Friday, 26 May 2017

170526 Jerusalem Day, Czech Republic recognises Jerusalem

26th May, 2017

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? I hope this week has been a little calmer than ours, but then this is Israel where we live life at a rate of knots and Jerusalem where every day is interesting!

On Tuesday we watched the 5 helicopters circle and circle above us, occasionally shooting off flares into the blue sky and finally coming to land to take the President to the airport. You probably thought that the traffic jams were over when President Trump climbed aboard his helicopter for the short flight to the airport - so did we! Of course it didn't happen. The only time Zvi was not sat in a "parking lot" situation over the last few days was when he came back from the airport with precious cargo, cousins Billy and Ruth Shapiro from Mexico, at 03:00!!! The very next day was Jerusalem Day and we all went to a delightful Brit Milah (Circumcision) party for our downstairs neighbours, Kobi and Michal's first grandson. Understand here in Israel a brit milah is generally like a wedding – huge and in an event hall; this was a small affair, just 250 guests.

We then tried to get to the reception held by the Mayor of Jerusalem to celebrate Jerusalem Day. I say tried because every road had a police cordon and we couldn't get near to the Tower of David where the reception was being held. The reason? We found ourselves next to the beginning of a Parade on King George Street next to the Great Synagogue, the Jerusalem Day Parade was preparing to march toward the Old City. Dancing and singing, Israeli flags flying high, young and old and tiny children so full of joy it was a delight. Ruth, Billy and I jumped out of the car to mingle and take photos and absorb the pride. It really was spectacular. This video shows mostly youngsters but there were people of all ages, from around the globe and of all religions.

Incidentally the phenomenal "Son et lumiere" show on the walls of the Old City went on for 3 nights and people came from all over Israel and indeed the world for the event.

Perhaps it did not make the news in your corner of the world, but on Jerusalem Day something unexpected and equally remarkable happened……….. perhaps one of the most remarkable events since the reunification. The parliament of the Czech Republic voted to recognise Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel. It is so incredible that I will repeat THE PARLIAMENT OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC RECOGNISED JERUSALEM AS THE CAPITAL CITY OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL.,7340,L-4967031,00.html

The Lancet, conceivably the most prestigious of medical journals in the world, accepted an article accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza by an outside contributor. The reaction was instant and very strong and an apology of sorts appeared. The editorial staff apparently regretted the article and have now printed an entire edition lauding the Israeli contribution to medicine, medical research and peaceful coexistence within the medical community and patients in Israeli hospitals  

In honour of Billy and Ruth's visit we have a gathering of Zvi's family for Shabbat with Mexican food as the central theme! Ruth's brother Jaime and his lovely wife Rosita will provide the comestibles, they often cater for private homes, Leor and Shiri will provide their home and I will provide the desserts. I am sure the children will be thrilled to see their Mexican cousins.

This morning Billy and Ruth have gone out for breakfast with the lovely Rosa Medrez, their friend for many, many years and mine for a short but sweet time. Zvi wants to show them everything and last night he took them to see Mahane Yehuda by night. It is a transformation verging on a metamorphosis…. From noisy, packed street market to fun, young and teeming night life with dozens and dozens of coffee bars, pubs, music and street activities. As the sun goes down so do the shutters on the produce stalls. The wonderfully painted shutters hide the fruit and vegetables, the chairs come out of their hiding places, the bar tables and deejays, the wonderful sound of young people having fun reverberates in the alleyways. A sight worth seeing to warm your heart!!!

Judaism doesn't really let us diet adequately. Zvi always claims that Jewish festivals are "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat" but Shevuot (Pentecost) is different. It is a harvest festival, a joyous ending of the 49 days of mourning (Lent) after Pesach (Passover) and more than anything a celebration of receiving the Torah. It is a festival of purity, of white, of milk produce – so many things together. As always, my wonderfully erudite friend, Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, explains it far better than I.  and for the eating part (we don't eat any meat or chicken over the festival and cheese anything goes) I actually have a wonderful low fat cheesecake recipe – which can even be sugar free. I'll put it and my adaptation at the end of the missive.

