Friday, 25 August 2017

170825 Barcelona, Charlottesville, Tuscany

25th of August 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Back from a delightful sojourn in Italy, in glorious Tuscany, with all of Zvi's family and thrilled to be back in Israel. Last night I made our favourite salad and believe you me, there are no vegetables, anywhere in the world, like those in Israel. I know that every cucumber, tomato and lettuce was picked within the last day and brought straight to the supermarket without any preservatives. Scrummy!!!

While we were away, horrific terror attacks took place in Barcelona, beautiful Barcelona, and in Russia and Finland. They are getting braver and more daring – unafraid of detection because they operate in closed communities where even the most modern of Moslems doesn't dare to tell the authorities because he fears for the lives of his children and the police fear to tread.

There is an even more serious reason why their terror attacks succeed. The Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan Jose Omella and the Barcelona police warned the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, of the impending attack, suggesting putting barriers at the entrance to the Ramblas; Ms Colau, a far left representative who chose to ignore the warnings created a situation which allowed the deaths, nay slaughter of 13 innocents and many more injured, to say nothing of those who saw the attack and will never be the same. The Barcelona police wisely did what had to be done after the attack and reached the remaining perpetrators discovering the cache of gas cannisters set to perform an even worse attack. The Barcelona supporters have been asked to hide their identity at the upcoming international football match for fear of being singled out for attack – sounds all too familiar.

Strangely enough the Italians take no such chances. Last year we were in Rome and Florence and saw the immense security, Huge police presence and soldiers with armoured cars and automatic weapons cocked and ready at almost every tourist and religious site, this year we saw it in even the much smaller towns. We thanked many of them personally.

The cause of the reaction of Barcelona's Mayor and many Europeans is clear. A continent that lost over 30,000,000 people to xenophobia has gone to the other extreme, trying to repent its history. They rejected their Jews, rejected many other immigrants and those of different views and appearances for many centuries and their reaction is to provide a welcome and open society – which is proving their downfall. When you have a constant trickle of immigrants, they thankfully absorb the customs and traditions of the host society, when you have a tidal wave it changes the host society forever. It can be positive, as happened in Israel with the Russian immigration most of whom are now more Israeli than the average Sabra, or it can be negative as with the extreme Islamic immigration to Europe and elsewhere who expect society to change to their religious views and laws threatening the host society and all ordinary hard working Moslems.

So you think it all started a few years ago? You think it's all about Palestine? 87 years ago they blamed it on the Jews for endangering Al Aqsa – the Hebron and Jerusalem massacres

Remember, when you feared coming to Israel because of terror attacks, I told you that Israel is just the hors d'oeuvres, your country is the main course? Well apparently I forgot the soup course, which is Europe – the main course is still the USA as representative of all that is free and Western.

Since our villa had no television and I barely managed to reach the outside world I was amazed to realise the extent and repercussions of the riots in Charlottesville. From the outside it is hard to know who started it, who came ready for a fight and why. Clearly the ultra-right like the KKK and their devotees waded in with their vile hate speech but were they the only ones? The extremes of both sides tend to have their instigators but it certainly looked as if it was the white supremacy base who began the fight, using the lax Virginian gun laws to arm themselves,  although every other faction seemed ready wade in. I find it so confusing as a non-American and I prefer not to state opinion but it saddens me that such division still exists.

We arrived back in Israel to all the usual problems. The PM's wife is under investigation, the PM too, all those surrounding the Israeli purchase of submarines from Germany. The Germans are threatening to invoke the clause in the purchase agreement that no corruption or back handers be involved in the deal which is causing huge embarrassment and may well mean that they will back out of our deal.

President Trump is concerned that PM Netanyahu is meeting with President Putin to complain about the Russian involvement in Syria and other Middle Eastern issues. Israel is not cosying up with Russia but as Sir Winston Churchill said "Better to jaw-jaw than war-war".
Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are back despite the Presidents belief that the talks are unlikely to bear fruit. I am just happy that they have not given up.

