The view from my veranda

170505 Trump visit, Independence, Jack Smorgon


5th May 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. A week of mourning and celebration, of anticipation and history, so let’s begin with a quote from my dear friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen who as always has encapsulated my feelings in his very first sentence.

” Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, brings out the best and the worst in us. We cannot agree on what it means, and we cannot agree on how to celebrate or recognize it.
For all the biblical miracles, after 2,000 years of exile and oppression, the reconstitution of a Jewish independent state strikes me as the most miraculous of events that defies logic and nature. And I celebrate it. I cannot understand why any Jew would not.”

It began with the deep sadness of Remembrance Day, the siren a keening lamentation of our grief. Few remain untouched by loss, as it was after WW1 and 2, Vietnam, Korea and so many wars throughout the world, but for us it is a fight for our very existence which began the day the United Nations declared the Jewish State.

The ceremonies and visits to gravesides seamlessly transport us into joy and celebration as we hold the biggest birthday party imaginable! For me the celebration after the grief isn’t anathema, it gives reason to those deaths, prevents them from being without reason. We are here, we have a glorious country which upholds the Jewish principles of Tikkun Olam (leaving the world a better place) in every sphere and has a population which believes life here is good.

This 69 year old lady has survived every imaginable attack on her existence and come through it all a strong and elevated society – which loves to complain!

Journalist David Harris wrote this wonderful article about Israel at 69 My thanks to Carol Nathan for sending it to me.

Perhaps the biggest “news” today is the upcoming visit of President Trump. He clearly chose not to make the same mistake as his predecessor, who intentionally omitted coming to Israel (actually not President Obamas mistake but Rahm Emmanuel’s advice). The President will take a very important route including the Vatican, Saudi Arabia and Israel – with the PA. Professor Eytan Gilboa suggested that while the President doesn’t anticipate an instant capitulation by Abbas, he would hope for a photograph of the three leaders (Trump, Netanyahu and Abbas) together. As the Israelis say “It is more likely that a cactus will grow on the palm of your hand”!!!

Talking of cactus and hands – One of President Trumps most basic demands is that the PA stop paying a generous stipend to terrorists (the more Jews killed the greater the stipend) and has been refused by the PA spokesperson Nabil Shaarth as an insane demand! Really, I kid you not! That an American President has the gall to have a say in the disbursement of monies he throws your way is insane…………… wow.

Whenever I read of such statements it makes me think of different times, times that seems to repeat themselves. The guards at the Treblinka death camp had the words “God is with us” emblazoned on their belts. He was not. Today’s Jew killers make the same claim. He is not.

I don’t know if the other “news” has reached your media, but Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, both political and terrorists with blood on their hands, are on a hunger strike. Ostensibly they are striking for better conditions – a somewhat ludicrous idea since their conditions are better than almost anywhere in the world including the opportunity to become educated. The real reason is a fit of pique! Marwan Bargouti, murderer, was left off the list of plausible Palestinian leaders and decided he needed to remind his people that although imprisoned for horrible crimes, he is still of consequence. Please, when you read the sob stories from B’tselem and other human rights groups, surely a misnomer because they care for the human rights of all except Jews and Christians, remember the true reason.

UNESCO. UNESCO – The United Nations Education, Scientific and Culture Organisation, surely an acronym which creates hope in our hearts – has done it again! Isn’t it time to demand from our elected leaders to stop throwing our money away in fees that those in the west pay and those who vote against Israel as their basic ethos, do not pay their dues!!!!

And now for something utterly, totally and completely different!!!

Parties! Yom Ha’atzmaut began with most of Israel watching the ceremony on Mount Herzl– a spectacular event. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein gave a short but excellent speech, exhorting the people of Israel to be more tolerant of each other. He pointed to the fact that political disagreement throughout the world has become a matter of insult not discussion. If you are on the right the left calls you a Nazi – if you are on the left then the right calls you a traitor. It’s time to stop and find middle ground.