Last Friday night we went to our friends Meira and Michael Partem, and there we met a British couple, Rabbi Andrew and Rebbitsen Sharon Goldstein, who, as it turned out, knew many people that I do (for the uniformed it is called Jewish geography. The minute you meet you find common friends!!). Indeed the evening was basically spent covering two topics; one was the question of diversity/conflict within the Jewish religion and the acceptance or tolerance of that diversity; the other was how we all love Norman and Lola Cohen! Wonderful Lola and Norman have been involved in inter-religious discourse for many years and co-founded the British Israel Group

I believe that Rabbi Andrew Goldstein is right, there should be representation for Reform and Conservative Jews in Israel, but we disagree on how. Zvi is on the Board of the Jewish Agency and sees first hand that their discourse is coming at the issue from the wrong angle. They need to join society rather than fight it. I am certain we can find a common aim and common ground. Indeed it is essential we fight together rather than each other. Of course this isn't a Jewish problem, it is in all religions, but we do our fighting just a little too publicly!!!!

I just got back from collecting the children from school. It doesn't matter where you are in the world, the thrill of seeing YOUR grandchild running toward you in anticipation is incomparable. The stories, told in such a rush of words that they are barely discernable, act as testament to the relationship you have built up with love, unconditional love. All three of my Israeli children are in religious schools and all three are doing well academically, their schools do not change who they are, they are, and always will be the most affectionate and loving children imaginable. Yosef was fascinated that you know him through my words and wanted to know whether I write about my journey back into Jerusalem. I told him that I always describe Samuels Tomb and the view over the whole of Jerusalem almost to Tel Aviv and he was pleased. He also wanted you to know that we buy flowers for Shabbat once we have picked up the girls and he asked me to say hello and Shabbat Shalom to you!!

So back to Jerusalem Day and rather than find other songs I thought you would like to see the further videos of the illuminations together with two deeply important songs – Halleluja and Jerusalem of Gold

A truly joyous Jubilee.

So my friends – I hope I will manage to write to wish you a beautiful Shevuot but if not, Shabbat Shalom from our beloved Jerusalem. The reason it is a bone of contention, almost always has been, is because Jerusalem is the spiritual heart of the world. While it has been the very heart of Judaism, the streets that King David walked as he created the most beautiful songs – the psalms – in the language that we speak and pray until today, we have never been jealous, we have always shared it with joy. I wish you a holy Pentecost, a spiritual Shevuot and a blessed Ramadan.
May your G-d bless you and keep you safe from harm. Savlanut and Sovlanut – if you remember – are the secret to a peaceful life – Patience and Tolerance.

With all our love from Jerusalem and the veranda

The delicious no bake lemon cheesecake.
My adaptation is that I use 5% cream cheese or 5% ricotta and sugar free biscuits as the base – if you replace the sugar with sweet and low, you are ready to invite all your diabetic friends!!!!!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

170524 Jerusalem Day, Manchester, President Trump

23rd May, 2017

What a tragedy. What a ghastly tragedy. Children spending a dream night at a concert starring their favourite pop star when an insanely radical Islamist, sent by ISIS, blew himself up taking 22 young lives, the youngest of whom was just 8 years old. He was not poor, he was not disenfranchised, he was not an outcast – Salman Abedi was British, a student at the University of Salford near the city centre. He radicalised of his own accord and inculcated with ferocious savagery which destroyed the lives of all who saw the horror, let alone suffered it. Our hearts go out to the families of those killed and we pray for the recovery of those injured and traumatised. I believe President Trump was right when he described the terrorists as "losers", intentionally using a derogatory term because any other name assumes we are terrified of them and that is exactly what they seek.

The highly successful visit of President Trump to the Middle East has been a call to Islamic nations to fight and resist terror.

In Saudi Arabia he spoke of the fact that terror affected Jews, Christians and Moslems and he referred to Israel by name, all subjects formerly taboo in that country. When he spoke to the assembled Islamic leaders he reiterated the need to ensure that terror is not rewarded. His words clearly directed at Mahmoud Abbas and many leaders in the opulent conference room who fund the stipend given as a reward for killing Jews.

His arrival in Israel was filled with pomp and circumstance befitting the leader of the free world – apart from Oren Hazan's selfie which the media deemed a move typical of Israeli chutzpah and lack of manners. In fact, while silently cringing I didn't think it deserved the outcry it received!

The warmth of the visit was exceptional; the Presidents speeches restrained and yet warm. His constant referrals to Israel's Jewish heritage, our hard fought right to be in our ancient homeland were heartwarming. His clear emotion at the Western Wall and Ivanka's metamorphosis from Ivanka to Yael as she neared those ancient stones and reached out gingerly to touch them was an exceptional moment.

One of the most moving visits was by First Lady Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu to Hadassah Hospital to show them the wonderful co-existence between Jews and Arabs both patients and medical staff. It was especially exciting for me since my "new best friend" Ellen Hershkin, President of Hadassah Women's ZOA, proudly and elegantly escorted both first ladies and introduced them to the wonderful staff, Moslems, Christians, Druze and Jews at all levels of medical excellence. Bravo for bringing Mrs Trump to show the truth of our ability to live and work together if given half a chance.

