The view from my veranda

Fibs, Fences and Friendship

13th May 2022

Shabbat Shalom.

Did you know that over the years nearly 23,000 war correspondents have been killed? To become a war correspondent one seeks the excitement of the job, the rush of adrenalin when in situations of danger, and the knowledge that a stray bullet may well end your life. In fact just in the last few months of the Russia-Ukraine conflict no less than 23 correspondents died. So what makes the death of Shireen Abu Akla, the Al Jazeera Jerusalem correspondent, different? It is simple, this time it is Israel and as usual Israel is blamed. Surprisingly, both Sky news and the BBC admitted that the Palestinian Authority had refused to allow Israeli pathologists to examine the body, to identify the bullet and the weapon that actually killed her. The Palestinian bullets were apparently flying in all directions whereas, under constant scrutiny, the IDF always holds back to allow their snipers to be precise. In these situations, in Jenin where so many carry weapons, it is impossible to know without the actual bullet. Why were we in Jenin? Because 11 Israelis were killed in terror attacks generated from Jenin.

Many of you wrote asking why we haven’t come out with a denial. Well, the truth takes much longer than a lie. To lie only needs a liar to open his mouth whereas the truth takes investigation, study and inquiry, in this case almost all of the officers have body cameras to show actions so we take the time to ensure that the truth be told by which time Al Jazeera has reached the entire Middle East and beyond with the Palestinian narrative.

Falsehoods travel faster, further, wider than the truth because nobody has to prove their veracity.

For those of you who have a Twitter account Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi explains

On the 10th of March 2006 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the decision to build a strong border defence between Israel and the Palestinian authority on the West Bank but after he left office it was ignored and the much vilified “wall” remained a flimsy wire garden fence which is broken and damaged in many places, allowing illegal workers through, together with those bent on terror. Our greatest danger is not the childish drawing of an Iranian bomb in the UN but rather saving shekels on building a secure border.

Another question often asked is “Why do you cram so much pain into one week and then end it with a celebration”? Of course they speak of the proximity of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Remembrance Day and then the joy of Independence Day. The answer is simple; without remembering the pain of the past one cannot possibly understand the joy of Independence. We, as a people, were always dependent upon others, upon the countries of our adoption; we were guests in someone else’s home. For the 2,000 years of dispersion we could not decide upon our own fate. Yes, of course, as a people we both gave with all our hearts and built fulfilling lives in those countries but that doesn’t mean denying the past or becoming complacent. If you look at Jewish philanthropy most of it is to benefit the community as a whole, be it museums, hospitals, libraries, right down to fire stations, but if one doesn’t know the reason behind the first philanthropists then one has lost the reason. In the USA Jews couldn’t study or practice medicine in existing hospitals, and were often refused treatment, so we built our own hospitals (Cedars Sinai, Mount Sinai etc); in Los Angeles the fire department refused to put out a fire in a Jewish home so we built our own fire station…..all happening until as late as the 1950’s. We have to tell our children, so that they will understand and celebrate the fact that today we have Israel and we make our own decisions, good and bad; we build our own hospitals which serve all; our ambulances do not turn anyone away; our museums display the history of all who live in our region……we chose to be an open society, our choice.  

The government of Israel is still standing! Our fine example of democracy, covering the full gamut of political thought, almost reached breaking point, between the resignation of a right wing member of the coalition and the recent unrest bringing Ra’am, the Arab party, to choose whether to stay in the coalition or resign thus bringing about the downfall of the government. Dr. Mansour Abbas, leader of Ra’am, took the question to an Ashura, a religious council, and they came to the decision to remain, to give this government the chance it deserves to continue. It was a brave move considering the level of unrest, of violence in his own community but possibly that is exactly what drove him to the decision. Mansour Abbas, above most other politicians, is trying to serve those he represents.

Just a thought. Did you know that Israel has one of the highest numbers of altruistic (living) kidney donation? Did you know that the origin of the donor or the recipient is irrelevant and often Jewish right wing altruistic donated kidneys go to children or adults from Gaza who are in Israeli hospitals?  

This week was a good week!

I finally went to Caffit, the wonderful restaurant in the Botanical Gardens! Meeting Dana and Betty in our old haunt was a delight and as usual we ordered two enormous salads between the three of us. Not just salads, oreganatto salads, the delicious, nourishing, satisfying salads that are the specialite de la maison of Caffit. A huge bowlful of salad vegetables, freshly grated feta with either oven-baked sweet potato chips, or sautéed mushrooms. The weather was perfect and to complete the picture we sat beside the pond which was covered in glorious pink and yellow water lilies. It was delightful.

