The view from my veranda

Lockdown and Atonement


11th of September 2020


Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well and ready to celebrate Shabbat and a good weekend – albeit without family gatherings but that will return.


Yes, we are headed for another lockdown over the High Holy Days. Starting next Friday we have stringent rules to ensure that our hospitals don’t collapse under the wave of Covid infections. I’m tired of those who believe that masks and distancing are unnecessary; who babble on about dictatorship over the freedom of people to infect whomsoever they wish (people who have no idea what it means to live under a dictatorship); those who insist it is a problem of “the religious”, the usual name for anyone who believes and finally the refusal of most governments to enforce the rules of engagement in this war on an enemy far more deadly than Iran.


Professor Ronni Gamzu has been against lockdown until now but seeing no option over the holidays he has presented the Covid Committee with as open a solution as possible. Of course it will not eradicate the disease from our land, but maybe it will prevent hundreds, or thousands of new cases which will swamp the hospitals which are in a state of near collapse because the government did not prepare for or infuse sufficient funds to sustain the influx of patients. If nothing else is learned from this pandemic it is which leaders are actually leaders and those who just want to keep their seats.


Zvi has an expression for the two major groups who ignore the Covid rules – “Those who believe in G-d and those who have no god” The maskless parties, full restaurants and bars, beaches and promenades, huge Hassidic weddings, the Arab weddings and celebrity weddings; street parties without any limitations and all of the above have caused people like us to fear every visit to a doctor, supermarket or even walk in the street. They, both sides of the religious divide, are the reason the system is collapsing and equally the reason that because they used their political clout to control the PM we are now in a situation which threatens the economy and our health. Interestingly enough despite fears, the demonstrations against the PM have not produced Covid positive people, probably because they tended to be very law abiding and mask wearing – trouble is they did not produce positive political results either.


Diplomatically things couldn’t be better! The Emirates, Kosovo, possible other diplomatic links all of which are claimed by leaders while in fact they are the result of many years of hard work by the underpaid members of the Foreign Service! At the risk of infuriating several of you, Mr Trump’s strange personality and pushiness is quite probably what has brought all these agreements to fruition. Apparently the old expression “Nice people don’t win ball games” is true! To sweeten the agreement Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow El Al and other Israeli airlines to fly over Saudi air space and much to the chagrin of the Palestinian Authority, the Arab League refused to condemn the UAE/Israel agreement


Saudi Arabia, hardly Israel’s best friend, is waking up to the Palestinian refusal to all solutions that do not include continued lackof civic responsibility. Funnily enough John Kerry blames Israel’s right whereas the Saudis blame the Palestinian leadership


Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt was chosen for his position by Netanyahu because of his reputation as a learned, fair and honest broker in all things legal and after his long career in the Israel Defense Forces legal system, eventually serving as the Chief Military Advocate General. It fell to Mandelblitt to oversee most of the case against the Prime Minister who has consistently questioned the reliability of the police and judicial system claiming political sabotage as the reason for his indictment. His attitude toward the police and legal system have torn this country apart and delegitimised both in the eyes of the ordinary man on the street. Mandelblitt sees Netanyahu’s inability to juggle his positions as prime minister and criminal suspect as “essential incapacitation,” so similar to the words used by Netanyahu when he challenged Ehud Olmert. Olmert, however, had the moral intelligence to resign.




This has been a strange week personally. My family, spread all over the world, had to find a way to cope with our first major milestone since my son Daniel’s tragic death. Monday was his birthday and each of us found a way to celebrate his life but accommodate our overwhelming sadness. Rachel and I went to the beach to watch the waves break on the shore, Gideon and Philip chose pensive quietude, and the New Yorkers went to Daniel’s grave to allow the children to share their chocolate treats with Daddy. Each in their own way, we separated ourselves from politics and disease and thought only of a wonderful man who changed our lives and taught us so very much.


My incredible grand-daughter Talia, aged 14, sat me down and gave me a talk about allowing them to see when I am unhappy or sad. “We love you Safta and you are allowed to take down your smile. We aren’t babies any more and we can see when your heart is breaking even though you won’t let us in. Let us in” Wow. I promise Talia, I promise to stop telling you I am fine if I’m not.


