The view from my veranda

Blame, Bari and Breakfast

17th July 2020


Shabbat Shalom dear friends, hope you have a good weekend.


The easiest thing in the world is to blame our leaders for the failure to contain this pandemic, but is it really their fault? Basically it is a lose-lose situation, a juggling of economy, health and an unresponsive public that is struggling with an uncertain future. If I hear or see one more idiot shouting that wearing a mask or abiding by social distancing denies them their civil rights, or even better that the fools who think that because they have been asked to abide by the rules we are under dictatorship, I may just explode out of my normal polite responses! Both on Facebook and Twitter I suggested that if they want to know what it truly means to live under a dictatorship they should talk to those who have escaped from African and Middle Eastern countries and now Venezuela, or even better try living under genuine dictatorship rather than under governments trying to find their way through the unknown and very frightening situation.


I’m not really sure why the world media is pointing a finger at Israel’s handling of the Corona crisis. It’s pretty much the same everywhere!! Call it ineptitude but no-one has experience in dealing with this pandemic.


The Israeli government has just reintroduced several limitations concerning restaurants – no more service only takeaway; hotels open but keeping to strict rules in dining and public areas; beaches closed on weekends; parks and museums closed on weekends; in fact most of the restrictions are only over the weekend which caused one friend to announce “I didn’t know that the Corona kept Shabbat“! The epidemiologists are astonished at the ineffectiveness of limiting people only at weekends when contagion has no diary.


Another surprise announcement this week was when Netanyahu admitted that he and the government had mishandled the situation by opening up businesses, gyms, pools hotels and culture too soon and too quickly – prompted by the desire to rekindle the economy. Recognising the distress of the general population, not knowing where the next meal or rent or mortgage payment is coming from the government is giving a special compensation to each family plus a payment to all self-employed. It isn’t much but it is a start given immediately. There was no means test because it is too costly and takes a long time – families are drowning now. A television campaign asking those who do not need the extra money to donate to a fund to help those who do has been very successful.


There is a very special couple, old friends, who live in the New York area, their names are Harvey and Jane but I won’t give you their last names because they are humble and good folk, and they wrote to me asking if there was an organisation which helped feed the poor in Israel. They wanted to donate to help those most in need. I suggested Leket – read here


Last week a protest demonstration was held in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv concerning the government handling of the economic disaster for many citizens. Quite a number of our caring friends took part, most of the participants careful to abide by all the Corona rules. However, when 7,000 people fit into a space big enough for 1,500 people to stay 2 metres apart chaos often ensues – the purpose of the demonstration lost in the bad behaviour of the few.


There is hope on the horizon. Researchers in both the Hebrew University and Mount Sinai Hospitals have been working together to discover the efficacy of a drug already recognised by the FDA which can eradicate the effects of the Corona virus on the lungs within days. Simultaneously, Israeli scientists have produced a simple breathalyzer Corona test which produces immediate results.



Next week I sense that all eyes will be turned to the courtroom rather than on the Ministry of Health. On Sunday, unless he decides to close all the courtrooms as a “Corona precaution” Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trial will begin. What amazes me is that Bibi’s fans stood by him and are not fazed by his corruption, misuse of power and various other indictments yet are moving away because of his handling of the Corona virus.


Bari Weiss is an honest and reliable journalist who joined the staff of the New York Times 3 years ago. This week she came to understand that she could not continue in a workplace filled with “Wrongthink”. Her letter of resignation explains clearly the disinformation which news outlets like the NYT, Guardian, LA Times and others use to sell their wares. “Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.”


I had a truly wonderful Zoom meeting with the Strategy Committee of Impact-se this week. Our CEO Marcus Sheff gave us a run-down of how Impact was formed, research done and achievements made especially over the last years and I have to admit that although I am Chairperson, he told us some aspects of the research and results that even I didn’t realise. Our research into  the need for tolerance in education made me think about the Roger Waters song “We don’t need no education” which brought me to his hate-filled ranting, unwittingly this self-promoting, ignorant racist proved our point.  We are making a video about the work of an organisation whose main purpose is to remove hate from the schoolbooks of children – to give them a chance at purposeful lives and end the child abuse of teaching hate. Watch this space.