The next day we went to collect two of Zvi’s friends from Venezuela, both of whom now live in Florida. We spent a wonderful evening with Miguel and Irene, eating delicious Middle Eastern food in Ezra, a great restaurant in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem, and I am happy to say that they have now become my friends too. We found so much in common, on every level but especially when I spoke about Shalva. That was when we decided to go to Shalva the next morning because I wanted to see Dr. Dan’s Room, the Music, Dance and Drama studio named for my eldest son Daniel z’l. Arriving in the wonderful lobby, the butterfly mobile hanging above us, we were met by Alex who took us to see the video about the founding of Shalva, which after all this time still fills me with emotion. Dr Dan’s Room is everything I could have dreamed of. The team at Shalva, from Kalman, Avi, Gaby, Liron, Alex – everyone, made the creation of the Studio a warm and loving experience, understanding the pain of loss which led to the creation of the room. Everyone who donated to Dr Dan’s Room , each and every one of you, has given me a purpose in life when I thought I would never raise my head. Thank you.

As is my wont, I came home, emotions high and cooked, baked and prepared my way through. It works for me and I now have a full freezer with quiches, cakes, cookies and pies!

Yesterday we had a steady flow of visitors throughout the day. A meeting then rehearsal for the Ensemble, one of Zvi’s 3 choirs, then Ehud came to rehearse before the two of them went off to a full rehearsal of the Jerusalem Academy of Music choir. As I they rehearsed the baritone part of “Tonight” from West Side Story I felt I could never feel the same about that wonderful song. When you hear just one part without the Bass, soprano and Alto it sounds awful – it’s like life itself, without all the parts singing together it is atonal and distressing. I diverge from my account of guests… the afternoon Merle and Frank Friedman arrived for a good cuppa and a quick chat before they set of to Jerusalem and a wedding. That’s just one of the beauties of our new location, it is very “drop-in-able”. As always their visit was fun and rewarding but too short! My last visitors didn’t quite make it! Ira and Valeri popped in on their way home from work and so went our day. I loved it!!

I often quote Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, my childhood friend and mentor, but this week I want to talk about Jeremy’s younger brother who has also reached great heights of learning and understanding. Rabbi David Rosen was behind the Israeli talks with the Vatican which culminated in full diplomatic relations, since when he has worked incessantly for inter-religious understanding including his work for the Abraham Accords which have changed the face of the entire area. This week he was in Riyad, in Saudi Arabia, in an inter-religious conference where the Jewish contingent had full kosher catering in a kitchen made ready for them. The Forum on Common Values among Religious Followers, which began on Wednesday, included Muslim councils, Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Orthodox Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. David Rosen works behind the scenes and is one of the finest representatives of everything good in Judaism that I know.

Today the weather is perfect! 25 degrees Celsius, clear blue sky, breeze, couldn’t be better especially since tomorrow it jumps to 37 degrees!! The veranda looks spectacular! Bright crimson geraniums, yellow nasturtium (in Hebrew called Monk’s Hat) pink and purple petunias and all the trees turning green. In fact before I start preparing Shabbat I want to go and sit outside on the garden sofas, relax and enjoy the view. I see the rolling hills of Jerusalem in the distance and the Jerusalem forest around us, despite being five minutes from everything we need. I will prepare the Shabbat table, finish making the “memula’im”, stuffed vegetables, to take to Amiad and Noga’s tomorrow to celebrate Yonatan’s eighth birthday, Yonatan, the amazing Ninja who never gives up.

As soon as I have finished the preparations and Zvi comes back from his course in Tel Aviv I will take the car and go to see Rachel and the children –if one can call young people aged 17, 15 and 13 children. I promise that I will think of you as I climb up to Samuel’s Tomb and see the incredible vista of Jerusalem, its hills, white buildings, ever increasing number of tall building, the ancient, old and recent forming a special horizon. There is a buzz, a sense of preparation as Shabbat nears. Not only for the observant Jews but for everyone. Even for those who do not observe the Shabbat laws, they look forward to family time. The lighting of the candles, each and every one of us carrying the words of the prayer to bring a true Shabbat Shalom.

The religious period of mourning between Passover and Shevuot (Feast of Weeks) is called the counting of the Omer, a time without festivities, except for two days. One is Israel’s Independence Day and the other is Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day out of the 49 days of Omer. This period is said to be mourning for the students of Rabbi Akiva who died from a plague which ravaged the area and of the Bar Kochba revolt. It is time of celebration and bonfires to represent the hilltop beacons which indicted Bar Kochba’s advances. Songs, not so many but one I’m sure you know. Is Ha Finjan – the Coffee Pot! No subtitles but it’s a great singalong!  

I want to mention a very special person who is not a member of my family but has shown me incredible empathy born of his own pain. Roy Salomon, all the way away in Montreal, thank you. I dedicate this song to you. All You Need is Love sung by the Shalva Band

Koolulam went to Sao Paulo and came up with a song to lift all our spirits! I hadn’t seen it before and hope you love it as much as I do.

That’s it! No matter where you are or how you pray, I send you Sabbath greetings from Jerusalem, the city where can hear the Muezzin, the Church Bells and the Cantor simultaneously calling their communities to prayer. Jerusalem, City of Gold, the City that received nine tenths of the worlds beauty and I am lucky enough to be able to go there every single day!

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, please, as you say your morning prayers remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. King David made this city his capital and in his poetry, as he sat upon the very stones that we walk between today, he wrote these words in the language we pray in until this day – Psalm 135 “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my utmost joy”

With love