The view from my veranda

Politics, Antisemitism, Eurovision and Bamba!

8th February 2019

Gut Shabbes! Shabbat Shalom, שבת שלום ומבורך


I swear that if I never hear the word politics again I would be a very happy camper. It is currently being rammed down our throats on the hour every hour plus special broadcasts built around the Likud Primaries and statistics. There is only so much a person can take! Nevertheless – that’s a bit like the garrulous person who says “I will just add in a few words” – I will try to outline what is happening in as few a words as possible.

Most of the parties are in a flap over former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz entering the fray, He is quietly spoken, polite and hasn’t made any wild promises, and is gathering some excellent people around him in his newly formed Hosen Israel Party. In the meantime the Likud Primaries took place and despite Netanyahu’s determined attacks on former Minister Gidon Saar, Saar polled a very high place on the Likud list. In the meantime Naftali Bennet and Ayelet Shaked in their breakoff party called the New Right, scored a victory when Alona Barkat (Director of Beersheva Football team and sister in law of former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat) joined their forces. Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, lost voters to Gantz in the polls but more of that later. The Haredi Yahadut ha Torah has lost voters and Labour has really gone down in the polls. I will be setting tests on who remembers which party later – and I haven’t nearly finished! The Arab list split and Ayman Odeh of the Joint List and Ahmed Tibi of Hadash should get about 12 seats between them. Incredibly it looks like Meretz will lose their deposit! If you are confused then imagine being an Israeli voter on April 9th, faced with a load of paper tickets with letters on them and trying to work out which letters relate to which parties!! OK it’s better than the electronic voting but at least you don’t have that many parties!!!

Finally, and this is my last word on Israeli politics, the polls, the most recent polls, show that while Likud, with Netanyahu at its helm, have the highest percentage, unless they join other parties, Hosen Israel and Yesh Atid may form the new government. The party which can form the biggest coalition then goes to the President and forms the next government. Did that help you or confuse you even more?

The various potential indictments against the PM could play a major part in the elections although surprisingly Netanyahu followers say it is irrelevant. What distressed me is the PM’s personal attacks against the thoroughly professional Attorney General, Brigadier General Avichai Mandelblitt and against the police.

What was that? On what will electors base their choice? To an extent we want change but as always it will depend upon security issues and economics. Surprisingly Chiefs of Staff in Israel are often far more pragmatic than their civilian counterparts – Yitzchak Rabin and Ehud Barak for example. Yitzchak Rabin was very strong on defence but recognised the need for pragmatism. Israelis need hope.

This analysis explains more if you wish

Nearly 27 years ago Zvi and I were in Chicago to visit my eldest son Daniel who was studying at the Pritzger School of Medicine when Zvi suggested that we go and visit someone he knew in a tiny office manned by volunteers. “He’s a Rabbi who wants to improve our relations with American Christians” said Zvi. We went and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein expressed his desire to make Aliyah, to come to live in Jerusalem. Zvi promised him that he would introduce him to all the relevant leaders, a promise faithfully kept by Zvi, who took him to meet the President, Prime Minister and all the relevant Jewish leaders. The rest is history as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews grew into a huge organisation doing much good and caring for the poor. Although we saw his work from afar rather than close up, since he no longer needed Zvi, we were full of admiration for his achievements. Two days ago, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein had a massive heart attack and passed away. I am absolutely certain that his work will continue but also that he will be missed. May his soul rest in peace and his family be consoled among the mourners of Zion.

Anti-Semitism is the mark of Cain of modern society. It is the canary in the coal mine, it is the proof of the collapse of our society as we know it; it is proof positive that we learned nothing from history. Goebbels is alive and well and living in the minds of our enemies but Winston Churchill is not here to expose their evil and fight back.

We have to fight back. It is simple and clear. We are a proud people, we have no need to cow-tow and we’ve passed the Uriah Heap period of our lives. We are no longer down-beaten although somewhat complacent which prevents us from seeing the writing on the wall. We cannot rely upon others to prevent the horrible beatings of Jews in Crown Heights or the attacks in Melbourne. We have to fight back – legally of course, but the police are on our side so make sure you report anything and everything. Remember what I always said? The Power of One. If we all fight back, even one at a time, it will be so powerful!

