The view from my veranda

Anecdotes, Education and Change

7th January, 2022

5th Shevat, 5782 (the Hebrew date)

Shabbat Shalom! The first missive of 2022 and about 22 years since I started writing The View From My Veranda and my world widened and grew along with each and every one of you. Even though we may never meet you are my friends, the owners of my secrets and my stories. For this I am ever grateful.

Sadly I must begin this week’s missive writing of a tragedy and great heroism. A freak technical fault caused an IDF helicopter to crash into the sea off the coast of Haifa killing Lt. Col. Erez Sahiyani and Major Ron Fogel (יהיה זכרם ברוך) . Another young officer Capt. Ron Birman was injured but despite his injuries succeeded in contacting his senior officers and diving innumerable times in a vain attempt to save his fellow pilots then having the presence of mind to use the light on his cell phone to guide the rescuers.

This week I related an anecdote of a typical Shimon Peres moment. We were sitting in an audience of some 2,000 people, leaders from all over the world attending the President’s Conference, looking in surprise at Shimon Peres sitting in a comfy chair, alone on the very large stage, reading a newspaper, as if oblivious of his audience. Could it be that the super-statesman had finally lost it? After what seemed like an age, he looked up at us, and said “Did you know that after a six month search India has not found a replacement hangman?”  Oh yes he had definitely lost it! He continued “I am not concerned when a country that cannot find a hangman has nuclear power, however, when a country where everyone wants to be the hangman has nuclear power I am very afraid” Such genius.

I related the story to six young people in an shared office in Ramat Gan, young people who are changing the world in such a dramatic manner that their work is of greater influence than preventing nuclear power to the hangmen. The young researchers of Impact-se, the organisation of which I am incredibly proud to be the Chairperson, has created a huge wave of change. Their research into tolerance in education and the reports thereof is taken very seriously by governments all over the world, even the EU and UN, and subsequently many countries in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) have approached Impact asking for help in changing their curricula, finally realising that they have been poisoning their children with hate. Please look into the website, it will bring you hope for our future.

Talking of Impact, my article on the double edged sword of school curricula, written with the brilliant input of Marcus Sheff, appeared in this week in the International Policy Digest

I have a feeling that we have lost our sense of humour! Jon Stewart, not known for mincing words, made a really bad joke about Harry Potter gremlins being too anti-Semitic. Since we all know that J.K. Rowling is a leader in the war against anti-Semitism one would think everyone would realise he was joking, albeit in his regular bad taste, but no, it was taken out of context and blown up out of proportion. If we want anti-Semitism to be taken seriously we cannot take offence at every bad joke, save it for those who incite hatred, teach hatred and never joke about Jewish gremlins. What is not funny, and perhaps the cause of our over-sensitivity, is the pamphlets being distributed all over the USA blaming Jews for Covid-19.

Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana has created a revolutionary religious and social tsunami by making a Tzohar Rabbi the head of the conversion authority. Tzohar is a religious organisation which believes in inclusion rather than exclusion; in teaching rather than preaching; in acceptance in all areas of Judaism according to the Halacha (rules of observance) It takes the power out of the sole hands of the current Beth Din for conversion.  (www.tzohar-eng-org )

For some reason that I cannot fathom the members of the Knesset opposition are angry with Defence Minister Benny Gantz. Why this time? I hear you ask. After inviting Mahmoud Abbas to his home in the sleepy town of Rosh ha Ayin for discussions, Minister Gantz went to Amman for talks with King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Why criticism? Of late it has become much more important to make points than to discuss our differences hoping to reach an agreement. Thank heaven we have a Defence Minister who is ready to reach out and people on the other side of the fence who want to talk to him. Anyone who questions his pedigree should read this

Israeli scientists in Beersheba believe they have trained goldfish to steer a car! No, I’m not joking, it is real research by very serious scientists. Not only is it amusing, fascinating and apparently true, but it proves that anything and anyone can be manipulated into bending to the will of determined men and women. Thanks to my chief scout Rachel for this wonderful story!

I have to admit that this week the misfortune of another put a smile on my face! Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic, a determined anti-vaxxer, flew to Australia for the Australian Open, the first tennis tournament of the international Grand Slam. Upon his arrival he was put into a Covid Hotel and then onto a plane to return from whence he came. Well done Australia! Prime Minister Scott Morrison made it very clear that he will protect his citizens and rules are rules whoever you are or whoever you think you are! Bravo!

