2nd November 2018
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I know I abandoned you for a few weeks but I wasn’t well and spent 10 days in Shaare Zedek Hospital, but I am home now – tired but recovering. While in hospital I was yet again reminded of the incredible rainbow of humanity that makes up the staff of an Israeli hospital. They range from Professors to ancillary staff, Jews, Moslems and Christians; black, white and in between; Religious and secular of all three faiths and of course the patients follow suit – indeed a truly magnificent mix – and they all talk to one another!
Tragedy hit a Jewish community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the screaming voices of blame made it so difficult to mourn, to assess, to repair. The blame doesn’t lie on any individual other than the racist pig who pulled the trigger. It doesn’t lie with any current leadership, nor does it lie necessarily in past leadership, it lies in the ease of access to weapons. Oh boy! I can hear the voices raised against me already! It is an intrinsic right to carry arms, it is written in the constitution is the general war cry. “But if everyone in that synagogue was armed it wouldn’t have happened”. I was criticised for suggesting (on Facebook) that had there been a guard at the front gate it could have been prevented “The United States is not at war, we cherish the freedom of our congregants to come and go”. Well, let’s think about those two statements. How’s it working for you?
I have two friends who wrote wonderful pieces about the tragedy. One is Rabbi Jeremy Rosen who recognises the danger of blaming politicians rather than the innate anti-Semitism which is raising its ugly head yet again. https://mailchi.mp/a60dcf27f4e7/death-in-pittsburgh?e=58fea4332b
Ashkenaz Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau, in an interview with an Israeli newspaper of mainly Orthodox readership, said that “any murder of any Jew in any part of the world for being Jewish is unforgivable,” but instead of saying the massacre took place in a synagogue, he called Tree of Life “a place with a profound Jewish flavour.” The Conservative and Reform movement was deeply offended. I know his father would never have said it, maybe it was taken out of context, but it offended me too.
It offended Daniel Seaman, former Director of the Government Press Office who wrote this piece. It says it all
“All Jews must die”
All Jews – not Orthodox or Reform, Conservative or Reconstructionist; ALL Jews. Not right wing or left wing; not liberal or conservative; not Democrat or Republican, Likud or Meretz. All Jews. Not Baby Boomers or Millennials, old or young; not Ashkenazi or Sephardic, European or African Jews; not white or black Jews; not American or Israeli. All Jews. Just like every single persecutor throughout our history. They never, ever, cared about the differences we attach to each other. Never saw any of us as better than the other. It never matters to them. They always saw us as Jews. JUST JEWS. All of us – Jews. That which unites us. Makes us who we are, makes us stronger. We are one people. We are all Jews. And tonight we mourn with the Jews of Pittsburgh and the Jewish families and the families of the police officers who came to their defense.
We are all Jews. It could have been any one of us.
May their souls rest in peace. May their families be consoled among the mourners of Zion.
Israel suffered a terrible loss this week. A driver of a big Jeep clipped the corner of a small family van and 8 people died; parents and six children. It was on a relatively narrow road by the Dead Sea but that wasn’t the problem. The driver of the Jeep was high! So terrible, so tragic, so angry.
Prime Minister Netanyahu paid an official visit to Oman and was greeted with great warmth. Minister of Communications Ayoob Kara paid an official visit to Dubai, and was greeted with great warmth and incredibly, two Israeli athletes, Sagi Muki and Peter Paltchik, both judokas, won Gold Medals in an international competition and Hatikva was heard in Abu Dhabi. https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-first-hatikva-anthem-played-at-uae-contest-after-israeli-judoka-wins-gold/ There is a definite and clear change in alliances, a recognition of Israel’s status in the Arab world, This recognition doesn’t come from the West which became more and more hostile, but from our regional neighbours who, conceivably, realise that Israel is a positive ally.
