Friday 17 May 2024

Dedicated to Valeri Eran Silver z"l


17th May 2024

Day 224 of October


Shabbat Shalom dear friends.


This has been a week that left me so exhausted, and for so many reasons, that I just hope I'm able to talk to you with some sense of reason. 


A war is going on around us, the policies of our current government mean that not only are we not winning the war on the ground, we are losing the war of public opinion, losing the international media war and worst of all our country has been cut into 1/3 of its size.


I believe I have written before that one of the worst decisions of this dreadful government looked logical at the moment but as with most of their policies, without any thought of the future. While it was clearly essential for the kibbutzim and villages on the border with Gaza, those that were burned, destroyed and over a thousand people slaughtered, to be given homes, albeit temporary, elsewhere, their own homes unlivable, but by making hundreds of thousands of people refugees in their own country, both in the north and south, the brilliance of the Iranian – Hamas Hezb-Allah – war machine has created a situation whereby through constant bombing and missile attacks on those empty homes, nobody can go back. It may sound an upside-down philosophy on my part, but had the people been in those homes, our enemies would not have continued the destruction because their determination to win the information/emotional war throughout the world is at least as important to them as the physical war. This is a war of attrition on every level; a brilliant strategy, machinations of evil to influence the world media and clearly young minds and a weakening of this already tiny Jewish state.


There are those who fall for the media hype, yes even Jews, and seriously believe the insane idea that we are conducting genocide. The birthrate in Gaza is the highest in the entire region! Israel has never and will never want the death to any other peoples, sadly it is our enemies who want us gone. Just like that sad, sad poem about the Jews of Europe, Iran is just starting with the Jews of Israel, then the Jews of the world, The Christians, the moderate Moslems, the Hindus (perhaps you haven’t heard what happens in India), and Buddhists, until finally there will be nobody to fight for those who remain. We are the canary in the coal mine.


One last scream, I must get out of my system. President Biden is a Zionist and our greatest ally ever. He openly says that he disapproves of Netanyahu but that does not make him our enemy. You don’t know Edna Halbani but Edna was Head of Protocol in the Prime Minister’s Office for at least 20 years, and in a television interview yesterday she said that President Biden is not only the most amiable and caring of all the world leaders she tended to, but he is undoubtedly the most loyal ally of Israel, an Israel that he loves. Those who do not recognise it need to wake up. It is not a matter of political parties, it is matter of the man.


I have long wanted to get that off my chest, breaking my tradition of being the voice of apolitical reason, but felt that it coloured my impartiality, but like most Israelis, our love of Israel has become our only thought. The understanding that the defence policies has brought us too many deaths of incredible young men and women in the IDF has galvanized us in our grief. Israel is a tiny country where everyone knows everyone and the number of seriously injured and amputees is growing daily. We are exhausted. Exhausted from the remarks of two members of the government who are quoted in the International Court of Justice as if their idiocy is the policy of the State of Israel. The fact that South Africa, conceivably one of the most racist countries in the world, has taken Israel to the International Court of Justice is yet another insanity.


The highest level of Islam is a visit to Mecca to the Kaba, where men then add the title Haj to their name. This week a woman opened out a Palestinian flag at the Kaba and was immediately arrested by the guards who grabbed the flag.  She was taken away by the guards. I found it fascinating that in the West she would have been applauded but in Saudi Arabia she will have been punished.


However, and this is a huge however, a 20 year old, wonderful, beautiful young woman with the voice of an angel gave us hope! Eden Golan sang in the Eurovision Song Contest and although the judges were unkind the general public, all over the world, loved her and voted for her. I assume part of the reason is that hers was the best song – possibly the only normal song. She was shunned by other contestants and one of whom insisted that she be removed from her sight – and Eden had to go to a separate dressing room with guards. Another However, Eden sang incredibly (I’ll put the video at the end of the missive) and Britain, Italy and others gave her the maximum public votes! In fact, she said that the boos from the audience galvanized her to perform her very best!


Echoing the mood of the contestants, the professional judges awarded Israel a paltry 52 points, putting Israel well down the leaderboard. Then something remarkable happened. In the public vote, Israel was the overwhelming choice. An extraordinary 323 points – including a maximum 12 from the UK – propelled Eden in to fifth place. Eurovision is hardly a scientific poll but it does give an intriguing snapshot of public opinion. It's clear the protesters running amok in London and our universities do not represent the silent majority.


Following on from the Eurovision, here are two very important videos; Piers Morgan’s interview with Hen Mazzig and Chris Williamson with Douglas Murray (both Hen and Douglas are gay) about Gays for Gaza or as Douglas Murray says that’s like Turkeys for Thanksgiving! It related to the Eurovision but I beg of you to watch. I warn you that there is strong language in the Douglas Murray interview. and Hen with Piers Morgan responding to drag queens for Palestine


Yom H’Atzma’ut, was strange this year. We wanted to celebrate our incredible country but didn’t have the “cheshek” or inclination, for our usual big parties so we invited a few good friends for brunch and we managed to speak about family, gardens, food only occasionally of our real fears for the 77th year of Israel. We soared for most of our 76 years and our current shaky flight has to end in a safe landing.    


