The view from my veranda

gmar hatima tova


27th September 2009.

Shana Tova, Shevua Tov and Gmar Chatima Tova

(Happy New Year, a Good Week and May you be written in the Book of Life)

Rosh Hashana came and went with the usual vast quantities of food, prayer and repentance. Today we are on the verge of Yom Kippur. Despite popular belief, Yom Kippur is not only about fasting; it is about praying so deeply that one is beyond the need for food, beyond the need for worldly things but rather, deep in repentance, atonement and prayer for a better, purer, kinder world – and a better self.

Ahmedinejad of Iran spoke and too many listened. The mere fact that such a controversial leader who constantly threatens Western society verbally and actually, should be given free reign to spurt his poison is beyond my understanding. Had the same dictates prevailed in the time of his hero Adolph Hitler, who was also democratically elected, he too could have stood before the Assembly to rationalize his policies.

Last night it was revealed that Iran has been secretively building a large, 3,000 centrifuge, nuclear facility for military use deep inside a mountain close to the Holy Shi’a Moslem city of Qom, . Israel and the USA were aware of its existence but Mohammed El Baradei chose not to disclose this terrifying fact while reaping the Nobel Prize for Peace. It is not only Israel that is within range – all of Europe is in danger and far further afield.

Thanks to Tom Gross for sending this marvelous video of an Israeli satirical programme (with subtitles) in response to all the idiocy which surrounds the UN in general and the Human Rights Commission in particular. Thank G-d Israelis know how to laugh at ourselves and those who behave in a risible, yet dangerous manner.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before the Chamber of the United Nations Assembly in calm and measured tones despite the strong message contained in his speech. He did not rant nor rave, he did not point the finger; he simply stated facts, of the Holocaust, of Israel’s amazing progress and contribution to the world and of his fear that the UN would heed the words of a dictator with a fearful agenda rather than America’s greatest ally. Applause came when our Prime Minister said he looks toward the day when Palestinians will live in freedom in their own state and at the end of his speech, considered by many to be of historic importance.

Brava Canada. Not only did the community put up a brilliant fight during the Toronto Film Festival anti-Israel campaign; not only did the Canadian Ambassador lead the walk-out during Ahmedinejad’s farcical performance at the UN for which David Koschitzky, Chair, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto thanked him ; now the community has initiated the “Buycott” Israel campaign. Jessica Glesby sent me this link

Talking of Canada Leonard Cohen performed in Israel to a packed audience at the Ramat Gan Stadium despite death threats. The performer offered to give the profit from his performance to Israeli and Palestinian causes but they refused. He offered to give a performance n Ramallah but they refused. His songs are strong, even though his voice is weak and he wowed the audience by chanting the Priestly Blessing at the end of the night. Be patient, it is at the end of the video!

Yom Kippur in Jerusalem is a truly spiritual experience – for religious and secular Jerusalemites alike. The city begins to wind down at 14:00 as public transport and radio shut down and even the enormous cement factory near Ramleh shuts of the machinery for the one 25 hour rest of the year. At 16:00 families gather to eat the pre-festival meal, from the full meal of chopped liver or pastellas, Kneidlach or Kubeh soup, roast chicken with roast potatoes or turkey breast stuffed with rice and fruit and then the inevitable dessert all of which make you pray that you will not have to eat another mouthful for at least a week, to the “sensible” folk who take a small boiled egg to reduce their stomach size. At about 17:00 everyone changes into their finest and lightest clothes, take out the family prayer book for Yom Kippur, a well fingered Machzor passed down through the centuries or a shiny new Bar-Mitzva gift – and head off to the synagogue for Kol Nidre. White clad parents and children walk as the City, and the country, comes to a standstill, absolute calm as vehicles are silenced and Kol Nidre begins.

The stillness is almost eerie as the sun sets crimson, reflecting on the glistening white stone of the city, only the occasional dog barking disturbs the purity of the night – but a noisy element lies in wait! Children have been oiling their bicycles and skateboard wheels for days in preparation for this night as the empty streets and highways of Jerusalem’s hills become one great big race-track for the pre-barmitzva children of the city. Whoops of delight interspersed with a strange almost guttural rumbling as tiny tots on trundle trucks vie for space with highly sophisticated articulated skateboards are the backdrop to a hum of prayer, each in the traditions of their ancestors and the lands of their dispersion. From the restrained and swaying prayer of Eastern Europe to the wailing and emotional prayer of North Africa – including the noisy auction of Aliyas (calling to the Torah). Families walk home after the service and the still of the night is complete as we dream of a better, kinder world – although most of us would settle for a more rational world which rewards acts of kindness and finds cruelty repugnant. Tomorrow night when Yom Kippur draws to an end our prayers reach their climax, the shofar is sounded and the Heavens open to accept our atonement and our prayers for the coming year.

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life – Gmar Chatima Tova.

With much love from Jerusalem


PS For those of you who telephone family and friends in Israel, our clocks went back an hour last night!