The view from my veranda

Leaders, Hugs and Tabernacles

9th October, 2020

21st day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei 5781


Good Shabbes! Shabbat Shalom! A Blessed Tabernacles


So how was your week?


Everyone I talk to, irrespective of where they are in the world, expresses at the very least, disagreement and disappointment with their government. I’m not a demonstration person, I use my writing to express my views, in fact the last demonstrations I joined were for Soviet Jewry in the 80’s, but as of last week both Zvi and I joined the small demonstration near our home. Totally within the restrictions of the Covid-19 regulations, we stood at least 3 metres apart, in pods of no more than 10 people and held our signs and Israeli flags at the “intersection under the bridge”. So why now?


Good leaders lead by example and in Israel our leadership, that same leadership that placed us in a severe lockdown which became essential after opening up businesses and schools too early, has let us down terribly. From Sara Netanyahu bringing her hairdresser to the Residence when the rest of us would get a 5,000 shekel fine for doing so; Gila Gamliel, the Minister for Social Equality, decided to travel from her home in Tel Aviv to see her husband’s parents in Tiberias for the festival when the rest of us are limited to 1 kilometre from home or suffer another 5,000 shekel fine; Nadav Argaman, the Head of the Shin Bet Secret Service invited his family over to visit his Succah, another 5,000 shekel fine for the rest of us; and so it goes on. No wonder people are fed up. Where is the leadership? Where is the example?


Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister are so clever and so right!! I love this one!  called the Proper Function of Government


Talking of leadership, most of the leaders of the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) community have demanded that their followers abide by the government regulations concerning masks, distancing etc, but several major Rabbis have said explicitly that they do not follow the regulations of the Israeli Government – in fact their followers in both the USA and UK have done the same, endangering their own and the general population. They insist upon gathering in synagogues and learning institutions when the rest of us sit outside in small groups or pray alone. By no means all the Haredi Rabbis behave in this manner. Rabbi Kanievsky, leader of the Lithuanian Haredi community, released videos instructing their public on how to conduct themselves, stating that it is forbidden to visit other people’s sukkah, insisting that they take corona tests since it is a matter of danger to life (pikuach nefesh). In Judaism there is one law which over-rides all others, it is called “Pikuach Nefesh”, to save a life overrides all other aspects of Judaism. We have such a wonderful religion, amazing traditions of compassion and generosity of spirit which seem to be lost in the internecine fighting for the power to defy. Again, Rabbi Jeremy Rosen explains


Corona, Covid, Covid-19, coronavirus…… seems to have overtaken our conversations and our very existence – even our politics as the American President broke all the rules this week – but since I get all het up when Americans tell me how to run Israel I am going to maintain a respectful silence! I’m not going to talk about the Mike Pence – Kamala Harris debate or the fact that Kamala pulled bored faces or that Pence uses so much hair lacquer that he didn’t even feel the fly which landed on his bonce! I wouldn’t dream of mentioning that Boris Johnson is apparently on his way to his 9th child most of whom were born out of wedlock!  That’s your problem not mine!


So what about the beautiful Succahs (huts or tabernacles) hanging precariously from every balcony, like exotic monasteries on mountainsides!! Despite the fact that we can only have immediate family, those who live in the same abode, into our beautifully decorated, three sided huts, under the shade of huge palm fronds, people have really gone to town with the decorations! It is somehow comforting to realise that the Israeli determination to beautify and enjoy life have come through. The familiar aromas of meat and chicken on the barbeque rise enticingly to our apartment every evening, as families sit around the table to eat, cheered by the colourful interpretations of wandering in the desert and of course the seven species of this harvest festival as dictated in Deuteronomy; wheat, barley, grape, fig, pomegranates and date. The first crops of these fruits were the acceptable offerings in the Temple. The overwhelming aroma of fruit still pervades the Succah but unlike my childhood memories of the Succah in the synagogue in Wales, with fruits hanging from the roof, there is no heavy, rancid, yet comfortingly familiar smell, a combination of sweet red wine and a decomposing abundance of seasonal fruits!


Succot is not just one festival but at least 3! The last days are Shemini Atzeret, Hashana Rabba and Simchat Torah! Shmini Atzeret is the day we are supposed to have absorbed everything learned over the High Holydays – Hoshana Rabba celebrates the ceremony of walking around the Temple with palm fronds and sounding the Ram’s Horn and Simchat Torah, which means the joy of the Torah, is the time for celebration and dancing as we finish the entire Torah reading and begin all over again. Obviously things are very different this year. Unlike most of you around the world, my favourite prayer is the prayer for rain! Gosh it has been so hot I would happily run outside and dance in the rain……. If only it would come!