Yad Vashem is a name that may not trip off his tongue with ease but his empathy with those who perished and his admiration for the survivors was apparent.  President Trump "gets it".

All of my concerns as to what he was going to demand from us in his last speech dissipated as he continued in the vein of understanding and love of Israel - and his determination not to tell us what to do, or what not to do – just that we need to talk.

Of course there were bloopers. Mr Netanyahu saying "the President's first wife" instead of First Lady and Mr Trump having difficulty with the name Manchester, but in the final analysis I believe it was a very important visit. His popularity in the USA may be low but here he could win any election.

Last night began the real celebration. Jerusalem Day!!!! 50 years ago, on the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, in the year 5727, Jerusalem was reunited after 19 years of Jordanian rule. "Har Habayit beyadeinu" The Temple Mount is in our hands – surely a moment we can never forget in a war that amazed the world in its brevity and drama.

Jerusalem. What a magical sound, more of a prayer than a city. Jerusalem, her name spoken with respect and with joy; with awe and with love – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks expresses our feelings about her so clearly – "Jews were a circumference whose centre was Jerusalem"

The celebrations for the people of the city brought a spectacular light show on the walls of the Old City

The 28th Day of the Hebrew Month of Iyar was the day the American President swore allegiance and friendship to Israel too, but of far greater importance, the 28th of Iyar is the date my incredible and beautiful grand-daughter Talia was born, in Shaare Zedek Hospital, Jerusalem, 11 years ago. An exceptional child, born in an exceptional city, to my exceptional daughter and I was there to see her enter this world.

Last night, well actually in the wee small hours of this morning, Zvi arrived from Ben Gurion Airport with precious cargo – his cousins Billy and Ruth Shapiro flew in from Mexico – mut more about that on Friday. Of course I will write on Friday – I don't believe I am capable of entering into Shabbat without talking to you!

From our home to yours, with love from Jerusalem, a troubled but glorious city which lays before me in that View From My Veranda!


I end this brief missive with something very Israeli – very Jerusalem. Ephraim Kishon was a brilliant reporter of our place and time and he wrote this wonderful list of why this is the only country he could ever live in.

My Country by Ephraim Kishon
This is Israel!
This is the only country where the unemployed strike;
This is the only country where sixty year olds still hate their tironut commander;
This is the only country where the corporals’ mother has the commander’s telephone number;
This is the only country that has a communications satellite, but nobody lets you finish a sentence;
This is the only country hit by missiles from Iraq, katyushas from Lebanon, suicide bombers from Gaza and rockets from Syria yet a three-room apartment still costs more than in Paris;
This is the only country where an Israeli meal is made from an Arab salad, Romanian kebabs, Iraqi pita and Bavarian mousse. We must like eating ant-Semites!
This is the only country where the guy with the open and stained shirt is the honourable Minister and the guy beside him wearing the suit and tie is his driver;
This is the only country where the phrase “I don’t interfere” means that I want to interfere;
This is the only country where Moslems sell sacred souvenirs to Christians in exchange for bills that have the Rambam’s face on them;
This is the only country where, at the age of eighteen you leave home but at twenty-four you still live with your parents;
This is the only country where people who come to your home for the first time ask you if it’s OK to go and take something from the fridge;
This is the only country where you can tell what the security situation is from the songs that are being played on the radio;
This is the only country where the rich are on the socialist left, the poor on the capitalist right and the middle-class pays for everything;
This is the only country where there is no problem to get the software that launches a space shuttle, but you have to wait a week for your washing machine to be fixed;
And only here there’s a time unit called “sometime between 11 and 6”.
This is the only country where between the happiest day and the saddest day there are exactly sixty seconds;
This is the only country where most people can’t explain why they live here but they have loads of reasons why they can’t live elsewhere;
This is the only country where if you hate politicians, hate clerks, hate the situation, hate the taxes, hate the quality of service, and hate the weather, it must mean that you like the country…
This Is The Only Country I Could Live In!!!  It’s My Country!!!

Friday, 19 May 2017

170519 Trump visit, Lag b'Omer, Jerusalem 50 or 3,000

19th May 2017

Hello dear friends, I hope you are well. Just by the way, it isn't that our politicians/leaders are any worse than before it's just that now we know about it! The Sacred Cow is dead. For so many years, indeed until the current era of the Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook we were in the dark and totally dependent upon a press (and media) from whom we received our filtered information. Today the people on the spot are faster than those who report it. Just a thought.

