The view from my veranda

Beresheet, Elections and Passover

11th of April, 2019


Good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom, Blessed Pascha and a Holy Easter.


I live in a little country with big dreams.


I am so proud of this little country and her citizens – well most of them anyway. Actually 3 citizens in particular who entered a competition, found themselves the one ones who saw it through and continued even though Google decided to pull out their funding and prize and got as close to success as is feasibly possible. I cannot begin to express my pride in and esteem for Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub of SpaceIL. You did it! You reached for the moon. Three young engineers saw that Google were sponsoring a competition for the first privately funded spacecraft to reach the moon. After a short time they found themselves the only competitors left in the race and Google pulled out. Philanthropist Morris Kahn put in $100,000 (stimulating others to do the same) and they began their work, several zeros were added to reach the final $100,000,000 price tag and the historic blast off at Cape Canaveral. They did it, they explained the trajectory to the world and tonight, tonight they took an Israeli flag Selfie so close to the moon they could almost touch it!! LITTLE COUNTRY, BIG DREAMS, yes, that’s Israel.


This was not a political victory, although I can think of a few politicians I would love to send to the moon, this was entrepreneurship coupled with brilliance and enormous courage. We are so proud of them!!! The founders of SpaceIL had a purpose far greater than reaching the moon – they wanted to excite young Israelis into science – to bring them into the excitement of landing on the moon! The children watching with bated breath in the President’s House with President Rivlin may not have seen the landing but President Rivlin changed their mood quickly by explaining that it was still a victory and they or even their big siblings would get to fly to the moon on an Israeli spacecraft then they sang Hatikvah with the President!!! To put the venture into perspective, only 3 countries have reached the moon – USA, Russia and China and we are doing it just 110 years after Tel Aviv was founded!!


Although I would love to stay with the joy of Israeli achievements, I have to try and bring you up to date on the elections. The final numbers are in and…. I actually wrote a long explanation but hey – enough already! It was a long few hours of you won, no I won, no you won, no it was me……and will we make it to the Knesset or was our gamble too dangerous. One thing is clear; Netanyahu isn’t going to have an easy time. After the general count the count of soldiers and overseas diplomats took place he had 36 seats and Blue and White 35 so now it is the hard task of forming a coalition with the partners you actually want, to achieve the necessary 61 seats for a slim majority in the 120 seat Knesset, a huge task for both parties! Any Likud Coalition would depend upon very right wing and Haredi interest groups who have already made extreme demands for crucial Ministerial posts in exchange for joining the coalition while the number of moderate or left leaning parties has gone down. The two major parties have up to 42 days to form a potential coalition and take it to the President who then “dubs” the successful Prime Minister.


I get very excited and emotional on Election Day. We walked up the road to the school polling station and showed our ID cards and voting card, first at the door to ensure that we are at the right polling station, then again to the lady who pointed us to our particular ballot. As we stood outside the door we chatted with other voters and met old friends, all of us confused by the vast number of parties and their symbols on the official wall chart. Then I went in, always one person alone, again presented my ID and voting card to ensure that I am who I say, my ID card was taken by the controller while I went behind the booth to make my selection. Utter dismay as I couldn’t find my chosen slip, what happened? I popped my head around and one of the controllers came to check – finally finding that “someone” had hidden my chosen party’s slips under all the others!!! I put my slip into a sealed envelope and dropped it into the sealed ballot box and left, so that Zvi could repeat the action. As we left we walked past, then stopped and chatted to 3 young men who bore the Likud banners and had a political discussion in the street while friends stopped their cars to greet us and hug us! That’s Israel!

As always, David Horovitz, Editor in Chief of the Times of Israel, explains clearly, succinctly and far better than I


Last evening I left my Passover cleaning to go to a Board Meeting of Impact-se. Impact has become the most important go-to organisation for many world governments on the subject of tolerance in education. Schools are one of the most powerful tools to mitigate extremist influences; they are key to achieving the tolerant and open-minded societies of the future. But they can also be where negative influences—skewed historical narratives, hatred of others, gender inequalities and even political violence–can take root. IMPACT-se (Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education) is a world leader in researching, translating and exposing intolerance in school textbooks from the Middle East and beyond, while advocating for positive change. We believe that children should be nurtured and prepared for a future filled with hope, success and happiness while taught to embrace mutual respect and acceptance of others who may differ from themselves. The work of this organisation is far reaching and unique. Please, read the reports here and be amazed. I want to give a shout out to Marcus Sheff who in just 3 years as CEO has taken the organisation to great heights.


