The view from my veranda



22nd July 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.
Isn’t is amazing how we are constantly surprised by life? Sometimes it is less pleasant and sometimes more but life is an adventure!

As an Ex-Pat Brit, and a Jewish one at that, I learned that Lawrence of Arabia was just that – an out and out Arabist who only ever put forward the Arab cause at the expense of the Jews. Well apparently that was todays big surprise!!! Thanks to Yael I discovered this article describing the book by the erudite British Jewish historian Martin Gilbert called Lawrence of Judea. Apparently Lawrence was critical to the discussion between the Faisel family and Dr Chaim Weizman and he totally supported the founding of a Jewish State, believing it highly positive for the Jews to return to their Oriental origins.

Palestine – ‘Occupation Incorporated’ Tim Marshall

“An African UN worker in the West Bank recently remarked to a mutual friend ‘When people see me coming they see a walking ATM machine’.

Driving through Ramallah, and then Jericho, the other day I was reminded of that quip as I looked at the smart restaurants, sparkling new hotels, and the scale of building work.

The Palestinian Authority likes to boast about the West Bank’ s 8% economic growth, so does the Israeli government, which uses it to suggest that a prosperous Palestine would make an easier negotiating partner. They also know the Palestinians have more to lose if a 3rd Intifada breaks out.

What they fail to remind us is that there are well over 200 NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza, and 30% of the GDP here comes from international aid. Palestinians are among the most foreign aid funded people in the world and the place is awash with money.”

This is immoral, deeply immoral. While East Africa is starving the Palestinians and Gazans are bulding new shopping malls and hotels while feasting in overladen markets.

Danny Ayalon, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a brilliant video that I really want you to watch! “The Truth about the West Bank”

Danny Adino Abebe came to see us on Sunday. Danny who came from Ethiopia, is a major journalist here in Israel. Handsome, ebullient, with amazing dreadlocks, Danny has meticulously built a plan to encourage the brightest young Ethiopian immigrants in high school to take a course in communications. Ultimately this will give them entry to the highly academic Hebrew University. Kol ha Kavod Danny; your work is outstanding and your dedication heartwarming. Good luck with your fundraising to make this dream come true.

I went with Michael Gribov of the Knesset Forum on International Affairs to meet our dear friend Juergen Buhler at the Christian Embassy. The Embassy, housed in one of the most exquisite buildings in Jerusalem, does phenomenal work to put forward Israel’s case in a most positive manner. The PR sector is run by David Parsons who joined us for the meeting. Most fascinating aspect was the fact that we delayed to meeting because of the fast of Tammuz and when we arrived at the Embassy we found that Juergen was himself fasting!!

My favourite organisation in the world is Stand With Us; not only because I deeply admire and love the Director Michael Dickson but rather because of the work they do involving and educating Israeli and overseas students in Israel Information – preparing them through intensive courses and projects to go out into the world campuses and understand their subject and how to present Israel in a totally positive and factual light. Jill and I went to the graduation ceremony for 150 students which was held in the leafy garden of Beit Anna Ticho, home of the famous Jerusalem artist. The young ambassadors were beautiful and enthusiastic – their projects impressive. Leader of the Opposition Tsippi Livni spoke of our challenges and then David Horovitz – former editor of the Jerusalem Post, brought his incomparable humour and wit to the proceedings – at about 10 minutes notice and wowed his audience. A proud evening indeed.

I don’t only have meetings!! I have fun with friends too. We met with Rosa and Berele at Caffit in the German Colony because there was simply no table to be had in the Botanical Gardens. The German Colony was jam packed too and parking spots were at a premium! As we sat down I found that I had a delightful partner at the next table – Professor Irwin Cotler. Jerusalem is a small town pretending to be a big City!!

The next morning we met the delightful Marc and Elaine Oppenheimer at the Botanical gardens – this time we were luckier and found a table right next to the lake! Despite the intense heat, eating under the protection of their umbrellas, watching the black swans, turtles and egrets seemed to cool us as efficiently as the gentle breeze. Children in playgroups chatted happily as they ran up and down the hills.

Last night Jill and I set out for the Gerard Behar Theatre for the Premiere performance of the professional troupe of the Hora Dance Troupe. It was indeed and exciting evening and one that would have been quite wonderful ……….. but we couldn’t find a parking space free in the centre of town!! Jerusalem is popping every night but on a Thursday it is just filled with happy diners, theatre goers, promenaders, families, and despite investigating every conceivable alleyway and lane couldn’t get there.
Tonight Leor and Shiri, Amit and Gilli, Jill, Amiad, Sagi and Ditti and Yehonatan, Dalia – daughter of Moise and Sandra who is here on tour from Mexico City. We will sit on the veranda – the table stretched to its utmost laden with all the salads, fried fish balls, stuffed vegetables and wonderful fresh Israeli fruits that I always talk about. As we eat we will look at Jerusalem, Jerusalem of Shabbat, of Gold. Shabbat Jerusalem is different, so very different to the rest of the week. Religious and secular alike enjoy the quiet, the peace of Shabbat Jerusalem embodied in the softening skies and the myriad of stars, intermingled with the sound of families enjoying their Shabbat meal. The sounds and aromas of Shabbat are different, the appearance of the city is different, the sense of family is intense all combine to make me grateful every week afresh of the fact that we are here – at home.

Next week is a truly exciting one. ARLENE IS ARRIVING!! I will have two wonderful days with her just being together and enjoying each other and then she is off to Tel Aviv and Opera.

Oh well, that is all I have time for although there is so much more to tell. The French Yacht was stopped before arriving in Gaza – which was lucky since they didn’t have any aid on board and anyway the Gazans don’t need it!!!
Shabbat Shalom to you all. I wish you could be her,e in Jerusalem with us to “feel” the incredibly special Shabbat that this city elicits. There is no city like this in the world – it is beautiful, it is special, it is proud, it has depth of meaning and history and IT IS OURS.
Shabbat Shalom