The View From My Veranda
Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem
5th March 2021
Shalom! Shabbat Shalom! I should have written yesterday then the date would have been 4-3-21!
I must start with an anomaly. Ms. Fatou Bensouda is leaving her position as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague – an organisation which has no legal standing whatsoever yet has the front page of every newspaper. To return to Ms. Bensouda, she comes from Gambia, a country which enjoys harsh and potentially life-threatening prison conditions; lack of accountability in cases involving violence against girls and women, including rape and widespread female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); human trafficking; and criminalization of consensual same-sex relations. The swan song of Ms Bensouda in her last days as CP is to charge Israel, or more specifically the IDF, with war crimes which would mean that any IDF officer who served can be arrested outside Israel! President Biden has come out loudly and clearly against the ICC decision to prosecute, as has Vice-President Harris and we are waiting for the rest of the world. Strangely enough the original case was to be against Israeli and Palestinian crimes against international law.
The Danish Ambassador to Israel says that we should take the prosecution as a compliment because Israel is held to higher (European) standards than any other country in the region!!!
A major obstacle in intra-Jewish relations in Israel is the question of conversion acceptance. The Supreme Court recognised Reform and Conservative conversion in Israel. All conversions outside Israel have been recognised for decades.
So we are in the ghastly and costly run up to elections again! The vitriol is growing, the confusion of the electorate increasing. How can we cope with our fourth election in 2 1/2 years? With difficulty!
Fuad is the pharmacist and lifesaver of the Kupat Holim Clalit clinic in Givat Ze’ev. He told Rachel that all Palestinians coming in to Givat Ze’ev, be they construction workers or clerks in the supermarket, have already been vaccinated, despite the PM’s claim that it is just beginning. According to international claims Givat Ze’ev is filled with “settlers” despite being right next to Jerusalem and on very friendly terms with all her neighbours. Rachel was also in Hadassah this week and she and the children saw foreign students, foreign workers, foreign troops being inoculated without concern that they are not Israeli citizens. The Israeli medical system is unmatched in the world.
I’m not going to bore you with yet more accusations and reports of Iran….our Minister of Defence Gantz is on tops of it, without political cant.
Sadly, as a result of the pandemic, relations between Israel’s religious denominations are at an all time low – except for one very special man – Yehuda Meshi Zahav. Imagine a young Haredi, Neturei Karta, whose only education was in the Yeshiva and hatred toward Israel and the secular community; Yehuda initiated a medical rescue organisation, originally for his own community, until the 2nd Intifada brought death and destruction all over Israel. He developed a fleet of Vespa scooters with trained paramedic volunteers and first aid kits which, unlike bulky ambulances could reach the injured easily. ZAKA also volunteered to identify the remains after terror attacks https://zakaworld.org/about-zaka/ His story is incredible, the price he pays for loving Israel is heavy, only one of his 11 siblings talks to him. He recently lost both his parents to Covid after they refused to follow his requests. He had to leave Mea Shearim, the Haredi area of Jerusalem and now lives in Givat Zeev. His sons serve in the IDF. I love the man – he is humble, kind and his Judaism is pure. This week, Yehuda Meshi Zahav won the coveted Israel Prize for his contribution to humanity. Please please read his article, written to his Uncle who founded Neturei Karta – “Uncle, You Were Wrong”
Talking of the racist hatred for the Haredi world, this week we went to the Dan Design Center near Tel Aviv and on our way in, stopped for a coffee. A clearly orthodox family, husband, wife and 3 children came in, when out of the blue a random woman started to scream at them! They were minding their own business, wearing masks, smiling, very friendly yet she started screaming at them and demanding to see their certificate of vaccination. It was disgusting, I was furious! I went to talk to the family, to reassure them, and they told me they had been vaccinated twice and follow regulations, but this foul creature felt she, as a secular Tel Aviv woman, had the right to be verbally abusive. Welcome to Tel Aviv
Sacha Baron Cohen, the man who revealed the underbelly of American society, received a Golden Globes award this week. Who’da thought it?
