The View From My Veranda
Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem
13th November 2020
Shabbat Shalom, have a beautiful weekend
Watching the news has become more depressing than the usual gloom and doom reporting. Of late the subject matter has become obsessive, US elections and Covid-19 with an occasional mention of the vaccine. Today, once the essential news reports are written I’m going to lift your spirits and mine!
This was a week of memorials.
The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is Remembrance Day as leaders of the British Commonwealth stand at the Cenotaph in their country and commemorate those who fell in battle. Each lapel bears the emblem of their bravery, a red poppy, which represents the red poppies of Flanders Fields in Belgium, one of the most deadly battles of the Great War, “the War to end all wars”, WW1. We did not learn the lesson of millions of dead soldiers but we remember their valiant battle for our freedom.
The second lesson our world didn’t learn was commemorated on the night between the 9th and 10th of November. Kristallnacht, the November Pogrom, the Night of the Broken Glass. Not just glass was broken that night, Jewish homes, synagogues and businesses were burned, smashed and looted, 91 Jews were killed, thousands beaten savagely and over 350 incarcerated in concentration camps. British historian Martin Gilbert wrote that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from foreign journalists working in Germany sent shockwaves around the world yet nobody did a thing.
Three very different people left this world this week. A Cambridge educated Rabbi, a Palestinian negotiator and an Ethiopian priest. In Judaism it is said that a person has 3 names – the one he is born with, the one he is called and the one he leaves behind.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who passed away this week, leaves a fine name behind him. His passing created a wave of sorrow among all who met him, Lords, Ladies and laymen, all who heard him or knew of him, irrespective of status, religion or creed. His special humility and wisdom crossed religious and political barriers and his mellifluous tones drew one in to learn through his sagacity and wise perspective how to become a better person. The manner in which he related Biblical texts to everyday life taught many of us the wisdom of the stories of our founding. He will be sorely missed. https://www.jpost.com/judaism/remembering-lord-rabbi-jonathan-sacks-648860
A man who influenced his flock and brought them home is Kes Raphael Hadane, aged 97, born in the Bagmadar region of Ethiopia, who was an orphan by the age of 10, became a local priest then studied to become a Rabbi in the Jewish Agency school in Basmara, Eritrea and rose to the position of Liqa Kahenet (High Priest). He came on Aliya in 1983 with his family and led his flock here in Israel with great wisdom and kindness.
יהיו זכרם ברוך is the traditional blessing for those who pass “May their memory be blessed”
Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat died this week in Hadassah Hospital after a valiant attempt by Israeli doctors to save his life. My prayer is that his legacy will be that his successor can reach a viable peace agreement with Israel.
I would be remiss if I did not write about the F35 fighter plane deal struck by President Trump in exchange for “peace”, a warm friendship in the case of the Emirates and recognition and trade from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It is always wise to remember that we live in the mercurial Middle East where volte-face is the order of the day. Although led by Royal families or Princes, ideals and allies change too quickly and loyalties are capricious and unpredictable. In truth an American President is sworn to do what is best for the USA, and this deal keeps the US Aircraft Industry afloat for many years to come, but is it really a good decision for Israel? It will take perhaps 5 years before pilots will be trained to fly these highly complex aeroplanes and Israeli adaptations of all the “F” series aeroplanes make them vastly improved versions of those sold to any other country, so what is the answer? Hopefully not the story of the scorpion and the crocodile.
To be drawn in to the results of the USA elections is to enter dangerous and turbulent waters! I promise not to become embroiled in who won what and who should or shouldn’t declare defeat or victory…… I just pray that there will not be a repetition of the violent demonstrations that took place following Mr. Trump’s election. Whether or not the furniture in the White House is changed, whoever sits in the Oval Office, I only wish the best for the USA and that the final triumph is for democracy.
We have enough problems here in Israel where every day reveals new and complex methods of holding on to power while avoiding an inevitable legal prosecution. I promised to stick to the “new” news and avoid depressing you by repeating the repetitious so let’s leave that one and I’ll tell you a wonderful, romantic and very human story about the Covid-19 vaccine.
Professor Ugur Sahin and Dr. Ozlem Tureci are scientists, both the children of parents who emigrated from Turkey to Germany to give their children a better life. This couple are not only devoted to science but to each other as they fell in love and married, spending their wedding day in their laboratory. Their primary research and development was in the field of oncology in their company BioNTech, until Covid-19. 10 months after their initial study they are in phase 3 of a vaccine and working with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals to release it within 6 months. Dr. Albert Bourla, on the other hand, was born in Thessaloniki, Greece is a business executive, veterinary surgeon and a Jew. Bourla is the Chairman and CEO of the American pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer. At last, Turks and Greeks, Moslems and Jews work together to save the world!
