Friday, 28 April 2017

170428 Syria, Trump, Russia, Yom haShoa, haZikaron, haAtzmaut

28th April 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear Friends

 I just finished preparing the challah dough, setting the table for Shabbat and I heard it, the roar of jet planes overhead, swooping and diving, in perfect formations, four at a time. No we aren't at war, as far as I know, the incredible pilots of the Israeli Air Force are rehearsing their aerobatics for Independence Day! Red Arrows eat your heart out!!!! Gosh it makes me proud.

As I said, we never know when war is imminent or it is all chest thumping rhetoric for show, for us to think our leaders are much more powerful than they really are. In truth we have no idea what goes on behind the scenes; who tells who to make a fuss about what. Russia seems to be on the side of Iran and Syria but immediately following an Israeli diplomatic visit to Russia we bombed the Syrian airfield which just happened to contain weaponry – a veritable chemical arsenal. The following statement was issued – Israel didn't bomb and Syria doesn't have chemical weapons!!!! Within this tangle of lies and half truths the left wing newspapers blame it all on Mr Trump!! Really? The war in Syria didn't exist before his term of office and nearly 500,000 died prior to The Donald? Aw, c'mon!

French intelligence clearly stated that the Assad regime carried out a Sarin attack on the 4th of April, so no denials or claims Assad is a mere bystander carry water. We have an evil regime on our doorstep and few are going to the aid of the people caught in the horror. Israel is doing all she can in the IDF field hospital on the border and in Zvi Hospital in Sfat– in fact that field hospital reported that patients were suffering from clear chemical burns as much as 2 years ago!

Mr Trump has a visit to Israel (and the PA) planned for May 22nd. As yet it hasn't been officially announced, but the itinerary is finalized and the King David Hotel is probably moving guests as we speak (when American Presidents visit the hotel is basically cleared of its guests to accommodate the Presidential entourage and security). He will visit all the usual holy and traditional places and will travel straight from the Western Wall to Ramallah, somewhat symbolic maybe? We don't expect anything. Israelis are tired of broken promises and "United Jerusalem" statements which are not honoured.

The parents of the teenager who wreaked havoc and caused enormous fear in the United States Jewish communities and billions of dollars in increased security by those who protect them, claim he is both autistic and has a brain tumour which caused his behavior. They claim he is a genius who does not understand the bounds of normative, civil behavior. Perhaps it's true but how has he gone so long without being diagnose with anti-social tendencies. Maybe they simply never took responsibility? The United States is rightly asking for his extradition – he is an American citizen. I also believe that all those who blames President Trump for the increase in anti-Semitic behavior as expressed in those JCC and synagogue threats should apologise. David Horovitz interviewed the parents in this excellent editorial

Yom HaShoah passed with great ceremony and huge respect for the past. The involvement of Survivors becomes more and more important as the age and their personal stories die with them. Yad Vashem and the Steven Spielberg Foundation have done more than any other bodies to ensure their stories do not die but are told to this and future generations. If we cannot learn from the past then our society is lost. The achievements of Israel came from the bravery of those who fought and survived to come HOME.

This coming week we learn yet again of the resilience and determination of the Israeli people. We begin with the profound sadness of Remembrance Day, today the numbers include those lost to terror as well as those who died fighting to protect this tiny country. We begin with the wail of the siren as dusk on Sunday night and continue through the day, another siren and silence at 11:00 on Monday morning. Ceremonies begin at the Western Wall and continue in a constant flow of mourners to the beautiful military cemetery on Mount Herzl. Here Remembrance Day is not a reason for sales in the stores, it is a time of deep contemplation and gratitude to those who fell and those who remain. The faces and names of those who fell before and after the founding of Israel, each and every one, in a parade of honour on the national television station. We truly honour our fallen, we know that we owe them our existence.

