The view from my veranda

Hamlet, MLK and Trees

22nd January, 2022

Good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom,

This week saw Epiphany on the 18th and Martin Luther King Day on the 17th and today is a day that we all want to celebrate but are scared to do so – International Hug Day. I have a feeling that with Omicron rampant, changing from a pandemic to an epidemic (no I don’t know the difference) hugging will just have to wait.

“To be or not to be that is the question” should be the quote of the week. Following the weather man’s predictions, snow ploughs were at the ready, the salters had their engines running, a few over cautious people put chains on their car tyres and………..nothing, zero, el zilcho, no snow in Jerusalem! Well, actually there was one 30 second flurry at about nine in the evening but most of us missed it because we were watching the nine o’clock newscast predicting snow! Oh well, Mount Hermon has enough for all of us and thousands of cars are in line to enjoy skiing, sledding and just playing in the white wonder. The forecast is another cold front coming in next week so who knows, the expenditure on the snow ploughs may not be in vain. Whatever happens I will do a shop on Monday to ensure that we have all our necessary foods Our wonderful new home has only one drawback and that’s just for a couple of days a year, we live on the old road to Jerusalem, the Seven Sisters named for the seven hair-pin bends on a narrow road that was the main road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until 1967.

To be, or not to be? That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them?” This time by citing the famous Shakespearean Hamlet quote I refer to Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Whether or not he will take a plea bargain whereby he owns lesser charges, discounting corruption etc, and retires from public office, accepts community service for a period of time and does not go to prison. I believe that everyone should stand trial before the law and accept the consequences but the country has been torn apart by his self-centred campaigns, literally torn apart, and it is those he looks down upon from his ivory tower who have crowd-funded his legal costs. I just want it over so that we can get back to being a united, argumentative country.

The rumours surrounding the Temple hostage taking in Colleyville, Texas have been both cruel and misinformed. The Rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, dealt with the situation with incredible sang-froid, controlling a potentially deadly hostage taking with aplomb. Rumours are irrelevant, his bravery unquestionable and from what I hear from his many friends he is a good and kind man. Enough. However, the story behind the motive of the hostage taker Malik Faisal Akram is disturbing to say the least. Akram is described as British but he grew up in Pakistan and if you look at this description of how PM Imran Khan handles the “Jewish Question” you will understand.

The Pakistani Senate passed a resolution demanding that Siddiqui (the Al Qaeda terrorist imprisoned near the Temple) be repatriated to Pakistan, naming her “the daughter of the Nation.” Prime Minister Imran Khan pledged in a 2018 election manifesto that his political party would “make best efforts to bring prisoners like Dr. Afia Siddiqui and others back to Pakistan.”

In an article published in 2020 by the Atlantic Council think tank, Dawood Ghazanavi, a lawyer in Pakistan and author of the book “Aafia Unheard: Uncovering the Personal and Legal Mysteries Surrounding FBI’s Most Wanted Woman,” wrote that “many Pakistanis equate the injustices done to her as an injustice against Pakistan.”

On Jan. 20, 1942, 15 top members of the Nazi bureaucracy met in a villa on Lake Wannsee to the west of Berlin. Light refreshments were served and washed down with cognac. There was only one item on the agenda: “The organizational, logistical and material steps for a final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.” Planning the Holocaust and the eradication of Jewish life in Europe took just of 90 minutes.

Eighty years after the infamous Wannsee Conference that meticulously mapped it the annihilation of the Jews, the bureaucratic efficiency remains as terrifying as ever. 80 years on and we see the ugly head of organised anti-Semitism rising, without the German efficiency but spreading like a wildfire. Yes, the world has forgotten and perhaps we are partly to blame for our complacency in the face of hatred.

If one looks at the cant of the Pakistani Prime Minister against the USA and his attitude toward Israel and Jews then recognise the enormous changes in today’s UAE one can see how, if only leaders led their people into the 21st century and a full and international life, enormous advances can be made. Compared to other Islamic countries the UAE has a tolerant and excellent school curriculum. I won’t waste time writing, just read the report – “When Peace Goes To School”  

The Israeli Judicial system is questioning the police use of “listening” to private cell phones. In principle so do I and most Israelis but we live in a dangerous neighbourhood and if listening means terror attacks are prevented I don’t care who listens in to my conversations or WhatsApps – because I have nothing to hide.

Not my busiest week by any means. My birthday was celebrated with video calls from the family all over the world singing Happy Birthday and a romantic breakfast at “Derech ha Gefen” restaurant in the village of Bet Zayit, just five minutes from us. It was wonderful, delicious and it made a change to be just the two of us! Impact-se sent me a bouquet, Amiad and Leor and families sent me a magnificent Ice-cream basket, two of our favourite neighbours sent another ice-cream package and Yossi and Ronit Dagan left a fantastic cake at our doorstep, afraid to come in since several members of their family have Covid. Rachel had organised a party with her family, Leor’s family and Amiad’s family all of whom were to surprise me bringing food cakes and balloons, but then guess what? All 6 of Leor’s family had Covid and 2 of Rachel’s! All in all I had a wonderful time, quieter than usual but wonderful.

