The view from my veranda

A Compendium of News and Views

4th of December 2020


Shabbat Shalom! I hope you are well and keeping your sanity when politicians are clearly losing theirs!!


I woke this morning to a glorious, crisp, wintry morning and since the newspapers hadn’t arrived yet I took a puzzle book and went to sit on the verandah with my morning coffee. It actually felt really good to forget the world and its troubles and just sit taking in my surroundings. Despite everything that has happened in the last year, I truly believe I am very lucky.


On December the 2nd 1938, 200 children from a Jewish orphanage in Berlin were taken on a journey to Britain, a new and foreign land, to be taken in by families they didn’t know, who spoke in a language they couldn’t grasp. Some were as young as 2 years old. That was the day of the first wave of the Kindertransport. Central British Fund for German Jewry, later known as World Jewish Relief, was established in 1933 to support in whatever way possible the needs of Jews both in Germany and Austria. The writing of Kristallnacht was on the wall and these good people read them clearly. Most of the children were fostered, but some older children were taken to an old school in Windermere to be taught how to make a new life


Growing up in Cardiff I had the honour of knowing some of the Kindertransport children who grew to be incredible human beings, somehow unharmed by their childhood experiences. Hilde Cohen, Dr. Hilde Cohen, whose parents made the ultimate sacrifice when they put her on a train bound, ultimately, for Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, with her Siddur (prayer book), photographs and a silver ladle. Hilde influences those around her until today, her emotional intelligence and joie de vivre legendary. I know she is one of thousands but here is the speech of just one who she influenced. Lord Polak in the House of Lords


So when one thinks about those incredible human beings, do we really have the right to complain? This isn’t an easy period of our lives, we miss our friends and family, miss hugging and kissing them but we know that unlike those children, we will see them again. We are in warm, comfortable surroundings and if we have the good sense to watch the least amount of news programmes to remain informed but not obsessed, life is bearable.


Obfuscation. What a perfect word to describe politicians! It would appear that we are currently surrounded by obfuscating politicians. Here’s one excellent op-ed about Netanyahu.


Israel has managed to acquire 4 million Covid vaccines, enough to vaccinate at least 20% of the population in the first round. Quite an achievement.


Perhaps the odious Roger Waters and the BDS people should talk to the Bahrainis about product labelling! One of the most positive outcomes of the recent agreements between Bahrain and Israel is that they have decided that all products made in the West Bank should be labelled “Made in Israel”. It isn’t a political decision, it is a humanitarian decision; virtually all of those employed in Yehuda and Shomron (aka West Bank) factories are Palestinians who receive equal salaries and benefits to their Israeli counterparts.


Jewish students in the USA, and many other countries but predominantly the USA, are in danger. They either keep their heads down, choose to go along with the BDS disinformation and the ludicrous apartheid state claims, or they get beaten up, shunned or demeaned. It is terrifying and for many of them Covid-19 home studying has brought a sigh of relief.


Rabbi Aharon David Hadash z”l, who passed away yesterday from Covid-19, was the spiritual leader of the world famous Mir Yeshiva here in Jerusalem. The parade to his resting place was attended by thousands of his followers, totally against Covid regulations. Between such incidents, the throngs attending the opening of shopping malls and 16-18 year olds celebrating their return to school, dancing and hugging without masks, we are fast descending into yet another closure. As I have said time and again it isn’t just the inefficiency of our leaders – it’s us! If we, the ordinary people, can’t manage to put on a mask and keep our distance we will reach the death rate of the Spanish Flu of 1919-1920.


If you have “Alexa” the chances are you had no idea that she is highly anti-Semitic. Among the many questions she responses to Jewish questions on Holocaust denial and “Jews control the media”. British Members of Parliament are fighting to have such responses wiped.


Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shato came to Israel in 1984 with her family as part of Operation Moses, is a very special lady. This week she flew to Ethiopia on a special flight to bring the first of several thousand Ethiopians home to Israel. Their years of waiting is over and as they descended the steps of the aeroplane they knelt down and kissed the ground.


Fakhrizadeh was a terrible man. In the guise of a brilliant scientist he masterminded the Iranian military nuclear programme. This week, despite a bomb-proof car and multiple bodyguards, he was killed in a highly sophisticated targetted assassination. Of course the “blame” was laid firmly at Israel’s feet, after all we are the Zionist Entity and certainly sophisticated. I don’t know who actually carried out the assassination, but they deserve our thanks.


Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Ashkenazi announced that the Czech Republic are moving their diplomatic mission to Jerusalem. The behind the scenes work that brought it about was by our friend Ambassador Daniel Meron. Thank you Daniel.


I have to brag! Our CEO of – the wonderful Marcus Sheff, was announced as one of the most effective 100 people in the Jewish world, in the Algemeiner  J100 award! He really deserves it taking Impact to the leaders of the Western world and changing educational thought toward tolerance of the other in our region. Bravo Marcus!


Israeli athletes have done wonders recently! Linoy Ashram won the European Gymnastic Championship. Windsurfers Yoav Cohen and Shahar Tzuberi  won gold, and Katy Spychakov won silver,  and Peter Paltchik won gold in Judo! To cap it all, the Washington Wizards proudly announced that they had signed Israeli Deni Avdija for their team; despite losing him to Washington the Israeli Basketball Team has qualified for the European Championships. Who said Jews aren’t sportsmen?


Gosh so much news!! I haven’t even told you about our week! Apart from Zoom meetings and meeting friends on the benches outside the coffee shop opposite, it has been a fairly boring week! Talking to family every day and wonderful visits from our children and grandchildren – don’t worry we are careful and stick to the rules.


Tonight Amiad, Leor and their families decided to cheer me up and are coming for Shabbat dinner after Zvi goes to the synagogue as my proxy to say the special prayer for loved ones who have passed on. Zvi will come home to the full Shabbat aromas and the children will stop their chatter for long enough to hear Saba Zvi chant the Kiddush in his phenomenal bass baritone, the prayer over the wine and then all together they say the prayer over the Challot, or bread. To satisfy the various culinary demands of the children we will have two types of soup, my orange soup and pea soup, always served with “shekdey marak” or soup almonds; salmon (in Israel pronounced Salomon) or “pink fishy”, home-made pizza, and the famous Israeli food “pasta bli clum” – aka plain pasta! Of course we will have oven-chips for the children and a multitude of salads for the adults (both the boys are bringing). For dessert I made them chocolate mess-ups….melt chocolate, put all sorts of broken biscuits and little “smarties” then cool and chop into slices. Finally, a big birthday cake for Amit, Zvi’s eldest grand-daughter and amazing young lady.


Incredibly, it is a year, according to the Hebrew date, since my beautiful son Daniel died so tragically. I can’t believe it is a whole year since I heard his sweet voice as he called me, walking across Central Park on his way to work at Mount Sinai. I can’t help wishing he had walked that fateful morning but he didn’t. It has been an emotional roller coaster for all of us, all his loved ones and we are so many. My video conversations with his children Joshua and Callie, indeed all the grandchildren, keep me sane, amazing children whose smiles contain a special magic formula.


Daniel’s Uncle Steve and Shuli are staying over with us tonight so that they can come with us tomorrow morning, together with a very few close family and friends, to the little synagogue in Gilo. The community is very special and it is the synagogue we went to with Zvi’s parents. After prayers we will have a Kiddush in Daniel’s honour. Nothing can change the fact that we lost him, but we must turn to celebrating his life because if not, he would be very cross. The service is inside with clear distancing, masks and plastic coverings on the pews and the weatherman up on high has chosen to blow away the expected rain and it will be a fine, sunny day, we will be able to hold the Kiddush (reception) outside in the winter sunshine surrounded by loving people.


I think of you every time I drive over the heights of Samuel’s Tomb and look across the magical panorama of unending hills with haphazard rows of houses, all shining white against the green leafy backdrop. In the distance the ultramodern Calatrava Bridge and behind me the ancient building of Samuel’s Tomb, such is Jerusalem.  Tomorrow, in Gilo I will walk to the edge of the hill next to the synagogue and look over at Bethlehem, just a few hundred metres across the valley, the Church of the Nativity high above the city. Bethlehem, where for so many of you, the story of Christmas began.


And so to music.


Daniel was an avid Gilbert and Sullivan fan – both singing and listening. “I’ve got a little list” which he sang as Koko in the Carmel College production seems to fit our current times! Here’s the Australian Opera rendition


Another song that, for me, expresses Daniel’s love of children, especially special needs children, and his deep love for my amazing, adored grandson Sammy. “I Can Be”


The words come from the Kabbalah, words so complex that it is deemed unsuitable for young people to learn. This song “Yedid Nefesh” which can be translated as soulmate or Beloved of the Soul, reaches deep into ones very being. Sung by Gad Elbaz


I wish you a Shabbat Shalom. I promise that I will go out onto our verandah, think of you and blow a kiss to the city you love.