The view from my veranda

171124 Rabbi Nati, Rivlin Azaria, Mummy


23rd November 2017

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? I hope you are well and not too depressed by the crazy world we live in and the medias obsession with our leaders.

Surprisingly this hasn’t been a busy week. It makes a pleasant change and gave me time to cook and contemplate – my freezer was looking decidedly empty! I always keep a full freezer for unexpected guests and extra busy days. In fact I was given an extra day of quiet because Zvi went to babysit in Nes Ziona taking the little car key with him!!! He is an exceptional Saba (Granpa) and Amit, Gili and Ori were thrilled that he stayed over to care for them, so I excused him!!!

Tuesday evening found us at the World Mizrachi Union Centre for a Telfed event. Telfed is a South African group that has excellent and informative events – something I only discovered through the kindness of former Jerusalem Post Editor and current Jerusalem Report EditorSteve Linde. This particular event fascinated me, I was really looking forward to it and it lived up to my expectations. “A Swaziland Prince who became an Orthodox Rabbi” Rabbi Natan Gamedze lived up to my expectations and exceeded them by far!

Rabbi Natan – Nati – was born into wealth and privilege in Swaziland, to a devoutly Christian family. A quiet introverted child, he was clearly brilliant and like his siblings he went to Britain to study in Oxford University. Nati studied languages, today he speaks no less than 14 languages fluently! When he continued his studies at Witwatersrand University in South Africa, he found an Italian class rather boring and decided to take on a challenge and learn the language of the Bible – Hebrew. I will leave you to listen for yourselves – the following video is one of 4, but know that studying Hebrew brought him to Israel, to study at Ohr Sameach Yeshiva and to convert. He now lives in Tsfat (Safed) as Rabbi of a community there and is married to Shayneh Golda. He loves to shock his audiences by breaking into Yiddish and is a delightful and true Jew. It was only after his conversion that he discovered his real name was not the Swazi name he knew but he had been christened Emmanuel – “he who believes in G-d”. and his whole story

Where are American Jewish Academics when Israel and other Jews are attacked? Where were the Jewish Academics in the fine American Universities when anti-Semitic, anti-Israel cartoons and activities take place? Where were they when offensive cartoons of Prof. Alan Dershowitz appeared? The loyalty of these academics is sadly lacking, their cowardice blatant. It has become fashionable to deny your heritage, after all being accepted in intellectual circles is more important! The following article is long but worth every word.

President Rivlin made a brave decision this week to deny a pardon to Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot a terrorist who was already neutralised and no longer a danger. It is a basic and absolute rule within the IDF that no-one, not even a terrorist, be shot if he is neutralised. Azaria was known for his extreme right wing views, although until that day he was a decorated soldier; he went against the ethics of our IDF. The reactions made me very angry – the far right put caricatures of the President wearing a Kaffiyeh and even Nazi uniform – it cannot be countenanced. Yes I know the familiar chant of free speech – but I believe that democracy demands control, democracy is not absolute freedom. As I said at the beginning of this paragraph I, for one, am proud of our President who has brought great dignity and compassion to his position and to Israel.

The Likud Party has gone beyond the line of decency when Party Chair Bitan forced veteran and honourable Member of Knesset Benny Beginto leave a special Committee which intends to prevent prosecution of Knesset Members. Benny Begin disagreed with the party line so he was simply thrown out!!!  Disgraceful.

The history of Jewish persecution in Syria. Jews in Syria suffered some of the worst oppression under Muslim rule of any of the ancient Jewish communities – who existed in the Middle East even before the Muslim conquests in the region. This is their story, a story of struggle and oppression, for which reparations have not been made to this day by Syria or the Arab League. As we lead up to the Memorial Day for the Jewish Refugees from Arab countries, we share the stories of the ancient Jewish communities who were virtually wiped out by racism, extremism and violence in the Middle East.

Every year I fear the question – what were you doing when JFK was assassinated, especially this year since the “secret” papers were disclosed. It isn’t that I am not emotional about the assassination, it was a terrible, terrible tragedy which shook the world. No, sadly, the question distresses me because something much greater shook my world and the world of my siblings Eddie, Doreen and Ronnie on that day – indeed at that hour.

