The view from my veranda

170630 Conversion Law, Sochnut, Qatar, Edelstein


30th June 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I really don’t know where to start this week, the subjects are diverse and the repercussions enormous, but nothing is without solutions, we just have to find them. The secret with problem solving is not in blaming or finding a culprit but rather in patient debate and scientific research into the cause.

Perhaps we should begin with the lovely and good people I met this week, but by leaving the problems until the end would leave you with a bad taste and too depressed to think of solutions! Let’s dive in with the one that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue and look at it, dissect and find a solution.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, usually a wily politician, succeeded in angering most of us, distancing young Israelis from their religion and infuriating Diaspora Jews, all of whom were right. As you know I love my religion, find it fascinating and complex and its beauty is in its compassion for all; this week the PM and his cabinet reversed his former decision to widen the egalitarian section of the Kotel (Western Wall) but much, much more serious was the decision to change and harshen the conversion laws, virtually shunning a large section of both Israeli and Diaspora Jewry, and the majority of Orthodox Rabbis – the latter decision after the Prime Minister himself gave the task of researching the conversion question to Natan Scharansky who spent years solving the dichotomy to have it blow up in his face. Dr Danny Lamm explains eloquently

The Jewish Agency Board of Governors was to have a large event at the Knesset to honour outgoing Chair of the Board of Governors, Charles Ratner, in the presence of the PM on Monday, but as a direct result of the cabinet decision the event was cancelled and the food donated to charity. The Jewish Agency stood its ground to defend the people it represents. The next morning, all the delegates of the Jewish Agency went to the Knesset to lobby MK’s of all persuasions, from coalition to opposition, religious and secular, to vote against the decision. The general opinion when they came away was that the decision has no chance of passing the Knesset. The PM made a terrible mistake, lost his base supporters and out of fear of losing his coalition, lost his support.

Dear friends, I understand that some of you have withdrawn your support for Israeli charities. Why? Israel agrees with you, the decision will not pass the Knesset and by not donating you harm the very people who are fighting with you against it! Give us a chance to find a solution. Remember – united we stand divided we fall; we have enough enemies without we don’t need the enemy within.

The TV news this morning showed Bibi on his way to meetings with his coalition to reverse the reversal – in other words he regrets the action and is trying to find a solution.

Hadassah Hospital hit the headlines. I will not say anything about the situation but please remember – nothing is as it appears in the media. There are those who incite people’s fears to their own purpose, deepening the problem. Hadassah is still an excellent hospital with a Medical School par excellence.

The weather has been unbelievably hot. While Zvi was getting things done, as only he knows how, in the Jewish Agency Board meetings – he is the representative of World Maccabi Union to the Board of Governors – I took our friend Kim to a press briefing at the Jerusalem Press Club in Mishkenot Shaananim, the neighbourhood of many steps! Kim was thrilled at the picturesque views of the Old City and the amazing tiny treasure of the garden with its huge eucalyptus trees providing shade. We ventured back onto the steps and to the briefing on Qatar by Yoni ben Menachem.

Qatar is an extraordinary tiny country, run by cousins of the Saudi Royals. They make up for their size by immense wealth and have been slowly buying up football stadia, teams, hotels, airlines, television stations and of course keeping the news in check with Al Jazeera, a Qatari company. Qatar as instigator and financier of terror then steps in as mediator condemning self-same terror! At the Saudi initiated Arab Summit, all the Sunni leaders met in Riyad to hear President Trump to speak. The President set new rules, starting with determination to rein in Iranian control and nuclear power; condemning terror and the funding thereof; alluding clearly to the actions of Qatar which although Sunni has always played a different game- Dohar is the home of the Moslem Brotherhood; condemning the payment of terrorists. Qatar is in siege without any basic needs coming into the country.

President Trump has set new ground rules. He decided to talk to them “doogri” straight. He made the wise decision to go with the relatively Western leaning Sunnis against Shia Iran. Islam is split into 80% Sunni and 15% Shia, President Obamas decision to go with the 15% was considered a huge insult by the Sunni states and President Trump has now set a new paradigm – mentioning Israel three times in those hallowed halls in front of thousands of Sunni leaders was a brave move. Zvi is not surprised that the Saudis are leading the change – he remembers a private conversation when Prime Minister Olmert was asked “With which Arab country do you have most contact”? The immediate response was “Saudi Arabia”.

