The view from my veranda

161118 Amona, Hitorerut, Noise, Elections


18th November 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends,

I was going to write about the incredible divisiveness of the American election, friends arguing and name calling, cities in turmoil, but Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says it all in his impromptu sermon and tribute to Leonard Cohen.

As always my amazing son Gideon gave me something to think about.

“Sitting in his hotel room in New York this morning, Rabbi Sacks suddenly had a thought about a connection between the late Leonard Cohen’s song “You Want It Darker”, the current state of the world and this week’s parsha of Vayera. Apologies this is a little last minute, but it is definitely a different kind of parsha shiur! The lyrics to “You Want It Darker” – which is the music at the beginning and end of this video – can be found here: Shabbat shalom!”

I tried not to but I have to say one thing about the United States elections. Even when I wanted to speak out about one candidate or the other, I did my best to remain unbiased, even handed. In general this was accepted but many became angry with me because I wouldn’t deride Donald Trump. Indeed I was told I support a sex offender and even worse. I didn’t support anyone! I don’t have the right to support anyone because as one Hillary supporter told me “you are an alien in this country, don’t try to influence USA elections!” Well thank you for raising me to that level of influence but my words couldn’t influence anyone!!

I do not know what the future holds but I wish the President elect a successful and elevated term of office, because without it we are lost. Charlie Chaplin wrote and directed the movie The Great Dictator and his speech epitomises all our dreams

Just heard that Donald Trump has approached Mitt Romney to be Secretary of State, if so it is a brilliant move. An honorable and graceful man, Romney would bring honour to the position. Zvi and I visited the Governors Mansion while in Boston and as we stood in the ante-room we admired the portraits of former Governors of Massachusetts, each standing in glorious solitude. We reached the portrait of Mitt Romney, who was told firmly that his wife could not be in the portrait with him and noticed something special – he was painted with a photograph of his wife on the desk beside him! Now that is a fine man who honours his wife and her contribution to his success.

In all the brouhaha over the elections, do you know about what is happening in Turkey? Do you care? I do because we have good friends there but also because it is a disgrace that nothing was said by world leaders or the media to criticise Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has virtually destroyed independent journalism, arrested many, arrested clerics – indeed all who disagree with him, but what does the Administration concentrate on in these last days?  Israel building houses in disputed territories.

The noise law. In virtually every civilized country there is a law concerning noise levels, decibels, whether it be your neighbor’s party, a motorbike, indeed anything that harms your environment, including Church bells and the Synagogue on Purim. It also includes the Muezzins call to prayer in virtually all Moslem countries and certainly USA, UK and Europe. Of course in Israeli it isn’t that simple. While Churches and Synagogues comply, the Muezzins claim racial discrimination and the left support them. Since many residents of many cities in Israel have a Mosque close by, yes even Tel Aviv, and the call to prayer begins at 04:30 for many (actually 05:30 but it is according to Mecca time) it is most disturbing to be woken at that hour by a very loud Muezzin from the apex of the Minaret. Surely the law should be equal for all?

Amona. Amona is an outpost of perhaps 20-30 families. The argument as to whether it should be removed and the residents given new housing in one of the official residential blocks has torn the Israeli government apart this week. It is irrelevant that it is beautiful and on private land, and I am the last to suggest that Yehuda and Shomron, the West Bank – however you want to call it – be Judenrein, but if a small group of activists can bring our government to the brink and cause anger in the White House then the balance of power has gone awry.

Hitorerut – Awakening – is the political group of young leaders who have taken the Jerusalem Municipality by storm! It seems incredible that just a few short years ago we met to decide whether or not to mentor this group of callow young hopefuls. Since the elections when they won an incredible 4 seats on the Municipal Council, they have made their mark, indeed one, Ofer Berkovitch, is a Deputy Mayor. Hitorerut’s aim was to open up the city to attract young people. Jerusalem has a great party scene, pubs, clubs and restaurants aplenty and is a fun place to be. Jerusalem is spiritual and ancient but that doesn’t mean we all go to bed at 7. Watch this space, Hitorerut is going places. We had a meeting in our home on Tuesday where Ofer outlined their achievements and aims. It gave me great hope because these young people are Jerusalem’s future. Remember his name – Ofer Berkovitch.