At sunset on Monday, after the military parades and sad songs on Mount Herzl, the changing of the guard takes place and the joy of Independence Day begins. Choirs, songs, dancers and the lighting of beacons by 12 exceptional people, emotions change very quickly here as we go from mourning to parties all over the country – ecology takes a back seat for one day as barbeques smoke in every square meter of park!!!!

Today is different for us, for our family. Today we are holding the memorial ceremony for Zvi's incredible parents. Kalman and Alla Raviv, if we lived in any other country we would call them refugees, for they certainly fled their native Poland. Alla came in 1934, when her parents understood that she could not study her chosen subjects (if at all) in Poland because she was Jewish, and chose to send her to the nascent State and the newly formed Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Kalman came when the former Mayor of Ramat Gan, Krinitzy, went to Poland to find strong young people to come to the Holy Land. Both were the only survivors of their families, both struggled with unbearable poverty, both were members of the Hagana, they fell in love and taught their eldest son a deep love and respect for his country, his people and teaching others about both. We will congregate with family and friends in the beautiful area set aside for Yekirot Yerushalyim – the Chosen of Jerusalem – where Mayors of this City and Naftali Herz Imber, lyricist of Hatikva are buried. Zvi will recite the traditional prayers, and will recite the Kaddish, the prayer of mourning. We will all come back to our home for a traditional  Shabbat meal.

Did you notice how many times tradition is mentioned? Not by accident. It is irrelevant whether you are religious or secular, showing your children the rites and traditions that you were taught by your parents brings our religion, indeed any religion, alive.

I need to go because the challot came out of the oven and the rest of the meal need to be set out on the table for when we return.

We love it when visitors come. This week we had Samuel Bettsak, Cristine and Barry Slawsky and friends, we visited Norman and Lola Cohen with Canon Andrew White and Hanna Ishaq, and she gave me her phenomenal shortcake recipe! Zvi and the excellent Hakol Yachassi Choir sang at the closing ceremony of Holocaust Memorial Day at the Ghetto Fighters Kibbutz, which all agreed was the most emotional experience – indeed one choir member said that in all her years in Israel Hatikva meant more that night than any other.

The senior Cantor of the IDF Shai Abrahamson sings the most appropriate song for today, tomorrow and every day – the prayer for the peace of this tiny country.

At every concert of Yaakov Shwekey in Israel he gives hundreds of seats to soldiers of the IDF. Here he sings a special blessing for the brave soldiers of the IDF. May they be blessed and may G-d protect them

How can I end this missive without Hatikva? Well of course I won't! My choice of rendition may seem strange but, when I was searching and found this video of 30,000 Israelis singing at the beginning of a football match against Wales I couldn't resist. To my amazement it brought tears to my eyes.

I will try to talk to you before Yom ha Zikaron. In the meantime I send love from Jerusalem.
Shabbat Shalom

Friday, 21 April 2017

170421 Bargouti, Impact-se-UNWRA, Erdogan and Holocaust Day

20th April 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope your Pesach, Paschah, Easter went smoothly and that your home has returned to normal.

Marwan Bargouti is in an Israeli prison for acts of terror, he receives more than the rights demanded by the Geneva Convention and he has completed his PhD while incarcerated. He is a murderer and was convicted on 12 out of 33 counts of murder, including the my son-in-laws Aunt, Yaela Hen, in January 2002. Bargouti is a former leader of the Al Aqsa Brigade and a senior member of the Tanzim – the military arm of the Fatah movement – a terrorist of the highest level. Despite all of the above the New York Times chose to publish an op-ed by Bargouti, sanitizing his identity as a Palestinian parliamentarian, stating his intended hunger strike. The NYT claimed he was a political prisoner, not a terrorist, therefore eligible for publication. Of all the weak and disgusting excuses for publication I have ever heard that beats them all. The New York Times chose to publish the clever rhetoric of a terrorist and ignore his racist murderous past. Of course it is not the first time the NYT has carefully chosen its coverage of the murder of Jews "Reporting on the Times" was a documentary produced in 2012 . Sultzberger, the owner/editor of the NYT at the time intentionally hid Holocaust stories on middle pages claiming he was not like the poor Eastern European Jews being affected.