The relationship between United States Jewry and Israel worries me. We should be like a big family, with our differences but loyal and true to each other. I understand that all strands of Judaism want their say, and rightly so, so the answer is the same as in any democracy – if you want change run for office!!!! One cannot dictate the policies of another country on any level without taking part in the political process. With-holding support whatever form is takes, is negative on every level, for you, for us and for our family.

The Lebanese beauty queen chose to visit Israel and has been stripped of her title – so much for good neighbours!!!

Our journey back from Bologna, Italy took a slightly odd course (as did our journey there) through Istanbul Airport. Turkish Airlines deserves its position as number 3 best airline and flies several times a day from Ben Gurion Airport. The airport itself fascinated me, its range of peoples so extreme from the heavily black-clad Moslem women whose eyes looked furtively through a tiny slit in their garb, who had to half-lift their veil to pop food carefully underneath to everyday tourists and a Duty Free with as much alcohol as anyone wished to buy!!!

As we sat at the gate we talked to Latino Evangelical Christians from the USA on pilgrimage to the Holy Land; two Israeli Arab youth soccer teams who proudly held their first place cups from an international meet (the stupid Turkish security people almost stopped their coach from boarding the plane!); a young couple coming to judge the Salsa festival in Tel Aviv; students from Nepal who are studying agronomy at the International Agriculture School in the Negev; Israeli Moslems who were holidaying in Turkey and Israelis of all varieties. Again I was struck by the infinite rainbow that makes up Israel.

It was a time for family. Zvi and I were in Italy with Zvi's boys and their families while Rachel and the children were in the UK with Rachel's father and her big brother Gideon and family. We travelled to every possible Tuscan town, my absolute favourite being Lucca, we did the Pasta, Pizza, Gelato tour and after our arrival home with fond memories found a message on Zvi's phone from little 4 year old Ella speaking clear as a bell saying that she loves us very much and thank you to Saba Zvi for all the presents and her holiday!

We were met in at the airport by our friends Amit and Chona, bearing that days newspapers. It was such a pleasure not to worry about taxis and Sheruts! After two wash loads I went to bed and awoke to go and choose our new car – seeing our old dead one revived with a new engine made us think twice but while we decide our friend and owner of the agency lent us his own care for the weekend which enabled me to set off to see Rachel and swap stories of our vacations. It energized me to travel the familiar route over Samuel's Tomb and down the other side to Givat Zeev but the welcome I got was the very best! As I walked in the door I suddenly saw my Yosef wearing his brand new Tefillin (phylacteries) as his Dad Igal taught him how to put them on as in the time worn tradition. Hard to believe that the baby I saw come into the world is nearly Bar Mitzva!!!

Tonight we will go to Rachel and Igal for Shabbat Dinner. It is very special to be part of a Haredi Shabbat. The children, Yosef, Talia and Ayala absolutely adore Saba Zvi and we will be surrounded by love and tradition – with the songs and prayers of the Eastern Traditions. Rachie is a brilliant cook so it will also be delicious!!!

And so to music
Every Friday night as the family sits down to the Shabbat meal the husband sings this song of praise to his wife. Today there are claims that it is sexist but I love it and believe it shows rare honour to womankind

In the light of what happened in Charlottesville and all over our confused world.
Shed a Little Light to honour Dr Martin Luther King's Dream by the Maccabeats and guests Naturally 7

Finally, the question we all ask of ourselves – How many roads must a man walk down before they'll call him a man? The answer is indeed Blowin in the Wind

That's it! I am sure I missed something out but I try!!!

This week the Shabbat Shalom from Our Veranda comes from

Zvi and Sheila, Daniel and Karen, Gideon and Stephanie, Leor and Shiri, Rachel and Igal, Amiad and Noga and of course Yosef, Sammy, Talia, Olivia, Amit, Joshua, Ayala, Zachary, Gili, Ori, Callie, Ella and Yonatan………Why everyone? because family is all