My exhaustion is partly from having driven over a thousand kilometres this week, but the emotional exhaustion comes from the news we received on Sunday. I have written many times about the Silver family who despite sharing my maiden name were not blood relations but family in every sense of the word. Valeri and Ira made Aliya from Moscow just one year after I did – in fact yesterday we discovered that it was one year to the day!  Both of them immediately began their new lives in Israel by reaching out to the Jewish world, working hard as emissaries and within both the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod. In fact, in the last years, instead of retiring and taking up hobbies, Valeri chose to greet new Olim from Russian speaking countries as they arrived at the airport, including the Ukrainians who came find refuge. He cared about every single one of them ensuring they were taken care of in their various hotels. To our deep sadness, dismay and sorrow, Valeri passed away suddenly on Sunday, far too young at only 62 years old, just two months after they moved to the city of Ashkelon, to their dream apartment. They are surrounded by loving friends, young women who were in the IDF with Sheli surround her with love, their Russian speaking friends ensure they are not alone and Habad brings them lunch each day, lunch and consolation. I cannot believe that Valeri will not be at our Seder table next year as they have for the last 30 years, it doesn’t seem possible. My favourite Valeri story is that he grew up speaking Hebrew, his mother and grandfather were Israeli but moved to Russia, mistakenly believing that Communism in Russia was as socially inclined as in the West, and when he and his beautiful Ira came to Israel, he discovered that his perfect Hebrew was heavily accented! It still makes me smile, in fact when I think of Valeri, I smile. Ira and Valeri gave us two incredible Israelis, Tomer and Sheli, two young people who have served this country and continue to be proud Israelis, something that their father wanted more than anything.


I have no words left so I will give you my choice of songs


Hurricane, which was originally called October Rain, in a special animated version dedicated to a fallen soldier but meant for all those who fell both in the IDF and on October 7th.


When Zvi took a Keren Hayesod mission to Moscow in 1990, it was not only his first visit to Russia, it was when he met Ira and Valeri. One of the events, where Valeri joined, them took place in a restaurant where they heard the original version of many songs that made Aliya during the first years of the State of Israel, songs that gained new Hebrew lyrics. Among them Katyusha, which became Agas v’Tapuach, or Pear and Apple.


On Remembrance Day. Omer Adam sang a special interpretation of the song Rikma Enoshit, or Human Tissue, dedicated to those who were slaughtered on October the 7th singing together with the families. The words “When I die something of you in me will die within me. When you die, something of you in me will die within you. Because all of us, yes all of us, are all one living human tissue and if one of us goes from us something dies in us and something, stays with him


I wish you a Shabbat shalom. I wish you good friends, good health and good news


With love from Jerusalem







Monday 6 May 2024

Yom haShoah 5984


6th of May, 2024

28th Nissan 5784

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel


A few minutes ago, Zvi and I stood outside in the rain, the skies weeping with us as the wail of the siren echoed our sadness, the siren whose wail brought Israel to attention. Today is the Hebrew date, the 28th of Nissan, which was chosen because it was the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the date we fought back.  I want to tell you something, something that I was ashamed to think until 7 months ago, I believe that “Never Again” is an empty phrase, an empty phrase that induced a false sense of security because, it is now “Yet Again”


Not only is the rise of anti-Semitism becoming a tsunami, Jews themselves are blaming Israel for making trouble for them in their adopted countries, falling into the trap of “keep quiet and it will be alright” not understanding that if Israel doesn’t fight this enemy, then the fate of Jews all over the world is sealed.


Last night I watched a televised conversation with Ofir Engel and his Safta, his grandmother, or probably his great-grandmother. The topic of conversation was riveting as Hannah, as a Holocaust Survivor, described her horror when she heard of the conditions in which her beloved grandson was held by Hamas. The physical and emotional torture, hiding in the darkness afraid to make a sound, believing that someone would come to rescue him but unable to communicate with another soul, brought back memories of her childhood, her lost childhood in the Shoah.


How tragic that just two or three generations after the Shoah the ties that bind them irrevocably are the shared experience of Jew hatred. I will not call the 7th of October a Shoah, there is only one horrific and specific Shoah, but it shook us Israelis to our very core to find ourselves vulnerable, but you, those of you outside Israel, a whole generation of young people, your future leaders, have become the modern day brownshirts.