Israeli Holocaust Memorial Day begins on Monday night. It is a day of mourning and contemplation, especially since the recent revealing of the relevant papers showing that it could have been stopped. The NYT was not the only body to hide the truth from the people, thus causing the horror and slaughter to continue.

This BBC history account of Sir Winston Churchill's sympathies for the Jews and his attempts to save the European Jews is both fascinating and deeply important  Sadly Sir Winston's plan was not accepted – indeed US Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy strongly advised against it and the plan was never carried out.

Richard Dimbelby was an exceptional reporter. In the days when the BBC told the truth he was a supreme truth-teller and his report of entering Bergen Belsen was conceivably the most emotive and factual of all reports

To help you understand the deep meaning of Yom HaShoah in Israel, the tears as the sirens wail out our horror at the death of 6 million of our brethren

The ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is exceptional, broadcast on all television stations; Members of Knesset read out the names of their family who perished; the movie channels show films of the Holocaust; all other stations show testimonies of survivors; restaurants and places of entertainment are closed on the eve of Yom HaShoah and Israel becomes a country in mourning.  It would do us well to remember that many of our enemies use Mein Kampf as their textbook. Since todays anti-Israel rhetoric is all too familiar, fueled by the lies taught from kindergarten in many Moslem countries where Mein Kampf is number one on the bestsellers list, the next paragraph makes important reading.

I am very proud to be a member of the board of IMPACT-SE (  and our work has become even more relevant since the recent UNWRA report on Palestinian textbooks. The basis of Impacts academic research is tolerance and respect for the other in school textbooks from countries as varied as Iran and Israel (both secular and Haredi schoolbooks), the PA, including Hamas and most surprisingly Arab Jerusalem, a result of an agreement after 1967 that the textbooks in East Jerusalem would remain as those when Jordan occupied the area – now changed to Hamas textbooks. Impact CEO Marcus Sheff has reported to British and US Foreign Affairs committees giving essential information which forces UN bodies such as UNWRA to rethink their policies concerning education in their schools. To read the reports and methodology go to
The other news in short

Recep Tayyip Erdogan went to the people and has given himself enormous powers ensuring the death of Ataturks dreams for a modern, tolerant Turkey
Theresa May, Britains Prime Minister has called for elections on June 8 to consolidate her position in the country as the Labour Party under the extreme left-wing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn loses members of his own party.
British politicians calling for revoke UK citizenship of Asma Assad for support of husbands cruel murderous regime
President Reuven Rivlin met with both Catholic and Greek Orthodox leaders to address the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

For some unknown reason the Mayor of Tel Aviv decided to take the opening of convenience stores on Shabbat to court in Tel Aviv – and the decision was to keep them open. Why to court? I cannot think other than a publicity stunt. The corner shops are open anyway, no change in the status quo was intended, and despite one rather idiotic comment – this is an amazing democracy – but a JEWISH democracy – and the deeply secular David Ben Gurion understood the need for basic Jewish principles – after all we gave the world the day of rest for a very good reason! The law doesn't change Israel from a democracy to a theocracy or vice versa. Gosh I get cross with the attitude of being Israeli not Jewish.

Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Pesach, Passover, have all been and gone. The church bells of Jerusalem rang out clear and loud, calling the congregants to prayer, as they walked to church in freedom. Pilgrims flooded the Old City, enjoying unusually balmy weather. The restaurants that opened were filled with surprising Passover concoctions yet again proving that good food and interesting menus are not harmed, indeed are enhanced by Kosher food.

Every year, as Passover ends I face a challenge to my memory – as do most Jewish households – "Where on earth did all those dishes come from; where do they belong and why am I left with an empty cupboard at the end"!!! You see Jews change dishes and pots for Passover, making everything new and special, this in itself is a challenge but, am  the only one who can't remember which is what and where? Anyway that is over, life has returned to normal or as close as possible to normal in our household! The multitude of spontaneous guests has slowed down and we are back to our usual insane pace.

