Wednesday, 4 October 2017

171004 Succot and Las Vegas

4th October 2017

Chag Sameach, Moadim le Simcha.

Today I wanted to make you laugh, to tell you about the tap tap tap tap tap of frantic succah building, long into the night after Yom Kippur; I wanted to describe the beautiful decorations made by our grandchildren, in Israel, Britain and New York; I really wanted you to know that our pomegranate tree has loads of sweet juicy fruits this year but somehow my brain can't reach that happy place – not after the diabolical insanity that hit Las Vegas.

I have been trying to think of how to express my sorrow and distress at what happened in Las Vegas. The sheer magnitude of the horror and evil are beyond imagination and certainly beyond my understanding. Clearly my heart goes out to the city, the families and the people, but so much more.

One question keeps running through my mind - not why did he do it, perhaps we will never know -  my question is - how, on G-ds good earth, did a man manage to buy, acquire and accumulate dozens of weapons. Not just weapons but automatic rifles adapted with "bump stock" to increase the speed of firing!!

There is a saying in the theatre -"If there is a gun in the first act then someone will die in the second"

Guns are death not freedom and nothing will convince me otherwise.

Natural disasters are natural – albeit horrific but other than taking cover or building strong homes there is nothing we could do to prevent the fatal destruction – guns are not natural…………..

If I hear one more person say that security checks are an insult to one's freedom I will shout! I do not live in a police state, as if having one's handbag checked outside public places and shopping malls is an insult to freedom. Honestly, grow up!!!! I can walk freely wherever I wish without fear, yet here in Israel where there is a relatively limited danger of attack, only soldiers and police have automatic weapons; no private individual is allowed more than one gun and in order to achieve that must go through psychological testing, training and have a clear police record.

Growing up in the UK where even the "Bobby" on the beat doesn't carry a gun it is anathema to me.

So you see, the horror of Las Vegas has taken over my brain.

We must not dwell too much because Sukkot is a joyous harvest celebration  and people of all nations will be in Jerusalem for the Tabernacles Festival

I am about to go to see Rachel, Igal and the children and inspect their huge Succah – which grows exponentially each year!!! Saturday night is Igal's birthday (Happy birthday Igal) and all the big Rabbis of the Jerusalem area come to visit the Succah to pay their respects to the young man who does so much Chessed. Rachel has been cooking for days of course but each and every one of them will have a feast – and the children will be a big help.

Up and over Har Shmuel – Samuel's Mount – past Samuels Tomb carefully glancing right over the phenomenal panorama of Jerusalem all the way to the sea. Coming home the car will be redolent with the aroma of Rachel's freshly baked Challot which will adorn our table tonight. Zvi's bags are packed as he leaves tomorrow night for Mexico to see old friends from the Yiddische Schule where he spent his teenage years and to speak to various communities. He will also be in San Diego to speak so if you want to hear his mellifluous tones – check out where he will be.

I will not be home alone – I am going to check out Gideon, Stephanie, Sammy, Olivia and Zachary's Succah!! I will dance on Simchat torah with my beautiful grandchildren and I will meet the new family member for the first time – Maple the dog!!!

I wish you a safe and joyous Succot filled with delicious fruit and waving palm branches with willow and myrtle and the Citron (the Lulav and Etrog). May your Succah (Tabernacle) always be filled with friends and family

One song keeps running through my head – Pete Seeger's Where Have All the Flowers Gone Not for Sukkot but for Las Vegas and every country that threatens another

To lift our spirits a beautiful Sukkot song

With love from glorious Jerusalem

Friday, 29 September 2017

170929 Har Adar, Mekel, Yom Kippur

29th September, 2017

Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova and Gmar Hatima Tova.

Tonight we have a chance to change, a chance to improve ourselves and to atone for the things we did or said. Forgiveness is not automatic, we must pledge to do better and most importantly of all, we must apologise in person to those we have offended or hurt. It is not enough to regret words that came out of your mouth like spears – one must go to the person we shot down and express our determination never to hurt them again. Yom Kippur is not just about refraining from food – it is about Tikkun Adam – it is a promise to elevate ourselves above petty, thoughtless comments.

This has been a dreadful week in Israel. Beyond the tragedies that befell the world at the hands of nature we have the tragedies that man causes man.

Imagine living in a sleepy dormitory town, beautiful houses, manicured gardens, professional people, generally left wing on "Kav ha Tefer" the seam-line; you have someone who comes to work as a handyman cum cleaner every week and he becomes a friend. Jamal Nimer was one of the workers and was specially loved by those in whose homes he worked. One woman described him as a family member, sitting for breakfast with the family before work and chatting over coffee at his break he claimed to be repulsed by the extremists who became terrorists. He worked for her for 4 years. Jamal was not all he appeared to be.

