The view from my veranda

180727 Tu b’Av, Day of Love?


27th of July, 2017 – Tu b’Av

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Today I wish you a day of love, in the Jewish tradition of Tu b’Av – the fifteenth day of the month of Av when the girls of the villages would dress in white, go out into the fields and wait for the love of her life to find her!! Things have changed a bit and sadly there is very little love around.

Hatred of the other is the drive behind so many incidents, so many terror attacks, be it an insane terrorist, incited by his Imam, who goes on a wild shooting spree killing two and injuring many in Toronto, Canada, in an area known for its evening walks and coffee shops or in the sleepy suburb (aka settlement in CNN or BBC language) of Adam near Jerusalem where a young Palestinian, Mohammed Tariq Yousef aged 17,  from the Palestinian settlement of Kobar, walked into a home and stabbed those within. One of the three injured died of his wounds. A Palestinian worker in Jerusalem didn’t do his job well, was fired and set fire to the small hotel where he worked leaving 3 people in critical condition from their burns. It is irrelevant which country, which continent, we are all targets. Rockets fly from Gaza and now from Syria landing in the Sea of Galilee, a site for peace not war. A Syrian aeroplane flew 2 kilometres into Israeli airspace before being downed by a woman IDF specialist. Indeed, over the last few days there has been a great deal of air activity over our skies. Understand that this is a war of attrition – attrition means wearing down and weakening your opponent by sustained attacks or pressure.

Israel is being attacked from the North, South, East and the greatest tragedy is that, as if it is not sufficient that half of the world is against us, our values are being attacked from within by our internecine fighting. As we said last week, there is little love lost between the various Jewish, Christian and Moslem denominations both of each other and within. I am more than aware that this is a worldwide phenomenon, hatred for those who do not think exactly like you, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you ever doubted PM Theresa May’s loyalties – watch this one! She absolutely destroys Corbyn!!

I have been trying to meet up with a very special man for some time now. He was the Israeli Consul in San Francisco, the Information Officer in London, a brave soldier in the Border Guard and a very proud Bedouin from the northern village of Khawaldi.  His name is Ishmael Khaldi aka Shmulik. Ish has written a book about his experiences called A Shepherds Journey but that isn’t why I wanted to meet him now – specifically now.

We met at the Aroma Coffee Shop opposite his workplace in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since we only met on line, it was very exciting when he walked through the door and we greeted each other as old friends. I sensed an element of reserve about him, not totally certain of what we would discuss.

Since neither of us is into small-talk we immediately got down to the crux of the matter. Not the new and ill-timed Nation Law, but rather about the insane infighting here in Israel. As Ish said “I don’t care about anywhere else, I know they are fighting as much as we are, all I care about is Israel, this is home. We have to work to increase tolerance between the sectors of society, not just between Arab and Jew, Christian and Moslem, but between Israelis.” His words hit home immediately since that is the way that I think too. Ishmael’s face becomes deeply intense as he expresses his distress and we try to understand the why, what and when we became a zealous people; when each sector became convinced that theirs is the only way. Perhaps it is clearest in the Jewish community where the division is such that each fervently defends their “rights” denying those of others. As I said, we know it is happening everywhere but for Ishmael and me, we cannot cure the world but we can try to cure our own little country. Neither of us know how but we will find a way I promise, and if not, it will not be for lack of trying. I would suggest an organisation encouraging talks in schools whereby one introduces people who are different to the schoolchildren to speak to the children class by class but sadly the schools that need it most may not allow it. Worth trying though! We have the rainbow, now let’s make sure the colours stay bright.

I am sure you have your opinion but to quote John Galsworthy “Idealism increases in direct proportion to ones distance from the problem”

Tolerance and respect begin at home. If our children hear us demean any other person or sector then they learn that it is OK. It could be a secular person deriding religiosity, Jew about Arab, Arab about Jew, in fact anyone about anyone, it teaches them it is OK.

So now we go back to love after all, as I said at the very beginning, today is the day we forget about hatred, about division, Tu b’Av is about love for one’s fellow man.

Just as Tisha b’Av commemorates the disasters that befell the Jewish people so Tu b’Av commemorates the miracles and wonders. The end of a terrible plague; the decision that not only could a woman marry a man from the tribe of Benjamin, a ban that nearly saw the extinction of that tribe, but also that marriage between the 12 tribes was finally permitted; Hosea ben Elah removed Jeraboam’s guards who prevented the ordinary people from reaching the Temple Mount thus allowing access to all; the Romans finally allowed the bodies of the soldiers of Bar Kochba to be returned for burial; the end of the harvest and in olden times Tu b’Av was also a time to rethink our year and atone. Not a bad thing methinks.

