Friday, 30 June 2017

170630 Conversion Law, Sochnut, Qatar, Edelstein

30th June 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I really don't know where to start this week, the subjects are diverse and the repercussions enormous, but nothing is without solutions, we just have to find them. The secret with problem solving is not in blaming or finding a culprit but rather in patient debate and scientific research into the cause.

Perhaps we should begin with the lovely and good people I met this week, but by leaving the problems until the end would leave you with a bad taste and too depressed to think of solutions! Let's dive in with the one that is on the tip of everyone's tongue and look at it, dissect and find a solution.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, usually a wily politician, succeeded in angering most of us, distancing young Israelis from their religion and infuriating Diaspora Jews, all of whom were right. As you know I love my religion, find it fascinating and complex and its beauty is in its compassion for all; this week the PM and his cabinet reversed his former decision to widen the egalitarian section of the Kotel (Western Wall) but much, much more serious was the decision to change and harshen the conversion laws, virtually shunning a large section of both Israeli and Diaspora Jewry, and the majority of Orthodox Rabbis - the latter decision after the Prime Minister himself gave the task of researching the conversion question to Natan Scharansky who spent years solving the dichotomy to have it blow up in his face. Dr Danny Lamm explains eloquently

The Jewish Agency Board of Governors was to have a large event at the Knesset to honour outgoing Chair of the Board of Governors, Charles Ratner, in the presence of the PM on Monday, but as a direct result of the cabinet decision the event was cancelled and the food donated to charity. The Jewish Agency stood its ground to defend the people it represents. The next morning, all the delegates of the Jewish Agency went to the Knesset to lobby MK's of all persuasions, from coalition to opposition, religious and secular, to vote against the decision. The general opinion when they came away was that the decision has no chance of passing the Knesset. The PM made a terrible mistake, lost his base supporters and out of fear of losing his coalition, lost his support.

Dear friends, I understand that some of you have withdrawn your support for Israeli charities. Why? Israel agrees with you, the decision will not pass the Knesset and by not donating you harm the very people who are fighting with you against it! Give us a chance to find a solution. Remember – united we stand divided we fall; we have enough enemies without we don't need the enemy within.

The TV news this morning showed Bibi on his way to meetings with his coalition to reverse the reversal – in other words he regrets the action and is trying to find a solution.

Hadassah Hospital hit the headlines. I will not say anything about the situation but please remember – nothing is as it appears in the media. There are those who incite people's fears to their own purpose, deepening the problem. Hadassah is still an excellent hospital with a Medical School par excellence.

The weather has been unbelievably hot. While Zvi was getting things done, as only he knows how, in the Jewish Agency Board meetings – he is the representative of World Maccabi Union to the Board of Governors – I took our friend Kim to a press briefing at the Jerusalem Press Club in Mishkenot Shaananim, the neighbourhood of many steps! Kim was thrilled at the picturesque views of the Old City and the amazing tiny treasure of the garden with its huge eucalyptus trees providing shade. We ventured back onto the steps and to the briefing on Qatar by Yoni ben Menachem.

Qatar is an extraordinary tiny country, run by cousins of the Saudi Royals. They make up for their size by immense wealth and have been slowly buying up football stadia, teams, hotels, airlines, television stations and of course keeping the news in check with Al Jazeera, a Qatari company. Qatar as instigator and financier of terror then steps in as mediator condemning self-same terror! At the Saudi initiated Arab Summit, all the Sunni leaders met in Riyad to hear President Trump to speak. The President set new rules, starting with determination to rein in Iranian control and nuclear power; condemning terror and the funding thereof; alluding clearly to the actions of Qatar which although Sunni has always played a different game- Dohar is the home of the Moslem Brotherhood; condemning the payment of terrorists. Qatar is in siege without any basic needs coming into the country.

President Trump has set new ground rules. He decided to talk to them "doogri" straight. He made the wise decision to go with the relatively Western leaning Sunnis against Shia Iran. Islam is split into 80% Sunni and 15% Shia, President Obamas decision to go with the 15% was considered a huge insult by the Sunni states and President Trump has now set a new paradigm – mentioning Israel three times in those hallowed halls in front of thousands of Sunni leaders was a brave move. Zvi is not surprised that the Saudis are leading the change – he remembers a private conversation when Prime Minister Olmert was asked "With which Arab country do you have most contact"? The immediate response was "Saudi Arabia".

The very next day I was back descending the steps to the Press Club to hear Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez talk about the Russian interference in Israel's wars since and including 1967. Americans are distressed that the Russians interfered in the elections well how would you feel if you discovered that the pilots, tank commanders, gunners that you were fighting in a war with Egypt were in fact Russian and all the arms provided by Russia with the sole purpose of eradicating Israel? Their newest book reveals information from Russian archives buried for 50 years and recently revealed.

Yuli Edelstein, former refusenik now the Speaker of the Knesset, made an official visit to Russia. He returned to the prison where he was incarcerated for teaching Hebrew, from where he was sent to Siberia, and he spoke in Hebrew to the Russian Federation Council. "Even in my best dreams, I didn't believe I'd come to this moment," "In the same language for which I was imprisoned I bless you with the ancient Jewish Blessing Shalom Aleichem"

I am so proud of both Varda Hershkovitz and Lena Shtern for their amazing work for the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre in Shaare Zedek. The excellence and effectiveness of their work has resulted in the hospital asking them to perform therapies in the ER to relive trauma and pain of those brought to the Emergency Room.