On Wednesday we had the Board meeting for Impact-se at the Hebrew University office. The people involved  stand a head and shoulders above me and it is such a privilege to be included in their midst to learn from them. As described above the work is becoming more and more relevant and as the individual terror attacks increase we recognise the need to change the textbooks of hate to some form of tolerance.

Yesterday lunchtime Haim Elimelech Slawsky took me to lunch at the King David. Chaim Elimelech is a baby and a gorgeous one at that, but even his charm couldn't improve the unusually dreadful service although his parents and company ensured a lovely lunch in the perfect setting of the veranda overlooking the Old City. The weather was ideal, the company excellent and the special beauty of the King David won us over.

After lunch I raced home to prepare the Shabbes table for tonight and then back to the King David  to meet with Canon Andrew White, or as he calls it Dave's Caff, together with Norman and Lola Cohen, Hanna Ishaq, Rabbi Naftali and Andrew's helpmeet Patrick. The service didn't improve in the few hours since our last meal but again the company was excellent. Canon Andrew's life is very serious, his mission to save the world through kindness and love with a firm hand is serious, his illness is serious, so I always try to make him laugh – and usually succeed!! As always he starts with gefilte fish, lots of gefilte fish then we all eat fish and chips – honestly!! The conversation flew from Baghdad to Syria to toilet paper to his Jordanian projects for Iraqi refugees and finally back to toilet paper! It must be said that toilet paper was the joke part but for those less you we remembered the really rough kind and using orange wrappers because my grandparents refuse to use newspaper!!!!!

This morning my lovely friend Batsheva is coming from Tel Aviv for a day together. After collecting her from the Central Bus Station we will go to collect Yosef from school, drive to Givat Zeev and spend time with Rachel before the aroma of baking Challot drives us crazy and we take our booty (little challot for all our guests) kiss the children and Rachel and drive over my favourite panorama from atop Samuels Tomb to show Batsheva the incredible white puzzle that makes up Jerusalem. We will then spend the day just remembering why we care so deeply for each other – from the veranda still ablaze with colour.

Sadly Canon Andrew cannot come tonight because while his speech has vastly improved the lack of visa and security clearance meant he waited too long to get to Baghdad for his stem cell treatment and he needs to go back before his legs will take him where he wants.

Tonight the Slawsky's and our wonderful friend Samuel Bettsak come for supper together with Millie, Gail and Shmuel. The menu will include rice because Cristine and her sister, in true Phillipine tradition, eat rice at all times of the day. I hope they like my stuffed vegetables – lots of rice in there. We will start with "orange" soup (pumpkin, leek, carrot and courgette) and then beautiful fresh salmon, herbed rice stuffed peppers, courgette salad, roasted aubergines, green salad, chopped salad, home pickled cucumber salad and Gail is bringing dessert. Of course Zvi will sing Kiddush, gosh I love it when he sings, and we will have Rachels Challa for the blessing over bread. I am excited to see Chaim Elimelech's reaction to the candle lighting…………..

Sorry I seem to have gone on a bit! Seriously time for music and I will write to you a short note before Yom haShoah.

Monty Python would say "And now for something completely different" Nissim – 1 Million Years

A beautiful rendering of Adon Olam

And finally……………….. HakolYachassi, Zvi's choir, with a beautiful Ladino song lyrics by Eli Yaron, music by Adi Hayat, the gorgeous dancer is Liron Mussachi -

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, beautiful Jerusalem.

Friday, 14 April 2017

170414 Motherofallbombs, Syria, Passover

14th April 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Last evening in Jerusalem we were visiting friends when Rachel called me to switch on the television. "The Americans have bombed ISIS in Afghanistan"

The description of "The Mother of all Bombs" immediately suggests that the United States was attacking in a vacuum, exhibiting her might rather than responding to many years of ultimate tyranny, terror and oppression which was escalating with greater and greater confidence worldwide. A response was essential. The time has passed for negotiation, our lives depend upon it.

