The view from my veranda

161223 Berlin, UN, Christmas and Chanuka


23rd December 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

This missive was meant to be one of Chanuka and Christmas joy – just a happy letter talking about the meaning of those festivals and our wish to honour each other’s celebrations and religious connotations. I wanted to but too much has happened this week so I will try to keep the sadness and anger short and move on to the happy and blessed.

Perhaps the sadness of the first subject explains our anger at the second.

Berlins Christmas Markets are a festive and a joyous tradition.  There are several – at the Alexanderplatz, Charlottenburg Palace and the largest at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The atmosphere was shattered when a Tunisian citizen, who the German police had been “watching”, stole a truck and ploughed into the happy crowds changing joy into tragedy. At least 12 people died and umpteen were injured. I am angry. Angry because 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri had expressed his desire for Jihad and the German police put him under surveillance without arresting him. I understand the German fear of xenophobia but it should not paralyse the law to the extent that a potential killer could wreak havoc with the lives of ordinary folk just because they were celebrating Christmas. He backed out of actually committing suicide but met his death in Italy, having used Europes open borders to escape.

Two Israelis were in the square, a couple who loved Berlin and went back at every opportunity. Rami Elyakim is in a coma in a Berlin hospital unaware that his beloved Dalia’s funeral is taking place today in Jerusalem.

In Turkey the Russian Ambassador to was shot to death on camera. Yes, again the cry was Allahu Akbar – G-d is great. “This is for Aleppo” was the killers cry. As I said at the beginning the link is clear and the incitement to kill by extreme leaders, predominantly Iranian. Aleppo, Khaleb, is a tragedy beyond all imagination but not a reason for further killing. The greatest tragedy is that our Western leaders have done nothing, but NOTHING to prevent the killing. They went marching into Iraq and Afghanistan but Syria, where the situation could have been contained………. Nothing.

My last piece of sad news cuts me to the very quick. Israel feels abandoned by her “closest Ally” – the United States of America. In a United Nations whose President admits extreme anti-Israel bias it was not the USA that tried to prevent a vote that Jerusalem’s Holy sites are not Jewish, it was our real ally – Egypt that asked to defer the vote. The United States was going to abstain rather than veto the proposition. Do you understand the implication of a vote stating that Jerusalem is not Jewish? It means that now, just before Christmas, the Temple Mount has no relationship to Christianity! Bethlehem is almost lost and the Christians there are suffering, the only Christian sites that are honoured are here in Israel or under Israeli care. Think about it – America, conceivably the most Christian country in the West – allowing the most holy Christian sites to be overtaken? There is no dichotomy here – if it is not Jewish it isn’t Christian and that worries me intensely. We can live without fancy, new-fangled aeroplanes but not without Jerusalem.

The United Nations has run its useful course. During the past session there were 223 resolutions against Israel and only 8 against the Syrian regime. Ban Ki Moon, at the end of his term of office, said “Decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel. In many cases, rather than helping the Palestinian cause, this reality has hampered the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.”  We know Sir, we know.

Incidentally, Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad, together with a delegation of security experts, met with President Elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower this week, to apprise him of the situation in the Middle East in general and Israel in particular.

I really need to cheer up. I have no intention of entering this unusual celebratory season with a “downturned mouth” If we learn anything about the Maccabees – it is that we have to keep our faith in ourselves and fight against those who would take us down.

Dumisani Washington is an American Pastor. His aim in life is to inform fellow black Americans of the truth of Israel. I particularly loved his words this week.

The human tragedies within Syria, Iraq, Libya (ISIS), Nigeria (Boko Haram), Kenya (Al Shabaab), Yemen (Iran/Hezbollah), Egypt (Christians being slaughtered), Gaza (Hamas)…are all horrific examples of the price the world pays while the United Nations spends its time demonizing, delegitimizing, and attempting to destroy the one and only Jewish State on the planet.

And what does Israel do while much of the world burns in Islamist terrorism and violence? Produce life-changing technology that literally makes the world a better place.

