The view from my veranda

170908 Irma, Mexico, Syria, Misuse of Power


8th September 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

What a week of worry! Hurricanes and monsoons, Texas, the Caribbean Islands, Florida, India, Nepal, Pakistan; the horror of natural disasters reminds us that we humans are powerless against the enormity of nature. The devastation left in the path of hurricane Irma is unprecedented in its scope. Unlike man made disasters natural disasters do not differentiate between rich and poor – St. Barts and St. Marten were hit equally with poverty stricken Haiti, everything in Irmas path is simply flattened. As I write the news comes in of a horrendous earthquake off Mexico We pray our family is alright.

Would you think I’m crazy if I ask the question “Are all todays freaky natural disasters a chain reaction after Kim of North Korea caused the initial earthquake and subsequent tsunami”? I know this is the season but…….. never mind it just passed through my mind.

We, little Israeli, are sending aid to all of the above, through iAid, IsraAid, the IDF teams, ZAKA, MASHAV, no matter where, we have people on the ground helping at a human level and we stay to help them rebuild. I once sent information about the incredible aid work being done by Israeli organisations to a friend in Canada, around the time we sent help to Alberta after the horrendous fires which engulfed the state, to which he sent a letter of ridicule “Are you serious – how can Israel help Canada?” Well, Israel that sent people to help Texas and after Superstorm Sandy we were received with love and gratitude, does that answer your question?

And then there is Syria; the Syrian government has accused Israel of aggression after a mission was sent to destroy their chemical weapons research centre and stockpile. After half a million people were killed and hundreds of thousands horribly wounded by chemical weaponry they call Israel the aggressor? The mission was essential, finally, and coincidentally came on the anniversary of the bombing of the Syrian nuclear facility 10 years ago by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Israel is torn apart by the level of corruption within the political sphere from the top down. Indeed it appears that the political sphere controls our lives far more than we could imagine.  I know it happens everywhere but this is my home and perhaps unrealistically I believe that we should be more principled than anywhere else. The choice of leaders is rarely based on ability but rather on misuse of power – choosing the person who can facilitate power rather than the one who is suited for the position. When two excellent candidates for a major position, each with many years of service to the Jewish world (Colette Avital and Zvi Raviv), are overlooked in favour of person who is unknown in the Jewish world, allowed to continue his private business interests, does not live in Jerusalem near the office where he appears for just a few hours a week, one should understand that something is terribly wrong. I don’t want to name names but one cannot deny simple facts. Those who chose the current World Chairman of Keren Hayesod,Mudi Zandberg, did not choose him because he was the best candidate but because they bent to the choice of the Prime Minister (or his wife) and now Mudi Zandberg is embroiled in the current investigations. Please understand, these leaders affect the morale of those of good will who work within the organisations without a rudder to guide the ship but do not reflect on the excellent projects executed by the KH and the good name which was hard earned over nearly 100 years of caring for the Jewish world.

Finally after 45 years of an unrelenting fight by the families, a memorial was inaugurated this week, in Munich, to commemorate the 11 athletes slaughtered at the 1972 Olympics. President Rivlin,present at the ceremony, said “We must condemn terror wherever it may be”.

Sadly Zvi lost a good friend and a fine Jerusalemite, last week, Ilan Roman z”l. We went to the Shiva house to honour his memory and visit his widow Tsippi. Obviously we spoke of Ilan’s full and interesting life but then someone mentioned the mystery surrounding the stolen Yemenite children. In a country of 2, 3, maybe even 4 children per family the newly arrived Yemenite families often had 10 or more children living in abject poverty as new immigrants. Many babies died at birth but some, in an act of misplaced and ill advised “kindness” were taken from the mothers who were told their babies had died, and given to wealthy childless families, both in Israel and in the “Goldener Medina” the USA. These children grew in loving families, needing for nothing although many questioned their dark features in a family of blonds. Over the last 10 years, children have been reunited with their birth mothers but for many it is too late. Two ladies at the shiva house had family members who were “placed”. What fascinated me was that nobody, not even the two ladies of Yemenite origin, felt it was done with any but good motives, but the tragedy that ensued cannot be measured.

