The View From My Veranda
Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem
27th March. 2020
Good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom and remember, you don’t need a place of worship to pray. Sometimes the prayers that come from your heart, in your own fashion, are those that ease one’s pain and confusion.
Chaos, Coalition, Corona and Confusion (and Cabbages!) seem to be the only possible “headlines” for this week’s missive!
I’m starting with the fact that each and every one of us should feel thankful if we have avoided this virus, coronation is not a happy state; however when you really think of it, we should all be grateful for our lot, however tough it may seem. Rabbi Jeremy Rosen went for a walk through Central Park last Saturday, last Shabbat and recounts his route http://jeremyrosen.com/2020/03/a-walk-in-the-park.html
I should have known that Life of Brian was his favourite movie too!! The Monty Python heresy is given permission by its sheer silliness and wisdom and right now we all need some silliness in our lives and walking anywhere, even if it’s just to an open window, is a blessing; that and turning off the news!
Zvi and I have been walking too, now limited by the new restrictions of no more than 100 metres from home. Restrictions which apply to everyone unless going to essential work, buying groceries, medication or going to the doctor, the police gently reminding those who unintentionally overstep and imposing fines (not big enough) on those who refuse to abide by them.
We have our route, not to see the magnificent buildings and huge parks of NYC, nor the ancient magnolia and cherry blossom, but rather up the hill toward the village back down again and through the little park opposite, donning our mask and gloves before going to the makolet (corner store) to protect the owners Oren and Itzik…. and us. We then walk back home through the park, spray the soles of our shoes (unlike Paul Simon – no diamonds on them) with Dettol; hands with Alcogel then soap hands and cream them, then back to normal life! Wow! Today the phrase “normal life” has become an oxymoron! After more than 2 weeks of voluntary then imposed isolation we both thank heaven a million times that we are well, our children and grandchildren are well and Justin and Claire will be well.
Since we in Israel like complicating our lives, after all being surrounded by enemies, now attacked by a deadly virus isn’t sufficient, we introduced some political chaos too. Exciting, rather like mixing Stephen King and Jeffrey Archer to produce the ultimate hair-raising novel!
As to what happened yesterday, well I wish I could tell you about the process but I can’t because I went to sleep at about 15:00 ( a shloof) and woke up at 16:30 to find we had a political earthquake!
As always my resident political advisor gave me a quick run down.
As you probably already know, General Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party succeeded in forming a coalition with 61 seats, a very narrow majority of the 120 seats in the Knesset. The coalition was made up of disparate views, Blue and White, New Labour and the Joint List, all also made up of disparate views! The glue which held them together was “Just not Bibi” which is not a logical policy to adhere to. Finally, acting like the Chief of Staff that he was, Benny Gantz decided to try form a government with Likud, still headed by Netanyahu. His decision was not easy; his refusal to sit in government with a Prime Minister indicted on very, very serious charges was the reason d’etre of the last 3 elections. However, Gantz decided that Israelis are tired of political chaos and in the time of Corona we need a government that can make decision and he wanted Blue and White to be part of that essential decision making by continuing the effort to form an emergency government with Likud rather than taking Israel to yet another round of elections in a time of pandemic hysteria.
After Yuli (Yoel) Edelstein rejected the decision of the Supreme Court to reassemble the Knesset he stepped down as Speaker, in order not to comply with the Supreme Court decision and everything fell into place. Former Labour leader Amir Peretz, the longest serving Knesset Member, handed the gavel to Benny Gantz who is now the elected Speaker of the Knesset until the outcome of the Hosen/Likud negotiations.
Hosen wants the Foreign Ministry, Gabby Ashkenazi as Minister of Defence, the Ministries Culture and Sport and of Communications and the Ministry of Justice.
Hosen? One of the two parties made up Blue and White have left the party, angrily going to the opposition seats rejecting the Gantz decision leaving the original Hosen party led by Gantz. Of course the scene isn’t over and the intermission is yet to come. We have yet to see if Netanyahu holds to his commitment or whether he will renege on it before signing. If so the Hosen Party and its leader Benny Gantz will lose credibility and it may well be check mate for Netanyahu.
Nothing new about the government on the news this morning, but, I did get an explanation for “Cabbages”. Apparently the farmers of the Negev are destroying their crop of cabbages because the government, or rather the Ministry of Agriculture, decided to import cabbages rather than us eating our home grown variety!! In the north, the absence of people to gather crops has initiated a call to youngsters who are fed up of being stuck at home to come and harvest the fruit and vegetables for our consumption, obviously telling folk to check that the produce they buy is home grown. We tend not to check because importing produce is a new phenomenon for Israelis.
