The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


1st May 2009.

Shabbat Shalom to you! I hope this missive finds you well and that you have not encountered any type of flu – be it Swine, Avian, Asian, Hong Kong, or any other variety!!!

This was a terrific week! Israelis are not allowed to dwell on their sorrow or their pain, it is not in our collective nature and when the pain seems overwhelming one must pick oneself up, as a nation, and move on to hope and the hope-filled future. Our national anthem is Hope – Hatikva.

The preparations for Remembrance Day are intense. Families of the fallen from the wars with our neighbours and the terrible war of attrition called terror – congregate at the military and local cemeteries to gain solace from their togetherness as the sad words of the mourner’s kaddish are sung. The main ceremony is held at the Western Wall Plaza – the Kotel – as the siren wails over the entire country. This year we have a new IDF Chazan, a young technological officer who was found singing his morning prayers and immediately made the Chief Chazan (Cantor) of the IDF. I thought that no-one could ever replace the haunting rendition of Arieh Braun but this young man brought tears to the eyes of a nation.

And so to Mount Herzl where the closing ceremony of Remembrance Day runs directly into the joy of Independence Day – Yom HaAtzma’ut. The ceremony of the changing of the guard, this year the flag bearers are the Navy, and the parade of pride as the young soldiers spell out the words “Tikvah” “Israel” and “Shalom” to the emblems of Israel, the Star of David and the Menorah (seven branched candlestick). The young soldiers march off the central stage and the young dancers enter in joy and celebration. Singers, dancers, musicians and of course the 12 torch lighters representing the 12 tribes. This year the torch lighters were from Tel Aviv to celebrate 100 years since the founding of Tel Aviv. The announcements suggested that Tel Aviv was the first Jewish City built from scratch by Meir Dizengoff but I thought that Petah Tikva was the first – maybe you can put me and the nation right!!!!

From Mount Herzl, where we collected Danit Farwell, a Boston Israeli friend, and set off for the long drive to Moshav Kadima near Netanya. For the entire length of the long drive the night sky was lit with the multi-coloured stars of firework displays as we passed town, village and city. We arrived at our friends and sang Israeli songs, ate excellent Israeli food, told Israeli jokes and danced Israeli dances…… with a group of people who love this country. It was amazing. We arrived home at 04:30 (am) and were amazed to see that the centre of Jerusalem was still alive with youngsters out enjoying life and all the coffee shops, clubs and bars were still open!!!!

The next morning, very late, we crawled out of bed and prepared to set off on a guided tour of Neve Ilan and the entire area of the original Halutzim (pioneers) who opened up the Jerusalem corridor and made life possible for the Jerusalemites who had no access to food and drink after being cut off by the Arab invasion. As we stood overlooking the area with our guide and elderly man walked up to us and began to explain what went on – he had a book of faded photographs and spoke animatedly – he was the original settler of Neve Ilan and one of the greatest heroes. A group of traditional young French people 17 boys and 14 girls came to Israel and settled this highly unprotected hill, under attack from the surrounding Arab villages. They not only staved off each attack they built a beautiful moshav which became the most important strategic point on the road to Jerusalem and opened up Shaar haGai. After a fascinating and extremely dusty tour, partly by foot and partly by car, we wound up next to Shaar ha Gai and sang the wonderful words of Bab el Wad Here are the lyrics and the original song by Yaffa Yarkoni with video clips of that time It seemed incredible that only 61 years ago there was nothing in this place – it was utterly deserted on rocky treeless hills. The KKL planted over 24 million trees on land throughout Israel which they bought and paid for with the money given by a Diaspora hungry for a land to call its own; planting Israel, making the land fertile and the Jerusalem hills green and shady. Israel is the only country in the world with a net growth in its forestation. Today a huge highway passes beside this hard-won passage to Jerusalem but the remains of the armoured cars still stand as testament to the incredible bravery of those who fought to give us a future. We have so much to be proud of today and so much that we owe to the pioneers who were willing to endure the toughest of conditions to ensure our future.

As with any Jewish affair, after hiking around the site of victories, losses and bravery – we all went to David and Dana’s home to eat!!! Again, delicious Israeli food – falafel, grilled meats and kebabs, a cornucopia of salads and fresh vegetables and of course dessert – who can live without dessert? We sang Israeli songs of yesteryear to the marvelous piano of Betty, then tired but satisfied wended our way home. As I got home I walked out onto the veranda and amongst the flowers and blossom I felt a tear come to my eyes at a different sound- that of flags and bunting in the breeze, each veranda in our building paying respect to the past and showing their commitment to the future. Blue and white all the way. Your commitment to the future should be to buy blue and white- indeed demand it from your local stores….. please.

To complete our joy and excitement yesterday morning our family grew by one gorgeous little girl. Zvi’s son Leor and his excellent wife Shiri gave birth to a little girl. Thank G-d mother and baby are fine and Amit is very happy with her little sister….so far!

Here in Israel we have two major expressions “Rak b’smachot” (we should meet only on joyous occasions) and “Toda le El” (Thank G-d). I pray that we will meet “Rak be Smachot” and “Toda le El” for every child born and joyous occasion we have to celebrate.

With much love from this amazing 61 lady of Israel who grows more beautiful each day and each year as we make the desert bloom, the bare rocky hills green and the vineyards produce some of the best wine in the world – long gone are the days of Palwin Kiddush wine – these days it is Merlot, Shiraz and Sauvignon!!!

Shabbat Shalom