We always wonder "What if Hitler had died in the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in 1923, had never been arrested, written Mein Kampf in Landsburg Prison and the Holocaust had not happened" Well he wasn't and it did. The fundamentalist groups use the same methods. Jail is a recruiting ground and university of terror, it doesn't work. War is not pretty, war is cruel and deadly but had we not bombed Essen the first language of Europe would be German and the remaining Jews, homosexuals, Catholics and disabled would have disappeared. I know you feel I am exaggerating and the comparison may be inappropriate but I repeat, war is not pretty so don't expect ISIS, Al Qaeeda, Daish by any other name, to disappear without bloodshed. The terror attacks may increase as a result of the Afghanistan bombing, but it will be from a position of fearful defence rather than from a position of power.

We tried jaw, jaw, jaw and sadly it didn't work.

The question is whether this was a simple strike against ISIS or whether it constituted an implied warning to both North Korea and Iran. Speak softly and carry a big stick?

The Individual Intifada is not limited to Israel, has spread like a horrific wildfire through Europe and the UK, Venezuela is fast become an Islamic State and a direct threat to the USA. We have to root out the cause although too many years of diplomacy have created a groundswell of fanatical youth, ready to die for a cause that the West does not understand. It puts the Crusades into the shade. The great sadness is that the vast majority of Moslems simply want to get on with life, just as you and me, and their lives are embittered no less than ours by the omnipresent threat.

That was lengthier than I intended. I believe in tolerance and love, a child of the '60's, but anyone who thinks this will go away without the Supreme Commander ordering "The Mother of All Bombs" is dreaming. The bud wasn't nipped so the root must be removed, drawn from the earth.

Sadly the heinous crime perpetrated by Bassar Al Assad on his own people was overshadowed by the words of Sean Spicer. He obviously referred to the use of chemical weapons as a dreadful thing but his statement that "even Hitler didn't use" was inappropriate at best and cruel at worst. It is also of interest that nobody has alluded to the American use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Fake news is the topic of Rabbi Jeremy Rosens article this week. His example is from the NY Times which claims that Israel's "Wall" doesn't work. Of course it was a dig at President Trump's intention to build a wall between the USA and Mexico. Firstly the comparison is ludicrous, secondly the American wall is mostly built already, much during the last administration, and of course the Israeli defensive fence works! Simple things like car theft are down by 85%, terror attacks by 95% (the individual attacks are from Israeli Arabs from Tsur Bacher and such areas) and it is a fence on some 90% of the length and a wall only in situations where sniper fire was killing Israelis! In one short article the NYT succeeded in twisting a non-news into a criticism of the President. I happen to disagree with the necessity of the wall with Mexico unless it goes together with an amnesty for those "illegals" already in the USA and do not present any security threat whatsoever.

I have been accused of being a Trumpite. Believe you me I am not, I do not have the right to be for or against any American leader; I refuse to criticise every move because he is not sophisticated or diplomatic. Perhaps it is time for crude and rude- the message is clearer.

Lucy Aharish is a top journalist in the Israel national TV channel. Lucy is an Arab Israeli – sorry Lucy is an Israeli Arab and a proud Moslem. Here Lucy speaks out clearly and bravely. Kol ha Kavod Lucy.

Pesach is almost over! All that work and it is nearly time to return the dishes to their boxes and schlepp them to their resting place 3 floors down on the allotted shelves in the storage. However I found this wonderful article about a Jerusalem bus driver, an Arab, who decided to give his Haredi passengers a lovely Passover surprise last week. I love it – you won't believe what he did!,7340,L-4948382,00.html

Huge cauldrons (minus witches) are the incredible pre-Passover sight in the religious neighbourhoods. They stand on each corner ready to receive the dishes of the local households for dipping to purify them so they can be used at Passover. A variety of items are left beside rubbish bins in a manner that makes the NYC street pickings fade into oblivion. Houses were cleaned, unused items placed outside, kitchens "wrapped" in specially strong silver foil (don't know where that came from) and cooking began.

