The view from my veranda

Chaos, Kindness and Sabich


24th July, 2020


Shabbat Shalom lovely people. I hope you are well and not too troubled by the insanity of our world. The response to the chaos outside is to take advantage of the time to really get to know our children, grandchildren and, yes, even our spouses!


As much as I want to raise your spirits I have to begin with an intolerable situation here at home. To use a somewhat banal analogy, we are a ship without a rudder. The disarray and indecision of the government concerning all things Corona is wearing everyone down. Perhaps the best example is the situation of restauranteurs – they were told, amid great jubilation, that they could re-open their doors, under certain limitations of distancing, cleansing and masks, but nonetheless re-open. They stocked up, hired staff, welcomed diners back then two weeks later, told they had to shut down again. They gave away all their produce only to be told they didn’t have to close but only serve take-away then that changed so that they could have service in outdoor areas only and now………..


The demonstrations of independents, small businesses and restauranteurs were joined by those who cannot pay their rent or mortgages. What began as an orderly expression of frustration has become a rather rowdy but understandably disorderly expression of anger. Yisrael Katz, Minister of Finance came up with a plan to give every citizen a monthly stipend, it was announced then suddenly – unannounced! The Chair of the Knesset Committee on the Corona Virus, Yifat Shasha-Biton, criticised the government’s handling of the situation and the PM tried immediately to fire her! In other words chaotic government.


President Ruvi Rivlin, the wonderful titular leader, put it into simple words ““As a citizen and on behalf of us all, I say: Get a grip! Stop the talk of early elections, of that terrible option at this time, and save yourselves from it,” he said. “The State of Israel is not a rag doll that you drag around as you squabble,”


I have been criticised for saying what I feel about Israel’s leadership through this difficult period. I am not a political animal, I speak as I feel, whether it the leader I voted for or not. Israel deserves an honest leader who is not distracted by his legal battles, one whose family are supportive but not involved in matters of State.


All of the above relates, to an extent, to what is currently happening in the States today where the younger generation judge the past through the eyes and ears of today, without accepting the fact that today, you overcame the shame of past history and sinking into inverse and induced hatred of minority groups cannot change what has been. Despite poor leadership this situation is rising from the grass roots disinformed by evil haters such as Farrakhan.


So, one more aspect of past and present that relates so deeply to our world today. Tisha b’Av. Tisha b’Av literally means the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av which falls on next Wednesday evening. It is a day of mourning and fasting as we commemorate more disasters than any one people should endure. Twice, on this date, the Holy Temple was destroyed, the spies that Moses sent into the Land of Israel were lazy, gave a bad report and so we were destined to 40 years wandering in the desert; 1290 expulsion of England’s Jews and the 1492 banishment of all Jews from Spain; Germany declared war on Russia which led to the First World War. The cause of all of the above? Hatred. Hatred of the other, intolerance, greed – sound familiar?


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, has a way with words. His mellifluous tones hide a simplicity of expression that tends to put everything into perspective.


Gosh, I’m depressing myself so let’s move on!

I am constantly learning new words in Hebrew – even after 30 years!! We all know what hasbara is – literally dissemination of information, but few know what ta’amula is. Ta’amula means telling stories, human stories to get your message over. It’s time we switched from hasbara to ta’amula…… Journalist Bari Weiss brought new meaning to ta’amula. She told her story, but as a Jew. She stood up to the pseudo-inteligentsia of the New York Times. She spoke to every American out there, not just Jews but everyone.


In Judaism it is said that everyone has three names – the one you are born with, the one you are called in life and the one you leave behind. This week a young couple from New York chose to start a campaign on Shalva’s website to celebrate their son Joseph’s Bar Mitzva. Lovely Gaby Hirsch, who is heads the Shalva Campaign Team spoke to them and showed them some other Campaign pages for them to see how it is done. Suddenly Joseph’s mother began to cry, she had seen my beautiful son Daniel’s page “Remembering Daniel” – Daniel was her three children’s beloved paediatrician. Abby and Josh Kaufthal are not new to Shalva, Josh’s father was a strong supporter, but seeing Daniel’s face on the page brought back so many beautiful memories. Like me, they feel that a Music and Drama Therapy Room in Shalva is the perfect memorial to a special man. In the meantime we have exceeded, yet again, our original target and extended the campaign so that any former patients can express their love for Daniel by donating to the campaign. “Dr. Dan’s Room” will serve as a place of fun and therapy through the magic of music and drama for the youngsters of Shalva. Zvi and I went this week to see the potential space and were thrilled to find a large, airy room with big windows and perfect wheelchair access – as yet a blank canvas but I can already imagine the butterfly murals on the walls


