The View From My Veranda
Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem
17th May, 2019 – 12th Iyar, 5779
Hello dear friends! Good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom.
How are you? I hope you are all fine and if not then that you will have a speedy recovery – Refuah Shlema.
One of the more famous patients in an Israeli hospital this week is Jibril Rajoub, one of the “shining lights” of the Palestinian Authority and the former PLO Jibril Rajoub speaks fluent Hebrew, has a personal account in Bank Leumi (under the name Gil Regev) yet fights every day to wipe out Israel. Gaza potentate Ismail Haniya’s mother was treated here too!! This is the epitome of Middle Eastern life – even if they want to kill us we still do everything we can to sustain them!!
I am afraid I’m going to disappoint you this week. I don’t have time to talk about the Eurovision, war, politics, coalitions or Prime Ministerial or Presidential indiscretions, because this has been one of the most inspiring and insane weeks of our lives!
Just a quick overview of what is happening in the Knesset……we don’t have a government, we have a Prime Minister who has made it a condition of his coalition that every member accepts the introduction of a new law preventing the prosecution of a Prime Minister!! Hmmmm he didn’t feel that way when he demanded Ehud Olmert resign because “You can’t fight a legal battle and defend the country!!” Avigdor Liberman is the key to a majority coalition and has just three demands – to take that law off the books and to ensure that the law introducing Haredi (and Arab?) conscription is implemented and he wants to serve in the position of Defence Minister from which he resigned over the Israeli response to the continued violence from Gaza. Until those criteria are met Liberman is refusing to join. For a country that has no government, we are actually doing incredibly well!!
Please come with us on our journey into the wonders of Israel which we shared with the group this week.
I told you about Friday night when a group of Americans that we didn’t know came to us for Shabbat dinner. Zvi worked hard on rearranging the furniture and bringing dining chairs up the stairs from our neighbour to accommodate the 18 diners, and I set the Shabbat table as I love – the cooking was the easy part! We had invited guests to help introduce them to Israel and suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by new family!! We love to meet new people, talk about our incredible nation and on occasion, they become close friends but this time it was exceptional. I will call them the Billingsley Group because they were led by a bundle of energy and intelligence called Lucy Billingsley, but each and every member of the group is a strong and determined personality who had succeeded in their field. They were delighted at Zvi’s beautiful rendition of the Kiddush, as non-Jews it thrilled them to see that Jewish traditions are so important, then they sat absorbing the wise words of Professor Shimon Shitreet on the politics and economy; of Professor Gabby Barkay on archaeology and history of Jerusalem; of Moshe Levran on living in Kibbutz Negba under constant fire of rockets from Gaza yet lovingly caring for the Palestinian staff working in the Twitto factories in Ariel. Once Zvi and I had recovered from the exhaustion of clearing away the dishes and putting the room back to its original state we looked at each other and knew this was an exceptional night with exceptional people one and all.
On Shabbat we celebrated as a family. Little Yonatan was 5! He is such a glorious child, so full of love and fun and it was wonderful despite our tiredness.
Sunday evening and we were at the King David Hotel, having invited Israeli artists to meet the Billingsley Group, most of whom are art collectors. General Manager of the KD Chaim Shkedi gave us a lovely welcome cocktail. It was a wonderful evening and we parted ways and went with our friends Irit and Itzik to eat supper in the First Station because I ran out of cooking energy. The First Station was absolutely overflowing with bars and craft stands and people singing and dancing spontaneously – great fun!
Monday was the day that stretched both my and my Rachel’s patience and energy to the fullest as she accompanied me for tests in Shaare Zedek Hospital. 5 hours!! Give me cooking for 18 people any time!!!
Tuesday, with renewed energy we were invited to celebrate of the first anniversary of the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. The event was organised and presented by Dr. Mike Evans and the Friends of Zion and attended by the Netanyahus, the Guatemalan Ambassador and a slew of Members of Knesset, Rabbis, Judges and general glitterati. It was a stupendous affair culminating in the presentation by Dr. Evans, of a specially designed Mezuza to be placed on the Ambassadorial Residence on Agron Street in Jerusalem. Ambassador Friedman told the assembled audience that many tourists stop to see the Embassy so he went outside to say hello. Approaching the first people in the queue he was greeted with “Hey you there’s a line to get in – go to the back”! Ambassador Friedman, Chief Rabbi Lau and Prime Minister Netanyahu carefully watch the scribe write the last 3 letters of the prayer before putting it into is beautiful casing. A truly amazing evening ending with Maya Buskila singing the Star Spangled Banner and an amazing American singer singing Hatikva. What an evening!!! https://www.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-has-a-new-shrine-us-envoy-says-of-embassy/
Wednesday and after shopping to refill our depleted supplies we headed off for Tel Aviv and the Billingsley Group. We met them at a fine restaurant in the Tel Aviv cultural complex of the Opera, Theatre and Museum for a delightful dinner having invited a Israeli Lawyer and entrepreneur Yehuda Raveh and his wife Tammy and a former Chief of Israeli Military Intelligence Amos Malka and his delightful wife Orna, to join us to explain Israeli business and challenges. As you can imagine we didn’t have the energy to return to Jerusalem so we slept at Amiad and Noga’s home in Tel Aviv. Of course, the most exciting moment of the week was waking 5 year old Yonatan and 6 year old Ella and seeing their faces at realising that Saba and Safta were there, and their sleepily delighted hugs and kisses. We made them breakfast, dressed them and then left them to their parents care once Amiad returned from Water Polo, and reunited with the Billingsley’s at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
The Peres Center is as innovative and fascinating as the man himself; always striving for new answers to old questions; always learning, inquisitive and ever young. The building is a marvel of architectural innovation using cement and glass and the exhibits beyond incredible. Virtual reality, displays, explanations all allowing one to be part of the miracle of Israeli ingenuity and sheer Chutzpa in believing that we can. As the huge sign at the entrance says THINK BIG. We were given the extra treat of going into Shimon Peres private Office which as fate would have it overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the very beach where young Shimon Persky landed in 1932 https://www.peres-center.org/en/the-israeli-innovation-center/explore/
After the Peres Centre we headed to the Ilana Goor Museum in Jaffa and then parted from our amazing new friends – Lucy, Henry and Sumner Billingsley, Dr. Theo (Theodora) Ross, Debra and George Couch and Mary and Roger Wallace, dear Lee Cullum having already left. They are new to my list but I feel that they are old friends and family. Guys you are incredible!