Our beautiful friend Kim Taylor (aka Dr Kimball) came for the Jewish Agency meetings. He is a popular face and a fascinated participant, reporting his experiences back to the LDS Church ensuring that Fake News doesn't colour their love of Israel.

Yesterday at 12:30 we collected our dear friend Dr Cyril Sherer, at 96 he has just completed a book of his fascinating life as physician to the rich and famous visitors to Jerusalem for the last many, many years. Cyril is still involved with medical research! We then went to King David to meet Harry and Nancy Bloomfield for lunch – if Nancy had her way they would spend most of their time in Israel and not bother with anywhere else!!! Two young Polish friends of theirs joined us and they were so delightful I almost released my inherited memories and considered going to Poland to visit my father's home town of Brzezini. Zvi chose that moment to announce that we are going on March of the Living early next year!!!

I'm sorry this is rather a long letter but I felt that the fiasco of the Cabinet decision had to be addressed in full so as to avoid a misunderstanding turning the rift into a chasm between Israel and the Diaspora.  As Zvi says "Anyone crazy enough to want to embrace Judaism is welcome with open arms"

Gosh, what songs to give you.  Blowin in the Wind, seemed too trite, too obvious so I put my thinking cap on and……….decided to be selfish and give you a song that I used to sing to my amazing son Gideon when he was a baby (together with You are my Sunshine) Tumbalalaika

If we are already talking Pete Seeger, as a youngster I was a devotee of Habonim and as we sat around the campfire we used to sing If I had a Hammer – led by the late and much loved Theo Christie. It was his favourite song. Gosh that group sitting in the trees next to Castel Coch has come a long way.

After all that doom and gloom we need to rejoice  - Yismachu hashamyim!

Last Friday's Yiddishche Delicatessen meal went exceedingly well. Our lovely Tel Aviv friends were so excited as they read out the Yiddische Menu. Funnily enough it was the men who were "chalishing" for traditional food. Maybe next time I'll do Mexican for the girls!!!!

Talking of food – we just came back from and event with Chef Shaul Ben Aderet. The Spinach shakshuka was to die for, the roasted eggplant gnocci unreal and ……….. why don't you see for yourselves

With much love from Jerusalem, from our verandah, it's view, it glorious flowers and it's welcome. I promise I will kiss the children for you and wonder at the panorama as  I come back home. Tonight is a quiet Shabbat – Leor, Amit, Gili and Ori are coming but that will be relaxed and without a menu……….. how can you write "augmented leftovers" in Yiddish!!!!!

Remember dear friends, we are family and occasionally a family member makes mistakes and offends everyone else, but after a hasty fit of pique we settle down, apologise, repair and carry on with life. We are Family, we are the Musketeers and d'Artagnan, we are the Knights of the Round Table – all equal but different; let's regroup and ensure nothing and no-one can divide us.


Friday, 23 June 2017

170623 Hadas Malka zl, Sheila and Zvi 21


23rd June 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope this missive finds you well and if you do not feel good today then tomorrow will be better.

I decided to stay away from politics wherever possible this week, just to tell you about our week and what we did. I must, however tell you about a very sad incident that happened next to the Damascus Gate last Friday. Young soldiers of the Border Guards stand beside the entrance to the Damascus Gate where most Moslems from outside the Old City walk to go to pray on the Temple Mount. This is the month of Holy Ramadan and worshippers come from all over the country and from Gaza and the PA.

The Damascus Gate is arguably the most beautiful of the gates of the Old City . Once upon a time Jerusalemites used to go opposite the gate for the wonderful pitta, before casually wandering in the Jewish Musrara area just nearby. That was before Yasser Arafat began his incitement of course.

Last Friday as they stood watch to ensure the safety of the worshippers. One of the guards, Staff Sergeant Hadas Malka, aged 23 took a selfie and sent it to her friends before three young men began stabbing her all over her body. Despite the best efforts of the ambulance paramedic- incidentally a Moslem Israeli who fought to save her despite risking his own life - and hospital staff they ultimately succeeding in their desire to kill and be killed in the name of Allah and ISIS.  May her sweet soul rest in peace and her family be consoled among the mourners of Zion.

Sadly the BBC headline did not mention Hadas z"l, it stated that the IDF shot 3 Palestinians. The headline was so outrageous that Jared Kushner joined Mr Netanyahu in ensuring the headline be retracted – but in the meantime millions of adherents to the disinformation of the BBC already thought Israel had cruelly shot innocent Palestinians again.

One more thing – after all the shouting and yelling about the situation of the European citizens who are in the UK for a long period and made their lives there – Corbyn followers convinced that they would all be thrown out, Theresa May said yesterday that it simply isn't true, anyone who has been in the country for over five years will not even have to go through any procedures to stay in the UK.

