The View From My Veranda
Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem
27th November 2020
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Thanksgiving! Yes, I know Thanksgiving was yesterday in the USA and in October in Canada, but perhaps it is time to have Thanksgiving Day every day.
We all love to complain, about our government, our neighbours and in Israel after complaining about the hot summer, the news media is full of the heavy rains which flooded streets in cities along the shoreline. As long as nobody is hurt, be thankful for the blessed rain…we prayed for it after all. When I woke up early on Wednesday morning the weather conditions created the most phenomenal sunrise ever. The skies were red and pink reflecting on the puffy clouds above Jerusalem stretching to the horizon. Of course my camera began to click, I was so thankful for the sheer beauty of nature.
And then there is government – please don’t laugh if I ask you to be thankful for our governments…..we live in societies where we can actually go to a polling station, vote for whomsoever we choose, including Screaming Lord Sutch, and complain and whine about it!! That is such a huge privilege and we should give thanks that we can vote and be cross with the results, too many have no rights, no voice and live in fear and abject poverty.
I am thankful for my parents who taught me values, honesty, a sense of justice and fun and deep love; and for my children and grandchildren who give back so much more than I could ever imagine. They stand on my shoulders and make the world a better place. Then there is my Zvi. He is my driving force, my support and my go-to person, he drives me nuts and has no problem when I show it! Through Zvi I learned so much from his incredible parents who showed me love I had not known since my parents passed away and he extended my family to his two boys and their families.
The local news this week ranges from Pollard to Gantz to visits to Saudi Arabia, Israeli journalists and businessmen in Dubai and Bahraini dignitaries in Israel. If I may, I want to start with Jonathan Pollard whose story has been romanticised out of proportion, despite what appears to be a cruel decision by Casper Wienberger to imprison him for life. Jonathan Pollard may well love Israel, but he spied on the USA and not only for Israel! In United States law the man was a traitor and no matter how emotional we get, he deserved his prison sentence and to give him a celebrity welcome when (and if) he makes Aliya is a slap in the face to our best friend, the United States, brining into question the loyalties of American Jews.
Benny Gantz is, above all, a mensch, an honourable man. That is the first thing anyone says about him, from journalists to fellow politicians. He led the IDF with honour and he tried to bring honour to the Knesset, behaving by the book, but even this weathered General was beaten time and again by the ultimate politician. He is still the “substitute” Prime Minister, the PM unwilling to fulfill his pledge to serve in 6 monthly rotations, but he is Minister of Defence. Initially Netanyahu went to Abu Dhabi without informing Gantz and this week he flew to Saudi Arabia without informing Gantz. If he thinks Gantz is a pushover, Netanyahu met his match this week when Benny Gantz, wearing his Minister of Defence hat, set up a committee of inquiry into the procurement of apparently unnecessary submarines by Netanyahu’s government. https://en.globes.co.il/en/article-gantz-sets-up-inquiry-into-submarines-procurement-1001350407
President-elect Biden has chosen the principal members of his administration and they appear to be centrist, pragmatic and thoughtful people. I intend keeping to my promise and will not comment on those choices but to the Israeli bystander President-elect Biden has thought deeply about his choices which, despite the fears of his opponents, leave the far left standing in the political wilderness.
Ya’ara Saks was Zvi’s Assistant in Jerusalem and after she went back to her native Canada she developed a strong interest in Canada’s political scene. This week Ya’ara became the Member of the Canadian Parliament, representing York, a suburb of Toronto. Well done Ya’ara, you set your goals and achieved them. Kol ha Kavod!!
Another achievement this week is that Zvi is now the Chair of the Board of Governors of the David Yellin Teachers Training College, a very important institution that trains teachers from all over Israel. In truth, Zvi is on so many committees that I lose count but this time our paths cross in our determination to improve education as Impact-se and David Yellin work together to ensure tolerance in education. The new curriculum for East Jerusalem, written and introduced by Impact, is already taught to the Arab student teachers in David Yellin.
Eilat’s hotels have opened up at last, but with excellent restrictions on the whole town. Before you are allowed into Eilat you have to show either a paper or on your phones, that you have a negative Covid result after testing. I won’t help you to say you have booked a hotel room – you will be refused entry to Eilat without that essential green tick!
