The view from my veranda

Fickle, Football and Future

9th December 2022

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? What’s going on in your part of the world? Is it quiet enough that you actually get to talk about the weather? Have you been following the World Cup?

The World Cup is being held in Qatar, which in itself is both strange but hopeful; strange that tens of thousands of football tourists have descended upon a theocratic principality including many women who have never in their lives considered wearing a hijab; however less incredible than Iran being on the UN Commission on the Status of Women or Pakistan on the Human Rights Council! Hopefully it is an omen of change in that region. Although Qatar has not yet signed the Abraham Accords they have maintained diplomatic and business relations with Israel, gosh we live in confusing times!

Zvi and I have watched some amazing football over the last couple of weeks, brilliant footwork, which when one is playing FOOTball is of supreme importance. The way that they dart and dodge, rarely colliding, relying on pure athleticism, makes the game all the more fascinating. It also makes choosing who to support to win all the more interesting if you bring history into the equation of favourite family teams! The teas that have reached the quarter finals, Portugal, France, England, Croatia, Brazil, Netherlands, Argentina and Morocco, a very mixed bunch in Jewish history! Most of those countries either got rid of us or they fought with or harbored our enemies! So Zvi and I had a deep discussion and decided upon two favourites, England and Morocco, depending upon against whom they play. It’s a fascinating aspect of the game, not just the football but the who did what to whom!

Gosh that felt good, starting this week’s newsletter off with something which is ultimately banal, normal, everyday and rather festive- especially since Zvi just came in the door with my morning cup of coffee!

Of this week’s regular news items Al Jazeera has filed a lawsuit against Israel, the IDF, in the International Criminal Court in the Hague for the death of Shireen Abu Aklah! If I told you that no less than 12 Al Jazeera journalists have died in action but this is the only one where they not only keep the story alive but actually blame the defending army, would you be surprised? That’s about the same level of logic as Kanye West calling upon the Jews to forgive Hitler, actually no it isn’t, he’s a publicity seeking twit and Elon Musk’s response that he wanted to punch West barely covered most of our reactions. Despite the fact that if West had half a brain it would be lonely, his influence created such a reaction that the NYC police report a 125% increase in anti-Semitic incidents since his outbursts.

President Isaac Herzog has been on an official visit to Bahrain where he was welcomed with exceptional warmth. Bahrain! Bahrain which a short while ago barely mentioned Israel’s name without choking, has signed the Abraham Accords and when the leaders understood how problematic their schoolbooks are asked Impact-se to work on their school books to remove hatred from their children’s lexicon – a change that has come from the top down. As one would expect a central topic of conversation between the Israeli President and King Khamad ben Isa Al Khalifa was the “Two State Solution” aka, the Palestinian question. I firmly believe that one of the most important aspects of the Abraham Accords is the possibility, however vague, that the solution, the force behind change, in the current deadlock with the Palestinians, will come from the Gulf States.

Two of Israel’s most loyal and vociferous defenders, Alan Dershowitz and Abe Foxman came out this week warning PM Netanyahu of the worrying direction his choices have taken. Those choices can change the very ethos of this democratic country; the price of choosing self over country. Abe Foxman, former Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said “I never thought I would reach the point where my support of Israel is conditional” and Dershowitz warned the PM about any attempt to override the Supreme Court.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this potential government is that we are distancing Diaspora Jews with possible changes that even Netanyahu cannot prevent. Avigdor Liberman best expressed all our fears when he spoke out in defence of the law of return, the very basis of having a Jewish State. I still have hope that the zealots will be controlled or excluded, but I wish I could be sure

This week saw the anniversary of Pearl Harbour when WW2 changed direction, became a world war and so many died. I learned a little about it but in the UK, we learned almost exclusively about the War in Europe, after all that is where our troops were for 6 years and that’s where the Luftwaffe bombed the UK. I decided to understand, not from a romanticized movie interpretation but to read about it from valid websites. Here it is explained

Did you know that Israel is the 5th safest country in the world for tourists whereas the USA is number 20 due to the high homicide rate and the UK 22nd! In a study by “The Swiftest” which conducted an insurance comparison study, Singapore was number 1, followed by Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland and Israel. The worst was South Africa which comes as no surprise! After being considered among the “happiest” countries in the world we are doing really well!

Nazareth is preparing for Christmas! Maybe it’s because Nazareth and her residents live in a Jewish country but apparently Christmas in that wonderful city has become a great deal more than decorating the streets in the advent period, it has become a local epicurean delight! We’ve long understood that ethnic food is of supreme importance in Israel, far more than politics and each faith has its own specialities. The Nazareth menu includes fatayer, kubeh filled with mutton, zucchini sheikh al-mahshi with white rice and yogurt, focaccia with smoked goose breast, humus with shiitake mushrooms, and stuffed grape leaves with tzatziki. Not exactly roast turkey but that makes it all the more exciting. As the festival approaches visits to the Holy Christian sites take on a new and important light.

Our lovely upstairs neighbour Benny, who is the most practical, out of the box, thinker I have ever met, popped in to see our fabulous new cupboards and bookcases and while I was writing to you, he got talking with Zvi, as one does. Zvi told him about yesterday’s visit of our wonderful friends Merle and Frank Friedman and their designer son Kevin who instead of going out for lunch together chose to  solve our dilemma (argument) of where to hang paintings (we have hundreds I swear) in a truly innovative manner. It looks phenomenal and Merle and I produced a full lunch at home, on the veranda, instead of going out. There was no way I was giving up on Kevin’s talent! Anyway, back to Benny and Zvi. Benny said that he had just hung some family paintings in their home and when he mentioned that his family lived in Bet Habad in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, next to the Hurva Synagogue, and described the building, Zvi became very excited because in that self same building Zvi’s father Kalman was training Haganah fighters in the basement! In fact, Benny’s grandfather was also involved in the Haganah and the two men undoubtedly knew each other. That’s Israel in those days, everybody knew everybody!

Our cabinet maker, the man who built our new furniture, is called Amir and he always comes with his wife Alia, who helps him in design and building his work. They live in the Israeli Arab town of Kalansua, a town in the “Triangle” of Central Israel, and speak perfect Hebrew and almost all their clients are Jewish. When I asked him if he wanted a coffee his response was “Yes please, espresso” to which Zvi questioned “Espresso not Bots?” (bots is the muddy Turkish style coffee normally favoured by Arabs and many Eastern Jewish Israelis) to which Amir responded “No thanks, I’m an Arab Ashkenazi. Think about it, I drink espresso and my wife is the boss in the family”! A silly story but one I thought you’d like!

We saw lots of people this week, apart from the Friedmans, and one day we met with our friend Sam and went to have breakfast at one of the ever-increasing local food trucks. The place was absolutely humming and all the random tables full! People sitting in the fresh air enjoying Israeli food like Sabich, Jachnun, Shnitzel, shakshuka so on and so forth. Set at the side of one of the old, winding, roads to Jerusalem near Sattaf, it is a favourite of both hikers and bikers out for a morning ride. The view up there in the Jerusalem Hills is phenomenal, trees cover every hill in all directions, all planted by you and me and the JNF/ Keren Kayemet. The air was crisp and fresh and the food not half bad although hardly gourmet!

This evening we have visitors (surprise surprise) which includes three little ones, the children of the Benalal family and Eva and Eli Yaron, so the menu will include both grown up and toddler food. Usually I cook Moroccan style food for them but tonight I’m going Ashkenaz!! Chicken soup with kneidlach, Rachel’s fab beef and for the children special soft chicken balls with roast potatoes, stuffed peppers, salads and all the usual extras, sparing them gefilte fish, and Flory is making dessert.

Both Zvi and I come from homes that welcome guests, indeed we love having people around and spontaneous meals are our favourite. That’s something my children grew up with too which leads me in to something I’ve been trying to avoid -next week is the 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the day that changed my life forever, mine and that of all Daniel’s family. It is the anniversary, the Yahzeit, for my beautiful son Daniel. I cannot believe that it is already three years since the telephone call telling me that he had died in an accident in his favourite place in the world, Central Park in New York. It is all wrong, the wrong way around for a child to die before parents and one can never be the same person, never. I wrote then and my feelings are exactly the same I coped by doing what I always do, I (with a great deal of help from those who knew of Daniel) I created something positive that Daniel would have loved, a Studio for the Performing Arts in Shalva.  The pain is always present, the loss of an exceptional man constant but the children of Shalva know his name.

The weather is glorious, chilly, but wonderful winter sunshine brings clarity to the view of Jerusalem in the distance, almost as if each white building has been outlined. The sunrise and sunset of this season are phenomenal, incredible reds, oranges and pinks. I love waking early just to see the sun rise over Jerusalem.

Time for music although there is so much more to tell…..

Koolulam and One Day, just listen to the words and think how sweet the world would be if we could change it one day at a time

Each morning, upon waking, an observant Jew says Modeh Ani, I am grateful. Grateful for returning my soul, for feeding and clothing me. It brings back memories of my Mummy coming to wake me to get ready for school. Perhaps we should be more grateful and less angry?  

Just imagine if for one day every week the world took a rest from fighting and hatred and had a Gut Shabbes, a Good Sabbath, a day of rest, whether Friday, Saturday or Sunday! Here Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach sings Gut Shabbes

I wish you a good weekend, never forgetting to care for others, embracing our differences while holding on to our very special identity. We are, each and every one of us, special, different in so many ways, just look at our faces – each with a nose, two eyes, a mouth, two ears and yet even identical twins have something different, even if it is just a freckle. Those differences make the world go round.

With much love