Remember the anthem of the Jewish people, the words of Naftali Herz Imber prophetic, The Hope – Ha Tikvah. We must stand tall, we must remember our long, long history, the people of the Bible right here on this land. Today, Hatikvah is so much more than a hope, Israel is the reality, just as we read in the Passover story, we came home; we are a strong democratic nation in a sea of despotic, tyrannical, dictatorships, and we are prepared to fight for our right to be.


Today we are independent, not dependent upon anyone, and if we have to, if the tsunami of hate and lies, overtakes the West completely, we will survive alone. We never want to be alone but our belief that good always overcomes evil was apparently naïve.


First, let’s listen to the children of the Jewish school in Munkacs in the Ukraine during the 1930’s before anyone knew about the Shoah or the State of Israel, who knows how many survived.


Here the beautiful young people, our children, who put their lives on the line to protect us all, the IDF sing the song they know is theirs  


The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.






Friday 3 May 2024

The times they are a'changin'

5th of May, 2024


Shabbat Shalom, I wish you a quiet weekend


Where do I start?


Students, George Soros, Iran, Police, demonstrations, hate, more hatred, and even more hatred? I suppose I should begin with the Students. Let’s face it, students demonstrate against power, always have, always will. In fact they demonstrate against almost anything because that’s what students do – but – and this is a huge but, this is different.


CNN and others have reported that many of the demonstrators are not students at all but instigators, inciters, there to create chaos and intentional anti-Semitism, anti-Israel, anti-American sentiment.


It is not a coincidence that the tents, in almost all the campuses, are identical. What does that tell us?


Young people wear kaffiyas, Palestinian flags, without even knowing where the PA or Gaza are. These are your future leaders! These young, ridiculously gullible, readily radical young people who have been brainwashed by the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel cant, are your future leaders.


The 7th of October has conveniently been forgotten and the very students who fight for women’s rights support those who raped and tortured.


One fascinating outcome of the violent demonstrations in the Ivy League universities is reported by Forbes – employers are no longer looking to those elite universities for new blood, they much prefer young people from universities where they work hard and demonstrate less! Another is that Congress voted to widen the definition of Anti-Semitism in the Awareness of Anti-Semitism Act requiring the education department to apply the definition as outlined by the Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.


Two videos deeply affected me this week, for very different reasons. “Screams Before Silence” is a documentary of October 7th. Difficult but essential viewing as young people tell their stories alongside what they recorded.  The second is infinitely lighter but just as important. Noa Tishbi has teamed with Emmanuel Acho talking openly about their new book “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Jew


Just in case you thought that the UN investigation into the participation of UNWRA workers on 7th of October might elicit some kind of truth, it didn’t. Impact-se delivered, personally, a 245 page document detailing the UNWRA involvement and knowledge of the events of October 7th and how UNWRA education had culminated in the massacre, yet the result was a foregone conclusion that UNWRA had nothing to do with it proving yet again that the United nations, as a whole, no longer fulfils the mandate for which it was formed.


Isn’t it strange? We Israelis worry more about you in the USA, Europe, UK, than you do for us? In a surreal fashion our lives here have taken a path, a daily repetition of deep regret for the families of hostages, the determination to bring them home and the understanding that our current government is not capable of any positive action. Having said that, life does go on. Just a few days ago I was in the centre of Jerusalem, something I usually avoid because the traffic is terrible and the parking worse. As I walked to my destination, I realised that the area was full of new coffee shops, hotels and bars and all of them were buzzing with activity, young people sitting and eating Israeli breakfast on tables set out on the pavements. It was a surreal situation, watching the faces, hearing snippets of conversation as I passed; visually it was impossible to grasp that we are at war but the conversations told me that we are.


Over the next two weeks, we will mourn the Holocaust, that eerie siren will remind us of what was and may be again; a week later we mourn our fallen, both in battle and in terror, the numbers of fallen soldiers has risen by over 600 and the victims of terror by an astonishing 1,500 or more over the last 6 months. As always, the solemnity of Remembrance Day will blend into the joy, this year a very subdued joy, of Independence Day. Too many Israelis will not be in their homes, refugees in their own country, after what I believe to have been a bad decision by this government to remove entire towns and villages from the North and South. Not just the obvious citizens living along the border with Gaza, those who suffered most on that ghastly day. The result? In the minds of the Iranian backed enemy, they succeeded in cutting the size of Israel down to the central region, without anyone, not Jew, Christian, Moslem, Druze, Bedouin, Circassian, no Israeli in the area that they bombard on a daily basis.


My goodness, I am depressing myself as I write the words, but it is our situation, one to which we have become accustomed. As always, I digressed, I meant to tell you why we worry more about you than about ourselves. Your enemy is not blatant, is not a face hidden behind a balaclava, it is your neighbours, your children’s friends, your academics and hides in unexpected places. The lies have overtaken the truth and Goerring’s plan of well repeated lies overwhelming the truth is working yet again. Most Western leaders understand and President Biden and Prime Minister Sunak have gone above and beyond in their attempts to stop the tsunami of hatred, but it is enveloping life as you/we know it.