Jamal was 37 years old, married with 4 children but he had a secret – he beat his wife and she left him escaping to Jordan, leaving him to fend for the 4 children. This week, when he came to the checkpoint, the guards sensed something different, called the IDF Border Guards and when they approached he pulled a gun from his sweater and shot them all at point blank range. He knew them all, had exchanged friendly words with them, but he shot and killed them. He need no longer worry about his children's financial situation because his family will now receive a pension for life from the aid your country sends to the PA.,7340,L-5021069,00.html

It reminded me of Hassan, who was, we thought, a close friend but after he killed an Israeli officer and was killed himself, we found out he was a senior member of the Tanzim, the military wing of Fatah. How can anyone in pastoral Har Adar ever trust again. Many Palestinians will no longer have work for that reason.

I met Rachel and the children in the Garden Centre in Givat Zeev (according to CNN, BBC, a "settlement"). The garden centre is owned by two young Palestinians who do very well. I was unsurprised to see soldiers, Rabbis, locals come in and hug the Palestinian owners, chat and talk about families. That's what we do!

I have an amazing friend called Merav. Merav has two beautiful daughters, both of whom are autistic. She is very involved in Shalva, an exceptional organisation which gives love to the whole family of autistic children  I love Merav and we met for lunch in Caffit, in the Botanical Gardens. As we sat in the gentle autumn sunshine, beside the lake, I looked around at the people sitting enjoying the food – Arab women in Hijab, Religious people, tourists and people like Merav and I – just having fun. It is something that most miss – we actually live together in harmony – it is the exception that destroys all our lives.

Here there was huge uproar because Interpol is admitting the Palestinian Authority to its ranks. No, they will not be privvy to sensitive information, yes it means they will have to take responsibility for their criminals and perhaps terrorists can now be extradited!

Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, most of the Caribbean, Florida, Texas, Mexico, India, Pakistan and Nepal are all reeling after terrible natural disasters. Most are complaining of the slow response to their plight but incredibly Israeli aid teams are already in most of those countries. It seems that the wheels of bureaucracy grind very slowly because I remember the howls of dismay after Katrina and I hear them again. Tikkun Olam needs no bureaucracy.

The German people are in a state of shock. Angela Merkel won the elections but the far right party made huge gains, taking third place. Last night Zvi and I went on a Jerusalem Press Club tour of religious neighbourhoods to experience Selichot. We met two delightful German journalists and I spoke to Jose-Julio about the election results. As in many places in Europe the fear of xenophobia is replaced by the fear of terrorism and drastic changes to German society both socially and demographically by the huge influx of immigrants. The right is winning on the fear front.

I'm sure you won't be surprised to know that we had another crazy week! Friday night, which coincided with Rosh Hashana, we were 20 people at our Shabbat Dinner. As usual I made too much food but the children always take some home anyway!!! Saturday night we popped into Irit and Itzik Lev's in Tel Aviv to wish Irit a very happy birthday and then went on to the Cameri Theatre for an excellent show.

The Smadar Cinema is a Jerusalem Institution. Situated in the German Colony, surrounded by Templar buildings, it is a small cozy cinema, which has been totally refurbished and we went to the celebratory re-opening. Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkivitch spoke beautifully about the history of the Smadar, and then we saw a marvellous French movie called "Burgundy". The next day we collected Ella and Yonatan from their new kindergarten, played in the park and then took them for a delicious ice cream in Vaniglia in Tel Aviv, left them with their Mummy Noga then went on to the Cameri theatre again! The play was funny and clever about the intended marriage between the children of a Tel Aviv secular, left wing family and a traditional, right wing settler family. It was fascinating and many truths were told through humour.

Last night we toured the Haredi  Geulah and the Bucharian Quarter to see and hear the Selichot. Our guide Zippi, herself a Haredi woman, is an expert on the streets where she grew up, a journalist and very open to life in general. It was fascinating to see the flurry of activity as people rushed to Selichot (repentance) services and tried to finish preparations for their Succot (Tabernacles) choosing decorations from the gaudy stock of the local shops.

What is Selichot? In Judaism it is not enough to apologise, one must truly repent ones sins and if one has sinned against another human being one cannot expect forgiveness from the Almighty, one must achieve forgiveness from the person. To walk around these neighborhoods and absorb the way of life which hasn't changed in hundreds of years is incredible – to do so with people who are not Jewish and are unfamiliar is even better. We ended the night with a super meal at Shtissel Restaurant – Potato Kugel, Cholent, Tsimmes, Gefilte Fish……….. yes of course it was Ashkenaz yet surprisingly familiar to the German journalists!!!

