The view from my veranda

Only Good News Today

2nd June 2023

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? When I ask how you are I really want to know so please let me know.

Today I decided that I’m not going to talk about what is in the media, certainly none of the gloom and doom on which they thrive, just about the wonderful aspect of living in Israel and our everyday life, which bears no resemblance to the picture presented by the sensationalist press.

So where should I start? The lords and ladies were not a’dancing but the largest ever official delegation from the British House of Lords visited Israel on a four-day fact finding mission, in a reflection of increasingly close relations between Jerusalem and London. The cross-party group of 20 Peers, including former Conservative Party Leader Michael Howard and longtime Labour lawmaker David Watts, arrived in Israel on Sunday. Since I have inside information through my childhood friend Lord Stone of Blackheath, aka Andrew, they also visited the PA and Gaza to get the full picture. Talking of Andrew, my brother Ronnie found a load of photos and books including a photo of Andrew, aged about 18, at a party in our playroom in Cardiff, site of many a party.

I love Yosef Haddad. Here in a very short video he takes on someone who claims that to be an Israeli Arab is an oxymoron

Paraguay is joining the increasing number of countries moving their Embassies back to Jerusalem. In fact there is one, the first, European country, Hungary, that has expressed the intention to move the Embassy back to Jerusalem in the very near future. The winds of change are turning in our direction, of course to the chagrin of many!

Talking of winds, last evening gale force winds appeared out of nowhere! Try to imagine a searing hot day, unseasonably so at 37 degrees centigrade, when suddenly the little trees on our veranda began to bend and furniture slid across the tiles. Don’t worry, I managed to save everything, ensuring that the stakes supporting the trees were firmly in the earth! The first thing I did of course was to call the neighbours on the top floor to check that they hadn’t been blown away – they are fine, feet firmly on the ground.  We had been on a quick visit to some neighbours, the Zroya family who when we asked, on the neighborhood WhatsApp if anyone knows a good lighting advisor immediately invited us to visit. Their apartment is absolutely gorgeous, their company even better their little spaniel called Toy is as friendly as Orna and Shalom and after a few hours (yes really) of chatting, we started to walk the 100 metres back home when we met two other neighbours who were busy watering trees and planting geraniums in the large planters outside our homes. Of course, we took note and next morning went out to buy geraniums for the planter outside our building! I want you to understand the real sense of what it means to live here in Israel. We know our neighbours, we care about each other, if one is sick we all pull together to help.

We have entered the Jacaranda season, their bright purple flowers forming a glorious canopy above the buildings and all important shade. Israelis love the countryside and every weekend they determinedly find new untouched nature walks and “nahalim” streams to wade through, hills to climb, picnic spots with tables to lay out the spread brought with them in cold boxes. The countryside here is spectacular in its variety, this country is like a tiny ecological world of its own, within a couple of hundred kilometres one has the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon, the bird sanctuary of the Hula Valley, the forests planted by KKL around Jerusalem, stalactite caves, the ever increasing areas of wineries and the cornucopia of the Salad Trail – each filled with the sound of happy children!

Shavuot at Meme and Liora Blums home was fabulous. They are such warm and hospitable people and it was lovely to see many old friends in their garden. Isn’t it strange how we lost touch with people we really care for during Covid and it is so wonderful to renew those friendships. Do you know the joke about Israelis? “What does a Frenchman bring for dinner? Wine. What does a Brit bring for dinner? Flowers. What does an Israeli bring for dinner? A friend!” So of course (we checked first) we took our lovely friends visiting from the US and Mexico Raquel Birman and David Finkelstein, along to the Blums and they were staggered! The incredible friendliness of Israelis, the way that our friends came to introduce themselves and talk to them was so unfamiliar to anyone who comes from elsewhere. Friday night dinner here with Deidre and Keith Beville from Melbourne Australia, Ora and Avner Rosengarten and Irit and Yitzik Lev. The conversation flowed easily, they all loved the menu and everyone was fascinated by Avner’s work as a forensic pathologist. After Shabbat we collected Deidre and Keith and went to the First Station for supper. The First Station itself is so much more than a tourist magnet with restaurants and craft stands, its history is deep, like almost everything in Jerusalem! The train line from Jaffa was opened in September 1826 and became a highly popular form of transport but as Jerusalem grew it became obvious that the Station was in the wrong place and it was moved to the entrance of Jerusalem. What on earth to do with the beautiful buildings? Bring in restaurants and music for the people of Jerusalem! What to do with the train tracks? Form a wonderful boardwalk/ cycle track all the way from the German Colony to the Biblical Zoo, about 8 kilometres. As we meandered back to the car I suddenly saw two familiar faces! Alan and Shoshi Wallis. Alan is a truly wonderful physiotherapist who introduced cranio-sacral balancing to Israel.