We haven’t wandered very far from home lately but still manage to be busy. Zvi has his two choirs and since being on the Board of about six organisations wasn’t enough for him he has helped found an organisation which provides amusement and song for the elderly who are feeling most lonely and insecure at the moment. I, as you know have been busy with Shalva and with Impact-se meetings on-line. Impact is going from strength to strength as our reports are taken very seriously by international players. The UN published a statement as an official document for the 44th session of the Human Rights Council prepared by UN Watch, outlining the global rise in antisemitism and notably, the extreme levels of hatred and incitement in Palestinian Authority textbooks. The statement cites the alarming findings of IMPACT-se’s 2018 report on PA textbooks  which found explicit endorsement of terrorist activity, antisemitism and violence against Israel.


Do you know what Sabich is? Do you know where and when it was created? Well, here goes, an explanation. Sabich is a sandwich, of sorts, which contains fried aubergine (eggplant), hummus, pickles, hard boiled egg all inside an Iraqi pitta! Apparently, as the story goes, this delicious combination was the invention of a man called Sabich!!! One Sunday in the town of Ramat Gan, Sabich Halabi found that he had some ingredients left over from the family Shabbat meal and hungry blue collar clients waiting for breakfast! He put everything he had into a pitta and so the Sabich was invented! It is now a staple breakfast sandwich all over Israel but very few knew the origin of its name – until this week when the Municipality of Ramat Gan decided to name the square where Sabich Halabi created his sandwich – Sabich Square!!


Tonight we are going to Rachel and Igal, to my beautiful daughter and family, for Shabbat dinner. I am being extra-careful but then so is she! Shabbat is a family affair in Rachel’s home (when 3 teenagers are in a helpful mood). Talia and Rachel are in charge of salads, the real Israeli salads like grated carrot, cabbage, egg, matbucha, cucumber, potato and so many more that it is hard to choose which ones to take before your stomach bursts! Ayala loves cleaning and does the traditional throwing of soapy water everywhere then gathering it all in with a “sponger”, Yosef is in charge of taking garbage down and preparing mountains of cut kitchen roll!! Rachel prepares St. Peter’s fish aka Mousht, in a wonderful vegetable sauce and salmon parcels with the best roast potatoes in the country! I love the way the three children join their Dad in song – Igal throwing in a few Ashkenazi melodies for us! I feel as if I am playing truant by going out but since we will be less than 10 people keep our distance and take care, it is fine.


This period seems to be hardest on the grandparents of this world, the fact that we can’t hug and kiss our grandchildren or for that matter get to together for a singsong. Zvi sent me a marvellous song by a group of Israeli singers of a certain age who decided to say “Dayenu” – enough. I’m sorry that it isn’t with translation but it is hot off the press so they haven’t had time! Dayenu 2020


It happened! I found a new song about Jerusalem! Sung by the wonderful Shlomi Shabbat,


I tried and tried to find you a Shabbat song that I love with English translation – without success but I found the perfect joyous songs with Spanish subtitles! All my lovely Spanish speaking readers it is your turn. Enjoy the Revivo Project –


That’s all folks! The weather is hot, very hot, in fact searingly hot for the next week and we are all trying to find shady corners! I was hoping to take Zvi’s grandchildren to the zoo this week but I really can’t see it happening, I think we would all melt. Even the animals have huge ice lollies to cool them down! The morning views from our veranda are exquisite as the heat haze creates an illusion of Jerusalem rising from the clouds. Gosh I love it!


I wish you a Shabbat Shalom. There is so much to learn from Tisha b’Av and we have to learn to live together – and I don’t just mean Jews – all of us. As Yehuda Meshi Zahav, the founder of Zaka, said “I learned that when you hold a man’s heart in your hand it is irrelevant from where he came”


With much love from Jerusalem