The view from my veranda

Heatwave, UN, Operation Solomon

24th May, 2019. – 19th Iyar, 5779


Shabbat Shalom! How are you? I hope everything is good with you.


It’s still May and the capricious May weather has gone into overdrive – from blessed rain and cool temperatures at the beginning of the month to searing heatwave of between 40- 46 degrees Celcius and spontaneous combustion fires caused by lazy people throwing away glass bottles after a picnic. Of course the situation was exacerbated by the Lag b’Omer bonfires held in unsafe places. Fires are raging, villages burned down, hundreds of acres of trees disappeared in the blazes and firemen dropping from exhaustion. I haven’t turned the news on yet, but I fear it is continuing to creep toward Modiin. Nechama Carlebach’s “Love Village” of Mevo Modiin went up in flames. Very sad. The Fire and Police services have been everything one expects and more and homes have opened to take in those who had to leave their homes and villages, but the fires rage on.


We still don’t have a government although it is getting closer. Israel Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman will not relent on his determination that unless the government backs, nay demands, Haredi enlistment, he will not join. Of course on the other hand, if Haredi enlistment is part of the government policy then the Haredi parties will not support the PM!! Oh the joys of the Middle East. On the other hand, compared to Theresa May, the British PM, life for Netanyahu is a piece of cake!!! New elections or minority government?


I promise good news but I had to introduce the latest UN idiocy. The UN reached new heights of absurdity by enacting a resolution which accuses Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan, even as in reality Israeli hospitals provide life-saving treatment to Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the Assad regime’s barbaric attacks,” UN Watch, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization said in a statement. Joining Germany in opposing the text were the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Hungary. To show how ludicrous the resolution was – here is the good news. Save a Child’s Heart, just one of Israel’s main humanitarian NGO’s, just performed it’s 5,000th surgery.


Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt has spoken out that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, reaching genocidal levels, particularly in the Middle East. Together with my dear friend Canon Andrew White and the exceptional former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, I have been trying to bring this horror to the world’s notice for years, but nobody listened. I told you years ago that Bethlehem is now 85% Moslem and Ramallah, a Christian city, 100% Moslem



The Eurovision came and went and it was stupendous! Israel put on the best show imaginable and all the contestants, I mean ALL the contestants, had a ball.  We never agree with the international judges but that’s part of the game!! Shalva were phenomenal, our Kobi Marimi gave the performance of his life, and Holland won. Madonna was superfluous, dressed as a one-eyed space pirate sucked the fun out of the room. Her ludicrous outfit designed by Jean Paul Gautier was only fractionally worse than her off-key performance. She may have had good intentions but the Eurovision is meant to be a music competition whereby everyone has fun and good-natured competition. Perhaps this will help you understand the Eurovision’s purpose. Each country’s representative makes a “postcard” from the host country – here are all 42!! Worth watching because each postcard was filmed in a different part of Israel. Note how much fun the Icelanders were having!!!!


On May 24th 1991 a miracle happened. Operation Solomon took place. What an incredible day it was!

Zvi and I stood in the grand ballroom of the Diplomat Hotel laden with dozens and dozens of socks and underwear of all sizes that we had hurriedly bought in the shouk on our way to the hotel. Then they came in, slowly at first, a sea of very small, dignified, white-clad people, their clear trauma and exhaustion overlaid with their understanding that they had finally arrived in Jerusalem………….. it was the morning after Operation Solomon bringing Jews from Ethiopia home.

They stood in silence, each clutching the rose that the Jewish Agency had given them. For those from Gondar they had made a giant leap forward in time, a leap of at least half a millennium. As I walked among them I was struck by their beauty and the infinite dignity, their layers of clothes topped by the Shabbat long toga, sparkling white. They were given just one and a half kilos of luggage for the journey so they wore everything they could. I saw one stunningly beautiful tiny woman standing on a table to see better. She turned and smiled at me and I was captivated. I went over to her and gave her my rose too. I wish I knew who she was because I have never seen a smile quite like that in my life, it lit up the room.


Suddenly the silence became tangible, Uri Lubrani, the Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia and man behind the Operation, walked into the room. There were no whoops of delight, no applause, no ovation, each and every one of those beautiful people simply extended the rose toward Uri Lubrani. He had brought them home, he fulfilled their dream.


My tears flowed freely and it is a moment I will never forget.

Oh the underwear? Israelis brought clothes and shoes and toiletries and necessities in an outpouring of love but I thought…… underwear? They must have new ones, so we stopped at Mahane Yehuda on our way to Talpiot!!!


