The View From My Veranda

Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem

Good news and the Elephant in the Room

By sheila | January 13, 2023

13th of January 2023

Shabbat Shalom!

Talking of Shabbat, the latest believable news from the British Royals concerns the Coronation of King Charles III. The Coronation will be held on Saturday, 6th of May and among the invitees is one Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth. Nothing special in that after all Prince Charles attended Rabbi Mirvis’ inauguration. So what’s the big deal? King Charles and his Queen Consort have invited Rabbi Mirvis and his wife to stay with them at Clarence House so that he will be able to attend the ceremony without breaking Shabbat. Clarence House is but a short walk across St James’s Park to Westminster Abbey. A favourite advisor and friend of the late Queen on anything religious, personal and public was Lord Sacks and so the tradition has continued with Charles and Rabbi Mirvis. In case you wondered I have no intention of discussing the prodigal son. https://www.thejc.com/lets-talk/all/it’s-no-surprise-that-king-charles-plans-to-accommodate-the-chief-rabbi-5sBoJZ9uM8jxxNK5F0jlBa

Steven Spielberg, like so many, suffered bullying anti-Semitism just because he was a Jew. Rather than hiding away and licking his wounds he chose to succeed, to become a great film producer, director and writer. He has just made a film based on his own life, his family’s life, in a movie which has been described as “the antidote to Jewish victimhood”. I love what he said as he received his award, he said he was the sixth-happiest person in the world after he won best director at this year’s Golden Globes awards for “The Fabelmans,” his autobiographical film about his Jewish family. “I think … there’s five people happier than I am,” he said in his acceptance speech, which he said he had not prepared in advance out of superstition. “There’s my sister Anne, my sister Sue, my sister Nancy, my dad Arnold and my mom. She is up there kvelling about this right now.”

Did you know that the United Arab Emirates has made the decision to introduce Holocaust Education in their school curriculum? They will do so with the guidance of the Holocaust Museum and Archives of Yad Vashem. The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), the Israeli-British organisation that analyses education around the world for biases and intolerance, highlighted the importance of introducing the Holocaust in the Emirati school curricula. “The United Arab Emirates has been leading the way in peace and tolerance education in the region for some years. IMPACT-se is delighted that they have taken this important step in educating about the Shoah and humbled to have partnered with the Ministry of Education,” the institute’s Director, Marcus Scheff, said.

Yes, you are right, I am avoiding the elephant in the room simply because tomorrow is my birthday and I have no intention of depressing myself talking about the current government and the disturbing plans to change our judiciary and our lives. I am most angry because with all our differences we Israelis always came together in adversity and I find that we are split asunder. Perhaps the straw that broke this camel’s back was the suggestion that the opposition leaders be arrested for treason for encouraging the populace to peaceful demonstrations. I know everything will be alright, but who needs to discuss such matter on their birthday when there are so many wonderful aspects to our world, especially right here in Israel. For those of you who are interested, the changes are explained in this article https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-728206

Zvi had a meeting in Jerusalem yesterday, and I decided to go with him and walk through the park beside the David Efron Hora Dance Centre where he meeting was held. The dance centre was filled of happy young people full of good energy after rehearsals. It was a chilly evening but the rain held off so off I strode on my daily constitutional and then it happened! The most phenomenal sunset I have ever seen! It was as if the sky was on fire, if you can imagine a red, yellow, orange aurora borealis. Obviously I stopped and took a photo but nothing does justice to the wonder of mother nature.

On Sunday evening we were invited to the home of Nomi Ballas together with some old friends, I say we but Zvi really wasn’t well with this awful coughing bug that is going around. He insisted that I go alone, especially since I had made little bread rolls and antipasti for the meal! Zvi’s friend Sami collected me and the evening was truly delightful, we chose to avoid politics and just talk about normal everyday things, exchanging ideas of what to watch on Netflix etc! I strongly recommend “The Plot Against America” which follows a Jewish family in the imagined world where Lindbergh won the elections against FDR.

The most exciting visit this week was when John and Pauline Gandel came to see our new apartment for the first time! It was so thrilling to hear them wax lyrical at every aspect, especially the veranda, the incredible veranda with views all the way to Jerusalem. It’s strange, in our former home the view from the veranda, after which my newsletter is named, was exciting, overlooking most of Jerusalem but now, now we have trees and peace and know that one Theodore Herzl visited this very spot 124 years ago.  I love the Gandels, I love their natural kindness, sense of fun and family and determination to make this world a better place.

I had a wonderful time with my Rachel on Wednesday morning, just being together and then on Wednesday evening we had the most incredibly Israeli evening with the Gandels. I have to tell you about it because what I am about to describe is the real Israel!!

So, John and Pauline asked to go to a typically Middle Eastern restaurant, not a fancy, one, a real “Al ha Aysh” (literally meaning on the fire or grill) meat restaurant, shishlik, kebabs, skewers of spring chicken, chicken livers and of course the “Morav Yerushalmi” which developed from the need to use all parts of the chicken, the parts we don’t talk about mixed with loads of onion and spices on the grill. I called to book a table to be told that they are so busy that they do not allow booking in advance. Somewhat peeved we stopped the car outside Ezra, my favourite, and Zvi jumped out of the car and went to talk to the “Sadran” the man who organises tables, waiters, food and everything all at once. Zvi returned with the good news that they would set us up a table. As we waited in the insanely busy entrance we were fascinated as we watched Ephraim, the sadran. Without losing his cool for a moment he was in total control of everything, of the constant flow of humanity demanding food! As we sat down at least 16 or 20 small dishes were set out before us, tehina, humous, cabbage, fiery aubergine salad and even more fiery Moroccan carrot salad, felafels and so on, accompanied by steaming hot, crispy Iraqi flatbread straight from the taboon. We all tucked in and there was little conversation because we were fascinated by the hustle and bustle of the non-stop flow of people, the singing of Happy Birthday at various tables and of course the children – in Israel eating out is a family affair not a call for babysitters! Ephraim continued seating the non-stop flow of diners and the entire evening was the most delightful “balagan” imaginable! Who were the diners? The full gamut, the full rainbow of Israeli humanity! From deeply Orthodox to mini-skirts; Jew and Moslem; locals and tourists. It was so much fun! The culmination of the even was when four soldiers of the Border Police came in and sat at the bar – in this, like many restaurants, they get their choice of food for free – and I managed to thank them for protecting us. Their job is with people, one on one, face to face.  If you come to Jerusalem and are prepared to wait your turn, Ezra restaurant on Yad Harutzim in Talpiot!!

Last night the Silvers came for supper! Ira, Valeri, Tomer and Shelley, our non-blood related family. Shelley, having completed her national service with distinction, is off to South, Central and North America and we wanted to have a farewell meal together. Shelley really is an exceptional young woman and if anyone in the sub-continent wants to show her and her friends their city, just let me know!

In a few minutes, Zvi is taking me for breakfast in Derech ha Gefen, in Beit Zayit, the village next to ours. It is becoming a tradition because last year there were about four others celebrating their birthdays and so we decided to meet up again this year! We are back! Breakfast was wonderful, the friendly atmosphere adding to the culinary enjoyment, I had Croque Monsieur and Zvi had Croque Madame (the kosher version of) both equally delicious, and we chatted with the delightful couple on the next table who had come all the way from Rishon Le Zion to have breakfast here. It was lovely but for me the highlight was even before the meal. As we sat waiting in the porch, sheltering from the chill of a winter’s morning, a young couple sat on the bench opposite us, clearly in love. I couldn’t help smiling at the incredibly Israeli situation before me. Two beautiful youngsters, both carrying very large rifles which did not in any way hamper their loving hugs. What? What did I just write? Clearly, they were both in a fighting unit of the IDF and by law they are not allowed to leave their weapons anywhere, always by their side, once issued they are responsible for them day and night. So here were two soldiers, a beautiful girl and boy, out of uniform and about to have a romantic breakfast, acting as if it is the most normal thing in the world to be cradling each other and their life support system, their rifles.

As we sat together Zvi asked me what I felt about the last year, what we have achieved since my last birthday. Almost completing furnishing our apartment, selling the old apartment, managing to see all 14 grandchildren from 3 continents, receiving friends, completing the Dr. Dan’s Room project in Shalva, successfully returning to normal life after Covid and being involved in the work of Impact-se in changing the way we, Israel, Jews and Christians, are perceived in the schoolbooks of our former enemies and in Zvi’s case ensuring that teachers are taught to teach and bringing joy to all with his glorious voice.

Our conversation drifted to what our hopes and expectations are for the next year and how it differs for each generation. For our parent’s generation, whether in Israel or in Wales, the generation who knew what it meant to be without Israel, without Jewish independence, to suffer the blows of the Shoah, their altruistic dreams were of hope and how to build a Jewish State; our generation still had dreams of a perfect Israel while understanding that the country would grow up and create a different society with haves and have-nots, still ready to give ourselves to the cause; our children tired of the stories of giving and opening our arms to all and began to build their own financial security even if it meant leaving Israel; their children, the “Tik Tok” generation  are taught of the heroism of their antecedents but do not totally absorb the implications or the need to fight for their right to exist which was the driving force behind their great grandparent’s very existence.

Tonight we will have Shabbat dinner at home then in the morning we will have breakfast at Nattie and Yolli Zonszein’s, then to Amiad and Noga to be joined by the remainder of Zvi’s grandchildren for lunch and then back home where Rachel and the children will come to visit after Shabbat. A truly family style birthday, the best I could imagine.

Why did I avoid that huge elephant (current Israeli politics) in the room? One good reason is that I made you smile, in fact I made me smile and also to prove that one can maneuver one’s life around that elephant, one can prove that life is good without being complacent and accept that one has to work hard to change the elephant into a Lion of Judah. We are not that country that you read about, that reaches the headlines, and we, the people are not the sum of our politicians. Life here is good, in fact life here is wonderful, and compared to anywhere else it has a deep meaning. The fact that we are free to disagree with our leaders is a sign of a true democracy.

How about some music? I love finding the music for you, songs that have deep meaning whatever language they may be.

The evolution of Jewish music is fascinating and here the acapella group Y-Studs sings the gamut of music from the 1700’s to today https://youtu.be/gbeArPQqsc8

I can’t remember if I gave you this wonderful rendition of the Havdallah service, the service which ends Shabbat as we go from Holy to everyday, reawakening all five senses, with the light and heat of the candle, the smelling of spices all bringing us into the week ahead. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECwNkXM5dKA

Koolulam with “Yesh Bi Ahava” there is love in me. I says everything, love really will conquer all, we will find a way through every situation, the tragic, the cruel and the unpleasant if we keep hope and love in our hearts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J98XBmoZAi4

Shabbat Shalom dear friends    

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