I don't line my kitchen with foil, I simply scrub the very existence out of every surface and splashback!!!!

I had a very special treat this week. We went to a lovely get-together of my family in celebration of my cousin Judith's 70th birthday. We met at Debbie and Zev's in Ganei Tikvah and the excitement at seeing each other was tangible. Of course the best part is that my cousin Irene (Debbie, Judith and Joanna's Mum) was in Israel for Pesach and at 90+ is still as quick witted and bright as she ever was. Actually I discovered something new about her – she has a wonderful singing voice untainted by age. Zvi sang his heart out, happy to be seated next to Debbie whose voice delighted him. Sunita , an accomplished harpist entertained us with a marvellous selection of music, from classic to bolero, from gentle to robust, from Bach to Welsh (there's lovely Dai bach) music.  We sang, because that's what we love to do, we grinned at each other in delight at being together and caught up on our news. Of the cousins present 3 made Aliya and one (Ian and his lovely wife Susan) have an apartment here. My Daddy and his big brother and best friend Uncle Ben, would be proud. It was a change for Zvi since we spend a lot of time with his family but we both decided that it was so lovely we must do it more often!!!

The veranda complied with all my dreams this week. The tiny orange tree was in full blossom, laden with tiny fragrant blooms, their scent wafting into the apartment; the freesias shone bright orange their heady scent joining that of the orange blossom. I sat on the veranda each morning, sipping my morning coffee and taking in the amazing scene before me. Gosh we are lucky! It is especially spectacular over Shabbat and festivals because the scene is peaceful, the weekday chaotic traffic and hustle and bustle quietens and the beauty becomes more apparent.

Amiad and Noga stayed over after Seder Night. It seemed a shame to return home when they were coming back for lunch with all the family. The little ones (Ella 4 and Yonatan 2) were very excited and after the long service of the Seder fell into bed and straight to sleep. The next morning I sat out on the veranda with my morning coffee when a little girl cameinto sight, a big grin on her face. After the essential good morning hug she looked up at me, shaking with excitement and asked "Safta, can we play together"? I melted! Her little brother soon followed with the biggest grin imaginable. Yonatans vocabulary is phenomenal – I wish half the adults knew to speak as he does!

This has been a fantastic week for Israeli children. So many activities we are spoiled for choice. Many Israelis go camping, simple at Pesach. The weather hasn't really complied with their needs, torrential rains in the south and rain in the north, but mostly fun was had by all.

We have entertained and been entertained, enjoyed friends  (thank you Hel-Ors and Alberanes) and family and in a few minutes, when I finish talking to you, I will set off for Givat Zeev and Rachel's home. Obviously no Challot this week! I will smile at Rachel's kitchen which looks like it should be in NASA rather than Givat Zeev!!!  I will pass Nebe Samuel (Samuel's Tomb); smile at the harbinger of spring at the side of the road, a camel which comes out to graze in the finer weather; pass the busy shopping centre and perhaps pop in to get a nice plant for friends; turn in to Givat Zeev and pull up at Rachel's gate. I can already see them racing down the steps to greet me………. Sheer joy.

OK that was a little too maudlin for human consumption, but I missed them this week!

Modeh Ani – I Give Thanks - the morning prayer to thank the Almighty for returning our souls after sleep. So beautiful. We must always be grateful for what we have rather than moaning about what we haven't.

