The view from my veranda

A mercurial world

12th April 2024

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom and Eid Mubarak

I hope this missive finds you well, undoubtedly disturbed but well. I decided to begin with a quote from Rabbi Jeremy Rosen’s missive of the week rather than my own because what he wrote today is so incredibly pertinent. It is the story of Ben Hecht. He opens thus:

“We Jews have always been a fractious, divided people, ever since the days of Moses. If we came together, it was to respond to an external threat, and even then, there was always dissension. And so, it is today. But such conditions produce the most unlikely heroes. It matters not to me if they come from the left or the right, religious or secular. What impresses one is their devotion to the cause often to their cost. Ben Hecht was one such.” Read on because it is fascinating

It is time to understand that left and right, traditional or modern, really don’t matter; no, they do matter, but in the context of this war, they should not be cause for dissention. Our enemies, the enemies of our entire way of life, enjoy nothing more than watching us argue! What is happening here in Israel, sadly encouraged by our current government, is encouraging the Iranians and the fact that their proxies have caused us to abandon homes in the north and south, (in their minds it’s just a start) shows them that we are scared of them. The very basis of our beliefs, Christian, Druze and Jew, our love of life and our determination to protect in their eyes is a weakness and with the lives of the hostages, whether alive or not, which for us are at the top of our priorities, for “them” are great bargaining points. Our view of life is diametrically opposed to the view of the Ayatollahs and their proxies.

The capricious, nay mercurial loyalties of our world, especially the West, is displayed in their choice of “underdog of the moment”. Ukraine is all but forgotten as the sheep follow their leaders in their condemnation of Israel for the plight of the poor Palestinians! I learned today that Israel ensured 500 lorryloads of food aid through and none of it has been distributed!! The outcry is beyond understanding as Israel is blamed for the war that Hamas/Iran/Islamic Jihad started. Don’t get me wrong, I feel deeply for the ordinary Gazan, despite the fact that they utterly support the oppressive organisation that put them into the situation. Their children are taught that it is greater to die than to live, a cruel reality when one already lives in penury, not knowing when the next meal will come your way.

The United States, Britain and Australia fought very tough battles against al Qaeda in Iraq after 9/11. They destroyed entire towns and cities, captured many people and the number of collateral damage deaths (aka innocent bystanders) was very high. They also captured a large number of terrorists who were sent to two possible prisons one was Guantanamo which was in Cuba – Cuba not on American soil- and the other was Al Ghraib in Iraq. I decided to do some research on the treatment of prisoners by our allies, in various wars, and the results were less surprising than I thought. I saw very revealing photographs of Iraqi (I assume Al Qaeeda) prisoners wearing orange boiler suits (if you recall the same suits that they made prisoners wear before beheading) crouched down on the mud, hands tied behind their backs with blindfolds and earphones to prevent them hearing or seeing anything, their guards standing over them with batons. Do you remember the outcry because the IDF made prisoners strip to their underpants in case they had body explosives? I don’t know what the “Yafeh Nefesh” or beautiful souls, want from us! We are in a fight for our very survival from a terrifying opponent who have you on the menu once they beat us!

Now to a very unpleasant subject which I hate to tackle, our government. The misuse of power is continuing, the misuse of government funding is continuing and sad to say that the demonstrations which had a single purpose, to bring the hostages home and support their families, has split into the demand for elections. It isn’t just a matter of left or right, it has become a many pronged problem with several demonstrations simultaneously. The Supreme Court passed the law demanding Haredi conscription to the IDF which engendered big demonstrations at the entrance to Jerusalem and in Bnei Brak; demonstrations have returned to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem demanding both a new government and Haredi conscription and of course, the families of the hostages who just want their loved ones back and are sick and tired of the current government who seem to have abandoned them as they  have the thousands who have been removed from their homes in the north and south, their business failing, their jobs gone. Now you see why I began with Rabbi Jeremy’s article? Israeli society is fractured, torn apart by bad management and tragedy, but unlike Humpty Dumpty, we will certainly be “ put together again”

On the other hand, Ramadan on the Temple Mount went relatively quietly. Very few incidents, the pious went to pray not to fight. Many Israeli Arabs have come to realise that they are as much a target of Hamas and Hezb-Allah as are the Jews and Christians! At this juncture I want to wish my amazing Moslem friends Eid Mubarak.

There is some good news too. The European Parliament passed resolutions condemning UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority for producing and teaching educational materials with European taxpayer money that incite to violence and spread antisemitism, linking them to the October 7 massacre. The parliament stated that “Education to hatred has direct and dramatic consequences on the conflict,” referring to the “despicable terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas on 7 October.” In an unprecedented move, the resolutions were initiated by the liberal center-left Renew Europe party, which helped garner support across the political spectrum. The resolutions were based on IMPACT-se’s recent UNRWA and PA research submitted to a UN investigation group headed by Undersecretary-General Catherine Colonna, as evidence of UNRWA’s neutrality violations. I am so proud of our CEO Marcus Sheff’s untiring work and equally proud to Chair the Impact-se Board.