I was trying to think what to write to you about Kippur. How do I relate to it? How do I choose to repent? Then I received Rabbi Jeremy Rosens missive of the week and I found it.--
"Our task on Yom Kipur is to spend time thinking about where we stand in this world. Who are we? What are we? Every year we should go through this cathartic experience. This painful process of self-examination. In my case, it is all the more necessary and painful, because I really am a crazy, mixed-up kid. I live in two cultures: Jewish and non-Jewish. Within Judaism I exist in my own cocoon, part conformist and part anti-establishment. I can recognize the need for authority, and I rebel against it. I am a rootless cosmopolitan and proud of it. Yet I am passionate about my homeland, for all its problems. Of course, I reflect on this a lot of the time. But somehow Yom Kipur gives it an added urgency and time without distractions."

Yom Kippur is not about fasting, about suffering hunger pangs and making them the central point – one fasts in order to concentrate upon praying and repenting. The very prayers are so deeply meaningful – the Torah readings appropriate – Yom Kippur is about who we are and what we can achieve as individuals if we just understand our mistakes and try to put them right.

In the past I was hurt in ways I cannot describe by those who should have protected me, but I wish them no harm, I wish them only good health, clear conscience and a life full of sweetness. Make your vengeance about making your life as fulfilling as you possibly can

The solemnity of Kippur, the Day of Atonement, means there are no songs that will fill you with joy. There is one however, the prayer which heralds Yom ha Kippurim, Kol NIidre. Cantor Helfgot and Yitzchak Perlman – two men of high and beautiful character.

Instead of another song I want to give you the Story of Jonah (which we read tomorrow) as told by a marvellous little girl.  Nineveh is Mosul in Iraq, its near destruction by evil forces is as relevant today as in the Bible.

I am about to go to Givat Zeev to see Rachel and the children before the Chag and give them hugs. It is an essential part of my Shabbat/Chag.

Tonight everything will stop. No cars, no buses, no taxis, no trucks; the silence broken only by the squeals of children as they ride their bikes on the empty roads. We will walk up to the synagogue in Ramat Sharett, I love it because it is traditional, tiny, accepting and a beautiful mix of Sefardi and Ashkenaz. Tucked away in a little alley beside a supermarket it is everything I need to allow me to pray.

If I have ever offended you apologise from the depths of my heart, I promise to do better in the future – it was never my intention to hurt you.

 I wish you a Gut Yomtov, Chag Sameach, Gmar Hatima Tova – May you be inscribed in the good Book.

With love from beautiful Jerusalem,


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Shana Tova 5778

20th September 2017

Rosh Hashana 2017, in the Jewish year of 5778

Thank you one and all for listening to my musings and emotions, my thoughts and deliberations. I appreciate you all, each and every one of you and wish you
שנה טובה ומתוקה

I wish you a year in which the voice of moderation and reason will not be silenced.

A year of new friendships while holding the old ones close to your heart

A year of true friends who will never turn on you and always remember your kindnesses

A year in which Israel's innovation, desire for peace with our neighbours, outreach to less fortunate countries, almost excessive democracy will be recognised.

That after 5778 years the Jews the world over can finally say I am a Jew without concern and can pray in synagogues without the need for security

That Christians and Jews in Moslem countries will not be persecuted and that Moslem in the West will not be singled out – there are good and bad among all peoples.

That all children will be taught that when someone is different, it simply makes them more interesting.

That the State Department and the Foreign Office will play fair and the United Nations will perform the duties for which it was created.

Ayoub Kara, Israeli Minister of Communications, gave the most important blessing of all "May we all be blessed with a fair and honest media who will allow free speech to all sides"

If the blessing, of Ayoub Kara will be fulfilled then all of the above will be possible.

As we stand on our veranda surrounded by glorious colour, warmed by the sunrise in Jerusalem, Zvi and I wish you and yours a year of joy, of kindness, generosity, tolerance and patient understanding and of course great good health.

I wish Zvis boys Amiad and Leor and their amazing families; my family, my siblings Eddie, Doreen and Ronnie and families; my loving children Daniel, Gideon and Rachel and their spouses Karen, Stephanie and Igal; our warm, kind and beautiful grandchildren; cousins, including the new-found Jen and Frank in far off Nova Scotia, a sweet and fulfilling year. To all of them - I have a dream. My dream it that next year you really will be in Jerusalem.

Finally to my husband Zvi, my husband, my mentor, my historian and the man who told me I could build up a readership of over 10,000 people if I just tell the truth. Thank you my love.

