The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


7th August 2009.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Last week the unthinkable happened. Israel, unlike her neighbours, is an open society, honouring, if not always individually accepting of each others differences. A crazed man pushed his way into a club for young people who have accepted their gay identity and receive counselling to help them find their place in society, he began to shoot wildly, killing two young people and injuring many more. The perpetrator is believed to have left the country but rest assured that the search for him will be thorough and he will pay the price for his crime. We are not homophobic as our Arab neighbours who consider killing gays a matter of honour, we are a civilized society which abhors killing, even those whose lifestyle may not concur with theirs. Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the site to talk to club members and President Peres will attend a vigil in memory of Nir Katz and Liz Trubeshi – May their souls rest in peace.

As you know, I adore Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, my childhood friend, mentor, my children’s headmaster and brilliant debater. This week I disagreed with him – a rare occurrence indeed! I quote from Jeremy’s blog in which he expresses the opinions of many toward the current Israeli Government.

Netanyahu was educated in both traditions, Sabra derring-do and American diplomacy and PR. So why is he such a disaster? Why am I embarrassed by him? ………. But no. Netanyahu appoints Lieberman as Foreign Minister to represent Israel abroad, an unappetizing a man of dubious financial probity, with links to all sorts of unsavory people, with a mouth that takes off before his brain clicks in. Could not be worse for Israel’s image abroad. …………Whatever other faults he had, Olmert at least put on a good show. And what does Lieberman mean by insisting Arabs accept Israel as a Jewish State? Has he considered the difference between a Jewish State and a State for Jews? How does he propose to enforce it, by pulling down people’s pants at immigration? Will he expel Karta because they proudly proclaim that they are anti-Zionists who refuse to accept the State of Israel?

My response:

Dearest Jeremy
I didn’t vote for Mr Netanyahu but I don’t think he is doing a bad job at all!!! He is swimming upstream against a raging tide of hatred – not from the USA particularly and not from Obama, who has simply placed a few extra obstacles in his way. He was elected to serve Israel not the outside world. Lieberman talks to the Russians eye to eye, something we have never done before – not since Perestroika when Russia became an important part of the equation. His manner is brusque but he does not talk in a stupid manner. I heard him speak before a closed audience and his attitude was so different from that reported in the press. To answer your question – YES! He does want the Haredim who won’t serve in the IDF, do Sherut Leumi or swear allegiance to the State to go elsewhere, maybe in Borough Park as they constantly threaten when asked to defend the country they live in, ditto the “tsfonim”(North Tel Aviv lefties) and the Arabs….. just not in Borough Park! Remember that some of our finest officers and men in the IDF are Druze and Bedouin so it clearly doesn’t harm their society. Do Americans not swear allegiance to the flag?
As to the demolition of the Sheikh Jarah house; it didn’t happen just now, the court case is now. There are about 20,000 illegal Arab buildings in Jerusalem, most of which prevent good Municipal services since their positions are impossible!!!!! Right here in Beit Tsafafa, just a few weeks ago, they pulled down a very exclusive, beautiful, but illegal, apartment building. It takes a three year legal process to pull down an illegal building (Jewish or Arab) including a Supreme Court decision- it is neither a hasty process nor a rash decision. What happens in London, New York, Toronto or Sydney if one builds without planning or building permits? When judging Israel we have to judge her according to HER needs and demands, social, legal and security, not our sensibilities or concern for how WE look.

I had cause to visit an emergency medical centre here in Jerusalem this week. Initiated by a group of American born doctors it is privately run in conjunction with the Health Services and serves as a perfect response to non-life threatening situations, leaving the hospitals to deal with serious cases.
The attending doctor was an Israeli Arab, (I felt I should call him Dougie he was so young), trained and specialized here in Israel and he was fabulous. He analysed, checked, treated and exuded great confidence in what are undoubtedly the best of conditions. A proud, highly educated Israeli in a responsible, well paid, important position, who by chance happens to be Arab.

Last Friday brought great joy to our home as my lovely Arlene came to visit. A true Eshet Chayil, Arlene is a loving Mum great wife and still manages to give time, effort, initiative and love to her community and to Israel. I am proud to call her friend. After Shabbat we went to the home of our friends Nurit and Danny Baram together with Jehudit and Danny Liwerant of Mexico. Jehudit is here on a lecture tour and Danny is busy with his Jewish Agency responsibilities. This couple also fits the Arlene pre-requisites of giving, loving, doing. Danny and Nurit live in the moshav/village of Shoresh just outside Jerusalem – on the main road from Tel Aviv. It is a wonderful moshav with big homes, gardens and glorious views over the Judean hills. Israelis are increasingly choosing to live outside big towns, opting for the views, fresh air and more relaxed atmosphere.

This week we were thrilled to have 3 of our beautiful grandchildren staying with us. As one would expect from 3 and 4 year olds, they are highly energetic. We bought a paddling pool, seesaw and a huge sun-cover for the veranda. We took them to parks, museums, and the Ramat Gan Safari Park where Saba Zvi showed them the animals great and small. (click on the tabs even though they are in Hebrew – it is worth it!) This really is a child-friendly country in which the adults do all they can to make life fun for the children, especially during vacation time. The facilities are phenomenal and even the finest restaurants have children’s menus. Every shopping mall runs children’s programmes with interactive clown and fairy tale shows every couple of hours and large soft-play areas for the little ones. Museums run special children’s programmes too with child specific tours and activities – and of course the Bloomfield Science Museum – my grandchildren’s favourite!

Having celebrated the Jewish Valentines Day – Tu b’Av – this week – happily without Zvi chasing me around the orchards to propose marriage – the week is slowing down.

Tonight, after lighting the Shabbat candles, I will sit with my grandchildren on our veranda, awaiting the moonrise on the horizon. Last night it was red and glorious but the sun had not yet set so it was not as spectacular as it will be tonight. Translucent, massive, red and rapid it rises above the trees of Ramat Rachel in the distance, seemingly occupying half of the horizon, and climbs in the sky with amazing speed, gradually shrinking and taking on the bright white light one expects. Jerusalem will be quiet as hundreds of thousands of people sit in their homes after lighting the Shabbat candles, white tablecloths on food laden tables. Religious or secular, Shabbat is Shabbat – a time for family, prayers, blessings, friendships and conversation.

I must go now to prepare house and table for the bride of the Sabbath. I wish you all of the above – family, prayers, blessings and friendship.

With love from Jerusalem