The view from my veranda

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions and song

1st of July 2022

2nd of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, 5782

Shabbat Shalom!

What a week! Well actually, although Zvi and I had a busy week I was referring to Israel’s political week and what I believe to be the outcome. The decision was taken to end the current Knesset session, a hard decision but the only one under the circumstances. Elections will be held on the first of November and only heaven knows what the outcome will be. Several essential laws were not passed or the opposition voted against them, even though several were introduced by Likud, their leader decided it was more important to bring down the government than to pass laws that were important to the people. Yes I know that I am breaking my own rule about expressing my political leanings but this last quarter has been beyond the pale. To call the current government left wing, dangerous to the security of the country for including Arab Members of Knesset, ineffective and incompetent doesn’t do anyone any favours especially since they succeeded in passing several issues that the former government hadn’t. Finally after 3 years of fiscal confusion we had a budget!

Unlike the former Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett did the right thing concerning his friend, partner and the Alternate Prime Minister, Yair Lapid. When it came time to hand over the reins to Lapid, Bennett did so with great grace and as of last night Yair Lapid, author, journalist, actor, boxer, Foreign Minister, Finance Minister, Alternate Prime Minister, hardly a man without experience and certainly a man, a leader, who is pragmatic and capable. In my humble opinion Yair Lapid’s greatest advantage is his ability to ask for help, to admit when he needs advice to make the right decision. He will go forward with his Alternate Prime Minister, one Naftali Bennett. There was much humour as they simply changed seats in the Knesset. However, the death threats, ridicule, unfounded accusations are just too much for the Bennett family and Naftali Bennett is considering leaving politics. An independently wealthy man he really doesn’t need the personal attacks.

While the United States is reeling from the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe versus Wade, Israel is introducing new, less stringent laws on abortion. I understand that the repeal does not mean blanket rejection of the “right to choose” but rather that it is a decision of each individual State. Those protesting the decision constantly talk about Church and State, which in the USA are separate yet in Israel, where religion and state are intertwined; the laws concerning abortion are being reconsidered and relaxed. By Jewish Law, the health of the mother, be it physical or psychological, is of paramount importance and the decision on abortion, albeit after a medical assessment, is based on that precept.

In 2020, the Saudi government made significant and wide-ranging changes to its school curriculum after IMPACT-se’s report on the Saudi 2019 curriculum was presented to senior kingdom officials. That IMPACT-se report was highly critical, and listed detailed changes that needed to be made.  In 2021, Saudi textbooks removed or edited dozens of problematic lessons demonizing Jews, Christians, and non-believers, previously itemized in IMPACT-se’s last Saudi textbook report. Many passages on Jihad in a violent context were either removed completely or moderated. Lessons instructing students to write down attempts by “the Jews” to destroy or Judaize the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem, as well as that Jewish connections to the Temple Mount are fabricated by rabbis, were removed as well. The full report for 2022 can be found here.  As Chair or the Impact-se Board I must express my admiration for the work of the team, especially Marcus Sheff and Arik Agassi whose relentless determination to bring Tolerance in Education to our region is praiseworthy.

Iran, what can one say about Iran? A violent theocracy that incredibly does not advocate anti-semitism within its own borders, only outside! Their latest threats include bombing London – well it won’t be the first time a megalomanic, oppressive regime has done that and the Brits showed true bulldog tenacity through that one; however, and this is a big however, Britain, like so many other western countries, does not have a strong leadership and is unlikely to have strong leadership in the near future, whether Boris Johnson, so wonderfully quirky in a thoroughly British manner, stays or goes. We do not have strong world leadership, so what is the next move with Iran. The original plan of which we know so little was scuppered, partly through a strange, childish, cartoon of a bomb and more probably, because it simply didn’t do the job. There are those who say that a partial agreement is better than none but nobody is more experience than Israel on partial agreements – we don’t recommend it!  Don’t be fooled by the Iranian clerics, they are highly educated, many graduates of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, never ever think they are not worldly or brilliant. That is the problem, they cannot be fooled into an agreement that they have not engineered to their demands.

That is all just too depressing!

We spent last weekend in Tel Aviv, well actually it all began with a phone call on Friday morning to Zvi’s cousins, my friends, Yossi and Rachel Ribak. Rachel hasn’t been well lately and since she had a hiatus in her treatments we thought we would go to see them. The conversation between Zvi and Yossi (Zvi’s side anyway) went thus “We’d love to see you! Where are you? How lovely! Yes of course we’ll have Shabbat dinner with you – yes of course we’ll bring it, we don’t want Rachel to work” Now please understand, I had prepared the minimum because we were going to be just the two of us in Tel Aviv. Anyway, by the time we left home we had a 3 course dinner, both gluten and lactose free!! It was wonderful to see them and listen to the waves crashing on the shore.