Talking about protecting one’s citizens, we must never forget that there are those amongst us who need more protection than most. It is something that Kalman and Malki Samuel’s realised when their son Yossi became severely handicapped, through their loving care and encouragement Yossi, both deaf and blind, is a happy and loved man who is an expert on viticulture and Israeli wines. So much more than that, they created Shalva. Remember that last week I explained the meanings of Shalva, the word? Well you can apply every one of those superlatives to Shalva the amazing institution (I hate that word because it conjures up sadness) where children and young adults with special needs find joy, fun, learning and respite for their parents. I visited Shalva this week and discovered that work has started on Dr. Dan’s Room, the Music, Dance and Drama Studio in the name of my wonderful son Daniel. After so many Covid delays they hope to finish the entire space within a few weeks!! Sitting with the wonderful Campaign Director Gaby Hirsch and Project Director Liron Benvenisti, while eating a truly delicious gourmet lunch in the Shalva restaurant (an absolute must if you are in Jerusalem) we went over the plans and I am so excited – I know that Daniel would have loved everything about the Studio.  Here are two links, one to the Remembering Daniel giving site  and one to show you how Shalva came about

I’m never bored! There is always something to do or somewhere to go and this week I had fewer meetings so managed to walk around our park every day, even exceeding my 2 kilometre target! I find that if I walk it opens my lungs and my mind…..the view over Jerusalem and Eyn Kerem in front of me, the beautiful old house which was the Sanatorium of the Israeli Union – the Histadrut – and is now our cultural centre; the gorgeous landscaping of the park in which we and another 200+ families live; the whoops of joy of the children playing in the playgrounds and walking the paths, always dodging the footballs of inexperienced young enthusiasts! One can always find what to do, who to visit, where to go, what new exhibits are on, who to invite and of course tending to the plants and flowers that make life so much happier. My little lemon tree, all one and a half metres of it, is so heavily laden with fruit that I really ought to pick some but it looks so pretty I don’t have the heart. I’m never bored but I have a husband who has absolutely no time to be bored. As if singing in three choirs is not enough for him he is now organising an international video – ooops it’s still a secret so I can’t tell you any more; he is also on more charity Boards than I can count. It up to us…..

So what else is new? Not very much, conversation has become rather boring since the words pandemic, Covid, Corona, vaccines are the current topics that seem to envelop our very existence right now. Well I had my fourth vaccine, as did Zvi, and it is irrelevant as to whether it is effective or not but I learned today, from a fascinating article that Rachel sent me, that the original intention of the Pfizer vaccine was indeed a triple, three vaccines, to be truly effective and the fourth is just a top up….fine, so I am topped up and happy!!!

You see, I couldn’t get through a whole missive without mentioning Covid!

We have a quiet Shabbat ahead of us, just Zvi and I, which if I am honest I love every so often. When I finish our conversation I will think about what to make for Shabbat Dinner. Perhaps this week I will go traditional. Perhaps start with Gefilte Fish, then Chicken soup, roast chicken with roasted herbed veggies, ending with an apple and apricot compote. Hmm that sounds good. I love being spontaneous with food, and perhaps we will invite our neighbours to eat with us, or not, or maybe friends or maybe stick to the original plan of just Zvi and I…. that way I can be the sole audience to his beautiful Kiddush (blessing over the wine) Whatever happens it will herald Shabbat, the most beautiful gift of Judaism to the world – a day of rest.

For our first song I choose the Shalva Band. One Day, one day these amazing young people will be accepted for what they really are…..young people with great ambition and glorious voices

Last week we had the Revivo Project with a wonderful Eastern flavour of Shabbat music, this week we have Hassidic Shabbat music. Enjoy

Finally a song written by Rolf Lovland, a Norwegian, which is a prayer, a hymn, a song and the wish that brings all of us together. It is so beautiful that it does not represent any one faith but rather all of us and it relates to Zvi’s secret! You Raise Me Up….  

So dear friends, as I near my 76th birthday, barely beginning this fascinating period of my life, learning something new every day and meeting new and amazing friends each week, I thank God every day for every day. The sadness mains but we must turn our sadness into positive action in order to honour those we have lost. We must never wallow in our sorrow, as Kalman Samuels said when we met at Shalva “If Yossi had grown up to a normal life none of this would have been created”

I wish you a wonderful weekend and remember to say thank you for every little blessing that comes our way.

With love from Jerusalem, centre of our world