The view from my veranda

Rosh Hashana 5784

14th September, 2023

Shabbat Shalom, Shana tova, Gmar Hatima Tova – May you be inscribed in the Book of Life

Today the date is the 29th of Elul, 5783 and tonight the calendar month changes to the month of Tishrei and the first day of Tishrei is Rosh Hashana, literally Head of the Year,

This week Israelis watched the ultimate display of democracy as lawyers representing the government and those opposed to the Judicial Overhaul presented their case before 15 Justices of the Supreme Court. It made me so proud as the Justices listened and questioned, ultimately weighing both sides of the question as to whether or not their power be limited or remain as it is. The Reasonableness Standard was, of course, the subject of most of the discussion and the question on the lips of most interested Israelis. What is it? How can it be implemented with certain limitations and of course should it be limited? The debate started in the morning and went on well into the night and I can promise you that the final decision will be fair and honest, thus is the Israel Supreme Court. Justices here are chosen by a panel selection, not by election

There may be, just maybe, a resolution to the political “plonter” coming out of the discussions in the President’s House. President Herzog is currently mediating in a proposal put forward by Benny Gantz. There is popular opposition against any compromise with the current government but someone has to be the adult in the room.

Apparently, Netanyahu and President Biden will sit next to each other at the UN General Assembly. There’s always hope.

There is a break in the relations between Ben Gvir, Smotrich and the PM as the PM honoured an agreement to provide the Palestinian Authority with American armoured vehicles. We await the outcome.

The crisis over visas for staff to work in the major Christian Organisations, especially the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem has been solved, at least for now. The bottleneck was in the Interior Ministry where visas were not passed. The ICEJ in particular does great work in bringing Christian Evangelical communities closer to Israel and supporting Israel. I am happy that there has been a change of heart.

The Israeli population has almost reached an incredible 9.8 million people a 12-fold increase since the founding of the State! There are 9,727,000 people living in Israel, the CBS said. Of those, 7,145,000 are Jewish, or 73.5 percent, along with 2,048,000 Arabs (21%) and 534,000 members of other minorities (5.5%). Since last year, the population grew by 216,000 people, an increase of 2.3%. There were 183,000 babies born and 79,000 new immigrants arrived, while 51,000 people died.  46% of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel.

So much is happening in our crazy world. Covid is back in a different form and we are seeing the social results of the isolation in our youngsters. Storms, floods and earthquakes seem to increase, maybe the world is angry at the way we treat each other. Israel’s enemies are enjoying our confusion and are planning to ruin our peace of mind during the High Holidays. Yes, this is a challenging world, but my question is whether it is more challenging or we simply know about it today. Whatever happens wherever in the world, someone is there with a smartphone, ready to take videos to send to the media.

The big question is whether we should moan and groan or do something? Those of you who have been reading my missives for a while will know that I have two mottos. One is “The power of one” and the other is “If the media doesn’t inform then we must inform the media” What is the power of one and is it a banal statement with no depth? If each and every one of us ensured our own environment, our own circle, with kindness, mindfulness, tolerance and outreach, just imagine the cumulative effect! One by one we could really change our world. Similarly, every time we see an untruth, a slanted opinion, a lie in the media, don’t just sit and click your tongue – do something! If you know that someone is alone, without family, young or old, invite them or just pop in with a cake, a meal, a smile. Rosh Hashanah is just a day away, a time of contemplation, soul searching and change, perhaps it is time to turn the banal into action!

Our fridge is about to burst! I have already started on the salads and of course went out in search of new fruits over which to make the “first time” blessing. Shehechiyanu! The Shehechiyanu blessing “Blessed art Thou, the Almighty, who has given us life, sustained us and allowed us to arrive in this moment” is said over anything new that brings you joy, not just the first fruits, but tradition has it that one finds unusual fruits for Rosh Hashanah. I found this rendition of Shehechiyanu sung by some of the greatest Cantors we have. It is not only wonderful, it’s fun so I decided to sneak another song in here!!  

