The view from my veranda

Resignations, Racism and Rabbis

The 8th of July 2022

Shabbat Shalom.

Today is one of the three most important days of my life. It happened exactly 50 years ago, at a few minutes past midnight, in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, Berkshire (pronounced redding barkshir) when the most beautiful baby boy ever was born. A baby boy who laughed out loud at just a few weeks! Happy birthday Gideon Saul! So proud of everything you are, what you have become and your truly exceptional family.

Sadly the world is not nearly as beautiful as my son and it is my responsibility to write about it so let’s get that part out of the way and I’ll tell you about some wonderful news.

Prime Ministers seem to be dropping like flies! First Naftali Bennett stepped down after the resignation of some Ministers threatened his government. It was done with great elegance and the current Prime Minister Yair Lapid slipped into the role he had been preparing for his whole life. Now Boris Johnson has resigned, admittedly under a very large thunder cloud, rejected by his own party, the Conservative Party, a misnomer if ever there was one! And Britain, the country that so loves eccentricity, decided that there is eccentric and there is Boris! Both PMs, for whatever reason resigned rather than create turmoil and political unrest, and they did not fear losing their immunity from prosecution as with our former Prime Minister.

Highland Park is a beautiful suburb of Chicago with a high Jewish population. The traditional 4th of July Parade was at its height when a shooter, a killer opened fire changing the lives of all who saw it, all who heard it, all who lost someone, the injured and the dead. The killer, whose name I choose not to mention, had entered a Habad synagogue just weeks previously and after acting very strangely the Rabbi threw him out. It wasn’t reported to the police. Yet again an insane racist had easy access to weapons! When will a country that is the world leader of the 21st century stop believing that it is still living in the Wild West? As Bob Dylan wrote “The answer is blowin’ in the wind” I send love and condolences to all my friends who live in Highland Park, indeed to everyone in Highland Park.

Intolerance abounds, no country, no people seem immune, perhaps as the late Rabbi Kopul Rosen said, “Antisemitism (and racism) is like pornography. Everyone knows it exists yet it is never mentioned in polite society”. Rabbi Jeremy Rosen searched and found a discussion on the BBC based around the Eichmann trial. The language is stilted but the manner of civilized debate, as opposed to the wrangling and lack of respect of today’s arguments, is refreshing. One comment sticks in my mind, when the presenter asked Rabbi Rosen if he thought that Eichmann should hang he responded that no, he should not, for the fear that the world would believe that the crimes of Hitler gone to trial and was over. Rabbi Rosen was 47 years old at the time of the debate and he died just a year later leaving a fantastic legacy of 3 Rabbis, his sons Jeremy, Mickey z”l and David, whose purpose in life is to change our world for the better. Please, this is one link that you really should open.

I first met the wonderful Brenda Katten when I was working in Hillel House in Euston, London. I was immediately struck by her elegant logic and her ability to reach the crux of any matter without frills and prevarication. This week she wrote in the Jerusalem Post “Who Cares About Us” writing about the plight of the ordinary, centrist, traditionally Jewish Israelis who always seem to get left behind in the decision making. “The problem begins and ends with our electoral system. The minority dictates and decides for the majority, often resulting in a government unable to complete its four year term. ” It is a problem here in Israel and in different ways all over the world.

President Biden will come to Israel and the PA starting on Wednesday, which to Jerusalemites means that the entire city comes to a standstill except for official vehicles and police! It is part of living here that when any American leader comes to visit the King David is cleared of it guests, hopefully finding a room elsewhere, the Presidential entourage moves in and the entire centre of the city, well you can imagine! The visit is important, obviously not his first, as I told you I still remember his enthusiasm for Zvi’s recounting of Jerusalem history and friendliness to all the other members of the group. I wonder if this visit will bring back sweet memories, now that he is President and not bound by the constrictions of a Vice-President. I heard voices of dissent that he is visiting the PA too, but I see that as more important in so many ways, than his delightful visit to Jerusalem. Here the American flags will fly together with the Israeli flag on the entire route from the airport, into Jerusalem and around the areas that the Presidential cavalcade will visit, it’s a given that he will be well received, but hopefully his talks with Abbas will be more “tachlis” more to the point. I know that Impact-se has briefed his staff on the lack of cooperation in removing hatred from his schoolbooks; they will discuss the danger of new elections because Hamas will almost certainly win – in the Middle East the devil you know is always preferable; they will most certainly discuss the recent rise in terror attacks and hopefully will come to a compromise. A compromise means the USA doling out more money, which of course won’t reach the people, but that’s the way things work in the real world.

Hey Michael Poppers, I’m about to use that word again SEGUE. After all I know that Segway is what the more adventurous tourists ride around Jerusalem on!! Segue to what you may ask! President Biden’s next stop will be Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the most theocratic society of all the countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is reaching out to the West and has taken the huge step of changing their schoolbooks, with the assistance of Impact-se. We kept it very quiet for some time but now it is out in the open, the Saudis, along with Qatar, Bahrain, Morocco and of course the Emirates (where little change was needed) are moving toward a more moderate path and the historic visit of an American President to Saudi Arabia is a direct result of two things – the Abraham Accords and a common fear of Iran. Never underestimate the power of fear to draw countries together. “The enemy of my enemy is my ally”

The only problem with the timing of the Presidential visit is that the four days leading up to his arrival  have been declared Eid Al-Adkha Mubarak, the Festival of the Victim, by the Palestinian Authority. All banks, shops, schools and government offices in the PA are closed giving opportunity to outbursts on the streets. Put that together with the public outcry over the death of Shireen Abu Akhle and it may be difficult here. Undoubtedly all border crossings will be closed. Just as a sidebar, 175 terror attacks were prevented by the Israeli Police and Secret Service – in a large part in cooperation with the PA police.