At a time when our biggest battle is against intolerance and hatred Lu Yehi by Nomi Shemer is perhaps the timely song -   as is Bob Dylan's Blowin in the Wind, the ultimate cry for tolerance

Shabbat Shalom, Moadim le Simcha, Chag Sameach and a Holy Easter to my Christian friends

With love from Jerusalem

Friday, 7 April 2017

170407 Syria, Haredi Tour, Pesach

7th April, 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

In 2013 President Obama said that if the Syrian regime used chemical weapons he would respond swiftly and firmly. Two days ago the Assad regime bombed the town of Idlib with Sarin, a deadly gas which caused children to foam at the mouth, seize and have great difficulty breathing. Assad denied using Sarin despite the autopsy results on those who died. It is not the first time Sarin has been used in this horrific civil war – patients who were treated at the IDF field hospital on the border were found to suffer from Sarin poisoning. At least a 100 died in that attack. In April 2017, the day after the horrific attack, President Trump ordered the bombing of the airfield from whence the Syrian aeroplanes left on their deadly mission. Swift and righteous punishment.

The prelude to the decision – Ambassador Nikki Haley describes the situation to the United Nations, again challenging their choice to ignore the abominations of Assad and the Russian choice to veto a resolution condemning Assad.

After the deaths of 500,000 Syrian citizens, many by the cruel regime of Assad, Russia intends putting forward a motion at the UNHRC against the USA for their gross indifference for human life for bombing the airfield!!!

Hosni Mubarak was a tyrant. Zvi and I learned the extent through Azzam Azzam who was imprisoned on a pretext in Egypt by Mubaraks regime. Hosni Mubarak was able to frighten his neighbours sufficiently to keep some form of order in this region. Mubarak was abandoned by his Western allies leaving chaos in his wake and a Moslem Brotherhood President. When Al Sisi deposed the "democratically elected" President Morsi he was ignored by the previous US administration. Understanding that the two unquestionably antidemocratic leaders are the only way forward President Trump invited both Al Sisi and King Abdullah of Jordan for a parley in Washington on how to deal with the currently even more volatile Middle East.  One cannot ignore the situation any longer, it must be addressed. Politics are not pretty, pragmatism and a show of strength are the sole winners.

Dumisani Washington, an American Pastor said "From North Korea to Syria to Iran to China to Boko Haram to ISIS to Al Qaeda to Al Shabaab to Hezbollah to the Muslim Nigeria to Yemen to the UNSC the UNHRC, UNESCO and UNWRA...we've witnessed 8 years of appeasement and indecision, and the slaughtering that always comes with it. While military intervention will not be the answer to the vast majority of these situations, vain threats, fake red lines, and ransom payments to terrorists are clearly not the answer"

It would appear that the weapon of choice for terror is the humble family car. What kind of insanity can cause a normative human being to take his car and intentionally ram other human beings? Last week was London, this week Jerusalem. Sgt. Elhai Teharlev z"l was standing with his friend at a regular bus stop when a car mowed into them, killing Elhai and injuring his friend. Elhai, always smiling, the middle son of 7 children, was killed instantly. Insanity. May his sweet soul rest in peace.

Sadly we see the effect of teaching children to hate every day and everywhere. To understand its implications and methodology, please see the webpage of Impact-se, an important research facility, based at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which researches and teaches about tolerance in education and its lack thereof. Head of Research Prof. Eldad Pardo and the Director Marcus Sheff recently presented their findings to senior USA politicians. I am proud to sit on the Board beside such people

Not all is sad and not all is bad.

Rasha Atamny, Israeli, Moslem, is the first female Arab diplomat for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There have been many males but Rasha is a first.
“I listened to the speeches from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt condemning Israel’s systematic violations of women’s rights’ while I, an Arab-Muslim woman of Palestinian origin represents Israel at the UN General Assembly,” she said. “That day at the UN, which made me desperately disappointed, pushed me to take the matter into my own hands. I believe in peace because I believe that people can make a positive difference in the world, and I want to be part of the change. So I started by choosing to join the Foreign Ministry cadets course.” Brava Rasha.

This week the Jerusalem Press Club organised a fascinating talk and tour of Jerusalem's Haredi Community. We are quick to criticise, and my criticism is genuine, of their predominant refusal to defend our country, but we often forget or ignore the enormous contribution of Haredi organisations to the general population. Magen David Adom has many religious volunteers; Zaka continues it's blessed work all over the world; the Gemach (giving to those who have not) is a Haredi principle; and so many other that I want to tell you about.

