The View From My Veranda
Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem
16th September 2022
Shabbat Shalom! Today’s Hebrew date is the 20th of Elul, 5782, almost Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year which isn’t really a NEW year but rather the “Head of the Year”.
It has been an interesting week, a week in which even the most determined anti-monarchist has been following the Royal family. Despite not living in the UK any more I still admire the dignity and brilliance of ceremonial Britain, because Britain holds on to traditions built over many centuries. The level of respect for an exceptional woman who upheld those traditions is directly relative to the respect she showed to her subjects. One fact little known was her close relationship with Rabbi Jonathan Saks who was her advisor on the Old Testament and on Judaism. This friendship with Jewish religious leaders will continue because King Charles also turned to his Jewish friends for advice on many occasions. The greatest lesson we all need to learn from just one British sentence used last week is “The Queen is dead God Save the King”. Unlike politicians in constitutional government there is no rancour and jealousy – it is a fact – to move on to the future instead of bemoaning the past. All over the world tea “parties” will be held to enable mourners, ordinary people, to watch the funeral together. In Jerusalem one will be held in the Kumkum tea rooms. One can also sign the condolence page for the Royal Family https://www.royal.uk/send-message-condolence
To understand the relationship that the Royals have with the Jewish community explained https://plus61j.net.au/featured/the-queen-gave-uk-jews-a-sense-of-security-the-king-has-long-been-a-friend/
Back to the Middle East where things are never dignified or understated! Just a few one-liners to get you up to date.
As a result of a report by Impact-se the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously marked up the Palestinian Curriculum Bill HR2374 which will now go to Congress.
As Israel nears elections the extreme factions of the PA are showing their true colours and individual terror attacks are more frequent as a direct result of blatant incitement to hatred.
The IDF has accepted that despite being unable to make absolute decisions without all the evidence, it was a stray IDF bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the USA accepts that it was not intentional. In case you wondered why that is important just look at the Palestinian publicity machine!
At the Jerusalem Post Conference which for some reason takes place in New York not Jerusalem Defence Minister Benny Gantz reported on the Iranian Nuclear threat. “Iran is not only advancing in its capabilities, but also in its rate of production. At the Fordow underground site, Iran’s enrichment rate has tripled in the last year” He also spoke at the United Nations
Israel’s predominantly Arab Joint List faction broke up on Thursday as its leader Ayman Odeh announced the bloc will run separately from the anti-Zionist Balad party, a move which endangers their ability to pass the 3.25% electoral threshold. Perhaps that will encourage Arab voters to the polling booths because they have not been convinced by the current lack of policies. A major factor in the Arab vote will be the uncontrolled violence and killings within the Arab towns. Mansour Abbas and his party are finding partners in Israel’s most conservative parties because, “for purely religious reasons” they fear LGBTQ, however they have expressed a willingness to join any coalition. Incidentally, in Impact-se’s discussions with the MENA region Islamic counties the only subject on which they are unwilling to compromise is just that.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, who represented his country at the White House unveiling of the Abraham Accords on September 15, 2020, visited Israel yesterday to mark the second anniversary of the blessed peace deal. His visit highlighted the beauty of the Abraham Accords, meaning that they are marked by warm friendships, and backed a discourse of genuine tolerance and ideological moderation. This is even more important than the burgeoning trade and amazing defense relationships with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. (Quote from the Jpost)
Coming back to the Jerusalem Post Conference
Mazal Tov to Shira and Jay Ruderman on their well-earned Lifetime Award. We should all follow Jay’s advice “If you want to make an impact as a social entrepreneur, go narrow and go deep. Their championing of the inclusion of people with disabilities into society and strengthening relations between Israel and the American Jewish community; and in recognition of more than two decades of leadership, innovation and advocacy in civil society. I am proud to say that Jay is a member of the Impact-se Board.
I know that if I say this has been a crazy week you will ask why that’s any different from other weeks – but it honestly been quite exceptional. It all began on Sunday evening when we went to a very different kind of “memorial” for our friend’s sister. Different because Ilana z”l’s friends from primary school met in an Indian restaurant sang Israeli songs while eating onion bhajis! Funerals and memorials are very different in Israel. Funerals are not an issue of wearing black, fancy hats with veils or formality, it is much more a fact of life. People leave their work and arrive and it doesn’t matter if they are wearing jeans or dungarees, their presence is enough. Another difference is the speeches, the eulogies, the poetry written the stories told…….
Last Friday’s Shabbat dinner was lovely with a special celebration of Amiad’s birthday then after Shabbat we went to a brilliant play at the Khan Theatre.
On Monday Zvi worked very hard writing the programme and his words as narrator and presenter of a memorial for our friend Frida. More of that later
Tuesday we walked along the to visit our new neighbours in building number 18. I love seeing how everyone has taken identical spaces and made them so individual!
