The view from my veranda

Politics, Paphos, Giving and Grasshoppers

24th June, 2022

25th Sivan 5782

Shabbat Shalom, I hope you are well and the new Covid variant hasn’t got you!

I’m fascinated by the way that the Covid virus, itself a variant of the SARS virus, is constantly morphing into new forms, challenging our scientists and even our politicians, almost certainly never to be eradicated. There are several pharmaceutical companies, small research institutions that believe they have the answer but unfortunately do not have the loud voices of big, highly profitable companies. Just this week there was a piece on Israeli television about one such company that, right from the beginning, is certain they have an answer, but they didn’t succeed in getting to the former government with what they say is a cheap and effective solution. Sadly I only saw the end and didn’t catch the name of the company.

Morphing, adapting to one’s surroundings, adapting to new norms, adapting to society’s huge changes over the last 20 years, in fact over the last 10 years, OK let’s admit it, every day brings changes to which we have to adapt, especially how to use the written word. One of the saddest aspects of the world of sms, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp is that the principle of  “once a word has left your mouth you cannot get it back” while still applicable is not used and harsh words are forever in the ether. This can be on person to person exchanges or it can be used for “fake news”, character assassination, bullying and incitement to terrifying acts of violence or abuse. As technology leaps ahead at the speed of light the restraints and laws are unable, or unwilling to control their horrific results.

Morphing can be a good thing, as long as we aren’t talking about a virus!  Each and every day we adapt to change, adapt to our ever changing situation, adapt to our religious reality. We no longer live in tiny villages and shtetls, we live in the big wide world and trying to hang on to the tenets of our ancestors without accepting the world outside and understanding it can lead to a total erosion of our past………I could go on and on about continuity but I won’t because you know how I feel.

Hands up who can understand Israeli politics. OK hands up anyone who understands politics but especially Israeli politics! I never thought it possible to have a surfeit of democracy but apparently there is. The current government, made up of disparate views, succeeded in passing a budget that was held up for 3 years plus, in working together, left and right, Arab and Jew, in a truly democratic and special manner which gave hope to all of us in the centre who are sick and tired of the lies, shenanigans, indictments and divisive policies of the previous 12 years.  To resign from a position of power, to hand over that power while speaking of one’s successor with amity and admiration, is unique. To do so with grace and love of country even rarer. 

We, in Israel have become used to swaggering self-satisfaction and refusal to relinquish power and, quite honestly, Naftali Bennett’s speech moved me deeply. Some thrive upon the poisoned slings and arrows of politics and it is rare to find a self-effacing leader but we did. He brought impossible factions together despite the sneering backstabbing of the opposition’s leader and his lackies. I am certain that time and history will be kind to Naftali Bennett.

The opposition and its leadership have resorted to many dirty tricks and lies over the last year but Bennett  and Lapid rose above the malicious tactics of the opposition. Naftali Bennett was labelled an extreme rightist, yet it is he, and his government, who included two Arab parties, Meretz, Avodah, New Hope, Yamina, Blue and White and Yesh Atid giving us a truly representative government. I’m disappointed that they were not able to survive, pray that they will form an even wider coalition and come back fighting.

President Biden has decided to come to Israel and to Saudi Arabia despite our political changes. He knows Prime Minister Lapid and recognises the importance of his visit. I can promise him a very warm welcome here. Of course he knows everything there is to know about Jerusalem having listened in rapt attention to Zvi’s explanations while we were in the Jerusalem Municipality all those years ago. Of course I am joking but I can say that of all the politicians who visited during that time he was staunchly pro-Israel.

Despite the many anti-Israel statements by the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pronounced Erdowan) the Turkish Security Forces have worked hand in glove with the Israeli Security Services have successfully foiled the Iranian attempt to murder Israelis vacationing in Turkey (in fact anywhere) – particularly in Istanbul. At least 14 potential terrorist attacks have been foiled. I am disturbed at the number of Israelis who ignored the warnings of our Security people and went on vacation there anyway but deeply grateful for the successful cooperation. Zvi and I have been to Turkey several times and found the people warm and friendly. The biggest difference, I am told, is that whereas pre-Erdogan Istanbul the women wore Western dress, more and more are wearing burkas. Basically, Attaturk is spinning in his grave, but when it came down to the wire, our common desire for security came through.

This is International Pride Month. I don’t always understand why there should be specific times to be open and tolerant, I would have thought one should always be open and tolerant  but maybe I’m wrong. One of the biggest stumbling blocks we, at Impact-se have encountered in our quest for tolerance in education in the MENA region concerns LGBTQ representation, nowhere more so than in the Palestinian Authority. This article discusses it.

