The view from my veranda

Politics, Parliaments and Phone Calls

6th January 2023

Shabbat Shalom and a Holy Christmas to the Orthodox Church

Did you notice the date? Do you remember the date? January 6th 2021 heralded the storming of the Capitol in Washington which some said was the precursor to the end of United States democracy as we know it. Well that proved to be a premature prediction and both the rule of law and democracy survived. So please, when you try to claim that Israeli democracy has flown out of the window, think twice. As I have written many times, the test of democracy is accepting that the government you didn’t want won the election.

I find that the United Nations condemnation of a Jew spending a few minutes (17 to be exact) on the Temple Mount is offensive and further proof of the double standards not only of that once august institution but of the countries whose leaders who joined the braying of asses. I am very far from approving of Ben Gvir or his boorish behaviour but in this case I defend his right, indeed all our right, to visit Judaism’s only Holy site. Jews and Christians have a legal right to visit the Temple Mount. If you look into the recent history of the Temple Mount you will discover that Moshe Dayan not Ben Gvir is the culprit here. In my research I came across this article which explains how we came to today’s balagan, a wonderful Hebrew word for a mess, an ado, a confused situation. Well worth reading

Interestingly enough, Ben Gvir’s greatest critic here in Israel was Member of Knesset Gafni of Degel haTorah and Head of the Finance Committee of the Knesset who said that an observant Jew should not go to the Temple Mount at all since he may, by accident, go to the site of the Holy of Holies of the Temple where only the Cohen haGadol – the High Priest – was allowed.

Well that made me feel better but I am still very concerned at your concern, in fact I’m not overly thrilled at the new coalition but that’s another matter! I know that most of you read your local news representation of the truth and are convinced that the State of Israel is going through a total change and some are convinced that they will not be welcome here unless able prove one’s Jewish lineage for generations. Not true! You will always be welcome indeed the Aliyah numbers are extremely healthy this past year, not just from Russia but from the USA, Canada, UK and many other countries! While objecting strongly to the fact that a senior Minister in the Government has a criminal record, Arieh Deri has been Minister of the Interior before and actually took a pragmatic view and upheld the status quo concerning eligibility for citizenship. A wonderful 2.67 million visitors came to Israel in 2022, an excellent post-Covid number

My final comment (maybe) on the intended changes in the Israeli legal system, the powers of the Supreme Court in particular, has raised many fears, especially since our Prime Minister could benefit from those changes, and Former Defence Minister Benny Gantz has put forward a proposition which could well mollify the fears of many; He suggests a non-partisan cross-party committee to discuss and if necessary, implement any necessary changes. I think it is a logical and sensible solution but it has yet to elicit a response from the PM.

I worry about the perception of Israel, I worry far less about the reality, as confused as it may be at the moment. Israel is thriving! We have low unemployment, the economy flourished while others were failing, we are amongst the top “Happiest Countries”, yes really! Even more surprisingly the report came through the UN! Here’s why.

One positive question that is always asked of Israelis when meeting leaders around the world is “What is the secret to Israeli innovation”. One obvious answer is that during their service in the IDF many become expert in technology, computers, engineering and adaptability, the last being the key word. I always remember Zvi’s words when lecturing around the world, “Organisations don’t have problems, organisations have solutions” problem-solving is also the watchword of the IDF which in turn flows into good business and innovation. Israeli innovations led to so many everyday applications that we all use today and one that I use every time I leave the house! Waze. The story of Waze has always fascinated me so when my friend Yitz – aka Yitzchok Katz – sent me this article from the Jewish News, all about Uri Levine, the Founder of Waze, I was really excited to meet the man, if only on paper.

Israel has been faced with heavy challenges since before the inception of the nascent State yet we continue to flourish. Why? How? The answer lies in both the IDF and our Biblical history, we find solutions. Do you know how it came about that you have free phone calls and video calls all over the world? Imagine a young soldier in the IDF hearing that the USA had come to the decision not to sell or give Israel a super computer due to the diplomatic implications and the disappointment of the senior politicians and IDF staff. This young upstart told them “I know how to create a super computer and it won’t cost a penny” Instead of meeting this suggestion with derision they chose to listen to him. “You simply go into all the personal computers in Israel and use their spare space” of course the response was immediate, nobody in their right mind was going to allow entry into the PCs. “Give them free international phone calls and they will” and so it began. American VoIP guru Jeff Culver, back in 2005 when it was in its infancy, credited the development of VoIP to Vocaltech and IBM-Israel. Just look what we take for granted today and all because some Israel kid wasn’t fazed by a problem and turned it into a solution.

I have some very exciting news from Impact-se ( ). The UAE is the first Arab state to introduce Holocaust education in their national curriculum.