David Broza sings Yiyeh Tov – It will be fine – and it will Yihyeh Tov

With all our love from our beautiful Jerusalem,


Friday, 15 September 2017

170915 Irma, Iraqi Jews, Slichot, Balfour


15th September 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you had a good week and are feeling well. I remember how we used to snigger at our elders when they wished each other a year of good health, but in truth it is our number one priority. We can overcome almost anything if we feel strong.

I often wonder how people live in Florida, the glorious Caribbean and of course California cope with the repetitive dangers of hurricanes and earthquakes. In fact one can include Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, so many places yet we are frequently asked how we cope with living in a dangerous place! Being Jewish and Israeli we obviously have many friends in Florida and were deeply concerned about the path of Irma, and watched reports to check constantly. Being Jewish and Israeli we were proud of the many aid groups who rushed to the aid of our greatest ally.  Hazalah, ZAKA and many first responders were in Florida and iAid and IsraAid were in Florida and the Caribbean Islands many of which were devastated. It is who we are, we take Tikkun Olam very seriously.

I was horrified to read this week that the State Department of the USA intends returning Jewish books, texts and documents of the Iraq Jewish community to the Iraqi Government. How can they do it? Iraq is in chaos, they decimated their Jewish population that had to flee and yet they give them precious documents, perhaps the last remaining proof of the Jewish Community of Iraq.

The law to include Haredi Jews in the conscription to the IDF passed this week. I have a sneaky feeling that despite Rosh Hashana and Slichot we may have trouble this weekend.

The new code word for the intelligentsia is "Intersectionality". I hate these cobbled together words with a vengeance but it explains the danger of labelling and factions beautifully. Professor Alan Dershowitz wrote "Intersectionality is another code word for Anti-Semitism"

Extremism comes in many forms, it is not the realm of the right, more and more it shows it's ugly head on the left. Michael Moore standing holding a poster "I am a Muslim" abusing the Je Suis Paris after the horrific terror attack there. Here in Israel the Screen Actors Guild of Israel has an award ceremony coming up, paid for out of government funds but the Minister of Sport and Culture has been uninvited because her political beliefs differ from theirs. Theatre, a law unto itself without accepting responsibility.

It is time we stopped labelling people, stopped trying to define "Who is a Jew"? -stopped putting people into boxes because underneath – we are all the same. Some good, some cruel, some exceptional, some mediocre, some brilliant, some stupid but we are all the same.

The essence of Slichot, the period before the high holy days where we beg forgiveness for our sins, is tolerance. Tolerance, Sovlanut. Sovlanut comes from the same root as patience in Hebrew – Savlanut – because if you think about it all we all need to achieve Sovlanut is Savlanut. The patience to listen, the patience to observe, the patience to recognise that even if someone is different from us they deserve our ear, not necessarily agreement but to listen to them and find out why they feel and think the way they do. Perhaps they never had the chance to learn otherwise because they were never taught the principles of Savlanut and Sovlanut.

At the risk of sounding like John Lennon - IMAGINE. Imagine that we each accepted the difference, the other, without expecting them to be like us. What an amazing world it could be. Impact-se  is making slow, but definite, progress toward that aim, through research and recommendations to introduce respect for the other – Sovlanut – into curricula around the world.

We reached the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. We all know about the usual statements about it being unfair and illegal, even though it was neither, but every so often someone stands up to be counted. Sajid Javid, a British Cabinet Minister says Britain will celebrate the Balfour Declaration Anniversary with pride.

Incredibly it is a whole year since Shimon Peres passed away. His political journey from right to left led to him being a fine President, recognised for his brilliance and love of Israel. His famous quote perhaps typifies our situation here in the Middle East better than any other "If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact - not to be solved, but to be coped with over time."

The anniversary of his death coincides with the anniversary of the Entebbe Operation. An operation filled with derring do and heroism, the rescue of those captured in Idid Amins Uganda, Entebbe, is one for the history books. Shimon Peres was the Defence Minister and he spoke thus to the IDF who carried out the mission “You left a very worried country but you returned to a very proud country. We owe you our thanks for this,” he said. “You take a risk, perhaps greater than you realized… this was carried out in an exceptional and perfect way.” Here Peres greets the captives from the aeroplane as they landed in Israel

On Sunday I went with my friend Nitza to the Israel Museum where we saw the excellent Dan Reisinger exhibit then the official guide of the Ai Weiwei exhibit. It really is a magnificent exhibit and the explanation of each of his pieces brings his work to light.