I hope you don’t think that I am being flippant by changing mood, but alongside this chaos, Israel is winning prizes and medals in sport and science!


In science, Israel scored no less than 18 medals in the Science Olympiad. Revital Wallach, a 12th grade student who thinks physics is cool, competed against 74 countries and won a gold medal in the Youth Olympiad in Physics and was even announced as the most outstanding student in the world in the field of physics. Nir Cohen, won a gold medal in the International Chemistry Olympiad; Ori Frankel, won a silver medal in the International Mathematics Olympiad; Yair Shoham, won a silver medal in Mathematics.


Unbelievable performances by Israel's Karate team in North Macedonia Europe Championships where the Israeli team of all ages and various competitions won an astonishing 19 Gold, 5 Silver and 5 Bronze medals! 


Yarin Shriki, who survived the October 7th massacre, won a Gold Medal in the Paris World Jujitsu Championships. He dedicated his win to his friend Yochai Ben Zacharia who was killed at the Nova Music Festival.


Raz Hershko, the Israeli Judoka, won Gold in the European Judo Championships! Israel won more medals than any other country.


Passover has yet again passed over! It was a busy time, entertaining friends who popped in or announced that they were coming, which is what I love. Apart from Seder night we had another three dinners and a lunch and as we ended the festival I saw the inside of my fridge for the first time in years. It was empty, devoid of food, the shelves bearing a few lonely left-overs! When the days of Passover are so close to the Sabbath, we tend to feel that we have entered Groundhog Day, the special meals running into one another! However, it’s over for another year, all our dishes and utensils are either down in the store room (thank you Zvi), the boxes carefully labelled for next year, or back in their rightful places in the kitchen cupboards. This Passover really was different to all other Passovers as we set a place for a hostage, used yellow napkins and said an extra prayer for the return of our hostages.


There is one very special person who lights the room wherever she goes. Her real name is Alex, but ever since she was about 12 or 13 years old she had a hairstyle which gained her the nickname Poodle, and Poodle she remained for the last 40 years or so! Rachel and I met Poodle in the Nehama coffee shop at the entrance to Givat Ze’ev the day after Passover. We sat amid racks upon racks of freshly baked breads, of every nature, which seemed to disappear before we had time to take in the aroma! Talk about going like hot cakes! Half baguettes and multi-seeded rolls, one would think that these people hadn’t seen bread for a week…… oh I forgot, they hadn’t. Anyway, our table was in the corner, literally surrounded by the most glorious aroma and we just enjoyed being together.  It was fascinating to hear that Poodle and her lovely husband David, were unsure about coming, having listened to the news on British TV, especially since they brought their sons to have the Passover Seder, but to her amazement, once here, they found that life here goes on. It’s a different life but we accept our new reality, understanding that we are fighting for our very existence, but as Poodle said, she goes to the supermarket, museums and everything feels just as safe as ever. For both Rachel and I, this very special lady, one of Daniel’s closest friends, brings light and a sense of confidence into our lives.


I’m thrilled to tell you that we have had many messages over the past week from friends who are coming to Israel soon and want to meet up with us. Of course the number of airlines is limited (crews watch too much BBC and CNN) but all the Israeli airlines are working overtime! When friends come to visit, when friends come to tell you that despite it all they love you and want to hug us all, life takes on a different perspective.


That’s it! I swear that I can smell the aroma of Rachel’s Challot (she promised me some today) calling me to see her and the children. I don’t want you to think that the only reason I go to see my daughter is because after we hug, she always has a hot, fresh from the oven, baby challah, a wonderful cup of tea and egg salad waiting for me on the table. The girls leave their studies to come out and hug me, real hugs, and Yosef tries to come back from his grandparents to complete the set.


Tomorrow we will celebrate Gili’s 15th birthday. One of the greatest advantages of a second marriage is that we have amazing shared grandchildren. Gili is my granddaughter Ayala’s closest friend, spending whole days talking to each other on WhatsApp!


Zvi is getting ready to go to his parliament in the Botanical Gardens. I already know the subjects they’ll discuss. If only they were the real parliament, the real government, but then that’s another story altogether.


And so to music. Yet again we find so many lyricists are indeed prophets and commentators of what is happening in this world of ours.


One such prophet is Bob Dylan aka Robert Zimmerman, “The Times They Are A’Changin”


Hope, Tikva is not only our National Anthem, it’s what keeps us going! This wonderfully happy song all about Tikva made my morning!


