Friday, 22 September 2023

Kippur, Tabernacles and Diplomacy

Friday the 22nd of September, 2023 27th day of the month of Tishrei, 5784 Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova (a Good Year) and G’mar Hatima Tova (a wish that you should be written in the good book) It is almost Yom Kippur, the culmination of the period of repentance, of atonement, for all our collective sins. There’s no automatic forgiveness, one has to accept responsibility and pledge to follow a better path. When I lived in Reading, Berkshire, I used to teach cheder (Sunday school) and each year would explain to the children that there is just one sin for which one cannot ask forgiveness from the Almighty but rather from the person that one has hurt. It’s a fascinating aspect of forgiveness because that one sin is when one has publicly shamed another. In a world where expressing one’s opinions is considered more important than caring for the feelings of another the idea of facing anyone we may have hurt, or even harmed, is of ultimate importance. Even more incredible is that one must ask forgiveness thrice and then if they refuse to accept the sin reverts to them. So clever and an important lesson. The last years, turmoil has reigned, a situation exacerbated by Covid and isolation, political turmoil in particular which filters down into our very lives with occasional rays of light. So, let’s take a quick look at the last week centered in New York City and a quick trip to Florida. Prime Minister Netanyahu, accompanied by Sara Netanyahu, met with several leaders most of them political and one business leader. Elon Musk is a very clever man but has a tendency toward megalomania, admittedly he earned it, but he also misuses his power. There was a great deal of discussion here as to whether this meeting was essential and I was distressed that the Israeli Prime Minister had to travel to Musk rather than the other way around. In fact I believe it was a very clever move on the part of the PM due to the Israeli leadership in the AI field. Zelensky? Vlodomir Zelensky rose to power and was almost immediately faced with the Russian Giant invading Ukraine. I have deep sympathy with the Ukrainian people but I feel he is using his Jewish heritage to blackmail Israel into doing something we cannot afford to do, anger the Russian Bear. Russia sits in Syria, right on our northern border, and with one swipe of its’ paw can change the military balance. Putin is a vengeful enemy, with a very long memory. President Biden met with Netanyahu, greeting him with warmth and a clear declaration of his love for Israel. As you know, I have never doubted it. The two met both before the public eye and in camera, able to discuss the truly important issues. Unquestionably the issue of the Palestinians and Saudi Arabia were raised, but fear not, the American President is fully aware of the complications. The important negotiations with Saudi Arabia brought a demand from Biden to take the undoubtedly toxic elements in the Israeli government out, to allow closer ties and calm the situation. Despite a public outcry, I must congratulate the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, for his brave decision to silently disrupt the speech of Ebrehim Raisi of Iran with a poster of Mahsa Amini, the Iranian women’s rights leader who was killed after being arrested by the infamous morality police. Erdan was roughly removed from the plenum but not arrested. Iran was ironically chosen to lead the Human Rights Council Social Forum, surely a decision which in itself is an insult to human rights and morality. As you know, Zvi and I have demonstrated against the draconian changes in the laws of the current government. The demonstrations have been, in almost every case, well organised and orderly, a true expression of democracy. However, I am ambivalent about some aspects, in fact many aspects of the demonstrations held in the USA. I was very disturbed by the insulting poster of Netanyahu on Alcatraz; the sign on the UN building and the highly vociferous demonstrations in NYC at the hotel and the UN. Before anyone claims that it is the remains of my diaspora attitude, no it isn’t. It is about showing support for Israel and opposition to the government reforms in equal proportions rather than rowdy anti-Bibi washing of our dirty laundry to the delight of our opponents. I understand those who demonstrate but find it hard to accept. This week in Israel we remember the fallen in the Yom Kippur War, the trauma of incompetent leadership and lost friends as all the surrounding countries waged war on an unprepared Israel. We learn that our leaders were warned of impending war by both King Hussein and Sadat’s son-in-law but nobody listened. The feet of clay are exposed and we mourn our innocence. Perhaps innocence was an element in the signing of the Oslo Accords 30 years ago, or was it innocence, naivete or were we duped? We were all excited at the prospect of an end to terror and constant threats, but the papers signed were unclear, partial and Yitzchak Rabin didn’t want to sign, indeed in the celebratory “meeting” he told President Clinton that he would sign on condition that he would not have to shake hands with Yasser Arafat, but even on that level he was forced to comply. Incidentally there were violent demonstrations by the right wingers in Europe and the USA after the signing of what they called a treacherous act. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s enough about our crazy mixed up world and its relationship with Israel. I think it’s time to talk about what’s going on in Israel! Despite the threats from the Iranian proxies in our region, we Israelis just get on with life and in direct opposition to most of our neighbours it really is a very good life! This is such a vibrant society that despite both internal and external strife, we love life! The buying of wooden sections and laths began immediately after Rosh Hashana although the palm fronds for the “schach” or roof covering, will wait until after Yom Kippur. What am I talking about? The building of the Tabernacles, the Succot. The temporary structures suddenly appear on balconies, verandas, roofs and pavements all set up and ready to entertain friends and for the braver, to sleep in as a reminder of our ancestors wandering in the desert. Each country has its additional traditions – for instance in Britain we always had fruit hanging from the lattice roof of the Succah whereas in Israel any fruit would rot within hours so most succahs have what can only be described as Christmas decorations! The street fairs of decorations, Lulav (palm leaves, myrtle and willow) and the venerable etrog or citron. The choosing of the citron is a very serious matter, ensuring that the stem is intact and the fruit pure. They come in all sizes and are either very knobbly or smooth, but the effort put into choosing is of ultimate importance. The combination of all of the above create a very special aroma, scent which pervades the entire area. This isn’t only a Jewish period. We share our faith with Christians as the Tabernacles celebrations begin and Evangelical Christians come in their thousands for the parade and huge gathering arranged by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. A period of great joy and gratitude. In the meantime, life continues as usual, classes, singing, cousins from Mexico and meeting friends. The Mexican cousins have been a joy, their thirst for learning is so refreshing, they have toured and left no stone unturned, ending up with us on Wednesday evening at a bustling restaurant on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem called HaMotzi, which is part of the blessing we say on bread. The restaurant was fun, noisy as hundreds of diners enjoyed their very Jerusalem food, accompanied by pitas freshly baked in the Tamboon, that fiery rounded oven. We sat and as we ate, we spoke about everything they had seen from the Golan Heights to the Galilee and the enormous difference between hedonist Tel Aviv and spiritual, historic Jerusalem. Sandra, Moi and Jonathan are rare tourists who absorb the country and its delights and troubles. Moi has only been to Israel twice, once about 10 years ago and now, and he was fascinated by everything he saw, understanding the bitter sweet of our past but impressed by the determination to enjoy life to the full. Ater eating our fill we walked up the road to Mahane Yehuda Market. After the “bastot” the market stands, are closed, the shutters come down to reveal the graffiti of famous local faces, and the chairs and tables come out as the market becomes one big pub, with food, and the narrow streets fill with young and old alike, dancing to the music, eating and drinking. We wove our way through the happy throngs, Zvi stopping in delight as he saw a stand with perfectly formed guavas, his favourite fruit! To understand the vibrancy of nighttime Mahane Yehuda this 16 second video will help you to understand that Jerusalem is great fun! That’s it dear friends. I won’t be writing next week because Zvi and I are going away so I will wish you a Gmar hatima Tova or as we used to say “Well over the fast”. Remember it is isn’t about not eating, it’s all about being so deeply involved in your prayers that you have no need to eat, even though I must admit that as the day progresses, I find myself counting the remaining pages! In the space of just over a week we go from the solemnity of Kippur to the joy of ending the cyclical reading of the Torah to return to the beginning again. The proximity of the sadness and joy is typical of Jewish life throughout the centuries, the millennia, and we express it though our music, as the song says, from major to minor. We leave the sadness of Moses standing on Mount Nebo, unable to enter the Promised Land to the joy of the very Genesis of our world. The eve of Yom Kippur begins with the prayer Kol Nidre. Cantor Natanel Hershtik has the voice of an angel. His father was the Cantor of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue and Natanel proudly follows in his footsteps, albeit in the USA. Not only does he have a beautiful voice but when we met I was charmed by his sweet personality and gorgeous smile upon seeing his parents at the concert. The prayer was first sung in 1565 and is still the entry to a day of atonement. Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father, Our King, is sung in the Yom Kippur service, speaking of the need for charity and kindness in our lives, our world, which is what will save humanity. Rather than giving you another Cantor here a beautiful couple known as Yonina sing As a direct result of the Yom Kippur War Naomi Shemer wrote this beautiful song. Despite rumours to the contrary, it is not a translation of the Beatles Let It Be, but the words rang true for her, that all we pray for will come to fruition. Lu Yehi, Let I be. Here sung by Chava Alberstein. I wish you a Shabbat Shalom and remember on Yom Kippur, as you spend time in contemplation, that vengeance and resentment should be forgotten. You don’t have to like everyone, indeed you can be totally against what they do, how they act, but holding it in destroys you and all around you. Teach your children to be too busy in self improvement to see the faults in others. A little bit of love goes a very long way and a smile changes lives. Be well, with love from Jerusalem where it all starts. Sheila

