5th February 2021
Shabbat Shalom! How are you?
Isn’t it strange that now that the world has opened up and we can reach even the most remoted corners of the world, but we can’t go anywhere? Yes of course that was a rhetorical question, yes it is strange, but when a virus has over 4,000 variants it is an annoyance we must accept.
This morning’s Israeli newspaper reports tell us the only .06% of Israelis get Covid-19 after the second shot (vaccine) and none of them seriously, which means it works! Of course there are crazy people who refuse to allow “unknown” substances to be injected into their bodies, but that’s their problem – they are as self-centred as those who refuse to allow their children to receive the childhood inoculations thus causing the return of measles, TB and chicken pox. I’m very proud of the efficiency of the Israeli health funds (Kupot Holim) in distributing and exercising the vaccination, the nearest country in the number of patients who received the vaccine is the Emirates with a tiny population and endless finances.
Sadly, the number of deaths and patients in critical condition is high too, mostly due to the actions of the Haredi and Arab communities, who have acted irresponsibly, holding big celebrations and refusing to close schools and places of prayer. Very sad.
Hopefully Israel will open up again next week. Shops, stores, malls, parks, museums and life in general will return to some semblance of normal. Obviously we will still wear masks but that’s just common sense. Maybe we can even get together for Purim! If you remember it was Purim parties that set this whole ghastly Covid-19 off when people ignored the warnings.
Since we are leading up to yet another splenetic, turbulent election (number 4 in 2 years) even the couple of days between a Friday easing of restrictions and a Monday easing of restrictions became a political issue rather than a medical one. https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/coronavirus-government-meeting-on-lockdown-rescheduled-for-thursday-657781
Benny Gantz is against opening up stores and malls on a Friday because last time they were over-run and nobody stuck to distancing – Monday is probably a better day.
Talking of Benny Gantz – apparently it doesn’t pay to be an honest and polite politician! Sadly, I don’t think he stands a chance in the next “anyone but Bibi” election, but in his quiet manner he has done a great deal to hold back the unyielding, bulldozer internal policies of the last government. Finally, the Netanyahu trial will begin, no more excuses or defermentFor the country’s sake I pray he will be innocent, but sadly, that’s just a dream.
Jonathan Sacerdoti writes of the investigation into bias in the BBC Arab news. In fact the entire Middle Eastern Department, headed by Jeremy Bowen is utterly skewed. In 2004 several of us forced the BBC to perform and internal report on anti-Israel bias. It was written by the former senior news reporter at the BBC, Malcolm Balen, and cost the British taxpayer nearly 350,000 pounds and was hidden, they refused to publish it. Well this one was published! https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/shame-of-bbc-arabic-as-systematic-bias-revealed-1.511433 If only the unquestionable bias of CNN, as serious as that of the BBC, were investigated instead of hiding under the guise of free speech.
So, back to the Israeli elections. The lists closed last night after a great deal of moving and merging between parties, especially by those who would not have passed the electoral threshold alone. The hope of the electorate is that there will be less parties and an effective government that can actually serve to term (4 years) without scandal and an opposition that plans our future rather than concentrating on personal attacks. Here you have a description of each party and their candidates. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/elections/israel-election-2021-all-the-official-party-lists-so-far-1.9508075
Monday evening Israel time, midday in Bedford, NY, Rabbi David Greenberg opened his weekly Zoom chat with his congregants. I have a long relationship with the community and Rabbi Greenberg, and thoroughly enjoy their company and curiosity. It was a delight to see familiar faces of Sari, Harriet and Bob and tried hard to answer their questions. Some took me by surprise and some forewarned me. Harriet (Gigi) is fascinated by our Supreme Court, both the building and the workings, and all were amazed to hear the our Supreme Court judges hear some 20,000 cases a year as opposed to the 100-150 cases that actually reach the Judges in the USA. Our Supreme Court accepts all and any complaints against Civil Servants as well as the more complex legal cases and appeals. Even Joe Bloggs, John Doe or as he is known in Israel “Buzaglo from Hadera” can have his case heard. Compulsory retirement is at 70 but they then move to the central tier of the 3 libraries where they consider and advise on any cases at the sitting judges request. A brilliant system.
Among the many questions, personal, political and general Israeli questions, just one confounded me. I had never heard of QAnon, at least not by name. To my ears it sounds too close to the brown-shirts of the thirties, a frightening, right wing movement best described here https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/how-three-conspiracy-theorists-took-q-sparked-qanon-n900531 How can such a negative organisation have grown from an internet game into a threat to the very substance of the USA?
Isn’t it strange? The entire world berated Israel for not giving the Palestinians Covid vaccines but none of them offered to do so themselves. The job of any government is to care for their citizens first and foremost and then to worry about others. The Oslo Accords were thrown at me, by people who had no idea that it is clearly stated that the PA is responsible for their own, but Israel is used to looking after the PA and we sent them 5,000 vaccines for their Israeli trained medical staff. Russia is sending them more, but sadly the PA refuses to waste their hard earned aid money on its citizens, it only wants what’s free. It is a country of “shnorrers” or beggars whose leader live in huge palaces. Incredibly, the Lebanese have refused to vaccinate their “Palestinian refugees” and nobody said a word.
