The view from my veranda

180209 Poland, Antisemitism, Koreas, Spring


9th February 2018

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well and my family in North America and the UK are not too cold. Just to make everyone jealous, the weather here has been glorious. Yesterday was 25C and just glorious. The balmy spring weather has persuaded the Shkediot (almond blossom), nuriot (rununculus), the first Calaniot (poppies) and Rakafot (wild cyclamen –to burst into blossom. Indeed thanks to the recent rains then sunshine the fertile land of the Negev Desert are abloom with scarlet, blue and purple! Yes, spring may not have sprung but it is certainly springing!!!

Semantics- semantics – semantics. Polish Anti-Semitism has a long and broad history; while it is true that the Concentration Camps were not a Polish conception, nor did Poles bring the death camps to fruition, but, while the Jewish shtetl sounds romantic it was most certainly a form of concentration of the Jews to make controlling them and exiling them easier. Poles did not create the Concentration Camps but those who condemned the camps were few and far between and precious.

Talking about Antisemitism, be it from without or within, a growing trend among those who know no better.

Again a natural segway from those Jews who denigrate Judaism to the simple fact that despite the rumours that have been twisted and shouted from the rooftops, the egalitarian section of the Kotel is being extended

A young man. Just 29 years old and the father of four, was waiting quietly for a lift to town when a man suddenly, for no reason other than the fact he was there, crossed the road, stabbed and killed him. In most cities it is an everyday tragedy/crime but in Israel it is different. Itamar Ben Gal z”l was a Jew, not just a Jew but a Jew who lived in a “Settlement” so he deserved to die because ……….he shouldn’t have been there. What? What utter nonsense, nobody deserves to die at the hands of a crazed killer just because he is a Jew! Settlements (the English word for small new towns) is a collective word in these parts for Jews who want to live in the antithesis to the shtetl – they simply want to live their lives, not to harm or interfere with anyone else. Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal was a kind man, father of four tiny children, teacher of excellence, whose death was described as “the death of a settler by stabbing” by the foreign media – if they bothered at all. His killer? A young man whose father is Palestinian and Mother is Israeli – he is Israeli, he has been in institutions since babyhood, a drug addict and a felon who has now added terrorism killing to his long CV.

Illegal immigration is a world problem. Israel has been relatively kind to its work-seekers who were mostly free until asked to voluntarily leave the country. Israel paid Ruanda, a relatively organised country, to take those who agreed to leave. In interviews in Ruanda they said Israel is good to them.

I feel deep concern for the people of Gaza. They suffer a corrupt and violent regime under Hamas and their entire economy is about to collapse. They have limited electricity supplies which means that they have no fresh water and limited electricity means their sewage cannot be treated……… and flows straight to the beaches of Ashkelon in Israel! During the time that international funding was constant, Hamas used those funds for arms and tunnels – neither food for its citizens nor payment of debts. Their border with Egypt is hermetically closed; with Israel there is strict security but Israel continues providing subsistence goods; the USA is stopping funding UNWRA, who misused the aid money but also provided food for children and the PA has stopped funding the poverty stricken area. Saeb Erekat announced last week that the USA decision to stop funding would cause starvation among Palestinian children yet Mahmoud Abbas just bought a $50 million private plane!  In the meantime Israel and Egypt are working together to wipe out the presence of Da’esh and Al Qaeeda in Sinai.

The Winter Games 2018 are beginning in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 92 countries and 2,952 athletes are participating, but as far as the world is concerned there are two countries that have come together as one. Incredibly North and South Korea are marching under one flag. If one thinks about the reportage of just a few months ago “Trump has brought us to the brink of war with Kim” it is a surprising result even before the games begin!

On Sunday I went to the Israel Museum to meet two wonderful friends who volunteer there. The Museum is a credit to Jerusalem and to Israel in its vast collections but for me, the most important collections are Judaica, with its ancient synagogues brought intact from Suriname, Cochin, Italy, Germany and Poland, and archaeology. On Monday I met my friend Ruth Dodziuk-Justitz for lunch at the Botanical Gardens. I love that place, it is so serene and the food outstanding. Ruth is a relatively new friend, she and her husband are here for a year’s Sabbatical, but I have a feeling they will be here for much longer! I sincerely hope so!

On Tuesday I went to a lecture by Professor Avi Weiss, of the Taub Center, on “Israel’s State of the Nation”. It was fascinating! I suggest you look at their website and click on each report – or, if like me you find all those numbers difficult then go to the graphs. The information covers all aspects of Israeli life in all of the sectors.

