The view from my veranda

Pageantry, Prime Minister and Prince Charles (King Charles III)

23rd September 2022

27 Ellul 5782

Shabbat Shalom! Gosh, it’s nearly 5783, yes that’s right five thousand, seven hundred and eighty three! That’s 3,761 years more than the Gregorian Calendar. I find that fascinating and even proud that the Hebrew calendar predates the Gregorian by so many years!

Before I sit down to write to you I always check the morning papers, just in case I missed something interesting in my reminder notes. In general it’s the same old same old, all the usual opinions that one expects from both right and left, but funnily enough I did find something very interesting today, something hinted at yesterday. Prime Minister met with British Prime Minister Liz Truss, a declared pro-Israel leader, and the discussion led to the idea, and it’s still just an idea, of moving the British Embassy to Jerusalem. It has to pass the very Arabist Foreign Ministry, but if a parliamentary vote is taken and the idea becomes law, even they won’t be able to stop it. In the UK there are no “Presidential” decisions, everything is by democratic vote in both Houses, but it is the first time the subject has been raised in serious discussion. As I mentioned, both Conservative Candidates for the position of PM were very pro-Israel – Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak – were very pro-Israel. Let’s see if this PM will succeed in their pro-Israel stance where former PMs did not.

Since we are talking about Britain and Houses of Parliament I thought it a good time to tell you about our lovely friend  Lord Stone of Blackheath. Andrew has known me since before I was born, literally. In his quiet way Andrew has been involved in more “charity” (I hate the word) committees and works than one can count on both hands and feet, many of which the then Prince Charles was also part of. Much to Zvi’s delight Andrew regaled us with delightful Prince Charles stories which deny every single one of the media stories which maligned him without cause. He is not only innovative in his problem-solving, he has a great sense of fun and humour and loves to invite and entertain those he works with into both his and “Mummy’s” homes. In fact, the opposite of everything we have been told and certainly the opposite of the way he was portrayed in the Crown. Finally, at least one Israeli heard the truth!! I believe that King Charles III will be a fine leader and his affinity to the Jewish community will benefit everyone.

I couldn’t write to you without mentioning the funeral. We watched it from afar but were fixated. It was a phenomenal send-off for an exceptional and adored Monarch. The outpourings of love by the people, the elegance, dignity and sheer perfection of the pageantry, the deep respect, and most of all the deep sadness of her family. No country does pageantry better than the Brits. Perhaps one of the most memorable things was the way the Windsor Castle gardeners had collected flowers left at the gates and arranged them as if flowers beds at the side of the route of the procession.

I know I’m supposed to get you up to date with Israeli affairs not British Royalty!

So, let’s begin with something I didn’t necessarily expect but am very proud to describe. As you know, the last few appearances of an Israeli Prime Minister in the UN were dramatic and angry and yesterday before Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke before the General Assembly of the United Nations at the annual opening of the sessions, we, the Israelis were in a state of nervous expectation.  The order of speakers in that august, if impotent, organisation is – First Presidents, then Prime Ministers and when his turn came the PM walked confidently to the podium and began the speech of his life. He was brilliant, quiet, understated but firm and his introduction- preamble – introduced us to his love of country, of his family’s Shoah history and quietly brought the discourse to the crux of the problem and the possible solutions. He promoted the idea of a two state solution but with one essential caveat, one proviso of specific stipulations upon which such an agreement depends. That first and foremost a peace agreement be signed and honoured. I happen to believe that whatever one’s position on the political compass, a two state solution is the only answer because a one state solution would mean the death of the Jewish State. Here is his speech, I would love to hear what you think

Among the meetings of PM Lapid  in New York this week was one with King Abdullah of Jordan. The two countries have so much in common, including the problem of the Palestinians who sadly hate the King. The Hashemites are considered interlopers because they were brought from Saudi Arabia by the British Prime Minster at the time, Sir Winston Churchill, to rule over Jordan when the prior two state solution was put in place (incidentally the Hashemites are direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed). Israel plays a major part in protecting Jordanian Royalty and when we went to the palace (Zvi and I) we flew in by helicopter and discovered that the palace is in the middle of an army camp. If you want to know more about that   Back to the subject! They spoke mainly about the current problems on the Temple Mount because in 1967 Jordan was given the overall control of the area. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that one!

Another meeting, perhaps the most hopeful of all the discussions, was with Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan. They spoke of the possibility of renewing the Israeli Embassy and Consul Generals in Turkey. PM Lapid also thanked President Erdogan for his security information and cooperation during the Iranian threats to Israeli tourists in Turkey.

The Abraham Accords has borne exceptional agreements and friendships, perhaps one of the less expected but delightful results is this. Rabbi Levi Duchman, Rabbi to the UAE, and Lea Hadad celebrated their wedding in the country’s capital city, Abu Dhabi, on Wednesday surrounded by 1,500 guests from around the world. Guests included Emirati royals, prominent rabbis, dignitaries, and much of the country’s burgeoning Jewish community. The wedding is a landmark event marking a new era for Jewish life in the Arab World.