Friday, 15 September 2023

Rosh Hashana 5784

14th September, 2023 Shabbat Shalom, Shana tova, Gmar Hatima Tova – May you be inscribed in the Book of Life Today the date is the 29th of Elul, 5783 and tonight the calendar month changes to the month of Tishrei and the first day of Tishrei is Rosh Hashana, literally Head of the Year, This week Israelis watched the ultimate display of democracy as lawyers representing the government and those opposed to the Judicial Overhaul presented their case before 15 Justices of the Supreme Court. It made me so proud as the Justices listened and questioned, ultimately weighing both sides of the question as to whether or not their power be limited or remain as it is. The Reasonableness Standard was, of course, the subject of most of the discussion and the question on the lips of most interested Israelis. What is it? How can it be implemented with certain limitations and of course should it be limited? The debate started in the morning and went on well into the night and I can promise you that the final decision will be fair and honest, thus is the Israel Supreme Court. Justices here are chosen by a panel selection, not by election There may be, just maybe, a resolution to the political “plonter” coming out of the discussions in the President’s House. President Herzog is currently mediating in a proposal put forward by Benny Gantz. There is popular opposition against any compromise with the current government but someone has to be the adult in the room. Apparently, Netanyahu and President Biden will sit next to each other at the UN General Assembly. There’s always hope. There is a break in the relations between Ben Gvir, Smotrich and the PM as the PM honoured an agreement to provide the Palestinian Authority with American armoured vehicles. We await the outcome. The crisis over visas for staff to work in the major Christian Organisations, especially the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem has been solved, at least for now. The bottleneck was in the Interior Ministry where visas were not passed. The ICEJ in particular does great work in bringing Christian Evangelical communities closer to Israel and supporting Israel. I am happy that there has been a change of heart. The Israeli population has almost reached an incredible 9.8 million people a 12-fold increase since the founding of the State! There are 9,727,000 people living in Israel, the CBS said. Of those, 7,145,000 are Jewish, or 73.5 percent, along with 2,048,000 Arabs (21%) and 534,000 members of other minorities (5.5%). Since last year, the population grew by 216,000 people, an increase of 2.3%. There were 183,000 babies born and 79,000 new immigrants arrived, while 51,000 people died. 46% of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel. So much is happening in our crazy world. Covid is back in a different form and we are seeing the social results of the isolation in our youngsters. Storms, floods and earthquakes seem to increase, maybe the world is angry at the way we treat each other. Israel’s enemies are enjoying our confusion and are planning to ruin our peace of mind during the High Holidays. Yes, this is a challenging world, but my question is whether it is more challenging or we simply know about it today. Whatever happens wherever in the world, someone is there with a smartphone, ready to take videos to send to the media. The big question is whether we should moan and groan or do something? Those of you who have been reading my missives for a while will know that I have two mottos. One is “The power of one” and the other is “If the media doesn’t inform then we must inform the media” What is the power of one and is it a banal statement with no depth? If each and every one of us ensured our own environment, our own circle, with kindness, mindfulness, tolerance and outreach, just imagine the cumulative effect! One by one we could really change our world. Similarly, every time we see an untruth, a slanted opinion, a lie in the media, don’t just sit and click your tongue – do something! If you know that someone is alone, without family, young or old, invite them or just pop in with a cake, a meal, a smile. Rosh Hashanah is just a day away, a time of contemplation, soul searching and change, perhaps it is time to turn the banal into action! Our fridge is about to burst! I have already started on the salads and of course went out in search of new fruits over which to make the “first time” blessing. Shehechiyanu! The Shehechiyanu blessing “Blessed art Thou, the Almighty, who has given us life, sustained us and allowed us to arrive in this moment” is said over anything new that brings you joy, not just the first fruits, but tradition has it that one finds unusual fruits for Rosh Hashanah. I found this rendition of Shehechiyanu sung by some of the greatest Cantors we have. It is not only wonderful, it’s fun so I decided to sneak another song in here!! We are guests on first night. We have been invited to Galia and Menashe’s home, always a delight as at least 30 people sit around the table, laden with everything good, in Hebrew one says “kol Tuv”. Our contribution will be Gefilte Fish and Chopped Liver and Galia cooks up a storm for the remainder. We will host the second night, a mere 18 diners including, Zvi’s sons, Leor and Amiad and their families and our special visitors, Sandra, Moi, Jonathan and Dalia, from Mexico City, who are on a fantastic holiday, touring the area. We are so thrilled that they are coming for the festive meal – indeed they were here at our place on Wednesday. for a quick tour of our historic home. They have organised wonderful tours determined to see all the new and ancient wonders of Israel. I know that you love hearing about what I prepare so here’s the order of events and the approximate menu. We will start by gathering around the table, outside on the veranda, to hear the dulcet tones of Zvi’s kiddush, to start the proceedings. Of course, kiddush is followed by the blessing over the challah, I’m making one huge challah made up of many small individual rolls which can be pulled off as tradition demands. Then we will have an argument at to whether we put honey on the challah as well as the apple and honey!!! Pomegranate seeds will about on everything! The pomegranate represents fertility and abundance. Now for the real food. Gefilte fish, egg salad, veggie chopped liver, pickles and Tsimmes, followed by (takes a deep breath) Salmon, quiches, veggie lasagne and homemade pizza for the children, stuffed peppers, stuffed mini veg, 2 colour courgette salad, big green salad, tzatziki, coleslaw, roast cabbage salad, roast potatoes, boiled new potatoes ending up with fruit salad, nectarine crumble and for the children, mini choc-ices. I have a feeling that I will do some impromptu salads to accompany but we’ll see. Zvi always says that Jewish festivals are simple to explain, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” but there are a few festivals where we celebrate being alive and try to live our lives in a more meaningful manner and this is one. Living life in a meaningful manner is the promise we make, our pledge with the Almighty at this time of year, but it shouldn’t be just because we want to be inscribed in the book of good deeds it should be because we really want to be better people. Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Gottlieb is an exceptional man, an exceptional Jew who believes with all his heart that true Judaism is expressed by acceptance, acceptance of the other and of ourselves. He believes that when we are not able to find joy, or at least the good in each and every person, whatever our differences then we cannot be a good Jew. Here he speaks of tolerance and how to live life, whatever our religious leaning. What do I wish you and our world in the coming year? In truth, I made a whole list of what I want for our world over the next twelve months and then I thought, wow, I, asking people to do what I most dislike, to do what I think!! So instead, I want to quote from what I wrote about the qualities of my amazing son Daniel, Dr Daniel Cammerman z”l when I told you about his passing. Perhaps we should take a leaf from his way of life. To listen fully, pay attention, not to expound on your views but to use your hearing more than your mouth. Always have open arms and heart for those who need you. Remember to tell those you love that you love and appreciate them. Accept that we don’t know it all, that others may just know more than us. To treat everyone with deep respect, irrespective of colour, creed or position in life. The street sweeper may just have something as important to share as the professor. Daniel epitomised all of the above which is why we chose to dedicate a studio for the performing arts in his name in Shalva where equality and inclusion are the purpose of a magical place. If you wish, you can still help with the upkeep of Dr. Dan’s Room which is bringing so much joy to the youngsters of Shalva. Just click on Sponsor What songs will make you happy and hopeful? One of the most positive songs, born out of personal tragedy, is Ba Shana Habaa, Next year we will sit on our veranda and you’ll see how good it will be. This classic Israeli song was written by Ehud Manor and composed by Nurit Hirsch. May next year be a wonderful year! One of the most moving parts of the Rosh Hashana service is the blowing of the Shofar or Ram’s Horn. In this rendition, the Shofar is the star of the song Mi Ha Ish, who is the man Finally, the Shalva Band reminds us of the way the world should be, in A Million dreams. I wish you a healthy year, a year of joy and understanding. I wish Jerusalem a year of peace, of kindness, an elimination of the hatred that affects all our lives, not only here in Israel but all over the world. Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I’m so glad you are here. Sheila PS. I said that I would be on MailChimp but then discovered that because so many of you want to be part of the Shabbat Shalom missive, it will cost just too much. I am deeply grateful to Rochelle Gilbert for setting everything up. I will never expect payment for what I write, I care for Israel and you far too much.