There are few things that worry me about this Presidential visit apart from the horrendous traffic jams that inevitably accompany Presidential visits. I am not worried that President Trump will visit the Kotel (Western Wall) without either the Prime Minister or President; just fine with me if he wants to make it a family affair. That way they can mingle with the participants of the many Bar Mitzvas that take place on a Monday (Yom Shayni) because that is a day one reads from the Torah. All participants have been through security checks and it will provide the children an extra story to tell their grandchildren! I am also not concerned by the fact that they decided that there will not be a tripartite meeting between Abbas, Trump and Netanyahu during the visit. For me all talks taking place out of the limelight are infinitely better than those in the glare of the media. I am not worried (even delighted) that the President will not be visiting Ramallah but rather going to Bethlehem – although the chances of him meeting any of the Christians who will tell him about their plight is minimal. I am not crying for those who have been evicted from the King David – that's the price one pays for US Presidential visits and they have all been found alternative accommodation for a night!!!
I am actually pleased that his delegation has chosen to visit Yad Vashem after all. He probably won't manage to tour but intends laying a wreath on the Eternal Flame in the Hall of Remembrance – something I did on my first visit to Israel in 1963. I can never forget what Zvi did with a 400 strong group of young leaders he brought to Israel many years ago. He asked each person to take a small candle and lay it on the name of the many Concentration Camps on the floor of the hall where they had lost family or knew survivors. Each of us stepped forward in silence and walked to the appropriate camp. It was both chilling and important as we cried that we would never forget.
I am pleased that the delegation will be here for Jerusalem Day, marking 50 years since reunification, but a bit worried that it will be a dampener since none of the parades will take place as planned – security. 50 years – incredible. Gosh I remember on that 1963 visit, having to look over the Old City from Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and then having to duck for fear of being shot at by Jordanian troops. Who'da thought that some 30 years afterward Zvi and I would travel to Petra in Jordanian Army Helicopters!!!!!
For 19 years the Old City was under Jordanian Rule – a time when we could not reach any of our religious sites, especially not the Kotel and the Temple Mount. For the sake of peace we chose to leave the Temple Mount in Jordanian hands – and sadly we still cannot pray there – visit sometimes but not pray. In that time Jerusalem has thrived, grown and diversified, with 52 Christian Denominations, 8 Moslem Denominations and about 650,000 Jewish denominations!!!! It is, as Zvi loves to say, a city from Wall to Mall! This is an interesting list of Jerusalem facts –  
Sprot and Culture Minister Miri Regev showed the world what matters at the Cannes Film Festival when she appeared on the red carpet in a stunning dress – with paintings of Jerusalem around it! Haaretz and the Guardian said it was controversial others found it "interesting"
Lag b'Omer (the 33rd Day of the counting of the Omer) is a strange festival cum holiday that everyone enjoys and few understand. This year it was even less understandable because we celebrated the 33rd Day on the 34th unless you were religious (Don't ask). It is an upside down semi-festival which celebrates the end of the plague which killed many of Rabbi Akivas students. Strange, but perhaps a deeper meaning is that through that plague they learned to respect each other. Anyway it is a time of bonfires and barbeques, music and weddings – because during the counting of the Omer (from Passover to Pentecost) one is not allowed music and celebration – a bit like Lent.
On Tuesday I met my dear friend Sheila Zucker on the glorious patio of the King David Hotel. It was obvious that something big was happening and then we saw the new USA Ambassador arrive, the new Greek Ambassador and another I can't remember. There was an official reception taking place after they had presented their credentials to President Rivlin. I love that place – always something happening or somebody arriving. After a delightful brunch Sheila left and Pircha Lottner arrived. What an interesting lady who has changed profession even more than I!! As we sat together one of my favourite people came to sit near us – Former Ambassador to the UK and the UN Ron Prosor. A real mensch. Of course I went to chat with him, couldn't resist! In the even the lovely Peter Cooper came to visit.
When Peter was still studying he lived in Reading for a while and was a regular visitor. I was thrilled when he came to Israel as he was when I did!!! He married the beautiful Yaella and has four children – much water under the bridge. There is something so special about old friends.
Wednesday evening we went to the Jerusalem Theatre for a fascinating and infinitely disturbing performance. "A Light at the End of the Tunnel" Before entering you were asked if you want a happy ending or a sad ending – I chose happy Zvi chose sad!!! Imagine a stage split lengthways, on top an air-headed morning show hostess and below IDF soldiers and two Hamasniks in a Hamas tunnel. The walls collapse trapping the soldiers and above are the air-head who becomes a news-caster and an Israel politician, a Palestinian politician and a UN representative. I leave the rest up to your imagination! Our audience chose the sad end.
Yesterday Rachel Yosef and I had cause to be in Hadassah's Paediatric Department (don't worry all is well) and yet again I was amazed to see the melding of peoples, both medical staff and patients. The emergency from a Bedouin family whose little boy fell and broke bones, the Haredi family deeply concerned for their son, the confused Mother from Ramallah who was treated with enormous respect and attended by an Arabic speaking doctor and social worker and so on and so forth. As we watched them come and go all day I was struck with the deep respect between the nurses and doctors both toward each other and the patients irrespective of colour or creed. I don't know if you realise but in Israel at least one half of the medical staff is Moslem and it is irrelevant, except that we certainly couldn't manage without them or they us.
As I took Rachel and Yosefeleh back to Givat Ze'ev, we drove over Samuel's Tomb and suddenly a huge flock of cranes dived and soared before us. It was spectacular against the blue sky and the panoramic view of Jerusalem. Did you know that hundreds of thousands of cranes come to Israel as a stop on their migration route.
I have not written about the various altercations between the US President and his staff – none of my business!
I chose this rendition of Jerusalem of Gold because I cannot forget sitting in the audience at Israel's 50th Independence Day and experiencing the magic of  the late Ofra Haza.
How can I end without the beautiful psalm – in the language that King David wrote it 3,000 year ago. If I forget the Oh Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave to my cheek. If I do not raise Jerusalem to the head of my joy.
Tonight I am not cooking!!! Well almost! We are going to our friends Meira and Michael Partem for Shabbat dinner. It is so exciting, no work at all because tomorrow we celebrate little Yonatan's 3rd birthday at Noga's parents home. Gosh what a gorgeous little boy!!
I have one more song, a special song for a special boy. My grandson Samuel George – this is for you and for all the special children in the world.
With love from Jerusalem, open and free. I will end with a quote from Pastor Dumisani Washington
Dear Mr. President,
While in Israel, go to the Western Wall and pray. It belongs to the Jews, but they're great about sharing.
Pastor Dumisani Washington


