18th December 2020
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Only 4 more days until Christmas Eve, 5 days until Christmas Day and 6 days until Boxing Day. Incredible to think that 2020 is almost over accompanied by a huge sigh of relief.
As we see more and more anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Israel sentiment I am reminded of Sir Winston Churchill’s prophetic speech in 1936
‘They go on in some strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent…Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger. The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences…We cannot avoid this period, we are now in it.’
There is only one way to stop the tsunami of hatred and that is to change what children are taught. Tolerance must replace hatred, for the sake of our children and the sake of our world. More of that later.
There are many philanthropists in this world, many good people who never forget from whence they came, but few reach the level of good works of the Lowy family from Australia. Lady Shirley Lowy, matriarch of the Lowy family, passed away this week in Tel Aviv after the family made Aliya, leaving her family bereft and thousands of friends mourning. Her son Stephen, a really good man, is the Chair of the Board of Governors of Keren Hayesod/UIA following in his parents footsteps of philanthropy in general and a strong connection to Israel. May the family know no more sorrow.
Australians are relieved this week as the nightmare of Malka Leifer came to an end and a new chapter in bringing her to justice began. I believe you are familiar with the drawn-out legal battle to have Malka Leifer extradited to Australia to face charges of child sexual abuse. Her legal team used Israel’s legal system to the fullest, but this week, after 74 court appearances and appeals Israel’s Supreme Court rejected her final appeal. Despite a process that often takes weeks if not months, Israeli Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn signed her extradition order within a day. Leifer will be back in Australia within two months to face her victims. The question on everybody’s lips is who paid for her extortionate legal expenses.
The vaccine arrived in Israel and tomorrow night the vaccinations begin. Too many ridiculous and dangerous fallacies are circling the world, suggesting that the vaccine is dangerous, changes ones DNA etc. Do you remember the lies that circulated about wearing masks and the suggestion that here was no pandemic that it was all a political intrigue? So the stories of the vaccine are given the false veracity scaring people into falling ill and extending the pandemic. I can promise you that Zvi and I will run to the clinic to receive our vaccine the minute we are called.
The moment that Israel signs any kind of treaty or accord Israelis feel the need to travel and see that country. 50,000 Israelis already travelled to the UAE, yes, you heard me, 50,000 Israelis in the UAE since the Abraham Accords and many visitors from the Emirates came here, each talking of the beauty of Israel and the warmth of the people. There is a downside though, the Israeli Government has not declared the UAE as a “red” state and many Israelis have brought Covid-19 back as a memento of their trip, some even having to stay in the UAE until better. In fact, the number of Israelis taking advantage of the current open skies policy is terrifying. We have enough problems without adding to the causes of infection. Shopping malls and stores are not the problem, travel and large weddings or funerals without masks are a huge and utterly negative contributor.
Despite the fact that he was my son Daniel’s Rabbi in Oxford University, I don’t often cite Rabbi Shmuley Boteach as my source. In this week’s opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post, he hit the nail right on the head. American Jews have become so factionalised that hatred is rife. https://www.jpost.com/opinion/americans-have-gone-insane-hating-each-other-opinion-652355
It isn’t only the treaties and accords that caused a peak in pique in the Palestinian Authority leadership. Thanks to the brilliant work of Impact-se, the Norwegian Government decided to cut their 20 million krone aid to the PA unless the PA takes hate speech out of their school curriculum. IMPACT-se’s report, delivered to policymakers, showed that no changes were made to the 2020-21 curriculum, despite promises made by Palestinian officials to the visiting British and Norwegian Foreign Ministers and other European politicians and diplomats. The textbooks contain antisemitism, incitement to violence, hate and do not recognize Israel or a peaceful settlement with Israel. On the other hand Impact is working with the UAE, is helping Bahrain and Morocco to change their school books and, wait for it, Saudi Arabia too!
We know that the teaching of hatred and violence affects specific countries but the terrifying fact is that those teachings filter down throughout the West too and create an untenable situation of inculcated hatred for “the other”. That is our next objective, to bring tolerance to all sectors of society, wherever you may be, through tolerant education. https://www.timesofisrael.com/anti-semitism-and-anti-zionsim-leaving-saudi-textbooks-monitoring-group/
Relations with Morocco have almost always been warm, but now we not only have a treaty with Morocco, they are teaching Jewish studies in their schools!
The latest agreement is with Bhutan. Bhutan? What or where is Bhutan? Bhutan, between India and China, is a secret gem, discourages visitors and is one of the world’s unspoilt countries. They have virtually no internet, they live a simple life, are happy with their lot and it sounds just wonderful.
