The view from my veranda

170223 Nikki Haley speech UN, Conference of Presidents, Shkediot


23rd February, 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

This has been a fascinating week which began with a surprise, a breath of fresh air, as Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations held her first press conference at the UN. She confidently walked to the podium and spoke out with rare honesty about the imbalance of time and money spent on the Palestinians when so many awful things are taking place in the world and time which should be spent on solving those problems was spent on castigating Israel, the only true democracy in the region. She was a phenomenally supportive saying, “The United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias”

Israelis have been torn apart by the trial of a young soldier who killed a terrorist, who had attacked fellow soldiers but was already lying on the ground. Elor Azaria’s parents chose to take the trial to the country rather than accepting the services of an IDF lawyer. They encouraged the media hype over what should have been an IDF court martial and left the country confused. Would it affect the way young soldiers reacted to attacks? Would they risk their own lives for fear of court martial? Would it embolden terror attacks? The matter was complicated by the fact that Elor Azaria himself changed his story many times and his parents turned it into a political issue. The verdict came out this week, he received a sentence of 18 months imprisonment, leaving everyone equally confused. Do we want to punish our soldiers for reacting? No, not unless they do it out of political conviction rather than necessity.

If you truly believe that the anti-Semitic attacks in the USA are caused by Donald Trump, think again. Louis Farrakhan has been determinedly campaigning for attacks “Disabuse the Jews” is his cry, “Disabuse the Jews of their belief that they are chosen and that Palestine is theirs” His hatred for Trumps pro-Jewish stance is obvious. If you have FB please watch this video

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen wrote a fascinating blog this week about the complexities of Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of Britain. Well worth reading.

I flew back from the UK on Sunday, Gideon took me to the airport and as always, saying goodbye to my family was painful. Without time to unpack, early next morning Zvi and I arrived at the Inbal hotel for a small but exciting taste of Dr Malcolm Hoenlein’s ability to put together a brilliant programme for his Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. The speakers came from across the political gamut, from far right to fairly left – from Bennet to Boughie. Even those with whom I disagree had important and highly relevant things to say. Bennet made important statements about education, about the need for every child in Israel to have the opportunity to learn the 3 R’s, history, geography and the sciences.Isaac (Boughie) Herzog is not on the left of the political spectrum unlike many members of his newly reformed party. He speaks clearly and when a questioner referred to the religious importance of Israel he reiterated that his family history follows his grandfather who was the Chief Rabbi of Israel and his father who was President, traditional Jews for whom Judaism was paramount. Herzog also referred to the secret Aqaba meetings and the plan set out by then Secretary Kerry. It is his belief that the talks were scuppered because Netanyahu made up his coalition with the far right after Herzog’s own party vilified him for wanting to form a coalition with Netanyahu; however, the press claims that the talks ended because Secretary Kerry did not pressure the Palestinians to recognise Israel as the Jewish State – an obvious prerequisite.

Yair Lapid chose to be interviewed rather than stand and speechify. Currently the front runner in the polls, he has grown politically over the past few years. He spoke well and addressed the concerns of the questioners. When asked about the threats of violence from the PA if the Embassy is moved to Jerusalem, he said “Since when have the USA and Israel made policies under the threat of violence” He also quoted his late father whose last words were “Take care of our family and take care of our country”. Yair Lapid feels strongly that this must be a Jewish State and doesn’t believe in separation of religion and state. Both Lapid and Herzog believe that Israel is a country for all Jews and we must give the same tolerance to Jews of different leanings as we do for other religions.  Perhaps the subject which touches my heart and I am sure yours too, is hasbara, Israeli PR.

It was surprising how closely all the speakers, irrespective of party, right and left, had the same core beliefs in education of our children and the need for reconciliation work between the different Jewish factions. All feel that we must bring two sectors into our society, ensure that their children have a chance to improve their social and financial position through education – the Haredi Community and the Moslem Community – neither of whose educational institutions fulfil the basic learning requirements. That is a broad statement because more and more Haredi schools have improved their curriculum but nonetheless it needs attention.

The discussion at the luncheon session was “Freedom of Press in Israel” with an esteemed panel whose political leanings were as diverse as their media. Each was disturbed by the Bibipaper “Israel haYom” which was, and is, funded by Sheldon Adelson and since it is free it is now the most influential with the widest readership and reports only positive things about the PM. While others report on the ongoing police investigation of the PM’s gifts and possible corruption, Israel haYom does not. It was also suggested that the Prime Minister’s Office tries to influence what is printed in the other papers and TV news. Remember – I am just reporting what was debated.

To understand the importance of the man and the mission one simply needs to meet with Dr Malcolm Hoenlein. His standing among the senior US politicians is without match, his work untiring and his determination unparalleled. I feel very honoured that we are invited to events. Just see the website to understand

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Australia! He was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with this excellent article in the Australian.  The reader comments were  disturbing but new trade agreements and travel opportunities eased my concern!!!

There is one problem to being a modern, dispersed family, while I adore being with each of the children and their families, I miss those I am NOT with! I had so much fun with my New York and London family and will return to my Friday school collection and hugs here in Jerusalem followed by Shabbat with Zvi’s boys Leor and Amiad and their families… but then I want us all to be together around one big table. One can dream after all.

Spring is around the corner although the air is still crisp and winter is not over. The harbinger in the UK is the fields of snowdrops and crocuses; here in Israel it is the shkediot – the almond blossom which covers the Jerusalem hills like clouds of pale pink blossom. The desert is blooming, – Darom Adom – the Red South, the Negev blooms, the land is covered with scarlet poppies, Jerusalem too. Calaniot, scarlet poppies, Rakafot, pink wild cyclamen as the land drinks the rains of winter before the heat of summer. Perhaps the most famous song is Calaniot, by the late Shoshana Damari although she actually refers to the poppies of Flanders Field

Zvi is in the city with my “machutan” Nachshon, my son in laws father, sitting a restaurant on Ben Yehuda Street absorbing the passersby, enjoying the atmosphere. Perhaps he will go to Mahane Yehuda for me to see what fruit is freshest on season and buy himself some treats in Tzidkiyahus “hamutsia”. Oh my I could go crazy tasting each one of the olives and salads!!!

The Shabbat music that Yaron Tzidkiyahu would love is Eastern or Mizrahi music – it is much happier than Ashkenaz music! Here Revivo sings Shabbat Songs with friends, get ready to clap!!

You always ask me for recipes, rather difficult for me because I rarely prepare things the same way twice! Today I found you a video of how to prepare Moroccan Hamin (Cholent) and I must say it looks so good I will do it next week!!!

So dear friends, finally Shabbat at home. Last week I lit the Shabbat candles with Stephanie and Olivia, tonight I will light candles in the knowledge that in each of our children’s homes Shabbat candles will bring in the bride of Shabbat, the childrens faces lit by the glow of the candles as they follow the traditions of their grandparents and the generations before them.

I just went outside onto the veranda for you, to see the glorious view, to see Jerusalem in all her glory. I don’t know if the US Embassy will come to Jerusalem soon, but come it will and then the dream of British Ambassador Gerard Cowper Coles will come true. He told me that each time he came to Jerusalem he used to go to the potential site of the British Embassy and touch the ground “One day the Americans will move their Embassy here and then I can follow suit immediately”. Three British Ambassadors have passed through since, but his dream may just come true.

With love for a beautiful Shabbat all the way from Jerusalem, our city, heart of our faith, where King David wrote his psalms, where Jesus walked, where Abraham took his son Isaac, Jerusalem……………………….

Shabbat Shalom