Five wonderful Israeli actors, all of whom are over a certain age, created a gentle satirical programme called Zehu Zeh which means That’s It. They began to sing at the end of their programmes and their careers took off in a totally different direction – they were wonderful! Other stars joined them each week and…….. Here they sing Lu Yehi – Let It Be, music and lyrics by Naomi Shemer. Their guests are Meir Banai and Shaike Levi. This a prayer more than a song  


I wish you a Shabbat shalom, a good weekend with love from our Jerusalem, the city for all religions, for all faiths, the city whose dazzling beauty lives on in all our hearts.




Friday 26 April 2024

Pots, Pans and Pesach


26th April, 2024

October the 203rd


Shabbat Shalom, Moadim le Simcha (what one says in the middle days of a festival wishing joy) I hope that your Passover Seder was meaningful and introduced a little joy into our complex lives. I promise to tell you all about our later, but want to begin with the news and a little story of birds.


The Indian or Common Mynah bird has a beautiful song, a song so loud that it drowns out the songs of others. It has the ability to mimic the songs of almost every bird they hear and their numbers are growing rapidly. However, the Indian Mynah is not indigenous, began with a very few and despite its beautiful song its bright yellow beak, yellow being a sign of danger in nature and tells the story of its aggressive nature. The fact is that during the mating season it will attack anything in its path from small creatures to humans. This morning, as I sat outside on our veranda, waiting in vain for the tiny, exquisite sun birds to visit the flowers as they do every day, I realised, they would not come to gather the nectar out of fear of the Mynahs sitting on our wall. My lateral thinking brain immediately understood the parallel, that the Mynahs are an absolute analogy for our situation. The song of our enemies is louder than ours and others fear to sing.


Avigail Idan was just 3 years old when she was taken hostage by Hamas alone, after seeing her parents slaughtered by Hamas. Yesterday, she sat upon the knee of a caring President of the United States, the one who promised to bring her home. To see the little girl playing and laughing in the Oval Office was almost surreal, but not unexpected from a rare politician, one who actually does what he promises. I have some friends who are blinded by politics, but whoever you vote for it is irrelevant, President Biden has stood by Israel, despite his feelings toward our Prime Minister. His unwavering support since October 7th has given courage to other nations to support Israel verbally, militarily and morally.


Hersh Goldberg-Polin is alive, or was alive as of two days ago. The video clip filmed by Hamas shows a very different Hersh, but he is alive. His mother, the phenomenal Rachel Goldberg-Polin, a true Jewish lioness, fighting with everything she has for her son’s return, sat with her husband and spoke about her fight after seeing the Hamas video. Rachel was declared one of the world’s most influential people. Here she talks about what it means to know tha tone’s loved ones are hostages to Hamas


Columbia University, right there in New York is a hotbed of hatred and anti-Semitism. Even a few months ago even our worst nightmare would not have imagined an Imam calling students, students just like your sons, daughters and grandchildren, calling them to prayer on the front lawn of a premier university and shouting “Kill the Jews” “Free, free Palestine” and other twisted cries. It is utterly mind-boggling, terrifying the speed at which it happened. Young, naïve, pliable minds have been taken in by the lies, the Goerring-like lies which surround them. Not only Columbia, similar scenes can be found all over the USA. Entrepreneur Robert Kraft has withdrawn his funding of Columbia University.  Why has it reached this point? Because University Presidents and Deans thought that freedom of speech was more important than stopping the demonstrations at source. Remember the Mynah birds.


If you think it is only happening in North America, think again. Australia was the chosen country of so many Holocaust survivors who wanted nothing more than to be as far away from the cruelty of Europe that they went half a world away to find peace, and they found it. Melbourne has a thriving community that has given unwavering support to Israel as proud Australians and has given so much to Australia in every field, but this week the unthinkable happened. Young anti-Israel activists went around a school asking the students for a show of hands as to whether they agree with their view (anti-Israel) and taking photographs to identify those who responded. I can think of nothing more terrifying for a community that really doesn’t deserve it. So sad when it happened so close to Anzac Day.


It is irrelevant as to whether one is Jewish, Christian, Hindi, Buddhist, Atheist or Agnostic, the tide is becoming a Tsunami.


The United Nations investigation into UNWRA found that there was no proof that UNWRA workers were involved in the Hamas attack on Southern Israel and the rapes that occurred Well, did you expect a different decision?  Impact-se ( ) had given the EU, UN, USA, UK, indeed every relevant country and organisation, proof that UNWRA workers not only taught hatred but they themselves were involved. We will fight this tooth and nail and our obvious allies are with us all the way. Again, I ask you to open the link to Impact’s work, not only the introduction of tolerance to the schoolbooks of many countries in the MENA region, but fighting our cause with blind and deaf countries in Europe.