Here in Israel the children still haven’t gone back to school and harassed, harried parents search for ways to amuse bored and fractious children. The Israel Museum, voted one of the 10 best museums in the world, provides one solution. They’ve opened their website, really worthwhile –


Israelis are out walking most evenings and it is fascinating to see how friendships have evolved from a polite “Erev Tov” (good evening) to taking a break from exercise and sitting either end of a bench and just chatting with new friends! Right opposite our apartment is a large public area, next to the park where most people walk, and every evening young couples escape their apartments and take their children to expend energy and ride their bicycles or just run around in freedom. Since everything is so much quieter, with little traffic, one can hear the whoops of delight of the children and it makes life so much better. In fact, it is so quiet that suddenly one can hear the birds sing! We have a family of crows that talk to us. They are really quite demanding and if I haven’t put out the bread or water yet they sit on the back of my favourite chair and caw at me until I do so!! We have bright green parakeets which live in the wild fig tree nearby and our regular visitors, apart from sparrows, are the Tsufit visitng the pomegranate tree, hibiscus flowers and the bright purple flowers on my gift from Rachel. The Tsufit is my favourite bird. Native to this region it is iridescent black and tiny, it flits from flower to flower, similar to a humming bird but a different family. It is also very skittish so every time I reach for my camera it disappears, silently shy.


Two days ago we suddenly heard a knock, a tap-tap-tap at our front door. We just stood and looked at each other, nobody had knocked at our door for weeks, and I gingerly looked through the peep-hole but whoever it was had blocked it!! I very tentatively opened the door to find Rachel, Talia and Ayala grinning from ear to ear! They had to come to Jerusalem for a doctor’s appointment and decided to surprise us. It was marvellous, so wonderful – especially since, purely coincidentally, I was in the middle of preparing Talia’s favourite cookies, all ready to go into the oven. Zvi and I are very lucky that we are busy from morning to night, but that human touch, especially since our home is always full of people, is lacking and lo and behold, family!!


As I have told you, each morning I sit on our veranda to eat my breakfast, read the newspaper and do the puzzles which I hope will help me to retain at least a modicum of my mental capacity! On the one hand this season of festivals, this Hebrew month of Tishrei, has engendered a sense of contemplation but on the other it has emphasised and accentuated our longing for family. Of course it is wonderful to see the family and we celebrated Leor’s 42nd birthday on Zoom and revelled in the culinary prowess of his 4 daughters, but I wonder if after all this pandemic is over, whether we will have a generation of children who don’t hug. I grew up in a very huggy, kissy society and came to an even more huggy, kissy society but these children have been taught that hugging grandparents endangers their lives – can we get past that?


Autumn is Israel is so special, quite apart from the festivals. We don’t really have the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, nor the incredible fiery colours of more temperate climes, but there is a subtle change. The oranges on our tiny orange tree are beginning to turn a bright sunny orange, the kumquats too and the minute lemon tree had a second wind and now has a slew of lemons. A few months ago I threw a few seeds from a particularly delicious red bell pepper onto the earth in a pot and we already ate the fruit but suddenly it is smothered in flowers again, like a miracle!


Tonight we actually have visitors. Before you worry or report us to the authorities, it is a dear friend who lives nearby. He was Zvi’s parent’s doctor and he and his wife are coming to us for Shabbat Dinner and to give us some medical advice. The menu is my favourite! An as yet undecided variety of soup, Spring chicken fillets, grilled and served on a bed of sautéed onions, rice-stuffed vegetables, a great big salad and various smaller salads which one creates from whatever is in the fridge! Dessert? “Aunty Eddie’s plum flan” and fresh fruit. Don’t worry, we will be eating outside on the veranda and there will be no hugging!!!


Something so funny happened this week. There is a Facebook page called “Brits Living in Israel” and I placed a post asking “what is your favourite very British expression”.  I couldn’t believe it! Over a thousand results! I was completely gob-smacked! You could have knocked me over with a feather! I haven’t had so much fun for ages!


So which music do you like best? I’d love to know so that I can include your selections.


My son Daniel’s best friend, the lovely Justin Selig, sent me a very quirky, jazz rendition of Avinu Malkeinu that he knows Daniel would have loved – and here it is


From days gone by, celebrating Simchat Torah in Tel Aviv by all levels of religious adherence. So much fun, such joy…..Oh well maybe next year.


Shlomi Shabbat is a composer, singer and mentor, a fine representative of Israeli music – Shlomi is currently in hospital after contracting the Covid-19 virus. We wish him better quickly. Refuah Shlema- here is his tribute to Jerusalem


With all our love from our home to yours, wherever you may be in this world. It is high time that we all think of solidarity, togetherness and forgiveness – just look what fighting has brought us.


Shabbat Shalom