On Tuesday I met a very special lady, Gloria Goldstein, at the First Station, together with her very pregnant grand-daughter Ilana and her husband Elad. Of course the talk turned to babies and birth and I was thrilled to hear that the birth will be at Shaare Zedek Hospital where my three Israeli grandchildren were born. I even gave her a few tips as to which midwife to talk to so she gets immediate attention!!! I love the First Station – it buzzes with activity and has great restaurants.

Talking of the First Station, one of it's first managers and initiators is Ofer Berkovitch. Ofer has moved on to become Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and activist for the city. Ofer sees Jerusalem as a city for all her residents, not any one sector and works his heart out to ensure it will happen. We heard his plans at a meeting of his mentors, we heard the problems he faces and the plans he has for the future. Ofer brings hope for a bright future for Jerusalem and I feel very confident that despite enormous difficulties that he faces in the Municipality he will ensure that Jerusalem stays multicultural and free.

The news just came in that a bomb exploded on a London Tube near Parsons Green Station. So far there are no deaths because it was a very amateurish device but many have burns from the device and injuries from the panic rush to get away from the station. What evil fanaticism can make a person take a bucketful of explosives (apparently also chemicals) onto a crowded commuter train and explode it? What teachings have brainwashed gullible minds? Why would the recipients of every possible social service and kindness decide to wreak havoc in the lives of so many? If they think it will make all infidels turn to Mecca and pray they are wrong. They do a huge disservice to their religion and to their host countries. I am angry.

It seems inane to go from reporting a terror attack to telling you how beautiful Jerusalem is. We are beginning to leave the searing heat behind and our evenings are cooler and breezy. Sitting on our Veranda is becoming a pleasure again. Oh how I love our veranda…….. it isn't just the flowers, fruits, herbs and the view, it is because all of the above are in Jerusalem. I really miss my family, spread all over the world and my friends, and wish they could all come to sit with us to look over the panorama of Jerusalem and understand why we love it so much – this house always has enough food and a warm welcome.

I was thrilled this week to discover that thanks to Dubi Gordon there are another 500 readers of this newsletter. Thanks Dubi, good Shabbes

Next Year in Jerusalem, the constant prayer of the Jewish people. Today's Torah Portion speaks of Moses prediction that after we spread all over the world there will be an ingathering. Jerusalem, Jerusalem – this song even talks about our Veranda!!

Peace will come to us, peace will come to all of us. Shalom, Salaam.

Finally, I need to lift my heart and yours with me so………. I Can Be, Yaakov Shwekey

With all our love from beautiful Jerusalem. Zvi and I have a quiet Shabbat in front of us as we prepare for the craziness of Rosh Hashana and Shabbat all together – no diets this coming week! I am going to take my rotten cough to bed now – Zvi has gone to his parliament at the Hebrew University Coffee Shop so I don't need to worry, all the ills of the world will be sorted by the time he gets home!

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Friday, 8 September 2017

170908 Irma, Mexico, Syria, Misuse of Power

8th September 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

What a week of worry! Hurricanes and monsoons, Texas, the Caribbean Islands, Florida, India, Nepal, Pakistan; the horror of natural disasters reminds us that we humans are powerless against the enormity of nature. The devastation left in the path of hurricane Irma is unprecedented in its scope. Unlike man made disasters natural disasters do not differentiate between rich and poor – St. Barts and St. Marten were hit equally with poverty stricken Haiti, everything in Irmas path is simply flattened. As I write the news comes in of a horrendous earthquake off Mexico We pray our family is alright.

Would you think I'm crazy if I ask the question "Are all todays freaky natural disasters a chain reaction after Kim of North Korea caused the initial earthquake and subsequent tsunami"? I know this is the season but…….. never mind it just passed through my mind.

We, little Israeli, are sending aid to all of the above, through iAid, IsraAid, the IDF teams, ZAKA, MASHAV, no matter where, we have people on the ground helping at a human level and we stay to help them rebuild. I once sent information about the incredible aid work being done by Israeli organisations to a friend in Canada, around the time we sent help to Alberta after the horrendous fires which engulfed the state, to which he sent a letter of ridicule "Are you serious – how can Israel help Canada?" Well, Israel that sent people to help Texas and after Superstorm Sandy we were received with love and gratitude, does that answer your question?