For just about every Jewish grandparent and grandchild this Passover Meal is sad. We open the Seder with “Why is this night different from all other nights”. It is called the Seder or Order, because we adhere to a very specific order of events, reading the story of the Exodus (some in Aramaic), blessing the various symbols on the Seder Plate, then eating very specific foods according to the traditions of our dispersion into the Diaspora, with all our family around us. This year, with extreme limitations, each part of the family will be in their own home instead of being together. Zvi and I are going from 35 around our table to the two of us. Fascinatingly the Orthodox Sefardi Rabbis have given a “Kosher” stamp to families to use “Zoom” during the Passover Seder meal so that families will not feel lonely, especially the elder members.
This week, when Zvi and I realised that the even greater restrictions were about to be imposed (for our own good of course) we made a decision based on Zvi’s brilliant idea. We suddenly realised that his boys don’t have the basics for a Seder; the seder plate, the special story books etc because they have always been with us. We decided on a surprise for the boys and Rachel’s family, a final fling before total isolation. We gathered all the essential traditional items – Seder plate, Matzo cover, a box of special Matzos (unleavened bread), a bottle of wine, a bottle of grape juice for the children, a packet of parsley, a jar of gefilte fish, a jar of chrane (fiery horseradish and beetroot sauce essential accompaniment to the gefilte fish), a Passover cake and some chocolates. We bought new shopping bags to abide by the “new” aspect of Passover and filled each one appropriate to the needs of each family. Then we set off to Nes Ziona, where standing at the essential distance of 2 metres, we placed the booty beside the gate and called the 4 girls whose excitement at seeing us was a joy! We then drove to Tel Aviv where Noga and the children were just coming back from the park. They didn’t see our car so I called them “Why can’t you say hello?” “Because of Corona you can come to us” “Look up to your left”! It was so hard not to get out and hug them but we placed the goody bag on the garden table and retreated!! Finally to Givat Zeev where Rachel’s entire family hung over the balcony so excited to see us they could barely contain themselves!! And so back home with a very empty feeling in our hearts but joy at having finally seen them all.
So, this night will be different from all other nights but not in the usual way. Please I beg of you not to feel the urge to flaunt the rules and have people over. It’s harder if one is truly religious and cannot use WhatsApp or Facetime or Zoom to be together with your loved ones, but it is different and it is just this year. Please don’t take chances because if you are infected then your entire building may be infected. Remember, spray your shoes with Dettol when you come in from the street; wipe all surfaces and handles and one fascinating fact – apparently the Covid-19 virus is very fragile and disintegrates with the use of soap so you don’t need to buy expensive concoctions, good old fashioned soap and water!
I’m so wary of all the “advice” on the net so I went to my medical guru, Prof. Michael Baum, to find the best explanation of the virus and he sent me https://youtu.be/PWzbArPgo-o
The Torah portion this week is Vayikra – Leviticus 1-5 which talks about animal offerings for various sins. Obviously we no longer kill animals to atone for our sins but the principle of being aware of and taking responsibility for what we have done is basic to Judaism. If one just takes the time to learn, we have a pretty wonderful religion!
Gosh, and so to some music, something to lift our hearts eh?
I thought that “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right out of My Hair” was appropriate but that’s a bit too corny! If there is one thing we need now, apart from a vaccine against this ghastly virus, it’s togetherness. A group of Israeli singers of all creeds and colours got together to sing “Brothers and Sisters together” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9qa8oGlL9c
For beautiful 19 year old Eden Eilene this was her huge break, a song written by the magical pair of Idan Raichel and Doron Medali, sung in Hebrew, Arabic and Amharic, winning the right to represent Israel in the Eurovision then………….. cancellation! Her chance of fame and fortune gone like a burst balloon. Let’s make sure her video goes viral! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjzyZZ-oidc
When a Jew is in trouble, when his heart aches he says just one prayer, Shema Yisrael, Hear Oh Israel. This version, from a song competition sung by Uziah Tzadok , although not the original prayer, is my favourite. It has no translation but … Lord, you can do everything, you gave me my life, you gave me everything; now that my heart is quietly crying and I am alone……… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_TBMtzeK08&list=RDZ9-l5z9jT6A&index=19
Dear wonderful friends, stay safe, stay well, please. Remember it is for a short time and it is all for our own good. Be strong………. We are never alone!!
With much love from our veranda where the orange blossom is just waiting for the sun to shine before it bursts into aromatic blossom and the tiny, delicate grape hyacinths bravely blue poked their heads through the earth and we overlook Jerusalem and her empty streets.