Wednesday morning and I got the surprise of my life. The doorbell rang and my son Gideon stood there! Due to Covid and family and work commitments Gideon hasn’t seen our new apartment indeed hasn’t been to Israel for nearly 3 years. He toured every corner of the flat, loved the veranda and we spent time catching up on hugs! Of course, Zvi was thrilled when Gideon suddenly appeared at the study door. Rachel raced over immediately and we laughed at our excitement because we were together in London just a couple of weeks ago! After enjoying watching him sit on our veranda to catch up on some last-minute work (the reason he was here) Rachel and I took Gideon to the Naya restaurant where we chatted non-stop, ate good food, took selfies and then we drove him to the airport so that he could catch his plane back home. Gideon caught my determination to be utterly relaxed and get to the airport early, but it pays off to know the rules of getting through security quickly, something his British colleague didn’t manage and had no time to enjoy the Business Lounge!! It was absolutely wonderful, ridiculously short, but the deflation showed on both Rachel and my faces after my larger than life son had gone.
On Wednesday evening Zvi headed the concert to honour Frida z”l. Choirs sang, young musicians from the various music projects Frida supported played beautifully and the incredible Michal Korman, an internationally known cellist, https://www.israelichamberproject.org/artists played like and angel accompanied by her Mum Betty on the piano. Zvi sang a beautiful song with our friend Dana and did a phenomenal job as Emcee his words resonating with the assembled friends, he and Frida and Sam have known each other since University days and grew their children together. I say that the concert was to honour Frida because her family didn’t want a “memorial” they wanted to show her joie de vivre.
Last night we had an “End of Summer“ party for the entire estate outside on the huge patio of the White House building. Music, booze and fun….it really was a beautiful evening where the women danced with each other and the men pretended to be deep in conversation! Zvi was one of the brave ones and danced with me but later in the evening when the music got wilder the youngsters danced and had so much fun! After about a year and a half we are all getting to know each other. One incredible young woman determinedly organises these evenings, without her energy I’m not sure we would all meet up and celebrate the seasons!
Tonight we are going to our wonderful friends Yossi and Ronit Dagan for Friday night Dinner. It’s so wonderful to know that we will be pampered…..Ronit’s speciality, and tomorrow we will go to the Pe’er’s to raise a glass to the New Year.
The world is not a pretty place, people have lost the ability to be tolerant of others, lost patience, lost politeness, and I try to find the cause, the reason. Freedom is a very interesting word because in order to achieve freedom aka democracy, one cannot behave as one wishes, that’s what laws are for, democracy means the demands of the individual are subject to the needs of the many. Democracy is not without constraints, quite the opposite, democracy can only be achieved when we are willing to abide by the rules that protect the weak without infringing on the rights of others.
As we get closer to both Rosh Hashana and yet another round of elections in this, a Jewish State, I wonder how many politicians really care what the voter thinks or feels. In general, for most politicians, it is just about keeping ones seat not about policy making. Perhaps reading the prayers of atonement and understanding them, not necessarily as a religious exercise but as an exercise in humanity, in how to treat others, the rules of engagement with power, they are all written so clearly. In the atonement service one begs forgiveness for being high handed, for calumny and abuse of power amongst many other sins, but politicians believe themselves exempt from such rules. Is it true that we get the leaders we deserve?
I want to end on a happy note not talk of politicians! The weather is changing, the evenings cooler, the sunrises and sunsets more beautiful and the plants are all sighing in relief as they find solace in the autumnal sun. The passion fruits are ripening, the lemons slowly filling with their health-giving juice, the little lime tree is bearing at least 10 fruits – mojitos here we come!! I was very excited that my stolen snapdragon seeds from the public gardens produced enough seedlings to fill the planters setting me up for winter colour.
Music really does bring warmth and colour to life, be it Beethoven or Beatles so let’s sing together
You quite rightly love Koolulam as I do and when a Federation (USA) Mega Mission met up with the residents of Carmiel and Misgav they sang One Day. Listen carefully to the words https://youtu.be/lNDX9Vgq80o
Arik Einstein was a very popular singer songwriter. This song expresses all our dreams of changing the world Ani v’Ata – You and me will change the world https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUgCUgDUBmA
Above all, elections and wars, battles and chasms, we pray for the State of Israel. This prayer is said every week, every Shabbat in synagogues around the world. It is truly one of the most beautiful prayers, songs and here Cantors from around the world join in this invocation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc8c1II7Z8w The translation of the prayer is at the end.
I wish you a good weekend, a healthy and kind weekend with friends and family and a peaceful Shabbat
With love from Jerusalem