The very next day I was back descending the steps to the Press Club to hear Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez talk about the Russian interference in Israel’s wars since and including 1967. Americans are distressed that the Russians interfered in the elections well how would you feel if you discovered that the pilots, tank commanders, gunners that you were fighting in a war with Egypt were in fact Russian and all the arms provided by Russia with the sole purpose of eradicating Israel? Their newest book reveals information from Russian archives buried for 50 years and recently revealed.

Yuli Edelstein, former refusenik now the Speaker of the Knesset, made an official visit to Russia. He returned to the prison where he was incarcerated for teaching Hebrew, from where he was sent to Siberia, and he spoke in Hebrew to the Russian Federation Council. “Even in my best dreams, I didn’t believe I’d come to this moment,” “In the same language for which I was imprisoned I bless you with the ancient Jewish Blessing Shalom Aleichem”

I am so proud of both Varda Hershkovitz and Lena Shtern for their amazing work for the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre in Shaare Zedek. The excellence and effectiveness of their work has resulted in the hospital asking them to perform therapies in the ER to relive trauma and pain of those brought to the Emergency Room.

Our beautiful friend Kim Taylor (aka Dr Kimball) came for the Jewish Agency meetings. He is a popular face and a fascinated participant, reporting his experiences back to the LDS Church ensuring that Fake News doesn’t colour their love of Israel.

Yesterday at 12:30 we collected our dear friend Dr Cyril Sherer, at 96 he has just completed a book of his fascinating life as physician to the rich and famous visitors to Jerusalem for the last many, many years. Cyril is still involved with medical research! We then went to King David to meet Harry and Nancy Bloomfield for lunch – if Nancy had her way they would spend most of their time in Israel and not bother with anywhere else!!! Two young Polish friends of theirs joined us and they were so delightful I almost released my inherited memories and considered going to Poland to visit my father’s home town of Brzezini. Zvi chose that moment to announce that we are going on March of the Living early next year!!!

I’m sorry this is rather a long letter but I felt that the fiasco of the Cabinet decision had to be addressed in full so as to avoid a misunderstanding turning the rift into a chasm between Israel and the Diaspora.  As Zvi says “Anyone crazy enough to want to embrace Judaism is welcome with open arms”

Gosh, what songs to give you.  Blowin in the Wind, seemed too trite, too obvious so I put my thinking cap on and……….decided to be selfish and give you a song that I used to sing to my amazing son Gideon when he was a baby (together with You are my Sunshine) Tumbalalaika

If we are already talking Pete Seeger, as a youngster I was a devotee of Habonim and as we sat around the campfire we used to sing If I had a Hammer – led by the late and much loved Theo Christie. It was his favourite song. Gosh that group sitting in the trees next to Castel Coch has come a long way.

After all that doom and gloom we need to rejoice  – Yismachu hashamyim!

Last Friday’s Yiddishche Delicatessen meal went exceedingly well. Our lovely Tel Aviv friends were so excited as they read out the Yiddische Menu. Funnily enough it was the men who were “chalishing” for traditional food. Maybe next time I’ll do Mexican for the girls!!!!

Talking of food – we just came back from and event with Chef Shaul Ben Aderet. The Spinach shakshuka was to die for, the roasted eggplant gnocci unreal and ……….. why don’t you see for yourselves

With much love from Jerusalem, from our verandah, it’s view, it glorious flowers and it’s welcome. I promise I will kiss the children for you and wonder at the panorama as  I come back home. Tonight is a quiet Shabbat – Leor, Amit, Gili and Ori are coming but that will be relaxed and without a menu……….. how can you write “augmented leftovers” in Yiddish!!!!!

Remember dear friends, we are family and occasionally a family member makes mistakes and offends everyone else, but after a hasty fit of pique we settle down, apologise, repair and carry on with life. We are Family, we are the Musketeers and d’Artagnan, we are the Knights of the Round Table – all equal but different; let’s regroup and ensure nothing and no-one can divide us.