Friday, 8 September 2023

Tragedies, Medals and a New Year

8th of September, 2023 Shabbat Shalom! For the many of you who didn’t receive last weeks missive, I apologise, but I don’t honestly know what happened, apparently Gmail went crazy! Everything will change very soon because thanks to a wonderful lady called Rochelle Gilbert, you will receive my mailings through MailChimp! Don’t forget, if you miss a week, you can always check on the website We begin this week with tragic memories, with the horrific Munich Massacre of 11 Israeli sportsmen on the 5th of September 1972 in the Summer Olympic Village. Members of the Black September terrorist organisation broke in to Conollystrasse 31, climbing through the entrance and walked up to the 2nd floor, killed two members of the Israeli Olympic team and took a further 9 hostage to exchange for imprisoned Palestinians. The terrorists demanded an aeroplane to escape with their hostages and were told that a helicopter was waiting instead. The rescue operation by the German police went horribly wrong after they refused the assistance of the Israeli security forces and all the athletes were killed. Israel was in mourning and when the bodies of the sportsmen came home, among those who went to receive their bodies was one Kalman Raviv, Zvi’s father, who took Zvi with him leaving an indelible imprint on his son’s life. May the souls of those brave sportsmen rest in peace. The government archives concerning the Yom Kippur War have been released revealing mistake after deadly mistake on almost every level by the leaders in government, secret service and IDF. The writing of an imminent attack by the enemy states which surround us was clearly on the wall, we even had a warning from an Egyptian spy, yet those in charge didn’t believe the signs and we were unprepared. To understand the extent of the “feet of clay” revealed is distressing as leaders one held in esteem prove to be inept. From Golda, Dayan, heads of the Mossad and IDF who didn’t believe that war was imminent, especially when one hears the personal stories of friends, watch non-stop programmes as soldiers finally tell their stories. We were attacked on all sides and lost too many soldiers but the greatest emotional trauma was understanding that the peace of Yom Kippur was broken as the silent streets were filled with soldiers racing to their bases. The government attempts at changing, dissolution, of the legal system and the vilification of both the President of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General (both fine women) is just a small part of the laws passed in the Knesset recently, but as long as the Reasonableness Standard remains, the Supreme Court can deny their passing. I have a feeling that we are nearing the end of this government, particularly since President Biden has made it clear that if they continue on their extremist path the Prime Minister will not be invited to the White House. Under normal circumstances I would be insulted by such interference but in this case I feel that the American President is right. Seeing the feet of clay of our politicians everywhere has become a regular occurrence these days but back in those days we still had heroes. Today, sadly politicians don’t make mistakes, much worse, they are so determined to hang on to power, sometimes it is their only agenda, that they are willing to forfeit all moral standards. We are definitely in a ghastly situation, but I promise you two things – ONE that more and more ordinary people whose views are not extreme, who have never felt the need to defend our democracy, who have never taken part in a demonstration in their lives, we will not give up. We are joined by politically diverse movement whose sole motivation is to return to good leadership. TWO that despite the obvious threats from our enemies, Israel is still the amazing place to visit, you will be safe and life goes on, beaches, restaurants, museums, theatre, cinema, parties, prayers all go ahead as usual! Each year exceptional people whose devotion to the people and the State is above and beyond the call of duty, receive the Presidential Medal of Honour from the President. This year, as always, each of the recipients was deserving, but for me, and this is an entirely personal viewpoint, two people stand out. Former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler has spent his life defending justice, in his case it isn’t just a title, it is his vocation. Defender of Israel, he and his wife Ariella are among the finest defenders of this country before those who would defile our name, they were both students together with Zvi at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1969 when Zvi began the struggle for Soviet Jewry. The second person has been a military correspondent for many years, since 1974, her gravelly voice telling every story from the point of view of the soldiers. Every soldier in trouble, every lone soldier, Carmela Menashe is there, quietly helping, behind the scenes. I once needed to help a young lone soldier who was very troubled emotionally and she immediately took on his case, talked to him, spent time helping him, finding a suitable place for his army service, none of which became a “story” all done out of pure motive, love of the soldiers. A journalist who really cares. She deserves a hundred medals. This week Zvi and I met an incredible young man. His name is Bilal and he is a nurse, but not just a nurse, he just won the “Nurse of the Year” in the Assuta group of medical institutions. Bilal lives atop the Mount of Olives and besides being an exceptional nurse, he does everything he possibly can to bring calm, peace to what was the Jordanian side of Jerusalem. In the short time we met he expressed a need to meet with the Mayor of Jerusalem to discuss ways to overcome the current volatile situation and the hold the terror groups have over the ordinary population. He told us about the beautiful new school that was built by the Jerusalem Municipality in one of the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. A few days before the new school year started Islamic Jihad burned the school down because they were about to teach the Jerusalem Municipality curriculum not the PA/UNWRA syllabus of hatred. We are already in touch by WhatsApp and I will invite Bilal to our home, there is so much I can learn from him about understanding between us. Guess what? El Al is not only one of the last airlines to feed us on our flights, but now top Chef Assaf Granit has created a wonderful menu so that even in tourist class the food will be delicious! Yeah, let’s here it for Israel’s amazing airline!!! Comedian Elon Gold doesn’t speak Hebrew! As he says “I went to Yeshiva for 15 years but I can’t speak Hebrew” which of course is the problem of all of us who learned our Hebrew parrot fashion without knowing what we were saying then come to Israel only to find that we don’t understand a word that is spoken!! A bit of fun to lighten your day As if it isn’t enough that I learned modern Hebrew, spoken Hebrew, I decided to study Yiddish! Why? Because every time that Zvi tells a joke in Yiddish I understand most of it but always miss the punch line! Every story sounds more interesting in Yiddish, certainly there’s much more pathos, every joke told in Yiddish is funnier, just the sound of it makes me laugh, so yesterday I went to my first lesson. Of course the office forgot to tell me that everyone else was already on their 7th lesson and that I would have to learn grammar as well as conversation, but I am determined to give it a go. I think my parents would have been very proud of me, and I know my grandparents would have been thrilled! For those of you who have visited Israel you may still be confused by the myriad of head coverings, for both men and women. One of the most important socially defining images in Israel is one's head-gear, here it's all about hats. Fact is stranger than fiction! Let's take the simple Kippa, yarmulke, skullcap. What can be special about that little circle of fabric, how on earth can that define who you are? Well let's begin with the knitted kippa, often home made, but in this case colour and size count, and the position on one's head. If it is small and on the left side of the head, that indicates that you are happy-clappy religious Bnei Akiva, the bigger the disc the more religious, and if it is white with a pompom on top then you follow the Bresslauer Rebbe! The black kippa gets bigger with one's piety and changes fabric from crocheted to silk and then to velvet, until one arrives at the big black Fedora perched on the front of the head with a black kippa underneath. Finally, the world renowned furry shtreimel, its height, colour, fur and position the indication of which Haredi Rabbi one follows. Beware of the very large coloured kippa of the extremist youth I doubt that you would enjoy their determination to take Judaism to a political extreme. Then there are women. Covering one's crowning glory, one's hair, is common to almost all religions, east and west, but the level of covering and style are exceptional here. A small piece of cloth, what once we called an Alice Band, indicates religious leanings but not extreme; then a simple pretty scarf tied at the back graduating to a large scarf with a false bun, most obvious is the next step, a huge "construction" of brilliant colours which is perched atop an often beautifully made up face. Finally, the lucky ladies who wear a wig, a sheitl, which means that they never need to worry about dying their hair, or bad hair days because their perfectly coiffed wigs cover all sins! When I was young a sheitl mean a simple pulled back hairstyle with a bun at the back, but today the women often wear long wavy stylish wigs which to me defeats the object of humility! So when you walk the streets of this amazing country, remember that the head-gear identifies the men and women - from Nuns and Priests, to Moslem women and Imams. I challenge you to guess which is which sometimes! So yet another week has passed. I won’t be going to visit Rachel today although I managed to be with her twice this week!!! We are off to Tel Aviv for Shabbat, to take care of Yonatan and Ella, Zvi’s wonderful grandchildren. I love being with them, they are such interesting, delightful children, not like those who demand “screens” all the time, they play general knowledge games, do puzzles, sport and are great fun! It’s already time to combine Shabbat Shalom with Shana Tova and wish people to be inscribed in the good book. It’s so strange, it feels as though it was only yesterday that we walked back from the Yom Kippur service up in Mevasseret. It is quite a walk, down the ridiculously steep Seven Sisters Road but at least there is no danger from vehicles, since there will not be a single car on the roads! That’s Yom Kippur in Israel! Jerusalem is right in the middle of the political argument, the site of demonstrations of both sides, the home of both the Prime Minister and the President, who is doing his very best to bring a safe conclusion to the situation. Jerusalem is home to over fifty Christian denominations (long may it continue), 8 Moslem denominations and then, oh boy, a conglomeration of hundreds of Jewish denominations. Left to our own devices I’m sure we could find a common denominator! I wanted to tell you how gorgeous Jerusalem is, both from street view and from the vista points on the Hass Promenade and Samuel’s Tomb, but as usual I got sidetracked. So, what music do you want? Happy, sad, religious? Let me think. Ahinoam Nini (Noa) singing two of the most familiar of all songs for the New Year, along with young musicians. Songs of hope and good wishes, about how wonderful next year will be as we sit on our verandas. The next song is about the relief of ending the week with a day of rest. It is also about breaking impressions about the Haredi community, the danger of generalisation. Perhaps that’s why I chose this particular song as Haredi men end a day of hard work to welcome the Sabbath. “Barush Hashem it’s Shabbes” “Blowin’ in The Wind” written by Bob Dylan so many years ago, at a time of Vietnam and social upheaval, asks all the questions we ask every day of our lives. Here the version sung by Peter, Paul and Mary I wish you a good weekend, a Shabbat of contemplation, of family. I promise to write to you next week, before Rosh Hashanah, with a letter of hope and joy…. Two things we need so desperately. With love, Sheila

