The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem – Iraq, President, Kaz,

Friday 13th of June 2014
Shabbat Shalom dear friends,
Last night I sat on the hammock on our veranda (mirpesset) talking to my beloved sister on Skype and trying to decide what on earth to write to you today. Jerusalem spread before me, but for once it did not calm me despite a wonderful week. One question kept racing through my mind and wouldn’t leave.
Iraq is being torn apart by the extreme Islamist group ISIS, the Jihadi “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” is so extreme that they find Al Qaeeda weak, and the Western governments are doing nothing more than chest beating. Iran, Iraqs natural and long time enemy is the only country to come to their aid. What does it mean?
The Middle East is aflame – in Lebanon, created as a Christian pearl, Sunni and Shia are killing one another; in Syria the murderous regime is deemed a better option than the Jihadists and the slaughter continues unabated; we have lost touch with many of the other states since we toppled their leaders, foul but sources of information, and their ability to massacre is unknown; only Egypt provides a tiny glimmer of light as the outgoing President Mansour put forward a law to outlaw wife-beating. It sounds banal but in these countries it is essential; the Hamas-Fatah agreement is already showing cracks and will undoubtedly result in further killing of Fatah members in Gaza; finally, Iran, which until the interference of President Carter, was a forward thinking, relatively modern state, Iran is still happily making WMDs. Indeed we are so stupidly naive that we chose a member of the Moslem Brotherhood (El Baradei)  to oversee their nuclear programme until he retired!!!!
The long arm of the Jihadists is killing Africa too. Nigeria is left to her own devices, the 300 schoolgirls forgotten while Europe and the USA ignore their own enemy within. What makes this scenario even more fantastic is that the only country to receive censure is Israel!!!!!
Twice the United States opted for isolationism and twice it led to World Wars.
Australia’s announcement that describing the annexed areas of Jerusalem as occupied is legally incorrect, has not pleased the Jordanians who actually occupied East (misnomer since it includes South) Jerusalem for 19 years. Prior to that time it was under either Ottoman or British rule. The Australians are right of course and the formerly Jordanian areas are an essential part of Jerusalem – Jerusalem capital city of the Jewish people.
Many believe that the Israeli decision to build homes in Jerusalem is a direct result of the bi-partisan government of Hamas and Fatah. Firstly, no it isn’t, we need housing, this is Jerusalem not some outpost of extremists; Secondly, why on earth shouldn’t we build since no-one is telling the Palestinians not to build in Israeli Jerusalem neighborhoods; thirdly, there are far more important things happening in our area and only a weak and ineffective West can equate building a few apartments with the massacre of innocents.
Amazingly it was a Palestinian Ambassador to London who emphasised the logic of recognising Israel as a Jewish State in exchange for recognition of the PA.
Every so often something happens which restores ones faith in human nature. It happened for me when I met a young British Moslem here in Jerusalem. Kaz was volunteering for Stand With Us and his joy at being in Jerusalem was infectious. Having grown up in a strict Moslem family he accepted all the hatred toward Jews and Israel that his culture spouted until the day he picked up a book, a very important book written by Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel. It changed his life. Kaz emigrated to Canada and I am thrilled by the announcement –  B’nai Brith Canada, the Jewish community’s grassroots advocacy and social service organization, is proud to announce the appointment of Kasim Hafeez as education and community relations officer for its Midwest region. Love you Kaz.
Once again the modus operandi for the election of the Israeli President has proven  inefficacious. I am not unhappy with the result rather with the methodology. The fact that MK’s can promise all the candidates their vote to curry favour but in the final count change their secret vote is ludicrous. The you scratch my back I’ll scratch your coupled with the determined rumour mongering does not ensure the best person winning. A clear example is Prof. Dan Shechtman. Nobel Prizewinner, internationally known, elegant and brilliant he did not play the political games, believing it beneath his dignity, so he only got one vote. The new President elect, Ruby, Ruvi, Reuven Rivlin is a seasoned politician, from a many-generational Jerusalem family and I am sure that with the advice of his diplomatic aides he will do a good job. Israeli Presidents are not supposed to be politicians – they, as the titular heads of state, are diplomats, ambassadors and hosts, they are the oil on troubled waters of the State of Israel. May President Rivlin prove himself to be a fine representative of the Israeli people.
This week was no less insane than our usual weeks and maybe just a little more so!!!
After Shabbat we went to Kibbutz Zora, near Beit Shemesh, with friends and Leor, Shiri and the girls. The occasion? The harvest festival which is part of Shevuot. Children dancing, adults singing, teenagers singing and dancing – all about the fields, the crops, the animals and the pure life of  farming. It was so gorgeous and then we sat on the grass for a picnic. The little girls were so excited by the entire show especially when at the end they were invited ot join the kibbutz children to  release balloons into the sky, blue and white balloons of course!