The moment the ceremony ended on TV we set off for Ramat haSharon and the Lotans party. It was so much fun, seeing old friends, chatting and eating very Israeli food. We got home at about 03:30 (!!!!) slept a little then I went ot the King David to meet Deborah Stapler and her lovely friend Cherry. I didn’t know them before but Deborah is a friend of Bonnie Clement and we had so much to say that we barely ate. Excellent questions on how to respond to the ignorance of those who do not understand Israel and her relvance to Americans.

On my return from the KD Zvi and I set off to the town of Har Adar and the Schreibers party where we again met and chatted with lovely friends while Meishi and Dvorit plied us with that most Israeli of food –a barbeque. I then put in the diary that we sleep!!!!

On Wednesday morning, at precisely 11:00 we arrived at the Presidents House for a lovely ceremony for an exceptional man. Jack Smorgon is the epitome of a gentleman. A proud and decorated Australian from Melbourne, Jack and his family are philanthropic in a truly regal manner, without noise and with a great deal of passion. Jack was to receive the Goldstein Prize for outstanding leadership from Keren Hayesod (the fundraising arm of the Jewish agency in the world other than the USA)

Our President’s House is unassumingly elegant. Old trees, lawns, gentle breeze and a swathe of old friends. Sam Lipski is Australian, Journalist former editor Australian Jewish News and an old friend of Zvi’s; Mem Bernstein, a thinking philanthropist whose demands her projects involve Tikkun Olam; Jill Kaplan, a lovely, special lady whose husband Mendel, was a fine Jewish leader; Jaap and Tinneke Meijers from Holland in fact many who came for this day to honour Jack. I am sorry if I missed your name out but it was amazing to see you all. Admittedly this time I wore flat shoes and walked carefully – last time I was on the Presidential lawn I broke my ankle!!!

In his congratulatory speech President Rivlin emphasized that Jack is living proof that one can be both democratic and Jewish as indeed is the State of Israel. Just a complimentary word for Jason Pearlman who is the Presidents English language advisor and writer – Yeah Jason.

Yesterday evening we went out to the beautiful and delicious Mamilla Rooftop Restaurant with Sam and Debby Bettsak. The meal and company were wonderful and suddenly as we returned to our car we bumped into Rabino Marcelo Rittner, his lovely wife and grandson. Guess who is coming to Shabbat dinner tonight as well as the Rittners and Bettsaks? Guests from Panama, Colombia, USA, Mexico, Israel and of course one Welshwoman cooking her heart out!!! Every second of cooking and table setting is worthwhile when I hear the intake of breath as they step outside and see the incredible View from our Veranda framed in the scarlet geraniums, the little lemon, kumquat and orange trees, the day lilies and the lobelia. Zvi and I explain the view “That is the back of Gilo, Bethlehem is just a few hundred metres over the hill, Beit Tsafafa in the middle and Ramat Rachel up the top. We point left toward the industrial area of Talpiot with the red rooved houses beside it; Baka, the German Colony and then swinging round to Ramat Sharett………………… 69 years old yet look how beautiful her capital city is!!

So many of you say that the way that the newsletter ends on a high note with the songs is special for them. Sam Lipski – this one is for you Shai Abrahamson with the prayer for the State of Israel

I only found a Spanish translation of this beautiful song! Orna Datz sings of the beauty of candle lighting for Shabbat. Mother lights the Candles with her family.

Finally, my favourite. This song became a hit but few knew its genesis. Mark Knopfler wrote it for the soldiers of the IDF and it truly epitomises our thoughts and prayers.

Never think that this is just Israel’s Independence Day, it is the day of freedom from dependence upon others. Israel is OUR independence, our chance at autonomy and we are doing a great job. All those Empires that tried so hard to destroy and annihilate us through the ages – Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Mesopotamian, The Third Reich………… GONE while we survive and thrive

Off to cook – the soup won’t make itself nor will the Challot

Much love from beautiful Jerusalem, the city I am proud to call home.