The world lost two brave men who taught the world so much. One, Professor, Psychiatrist and Rabbi Abraham Twersky who guided me through the toughest of times in my life (before Zvi) through his book “When Do The Good Times Start”. A great Rabbi, he changed lives. The second was Sir Tom Moore who at 99 years old walked round and round his garden accepting sponsorship for Britain’s National Health workers, raising 45 million pounds and won hearts around the world – they both succumbed to Covid.
One woman who influenced my life in indescribable ways my beautiful, incredible friend Arlene Wittels passed away this week. I first met Arlene many years ago as I walked in to a friend’s home and saw her sitting there with Sandy Cahn. I fell in love with her vivacity, her leadership and her incredibly warm and loving character. Although I didn’t manage to see her for 2 years, I will love her always. Whenever I did a big cook, I used to take a photograph of my jam packed fridge and send it to her. Why? Because Arlene didn’t cook and it made her laugh, right until the end when life was so hard. My heart goes out to her Milty and her children the loves of her life. https://jewishwomen.org/remembering-jwfny-founder-arlene-wittels/
I am happy to say that this has been a far less busy week although Impact-se has uncovered even more “hate speech” in the teaching of children in our region. Another exciting aspect is that although we can’t get to Shalva I had a Zoom meeting with the musical director and heard his wonderful thoughts of which musical instruments and sound equipment he has dreamed of for years and also to the general director of activities etc on how to decorate “Dr. Dan’s Room”. Their dedication is truly magnificent.
Zvi and I have been planning our move, thinking about what we need to take with us, what to buy and where to put it. Yesterday we went to the apartment to meet the kitchen worktop fitters. These days even an outing like that is cause for excitement! We managed to spend time out on the verandah taking in the new view, so different from our Jerusalem vista but just as beautiful. Alongside our apartment is the “Avenue of the Presidents” the first tree planted by Theodore Herzl. Opposite, trees planted by KKL, right next to the grove planted in the name of Zvi’s little brother who was tragically killed in an accident in Mexico. It is a new start for us, new beginnings, but close to our Jerusalem. I love this city, the sheer variety, the rainbow of humanity, the mosaic of faiths and architecture…..there truly is no city that comes close to its fascinating diversity. As Zvi always says Jerusalem is a city from Wall to mall – and so much in between. Right in the middle is Shouk Mahane Yehuda, the epitome of Jerusalem’s heterogenity. The costermonger putting on his tefillin (phylacteries) in the morning, turning Eastward to the Temple Mount beside the Moslem stall holder kneeling on his prayer mat, turned toward Mecca. The long black robes of the Armenian and Greek Monks, the hijabbed mother buying for her large family; the Haredi woman with her entire brood behind her; the men talking to their wives on Facetime making sure that they buy the right produce, and if in doubt showing her; tourists fascinated by all of the above and the sounds, aromas and colours of the shouk that we all miss so much. Maybe next week.
We have a new way of meeting friends. This week I met with Ronit and Efrat on the bench in the square opposite, drinking excellent Israeli “Café Hafuch” (literally meaning upside down coffee) from the coffee shop and chatting about our lives. One person who actually came into our home was my dear friend Susan, we grew up together in Cardiff. As you can imagine we have so much to talk about, since our get-togethers are rare and usually on WhatsApp! For me it was a good excuse to bring out my lovely round china teapot and brew a good cuppa of Yorkshire Tea!
Yesterday when we got back from the apartment I went for a little walk, waiting for the “light rain” promised in the forecast. Just as I got in the door the “light rain” started. The noisiest, heaviest hail storm imaginable followed by a downpour with thunder and lightening!!
I hope I will manage to see Rachel and family today, I really miss it when I don’t and anyway, I really love sitting down, hearing of the children’s week, with a good cup of tea and one of Rachel’s little challas with egg salad! Tomorrow we will see Amiad and Leor’s families, even though it’s in the garden with masks it’s just lovely. Ella will be 8 years old!
Songs, hmm what songs fit the title Jabs, Jews, Jerusalem and Judiciary?
This song is for all of you, especially those of you having a tough time at the moment “You’ve Got a Friend” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIQK4bCb8Ms
Yaakov Shwekey sings this beautiful blessing for the “best soldiers in the world” the IDF, the soldiers of Zahal. Mi Shebrach – Those who blessed our forefathers bless the soldiers of Israel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suKZK8O_x2s
Shalom Aleichem is traditionally sung when returning from the synagogue on Friday night to welcome the angels that accompany them. It is a liturgical poem written in Safed in the 17th century. There are many very different renditions but I love this joyous one sung by Cantor Avraham Fried! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdCBebC87Ak
That’s it! Time to get cooking and set the table. Even when it’s just the two of us we set the Shabbat table, best china, challah, Kiddush and good food……….it’s so special it would be sad to miss out on the beauty of candle lighting. Just like the Seligs, I light two special Daniel candles, just because.
Shabbat Shalom, be well, take care and stay hopeful that we can all meet together on our new veranda
With much love from both of us in Jerusalem
Please say a special prayer for Canon Andrew White. What they thought was a relapse in his Multiple Sclerosis was actually Covid-19.