The view from my veranda

Searching, fighting, praying and singing

7th July, 2023

Shabbat Shalom!

Happy anniversary to  my sister Eddie and Ray. 66 years of pure love – and incredibly 66 years since I was your bridesmaid. Happy birthday to my incredible, funny, clever, loving son Gideon who never fails to challenge my thinking and so contributes every week to this missive.

I know, normally I don’t start my missives with personal notes, but 66 years is pretty good going for a marriage these days. I was thinking about good stories, a positive start to this week’s newsletter and their marriage sprang to mind. As to Gideon, his analytical thinking is a lesson to us all.

It has been a week of important news, sad news and the odd ray of light to lift our spirits. The question of Haredi enlistment in the IDF was brought before the Supreme Court by the Movement for Quality in Government led by Advocate Eliad Shrager concerning the “Reasonableness” of any law passed by the Knesset. This covers many subjects but this explanation clarifies much ” Reasonableness comes into play in the judiciary’s other supervisory function. It is a test rooted in Israel’s British legal heritage, part of a tradition of judicial review of decisions by the executive branch. Far from thwarting the will of the people, judicial review is meant to ensure that public officials, from the prime minister downwards, do not flout the will of the people by abusing or exceeding their powers under the law. Some feel that the courts’ use of the reasonableness test in this area has gone too far, by examining the substance of decisions rather than the decision-making process; others disagree. At any rate, Israel’s current minister of justice plans to abolish it altogether. “ One of the main subjects under discussion is the enlistment, or rather non-enlistment of Haredi Israelis into the IDF, a release law which comes to an end after July. Is it reasonable that a particular sector of society is released automatically from serving in an essential defence force by right? The question always rises after young people in the IDF face extreme danger, even more than usual, in order to protect us all and the weight of responsibility lies only on one third of society.

Tel Aviv Police Commissioner Avi Eshed had enough. He stood before the microphone, proudly wearing his police uniform, and explained why he was leaving the force after many years of loyal service. He could no longer serve under Ben Gvir, a Minister for Internal Security that demanded that he use extreme force to stop the demonstrations which take place week after week, month after month, on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv. Until now Commissioner Eshed put forward specific rules to both demonstrators and police, and with very few exceptions the demonstrations went off without incident. The change in attitude was apparent in the spontaneous demonstrations which followed Eshed’s speech, much the same as those in support of Yoav Gallant when Netanyahu fired him. Immediately people left their homes and work and arrived at demonstration sites throughout the country. Unfortunately, the police felt freer to react strongly and at one point, had his bodyguard not jumped in to save the situation, Ehud Olmert, who was simply standing holding his flag, would have been pushed and shoved by one over-eager policeman. MK Meirav Michaeli was less fortunate but at least she wasn’t hurt.

Despite the election pledge of this government, the number of terror attacks has increased, taking advantage of the disturbing split in the citizens and dissatisfaction with the leadership. On Tuesday, in a quiet suburb of Tel Aviv, a terrorist drove his truck into a bus stop and then stabbed those nearby. 8 people went to hospital with varying degrees of injury. Next day, David Yehuda Yitzchak died as the IDF left the operation in Jenin. Jenin, as I have said before, has become the centre for terror organisations, where the brains behind the attacks have their centres, sadly in schools, kindergartens and of course Mosques, preventing most pin point attacks from the air, requiring on the ground operations. Yesterday Shiloh Yosef Amir was killed in a terror attack near his home. I don’t know if it is clear, but in Israel, we know everyone, or know someone who knows the injured or killed. Whereas in other countries killings, shootings, stabbings, take place every day without hitting the headlines, here, we know them, the soldiers are everybody’s sons. Thousands went to the boy’s funerals, thousands who just wanted to say thank you to the families and support them in their grief. May their souls rest in peace.

The last thing I want you to believe is that terror rules our lives or that we are cowed into submission.  Life goes on, indeed life here is still wonderful, active, intense and highly enjoyable, wea re a people that loves to go out, to promenade, to stop for a coffee, to meet and chat in the park. Of course, we love to complain but that’s fine. Let me give you the week’s rundown in the Raviv family. Of course, virtually every day or evening Zvi has rehearsals in at least one of his choirs, so I won’t include those in our packed social schedule.