In direct contrast to the venom of Erdogan, Israel and Turkey have made huge steps toward bilateral cooperation, be it economic or the new Bilateral Aviation Agreement. Political rhetoric often bears no resemblance to the facts on the ground.

We tend to forget that politicians are just people, people whose differences don’t necessarily extend beyond the Knesset plenum. Merav Michaeli is left wing, secular in the extreme leader of the Labour Party and Moshe Gafni is a particularly vociferous Haredi Member of Knesset yet when Gafni’s daughter got married, Michaeli danced with clear joy despite the strict separation of women and men. The lesson is clear. Just because your opinions differ, even diametrically opposed, does not discount the possibility of friendship. We have this dreadful habit of verbal diatribe against anyone who does not think as we do and it’s time to stop. I don’t care if it comes from the left or right, secular or religious, Christian or Jew – or Moslem – we can all learn from thoughts and ideas that are not in sync with our own.

The week started with Friday Night Dinner, at home of course. Our delightful visitors where Barry and Cristine Slawsky with their beautiful son James (Haim Elimelech) and their friends Paul and Melissa Passuto, their delight at the blessings over the wine and challah were only superseded by our mutual religious curiosity and their plans to see everything that it was possible to see and our making lists of priorities! One thing was clear, apart from the fact that we have made new, firm friends, they intend coming back soon and bringing a group of friends with them!

The next paragraph will be very hard to write, a mixture of grief and closure, the completion of Dr. Dan’s Room in Shalva. It was a simple ceremony, none of us wanted a flamboyant, un-Daniel, ceremony and thanks to all the Shalva team we honoured my beautiful son in the most appropriate way. As close friends and family came in to the studio and raved about its beauty and practicality my heart filled with their love. I was nervous, I write, I’m not a public speaker, but the nerves dissipated the moment that four little girls, aged about 8, all with Down’s Syndrome, came shyly into the room holding on to the hands of their young volunteers. The room went silent and to the screened background of a play put on by other special needs children about the story of Abraham and Sarah, they began to dance. At that moment I knew that the decision was the right one, these little girls are exactly what the studio for the performing arts in Shalva will give opportunities for confidence building through music, drama and dance. We now need to encourage Miriam’s dream of dance troupes, acting plays, wheelchair dancing all made possible by Daniel’s Room. The name of my son, our son, brother, father, husband, friend, who cared so deeply for all young people, a highly respected and loved paediatrician, lives on through these incredible children and Malki and Kalman Samuels dream of inclusion that is Shalva. To see and hear the ceremony please click on this link, fast forward to 22 minutes and you can watch

Our wonderful friend Kim (Dr Kimball Taylor) arrives today to attend the JAFI (Jewish Agency) meetings and of course to be with us! Tonight he will join the Raviv clan for Friday night dinner on our veranda, happily singing the blessings along with Zvi and all of us. What’s odd about that I hear you ask, well Kim is a devout Mormon, a senior member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and a wonderful friend of Israel, indeed the only non-Jew invited to be part of the JAFI meetings. I love the traditions of Friday night, the lighting of the candles which not only welcome the bride of Shabbat but shed light on the world, the glow of hope. The table, always laden with the goodies of our dispersion, from gefilte fish to matbucha, from pickled cucumbers to spicy ratatouille and about 10 salads because once I get cooking I forget to stop! As everyone sits down, we begin to sing a song of welcome to Shabbat, Shalom Aleinu, may peace be upon us, the children singing with us, even the teenagers who do so with a sigh. Then Zvi’s wonderful Kiddush, the blessing over the wine and the children then decide who makes the blessing over the bread, the challah. Once the ceremonies are over the soup comes out, piping hot and I relax. I have a deal with Zvi’s boys, they and their wives work terribly hard so I don’t want them to bring food, I am happy to gradually prepare it all, but then they take over and serve and clear up with wonderful efficiency. They all bring the dishes in from the veranda, Leor stacks everything in the dishwasher, like soldiers exactly as I do, and they leave the kitchen pristine. Of course I expect everyone to compliment the flowers that surround the table.

Tomorrow we will meet up with our friends Roselyn and Michael Freeman who are here with Rachel Heisler and the Soroka Hospital mission. We met Roselyn, Michael and Rachel through Martin and Helene Lindenfeld who are not coming this time but have given us the opportunity to enjoy their friends and family!

This week it was my big sister Eddie and her husband Ray’s 65th wedding anniversary, I was a bridesmaid and can still remember Eddie’s glorious dress; Jennifer and Brian Bell’s 57th Anniversary (we decided that they will celebrate their Diamond Wedding on our veranda PG) and yes I was at their wedding, and of course my incredible, brilliant and loved son Gideon’s 50th birthday – no need to tell you I was there too. Mazal tov to all. Ad 120

This song, this video expresses everything about Shabbat Traditions, the open house and welcome to strangers to come and join the Shabbat table, the acceptance of every shade of Jew and the sheer joy of Shabbat. Gad Elbaz and Shabbes

Last night we were at a wonderful concert by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, our affinity to Shalva and the quest for a more peaceful world led to only one song, even though I have played it before. The Shalva Band, Tariq Al Menhari and Arqam

This song by Yaakov Shwekey empitomises what we hope for in Dr. Dan’s Room, what Daniel believed in every child who came under his care. Each child is special, some with special needs, but each and every one of them has the potential to be happy. I Can Be

May this Shabbat be special for you, when you pray, in whatever language or direction you face, pray for greater understanding, for greater tolerance, kinder teaching, inclusion and most of all remember to reach out your arms to all who need it.

With love from beautiful Jerusalem, King David’s City, so beautiful she received 9/10ths of the worlds beauty.

Shabbat Shalom