The view from my veranda

Pain, Politics and wonderful visitors

25th November, 2022

Shabbat Shalom! I hope that all my American friends had many things to be Thankful for yesterday. Even if in many ways Thanksgiving has lost its original meaning, the idea of giving thanks for what we have when on the other 364 days of the year we tend to complain, is, or can be, life changing.

Sadly yesterday, and the day before were not good days in Israel although many of us gave thanks that we, and our families, are alive. I didn’t need to be told that there had been terror attacks, the number of ambulance and police sirens rushing past on Road Number One told me that something ghastly had happened. It may not have reached your news media, but two explosive devices were placed, very strategically, at bus stops on the outskirts of Jerusalem. One at the major intersection of Ramot where miraculously no-one was killed although it is usually packed at 07:15, a bus had just passed through and picked up all the waiting passengers so the bus stop was empty; at the other bus stop and hitchhiking site, right near the Calatrava Bridge on road number one, a 16 year old Canadian Yeshiva student lost his life and another 18 people were hurt. Both bombs were well thought out, caused total chaos since both main entrances to Jerusalem were closed, cars sitting, unable to proceed for hours, this was not a moment of anger but the work of professional criminals taught to hate over the last 74 years and  before.  The anger, the sheer unadulterated hatred has been carefully nurtured by terror organisations, terror organisations accepted and paid for by the governments of your countries.

Two days ago, a 19 year old Druze decided to repair his car in Jenin, believing that since his native tongue is Arabic he would be safe. He had an accident, was taken to hospital and then it happened – members oof the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, took him, pulling all the infusions out of his arm, killed him and kidnapped his body. His family told the Israeli government that they did not want his body to be exchanged for anyone, they refused to risk the lives of soldiers of the IDF. Our diplomats used every diplomatic tool at their disposal but since the family is not an official body, they succeeded in contacting the powers that be in Syria and Lebanon and incredibly, the Tanzim, the “army” of the PA, sat with the kidnappers for 6 hours to convince them to return the body. I am sure that the Druze community were able to use threats that an official body cannot which facilitated the return of Tiran Ferro’s body for burial.

As you probably know, we don’t have a government yet, possibly Benjamin Netanyahu will not  succeed in forming a  government, because of the partners he chose to enter the fray. When entering a battle one takes only trustworthy, loyal allies otherwise they undermine every move and can lead to defeat.

That is the story of Benjamin Netanyahu and the recent elections. Ben Gvir, having gained seats has suddenly calmed down, his pre-election histrionics having served their purpose but Smotrich is an idealist, adamant and unmoving in his demands, demands that cannot be met by any leader of a democratic country. The coalition negotiations are at an impasse because Smotrich wants Ministerial positions that would change the status quo of Israel’s Jewish religious life and the status of non-Jews in Israel – in other words to change the face of Israel’s multi-faceted society. As power hungry as Netanyahu may be he is, after all, a pragmatic leader who cannot counter extremism if he wants to be taken seriously in the wider world.

The damage done by the election success of both Smotrich and Ben Gvir has damaged our relationship with even our most loyal allies. The perception is that we have become a less tolerant society, less democratic which is not true on one level, because democratic elections reflect the leanings of the people, but true on another – Israelis always lean to the right when there are attacks, and immediately prior to the elections there were several lone attacks. Outside Israel, in countries where stabbings and shootings are commonplace, the Israeli electorate’s swing to the right has brought condemnation, a lack of understanding that really disturbs me. I have never been on the right of the political map, was deeply concerned by the election results, but would never consider withdrawing my loyalties, I would never be that fickle.

I am however, horrified by the level of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda found today in the USA, particularly in the universities. Today it is predominantly verbal but already changing to physical. A dear friend who had a very high position in New York’s academic world, came home one day and said “That’s it, I cannot stay here for one more day. We are packing up and going to Israel” They did, their life did a 180 and they are happier than ever! The secret is not only to see the writing on the wall but to understand what is written. I am not suggesting that the entire diaspora move to Israel, that would be ridiculous, but I never want to see the situation where life becomes so untenable that everyone wants to go elsewhere.

Talking of going elsewhere, our dear friend Valeri Silver thought he would enjoy his retirement but today he is busier than ever! Valeri spends a great deal of his time at Ben Gurion Airport, meeting Ukrainians and Russians who want to either make Aliya (become citizens according to the law of return) or request asylum. The amount of paperwork to check eligibility for either situation is lengthy, much less than other countries but those who fled the war in Ukraine or the ever-increasing anti-Semitism in Russia, need a friendly face to overcome language and bureaucracy. Valeri not only helps with the formalities but also explaining their rights to social security help and language lessons. The process takes place at the airport and then they are taken to hotels and hostels to begin the process of absorption into Israeli society, given all the help they need to continue. As you may remember, Valeri and his lovely wife Ira (Irene) came to Israel on Aliya just one year after I did. Zvi met them when on a Jewish Agency/ Keren Hayesod visit to Moscow in 1990 and when they arrived, they found a friend in Zvi, I loved them immediately and we became family. Their children, Tomer and Shelley, are loved as much as our own. After many years of assisting Aliya from communities in Russia, Valeri is now the first contact for those who come home.

