The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


27th February, 2009.

Shabbat Shalom

One of the only disadvantages of living in Israel is that I am unaware of the timing of Christian Festivals, which is distinctly unfair on my Christian readers. Rather belatedly I hope you had a fun Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and didn’t eat too much – and that Ash Wednesday led you into Lent and a time of reflection.

Since we are on the subject of Christianity, Israelis are rather embarrassed at our king of satire, Lior Shlein, who made highly unfortunate references on his nightly show, while referring to the apparent acceptance within the Catholic Church, of Richard Williamson, an avowed Holocaust denier. The skit was in very bad taste and Schlein has since publicly apologized for his gaffe, so I do not see any reason for this incident to harm the Popes intentions of coming to Israel in May. Various Moslem groups jumped on the bandwagon calling upon His Eminence to cancel his upcoming visit. The humour was inappropriate, but remember that it comes from a people who survived through humour and thinks everyone has the same sense of the absurd.

I promised you a report on the Conference of Presidents here in Jerusalem, which was immediately followed by the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency – known locally as BOG!!! It would bore you horribly if I were to report upon each and every aspect of both but my general impression is that while funds are falling, many projects are lost and people have lost their jobs in the Jewish world- there is a greater sense of togetherness than I have seen in many a year. Suddenly, Americans North and South, Canadians, Europeans, Antipodeans and Brits have something in common – the momentous realisation that anti-Israeli bias is not against Israel, it is, as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior said, another name for anti-Semitism. We are all in this boat together and while it is overt in Venezuela, it is tacit everywhere. We are not vocal enough, we are too apathetic and too self-satisfied. Our enemies, and that is what they are, are more vocal, less indifferent and much more willing to go out there and tell what they perceive as their side of the story – often through statements which bear little resemblance to truth. We cannot sit back and rely on Alan Dershowitz, Irwin Cotler and Daniel Pipes to fight our fights. Get out there and get your pens poised, but write with at least a modicum of good manners so that incidents such as those reported in the British Medical Journal do not recur.

As a result of the banning of Shahar Peer from the Dubai tennis championships, some companies and individuals stood up and took action, including the Tennis Channel and Andy Roddick, who pulled out in protest. Barclays Bank said nothing and did nothing. If you have a Barclays account you know what to do!

I am sure that many of you received an email proclaiming to be a Congressional paper with directions from President Obama to absorb Palestinian Hamas into the USA…..HOAX of course!!! – but this video is not a hoax, it is deadly serious and essential viewing of a Kuwaiti Professor and his dreams for the USA.

The Two-State solution keeps rearing its head, over and over again. I agree that this is, was and always has been the answer to the violence and subsequent poverty of people on both sides of the proverbial fence. In fact it was such a brilliant idea that it was enacted in 1948 by the “Partition of Palestine” into a Jewish State and an Arab State – the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. If Jews are banned from living in the Moslem part of Palestine why are Moslems protected as part of Israeli society. I don’t want them to go anywhere, don’t misunderstand me, but I want to know why it is acceptable for vast tracts of land to be “un-Jewed” but unacceptable for us to do the same to others? Why does the Christian world silently accept the tragedy of what is happening to Christians in Gaza and the PA, yet create a world wide to-do over a not very funny Israeli satirist? Beats me!

We now have a Prime Minister (probably) but still don’t have a government. Tsippi wants a two state solution on the agenda and surprisingly Lieberman accepts that but Bibi doesn’t. Shas won’t accept civil marriages but Kadimah does. Bibi has a long way to go! Negotiations are taking place in Kfar Maccabiah where we were discussing far more positive events with Eyal Tiberger, Director General of WMU. We talked of the fabulous events which will mark this years 18th Maccabiah. Zvi will be in charge of the Jerusalem section – and all the events, no matter where they are held, sound amazing. It is such a brilliant opportunity for young Jews from around the world to meet in the spirit of friendly competition and sport. As I said last time, this is the second largest international sports event in the world. Don’t imagine that it is only youngsters and VIP’s – parents and sports fans of every variety will come. If you haven’t booked your tickets yet you really ought!!!

By the way, we didn’t get the best foreign film award in Hollywood!!! Waltz with Bashir did brilliantly to get as far as it did but didn’t quite make it. Never mind – next year!!!!

Yesterday Zvi and I were stuck in traffic on road 443 from the airport to Jerusalem. I had time to study the roadsides, the incredible amount of greenery, provided so many years ago by the KKL. One really notices the difference between the PA and Israel by their bare, stony, uninviting hillsides and the Israeli greenery – it all depends upon how one chooses to use ones money. The previously barren lands, deforestation was so devastating during the Ottoman period that the top-soil eroded, is now covered with many types of fir trees which have encouraged the growth of wild mimosa, shkediot (almond), rakafot (cyclamen), calaniot (anemones) and of course where there is a break in the trees spikey cacti – sabras grow with the promise of their juicy fruits. The flowers are responding to the rain which has finally arrived. Indeed it rained cats and dogs last night – interspersed with some very loud thunder, and early this morning my friend Judith called me begging me to go out onto my veranda and just “smell the air”. She was right, the clear air, so freshly washed by the torrential night rain, was refreshing and crisp as the entire city seemed to gleam in the sudden burst of sunshine before the next downpour.

My Shabbat meals are cooked since I woke up early this morning to an exceptionally loud clap of thunder. My Eastern fish on red pepper and tomato base, the tuna and celery salad, the cottage pie, the root vegetable soup, the bread pudding, poached pears and fresh Israeli strawberries in orange juice bode well for a warm belly on a cold night!!!! Their aromas vie for attention on our hallway, but I think I did OK this week!!!!

Shabbat Shalom to you all. Remember to be proud of what you are. As Rabbi Jeremy Rosen used to say in his morning assemblies at Carmel College “Remember that, as Jews, you are as good as, though no better than, anyone else”

With love, from the thankfully soggy heart of the world.