My childhood friend Madeleine Burke Lewis found new relatives in Canada, the Welsh connection is wide and wonderful, and that relative sent her a local Cardiff newspaper cutting which describes in great detail the attendees and their fashions at a Gala Coronation Dinner (George VI ‘s coronation was to be in May 1937) in the exquisite Cardiff City Hall in aid of the Women’s Appeal Committee for German Jewish Refugee Children……….. in 1937! Most of my father’s family, close and extended, were on the guest list and parents of my friends who were “betrothed” before marriage. It was one of the most fascinating documents I have seen in a long time.


This hasn’t been an exciting week socially! I’ve been too busy with Passover cleaning and shopping. Much to Zvi’s chagrin, my last remaining Diaspora habit is buying all my Passover foods at once, forgetting that in Israel I can just pop to the supermarket across the road and get whatever is missing!! The supermarket I go to for the “big shop” is in a religious area and they start cleaning the shelves at least a month before the final run to the Seder night………… wait let me explain for my Non-Jewish readers.


Passover food is very different from the rest of the year. The restrictions are multitudinous but predominantly NO BREAD, NO LEAVENING to remember the hurried escape from slavery in Egypt, the 40 year trek through the desert!!! We also change our dishes and cutlery, pots and pans and clean until we have no fingers left! On Seder night(s) we tell the story of those times, opening with the youngest child at the table asking the question “Why is this night different from all other nights”, we eat special foods to remember the bitter times, the tears ending with the joyous singing of “Next Year in Jerusalem” – Le Shana Habaa b’Yerushalyim……. Except that now this year is in Jerusalem! In fact, the last supper of Jesus was the first night of Passover, Seder Night, which is why in many depictions you see the apostles leaning, reclining……


OK back to the supermarket. It never fails to amaze me that in my favourite, very religious, super duper, huge supermarket one has the same mix, the same human rainbow as everywhere else in Jerusalem; religious and secular, Arab and Jew all shopping together. The Arab Mum buying jars of Gefilte Fish, the bewigged Jewish woman buying spicy hot sauces, the Haredi man choosing fruit according to his wife’s cellphone instructions and the children of all of the above running up and down the aisles to bring back goods to fill their parents already overflowing trolleys! Matzos next to religious articles and kneidlach mix…. I love it!


This year we have just 20 at our Seder Night –, but a wonderful group! We will have family and very close friends from – deep breath – Britain (guess who), Canada, Philippines, Australia, Romania, Mexico, Russia and a few Israeli born! I have already prepared goodie bags for the small children to keep them busy. I don’t want to tell you the menu yet or I’ll have nothing to write about next week! My dream is that I will be surrounded by both our children and families……….. one day.


There are clear beacons of light this week– BDS Founder Omar Barghouti has been banned from landing in the USA so never got as far as his aeroplane in Ben Gurion Airport; Madonna announced that she is coming to Israel to perform in the Eurovision Gala evening defying BDS of course; we are one of only 7 countries EVER to orbit the moon; the wonderful rains of the last few months mean that the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) has risen 3 metres stopping the crucial ebb of her waters and the snow on the Hermon hasn’t melted yet!!  April 11th marked 110 years since the founding of Tel Aviv when 66 Jewish families gathered on a desolate sand dune to parcel out the land by lottery using seashells; Col. Ala Abu Rukon is appointed Military Secretary to the President of the State of Israel and finally Canadian PM Justin Trudeau sang One Day with Koolulam in Toronto


I need some light entertainment, I am sure you do too!

Talking of Koolulam, I love this version of my favourite Israeli song Above All This…… Al Kol Aleh, The Honey and the Sting


When the official Seder is over there are several songs we sing. This is one tongue twister that my lot love to sing quickly – with translation – Ehad Mi Yodeya. In case you wonder it goes up to 13!


Finally “Key Tov” with Elliot Dovrin giving a whole new turn on traditional Passover songs. Great fun!!


Today we are off to a family wedding at lunchtime, my cousins Debbie and Ze’ev’s son Amir is celebrating his marriage to Hadar. It’s rare for me to have a family celebration in Israel so I am doubly thrilled! We’ll then stay overnight with Leor and Shiri in nearby Nes Ziona, having Shabbat Dinner with them.


So Shabbat Shalom from our veranda, our mirpesset, where the signs of spring are so clear – poppies, anemones, freesia and grape hyacinth are blooming and the tiny orange tree is simply laden with white buds waiting to explode and shower us with their incredible perfume.


With much love, wishes for a wonderful week and we’ll talk before Pesach, if my fingers are capable of typing after further scrubbing of the house!!!



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