Talking of the state of the nation of Israel, I hear the occasional voice “If things are so good in Israel why should we give money”? Well, as far as I know American Universities are hardly poor but one donates to ones Alma Mater. Israel is the Jewish peoples Alma Mater and as a people we desperately need that “kesher” that connection with our past and our heritage. It has nothing to do with charity, it has everything to do with a connection with family and ancestry. If you want charity then I can suggest several exceptional NGO’s that do phenomenal work but get little help from governmental, municipal or organizational funding – but don’t throw the baby with the bath water of religious or political differences. We are all family and family sticks together through thick and thin – and now it’s thin.

Wednesday was full of meetings for both of us, and so was Thursday………….. when I wasn’t cooking in preparation for Friday night and Shabbat!!! Tonight we are 17 for Shabbat Dinner. What? You want the menu? OK. We will begin with two kinds of soup – “Orange” soup (orange coloured veggies) and Pea soup for the children; moving on we have Oven Grilled salmon, Chicken balls a la Stephanie in tomato sauce and Chicken Korma with Basmati Rice, Aubergines with Tehina, Moroccan mushrooms, Hummous, roasted cauliflower, cabbage salad, chopped salad and baby veggies for the children, followed by poached pears in cinnamon and apple juice and fresh citrus salad. If I have time I’ll do something chocolate for the children. Tomorrow we have 10 friends coming after Shabbat to celebrate the incredible achievements ofProf Gabby Barkay on becoming Yakir Yerushalayim. You know Gabby’s story, I have told it often, but we decided to bring together a few of his (and Zvi’s) childhood friends for afternoon tea and to raise a glass of bubbly to Gabby. I won’t bore you with that menu – enough is enough!!!!

At the beginning of this missive I described the glorious spring weather in Israel. The bonus, one of many, is that the almond blossoms, the shkediot, turn every hillside into puffs of pink and white clouds. It is really spectacular. In the middle of the country they travel for a long time to see the almond in blossom, here in Jerusalem, even rubbish dumps become sights of beauty as the almond trees emerge! The sunrise has been breathtaking each morning giving me cause to go out onto our veranda, still chilly at 06:00 in the morning, to breathe in the crisp air and watch the sunrise over the horizon while sipping my coffee, Jerusalem silhouetted in the foreground. The first daffodil has emerged, like a ray of sunshine in itself and anemones are tentatively peeping through ready to burst into colour, the tulip leaves give promise of a colourful spring. The kumquat tree is laden with fruit and the lemon tree is bravely holding on to her bright yellow gifts so that my frozen New York grandchildren Callie and Joshua can pick them when they arrive next Friday.

I leave the pomegranates on the tree so that the birds can visit during the lean winter months and eat their crimson ripeness. It provides us with a delightful selection of garden visitors. My favourite is the “Tsufit” a tiny iridescent blue-black bird, which dips its long beak into the fruits (and flowers) like a humming-bird, all the while whistling its distinctive song.

It is time to finish cooking and set the tables (one isn’t really enough for 17 people). I haven’t yet decided whether to have a grown-up table and a children’s table and put games on their table for entertainment, or constrain them to sitting at the big peoples table……. Not that anyone will be sitting for very long. Actually that isn’t true, little Yonatan, age three and a half, sits and eats like a gentleman! His favourite food? Salmon in any form! This will be the last full Friday night dinner with Zvi’s boys and families for a little while because Shiri, Leor’s wife, is about to give birth to their 4th girl…………. May it be with great ease and beautiful results, or as we say here in Israel “B’Sha’ah Tova”.

Gosh is it really that time already? Music…………

Calaniot – Anemones – bright red carpets of them even in the desert after the life-giving rains, are the second harbinger of spring. The calaniot of Kibbutz Shekonda are probably the most spectacular in Israel although I love the wildness of the Valley of the Cross in Jerusalem where they mix with the wild cyclamen The Calanit is the national flower of Israel but it was recently renamed in this region as the Palestine Poppy………. Even though it is an anemone! Shoshana Dimari sings her traditional song to this spectacular flower

With Holocaust denial on the rise alongside horrifying incidents of anti-semitism perhaps we should think about how we, as a people, survived to fight another day. We learned to shrug off the horrors around us, and no matter how diabolical the punishment for being Jewish we dared to hope for a better day.

Time to go, I want to see what Zvi’s plans are for today and to drink our coffee together. He already brought in the table extension and moved the lounge furniture around so that I can make the major seating plans and bring out the beautiful crockery and decorations for Shabbat. Of course he will go to his parliament because how can the world be put to rights without it?

Happy, happy birthday to the lovely Gloria Goldstein. Dear Gloria – I hope you will come home soon – we miss you!

Shabbat Shalom with love from Jerusalem and our beautiful mirpesset (veranda) with its view of Jerusalem.