On Wednesday evening, I set off for the German Colony, to Bethlehem Road, searching for a building I didn’t know existed! It was to be the site of a celebratory evening in gratitude to the volunteers of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre for Cancer patients and their families – a truly magnificent group of people. The building was exactly where Menachem told me it was – directly opposite Cremieux Street! As I drove through the impressive gates I was met with one of the most magnificent buildings of white Jerusalem stone, towering and a total surprise! The building of the first Jerusalem electricity station was opened for the first time ever to the Yuri Shtern Foundation by the Electricity company. I am not a healer, I am an admirer, a fan of these incredible, altruistic folk who give of their precious time each week to bring succour to both patients and families at Shaare Zedek Hospital and the Clinic. Under the auspices of the excellent stand-up artists we played fascinating games, laughed and then ate – under the watchful eye of Lena Shtern, widow of Yuri z”l . Lena’s dream came true in this giving organisation which changes lives ably aided by Varda Hershkovitch and Ayala Goldman.

Just as I was thinking – wow it’s that time of year again, nearly Rosh Hashana and high time to think about whether I, and all of us, have done enough to better this world. As always, my dear friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen was thinking exactly the same – and since I knew I couldn’t possibly be more erudite or clever than he I have given you his thoughts directly!

Conan O’Brien spent a week in Israel. I was never a fan of his ascerbic humour but he proved himself to be much more fun and much nicer than his image. I love this interview with Channel 2’s Yonit Levy

I survived last weeks Friday night dinner of 24 guests – survived and thrived! Everyone was happy with the food; the children took doggie bags with them to help feed the grandchildren during the week since Amiad, Noga, Leor and Shiri all work long hours. The children were happy with the games we provided and everyone helped get the salon back to its former glory!

School is back and I just got home from collecting the girls from school, Rachel’s girls that is! I loved their excitement at seeing me back at my normal Friday job!!! As we drove over the peak of Samuel’s Tomb they chattered on and on in that unintelligible language of girls aged 11 and 8, it was irrelevant anyway – I just wanted to hear their voices!!! Arriving at Rachel’s on a Friday is a culinary and olfactory treat! The aromas emanating from her kitchen draw one in and all diets are forgotten as the plies one with cups of tea, home-made Danish Pastries and fresh hot Challa……. To say nothing of tasting each of her delicious salads just to check they are good!!! Then the drive back home – the panorama of Jerusalem, the hills and winding road back to our apartment and then the joy……………… I don’t have to cook tonight!!!  We are invited to Mottie and Rivkas for Shabbat Dinner – Motti is an exceptional historian of all things Jewish (he built the Herzl Museum) and Rivka is not only a Balabusta ( a Yiddish expression for a good home-maker) but also a Judge. I am in awe of so many Israeli women who work in high position but successfully keep a happy family. Anyway, I love going to them, it reminds me of my childhood!

So, in honour of Motti and Rivka I think we should go with a Yiddishe Shabbat Song. Actually, this song will bring back happy memories for my children, Daniel, Gideon and Rachel, memories of my father laughing at their rendition of this song. Daniel my love, happy birthday, I do know you are a grown man with a family and your patients have no idea I call you my baby…… not until now anyway – but you are! The song tells the tale of the Rebbe  “Az der Rebbe”– when he laughs all his students laugh, when he sleeps they sleep, when he drinks they drink, he laughs they laugh – etc etc

As we see so many terrible disasters around us I wish you a Shabbat of blessings “May the Lord Bless you and Keep You”

May the skies be happy – Yismachu ha Shamyim – and may you be safe under clam skies

With love from beautiful Jerusalem, from our veranda which is blooming with bright scarlet flowers, the trees promising a good crop of pomegranates, kumquats, lemons and ……… oh I forgot, the orange tree, after the most phenomenal show of blossom decided to be on strike!!!

I pray you are safe, please let us know.