The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom and Succot Sameach from Sheila in Jerusalem

10th October 2014
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Succot Sameach
I was going to write all about Succot but decided it was pointless when it has already been written beautifully by Rabbi Jeremy Rosen
Another person who says things much better than I with perhaps a lot more courage and zeal is the feisty Pat Condell who hits the nail on the Middle Eastern head again.
My amazing husband Zvi Raviv was interviewed on the excellent radio station Voice of Israel ( by Judy Lash Balint. He spoke about his experiences of the Yom Kippur War and you can hear him too! Just click on the link
Before talking about Succot I want to tell you about a friend of Zvi’s. His name is Philip Bloom but he is much more famous as Rami Salami, the clown. Philip is a long time volunteer for Israel in many capacities but right now he is performing in front of audiences big and small for children in the South of Israel. Philip began a campaign to help traumatised children who have suffered years of bombardment from Gaza – it is called Beanie Babies Buba. You can see his work on Facebook – befriend him – and also if you wish to send beanie babies contact Philip’s campaign Project #BeanieBabyBubas 
It is a while since I wrote. Yom Kippur came and went and Zvi and I found a tiny Masorti synagogue right near our home. It was so small that I felt thoroughly at home – having grown up in a small community and grew my children in a small community. The sounds, tunes, niggunim, smells and most importantly the service was familiar, fitting in well with my late fathers Machzor (prayer book).  It makes one feel needed.
The moment the Ne’ilah service ends (the closing service of Yom Kippur) a strange and fascinating sound is heard all over Jerusalem, nay all over Israel. A strange tap, tap, tapping sound resembling a woodpeckers incessant attempts to find grubs inside the bark of the tree but no, it isn’t a bird, nor a plane…….it is the sound of Succah building. The Succot are built in the most unlikely places – on seemingly tiny verandas high above the street, perching like birds nests,  on the sidewalk outside apartment blocks, in gardens and car  parks – indeed everywhere that allows a succah to exist!
In the neighborhood next to us – Bayit ve Gan – the Succot Fair opens with every conceivable type of Succah and Succah decoration, here we don’t hang fruit but rather glittery glitzy balls and bells – and the essential 4 types of flora, the 4 species – willow, hadass, palm leaves which make up the Lulav and the Etrog, a strange lumpy lemon-like fruit with the Latin name of Citrus medica. Religious men spend hours checking the tiny protrusion at the top for its purity and the quality of the 4 species while the children vie for the best decorations. All in all a huge crush of humanity with smiles all round!
Our succah is obviously on our veranda. We finished it just in time for our celebratory meal, the table set for all 16 diners, underneath the slatted roof with its sprigs of palm and willow, all was ready when…………… whoosh the skies opened!!!! Pouring rain! It took me back to our Succah days in the UK! Thanks to the speedy assistance of Leor we managed to bring everything into the house, open the dining-table and seat everyone within about 6 minutes! chaos reigned, since 6 out of the 16 were children, but our festive, Succot meal took place. Succah literally means a Tabernacle, or temporary hut to remind us of the wanderings in the desert before coming to the Land of Milk and Honey.  I was told off for my explanations of Jewish traditions – an insult to the informed, however, since I know how the rest of you love to know and learn I will continue to explain and recognise our incredible similarities.
Talking of similarities. The wonderful International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem has its annual Tabernacles Festival this week to coincide with Succot and Zvi and I are going to an enormous celebratory event at the new Basketball Arena. I love these events! It was at one of the Embassy events that I met Ambassadrix Christy Mbonu of Nigeria, a meeting I embrace and enjoy until today. Christy and I have many exchanges concerning the plight of her country and the Christians who live there.
The wind is blowing furiously and the intermittent rain is about to recur – indeed the wind is so strong that our flimsy tabernacle is about to take flight!!! We decided to remove all electrical decor and probably anything that can fly through the air and harm a passerby! The weather is most unusual for this time of year but we are praying for rain this festival so one cannot complain about the blessing of water which brings us back to Rabbi Jeremy’s essay this week!
Next week I promise to write to you about the news but decided that we all need a week off from the dreadful turn our world has taken. This week we will rejoice. We will rejoice the Torah, ending the reading of the 5 books and beginning over again. This is such a joyous event that we have a festival named for it!!! Simchat Torah – the Joy of the Torah. Congregations all over the world will dance with the Torah Scrolls, the sheer and pure joy of our religion.
Zvi and I are thrilled that Zvi’s cousin Billy and Ruth’s grand-daughter Dalia is here with us for this Chag. Dalia is here for four months with a group from Mexico on a MASA trip of the Jewish Agency, working on Kibbutz, doing courses and generally familiarising with Israel. She is so much fun and such a joy to be with. Her knowledge is wide, her Hebrew excellent and she is just a lovely young woman!!! The Mexican Community has exceptional ties with Israel and this video of Mexicans, Jews and non-Jews, showing their love of Israel and peace is wonderful.
I want to congratulate my beautiful Great-Niece Carly and her James for making me a Great-Great- Auntie! I am so proud! Little Sebastian George brought untold joy to my beautiful sister Doreen and her Melvyn, Steve and Claire and to all the wonderfully close Bloom family.  Mazal Tov to us all!
I wish you joy, from our Torah, from life, from your families and most importantly from yourselves. If you exude joy then life becomes more beautiful, for you and for all who meet you.
Azriel David Farshtag wrote this Niggun (music) on the train to Auschwitz brought to the  Admor mi Mositch in the USA by a young man who jumped from the train. Ani Ma’amin, I Believe to remind us that even in the most extreme of circumstances our faith can win through.
Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova and of course Chag Sameach

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