With much love from beautiful Jerusalem

Friday, 11 August 2017

170811 North Korea, Bibi rally, Danny Liwerant and Alex barmitzva


11th August 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

As I looked at the date I suddenly remembered that a saga began on this day – a romantic saga. On August the 11th 1935 two incredible people held their wedding in Walm Lane Synagogue in London and a young fashion designer chose to leave the hip centre of design in the West End of London for the simpler beauty of Wales to start a family and raise four children in a fairy tale environment. Yes, Betty (Regina) Glicker became Betty Silver as she stood under the chuppah and married her Jack, the were to become my parents. They set the standard on many levels, of how to express love. I always remember how our family room had a traditional 3 piece suite, two armchairs and a sofa, and we children used to sit on the sofa and my parents in the armchairs to watch the television on our 12" screened Baird, black and white television. Before long, Mummy would remove the seat cushion from the armchair and lay it on the floor next to Daddy and sit with her head on his knee as he stroked her hair. Simultaneously he would hook his leg over the arm of his chair and with his slipper he would tap tap tap on the carved dark oak fire surround next to him which drove her crazy! Such is marriage, the amazing with the annoying – it all depends on the ratio!

Talking of ratio – a very strange event took place this week. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud party held a huge rally in support of the PM, basically against the judicial system and the police, because of the projected charges of corruption and misuse of power against Mr, Mrs, and young Yair Netanyahu. I can't remember such an event although many people in power faced investigations and worse – but to be the main speaker at an event which suggests that the judicial system and police are colluding to bring your government down is more than a little surreal. That famous line from Hamlet "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Comes to mind. Equally from Hamlet is the famous quote "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

Denmark to North Korea is quite a leap and hardly a leap of faith. Both Democrats (Clinton) and Republicans (Bush) signed nuclear proliferation treaties with North Korea  which should have been a bitter example to President Obama in the case of the treaty with Iran. Broken promises and dire threats began with attacks on South Korea and now their ballistic missiles are capable of reaching your land and certainly mine. Kim Jong-Un is not what one would call the most stable personality on the world stage. He is a demagogue, with aspirations to world domination. His outbursts are made all the more frightening by the strange staccato language of his lackeys in the media who make announcements to strike fear in the hearts of his people and all of us. We are not used to straight talking, if somewhat ineloquent, statements from the White House. We are used to elegant, wordy, diplomatic statements which have sadly been ineffective; perhaps a bit of straight talking is what is needed. I am reminded of the elegantly eloquent but equally spontaneous President Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The standoff was no less dangerous and the threat on the USA's doorstep. By not backing down and clever use of the power of rhetoric, the missiles removed by Russia without consulting Castro and the threat slowly disappeared. Castro would never be Americas friend but that is better than a state of war.

Sunday night the Feinsod family returned to stay with us. Silvia, Avraham, David and Alex carefully prepared for Alex's bar mitzvah beside the Kotel the next morning. His actual bar mitzvah took place in Mexico but his dream was to say his brachot (blessings) beside the Kotel – and his parents obviously wanted to make his dream come true. Zvi organised a Rabbi and Silvia did what she does best – raced around finding everything she wanted to make his special occasion perfect, right down to a kippa (skullcap) with his name embroidered on it!!! They set off early with Zvi and after a few hiccups managed to meet up as Zvi determinedly grabbed a table for the Sefer Torah and family only to find that Avraham had beaten him to it! The ceremony took place to great joy with members of the Mexican and Israeli family. I met them later in Mamilla for breakfast and everyone seemed very satisfied. I was extra thrilled to see Rosie, Jaime and family there – Rosie promised me some of her phenomenal Mexican catering any time I want! In addition some frozen avocado and tortillas so I can make guacamole any time I want!!!

We seem to be continuing themes today so I will continue with the Mexican theme and take you to a very special ceremony and award to one of the most amazing men in the Jewish world. Daniel – Danny- Liwerant is a good man. He is a leader, an example, a man who has given his life to the Jewish world in general and to Latin America in particular. Yesterday the Latin American Olim Society chose to give Danny a special Yakir award for his unending support. The title Yakir means dear or special – and Danny is just that.  The ceremony and those who came to honour Danny show love for the man. Danny is a mensch, as Zvi's school friend they have remained tight friends and Zvi loves and admires Danny enormously. A man of his word who understands that our Jewish world needs strong leaders who are willing to stand up and be counted.