If you have been wondering what caused your children and grandchildren to come to the conclusion that being Jewish isn’t important and Israel is the enemy while at University, just hear Dinesh d’Souza speaking about “Identity Socialism” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAPOQFWSUkE
This week’s Torah reading tells the story of Moses bringing the Children of Israel the rules for society and life given to him after climbing Mount Sinai, spending time with the Almighty, receiving the 10 commandments on two tablets of stone and upon his return to his people found that they had given up on him, gathered all the gold and silver religious objects, melted them down and made an idol – The Golden Calf. No wonder he smashed the tablets of stone on the ground! The story is not just allegory, its relevance to today is clear, we have no patience, we are too busy on our Golden Calf iPhones or locked onto our computer screens or the latest car to look around us at the wonders or have the patience to reach an understanding of what is expected of us in this world. The 10 Commandments are a simplified form of the rules of life, rules that if followed could give us a truly wonderful world.
We are deep into the minutiae of the transition from our current apartment to the new one. It involves all the usual complications and stress but the rainbow of Israeli society that one meets is incredible! From the Haredi project manager to the modern orthodox civil engineer, the Israeli Arab electrical engineer, the Russian city planner, Chinese, Filipino and Palestinian workers and everything in between! Everything is beginning to make that amazing change from building site to homes, the park is already planted with trees and flowers, the area around the “President’s Avenue” – the slope where each and every Israeli President planted a tree after Theodore Herzl planted his – which is right under our Veranda; the walking track is paved and the elevators working…. The beautiful original building, built on the basis of the White House, is already set up with a theatre and various meeting rooms and future library and coffee shop. Best of all we met with most of the people in our building (there are just 5 apartments) and the fiercest argument is which family will be the first to invite for coffee! Both management and owners have agreed to Zvi’s idea, which is the culmination of my dream since moving to Israel – a veggie garden to meet, relax and grow things in! To be more exact, a herb garden to be shared by all the neighbours, right next to the entrance to our block. The essential herbs for Israeli cooking are rosemary, parsley, sage, thyme, mint, oregano, hot peppers, garlic, coriander, basil and Zatar!! Hopefully, the raised herb gardens will be interspersed with small citrus trees and a couple of benches so that we can sit and chat. In fact there are many such places for chatting on site – and several picnic tables too.
I still wake up every morning and go out onto the veranda to absorb the view, the amazing view and the breathtaking sunrise. I am obsessed with clouds and the light that turns steam into a silver glow…. But then the sun comes up over the new veranda too.
What music do you love most?
I love the very ’60’s music of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach especially “Sim Shalom” –
Grant peace, goodness, blessing, grace, loving kindness, and mercy
Paul Robeson was an exceptional Scholar. At a time when a black man had no status in the USA he won scholarships to Rutgers (in 1919) and Columbia and studied at SOAS. During McCarthyism, he fled to the UK where he flourished. In the 40’s he led the “Negro Jewish Unity” Movement. Here he sings “Go Down Moses” so appropriate to this week’s reading and the lead up to Passover https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3OjHIhLCDs
Many years ago all El Al flights, as they came to land in Israel, used to play “Hevenu Shalom Aleichem” (Peace be with you) but now it is muzak which is such a shame….. here are all your favourites, starting with Hevenu Shalom Aleichem, with Kinderlech (children) singing! Get ready to dance!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUmUXfQFc3w
Tonight we are going to Rachel and Igal’s for Shabbat Dinner. It will be a wonderful mix of Eastern, Sefardi and Ahkenaz tunes (in our honour). Yosef, Talia and Ayala all help their Mummy and the general atmosphere is one of 100% Shabbat, with all the traditions and prayer that warms one’s heart. I know the food will be amazing because Rachel is a phenomenal cook! She makes at least 10 different salads and tonight we will have incredible Middle Eastern white fish in sauce and very British roast potatoes!!! I can’t wait!
Shabbat Shalom to you all. I hope you find your peace with the world.
My heart goes out to Sari Singer who lost her Chuck this week. Sari we love you. May his soul rest in peace.