The view from my veranda

160504 Pesach and Yom haShoah


4th May, 2016

Dear Friends,

It isn’t Shabbat, Pesach has been and gone and it is almost Holocaust Remembrance Day here in Israel.

Those who can tell their story and those who heard their stories are slowly leaving this earth and we must, we have to honour their memory and the memory of those who perished. How we ensure they are never forgotten is up to you, up to me, up to all of us. This link of Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum gives you the testimonies of the survivors. Click on a town and hear the words!prettyPhoto

We are not a people that wreaks revenge, we are a people that avenges the deaths of millions by thriving, by celebrating life, which is why I want to begin by telling you of our Passover, our Pesach.

We set the tables in a “Chet” shape, an open rectangle, with everyone sitting around the outside so we all faced one another, a feat achieved by putting our lounge suite onto the famous veranda to leave space for the tables. All achieved with the incredible help of Elisabeth and George Gelb. It really was delightful. 26 people, 4 languages, rapt attention and space in the middle for the little children to play. We ate all the traditional foods – from the parsley dipped in salt water (karpas), the sinus clearing freshly grated horseradish (maror), the delicious combining (charoset), the hard boiled eggs in salt water and then the real food. The traditional foods depend upon the provenance of the family, being Ashkenazi we don’t eat rice or beans or any legumes (kitniot) which may seem to limit the menu but really doesn’t! The reading of the Exodus was fascinating, especially as the children are getting big enough to join in and of course the songs at the end great fun – especially when singing about “only One Kid” (Chad Gadya) we make the appropriate animal sounds!!!

Passover continued with a short visit to Tel Aviv to see our lovely French friends Alain and Martine. We went to the Tahana and discovered the IDF Museum next door. Somewhat dilapidated for lack of funds it is still a fascinating museum, full of history and artefacts. Well worth a visit. Imagine my delight at finding a kosher for Passover Pizza place (Mehadrin even) in Tel Aviv – really!!! I had Matza Spinach Lasagne which was absolutely delicious.

On Wednesday we went to Mahane Yehuda on the light rail. It was packed. The display of fruit and vegetables was back in soft fruit mode. Amazing nectarines and peaches, piles of cherries and grapes, everything aplenty. We went to Tzidkiyahus for our pickles, then across to Shmulik for the cheeses – wonderful, tasty, local cheeses, every single one kosher for Passover. The sound of the costermongers and the aroma of their wares don’t change – they are as sweet as their displays.

On Thursday we celebrated the second days of Passover by inviting 11 friends to dinner on Thursday and then Shabbat dinner by inviting another 10. It was so much fun!!!! I loved the discussions, some arguments and their delight at hearing my Zvi’s melodic Kiddush. Many Israelis are amazed to find I change all my dishes, as per the tradition of Passover, and we do not allow any food into the house unless Kosher for Passover. A few try to tell us the “in the modern day” one doesn’t need to do all those things but I do it for my parents, and their parents and theirs……….. and for our children, for Jewish continuity, and because I love it!!!

Sunday Zvi and I went on a special Press Club Tour of the new Israel Museum “Pharaoh in Canaan – the Untold Story” Exhibit. Highly recommended

Sunday night my Cardiff friend Adrienne came to stay with her Abe. They had a Bar-Mitzva at the Kotel the next morning and stayed with us rather than schlepp from Haifa early in the morning. Adrienne and I talked of our childhood and our traditions, old friends and new lives, and I got to know Abe as we sat out on our veranda overlooking Jerusalem.

Why on earth would I bother with such normal stories when the world is going crazy? Because that is how we cope. We do not try to find logic in a world where a Palestinian terrorist who was shot by a soldier makes more news than ethnic cleansing in Africa, hundreds of thousands murdered in Syria and bombs in Churches in Iraq. We do not try to find logic in a world which denies the Holocaust to excuse their deeply rooted racism. We do not try to find logic in hatred for Israel which gives the world Tikkun Olam on every level, hatred based on lies and rhetoric. We cannot find logic in the media which spits hatred on Israel, ignores the killing of Christians, while kowtowing to Islam.

We do not try to find logic in the Shoah because there is none.

This afternoon all places of entertainment and restaurants will close, throughout Israel. The television will show only movies about the Shoah, testimonies of Survivors, stories of the greatest horror the world has ever known. Tomorrow morning, at 10:00 precisely, Israel will come to a standstill as the siren wails our grief. It is an eerie, all-encompassing grief, as if the souls of those who perished are screaming out “But you said Never Again”. The siren wails over our amnesia, over our determined obliviousness to what is happening in our country – in your country. Jews are again the scapegoat after a clever, thorough and intentional campaign of anti-Semitic rhetoric by a very clever enemy.

We believed it could never happen again but it has and is. Ethnic cleansing has taken place many times, cruel and determined. The Tutsi genocide in Rwanda; the Armenian genocide by the Turks; Cambodia, Bosnia, Darfur, Iraq, each horrific, each created by intense hatred, but none as precise, as calculated, as organised as the Holocaust. I cannot envisage 6 million Jews, or 10 million victims, I really cannot. Two nights ago we went to see a prize winning film at Yad Vashem “Son of Saul”. The film doesn’t follow the “usual” Holocaust movies – no foot-clicking Nazi guards or emaciated bodies; a hand-held camera follows the  face of the hero as he goes about his robotic gruesome business just trying to survive, until he decides to save the body of a young child. A harrowing and important movie. Tonight we will see a new production of “Anna” the story of Anne Frank at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv. I cannot imagine 6 million, but I can identify with one young girl.

Will our children remember? Will our children care? Can our children recognize the warning signs? Can we?

To set one lie aside, one that is perpetrated constantly as a great excuse to hate Israel, The Reverend Dumisani Washington speaks on Prager University about refugees – the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

To set another lie aside – The Temple Mount and UNESCO. Khaled Abu Toameh explains why the Palestinians don’t want security cameras on the Temple Mount

The Holocaust was just a German thing– Prof Alan Dershowitzshows us the lie there too

As I look at the view from my veranda, I wonder why we are vilified.IsraAid is in Ecuador, Japan, Nepal, Haiti – wherever needed, the governmental aid programme teaches agriculture to feed the hungry and provides medicine to the sick ; Save a Childs Heart Brings children to Israel irrespective of race or religion ; 180,000 Palestinians were treated in Israeli hospitals  – all this and so much more yet we are vilified. Why? Sadly, there can be only one reason.

Now do you understand why I began with the stories of a wonderful Passover? What holds us together as a people are traditions. What will keep us safe is our pride in what and who we are. The second we regret our inheritance as Jews and go back to the groveling, apologetic, Uriah Heep stance, we are lost.

Perhaps two songs relate to our constant struggle against hatred. Vehi Sheamda,  our Passover Prayer (English translation). The song has haunted me for days – I cannot stop singing it, praying

The second song is of greater importance perhaps. Al Kol Eleh – Above all this. The honey and the sting; the bitter and the sweet;

This morning I am meeting some very special friends at the Botanical Gardens Caffit. Surrounded by beauty, nature, kindness and personal history I can better understand the importance of our inherited memory of a time without beauty, nature, kindness and the determined attempt to wipe out our inherited memory.

Bring a little love into the world and the light will brighten a million lives. Bring honesty and morality and it will brighten a billion.

Remember, it starts with you.

With much love from Jerusalem, the Golden City, the core of our dreams and prayers.