22nd November 1963 – I was 17 and it was conceivably the saddest day of my life.
Friday night and Daddy was in the lounge with two friends, Lionel Moore and Norman Cohen. The television was on and although we heard the front door bell the nurse answered, since my brother Ronnie and I were held in rapt attention by what was happening in Dallas, Texas. A President was shot and fighting for his life.
As the announcement came over the airwaves that President Kennedy has died from his wounds I heard my father’s scream. He never yelled, he was a quiet man. We left the room to find Dr Grossman holding my father close, his friends crying as Dr Grossman conveyed the news that my beautiful Mother, Betty, had passed away.
She had breast cancer at a time when there was no way to discover it, no mammography, no US, no chemo, no radiation, she simply lived too early to be saved.
She gave me, indeed all her children, the love and confidence to live our lives as thinking loving, confident people. We were very lucky. She left a wonderful inheritance to the world – loved and loving to all she met from the greengrocer to royalty.
I want to thank todays incredible doctors, like Professor Michael Baum who dedicated their lives to healing women with breast cancer throughout the world. Michael, proud to call you friend – I wish Mummy had known you

As a founder member of Cardiff WIZO Mummy would be so proud that I am living in Israel.

Kate Humble is a journalist and a very special lady. She created a series call Extreme Wives and this week I watched her piece about Haredi Women in Israel. It was generous, unbiased, honest and very special. If you have the opportunity I suggest you watch it.–s1-e2-israel/

Gosh, a quiet week but I found lots to write about!!!

Yesterday was the last Thursday in November and thus it was Thanksgiving in the USA. The Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth Ho in search of a place where they would not be persecuted for their religious beliefs, they set off without knowing what lay on the other side of the ocean and upon landing they found food and freedom. That is the lovely fairy tale version – and that is the one that America rightfully celebrates. However, I beg of you to honour the most important tradition, giving thanks for what we have. We have become accustomed to whining and winging about just about everything but we have running water, food in our bellies and rooves over our heads – and if we are lucky we are surrounded by those we love and love us. I hope your Thanksgiving was good. Just to stir up the pot, here is Rabbi Jeremy Rosen’s take on this unusual festival I believe that all reasons to celebrate should be grabbed with both hands – but why are your settlers celebrated and ours excoriated?

Perhaps the ultimate thanksgiving is Modeh Ani the Jewish prayer said every morning upon waking. “I give thanks before You, my King living and eternal, for You have returned within me my soul with compassion; abundant is Your faithfulness”

Last week I promised you Adon Olam and gave you Oseh Shalom – so this week I’m going to give you Adon Olam but not in the way you expected!!!

This morning we will commemorate 2 years since the horrific killing in Mali of our dear dear friend Shmuel Benalal z”l, His passing has left a vacuum that we cannot fill. They say that a person has 3 names; the one he was born with, the one he is called and the one he leaves behind. Sammy, Shmuel, you leave a beautiful name behind you – rest in peace dear friend. For purely selfish reasons I want you to see this video of our visit to Ein Gedi with the choir. Shmuel shines in every picture – his amazing personality clear, his voice standing out with Zvi.

The blessed rain finally arrived! Suddenly everything is clean, shiny and the buildings return to white instead of dusty grey!! I swear I could hear my plants heave a sigh of relief as they absorbed the life giving drops. The grey skies don’t bother me because I know that the parched land is going to blossom, even as far as the desert. I started making winter soups again and even put the heating on in the apartment!!!

A very special couple arrived in Israel today, Valerie and Martin Myers. Valerie and I grew our children together in Reading, Berkshire. We spent our Shabbatot together, Passover Seder and Rosh Hashana, Valerie and I decorated our little synagogue together on Shevuot, had a business together and shared our secrets. I still make cookies and fried gefilte fish according to Valerie’s late Mums recipes. They aren’t staying with me, actually they are based in Netanya with Pamela and Stuart, also from Reading, but today we will see each other and Valerie and Martin will come to Jerusalem, hoping to see Rachel! Martin, I can’t believe you are 80! Happy birthday lovely man – you don’t look a day over 79!!!

Wishing all of you a truly wonderful Shabbat. More news next week.

With love from us to you