I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention the increasing violence both within and without the Israeli Arab towns and environs; I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention the increase in one-man terror attacks; I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention the vast increase of incitement to hatred within Mosques and on the street. However, it would also be remiss of me if I did not give credit where credit is due to President Abbas who has demanded that his police be alert to any possible attacks and prevent them and they work in close cooperation with our defence forces and police. As with all politicians he does not do it out of kindness or loyalty, he does it because he recognises that Israel is his only guarantee to continued rule.

We often speak about the disinformation of the Palestinian media machine and their supporters but this week came the biggest lie that even Goering wouldn’t have attempted! As you know I’m Chairman of the Board of a tiny but incredibly effective educational research institute by the name of Impact-se . Well, meetings of our CEO Marcus and Assistant CEO Arik to Washington this week were very effective, which resulted in the most ridiculous claims I have ever read. Our tiny, shared office space has either four or five brilliant young researchers and the two mentioned above plus one outside professor of Middle Eastern Studies – that’s it. Well the most recent utterly insane “report” in a pro-Palestinian publication claimed that we have 20 branches worldwide and over 400 full time employees! Now do you realise that you must never believe the written word – unless of course it’s mine! On the other hand, it proves that Impact-se is highly effective and they are more than a little scared of our influence.

This week we were meant to be in Florida for a Bar Mitzva but unfortunately we couldn’t go because I have to undergo surgery which precludes all travel. However, it doesn’t stop us from wishing those involved, the Lindenfeld and Naim families, a truly magnificent Shabbat of celebrations, I am certain that the Bar Mitzva boy, Jonathan, did a phenomenal job and since it was on a Thursday I hope you recorded it so that we can watch. To all of you I send love.

One day this week we went for a delightful breakfast in the Ella coffee shop, right opposite the Botanical Gardens. As you know Zvi sings, in fact he has just been accepted to the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra’s Choir, and among his singing activities he, together with three others, formed an ensemble which sings in Homes for the Aged, Holocaust Survivors groups etc. They sing songs in Hebrew, English, Yiddish, Ladino and Spanish according to the audience. Anyway, I’m the non-vocal adopted member of the team and we met to celebrate their musical director’s successful surgery and the beautiful evening organised predominantly by Zvi and Ehud Tirosh to honour our late friend Frida, and were joined by her widower Sami. We sat chatting for a while and then it happened! The most Israeli thing that could happen.

As we sat talking a young woman on the next table came and hugged Zvi’s musical director, the lovely Ronit Banit, and so the Israeli situation began. The young woman’s mother was Ronit’s kindergarten teacher! Then Zvi recognised the father, who is a member of the most famous Jerusalem, theatrical family – the Bana’i family. The grandparents emigrated from Iraq, came to Jerusalem and raised their burgeoning family in the environs of Mahane Yehuda Market. The gentleman sitting with us, Eli Bana’i, had travelled the world with “Hagashash Hahiver” and other family members as their stage manager, and then yet another coincidence. He said to Zvi that he looked familiar, what is his name? That’s when we discovered that Eli Bana’i had been a student of Kalman Raviv z”l, Zvi’s fabulous father, in the Tachkimoni primary school near the Shouk!! Of course, by that time our tables were joined, the conversation flowed and we were all family already! There is an expression, “Only in Israel” and it is true – it happens every day but rarely to such an extent!

Tonight we are going to have Shabbat dinner with our lovely friends Nattie and Yolli Zonzsein and tomorrow will just relax. Unfortunately, I am banned from driving until my surgery so I cannot get to Rachel today, but she promised she will come to me, hopefully with the children, after Shabbat tomorrow.   

Let music be the food of love and let us feed our hearts with harmony

This has been a hard year on many levels, especially before our elections. Discourse is harsh and getting harsher, less tolerant but, and I know it is a big but, perhaps next year will be better, more hopeful and kinder. Ehud Manor wrote the melody and Nurit Hirsch the lyrics for this beautiful hopeful song. Shiri Maimon sings it so gently that we can believe that next year really will be beautiful

Going back to Eli Bana’i, HaGashash HaHiver and politicians, all together before our upcoming elections, here’s that wonderful group with the song Ovdim Aleinu – the closest translation I could think of is “They are pulling wool over our eyes”!

This is time of atonement, of Selichot, apologies, when we regret our past actions, pray for forgiveness and promise to change, to improve as human beings. It is the run up toward Yom Kippur and there is one specific prayer which all Jews are expected to say during this period. Adon haSelichot – Lord of Forgiveness

I’ve been trying to think of what to wish you all for the coming year, 5783

I would start with tolerance, a huge helping of love, a kinder world, learning before judging, a great big dollop of joy and the ability to recognise just how lucky we are because no matter what hurts, there is always someone worse off.

So………. This Rosh Hashana I wish you all of the above and more.

Above all I pray that Jerusalem, as our PM said in his speech, will be filled with visitors of all faiths, that each and every one of those visitors will learn what a beautiful, fabulous city Jerusalem is, with its incredible rainbow of faiths, creeds, peoples and beliefs. In fact, I pray that you will all come to visit Israel and discover her beauty, delicious cornucopia of foods and above all the incredible friendliness of our peoples – of all faiths. I know that many Christians will come to celebrate Tabernacles and fill the streets with joy.

Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova, a Gut Yor, a fine year.

With love