The view from my veranda

161014 Kippur, Bob Dylan, UNESCO, Succot, ICEJ,


14th October 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

I hope that Yom Kippur passed easily, a day of reflection and of true determination to do better this year. I looked for synonyms for atonement but they all seem rather harsh, even penance is not quite the same, perhaps because our all-encompassing determination to be a better person, or a better people, softens the sense of punishment. Before heading out for the synagogue I wrote “Tonight is Kol Nidrei, heralding 25 hours of prayer, contemplation and atonement, a time to rethink our lives and question our motives, as a people. We must consider our loyalties, our words, to apologise is not to atone………. to atone is to change, to admit our faults and do better.”

Have you read Parashat Yona (The story of Jonah)? I mean really read it – the  Torah reading for Yom Kippur.
There are so many highly relevant aspects to this particular story.
G-d specifically asked Jonah to go to Nineveh (Mosul today) because the bad guys were taking over the city. Jonah didn’t want to tackle the big city guys so he ran off to Tarshish on a boat. The historian Josephus said that Cilicia in Asia Minor and its capital is Tarsus, is Tarshish, however Jonah fled his responsibilities to the but ultimately after some time spent in the belly of a large fish (submarine?) because his shipmates realised he was bringing them bad luck and stormy seas, he decided he had better head of and take on the evil people of Nineveh. So many Jonahs in the world today are abrogating their responsibilities and heading for the easy route – and of course hurricanes, tsunamis and tornados are rocking our boat daily. Indeed, one just hit the Caribbean, Florida and Georgia. Message there somewhere?
Seriously, read it. It sounds straight from CNN!!!

Yom Kippur in Israel is different to anywhere else in the world. Not a sound, not a car, bus, train, motorcycle – nothing moves….. just children happily playing in the streets safe in the knowledge that no crazy driver will appear, and families walking to and from prayer or just enjoying the quiet opportunity to promenade. As Judy Lash Balint said – it is the festival of no traffic lights!

It seems nothing in life is easy for Israel and no sooner had we finished praying than the bombshell dropped – UNESCO. Yes I know that the UN is irrelevant but the UNESCO decision that the Temple Mount is not Jewish is insanity!! To deny the Jewish connection is of course to deny the Christian connection, after all when Jesus went to the Temple Mount he did not visit Al Aqsa. To deny the Temple Mount is to deny the entire Judeo-Christian belief system. Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, USA and UK all voted against the motion, all the other nations either voted for the motion or abstained. One person on Facebook said “The difference between UNESCO and G-d is that G-d doesn’t believe He is UNESCO” Of course we are the stupid ones, you and me and our free thinking countries. We continues to pay our dues and homage to that ludicrous organisation called the UN that has Libya and Saudi Arabia on its Human Rights Council. Time to change the world and stop our leaders acting like Jonah, avoiding the evil that stems from Nineveh. In the words of King David, Psalms 83:4  They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!”

Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects is that both Haiti and Nepal abstained. Their gratitude is apparently tempered by their desire to stay in the good books of the oil nations.

The UN and the US Administration should prepare themselves for a massive building boom in Israel! It began after sunset on Wednesday and reached a peak today. Small huts with large palm fronds as roofing appeared on roofs, in gardens, on verandas – indeed throughout the country. No need to get a court order to pull them down though – they will only be in use for 8 days!!! Yes folks, it is Succot, Tabernacles! Fancy wooden sided Succot; flimsy fabric sides; some simple shanties; some just a string to form the separation – all count, all legal, all decorated with surprising Christmas glitter and Chinese manufactured hanging decorations!!! The weather is far too hot to hang fruit so we buy our glitter balls and multi-coloured ornaments, trinkets and sparkly chains and children paint pictures of fruits to hang on the walls. This is one of two harvest festivals and so much more. The huts, or Tabernacles, represent the 40 years of wandering in the desert; the Lulav and Etrog, blessed each day, contain palm fronds, myrtle, willow and the rather special fruit which is not a lemon (citrus medica or citron), translates as the fruit of the beautiful tree. Men spend hours choosing the finest Etrog, inspecting every millimeter for imperfections. Each Succah incorporates the seven species –

For the L-rd your G‑d is bringing you to a good land: … A land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates; a land of oil-yielding olives and [date] honey

