The view from my veranda

Al Baghdadi, Turks, BOG, Australians and other friends

31st October, 2019


Happy Halloween, Shabbat Shalom – strange that the two wishes stand so well beside each other! The meaning of Halloween or All Hallows Eve, is pretty much lost today but Shabbat, yes Shabbat is still going strong.


All our guests have gone, the sheets washed and the beds remade for the next visitors. It was a crazy time but now to relax. The Jewish Agency meetings are over, as are the WZO and the Herzl Seminar. I admit that I didn’t go to most of the meetings but Zvi has been working hard to put forward new ideas and solutions to problems. The new World Chairman of the Jewish Agency is Isaac Boughie Herzog who after the last leader is like a breath of fresh air. It isn’t just his boyish appearance and pleasant manner, he is a mensch. Actually as he met new people he told everyone that Zvi gave him his first public appearances when he was just 24 years old. Seeing the potential in the young man, the son of the Israeli President, Zvi sent him on a lecture tour of the UK and Boughie has never forgotten who set him on his path. Very important, Boughie has known Zvi for ever and knows how crucial Zvi and Yonah Yahav were in starting the world struggle for Soviet Jewry, so he has decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their incredible initiative. Finally a politician who keeps his promises and doesn’t try to hijack a brilliant initiative. I will tell you more about that and the meetings I managed to attend later but I have to get to the news items first.


In a well-planned attack, ISIS leader Al Baghdadi was eliminated. His compound was bombed and he ran into a cave/tunnel with two of his children and blew himself up, apparently chased by a military canine. It became very popular to berate the President’s description of his death as dying like a dog, whimpering. What was not understood is that the description was not for Western ears and sensibilities, it was meant for Middle Eastern fanatical ears. Understand that one of the worst insults for an Arab is to be called a dog and to be described thus and die being chased by a dog strikes horror in the hearts of his followers. Al Baghdadi was a vile terrorist, a rapist and a murderer. As to the victory speech; Trump is not eloquent, he is coarse and gauche, but he did the job. Actually, neither Trump nor Obama “did the job” it was the bravery of the men and women of the Special Forces and their canine division.


Turkey is dominating the area more and more. The slaughter of the Turkish Armenians led to Turkish leader Mutafa Kemel Ataturk’s revolution of Turkish laws, taking religion out of the equation and establishing an open society. Ataturk must be spinning in his grave at the backward slide of his beloved country into fanaticism and slaughter. The Turkish and now the Kurds are oppressed under Erdogan’s posturing and megalomania which he hopes will lead to the re-establishment of the Ottoman Empire.


Mahmoud Abbas is denying Palestinians the right to come to Israel for treatment despite bewailing the fact that he doesn’t have the wherewithal to treat them in the PA. First question is if he doesn’t have the wherewithal for medical treatment, what has he done with all that international funding? In contrast Syrian Kurd children are being treated in Israel and are welcomed with open arms at the Sheba Medical Centre.


The very welcome peace treaty with Jordan is now 25 years old. Despite hiccups the peace is working. Remember that Jordan now has over 50% Palestinian citizens and King Abdullah may just be losing his hold. I find it sad because on the several occasions that Zvi and I met him we found him a reasonable man who recognised the strong ties with Israel.


British PM Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans have gone awry, very much so. The Europeans are proving an even tougher nut to crack than he thought. Elections loom and here again we have a “however” choice between a bad hairdo and a bad man.


The wonderful Brenda Katten wrote about our electoral system and possible leaders from our point of view in a manner far better than I. So do click and read


Now, to the Jewish Agency meetings to which an impressive group of attendees represented their communities. I only went to the final plenaries, yet as soon as I went into the Orient Hotel I felt the change in atmosphere from previous years, under the new leadership of Boughie Herzog and the World Chair Steven Lowy give a sense of working together that I hadn’t felt for years.


One of the first people I met, actually one of the first people I sought out, was the wonderful Marlene Post, mentor and former President of Hadassah. I was so honoured that she chose to sit with me for lunch and just talk about our families and life in general, while watching my other Hadassah friends on the next table; outgoing President Ellen Hershkin who I love and the incoming President Rhoda Smolow who we all wish great success.


Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz was the first speaker and spoke extremely well; to the surprise of the audience who all took their translator packs, he spoke in clear English! Much like Yitzchak Rabin, he isn’t slick like the Netanyahu who lived and studied in the US for years, but he got his message across with rare sincerity and received a standing ovation. He told us that Boughie’s father, as a British soldier liberated Bergen Belsen freed Benny Gantz’ mother, 16 years old and weighing just 28 kilo, together with Yair Lapid’s father who was also a child in Bergen Belsen. “Look at us now, Israel won not Germany”. Going forward we must unite and he wants a government that represents ALL sectors of Israeli society equally.