Yesterday was a typical Israeli day. Our air conditioning has been “on the blink” for some time but since we will be moving within the next few months we really didn’t want to buy a new one. We “managed”. However the 40+ degree temperatures in Jerusalem were not conducive to patient suffering and after the 2nd bucketful of excess water we decided that the situation could not continue and at the recommendation of a friend, Zvi called Mohammed, an air conditioning specialist. In the meantime I went across the road to our local minimarket to buy a few essentials, came home to put them into the fridge-freezer to find a lot of very soft ice lollies – yes, the fridge was also “on the blink”!! After racing with some still frozen fish and meat to the big freezer I called Yoel who promised to come immediately.


So, here I was water leaking everywhere – from A/C and fridge – Yoel working to save our old fridge, Rachel called me to check on her harassed mother and when I said “I’m waiting for Mohammed” we giggled but then Mohammed arrived together with Zvi and he was not only a delight but incredibly efficient and solved the problem! As we sat together drinking lukewarm water on the veranda we discovered that the chances are he played with Zvi’s boys when they were children – Mohammed in Jabber Mukaber and Amiad and Leor in Armon Hanatsiv. In the days before the 2nd Intifada the children used to share a playground and played together happily. These situations are why I love the work of Impact-se and our determined effort to end hate teaching in schools and introduce respect and tolerance to the curriculum. We were surprised and delighted to find that the UAE has already made huge changes in their curriculum, introducing tolerance of the “other” and awareness of the rights of women. The report will be ready soon.


What is Rosh Hashana? It isn’t the first day of the new year although the traditional blessing is “Shana Tov v’metuka” a good and sweet year – Rosh Hashanah actually means “Head of the Year.” As the head controls the body, our actions on Rosh Hashanah have a tremendous impact on the rest of the year. What we choose to do and how we choose to act define what the next year will be. To most of us, blowing the shofar or ram’s horn, defines Rosh Hashana. The shofar blowing contains a series of three types of blasts: tekiah, a long sob-like blast; shevarim, a series of three short wails; and teruah, at least nine piercing staccato bursts. The blowing of the shofar represents the trumpet blast that is sounded at a king’s coronation. Its plaintive cry also serves as a call to repentance. The shofar itself recalls the Binding of Isaac, which was on Rosh Hashanah when Isaac used a ram as an offering when God decided he had proven his love and relieved him of the horror of killing his beloved son. This year will be very different. No gathering, no big family meals but nobody says that we have to congregate to pray…..I have a feeling that God listens to the man, woman and child quietly reading prayers at home.


Today I will make the trip to Givat Zeev to collect my Challot and Covid hugs from the Barashi family. The children (not really children any more) have found a way to hug Zvi and I without endangering us in any way. They bow their heads down so that they do not breathe on us and then hug us……….I love it!! So I’ll go to visit them and hear about their day and then come home and prepare Shabbat dinner for Amiad, Noga, Ella and Yonatan. They are still fine to come and sit on our verandah whereas Leor’s family cannot since poor Amit is in isolation after a friend was diagnosed positive. Zvi suddenly realised that if they don’t come we will not see them for a month and we are thrilled they can. I must borrow the “kaplot” special building blocks from Yosef, Talia and Ayala!!


The music for your delectation this week is very special for various reasons


Avinu Malkeinu – Our Father Our King – is sung on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and is a prayer and invocation for blessings and repentance. Here sung by Shulem Lemmer with translation


We are prone to moaning, all of us, even those who are determined ot make the best of what fate has thrown at us. It takes a Louis Armstrong to remind us. Growing up in “The Battlefiled” of New Orleans Young Louis spent much of his boyhood in the care of his grandmother, but he also found a second home among the Karnofskys, a local Lithuanian-Jewish family who hired him to do odd jobs. He later wrote that the Karnofskys treated him as though he were their own child, often giving him food and even loaning him money to buy his first instrument, a $5 cornet. As a sign of gratitude Louis Armstrong wore a Star of David around his neck.


Finally, Hakol Yachassi, the choir that Zvi formed and ran for 10 years or more, decided that since they could not meet an dsing together they would make a video, each in his own home, the result is wonderful. “22 letters of the aleph bet”


That’s it! Time to get ready for Shabbat.

Don’t forget that there may be someone in your building or road who has nobody, who will not have a special Rosh Hashana meal, perhaps just needs a phone call to check on them. In fact it is irrelevant what religion or which festival – remember to check on those who have no one else.


With all our love from searingly hot Jerusalem. So beautiful, so precious…….

Shabbat Shalom dear friends