The view from my veranda

Afghanistan and Arson, Booster and Bar Mitzvah

20th August 2021

Shabbat Shalom to everyone, wherever you may be, however you pray, to whom you pray.

How on earth do I start this missive? Afghanistan, forest fires and arson, the return of Covid? (not that it ever really left us) Caliphate, Rockets? I will try to explain all of it but in no particular order since I cannot truthfully give preference to any one situation.

The forest fires around Jerusalem this week were almost certainly arson. The Fire Department investigation has shown that in the fire which raged near Hadassah Hosspital there were three simultaneous points of combustion, (discovered by an American reconnaissance satellite). Several towns and villages were evacuated including Moshav Ramat Raziel and Kibbutz Zova; sadly Eitanim Psychiatric hospital had to be evacuated causing enormous distress to the patients. The second fire near Shoresh has yet to be investigated. Most were able to return to their homes after the firefighters deemed it safe, but some homes were nothing but ashes. Of course there are raging forest fires in other countries, a sad fact of summer heatwaves, parched earth and careless picnickers; the difference is that this is intentional, nationalist and religious based. The fires of hatred led to the arson of a hundred years of tree planting and careful husbandry of wild life.

One pinpoint of hope is that Israeli and Palestinian fire fighters worked together to fight the flames of hatred.

To link the arson to what is happening in Afghanistan does not stretch the imagination too far, although instead of burning trees the Taliban is killing people; their list of Afghani Christians providing them with the ability to go from Christian house to house and taking the residents or worse. The level of their preparedness is terrifying; they also go from house to house taking any girl child over the age of 12 to what purpose one can only imagine. It is abundantly clear that the American troops could not stay, former Presidents understood that and a plan for their withdrawal was approved long ago, but not carried out. Those who shout and claim that it is all about American politics do not understand the Middle East or the Taliban, or the Caliphate or, sadly, extreme Islam. The purpose is World domination a simple fact ignored by the West and Western leaders. Sadly subsequent US Administrations ensured that the troops fought but not that an alternative government be formed. One cannot expect a theocratic, tyrannical leadership will simply give up power if there is not a well-established, confident leadership to take its place, backed by a loyal army to control the rebels. The Middle East is far more complicated than any Western Leader understands, far stronger and infinitely more powerful. If we don’t wake up they will rule the world. I received a description of what is happening to the Christians of Afghanistan from Canon Andrew White – who was the one who alerted us all to what happened to the Christians of Iraq, Gaza and the PA. This isn’t about Islam versus Judaism………

As I look at the paragraph above I am amazed at myself. My leanings are definitely toward centre left, human rights, tolerance and acceptance of the other, but we have to look reality in the eyes and understand that someone, some brave leader, a modern day Winston Churchill, will have to stand up and say that such cruelty is unacceptable.

Hamas decided to close the pincers along with Hezb-Allah in the north and arsonists in the centre. Rockets, Missiles, fires – all with the same purpose but they can’t scare us away. Whatever they throw at us we have already known worse.

Covid is back in Israel and its variants are coming with it. Let’s face it Covid 19 is in itself a variant – another name for it is SARS 2. The reason for its return is obvious and backed up by research – not that we needed it – Why oh why do people have to travel? What did anyone leave behind on one of the many beaches? Crowded airports, museums, trains, planes, restaurants……travellers bringing their variant home, not isolating or having tests (over 6,000 police reports of those who left their homes when they were meant to be in isolation have been given out). Put that together with the utter self-centeredness of those who do not inoculate. There are countries in this world that would give anything for the chance to get a vaccine and still, in the West there are those people who are so adamant in their ignorance, don’t want to be vaccinated. Why? Oh poor things, it’s against their civil rights!!! All, yes, virtually all of those in serious condition in hospitals are unvaccinated – perhaps that tells you something!

Over a million Israelis have already had their booster (3rd vaccine) and now the 40 to 60 age group are getting theirs.

Since I was in contact with someone who as later ill with Covid, I went to be tested, once on Monday, at the amazing drive-through testing centre next to the Kraft Sports Centre here in Jerusalem. Wow! I couldn’t believe my luck, just one car in front of me. I took my second test yesterday. I left the house in plenty of time to get to the same centre for opening time at 14:00, got stuck behind a garbage truck and arrived at 14:04… discover that no less than 100 cars had beaten me to it!! Since the testing centre is in a cul de sac I had no way of going home and trying later so I just sat in the queue and made phone calls! Of course one call was to the lovely CEO of Impact, Marcus Sheff, to catch up on what is happening in the world of Tolerance in Education, to my children, a couple of girlfriends and then I suddenly realised that the baby steps of moving forward, I had really advanced and the end was in sight. As I saw the young man who checks one’s ID and gives you the appropriate stickers for the test vials approach, I said a thank heaven, he heard me and pointed up on the hill beside us where there was a big sign with the first line of Shema Yisrael ” Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad: Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One.”  – the very important prayer we say every day. Only in Israel! Anyway, 100 cars and passengers were tested and I was already on my way home within 25 minutes.

In most countries around the world the shadow of early AIDS and HIV misinformation of the 80’s meant that even after testing homosexual men could not donate blood. Israel has just changed its policy, thanks to Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz. Horowitz, himself homosexual, understood the slurs and misconceptions that still abound and put forward the change in policy which was accepted.

Last weekend was amazing. I was so upset that I couldn’t go to London to be with everyone for my beautiful grandson Zachary’s Bar Mitzva, as was Rachel, but we decided that it would be irresponsible. From Thursday until Monday we were in contact on WhatsApp, joining in whenever possible and then on Monday, Zachary had his big day. He and all the family decided that he would be called up to the Torah reading on a Monday since one cannot do a Zoom in the synagogue on Shabbat (obviously). We watched as Saba (Grandpa) Philip did the entire morning service, then Gideon came on and called up Zachary. I was so thrilled, he sang out his Torah portion in a clear and beautiful voice, well taught by Gideon. We were all thrilled to see Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg appear on the screen, joining in when appropriate then running upstairs in their holiday home to get a shofar and give a good loud “tekiah”, which did not do any favours to the microphone!! All in all, it was wonderful and the ensuing party, just a very few people in the garden, was capped by Zacky and Olivia whacking the beautiful 13 piñata that Auntie Rachel sent from Israel,  which after several attempts and with one almighty thwack from Zacky the party favours inside rained over the attending guests! So much fun even if it was from afar.

Gosh I hadn’t realised the time! I need to get cooking! In the hope that we could have a family Rosh Hashana here in the new place I have already made lots of food and frozen it so not only am I doubtful that we can meet up, even outside on the veranda, there’s no room left in the freezer. So today it will be “orange” soup,  Moroccan fish, veggie patties, roasted cauli, chopped salad and probably a fruit crumble for dessert. It’s going to be fun that’s for sure…..

Right now I don’t have to cook for our lunch because a neighbour just popped in for a chat and brought us falafel!!

We are all fed up with distressing news and increasing isolation so here’s something to cheer you up Happy!!

One Israeli artist always sings of hope, of change – everything that was here will change from tomorrow and we can repair everything that is broken

This is one for the Spanish speakers among you. Such a wonderful song by Shwekey and Shlomi Shabbat

With all our love and wishes for a safe, healthy, peaceful weekend – a Shabbat Shalom – from Jerusalem, still on the view from our veranda!