The view from my veranda



31st August 2018

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? Yes I am back from my various travels and do not intend leaving Israel for 6 months at least!!!

Our last trip was to the Greek Island of Kos, 6 adults and 6 children ranging from 6 months to 12 years and we found the locals incredibly friendly. Walking around town every building and every sidewalk showed the effects of the last earthquake in July last year, even the antiquities were further destroyed – however – we found the synagogue of Kos. The sign outside proclaimed that it was founded in the 16th Century and closed its doors in 1944. Why 1944? Because the entire community, like Greece and other Greek Islands, was taken on a one way ticket to Auschwitz.

The world is spinning faster, or so it seems, and just when we think that extremes have reached their limit we discover that it has barely started! It happens on every side of the political spectrum and throughout all continents. The West has not been spared. Extremes of Left and Right have taken the word Liberal and changed its once beautiful meaning and taken the words National Pride from love of country to xenophobia. So it has become within the Jewish community, between Israel and the Diaspora and Christian communities worldwide. It’s almost Rosh Hashana – let’s make a new start! Instead of concentrating on our differences let’s remember and celebrate our similarities. We have to stop putting people into boxes, to think outside that same box and see………. People!

I want you to meet two Brits who will never become sheep and bleat about Jewish power. One is J K Rowling, author of Harry Potter

The other is Maajid Nawaz a Moslem and a brilliant broadcaster and defender of Israel, the Jews and human rights in general through Quilliam. Please listen to his put-down of a defender of Jeremy Corbyn

So, rather than talking about politics today I want to tell you, again, about my friend Israel Twito.

Through a great deal of persuasion and emotional extortion I convinced my childhood friend, Andrew Stone (aka Lord Stone of Blackheath) a true believer in human rights and the good in every person, to come with me to see a factory in an Industrial Zone in a settlement. Andrew sat beside me throughout the long drive convincing himself that he would listen to the owner, hear his story and try to keep his mouth shut on what he feels about settlements. Understand, Andrew does not think with his eyes closed, his work for Israel is constant and as a Labour Peer he determinedly puts Israel’s point forward, but he feels that it is wrong to build on potential Palestinian land.

WAZE took us a tortuous route through highly suspicious roads to the Barkan Industrial Estate, just outside Ariel, which in fact gave us time to observe our surroundings and to talk – strangely enough not of Cabbages and Kings but of really serious issues as set out above. I have known Andrew almost since my birth so knew better than to argue, I simply kept saying “Wait and see” you will love Israel Twito (the initiator of the project).

We were met by Moshe Lev Ran, the International Sales Director of Twitoplast and sat in his office as he explained that he deeply believes in what Israel Twito is doing and drives every morning from his kibbutz on the Gaza border to Ariel to work. Moshe explained the rationale of the highly successful business which was created out of the need to give back. Israel’s family fled Tunisia, were interred by the British and finally in 1948 arrived in the Land of Israel without a penny. It took the “kishkes” out of his father who never really recovered but even at the age of 4 Israel knew he had to succeed. Poverty plagued the family and Israel never finished high school. At the age of 14 he went to work for a carpenter who took a deep interest in the boy and encouraged him to forge ahead in life – for the first time Israel was told he was special. Despite a lack of funds Israel later created a plastics factory in Petah Tikva, in central Israel, but when the government asked Israel to employ Russian immigrants in his factory he took the chance and moved to the Barkan Industrial Estate, with Palestinian neighbours, and decided to employ 50% Russian immigrants and 50% Palestinians. Every move is in tandem with his wife Shoshana who is the power behind the throne. This man of no apparent education has nearly 150 international patents to his name, I feel because his mind was unfettered by the constraints of logical academia he is able to fly with ideas without the obstacles of scholarship. Why is this important? Because my incredible friend, Andrew, achieved great heights too, thinks outside the box, is always learning, has a sharp and brilliant mind and reached great heights as CEO of Marks and Spencer and an active member of the House of Lords, and also didn’t finish high school!

As we walked around the factory and the innovative, eco-friendly greenhouses we met workers, understood that Israel gave the same salary to all his workers and because the Palestinians, unlike the Israeli workers, did not get Governmental medical care, pension funds, social extras, Israel decided to give those to his Palestinian workers too, out of his own pocket. Each morning he greets each and every worker and the obvious love that emanates from their faces is reward enough. Not everyone is accepted to work in the factory – any talk of politics is banned absolutely – it is through family connections or recommendation of current workers. As I told you last time, if a worker is exceptional Israel pays for his university tuition in Ramallah and he comes back to the factory in a managerial position. The Factory manager, line managers, director of research etc are all Palestinian.

There were two very funny incidents. Israel stopped to talk to each of his workers and one young Palestinian was fascinated to be standing before a Lord. Immediately he pulled out his cellphone and took selfies with all of us but especially with Andrew!!!

The other was when Israel’s grandson showed fascination with talking to a Lord (especially when I translated it to Abir which made Andrew look more like Sir Galahad) and I told him that Andrew arrived on white horse following my car……. Of course he saw through my ruse even at the age of 10 but it worked for a moment!

As we were leaving for home I saw that Andrew was deep in thought. We are never quiet when together but this was different. All of a sudden he said “OK, so you’ve changed my mind”. I said nothing but I knew what he meant. He will never approve of building settlements on disputed land but when projects like Israel Twito’s Twitoplast can change the lives of Palestinians and give them security and honour it is a blessing wherever it is built.

We went to see Rachel on the way back to Jerusalem because he, with Stephen Isaacs, was my stand-in family at her wedding and wanted to see the children – yet another eye opener. When we stopped for a coffee and cake to go at Nehama’s Bakery at the entrance to Givat Ze’ev, he saw that Israeli and Palestinian shops and businesses worked together in this particular settlement – actually right next to Jerusalem. Next I took him to the girls school, just so that he could look down the road by a few hundred metres to see that Ramallah has grown unfettered almost abutting the wall that separates it from Ramot.

Finally, that panorama I always talk about, the one from the height of Samuels Tomb, blew him away as it does me every time I go past.

I know that Andrew is speaking in the House of Lords next week about the United Nations and the need to close the doors of the organisation which has so sadly failed in its duties, a cross party debate, and I know that if not in this speech he will use things he saw and learned on Wednesday in future debates and in the current fight with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

What has this to do with Rosh Hashana? Everything!!

It is about two men with pure minds trying to make this world a better place – each through his own path.

It is about not letting the past dictate the future.

It is about changing enemies into friends

It is about taking Judaism in its purest form and adapting it to every day life

It is about new beginnings

It is about forgiveness

It is about reaching out instead of shutting out

Now is the time to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Now is the time when Jews of every colour and trend stop fighting and trying to prove who is right and just come together in a world that is becoming less and less welcoming. United we stand divided we fall

This week promises to be excruciatingly hot with temperatures going over 40 degrees!! Not my favourite situation but since the children will all be back in school at least they will be in air conditioning!!

So what music fits this week? Forgive us for we have sinned

For everyone who is thinking of getting married or who wants to express love for their spouse Shlomi Shabbat who had a birthday this week

Sarit Hadad sings “Borei Olam” Creator of the world. I am but a human and I have erred but forgive me

Finally……….. my website exists!! Udi Ohana has done an amazing job. We are not finished I still have to upload my original archives and to create an email facility but…………… See what you think!!!

With love to all and every one of you. Tonight as I light the Shabbat candles I will look over the glorious view from our veranda and say thank you

Shabbat Shalom