You will be amazed to hear that we had a wonderfully relaxed week! Honestly! Zvi managed to meet our old friends John and Adrienne Kraus of Melbourne in Marzipan in the German Colony, unfortunately, I was busy, I love the Kraus’s and I wish John a speedy recovery and Adrienne a restful Shabbat!


Our second Melbourne meet was with Deidre and Keith Beville. We went Museum visiting together, I love going with Deidre because she sees museums as I do – wandering and absorbing the wonders presented before us. We began in the Bible Lands Museum, enjoying not only the amazing artifacts of the private collection of the late Ellie Borowsky, but the serenity of the museum itself. We then went on to the Israel Museum. Since the Bevilles are regular visitors to Jerusalem we didn’t go to the permanent (and amazing) exhibits but rather to the three new ones. Victory over the Sun, Manifesto and Veiled Women. Veiled women showed the attire of veiled women of the 3 monotheistic religions in Israel. Then came a video presentation explaining why they dress in that manner; a Nun, a Moslem woman and a Jewess. “Manifesto” is a presentation of 15 different scenes of life brilliantly played in diverse roles, by Cate Blanchett and finally a presentation by Russian artists. I love the Israel Museum – and it is rated among the top 10 museums in the world! 


Zvi had to go to Nes Ziona to ensure the girls got to their various Lag b’Omer parties and Deidre Keith and I went for supper in the beautiful restaurant of the David’s Citadel Hotel. It was a lovely day with them – it really was great.


What is Lag b’Omer I hear you ask!! Well here goes. We count the “Omer” from the second night of Passover until the Feast of Weeks (Shevuot) 49 days in which we do not hold weddings, celebrations, hear music other than religious music, in fact it is the forerunner of Lent. There are two exceptions to the proscription of entertainment – one is Yom HaAtzmaut and the other is Lag b’Omer. Hebrew letters are also numbers and Lamed+Gimmel = 33, so the 33rd day of the counting. In the 2nd Century CE the followers of Rabbi Akiva suffered a terrible plague and 24,000 died, on this date the plague stopped and the remaining students recovered, hence the celebratory aspect. It is also the anniversary of the death of the sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and hundreds of thousands of observant Jews (men) go to North to Meron to his grave. For the children in Israel however it is a night of bonfires with baked potatoes, marshmallows (???? Hardly Israeli) and being allowed to stay up all night. There were few bonfires due to the weather but apparently even a few was too many this year.


OK, time for music!! The first one is rather different, not my usual style at all but very important! The song? Bar Yochai. The place? Meron Mountain. The occasion? The lighting of the traditional bonfire – a huge honour.


Now a small reminder for Bernie Sanders. If I Forget Thee Oh Jerusalem” – Im Eshkachech Yerusahalyim a prayer of 3,000 years, sung by Dudu Fisher to the words of Psalm 137


There is one Israeli singer who taught me Hebrew, politics and how to survive in the Middle East. His name is Shlomo Artzi. “Under Mediterranean Skies” asks what the cost. Here he sings with his son Ben, then a child, and it is my favourite clip of all time!!!


So that’s it!! I promised Keith that we would drive over Samuels tomb to see the view but sadly the “parking lot” that is Begin Boulevard prevented our getting there – next time Keith. I, however am about to do see that mosaic, after collecting Talia and Ayala from school and taking them home to Givat Zeev. Givat Zeev is what the BBC and CNN (to say nothing of the NYT) call a settlement, but in fact it has ordinary families and at least half of the businesses I pass are Palestinian owned or managed. The secret revolution is an everyday affair.


So I’ll take the girls home, get my hugs from Yosef, Rachel and Igal, eat my lovely Rachel’s baby challah (bulkeh) with a good cuppa and then head my way home to make supper for Leor, Shiri, Amit, Gili, Ori and little Yuval who are coming to us for Shabbat. Tonight we will eat our Shabbat meal outside on the veranda, absorbing the view, the flowers, the little trees and the joy of living in Jerusalem where, even in a heatwave, we have a breeze. The menu is simple since the girls eat anything as long as it is pizza or pasta! We adults have salmon and a lovely fresh salad.  On Sunday we are off to Bulgaria for a week with Zvi’s cousins Yossi and Rachel Rybak which will be great fun – so please, excuse me if I don’t write – I’ll catch up with you later.


I wish you a wonderful weekend, a beautiful Shabbat of contemplation and family. With all our love from Jerusalem, heart of our world – and of course – THE VIEW FROM OUR VERANDA!


With love



If the media does not inform us we must inform the media

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