The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Chiang Mai

Friday 6th December 2013
Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom from Chiang Mai, Thailand
It will soon be Shabbat but I wanted to send you a quick greeting. Today we rode elephants, went in a cart drawn by oxen, Zvi travelled down river on a bamboo raft (I had a well deserved coffee) and then saw the natural wonder of orchids.

However I receivbed a letter from a friend, American Jewish artist Brian Shapiro and his wife LK which deeply moved me.

Dear Sheila and Tzvi,
L.K. and I just got back from our usual forest walk. There are some steep hills that cause a bit of a sweat.  As I have grown older the climb seems to get a bit tougher.  I told we walked that when the hill seems the toughest I think of when I was in Israel and you took me to an event in the desert. I recall that it was an induction of Israeli soldiers into the officer corp.  You pointed out your son marching with his comrades with their heads turned towards us. It was thrilling!  I have never seen such strength.  It was the exact opposite of the photos I have seen of Holocaust Jews or poor Jews throughout the centuries of persecution. What was downtrodden was transformed into strength, I straighten up going up our hill and remember those strong Jews and try to be a little like them.

Russian Piano Maestro Evgeny Kissin is proud of Israel too.
“When Israel’s enemies try to disrupt concerts of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra or the Jerusalem Quartet, I want them to come and make troubles at my concerts, too: because Israel’s case is my case, Israel’s enemies are my enemies…”
Nelson Mandela was a great leader who took his people from oppression to freedom. Apartheid was a diabolical regime which should never ever be equated to anything we have in the West for fear of degrading the heroic fight of many brave souls for the right to exist as equal human beings. Mandela served his time in jail and thanked G-d that his single violent plan was stopped by the authorities that he could live his life with his head held high. His words about Israel will undoubtedly take pride of place for CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera but frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn. He retracted his unwise words and his greatness should not be tarnished by a slip of the tongue. May he rest in peace.
Here in Thailand we celebrated the 85th birthday of Rama 9th, the King who is the only monarch to serve  longer than Elizabeth of the UK. The demonstrations in Bangkok not only stopped predominantly in honour of the birthday and the demonstrators cleaned up their own mess in the streets. The people of Bangkok elebrated into the night but here in Lana Province they remember that they were a separate people with their own King until Siam absorbed Lana and became Thailand. The celebrations were much quieter here  but then this is a gentler and quieter people than those of Southern Thailand. Here too there are check points – here too there are infiltrators – here too there have been wars with their neighbours and here too there are illegal workers from Myanmar and Laos.

I am ready to go home – it has all been fun, especially Australia. Thailand has been fascinating and the people kind but home is home. I had two high points  one was seeing my old Thai friend Waow in Bangkok and the other was the unbelievable, nay exquisite beauty of the White Temple of |Wat Rong Khun My problem is the gold and jewels fo the Temples and the abject poverty of the people.

It is just another reason I love Judaism. We do not need an edifice, there are no bejewelled idols, we do not even need a Rabbi (sorry to all my friends) all we need are the simple tools of prayer as described in the Shema Yisrael and a Torah Scroll.

As we waited for the elephant ride, surrounded by the nomadic Children of Israel who are all over Thailand, I chatted to three sisters. One of them, Lily, said she is from Jerusalem and volunteers in Shaare Zedek. Ah, said I, I am on the board of the Yuri Shtern Foundation which helps many people in the oncology department of Shaare Zedek “But that is what I do! I volunteer for Yuri Shtern at Shaare Zedek” What a small world – she is a close friend of Lenas and a wonderful lady. We both decided that we are asking friends for donations for the Yiuri Shtern Foundation – so please
Please please look at the video and read the material…………………..
We need support desperately, it is the most incredible place.
Since everyone except the essential staff is a volunteer overheads are minimal. In Shaare Zedek all treatments for both patients and family of oncology are free and in the clinic a 50 shekel charge is made for those who can afford it.
We don’t need a great deal of money – a thousand dollars each from a few good friends goes a long long way.
Watch the video – see Lena, the amazing woman who founded the Yuri Shtern Foundation in her husbands memory.
On that note I wish you a Shabbat Shalom wherever you are
With love from us to you
Sheila and the Mahout Zvi