Friday, 12 May 2017

170512 Good news bad news -

12th May, 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. How was your week? Mine was insanely busy but that means I am still alive and with it so, I guess that's fine!!!

Actually it has been a very busy news week too. Rather a "good news-bad news" wekk.

It is good news that 82 girls have been released by Boko Haram in Nigeria, but that means that over 100 still remain in captivity undergoing terrible conditions. When the released girls met their families their inability to communicate emotionally was apparent and some carried young babies. It is a tragedy beyond imagination that 300 schoolgirls were taken into probable slavery.  

Good news that the Presidential visit to Jerusalem is happening but with many questions. He will come with Ivanka and Jared but will not go to Yad Vashem. Traditionally, all leaders who come lay a wreath next to the eternal flame. He will, of course, also go to Ramalla but that conversation will remain in camera.

The good news is that the American President is coming to Jerusalem – the bad news is that Jerusalem will be in virtual lock-down for the duration!!!!

The good news is that Ron Lauder has been in extensive talks with Mahmoud Abbas in preparation for this visit and Mr Abbas has somewhat relented on some issues. Tripartite talks in Jerusalem between Israeli PM Netanyahu, PA President Abbas and President Trump and a signing of a first stage peace treaty is expected. Clearly none of us know what will ensue, one can only imagine the scenario. "If you don't come to talk we will change the Embassy" or even "If you don't come to Jerusalem and sign you get no more American money" Who knows? The bad news is that the Embassy is unlikely to be moved, although it will be on the table. The worse news is that Mr Abbas agreed to all the generous terms on the table in PM Olmert's home and suddenly decided to leave for Ramallah – a mere 15 minute drive away, before signing. The even worse news is that Abbas could be motivated to sign because of fear from Hamas, Hezb-Allah and ISIS – a rational fear beyond imagination.

The good news is that President Trump is coming to Jerusalem to stay at the King David Hotel – the bad news is that Manager Chaim Shkedi had to inform everyone that booked a room in the hotel that they had to go elsewhere! We are used to all of the above situations whenever an American President comes to visit - most others mingle with the regular visitors.

The timing of the Presidential visit and potential signing is not inconsequential. The President arrives on the 22nd and Mr Abbas is due to arrive on the 23rd – which happens to coincide with Jerusalem Day and all the celebrations. As to whether it will be a good news day or a bad news day remains to be seen.