Friday, 1 September 2023

If I Forget Thee

The first of September 2023 15th Elul, 5783 Shabbat Shalom! I hope this missive finds you well. Elul, the Hebrew month of Elul, has so many connotations. The famous saying “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” from The Song of Songs written by King Solomon, the Hebrew initials of the words spell out “Elul” when you read the entire poem it is a love story between a man and a woman. Elul is the month of Selichot, (Penitential prayers) in which we pray that our sins be forgiven as we near the High Holy days which many believe to be the days of judgement for our behaviour over the past year. So according to ancient tradition, I wish that you be written in the good book. It’s popular to claim that the Torah has no relevance to today’s way of life….. think again and read what Rabbi Jeremy Rosen has to say about that in his explanation of tomorrow’s portion Ki Tavo Sadly, the individual terror attacks continue. Yesterday a Palestinian, with a work permit in Israel, instead of driving to his workplace, rammed the border post near Modiin, the Maccabim post, and killed a soldier, injuring 5 others. A 42 year old father of 5, he did not fit the profile of a terrorist and was a regular at the crossing, but he did what he did in a moment of rage. As I have written many times, murders in Israel are a rarity unlike in most countries of the world, but here in this tiny country we are shocked by each death, especially when it is a young soldier defending our lives. Sergeant Maxim Mulchanov z”l was a lone soldier from Ukraine. May his soul rest in peace. Iranian weightlifter Mustafa Rajaei has been banned from entering any competitions for committing the ultimate sin of shaking the hand of Israeli weightlifter Maxim Svirsky at the World Masters in Poland. The Weightlifting Federation strongly condemned the action of the Iranian government. There are often secret meetings between Moslem countries and Israeli diplomats, irrespective of their diplomatic status, however the moment such meetings are revealed the situation becomes untenable. When Israeli Minister Eli Cohen met informally with his Libyan counterpart, Najla Mangoush, he was meant to keep it hush hush, but didn’t. The public outrage of the Libyan Government meant that Mangoush was fired and had to flee. Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin z”l, was dubious, deeply suspicious of the wording in the Oslo Accords, the Interim Agreement for the Self-Government Arrangements, to be signed between the Israeli Government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. His concerns were recorded in a Cabinet Meeting on the 30th of August 1993 just 2 weeks before the signing. He felt that Israel was giving too much and the Palestinians too little, he did not want to go through with the signing. His doubts were well known but this week they were finally published after the 30 year release of protocols Zvi and I went to the movies this week, actually we wanted to see the movie Golda but the newspaper gave the wrong times so we went to see an Israeli movie about the Yom Kippur War, “Mezach”, or The Stronghold. To be more exact, it is about a young doctor and an outpost along the Egyptian border in the days leading up to and during the fighting of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, 50 years ago. The acting is outstanding and the story true and revealed the cracks in the leadership, both military and political, during that war. After all the other outposts were destroyed by the Egyptian army, the wounded dying from lack of bandages, morphine and antibiotics, the soldiers had to make a decision. It is really worth seeing either before or after “Golda”. "At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it." (Theodor Herzl, 3 September 1897) A man, a dream and reality because one man saw antisemitism in France and realised what the future held without a home of our own. Today Zvi and I live right next to the tree that Theodore Herzl planted on his visit to the future Jewish Homeland. Oh, how I wish he could have seen the beauty, the realisation of his dream that is Israel. With all our problems, and we have many at the moment, this is still a phenomenal, democratic miracle. We are currently living through some difficult birth pains – the birth pains predicted by Hegel and his 80 year theory – as the generation that built this country on unselfish devotion, the generation that lived through the Holocaust, that lived through the expulsion of North African Jews, that lived through the downfall of the Soviet Empire, the generation that built this country has grandchildren that have no idea what it means to be without a Jewish homeland or what Herzl really wanted. I learned a great deal from my husband and often laughed as he quoted Hegel yet again, but he is right, we need to go through this period in order to revive our Zionism. Incidentally, that feisty spirit that built Israel is proving itself every single weekend as the demonstrations against the current government’s untenable policies continue. Do you remember the jokes about Jewish athletes, or rather the lack of them? Well Israel has definitely proven them wrong! Just this week we won medals in Jujitsu, 14 year old Lia Shalev won Gold in the Junior Championship in Las Vegas. Maru Teferi made history as the first Israeli marathon runner to win a medal, a Silver Medal in the World Athletics Championship in Budapest. The Israeli team brought home the Gold at the World Rhythmic Gymnastic Championship in Spain. The various aliyahs brought amazing talents, each with their own speciality; from traditional soccer and basketball to great athletes. Without Chabad (aka the Lubavitch) small communities around the world would not survive. Dublin has one such Rabbi and for the first time in 50 years, a new and much enjoyed kosher restaurant has opened! It is so successful that its reputation has gone beyond the Jewish community to Dubliners in general! I know from my own family how the Chabad Rabbi and his amazing wife in Cardiff have brought the community together irrespective of religious leanings. Such was the dream of Rabbi Shneerson, another dream come true. We love to complain, and right now we really have plenty to complain about, but guess what? Israel has jumped to 4th place in the UN’s recently published global happiness index. Admittedly it predates the current government but despite it all we are a happy people! The top 20 countries bring a surprise for most of you because the media concentration on our troubles forgets to mention that we are a caring, giving society! The list. Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Canada, Ireland, United States, Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Lithuania My Mummy used to sing a funny song call “Ve’re Going to a Vedding” and that’s what we did this week. The wedding of Itamar to Limor, a very special wedding indeed. Itamar comes from an observant family, he is the son of our very dear friend Motti (Mottle) Friedman, founder of the Herzl Museum, and has chosen a different religious path to his father, but a path full of respect. The wedding itself took place near Nes Ziona, not in a hall but rather under the skies, trees, flowers of a beautiful wedding site. Israeli wedding food is often upside down, that is the pre-food food is served at stands all over the terraced gardens, from sushi to schwarma, from burgers to delicious spiced fish….all in small portions, finger food. Once the guests have overcome the epicurean delights, we all move toward the outdoor Chuppah (wedding canopy) where the parents and for the lucky people, grandparents, await the bride and groom eagerly. At this wedding, Itamar and Limor danced their way to the Chuppah, stopping right next to me to place her veil over her face. The traditional ceremony, the swearing of love for each other and for Jerusalem was complemented by their beautiful words of love about how they met and what brought them to this day. Motti’s exceptional wife Rivka and their daughter Esther stood proudly beneath the chuppah. It was a prefect mix of the very best of a Jewish traditional wedding service with a modern twist. We loved it! Living in Israel is much more than a place to lay one’s head. Living in Israel means being involved in how and who runs the country in the full knowledge that every word uttered carries weight in the big wide world. Living in Israel is all about “Ani l’Dodi v’Dodi Li” about caring for others, for those around us irrespective of their origin, creed, colour or leaning, of being prepared to stand out and stand up. Our dinner parties do not avoid politics and religion, we talk openly about everything, disagree frequently but it is not a hypocritically polite society, often mistaken for brusqueness. We care, we know that this country depends upon us, upon our children, upon our defence and our allies. We recognise that many of you misunderstand our political situation, are confused by our current government’s priorities, despite the fact that you and your politics are in a much worse state! We are like family, no, we are family! Sometimes we fight, sometimes we disagree, sometimes we have to recognise that despite our love we don’t know how to swallow each other’s views, but family we are. Whether left or right, observant or secular, we must educate our children to be tolerant, to accept each other, never to believe that anyone different to us is automatically wrong. The coming of instant everything means that people don’t think before putting their views online creating horrific results in promoting hatred and racism. Even when WhatsApping a friend, think before you write. Talking about educating our children, today Israeli children go back to school! 6 year olds coping with their back packs, excitement mixed with trepidation as their tearful parents take them to their first day in “Kita Aleph” ready to become independent, walking to school each morning. Here the vast majority of children walk alone to school, the school crossings “manned” by their older schoolmates. You may not know but Zvi’s incredible father created the first Mishmar ha Zahav “Golden guards” at the crossings, their lollipops stopping the traffic to let the children cross in safety, long before Britain and the USA had “crossing ladies”. Anyway, I digress, although that’s something you are used to, education. How and what we teach these youngsters can produce either great or bad future leaders. Thank heaven the Israeli state education system won the approval of the Impact-se report ( ) for its tolerance in education. Read the full Israeli report on the various streams to understand. Today is Itzchak Perlman’s birthday. Genius, mensch, Israeli, leader, example a man who despite his fame has maintained a wicked sense of humour. A real gentleman. Here he plays music from Fiddler on the Roof… enjoy. We have had the honour of being present a several weddings recently and one of the most moving moments in a Jewish wedding is just before the groom breaks the glass to remind us of the fragility of life, marriage and Jerusalem, when we sing Psalm 137, King David’s If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy. All we really want, all of us without exception, is to live life in peace, to provide for our children, to play with our grandchildren and to love they neighbour. I sometimes think that if we didn’t have politicians and I’m sorry to say, religious leaders, running our lives we would all get on so well! I just found this video, a beautiful song all about peace among ordinary people. So another Shabbat, moving closer to the high holidays. It seems only yesterday that we celebrated Rosh Hashana but it really is a whole year and what a year!! I’m about to head off to Rachel, drawn by the aroma of freshly baked Challot and the anticipation of the look of happiness and delight on the faces of Yosef, Talia and Ayala, the rush to give me hugs as I walk in the door. Rachel’s smile is enough to fill me with joy. I’m sorry to be shmaltzy but our children and grandchildren are the high points of our lives, both those here and abroad…. It is for them that we work to make this world a better place, to leave them a worthwhile legacy of love. I am who I am thanks to my parents, their teachings, my memories of my Mother are dim, she passed away when I was but 17 years old, but the greatest memory of my Father, the one thing that really gave me to face unbearable pain with strength is that each time I came into the room, whether after five minutes or five months, my father’s face would light up just at the fact I was there. May your children always know how much they are loved. I wish you a Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, the never forgotten city. Sheila

