The View From My Veranda
Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem
18th September, 2020
29th Ellul 5780 – 1st of Tishrei, 5781
שנה טובה ומבורכת, سنة جيدة وحلوة
א גוט און זיס יאר, A good, kind year
¡Añada buena y clara escrita en libros de vida!
What a strange Rosh Hashana! Even the most level headed amongst us is concerned, all of us who are in closure are fed up with being told what to do and then untold, then told again……and then I got to thinking…100 years ago the Spanish Flu killed 50,000,000 people, they had no means of hygiene or medication, whereas we in the West have communication, food, light, heat (sometimes too much) medication and wonderful hospitals. Of course it is hard and we want to hug our loved ones and sit at the same table for the festival meal, but we must stay safe and for one year, just one year, we need to follow the rules.
Yesterday I went to see Rachel and family before the closure which comes into effect this afternoon at 14:00. Yosef was busy doing his bodybuilding exercises, Talia was reading, Ayala was chatting to a friend on the phone and Rachel was busy making yet another salad and dessert, her delicious “tzli”, long stewed beef cooling on the side. My son-in-law Igal was sitting studying when suddenly he turned to me and said “The most important aspect of this festival is caring for the lonely, for those who cannot care for themselves. Normally one would invite them to one’s table but just making sure that they are taken care of is the greatest Mitzvah (good deed) that will bring segulot” In Judaism, a segulah is viewed as an action that will lead to a change in one’s luck, fortune, or destiny. In other words by reaching out to help others instead of concentrating on one’s own small world can change your outlook on the world at large and change your world!
I came home through the usual route, climbing up from Givat Ze’ev and reaching the peak of Samuel’s Tomb. It was sunset and the incredible panorama that I so love was spread before me, the rolling hills and white buildings glowing in a rich pinky-gold. Jerusalem of Gold was mine. They are building a vista point so very soon I’ll be able to share the view with you all!!
It has been a year of devastating political confusion which sullied even the greatest of victories, life changing treaties and new friends and allies. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain chose to “come out of the closet” after years of covert diplomacy and overt financial cooperation. The truth of their wish for friendship is shown in the fact that even before the signing of the Abraham Accords, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/abraham-accords-peace-agreement-treaty-of-peace-diplomatic-relations-and-full-normalization-between-the-united-arab-emirates-and-the-state-of-israel/ Impact-se found that they had changed their school books to include Israel and the peace treaty. Indeed the Emerati children are taught “Moral Education” something our schools in the west should consider. The IMPACT-se report of peaceful UAE curriculum was praised and widely covered in the Arab media. Dozens of outlets including influential Saudi and Egyptian outlets including Al-Arabiya, Asharq Al-Awsat, andAl-Gomhuria .
On Wednesday Zvi joined Israeli journalist Elihu Ben Onn on his excellent radio programme – The Israel Connection together with our dear friend Khaled Al Hababeh directly from Riyad! Khaled is Jordanian but lives in Dubai, but is currently in Saudi Arabia. Khaled has been to stay in our home several times and Zvi to his, and they spoke of the wonderful new relationships between Israel and Arab countries. Elihu airs his programme in Hebrew and if you feel you have something to contribute The Israeli Connection 972-2-642-63-61 firstname.lastname@example.org .
Enough of politics and diplomacy – the good the bad and the ugly – let’s go to the joyous choice to change our world, even from our living rooms!
What is Rosh Hashana – meaning Head of the Year; despite wishing each other a happy new year it isn’t! It is the time of reflection, of change, of putting wrongs to right, of being a better person than we were last year. It is our chance to prepare for the Day of Atonement. Atonement, gosh that’s a big word. It doesn’t mean saying you’re sorry and just going on with life as it was last week , it means accepting a metamorphosis into a kinder, less self-obsessed person – a person that spends more time looking out the window than looking in the mirror. This was the cruelest year of my life yet suddenly I discovered the warmth, kindness and generosity of spirit of strangers and friends alike. My sadness was deeper than anything I had ever known but I knew that Daniel would never have allowed me to turn my sorrow into despondency which is why I chose to create “Dr. Dan’s Room” in Shalva and in the coming year we will go and paint the walls with gorgeous colours and enjoy the children who will learn so much through music and drama ensuring that Daniel’s name and work will be continued. For anyone who wants to give for the New Year https://give.shalva.org/daniel Who knows? Maybe the next Israeli entry into the Eurovision will come out of that room!
I know what I want in the coming year, I wonder what you are praying for? I am not talking about the banal but rather about the real prayers. Most of the everyday aspects of life are taken care of when we read the prayer book, and this year there will not be the distractions of a community – who is wearing what and where are they sitting? Here is my list of wishes, prayers desires.
First and foremost, I pray that we will come to our senses and stop fighting amongst ourselves – internecine fighting will be the death of us, literally. This applies to everyone, not just Jews but it is true of Christians and Moslems.