And then there is Syria; the Syrian government has accused Israel of aggression after a mission was sent to destroy their chemical weapons research centre and stockpile. After half a million people were killed and hundreds of thousands horribly wounded by chemical weaponry they call Israel the aggressor? The mission was essential, finally, and coincidentally came on the anniversary of the bombing of the Syrian nuclear facility 10 years ago by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Israel is torn apart by the level of corruption within the political sphere from the top down. Indeed it appears that the political sphere controls our lives far more than we could imagine.  I know it happens everywhere but this is my home and perhaps unrealistically I believe that we should be more principled than anywhere else. The choice of leaders is rarely based on ability but rather on misuse of power – choosing the person who can facilitate power rather than the one who is suited for the position. When two excellent candidates for a major position, each with many years of service to the Jewish world (Colette Avital and Zvi Raviv), are overlooked in favour of person who is unknown in the Jewish world, allowed to continue his private business interests, does not live in Jerusalem near the office where he appears for just a few hours a week, one should understand that something is terribly wrong. I don't want to name names but one cannot deny simple facts. Those who chose the current World Chairman of Keren Hayesod, Mudi Zandberg, did not choose him because he was the best candidate but because they bent to the choice of the Prime Minister (or his wife) and now Mudi Zandberg is embroiled in the current investigations. Please understand, these leaders affect the morale of those of good will who work within the organisations without a rudder to guide the ship but do not reflect on the excellent projects executed by the KH and the good name which was hard earned over nearly 100 years of caring for the Jewish world.

Finally after 45 years of an unrelenting fight by the families, a memorial was inaugurated this week, in Munich, to commemorate the 11 athletes slaughtered at the 1972 Olympics. President Rivlin, present at the ceremony, said "We must condemn terror wherever it may be".

Sadly Zvi lost a good friend and a fine Jerusalemite, last week, Ilan Roman z"l. We went to the Shiva house to honour his memory and visit his widow Tsippi. Obviously we spoke of Ilan's full and interesting life but then someone mentioned the mystery surrounding the stolen Yemenite children. In a country of 2, 3, maybe even 4 children per family the newly arrived Yemenite families often had 10 or more children living in abject poverty as new immigrants. Many babies died at birth but some, in an act of misplaced and ill advised "kindness" were taken from the mothers who were told their babies had died, and given to wealthy childless families, both in Israel and in the "Goldener Medina" the USA. These children grew in loving families, needing for nothing although many questioned their dark features in a family of blonds. Over the last 10 years, children have been reunited with their birth mothers but for many it is too late. Two ladies at the shiva house had family members who were "placed". What fascinated me was that nobody, not even the two ladies of Yemenite origin, felt it was done with any but good motives, but the tragedy that ensued cannot be measured.

On Wednesday evening, I set off for the German Colony, to Bethlehem Road, searching for a building I didn't know existed! It was to be the site of a celebratory evening in gratitude to the volunteers of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre for Cancer patients and their families – a truly magnificent group of people. The building was exactly where Menachem told me it was – directly opposite Cremieux Street! As I drove through the impressive gates I was met with one of the most magnificent buildings of white Jerusalem stone, towering and a total surprise! The building of the first Jerusalem electricity station was opened for the first time ever to the Yuri Shtern Foundation by the Electricity company. I am not a healer, I am an admirer, a fan of these incredible, altruistic folk who give of their precious time each week to bring succour to both patients and families at Shaare Zedek Hospital and the Clinic. Under the auspices of the excellent stand-up artists we played fascinating games, laughed and then ate – under the watchful eye of Lena Shtern, widow of Yuri z"l . Lena's dream came true in this giving organisation which changes lives ably aided by Varda Hershkovitch and Ayala Goldman.

Just as I was thinking – wow it's that time of year again, nearly Rosh Hashana and high time to think about whether I, and all of us, have done enough to better this world. As always, my dear friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen was thinking exactly the same – and since I knew I couldn't possibly be more erudite or clever than he I have given you his thoughts directly!

Conan O'Brien spent a week in Israel. I was never a fan of his ascerbic humour but he proved himself to be much more fun and much nicer than his image. I love this interview with Channel 2's Yonit Levy

I survived last weeks Friday night dinner of 24 guests – survived and thrived! Everyone was happy with the food; the children took doggie bags with them to help feed the grandchildren during the week since Amiad, Noga, Leor and Shiri all work long hours. The children were happy with the games we provided and everyone helped get the salon back to its former glory!

School is back and I just got home from collecting the girls from school, Rachel's girls that is! I loved their excitement at seeing me back at my normal Friday job!!! As we drove over the peak of Samuel's Tomb they chattered on and on in that unintelligible language of girls aged 11 and 8, it was irrelevant anyway – I just wanted to hear their voices!!! Arriving at Rachel's on a Friday is a culinary and olfactory treat! The aromas emanating from her kitchen draw one in and all diets are forgotten as the plies one with cups of tea, home-made Danish Pastries and fresh hot Challa……. To say nothing of tasting each of her delicious salads just to check they are good!!! Then the drive back home – the panorama of Jerusalem, the hills and winding road back to our apartment and then the joy……………… I don't have to cook tonight!!!  We are invited to Mottie and Rivkas for Shabbat Dinner – Motti is an exceptional historian of all things Jewish (he built the Herzl Museum) and Rivka is not only a Balabusta ( a Yiddish expression for a good home-maker) but also a Judge. I am in awe of so many Israeli women who work in high position but successfully keep a happy family. Anyway, I love going to them, it reminds me of my childhood!