On Monday I caught the morning bus to Eilat to join my beautiful daughter and her family in the rented house for a few days.  The bus ride was terrific, so efficient and no problems like getting to the airport, check-in and so on – just booking, going to the Central Bus Station right here in Jerusalem and getting on the bus then off in Eilat four and a half hours later – with one peepee/coffee stop! My journey was eased by my neighbour, a young man from Philadelphia called Bennet. The views are breathtaking but the history even greater. Passing through Jerusalem going down toward the Dead Sea, near Jericho, through the Judean Hills into the Judean Desert, caves where David hid from Saul, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, Massada, Lots wife, Sdom ………….. and so on until reaching the modern town of Eilat, on the Red Sea coast. The house was enormous, the pool glorious, the children and their Daddy Igal had a ball and I got to spend precious time with my beautiful daughter! The temperatures were horrendous – 40 degrees centigrade – which this Jerusalemite found difficult!!!!
I came back to Jerusalem on Wednesday and of course my husband had theatre tickets for that evening! Great play, slept a bit but got the gist!!!! Next morning, Thursday and it was time for the Cardiff girls to meet again, but this time it was for a very special reason. Our friend Sue – aka Susan Gaba Yakir – was celebrating a birthday and her return to good health. Sue invited a fascinating variety of women to partake of a truly incredible, typical Israeli breakfast in the lovely, leafy Jerusalem suburb of Beit Zayit. I loved the incredible variety of backgrounds, views, opinions, beliefs all brought together by Sue and her natural charisma. Best of all I got to sit next to Sues amazing Mum “Auntie”Tema who aged over 90 is more than capable of any and all conversations that come her way responding with wit and humour and an incomparable memory of the Cardiff “girls” and our parents. It felt good to sit with someone who already knew everything about me and accepted me as I am.
Last night Zvi was guest of honour at a very special event for very special people. Tsamid is the Jerusalem Municipality organisation for people with special needs. It was a fabulous affair and a chance for Zvi to catch up with old friends and me to rest! After the event Zvi went with a group of buddies to a mutual friends home to watch the opening of the World Cup. Brazil, it engenders all sorts of romantic images but is really quite violent especially right now where the population is angry at the cost of the Mondial and expressing their anger very clearly.
And so to Shabbat!
Tonight we have about 16 people coming for Shabbat Dinner. Yup 16 people coming for Dinner and I am sitting here writing to you!!!! Zvis family from Argentina – the Solnikis,  also from Argentina Julio and Monika Jarak, Daniel and Naomi, Vancouver Glesbys and maybe a few more!  I have yet to put some finishing touches but the food is mostly ready. The table will be extended to its utmost and the dishes will probably not quite match as I only have a full dozen of the “milky” set but no-one will mind! My usual “Orange”soup (pumpkin, yam and carrot), Fresh salmon, Sea Bream, fried fish balls, salads galore, Israeli new potatoes, broccolli and cauliflower ending with home made ice-cream and Rayas 7 minute chocolate cake!
The weather is perfect today, our guests being entertained by Zvi who took them to the Holy Book exhibit at the Biblelands Museum  and of course everyone will go to the Light Festival in the Old City
Daniel Schwartz is here from Manhattan for his nephews bar mitzva – hopefully he will manage to come for dessert tonight so that I can congratulate him on his recent wedding!
Shabbat is about family but it is also about sharing. My Mummy always kept a spare set of cutlery and crockery ready on the sideboard, just in case an unexpected guest arrived. She never wanted anyone to feel that they were unwanted or caused a problem by arriving. Shabbat is exceptionally beautiful here in Jerusalem. It isn’t just the sense of expectancy that I often write about, it is so much more. One has the feeling that this is where it all started, this is where we put down our roots and have been celebrating Shabbat for 3,000 years, this is tangible, touchable, actual Judaism, this is Jerusalem.
I frequently think of what my friend Jill said when asked to describe her love of Israel. “Israel is both my Mother and my child. ” she responded. “Israel protects me as a mother protects her child and I love Israel as a Mothers love for her child.” That is how I feel about Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular.
Yet again I digress. As Shabbat nears big puffy clouds scutting across the sky casting incredible patterns as their shadows pass over the white buildings below me. I can just imagine the excitement of the first timers on our veranda where they will get a virtual tour of the panorama below them  before coming inside to the traditional part of the meal. Zvi will lead the prayers, first Shalom Aleichem, on to my favourite part – Eshet Chayil – Woman of Worth – a blessing to his wife – that’s me,  then the blessing over the wine – Kiddush. Kiddush, a reminder to keep the Sabbath Day, a thank you for the grapes of the vine and for taking us out of slavery and the sanctification of our nation ending the ceremonial part with the blessing of the Challah. And so to food!!!! Tradition is surely the most important part of our religion – tradition honours our ancestors. Here a Russian non-Jewish group sings some of my favourites
Wishing you a beautiful Shabbat and just in case you think that Shabbat in Jerusalem has to be a serious and solemn occasion just watch this video!!!
With much love from beautiful Jerusalem.