I met with Avi Bieler this week. Avi is an excellent young man who, among a whole team, is working hard on the campaign to elect Hitorerut leader  Ofer Berkovitch as Mayor of Jerusalem. The campaign is getting more complex and we wanted to strategise. The English speaking community here, known as Anglos, requires a different approach to the Hebrew speaking electorate and we really need to think about it. Here are the candidates!

Ofer Berkovitch heads the party known as Hitorerut or Awakening. They are mostly young, of varied backgrounds, both observant and secular, who want to make Jerusalem a city for all her residents whatever their leaning, ensuring culture and attracting businesses, so  that young people do not leave for better jobs and all of us who are grandparents will have their grandchildren near them.  Zvi and I have been mentoring Hitorerut  for several years.

Rachel Azaria was Hitorerut, left, formed her own party, left, ran for the Knesset apparently left that and is now back and running for Mayor.

Yossi Havilio, Avi Salman both very experienced in the workings of the municipality itself and although good people, not suitable for the international role of Jerusalem Mayor.

Ze’ev Elkin, Minister for Jerusalem Affairs. A good man, highly experienced politician, the personal choice of the Prime Minister against the wishes of his party.

Moshe Lion, many contacts from his time as Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jerusalem Development Agency. An experienced man, the official choice of Likud

Chaim Epstein and Yossi Deutsch are both Haredi candidates who, from past experience, work hard for their own communities, which is excellent on the municipal council but not good for a pluralistic Mayor.

How often can I say that the summer temperatures are the same in London and Jerusalem? 35 degrees celcius is hot but not that extreme for Jerusalem (and about 45 in the Dead Sea) but the last time I remember those temperatures in the UK was in 1976 when I had 3 small children to keep cool!

I felt as if I was going to melt this week especially since I spent a fair amount of time either out of the apartment at meetings or cooking! I was cooking because we are 20 for Shabbat Dinner tonight and I never ever leave things to the last minute. My fridge is so full that I took a photo of it so that my beautiful friend Arlene could have a laugh!! The menu, since I know you love to hear what we are eating is….. antipasti, roasted cauli in tehina, Tuscan sweet peppers, courgettes and aubergine and then mini burgers, spring chicken pieces and salmon baked in lemon and garlic served with roast potatoes and mini-potato cakes made in the shape of smiley faces………… all homemade!! Dessert? Rayas 7 minute Chocolate Cake with Vegan Ice cream and incredible, seedless, sweet, icy cold and juicy local watermelon! We’ll sit on the veranda so that we can catch the special Jerusalem balmy breeze, while overlooking the breathtaking view and wait for the eclipse of the moon. It all looks so peaceful, indeed on so many levels it is and if the prayers of all who sit around our table came true it will be.

What songs are appropriate for today? A song of love? A song of peace? All You Need is Love is just too easy and a little too flippant.

Biglal ha Ruach – Because of the Spirit was the song chosen when the parent sof lone soldiers surprised their children on Yom Ha’Atzmaut. I dare you not to cry!

I dedicate this song, Thank you World, to Israel

Who is better to bring us to a harmonious, melodic and thoughtful Shabbat then Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, something of a rebel in his time Shlomo Carlebach was first and foremost a Jew. His drew in young people who didn’t know the beauty of their own music, so deeply into pop that they forgot their traditional songs. Likrat Shabbat – before Shabbat — is basically Lecha Dodi but sung in his very special spiritual style.

On Sunday I am flying to London with Rachel, Yosef, Talia and Ayala for an extra special reason, there we will meet up with Daniel, Karen, Joshua and Callie. Samuel George, my incredible grandson, Olivia and Zachary’s big brother, is going to be bar-mitzva. Sammy, above all others in this world, taught me how to love. Sammy cannot speak or walk but he is the most feeling, amazing little boy whose judgement of goodness in people is unwavering. Sammy brings joy to all who have the privilege of being on the receiving end of his enormous grin. Gideon and Stephanie, I don’t have words to tell you how I admire and love you. Sammy is a food and music connoisseur, a fine diner, but just like his Daddy his favourite song of all time is this one

I wish you a peaceful Shabbat. This Shabbat as you go about your business, whether to pray in the synagogue or simply walking in the street, smile at those you pass, greet those you have never met before, spread a little friendship. It does wonders!!

With much love from Jerusalem, the city that is so special it has 70 names in the Tenach.

Shabbat Shalom