IMPACT-se has been working in close collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Education since being invited last March by UAE Cabinet Minister and Minister of Education, H.E. Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, to Abu Dhabi to meet with officials. IMPACT-se partnered with the ministry on a curriculum framework based on standards of peace and tolerance, also sharing with the ministry an Arabic language lesson-set about the Holocaust and discussed teachable material. IMPACT-se’s report on the UAE curriculum found it to closely meet international standards of peace and tolerance, teaching about peacemaking, religious tolerance, and acceptance of the ‘Other’. 
The United Arab Emirates has been leading the way in peace and tolerance education in the region for some years. IMPACT-se is delighted that they have taken this important step in educating about the Shoah and humbled to have partnered with the Ministry of Education. Impact CEO, Marcus Sheff, has been an essential link in the chain of collaboration with the UAE and other countries who have joined the determined effort to change perceptions in Islamic countries through their schoolbooks. I am so proud to Chair the Board of this exceptional and unique organisation that is making the world a better place.

Israelis love to travel and the moment we sign a peace treaty with anyone, thousands head off to discover our new friends countries! I have given up asking friends where they are travelling to because I know the answer before they respond – to Dubai or Abu Dhabi! Israelis are curious and love new cultures.  Although London was the top destination for December, seeing the Christmas lights and of course for the sales, Dubai was the first choice for a quickie visit.

I was thrilled this week to see an interview with an Israeli Arab called Wahid Alhazayid.  Wahid was born in Rahat, a Bedouin city in Southern Israel. He was one of 17 children, could barely read or write but decided that he wanted to enlist in the IDF. In the IDF he went on to study for his baccalaureate, became Lieutenant Colonel and today he teaches young people in danger of descending into a life of crime. There is no other country in this world that would give a chance to someone like Wahid and he knows it and gives back to his country every day of his life. 

I am thrilled to tell you that it is raining, pouring, no the old man isn’t snoring her is currently reading the newspapers in readiness for his parliament later this morning. Current Affairs lead the conversations at this particular parliament since many of the participants are either journalists or involved in politics themselves. A common question that you all ask is, what on earth is a parliament! It stems from the French word parley, to talk, and that’s exactly what they do. It happens all over the country and there are women’s parliaments, men’s parliaments and mixed parliaments totally dependent upon personal interests. These gatherings, big and small, usually centre around food (of course), are held on Friday mornings and each of the members comes away feeling that he has solved the problems of the world, or at least the men do. The women usually have lighter topics, depending upon whether they went to kindergarten together, are from the same neighbourhood or have similar academic or business backgrounds, perhaps less eclectic than their male counterpart. I occasionally join Zvi but by the time I have finished chatting to you he is on his way out!

This has been an exciting week in terms of visitors. Dana and Betty came for lunch on Monday, it was really exciting because Covid kept us apart and Betty’s volunteering work at the Israel Museum, in charge of all the volunteers in that incredible Museum, keeps her busy! Incidentally the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is considered on of the top 10 museums in the world. Here is a glimpse Then on Wednesday our new lounge curtains arrived, a great celebration, and on Thursday we had a surprise visit from Galit Schwartz, lovely Galit who was undoubtedly the best assistant Zvi ever had, hired on the spot when we met her amazing parents! After a delightful catch-up of her life from student-assistant to mother of four, I walked up the wide passageway between the apartments on our complex and had a lovely time with my friend and neighbour Naomi Baba who is originally from the USA; we always have fascinating chats on so many interesting subjects then as I walked in the door I had a phone call from Yosef, our 18 year old grandson “Are you home Safta? Can we come to you?” Can you imagine saying no?

They arrived and since both he and Talia are in the intense process and lead up to their baccalaureate, particularly in Civic Studies, which is based on the State from before the founding to today they both went to our resident expert, one Mr Zvi Raviv for a briefing. While Yosef stayed with Zvi who gave him a potted version in answer Yosef’s questions, including the fact that Theodore Herzl planted a tree under our veranda, Talia and I went to the other room where, at her request, I read her English dissertation on “A hero” which for her was the Lubavitcher Rabbi. For a young, 16 year old woman whose mother tongue is Hebrew it was stunning! I was so proud, not only that it was written beautifully without one mistake in her grammar but she actually wanted me to read it!

Gosh it’s getting late and I haven’t started cooking yet and the house looks as if we had lots of visitors this week, probably because we did!

Music can bring people together as nothing else especially when we sing together

Oof Gozal, Fly fledgling but remember there are eagles in the sky. Arik Einstein singing for all of us

As we watch our children leave the nest

Finally, I was born for peace by Uzi Chitman, aren’t we all? Should we all have that as our basic right?

Sending you love from Jerusalem, beautiful city, centre of our spiritual world. Shabbat Shalom dear friends