24th February, 2023
3rd day of the Hebrew month of Adar in the year 5783
Shabbat shalom and chodesh Tov, which means that I wish you a good month of Adar.
Traditionally, the month of Adar is a month of joy, of happy occasions so I hope that we can leave all the natural and political disasters behind us, but my logical brain has its doubts!
Rabbi Jeremy Rosen chose his subject for this week’s letter carefully, asking why he is a Liberal or perhaps that should be a liberal with a small “L”. Carefully blending the intellectual, Jewish and emotional views, he came to the conclusion that without an element of liberalism the world goes further and further into extremism. Taking the past and applying it carefully to the present his conclusions concur with my own, his arguments taken from the wisest of minds. He writes “Given our current climate of political and ideological chaos and hatred, where either one accepts a prevailing ideology or is ostracized, canceled, or silenced, I felt it appropriate to rehearse why I identify so much with these thinkers who were proud to call themselves liberal before it became a term of abuse.” Well worth reading https://jeremyrosen.com/2023/02/why-i-am-a-liberal-2.html
An example of the twisting of the word liberal, the deeply illiberal Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Collau, unilaterally decided to withdraw the twin-ship of Barcelona and Tel Aviv claiming that Tel Aviv is not liberal, yet another Apartheid Israel liar. Here Hananya Naftali responds.
https://www.tiktok.com/@hananyanaftali/video/7198263125450198273 Just by the way, the Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, has asked his city to be twinned with Tel Aviv!
What exactly do the proposed Israeli Judicial Reforms entail and why are we so afraid of them? The general intention of said reforms is to reduce the power of the judiciary and give more power to the politicians. By changing the manner in which judges are chosen, from a balanced, inclusive panel to a final decision by the Prime Minister would entail the choice being made for the person who would hear the PM’s ultimate appeal. To quote Ruvi Ziegler, these changes would significantly weaken constitutional review of human rights violations, leaving Israel’s vulnerable minorities subject to the exercise of untrammeled power by a simple coalition majority. It also undermines the independence of the judiciary by altering a long-standing balanced Judicial Appointment Committee, handing over absolute power to the government of the day. I am not a lawyer, do not understand the law beyond the need to honour it, but it certainly doesn’t sound healthy for our country that until now has held the judiciary above politics.
The quiet rebellion, the well mannered demonstrations grow each week, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who have not taken part in any demonstrations since the days of Refuseniks, all ages, social status and ethnicity, walk, sometimes kilometres carrying Israeli flags, to take part in these almost silent protests. Rabble rousers are not invited, do not have a place in this rebellion, it is ordinary people who are horrified at how a minority, cobbled together government, can misuse power to their own effect. Every single person marching is hoping that the rational members of the Likud party will break the coalition and let us go to the polls again. Just incidentally recent polls show that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid would win. For me it is so sad. A brilliant mind, a brilliant statesman, a potentially excellent leader has fallen into the trap of power.
To change the mood completely, as you know Zvi has been in Mexico and he sent me this fascinating note.
Yesterday I had a wonderful experience. Marlene, my cousin, took me to a special project, created by 11 young observant families that came together on a “religious friendship” basis and decided to start a sort of a Kibbutz some 120 kilometres from Mexico City. Little by little, they bought the land and now have 100 Dunams (25 acres). They grow organic vegetables, produce all kinds of agricultural projects, established a small tourist industry, including 5 star tents with beds, shower and toilet, that recycles and produces fertilisers. They run a strictly religious Jewish life, have a Rabbi, Mashgiach (one who ensures that all food is kosher) ,2 Mikvehs (ritual baths) which are filled from a natural spring, one for men and one for women, a Montessori school, a study center and of course, a synagogue They started to build now organic homes from Mud /Adobe and attempt to live as close to the nature as possible. I thought it is a fantastic project! It sounds absolutely amazing, a kosher granja colectiva!!!
