The view from my veranda

Adar, Terror and Hope

23rd February 2024

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. A peaceful, kind weekend to one and all irrespective of how you pray, to whom you pray and in which direction. I wish you well.

Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of the Moslem faith. It is celebrated on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and entails a month of daytime fasting and after sunset, holding family feasts. It is a month of fasting, praying and celebration of Mohammed’s revelation. It should be a month of contemplation and prayer, but it has changed its face in the Middle East, no that’s not true, it has changed its face in this tiny part of the world. It has become and excuse for violence, terror, killing, maiming and death. A religious festival became an explosion of terrifying anger that has spread its ugly wings to too many corners of our world, destroying lives.

Yesterday, ordinary people sat complaining and moaning about the usual morning traffic jam bringing ordinary working folk into southern Jerusalem. It happens every morning, just like traffic jams everywhere in the world, and this one is exacerbated by the need for a border control, because the town of Maaleh Adumim, just a few kilometres from French Hill, on the way to the Dead Sea, is surrounded by Arab villages, of which most of the residents work in Jerusalem. Traffic Jams are annoying, but we can’t do anything about it, we don’t have cars on high wheels like Dick Dasardly!  However, yesterday a traffic jam became a death trap with nowhere to escape the three terrorists who intentionally caused an accident, jumped out of their hire car and ran shooting wildly at drivers and passengers, determined to kill everyone. A young man who was released from miluim just days ago still had his personal weapon, got out of his car and together with a policeman who was on his way to work, successfully shot the perpetrators, but not before one young man died, 8 were injured and many were traumatised. Can you imagine hiring a car, driving from Hebron with the sole intention of killing as many Israelis as possible?

Itamar Ben Gvir used the opportunity for a rant encouraging ordinary citizens to carry guns. His childish, racist rants are now all too familiar. Here in Israel, in order to achieve a gun licence, one must pass psychological tests, learn to shoot at an official range, and renew your licence on a regular basis. You cannot shoot someone just because you are suspicious, otherwise you will be arrested as someone we know who shot at a burglar in his house. Our gun rules are very strict and woe betide the soldier who doesn’t keep his personal weapon beside him at all times, even if he is at home.

Yehuda and Shomron, the Biblical Judea and Samaria, was occupied by Jordan, from 1948 until 1967 and the 6 Day War. Yes, it was Jordanian for just 19 years! The Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Samaria. In fact, in 1947, the Biblical terminology was used by the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine with the statement: “the boundary of the hill country of Samaria and Judea starts on the Jordan River at the Wadi Malih south-east of Beisan and runs due west to meet the Beisan-Jericho road and then follows the western side of that road in a north-westerly direction to the junction of the boundaries of the Sub-Districts of Beisan, Nablus, and Jenin”. No mention of “to the Sea”! From about 1977, it has accumulated various eponyms – West Bank, Occupied Territories, Occupied Palestinian Land, East Jerusalem (even though it isn’t in the East), basically it is land that was fought over and occupied by many ancient peoples but nobody ever doubted that it was Biblical, recognised in the Old Testament, the Tenach. More than 3,000 years from the time of that famous poet, King David and well before. So folks, from now on, no West Bank, no occupied land, when talking to journalists or even to each other, it is Judea and Samaria or we can revert to our origins and call it Yehuda v’ Shomron.

Udi Levy – who was head of economic warfare in the Mossad, Israel’s famous spy agency, until 2016 – says he told Mr Netanyahu many times that Israel had the means to crush Hamas, which controls Gaza, “by using only financial tools”. We could have stopped Hamas using just financial warfare, their investments of $422 million in 2018.Levy says he never got a response to his proposal from Mr Netanyahu. I have the full list of Hamas’s multi-million dollar investment portfolio. If you want to see it just let me know.

I want you to meet Hamid Abu Arar, father of 9. Hamid grew up in Gaza but lived in the village of Aroer in the Negev. He and his wife Fatima were on their way to work on October 7th when Hamas attacked. Fatima, who was pregnant, was driving and was killed instantly, Hamid was injured but grabbed their baby and found somewhere to hide for hours on end. While he hid, he called the emergency services to no avail. He overheard the terrorists talking of their plans so when he finally heard Hebrew being spoken and understood that the IDF was there, he took his clothes off, held his 7 month old baby, to show that he had no weapons, and told the soldiers of the overheard Hamas attack, saving many lives. Interior Minister Moshe Arbel chose to reward Hamid for his bravery and presented him with permanent resident status in a ceremony. Arbel declared that the true Children of Abraham must fight evil.

A farce was avoided in one of the most exquisite buildings in London. A Ramallah based, supposed Palestinian Human Rights Group, Al Haq launched a case urging the suspension of UK arms sales to Israel. The legal challenge against the UK Department for Business and Trade was launched in December and summarily dismissed by the Court  

The Jews are today’s litmus test, the canary in the coal mine of Western society. If you are an observer of changes in society you will note that in many places, places near you, the object of hatred is swerving, nay veering from Israel to the Jews. When hatred is projected on to the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben and is at the corner of Parliament, it may have been a step too far. The House of Commons held speech after speech condemning the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic rallies particularly after the Sottish National Party called for sanctions against Israel. I hate to think what will happen next but I worry for you.

That’s it! Gloom and doom don’t fit my current mood or the Hebrew month of Adar. I just got back from one of the most positive events in a long time. Let me introduce you to Shauli Yosipon, a wonderful man who lives in the village of Motza with his wife Rachel and four daughters. Shauli became a mosaic artist later in life and has created mosaics for many local sites. This morning was Shauli’s birthday, a good day for a delightful event. Let me go back 4 months and the outbreak of war, the national trauma of October 7th and the need to be together. Shauli had already planned a mosaic to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the “Yishuv” literally meaning settlement, just 8 miles from Jerusalem where pilgrims walking to the Temple would stop to rest on their way to honour the “foot festivals” of Pesach, Shevuot and Succot. I say 8 miles because the chosen site of the large mosaic is where the original pilgrim’s milestone once stood. Going even further back, as I have explained, Motza and our neighborhood of Arza, are on the ancient road to Jerusalem, the so-called 7 Sisters, or Sheva Achiot, and it was here that the first  modern settlement outside Jerusalem was built. Motza is also the site of an ancient Neolithic settlement many thousands of years old. The Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, and Rashi discuss the meaning of the name and Motza’s residents were exempt from taxation.

OK, back to Shauli and his mosaic! This morning was the ceremony to reveal the finished mosaic! What a glorious humble ceremony. Shauli’s mother was there as the initiator of the idea, and the amazing lady who placed the very first stone in the mosaic. We sat in the spring sunshine, and Shauli’s work brought a much needed smile. Shauli thanked Mohammed, Ibraham and Akram for their help in bringing the project to fruition, and of course Shalom Goldstein, the local council head, for his unwavering support.  As always, at any ceremony today, we blessed the soldiers who protect us, wished the wounded a speedy return to health and consoled the families of those who were lost. Thank you Shauli, you made my day.

Interestingly, when Zvi used to take dignitaries to the 6th floor of the Municipality he would always describe multicultural Jerusalem as a human mosaic.

Lucy Aharish breaks barriers! She grew up in the only Moslem family in a Jewish town, she’s a woman from the periphery, married to a Jew and is one of the most successful journalists in Israel. Lucy has no fear of speaking out about October 7th, the rapes, the broken bones, the savagery of burning babies, of killing mothers in front of children and children in front of mothers, and the silence of the Women’s Groups all over the world about it all. Here she talks about being and Israeli Moslem married to a Jewish actor/soldier in an interview with Bari Weiss. Fascination and enlightening  

This has been a week with many positive happenings. On Sunday a group of girlfriends came for brunch and a catch-up. It really was delightful. On Monday we went to see a movie with the Dagans, on Tuesday I went to my “Mind and Movement” session which always lifts my spirits, on Thursday, that’s yesterday, more girlfriends came for lunch, but not just for lunch, first we went for my favourite walk over the reservoir. Since some came from Raanana and Herzliya the glorious sunshine, the open vista with the softly undulating hills of the Jerusalem forests, the Beit Zayit dam and the rain filled reservoir and vineyards. Life was made even better since everyone brought something to eat so I didn’t need to cook! Zvi, yet again proved that he is not a misogynist by joining us in our “Picnic on the veranda”. The only thing that is missing in our nature trail is a picnic table. This afternoon our incredible friend Dr Kimball Taylor (aka Kim) is making the long journey from a small town in Alberta, Canada, to take his place at the WZO meetings in Jerusalem. I love it when Kim comes to stay, he lights up our lives with his joy at returning “home”.

I’m off to my Rachel when I finish talking to you. I definitely need to finish off my week with hugs from the huggiest family in the world, to say nothing of the cup of tea and freshly made bread roll with her famous egg salad that will await me. Zvi has gone to his parliament in the Botanical Garden then he will go to the airport to bring Kim home. Tonight’s Shabbat dinner will not be big but it will be delightful as Amiad returns from Miami and he, Noga, Ella and Yonatan are coming to join Zvi, Kim and I for dinner.

We all need music to lighten our load and this week is no different.

The people of the towns and villages of the South (and North) have been refugees in their own country. What they miss most of all is the companionship of small societies, their friends, to help them heal. Be’eri,  lost so many and so much really needed to get back together somehow and Koolulam came up with the  how and where and Idan Reichel with the song. It says it all “Everything that was here will change tomorrow” Listen to the words, the hope in their song and their eyes.

Arik Einstein is an Israeli legend. Lyricist, playwright, singer, comic actor, serious actor and wonderful representative of Israel. Here he sings of how we, you and I, can change the world

Idan Amedi is a true Israeli hero although he would be angry if he knew that I said that. He could have just carried on with his music and acting careers, but instead, on October 7th he donned his IDF uniform and headed for Gaza. Idan was very seriously injured in the explosion that killed 7 of his fellows, but he was determined to display a rare strength in his humility and his recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. He goes each day to the rehabilitation centre of Sheba hospital, determined to fight back. Of course you know him as Sagi Tzur, the elite fighter commander in Fauda, a role very close his real life. Here he sings the theme song of Fauda.

So, another weekend, another Shabbat, 140 days that the hostages left in Gaza are missing from their family Shabbat table. We must never give up, we have to bring them home.

I wish you a peaceful weekend, a true Shabbat Shalom. I send you love from the most beautiful city in the world, Jerusalem.