The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom Eid al-Adha Karim

30th June, 2023

Shabbat Shalom! Eid al-Adha Karim, or blessed Feast of the Sacrifice.

It never fails to amaze me how similar the three monotheistic religions really are. Yes of course they all come from the same root, but when I wished my Moslem readers “Eid al-Adha Karim” I referred to the festival celebrating the binding of Isaac, the Akedah, or rather celebrating the fact that Isaac was not sacrificed because his father Abraham has passed the faith test. We share so much that one would think that Jews, Christians and Moslems would understand each other and even accept each other – but that subject is an entire tome within itself.

As usual I have to tell you what’s going on here, but I promise you that this week the good news far outweighs the current news.

The good news/bad news this week is that rockets didn’t land in Israel; the bad news is that they were launched from Jenin. Apparently, the rockets were aimed at the Gilboa Region which is ironic since it was the Gilboa Council that worked side by side with the people of Jenin to rebuild.

Most Israelis had never heard of Brighton, a beautiful seaside town in the UK which sports a glorious Indo-Saracenic Pavilion, designed by John Nash, at the behest of King George IV as a summer palace. However, this week our television screens were not full of gorgeous architecture or the beautiful sea shore, but rather of Sara Netanyahu watching Film Producer Arnon Milchen give evidence in her husband’s trial. Due to Arnon Milchen’s ill health the trial was moved to Brighton for his testimony. The excesses of fine cigars and pink champagne which began as gifts and became demands is hair-raising and deeply distressing, showing yet again a total disregard for the norms of moral leadership. Only time will tell but the insidious remarks about the highly respectable senior judge is creeping into the remarks from the PM’s office.

Judicial reform is still high on the priorities of this government and the statements as to what will and won’t be part of the bill put forward to the Knesset changes daily. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that the Netanyahu invitation is still not coming forward from the White House.

Former Israeli Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich caused a storm, when, during an interview, he said that he truly believed that Netanyahu would resign once indicted, or that the Likud Party would choose another leader. He was sure that for the sake of the country, Netanyahu would leave his post and concentrate on his trial as he told Ehud Olmert to do. Alsheich was always outspoken and during his tenure he “cleaned up” the upper echelons of the police. His tenure was cut short by Gilad Erdan, the then Minister of Police. The rest is history.

There was almost a coup-d’etat in Russia. It looked powerful, made a lot of noise but the Wagner revolution failed with its tail between its legs. Putin is still Russia’s all powerful, swaggering dictator.

New York’s Mayor Eric Adams is to form a Jewish Advisory Council with representation from all sectors of New York’s diverse Jewish community. “Members of the newly-formed council will focus on all issues affecting Jewish New Yorkers, including public safety, quality of life, and education, and will ensure Jewish communities across New York City are connected with all of the city’s resources and services available” A very important move in the light of increasing anti-Semitism.

Our under 21 football team has done it again!! With a late goal against the Czech Republic on Wednesday night the team secured their place in the Quarter-finals of the European Cup Under 21’s. They play Georgia at home for a place in the Semi-finals. The final four teams qualify for the Paris Olympics next summer.

Zvi and I avoid the Israeli version of the TV reality show Big Brother, just not our taste. However, we heard about Yanky and felt the urge to watch. Yanky is the opposite of the usual contestant, he’s a sweet faced, young, Haredi who chose to enter the Big Brother House without compromising his beliefs in any way. Each member of the house was given a task and Yanky’s was to put on the IDF uniform, do a (limited) physical test course and salute his fellow “soldier” with a sharp, clear “Ken hamefaked” – Yes Officer. At the end he sat before Big Brother and told him that even before entering the Big Brother House he intended joining the IDF because he received so much from his country that he wanted to give back. Not a dry eye in the house or in any of the houses around Israel.

I often tell you about the humanity of the IDF and its acceptance of young special needs soldiers. That is true in almost every case but the elite pilot’s course is different. High physical profile, high intellectual profile, intense personality tests, just to get into the course. Once there 50% drop out in the first months, and so on until there are just a very few left to graduate. However, this graduation of the Pilot’s Course had one student who stood out, I cannot give you his name but know that he was born with a congenital form of stutter, very severe, yet he was accepted and overcame all the tests and his stutter! He was interviewed and although we were not allowed to see his face, his smile was in his voice. Bravo!

Superwoman and very proud Israeli actress Gal Gadot has been chosen to have a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. She is the first Israeli actress or actor to receive the honour and she will accept it as an Israeli. Love her!