Omicron means that most of our meetings have been deleted from the diary! I was meant to go to Shalva to see Gaby and meet Rachel Feuerstein one of Daniel’s closest friends from Carmel College, in the excellent restaurant in Shalva, to show her the progress made on “Dr. Dan’s Room”, the incredible Music, Drama and Dance Studio in Shalva, for the young people with Special Needs for whom all three expressions of art mean so much. Sadly one of Rachel’s children came home from school after testing positive for Covid so we had to cancel but I hope to go next week. There is good news though, the Jerusalem Music Academy is about to receive a wonderful donation (no names until it happens) of $10,000 which is destined to train young musicians to teach the young people of Shalva in the Studio. The Academy President has also found a fantastic new instrument specific to the needs of the youngsters and that too will be donated! Daniel would be so pleased that his tragic death has turned into an amazing legacy of joy.

On Monday I had a fascinating Zoom meeting for the Board of Impact-se when Marcus Sheff, our CEO gave a report of the truly phenomenal results of the work of the tiny team (including putting UNWRA on the defence quoting our report). Tolerance in education is being taken really seriously by governments all over the world. Zvi, or course, had about six Zooms this week, he is never satisfied with just a few committees, he is truly the “mitnadev he Kavu’a”, a serial volunteer for Israel. There is not a committee or cause that he doesn’t get involved in, either officially or unofficially. I am so proud of everything he does.

One of Zvi’s hats is that of the Maccabi World Union, with whom he has been involved for many a year and who he represents on the Board of Governors of the WZO. This year several of our dear friends and readers of this weekly missive, have been awarded the title of Yakir Maccabi for their work. We congratulate everyone involved but must admit that the lovely Leo-Dan Bensky, Stuart Greenberg, Jacobo Gitlin and Oudi Recanati are very special to our hearts. Zvi will not be pleased that I picked my favourites but – sorry.

Rachel’s two daughters are both “recovered” from Covid so hugs and kisses and visits are the order of the day! Yesterday the girls came home with me and I made them Vegetarian Cous-cous and they watched two movies while the three of us cuddle up on the sofa. I was so thrilled to have them back with us that when I served their supper on the bar of the kitchen island they asked if they could take it to eat in front of the television – and I said YES! Their faces were a picture!

Back to the weather, well I am an Ex-Brit! No matter whether the weather be rain, sleet, shine or freezing cold, I love to walk on the paths and by-ways of our park. The neighbours probably think I am nutty as I go past their windows, a vision of large puffer coat, furry hood and black Covid mask, probably quite sinister except for my size – at least no-one can identify me! When I walk in the early evening I see the regulars arriving for a minyan (quorum) at the synagogue, currently in the wonderful big building. I think they recognise me because they know that I’m the only person not at home, looking out at the inclement weather from the warmth of the apartment! Each morning I walk out onto the veranda to see the sun rising over Jerusalem, changing the white stone buildings into that incredible city of gold.

A few days ago after a visit to Rachel and family in Givat Ze’ev, I drove back over, yes you guessed it, the highest point in the area, Samuel’s Tomb and for a change it was night-time on a crystal clear evening. Oh my goodness it was stunning! Lights outlining the many hills of Jerusalem, shining brightly, creating a map of such clarity it took my breath away. No longer were the towers and skyscrapers outlined, it was the undulating hills that emphasised the miracle of that city of almost a million people, excepting the suburbs and dormitory neighbourhoods surrounding Jerusalem. I smiled all the way home!

Today we are at home, just the two of us, which is fine and tomorrow we will be with zvi’s boy and their families to celebrate the 9th birthday of Ella, so named because she was born on Tu b’Shvat,  the Jewish festival celebrating ecology. I will be providing, by popular request, my usual winter “kitchen sink” soup which I will begin as soon as I finish writing to you. I call it kitchen sink soup because I put just about every root vegetable, legume and …….just about everything but the kitchen sink, into it because it warms the very cockles of one’s heart!

I think that’s it! I’m, sure you could think of even more things and if you have any questions you know how to get me!

Some years ago the Israeli film Afula Express came out and was a huge success. The haunting theme song “Geshem” which means Rain, has stayed in my mind – especially on these rainy days. Eli Louzon sings beautifully

We are nearing the end of the auditions/competition for the singer of the next Eurovision song in Italy this spring. I’m sure you all remember the crazy, winning song of Netta, “Toy” well here a new voice, takes on the song – amazing. Please excuse the language it’s the song not me!

In a world of ever increasing division and hatred, of extremes instead of tolerance, there are moments of hope, moments of understanding each other, our similarities and needs, our hopes and aspirations. One man in particular spoke of all those ideals, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. I love this song. “Shed a Little Light” a song of hope to honour MLK Day.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Just think if everyone in the world took note of the words and actions of the Rev. Dr. martin Luther King Junior. Ah, what a wonderful world it would be.