So, in honour of Motti and Rivka I think we should go with a Yiddishe Shabbat Song. Actually, this song will bring back happy memories for my children, Daniel, Gideon and Rachel, memories of my father laughing at their rendition of this song. Daniel my love, happy birthday, I do know you are a grown man with a family and your patients have no idea I call you my baby…… not until now anyway – but you are! The song tells the tale of the Rebbe  "Az der Rebbe"– when he laughs all his students laugh, when he sleeps they sleep, when he drinks they drink, he laughs they laugh – etc etc

As we see so many terrible disasters around us I wish you a Shabbat of blessings "May the Lord Bless you and Keep You"

May the skies be happy – Yismachu ha Shamyim – and may you be safe under clam skies

With love from beautiful Jerusalem, from our veranda which is blooming with bright scarlet flowers, the trees promising a good crop of pomegranates, kumquats, lemons and ……… oh I forgot, the orange tree, after the most phenomenal show of blossom decided to be on strike!!!

I pray you are safe, please let us know.


Friday, 1 September 2017

170901 Israel, 120 WZO


September the first, 2017

Shabbat Shalom everyone! Since today is the first day of the school year here in Israel I decided this would be a letter about Israel – we find it too easy to forget the wonderful country that gave us all a sense of pride that thousands of year of abasement determinedly bent us down like Uriah Heep. Our heads are high and we even have the courage to criticise ourselves. However, criticism is fine if it is positive – this country is the epitome of Jewish moral standards – we can't let them drop and we have to encourage. Sadly we live in a world where our national flags and monuments have been taken over by the far right, but that doesn't make them any less beautiful as legitimate symbols of our culture.

Disasters everywhere, North Korea Launches ballistic missile over Japan; Houston and areas of Texas are under water with people fighting to survive; the Monsoons this year led to horrendous flooding in Nepal, India and Pakistan which have led, thus far, to 1,500 people losing their lives and what is the headline in the US press? Melania Trump wore high heeled shoes!!!!

Thanks to idiotic priorities of the media, this week I want less media news and more real news, the things that ordinary people like you and me do to change the world. Take this young Israeli who couldn't bear the suffering in neighbouring Syria – see what he did

IsraAid and iAid are both in Houston, Nepal, India and Pakistan – and incredibly IsraAid is still working in Haiti. We don't give up! I am sure you remember the IDF field hospital set up hours after the Haiti disaster – that included ZAKA and Magen David Adom

The IDF field hospital on the border with Syria is still performing triage and first aid before the injured are sent to Israeli hospitals for treatment. A drop in an ocean of misery but we do our best.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs performs acts of aid and generosity that are unparalleled, over 140 countries have received Israel aid, not money but the power to help themselves. Please, don't forget this is a tiny country has just 8 million citizens… look at the website and look at MASHAV

Save a Child's Heart is performing lifesaving surgery on children from countries where they would surely die if not for the Israeli surgeons, often countries don't even recognise our existence…..particularly from the Palestinian Authority.

Eye from Zion and of course MASHAV send opthamologists to third world countries where ignorance, dirty water and infections cause blindness to give back sight using mobile operating theatres.

For Israel's 65th birthday in 2014, Israel21C introduced us to 65 ways that Israel performs "Tikkun Olam"

Tikkun Olam is our raison d'etre, in a world that is becoming more and more insular as telecommunications take away our ability to communicate Israel is reaching out.

Why all the self aggrandisement? We aren't supposed to prideful but there is so much to boast about! 120 years is a flash in time for most countries but just 120 years ago a man had a dream; not just a small dream but a gigantic dream. Teodore Herzl was an assimilated Jew from a well to do family in Austria – aware of his ancestors but not a practicising Jew. He was a writer and intellectual but worked as a journalist. He was sent to France to cover a fascinating story of a Jew who had a successful military career and through the jealousies of his Christian co-officers was shamed and stripped of his rank and position after a military kangaroo court passed judgement. Herzl recognised the reason for Dreyfus shaming, Dreyfus was a Jew. Herzl had a dream but he did not write Hebrew so when he wrote a book called Altneuland – New Old Land –  he wrote the immortal words 'Im tirtzu ein zo agada; ve'im lo tirtzu, agada hi ve'agada tisha'er' in Latin letters, אם תרצו, אין זו אגדה; ואם לא תרצו, אגדה היא ואגדה תישאר, meaning, 'If you will it, it is no dream; and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay. Herzl not only wrote a book about an old-new land he gathered the most influential Jews of the world together in a Swiss city called Basel in the first World Zionist Congress on September 1897. Teodore became Theodore and then Benjamin Zeev Herzl, his dream took many years of travel, disappointment which cost him his health but the First World Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland 120 years ago.