Friday, 25 August 2023

The Ugly, The Bad and the Good

25th August, 2023 Shabbat Shalom! I decided to call this week’s missive The Ugly, The Badand The Good because some bad and ugly things happened this week but by leavingthe good until last, I can tell you about all the wonderful things thathappened both here in Israel and to me personally! The Ugly, which has itscompensations, is that finally one of the ugliest characters to appear on theinternational Jewish scene for many years, has been sentenced in Australia. Theadditional ugly is that there were those within her own community (sect) who attemptedto prevent her extradition to Australia, where her crimes were committed, fortrial. Of course, I refer to Malka Leifer who hid behind her pious façade tosexually abuse her students. It took three brave young women, sisters Nicole,Dassy and Ellie, to reveal the horrors they had suffered, in a community whichunfortunately hides its sexual offenders under a cloak of secrecy. The AustralianCourt sentenced Leifer to 15 years imprisonment. The Bad, I am almost too ashamedto write about it, involved a very tiny minority, but still far too many, ofthose who harass Christian priests in the Old City of Jerusalem. Bad,disgusting behaviour which must be punished fully. These men, and it is men,are on a par with the Hilltop Youth who harass and harm Arab villagers.Admittedly it is not violent so far, but it disgusts me and deserves the titleof BAD. On a similar theme but not in the same category, hundredsof Christian pilgrims came to Israel to celebrate the Feast of theTransfiguration at the Basilica or the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The fireservice prevented the overcrowding of the church last year and when theyrealised that the number of pilgrims was dangerous they cancelled the service.It is a shame that the arrangements went ahead and the cancellation was at thelast moment but I believe that enthusiasm overtook logic in such a smallBasilica. I feel bad for the pilgrims but perhaps next year there should be adecision that rather than a mass pilgrimage, they should be split into smallergroups. The subsequent bad publicity was sad. There is a new decision by the Interior Ministryconcerning visas for visiting clergy since the International Christian Embassyin Jerusalem is not considered a religious institution. Since it was set upwhen virtually all other countries removed their Embassies from Jerusalem, toall intents and purposes claiming Jerusalem was not the Capital of Israel, Evangelicalsformed the International Christian Embassy and as a frequent visitor to theirhome, I can honestly say that while it is Christian, Judaism is treated withthe utmost respect. There were two horrific terror attacks in what theWestern Media calls the occupied Palestinian Territory, aka the West Bank oralternatively Yehuda and Shomron. A father and son went to the car wash in theArab village of Huwara, where many Israelis go to shop and visit. As they satwatching their car being washed, a car drew up beside Shai and Aviad Negerkerand sprayed them with bullets, killing both of them.  Kindergarten teacher Batsheva Negri and her 12year old daughter were grateful to neighbour Aryeh Gottlieb for the offer of alift to Kiriat Arba. As they drove BatSheva was killed in a terror attack in frontof the child and Aryeh badly wounded.  Thekilling is not confined to killing Jews however. Sadly no less than, indeedmore than 150 internecine killings have taken place by Israeli Arabs of IsraeliArabs. It is a terrifying situation. I can’t decide upon which category this falls in but itis said that Putin not only has a long memory but never forgives those who goagainst him. Today an aeroplane carrying Yevgeny Pregozhin fell out of the sky,killing all on board. The reason and the method were obvious. High time we moved on to The GOODI'm fascinated by genetics and for variousreasons several members of the family have done genetic testing. We doeverything in Israel in Hadassah hospital and when we sent our information toan expert in the UK, they were amazed to find that the Israeli genetic researchis way ahead even that of the top hospital genetics departments in the UnitedKingdom. Today it is all too easy to blame theultra-Orthodox for anything and everything, but not Rabbi Avraham MordechaiGottleib. Rabbi Gottleib is an exceptional man and a great scholar and Ihope you have the patience to listen to one of his short lectures on why weshould not hate, but rather that we should love, to be too busy inself-improvement to criticise others, that Judaism, the Kabbalah teaches us so.I have listened to several of his talks and this one has an Englishtranslation.   On a similar theme, you may be surprised to meetSergeant-Major Avishag Shiran Malka, mother of two, a Haredi womanserving in the Border Guards (Mishmar haGvul) a combat position. Avishag wearsa full uniform, with a long skirt to honour her religious beliefs, it in no wayhampers her ability to perform her duty. Although there are many religious menin the Border Guards, Avishag is, so far, is the only Haredi woman. Israeli windsurfers in the iQFoil of the Sailing World Championships in the Netherlands,took both Gold and Silver in their category! ShaharTibi won the title of the World Windsurfing Champion and Katy Spichkov finishedsecond as her runner-up in the competition. Yet another sport in which Israelisreach excellence! On Wednesday we had the great honour of beinginvited to a wedding, a very special wedding. Jacqueline and David Sackwild’sgrandson Eli, who is serving in the Golani Brigade of the IDF as a lone soldierfrom the UK, married his Israeli sweetheart, Avigail who is serving in theIsraeli police. The interesting part is that both are deeply observant Jews whoserve and love Israel without compunction. The seating for the service and thedinner were separate men and women, which certainly didn’t prevent greatjubilation, but for me, the highlight was when all of Eli’s army friends, hisbuddies, of every persuasion and origin, wearing just T-shirts and jeans, stoodat the end of the runway leading to the wedding canopy and cheered loudly “AMEN”at the end of each blessing and then ran under the canopy to hug the couple!Young women who serve with Avigail came in their best bib and tucker, scantilydressed but utterly accepted. As we left the dinner Zvi and I saw all thebackpacks, ready for their return to base and I must admit our hearts swelledwith pride. A special thank you to Jacqueline and David for allowing us to betheir family for the night. Zvi is back from his sojourn in Austria withhis boys and their families. He had a truly amazing time and my crazy 78 yearold husband climbed mountains, literally, 19 story stairs up waterfalls,averaged 10 kilometres a day and came home happy and without any washing forme! It’s great to have him home again although my short, neat and tidy break isshattered! Before his arrival I had a special visit froman adored cousin and his special wife. Ian and Sue Lipman came to lunch. Actually,they didn’t come to lunch they came to see our new apartment but of course Imade lunch. They arrived at the Hemed Junction on the extremely comfortable busfrom Tel Aviv and I popped out and collected them, it’s just five minutes fromhome. They usually take the train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as do most of ourfriends, but we are 10 kilometres before Jerusalem and the bus worked outbeautifully. We talked about our families, about the closeness I always hadwith Ian’s mother and father, Jean and Stuart, and his younger brother Bobby,all sadly passed away. We spoke about how he used to dangle all three of mychildren on his arms, when they were very young admittedly! Sue is such alovely warm human being and I had the best possible time with them. I then tookthem to Ben Gurion Airport so that they could get the train to Tel Aviv andhave a quick hug with the returning traveller as he left exit 03 with hissuitcase….Zvi! As you most certainly noticed, I have avoidedthe political situation in Israel. Firstly, because most of you have quiteenough with the political situation in your own countries and partly because,we are nearing the High Holy days and have entered a time of self-awareness, ofmindfulness of looking into our collective souls leading to self-improvement,to a collective self-improvement, in essence, following the example of RabbiAvraham Mordechai Gottleib. Of coursed I follow the proclivities of thisgovernment, which are in direct opposition to the teachings of Gottleib, Ifollow and oppose but I repeat, Israel is so much more than a few racist, violentpoliticians and we will get through this, and soon. Despite the current leadersthis is a wonderful free society which shows itself in the weeklydemonstrations. We have a few glitches here and there but in general we arestill that shining example, that light unto nations, that we have always been.We still love to go out “shpatzeering” strolling in the streets, enjoying thecooler evening air; stopping for coffee, going out for delicious food, meeting infriend’s homes, chatting to strangers, all done with our children. Me, I lovesitting out on our veranda, watching the sun go down and feeling the eveningbreeze begin to cool the air, one of the great joys of life in the JerusalemHills. I love to see Jerusalem on the horizon, turning pink as the sun goesdown. I love to count the baby fruits on the lemon, lime, orange and kumquattrees, to watch the tiny sunbirds suck the nectar from the hibiscus, the settingsun reflected on their iridescent black feathers……. In other words, I getthrough the political scene by appreciating every moment of sanity. The first song today has the unlikely unitingof the voices of Aviv Geffen and Avraham Fried in a beautiful song entitle “Inthe Time of Drought” The Shabbat table has the reputation of beingall about food – be it chicken soup and kneidlach or chraimeh – but the prayers,the songs are exquisite. Avraham Fried again, but with all his nephews singingsome of the wonderful songs. There is one thing we tend to forget, thatdespite the politicians, the poverty, the wars that are a constant, this is amiraculous world. It’s all about people, you and me, how we look at ourselvesand each other. We can’t control what happens outside ourselves, just how welook at our wonderful world Tonight we will spend Shabbat dinner withAmiad, Noga, Ella and Yonatan, always a joyous occasion, but first I will go tosee Rachel and family, just because it lifts my heart to be with them. I wantto give a shout out to my wonderful grand-daughter Olivia in London whosurpassed all of our high expectations in getting her GCSE results… so proud. That’s all Folks! I wish you a good Shabbes, aShabbat Shalom, a peaceful Sabbath from Jerusalem, the most beautiful city inthe world. With loveSheila -- If the media does not inform us we must inform the mediaMy Website      Sheila Silver Raviv Involvement 

Friday, 28 July 2023

Dugo, Demos and Decisions

28th July, 2023 Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom. So, we made it past the 9th of Av, most of Israel realizing that “sinat hinam” or unwarranted hatred is a bad idea, but that we can still continue fighting in our own way against what is felt to be an undemocratic law. I'm so proud of Israelis. I see incredible involvement in the politics of today both through young and old, people in wheelchairs and on crutches, who go to demonstrations to make their voices heard. I see the 63 no the 65% of people who didn't vote for this government, including those who voted Likud, not just talking the talk but walking the walk, makes me very, very proud. One doesn’t have to be against the government to be proud that ordinary folk are willing to get out there, whatever the weather, and stand up for their beliefs. I learned something yesterday that fascinated me. As I told you last week, Tisha b’Av is a fast day because of the number of tragedies that happened on that day in history. One particular fact stood out above others. It is believed that Rabbi and teacher Yochanan ben Zakai called out the Rabbis of the 2nd Temple, the Rabbis were the politicians of the time, for corruption and made it very public. It began a revolution and he then left Jerusalem with a number of students thus able to continue teaching after the Temple was destroyed. Of course, I have simplified, maybe over simplified, the situation, but it proves that history repeats itself over and over again. We have to be careful that since the Third Temple has not yet been built, that we do not bring about the downfall of Israel as we know it, the Start Up Nation. Too many companies, doctors, hi-techers, have already threatened to leave. This is a wonderfully democratic nation and the demonstrations are the living proof of our freedom of expression. We are an amalgam of determination, argument, fun-loving, travellers, healers, ready to help any nation that needs us and driven by a need to make the world a better place. Don’t think the current situation is in any way dangerous or irreconcilable, we will overcome As you well know I am diametrically opposed to Itamar Ben Gvir or his extreme views, but even a broken clock is right twice a day! No I'm not being cynical in this case. Tisha b'Av, is a very important day of fasting and remembering the disasters that befell us on that date, a day of mourning for the fall of the Temples. Itamar Ben Gvir went up to the Temple Mount and reiterated that Jews (and Christians) should be free to walk, to pray, albeit with respect for others. The Temple Mount is holy to all three monotheistic religions and is not the private property of any. This was a week in which our Prime Minister fainted again, was taken to hospital, underwent surgery, albeit minor, to implant a very special and expensive pacemaker, was kept in for 2 days and left the country in the hands of Yariv Levine. I wish Mr Netanyahu well, healthy and able to spend much more time with his family. When he went on US television and claimed that the Reasonableness Standard is just a minor law, ………………………………. Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian politician, was welcomed to Canada. I resent her celebrity because, as a Christian woman by ignoring the plight of Christians in the PA, she has allowed the world to believe that there is not a problem. In other words, she has betrayed her own people. I’m not going to spend your time writing about the current political situation because Israel is so much more than what is happening politically, although it is taking all of our time and energy right now, I want to tell you about everything else! The Israel Antiquities Authority searches every nook and cranny, every cave and rock, in the area near the Dead Sea. Close to Ein Gedi, in a cave atop a cliff, they found a coin just lying at the entrance to the cave; not just any coin but one from the time of the Jewish Revolt against the Romans. The coin is dated 66/67 CE, at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple and has the words “Holy Jerusalem” embossed on it. Black Christians honoured Rev Dr Martin Luther King this week by marching down Martin Luther King Street in Jerusalem, 55 years after his death. Dr King was due to bring thousands of Christians to Jerusalem to preach to them on the Mount of Olives. Dr King firmly supported Israel as the “land from which Christianity burst forth” About 100 Christians who belong to the group which regrets the animosity toward Jews by the Christian Church ascended to the Temple Mount to honour Tisha b’Av. Ironically, they were led by Rabbi Yehuda Glick. The group also hosted 27 hours of prayer. David “Dugo” Leitner became an Israeli folk hero, not for fighting in the IDF but for surviving. A survivor of the horrific Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and of the Death March, Dugo came to Israel and was so emotionally tied to the day that he, a lone 14 year old, began the Death March on the 18th of January, 1945 that he chose to commemorate that day and his subsequent survival and arrival in the Promised Land in a very special way. Dugo ate a felafel every January 18th ever since his Aliya. His story impressed so many here in Israel and even outside Israel, that January 18th became Dugo Day! Dugo was a very special man and led March of the Living many times and each time that he reached the ovens which took his parents he would yell out their names. I think his story is of ultimate importance, not because of felafel but because of his willingness to tell his story and involve young people. Here Dugo tells his story, it must be heard for years to come because Dugo passed away this week at the age of 93. May his soul rest in peace and his family be consoled among the mourners of Zion. The skies over Europe are blazing, the weather steaming and we have to learn to take care of our earth. On Sunday Zvi drove to Tel Aviv to attend the dedication of a square in the name of our friend Jojo Naim’s Mother Rovina Arbarbanel Naim. A fine honour indeed. On Monday we went to the David Efron Dance Centre to watch the children in rehearsal. Such enthusiasm and joy in their dance, not hiphop but good old Israeli dancing led by the wonderful, amazing Liron Mussachy, daughter of our good friend. I love that the children of Hora Yerushalyim maintain the traditions, the Israeli folk dancing that brought joy to simpler times. Tuesday my colleagues of Impact-se came to me for a meeting. One advantage of where we live is that it’s convenient for almost everyone! I am overcome with admiration for the people I work with and the magical work they perform to bring tolerance to a world that is increasingly intolerant. Do look at the website, it is astonishing. On Wednesday we had a special treat. Yosef, my 18 year old grandson, came to stay. I think it’s a huge compliment that he loves to be with us! We went looking for parking near our favourite coffee shop – Pop Up Café in Kiriat Anavim – but despite several turns around the block not one parking spot was to be found! Everyone was out enjoying food before the fast! We came home and I made him his favourite edamame and mushroom pasta. He wasn’t at all bothered and at Zvi’s suggestion he watched the Israeli series “Red Skies” on the television. Trouble is he was so into the series that he caught up five episodes!! Yesterday was Tisha b’Av and we stayed home. Traditionally all restaurants and places of entertainment stay closed on Tisha b’Av, although some Tel Aviv restaurants decided to flout tradition and open their doors I happen to believe that the current political situation is not an excuse to be anti-religious, or anti-religion but rather to honour our traditions. But then I don’t live in Tel Aviv…….. and please don’t inundate me with accusations that I am anti-Tel Aviv, I’m not at all. It’s all about a mind set. Tonight we will spend Friday night with our friends Ronit and Yossi Dagan and then tomorrow evening we have been invited to Gigi and Ehud Tirosh so I don’t have to cook at all! As soon as I finish writing to you I will head off to Rachel and the family on that drive that I love! I actually stopped to take a photo for you last week but somehow it just didn’t do justice to the panorama of Jerusalem, barely distinguishing the hills covered in white homes and tall towers before me…… disappearing into the distance in two directions – toward the sea on the right and Bethlehem and Ramallah on the left. I will not be writing for two weeks! I am off to the UK to see my family. Gideon, Stephanie, Sammy, Olivia and Zachary will be joined by Karen, Joshua and Callie and then I will go to Cardiff to see my siblings Doreen and Ronnie and families. I will see friends when possible but I am so excited that I will have five grandchildren in one place hat it will be on the hop!! I often wonder if we learn anything while sitting and learning for major events like Tisha b’Av. Have we learned not to hate? Have we learned to accept that we are all different? I’m not just talking about Israel, nor Jews, but rather the world in general. We have a tendency to expect everyone to think our way. So to music. Kabbalat Shabbat means to receive Shabbat, the bride of Shabbat. Here Kippalive sings a medley of Friday night songs Miri Mesika sings of patience, positivity and hope. Perhaps we all need it right now. I have given you this song many times, but never too many times. Bridge Over Troubled Waters is what we need now in our ever increasingly angry world. The Shalva band, Tariq al Menhali and Arqam sing with the Jerusalem Symphony led by Gil Shochat. So, I’ll see you in a few weeks. I will have the joy of being with my London and NYC grandchildren for Shabbat as Gideon sings Kiddush in his glorious baritone voice. Please, I beg of you, talk to someone you disagree with, not to convince them of your point of view but to hear why they think what they think. Shabbat Shalom Sheila

