe and Britain.

Not everything is as simple and clear as it seems. The terrifying threats on JCC's across America distressed and disturbed whole communities and fingers were pointed at President Trump for awakening the ugly face of anti-Semitism in America. The threats were a clever play, a malevolent, cruel plot by a 19 year old American born Israeli. Beyond understanding that a Jew could possibly have devised such a cruel plan, worse that it diminished the genuine threats to a news item about an Israeli instead of highlighting a real danger.

Hillel Neuer is the founder of an amazing organisation which fearlessly stands up in the UN to put Israel's case. He pointed out that while the UN is obsessed with the Palestinian "refugees" (the only ones in the world who can inherit the status) nobody has given a moments thought to the Jews who fled Arab countries. Perhaps the reason is because we never asked for a penny in assistance from the UN because they came home from dispersion.

Prime Minster Netanyahu has been travelling a great deal recently; at first in Africa and most recently in Asia. The purpose is to widen Israel's economic base since the USA and Europe have become uncertain economic partners. This visit, long in preparation, is to strengthen China-Israel economic relations but also to ensure that Chinese companies do not meet with Israeli businessmen and simply copy the product as happened in the past. It certainly seemed a warm discourse.

The war in Syria becomes more and more horrific. The number of dead has risen above 500,000 and has been mis-handled from the very beginning. Nobody knows who is fighting whom and the human tragedies continue unabated. What is proportional response? One wonders why the outcry was not stronger when a school/shelter was bombed in an American airstrike and 33 (at least) civilians, mostly children, were killed.

Hundreds of bottles of booze were uncovered near Ramle in the remains of an old British fort used during WW1. I have a feeling the drinks came from the Officers Mess. Why? Because the bottles contained both whisky and gin. Gin of course was imbibed by the officer class, a habit from the time of the Raj in India when Gin and Tonic was the prescribed antidote to malaria!!! The embossed name of Gordons Gin stood out but no tonic was found!

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has undergone constant restoration since coming back into Israeli hands after 1967. I still remember going there in 1967 and feeling sadness and the dilapidation of the entire Church. Well now the latest restoration is magnificent and is of the Tomb of Jesus. See for yourselves

As I told you we went to Akko (Acre) and Rosh Hanikra last weekend with Zvi's choir and our little grand-daughter Amit. Leaving Jerusalem at 06:30 we headed north. Our driver was a brave man, driving a choir yet singing his heart out most of the route! First we went to the Old City of Acre and the Fort which served as a prison for "Jewish Underground" basically of the Lehi or Stern Gang and the Irgun where they were held by the British. They determined to escape and luckily very few died but one was Yair Stern, leader of the Lehi. His son and daughter in law are looking for any information about him. If you have anything please send to me.  It was far from a picnic in the prison; crowded, with simple woven rugs as mattresses and basic food but as you will see later it could have been a lot worse.

 From Acco we went to Rosh Hanikra. So exquisite, her caves and tunnels carved out of the sandstone rock by the mighty sea Rosh Hanikra provides food for the soul in her beauty. We then went back to our Youth Hostel – as good as most hotels – for Shabbat. Friday night we learned about the many tunes associated with each familiar prayer, a lecture by our friend Dr Motti Friedman then too exhausted to dally we went to sleep. Next morning we set of on foot to explore Acco's Old City. The Crusader great halls have been recently excavated, discovered whn a lady had trouble with her plumbing, the plumbers dug down and found……….. a labarynth of enormous rooms in an incredible state which told stories of the Templars and the Hospitalers. Our guide, Eva, ensured we saw every fascinating facet. Acco, Akko, Acre, irrelevant how you say it it is deeply important as a Napoleonic/ Crusader/ Ottoman and Jewish city. Akko is before all else a Moslem City and Israel would never ever try to claim otherwise.  