Huntington’s Chorea is a dreadful disease. Arthur, a young soldier who nursed his Mother through the disease until her death last year, now suffers the same fate. However, Arthur served in the IDF and his entire “gdud” or platoon, ensures that he is never alone. They not only take turns to stay with him at the weekends, meet regularly to ensure that Arthur has a great time, they marched to the Knesset to lobby for a drug that can extend and change Arthur’s life, a drug which is not in the health basket. It is difficult to explain the level of camaraderie that serving in the IDF brings. It surpasses social and religious bounds. Good luck to Arthurs Gdud and to Arthur.
Talking of the IDF, this week former Chief of Staff and co-Prime Minister Gantz declared that the Lebanon campaign, the 18 years in which the IDF was present in Southern Lebanon, officially warranted battle ribbons for the soldiers who served there . For us it’s a very personal decision since Leor, Zvi’s younger son, fought in Southern Lebanon together with his tank division, risking his life every day, for which he and his soldiers never received official recognition. Since the campaign has been upgraded Leor will receive medals/ribbons for keeping us safe from Hezb-Allah.
Alumni from the IDF‘s Intelligence Corps 8200 unit have teamed up with the Ministry of Finance to launch a non-profit organisation to promote business in the Israeli Arab community. Hybrid, the programme promotes various Arab-led startups from their inception toward becoming independent, international hi-tech companies.
Impact-se strikes again! In a discussion held yesterday with the UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, members of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) demanded answers regarding the use of Palestinian textbooks in UNRWA schools that contain antisemitism and incitement to hatred, martyrdom and violence. In addition our material has been used in the Australian Parliament’s discussions on aid to Palestinian education……see www.impact-se.org Our aim is to introduce tolerance in education throughout the world – who knows, maybe then there will be no more dead soldiers, no more broken glass, no more teaching of hatred and Menachem Begin’s words may come to fruition “no more wars, no more bloodshed and no more threats” which led to Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in November 1977
Do you remember that I wrote about a wonderful organisation, within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which searches out family of those who are buried in military cemeteries but have no known relatives to say the prayer for the dead over them. Yossi Dagan, our friend who volunteers for the organisation, turned to me for help to trace the family of Sylvia Beyrack z”l who made Aliya with Habonim in 1946 and was killed in a bombing in Jerusalem in 1948 at the tender age of 26. Through various means, including placing the request on Facebook etc, I found that her cousin Steven Sands, a cantor in Chigwell Synagogue in London had written about her in a letter to the Jewish Chronicle which gave us access to her family. Sadly Steven died last year but his father, Sidney Sands, is a first cousin to Sylvia. At last, Yossi found someone who will say kaddish, the prayer for the dead, for Sylvia. https://www.izkor.gov.il/en/e3a28fce4e5dfc1b8d55564913aeb184
Just a word about “Dr. Dan’s Room”, the Music and Drama Therapy Room in Shalva www.shalva.org that we created in memory of my beautiful son Daniel, who was killed in a tragic accident in New York. Well, we have very nearly achieved our $150,000 target, will complete it by December when we commemorate one year since his passing. I promise that we will write to each and every one of you wonderful generous people to update you on the progress of the room which has been held up by the pandemic. Music will fill the room very soon and Daniel’s family, those of us in Israel until this pandemic passes and every member of the family can come here, will paint and create a room filled with the love and joy of life that Daniel gave to every one of his patients, and to us. https://give.shalva.org/daniel
The Shalva Band, a result of Shalva’s Music Therapy, sang at the General Assembly of Jewish Organisations of North America. They sang Leonard Cohen’s Halleluya and the National Anthems of Canada and the USA. They also sang Hatikva which is not on this recording https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=854NK_kKsow
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, full of pride and smiles is invited to join the Shabbaton Choir singing Oseh Shalom, Let there be Peace https://youtu.be/apMbinSz8RU
Liverpool, the Sixties, Rock and Roll, then suddenly came Gerry and the Pacemakers, actually Gerry Marsden, singing a song from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel! You’ll Never Walk Alone, the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, became more of a prayer than a pop song. Listen to the words, they speak to me and I hope they speak to you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOXwzvk1WTc
This week’s Torah reading is all about family. Matriarch Sarah dies at the ripe old age of 127 and then the family sets about finding a wife for Isaac…… fascinating reading! https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/3174/jewish/Chayei-Sarah-in-a-Nutshell.htm
Wishing you a good weekend, a good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom from beautiful Jerusalem and of course the View from Our Veranda.
With much love