The view from my veranda

Letter from Jerusalem – Rabbi Leonid, Syria, Korea, Margaret Thatcher, Canon Andrew White

11th April, 2013
Shabbat Shalom dear Friends.
What a frightening week with threats of nuclear proportions (literally) from North Korea. The question that must be on our leaders lips and minds is whether this is a ruse to draw attention away from Iran to allow them to continue their research or if it is a genuine threat to the safety of the West, and the USA in particular.
The new Minister of Finance, Yair Lapid, has discovered that his popularity may be compromised by the truth of his new position. He intends raising taxes at the highest bracket, putting higher purchase taxes on luxury items and simultaneously lowering child benefits. It may seem that the sole recipients of this last decision is the Haredim, but not true, there are Bedouins in the Negev who have up to 60 children, yes, that wasn’t a typo, I said sixty children. They receive many thousands of shekels weekly for their polygamous families. I believe in a socially conscious society, grew up in one and know how important it is, but there is a point where the productive minority pays for the unproductive majority and then is becomes unfair. It means that the elderly and the sick who worked their whole lives do not get their share.
I was horrified to read that historic revisionism is alive and well in the USA. In the book FDR and the Jews, Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman write that there is no evidence supporting the accounts that the US Coast Guard turned the ship The St Louis back from Florida’s coast. Survivors, who were on board and witnessed the truth are fighting this new version with all their might. Please read and ensure the book is a flop.
The Syrian massacres took on an even more sinister turn with women and girls as young as 14 being taken or forcibly volunteered into temporary marriages to “heroes” to strengthen their fighting spirit. The incidence of wife beating and the rape of young women within Syria has become endemic too.
Salaam Fayyad is the Palestinian Prime Minister. His determination to introduce a solid physical and administrative infrastructure to the ill-run Authority has never been popular and the fact that he chose to work with Israeli experts on numerous projects was both his success and his failure on the popularity scales. Now tired of fighting against the rest of the Authority he had tendered his resignation – but it is not yet clear as to whether or not Mahmoud Abbas will accept his resignation.
Adam Taganya is a Jew, an Israeli from Ethiopia and he suffers terribly from the violence in his neighborhood from the Eritrean and Sudanese work-seekers. Adam’s problem is that he and other Ethiopian Israelis receive the sharp end of the stick from both sides. Attacked by the work-seekers for their hard-earned money and belongings and attacked by other Israelis who don’t understand that they are Israeli. High time the government and Tel Aviv municipality solve this dreadful dilemma.
As we get closer and closer to Yom Haatzma’ut I realise that the reasons to be proud of this tiny country are endless. Read the story of the new head of Emergency Medicine at Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem. His name is Dr Aziz Darawashe, born in the village of Iksal to an illiterate mother and a farmer father. As long as Aziz can remember his father told him he would be a doctor. He is the eldest of 11 children among whom there are doctors, a dentist, an engineer and five sisters who attended university. This is the land of opportunity for everyone, irrespective of creed or social position.
This week I sent you a wonderful video of a Palm Beach Rabbi and his Bar-Mitzva speech. I sent it because I felt the deep love of Judaism and pride in his words. Little did I know that it would bring back many memories for someone very close to us. Dr Rivka Bertisch Meir wrote back to me in amazement. “I was at Ulpan Etzion with Rabbi Leonid Feldman! I remember his arrival, head shaven from his imprisonment as a Refusenik, and for 6 months we lived next door to each other while learning Hebrew. Later we renewed our friendship in Argentina and then we went to see him in his Temple in West palm Beach and he told the entire community about our friendship. Now you send me this without knowing about our connection”!! How small the world and as Rivka herself told me “There are no coincidences in this world”
A number of years ago Zvi and I had the honour of meeting someone who the world labelled “The Iron lady”. Always a friend of Israel, Margaret Thatcher came on a week long tour of with Aish haTorah. As the “Foreign Minister” of Jerusalem, Zvi accompanied many groups and I accompanied him, of all the impressive visitors, Baroness Thatcher impressed us more than any with her warmth, concern for others, grace, wit and brilliance. She may not have been loved but she took Britain from the economic and political doldrums by taking on the unions, brought back British pride over the citizens of the far off Falklands, admittedly in a short but violent war, and solved the “troubles” in Northern Ireland. I find the celebrations and street parties at her demise so disgusting that it makes me furious. I thought that giving sweets to children over deaths was the action of terrorist states not democracies. May her soul rest in peace and her memory be blessed.
Talking of Britain – Kol ha Kavod to the British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould. Ambassador Gould encouraged a new medical co-operation programme giving 30 fellowships for Israeli researchers to study at British medial research facilities in an exchange programme. Excellent.
Two of my favourite people are here in Jerusalem at the moment. Both are called Andrew but they are very very different in appearance and personality, yet so similar in their determination to work for Tikkun Olam, starting with this corner of the Middle East. One is a devout Christian who studied in Yeshiva, the other a Jewish Buddhist but they both have a refreshing belief that the world can be a better place and they must do their part to ensure it is. I love them both and thrill to the truth that their successes are due to the “power of one”! More power to you both! One Andrew is happy to be identified and I will meet with him tomorrow for afternoon tea – in time to get home for Shabbat. Canon Andrew White, The Vicar of Baghdad has beaten the odds on every level of life and he inspires me. I made a shidduch this week between Andrew and the excellent David Horovitz of the Times of Israel – this is the result. The other Andrew remains my secret – and his.
Andrew 2 sent me this wonderful video which celebrates Israel’s achievements in Tikkun Olam Since 1948, Israel has set itself a task of finding creative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. To celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday, ISRAEL21c looks at some of the best achievements.
So last evening we took cousin Ruth and Billy out for supper for Ruth’s birthday. We sat overlooking the Old City walls, enjoying wonderful food and excellent service and then we took them to the Kotel for one last time before their flight out and an interesting ride from our house by the wonderful “Nesher” sherut – famous since the founding of the state – although today Nesher has advanced from a rickety stretched Peugeot to a modern air-conditioned minibus!!! The service is amazing, picks you up at home and drops you at the right terminal – and it works in reverse too!!!!
This week I finally had time to relax and potter in my “garden” on the veranda… when it wasn’t either raining or in the middle of a sand storm!!! The bright crimson flowers of the Pomegranate tree are bursting forth through the soft new leaves and the white fragrant orange blossom drops to reveal tiny, minute oranges waiting to decide which will fall and which will produce exceptionally juicy fruits. The green spears of new leaves appear on the lemon tree as it wakes from winter hibernation and the herbs are announcing their presence each evening with their aromatic message leaving the air redolent with Lemon grass, melissa (lemon balm), louisa, marva (sage), thyme, lavender, rosemary, mint, peppermint, basil and the hadass (box or myrtle). Our 40 metre sq veranda is really giving us value for effort!!! I think that Zvi is waiting for me to announce that I intend growing grape vines and opening the Raviv Winery!!!! The truth is, however, that the most beautiful flowers on our veranda right now are the Israeli flags and bunting dancing in the sunshine in preparation for Israel’s
Yom Ha’Atzma’ut – Independence Day when the Yellow stars of Holocaust Day give way to the bright blue stars of the Israeli Flag.
I leave you with Lt Col Shai Abrahamson, the Chief Cantor of the IDF singing the Prayer for the Peace of Israel. The words are in Hebrew, transliteration and in English – the yearning in his voice needs no translation.
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.