John Le Carre, genius author, fascinating man passed away this week. He spoke of his affinity to Israel and the Jews in an interview 22 years ago. https://www.timesofisrael.com/when-john-le-carre-poured-out-his-soul-on-jews-and-israel/
Don’t you love Gal Gadot? She and Jimmy Fallon taste each other’s traditional food, here Fallon bravely eats gefilte fish….. It’s really funny https://youtu.be/4rsY-YZavlM
Chanuka is over, well the last candle lighting is over. We had some lovely experiences, some actual some virtual. We lit candles with all our future neighbours, each bringing a chanukiah and singing together, outdoors obviously. We lit with Zvi’s boys and families; we had virtual candle lighting with various organisations and of course by ourselves. I had a wonderful visitor this week – Kinneret Chaya’s big sister Nitzan. It was such a delight and of course we sat out on the famous veranda and I made her shakshuka while she brought wonderful bread from a local bakery to mop up the delicious spicy juices. We had a surprise visit from Eli and Eva, “just for coffee on the mirpesset (veranda)” and in about 20 minutes I made special cookies and a chocolate cake – after all it is Eli’s 70th birthday! In fact today, Eva is taking most of the choir on a tiyul (tour) near Bet Shemesh. Since it is over rather rough countryside I decided my hip wouldn’t be happy so stayed home to write to you! Since you can’t come to tour Israel. Here’s a tour brought to you! https://israelisbeautiful.com/
This week Yosef Eliyahu, my beautiful, amazing grandson, reached the ripe old age of 16. We had a very limited celebration, just his parents, sisters and two lots of grandparents, but we made enough noise for an entire party! Talia baked and decorated a magnificent cake and my favourite part was when Ayala appeared with a broomstick covered in 16 balloons which she jiggled about and the birthday boy had to try and burst all the balloons.
Gideon and Stephanie, all the way away in London, celebrated 20 years of marriage. It’s incredible to see how the years have flown but their love produced 3 incredible children and I adore all of them. Mazal Tov to all.
The sunrise from the veranda have been spectacular this week, even through the torrential rain. We are lucky in Jerusalem, we live on a series of hills but the coastal plain suffered flooding, spectacular flooding. Incredibly the Kinneret, the sea of Galilee, is already almost full and winter is just beginning. Soon they will be able to open the sluice gate and allow the water to flow down to the Dead Sea.
On the 18th of December last year we took a group of lovely friends on a tour of Jerusalem, winding up for lunch at “Missedet Ima” an excellent Middle Eastern restaurant near Shouk Mahane Yehuda. Life was good, food was excellent and the company marvellous. Suddenly, I received a phone call from my son Gideon. Leaving the room I heard “Mum there’s been an accident in New York” He waited until Zvi and I rushed home to tell me the full news, Daniel had not survived the accident. Of course we, the entire family, flew immediately to New York for the funeral. The outpourings of love and admiration were overwhelming and for that I am ever grateful but as another mother who lost her son, Camille Fox in far off Australia, said “It is a silent paralysing internal ache”
Nothing will bring Daniel back but I beg of you to cherish every moment with your children. Never ever be too busy to hear what they have to say, always give them loving confidence to be the best they can be and never take them for granted. Fill every day with joy and love, reach out to others who may be in pain and be proactive; defend what is precious to you and do everything in your power to heal this broken world. That is what Daniel would have wanted me to say to you.
Tonight Zvi and I are on our own, but not before I go to hug Rachel, remind her and the children just how much I love them and thank heaven that they live close by. If I remember I’ll stop at the new vista point and take a photo of the mosaic, the panorama of Jerusalem from Samuel’s Tomb. I chose to be alone, with my Zvi and my thoughts. Even I reach the point where I just don’t want to be with anyone else.
Music. I wonder what music would suit this strange week?
Adon Olam – Lord of the Universe – is so familiar to every Jew that one cannot help but join in with whichever music is chosen. Sweet memories of Reading Shule. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvOtcWEFWo8
Once upon a time the late great Nat King Cole sang a Christmas song which reached out to all of us, irrespective of our religious beliefs. This beautiful rendition is by his daughter Natalie and Andrea Bocelli. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVHvIGf1i0s
Bob Geldorf always thought out of the box, a rebel with a cause. He began the whole idea of a vast number of stars singing a Christmas song to raise money for the children of Africa back in 1984. Understanding that all the big organisations were top heavy and a tiny percentage of the money raised by them ever reached those who most needed it he went personally to the poorest towns and villages and without taking one penny for himself he disbursed the monies raised and oversaw the purchases. Her eis a joyous version of the song that began social consciousness in the pop world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gifrd7ljNL4
I wish you a good Shabbes, a day of thought and contemplation, and as you open the last 4 windows on your advent calendar, think of how we could change our world by accepting each other for what we are – not trying to force or change those around us. The Emerati visitors, when asked what most surprised them when they came to Jerusalem and all the Holy Sites of the 3 monotheistic religions, is that they were enlightened by the tolerance and acceptance of their traditional dress by every Israeli they met.
I just received the best phone call any Safta could get. Ayala has been dreaming of my vegetable patties (ktsistot) all week since she had them here and so please, please, since I’m going to visit them anyway, can I prepare some for her!! Since I watched her devour about 12 of them while watching Gilmore Girls I could hardly refuse!!
With much love from beautiful Jerusalem