Mario Lev is the motor and the heart behind the OLA (Olim Latin America) Society. An incredibly kind and humble man he made it his project to help those who came on Aliya to become acclimatized and absorbed into Israeli society. Natan Scharansky and Greg Masel (Chairman of KH) spoke and both remembered being new Olim. Greg made me laugh when he realised that Natan, Greg and I were the only people in the room who couldn't speak Spanish!!! His memory of Aliya, like mine, was of the British Olim Society Offices in Jerusalem. After a full week of standing dutifully in the queue for the bus Greg noticed the same sign I found in the office "10 ways to become an Israeli" Number 10 stated clearly that you become an Israeli when you are the last in line for the bus but the first on board!!!!!

I cannot speak about Danny without mentioning his wife Judit. Judit is wonderwoman in real life.  Professor Judit Bokser Liwerant is Professor of Political Science at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM); Distinguished Visiting Professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Member of the Mexican Academy of Science and a Member of the National Research System; Principal Editor of the Mexican Journal of Political and Social Science and Co-editor of the Brill Book Series on Jewish Identities in a Changing World, Despite all this Judit is an incredibly supportive wife, mother and grandmother… and friend.

Just as I whispered to Judit that I was surprised Zvi had resisted getting up to sing in Spanish with the young vocalist – he did!! To the surprise of the delighted audience he sang in his incredible bass baritone – thrilled as the response!!!!

One hears about incidents all over the world where women in hijabs are harassed in the street (to say nothing of Jews with kippas) I thought this video of women in hijabs in Israel was pertinent  In Israel no hijab is derided or removed from fear. Pertinent? Well Rabbi Jeremy Rosen discussed the question of hiding ones Jewish or Israeli identity for fear of being harassed or attacked. Have we returned to pre-1939 fears? Are we trying to be inconspicuous? Would I still walk around London with my Ani Zioni badge? Have we become the archetypal Uriah Heep character, submissive and compliant rather than daring to stand up? Perhaps one should take our bravery from Shylocks speech in the Merchant of Venice

Another option is to take on the might of Twitter like this amazing young man

This weeks parasha – Torah reading is Eikev and it describes how Moses upbrades his people, he was so disappointed that they displayed ingratitude and disobeyed the word of G-d after He had sustained them with manna and guided their path, yet they still built the Golden Calf. Gosh is it ever appropriate today?

So we are off to Tuscany with Zvi's boys and their families. We will rest and play, swim and walk, enjoy the beauty of Tuscany and search out history. I may not write next week so please excuse me. I pray that there will be nothing important to break into our rest time.

Sometimes understanding the words of a song is irrelevant. So it is with Yiddish, the language of my forefathers which is so expressive it needs no more. Dudu Fisher and Sassy Keshet

Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu ve al coolam - means Peace will come to us and to everyone. It is a prayer, a yearning, a plea – Shalom Salaam

The smells and sounds of Shabbat have begun in our neighbourhood; the air redolent with the aromas wafting through the air, evocative of the provenance of each family. Morocco and Kurdistan each have their own Kubeh soup – essential pre-Shabbat lunch even on steaming hot days of summer. One is sour with celery and lemon, the meaty dumplings satisfying hunger and the other is sweeter, rich red with beetroot. Tunisian hamin with brown eggs and lots of beans and fiery fish chreimeh; Yemenite Kubana and Jachnun (if you never tasted jachnun with grated tomatoes you haven't lived); Ashkenaz chicken soup, gefilte fish, cholent and roast chicken; and probably that singularly Jerusalem delicacy that I am learning to like Jerusalem kugel. It is a weird combination of sweet and peppery, made with noodles and oil, and eggs it is conceivably the least healthy dish yet is also incredibly popular!!!

So that's it!  Are your tummies rumbling with the thought of all that epicurean travel in one country? No burgers, fish and chips or pasta for us………… although we love them all – it's not Shabbat and it's not tradition!!!!

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. With all our love from our beloved Jerusalem

A special Mazal Tov to my niece Sophie and her new husband Rhys and to Ronnie, Sandie, Adam and Deborah. So sorry I couldn't be with you but my heart was right there.

