18th August, 2023
Shabbat Shalom! Hodesh Ellul Tov That’s the new Hebrew month of Ellul, a truly hopeful month
How have you been this last two weeks? I hope you missed me as much as I missed you!
So here I am back home again after the most amazing trip to London and to Cardiff where I saw three generations of my family and even managed to fit in a very few friends. Getting to rekindle the connection with the grandchildren, both Londoners and New Yorkers, who have grown into amazingly grown up and loving teenagers, was extra special. I haven’t seen them for a year and the change is exciting. After leaving the heatwave behind I must admit that it was lovely to see the rain, although in fact there was plenty of sunshine as well. What hits me each time is the green, the vibrant green of the garden lawns and the fields. “How Green is My Valley” is not so much a book as a description of Wales.
Zvi is in Austria with his sons and their families and he’s having a brilliant time. He’s climbing up the sides of mountains on 19 story ladders to the top of waterfalls and going on long hikes, even walking through the snow and enjoying every moment with his sons and their families. Not bad for a man of 78.
Obviously, several people in Britain asked about what is happening here in Israel. Most fascinating were the reactions even before I opened my mouth. There were those who had obviously been talking to uninformed people here, perhaps newcomers, who don’t understand the complexities of the situation and gave a very twisted version as opposed to those who really wanted to understand.
The reactions ranged from a very distressing “I don’t identify with Israel any more” to those who really wanted to hear both sides of the argument. As with any discussion one has to hear both sides, and the position of the presenter must be even handed in order to allow the listener to come to a fair decision, one cannot make a decision based on emotions in this kind of political atmosphere. I have expressed more than once my feelings about the current government but that’s the government, it is not the country, it is not the people and it’s most unfair to make a general indictment of the entire country.
I am so proud of the way the demonstrations have been held; the deep caring of people representing the gamut of political and religious persuasion, who are willing to give up their Saturday evenings to stand, flag held high, and express their concern for their beloved country – my beloved country.
New laws are being raised and even passed at a rate of knots, laws which change the face of Israel. It is no longer just about the Judicial Reform, or the Reasonableness Standard, it is about rights and obligations. When the rest of the country is proudly, if tearfully, sending their children, boys and girls, off to defend Israel from its multitude of enemies, it is unfair that any sector of the population gets an automatic release from those duties, refusing to serve and in some cases even refusing to recognise Israel yet more than happy to serve in the government of the country they don’t recognise. I know that you immediately jump to the Haredi sector, but it also includes the Israeli Arab sector. Just as many deeply observant Jews serve in the IDF, so do many Moslems, especially the Druze, Circassians, Bedouin of the North, and so on. There is no religious reason to refuse to serve. When Ben Gurion chose to exclude 400 Torah students from conscription and said that no Moslem is forced to fight his brothers in enemy countries, he opened a can or worms for the future, for those who have taken advantage.
A few weeks ago, I told you about the one request of Dorothy de Rothschild, that the Supreme Court building be on higher ground than the Knesset, well this week’s Torah portion addresses just that. Here Rabbi Jeremy Rosen explains both the portion and the facts with a rare clarity. I couldn’t find his direct link so here it is in Algermeiner. https://www.algemeiner.com/2023/08/17/shabbat-shoftim-the-torah-demands-a-legal-and-judicial-system/
In another essay by Jeremy this week, he addresses the much maligned British Mandate. “The British Mandate of Palestine was established on July 24th, 1922. It was approved at a private meeting of the Council of the League of Nations at St. James Palace in London. It went beyond the wording of the Balfour Declaration that ‘His Majesty’s Government’ only viewed ‘with favour’ the prospect of a national home for the Jews in Palestine. But this recognized the historical connection of the Jews to Palestine and understood that Zionism meant reconstituting their national home. We have the British to thank for this. But sadly, things went downhill from there.
It is now fashionable in certain circles to regard this as the original sin of the Imperial Colonial powers. Conveniently forgetting all the colonial sins, occupations, and conquests of the anti- Colonialists themselves. Furthermore, the anti-Israel narrative likes to claim that it was the Holocaust that forced the hand of the Western powers to support a Jewish State in 1947. The current narrative blames Israel entirely for the defeat of the Arab armies in 1948 as if Israel declared war.” In a nutshell. If you want to read his full article https://mailchi.mp/5394eb4f8b49/the-british-mandate?e=58fea4332b
My flight to London Heathrow was somewhat eventful as 250 British teenagers, returning from camp, joined the flight. To say that they were full of life is the understatement of the year! They weren’t badly behaved but my goodness they made a noise, or as we say here in Israel, a balagan! Too excited to sit in their seats they called to each other about their phenomenal experience of Israel, of everything they saw, of their connection to THEIR Israel, and of course laughing about their leaders! Although it was annoying it was also heart-warming to hear these very British youngsters talk about Israel. I wish the man who said he no longer has connection to Israel had been on the flight. I try to fly El Al, not only because it’s an Israeli company but because of the crews. They are undoubtedly the kindest, most attentive and patient of any airline. I have difficulty when faced with small spaces, getting in and out of my seat is a nightmare and at the last minute our aeroplane was changed from a Dreamliner to a much smaller plane. The crew, especially a stewardess called Talia, did everything in her power to make my flight better – and did so with a smile.
Rachel met me at Ben Gurion airport, bringing me home and staying with me to make sure I had everything I needed. The very next morning our downstairs neighbour came up to me with a gorgeous platter of fruit to welcome me home! In her words “I’m not a good cook but I know how to buy good fruit”! Since then Ayala came to stay overnight after going to a Noa Kirel show right up the road in the Mevasseret open-air amphitheatre. Many big Israeli stars perform there, frequently before their big performance in Caesaria and it is so convenient. It was such a joy to wake up in the morning and just pop my head around the door to see her sleeping.
Other than that, I went out for an early dinner with Ronit and Yossi Dagan in the nearby village of Beit Zayit, at the delightful and delicious “Derech ha Gefen” restaurant. Everyone is so kind but if the truth be told I love being in my own space. I have a busy week next week then a very happy Zvi comes home on Tuesday.
I know this is a short missive but I haven’t had time to gather more information! So instead of writing for the sake of it I’ll give you music – but first, this very cute skit of a comedian expressing the difference between Shabbat Shalom Mizrachi and Good Shabbes Ashkenazi….very funny and very true https://youtube.com/shorts/ne5mJzG1vSw?feature=share
The first song/prayer is for my son Gideon and his beautiful family. Gideon sang it so beautifully for his son Sammy and it brings me to tears every time.
Ozi vZimrat Ya “The Lord is my strength and song; And He is become my salvation. The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle.” https://youtu.be/4-t8mXRsCSc
The second is Adon Olam, with the Revivo Project, just because I love it. https://youtu.be/sgCrmxR_1to
Finally one for any of you who haven’t been here to see this incredible country, for those who doubt, for those who fear. These youngsters came on Birthright, their first time and you can see exactly what they felt….. Shevet Achim beyachad – a tribe of brothers together https://youtu.be/gHAd2D_0u5k
I wish you all a beautiful Shabbat and a fruitful, joyous month of Ellul
With much love from Jerusalem