In the afternoon Azzam Azzam came to talk to us. Azzam Azzam, an expert in textiles and ladies underwear had been sent by the Israeli company he worked for, to negotiate with the Egyptian manufacturers. An Israeli Druze, Azzam was fluent in Arabic and seemed the ideal candidate. On his last day after buying gifts for his 4 children and his wife, he headed back to the hotel to pack. He was met by two burly men who roughly bundled him into a car, blindfolded and terrified, and taken to a prison where he was beaten and starved. It was some time before he was tried and given a 9 year sentence as a spy for Israel – no proof, no witness, no reason. The Israeli Embassy worked tirelessly to free him and Prime Minsters worked to free him. Early in the story his wife had been to see Ariel Sharon, then a Minister. Sharon promised that if he became Prime Minister the first thing he would do is to free Azzam. So it was. The story is complex and told with incredible good humour and self-effacement. The torture he endured in the filthy prison, sent there by Mubarak himself, was slightly eased when he learned that Mubarak and his sons were imprisoned in the same jail. A true patriot,  true Israeli whose entire family served in the IDF and who loves Israel as no other.   

So tell me – how many cupboards have you cleaned? How ready are you for Pesach? I am doing one cupboard a day –and we have Zvi's boys and children coming for Shabbat dinner tonight so they will help me get rid of a lot of food from the freezer – they are good eaters!!! Tonight we have two soups (Pumpkin and pea), Meatballs in Chraime sauce; Chicken patties for the children and pulkes in onion sauce all together with various salads and ptittim (rice shaped pasta) with onion. I will light the Shabbat candles with the little girls then Zvi will lead Kiddush in his amazing bass baritone and bless the homemade Challah – I decided to let Rachel off this week and make my own. I think I will try a 7 strand this week. I will take the children out onto the verandah to see the incredible array of spring flowers – bright reds, purples and yellow from bulbs we bought in Holland last summer.

Tomorrow we will go for a walk in the Gazelle Park just down the road to the right or maybe walk to the Biblical zoo on the left cutting through my special park; we'll see what the weather does!!!

Dame Vera Lynn sang to Britain and held the Bulldog spirit alive during the 6 long years of WW2 with her sweet voice, natural strength and beauty. Dame Vera celebrated her 100th birthday this week. So I chose to give you the song for which this East End Jewish girl became loved. We'll meet again

While looking for a song to lift our spirits when the world seems to have gone crazy I found this one by Yaakov Shwekey. I Believe -

So that's it. Another week has gone by, Zvi is with his Parliament putting the world to rights. My Challa is rising and needs to be kneaded – the table is set, the food cooked and Shabbat is coming in later this week because we are on summer time!!

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Let us all determine to make our lives sweeter this week, no matter what horrible news is thrown at us – because the best way to defeat evil is to succeed, to thrive, to live our lives in freedom.

With love


Thursday, 16 March 2017

170316 Dr. Abuelaish, Haredim IDF, Noise Law, Erdogan and Holland

16th March, 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Last week I let you off lightly because of Purim but this week I am raising a few highly contentious subjects because my conscience demands I do so.

The basic principle of Judaism, indeed the ethos of Judaism, is to question, no stone of contention is left unturned if I may misquote. We are taught to honour our fellow man and respect his/her views. This Purim that view was shattered. In Mea Shearim, the ancient stronghold of ultra-Orthodox Jews, every conceivable line was crossed, morally, legally, Jewishly, when effigies of IDF soldiers were hung from balconies. As if that was not bad enough there were riots after an 18 year old Yeshiva Bocher was arrested for not going to the enrollment center to get his release from national service. He was arrested because he refused to enter the doors of the enrollment centre to receive his release. There is nothing in our belief system that precludes defending your country! Some of our finest soldiers were religious. It is time to do something about it –to allow a few brilliant Yeshiva students to continue studying but the others must work and serve, and demand this treacherous behavior stop. Rights are earned; rights are the reward of fulfilled obligations.

Rabbi Igal Levinstein announced that women should not serve in the IDF because they go in pure and religious and come out secular and sinful! I cannot even bring myself to comment so I leave it to Minister Avigdor Liberman who calls for Levinsteins resignation.,7340,L-4932388,00.html

How many of us remember the anguished cries of Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish whose daughters were killed by a stray Israeli tank shell in the 2008-9 Gaza conflagration. Dr Abuelaish returned to his work in an Israeli hospital, ultimately moved to Canada. He has never spoken against Israel, never spoken of revenge, always promoting peace. To my horror, he is still fighting for compensation. It should have been done to give his family given a chance to build a new life.

Impertinent, audacious or brazen? Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, who has gagged the press and called for public support to become a dictator, called Holland a "Banana Republic" after Turkish Ministers were banned from speaking to Ex-Pat Turks.  In Holland Prime Minister Mark Rutte won the elections despite belief that Gerd Wilders was the top candidate. Still right wing Rutte is not extreme. Of course CNN compared Wilders and Trump which shows their lack of understanding on how right wing the European candidates are. Hopefully the same will happen in France.