On Sunday I met Betty and Dana for a coffee in the excellent coffee shop of the Israel Museum where both volunteer and in the evening Zvi sang in a concert at the Jerusalem Theatre with the choir Hakol Yachassi. On Monday Rachel and I headed off for the Dan Hotel near the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus to meet my Daniel’s close friend Eli. We love Eli! He was there for a conference but took time out to spend time with us. Hopefully I’ll be with Eli and his lovely wife Harley for a visit to Shalva next week, a visit to Dr. Dan’s Room.

Where was I? Oh yes Tuesday. Zvi had his mini-parliament made up of local friends and then we drove to Herzliya where we met with Julio Jarak and then collected Debby and Sam Bettsak and headed off to the most phenomenal evening we’ve had in a long time – Shlomo Artzi in concert in the Caesaria amphitheatre. Caesaria, unfortunately better known for being the private home of the Netanyahu’s is actually a fascinating archaeological and historic site. Shlomo Artzi’s career spans decades and he is still as strong of voice and personality as when he was 20. The audience, from teenagers to pensioners, sang every word with him, stood on their feet and waved arms, and generally had a ball. It was indeed a spectacular spectacular! We loved every second and I sang every word on the way back to Jerusalem.

Wednesday morning and I met my friend Mel Brickman in Kumkum (Kettle) a tea house on Bethlehem Road. We had scones with cream and jam for breakfast – although we hoped to get crumpets the poor waitress had no idea what we were talking about! The tea was good although I had to ask for an extra tea bag for the pot and they had no Tea Cosy! It was lovely nonetheless, the two of us in the pretty garden of the tea house. That evening Zvi and I were back on the road to the Ronit Farms, a glorious wedding site out in the country near Kibbutz Gaash, for a truly magnificent event. As I have often related, Zvi is still very close to several of his old high school friends from the time when his parents were Hebrew teachers in Mexico, at the “Yiddische Schule” and among his favourites is Dina Garber. Dina’s grandson Alan was marrying his Jessica – two young people, one from Mexico, one from France via Israel who met in San Francisco and fell in love. It was gorgeous!

Yesterday was the fast of Tammuz, the 17th day of the month of Tammuz which heralds the three weeks of mourning which end on the 9th of the month of Av, Tisha b’Av.

As soon as I finish writing to you I am going to see Rachel and the children. Gosh I love it! Her Shabbat preparations remind me so much of when my children were small, the aromas, the challot rising on the side, then coming out of the oven just waiting, her challot so much more interesting than mine used to be – she experiments with spices, seeds, and designs. For some reason I always arrive just as the bulkes, the little challah rolls, come out of the oven ready for the butter to melt into its aromatic flavours accompanied by a cup of good tea, with the hugs, kisses and stories of Yosef, Talia and Ayala, who despite being teenagers are still as loving as ever.

Tonight, Shabbat. Shabbat, just the two of us, time to be together and talk about our insane life! Zvi’s beautiful kiddush will be just for me, something I treasure as nothing else.

Tomorrow we will spend Shabbat with our/my old friends Yaffa and Martin Glass after visiting Zvi’s son Amiad, Noga, Ella and Yonatan who are just as loving as Rachel’s family! It will be good to catch up with Yaffa and Martin and know that they are happy since moving here.

As I look out on our veranda, on the fruit trees which hold so much promise of a fine harvest, the hibiscus, petunias, geranium, Passiflora, Black Eyed Susan and look forward to going with friends to the concert of arias in Jerusalem Theatre after Shabbat, I am grateful. Grateful that life is full, grateful that we are very involved, grateful that we live in a country where criticising the government is not a death sentence as in so many countries. Grateful that life is busy.

Which of course brings us to the music.

I tried and tried to find a good video of Shlomo Artzi singing in Caesaria on the night we were there in the ancient amphitheatre. A concert there is the peak that all Israeli singers hope to attain and he has performed there over 200 times! This gives you the sensation, the feeling – the entire audience knew every word of every song!

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, If I remember thee not;
If I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.

Yaakov Shwekey, in Caesaria too. With the poem, prayer of 3,000 years

73 years since the Law of Return, July 5th 1950, was passed in the Knesset, the date chosen to coincide with the anniversary of Herzl’s death. Since that day millions of Jews from all corners of the dispersion have come home. To honour that day, the Israeli Police sing “Yerushalyim Shel Zahav” Jerusalem of Gold in honour of that day. It is so beautiful.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I often wonder if you know how important you are to me. Some of you, in fact a surprising number, I know personally and many I know because you care, because you write to introduce yourselves. I wish you a peaceful weekend, I wish Israel a peaceful weekend.

Sending love from Jerusalem, our city, the centre of our world