To understand the anomaly in the funding decisions of the United Nations one must look at simple numbers. Rwanda, a war and famine struck country in Africa with a population of nearly 14 million souls received just $631 million in the period 2018-2023 where as Gaza, not the whole Palestinian Authority, just Gaza with a population of fractionally over 2 million souls received $2.3 BILLION JUST THIS MONTH! Are black faces, black African lives less important or is it the fact that there are 56 Moslem countries making decisions in the United Nations?


Not everything is bad news however! Yosef Taktuk from Kfar Yarka, a Druze village in the north of Israel, won first place in the European Kickboxing Championship, proudly representing Israel. Well done Yosef!


The Atid Cramim Binyamina High School won First place in the world in robotics, out of 6,000 competitors, in a competition initiated by the Technion University in Haifa.


I went to the fabulous Israel Museum this week. It really is exceptional, the permanent exhibits of both archaeology and Judaica are worth a full day of viewing, but this time I went with my friend Ronit who insisted I see a few small temporary exhibits. She led me to a couple of small side rooms which held a very special exhibit all about an exceptional man but the name of Erich Brauer. Erich Brauer was born in Germany and came to the nascent state of Israel in the 1930’s with one firm intent, to record the various Jewish ethnic groups in Jerusalem. Erich Brauer was an anthropologist who specialised in ethnology. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as ethnologist, if I had only known that would have been my choice of career. Anyway, as usual I digress. Brauer’s works are phenomenal. He was an outstanding artist, photographer and scientist, his records impeccable. He recorded the Bukharian community but found them to snobbish to respond and he particularly loved the Yemenite community for their archetypical Middle Eastern Jewish traditions and dress.


And so to Seder Night! I will not bore you with the preparations, the switching of dishes and utensils, the level of cleaning etc even before starting to cook; oh dear, I just did! Anyway, the table was set, the seder plate ready holding its symbols reminding us of our time as slaves in Egypt, but I felt something was missing, just didn’t know what. Zvi came home with the answer, yellow paper napkins. I sat and made 16 yellow paper symbols of the yellow ribbons of the hostage families, one for each person and felt that the table was not only beautiful, it was complete. Our guests began to arrive and we sat down to sing the songs of centuries, the children asking four questions, beginning with “Why is this night different to all other nights” and so the story begins, some in Aramaic and some in Hebrew, two languages that have survived the test of thousands of years and are still in use today. Four languages around the table, Hebrew (obviously), Russian, English and Spanish but then came the meal and all conversation in all four languages turned to other things, when not enjoying the Chopped liver, salads, Chicken soup, beef, chicken and fish, roast veggies, etc etc etc…….of course all home-made. We then said grace after meals, opened the door for the herald of better things Elijah, and then the part that the children waited patiently for, the songs! The one they love most is Chad Gadya – Only one kid, which in our home is accompanied by many appropriate animal sounds, ending with boooooooo for the Angel of Death and a huge communal cheer for the Almighty!


Not satisfied with 16 guests of Seder night, the very next day, lunchtime, we invited other loved ones. Zvi’s cousins Rachel and Yossi Ribak and Samuel Bettsak who was with us the night before too. Samuel is a Panamanian who has lived in Atlanta for many, many years and is a regular visitor and volunteer here in Israel and a long time friend. His wife Debbie went to Colombia to spend her lovely Mother Marianne’s 95th birthday with her and Samuel chose to spend his Seder with us! Our friend Sam Albaranes made up the numbers. Tonight at our Friday night table we have friends. Irit and Yitzik Lev, Irit and Uri Dotan and Nattie and Yolli Zonszein. It will be lovely, especially since Zvi rushed out this morning to buy me a new soup saucepan since I suddenly realised that I don’t have a milky saucepan for Passover – I told you it’s complicated!  


Music speaks to me in a way that simple words cannot and this week I chose songs that speak tomes


Rami Kleinstein is a very special singer, a good man, and he wrote a song that really tells the story of how Jews survive even the worst of situations. Called “Little Gifts” Matanot Ktanot in Hebrew he reminds us of how much we have to be grateful for. Beautiful


Eden Golan will sing at the Eurovision Song Contest this week. The lyrics were changed as being too political in reference to October 7th and now meet the rules of Eurovision and this brave, amazing singer will stand proud with changed lyrics and her amazing voice


Al Kol Eleh, Above all this, is my favourite Israeli song, I am always deeply moved by Naomi Shemer’s words, the Honey and the Sting, written long ago, about life in Israel. The young soldiers and IDF orchestra together with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in a very special rendition


That’s it lovely people. I hope you remember to see the beauty around you, to take a break from the TV news media which seems to only talk of doom and gloom. Remember to feel joy with your family and thank heaven for your friends. Walk in the countryside, look out from your window and enjoy the view and best of all, plant a tree, a bush or just spring flowers because remember what Martin Luther (the original one) said when asked what he would do if told the world would end tomorrow “I would plant an apple tree today” in other words, don’t necessarily believe the words of doom, and do something positive to ensure our future.