The Muezzin Law is a misnomer, even its title on the bill before the Knesset is the "Noise Law". In Israel house parties or outdoor concerts must end by 11 pm; excessive noise is disallowed by law including noisy vehicles and leaf blowers; Church bells, Synagogue noise and Mosques. Since Church bells are rarely rung before dawn and most Jews pray Shacharit quietly it was deemed an anti-Moslem law (by troublemakers). Nobody complains about the Muezzins call to prayer at 04:30 as long as it isn't loud, but even in towns the volume is increased until it becomes impossible to sleep, so the law has to be imposed. Not anti-Moslem at all, anti-noise.

Our hopes rose to great heights as Israel's team beat all comers including Cuba, in the World Baseball Classic this week; but then were dashed as we were beaten roundly by the Netherlands and Japan. In fact, only 3 players were Israeli citizens, the remainder were Americans and Canadians who were allowed to play for Israel by Jewish default!!!!

Zvi decided to install Mobileye in our car after a friend drove into a truck a night and was killed. Apparently he simply didn't see the truck until it was too late. Mobileye is our eyes both day and night and senses if we stray from our lane without indicating; it beeps if we get too close to the car in front thus ensuring we are alert at all times. It is a brilliant innovation and this week Intel bought Mobileye for over $15 million. The best part is that the company will stay in Jerusalem, not move to the States as so many companies have done. Incidentally all new cars sold in Israel from this year have to install Mobileye by law.

Antonio Guterres was the Prime Minister of Portugal, a country that took responsibility for its anti-Semitism. He is now the Secretary General of the United nations and his words are a breath of fresh air as he speaks on Holocaust Memorial Day to an invited audience of Holocaust Survivors. If he is able to win this fight then the United Nations may even become a logical resource of peace.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has demanded that the publication that states that Israel has imposed an apartheid state on the Palestinians be repealed. Sec. General Guterres has distanced himself from said report. Could the tide be turning? To express support for Nikki Haley please sign


I was uncertain as to whether or not to put this into my letter. Then I decided that since we in Israel are good at washing all our dirty laundry in public, maybe I should not be shy of exposing others. This report details an investigation of the activities of George Soros in Congress and the implications therein that reach up to the White House.

So Purim has been and gone. Friday night with Zvi's boys became an opportunity for princesses and firemen to appear at the Shabbat table! It was fun especially when Saba Zvi arrived as a Mariachi and I appeared as Charlie Chaplin. Only problem was that the little ones had no idea who Charlie Chaplin was!! Later we met up at a friend's house and just "mootled" – which is almost untranslatable but basically means to chatter, natter or just to talk and enjoy each other!  

On Shabbat we met with Mark Minevitch who gave us a fascinating overview of Washington and of world finances – apart from being really honoured to spend time with this man who is in a different country every day!! On Sunday evening (Shushan Purim) we had the choir over for a Purim Party at home. About 35 of us, each person brought a food contribution to the table. We had musicians and a gorgeous singsong and of course a Purim Quiz. Charlie and Mariachi reappeared to greet our guests and everyone wore come kind of fancy dress – if not they were met at the door with a wig, tiara, false nose or beard!!!

I made a serious omission last week and it rightly distressed Leo-Dan Bensky, the wonderful President of World Maccabi Union. Zvi and I went to the opening of the WMU meetings and the run up to the 2017 Maccabiah – the 20th. The evening was filled with music, dance and declarations of love for Israel and excitement of the imminent games. 80 Countries One Heart.  Leo-Dan, I hope this goes a little way to making it up to you and all the wonderful people of the Maccabi Family

The veranda looks stunning!!! The tulips are suddenly peeking out of their protective leaves, the daffodils and narcissi emitting their glorious scent; the grape hyacinths and rununculus, cyclamen, geranium and nasturtium, gosh I love spring!!!! The sky is still threatening rain, but the long periods before it falls are so beautiful, crisp air and blue skies with clouds quickly scudding across propelled by the breeze. The sharp spring sunshine makes the white Jerusalem stones glisten on the houses and the blossom trees which line our streets bloom in glorious contrast.

