The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Ohrid

1st August 2013
Shabbat Shalom dear friends – Shabbat Shalom from Ohrid in Macedonia!!!!!
I am really out of touch with what is happening in Israel, other than the obvious. We sadly missed the closing ceremony of the Maccabiah after a truly impressive games. Fine athletes in many fields, some surprises some disappointments, lots of medal and friends for life.
I was rather surprised to read that we put up Palestinian flags near the Knesset to welcome their diplomats/politicians/negotiators, because last time I looked there were no Israel flags near Ramalla even though it is almost on top of the Ramot neighbourhood of Jerusalem and getting closer every day with major building projects.
I find a few things difficult ot understand, actually rather a lot of things but the whole “We are Israel’s closest allies” then demanding the release of numerous prisoners with blood on their hands because they were incarcerated before Oslo yet the outright refusal to relase Jonathan Pollard who spied for a friendly nation which had already given the USA all the information and information gathering they needed or wanted  How is that one fair?????? There is a Scottish saying “False friends are worse than bitter enemies.” Which addresses the fact that it is easier to deal with someone you know is not on your side than someone who you thought was a friend but is not.
So let me tell you about our trip. I am not a person for organised tours. I hate being told when to wake, when to look, when to go up ordown and when and where to be anywhere!!!! Having said that, this was a trip arranged with friends within Zvi’s choir and I have to admit that even this rebel is having fun!!!
Sofia, Bulgaria was a bit of a disappointment wiht too many areas that resembled downtown Gaza!!! In fact it wasn’t until we crossed into Macedonia that I began to understand the difference between communist regimes and socialist regimes – a world apart. Actually I must admit that my views were coloured by the fact that the bus were travelling in was old, it broke down and despite 43 degree temperatures the A/C broke!!!!!
Skopje, Macedonia is fabulous -everything about it including the people.Here we saw the difference between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria at it sharpest. They took their mixed history – created some of it and recorded some of it and turned it into the most beautiful and positive reconstruction through the most wonderful staturary I have ever seen anywhere in the world. We all sang both Hebrew and Ladino songs for the leaders of the Jewish community in an impromptu concert at the Synagogue (even our police guards joined in and one of them became very emotional and showed me a photo of himself at the Kotel and told me he had Jewish ancestors). We really didn’t need a police guard but this is the first group to come from Israel and they wanted to make sure everything went smoothly. They were just sweethearts and enjoyed our tour as much as we did!!!!!
From the synagogue we went to the Holocaust Museum which is absolutely amazing. – nearly 11,000 Macedonian Jews, virtually the entire community, were taken to Treblinka (all Sefardim) and and not a one survived. Someone in the community went to Treblinka and brought ashes back to Skopje. As you may remember Zvi’s Uncle Yosef was the doctor of Treblinka and was killed with his wife na dlittle daughter Zvi’a days before liberation. As the only child of the only survivers of boths parents families Zvi had never found cosolation, never had a place to mourn. For the first time in his life Zvi had something tangible from that hell hole and of his family all of whom perished. As he stood before the urns I prompted him to say kaddish (the prayer for the dead) since no-one was left to mourn them at the time. I think in a strange way he actually found some sense of closure. I was a blubbering mess of course as wer emost of our group!!
From Skopje we drove toward Ohrid, another city on a glorious natural, pure water lake which had been home ot many of the wealthiest Jews. As we walked around, seeing incredible churches, citadels and monasteries, I spoke to Willie, our guide and he told me that his father remembered when he was a very young child, watcing the Jews being gathered into a factory and put onto railway carriages. He remebred his mother pushing some bread and water into his little hands and telling him to get past the Germans and give the starving children the bread and water. He wanted, even as a small child, to grab a child and bring him to safety but knew it was impossible.
Macedonia worth visiting, has amazing sites and sights, is inexpensive and welcoming and best of all just two and a half hours flight from Israel!!
So tomorrow night I won’t watch Jerusalem put on her best dress for Shabbat. We cross into Greece tomorrow morning and head for Salonika and another Jewish story, another community and our third country in 6 days!!! The choir music has been amazing, our guides adorable, the food ghastly and the Macedonians among the kindest funniest most welcoming people I can remember!
One question I was asked several times was ” How come you are so successful and your young people so mature and focused”? I can only answer you with one of my favourite songs and htis video “Ayn le Eretz Acheret” I have no other country and the pictures of our amazing young IDF. These are young people who are given huge responsibilities, not told to follow anyone blindly, while being good soldiers they are expected to act with responsibilty, loyalty to their fellow soldiers and kindness even to our enemies. I am so proud.
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom
I leave you with a prayer Ana bekoach
With much love