The view from my veranda

170519 Trump visit, Lag b’Omer, Jerusalem 50 or 3,000


19th May 2017

Hello dear friends, I hope you are well. Just by the way, it isn’t that our politicians/leaders are any worse than before it’s just that now we know about it! The Sacred Cow is dead. For so many years, indeed until the current era of the Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook we were in the dark and totally dependent upon a press (and media) from whom we received our filtered information. Today the people on the spot are faster than those who report it. Just a thought.

There are few things that worry me about this Presidential visit apart from the horrendous traffic jams that inevitably accompany Presidential visits. I am not worried that President Trump will visit the Kotel (Western Wall) without either the Prime Minister or President; just fine with me if he wants to make it a family affair. That way they can mingle with the participants of the many Bar Mitzvas that take place on a Monday (Yom Shayni) because that is a day one reads from the Torah. All participants have been through security checks and it will provide the children an extra story to tell their grandchildren! I am also not concerned by the fact that they decided that there will not be a tripartite meeting between Abbas, Trump and Netanyahu during the visit. For me all talks taking place out of the limelight are infinitely better than those in the glare of the media. I am not worried (even delighted) that the President will not be visiting Ramallah but rather going to Bethlehem – although the chances of him meeting any of the Christians who will tell him about their plight is minimal. I am not crying for those who have been evicted from the King David – that’s the price one pays for US Presidential visits and they have all been found alternative accommodation for a night!!!

I am actually pleased that his delegation has chosen to visit Yad Vashem after all. He probably won’t manage to tour but intends laying a wreath on the Eternal Flame in the Hall of Remembrance – something I did on my first visit to Israel in 1963. I can never forget what Zvi did with a 400 strong group of young leaders he brought to Israel many years ago. He asked each person to take a small candle and lay it on the name of the many Concentration Camps on the floor of the hall where they had lost family or knew survivors. Each of us stepped forward in silence and walked to the appropriate camp. It was both chilling and important as we cried that we would never forget.

I am pleased that the delegation will be here for Jerusalem Day, marking 50 years since reunification, but a bit worried that it will be a dampener since none of the parades will take place as planned – security. 50 years – incredible. Gosh I remember on that 1963 visit, having to look over the Old City from Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and then having to duck for fear of being shot at by Jordanian troops. Who’da thought that some 30 years afterward Zvi and I would travel to Petra in Jordanian Army Helicopters!!!!!

For 19 years the Old City was under Jordanian Rule – a time when we could not reach any of our religious sites, especially not the Kotel and the Temple Mount. For the sake of peace we chose to leave the Temple Mount in Jordanian hands – and sadly we still cannot pray there – visit sometimes but not pray. In that time Jerusalem has thrived, grown and diversified, with 52 Christian Denominations, 8 Moslem Denominations and about 650,000 Jewish denominations!!!! It is, as Zvi loves to say, a city from Wall to Mall! This is an interesting list of Jerusalem facts –

Sprot and Culture Minister Miri Regev showed the world what matters at the Cannes Film Festival when she appeared on the red carpet in a stunning dress – with paintings of Jerusalem around it! Haaretz and the Guardian said it was controversial others found it “interesting”×293.jpg

Lag b’Omer (the 33rd Day of the counting of the Omer) is a strange festival cum holiday that everyone enjoys and few understand. This year it was even less understandable because we celebrated the 33rd Day on the 34th unless you were religious (Don’t ask). It is an upside down semi-festival which celebrates the end of the plague which killed many of Rabbi Akivas students. Strange, but perhaps a deeper meaning is that through that plague they learned to respect each other. Anyway it is a time of bonfires and barbeques, music and weddings – because during the counting of the Omer (from Passover to Pentecost) one is not allowed music and celebration – a bit like Lent.

On Tuesday I met my dear friend Sheila Zucker on the glorious patio of the King David Hotel. It was obvious that something big was happening and then we saw the new USA Ambassador arrive, the new Greek Ambassador and another I can’t remember. There was an official reception taking place after they had presented their credentials to President Rivlin. I love that place – always something happening or somebody arriving. After a delightful brunch Sheila left and Pircha Lottner arrived. What an interesting lady who has changed profession even more than I!! As we sat together one of my favourite people came to sit near us – Former Ambassador to the UK and the UN Ron Prosor. A real mensch. Of course I went to chat with him, couldn’t resist! In the even the lovely Peter Cooper came to visit.
When Peter was still studying he lived in Reading for a while and was a regular visitor. I was thrilled when he came to Israel as he was when I did!!! He married the beautiful Yaella and has four children – much water under the bridge. There is something so special about old friends.

Wednesday evening we went to the Jerusalem Theatre for a fascinating and infinitely disturbing performance. “A Light at the End of the Tunnel” Before entering you were asked if you want a happy ending or a sad ending – I chose happy Zvi chose sad!!! Imagine a stage split lengthways, on top an air-headed morning show hostess and below IDF soldiers and two Hamasniks in a Hamas tunnel. The walls collapse trapping the soldiers and above are the air-head who becomes a news-caster and an Israel politician, a Palestinian politician and a UN representative. I leave the rest up to your imagination! Our audience chose the sad end.

Yesterday Rachel Yosef and I had cause to be in Hadassah’s Paediatric Department (don’t worry all is well) and yet again I was amazed to see the melding of peoples, both medical staff and patients. The emergency from a Bedouin family whose little boy fell and broke bones, the Haredi family deeply concerned for their son, the confused Mother from Ramallah who was treated with enormous respect and attended by an Arabic speaking doctor and social worker and so on and so forth. As we watched them come and go all day I was struck with the deep respect between the nurses and doctors both toward each other and the patients irrespective of colour or creed. I don’t know if you realise but in Israel at least one half of the medical staff is Moslem and it is irrelevant, except that we certainly couldn’t manage without them or they us.

As I took Rachel and Yosefeleh back to Givat Ze’ev, we drove over Samuel’s Tomb and suddenly a huge flock of cranes dived and soared before us. It was spectacular against the blue sky and the panoramic view of Jerusalem. Did you know that hundreds of thousands of cranes come to Israel as a stop on their migration route.

I have not written about the various altercations between the US President and his staff – none of my business!

I chose this rendition of Jerusalem of Gold because I cannot forget sitting in the audience at Israel’s 50th Independence Day and experiencing the magic of  the late Ofra Haza.

How can I end without the beautiful psalm – in the language that King David wrote it 3,000 year ago. If I forget the Oh Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave to my cheek. If I do not raise Jerusalem to the head of my joy.

Tonight I am not cooking!!! Well almost! We are going to our friends Meira and Michael Partem for Shabbat dinner. It is so exciting, no work at all because tomorrow we celebrate little Yonatan’s 3rd birthday at Noga’s parents home. Gosh what a gorgeous little boy!!

I have one more song, a special song for a special boy. My grandson Samuel George – this is for you and for all the special children in the world.

With love from Jerusalem, open and free. I will end with a quote from Pastor Dumisani Washington

Dear Mr. President,

While in Israel, go to the Western Wall and pray. It belongs to the Jews, but they’re great about sharing.

Pastor Dumisani Washington