Great news that Marine le Pen (Nationalist – Right Wing) lost the elections for President of France – bad news that she gained legitimacy. Unknown news about President Emmanuel Macron are his views on foreign affairs, everyone is too fascinated by the youngest French President since Napoleon who fell in love with his teacher when he was 15 and later married her.

It is good news that Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned for terrorism and multiple murders, enjoys Israeli chocolate wafers – it is bad news (for him) that as the instigator of the Palestinian prisoners hunger strike, he was caught on the CCTV camera having a nibble in the loo! It is good news for us because it proves that his motive was to keep his name on the lips of the Palestinian leadership and not his supposed maltreatment in prison. I can promise you that in comparison with jails almost anywhere in the world, he is in the Waldorf Astoria.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby came to Israel and had a wonderful meeting with President Rivlin. Sadly the British Press almost ignored his wise words.

The bad news is that Israel is 91 on freedom of the press rating – the good news is that that low position is due to inevitable military censorship not lack of safety. The number of countries that kill reporters for telling the truth is growing fast. The results of the survey are astonishing.  

I discovered that news while attending a phenomenal Conference organised by the Jerusalem Press Club (Uri Dromi and his amazing staff)

Former Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor opened the conference. Always pragmatic, soft of voice he has long been the voice of reason in the Israeli Knesset. I suppose in a way he is also a good news, bad news person – good news that he is a voice of reason, bad news that his very pragmatism and kindness means he will never be elected Prime Minister. Here he looks at what next

Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, spoke to us of his experiences during that time and then after saying that he hadn't been to Israel since 1882, announced (I told you good news, bad news) that he has always held the opinion that a reporter must be in situ to understand the complexities of any conflict, having visited Jerusalem and Ramallah he would now think differently!!! Two days and he's a maven?

We heard from many amazing journalists from around the world but were distressed to hear of the plight of investigative journalists and war reporters who are killed, beheaded, tortured and exiled for telling the truth. Russia and Belarus are surprising perpetrators, the Arab countries as expected and if you check out the list above – South America too.

I collected the incredible Dr Cyril Sherer, who is well over 90 and about to publish a new book while still involved in medical research, and he told me I had written incorrectly that he was born in New Zealand. Dr Cyril was born in the UK and went to New Zealand as a child then came back to the UK for his medical training. He has been in Israel for many, many years and has treated most of the rich and famous – indeed still does. I was thrilled to see my lovely friend Sheila Zucker at the conference. Many of you New Yorkers of a certain age will remember Sheilas Show on the radio.

Yahya Muhammid is an exceptional young man. Brave and true to himself he chose to "come out" despite death threats. Yahya's sin? He loves Israel. Please read "Cleaning the Hate".

It would be difficult to describe the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem without superlatives. The building, once the Embassy of the Ivory Coast, is beyond exquisite, it's soaring arches exceptional made even more beautiful by the enormous Israel banner flags hanging the full length of the building. It was time for the Jerusalem Day celebrations to which we are thrilled to be invited. Greeted by Director Jurgen Buhler, his ever efficient assistant Beverley Dwyer, David Parsons and our great friend and one of the founding members Tim King with his wife Martha. Most of the speeches were short and very sweet – especially the one by Rabbi David Rosen, until the Vice-President of the Ivory Coast became very emotional and somewhat verbose. His emotions at his first visit to Jerusalem were appreciated and understandable though. The Embassy was founded when almost all countries moved their Embassies to Tel Aviv and a group of ever loyal Christians chose to found the ICEJ.  and

I sat with Zvi, Samuel, Varda, Menachem and Lena Shtern, all devotees of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre for Cancer Patients and their families. Gosh it is a phenomenal organisation which eases the lives of those who need it most through healing and professional psychological support.

Jerusalem Day and I can never forget sitting in the traffic Jam next to Mount Herzl, with the Robins and Kovens visiting from Toronto, and receiving a phone call from Canon Andrew White who at my request was in Ezekiel's Tomb and excited beyond words at what he found. As I said, good news bad news – again. Andrew, Professor Gabriel Barkay and I worked long and hard on the refurbishment of the Tomb together with the Mullah and then the Jerusalem Post did an article and claimed the kudos for someone else!!!
I just wrote to the journalist 6 years too late but – "I reviewed the article you wrote about Ezekiels Tomb and realised you praised the wrong people!!!    If not for Canon Andrew, Professor Gabby Barkay and I, nothing would have been done. We did the research and Gabby contacted the British Museum for details and I did the research here. Andrew risked his life and oversaw everything and the Mullah called me to thank me in tears of gratitude. Shame really".