The next morning breakfast with friends, Irit and Itzik, Yossi and Fran, tea with Julio and Monika, (after an Israeli breakfast there is no possibility of eating until the evening) and then relaxing at Amiad’s home where we were babysitting the children. The next morning I abandoned Zvi and my wonderful childhood friend Averil came to the house and we walked around the corner to a delightful little coffee shop for breakfast. Our Tel Aviv sojourn over, the children safely deposited in school, we headed back to Jerusalem, to Motza, and fresh, dry air which felt so good after the humidity of Tel Aviv!

It was a busy week but mostly good things.

Two evenings ago I invited a few women neighbours to meet our newest neighbour Rachel. Most of us came into our new homes together the moment all the building approvals were obtained by the “kablan” builder and Rachel and her husband moved in just a couple of weeks ago. I know what it is to be the new girl on the block so I chose the 4 ladies very carefully. Only positive people allowed!

Last night Zvi and I went to the Jerusalem Theatre to meet our lovely friend Ronit Banit, Zvi’s musical director who now works with the Jerusalem Symphony and to attend a concert of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra; a concert with a difference. It was a concert of the music of Charlie Chaplin.

Phillipe Quint, an international virtuoso, created the programme which he played on a Stradivarius, and the audience was captivated by the stories about Chaplin’s life, loves and music and the pictures on the huge screen behind the orchestra. In one magical moment the Conductor of the Symphony, Steven Sloane, conducted the orchestra in synch with the 1921 Movie “The Kid”. In short, a magical evening which culminated with Chaplin’s most famous work, “Smile”. 

Tonight our lovely friends Barry and Cristine Slawsky of Edmonton and their adorable son James (aka Haim Elimelech) are coming for Shabbat Dinner. They have a delightful couple with them, Melissa and Paul Pasutto, Christian friends who are in Israel for the very first time. Hopefully Melissa and Paul will go to Bethlehem on Sunday and to the Baptisal site of Qasr el Yahud which ironically means Tower of the Jews! They should arrive by about 6-6:30 so that Zvi can show them around our complex, the amazing old building that was once a convalescent home for the workers of Israel, a glorious building designed in the form of the White House but in beautiful pinky cream Jerusalem stone. Next on the Zvitour of our home will be the Avenue of the Presidents; trees planted by each President of Israel. The first tree was planted by a dreamer, a dreamer who knew that the dream would come true, a very sick young man he never saw the State of Israel.

While visiting Israel in 1898Theodor Herzl sought an audience with German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was also in the Holy Land. After visiting the coastal settlements of Mikve Yisrael and Rishon LeTzion, Herzl traveled toward Jerusalem. As he passed through the Judean hills, he noticed its splendour as well as its barrenness due to neglect over the centuries. However, he noticed an island of green amidst the desolation. It was a small Jewish settlement, the only one in the area. The settlement, named Motza, possessed a population of 200 people and was located several miles west of Jerusalem. Its abundance of olive, date, and apricot trees, along with clusters of grapevines, gave it its fertile appearance. A wave of Arab riots against the Jews erupted throughout the Holy Land in 1929, and Motza suffered at the hands of Arabs from neighbouring villages. The beleaguered settlement was soon abandoned. However, four years later, a new settlement, Moshav Motza Ilith (Upper Motza) was established near that location, situated slightly higher on the same hill. In clear view of the Moshav rested the remains of Herzl’s cypress tree. That settlement has grown, sits on the famous Seven Sisters old road into Jerusalem and the fantastic new highway which takes its place, and we live there happy to show our guests the trees which are right there under our fabulous veranda!

Talking of verandas (and of segues not Segways, thank you Michael Poppers) since my back is playing up I set Zvi to work this week moving pots around so that it looks even more beautiful and lush. The little lemon tree is covered in future fruits and the kumquats will be ready for Martin when he visits.

This Sunday, incredibly, we have the opening, the dedication of Dr. Dan’s Room in Shalva. I am so excited. I promise to tell you all about it. Daniel’s father, Philip will be there with his wife Barbara, obviously Rachel and the children too and many dear friends. I could not have even begun to create such an incredible place without the help of Gaby and Liron. They have guided me, pushed me, persuaded me and been such incredible friends. This has been a labour of love, just as Daniel would have wanted. The opening is just the beginning of so many dreams; can you imagine a special needs theatre group? A special needs dance troupe? A special needs ……wait, did I say special needs? Yes of course they have needs but they are so talented, so capable, why shouldn’t their dreams come true too?

So to songs. Actually the first one is not a song, it is an instrumental but you all know the words. Smile. It’s what I do, the words reflect my life especially over the last two and a half years. Smile. That’s what creating Dr. Dan’s Room has helped me to do  

When Dina and Ana’el start to sing and the band begins to play, one realises that through Kalman and Malki’s dreams a magnificent reality came true. Let’s face it, who on earth would have thought that a group of “disabled” people with phenomenal abilities would sing at the Eurovision Song contest? Well they did! A Million Dreams

My Prayer. When Andre Bocelli performed in Israel last month, he invited Shiri Maimon to sing with him. The words, Let it be our prayer – lead us to a place, light us with your grace.

I wish you a good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful weekend filled with love, kindness, gentleness – that is my prayer.

With love from Jerusalem