I send you love, a lot of love, and strength. Think of those hostages tonight, when you light the candles, be they Shabbat Candles or just to light your life a little. Remember our view over Jerusalem and that wonderful golden glow at sunset.


Shabbat Shalom












Friday 19 April 2024

Missiles and Matza


19th April 2024

11th Nissan, 5784

195 days since October 7th



Tonight we begin Shabbat haGadol, the great Shabbat, directly before Pesach. We read from Leviticus 14 – 16 and learn all about Elijah whose role in Judaism and Pesach are fundamental.


Shabbat Shalom to all who care, Shabbat shalom to all who believe in our ability to survive and thrive once again, just as we did in the story of Pesach Haggadah (Passover story). Reading the story of the the Children of Israel’s passage from slavery in Egypt to freedom in our own land will be read in millions of homes in just three days. Not only Jews will read the story, many Christians who understand the significance will also read it, although few who are not Jewish will eat bitter herbs or eggs in salt water!!!


We woke this morning to hear that Israel had retaliated to the colossal Iranian attack of Saturday night. Oh, I forgot, we didn’t chat since then. OK I’ll start at the beginning. We had a lovely Shabbat, quiet, eating, walking through the nature reserve and chatting to neighbours, basically, doing what we love to do on Shabbat. That evening we watched the news then, what????? Iran was attacking Israel? Rockets, drones and ballistic missiles literally raining down on us? How can it be? Then the announcement that the ETA of the missiles etc was anything from 2 to 8 hours. The tension rose but for some reason I trusted the IAF to deal with everything, actually, there was nothing we could do but wait and check the contents of our emergency foodstuffs in the Safe Room. We were on line with our closest friends all over the world, they seemed to know more than we did. What’s that? American (USAF) and British (RAF) planes joined the Israel Air Force to repel and eliminate the various flying objects and keep us safe, joined in part by the Jordanians and the Saudis, a very important aspect of our common enemy. Red Alerts (sirens) all over Israel! My fingers were sore from responding to everyone on WhatsApp. By 02:00 we were exhausted so we did what all good Israelis who have seen many wars do, we went to sleep. 700 varied lethal flying objects sent from a huge and powerful country to eliminate a tiny country deemed as an enemy. Why enemy?  Because the Jews dared to return to an abandoned corner of what they see as an Islamic Empire. Imagine if any other country were to launch 700 missiles on another, they would be flattened out of existence in the retaliation!


The most ironic aspect to this situation is the Russia/Iran alliance – the Putin/Khameini alliance. The godless allied with the religious fanatics is surely the epitome of diplomatic irony!


Apparently, the response was not huge, nothing compared to the attack, but hit a specific target near Isfahan. Of course, Ben Gvir was very disappointed, called the retaliation “dardeleh” which means minimal in Hebrew slang, but thank heaven he doesn’t make decisions on such things.


Not everything is bad news however.


The United States, the Biden Administration, has made the decision to withhold over $400 million from UNWRA based primarily on Impact-se’s reports. We warned about the hate education that ultimately created the atmosphere for October 7th years ago and our reports are the basis for the consideration for most Western countries. Please watch our exceptional CEO Marcus Sheff explain on i24 news.


Finally and at last, Minouche Shafik, President of Columbia University, has reached even her limit.  A large pro-Palestinian (anti-Israel) demonstration/sit in on the front lawns of the University was dispersed by NYPD who arrested over 100 demonstrators. Soon after answering questions at a Congressional Committee, where she prevaricated before finally admitting that the anti-Semitism on campus was beyond control, Shafik ordered the police to break up the demonstration. For your curiosity as to who this woman is……. Baroness Nemat Talaat Shafik, is an Egyptian, British, American aristocrat who also served on the British government. Her understanding of American students is, to say the least, scant.


Israel is, of course, known for her innovation and innovators in almost every field. The man most praised this week is Dr. Daniel Gold. Brigadier General (res) Daniel Gold, inventor of the Iron Dome.   In fact, not just this week, not just this month, not just this year but the years of constant bombardment from Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen…..the list is long, Daniel Gold saved thousands of Israeli lives. I know that Facebook is the site for those too old to be bothered with Tik Tok, but it was incredible to see the outpouring of love and admiration for this brilliant young man.


Seder Tables were set in many countries around the world, not in homes but in public places. Empty chairs, each place setting in hope for the return of the hostages. Even the most optimistic amongst us is losing hope. Realism is creeping in and we understand that our enemy is cornered and like every cornered rat they react with violence. An interesting point that was revealed (not verified)  on the Israeli Channel 13, not given to false claims, is that Qatar offered to exile the Hamas leaders living in utter luxury at their expense in their talks for the return of the hostages and it was not taken seriously by the allies. Such action would mean that the Qatari demand that we do not eliminate the Hamas leaders on Qatari soil would no longer be relevant.