Another community that made Aliya is the Ethiopian community, and they brought a beautiful festival with them, the festival of Sigd which takes place 50 days after Yom Kippur on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Heshvan. Sigd has become a national festival and tells the story of the longing for Jerusalem, for Israel, while in exile in Ethiopia.

Israeli research, especially medical research is known the world over. The most incredible of all recent results is a new non-invasive procedure for the removal of cancerous tumours, which has proven successful in animals. A new non-invasive technology using low-frequency nanobubble-enhanced ultrasound mechanotherapy has been developed in Tel Aviv University. Since I cannot begin to understand the complexities here is the link

Where we live is steeped in history. Motza, established in 1854, and Motza Illit have many wonderful historic sites and Zvi brought a group of VIPs to see it for real! The stump of a tree planted by Theodore Herzl and trees planted by all subsequent Israeli presidents; a beautiful building the architecture of which is based on the White House and was built in the 1920’s as a respite for members of the Histadrut union; the Seven Sisters Road so called because it has 7 hairpin bends, much to the surprise of visiting friends! We really want the Avenue and the area leading to the pillboxes to be beautiful, to give the area a well-earned renewal.

I am thrilled to say that our home is once again filled with visitors! Covid changed everything but this week was proof that life is returning to normal. Zvi had a wonderful week of speaking Spanish I admit to my chagrin because I am not good at languages) not only with his cousin Jack and Jack’s lovely lady friend Lina, but with David Efron, the Honorary Consul for Israel in Puerto Rico and a dear friend who popped in for a few hours and Zvi met with Isaak Guttin – all of whom wanted to visit to the Western Wall and the Old City with their special guide, Mr. Zvi Raviv. My special guest this week was Joy Wolfe, who always has wonderful stories to tell about the British Jewish Community.

I got to meet with Marcus Sheff CEO of Impact-se, who gave me a quick update of the incredible advances we have made in changing the schoolbooks of those who previously were taught to hate us. We told him that one friend, deeply worried by the changes in US attitude to Israel, asked if we would consider studying the schoolbooks in US schools, but since the US is a democratic country in which each state, indeed each school area, decides upon the content of its schoolbooks research is impossible. In dictatorships there is no such freedom so schoolbooks are decided from the top. I was very disturbed by the suggestion that there is a need for change though. Let’s face it, tolerance and understanding may be lacking in a child’s home but must be introduced in schools at a very young age.

The rain finally arrived last night and according to the weather forecasters, winter is actually here! I admit that I love the rain and it needs to be really cold for me to forego my breakfast on the veranda. In fact, two days ago Joy, David, Zvi and I sat outside on the veranda for our lunch! I love entertaining on the veranda, not only because the view is breathtaking, but that way there is no mess indoors! I get very excited when guests wax lyrical about the veranda, its size and the amazing array of flowers and fruits. Actually most are thrilled that the cuttings I steal wherever I go are taking root very nicely and beginning to spriggle! Of course, any visitors to our home also get a tour of the complex and the history thereof. My history lesson is of the emotional ties and the fact that Theodore Herzl, who was a very sick young man, came to visit Motza because it was said to have the purest air in the whole of Israel, whereas Zvi remembers exact dates and all the relevant personalities, giving everything a factual aspect.

I have to ask you a question. When you read your newspaper or listen to the reported news, do you accept what is written or do you understand that every word is one person’s opinion rather than factual? As the fight for advertisers becomes the sole purpose of most media outlets we get less and less truth. For instance, one Israeli news outlet reported that a Qatari football fan shunned an Israeli reporter, yet that self same reporter filmed a wonderful piece of meeting Iranian fans and when he said he was from Israel they hugged him! It is all about perspective. Perhaps journalists should read this weeks Torah reading about lying!

So, the evenings are closing in, Shabbat arrives really early and preparations are more hurried than in the lazy, hazy days of summer! The aromas remain though as each house prepares traditional food. Whether it is chicken soup with kneidlach or Kubeh soup; cholent or hamin; gefilte fish or “chraimeh” which should not be confused with “chrane” or horseradish and beetroot hot sauce which goes with gefilte fish, “chraimeh” means forbidden in Moroccan Arabic and is fish, either pieces or balls, in a spicy red sauce – yummy. Sorry I went off track again….. anyway, whatever your epicurean traditions, enjoy!

That’s all Folks! And so to music

 The first song is called “Someone is here with me” from Kuloolam. Never feel alone, always be strong and be the best person you can be

On November the 29th, 1947 the Unnited Nations voted in favour of recognition of the State of Israel.  Just in case you forget the history and the pride of being part of Israel, before Abba Kovner understood the diaspora truth of “So Sorry We Won” we all watched “Exodus”  Ari ben Canaan and the story told

Finally, you and I can exercise the power of one. Each and every one of us can change the world if we are just willing to stand up for what is right, what is fair. Can you imagine if we all held hands and chose to be vehicles for change? What if we actually managed to bring tolerance and freedom to this crazy, angry world. Arik Einstein sang about it many years ago

Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbat, irrespective of where you are, in which direction you pray and what words you use to reach out. With much love from Jerusalem