The weather has been ridiculous! Two days ago 39 degrees and today a pleasant 23. Crazy! However, and this is just good news, the Veranda is blooming!! Day lilies, geraniums, pansies, Hibiscus………… gosh I love it!

I have oiled the huge wooden table out on the veranda so that we can invite friends over to sit and enjoy the view. I love to sit at the little table under the shade of the awning, sip my coffee and absorb the beauty of the city before me.  My dream is to sit around that table with my siblings so that they will understand what I write about each week. My perfect dream is to sit around the table with my siblings, my children and their wonderful spouses and their children together with all of Zvis family – gosh wouldn't that be amazing? Can you imagine the cooking I could tell you about?

Before the songs I just want to cite a quotation placed on Facebook by Kay Wilson – the ultimate survivor
Posting one of my favorite sayings. May you all have a wonderful Shabbat.
Who is wise? One who learns from every man.
Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations.
Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. 
Who is honorable? One who honours his fellows.
Ben Zoma, Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1

What to sing for Jerusalem Day? Dudu Fisher with If I forget you Oh Jerusalem.

Naomi Shemer's Jerusalem of Gold sung by the late Ofra Haza

Finally – is that good news? – finally a flash dance by Hora Yerushalyim in the Mamilla Shopping Arcade

May you only receive good news! Good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom, Peace
With love from Jerusalem, the best news in the world

Friday, 5 May 2017

170505 Trump visit, Independence, Jack Smorgon

5th May 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. A week of mourning and celebration, of anticipation and history, so let's begin with a quote from my dear friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen who as always has encapsulated my feelings in his very first sentence.

Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, brings out the best and the worst in us. We cannot agree on what it means, and we cannot agree on how to celebrate or recognize it.
For all the biblical miracles, after 2,000 years of exile and oppression, the reconstitution of a Jewish independent state strikes me as the most miraculous of events that defies logic and nature. And I celebrate it. I cannot understand why any Jew would not."

It began with the deep sadness of Remembrance Day, the siren a keening lamentation of our grief. Few remain untouched by loss, as it was after WW1 and 2, Vietnam, Korea and so many wars throughout the world, but for us it is a fight for our very existence which began the day the United Nations declared the Jewish State.

The ceremonies and visits to gravesides seamlessly transport us into joy and celebration as we hold the biggest birthday party imaginable! For me the celebration after the grief isn't anathema, it gives reason to those deaths, prevents them from being without reason. We are here, we have a glorious country which upholds the Jewish principles of Tikkun Olam (leaving the world a better place) in every sphere and has a population which believes life here is good.

This 69 year old lady has survived every imaginable attack on her existence and come through it all a strong and elevated society – which loves to complain!

Journalist David Harris wrote this wonderful article about Israel at 69 My thanks to Carol Nathan for sending it to me.

Perhaps the biggest "news" today is the upcoming visit of President Trump. He clearly chose not to make the same mistake as his predecessor, who intentionally omitted coming to Israel (actually not President Obamas mistake but Rahm Emmanuel's advice). The President will take a very important route including the Vatican, Saudi Arabia and Israel – with the PA. Professor Eytan Gilboa suggested that while the President doesn't anticipate an instant capitulation by Abbas, he would hope for a photograph of the three leaders (Trump, Netanyahu and Abbas) together. As the Israelis say "It is more likely that a cactus will grow on the palm of your hand"!!!

Talking of cactus and hands – One of President Trumps most basic demands is that the PA stop paying a generous stipend to terrorists (the more Jews killed the greater the stipend) and has been refused by the PA spokesperson Nabil Shaarth as an insane demand! Really, I kid you not! That an American President has the gall to have a say in the disbursement of monies he throws your way is insane…………… wow.

Whenever I read of such statements it makes me think of different times, times that seems to repeat themselves. The guards at the Treblinka death camp had the words "God is with us" emblazoned on their belts. He was not. Today's Jew killers make the same claim. He is not.

I don't know if the other "news" has reached your media, but Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, both political and terrorists with blood on their hands, are on a hunger strike. Ostensibly they are striking for better conditions – a somewhat ludicrous idea since their conditions are better than almost anywhere in the world including the opportunity to become educated. The real reason is a fit of pique! Marwan Bargouti, murderer, was left off the list of plausible Palestinian leaders and decided he needed to remind his people that although imprisoned for horrible crimes, he is still of consequence. Please, when you read the sob stories from B'tselem and other human rights groups, surely a misnomer because they care for the human rights of all except Jews and Christians, remember the true reason.

