The View From My Veranda
Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem
7th May 2021
Shabbat Shalom and Ramadan Kareem
Yes I’m back, well established in our new home and luckily we found the computer in the fourth box! Did you miss me? Of course I chose the busiest, most fateful week in Israeli history to go off line, but I will try to catch you up.
The split, the lack of tolerance, within Israeli society and generally worldwide, between Jews of various persuasions came to a head this week with the tragedy of Mount Meron. The reasons are numerous and complex but the resulting venom is horrific.
Mount Meron is arguably the resting place of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and a pilgrimage site of ever growing proportions especially on the anniversary of his death. Traditionally a great Rabbi is chosen to light the bonfire or beacon on Mount Meron and thousands come to watch and celebrate. Last year Covid put paid to the gathering and this year it swelled to over a hundred thousand pilgrims, especially significant because Lag B’Omer also celebrates the end of the plague that killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s followers. The Ministry of Health wanted to limit the gathering but Interior Minister Aryeh Deri overruled and the numbers swelled and swelled in a site that couldn’t cope. As a result, 45 innocents, including children, died after one man fell on the steps and everyone else fell on top and panic reigned. 45 deaths, it doesn’t bear thinking about. The first responders on site are utterly traumatised by the sights. Israelis of every variety rushed to give blood and the Arab town of Tamra opened its doors to the injured and families of victims, bringing in kosher food and extending love and sympathy.
The ghastly side to this tragedy is that many secular people have used this tragedy became an excuse for a tiny but vociferous secular minority to pour vitriol upon the Haredi community. Where is their empathy? Why, even in such tragic circumstances, can’t we stand together in humanity? Why? One of those killed was a brilliant Rabbi, Moshe Tsarfti z”l who spent his life encouraging young Haredim to serve in the IDF, including his own sons, yet as usual generalisation brought hatred. My heart goes out to the injured and the families of those who died. May their souls rest in peace and our politicians understand that power is a dangerous thing that must be used with great discretion.
Talking about power, discretion and the misuse of…………that’s it, the removal vans must start packing the House in Balfour Street and taking all the Netanyahu belongings to their beautiful home in Caesaria. How sad that what could have been a glowing place in history has been sullied by narcissistic, even megalomanic determination to hang on to power at all costs. Selling one’s soul to retain power is never a wise move. Now what? Netanyahu’s period of time to form a government has ended and President Rivlin handed the mandate over to the next biggest party led by Yair Lapid. Fascinatingly, Lapid who is centre-left and Naftali Bennet, unquestionably right wing but not extreme, have joined forces and refused to accept the extremists of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, choosing to include the relatively centrist Israeli Arab Party of Mansour Abbas. Abbas isn’t a Zionist but understands that it is in his community’s interest to be part of the decision making. So far so good, only time will tell.
Ramadan, a time of fasting and prayer has become a time of unrest among young Arabs, both Israeli and Palestinian and sadly, young Jewish zealots. Since Hamas has basically stopped its incitement (temporarily) one can only assume that the violent riots have been instigated by Iranian sources. It’s only my opinion and that of a few very wise pundits, but it seems to be the most logical source of the fervent, religious based riots around Hebron and Schem. Clearly, the years of hate education have prepared the ground and fired up the rebellion of these young people who then risk their lives by engaging violently with the IDF. The apparent cause of violence in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jerach, right next to French Hill, is that Jews decided to live in Jewish property in this Arab area and Jews in Kfar Tavor are demonstrating against the sale of homes to Arabs. Has everyone gone mad? As to the young Jewish zealots, to me their actions are those of racist hooligans who deserve to be imprisoned as are their Arab counterparts; a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.
John Kerry, did he or didn’t he inform the Iranians of Israeli security secrets? Having spent a week with the man I would be inclined to believe the rumours. On the other hand, for those died in the wool Republicans who laughed at my belief that Joe Biden is a good man, he has made it very clear that any agreements with the Iranians is a very long way away and will entail many changes in the original Obama agreements, including many conditions not in the original.