In the meantime ISIS blew up a famous mosque in Mosul (Nineveh); a 6.8 earthquake hit Guatamala; tens of people died in a bomb attack on a bank in Afghanistan; In Venezuela police shot at close range at protestors in a peaceful rally; Prince Harry says nobody really wants to be the King or Queen of Great Britain and the Commonwealth but they would serve dutifully; Pyongyang announced that President Trump is a bully for complaining about the treatment of an American student who was imprisoned and ill-treated for taking a poster off a wall – and he ultimately died – while simultaneously testing a ballistic missile which they say is aimed at the USA; Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets and billionaire has been chosen as the US Ambassador to the UK – not the first time it has happened, remember Joseph Kennedy? OK so who thinks that a heatwave is of importance? In the general way of the world it is the least of our worries!!!

Uzi Wexler z"l passed away this week. Those who live outside Israel, and many who live in Israel, believe it was Teddy Kollek who made Jerusalem blossom. In fact it was the brilliant foresight of Uzi Wexler who brought the Hi-Tech industry to Jerusalem and so very much more. A man who believed in Tikkun Olam and acted on it. Sadly missed

OK I promised to tell you about our week, so will begin with after Shabbat on Saturday evening when we travelled to Tel Aviv, to the home of Gideon and Dafna Fisher to an event thanking the supporters of Beit Lessin Theatre in Tel Aviv. We aren't among the glitterati who support but we were invited nonetheless. There I was thrilled to meet Sasson Gabay who you have seen in hundreds of movies without knowing who he is. My very favourite movie of his is "Band's Visit" a wonderful story of hope

On Monday I went to a conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called "Echo Chamber – a conference on hate speech on the internet" and if I may use the very British expression, I was gobsmacked! The most effective presentation was by the Simon Wiesenthal Center who, unbeknownst to me have a very strong presence in fighting hate speech on the net and work closely with the authorities, most recently with Scotland Yard. I had no concept of the vast number of websites that young people reach each other or the complexity of finding them and their incitement of young gullible minds. If you see or hear or sense hate speech on the net please report it to because they know how to deal with it through their incredible head of research Rob Eaton.

Incidentally, if someone has ever written something libelous about you on the net, a new law gives you the right to have it removed. The Right to be Forgotten

While I was at the conference Zvi went to see Gilad Levian, the Director of the Italian Synagogue and Museum in the Centre of Jerusalem to see a wonderful new exhibition about the Jews of Venice, When the Jews were finally allowed to live in Venice they were given a specific area to live in and theretofore the term Ghetto was coined for the Jewish areas. Ghetto however was the name of the major foundry in the said area.

Tuesday saw us walking toward the Knesset, across the forecourt, scene of many ceremonies attended in our past, festooned with Israeli flags, to an event hosted by Member of Knesset Yaacov Perry, former Chief of the Israeli Secret Service. MK Perry is head of the Israeli music lobby in the Knesset and chose to honour choirs from all over Israel. Of course the first person to appear before us was Shuli Natan who is known for just one song, but what a song!!!!

The event finished early so we decided that on the way to collecting the car we would go and see…………….. Wonderwoman!!! What can I tell you. It isn't the greatest movie I ever saw, although entertaining, but I am so proud of Gal Gadot that it is irrelevant. She decided, quite rightly, that she had nothing to be ashamed of and proclaims her Jewish, Israeli, IDF personality with pride, answering inane questions like "Did you learn your fighting skills in the IDF"? with amused truth "No, it is a defence force not an attacking force". Thrilled that many Islamic countries chose to ban the movie but it isn't because she is Israeli – it's because she is gorgeous, strong and doesn't need a man to fight her battles!!!!

Despite my telling you not to complain about the weather but, boy oh boy is it hot!!! In fact next week, as a welcome for the Jewish Agency Board meetings, it is going to be 40 degrees in Jerusalem. F-O-R-T-Y degrees that is 104 degrees Fahrenheit!!!

Today is our wedding anniversary! 21 years ago Zvi and I stood together under the chuppah (wedding canopy) beneath the skies of Jerusalem, opposite the Old City walls, after Zvi had signed the Ketuba (marriage contract) in Alan and Bonnie Cohens home. The chuppah poles were decorate by my children and the poles were held by Leor, Amiad, Gideon and Valeri Silver. Rachel and Jill were my maids of honour and my lovely cousins Jean and Stuart were my proxy parents while Zvi's parents Kalman and Alla stood beside him. We held the party in Yismach Melech Street outside Alan and Bonnies home (it helps to know the residents representative) and we had wonderful music and catering. We closed the street off with police barriers (ooooops is there a statute of limitations on "borrowing" them from the road?) Friends from all over the world were here for the Jewish Agency meetings and it was a truly joyous occasion. To stand on a balmy evening, the walls behind us singing "If I forget thee oh Jerusalem" and as Rabbi David Rosen proclaimed us married and Zvi broke the glass, 400 shofars sounded from the rehearsal ceremony for the lighting of the City Walls right next to us!!!!!! Our lives are full, our children have grown and have children of their own, sadly many of those who stood beside us have gone, but our lives are full and our purpose for Tikkun Olam untarnished.

Tonight we will celebrate with friends who were not at the wedding but have come to mean a very great deal in our lives. They each work hard to make change for the good. I won't name them but know that we are having a totally "Yiddische" meal – Borscht, gefilte fisch, veggie cholent, herring, potato kugel, tsimmes, red cabbage, Jerusalem kugel….. most of which I made (without gluten for one guest) but there are some things that are simply best from Mea Shearim!!! Zvi raced from the house first thing this morning and went to collect the gefilte fisch we ordered, and came home with it piping hot!! The menu will be in Yiddisch, Ruti don't tell the others! Zvi and I simply love to celebrate, we love to have people in our home because a house without friends isn't a home, it is a house. I will also have another place setting ready – just in case. That is what my Mummy taught me, always keep one place setting ready so that if an unexpected guest arrives you can fit them in without a fuss.