UNESCO. UNESCO – The United Nations Education, Scientific and Culture Organisation, surely an acronym which creates hope in our hearts – has done it again! Isn't it time to demand from our elected leaders to stop throwing our money away in fees that those in the west pay and those who vote against Israel as their basic ethos, do not pay their dues!!!! 

And now for something utterly, totally and completely different!!!

Parties! Yom Ha'atzmaut began with most of Israel watching the ceremony on Mount Herzl– a spectacular event. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein gave a short but excellent speech, exhorting the people of Israel to be more tolerant of each other. He pointed to the fact that political disagreement throughout the world has become a matter of insult not discussion. If you are on the right the left calls you a Nazi – if you are on the left then the right calls you a traitor. It's time to stop and find middle ground.

The moment the ceremony ended on TV we set off for Ramat haSharon and the Lotans party. It was so much fun, seeing old friends, chatting and eating very Israeli food. We got home at about 03:30 (!!!!) slept a little then I went ot the King David to meet Deborah Stapler and her lovely friend Cherry. I didn't know them before but Deborah is a friend of Bonnie Clement and we had so much to say that we barely ate. Excellent questions on how to respond to the ignorance of those who do not understand Israel and her relvance to Americans.

On my return from the KD Zvi and I set off to the town of Har Adar and the Schreibers party where we again met and chatted with lovely friends while Meishi and Dvorit plied us with that most Israeli of food –a barbeque. I then put in the diary that we sleep!!!!

On Wednesday morning, at precisely 11:00 we arrived at the Presidents House for a lovely ceremony for an exceptional man. Jack Smorgon is the epitome of a gentleman. A proud and decorated Australian from Melbourne, Jack and his family are philanthropic in a truly regal manner, without noise and with a great deal of passion. Jack was to receive the Goldstein Prize for outstanding leadership from Keren Hayesod (the fundraising arm of the Jewish agency in the world other than the USA)

Our President's House is unassumingly elegant. Old trees, lawns, gentle breeze and a swathe of old friends. Sam Lipski is Australian, Journalist former editor Australian Jewish News and an old friend of Zvi's; Mem Bernstein, a thinking philanthropist whose demands her projects involve Tikkun Olam; Jill Kaplan, a lovely, special lady whose husband Mendel, was a fine Jewish leader; Jaap and Tinneke Meijers from Holland in fact many who came for this day to honour Jack. I am sorry if I missed your name out but it was amazing to see you all. Admittedly this time I wore flat shoes and walked carefully – last time I was on the Presidential lawn I broke my ankle!!!

In his congratulatory speech President Rivlin emphasized that Jack is living proof that one can be both democratic and Jewish as indeed is the State of Israel. Just a complimentary word for Jason Pearlman who is the Presidents English language advisor and writer – Yeah Jason.

Yesterday evening we went out to the beautiful and delicious Mamilla Rooftop Restaurant with Sam and Debby Bettsak. The meal and company were wonderful and suddenly as we returned to our car we bumped into Rabino Marcelo Rittner, his lovely wife and grandson. Guess who is coming to Shabbat dinner tonight as well as the Rittners and Bettsaks? Guests from Panama, Colombia, USA, Mexico, Israel and of course one Welshwoman cooking her heart out!!! Every second of cooking and table setting is worthwhile when I hear the intake of breath as they step outside and see the incredible View from our Veranda framed in the scarlet geraniums, the little lemon, kumquat and orange trees, the day lilies and the lobelia. Zvi and I explain the view "That is the back of Gilo, Bethlehem is just a few hundred metres over the hill, Beit Tsafafa in the middle and Ramat Rachel up the top. We point left toward the industrial area of Talpiot with the red rooved houses beside it; Baka, the German Colony and then swinging round to Ramat Sharett………………… 69 years old yet look how beautiful her capital city is!!

So many of you say that the way that the newsletter ends on a high note with the songs is special for them. Sam Lipski – this one is for you Shai Abrahamson with the prayer for the State of Israel

I only found a Spanish translation of this beautiful song! Orna Datz sings of the beauty of candle lighting for Shabbat. Mother lights the Candles with her family.

Finally, my favourite. This song became a hit but few knew its genesis. Mark Knopfler wrote it for the soldiers of the IDF and it truly epitomises our thoughts and prayers.

Never think that this is just Israel's Independence Day, it is the day of freedom from dependence upon others. Israel is OUR independence, our chance at autonomy and we are doing a great job. All those Empires that tried so hard to destroy and annihilate us through the ages – Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Mesopotamian, The Third Reich………… GONE while we survive and thrive

Off to cook – the soup won't make itself nor will the Challot

Much love from beautiful Jerusalem, the city I am proud to call home.