The view from my veranda

Shabbat shalom, Chanuka Sameach and a Blessed Christmas


23rd December 2011

Shabbat shalom dear friends. Shabbat shalom, Chag Urim Sameach and of course a truly blessed Christmas to all our Christian friends.

Isi Leibler is a religious Jew, a truly erudite religious Jew. Isi recognises that the issue of Ultra-Orthodox attempt at control in Israel has gone too far. Confront Unbridled Religious Zealotry Now by Isi Leibler

After a Palestinian man in distress stopped beside an IDF camp his life was saved by two IDF medics using intensive CPR. “We make no distinction between patients and will treat anyone in need – Jewish or Palestinian, men or women. It’s one of our values both as doctors and as soldiers in the army.”

Chanuka. A single cruse of oil lasted 8 days to light the Jewish people out of the darkness of the hedonisitic ruling Hellenist culture to reconsecrate the Temple. The Greeks did not necessarily want to kill us, they were much cleverer than that; they stripped us of our traditions, our language, our rites and our identity imposing total secularity. Without Brit Mila, Kosher food, Shabbat and of course our festivals we were under threat of simply disappearing, until one brave man and his family stood up and fought. Yehudah ha Maccabee – the Jewish Hammer, son of Matthatias, a priest from Modi’in, led the revolt against Hellenisation and King Antiochus’ cruel tyranny – and won! He restored our faith, our rights and our identity. The power of one.

Yesterday I met with Anne Ayalon, wife of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon. Anne is not just a silent partner she is determinedly and wholeheartedly working to bring Christians and Jews around the world together in an understanding of where we both started – right here in this wonderful land. Bright and eloquent she works tirelessly for Israel. Anne is deeply involved in a wonderful project called The Galilean to encourage all faiths to come to the Galilee to discover their roots here in Israel and learn about our wonderful country. We hope to work together in the future to keep YOU well informed and part of our mutual future. I am thrilled that she loved the idea of “Adopt a journalist” so please remember to do just that – right where you are. Take one home!!!
After our meeting we went together to the Christian Embassy in their exquisite home on Rachel Imenu Street, to celebrate the Festival of Lights honouring both Chanuka and Christmas and our mutual love of Israel. Director of the ICEJ, Jurgen Buhler welcomed us, talking of his pride as a Christian who loves Israel and honours Judaism and prayers that Christianity’s black history of persecution of Jews is in the past. Shia Ben Yehuda from Yad Vashem spoke pointing to the modern miracle of Chanuka – a German Christian and an Israeli religious Jew representing a Holocaust Memorial standing together in Jerusalem to celebrate and honour each others festivals and their love of Israel. Finally Rev Goosan Aljanian, Director Liturgical Chanting at the Armenian Church stood and in a full operatic voice sang an Armenian Carol. Candle lighting, Maoz Tsur, A traditional carol and then this. The ICEJ truly brought us together.

From the Embassy we went to see a film at the Cinemateque produced by a friend – Avi Angel. The film took us on a journey, a truly incredible journey of two brothers, two year old Avner and three year old Itzchak, hidden from the Nazis of Cracow in a bunker by an Aunt, their parents taken to their death, the aunt throwing them on a Kastner Transport train saving their lives. Their journey took them through Poland, Bergen Belsen, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and finally Israel. These tiny children were adopted by a young woman along the way, their beloved Nomi , who like Moshe didn’t see the Promised Land, until finally B’nei Akiva freed them from Atlit. Their Aunt survived the war thus they originally called the film “3 Mothers for 2 boys” but the final name is “Here I learned to Love” in honour of Nomi. From the story of Itzchak and Avner Weinberg it is both deeply emotional and uplifting- Izchak himself came and answered questions, he and his brother now 71 and 73 years old with thriving families and full lives. Standing near the Western Wall in Jerusalem Avner says: “This is the moment when I claim victory over the Nazis.”

From there we took our now familiar route to Mevasseret, back to Sam and Frida to light the Chanuka candles with friends.

For our special celebrations I bring you two videos. One about a Dreidl or Sevivon Did you know that your dreidl is different to mine? In Israel the four letters on the dreidl are Nun, Gimmel, Heh and Peh, representing Ness Gadol hayah Poh (A great miracle happened here) whereas in the Diaspora you have a different letter on your dreidl – Nun, Gimmel, Heh, Shin – Ness Gadol hayah Sham (A great miracle happened THERE)!!!
Growing up in Wales I had no idea that Chanuka means Sufganiot or Doughnuts. We had potato latkes but no doughnuts! Here in Israel there are so many varieties that I needed a video to explain it all!!!

Chanuka this year came together with a very sad personal loss. My adored cousin Jean passed away. Jean and Stuart, Stuart and Jean, inseparable in name and in fact. Always part of my life since I was small they, and later their sons Ian and Bobby, were an integral part of my family. A totally positive couple, generous, sweet, loving, giving, they epitomise family. They always stood by me, my decisions and never let me down. They stood with me in lieu of my parents and siblings as our “unterfirers” or proxy parents, at my wedding to Zvi, proudly handing me over to Zvi with great love and unforgettable smiles. Family, more important than anything else in the world, family means “being there” for family celebrations and tragedies; family means never letting anyone feel left out; family means supporting one another – always forgiving.; family is being able to picture where your loved one is; family is knowing that whatever happens your family will be with you. I love my family and was especially moved by Jean’s sister Shirley who, in her eulogy, spoke of their togetherness and the fact that they thought alike and never a day went by without them talking and checking on each other. Jean together with her beloved Stuart, left behind the greatest legacy of all – two sons and ten grandchildren all of whom are absolute family. I will always miss you dear Jean, thank you for being a fine example in my life and for loving me so much.

Christmas came to Jerusalem! Not only the many carol concerts or the festive lights, Chanukiot on the streetlights of Jerusalem giving way to stars and cedars on Hebron Road leading toward Bethlehem but in the vast numbers of visitors crowding the Old City, mixing and matching with the Chanuka celebrations. You don’t have to be Jewish to go into Roladin to try out their exceptional flavours of sufganiot!!

I wish you blessed festive season, whatever your faith, wherever you are. We all pray for the same things, a healthy happy family; a stable economy; to stop famine and oppression and maybe we should add one that the media and our governments concentrate on the important rather than on the convenient – like knuckle rapping a tyrannical murderous regime in Syria while concluding that the idiotic and illegal decision of Haredim to make women sit at the back of the bus was an international incident! Allowing oppression of Christians in the PA to go by as if it isn’t happening but building houses in Jerusalem is holding back world peace!!

So. Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat shalom and Chanuka Sameach.
Happy Happy birthday to my wonderful big sister Eddie – so far away in Toronto Canada. Eddie I love you and miss you more than you can imagine.

Love from Jerusalem