The view from my veranda

Justice, Politics and Basel

2nd September 2022

Shabbat Shalom everyone! Can you believe that it’s already September? 2022 is in its ninth month, let’s see what the remainder of the year gives birth to!

For a change I’m going to start right away with news so that we can talk about the more pleasant aspects of life, leaving us with a sweet taste in our mouths.

This weeks Torah reading is Shoftim, or Judges. It teaches us that prior to the Children of Israel entering the Promised Land they had to learn how to behave – how to create a fair society with laws and mores befitting.  Judges and law enforcement officers were appointed and as their leader Moses declared “Justice, Justice shall you pursue” which leads me to a very important Supreme Court decision this week.

Amiram ben Uliel committed a heinous crime, the crime that only a zealot could justify. In 2015 Ben Uliel firebombed a house killing three members of the Dawabshe family in the small town of Duma for no apparent reason other than that they were Palestinian Arabs. He and his cohorts thought that they would get away with their foul hate crime but after his final appeal, the Supreme Court upheld Ben Hiliel’s three life sentences. “Justice, Justice shall you pursue”

Recent Israeli air strikes against Iranian arsenals and missile sites in Syria are causing a rethink of the Iranian presence in that wretched and devastated country. After 500,000 ordinary Syrians died, were killed mostly by their own leader, perhaps the Iranians realise that Israel may be tiny but is definitely the mouse that roared and we have a very loud roar. Syria, once proud, is finished and apparently the Iranians decided that it is less strategically essential than they thought.

Mikhail Gorbechov, who passed away this week, was arguably the primary catalyst in the breakdown of the Former Soviet Union. His determined leaning toward the West and his recognition that Sovietism led to corruption and uneven distribution of wealth he encouraged and was in power during the virtual breakdown of the Iron Curtain and the actual breakdown of the Wall between East and West Berlin. His decision not to shoot those crossing to freedom was a brave and historic move that brought about the recognition of Glasnost and ultimately Perestroika. Of course, those of us who were involved in the Campaign for Soviet Jewry during the 1970’s recognise that the brain-drain of Soviet Jews undoubtedly contributed in a major manner to the downfall of the USSR.

“At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”

(Theodor Herzl, 3 September 1897)

I happen to believe that there are no coincidences in this world. This week a group of 1,400 active Jewish (and non-Jewish) leaders from around the world met in Basel, Switzerland, for the 125th Anniversary of the first Zionist Congress. It was not just a celebration, although celebration it was, it was a very important coming together of leaders in every relevant stream of Zionism to discuss the manner in which it affects our lives today. Zvi was there to represent Maccabi World Union, the largest Jewish non-religious and apolitical Organisation in the world which represents over 400,000 members. As I saw the photographs of Zvi standing on the podium in the Congress Centre as if giving THE Herzl speech and leaning on the railings of the balcony  of room 117 in the Three Kings Hotel in Basel I must admit that my mind went back to the “coincidence” of Mikhail Gorbechov’s passing and the Zionist Congress and how Zvi, with Yonah Yahav, all those years ago, fought a Prime Minister (Golda) and brought about the freedom for Jews to emigrate from the then, Soviet Union, to Israel with the blessing of the Israeli Government. Zvi and Yonah proved yet again that if you will it, it is no dream.

Last week I wasn’t in the mood to describe the current morass, farrago, muddled miscellany of personal interests that makes up Israeli politics. I don’t know if it distresses me too much to think that we are yet again wasting billions on irrelevant campaigns and lost days of work, or the fact that the same man is causing us to go into our fifth elections in three years, or that same man took a supposedly pragmatic party and agreed to form a coalition with the devil – aka Smotrich and Ben Gvir for the sake of getting back into the Prime Ministerial seat.

Who are Smotrich and Ben Gvir? A pair of ultra-extreme right wing politicians who appeal to the worst side of everyone, the racist, anti-Moslem, Kahanists who represent everything that I despise. Wait, let me be absolutely accurate, in a deal brokered by Benjamin Netanyahu, the far right parties of Ben Gvir and Smotrich will unite and help to form a stable coalition with the Likud. I sense Menachem Begin is spinning in his grave at the dreadful turn of events. The Likud Party was founded on the premise that it covered a wide range of political views, Zionists of every hue and now, members of the Likud central committee, including people like Dudu Amsalem and Miri Regev, call Benny Begin and old fool. Please excuse my rant but I love this country and we deserve better than the feasible coalition on the right thus presented

OK, rant over, who else is there and what are their chances of achieving 61 seats?

Top of the “Middle of the Road” list

Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid (current PM)

National Unity (Blue and White united with New Hope) led by Benny Gantz

Yisrael Beitenu led by Avigdor Liberman

Meretz led by Zahava Galon

Labour led by Merav Michaeli

Ra’am led by Mansour Abbas

Together they can glean 52 seats of the 61 needed to form a government coalition. However there is an unexpected turn by Degel Hatorah religious party led by Moshe Gafni which if they move from supporting Likud to joining Yesh Atid and National Unity they will tip the balance from Likud to the above coalition.

I hope that left you a little less confused. I know who I trust, I know who has kept his word, acted in a dignified manner from the very start and now that he has been joined by three similarly minded former Chiefs of Staff my “petek” will go for National Unity because the most natural partners to create a relevant a coalition, one that we deserve, will be Yesh Atid and National Unity with fair representation of other parties which represent the honest working men and women of this country.