The Eurovision Song Contest is approaching and Tel Aviv is preparing furiously for the event. It is so much more than a song contest and if you think the Olympics has stringent rules you should see the contest rules. After all this is Europe! Dates and precise timings of rehearsals and shows, right down to the size of the audience are unbreakable, which is why the Shalva Band will not be representing Israel in the competition despite the fact that they could win it hands down. The Eurovision rules state that the dress rehearsal must take place on Friday, after Shabbat comes in and several members of the Shalva Band are religious. The Israeli organisers are currently trying to see if they can sing in the semi-finals which would not involve them breaking Shabbat. I can’t remember if I gave you this video of their first audition or not, when they were invited into the “home” of the presenters at the studio. If you don’t cry then you have no heart!!!

Netta Barzilay was interviewed on the BBC about BDS attempts to prevent the contest being held in Israel (the BBC denied their demands not to air it). She was stupendous. “I believe in dialogue, I believe in protest. Boycotting is preventing light being spread but if you boycott light you spread darkness. Boycotts are not the answer!” Bravo Netta

The British news media ITV aired an excellent piece about the Golan Heights, the war in Syria and Iranian threats. Well worth watching

Bamba! Do you know what Bamba is? It is an Israeli peanut snack that is credited by doctors all over the world for preventing nut allergies. Israel has very few children with nut allergies and they say it is due to the fact that Bamba is the most popular snack for babies and toddlers.  A 2017 blog post by the US National Institute of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins discussing the rise in peanut allergy in the US suggests exposing babies to peanut-containing foods as early as four to six months of age as a means of inoculation. The post lists Bamba as one of the foods shown to reduce the occurrence of peanut allergy. Who’d have thought it? Sadly it doesn’t help me. I love nuts, ate them most of my life and suddenly developed an allergy.

I had a lovely week. It started with collecting Talia and Ayala from school (including a quick trip to buy pizza) and then meeting my lovely friend Flory Benalal at the Ella Coffee Shop for a catch-up on our families.

On Wednesday I met Rachel and the three children (not so much children any more they are 14, 12 and 10) and we went to the wonderful Ein Yael/Malcha Park where there are walking paths and cycle paths along the ancient wadi and stream. The sun was shining and the almond blossom like puffy clouds on the hill in contrast with crimson calaniot. The adult adventure playground there kept the children busy for ages as they tested their agility and balance. It was so peaceful, so beautiful that it is hard to imagine that, just three days later, last night a terrible murder took place right across the road from the park. There are no details since the police have embargoed all information while they investigate the cause. You have to understand that here in Israel, murders are a rarity that distress an entire nation because everyone knows everyone.

On Wednesday I met another friend, Raya Cahane at Caffit in the Botanical Gardens. We shared a delicious Israeli breakfast which is far too much for one person. An omelette, chopped salad, beautiful breads, tiny bowls of about 12 different salads and delicious coffee and carrot juice. Imagine all this and the lake of the Botanical Gardens. The sunshine lasted until we got to our respective cars and then the rain began. You see why it was a lovely week? I really ought to spoil myself and meet girlfriends more often!

Tonight we are having supper with Amiad and Noga, Ella and Yonatan and staying overnight so that we can spend tomorrow with our friends Kobi and Shoshi Leket. I am being spoiled barely cooking at all. I’ll take a real British veggie soup to Amiad and Noga and the courgette salad and a Yeasty Cake to Shoshi and Kobi. It’s always easier if everyone plays their part in entertaining guests! Actually, thedecision to stay in Tel Aviv came about because first thing this morning Zvi received a phone call from 4 year old Yonatan “Saba, I want you to come and stay with us tonight so that we can come into bed with you and Safta in the morning, you will make us breakfast and then play games” Tell me could you refuse that?

Music – what music would please you most? Traditional Jewish, appropriate ’60’s style? Let’s think.

Nearly 17 million people watched this video of Bob Dylan singing “The Times They Are Achangin” and the more I listen to the words the more I understand.

In total contrast, Al Jolson singing “The Cantor on Shabbes” in Yiddisch with English subtitles.  I don’t know why, whether it is my inherited memory, but I love hearing Yiddisch even though I can’t understand all of it. For me it is my parents and grandparents. I envy Zvi who speaks fluent Yiddisch and tells brilliant jokes which, even if I don’t get the punch line, make me laugh just because it is such an expressive language.

How can I not have the Shalva Band singing One Day The band appears all over the world giving hope and love to everyone that hears them.

That’s it. On Sunday I am going with the amazing Lola Cohen to a MEMRI conference on Antisemitism in the UK, although the subject is not a happy one I am thrilled that I will have time with Lola, a truly amazing lady.

I wish you all a peaceful Shabbat, a day of rest from the insanity of our world today. I wihs you a warm home and a warm heart and that you be surrounded by loved ones.

With much love from Jerusalem and our beautiful view from the veranda.



If the media does not inform us we must inform the media

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Involvement The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center