Impact-se has done it again and again! In a first-of-its-kind report on the Moroccan curriculum, it was found that the kingdom focuses on peace and tolerance in its schools. https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/middle-east/north-africa/1677003908-reformed-moroccan-textbooks-embrace-jewish-life-study and another success based on our reports Representative Chip Roy introduced the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Accountability and Transparency Act last week, which is intended to stop the flow of US tax dollars to UNRWA following Brad Sherman’s H.R.2374 – Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act. IMPACT-se regularly briefs the administration and legislators on its ongoing research into UNRWA-produced school materials
As if by miracle, the Abrahamic Family House has opened in Abu Dhabi. A compound holding a Mosque, Synagogue and Church. UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said “The Abrahamic Family House is a cultural landmark and an inspiring global symbol that stresses the shared values of harmonious coexistence and understanding.” I often mention Rabbi Jeremy Rosen and it is his youngest brother Rabbi David Rosen who has been at the forefront of cooperation on both religious and Israeli front, indeed the human element with, among others, the UAE. So proud.
I love Helen Mirren! I had the honour of meeting her and hearing her speak in an event organised by the Jerusalem Press Club a few years ago. She is eloquent, unlike most actors off stage, and very clear in her love of Israel. One CNN journalist asked her why she supports Israel to which she responded “Why on earth wouldn’t I?” Perhaps that is why she took the role of Golda Meir in the upcoming movie and I was thrilled to read this pre-premiere critique “The 77-year-old Oscar-winning British actress Helen Mirren looks and sounds remarkably similar to Israeli PM Golda Meir, is shown discussing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in an emotional phone call during the 1973 Yom Kippur War with then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, played by American actor Liev Schreiber.” That is one film I really want to see – after “The Fabelmans” when Zvi gets home.
I mentioned last week my friend Jill was here with me for two weeks while Zvi was away. We really did so much but on one of the days we went exploring the local scenery. In search of spring flowers, especially close enough to the car for Jill to reach, we found ourselves near Sattaf, with the most glorious view over the Jerusalem Hills. Sitting high above the hills with literally millions of trees in all directions, planted by the JNF/Keren Kayemet we could see for miles. There’s a little food truck at the side of the road, mostly but not only for hikers and bikers, and we sat in the glorious sunshine looking at what Israel has achieved. The only country in the world with a successful plus rate of trees over the last hundred years. We may be famous for our Hi-tech, medicine, agriculture, aircraft industry and so on but our contribution to the climate through the planting of millions of trees is remarkable. People of all ages sat at the roadside eating their shakshuka, sabich (Tunisian sandwich with aubergine, egg, tahina etc), drinking excellent coffee and just hanging out in the countryside.
Jerusalem’s German Colony is fascinating with a varied and rather colourful history. Jerusalem is and always has been a place of pilgrimage and many of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods began at clusters of Christian pilgrims from various places. The German Colony which abuts the Italian and Greek Colonies, is of particular interest. Among the pilgrims was one Adolph Eichmann who spent a lot of time here – incredibly. Indeed, we have a friend who bought an old home on the main street of the German Colony and one day he went up into the attic, hoping to clear it in order to make a den for his son. He is a collector so when he found a crumpled up rag, he carefully took it downstairs and washed it, spreading it out to discover what it was. It was a child’s bolero crocheted in the form of swastikas! During the Mandate the British changed all of the German street names to predominantly British names such as Josiah Wedgewood, Wyndham Deedes, Lloyd George and French names such as Cremieux and Emile Zola. Anyway, today it is a desirable address and the site of many good restaurants. We had a little wander after Shabbat, then once the restaurants opened met Uriel for supper.
Sunday was a special, very emotional visit to the Kotel (the Western Wall) with Rachel and Jill. I have not been to the Kotel since my Daniel died and it was extremely emotional, far more so than I expected, for all three of us. If you were there then you will have seen three women clinging together in what may be the most spiritual place on earth. Incidentally, talking of the Kotel, the Prime Minister has approved the refurbishment of the egalitarian section of the Western Wall.
