28th April 2017
Shabbat Shalom dear Friends
I just finished preparing the challah dough, setting the table for Shabbat and I heard it, the roar of jet planes overhead, swooping and diving, in perfect formations, four at a time. No we aren’t at war, as far as I know, the incredible pilots of the Israeli Air Force are rehearsing their aerobatics for Independence Day! Red Arrows eat your heart out!!!! Gosh it makes me proud.
As I said, we never know when war is imminent or it is all chest thumping rhetoric for show, for us to think our leaders are much more powerful than they really are. In truth we have no idea what goes on behind the scenes; who tells who to make a fuss about what. Russia seems to be on the side of Iran and Syria but immediately following an Israeli diplomatic visit to Russia we bombed the Syrian airfield which just happened to contain weaponry – a veritable chemical arsenal. The following statement was issued – Israel didn’t bomb and Syria doesn’t have chemical weapons!!!! Within this tangle of lies and half truths the left wing newspapers blame it all on Mr Trump!! Really? The war in Syria didn’t exist before his term of office and nearly 500,000 died prior to The Donald? Aw, c’mon!
French intelligence clearly stated that the Assad regime carried out a Sarin attack on the 4th of April, so no denials or claims Assad is a mere bystander carry water. We have an evil regime on our doorstep and few are going to the aid of the people caught in the horror. Israel is doing all she can in the IDF field hospital on the border and in Zvi Hospital in Sfat– in fact that field hospital reported that patients were suffering from clear chemical burns as much as 2 years ago!
Mr Trump has a visit to Israel (and the PA) planned for May 22nd. As yet it hasn’t been officially announced, but the itinerary is finalized and the King David Hotel is probably moving guests as we speak (when American Presidents visit the hotel is basically cleared of its guests to accommodate the Presidential entourage and security). He will visit all the usual holy and traditional places and will travel straight from the Western Wall to Ramallah, somewhat symbolic maybe? We don’t expect anything. Israelis are tired of broken promises and “United Jerusalem” statements which are not honoured.
The parents of the teenager who wreaked havoc and caused enormous fear in the United States Jewish communities and billions of dollars in increased security by those who protect them, claim he is both autistic and has a brain tumour which caused his behavior. They claim he is a genius who does not understand the bounds of normative, civil behavior. Perhaps it’s true but how has he gone so long without being diagnose with anti-social tendencies. Maybe they simply never took responsibility? The United States is rightly asking for his extradition – he is an American citizen. I also believe that all those who blames President Trump for the increase in anti-Semitic behavior as expressed in those JCC and synagogue threats should apologise. David Horovitz interviewed the parents in this excellent editorialhttp://www.timesofisrael.com/forgive-us-we-did-not-know-forgive-him-he-does-not-understand/
Yom HaShoah passed with great ceremony and huge respect for the past. The involvement of Survivors becomes more and more important as the age and their personal stories die with them. Yad Vashem and the Steven Spielberg Foundation have done more than any other bodies to ensure their stories do not die but are told to this and future generations. If we cannot learn from the past then our society is lost. The achievements of Israel came from the bravery of those who fought and survived to come HOME.
This coming week we learn yet again of the resilience and determination of the Israeli people. We begin with the profound sadness of Remembrance Day, today the numbers include those lost to terror as well as those who died fighting to protect this tiny country. We begin with the wail of the siren as dusk on Sunday night and continue through the day, another siren and silence at 11:00 on Monday morning. Ceremonies begin at the Western Wall and continue in a constant flow of mourners to the beautiful military cemetery on Mount Herzl. Here Remembrance Day is not a reason for sales in the stores, it is a time of deep contemplation and gratitude to those who fell and those who remain. The faces and names of those who fell before and after the founding of Israel, each and every one, in a parade of honour on the national television station. We truly honour our fallen, we know that we owe them our existence.
At sunset on Monday, after the military parades and sad songs on Mount Herzl, the changing of the guard takes place and the joy of Independence Day begins. Choirs, songs, dancers and the lighting of beacons by 12 exceptional people, emotions change very quickly here as we go from mourning to parties all over the country – ecology takes a back seat for one day as barbeques smoke in every square meter of park!!!!
Today is different for us, for our family. Today we are holding the memorial ceremony for Zvi’s incredible parents. Kalman and Alla Raviv, if we lived in any other country we would call them refugees, for they certainly fled their native Poland. Alla came in 1934, when her parents understood that she could not study her chosen subjects (if at all) in Poland because she was Jewish, and chose to send her to the nascent State and the newly formed Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Kalman came when the former Mayor of Ramat Gan, Krinitzy, went to Poland to find strong young people to come to the Holy Land. Both were the only survivors of their families, both struggled with unbearable poverty, both were members of the Hagana, they fell in love and taught their eldest son a deep love and respect for his country, his people and teaching others about both. We will congregate with family and friends in the beautiful area set aside for Yekirot Yerushalyim – the Chosen of Jerusalem – where Mayors of this City and Naftali Herz Imber, lyricist of Hatikva are buried. Zvi will recite the traditional prayers, and will recite the Kaddish, the prayer of mourning. We will all come back to our home for a traditional Shabbat meal.
Did you notice how many times tradition is mentioned? Not by accident. It is irrelevant whether you are religious or secular, showing your children the rites and traditions that you were taught by your parents brings our religion, indeed any religion, alive.
I need to go because the challot came out of the oven and the rest of the meal need to be set out on the table for when we return.
We love it when visitors come. This week we had Samuel Bettsak, Cristine and Barry Slawsky and friends, we visited Norman and Lola Cohen with Canon Andrew White and Hanna Ishaq, and she gave me her phenomenal shortcake recipe! Zvi and the excellent Hakol Yachassi Choir sang at the closing ceremony of Holocaust Memorial Day at the Ghetto Fighters Kibbutz, which all agreed was the most emotional experience – indeed one choir member said that in all her years in Israel Hatikva meant more that night than any other.
The senior Cantor of the IDF Shai Abrahamson sings the most appropriate song for today, tomorrow and every day – the prayer for the peace of this tiny country. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JP1sy_O7wQ
At every concert of Yaakov Shwekey in Israel he gives hundreds of seats to soldiers of the IDF. Here he sings a special blessing for the brave soldiers of the IDF. May they be blessed and may G-d protect them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suKZK8O_x2s
How can I end this missive without Hatikva? Well of course I won’t! My choice of rendition may seem strange but, when I was searching and found this video of 30,000 Israelis singing at the beginning of a football match against Wales I couldn’t resist. To my amazement it brought tears to my eyes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtqAFP5E1b8
I will try to talk to you before Yom ha Zikaron. In the meantime I send love from Jerusalem.