Tuesday, 25 July 2023

Midweek update REasonableness

25thJuly, 2023 Mid-weekupdate  It’sbeen a long time since I wrote a mid-week update but since one should neverrely upon the international media for reports on what is happening here inIsrael, since they always have an ulterior motive, in fact I don’t rely uponany media reports except the ones with reporters on the spot. Actually eventhat isn’t always accurate because in one “on the spot reports” from thedemonstrations, as the reporter came on camera I heard a “Now” in thebackground and everyone started with noisemakers and flag waving……….. so, letme try to be rational, fair and true to myself and explain the last months,weeks and last night in as few words as possible. If emotions run into theexplanation I will not apologise because, I am in a state of confused emotions. Letme start with something most people do not know, about a wise lady called Dorothy de Rothschild, whose familydonated the money to build both the Jerusalem Knesset and later the exquisiteSupreme Court building. She made only one deeply symbolic demand.....that theSupreme Court building be slightly higher than the Knesset, because the law mustalways supersede the vagaries of politics. The planned, new, PrimeMinister’s Office will also be, symbolically, lower than the Supreme Courtbuilding Today is the morning after the vote in the Knesset. Ican't pretend that I am not terribly disappointed in members of a party thatonce upon a time was great, a party founded on the principles that built thisgreat democracy. However, this is still a thriving democracy with elements ofwhich we should be very proud. I am concerned that the shekel nose-divedagainst the dollar but equally know that despite the protests of even the mostsenior IDF soldiers, should the call come they will fight to protect us. The demonstrations which began with a relatively smallnumber of concerned people and grew and grew into a nationwide movement as peoplejoined in, like the walk from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which began with a fewhundred and grew along the way to many thousands. In 99% of cases thedemonstrations are quiet, civil and orderly but of course the young get veryemotional and sometimes angry and on occasion do things that are best leftundone. One of the saddest sights last night was watching formerChief of the Israeli Navy, Yoav Gallant, currently Minister of Defence, going toeach of the major players of this contentious law, trying to persuade them tohold back, present the law another day in a different form, but withoutsuccess. Despite his efforts he still voted with the government as did all of theLikud party. That over, what is the Reasonableness Standard and whatare its implications. I think we all understand the basics, by dint of its veryname, the Reasonableness Standard, and I knew that it would seriously cut theability of the Supreme Court to censure the Knesset, that’s very clear, but Ilooked for a simple explanation and found it, strangely enough in an articlefrom 2019, during Mr. Netanyahu’s last term of office. I had no idea it was onthe cards so long ago. This is from the Israel Democracy Institute.  The demonstrations will continue and my heart goes out tothe young policemen and women who no matter what they feel, whatever theirpolitical alliances, have to keep the rule of law, keep the traffic moving andcontrol the demonstrations - unfortunately receiving little financialcompensation. There are several claims lodged to the Supreme Courtdeclaring the new law illegal, the first from the Movement for Quality ofGovernment led by Eliad Shrager…. watch this space. I'msitting having my breakfast outside on the veranda looking around me enjoyingthe few minutes before the heat falls upon us. Like Israelis, reading thenewspaper filled me with trepidation, concerned for the frightening split insociety.. And then it happened. Aboutsix little tiny birds, their black feathers iridescent in the sun, came tovisit. They aren't hummingbirds, despite their ability to hover, their wingsflapping at a phenomenal rate, they're called Sunbirds and they drink nectar fromthe base of flowers rather than long tongues as the hummingbird. They are quitespectacular and have a wonderful little chirp. As they went from hibiscus tohibiscus from tree to tree the happy song ringing out in the morning, I beganto realise that there's so much hope in the world!  Perhaps we should learnfrom them that there is another way, one doesn’t have to drink from the top ofthe flower but rather from the base. Last night while having dinner I discoveredthat an old friend was related to David Ben-Gurion! Ben Gurion’s name originalname was Grin before it was Hebraicised. Adv. Yair Green is a direct relativeof the great man whose strength and determination are legendary. David BenGurion, a true leader, went against the Knesset majority, understood his placein history and declared the State of Israel! Yes,it is the day after the night before and yes, I'm very disappointed but I stillhave hope that this amazing country will come out of it changed and maybe better,for the fact that we're together. So many people came together, including youngpeople who care so deeply for this country that they are willing to give up onnights on the town to join nights on the street in what became a fight for ourlegal system. Iwish you a good day. I promise you that no matter what , we still live in themost amazing little country in the world.  -- If the media does not inform us we must inform the mediaMy Website      Sheila Silver Raviv Involvement