The view from my veranda

171215 Chanuka, Nazareth, Education, Joy


15th of December 2017

Shabbat Shalom! Chag Sameach…… In Israel we tend to say “Festival of Lights” rather than just Happy Chanuka because our story represents the shining of light upon us all as well as the miracle of the 8 days of oil and the first time Jews decided to truly defend themselves.

Jerusalem is awash with highly fattening fried goods in the guise of sufganiyot (doughnuts) and Svinch (aMoroccan fried doughnut). Most Israelis are not happy with the traditional jam doughnuts so they come in every conceivable gourmet flavour with exquisite decorations. Some are crazy expensive and some are beautiful but inexpensive!

The famous Jerusalem Chanukiot are out on display outside the houses of the Old City and the Christmas trees are already distributed to the Christian communities. It really is the season of goodwill for most.

Sadly the Mayor of Nazareth doesn’t understand goodwill for all his residents. He has cancelled all of the Christmas celebrations in Nazareth whose Christian community is declining. He claims it is because of President Trumps announcement on Jerusalem – or maybe he feels that the next pronouncement will be that Nazareth is Christian……..

I wonder what the European and British leaders would have to say about that one. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, hands out Christmas trees and hangs Christmas decorations and lights on the streets leading to Bethlehem while Nazareth and Bethlehem ………… no I am not going to spoil my Chanuka mood!!!

There is an Israeli expression “Any reason to celebrate” (kol siba le mesiba) which is what we tend to do – celebrate everything! Unfortunately it has become a negative expression too. The angry demonstrations which have taken place around the world because an American President had the courage to declare the obvious have been taken as any excuse to kill a few Jews. As always the South of Israel had rockets launched at her cities – in fact one rocket fell on an Israeli kindergarten, luckily empty, and another fell inside Gaza on an UNWRA school, but I can assure you they didn’t report it!

This Chanuka has not been a happy one for everyone and the Israeli economy has taken a huge blow in the fall of a giant. Teva Pharmaceuticals had it all – then one very bad decision caused the entire company to fall like a ton of bricks. How one Director could borrow 32 billion dollars and invest it in a failed project must be examined but some 1,400 Israelis lost their jobs and many more throughout the world. A sad day indeed.

There is a way to change the world, slowly but surely. It can be summed up in one word – Education – or in three words – Tolerance in Education with the emphasis on love. I can hear you closing your minds as I write! Tosh I hear you say or maybe it is closer to Bah Humbug!! Well I am very proud to be involved in two organisations which can change your minds! One is very practical, that’s which, through academic research on the curricula of our neighbouring countries, Israel and Madrassas around the world is introducing tolerance in education through UNESCO and the other appears more dreamy but is equally practical coming from a different direction. David Geffen is a happy man. Why? Because he has created a formula, already working in several countries, to teach children to love themselves and thus to accept, even love others! The incredible thing is – it works – using the four H’s  Head, Hand, Heart and Help. I was not convinced at first but now I am and each time I meet David I learn more. . Both organisations will change Jerusalem, slowly but surely, from those amazing examples will change the world. I was introduced to David by my dear friend Andrew – Lord Stone of Blackheath – who has achieved enormous change through his quiet dreams and determined planning which he carefully brings to fruition. I will not embarrass him by outlining them now but I can promise you that he is the epitome of Tikkun Olam. How? How have these three examples succeeded while others fail? because they change the paradigm and do not veer from their course despite all the naysayers. No Bah Humbug can stop their path. I got to spend too short a time with Andrew this week – every time we are together I feel enriched and hopeful, and filled with our mutual childhood memories.

Talking of people who are not distracted from their path, Joy Wolfecelebrated her 80th birthday this week and I was thrilled, not only to be invited to her party but to manage a whole morning having a lazy breakfast in the glorious sunshine of Kiriat Anavim! Joy has never turned away from a challenge and lovingly supported by her late husband Brian, she has fought for her beloved Israel and the British Jewish community with all her heart. A warm and loving woman, Joy is a fine example of what one can achieve, simultaneously bringing up one’s children, playing tennis, swimming and playing crazy games with her grandchildren. I have a feeling that had she been born at a different time Joy would have chained herself to the railings of Number 10 while making sure every woman there was fed and happy!!!! Joy, I am so proud of you. Happy Happy 80th – let’s make a date for the 120.

I wonder what Joy would say about Jeremy Rosen’s article this week. Jeremy says that perhaps the term Zionism is defunct and overly troublesome – maybe we should now change it to “Judaism”. Personally I am inclined to agree with him – that way the anti-Zionists can’t say they are not anti-Semites!!!!

I am filled with excitement. Next week is the Bar Mitzva of my eldest grandson Yosef Eliyahu (Joseph Elijah). He is a truly wonderful, warm and loving child and has promised me that even after his Bar Mitzva he will still want Safta-cuddles!!! On Wednesday he will be called up to the Torah, his first time as a man; in Judaism he will now be responsible for his actions and for his people, he can no longer hide behind “he’s only a child”! 13 is a very important age – it entails moral culpability, obligation to behave properly toward others, to become part of the community and also be a member of a prayer quorum. Of course he will have a party but that is not the important part. His uncles – Daniel and Gideon are coming from New York and London to be with their little sister Rachel and stand in the synagogue as Yosefeleh is called up to read from the Torah. He is a lucky boy – his 3 Sabas, Pinchas, Nachshon and Zvi will all be rooting for him with his Abba Igal! Mazal Tov to all the family, I cannot promise I won’t cry! We will all spend Shabbat in Givat Ze’ev, eating at every conceivable opportunity and celebrating!! It will be beautiful.

Since Joseph’s story was in last week’s Parasha (Torah reading) perhaps we should talk of his wisdom. He was thrown out by his jealous brothers, taken captive, used his abilities to curry favour with Pharaoh and his court, became a high officer of the court during a time of famine – ensured his family was fed and……… through his deep love for his Father and little brother Benjamin taught his brothers a lesson in tolerance. …..yet again love wins.

Of course, there is only one song which fits all of the above. The prophetic words of Tim Rice echo through -Close Every Door

Songs of Chanuka are plenty


Quirky and even reggae!!  Which takes us back to the idea that miracles do happen! No matter what is done to us, it has been before and we are still here!!!!

So our family has an exciting week ahead filled with joy and dreams. Tonight we are with our daughter-in-law Shiri’s family with Zvi’s boy and OUR grandchildren (we each have our own children but our grandchildren are shared with love). Their faces lit with the candlelight and their hopes for a beautiful future – and it is up to us to provide them with that future, we cannot stand by and expect others to create a better world – remember what I always tell you THE POWER OF ONE. If each and every one of us does even one positive thing every day we can become and army for good…………..please.

With much love from Jerusalem as she prepares for a double candlelighting – first Chanuka then Shabbat. May the light of a million candles bring light and enlightenment to a world that appears to be sinking into darkness.

Shabbat Shalom, Chanuka Sameach