The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter


23rd July, 2010

Shabbat Shalom dear friends

A correspondent for one of Japan’s biggest newspapers said last week, “Gaza and the West Bank are the only places in the world where I have seen refugees drive Mercedes.”

Tom Gross’ revelations of the large new shopping mall in Gaza went worldwide but no media news companies reported them. He also reported the mansions, markets filled with fruit and vegetables and the spanking new Roots club in Gaza City but was ignored by the press. Is it bias? No…… kowtowing to political correctness. It is politically correct to allow a corrupt and violent regime to become the symbol of suffering and an open, democratic and religiously diverse society to become the pariah.

Politics and diplomacy often create strange bedfellows and sometimes bring together logical allies. The Greek leader Papandraeou is here on an official visit, meeting with our leaders in order to improve Greco-Israel relations. Greece is surely a rational ally for Israel but during our romance with the Turks they chose to distance themselves from us. It is amazing what an argument with the Turks can do!!!!

A minute loophole in a British Law intended to entrap Nazi War criminals but used by Arabs and the New Israel Fund and its subsidiaries to trap Israeli officials and officers abroad, is being closed. The process, started by the Labour Government and pushed through by the Tories is welcomed by Israel. After economic, political and legal ploys by the Arab bloc another door closes.

Standwithus is an outstanding student organization informing students on campuses, giving them reason to be proud of who and what they are. I was invited to attend the fourth annual graduation ceremony of their Fellowship course in the grounds of the Anna Ticho Artists House in Jerusalem The StandWithUs Fellowship operates on six campus centers across Israel, making it the only nationwide Fellowship of its kind. “They are the face of Israel, eloquent, knowledgeable and charismatic”, said Michael Dickson, StandWithUs Israel director of the Israeli Fellows, “they have the capacity to break one hundred stereotypes that people in the wider world may have about Israel”

150 fellows graduated, each and every one sharing a common belief in Zionism and the need to portray Israel in a positive fashion. Michael Dickson, raised and educated in the UK, said that SWU seeks to educate the next generation of Israelis to be globally minded, articulate advocates for Israel. “I genuinely believe that a prime minister of Israel is in this room tonight,” said Shay Assor, the StandWithUs Fellowship Director.

The students we met were bright, beautiful, motivated, uplifted, filled with the inspiration and impetus we need but rarely find. Both Jill and I came away uplifted with enormous hope secure in the knowledge that this generation will do a much better job of representing Israel than our generation, which produced Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky, ever did.

Last night we walked the promenade in Mamilla, beneath the walls of the Old City. This time there was no light show but thousands upon thousands of people milled about among the stores and street artists having fun. This was, as always, a multifaceted crowd, Jews, Moslems, Christians, brown, black, white, secular, moderate and ultra-orthodox with one thing in common….not the wonderful Israeli music from the band, nor the side shows, not even the great massage from professionals at a massage stand, but rather FOOD in the heaving restaurants! Israeli salads are amazing and varied; a green salad of phenomenally crispy lettuce, to Israeli chopped salads, aubergine, courgette, avocado, rice, peppers, spicy and sweet – the word salad has a million meanings. Toast is another exotic word, with fillings you cannot even dream of! Our favourite exercise is reading menus and since our fast food is healthy we don’t get fat! Jerusalem is popping with activities including a Craft Fair, Film Fair and general entertainment for children and adults.

Talking of food I thought you would enjoy this article about our friend Cef Moshe Basson of Eucalyptus, the restaurant which serves ethnic food using herbs and spices mentioned in the Bible……….with a special twist. Last night Moshe held an unusual feast to remember for his guests. Water Buffalo, locusts, bull’s testicles, guinea fowl, swordfish were on the utterly kosher menu.

This has been a joyous week for me as my son Gideon, his wife Stephanie and their 3 children came to stay. Oh joy! All precious objects were securely raised, the veranda made spectacular with a green astro-turf carpet preventing the children from slipping on the tiles as they jump from the paddling pool, the tent, see-saw, tricycles and toys barely allowing room for the table and the children fascinated by the oranges, green and small, the pomegranates growing plump, the tiny olive-like kumquats and the many herbs and hot peppers I grew by mistake! On Tuesday 8 grandchildren played on the veranda making it even more spectacular than usual giving it purpose and joy – only the addition of Joshua could have made it complete. Yosef, Sammy, Talia, Amit, Olivia, Zachary, Ayala and little Gili enjoyed the shade Zvi had placed over the entire veranda and Rachel sat patiently made wonderful creations with them. At five o’clock we grew to 10 children and about the same number of adults as Ira and Velrie, Tomer and Sheli arrived. As darkness fell, children bathed and dreaming, we sat to a meal of salads, humous and pizza…. knowing that the day of mourning (Tisha b’Av ) had come to an end and we were the privileged generation who could look over Jerusalem in the knowledge that we are back in our Biblical and historic homeland.

Shabbat Shalom and much love from Jerusalem, heart of our world.