Friday, 4 August 2017

170804 Azaria, Netanyahu, Hatzadhasheni

4th August 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. How are you? How is life treating you? How many moral conundrums have you faced this week?

Israel, each and every one of us, has been faced with a moral conundrum that has the entire country both fascinated and confused. Our soldiers are meant to protect us from harm. Every single day of their service they have to make enormous decisions whether to shoot or withdraw, whether to help of they see danger – however well trained one is the ability to make the right decision is difficult enough but here in Israel in tandem with the military issue we insist upon weighing the moral decision too.

Elor Azaria was 19 years old. He was on patrol when he heard shots fired and shouting from his post. Running back he saw a man lying on the ground and learned from his mates that it was a terrorist who had stabbed his friend. He claimed that the man moved toward what he believed to be an explosive device and he shot and killed a man who had already been neutralized. His reasoning – this man had stabbed his friend with the intention of killing a soldier. Both of his officers involved, who were present at the incident, claimed that he had lied and expressed a desire to kill the terrorist whatever the rules.

What in many countries may seem a logical explanation is not acceptable in Israel (nor in the UK incidentally). The Elor family chose to take the issue well beyond the original military tribunal, rejecting the IDF lawyers presented to them, and took a private lawyer – a shark. The agony for the family, for the IDF and primarily for the country has presented the deep moral conundrum I spoke of at the beginning.

Should we support the actions of our soldiers when they are faced with a terror attack? Yes of course but not if they flout clear IDF directives as Azaria did in this case. Never to shoot a neutralized prisoner.
Should it have become a public issue when it could have been dealt with by the original military tribunal? No of course not.
Should Azaria have expressed regret for his actions before the military court? Yes, absolutely yes and he didn't.
The outcome currently depends upon the decision of the Chief of Staff who may decide that Azaria has served enough of his sentence – or that Azaria should serve out his sentence in a military "service" position. We will see.

The country is once again in turmoil concerning corruption charges against a Prime Minister  - this time Benjamin Netanyahu. The charges are not about a few thousand dollars campaign contributions, it is apparently far more serious than that. The PM's lawyer, campaign manager and his right hand man have both turned States witness. They say what goes around comes around.

Jared Kushner, President Trumps advisor on Middle Eastern Affairs has actually admitted what we have known for a very long time. There is no solution to the Palestinian/Israel "problem". He doesn't place the blame on either side but I do. All the American, British, European leaders, but predominantly American, have given in to the demands of the PA because they know that Israel is on their side whatever. Israelis don't want to prevent anyone from visiting their religious sites, indeed we protect that right, but equally we want the same rights accorded to us.
Actually there is a solution but I am not sure anyone is willing to chance it. Just stop the money!! Since the PA leaders have either taken the aid to line their own pockets or given it to the families of those brave and valiant men and women who gave up their lives for Allah on condition they took some Jews with them. Hence nothing in the kitty!! If the money stops coming in then they are finished, the trouble is that here to is a conundrum – the fat cats at the top will still have food and the people will starve. Alternatively, stop the money to UNWRA. UNWRA is the biggest employer in the PA and Gaza and they are also responsible for most of the terror!!

I would start with education.

This week I found that I was curious as to how many terror attacks are avoided throughout the world through the diligence of our police, secret service and military. Curious – how many terror attacks have been avoided through thorough police work around the globe? Britain is the most open about her statistics. 23,000 avoided and counting written by the excellent Denis MacEoin  260 killed and 368 wounded in the USA from terror attacks; just this week another attacks was foiled in Australia – can you imagine the number in Europe, India, Pakistan, Russia…… and none of the perpetrators are Israeli – we keep that for ourselves!!!!

Did you know that 11 Arab States and another 6 Moslem States ban Israeli passports? I didn't although suspected it. Then Tom Carew put it on Facebook. You know me, I have to check and recheck and I found this list. Tom was wrong (a rare occurrence) it is far more!!!

