3rd November 2023
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I wish you a Shabbat of contemplation and of prayer that this insane world may, just may, gain a moral compass, because in this world of instant, uncensored news (free speech) too many are convinced by the lies rather than the truth.
Over the last few weeks, when Israelis ask each other “How are you” there is a definite change in response. Often they will respond with “Yihyeh Tov” which means it will be good (nobody guesses when) or more than likely “Sh’nishma Bsorot Tovot” which literally means may we hear good messages, or good news.
I’m sure you are surprised that very few people are leaving Israel, even though they have family abroad who beg them to come to ”safety”. Well, it’s difficult to explain but here in Israel we know that we have the IDF, police, neighbours, family, friends, all of whom have our backs, by leaving we feel insecure and there is a sense of abandoning our friends, family and homes. 300,000 returned home to Israel since the war started, many to enlist in the IDF. Strangely enough, we worry more about those of you outside Israel than you do about us.
125 years ago, a young, very determined man was on an important mission in Israel; while here Theodore Herzl came to visit the place with “the best air in Eretz Israel”. Herzl was not a well man, his physical heart wasn’t strong but his psychological and Jewish heart were as fierce as a lion. Herzl had travelled a punishing itinerary of countries and had been invited by Kaiser Wilhelm II would meet in the Holy Land with the promise of the German Kaiser that he would make a public statement supporting the idea of establishing a Jewish homeland. They met on November 2nd 1898 during the period when there was not real government or structure in the area. Herzl came with his second in command David Woolfson and they both planted symbolic trees in that healthy place near Jerusalem. Herzl’s tree was thought to be a cypress (Erez) which is why the place is called Arza, but in fact it was a Brosh, (pine) which is far less hardy. Luckily, they didn’t know, otherwise we would love in Brosha!! Herzl was known locally as the man who would bring the Jews home so Haj Amin al Husseini (who later sided with Nazi Germany) who thought that without it the Jewish State would not come to fruition came in the middle of the night and cut the tree down. The students at Bezalel held a funeral for the trunk of the tree. The stump of his tree stands right next to our veranda, although I can’t see it over our wall, but Zvi takes a regular peek. In relatively recent times each President has planted a sapling other than Shimon Peres, who sadly died two days before the ceremony, and Reuven Rivlin, because the builders had no sense of history. Zvi has a very strong sense of history and is determined to beautify the Avenue of the Presidents and the area beneath it where scouts and soldiers once guarded the main road to Jerusalem. The pillbox still stands, somewhat dilapidated but secure. Young Israelis need to understand their history and the disappointments and successes of young Herzl.
Four young Moslems, including my friend Yahya Mahammid who hails from Umm el Fahem a serious trouble spot within Israel, have spent every single night ensuring that the Arab speaking world has access to true information. They spend hours and hours when others sleep, getting the information out there over the waves, the internet and are ready to talk to anyone who shows the slightest sign of listening. All served in the IDF, all put their lives at risk by expressing their love of Israel and telling the truth.
Yitzhak Brandt, a former squadron commander is serving in the reserves. Isaac doesn’t sit at home, and at 75 he volunteers in the reserves as a truck driver. As I told you, over 320,000 reserves have volunteered for duty to fight Hamas.
Druze Sheikh Latif Gadban opened his house and decided to host hundreds of Israelis refugees from the Gaza envelope for free “we are all brothers, come with love”. The Israeli Druze are conceivably the most loyal of citizens on every level.
Here are three reports, of a very different nature, but reports they are. Please take the time to watch.
The Bolt Report on Sky News Australia, an infinitely fairer news station that Sky UK; Andrew Bolt got it right, so very right. Please watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8GkE1EY_QA
Donny Deutch challenges the double standards of University students in the USA and the public in general. He quotes a Cornell student announcement “If you see a Jewish person, follow them home and slit their throats. Rats need to be eliminated from Cornell” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEPdGoW0xkI&t=4s
October the 7th is know as Black Sabbath in Israel but to Hamas it is called the Al Aqsa Flood. To understand the sheer evil of Hamas, Ghazi Hamad, Hamas spokesperson, says that they are not ashamed, that they will do it (kill, rape and maim) many more times to rid the land of Jews. https://www.ynetnews.com/article/r1y31101m6 Of course the Al Aqsa Mosque stands high above Jerusalem, unharmed, on the Temple Mount.
A simple fact, rather sad actually. During Ukrainian war virtually all of the countries of Europe opened their doors to refugees; however, none of the 22 Arab countries or 56 Moslem countries have offered safe haven to even one Gazan. Egypt has built a huge barrier to ensure that no Gazan can break through to freedom from Hamas. In fact, Egypt refused to allow workers through from Gaza when Israel allowed some 18,000 workers, who in the end acted as spies for Hamas about every home in the Gaza envelope. Egypt also refused to send aid over the Rafiah border until two weeks ago. It wasn’t Israel that created a siege on Gaza, it was Egypt, because they knew that any introduction of Gazans into Egypt was disastrous.