The Jerusalem Film Festival begins on July 13th with the film “Golda” starring Helen Mirren who will come for the occasion. I will never forget meeting Helen Mirren during a press conference and when the CNN reporter asked her why she loved Israel she responded “Why on earth shouldn’t I? It isn’t that I love Israel it is that I admire Israel. I love being here”

The City of Efrat is 40 years old! Situated in Gush Etzion, the brainchild of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Efrat is not a townful of settlers but rather a beautiful middle class dormitory town. A beautiful place to live, at peace with its neighbours.

Mahane Yehuda is 100 years old! That most Jerusalemite market, filled with colour, aromas, costermongers shouting their wares, delicious halva of every flavour and colour, Tzidkiyahu’s deli, fruit and veg straight from the fields, piled high such as never seen before, fish so fresh it almost jumps into your shopping bag and every variety of bread, knaffe, rugelech and baklava imaginable! Filled with happy excited people, it is my favourite place in Jerusalem. The metamorphosis on a Thursday evening as the stands close is phenomenal. Suddenly chairs and tables appear from nowhere and the young people pour in from all over the country as the market becomes one big bar with music and fun!! If you are here and want to know what celebrations are taking place

That felt so good. Life here is so wonderful and I always wind up telling you depressing news but today, lots of good news.

This has been a fairly uneventful week in the life of the Ravivs apart from Zvi’s various choir rehearsals. One delightful event was when my two grand-daughters, Talia and Ayala, announced that they wanted to come and stay over – just because! It was great and Rachel brought them and we even had time for a movie at home. When I think of it it’s very special when a 17 year old and a 14 year old choose to stay with Saba and Safta. Talia has a school project to write about someone’s experience during the founding of the State of Israel. She chose Zvi’s lovely father Kalman and Zvi happily related his father’s experiences as British Mandate Policeman Number 81, as a sports teacher, the new waves of immigration at a time when everyone was poor and of course of his father’s invention which then spread cross the world “Mishmeret ha Zahav” the crossing guards who save so many lives. In Israel the guards are older children but in the UK the “Lollipop Ladies” were introduced about 4 years later. I love the fact that young Israelis really want to know how the founders of the State of Israel lived.

Tonight Shabbat, Zvi and I are on our own! Yes I know it sounds impossible but it’s true. Just the two of us and the candles, the blessings and the peace and quiet of our amazing home. This week I have had many visitors, sunbirds who love the sugary liquid from my special feeder and drink the nectar from the flowers, woodpeckers busily trying to break open the green almonds on the tree outside my window and ordinary common or garden sparrows which dart in and out. I picked the apples from the tree and they were absolutely delicious, I love “Anna” apples, so crisp. The citrus trees are all producing tiny fruits and we have unseasonal scrumptious strawberries! Last night there was a summer party next to the Big House and we met neighbours from the village and tomorrow we will spend time with Ronit and Yossi.

Since I do not need to cook for guests, I will have time to go to Rachel today and see Yosef, Talia and Ayala. The special treat afterwards is driving over Samuel’s Tomb and stopping for a few minutes at the vista point to soak up the amazing relief map that is Jerusalem stretched out before me, hill after hill of glistening white buildings. Tomorrow hopefully we will see Amiad and Leor and families, a special weekend indeed.

Music, indeed the food of love, it calms the fevered brow and all the other schmalzy but accurate descriptions.

Koolulam again!! A Revolution of Joy! Sheer joy

Birthright Israel aka Taglit, is a project to bring young people on their first trip to Israel, all in. They have an amazing time, meet friends from all over, travel the length and breadth of Israel and discover that everything they heard prior to arriving here, was wrong. Israel is a fabulous place for young people – so much so they even sing about it! Shevet Achim Beyachad

I always loved Shlomo Artzi. In fact, I learned Hebrew through his songs, the words poetic and clear. It was at the time of cassettes and I used to listen carefully and stop the cassette when there was a word I didn’t understand and look it up in the Hebrew/English dictionary. Neither Zvi nor I have ever been to a Shlomo Artzi concert but this Tuesday, with thanks to Debby and Samuel Bettsak, we are going to hear him in the incredible amphitheatre of Caesarea. My favourite song 35 years ago was “Under Mediterranean Skies” about the complexities of life in the Middle East alongside the mundane of everyday life. He sings with his son Ben in the most loving father son video ever made.

So it is time to say goodbye, adieu, Shabbat Shalom. I wish you a beautiful Shabbat in which you give yourself time to reflect, to go for a walk, to ray or to bless whichever suits you. When God rested, created a day of rest, it was probably the most important social contribution to humanity imaginable. A day to gather one’s thought, to be with one’s family and to give mind and body a break.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom