The View From My Veranda

Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem

So Sorry We Won – not really

By sheila | June 10, 2022

10th June 2022

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? I hope this week has been kind to you.

Andrea Bocelli gave a performance in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night before an audience of over 20,000, and from what I hear, it was simply stupendous! Our lovely friends Anita and Robert Simons were there and Anita waxed lyrical about the performance as a whole, especially since Bocelli brought his children with him and they sang alongside their father. Israeli soprano Shiri Maimon sang alongside him her beautiful voice melding perfectly with his. Before the show, Bocelli met with former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who at the singers request gave him the priestly blessing for success. Bocelli visited Jerusalem on Thursday, praying at both the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I imagine that standing at the Kotel and feeling the ancient stones, he was able to sense the history far more deeply than those of us who are with sight.

A friend wrote on Facebook that this week the number one movie is Top Gun; the number one in the British charts is a song by Kate Bush and the USA is in a proxy war with Russia and I responded that we are in 1984. I found so many appropriate Orwell quotes that I was spoiled for choice. Appropriate to what? Well, pick your democratic country and you will find a quote to describe the current political chaos. We live in a dystopian world of untruths, doublespeak and Newspeak. Here in Israel the determination of the Opposition to bring about the downfall of the current government that they were willing to voter against laws that they were morally bound to pass. Boris Johnson is failing; Joe Biden weakening. The quote I chose is “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history” Make of it as you will.

Today, 55 years ago, we were in the middle of conceivably the shortest war in history, just 6 days, yet the longest war in history because, sadly, we are still fighting it. As Abba Eban said at the time “This is the first war in history which has ended with the victors suing for peace and the vanquished calling for unconditional surrender”

Ephraim Kishon, the Hungarian/Israeli satirist and author, wrote a prophetic book “So Sorry We Won” fully understanding that we had lost the underdog position for ever. Kishon’s best-known quotes include: “Israel is a country so tiny that there is no room to write its name on the world map” and “It is a country where nobody expects miracles, but everybody takes them for granted.” It is, of course, even today a country at the center of the theatre of the absurd whereby we are demonised, vilified and stigmatised by those with whom we share our core values.

After just 19 years of Jordanian rule over the Old City, we could return to our Holy sites. I still remember that day October the 4th 1967 when I walked up towards the Western Wall with my father and brother. It was the eve of Rosh Hashanah and finally we were able to go and pray at the wall.It wasn’t even remotely like the Kotel one visits today; there was no plaza and there was rubble everywhere, only half of the current section of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount could be seen, all had been hidden as it was built upon, and we moved forward together to touch the ancient stones. I can never recapture those moments, there was something raw and deeply spiritual about the newly unearthed structure and of course there was, as yet, no separation between men and women. For those who would argue that point I have photos of that day.  Today it is a major tourist site with truly magnificent displays, exhibits, tunnels and museums but for me it cannot recapture the raw beauty of 1967. https://thekotel.org/en/

As I bring us back to today, despite the perfidious behaviour of most of our former allies, the acceptance of sheer lies, nay calumny, by the supposed beautiful people of the left, we have some excellent new allies, countries whose leaders understand the Middle East and are ready to move forward and learn from the only democracy in the Middle East. The Abraham Accords have opened doors that we always thought were firmly slammed in our face and locked with multiple keys, but just as they say that every leader needs an enemy to prove his leadership, so we can disprove that old adage. It began with the Emirates and through the desire to make enormous changes in the language used in their schoolbooks many other nations in the MENA region are moving forward beside Israel. Please please look at the www.impact-se.org reports on the willingness for change expressed by many of the very countries that our politicians (and theirs) called us enemies.  I promise you that it will make your day – especially when you read about the response of the EU to the PA’s refusal to take hate out of their curriculum!

My favourite quote of the week comes from the wonderful Hen Mazzig who spreads Israel’s word all over the world.

You can love Israel without hating Palestinians

You can love Palestinians without hating Israel

On Monday morning I met with my friend Rabbi David Greenberg and his group at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. I was thrilled when Rabbi David asked me to speak to the group at breakfast before they left on their day’s trip, and as we sat around the tables outside the dining room, in the beautiful atrium of the hotel I explained who I was then what I do (and Zvi of course although he was at a different appointment) I then asked for questions. Those questions centred around the question of hasbara – of Israel success or lack of it, in getting our point of view, our stories, over to the mass media. My response was met with disbelief as I explained how much information is disseminated and never picked up. There are very few journalists who dare to go against the owners and advertisers of the large media outlets. I was thrilled at the knowledge of many of the group and especially one gentleman who was incredibly well informed. I don’t know his name, I know he is a physician at Mount Sinai Hospital. Throughout the brief encounter I saw Arlette’s smiling face supporting me – thank you Sari, your friend is very special.

In the afternoon Rachel suddenly appeared with Talia and Ayala which was great fun. I always have a frozen roll of Talia’s favourite home-made cookies in the freezer, waiting to be sliced and baked while Ayala prefers……well anything that I can bake or make in an instant!!

On Tuesday Rachel and I met with Gaby and Alex at Shalva to discuss the July opening of Dr Dan’s Room, the Studio for Dance, Music and Drama in Shalva. I cannot believe that after two years and Covid hold-ups, the Room is not only ready but young people are already enjoying it. Volunteers from the Khan Theatre and the Jerusalem Music Academy will ensure that the children have every chance of taking their hard earned skills forward. With every day I know that this is the most beautiful way to keep my exceptional son Daniel’s memory alive in a manner that he would have loved. The opening isn’t the end of the project, it is only the beginning and for me the Shalva Family has taken me in with open arms and eased my grief with their love. https://give.shalva.org/daniel

In the evening we met with Anita and Robert Simons, all the way from Sydney Australia, for a delicious supper at Naya, in nearby Beit Nekufa. That place is ridiculously busy. It was only after trying every possible time to book a table for four that they finally managed to fit us in at the ridiculously early hour of 18:30! It was wonderful to catch up with them and then we called in to show them our new apartment before Zvi took them back to the King David.

Wednesday was a quiet day, a chance to catch our breath, it was also my sister Doreen’s birthday! I can tell you her age because none of you would believe it if you saw her. At 84 she is still beautiful, slender, bright and busy!

Actually Wednesday was not only birthday celebrations and a quiet day. Various forests and woods surrounding our home on the final climb up to Jerusalem, were set alight, arson, and I was tempted to say “We plant trees and they burn trees” and a particularly left wing friend said that I shouldn’t generalise. Believe me I’m the last person to generalise. 99% of Palestinians would never even think of burning trees and resultant danger to human life – but the fact is that young Palestinians started the fires. How do I know? Because each of the separate fires had several points of conflagration.

Yesterday I was in the German Colony of Jerusalem. I love that area and every road tells a story. Apparently it was where all the German Christian Pilgrims used to stay and many bought homes. One visitor was Adolph Eichmann. Anyway when the British Mandate came in all the old German names of the narrow, tree lined streets were changed so that now the streets are called Josiah Wedgewood, Lloyd George, John Henry Patterson (Commander of the Jewish Legion in WW1) and Wyndham Deedes (a Zionist British General). The architecture is gorgeous and right in the middle of the main street, Emek Refaim, is the Templar Cemetery. Well worth a wander!

Tonight we have a quiet Shabbat meal, perhaps we will invite a couple of neighbours for a tipple and “pitsuchim” (nuts, crackers etc) after supper because it promises to be a wonderful balmy night. The streets of central Tel Aviv came alive, as of about 10 minutes ago. The Tel Aviv Gay parade has begun. It is a festive parade with a serious purpose, not just a reason to dress outrageously and dance in the street. Here the Gay parade is to put forward the rights of Gay couples, the right to be recognised as a couple by law.

Tomorrow we are meeting our lovely friends Judy and Michael Baum for Shabbat lunch. I love them! If you haven’t ready any of Michael’s books you really should, they are rivetting and you can learn a great deal about the archaeological digs here in Israel. Especially The Third Tablet of the Holy Covenant and Aaron’s Rod. Perhaps we will go for a walk, Zvi and Michael talking local politics and Judy and I just enjoying our walk.

The first piece of music isn’t singing, has nothing to do with music and isn’t in Israel but I guarantee you will love it! This is what I pray that Dr. Dan’s Room in Shalva will create – the chance to excel. Never think that just because a child is born with Down’s syndrome that they cannot be stars. https://youtu.be/MMucfdhnzMA

Shlomi Shabbat is one of my favourite Israeli singers. This song, this tribute to Jerusalem, is one of those rare songs that does this beautiful city justice. I hope you love it as much as I do https://youtu.be/_kQCTlFuCqQ

We are a tribe, a tribe of brothers and sisters no matter who we are or to whom or what we pray. We are meant to pull together, to strive for the same goals and not to be torn apart as our politicians (or some of them) would have. Eastern, Western, Ashkenaz, Sefarad, Mizrachi, Ethiopian, Yemenite, Moroccan, Egyptian, Anglo, Russian or Polish we are one. We are a Tribe of Brothers and Sisters https://youtu.be/HrcnYpZT6w4

With love from Jerusalem,

Sheila

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