The view from my veranda

I’m Back

21st October 2022

26 Tishri 5783

Shabbat Shalom dear friends!

Actually, I think it’s Shabbat Shalom! My addled brain has had to deal with many interruptions to the normal calendar because the last few weeks have been a crazy round of Shabbat, New Year, Shabbat, Yom Kippur, Shabbat, Tabernacles, Shabbat Tabernacles and then – guess what? Shabbat again! To make things more confusing I underwent surgery and came out the other side and here I am sitting at home, writing to you and feeling very grateful to the incredible staff of Shaare Zedek neurosurgery department. Each and every one of the staff from the senior surgeon, Dr. John Winestone, his deputies, the male and female nurses and the ancillary staff of all religions, indeed the exceptional rainbow of Israeli humanity, each and every one exceptional.

I have long said that the first stop of any visiting diplomat or journalist should be in Israeli hospitals. Seriously. Staff and patients alike, the mix of languages, the ability to work together and heal together irrespective of colour or creed; without the false hierarchy of most western hospitals. At first it is strange to hear the nurses call the doctors by their first name but then one hears the deep respect in their voices and let’s face it, it is a mutual respect, and a title is irrelevant. In Israeli hospitals there is no racism, no differentiation, Professors and ancillary staff are Moslem, Jew and Christian and that is the Israel I am most proud of.

One of the outstanding moments of my stay in hospital was when one of the doctors took time out to bring his “Lulav and Etrog” (A palm branch (lulav), two willows (aravot), a minimum of three myrtles (hadassim) and one citron (etrog). The first three kinds are neatly bundled in a specific manner) to the patients. This year we couldn’t build our tabernacle (Succah) because we were not at home but this was the most gentle of people offering to share his traditions in the most beautiful manner.

And so to politics! I thought that no electoral system or political situation was quite as confused a the Israeli one but I have a feeling that the UK is a fast runner up! Neither country is good at deciding who is the Prime Minister and when we get one half the population don’t like him/her! Admittedly we, in Israel, have had relative political calm for over a year but considering the fact that in less than two weeks we will be back in the voting booths for the fifth time in as many years, I cannot describe the situation as stable. Major criminal trials are not sufficient to stop political ambition, the thirst for power verging on megalomania of some and the desire to see a better country of others. It is depressing to watch television and the incessant political advertisements where you know full well that they are selling their party as if it was the latest toy when all you want is to hear their manifesto, what they really intend changing in your life.

I cannot but express my fears that the extreme parties, the extreme personalities may hold the balance if the centrist parties don’t get together. One name is on everyone’s lips is Itamar Ben Gvir. Ben Gvir with the slightly less vocal Bezalel Smotrich, lead parties whose sole raison d’etre is nationalistic hatred and incitement. They are the antithesis of what Israel has become. I half understand those who may vote for them, especially those who have suffered terror attacks, but to think that they may be part of the decision making terrifies me. Their nationalist, extreme rabble rousing caused young thugs, Hilltop Youth, Israeli thugs, to attack both Arabs and Soldiers. Ben Gvir is an expert at attracting attention and it would appear that I too have fallen under his evil spell, since I have not written about the centrist parties, not PM Yair Lapid, not Defence Minister Benny Gantz and not about former PM Benjamin Netanyahu, I too am obsessed with Ben Gvir . November 1st, Election Day, and we will see what the people actually decide. Hopefully the disillusioned centrists will get out and vote.

One Minister in the Knesset got it right. Yoel Rozvosov, in a parody of both James Bond and Vladimir Putin’s machoism, made this promotional video for Israel as Minister of Tourism! I think it’s really funny.

What about Britain then? After having the honour of being the last Prime Minister to receive her position from Queen Elizabeth ll, Liz Truss has been on a downward avalanche taking the British economy with her; she resigned, to be the shortest serving British Prime Minister! The traditional British system is that all members of the winning party choose the leader of that party, but after this latest fiasco a decision was made that the next leader be chosen by serving Members of Parliament of that party rather than the members. Let’s hope it works. In a ridiculous turn of events, Boris Johnson is said to be rushing back from his vacation!!

When I look at the reports of violence in Israel, especially in the environs of Jerusalem, one would be excused for thinking that Jerusalem is being held at gunpoint and it is not safe to leave one’s home. There are specific volatile areas, mostly incited by Hamas who have successfully infiltrated the Palestinian Authority, but the rest of Jerusalem functions as normal, people go to movies, theatre, concerts and restaurants. Don’t be fooled by the hyperbole that used to be called journalism.

The women of Iran are changing history. They risk their lives every day that they go into the streets and perform the simple act of removing their jihabs. It is symbolic, but of huge international importance. The more we isolate Iran the more dangerous they become. Altruism and deep friendship are not the main reasons for the success of the Abraham Accords, fear of Iran is the ultimate drive.