We had local elections!! Oh boy, did we have local elections! There were political upheavals, some surprising, there were old loyalties and in Jerusalem, beautiful surprises! After 15 years Zvi’s friend Yona Yahav was deposed as Mayor by Einat Kalish Rotem, a vibrant woman with great plans. Another woman ousted the Haredi Mayor of Bet Shemesh, Aliza Bloch, herself Modern Orthodox, took the vote with ease, an important move for Bet Shemesh since she represents ALL sectors of society equally. Here in Jerusalem, it was all much more complex, well of course it was! There were three front-runners, Minister for Jerusalem Ze’ev Elkin, Former Director of the PM’s Office Moshe Lion and our special favourite, a young man Zvi and I have mentored for 10 years, Ofer Berkovitch. Some journalists gave 35 year old Berkovitch no chance whatsoever but he and Lion are in the run-off elections in 10 days! I felt sad for Elkin but despite being backed by Bibi and the Likud Party he just didn’t cut the mustard. Moshe Lion has allied with Shas and Degel ha Torah whereas Ofer has chosen to discuss with everyone but ally with nobody. Moshe Lion did not win even one seat on the council so would be a lame duck Mayor which nobody wants. A young vibrant, handsome Mayor who represents us ALL, speaks Hebrew, English and French and is more than willing to accept advice from those with greater experience is our man. I’m not ashamed to express preference, Hitorerut (|Awakening) Ofer’s Party, has in its ranks, Jerusalemites of all colours and creeds, which is about time! The Hitorerut campaign was the only one which ran on a positive note, not demeaning other candidates and putting forward a clear manifesto.
I first met Yahya Mahamid when he was looking for a safe haven and protection against the radical elements in his town of Umm el Fahem. Always a charismatic and incredibly brave young man, Yahya travelled for Standwithus, speaking to students all over the world. He is now a soldier in the IDF. Watch and understand why I love him https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyAr4aiC3GY
This week, historian and journalist Dr Uri Millstein interviewed both Zvi and Yona Yahav about their historic part in the World Struggle for Soviet Jewry. Both men brought along their memorabilia from that time – a copy of Zvi’s speech to the first student demonstration; Yona’s plan of action files; interviews with former refuseniks; Ida Nudel’s interview; in fact everything that proves that in 1969 two young men with incredible chutzpah, caused an Israeli Prime Minister to change her attitude and began the open fight. As a result, she sent Geula Cohen to the United States and everything happened. If you read Hebrew then
https://www.maariv.co.il/news/israel/Article-667691 if not you will have to be satisfied with my report! http://www.theviewfrommyveranda.info/soviet-jewry-40-years-after/
While I was in hospital, the incredible angels of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre came each day to ease my path. Even after years of involvement and visits to the Oncology Departments of Shaare Zedek Hospital to see their work and its incredibly positive effect on patients, I still didn’t grasp the beauty of their work. 150 volunteers who exude such love one feels it through their fingers. My pain seemed to leave and my fears dissipate as they performed reflexology and healing (they also have psychologists and a variety of therapies for patients). Watch the video https://youtu.be/kMhjARej5-o and if you choose to donate just go to https://www.israelgives.org/amuta/580475085 and choose Yuri Shtern
If I am talking about angels, Zvi and my daughter Rachel were phenomenal! Rachel really made sure that the right questions were answered by the doctors – Professors don’t scare her! – and she and Zvi just took care of me with such love. In Israeli hospitals the family is expected to be part of the medical team, the best information comes through that way. They made sure I was never alone and it was deeply appreciated. Thank you both, I love you.
November 4th, 1995 was a tragic day in Israel, the day our Prime Minister was assassinated by another Jew. Here is Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin’s last speech and perhaps one can understand how great the tragedy was. Even the most cynical of politicians cried, Kings and Princes, Presidents and Prime Ministers came to mourn the man who won the hearts of the heartless. “Shalom Haver” was more than a bland motto, he really was loved and he brought that love toward Israel, his beloved Israel. Zvi and I are proud to have known him, the caring man who was more worried about me with the crowds in Washington at the opening of the Jerusalem 3000 celebrations than he was about the self-important politicians around him. That was just 9 days before he was assassinated. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz8O0OcAA3c
Yitzchak Rabin was a growler rather than a singer, he was also a very shy man for whom the thought of singing in public was a nightmare but, that fateful night he chose to sing. What was the song? Shir le Shalom, a song to peace https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz8O0OcAA3c
Jethro Tull, the band, came to Israel and unlike all the others they played a huge concert in Jerusalem too. They donated all the monies to co-existence charities in the area. In concert in Binyanei ha Uma in Jerusalem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdLtkuPtshM
A truly beautiful Israeli song Biglal Ha Ruach – Because of the Spirit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPY7TwkwimM
May your spirit be strong because we are not in easy times. The only important thing to remember is that united we stand – there is no other option. We have so many wonderful traditions and history that bind us, we have to stop concentrating on that which tears us assunder. Read and re-read Danny Seaman’s words. Jewish lives matter too, all of us.
Shabbat Shalom. With much love from Jerusalem, the most stunningly beautiful and spiritual city in the world.