On behalf of the Israelis, you’re welcome. 🇮🇱

How about this article about the 15 ways that Israel improved our lives in 2016

Going back to the insane idea the Jerusalem isn’t Jewish an archaeologist found a coin from the time of Antiochus, the time of the Greek determination to prevent Jews from honouring their laws, the time of the Maccabees. Right next to the Tower at the entrance to David’s City, beside the Jaffa Gate digs revealed a coin dating from the Chanuka period with Hebrew writing!! Go take that to the UN and chew on it!

Chanuka in Jerusalem is a very special event. This video shows the joy of this special festival . Chanuka is not about sufganiyot (doughnuts) any more than Christmas is about trees – or either of them about gifts and chimneys! Christmas celebrations have a clear foundation but Chanuka? What is Chanuka in modern terms? Yes I know we all talk about the miracle of one jar of oil lasting for eight days but in truth – that isn’t the real miracle. The real miracle is that we are here, as a people. I looked up references on Dr Google but decided to do my own, much shorter, explanation.

Imagine, the Greeks were different to most of our former enemies, they didn’t want to kill us they just wanted us to be………. Greeks! When we decided we prefer being Jews they introduced all sorts of new laws – no kosher slaughter, no circumcision, no Shabbat – in fact a bit like Sweden today! Many of the Jews decided to abide by the lack of restrictions, it was much more fun that way anyway. However a few, a very few, decided to rebel; they were proud of being Jews, loved the fact that those restrictions enriched their lives by providing an enriching way of life. One family decided to form a peoples army and fight the Greeks to preserve their heritage. The Greeks ultimately gave up because this troublesome Jewish people was not worth their effort and so we celebrate our heritage when we celebrate Chanuka. It was the first time the Jews fought back. I think that’s quite a miracle!

I was thrilled to meet Sari Singer and her daughter Sam, in Mahane Yehuda Market. “Where should we meet” asked Sari, since I was coming from home and they were in the Old City. “Tsidkiyahus right next to Agrippas Street” was my answer! Everybody knows Tsidkiyahus! We had fun showing Sam the vast array of foodstuffs and fruit and veg. I sometimes worry at the gentrification of the market but luckily it is still a crowded, fun place with lots of action and costermongers shouting their wares. Strawberries are just coming into season and they are the size of apples and red and juicy and really taste of strawberry!!! We then went up to Gilo to see over to Bethlehem and then back down to the Central Bus Station – I hope they come back to Jerusalem before returning home. I love Sari!

Very quickly I want to tell you where Zvi and I were last night. We were invited to a little chanuka party by the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre  to celebrate a year in which the organisation has made great strides. It was held in Piccolino Restaurant on Yoel Solomon Street. As we went in the front door I was thrilled by the authentic Jerusalem house, conceivably belonging to Yoel Solomon, the man who built Nahalat Shiva – the first family compound built outside the walls of the Old City. Since we arrived early we walked through the building to find ourselves in a wonderland of beautifully set tables under a huge awning taking up an entire plaza between the buildings of Nahalat Shiva. On one side the Music Museum and on another a stage with young musicians playing. The food is incredible and the atmosphere wonderful – and we didn’t know it exists!!! .

Coming back to the Yuri Shtern Foundation, I just want to tell both Varda and the indomitable Lena, that it has been an honour to provide any help I could to a singular organisation that is manned by volunteers. As one of those present said “Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre is a place where ordinary folk become angels” So often all cancer patients, or family members, need is the touch of a human hand, the “ozen kashevet” the ear of one who has the rare ability to listen, as well as therapies to complement the medical staff.

My musical choices this week were obvious. Chanuka. Festival of lights. One song is of the miracles the other the prayer/poem we sing over lighting the candles each night for 8 days. The children will all be here tomorrow night and we will also celebrate Yosefs birthday. Lots of homemade food including sufganiyot in an attempt to limit the sugar intake!!! They will get gifts but just token ones…………………………I don’t believe in going broke- I prefer to give them love.

Al ha Nissim

Maoz Tsur

Growing up my favourite Christmas song was All Through the Night – usually sung in Welsh but I will spare you that

With much love to all of you, whatever your festival may it be blessed and pure – and traditional.