Tomorrow morning at 06:00 we will set out for Mevasseret Zion with our grand-daughter Amit, to meet up with the choir members and our bus to the North. Our journey will contain many stops for our guide and choir member Eva Yaron, to explain our surroundings. We will spend Shabbat in Akko, Acre, the ancient Crusader fortresses and the Templar halls below the city.  Our friend Dr Motti Friedman and his family will be with us to explain the Jewish and historic importance of that city. Our beautiful hostel is right in the centre of town so we can get everywhere on foot. Our Shabbat dinner will be in the hostel and either Motti or Zvi will probably do Kiddush. That's the great fun in travelling in Israel – Shabbat is Shabbat wherever you go!!! Akko is a city you should not miss.

The great Israeli poet and songwriter Naomi Shemer loved the Beatles song "Let it Be" and felt the prayer in the words were deeply appropriate to Israel and her soldiers. She wrote "Lu Yehi" -

So you thought our soldiers just fight? Well they only fight when all other options have been exhausted. They also sing and sing beautifully. Here is my favourite version of Leonard Cohens Halleluya.

Finally, the Chief Chazan (Cantor) of the Israeli Defence Forces, Shai Abrahamson, sings the prayer for the peace of the State of Israel. Let's all join him in this prayer. Amen

The cleaning has started, call it spring cleaning or call it Pesach cleaning, it must be done! The smell of cleaning fluids and bleach are predominant but I have a short break this weekend – work to be resumed on Sunday!!!

Happy anniversary to Igal and Rachel and happy birthday to my husband – Ad 120

With love from Jerusalem where dreams become reality and tolerance (Sovlanut) and patience (Savlanut) are synonymous. We have to be patient and tolerance will come but only if we seek it out and ensure it.

Shabbat Shalom dear friend, Shabbat Shalom.


Friday, 10 March 2017

170310 Purim, Netanyahu Russia, Boris Johnson

10th March 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope this missive finds you well and happy – after all we are in the Jewish month of Adar and are supposed to celebrate!

I had a really relaxing week. Yes I know you thought I wasn't capable of relaxing and doing nothing, but this week we both decided enough is enough and simply relaxed. Well, almost. Last Friday night dinner we were 14 people, which was a logistical problem since I was not at home all week but as always, the magical Shabbat meal was on the table on time, helped by Rachel's challot.

For a change I am starting with the good news. Israel, little Israel, is so far unbeaten in the baseball world series! Yes, honestly! Admittedly many of the players are former Americans because except for Canada, few other countries play baseball, but we did it anyway!

If we are talking of sport – Zvi and I went to the spectacular opening of the Maccabi World Union preparations for this summers 20th Maccabiah. Brilliant evening

Two excellent appointments show the stupidity of suggesting that Israel is a racist country. Professor Hossem Haick is a senior lecturer at the Technion University and a leader in the early discovery of cancer through nanotechnology

The second appointment is of Dr Aziz Darwashe as Head of the Trauma Department of Hadassah Hospital. Dr Darwashe was from a simple family but all of his siblings and his children are highly educated Israelis.

Just in case you think that those are the only innovations recently see this brilliant video – 57 minutes long but worth every second. The video was sent to me by Ruth Omsky

We have to talk about the less pleasant aspects of life too but I will try to cut them short.
Mr Netanyahu visited Russia for talks with Vladimir Putin. We are aware that thanks to the inaction of the West, Russia has a port on the Mediterranean in Syria, but the major topic of Mr Netanyahus concern was that Iran may well acquire a port through their action in Syria. Iran has never been truly curtailed in her efforts to rule this area, and maybe much further. Do not be fooled, the Iranians are highly educated and very clever and were able to fool the world about their nuclear aspirations – the man chosen by the United Nations and the Western leaders to oversee the Iranian nuclear programme was a member of the Moslem Brotherhood. We should be worried – worried by the missile testing that took place last week – worried by the ease with which they have reinstated their nuclear programme, albeit with apparent transparency.

The ugly face of anti-Semitism has shown itself in the USA. It has almost always been there but in a more sophisticated manner. Golf Clubs; the inability to study medical specialties in many hospitals (hence the creation of so many hospitals by Jewish benefactors); and a tacit understanding that we were good at money but not always socially acceptable – but this is a new wave unleashed from the ghastly far right nationalists and the far left anti-Israel factions. I cannot believe that it is just because a President was elected – it has to have been boiling under the surface for many years. Perhaps it is time to remind you to watch "The Wave" an experiment in a school in Palo Alto California in 1967; an experiment which proved a terrifying undercurrent

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, a known Israelophile, was here on an official visit, and spoke in depth with Prime Minister Netanyahu, also Yitzchak Herzog, Yair Lapid and President Rivlin – reiterating his enjoyable sojourn on Kibbutz at the age of 18. Mr Johnson announced that in the near future a member of the British Royal Family will come on an official visit (they have been on private visits before) a surprise for the Foreign Office whose policies are similar to the State Dept!

Great excitement for the women of Israel because Richard Gere came to visit – not just to promote his newest movie "Norman" but is staying on for a private visit this week and unlike most other famous stars, he is staying in Jerusalem. We went to see "Norman" last night and I highly recommend the movie and commend the acting, but be prepared to recognise the characters portrayed.

Rabbi Zacharia Barashi was the oldest man in the world, but Guinness couldn't accept it because in Kurdistan they didn't have birth certificates, he only knew he was born in 1900. HaRav Barashis mind was clear to the very end. He died this week and the stories of his life poured forth – of his kindness and wisdom. He was the great-great-Uncle of my son-in-law Igal. May his soul rest in peace

Like the elephant in the room, there is something I have to speak about. Israel is a country where women have always taken positions of importance and power. Sexism occasionally raises its ugly head in the workplace but not in the IDF. Recently religious Members of Knesset and Rabbis have suggested that if a girl goes into the IDF she will come out secular so they must not enrol. It strikes me as ludicrous to suggest that serving her country, learning a profession and gaining confidence can possibly damage her religious values.

Purim is so much fun, expressing joy at winning over yet another a nasty enemy and ensuring his just desserts!!! Once upon a time the girls dressed up as Queen Esther and the boys as Mordechai but not any more! The costumes are varied and clever – some parents still buy a ready-made costume but many really invest time and effort. Traditionally it rains on Purim but it apparently doesn't stop the fun!!!! Many towns will hold an Ad Lo Yada – (Until he doesn't know – remember that I told you that we are not allowed to take revenge so tradition has it that we become tipsy so don't know to differentiate between enemy and ally the) traditional Purim celebrations

OK that's that! I just got back from Givat Zeev to see the children's fancy dress for Purim. Ayala was home helping her Mummy prepare "Mishloach Manot" gifts of foodstuffs etc that are traditional at Purim  and Yosef was out with his friends playing football and Talia with her other Safta – avoiding helping!!! They already have their costumes ready, Yosef a scary golem, Talia a Bezeq engineer and Ayala a wind up dolly.

On the way back from Givat Ze'ev, past the panorama toward Ramot I saw a field full of wild red anemones (Calaniot) and a big Jolly Roger flag in the middle!!! A family stopped at the side of the road to take photos of their children in fancy dress and the oldest was….. a pirate of course!!!

Zvi and I are going to Leor and Shiri tonight where all Zvi's family will congregate. Zvi is thrilled because he is wearing his Mexican outfit that hasn't fitted him since he was 18 and I decided that baggy clothes fit my figure better so will go as Charlie Chaplin. Don't worry, Shabbat will still be Shabbat with the girls gathering around to light the candles with their Mummy and Zvi will still sing the Kiddush – even if we all look rather strange!!! Real Purim is not until Sunday, and Monday in Jerusalem, called Shushan Purim after the walled city in Persia where the story took place.

The aromas are rising from my neighbours kitchens; Moroccan, Kurdish, Yemenite and fusion Ashkenaz dishes combine to remind us of our provenance. Moroccan hamin with delicious dried fruits like jewels among the meats; Yemenite Jachnun, fragrant rolls of dough cooked overnight ready for breakfast; Kurdish lamb with wonderful spices and of course the good old gefilte fish, chicken  soup with kneidlach and roast meat and chicken with roasted veggies. Having said that tonight I provide the wonderful tender salmon, roasted then left to cook in its own juices. On the eve and then the day of Purim children come to the synagogue in their fancy dress ready to make a noise!!!! They carry greggers (like football noise makers) and every time Hamans name is mentioned while reading from the Story of Esther (Megillat Esther) they stamp their feet and swing the greggers – and get sweets…….. of course they love Purim!!!!

For music I decided to continue our romance with happy things. Pharrell Williams Happy – in Happy Jerusalem

Traditional Childrens Purim Songs

Finally, as a way of saying thank you for the incredible world we live in Halleluja from Milk and Honey

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Sorry I am late but I really didn't want to miss out on going to Givat Ze'ev! By the way, just in case you thought I was slacking, we have a Pruim party for Zvi's choir here on Sunday night – just about 45 people!!!!

With love from our glorious city, from our Jerusalem. I feel that I am the luckiest woman in the world every time I step out onto the veranda and see Jerusalem beneath me.

Friday, 3 March 2017

170303 Trump Speech, Standwithus, MDA Bedouin, St David's Day

3rd March, 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope this  missive finds you well.

The Hebrew month of Adar has arrived. A month of joy and pleasure, of Purim and the celebration of the survival of the Jews over yet another enemy. A time when children, and adults dress up in fancy dress and to ensure we are not a people who wreaks vengeance on our enemies, we are encouraged to become tipsy; I reiterate, TIPSY. The tradition is that one becomes sufficiently tipsy that one cannot distinguish between Haman (the enemy) and Mordechai (the hero) rather than so blotto that you cannot distinguish between your children and the broom-cupboard! Adar, the month of glorious spring flowers and fruit blossom, and remembering to differentiate between joy and pleasure.

I listened to most of President Trumps maiden speech before Congress and found little to complain about. While his level of eloquence may not please the subject matter was extensive and covered many aspects of concern for the American public and for both sides of the House. It taught me the eloquence can be empty while straight talk is clearer and the populace understands exactly what is being said.

Did you know there is a pan-Arab version of American Idol called Arab Idol? This year a truly amazing thing happened. A young Palestinian entered the competition and won, but that is not out of the ordinary; what is exceptional is that Yacoub Shahin is a Christian; indeed not only is he a Christian from Bethlehem but he is a Syrian Aramaic Christian and the competition finals were held in the once Christian Beirut. Mazal Tov to our dear friend Hano Ishaq who is so proud of his Aramaic history and a fine upstanding Israeli citizen.

Talking of first prizes, did you see the Oscars? Poor Warren Beatty was handed the wrong envelope and when he showed Faye Dunaway she read out the wrong movie. "And the winner is La La Land"………… oh no it isn't! The winner was Moonlight! Actually I was very disappointed; I wanted Hidden Figures to win, for the storyline, for the brilliant acting and for the moral message.

Please can I annoy just about everyone? The Sessions Enquiry.  Now I know the furore is because the new Attorney General spoke to the Russians when they were accused of interfering in the US election process, but I do not understand why that is a reason to impeach and Attorney General when the US President tried to change the Brexit vote and did everything he could to undermine the Israeli Prime Minister, but still wanted diplomatic relations with both! Sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander springs to mind. See I told you you would be angry!!

Incidentally, from what I understand, again not from personal knowledge but rather from reading between the lines of the media, President Trump has not barred all the major media outlets (CNN, BBC, NYT, LAT) from all the White House briefings but rather decided to give a briefing to the smaller media and press. If that is so then there is no permanent ban. Please let me know which it is.

Zvi went to Tel Aviv for the Jewish Agency Board of Directors meetings and I thought I could rest. I should have known better.  I got "the call" from my wonderful husband and we sat through a number of meetings some of which excited me and some depressed me. My depression comes from the fact that I don't believe that the work of the Jewish Agency outside Aliya is understood. Apparently the youth work is vast, although not really aimed toward the Israelis or Israeli youth. I repeat, this is just my opinion and my husband is very vocal about changes that need to be made and will follow through. On the second day my spirits were lifted and my hopes renewed as we heard two young TED talks
Erez Perlmuter Co-Founder & Chairman, Kol-Zchut (All Rights) an organisation which puts all ones medical and social rights online in a simple and straightforward manner. Erez began the website when his own daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes aged 8 and he found it almost impossible to navigate the multitude of bureaucratic traps

Zaki Djemal, Entrepreneur & Writer, noticed that when people play "Shech-besh" or backgammon Jews and Arabs look the same, get excited about the same moves, enjoy their coffee with the game and so he began an incredible initiative to brings Jerusalem Arabs and Jews together to play shesh-besh. It may sound banal but it has worked wonders! One wonder is that Luke Baker, Reuters bureau chief and known Israel critic, wrote a positive article!