120 years since the idea of Jews returning to their homeland became more than a prayer; 120 years since those first Zionists gathered to create a basis for the Jewish State, 120 years since that fateful Congress and now 69 years after the dream came true just think about our achievements!

To fully understand the circumstances which led to the Congress and the travail and travels of Herzl himself one should visit the phenomenal Herzl Museum in Jerusalem. The Museum, a spectacular audio-visual experience was put together by our dear friend Dr Motti Friedman.

UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres was in Israel and our President chose to tell him like it really is…….. and he responded favourably but nothing like Nikki Haley who is just an amazing honest and brave lady, standing up for Israel as never before.

The other day Zvi and I set off to the Municipality Square for a very special event to honour the memory of Israel's 5th President, the much loved Yitzchak Navon. President Navon was (like President Rivlin) born in Jerusalem and even as a child he loved to learn about the various neighborhoods and their peoples, Polish and Bukharian; Iraqi and Hungarian; Arab, Jew and Christian, his curious nature led him to learn all the languages, fluent in 10 –  Ladino, Yiddish, Arabic, English and many others so that he could converse with the entire rainbow. Navon was also a poet and playwright – writing the famous Bustan Sefaradi about his own neighbourhood and community. The most famous Ladino song "Adio Querida" (Farewell my love) is thought to be a love song that expresses disenchanted love for Spain, the country that persecuted, killed and then expelled its Jews from the land they loved

Our friend Advocate Gideon Fisher has been honoured as a Fellow by the International Institute of Chartered Arbitrators – a rare achievement. Mazal Tov Gideon – remember you couldn't do it without Dafna!!!!

This week was our usual race – beginning on a special note with a coffee and chat with my adored friend Andrew Stone (Lord Stone of Blackheath who to me is still my childhood friend and Habonim madrich) where we talked about the past and our future – a future both of us are fighting to make a kinder, more tolerant and gentler one.

Impact-se is an amazing organisation which translates and researches the school curriculum in Israel and our neighbouring countries, and Madrasses in Europe and the USA, to enact changes to ensure tolerance of the other – according to criteria of UNESCO which we set up. We had a Board meeting two nights ago at the Hebrew University and I am so proud of our Director Marcus Sheff who has created wonders in reaching governments and Ambassadors with our results. Bravo Marcus. Read the material – you will be surprised.

Tonight we celebrate Amiad's 41st birthday here at home for our Shabbat Dinner – with about 24 guests! Don't worry, I got up really early so that I could write to you before continuing the three day marathon cook-in! We have… Pea soup that the children adore, barbequed spring-chicken fillets, beef stew, Meat balls in sauce, grilled salmon fillet, Vienna sausages, Salads of the following varieties- Cauliflower, Sweet potato, mushroom, beetroot, courgette and toasted aubergine (chatzilim) with tehina and of course huge green salads. I will also do rice to go with all of the above and oven chips (French fries) for the children! At the same time I have prepared a veggie lasagna for tomorrow night's big pre-Rosh Hashana party for Zvi's choir to be held at our friends, Eva and Eli Yaron, home in Tsur Hadassah. I can't even begin to tell you what this week-ends programme entails visiting Nitza and Ronit Dotan Hofesh is organizing a huge party for her husband Gedi's 80th!!!

The beautiful and mournful Adio Querida expresses the pain of expulsion from so many countries so many eras of oppression, so now it is time to try a happier note – How would we present Herzl and his dream today? Would it have the same elegance or be as effective?  Cantors Hefgott, Adler and Schachat sing………. O sole Mio!!!!!

As the old year closes and the new year is before us with all the hope and opportunities it presents I chose Lu Yehi – Let it be - as my closing song

With love from Jerusalem the beautiful, fascinating spiritual heart of our people. I have the privilege of seeing its ever changing face every single day from our veranda. Israeli children returned to school today and we wish them all a year of study, learning, friendships and fun.

Shabbat Shalom to you all wherever you may be. Stay safe and stay strong.