My saddest moment this week was when the current Australian government chose to publicly renege on the intention to move the Australian Embassy to Jerusalem. The change is unimportant but the point made is of ultimate importance because it goes in tandem with the decision to reinstate funding to UNWRA. Australia, that most loyal of allies, not some unstable nation, the Australian government makes a clear delineation of its changed loyalties. So sad but then the USA has been going in the same direction but it is the people, specifically but not only, Universities not the government. The exceptional Noa Tishbi explains. For those who don’t have or can’t get Instagram I will put her words at the end of this missive.

The fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is worldwide but in some strange way it has given Israel an inflowing of Russian Jews who have finally seen the writing on the wall. We have absorbed many Ukrainians but the vast majority want to go back to Ukraine as soon as it is safe. Russian Jews have not only seen the writing on the wall but in their schoolbooks also, reminiscent of the lead up to the Third Reich.

I would love to continue but I’m not supposed to sit for extended periods so we will go straight into music!!!

You’ll never walk alone, from the musical Carousel, has become a hymn, a prayer and an anthem. I first heard it as a teenager when Gerry and the Pacemakers sang it when a pacemaker was the runner who set the pace in a race! I think that sometimes, as Jews or indeed any other minority, we feel overwhelmed and misunderstood. 

Your prayers paid off and this morning I awoke to rain! Glorious blessed rain which made my second choice easy. Rain from the Israeli movie Afula Express is sung by Eli Luzon.

The last song sheds a different light on the Haredi community, a light shone by Yaacov Shwekey. Thank Heaven it’s Shabbat – Baruch HaShem it’s Shabbes. That incredible sigh of relief that the work-week is over, that the 7th day is here, the day of rest. Conceivably the most important social contribution of Judaism to the world

This journey of mine has been fascinating and as I absorb the outpourings of love from every direction, there are two people who deserve a special mention. My Rachel couldn’t be beside me to the usual extent because of the Festivals etc but – Shelley Silver, the daughter of Ira and Valeri who became part of our family when they made Aliya to Israel from Moscow just one year after I did. Shelley stayed with me in Rachel’s stead. Shelley is an exceptional young woman, two weeks out of the IDF as a Educational Officer, she slept beside my bed, amused me, smiled at me and generally made me feel loved. Nearly 22 a great future lies ahead of her.

The other support and succour came from Zvi, my wonderful husband. He sang to the nurses, chatted with the patients, barely left my side during the day, held my hand for my first tentative steps, took care of visitors and I couldn’t ask for more.

Home for Shabbat – how wonderful! Rachel will come during the day, hopefully with one of her incredible Challot, Leor, Amiad and their families are coming for supper, for Shabbat Dinner, but bringing everything with them. They’ll set the table, bring the food and clear up afterwards – it may sound crazy but I really wanted to see them. Yesterday I received a huge platter of cut fruits from our young neighbours who got together to express their love; Various foodstuffs arrive at our front door and last evening Ronit arrived with today’s lunch all set up and oven ready including dessert; my wonderful Cardiff friends Sue and Averil came for lunch – bringing delicious homemade food with them and I am overwhelmed with the outpourings of care.

I wish you a wonderful weekend, leaders who will take our countries in the right direction if they have the intelligence to do what is right not what is convenient.

Shabbat Shalom and love from our veranda, overlooking Jerusalem. Remember, it is irrelevant what other countries call this city, we know that this is Jerusalem, Capital City of the State of Israel and all the Jewish people around the world and holy site for Christians and Moslems too


The Noa Tishbi words

What an antisemitic week it’s been. Here’s a recap of some of the top antisemitic things that have happened recently.

Antisemitic flyers were distributed at the University of Michigan and at George Washington University. Mezuzahs were torn down at Stanford and Swastikas were found at Cornell and American University. The Wellesley College newspaper editorial board endorsed the crazy “Mapping Project” that doxes Jewish establishments schools, and synagoges. It became public that Student groups at Berkeley banned Jewish, Zionist students and speakers. And Drexel scheduled mandatory trainings on Yom Kippur, excluding Jewish faculty and students, while Cornell hosted a speaker who compared Jews to Nazis.
And it’s not limited to college campuses. Billboards in LA were defaced with antisemitic stickers that read “Zionist Jews control America.” In New York City, a synagogue security guard was slashed on Yom Kippur and a Sukkah was vandalized and urinated on.
In celebrity world the one and only Bella Hadid posted on Instagram a plea begging followers to stand up against antisemitism saying if you see something say something! A day after her father’s Instagram post comparing Jews to Hitler and while she was hanging out with notorious antisemite Nerdeen Kiswani
And Kanye West used the most cliche non creative and OLD antisemitic tropes on Fox News and TMZ and went on social media to declare death con 3 on Jewish people.
And all of this is being downplayed — by the media, by college administrators, by people on social media.
We’re told that attacks on Israel shouldn’t be taken personally and that attacks on Jews shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Despite antisemitism being the oldest form of hate which is still practiced today, antisemitism, Anti Jewish racism is being ignored. We’re called white oppressors and privileged and are asked to politely sit down and be quite. Which we won’t.
I went to Berkeley yesterday to speak to the students. I’m going through the footage and will share in the next few days. In the meantime Shabbat Shalom and Am Israel Chai.