Monday was a tearful farewell to Jill who flew back to her home in Leeds and her gorgeous family there.
Tuesday and Rachel and I decided to have two days together and headed off to the coastal town of Netanya. We chose a small hotel with sea views and set off to walk along the cliffside promenade then into town to find a good restaurant. We were amazed! Every menu, and owner, was in French! A few menus were also in Russian but when we asked for a menu in English we were told we had to scan the icon and it would come up on our phones. Incredibly the lingua franca of Netanya is French! We really enjoyed our time together, having time to really talk, have delightful conversations without the constant interruption of teenagers (her children my grandchildren). On the way home we called a friend and had a lovely, if short, impromptu visit in her amazing jungle of a garden in Herzliya. It is the garden of my dreams, and Rachel’s!
Yesterday I met some old friends and our intention was to explore another food-truck site on the ascent to Jerusalem but the sun decided to hide, making it too chilly to sit outside so we went to my favourite Pop-Up restaurant in Kiriat Anavim. A simple restaurant with a fantastic Chef who just won the TV programme Chef Games. Tonight it is Shabbat and I have to decide whether I go to Rachel, to be with the family or just rest in anticipation of Zvi’s return. I don’t need to decide yet – there is always enough food for an entire battalion of Rachel’s Shabbat table!
This week my grandson Sammy Samsam, through the unending love and care of his parents, reached the ripe old age of 18. Happy birthday Sammy, who taught us all how to love and is the primary reason we chose to honour his Uncle Daniel in Shalva – Sammy, love you arms and legs and up to the sky.
This weeks Parasha (Torah Reading) is Terumah, donation or offering. When Moses was atop Mount Sinai, he was given instructions how to build the Ark of the Covenant, the Sanctuary, very precise instructions and an essential element was that everyone take part. Unless we all pull together nothing, not the Sanctuary, not our traditions, nothing will be achieved. United we stand and all the arguments, all the power struggles, the lack of tolerance lead to destruction. Worth reading, as always, whether at home or in a community, there is always a message that relates to today.
So, next Shabbat my Zvi will be home and everything will go back to normal. This Shabbat I am almost certain that I will be with my beautiful daughter and her family. In the meantime I am sitting talking to you and looking in amazement at the incredible pink almond blossom on the tree outside my window.
So to music!
Shiri Maimon has a glorious voice and here she sings the song to peace that Prime Minister Rabin sang moments before his assassination. His assassination was the direct result of the lies and incitement of the political far right but we are a land of dreamers and we still believe that the answer lies in peace, in Shalom – this time peace among ourselves. A song of peace and love sung out by young soldiers in the audience, an army that prays for peace. https://youtu.be/Kr5wRdxBXgI
Women, Moslem and Jew, Arab and Israeli, come together in song to peace, a song of understanding. Women of integrity and peace will stand up for their children. A Prayer of the Mothers https://youtu.be/YyFM-pWdqrY
Finally, a song that means a great deal to me, another song of peace, of understanding, of the determination to overcome so many obstacles just by being open to others, to know that those who are so different from us also want to live in peace. Salaam – Shalom https://youtu.be/5d_i2F2LlF8
Gosh I have kept you a long time today! I hope you enjoyed reading and that you, like me learned something new. Every time I do the research for my missives, I learn so much myself. Shabbat, Sabbath, a day of rest, perhaps a day when we put aside the world’s problems and think about how to live together- as the Torah reading says, each and every one of us has as part to play in building the Sanctuary. Who know maybe that Sanctuary is the act of coming together to build a better future.
Shabbat Shalom dear wonderful people. This Shabbat, let’s give our Terumah, our contribution to this crazy world, let’s be part of the whole.
With much love from beautiful Jerusalem