We are guests on first night. We have been invited to Galia and Menashe’s home, always a delight as at least 30 people sit around the table, laden with everything good, in Hebrew one says “kol Tuv”. Our contribution will be Gefilte Fish and Chopped Liver and Galia cooks up a storm for the remainder. We will host the second night, a mere 18 diners including, Zvi’s sons, Leor and Amiad and their families and our special visitors, Sandra, Moi, Jonathan and Dalia, from Mexico City, who are on a fantastic holiday, touring the area. We are so thrilled that they are coming for the festive meal – indeed they were here at our place on Wednesday. for a quick tour of our historic home. They have organised wonderful tours determined to see all the new and ancient wonders of Israel.

I know that you love hearing about what I prepare so here’s the order of events and the approximate menu. We will start by gathering around the table, outside on the veranda, to hear the dulcet tones of Zvi’s kiddush, to start the proceedings. Of course, kiddush is followed by the blessing over the challah, I’m making one huge challah made up of many small individual rolls which can be pulled off as tradition demands. Then we will have an argument at to whether we put honey on the challah as well as the apple and honey!!! Pomegranate seeds will about on everything! The pomegranate represents fertility and abundance. Now for the real food. Gefilte fish, egg salad, veggie chopped liver, pickles and Tsimmes, followed by (takes a deep breath) Salmon, quiches, veggie lasagne and homemade pizza for the children, stuffed peppers, stuffed mini veg, 2 colour courgette salad, big green salad, tzatziki, coleslaw, roast cabbage salad, roast potatoes, boiled new potatoes ending up with fruit salad, nectarine crumble and for the children, mini choc-ices. I have a feeling that I will do some impromptu salads to accompany but we’ll see.

Zvi always says that Jewish festivals are simple to explain, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” but there are a few festivals where we celebrate being alive and try to live our lives in a more meaningful manner and this is one. Living life in a meaningful manner is the promise we make, our pledge with the
Almighty at this time of year, but it shouldn’t be just because we want to be inscribed in the book of good deeds it should be because we really want to be better people.

Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Gottlieb is an exceptional man, an exceptional Jew who believes with all his heart that true Judaism is expressed by acceptance, acceptance of the other and of ourselves.  He believes that when we are not able to find joy, or at least the good in each and every person, whatever our differences then we cannot be a good Jew. Here he speaks of tolerance and how to live life, whatever our religious leaning.

What do I wish you and our world in the coming year?

In truth, I made a whole list of what I want for our world over the next twelve months and then I thought, wow, I, asking people to do what I most dislike, to do what I think!! So instead, I want to quote from what I wrote about the qualities of my amazing son Daniel, Dr Daniel Cammerman z”l when I told you about his passing. Perhaps we should take a leaf from his way of life.

To listen fully, pay attention, not to expound on your views but to use your hearing more than your mouth. Always have open arms and heart for those who need you. Remember to tell those you love that you love and appreciate them. Accept that we don’t know it all, that others may just know more than us. To treat everyone with deep respect, irrespective of colour, creed or position in life. The street sweeper may just have something as important to share as the professor. Daniel epitomised all of the above which is why we chose to dedicate a studio for the performing arts in his name in Shalva where equality and inclusion are the purpose of a magical place. If you wish, you can still help with the upkeep of Dr. Dan’s Room which is bringing so much joy to the youngsters of Shalva.  Just click on Sponsor

What songs will make you happy and hopeful?

One of the most positive songs, born out of personal tragedy, is Ba Shana Habaa, Next year we will sit on our veranda and you’ll see how good it will be. This classic Israeli song was written by Ehud Manor and composed by Nurit Hirsch. May next year be a wonderful year!

One of the most moving parts of the Rosh Hashana service is the blowing of the Shofar or Ram’s Horn. In this rendition, the Shofar is the star of the song Mi Ha Ish, who is the man

Finally, the Shalva Band reminds us of the way the world should be, in A Million dreams.

I wish you a healthy year, a year of joy and understanding. I wish Jerusalem a year of peace, of kindness, an elimination of the hatred that affects all our lives, not only here in Israel but all over the world.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I’m so glad you are here.


PS. I said that I would be on MailChimp but then discovered that because so many of you want to be part of the Shabbat Shalom missive, it will cost just too much. I am deeply grateful to Rochelle Gilbert for setting everything up.  I will never expect payment for what I write, I care for Israel and you far too much.