The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


2nd December 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Having read a horrific story in the paper about an Afghani woman who was raped, imprisoned for adultery because of the rape and then released from prison on condition that she marry her rapist I couldn’t keep quiet. This is ultimate inhumanity, only surpassed by slaughter. Indeed maybe even worse because she will die every day of her life. It brought to mind the wonderful words of philosopher Bertrand Russell who wrote: I cannot see how to refute the arguments for the subjectivity of ethical values but I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don’t like it.

Do you know what the Salafim are? Well neither did I until very recently. Salafim are those who think that the Moslem Brotherhood are just too lenient and lovers of Western society!! Yes really. When one considers that the Egyptian elections have produced a Moslem Brotherhood victory (you read it here in April), that Fatah are romancing Hamas to the extent that they are spouting extreme anti-Israel, anti-West rhetoric again, I think that we have to understand that the borders of Islam have broadened to the extent that extremism is not enough. My natural tolerance is also being stretched to its limit.

This weeks Parasha (Torah reading) is fascinating and varied. It talks of greed and envy which not only caused brother to raise hand against brother; it talks of Jacob who ran away from his home and security in order to avoid the anger of his brother Esau; Jacobs travels and search for love and so much more. A very important, and much ignored aspect is that while on his journey to Padan Aram where his uncle and family lived, Ya’akov slept on the place where the Temple would be built by Solomon many years later. The Torah states:
“And Ya’akov woke up from his sleep and he said, ‘The Almighty is in this place and I did not know it’ ” (Gen. 28:16).
Rashi’s commentary explains that Ya’akov said, “If I were to have realized the sanctity of this place, I would not have slept here.”
Jacob was unaware but understood it, today too many people are unaware of the sanctity of the Temple Mount – its sanctity in Judaism. As with so many Jewish sites the Temple Mount has been taken over and we are not allowed to pray there – yes exactly what I said – we are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount (not Jew not Christian) because it will offend the sensibilities of the Moslems for whom it is holy. It seems ludicrous. I do not demand from Moslems that they do not pray wherever they wish in Jerusalem but I expect equal respect to be allowed to pray on this holiest site.

An explosion in Iran, what exactly exploded is unknown but it is not difficult to guess. The Times of London, a dedicatedly accurate newspaper, says it was a uranium enrichment plant. Please G-d it has delayed the meglaomanic plans of Iran for long enough that our leaders recognise the danger!

Incredibly an Iranian plot was recently uncovered to attack Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Just las tweek I mentioned this possiblity, that they were in greater danger than Israel, but was told that idea was ludicrous.

President Peres went to visit King Abdullah of Jordan in his palace in Amman. Once our closest friend, the King has been wavering recently. Hopefully King Abdullah learned from his fathers mistake of siding with our enemies in ’67, an act he came to openly regret.

Our friend Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen stands firm on her support of Israel, not only from her emotional ties but through considered reason of what is best for the USA

We went northward last Friday morning to spend a wonderful weekend in Deganiya Bet. We travelled the route down past sea level, down down until we turned left, seeing Jericho on our left – another place taken over by the PA. Our friend Eva is a tour guide and gave us a running commentary, she is so good that even Zvi learned new things!! We pulled off the road at Qasr el Yahud, which translates, from the Arabic, to Jewish Castle, a religious site which ws unattainable due to old Jordanian land mines on the site. The land mines are cleared and we walked down to the River Jordan and to the original site where John baptised Jesus. It was a very spiritual site, one need not be Christian to appreciate the spirituality, and we watched in fascination as pilgrims stood in the trickle of the Jordan (it is said the River Jordan has more history than water) to be baptised. At this point the River is only 5 metres wide and as we stood on the Israeli bank, just five or six metres away, on the Jordanian side, pilgrims were doing just the same. Glorious sunshine, wonderful site, beautiful ritual and good friends. It was an amazing experience.
From Qasr al Yehud we drove northward, the skies above us filled with arrow shaped skeins of cranes leaving the Hula Valley Reserve, heading for warmer climes. Our next stop was at Kibbutz Kinneret, home of Naomi Shemer whose most famous song is Jerusalem of Gold, written just before the Six Day War and triumphantly finished when Jerusalem was re-united. Naomi Shemer was prolific and many of Israel’s favourite songs were written in this haven, well worth a visit.

Finally we arrived at our destination, Kibbutz Deganiya Bet. Ah, leaving the hurry and scurry of the big city behind we arrived in the green miracle that is the North. I asked you a question last week and most of you made the same mistake I made until corrected! Moshe Dayan was not the first child born to Deganiya Aleph, the firstborn was Gideon Baratz and the second was the future and legendary Chief of Staff born so close to Naomi Shemers birthplace – to be irrevocably connected through the reunification of Jerusalem. Friday night was spent in the “chader ochel” of canteen of the Kibbutz, the kibbutznikim turning in curiosity as Zvi sang out the Kiddush and his choir joined in. We just relaxed and sang for Shabbat – and wandered in the rustic beauty of the kibbutz, one of the few which still keeps to the communal principles of kibbutz life.

This week has been really strange. Our veranda is floorless and bottomless – as we try to cure our neighbours damp problem. All our plants – yes Stanley including the little orange tree, are sitting in our lounge which doesn’t give much room for manouevring! The noise was phenomenal as the power tools worked away at the base level and took the tiles from the walls. Since we are simultaneously enlarging our bathroom, therefore removed all clothes and ourselves from the bedroom, life is hardly calm! I was fascinated to discover that two of the young workers were only 14 and 15 years old – and the 15 year old was married! Faiz, their boss, told me it was a familiar story in the neighbourhood of Jabl Mukabr – next to French Hill, but that he was determined that his 7 children would become doctors, lawyers, architects …….. anything but builders. However just in case, after school and at weekends he brings them along so that they will know how to work hard and appreciate what he is doing to ensure their future. Faiz laughs, talking away in his perfect Hebrew “No-one believes I am an Arab and sometimes I don’t either” Faiz works with his brother, both speak perfect Hebrew and understand that the way forward is not through fanaticism but rather through hard work and teaching your children to stand on our shoulders and reach for the sky.

By next weeks letter I hope that I can report a beautiful clean and renewed house – but Zvi has the bug and is already talking of doing the other bathroom…………. maybe he is right.

Thank heavens we have great friends and are invited out for both Friday night and Shabbat lunch. Indeed Shabbat lunch will be hamin – North African Jewish Cholent, a stew which is left on a hot-plate all night to honour the laws of Shabbat, and we will eat it with delightful friends. I cannot wait to have my home back and invite friends to sit on the veranda and see the view I try to bring to you each week, but on beautiful new chairs on a beautiful new floor. The view hasn’t changed, the beauty of Jerusalem is constant as it lays before me. From Gilo on the right, through Beit Safafa in the middle with Ramat Rachel on the ridge of the hill opposite forming a green horizon; Talpiot, Baka, the German Colony and of course the Holyland Project to our left, it is all there, all waiting for us to return to our usual position, admiring the view. The flag is still flying proudly in the corner, framing the tapestry of white houses and green trees. The shopping mall below us busy, but the car park is slowly emptying as the city winds down towards Shabbat.

By the way, Egelbert Humperdink and Red Hot Chilli Peppers are the latest famous people to visit – why didn’t you?

I wish you Shabbat Shalom, may your Fridays always be bright and clear and never “black” because if there are too many black Fridays your account will be in the red!!!

With love