I told you last week that we were having at least three little girls to stay for a few days – Zvi's (our) granddaughters. I can only tell you that I realised yet again that there is a very good reason why we don't have children at age 70! They were good girls but I was exhausted! It's the cleaning, cooking and so on but much more it is keeping them amused. Since Ori, aged 5, had an accident the day before we had to keep her out of the sun so that meant entertaining everyone at home. Rachels two girls joined us in the afternoon but my long forgotten expertise in craft came to the front. I already bought a ton of equipment and things that shine in the night and we set to it. I have to admit I loved it!! The next day we set off for the Chocolate Factory in Kibbutz Tzuba where they built houses and a car out of chocolate and I got to make a chocololly as their helper!!!

On Monday we had a fascinating meeting. It had to be at home since one cannot leave 3 girls alone at home. Robert Croiterescu and Anabella and Oscar Jaroslavsky of HaTzad Hasheni came to discuss further how to go forward in their outreach and education of the truth about Israel in the Spanish speaking world. The only way to fight BDS and other liars is to be aware of what really happens here – and ensure that our young people are informed so they know how to respond. The meeting went very well and I hope Zvi and I were able to contribute to their further success.

Monday night was Tisha b'Av – the day of mourning for many Jewish disasters that occurred on that date. I spoke about it last week so will not go further but the most important aspect is that the next day we are asked to start over – to turn the negative into the positive. We are told not to dwell on our misfortunes, after all if we did, as a people, we would not have survived. Jews move forward. Out of each horror that befell us we turned it around and created greatness. That is the big difference between us and the Palestinians. We do not continually beat our breasts to the world about being refugees – we wash off the sackcloth and ashes and build something new and better. For example, although Israel was on the cards and was planned it was the Holocaust that made us sit up and create a phenomenal national home.

I have often spoken about Zvi's deep sense of history and its Jewish relationship which is why he chose the day after Tisha b'Av to honour his parents by building a "pinat limmud" a study corner in the Gilo synagogue where we used to take his father to pray. Kalman and Ala Raviv – both orphaned by the Holocaust – lived the ultimate Jewish life. They educated an entire generation of Israelis and young Mexicans; not only teaching but educating them to be better people. Fine gentle folk who gave their all for this country. Zvi gave a speech about learning, tolerance and real Judaism which is a generous and open religion, in a synagogue which should welcome all comers.

Zvi was especially pleased that in addition to Leor, Shiri, Amit, Gili and Ori, Silvia, Alex and Avraham Feinsod, Zvi's cousins from Mexico, were able to come to the synagogue, to be with Zvi at this emotional time.

Alex will celebrate his barmitzva at the Kotel next week and I promise you I will be there too! I am so proud of him, he has overcome many obstacles to become an amazing young man.

Yesterday I met with 5 girlfriends from my childhood in Wales. We try to meet frequently but all lead busy lives. We speak of our past and our present; we all live in Israel now and love every moment. There is something so special about meeting old friends, they know who you are, from whence you came and the life you live and lived. I love every one of them.

So this morning we went to the Opera, thanks to Elihu Ben On. I admit that I am not especially fond of modern opera, I find the music is not to my taste, but the performance was excellent, in the school of excellence in science and the arts down the road and it was a very pleasant way to spend a Friday morning!!!

I am not going to put you through opera – although, on second thoughts yes I will!!!! Nabucco, that most Jewish of operas, Daniel Oren, the Israeli Opera Company and the chorus of the Hebrew slaves sung by the thousands of people in the audience. A true song of longing for our land

In 2014 the world made Havdallah in the Shabbes Project. Havdallah means separation or difference. After Shabbat ends we return to our normal lives, reawaken our 5 senses and thank G-d for bringing us to this day.

Many years ago Mark Knopfler wrote a song, Brothers in Arms, which was a massive hit. What most didn't know or understand is that he wrote the song for the IDF. This clip still makes me cry, but in pride.

So dear friends, another week has gone by, full and fascinating. Shabbat is almost here and we can put all distress and concern aside and contemplate a better, sweeter kinder world.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends from that city in the hills that is so incredible that everybody wants her.

With love

Oh and Stanley, the kumquats, pomegranates and lemons await you!!