It finally happened, the EU has censured the PA and UNWRA for their educational material, threatening to withhold funding! How? All because 6 people, 5 genius researchers and a fantastic CEO sit in a little office in Tel Aviv and work night and day to make it happen! https://www.impact-se.org/reports/ IMPACT-se worked closely on the measures alongside parliamentarians for several months, from drafting the resolution to the plenary vote. The resolution was based on two IMPACT-se reports published in January and February 2021 that found UNRWA-created material contained antisemitism and incitement to violence and jihad. Facts and dogged perseverance won over malicious fiction.
It’s very nearly Jerusalem Day. Jerusalem Day, the celebration of the reunification of the City of Jerusalem on that joyous, dramatic day in the 6 Day War. We all remember that incredible moment of “The Temple Mount is in our hands”; the photograph of the 3 soldiers beside the Kotel; the joy when the extra verse was added to Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold” sung by Shuli Natan declaring that all the beautiful places we yearned to see were suddenly a reality; that we, all of us, Jews to the Kotel, Christians to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Delarosa, everybody to the Arab Shouk, we could all finally go to pray as we wished where we wished. So many things changed, the millennia-long prayer “Next Year in Jerusalem” was answered.
And so to our new home. We are so happy, so calm, really enjoying our surroundings and the kindness and warmth of our new neighbours. Obviously the veranda is a work in progress, rather bare and needing lots of colour but the view, while very different is wonderful – trees, trees and more trees!! Actually not just trees, but right next to us is the Avenue of the Presidents, not as grandiose as it sounds but really pretty and with deep history. The first tree to be planted in Motza, that is the first tree in the Avenue, was planted by Theodore Herzl when he was advised to spend time in Motza “for the best air in Israel”. His tree was cut down by local Arabs for fear that it represented Jewish return, but a new one was quickly planted. Most of the trees were inappropriate to the site and didn’t survive but it is still historic! Sadly Shimon Peres died just 2 days before he was due to plant his tree but it stands proudly nonetheless.
In the project (I have to stop calling it that since almost everyone has moved in) there are two playgrounds for little children and large areas for slightly older children and every evening as we take our walk along the paths and lanes between the buildings and parkland, past the gorgeous central building, designed to look like the White House, which was once a sanitarium and is now our cultural centre; the sound of children playing greets us as young families enjoy the evenings cool. Passing the apartments we learned that we aren’t the only ones who haven’t yet bought light fitments or set up the bookcases and we hear the news as we pass the various giant sized televisions. Neighbours ensured we had food for the first few days of unpacking, turning up with cakes and real food and as we walk around everyone greets us with a “Erev Tov” Good evening – it’s like living in a village!
We have tried to continue our voluntary work and Zvi has had a few meetings of his various organisations and we even managed to hold a choir party for Lag B’Omer – but more of that later. I had my first proper meeting, together with Rachel and Ilan, concerning the outline plans for Dr. Dan’s Room. All plans were on hold due to Covid. We plan to go to the phenomenal site to familiarize with the future studio. Remember that this is in the magical have called Shalva. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjcgIeMVwcA
Oh my goodness time has run away with me. Zvi is at the old apartment with Tomer working hard to clear everything……and Leor, Shiri and the girls are coming for supper. Zvi is going to his parliament and I will go to Rachel to kiss everyone so I have one or two things to do, including emptying my pledged 2 boxes a day!!
What music is most fitting for the week leading up to Jerusalem Day
Sarit Hadad sings of the need to put hate aside and together we will win through https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gcr4EPfPTHg
For Shabbat Leha Dodi, a beautiful prayer said in the synagogue to welcome the Bride of Shabbat (with English translation) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWmcQpzUMHY
Last but by no means least, Zvi’s choir, Hakol Yahassi, has been recording a gorgeous medley of Jerusalem songs and two weeks ago they met up with the Mayor, Moshe Lion, who has a gorgeous voice, and recorded a video…..enjoy enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFROAZv4fHM
I wish you a Shabbat Shalom and please remember to listen to those you disagree with, listen and perhaps between you you can come to an agreement, if only to respect your differences – or as we Brits say “agree to differ”. A young man came to finish off our kitchen yesterday, and as an observant Moslem during the month of Ramadan he is obviously both praying and fasting. He explained, with great enthusiasm, about how Allah is behind our every thought and action and it sounded exactly like young enthusiastic religious Jewish boys. Fascinating.
With much love to you all, irrespective of your leanings, beliefs or thoughts as long as they don’t hurt anyone.
Love from just outside Jerusalem, still my favourite place in the world