And now to wonderful, normal, boring, traditional events! Pesach cleaning! I started late this year, my mind on Iran rather than Exodus, but somehow, managed quietly to not only catch up but be ahead of myself! The hardest aspect of the preparations is undoubtedly shopping. Imagine that Sunday morning, the morning after the night before, when I thought everyone would be sleeping late after Iran’s bombardment, I went to my less favourite supermarket, Rami Levi, to stock up on the special Kosher for Passover items I hadn’t bought previously. I was not alone! Oh boy was I wrong! It wasn’t the manoeuvering between the multiple trolleys trying to work out which shelves held the precious items, I actually succeeded, more or less, but then of boy, then I realised that the long line of people chatting beside their trolleys was not a social event, it was the queue for the check outs!! It would appear that many of the cashiers simply hadn’t turned up for work. I seriously thought of abandoning my shopping and running but, that’s just too anti-social for me, so I stayed where I was, began chatting to my co-shoppers, discovered that one of them had worked with Zvi many years ago, two were from Abu Ghosh and virtually everyone was patient and tolerant of the wait! Perhaps the night before led to a sense of proportion!


I would love to meet Hussein Jabar, an Israel who lives in Abu Ghosh. Hussein who works in the Ramada Hotel Jerusalem, becomes a very wealthy man for just one week every year. The Jerusalem Rabbis trust Hussein with the task of buying all the Hametz, or not Pesach foodstuffs, every year and that includes entire businesses too. He signs a document proving that it all belongs to him then “reneges” on the deal after Passover! Hussein is not only a very wealthy man for a week, he is also a wonderful, utterly trustworthy man all year round.


In 1970 Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was interviewed on British Thames Television. Her responses, her ability to explain are outstanding. Oh, that she were here today.


The Passover meal, the Seder, is very much a family affair. We begin with the blessing over a glass of wine, children recite 4 questions, the head of the household responds with the story of our determined fight for freedom from slavery, we discuss the four sons (I believe the four generations of dispersion), ten plagues and then food, starting with blessings over the bitter herbs, mortar, matzo, parsley…… my favourite par tis the charoset, or mortar representative, for which I follow my grandfather’s (my beautiful, beloved Zeidy) recipe. Ground almonds, grated apple, a little wine or grape juice, a little very fine chiffonade of lettuce to represent the combining, a dash of cinnamon and mix until perfect. Best made a day before. Yum!  After eating hard boiled eggs in salt water, Never mind about my description, here’s the real thing  


Why is this night different from all other nights? Well, this night we will set a place for those who cannot celebrate Passover this year, we will drink a fifth cup of wine, we will say a prayer for their return and for their families and for the families of those who can never come home, the victims of the 7th of October. This night will be different from so many over the past 80 years. We prayed that we would never need to say those extra prayers but pray we must. Here I combined the words of several suggested prayers to express what I feel.


The bitter taste of Maror is on our tongues, our tears are in the salt water. On this night when we celebrate our freedom we cannot rejoice until every soul heartlessly held captive is released. Help us, dear God, to bring them home. Please plant brotherhood, peace and friendship in everyone’s hearts. Remove jealousy and baseless hatred, and spread over us the shelter of Your peace; and we should soon merit to sing before You a new song.”


The songs this week came to me easily. The first is in Hebrew, but doesn’t need words to understand the pain behind the voices. Based on a song written after the Yom Kippur war, it is called the Children of the Winter of 1923 Ha Yeladim Shel Horef 1923


The next song is taken from the Passover Seder, the lyrics are part of a prayer that is so appropriate this year “And this (Hashem’s blessings and the Torah) is what kept our fathers and what keeps us surviving. For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and Hashem saves us from their hands.” Sung by Yaakov Shwekey and Yonatan Razel who arranged the music.


The last song may seem inappropriate considering the way things are in the world today but I refuse to apologise for my choice or my attitude. The highly irreverent Monty Python writers and performers, so intrinsically British with a clever and irreverent sense of humour hit the nail right on the head. Life of Brian, one of my all time favourite films, made fun of all religions yet managed to make us laugh at ourselves. So here it is, not the original but Eric Idle singing his heart out to the delight of a huge audience. “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”


I must quote my adored Auntie Lena yet again. In the days when we all collected autographs, usually family signatures, she always, but always wrote this blessing “May all your troubles be as thin as Matzah and they will surely Passover”


May all your troubles be as thin as Matzah, may our hostages come home and the families who lost their loved ones be consoled. We are a strong people; history has taught us to hold our heads high and expect better days.


Shabbat Shalom dear wonderful people. Remember the final words of the Passover Haggadah

Next Year in Jerusalem



With love