The view from my veranda

80 days of Miluim

26th December 2023

Happy Boxing Day!

Do you remember the word “miluimnikim? The reservists who volunteer to serve in the IDF and have been an essential part of the troops fighting a tough battle in Gaza, a fight to remove the oppressive, cruel, actually diabolical regime of Hamas? Well, let me explain something, each of these heroes has a family, they left businesses, studies, law offices, medical practices, restaurants, in fact just about every type of work, they just dropped everything without a selfish thought in their heads, because they knew that their fight was just. They had to stop the strong possibility of October 7th becoming a regular occurrence. For many of them they left their families without a breadwinner, their businesses are failing and the war must continue until Hamas is wiped out. I felt the need for you to understand that this is not an army of regular soldiers fighting a battle overseas, this is a citizen’s army of people, men and women, who know that the enemy is on our doorstep. Their sacrifice is ultimate and some have not been home in the 80 days of fighting, or maybe popped home for a few hours before returning to the field.

When I write that this is a people’s army, I mean a real people’s army. Men and women from every walk of life, irrespective of professor or street cleaner, come together in a mixed unit. That is particularly true of tank units, but also of the soldiers in the field, those who risk and lose their lives every minute of every day. The IDF is the greatest social leveller imaginable and the relationships formed during their army service remain throughout their lives. The number of serious injuries is frightening, but they all get the absolute support of the people, the IDF and the social services for the rest of their lives.  When this cruel war is over, it will be fascinating to see if their political differences, those that created a frightening split in our society, will return or dissipate in the rubble of Gaza.

A few minutes ago I received a message from a dear friend that her son in law is in Soroka Hospital, the hospital that received the bulk of the injured. He is in critical condition with head injuries and the family is around his bed, praying and supporting.

Yesterday Zvi and I had lunch with old friends, Stanley and Charmaine Roth and Harold and Rebecca Finger who are here from far off Sydney, Australia with a Keren Hayesod Mission; the third couple to complete our table were Inbal and Marcus Sheff. Marcus is the CEO of Impact-se ( ) of which I am the proud Chairperson of the Board and yesterday, we were all fascinated listeners as Marcus answered Stanley’s questions, explaining the critical importance of Impact and school education so clearly shown to us recently. After October 7th, the correlation between hate education and terrorism has become an important subject in the international forum and Impact’s success in changing the school curriculum of many countries, such as the Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, even Qatar, replacing hate with tolerance has come to the forefront in many countries. Impact-se has all the necessary reports, showing a clear correlation between school textbooks and violent hatred and our next project is to produce a viable alternative to the UNWRA/ Palestinian Authority/Hamas curriculum. I was so proud of Marcus but even more so of the Roths and Fingers who never fail to support Israel in every way possible.

We were deeply distressed to hear of the increase in anti-Semitic incidents and lack of sympathy for the horrors of October 7th. It was unimaginable that such things would happen in Australia, but they are – but then these incidents are happening all over the world and as I listened to Charmaine and Rebecca’s distress, repeated by Canadian, American and British Jews, I feared for the future of so many communities. Perhaps he deepest hurt comes from the women’s organisations that care not a jot about the vile and violent rapes of Israeli women by Hamas.

It is far from being a Jewish problem. I was sad to see that several stores on London’s Oxford Street closed their doors, dimmed their Christmas lights as the pro-Palestinian rally chose to ruin London’s Christmas. It made me sad and mad since apparently to be pro-Palestinian means sucking the joy out of everything. Actually that self acclaimed, ”quintessential, queer, English Jew”  Stephen Fry, the oh so brilliant Stephen Fry, decided to record a somewhat regal Christmas message declaring his dismay at the changes in the country that welcomed his grandparents, but in a wonderfully eloquent, regally British manner.

Colonel Richard Kemp is also very British, a veteran of Afghanistan and a firm and constant defender of the IDF which he has described as the most moral army in the world. Here he writes about the influence of Hamas.

Orange County, Florida, may just as well have started burning books as they purged nearly 700 books from their school libraries. They deemed Saul Bellow’s Herzog and Rebecca Walker’s Black, White and Jewish as unsuitable since they are deemed offensive for public and school libraries. In other words, any reference to Jewish life.

Issa Anis Kassisiah has a very important role in Jerusalem – he is the Jerusalem Santa and instead of Rudolph he rides a camel! For many years now Issa brings a smile and lots of joy to children and adults like in the city. Indeed, Issa, a Jerusalem Christian, is the only certified Santa in town! He studied at the Charles W. Howard Santa School in Michigan and each year he opens his house, which is filled with every imaginable Christmas favour, a sleigh, Sata’s workshop, chocolates, candy canes and of course Santa’s workshop, all open to the public. Normally he has about 25,000 visitors but this year perhaps 10,000.

Dr Zohar Raviv (no relation) talks about October 7th that it must not be yet another horrific event in our Jewish timeline of victimhood. Jewish living is the identity not defensive by nature but of the ever living people L’Haim!

Omer Adam is a highly successful Israeli singer and a total mensch. When reservists go home for a few hours, their home could well be a long bus ride from base, cutting short their time with their family. Omer Adam decided that his contribution to the IDF would be to pay for taxis to take soldiers back to base. His incredibly generous thought has already cost him nearly 2 million shekels but has brought  few precious extra moments to those who put their lives on the line for us.  

I have returned to knitting! It is actually very calming, an essential aspect when watching the 24/7 news, hearing the names of the fallen soldiers, understanding the number of families that have lost their fathers and of course seeing that orange warning that pops up telling us which towns are under red alert. So you see, knitting is a good thing, especially since I am knitting warm hats for soldiers to wear under their helmets since it gets very cold at night, both in the North and the South. Until now I haven’t joined one of the social knitting groups because I love the emotional attachment as to who gets the hats and so far they have all gone to the children of friends. It started with Tomer and Sheli whose hats await their visit home from the north; my neighbour’s son has been home just three days out of the 80 days of this war; Hannah and Danny’s son came home for a few hours and he got one too, they all got special portable cellphone chargers from Zvi, to share with their unit. As a “reward” we received a video of Hannah’s son walking in the door and his children running to him in excitement. Whatever we do is not enough to thank them for their devotion and bravery.

Shalva, the concept, the fact and the place all represent hope; hope for change and making the best of what we are given, turning fear into joy. Here the Shalva Band sings for evacuees, returnees and the families of hostages, indeed for all of us. This is a song normally sung at the entry of Shabbat but the words ring true any day of the year and express hope for the coming year. Shalom Aleichem, Peace be with you

Four years ago Koolulam was in Kibbutz Be’eri and recorded this beautiful song. Nobody could predict how appropriate it was to be as Be’eri was destroyed on October 7th  “One Day”

I wish you a peaceful, loving Tuesday, until we meet again for the Shabbat Shalom missive