Robbie Williams is back in Israel. An outspoken fan of this country, Robbie went for a walk in Tel Aviv a couple of days ago and found a young busker, sitting on a wall singing his famous song “Angel”. Without a second thought he sat on the wall and joined in. I’m not sure the busker understood that this was the real Robbie Williams and continued playing, with great sang froid! See for yourselves  Incidentally when asked what his favourite Israeli food is his instant response was………. Hummus!

I often speak about the good neighborliness of living in Israel and last Tuesday it again came to fruition as two of my neighbours, Naomi and Yael, took me along to a movement class in our local community centre. It was amazing. We were encouraged to do what we were capable of, which meant that some of the women were contortionists and some of us just danced. The movements encouraged us to open up and the game with soft footballs helped us to remember the names of each and every one of those present. Since our road is tortuously steep Zvi came to collect me for the very short walk home but I felt so happy, verging on the self-satisfied, that I had joined a movement class when 6 months ago………. But I said that this week is only good news!!

The Jerusalem Gay Parade went off without any untoward events yesterday and ended in a huge party in Independence Park, created for the 200th anniversary of the USA. It was attended by a huge variety of Israelis including a few special politicians.

So tell me, how did you like the good news newsletter? Nothing about Iran, the Palestinians, danger, politics, just our ordinary every day life in Israel. Of course we were very busy with our various Board meetings and Zvi’s singing but that’s all good news too! I would love to know what you think, love to hear your opinions and whether the picture I have painted resembles your foregone conclusions about this fascinating country. I’m not claiming that all is rosy but then nowhere is. We are an argumentative people but that is infinitely better than being complacent. We know who our enemies are and are ready whereas most countries around the world are wearing blinkers and remain unprepared.

It is now 10:00 and the temperature is already 33 degrees Celsius and climbing, clearly a day to stay indoors! This evening we will have Shabbat Dinner with Zvi’s lovely cousins Rachel and Yossi Ribak who I absolutely adore and then tomorrow we have brunch with Nurit and Danny BarAm, visiting with Rina and Chilik HalOr then home to collapse and relax in preparation for another crazy week!

Yesterday I managed to get to Rachel’s and see the two girls, Ayala and Talia. Half of our grandchildren are in the middle of their preparation for or actual Baccalaureate and are working hard, but always have time to give Safta a hug! Rachel and I then went to the little shopping centre at the entrance to Givat Zeev. The very best Sushi and stir-frys in the entire area is right next to the huge plant nursery owned by two Palestinian brothers where we chose our geraniums and a couple of herbs. If only the journalists of the NYT and Guardian would go to there and be find that we CAN all live together in harmony.

Today is our daughter-in-law Noga’s birthday and the family, Amiad and the gorgeous Ella and Yonatan have a planned a day full of celebrations! Happy birthday Noga!

And so to music. Of course I must begin with Robbie Williams Angel. He isn’t swayed by the BDS, knows that Roger Waters is insane and comes happily to Israel to eat Hummus.

I know that you love Koolulam but did you know that Koolulam is a social-musical initiative aimed at strengthening the fabric of society. The project centers around mass singing events in which large groups of non-professionals come together to form a collaborative musical creation. Koolulam brings together people from all walks of life to do one thing: stop everything for a few hours and just sing – together. I’m sorry that there is no translation but I know that you will enjoy it anyway.

Shabbat, after all this missive is entitles Shabbat Shalom from Sheila. There are a myriad of beautiful Shabbat songs, Shabbat prayers, Shabbat blessings, so many that is it difficult to choose. This week however, I thought we should continue the good news, the thankfulness for what we have during the week and on Shabbat. Each day as we wake, we make a special prayer thanking the Almighty for returning our soul, our very being when we awaken. Modeh Ani, a prayer I used to say with my Mummy when I was a child, just one of the beautiful memories of my magical childhood. Modeh Ani, I give thanks.

So dear friends, I hope I have eased your concerns, made you smile and prepared you for the weekend.

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom as I go out onto our veranda to look over the view of Jerusalem in the distance, Jerusalem of Gold, and the wonderful colours of the flowers on our veranda.

With love