The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from London

11th January 2013
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well and that my “week off” didn’t bother you.
I am in the UK, but before all my British friends get cross for my lack of contact, I am here for a very specific reason, helping to take care of my glorious grandchildren and cooking up a storm for the family to give my daughter-in-law a chance to be healthy and back on her usual excellent form. I did manage to go down to Wales for two days to see my family there which was wonderful. So dear lovely British family and friends – I apologise but please don’t be cross that I didn’t contact you but it just wasn’t appropriate.
I seem to be somewhat expert at avoiding unpleasant and unexpected weather conditions!! My decision to come home directly from Florida rather than returning through New York on my way back to Israel from the USA, just before Hurricane Sandy, resulted in my narrowly missing that disaster; I avoided the heavy rains, winds and subsequent flooding just before arriving in the UK and this week, while away from Israel she has been battered by gale force winds, flooded by heavy rains and now Jerusalem and the Golan are under a white blanket of snow! Apparently a harbinger of better weather it’s worth following my example!
The Arab Spring has produced a multitude of results, most of them extremely negative. The latest outrageous statement from Egypt bans Bahai from public schooling! Bahai, the religion of peace is not recognised by the new government in Egypt. They recognise Judaism yet the Jews have virtually all left under dreadful persecution; they recognise Christianity yet are persecuted and killed out of existence; they recognise Islam – they recognise Islam. The Wests acceptance and support of the current government even rewarding their occasional good behaviour amidst the sea of tyranny.
A horrendous, arguably the most atrocious result of the Arab Spring is the situation in Syria. President Assad made a speech to his nation and the outside world, deep in his megalomanic denial of reality. After over 60,000 deaths, nay murders, of ordinary civilians he is determinedly unaware that his spree of slaughter must end. The UK, through Foreign Minister William Haigh, is trying to persuade the European Union to provide the rebels with non-lethal equipment to fight Assads diabolical onslaught, in line with the American approach. We cannot claim that Assad is an uneducated parvenu whose power hungry determination comes out of ignorance – he is the Western educated son of a former leader and has seen and benefitted from the beauty of democracy yet chooses to commit heinous crimes in the name of his power-hungry ambitions.
The Ynetnews headline reads “200 Palestinian settlers build outpost in Area E1”. Did CNN newsreaders tell you? Well they did and no-one is stopping them. Building Bab el Shams as a prtest is utterly ridiculous because they are building non-stop anyway!!!,7340,L-4331259,00.html
Nobody quite understands the Israeli electoral system but despite the multitude of parties it works! Sometimes it works because a coalition prevents either far left or far right from dangerously changing our path and sometimes is frustrates good policies but in general it works well. Luckily we don’t have one man with overall power who can decide against Israels best interests.
Naftali Bennet, Yair Lapid and Rabbi Amsalem are filling diverse voids. Rabbi Amsalem is an Mizrachi or Eastern Jew, who was a member of Shas the Mizrachi religious party but was angered by the changes in their attitude toward the state, the IDF and work. He believes that the Mizrachi religious movement was always demanded army service, working to earn a crust and support for the nation in addition to Torah study and now they have joined the ultra-orthodox Ashkenazis in believing that study of Torah is sufficient and one does not need to support ones family, go to the army, give back to the country in any way – indeed accept that rights demand obligations. His outspoken attitude has created a situation of near excommunication but he is a providing a good alternative to Shas for secular Jews too, impressed by his honesty. Naftali Bennet represents the “kippa Sruga” or modern orthodox Jews who are the backbone of this country and feel that the Prime Minister is indecisive and has lost his direction. Bennet is young, vibrant and speaks his mind. He is ardently Zionist, served in the IDF with honour, is financially savvy and politically aware……….. watch out for him. He won’t be our next PM but he will be highly relevant. Yair Lapid has basically taken the policies of his father and honed them for today. He is anti-religious, left wing and presents a fresh and handsome face for those on the left who don’t understand why Shelly Yachimovic supports the large settlements and military policies. It is going to be an interesting ten days when I get home and I promise to keep you up to date!
An excellent Op-ed on Israel, our situation, politics and the world opinion appeared in this weeks JPost.
Two Israeli documentaries have been nominated for the Oscars. It is phenomenal just how many Israeli films receive accolades from the highest and most critical of film associations .