I raced back from Tel Aviv because the very next day was St David's Day and the annual Welsh get together was to be held in Jerusalem after many years of hard work by Les and Viv Greenbaum and Mimi and Gerald Rapport in Netanya. When Les approached me to take over the task I did so willingly but admitted that it really had to be in Jerusalem because of logistics. Since I was off to Florida (and the unexpected trip to London for GCQC) Angela Ben Gur and Adele Landau Roffman joined the efforts and took over once the site and menu had been decided and the list basically prepared. I finished off the last minute shopping and the printing of programmes etc and raced to Caffit in the Botanical Gardens to prepare the room with Adele and Angela. The evening was a huge success from every aspect. Adeles marvellous quiz; Angela (all dressed up in Welsh national dress) prepared the singsong and acted as MC; Brenda read Dylan Thomas Under Milk Wood; Judy sang beautifully having learned Welsh pronunciation. We met old friends and enjoyed new ones and the evening was a rousing success with delicious food. We ended with both the Welsh National Anthem and Hatikva.  The real Wales

Yesterday, oh my yesterday!
At the invitation of the Jerusalem Press Club a small group of journalists went on a special Magen David Adom minibus to the South, to see the work done by MDA with the Bedouin communities and tribes in the South of Israel. After a fantastic lecture and slide show in the town of Kuseifa, when the Chief Regional Officer Ziv explained the incredible work done in educating the young people of the various Bedouin tribes in the area. Teaching 16-18 year olds first aid, CPR, First response saves lives in the more remote villages and gives the young people a thirst for knowledge. Boys and Girls alike study, within the limits of tradition, and then many serve as volunteers on ambulances and medical centres. After the lecture we went to  visit the Abu Djuda tribe, Anon village. What a phenomenal treat! They hosted us beautifully with home made delicacies; the Father of the family, wearing a special white head-dress as a Haji (someone who made pilgrimage to Mecca) watching carefully over the presentation given by his eldest son who is about to move from volunteer to a member of staff at MDA. The son has two hard earned degrees but chose to stay in the apparently primitive surroundings of his family with his wife and 3 children. I asked him why. "Family and tradition. Here I am safe"

Then a truly wonderful thing happened. I was watching the children happily playing in their muddy yard – no need for toys when the women of the family called me over. "Do you want to see out home?" they asked in Hebrew. Did I ever!!!! There were three main rooms (the reception room we sat in was more of a tent and outside the family home) stark, tiled floors with about 12 mattresses stacked neatly against the back wall, ready to bring down to sleep at night. There was an inside kitchen – basicall a large room with kitchen cabinets against the back wall and the outside kitchen, stark but filled with activity. A small two burner gas stove, a special cooker like an upturned wok was heated from a fire and everything was sparkling clean. They hugged me and we took photos together and their warmth made me happy. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a delightful young Chinese journalist who has only recently arrived in Israel. Leo absorbed everything I said and derived the same joy as I from the wonderful work of MDA and the incredible Bedouins who chose to learn.

I got back from the South at 4 and raced home to prepare some food for today because at 8 we were sitting in the front row of Standwithus auditorium to hear Col. Richard Kemp. A witty, fascinating man who has never shied away from a fight he has studied the IDF from every angle and found it to be the most humane army in the world –"even more than the best army in the world which is of course the British"!!!Incidentally, Harold, he explained that the West Bank is Israeli, legally, and the illegal settlements aren't illegal!!! Hopefully by next week I will give you the video. One of my absolute heroes was at the lecture Kay Wilson, who survived a horrific machete attack which killed her friend and still smiles through the intense pain. I want to take this chance to tell Michael Dickson that this work for Israel is unmatched.

Music music music!!

Did you know that Over the Rainbow was written about the dream of Israel – of a dream for a home for the Jewish people? Yipsel Harburg wrote the words and the film was released 75 years ago. The film was released just days after Kristalnacht and are still relevant as we strive for acceptance.

A touch of a Yiddischeh Shabbes

Shabbat Shalom everyone. Chag Purim Sameach don't get so drunk you don't see the children eating all their Purim goodies in one go!!!

With love from Jerusalem, my favourite place in the world