I decided to think of 10 things that I really pray for and ask you to create your list too. Obviously I’d love it if you send your thoughts to me but that would mean I had 11 wishes!!!!
My wishes for the next year for all of us
- I wish we could find the parallels, community not divergence.
- I wish we would look for the good and try to change the bad
- I wish people didn’t sit and complain, but get out there and do something! Remember the power of one!
- Be kind to yourself, it makes being kind to others much easier.
- I wish people would think before they speak. We must live each day, utter each word as if it was our last. Tell those you love how wonderful they are, praise children, they will remember it for the rest of their lives.
- This period of limitations has hopefully taught us that our world is not only outside the front door, it is right here, in our homes. My wish is that we remember to sit and talk to our loved ones, read children stories and spend time with each other without cellphones during the next year too.
- I wish we would stop bickering and namecalling! No matter how much we want our political party to win, remember that it is easy to sit on the sidelines and complain (and I do it too). Every time we write something demeaning about our leaders we demean our country.
- I wish you success in all you do, but remember the most important aspect. We are all full of opinions but my Mother taught us that we have two ears and one mouth “Remember to use them in the right proportions”!
- I wish for a year of wonders, of new alliances and friendships which will ultimately bring peace to our tortured region.
- Finally, I wish you a year of joy and great personal success in every field. Remember who you are and where you came from and be sufficiently proud to accept others and sufficiently humble to accept others.
I hope I am not divulging secrets but I received a wonderful email from a reader. His name is Angel Ferrer. Angel always responds to my newsletter with a word or two and a cheery “Shalom Shabbat”. Yesterday I suddenly realised that I knew little about him and my curiosity was piqued. I wrote to Angel and he told me the story of his family. His mother’s family fled to the New World some 300 years ago, mostly hiding their Jewish identity, the only expression he remembers was his aunt who used to light candles on Friday night using heirloom candlesticks. His father had a family friend called Beauchamp who introduced the family to Judaism and then went with them when they moved to Puerto Rico. When Angel won a scholarship to Columbia, Beauchamp ensured that his roommate was Jewish and so Angel became involved and learned about his heritage. This story really touched my heart and made me understand our need for identity, to be something special, individual with history, in this world. I put Angel in touch with Ashley Perry-Perez who translated the Ladino greeting at the head of this page. Ashley runs “Reconectar” which links the millions upon millions of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were dispersed around the world 500 years ago after the Inquisition. Most are proud Catholics and Ashley doesn’t want them to be anything else, just to know where they came from and enhance their connection and understanding of Israel.
I wish you a good year, a year of goodness and good news where kindness is around every corner and friends are with you in thought and action.
The music I chose is special – specially related to this period in our lives and to Rosh Hashana.
Ilanit is the quintessential Israeli singer who became famous with Ehud Manor’s beautiful song about hope for the next year that he wrote in memory of his beloved brother. Shiri Maimon, deeply affected by the events of this year chose to sing the old song of hope. Be Shana Ha Ba’a with translation to English – https://youtu.be/4ojXjl5nLWU
When Tim Rice wrote the lyrics for “Close Every Door” for Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat he truly wrote about the history of the Jewish people. This rendition by 3 wonderful Cantors is very special. Listen to the words carefully https://youtu.be/Gc8_nx9dlec
My final choice for the year 5780 is a special request by a very dear childhood friend, Yitzchok Katz. Yitz represents the very best of Judaism, his warmth, openness and kindness know no bounds with friends of every persuasion. I know he will be embarrassed by what I just wrote because one should add his humility to the list. Shulem Lemmer singing Avinu Malkeinu – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anPJFBzVC2c
To our children and grandchildren – thank you. Thank you for guiding me and supporting me through this year. To my Zvi, I adore you. Thank you for being my support and the needle in my side that tells me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. This year is going to be a wonderful year seeing Impact-se bringing tolerance and hope to children who until now only knew hate and to decorate “Dr. Dan’s Room” to see it filled with music.
We just had a wonderful surprise!!! Leor, with the four girls, Amit, Gili, Ori and baby Yuval surprised us!! I was so busy writing to you that I hadn’t dressed and Zvi wasn’t going anywhere so he wasn’t with when sudden the doorbell went!! They arrived with a beautiful challah, sugar free cakes for Zvi and big huge smiles for all of us. Since Zvi is in isolation they stood well back on the stairs but I sent Zvi, masked to the other room and ushered them onto the veranda when Zvi returned to sit far from them. It was wonderful, albeit without hugs or kisses but to hear about what they have done and what the new year holds for them. For Zvi it was an injection of joy. I then had a lovely call from London, from my beautiful daughter in law Stephanie……… life is good
I wish you inner peace, serenity, the ability to see joy in everything and of course success in all your endeavours.
Can’t wait for 5781!!!
With love, Shana Tova