I have gently returned to work, Impact-se CEO Marcus Sheff ( ) saved some of the best news for my return from the UK. Thanks to our revelations UNWRA has to justify the billions in aid that pours into their coffers without actually working to ensure a better life in Gaza and the PA. As more and more countries withdraw their financial support after reading our reports, UNWRA is now crying out that they are starved of money. It is rather like the bully who cries because someone hit him back. In addition, the team went out of Impact’s regular area of the MENA region and produced a report on the Russian textbooks and their attitude toward Ukraine and found it lacking in tolerance.

Can I move over to more palatable subjects? I realise that the election process here is broken and one reason I want a change is so that we can repair it.

Firstly I want to thank Claudia de Beneditti for the wonderful recipe book and for being an excellent companion to Zvi while in Basel. I promise to try out some of the recipes for each Shabbat and report back to you!! In the meantime our Shabbat dinner will be of my own creation until I actually have time to sit down and read the book. Thank you dear Claudia!

Both of us have been really busy this week but not with anything exciting! Yesterday was special though. In the morning Zvi went to the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem for the Bar Mitzva of the grandson of Mindeleh and Avraham Jasqui who coincidentally became great-grandparents on that very same day! Mazal Tov to all!!

Last night we went to a surprise party in Nes Ziona, a lovely dormitory town right next to Rehovot, to the home of Leor and Shiri Raviv – Zvi’s son and daughter in law, for a celebration of Shiri’s parents (Menashe and Galia) Golden Wedding. We were very honoured to be invited because out of the thousands of friends that this amazing couple have, only about 40 of us were invited. Very few spoke, mostly about the crazy adventures that both enjoy all over the world, but the stars were definitely their daughters and their children. They sang and danced to their parents, some practiced some spontaneous and sang along with the “Shira b’Tzibur” community singing that both Galia and Menashe love.  Zvi sang a special song for them, reminding them how lucky we are to have them as our “mechutanim” our in-laws.

Zvi has gone to a meeting then he will come back to get me, I will drop him at his parliament at Caffit in the Botanical Gardens, which as you know is one of my favourite spots in Jerusalem, and then I can go to visit Rachel and find out how Yosef, Talia and Ayala did on their first day back to school. Yes, this government succeeded in preventing yet another teacher’s strike (there’s a first for everything) and the children all went back to school on September 1st as planned. I already know that my tea will be ready, the delicious challot hot from the oven and my loving grandchildren trying to tell me their stories as quickly as possible so that they can return to chatting with friends!!

Oh yes, we will go to the Botanical Gardens on the incredible new road from right next to our home directly into Jerusalem through a series of tunnels. Road number 16 or the Ariel Sharon Highway came in over a year early and cuts the travelling time from at least 20 minutes (far more during rush hours which seem to be 24/7) to a mere 5 minutes from our home to Shalva. In fact I am going to Shalva with my wonderful cousin Joanna on Sunday, which is going to be wonderful as always. She couldn’t come to the opening of Dr Dan’s Room and really wants to see it in action after all, when we lived in Reading, in Royal Berkshire (pronounced Barkshir) Joanna would sometimes babysit all three children. Once finished we will stay on for lunch in the excellent restaurant then go our separate ways.

Tami Isaacs Pierce is a baker. She opened a small bakery in Hampstead, London and it is growing not only in popularity but in size. Tami and her sister Sasha are the daughters of my friend Stephen, grand-daughters of my mother’s friend Queenie, and near neighbours of ours when they lived in The Oval in Cardiff, so of course I am proud of Tami’s achievements as the Challah Queen. This week the huge supermarket chain Tesco’s put Tami’s Challah recipe in their magazine.…-apple–honey-challah Enjoy!!

Gosh, I was going to wax lyrical about seeing the relief map, the amazing panorama from Samuel’s Tomb but I feel I have taken enough of your time. Time for music and this week we have hopeful songs.

Shalom Lach Eretz Nehederet – Shalom to you wonderful country, is self explanatory. This is a wonderful country!

Looking at those who rule our world I thought about the character of Mr Bumble in the West End production of Pickwick

Harry Secombe, that wonderful Welshman, so funny with the voice of an angel. If I ruled the World

I love the last song because of its lyrics, it’s also a really fun melody.  It talks about the day when fairness and parity will come to our tortured earth

A day will come, a day will come

shortly, soon it will come

everyone knows

in the depths of their hearts

a day will come, a day will come, it’ll come!

A day will come, a day will come

it comes closer and goes on it’s course

no longer will a man be degraded

because of his race or his color

a day will come, a day will come, it’ll come.

It’ll come, it’s today

thus we said and it’s not a dream

if we’ll die like Moshe on the summit of Mount Nevo

this we’ll know, it’s already here

it’s already here, it’s already here

A day will come shortly

the liberty bell will call out

and blacks and white will gather around

a day will come, a day will come, it’ll come.

A day will come, a day of light

a day of celebration for the black man

G-d will then smile down from his seat on high

a day will come, a day will come, it’ll come.

It’ll come, it’s today

and with the morning we’ll rise and suddenly

we’ll suddenly be human beings like everyone else

so we’ll know, it’s already here

it’s already here, it’ll come!

I wish you a Good Shabbes, a fine weekend, a good month of Ellul and kindness in your life

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem dear friends, Shabbat Shalom