Professor Raymond Dwek is a fine man, a scholar and the man who saw the potential in my wonderful eldest son and encouraged his entry to Exeter College, Oxford where he distinguished himself with a double first. Obviously that is not the reason Professor Dwek receive the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in the Queens New Years Honours. Prof Dwek a glycobiologist “co-chairs the UK-Israel Life Sciences Council to increase scientific collaboration. Together with Oxford University, he initiated collaborative work on water development and biotechnology with both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Being back in the UK I recognise how misunderstood this country is. The world tends to watch the BBC and believe their opinons to be the opinions of the people concerning the Middle East and it couldn’t be further from the truth. While walking in Regents Park with the children it is true the Mosque is strangely overpowering but on the other hand one looks up to see that the golden dome is developing a definitely weathered appearance, losing its lustre, which is somehow comforting. Despite warnings I saw a normal number of Hijabbed women, probably less than elsewhere and British life is doing just fine thank you.
Travelling on bus, tube and train I was met with wonderful chatty friendliness and marvelled at the way those in orderly queues found so much to talk about with utter strangers. Supermarkets checkout girls smile and ask how you are; bus drivers are not bothered when you can’t find the exact change and are ready to get out and show you where to go when asked; everyone I stopped in the street to ask directions was warm and kind and I realised that all the stories of Britain that abound are as far from the truth as the ones the BBC tells about Israel!!!
I can’t wait to get home but am so torn at leaving my children and grandchildren behind. Such is the life of the modern family, our very physical distance enhances our emotional closeness. The best advantage of living away is that my daughters in law still think I am wonderful since they get me in short doses and I am totally theirs when I am with them.
Being inside both my Manhattan grandsons school and the London grandchildrens school has reinforced my belief in school uniforms. There is no greater leveller than school uniform. It saves money, prevents sartorial one-upmanship and creates a sense of belonging and support for the school. It is just one of the elements of loyalty that our modern society has lost and should bring back.
The snow will have melted by Sunday when I touch down at the ultra-modern airport at Ben Gurion, Israel. Long gone are the days of Lod Airport, walking down the steps onto the searingly hot tarmac, the distinctive scent of pine and orange blossom filling the air as you first boarded the bus then walked across to  the terminal with “Welcome to Israel” emblazened across its facade. Now the sleeve comes out to greet you and you enter the new Israel through the wide and open spaces using either the moving walkways or the luxuriously carpeted  passages and down the massive hallway to the passport control where I proudly take out my speedy entrance card while everyone else stands in line for passport control, insert it into the special machine, slip my hand in for the fingerprint check and go out into the huge baggage hall where the luggage is always, inevitably already waiting. No hanging around here. As I wheel my cart out through the “Nothing to Declare” doorway I usually get a welcome kiss from the Ministry of Agriculture Inspector and go out into the sound of waterfalls in the greeting hall. Once outside I will call Zvi who will pull up to Gate 03 and collect me so that we can go back to Jerusalem.As always the excitement builds as we climb the “Aliya” or ascent to my favourite city in the world. Of course the first thing I will do (after hugging my beautiful Jerusalem grandchildren and my daughter Rachel) when I walk into the apartment will be to open the huge blinds and take in, nay breathe in, the view.
This has been a wonderful period, I love helping, love spoiling my children, love seeing my siblings and their spouses and children, am appreciative of Gideon’s amazing mother-in-law Catherine, Stephanie’s mother, who has been phenomenal over this last couple of months—- even more than usual! I go home with a far lighter heart than I came, back to Jerusalem and my Israeli family where Zvi and I impatiently await grandchild number 11!
The supper is prepared, the table set, traditions have no countries or boundaries. Our dinner, eaten after Gideon sings Kiddush or blessing over the wine, we break bread over the Challah, he will sing Eshet Chayil to thank G-d for giving him Stephanie and bless the children then we will sit together as families have done for generations and Jews have done from time immemorial. I suppose if someone asked me what it means to be Jewish I could answer on one leg like Rabbi Hillel but my answer would be slightly different “Family and continuity of traditions” rather than only “Honour your fellow man” which is just one of them.
With love from London
Shabbat Shalom lovely friends