We arrived back in Jerusalem, had a “shloof” – nap and put on our glad rags and headed off to 1868, a great Jerusalem restaurant to meet an old friend, Mark Minevitch and the group of Hitachi Japanese leaders that he brought to Israel to encourage Israel/Japan relationships. Before telling you about the group, I have to stop and tell you about Mark. Mark emigrated from the FSU to the USA and became a financial whizzkid and high tech specialist. Of course for Mark Minevitch personal success isn’t enough, his dreams of creating business and diplomatic relationships between Israel and the world drive Mark with energy that leaves the people around him spinning and filled with admiration. The Japanese group was exhausted and elated by everything that they had seen and the people who showed them Israeli innovation, companies, sites and sights and when asked what impressed them most of all on their visit – apart from the Israeli chutzpa – they all said “People here are happy! They smile, they enjoy life and they are friendly”
We were very honoured to be invited. First Mark spoke with his usual enthusiasm, then Ambassador Ron Prosor spoke with his usual eloquence, hardly surprising for a man who faced the challenges of being Ambassador to both the UK and the UN and he revealed two State secrets to our success – the ability to turn negatives into positives and the Jewish Mother! Israeli Mothers are so convinced of our children’s genius that if at first they don’t succeed we encourage them to try, try and try again – and you thought that Robert the Bruce thought of the idea!!! Zvi spoke beautifully about Israeli society and then we got to know the group personally and understood the extent of Mark’s work. Mark, you are amazing!!!
Since I can’t avoid the Eurovision (believe me I tried) I just want you to know that it has been a resounding success. The participants are all going home as ambassadors of the REAL Israel, so different to anything they expected. They had fun, enjoyed the spectacular productions, food fair, the beaches, the friendliness and multicultural society of Israelis and of course the sights around the country as they were taken to beauty spots throughout Israel by the organisers. The Israeli production and staging has set new standards of excellence and even those of us are not Eurovision fans have felt enormous pride.
Shalva, the incredible group who sing like angels and overcome all challenges, chose not to perform as Israel’s representatives in the competition because there are observant members of the group and both rehearsals and the final are held on Shabbat. However, the good news is that the organisers chose to have Shalva perform at the semi finals and they simply rocked the whole evening!!! Just watch their performance of “A Million Dreams” and I dare you not to cry!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhRewe-uEIw
Kobi Marimi was an almost unknown Israeli singer, operatic and musical productions, when he shot to fame here in a competition to find the singer and song for the Eurovision, a rather unusual song which I didn’t even like. The song grew on me, then the production team of the Eurovision changed the aspects I didn’t like and lo and behold I love the song! Because we won last year we have a bye into the final. Vote vote vote!! Good Luck Kobi! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEZRK8KIkKc
How else can I end this missive if not with Hatikva. Not just Hatikva but Hatikva around the world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viu48BxOBnA
Wherever we went the ultimate Jewish tenet of Tikkun Olam was the overriding principle behind the innovation and excellence. As I have written umpteen times, Tikkun Olam doesn’t mean being nice to strangers (although it helps) it means doing something real – “Tachlis” – to change our world and improve it without thought of recompense.
I went to collect Talia and Ayala from school just now, not just salivating from the aroma of Rachel’s Challot as we arrived, I came home with two! The ride over Samuel’s Tomb was as exciting as ever, the mosaic of Jerusalem stretching for miles but nothing quite compares to the climb up to our apartment and the profusion of colour that is our veranda. That view, oh I wish I could describe it in a way that does it justice, the view takes my breath away every day anew. Gosh I love this city, this country – there is nothing and nowhere like it in the world.
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Teach your children to think outside the box because inside is extremely stuffy and non-productive! If they think as we do the world will never move forward – we need them to stand on our shoulders to see the future.
With all our love from Jerusalem,
Facebook Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement http://www.impact-se.org/ The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=kMhjARej5-o