I love the Australian community! They are active, involved, staunch Zionists and send their children for a year of Academy in Israel. I was so proud to see Rebecca and Harold Finger at their first BOG as representatives of Australia, the lovely Jack Smorgon and Danny Lamm, a long serving member of the BOG and Zvi’s beloved cohort in change and last but not least, the new Keren Hayesod World Chairman Steven Lowy. Steven gave the introductory speech for Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and what an amazing speech it was. Steven spoke about the 3 million Jewish Diaspora outside the USA, of the fact that Australia has been a true ally to both the USA and Israel through all their wars, indeed Australia was the first to declare and support the State of Israel; of the fact that Australia as a nation has never shrunk from speaking out for Israel in every forum especially the UN – and then he introduced John Howard.


I have an admission to make, I actually met them before they went into the plenum! I went outside to have a quick cuppa during the boring budget discussions and a small, powerful man with a big smile walked up to me and introduced himself “I’m John Howard, who are you”? and shook my hand. He was accompanied by a younger man who also introduced himself “My name is Steven Lowy” Instead of shaking his hand I responded that I was Zvi Raviv’s wife. Steven was so pleased he hugged me and spoke of his admiration for Zvi! What a mensch!


Then came John Howard’s speech. I knew he was a huge supporter of Israel, before, after and while in office, but didn’t realise the scope of his work for Israel. He spoke with enormous humour, deep understanding and love of this country that came from his heart. It was Australian soldiers who liberated Jerusalem 100 years ago and the relationship has remained strong and bipartisan, Australian politics do not include berating Israel unlike most other countries. He admires Israel understanding that she can only rely on herself with the lurking existential threat and remains an inspiration to the world. He visited Hadassah Hospital and was in awe of the fact that we treat Palestinians with such loving care despite the fact that Abbas tries to stop them coming.


That evening the delightful Paul Israel of the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce invited us to a reception for the Australian Bipartisan political visit led by John Howard. Again it was a time to enjoy dear friends, those above mentioned and Rachael Risby Raz and Arsen Ostrovsky both of whom have been incredibly active since making Aliya.


The next morning, while Kim and Zvi went to the WZO meetings I met with one of my very favourite people, Simon Klarfeld, a Londoner who, as a very young man organised student demonstrations and the first “Hands Across the Embassies” from the Israeli to the Russian Embassy in London. When I told Simon about my delightful day at the Jewish Agency, waxing lyrical about Marlene Post, I saw a huge grin cross his face and knew that yet again Simon and I had the same taste in people! That’s when I discovered that Simon is the CEO of Young Judea, the youth offspring of the Hadassah Ladies.


This has been a crazy couple of weeks and through Billy and Ruth we discovered many new museums in Jerusalem! This is a fascinating city, although one could easily do a “people watching” tour, a culinary tour, a Judaica tour or a market tour…….. the vast number of museums of such diverse interest is fascinating.


The weather has changed. It begins with the cooler evenings and progresses to gentler, balmy autumn days. The trees are beginning to drop their leaves, the green kumquats are starting to change to their bright orange colour and the pomegranates are bursting, filled with luscious, healthy red seeds; the air is redolent with the scent of rosemary, the favoured plant for hedgerows and the aromas rising from our neighbours kitchens as they prepare the  Shabbat cooking changes from salads to warming soups and cholent – aka hamin. Another herald of autumn is the migration of cranes and white pelicans who stop to feed at the Hula Valley Reserve. No less than 56,000 cranes have been counted thus far!!


Tonight I am not cooking, we are going to spend Friday night with Zvi’s boys and their families and they decided to give me a week off! I admit it sounds wonderful and will give me more time to spend with Rachel and her family.


To honour the “Let My People Go” demonstration of 2nd December 1969, here is Israeli tenor Yevgeni Shopavalov singing Shir HaMaalot.


Arkady Duchin made Aliya from Russia as a child and he still remembers being teased for his accent, today he is one of Israel’s most prolific songwriters “Who loves you more than I” is my favourite, sung by Shlomi Shabbat.


The epitome of our survival and enormous success, the Phoenix of Israel, is the thriving city of Jerusalem. Nomi Shemer understood and when she wrote the song Yerushalyim Shel Zahav for the 1967 Jerusalem Song Contest, and won, little did she know that her words were prophetic and within a short time she would write a final stanza to the song, a stanza describing our return to the Holy sites and the road to the Dead Sea through Jericho. Sung here by the late Ofra Haza


Time to say goodbye. I sincerely hope that you will receive this missive because gmail is being difficult and I must use a server to send future newsletters out. I really miss you! Don’t foget that you can always read my words and catch up on past newsletters on my website


With much love from Jerusalem, the most incredible city in the world, or as Zvi describes it “A city from wall to mall”



If the media does not inform us we must inform the media

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Involvement The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center