If “man is a tree of the field and fruit is the tree’s highest achievement, there are seven fruits that crown the human and botanical harvest. These are the seven fruits and grains singled out by the Torah as exemplars of the Holy Land’s fertility: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. The Succah is not only for the family, the true purpose is to invite guests and for guests to come and sit in the Succah. Of course, we will have many people visiting over Succot. The first night we will be 20 people sitting down to dinner, all family or in-law family then over the week many friends will visit. Traditional foods tend to incorporate fruits, but include memula’im, or stuffed vegetables, where one takes every imaginable autumnal vegetable and fill them with rice, meat, herbs and then slowly bake it for hours in a lemony, herb juice. Fruit cakes, strudels, baked apples, almonds and raisins……….. actually, almonds and raisins are traditional celebratory fare – there is even a Yiddish lullaby that my Mummy used to sing to me called Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen

The prayer for rain is central to Succot – without rain trees will die, crops can’t grow and the earth will blow away. It is not an incantation, but rather a yearning for rain such as that given to Abraham………….

Next week we will attend the special Gala Israel evening at the new Pais Arena to celebrate Tabernacles. The evening, indeed the entire Tabernacles pilgrimage and events, is organised by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem under the watchful eye of its Director, the lovely Juergen Buhler. The Arena will be full to capacity as tens of thousands of Christians come to show their support of Israel, of Jerusalem and of their own faith. We are very honoured to be among the invitees, it amazes me each year that so many Christians love us – perhaps we are too used to being denigrated to notice the love that comes our way.

The week will end with Simchat Torah – indeed the story told in the Torah will end to begin again. Perhaps the UNESCO people should read it – or even part of it – to see who started what and where. The mere suggestion that the Temple Mount is not Jewish is an omen of what the world will become if we don’t stand up and shout.

The people of Israel extend our love and consolations to the people of Thailand on the death of their King. Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as King Bhumibol the Great, was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri Dynasty as Rama IX was born in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1927 and served as a gentle and levelling influence on his people. While in Bangkok we saw the total reverence in which he was held. May his soul rest in peace.

Almost Shabbat again, the Chagim leave me very confused because the days seem to roll into one, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succot, Shmini Atzeret, Simchat Torah………… and barely time to shop and cook in between!!! Nothing and no-one will ruin the sense of festivity in the air in Israel – most certainly not the United Nations!!! We don’t need UNESCO to tell us what is and isn’t ours – we read about it every Shabbat and every Festival!

Who’d a thought it? Bob Dylan, aka Robert Allen Zimmerman – Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham is a Nobel Laureate! Such a brilliant choice. A brave one too. – Dylan summed up the story of Israel, not only in Neighbourhood Bully (Lyrics below)  but also in Blowin in the Wind. A genius of literature, of poetry, he captured our plight.

I owe you one more song, perhaps one that is joyful, to match our current festivals. This is for those who think Tel Aviv is just a place of beaches and restaurants. Simchat Torah – the Joy of the Torah, in Rabin Square

In case you are surprised – no I am not going to talk about the American elections. I think that both the campaigns have fallen deep into mud-slinging rather than policy statements and don’t want to be involved. Can I just say, however, that in 1st Class – the armrests don’t go up!

Today I am going to sit on our veranda, perhaps Zvi will come too before he heads off to his Parliament, no longer in the petrol station now it is held in the University Coffee Shop. I sit, often in the evening, to see the sun set on this fabulous, vibrant and special city. We have a hammock, what Americans call a garden swing, and I sit and slowly swing to and fro, taking in the sheer magnificence of what this tiny country has achieved in less than 70 years. From barren, uninhabited hills we have tree-lined avenues in sweeping neighbourhoods, Jewish and Moslem, and influx of millions of people who fled oppression – be it from the Arab countries, Africa or Eastern Europe – all in homes carrying on the traditions they brought with them, Jewish traditions. Football Stadium, Basketball Arena, Tennis club, Hi-Tech Centre, Open University, shopping malls, all open to all comers – this is a miracle and I have the privilege of sitting and swinging and reflecting………… before lighting the Shabbat Candles.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom – again a sweet year, A Holy Tabernacles and Chag Succot Sameach.

With love from Jerusalem


Herewith the words to Neighbourhood Bully

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully.

The neighborhood bully he just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully.

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Well, the chances are against it, and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
‘Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Well, he got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully.
Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully.

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract that he signed was worth that what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully.

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothing, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits for feed
He’s the neighborhood bully.

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully.