The view from my veranda

Good news, Bad news and whatever is left

8th January 2021


Shabbat Shalom to you all


I have been trying and trying to think of a way to open this letter after the horrific mass lunacy in Washington.  I remember being stunned by the riots after Donald Trump won the elections 4 years ago   but those riots were tame in comparison. Extremism, that is opinions that reach the outside acceptable thought of both right and left, have become the order of the day and when those thoughts are not controlled the average citizen is forgotten in the fury that spills over. One thought kept running through my head over the last couple of months. As child I, like most Brits, was taught, “It isn’t if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” or “Don’t be a bad loser always congratulate the winner” “That behaviour isn’t cricket” Simple good manners in everyday life, accepting losing “the game” are a part of life and clearly essential in a leader.


Israel has now vaccinated nearly 20% of the population with the first Pfizer vaccination, as opposed to Britain and the USA who are nearly 2% of the population


Our friend Dr Joel Zonszein, former Head of Endocrinology at Albert Einstein Hospital and recent Oleh Hadash with his wife Nattie, wrote this excellent summation of why Israel has succeeded so brilliantly in vaccinating the population, and I would add a few words. Israel has universal health care rather than socialized healthcare and it was the early Zionists who created the healthcare system in 1911 long before any other country even thought of it.


“The success of mass vaccination in Israel, it is because it is a small country and because of its socialized medicine.

The health fund Clalit (the general fund that serves ½ of the population), was created during the Ottoman rule.

It had doctors and nurses in communities, so that patients would not have to travel by cart for hours (and be killed), before they received medical care.

The farmers, teachers and clerks, organized a second fund in the 1930s, different from Katznelson’s socialist worldview; the network became Leumit (the national fund)

In 1941, a group of athletes broke away from the labor union and they created their own fund Maccabi, named for the sports-based youth movement and a nod to the Maccabees of Jewish history. It provided care mostly in the big cities and is the second-largest kupa in Israel with 2.3 million members, including Nattie and I.

Meuhedet, the third-largest HMO was founded in 1974 through the merger of two veteran HMOs, Amamit -founded by Hadassah in1931 for the Farmers’ Union to provide services to settlements (the pre-State of Israel “Yishuv”) and Merkazit, founded in 1935 by the General Zionist Workers’, to provide medical care to independent employees, and freelance professionals.


Healthcare in Israel is universal and participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory.

All Israelis are entitled to health care. Everyone in Israel gets affordable or gratis medical care.


Now for a “Good news, bad news” session


Obviously we must begin with the very bad news of the utter abuse of the freedom afforded by the democratic process in the United States. I believe that demonstrating and expressing one’s human rights is a wonderful thing, irrespective of views, but violence, destruction storming the Capitol is beyond the pale.


Bad news, but expected is the closure imposed upon Israel and the UK, thanks to those who do not understand that their behaviour kills. Good news, Israel’s Health Funds have done a brilliant job and the PM thought ahead and ordered millions of doses of vaccine

Bad news is that the UK Covid variant arrived in Israel with travellers, the good news is that the Pfizer vaccine covers it.

Bad news, the supply of Pfizer vaccine finished before many of the essential workers, teachers and chronically ill have been vaccinated; good news, there’s lots more on its way!

Better news, Pfizer chose to send millions of vaccines to Israel in exchange for the research we have performed on the effects of the vaccine.

Good news, the Oxford University vaccine is now in production and is infinitely cheaper than the commercial vaccines, giving poorer countries availability.

The good news is that the Israeli medical care is phenomenal and available for all; the bad news is that the medical staff are exhausted, their numbers depleted by those either sick or in isolation, working to their very limits without the usual help from the patients families. This is a disease which forced scared patients to cope alone and lonely.

Bad news, there are still idiots who refuse to wear masks, refuse the vaccine and refuse to limit their activities, the good news is………..but even here there is good news because more and more people are socially aware and go for Covid tests.


The good news here is that the weather has been absolutely glorious and we have taken beautiful walks in the Deer Park, the Railroad Boardwalk and Valley of the Cross; the bad news is that the weather is glorious, temperatures of up to 20 degrees C, sunshine and we can’t go further than 1,000 metres from home!


I don’t want to break the flow of words by talking politics. It is said that we get the leader we deserve, but I’m not sure that is true of many Western countries at the moment. However, if we are in a “Good news, bad news” mood, we should really be grateful for our freedom. Too many countries are so corrupt that they become either demagogues or cruel dictators. We may have created demi-gods but luckily we also have the power to change.


The Torah Reading this week is Shemot, or names. It tells the tale of the thriving Jewish community in Egypt who do so well the Pharaoh decides to imprison most and orders the Jewish midwives to kill all the male Jewish babies. We all know the story of Yocheved who hides her baby boy in the bulrushes and he’s found by Pharaoh’s daughter and grows up to be a great leader who after seeing an Egyptian soldier beat a Jew understands the cruelty of the leadership and leads the Jewish people to freedom and the Promised Land. OK, I know that’s the short version that everyone knows, but the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks saw the ancient portion in a very different light, bringing the clear moral story up to date. Here he writes but as I read his words I could almost hear his beautiful dulcet tones in every wise word.  Thanks to my friend Rosa Romanowsky for sending it to me.


Two days ago we went to see the progress on our new apartment and meet the project manager. While there we discovered that several friends are also moving there and then we joined the WhatsApp group of new neighbours and discovered that there is a wonderful advice there – buying white goods as a group, telling each other about good carpenters, ari conditioning experts, plumbers etc, and of course Zvi discovered that he knows the parents of half of them! We found a sense of community that is heartwarming and rare. Unlike most places that one lives we already have a community. I can already imagine meeting friends for a chat on one of the many benches along the walking path after our morning constitutional! Next to the entrance door of our building is a reasonably sized garden plot, as yet without purpose. Zvi suddenly came up with the idea of a communal herb garden! The project manager loved the idea, said he would create whatever we want…… I was so excited, that I volunteered immediately and already designed it with raised beds of all the herbs any cook could desire! Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are just a beginning!


Last night, before the midnight closure, Zvi turned to me and said “Go now to see Rachel, Igal and the children because it may be as much as 3 weeks until you see them again” I suddenly realised that I will have no need for the frozen pizzas that they love much more than my home-made food, not for a while, so I jumped in the car and set off, but not through Samuel’s Tomb, I went through the highway which is much faster but not nearly as interesting! I didn’t tell them I was coming so when I knocked on the door I was greeted with “Safta’s here”, and delighted faces and many “Covid hugs”. Actually I don’t need to worry because they have been really careful and of course not been to school. The funniest was to see Talia’s face when she found out that I had brought a frozen roll of her favourite cookies! I make the dough and freeze it in a roll ready to cut into discs and bake for unexpected guests who no longer come. Wonderful mixed sweet spice flavour and raisin cookies she goes crazy for! I think Ayala was upset I didn’t bring her favourite veggie “ktsitsot” or patties, but my arrival was a spur of the moment decision!


Looking out from our verandah this morning was quite eerie, quieter than even a regular Shabbat. The roads are almost empty, so my eyes were drawn to other things. The beautiful trees of Keren Kayemet creating a triangle of green on the right; cyclists and walkers along the path which follows the Ottoman railway line; walkers up and down the street beneath ours……… suddenly the hustle and bustle of everyday life has been forcibly halted.


I loved the song “Katan Aleinu” which has no direct translation but means It’s Easy from my first hearing and I think I even gave it to you a couple of weeks ago. My friend Elizabeth Gelb sent me this recording with English subtitles!! Love it.


On March 12th, 2019, Koolulam came together with Link20 movement of the Ruderman Family Foundation at Menorah Stadium. 8,000 people sang ‘Shiro Shel Shafshaf’ with Stephane Legar to promote a message of accessibility and equality between people with and without disabilities.


Before Covid Mahane Yehuda Shouk (the Jewish market) was a meeting place for young and old before Shabbat. Here is a taste of those days, we are all impatient for their return


Please, please take care, you are very special to me even if we have never met. I wish you a good weekend, wish you a fruitful future very soon and good leadership which will teach tolerance


Shabbat Shalom with love from Jerusalem