Ariel Elkin is a young Formula 4 racing driver at the very beginning of his career. He achieved his first win this week and as he climbed on to the winner’s platform the announcer suggested he put down his helmet and receive his trophy in the usual double handed manner. He refused pointing to his helmet which had the photographs of all the remaining hostages on it. What an amazing young man  

Dr. Doron Junger studied, both in Carmel College School and in Oxford University, together with my son Daniel z”l.  They played piano in concerts, both four hands and individually and in competition, although their paths were almost parallel, both studying medicine, Doron understood his appreciation of Daniel only after Daniel’s death. Doron is a thinker, he doesn’t take things for granted and his opinion article in The Times of Israel is well worth reading. His article is entitled “Will We Be Alright?” which asks the question that concerns us all. I recommend you read it. It isn’t long, is extremely well written and we can all identify with his question and his responses.

Our Shabbat picnic and walk were wonderful. The weather was perfect and we found a perfect site for our picnic beside the reservoir. It was such fun and although the children were more interested in each other than their surroundings I found myself talking to the fantastic display of wild flowers. The scene was completed by the right yellow flashes of the mimosa bushes which send out their long branches filled with tiny yellow balls of colour. The blossom on the wild fruit trees were no competition for the wild anemones though! Each patch of bright red flowers take one’s breath away. We then walked up to the Bet Zayit Dam, which is the source of the reservoir, wishing everyone we passed a Shabbat Shalom, stopping to make new friends along the way.

Since her visit last week, the lovely Sari Singer has been very busy! Visiting the injured soldiers in Sheba Hospital, picking fruit in the South, visiting the site of the Nova Festival and so much more. She was determined to fit as much as possible in her couple of weeks and she succeeded. Equally our friend Claudio Grubner came all the way from Vancouver to volunteer, tirelessly working every day, he managed to take some time and come to visit us to tell us all about his time here and of course to exchange news of our children and the fact that he will marry his wonderful girlfriend soon!  

Zvi has been at rehearsals almost all week! His excessive energy is waning slightly as each evening is either with the Choir of the Jerusalem Symphony or with his choir “Hakol Yachassi” because they have a performance on Sunday evening at Shalva. Me? I seem to be deeply immersed in Passover preparations, trying to see family as well, including taking Ayala (aged 25 with glorious long hair) to the hairdresser to convince her that her hair will be much healthier is the dry ends are cut. Of course she mourned the bottom few centimetres for an hour or so but she looks as stunning as ever!

I love Boaz Sharabi. His voice is pure and his choice of songs exceptional. Of all his songs this is my favourite. Look at the words of the English translation as he sings Halleva’I, if only.

If you were to ask most Israelis who is the most Israeli of all Israeli singers, they would probably say Shlomo Artzi, well I would anyway! He normally writes his own songs, to the delight of his fans who know every word and sing along with him at concerts, but this song was written by another and tells the story of a soldier, long gone.

I was looking for a song by one of the young Israeli stars, most of whom I don’t hear but my grandchildren adore them and they influence their lives as the Beatles once did ours. Ishay Ribo and Omer Adam combined their great talents on this beautiful song which is equally a prayer and a cry. Unlike in our day they look so relaxed, so natural. I love it.

So that’s it for another week. I’m off to see Rachel and the children in an hour or so and then will try to clean another cupboard or two before Shabbat. Zvi is at yet another rehearsal and then off to his parliament in the Botanical Gardens. Since half of the participants are journalists, one Middle East/Arabic expert and other interested parties, it should be a fascinating meeting. I can predict the subjects discussed however. Firstly Iran, then the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, then whether Trump or Biden will win the upcoming elections and finally what one eats on the Seder night!

On my way to Rachel I will go down to the storeroom to find out what I have or haven’t in the way of cooking pots for Passover. Although not religious we are very traditional and changing all the dishes is what our parents and grandparents did and what I will do with my last breath. Funny really, I know all about logic and modernity, but faith and tradition have nothing to do with logic, it is emotion, it is honouring one’s ancestors and above all, that wonderful Hebrew word “hemshechiyut”. I don’t expect you to even try and say it, it means continuation, to preserve our traditions in perpetuity, to know where we came from and where we want our descendants to go. So I will clean everything that doesn’t move, prepare room for the incoming dishes and find a place to store the outgoing for the eight days of wonderful dishes that I always think we should eat throughout the year! I already bought all the dry goods, and cleaned the freezer to take most of the meats. Next week I will get the fish and the dairy and then take a deep breath and dive into changing everything over.

I wish you a good weekend. Be proud of who you are, stand up for who you are because only by knowing what this fight is all about can we win without the need for bloodshed.

Shabbat Shalom from my favourite city in the whole world – the one that received nine tenths of the world’s beauty, the one that we love.