So apart from the Biblical sites, the amazing museums, archaeology, agriculture, nature reserves, skiing, white water rafting, bird-watching and 4-wheel desert adventures it is my guess that your favourite aspect of being in Israel is food. Israeli chefs have achieved world renown and there are fine restaurants and just as many TV cooking shows as everywhere else – our top chefs are even cooking in lockdown and broadcasting from home each day! I’d love you to tell me what you love and I will bet on one special aspect – the Israeli breakfast.


For anyone who hasn’t been here, forget your British or American fry-up. Israeli breakfasts are not only delicious, varied and huge, they are supremely healthy!! The best way to get your 5 colours. Traditionally one begins with an Israeli salad – chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, red peppers and a little red onion with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing, the level of chopping depends on the patience of whoever makes it. Our friend Yitzik chops the vegetables very very finely, a trick he learned in the IDF whereas I like chunky veggies with some bite! The white cheeses, none over 5% that accompany the salad are creamy smooth Cottage Cheese and soft Tsfatit (Safed) cheese unless you prefer Bulgarian cheese which is so salty it bites you back!! Smoked salmon, soused herrings and such like have also become an essential element but then, aah then……… the Shakshuka! I admit to loving the traditional, original Shakshuka made with a fresh tomato, onion and red pepper sauce cooked lovingly for a long time to absorb all the flavours into the sauce together with some special herbs and spices. About 10 minutes before serving, drop whole eggs into the sauce and cover, then wait…… making sure you have a great selection of breads ready to sop up the sauce and yolk at the end!!!


Of course Shabbat is a different story, since we don’t cook on Shabbat. Then one has all the salads but a real Israeli favourite is a Yemenite dish which is very unhealthy, terribly fattening and utterly delicious! Jachnun!! Jachnun is basically a bread dough which is then thoroughly slathered in oil or margarine rolled up and cooked overnight, standing to attention in a special tin, served hot together with grated tomatoes with coriander, although I love it with just the grated tomatoes. It will never win any prizes with your dietician but will forever win your heart. Absolutely scrumptious!


Please, I would love to hear from you as to your favourite aspect of your visits to Israel! I promise to respond. For me it is this, the following clip. Here in Israel, especially in the IDF, being “special needs” means you are special but part of everyday life, not hidden away in an institution. Not just Shalva……


Luckily I am never bored. I wouldn’t mind the occasional halt in activities – for a while! Living with Zvi means we are always involved with something. Staying in touch with family is obvious but staying in touch with friends, especially friends all over the world, is so important yet we have been slipping from week to week without really understanding that time is passing. I promise we think of you but may not remember to call at the right moment that fits the time differences. Would love you to call or WhatsApp us!!


So here we are, already time for music.


One of my very favourite songs which is so appropriate for now is Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a’Changin’ ” Netta, the Israeli singer who took Eurovision and the world by storm with her song Toy, sat at home and recorded a wonderful rendition – Listen to her words as she introduces the song.


Ain li Eretz Aheret – I have no other country, is a plaintive but beautiful song, here sung by many Israeli artists. The words are in Hebrew but the meaning is clear.


The Bible reading this week is a double one, long, full of lists, quite hard to read and not particularly enlightening but very important in my family! An incredible 35 years ago tomorrow my son Gideon stood up in the Reading, Berkshire synagogue and sang his bar mitzvah portion from start to finish in his pure soprano – which is now a deep baritone!. Being part of a small, close knit community was a wonderful experience for my children and the friendships they had then still hold. Soon after his bar-mitzva we left Reading, our friends, the synagogue and the River Thames – so although it has nothing to do with Israel or Judaism I just want to add one song for Gideon.


I didn’t realise just how long I have been sitting chatting to you and the dough for my Challot was slowly creeping over the sides of the bowl! Anyway, I’ve plaited them and left them to rise again so that I could come back to bid you farewell.


I wish you a good weekend, the strength to get through some really tough times and remember, if you are feeling lonely then so is your neighbour so maybe it’s worth just knocking on their door – keeping distance of course – just so that you both know that you care.


Shabbat Shalom and much love from Jerusalem, still beautiful, still glistening white and still our home.