Tonight our lovely Kim arrives from Cardston, near Calgary, Alberta Canada. Dr Kimball Taylor is purportedly coming for the Jewish Agency meetings – but really it is for a hug and to see his beloved Jerusalem.

That's it! A crazy week again, but a fascinating one. And so to music – the most difficult choice of the week! So much to choose from.

The first song is dedicated to my Zvi – even if he forgot to bring me flowers!!! Erev Shel Shoshanim

Duo Re'im, Yisrael and Benny, were guests at our wedding and gave us a phenomenal performance as our gift!

So to the aroma of all the Heimische delicacies I need to get back to my preparations. I wish you a Shabbat filled with good deeds and kind people, of tolerance and joy

With love from our beautiful Jerusalem. Tonight we will stand on the veranda, looking at the twinkling lights of a vibrant city, a city we dreamed of for 2,000 years and today lays before us as living proof that hope wins.
Hatikva in the Holocaust and sung by the progeny of survivors

Sheila and her Zvi and their veranda

Friday, 16 June 2017

170616 David Grossman Booker, London Fire, Steve Scalise

16th June 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

David Grossman is Israeli. He has often been described as the conscience of Israel through his writing and his words. David Grossman is on the left of the political map but he loves Israel and sadly gave the ultimate sacrifice of his son's life to the war against those who would see Israel disappear from the face of the earth. He is also a fine writer and this week won the most prestigious prize an author can win other than the Nobel Prize – his latest book "A Horse Walked into a Bar" won the Man Booker Prize for literature. It is a short novel about a stand-up comedian, his grief, laughter and betrayal.

This has been a tragic week for London. The tragedy was the result of negligence not terrorism, but a tragedy beyond words nonetheless. A high rise building, full of families, was refurbished by the local council, albeit an apparently cosmetic job, but despite constant complaints from the residents, the fire safety conditions were not improved. An exploding refrigerator on a lower floor caused the building to be engulfed within minutes and the escape routes of those inside were unclear and for many unavailable. I write about it not just because my heart aches for the families of those who lost their lives but also because it is a global disease – negligence to a devastating level. "Get the job done so that it looks good but who cares about the real nitty gritty of peoples lives" Our public officials are, in general and everywhere, not up to scratch.

After the horrific terror attacks in London Mayor Sadiq Kahn has turned to Israel for advice on how to deal with terrorism. A liberal Moslem and a caring Mayor he recognises who, sadly, knows the most about dealing with fanatical Islamic terrorism.

Yet again politics and guns became an awful issue as a crazed Democrat spent time planning how and when to shoot at Republicans playing baseball in a field next to the Democrat field. James Hodgkinson was not just political, not just a Democrat, he ranted and raved against President Trump and Republicans in general while at a garage just a few days prior to his heinous act. While admittedly there will always be unstable extremists, my question is how did he legally buy a 7.62mm high powered rifle and a hand gun just days prior to the attack? Didn't anyone either report the sale to the police or question his purchase? In Israel one has to pass both psychological and general health tests before the police will consider granting a private gun licence let alone actually owning one. Soldiers are carefully trained and if they leave their gun unattended, even for a minute, they are punished. A gun is not a toy, nor is it everyone's private defence system; I was born in a country where even policemen need a special licence to carry weapons and live in a country that has seen enough violence from the outside to abhor internal violence. That is why Jerusalem is 12 times safer than Seattle (of similar size). I pray that Congressman, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who is in critical condition, will return to full health.

The Palestinian Authority President does not suffer opposition. Mr Abbas has closed down several news sites for espousing policies in opposition to those of the government. While far from surprised by his decision, I am amazed that the hyper-alert worlds press and media remain silent. We know they over-react on any subject concerning Israel but their silence on lack of freedom of movement and speech in the PA – and many other Islamic countries – is bordering on sycophancy.,7340,L-4976532,00.html

Canon Andrew White, Lola and Norman Cohen, Lola's Shortbread, scones and Andrew's clotted cream were not the only reason Zvi and I went to Lola and Norman's for Shabbat tea. The warmth and love that emanates from their home while listening to an Anglican Canon discuss the week's Torah reading with a wonderfully clever Jewish scholar who wrote a book called "The Torah on one Foot".

Talking of authors, books and freedom of speech – when is a book not a book but rather a political pawn? Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, wrote a book while in prison. The book, a memoir, went through the scrutiny of the military censors and the result was given to his lawyers to take for printing. Despite the care he took in having every word checked the "powers that be" decided he had passed on secrets thus his prison sentence would not be shortened by one third. We know that his book contains information that would be damaging to those currently in power yet also know that it passed the military censor- I ask you to come to your own conclusions.

On Sunday morning I collected Rachel from her home and we went off for two days of mother/daughter fun. We drove northward to Hadera, stopping on the way at various sites, and arrived at our hotel. Hadera was not number one on our list of "must see" Israeli cities but the promise of a brand new hotel and access to so many beautiful tourist sites made our decision easy. We were amazed! The level of building is phenomenal – beautiful high rise private apartment blocks on the beach and inland are sprouting up at an enormous rate; Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa are just too expensive for most Israelis and the north is a great alternative with wonderful public transport and roads to the big cities.

The beach in Hadera is amazing, the sunset phenomenal and we walked down across the sands to a quaint and delicious restaurant on a cliff. Next morning we went down to breakfast – an Israeli breakfast – and even by Israeli hotel standards this was exceptional. Every conceivable variety of fruit and vegetable cut into every type of salad or just natural; eggs scrambled, boiled, shakshuka or freshly made omelettes; herrings of every flavour; smoked salmon; 6 different freshly squeezed juices; cheesecake, croissants, pies and tarts; breads of every type, colour, seed and grain; in fact everything one could dream of set out in long lines of deliciousness. The famous full English breakfast dims into oblivion in comparison!!!!!

After breakfast we took our few belongings and headed off for Kibbutz Nahsholim and the famous glass factory or Mizgaga. Baron Rothschild – known in Israel as "Hanadiv" or the philanthropist, decided to build a bottle factory on the white shores of Dov beach, or Tantura, to make bottles for his wineries in Zichron Yaacov and Rishon le Zion. The beautiful factory was built and a young scientist chosen to head the project, while bringing experts from France and elsewhere. Sadly the sand proved useless and the glass of poor quality so the factory was closed, the Baron continued importing bottles and the young scientist went off to Tel Aviv to find his fortune – his name was Meir Dizengoff, future Mayor of Tel Aviv. The Mizgaga has become a fine museum with artifacts not only of the glassmaking factory but also of Napoleons navy when they stopped on their journey to Jaffa after a crushing defeat in Akko. Well worth a visit.

While Rachel and I were away Zvi went to the inauguration of a KKL forest in the name Lia and Ruben Merenfeld z"l by their children Susana, Yehudit, Miriam and Isaac and their families. Zvi planted a tree together with Flory Benalal to honour an amazing family and their strong ties to Israel.

On Tuesday we met up again with the Shabbat Tea crowd! Fish and chips at the King David has become a tradition and this time it was augmented by a delightful lady called Sandra who is Canon Andrew's friend and helpmeet. It was a joy to watch Sandra take in the history of the King David – so much more than a hotel.

From the dinner at the King David we continued to the Zappa theatre club and a marvellous performance of "The Big Tisch" with Kobi Arielli and Jacky Levy telling Jerusalem stories and veteran singer Moshe Lahav. It is such a "Jerusalem" affair with wonderful stories of the way Jerusalem was when they, and Zvi, were growing up.

On Wednesday Zvi spoke to a group from Melbourne headed by his old friend Nathan Schaeffer. As always they were enthralled by his knowledge and humour and a second lecture is in the offing!!!

On Thursday we had a special treat – my amazing grandson Yosef decided he wanted to come and spend the day and sleep over. It was so much fun, we went to Avraham and Ruti Levy's home where Avraham took us onto his roof and we saw the full panorama of Jerusalem before us – from the walls of the Old City to the spires of St Johns. Yosef had a ball when Saba Zvi took him Go-karting!! An additional delight was when Tamara Gutverg, Zvi's relative from Mexico, came for a quick lunch with us. Tamara is on a very special Taglit/Birthright Excel course for young potential entrepreneurs. Sounds incredible

This morning Yosef and I went to the Israel Museum. We saw the amazing Judaica pavilion then went to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition and the model of the Temple period Jerusalem. It was so exciting to watch his curiosity and delight and realise that Yosef is now big enough to take to the Museum.

So that's it! I took Yosef home and the incredible aroma of Rachel's challot greeted us; of course I left with a delicious booty of freshly baked challah……….. mmmmmm she is such a marvellous baker!

Before we sing, I loved this video – I am that Jew.

Yaacov Shwekey has a habit of bringing me to tears with his beautiful voice  and this is no dofferent. Mi Sheberach Chayalei Yisrael, Bless the Israeli soldiers -

Have you ever thought how many Israeli songs have the word Shalom – Peace – in them? How many of our prayers? Shir le Shalom – song to peace – was ironically the last song sung by Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin  in his gravelly voice before he was assassinated by an extremist Jew. So ironic because few had done more than General Rabin for the security of our beautiful Israel.

I wish you Shabbat Shalom. Let's pray for the day the world will wake up and those who prevent peace will be silenced…………..

With love from our beautiful city, from our veranda, a profusion of colour and joy,from Jerusalem

Friday, 9 June 2017

170609 UK Elections, Qatar, Haley, Jerusalem 50, Lindens

9th June 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you managed to keep up with the constant news this week! Perhaps I should do a run down and then we can talk about other things.

Let's begin with the British elections of yesterday. If one looks at the map of the British Isles one could well be fooled into thinking that the Conservatives enjoyed an overwhelming victory!  Britain does not have a proportional representation form of government – it has constituency voting and constituency representation so sheer numbers are irrelevant. One must also hope that the Ulster Unionists, the Liberal Democrats etc will join Mrs May rather than Labour. The big losers are the Scottish Nationalists!!!!