Question. Grasshoppers! What on earth do grasshoppers have to do with the Torah and this week? As always, when I am searching for a way to relate Bible readings to our life today I turn to my lovely friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen. This week we read about the 12 “spies” that Moses sent to check out this land. Why put “spies” in inverted commas? Because Moses never called them spies, more like couriers or observers who could come back with their opinions of the land. Jeremy writes “They returned from exploring the land and their reports were divided (like Supreme Courts today) into two very different opinions. They all agreed it was fertile and rich, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” But ten of them said that the people were too strong, too powerful and they felt inadequate, overpowered, and in modern psychological terms, inferior and insecure. They described themselves as feeling like grasshoppers Chagavim, and they said that that that was precisely what the Canaanites thought too “and so we were in their eyes.” How did they know? They overheard them talking, said Rashi. Only Joshua and Caleb came back with positive reports. Read how Rabbi Rosen relates it to today  I see those who see obstacles and run and those who see obstacles and find a way around them.

I haven’t heard any grasshoppers or cicadas near our home but I am so thrilled with the constant visits of the little sunbirds to my new birdfeeder. It is a container of sugar water with several flower shapes from which the sunbirds feed. I am entranced by the iridescent black males and the tiny brown females. They give a sweet chirp as they drink and often the males stand atop a bamboo stick calling out to others to come and imbibe! I have a problem at the moment, I cannot go past a plant nursery with bringing something home! Our veranda is huge and despite all attempts to fill it with colour there is always room for more petunias or begonias! Zvi took me to Pop Up, one of my very favourite cafes for breakfast yesterday (our 26th wedding anniversary) and I relished in the surroundings – barely room for tables with blossom trees, flowers, hanging baskets forming a veritable bower with delicious food being served between. Not only did we enjoy our Croissant Croque Madame and the delightful waiter called Ran, the surroundings made us smile. One of several coffee shops and restaurants with the same owners; all Kosher, all of very high culinary standard – including the coffee shop in Shalva.

That’s a perfect Segway into the next paragraph! On July 3rd we are holding the official opening of Dr. Dan’s Room, the studio for the performing arts which honours my incredible son, Dr. Daniel Cammerman, who was tragically killed in an accident in Central Park two and a half years ago. Out of inexplicable personal tragedy we have succeeded not only in ensuring that Daniel’s name is on a project, this is so much more. From the minute I walked in through the doors to that phenomenal entrance hall filled with words of hope on the walls, butterflies hanging from the ceilings and the joyous sound of happy children I knew this was where I wanted to create something for Daniel. He would have loved this place, not only as a paediatrician but as uncle to my phenomenal, beautiful, oh so special grandson Sammy. I was met by Gaby – yes Gaby not Gabby – whose warmth and kindness grew into a deep friendship, together with Avi and Kalman Samuels who have taken me in as family, the Shalva family. So many of you have made this dream come true with your generosity to “Remembering Daniel” the name Gaby chose for the campaign. Although Dr. Dan’s Room is complete, it doesn’t herald the end of my relationship with Shalva. I want to be involved, to remain part of the Shalva family. I don’t know if you understand the scope of Shalva worldwide

Paphos, Cyprus. Last Thursday we took our hand luggage and set off for Terminal One in Ben Gurion Airport. It was surprisingly organised, probably because school holidays had not started yet. We were whisked through (there are very few advantages to having disabled status but that is one of them) and the delightful woman at the check-in security decided that  we were not security risks and gave us a pass so that I needn’t stand in line! The flight was not bad despite being Ryanair, just 50 minutes flight and we were in Paphos. The people were very friendly, actually I have to admit most businesses were British owned(!) and very chatty, and we walked almost everywhere. The archaeology is amazing, the mosaic park phenomenal and huge, the Greek influence and mythology in Cyprus is fascinating and we had a wonderful time, if too short. We hadn’t time to discover the Jewish element of Paphos, probably because we didn’t know there was one! We knew there was a Chabad House and little kosher shop but not this fascinating aspect

Two day ago Rachel, Yosef and I headed off to Tel Aviv for a very special meeting. Lunch with my British cousins on my father’s side! Rachel obviously knows Ian and Sue but not Steven and Debbie. Yosef had never met any of them before and I was thrilled by the way he held a political debate with Steven in perfect English. Not bad for a 17 year old Israel! It was such a joy to sit in a relaxed atmosphere and get to know everyone anew.

If music be the food of love play on

Every member of the Shalva Band has turned disabilities into abilities, those you see and those you don’t. A Million Dreams

To Give, to give of ourselves. I always say that until we know how to receive love we cannot give love. Boaz Sharabi is a fine singer, and I know this is not the first time I’ve given you this video but I truly love it.

Whenever I feel down, whether it’s the political situation, BDS, Roger Waters, Iran, guns, natural and personal disasters this song picks me up. Katan Alenu! The best pick me up ever!!

Shabbat Shalom to you all, wherever you may be in this world; whether you face Jerusalem, Mecca or pray in Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, English, Spanish……. All irrelevant if you pray for peace and tolerance in our insane world.

My heart goes out to the wonderful Gaby who just wrote to me to tell me of the passing of her sister Judith. May her sweet soul rest in peace. In Hebrew one says “May you be consoled among the mourners of Zion and know no more sorrow”

With love from Jerusalem, the centre of our world, the fabulous mosaic, rainbow of humanity trying to get along together, sometimes succeeding although not always, but we always try!