The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim


26th February, 2010.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim dear Friends

Alon Ben-David Israel Channel 10’s military affairs correspondent spoke of the Dubai “Affair” and the subsequent enquiries into forged passports. It seems unlikely to him that 26 people would have participated in the assassination of one man. If one combined the team which followed al-Mabhouh (who had 5 false passports himself), the assassination team and those in charge of the escape and logistics, 26 is too unwieldy a number. Ben-David says that Dubai is a centre for planning global terrorist activity; in short Israel is no the only country interested in what happens in Dubai.

The story takes on a very different perspective if ones identity was stolen. The son of a close friend finds himself bombarded by the press and receiving calls from the Australian Secret Service, fortunately to help him clear his reputation and ability to travel. As a proud Israeli who served in the IDF he finds himself infamous and his name appearing in news-casts around the world.

“Don’t Mess with the Mossad” has suddenly become one of the most popular T-shirt slogans of the century!!! Where is the best place to find said T-shirts? In the Arab shouk in Jerusalem of course!!!!

For 3,700 years Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs have been sites of religious significance in Judaism, second only to the Temple Mount. 3,700 years is 2,500 years before Islam. The Palestinians are currently violently protesting our right to preserve and rehabilitate these two sites. The entrance plaza and the path leading to the Islamic prayer room at the Tomb of the Patriarchs were fully refurbished. Israel wants to similarly maintain the site used by Christians and Jews who go to the Tomb of the Patriarchs to pray. Apparently freedom of prayer in the PA is only accorded to Moslems.

A 10th Century BCE Wall (over 3,000 years) was uncovered recently in the Ophel, the area below the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount which holds the steps which took pilgrims up to the Temple Mount. The wall is believed to be part of King Solomon’s Temple. This area has been built over in the past 50 years and is now called Silwan, currently a political hotspot since Mayor Barkat wants to pull down illegal housing, which preclude civic amenities and build a new Arab neighborhood with modern infrastructure. The houses can hardly be considered “ancient rights” since all maps and descriptions of the area from as little as 70 years ago prove that it was uninhabited with the exception of a very few Jewish houses.

Prof Gerald Steinberg thinks outside the box. Here he presents the theory that what necessitated the Dubai hit is the failure of international law to fight Jihadi terror, forcing the Jewish state to act independently.

Col. Kemp defends Israel again on the BBC. He accuses the media and the written press of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic bias in this excellent interview.

Martin Kramer gave us pause for thought at the Herzliya Conference by introducing a new theory on the cause of radicalisation. He pointed out that extremism is the only way for the superfluous sons of enormous families to make their mark. Osama Bin-Laden, rich 17th son is the outstanding example of this theory.

Israelis abroad are not always sufficiently savvy to deal with the abusive opinions of foreigners who only hear the media cant. The government has just introduced a new site to help them. A very funny but accurate take-off of BBC and Sky News reports on Israel. After the “British” ad, there is one in French of Israeli firework displays portrayed as terrorist attacks, and a Spanish one portraying Israel as so lacking in technology that we have no electricity and have to cook on the barbecue, known as the “mangal” – “primitive but delicious”. My only complaint is that the site is in Hebrew only.

Shalom Kadosh is an outstanding chef of international acclaim and a wonderful man who constantly proves that Kosher food is great! You can find him at the Primavera Restaurant in the Leonardo Plaza in Jerusalem.

Incidentally, before coming to Israel every tourist should check out to find out the best Kosher restaurants in Israel!!

This week Zvi spent most of his time at the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings. He took me to a very moving event at the Knesset; the first time a Jewish Agency BOG event had been held in the Knesset, invited by the Speaker Ruby Rivlin (7th generation Jerusalemite) who welcomed Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Scharansky, whose grandchildren are 1st generation Jerusalemites! The Chagall Hall is quite exceptional, huge triptych tapestries hang above a hall interspersed with floor and wall mosaics depicting Jewish history, designed and executed by Marc Chagall. Hopefully the future of the Keren Hayesod is safe in the hands of one of the youngest people at the event. Johanna Arbib is the vibrant leader of the worldwide movement and introduces a sparkle and youthful energy which will bring a lot more young people to Israel’s side.

I was invited to a wonderful event – the barmitzvah of Jamie Philippson son of Charlotte and Steven Philippson of London. Jamie read his Torah portion and put on his tefillin (phylacteries) at the Kotel and then 30 of us sat around a table at a Jerusalem restaurant and sang Israeli songs and talked of the importance of connection with Israel. Jamie will read his portion back in London this Shabbat but he will never forget the experience of coming of age beside the Kotel. I found myself sitting beside Yossi Swerdlov who lives in Jerusalem and is a member of Chabad Yossi told me of the phenomenal work of Chabad with the forgotten children of Chernobyl. Please watch this video and learn, as I did, of this selfless project.

Yesterday I met with Michael Doppelt from Manhattan. Michael told me a wonderful story of his parents, long time Zionists, who decided they wanted to “do something” so they began a programme for people to come to Haifa and teach English in schools in poorer areas to give children one on one attention. They are such an amazing success that the project was adopted by Partnership 200 since Boston and Haifa are twinned cities. The children are so appreciative and Mayor of Haifa Yona Yahav has personally commended them. The power of one is alive and kicking in Boston with the Doppelt family.

Witches, warlocks, policemen, princesses, Ben Tens and a wild variety of fancy dress walk the streets of Jerusalem as children go to school dressed as their favourite hero – Biblical or secular!! It’s Purim!! Most schools had parties yesterday despite the fact that Purim is not until the 28th and Shushan Purim on the 1st of March in Jerusalem. The reason for the preemptive parties is the rain which started today and will continue and strengthen over the next few days…… as it does every year. Rain doesn’t dampen our spirits it raises them!!! Patisseries are filled with “Oznei Haman” (Haman’s Ears), “Hamantaschen” (Hamans pockets). There are epicurean ones, Belgian Chocolate, the traditional Eastern dates and the Western poppy seeds, cheese, apple, halva, honeyed almonds….. you name it exists! Ready made or lovingly wrapped mishloach manot abound and children run to school clutching their little packages for friends. Stores and malls hold children’s entertainment and adults throw parties. There is an Israeli expression “Kol siba le mesiba” Any excuse for a party!!

We must appreciate the root of this festival, that we do not bow down to anybody’s will, as Mordechai refused to bow down to Haman. The power of one beautiful young woman charmed a King and successfully turned the tide of hatred in Shushan, in Persia, in Iran. Pause for thought in a world where the only loud noises heard against the Haman of today will be the “gregger” at the reading of Megillat Esther.

I wish you Chag Purim Sameach and think of the relevance of Purim to today’s world. We simply have to ensure that the fool sitting up on the horse of shame is Ahmedinejad and his ilk – not Mordechai the Jew.

Shabbat Shalom and love from Jerusalem – the most beautiful city in the world.