A major subject for discussion on Tuesday, was the disgraceful attack on Jerusalem by the faux intellectuals of the TV satirical programme “Pride of the Nation“. They slandered Jerusalem as the city where the latest courses teach one how to dig about in garbage cans for food and feed large families on one date. It went much further. It is a national disgrace when satire becomes slander. Eliezer Ya’ari, a highly responsible and intelligent commentator on radio, television and press, has responded. I intend translating his words for you after his broadcast. Jerusalemites are very angry at the injustice and inaccuracy of a gang of irresponsible, intellectual snobs who think that one has to leave Jerusalem by dusk or turn into a pumpkin – if they ever come here of course!

Just incidentally, the Israeli road safety organisation Or Yarok just put out a report that found Tel Aviv the most dangerous city for older pedestrians………. No comment

Before the Hitorerut meeting, my friend David Geffen, Rabbi David Geffen, came to visit with his new business advisor Gedaliah Gurfein, in order to show me the amazing headway made by his organisation “Loving Classroom” The motto of Loving Classroom is Head, Heart, Hand and Help, teaching children how to interact with love instead of anger. Check out the link, it brings the ideal world a touch closer. It works.

On Wednesday we went to dinner with the Bloomfields.  I love going out with them, arguing with Harry and agreeing with Nancy! Their youngest son Jamie came too and he is a charming combination of his Dad’s Barrister arguments and his Mum’s loving care for the world. Jamie who studied Film is joining Standwithus to produce their videos. I am so proud. Michael Dickson, the Director of Standwithus here in Jerusalem, is a fantastic mentor and Standwithus a truly amazing organisation that has taken on racism on campus, BDS and created a support system for students worldwide.

Robert Ackerman posted something incredible on Facebook. In the words of Rabbi Nachman “The day you were born is the day God decided the world could not exist without you” What an amazing philosophy. We are all worthy, we are all meant to be here. We all have a purpose on this earth – we just need to find it and fulfil it.

Almost Shabbat. It is a glorious day, crisp and autumnal, rather windy, but absolutely beautiful blue skies. We all wondered over the so called “Supermoon” which is actually bigger and brighter over Jerusalem – well we are the closest to the heavens, like the joke about it being a local call. We, and all our friends, snapped merrily and posted on Facebook, WhatsApp and emails, our contributions to the rare phenomena. It was beautiful, less spectacular than we were led to believe but beautiful nonetheless.

What music to choose? Should it be Jewish or American? Maybe Jewish American?  “America” by Paul Simon has been constantly playing in my head, causing me to burst into spontaneous song all week, but chose a fabulous rendition of the American National Anthem by a young lady who sat at our Seder Table 18 months ago. Nadine Sierra sang for both candidates

Two songs now – one of spiritual Jerusalem and one of modern Jerusalem. First the dream and then the culmination as the dancers of Hora Jerusalem flashdance in the Mamilla Mall.

I wish you Shabbat Shalom, it is no surprise that Zvi has gone to his Parliament, hoping to right the world and I am on my way to see the children, collect my challa and goodies from Rachel and get the best hugs and kisses imaginable. I may well pop into the fishmonger to say hello to Abu Yosef and then visit my favourite plant nursery to say hello to its Palestinian owners – all in Givat Zeev. The steep climb up to Samuels Tomb always fills me with anticipation, you really, but really must do it. As one passes the ancient tomb atop a hill the magic happens, the panorama unfolds before your eyes and Jerusalem, a white mosaic dotted with red roofs, hill after hill after hill, laying before you in its modern entirety, the Old City lays hidden, waiting, in silence for you to fulfil your dream.

With much love from Jerusalem. Our prayers were never “Next Year in Tel Aviv” eh?