Next question, how can a country that has suffered horrific terror attacks in the last few weeks give such a boost to a man who openly talks of his friends in Hamas and Hezb-Allah? It's very simple. My generation grew up with free university education, free health care, easy social welfare and it was wonderful but in the long run it broke the bank of Britain and slowly means-testing and austerity replaced it. At that time it was very popular to hate Margaret Thatcher who, it turned out, revitalized the British economy. Jeremy Corbyn has hidden behind empty promises of returning to free university education for all and all the former social benefits. He has hidden his foreign policy agenda, hidden his anti-Semitism, forgotten to mention his alliances but the idea of lots of goodies convinced a younger generation who forgot the price paid. The only promise which I can honestly agree with is his determination to help those with chronic illness. Add to all this the undoubted fact that Theresa May lay back on her laurels and didn't campaign. Corbyn went out to the people and convinced them. In Hebrew victims are Corbanot – sadly Brits have fallen Corbanot to Corbyn.
Can Mrs May survive it? I don't know but the alternative is Boris Johnson – brilliant but unpredictable. We could conceivably have two leaders, one each side of the Atlantic, both of whom speak their minds and have weird hairdos!!!!

London Bridge  and environs is a thriving area filled with pubs, clubs and restaurants. It is the epitome of London nightlife. Perhaps that is the reason three fanatics in a white van ran rampage killing 8 people and injuring at least 50 others. Yet again attacking the Western style of life. Through my deep sadness at the loss of life I found this headline the most distressing The perpetrator used his social benefits to fund the attack. No words.

Teheran was rocked by a terror attack which they did not fund. Members of their Parliament died and there was talk of a coup d'etat.

Qatar has been shunned by the other Sunni Arab countries who have chosen the path of less resistance – not peace but less resistance. Understand, Qatar is enormously powerful having bought up any available real estate, football teams, hotel chains, airlines, indeed anything that is for sale. They founded and own Al Jazeera. This headline staggered me – they own more of London than the Queen and if you are quietly saying "Stupid Brits didn't see it coming" try this for size  Washington Civic Centre? Qatar and Iran share an oil field which is apparently sufficient for them to break the Sunni based coalition. They don't need anyone!!!!

In the words of someone on the inside, Donald Trump wrote "Jerusalem, Capital of the State of Israel" in all 6 of his Middle East speeches and all 6 times the State Department took it out. However the understanding in the Middle East is that one cannot mess with this President. He can be louder, crasser and more determined than any of them and that is something they understand. The Presidential visit has its successes, unlike his predecessor Trump recognises that democracy cannot be imposed, it has to be attained. Nothing anyone can do will reverse the damage of the Carter Administration, but it is changing.

One excellent choice made by President Trump is the American Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. She has spoken out loud and clear on the misuse of power of the Human Rights Council – its constant lambasting of Israel while ignoring horrendous violations elsewhere. Well Nikki Haley arrive in Jerusalem this week for meetings with the PM, the President and many other bodies. As with everything else, her visit was without fuss, but elegant and businesslike. She made it clear that she will not countenance bullies – and that the USA may just remove its funding of the UNHRC. Sorry to gloat but always said that is the only way!

A dear friend made a promise about 6 years ago, Josephine Linden told me she would come back to visit Jerusalem and that her husband Tom would come with her. Since she made that promise while on a glorious cruise with the Gandel Family, I didn't hold her to it, but she reiterated her vow every time we met! Well, Josephine and Tom arrived and we had a ball. Zvi did a phenomenal job as their guide, not missing a single important site, and I joined in for the Mount of Olives and Mahane Yehuda. They loved it and of course Zvi's explanations and historical knowledge brought everything into clear perspective. I am thrilled to say that they loved every moment and I got to show them my favourite place. The market lived up to its reputation – buzzing with activity before Shabbat, the throng enjoying the noise and bustle, discovering the sweet cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, each one giving a good kvetch to the produce to ensure its freshness. It is the season of cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines and the air is redolent with their perfume. We then went to check out the famous Mahaneyuda Restaurant and were deeply disappointed. Music screaming out, diners crushed together – we went off to the delicious Sima Restaurant where the food was typically Jerusalem and absolutely scrumptious and the staff delightful!!!

Zvi decided we should go to see Mea Shearim and the Haredi preparations for Shabbat, a "Zvitours" speciality. All went really well, we found parking with ease and set off on our wanderings. Our first shock was the signs which proclaimed "Judaism rejects Zionism" "Zionist Occupation in any part of the Holy Land is Heresy and Crime" and Palestinian flags. Understand there are few newspapers in Mea Shearim – they read their news on posters. Then it happened – we realised there was a huge angry crowd gathering and didn't understand why. The rabble grew more and more aggressive and then we saw him, a lone young soldier walking through Mea Shearim. The abuse and eggs thrown (one landed right near Josephine) horrified me. We tried to help soldier and Zvi ran to stand and walk with him while I called the police. We were in a minority but refused to leave him. It turned out to be a police sting – and 11 were arrested. Do they call themselves Jews? Well they certainly do not represent any part of Judaism I know. The ludicrous part is that they are exempted from national service anyway! I am very pleased to say that when I told my Haredi grandson Yosef about what happened he asked me if I managed to punch on of them – when I said that would not serve the purpose he just said he was proud of Saba Zvi and I and that the rioters were a disgrace. You see not every Haredi is like that. The reason they are rioting is because they have to go to the enlistment centre to receive their exemption papers!!! Incidentally – we got a parking ticket!!!

On Monday night we met Robert and Anita Simons and went for dinner in the IMA restaurant. I love Robert and Anita, such honest good people. Anyway while sitting in the restaurant which serves traditional Middle Eastern food, friends walked in, Naomi and Daniel Furman. It was very exciting when Daniel told us he received an honour from the Hebrew University and then to our amazement he turned to Robert and told him he was responsible for his continued volunteer work with the University because years ago he realised that Robert came faithfully to every important meeting of the HU, all the way from Sydney, Australia. "If he could come from Australia, I could come from Tel Aviv!" Not the only people Robert has influenced since, all those years ago, he met a young man called Zvi setting up Keren Hayesod Young leadership worldwide!!!

And so to Jerusalem, the beautiful birthday girl, the entrancing, deeply spiritual woman, who becomes more beautiful every year. Ilana, Eddie and Denise Podolsky are in Israel, all the way from San Diego, for a ceremony at the Museum of the Diaspora, honouring Denise (aged 11) and her Shorashim (Roots) work on her family. She was chosen out of thousands of entries! They came to Jerusalem and of course we met in Mahane Yehuda (where else) then headed off to Mamilla for a quick bite to eat and then climbed the steep steps past the Italian Restaurant and wandered down a little, filled with excited anticipation – we were going to see the much talked about "Sound and Light Spectacular". Thousands and thousands of people crowded around the Jaffa Gate and then it happened; the show began!! I have never ever seen anything like it! On the walls of the Old City, history played out before our eyes, singers sang, Biblical passages, Jacobs ladder, Abraham and Isaac, "The Temple Mount is in our hands" came to life in a manner that took my breath away. The production is superb, the experience without equal. An apt celebration of the reunification of this unique city.

I took a break to go and see the grandchildren – that's why I am a bit late today. No apologies, my priorities are absolutely spot on!! After I gave Talia her 11th birthday gift of a hair straightener (yeah I know but that's what she wanted!) lots of hugs and kisses, stories of their week, talk of their school trips this coming week and of course hugging my daughter too, I took my booty (4 absolutely scrumptious challah rolls fresh from Rachels oven) I made my way back over Samuels Tomb, wondered afresh at the panorama and came back to the air conditioning at home – good grief it is hot!!!

I want to put this video in because it is brilliant. Presented by 4il

Zvi has been official babysitter this week, both in Tel Aviv (Altneuland translated by Nahum Sokolov into Hebrew) with little Ella and Yonatan and last night in Nes Ziona (The banner or pennant of Zion) with Amit, Gili and Ori. This morning he got the girls up bright and early and they went off to be with their cousin Denise for her big moment.

The first song is of deep meaning for Jerusalem – a child's dream come true

We cannot bring back those who died in the fight for Jerusalem or in the 6 Day War, indeed any war, but the song says rather than shedding bitter tears we should sing of peace

Meir Banai of a famous theatrical family that grew up near Mahane Yehuda, wrote about the Old City and the Mercy Gate, through which the Messiah will come (or come back).

Tomorrow we will meet Canon Andrew White at Lola and Norman Cohens for tea. A wonderful  group of people – the best anywhere, all of whom have a special love for this amazing city.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I wish you peace and the return of that joy felt by Jew and Christian, at the thought of returning to our Holy places.

With love from Jerusalem

Friday, 2 June 2017

170602 Jerusalem Embassy, Bghdad Icecream parlour, Mahane Yehuda

2nd June 2017

Shabbat Shalom! I hope you are well and not too disturbed by all the various news reports.

If you are surprised by the about turn on moving the Embassy to Jerusalem then you have a very short memory! At least this time it is deferred by 6 months rather than vetoed. If you remember Zvi and I were in the House when the vote was taken- the 104th Congress Bill 1322 "The Jerusalem Embassy Act" enacted on November 8th 1995. It passed the Senate by 93-5, passed Congress 374-37 and was enacted by the 10 day rule which is when the President fails to sign or veto within a 10 day period. In other words the democratically elected bodies overwhelmingly passed it but all Presidents "vetoed" it. Why? It was said that in general they were piqued that the House ignored the Foreign Policy of the United States. Ergo, the State Department didn't approve. Sounds like an extreme case of "Yes Minister" to me.

Canon Andrew White loves ice-cream. In fact he loves anything sweet but especially ice-cream. He used to take children from his congregation at St Georges Church in central Baghdad for ice-cream at the very best ice-cream parlour in the entire area……… but two days ago ISIS blew up the parlour he used to take the children, killing up to 40 people and maiming many more. The area is, or was, predominantly Christian. Such tragedy. In fact the Christian community in the Middle East is slowly disappearing, subject to very real ethnic cleansing. Bethlehem, for example. Bethlehem, the Holy Christian City, site of the Nativity, was a Christian city, now has just 5% Christians and life for them is tough. Our friend Boutrus called us the other day – Boutrus is a house painter, a devout Christian, who cannot manage to earn a crust in Bethlehem and crosses into Israel every day where he is welcomed. His knowledge of Hebrew and Israeli history are unparalleled. Boutrus called because his son is getting married and he cannot afford to give him a wedding. Oh that we were rich and could help him. His is the plight of those left in Bethlehem…….Horrific.

On Shevuot religious people stay up all night praying and debating the real meaning of the festival and of life. I know it is a "mitzvah" a right to do that all-nighter, but I can tell them the true meaning of Shevuot in two words. Tikkun Olam. The receiving of the Torah, of course, including the rules of kashrut (kosher food) are the basis but the meaning, the true meaning, is definitely to leave the world a better place than you found it. I believe that in we are pretty good at obeying that principle. In general we give to charity, always beyond the prescribed tithe; build universities and hospitals; are deeply involved in medical research; surprisingly expert in agriculture; innovators in water preservation, purification and desalination; we are great songwriters, poets and artists; and of course philosophers – oh yes we are great philosophers – which I believe comes from the sharpened mind of the Torah student. We in Israel also give that knowledge freely to the world – to make it a better place. MASHAV is a governmental body within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs whose sole task is to help, not financially but with projects tailored to each country's needs and of course the myriad of NGO's which reach out in time of need. So perhaps we have learned about Tikkun Olam, the lesson of Shevuot, through osmosis, absorption through our forefathers – I don't know but it is worth noting that we reach out even to those countries that do not recognise our existence.

I try hard to understand how so many countries have swung left – Canada and France in particular – when the pundits say that logic should take the vote right in response to the horrific terror attacks around the world and the general threat of ISIS. The latest shock is the UK. Theresa May was doing well on the popularity scale and Jeremy Corbyn was a source of both fear and disparagement, his policies (other than the social aspect) off the map left. He openly castigated Israel although it is not in his manifesto, he stated that both Hezb-Allah and Hamas are his friends, indeed he has taken the Labour party to lengths that are very distressing and just about as far as Harold Wilson as one can get, yet, despite all that, he is climbing the polls! How? Why? How can a friend of ISIS climb the polls despite the horrific Manchester bombing? I am confused and disturbed…………. But equally disturbed and worried that Israelis are moving further right. I haven't decided if it is simply demographics of what. In fact – perhaps it is demographics everywhere.

Zvi's cousins Billy and Ruth Szapiro just left for London. I think that Zvi has really given them a fantastic tour of every new thing in Jerusalem. Ha ha, it is seems like an oxymoron to say "new things in Jerusalem" because most of the amazing sights and sites are ancient but still fun to go to the new ones. Last Shabbat, as I told you, I didn't cook. We ate the most delicious Mexican food prepared by Ruth's sister in law Rosie. Rosie and her husband Jaime and two boys came in laden with the most amazing delicacies, all my favourite foods. Rosie is a professional chef and prepares for homes, events, weddings and bar mitzvas – she's really good! Gosh, I ate too much but it was worth it to see Zvi's joy at eating "Mexican".

This week they went to the Childrens Museum on Holon and raved about it. They were met by a very beautiful young woman who took them by the hand and explained how she became progressively blind then took them into an area of total darkness so that they could experience being blind themselves.

Yesterday Zvi took them to the Islamic Museum where there are many exhibits including my favourite, the horological exhibit  From there a quick trip to Mahane Yehuda and home to rest before the big event. Last night was the opening of the Israel Festival with a huge "Groove Party" concert in the Sultan's Pool. Happily Rosie and Jaime came too and once there Zvi met up with our Australian friends Deidre and Keith Beville. Apparently it was spectacular under the walls of the Old City, very enjoyable but rather nippy!!

Talking of Australian friends, the last place I expected to experience Sharia Law is Australia. However according to this article it is happening.

Three important journeys occurred last night. My sister Doreen flew to see our sister Eddie in Canada and to meet our new found cousin Frank and his family; Billy and Ruth flew to London and Josephine and Tom Linden landed in Israel!!! This is so exciting because I have been nagging her for years to see the phenomenal changes since her last visit and because I happen to love her! Once I have finished writing to you and Zvi wakes up we will go to get them from their hotel and show them the wonders of Mahane Yehuda. I truly am not sure which I am most excited about – seeing Josephine or going to Mahane Yehuda!!!

The sheer culinary delights would be "dayenu"
The colours and aromas "dayenu"
The characters, bustle and costermongers "dayenu"
The incredible piles fruits and vegetables "dayenu"
The freshly baked pitot and challot "dayenu"
The amazing array of nuts and seeds "dayenu"
The mountains of spices and herbs of every variety "dayenu"
The fascinating arts and crafts "dayenu"
And finally the tastings, coffee shops and restaurants complete the job.

Friday in Mahane Yehuda – enough to convince a man to buy a home in Jerusalem eh Andrew?

Almost Shabbat.
Lecha Dodi is a prayer said or sung to welcome the bride of Shabbat. It has been set to every type of music – this is the most recent
In Judaism, even though some aver that it is a Patriarchal religion, the woman is revered above all else. In fact there is even a specific blessing said by the husband before continuing with the rituals and traditions of Shabbat. I am sure that ardent feminists would find fault with the words but they forget that they were written in different times. "Woman of Worth" Eshet Chayil, sung by the Barry sisters

Finally – just for the heart warming, spirit lifting of this video as a little girl performs for America's Go Talent and steals the heart of Simon

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, I have to get ready to go to Mahane Yehuda – promise to tell you all about it next week.
With love from Jerusalem