Last night was a huge night for Shalva! Israel’s Channel 13 television station held a televised fundraising Gala, a myriad of performers each of whom sang with the Shalva Band and gave of themselves, many of them volunteering in Shalva too. I don’t have the video of the show yet but this video explains what lies behind the founding of Shalva and why I chose Shalva to honour my son Daniel’s memory. https://youtu.be/Ovjrk_R8yhY
This week I broke with the “shigra” – the mundane everyday life of Corona (described by one FB friend as Coronacoaster! and went for a glorious picnic with girlfriends who wanted to lift my spirits. My super talented daughter Rachel made a wonderful piñata, proving that you don’t have to be a child to have fun! It really was incredible – a Welsh teapot sporting daffodils, leeks and a Welsh Dragon, was filled with fun prizes – perfect for the emotional lift that all concerned were determined to give me. This is a time of emotional overload in the lead up to the Yahzeit, commemoration of one year since Daniel’s tragic death. I still cannot absorb the surreal fact that he has gone but my closest friends, my children and grandchildren ensure that I know how much I am loved. Rachel is about to launch her piñatas as a business! You can order from anywhere in the world and make suggestions for the style of piñata for children or adults in Israel! Especially in the time of Corona it brightens up even the smallest get together. Just drop me (or her) a note and we’ll send information.
This morning is a typical morning in our household. It began with breakfast under the pergola so that I would not get wet, a breakfast interrupted by the arrival of Vitali who had to repair problems with the intercom in our building, followed by Shimon who was helping him. Soon afterwards my order from the supermarket arrived brought by Suhar, the amazing young woman from Abu Ghosh who works in the supermarket by day and studies to be a nurse by night, all her studies are currently by Zoom. Each time the door opened to a new masked visitor, the aromas of a dozen ethnic Shabbat meals wafted in, making my mouth water because I haven’t even started our Shabbat meal yet! Shoshana is undoubtedly making her “Hamusta, marak Kubeh” a fabulous sour soup filled with vegetables and herbs and meat-filled Kubeh dumplings made with burghul dough; Daisy will make Tunisian couscous with lamb, redolent with the spices of the East like cumin, turmeric and cardamom; Michal, and her sous chef Kobi make a delicious Polish/Moroccan mix which includes chicken soup and kneidlach and Hamin…. and so it goes. I will also make a conglomeration of the diaspora to the delight of tomorrow’s visitors – Amiad, Noga and the children Ella and Yonatan and Jessie and Alex – all of whom are very careful with masks and distancing and hopefully the rain will stop long enough to eat outside on the veranda.
The planned menu, which can change at any point, is to start with guacamole to whet the appetite and please Jessie and Alex (Mexicans) followed by chicken soup with either kneidlach or kubeh, roast chicken with roast potatoes, cholent or hamin, and as yet undecided choice of salads and vegetables followed by chocolate mousse and an assortment of cakes, everything home made! I never know exactly what I will make until I start to cook and if I keep describing the food I won’t have time to cook anything! I admit that I bought Challot today since I went to Rachel yesterday so won’t have her scrumptious Challot.
Shabbat brings a Torah reading and Rabbi Efraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, pointed out a fascinating fact that I hadn’t thought about before. Most of the forefathers have their own Torah section, even the minor ones, but Jacob, Yaakov, doesn’t even have one. However, there are 3 consecutive readings about him which link beautifully. https://youtu.be/o3rSR0yF0qs
Sadly society is split, fractured and splintered, arguing and worse about leadership, Corona and whether to wear masks or isolate and when to ……everything! Too many people shut in small homes together exacerbates tensions, reaching explosion too easily. A list of Israeli singers decided to sing about why we should unite. Katan Aleinu, it’s easy for us to forget our differences and unite https://youtu.be/kB0_vTznm_8
Jerusalem of Gold has become almost boring in its regularity but the Shalva Band gives the beautiful song new life as they performed in London just 2 years ago. The Shalva Band came about as a result of Music Therapy in Shalva. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8HtAOQhyYg
“All You Need is Love” with more celebrities than I have ever seen on one stage! A concert held in Buckingham Palace Gardens brought everyone together so why can’t we too? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OuYLGHkrBk See if you can count the famous faces, I recognised about 30!
I wish you a wonderful weekend, happy thoughts and a gentle, contemplative Sabbath and in two days the beginning of Advent, the run up to Christmas
With love from Jerusalem, the city which is at the heart of our prayers.