The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom Chag Pesach Sameach


April 6th 2012

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy and Kosher Festival of Freedom

This is going to be a very fast and short letter – my cooking is underway but unfinished; my dishes are changed; the shopping is over, the cakes baking, the fridge full and everything is wonderful just waiting for the table to be set and the Seder plate to be placed with its special story.

In the meantime let me get the news out of the way before we move to the happy events!!!!
The International Court of Human Rights in The Hague decided that the Palestinians can’t lodge complaints because it is not a country!!! The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court says the PA cannot file complaints against Israel because it is not a state but rather an observer on the United Nations. Finally someone noticed!!!

The Globe Theatre, London’s Shakepearian theatre, invited the Habima Theatre, among other troupes, to perform in a festival. The usual “yafeh nefesh” – beautiful soul actors protested because Habima actors perform in the “occupied territories”. That Emma Thompson is an ignoramus doesn’t surprise me but that Mike Leigh, a Jew, signed the boycott angers me. Strangely enough his ex-wife, the marvellous Alison Steadman is quite the opposite! The Globe Theatre thankfully believes in free speech and refused to bow to pressure and Habima is performing in the festival

A Grad missile fell on on Eilat two nights ago. It fell near the housing areas rather than the hotels and no-one was injured but yet another missile on Israel that no-one, especially Emma Thompson or Mike Leigh, seems to be bothered by. Hamas denies all connection to the event and denounced the action. It comes to something when the moderates in Gaza are now Hamas!!!!

It certainly appears that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican Candidate for the Presidential elections. I don’t fully understand American politics but although it is rare for an incumbent to lose the elections Mitt Romney seems to be an exceptionally strong contender with an excellent leadership record. It has been fascinating watching the debates!

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, oft quoted in my letters, is one of my favourite people because he intellectualises our beautiful religion and makes sense of the nuances! Here he responds to Thomas Friedmans article in the NY Times which quotes an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study showing that there is a negative relationship between the money countries extract from natural resources and the knowledge and skills of their high school populations. Rabbi Rosen responds with Israels achievements to disprove the claims!

Two nights ago we went to a wedding that was held in a “Bedouin Camp” called Eretz Bereshit, out in the Judean Hills. The chuppa or wedding canopy was made of rough hewn wood and white sheeting and as the groom completed the tradition of breaking the glass, the sun was going down over the barren, eerie, incredibly beautiful Judean Hills. It was magical! It was the most Jerusalem of weddings, so spiritual and natural. The parents Ora and Avner joined Zvi’s choir to sing ot the young couple and celebrate their love. It was wonderful!

In the week leading up to Passover, Jerusalem takes on a whole new personality. The supermarkets develop entire shrouded areas as the Chametz or non-Passover foods are hidden from the clientele and new, delicious foods appear. Street corners sport old men sitting beside large balloons of gas attached to enormous “pilers” or metal vats of boiling water so the locals to dip their pots, dishes and cutlery to purify it for passover. I admit that I do my own “kashering” not wishing to share this utensil bath with others! I collect three perfect stones, boil my water while heating the stones and then put the stones into the water causing it to bubbe wildly before putting my utensils in to make them ready for Passover! Not only the dishes change – the aromas have changed too. The usual chicken soup is obvious but the aromas of Eastern and Western foods become even more diverse since Eastern Jews can eat pulses (including rice) and Ashkenazi Jews do not making food purchases very complex.

The centre-piece of the Seder table is the Seder plate, ours came from my parents home, beautifully decorated with small bowls to contain the salt water, horseradish root, bone, burned egg, parsley, Charoset (combining) and grated horseradish each with their own relevance and meaning referring to the crossing of the Red Sea, the mortar of the Pyramids, the tears of slavery and new life and spring. Our table will have a white cloth, 14 place settings using the dinner service which is all that remains of Zvi’s fathers family from Poland. This is the first year we don’t have Ala, Zvi’s amazing mother with us and it will be sad but our memories of her reading her sections loud and clear, in the voice of a fine actress, leading the Seder as she always led in her life. My adored Zeidy, Joseph Glicker will be remembered as we eat the grated horseradish and his delicious charoseth (grated apples, ground almond, wine, cinnamon and finely chopped lettuce).

After the blessings over the seder dish and the wine, Zvi’s fabulous bass-baritone lifting our hearts as he starts the proceedings. As each of us sings the familiar blessings along with him leading to the breaking of the matzo in half to hide for the children to find, we will eat the hard boiled eggs in salt water we move on to the Chicken soup and kneidlach. As if that isn’t enough we move on to the main course of baby chicken, shoulder of lamb, meat balls, roasties, salads and sauces. Dessert – for those who still have space, will be fresh orange salad, chocolate cake and stewed fruit.

I love the second half of the Seder. My work done as the guests are replete, we settle down to welcome the Prophet Elijah and to sing silly songs about young goat, Chad Gadya, sung in Aramaic, we make the sounds of the various creatures and beings as we go from verse to verse with the Cat (miouw), the Dog (woof woof) the Bull (moo) etc etc ending with the Angel of Death (booooh very loud) and of course The Almighty (Yeah Whoops of joy and hands in the air!). We count the ways of faith and end with the eternal prayer NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM. Next year in Jerusalem was our prayer, the prayer of the Diaspora, but we in Jerusalem and no matter what anyone in the State Department tries to tell us Jerusalem is our capital city – always was always will be!!!

The young soldiers of the IDF, especially the lone soldiers, wanted to wish you a happy Pesach. Enjoy this wonderful video
This is the festival of freedom – freedom from slavery, freedom to be Jews – indeed to celebrate being both free and Jewish as we relate the story of our liberation. Today looks so depressing with anti-Semitism on the rise and anti-Israel actions growing daily, but remember, never forget – the honey and the sting, the bitter and the sweet – over all these we are here, we are here and strong and vibrant and thriving. Who’da thought it?

As my house is cleaned, my food cooked and spring is springing over Jerusalem I thank G-d for the beauty set out before me as I stand on my veranda and view the wonders we have created.

Shabbat shalom and Chag Pesach Sameach dear friends. Wherever you may be
With love Sheila