The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


28th October 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. How are you?

The weather here in Israel is so glorious that “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” keeps running through my mind as the sun’s rays become warm and welcoming rather than glaring; the pomegranates are red and ripe, bursting with health giving juice, the oranges beginning to develop a soft orange glow and the herbs filling out as the leaves rest from the searing heat of the summer. Faces lighten up and we all begin to feel the relief of autumn. The warmth in the air was conducive to gardening and I moved the annoying tree and created a wonderful flowering corner using the incredible orange and yellow hibiscus trees and the lovely fuchsias. I don’t know the real name of the fuchsias but I called them Valerie’s fuchsias because my girlfriend’s garden was the first place I saw that variety!!!

Most of this week was spent with our dearest friend Kim Taylor who is here filming a documentary for his Children of Israel Website which will hopefully also be on PBS. I took a small part but Zvi, Zvi was a star, the camera just loves him and he knows how to talk to the camera.

I joined Kim, Deanna and Robert and of course Zvi, to film Member of Knesset David Rotem, leader of the Christian Caucus of the Knesset and Chairman of the Law and Legislature Committee. MK Rotem gave Kim’s team and incredible interview. Actually, reaching his office was an adventure in itself, as we each got lost in different areas of the rambling new wing. The Knesset is such a beautiful building, walking up the main entranceway, past the eternal flame into the bustling halls and passageways of justice and democracy makes my heart burst with pride.

From the Knesset we drove out to the Community Centre in the Pisgat Zeev neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Pisgat Zeev comprises predominantly of new immigrants and the incredible Valla found a beautiful way to help absorb them and provide work for many musicians. The Pisgat Zeev music conservatory now has 300 young students and 30 music teachers. We were there to see a very special class of Special Needs youngsters who have learned to play instruments under the loving care of their teacher. Their disabilities range from Muscular Dystrophy, Downs Syndrome and Autism. The joy on their faces as they played “David Melech Yisroel” and “Ani Ma’amin” (I Believe) with great aplomb was plain to see. Achievement for those who fight so hard ot achieve is inspiring.

The next occasion that I joined the team was to the Municipality of Jerusalem and Mayor Nir Barkat. Nir gave a wonderful interview explaining the challenges of Jerusalem (he refuses to call them problems) and the pride and responsibility he feels in his Mayoral position. From the offices of the Mayor we went out to the Council Chambers where the Chairperson of the Social Services Department talked about the special situation of this city’s residents, from abuse dchildren to drug addiction, from battered women to the elderly and homeless all made infinitely more complex by the varied religious elements.

Zvi explained the significance of the huge domed ceiling representing the myriad of thoughts and beliefs that make up this special city, the round table representing equality and of course the Biblical element of the circles of justice. While surrounded by columns – the straight lines of the law – the table is round to ensure justice always be shown in this decision making.

From the veranda of the Municipality one gets a 360 degree view of Jerusalem, its magnificent Old City, the modern buildings, the Hebrew University, the domes, towers and spires that represent the religious rainbow of this complex and fascinating city which has remained the centre of our world for 3,000 years.

I have a sneaky feeling that the highlight of Kim, Deanna and Robert’s week was a visit to “Zion ha Gadol” the Middle Eastern restaurant where the display of salads was so incredible that Robert felt the need to photograph it! We always say that an Israeli salad contains just about every ingredient except lettuce! Shiny, succulent egg plant salad, bright beetroots and fresh garlic and lemon, carrot salad, rice salad, cabbage salad, beans, courgettes and potatoes all become a glorious cornucopia of delight! There is nothing quite like it. The array of salads each individual yet blending perfectly with all the other foods is so representative of Jerusalem’s society – our very differences merging to make a delicious combination of colours and flavours.

The world is still trying to understand our willingness to release over 1,000 various killers in exchange for one incredibly frail and clearly ill treated son of Aviva and Noam Schalit, so don’t try. It is something inexplicable, something so very Israeli, something so telling of our high moral stand and also our relative sense of what each human life is worth when dealing with peoples who hold death in far higher regard than life. One boys life is worth whatever it takes.

The same humanity made Israel the first to offer help and assistance to Turkey after the disastrous earthquake that befell that country. Erdogan, who initially refused Israel’s help, is a highly unpopular leader, the Turkish people resent his determination to even further sour the relations between our countries. We sent sent caravans, blankets and other necessary aid to protect those whose homes were destroyed leaving them to fend for themselves in harsh winter conditions.

Ishmael Khaldi, Bedouin Israeli, is our former Consul in San Francisco and outstanding speaker on behalf of Israel. He was speaking at Kent State University when a Professor, not an ignorant student, a Professor screamed abuse at Khaldi he also shouted “Death to Israel. Do not be lulled into thinking it is not happening in the USA.

Dr Einat Wilf, Member of Knesset spoke on the BBC about the Gilad Schalit deal and the lack of equivalence between the release of Hamas murderers and a kidnapped soldier, Gilad Schalit

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of he Technion University of Haifa they created a truly outstanding video – well worth watching.

Just in case you thought that Israeli chocolate was limited to Elite – think again. Gosh this makes ones mouth water. Look out Belgium, Israeli chocolates are phenomenal!!
The Shabbat food is prepared, food that reflects the change in weather. Autumnal salads (no lettuce of course), Chicken soup with kreplach and kubeh, thoroughly stewed beef with vegetables and chicken paprika followed by pecan pie and fresh seasonal fruit. The table is ready, a sparkling white tablecloth, best dishes, sparkling silverware and glassware and of course the new Challah cover. I love the sense of Shabbat covering our neighbourhood, the quiet descending, the aromas rising and the families arriving to be together. Kurdish Jews have a special treat, Friday lunch is a big family affair. ‘Marak Kubeh” We have a great Kurdish friend who, when asked why she was cooking on Friday morning when she was feeling poorly said “If a Kurdish man doesn’t have Kubeh soup for lunch on Friday he sets of to work on Shabbat morning because he doesn’t know what day it is!!!”

Finally, you enjoyed last weeks music so much I decided to bring you Three Israeli Tenors singing Adon Olam. This is so great –

I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, the beautiful glorious centre of our world.


Thanks to Phillip Pasmanick for this wonderful greeting
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..✡ שבת שלום ✡♥ ✡ I LOVE ISRAEL ✡ ♥ ✡ Shabbat Shalom✡
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