We began our tour at the central command of Hatzala. Hatzala operates worldwide but the origin is here in Jerusalem. 100% volunteers their vehicles are the first responders with a 3 minute response time. Trained responders, religious, secular, Druze, Christian and Moslem, have a special app which tells them of any situation in their close vicinity, from a child choking to a terror attack. They do not ask name or religion, there is no charge and they operate in the PA too. In fact they were the responders to my grand-daughters school bus accident a few months ago, for which I will be ever grateful.

From there we went to the Tikvah Fund – a brilliant organisation whose work is to integrate the Haredi Community into the general society without losing their identity or religious integrity. The explanation was given by Yehoshua Pfeffer, Yeshiva scholar who while a father and a teacher who was accepted to study law at the Hebrew University (no mean task even for those with regular education) and is now both writing his doctoral thesis while a member of the Rabinical Court of Appeal.

We crossed the road to Meir Panim. Meir Panim feeds the poor, simply and elegantly. They set it up as a restaurant and no-one is turned away. Good wholesome food, a smile and welcome. Again volunteers every one.  

Finally after walking through the Haredi neighbourhood of Geula and its teeming streets (pre-Pesach) we were welcomed with great warmth by Rabbi Miller and his wife. We sat out on the veranda because the apartment was already cleaned for Passover, and were presented with a traditional feast of 3 types of Kugel (Potato, Jerusalem and sweet apple and cinnamon) stuffed vegetables, chicken soup with kreplach (kind of Jewish ravioli!) and the story of the Millers who came from Gateshead in the UK. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the day was seeing it all through the eyes of my friend Leo Mao, a Chinese journalist for whom it is all new and fascinating.

There is a misconception that all Haredim are the same! Oh boy, you couldn't be more wrong! The easiest way to define it is through the headgear – in fact let's start with Jewish headgear from secular through to ultra-orthodox. White silk kippa (skullcap) is for those who wear it once or twice a year; knitted kippa is for traditional Jews but with sub-groups (white knitted, coloured knitted, tiny over the left ear, medium size to cover a bald patch, huge so it will never fly in the wind) then we get to black knitted, silk and velvet and so to hats. Fedora, large black hats on the back of the head with the black kippa showing, tall shtreimels (fur Cossack-like hats, short shreimels, wide and flowing ones – indeed it all depends upon the birthplace of your chosen Rabbi or his sub-sect.
The tour was a huge eye opener, the joy of those who live in apparent poverty may come from the fact that they are among the largest percentage of individual donors to charity in Israel.

Pesach. The sense of purity and cleanliness of the entire house makes it all worthwhile. Everybody moans. Above the heavy scent of bleach and household cleaners one hears the cry "There's no food in the house" as we clear out the old before bringing in the new and different. I already did most of the shopping, almost all the cupboards already have the "Pesach" sign up on them to remind me what is done and changed and what is yet to happen. I love it!! My hands are red and raw but I don't care – it is all for a very important purpose TRADITION. On Sunday I will start to cook and on Monday night we will celebrate the Seder. I can't wait to see the faces of Ella (4) and Yonatan (2) as they hear the story and say the 4 questions; I remember our joy as Tomer did Ma nishtana the very first time when he was 4;

Music music music.

The song which always wakes the children up at the end of the Seder is Chad Gadya – Only one kid. Here is a phenomenal version sung by Haredi Cantor Shulem Lemmer

This song is not only fun it explains Passover for everyone.  See what you think, I loved it.

Perhaps this song, sung by two beautiful children, sums up our lives. Matanot Ktanot – Small Gifts.

Shabbat Shalom, Pesach Sameach. May your Pesach be filled with small gifts, shared with friends and family alike, an appreciation of the small gifts of everyday life.