In fact, there was a serious problem after the Yom Kippur War when Egypt refused to return to control Gaza and Israel was forced to take over until we left in 2005. I remember sitting with Ehud Olmert, then Finance Minister to Ariel Sharon’s Prime Minister, having brought our dear friend and Christian broadcaster Earl Cox and Israeli author Naomi Ragen to interview him about the “hitnatkut” the pulling out of troops and the 18 thriving Israeli farms. I went in before Earl and asked Ehud what was the reason, the real reason for pulling out. Was it international pressure? “No, it is Pikuach Nefesh”. Pikuach nefesh is a Jewish law which over-rides virtually every other law, it means to save a life, which is considered above all else. He said that if the Jews stay, they will all be killed by Hamas, already on the rise. I told him that that should be his answer to all journalists, no more no less.
Former Ambassador of Israel to the UK and the UN, Ron Prosor suggested that the aid organisations send hospital ships to the coast of Gaza to ensure that ordinary Gazans receive medical care and the Israeli government agreed.
Now to Shabbat. I am overwhelmed by the hive of activities all over Israel to ensure that the troops and the refugees have a beautiful Shabbat, where possible. I told you yesterday about my Rachel’s efforts and here on our estate, people are baking and buying Challot (that traditional plaited sacramental loaf) to ensure that each pluga has the essential two challot for the blessing, which Zvi just delivered to our neighbour for distribution to a unit of 500 reservists. Zvi’s son Amiad is raising funds to ensure that soldiers have everything they need to replace old equipment, from flak jackets to shoes, helmets ….and rather than doing it through organisations, which take time and a percentage, he and his partners take the essentials and deliver them by hand where needed. Leor is doing it differently, through caring for all his employees, especially the wives of soldiers and the refugees. They are exceptional people but everyone is pulling their weight, according to their ability.
Sorry I am a lateral thinker and always go off in a different direction, each thought leading to a new one. Shabbat, that’s what I wanted to write about. Unlike that diabolical Shabbat, Black Shabbat, this will probably be relatively quiet. Too many parents are mourning their sons and daughters who fell in battle, too many families are waiting for the news that their loved ones are free from captivity, Hadas Kalderon has 5 family members in captivity https://youtu.be/5zMgX_CnbFs?si=G7u9d_YHiEw4Cb1j
So back to Shabbat. The Torah reading this week is Vayera – Genesis 18-1. It speaks of Abraham who rushes off from his conversation with the Almighty to tend to three guests who arrived unexpectedly. He had no idea that they were in fact angels, one of whom announces that Sarah will give birth to a son in a year. Abraham laughed because Sarah was not exactly a spring chicken. In the meantime, on a very serious note Abraham begs the Almighty to save the city of Sodom, a truly wicked, cruel, hedonistic place where his nephew Lot lived, but God said that each and every one of the evil people of Sodom must be wiped out. Sarah gave birth after a year, their son called Yitzchak (he will laugh) and so the story of the sending of Hagar and Ishmael from their home. Am I the only one that sees the similarity between Sodom and Hamas?
This week we may just decide to stay home, alone, perhaps invite neighbours, just to be together. I want to thank you for your kind words, for your expressions of concern and love. It means so much to both of us. Of course, we do our best to keep going, not just with our volunteer work, but life in general. Zvi is going to his weekly parliament, locally rather than in the Botanical Gardens, I go to anything that the village or estate organise! Hopefully Sunday we are knitting hats for soldiers together in the library then I am doing a Zoom arranged by Rabbi David Greenberg of Congregation Sharey Tefillah in Bedford; Monday is a get-together, again in the library; Tuesday I have both art studio and then movement in the evening and so it continues, and of course my letters to you, to keep you up to date with our lives. Shabbat, however, is different, as it should be. Even hyperactives like Zvi and I need to rest!
First and foremost I wish good health to our hostages, may they be returned home soon; safety for our soldiers, may they come home soon after ridding the world of an existential threat; I wish peace of mind to the parents of those soldiers and the families of the hostages in the knowledge that their loved ones will return home to sit at the Sabbath meal together. I wish all our friends and loved ones in the Diaspora safety and protection from the insane hatred that seems to be spreading like a plague.
Before lighting the candles say this prayer, Hashkiveinu “Spread over us the shelter of Your peace. Guide us with Your good counsel; for Your Name’s sake, be our help. Shield and shelter us beneath the shadow of Your wings. Defend us against enemies, illness, war, famine and sorrow.”
The song for today holds hope. The lyrics are “Peace will soon be upon us and on everyone. Salaam (‘peace’ in Arabic) upon us and upon the whole world. Salaam, Salaam.” Music, lyrics and sung by Mosh Ben Ari https://youtu.be/i4HViPVymlo?si=Adexm4Af6nn96KpP
I wish you Shabbat Shalom from our beautiful veranda overlooking the view of Jerusalem, glistening in the distance after last night’s rain.
May God bless you and keep you from harm