The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


12th August 2011

Shabbat shalom dear friends. I hope this letter finds you well and that you had a good week.

Britain is a wonderful country. It is the home of true democracy which then disseminated throughout the Western World. It was in Britain that the anti-slavery campaign began by act of Parliament in 1833 and the demand for social equality has become stronger and louder ever since. People from former British Colonies have poured into Britain and many Jews who had no-where else to go before, during and after WW2 came to Britain, all of which changed the shape of that society, in the most part for the better. My parents fled Poland, my father in 1910 and my Mother in 1920 and they found safe haven and a warm welcome. British socialised medicine ensured that no-one died or suffered unnecessarily. Social Security and Family benefits ensured that no-one starved but all of this together developed a sense of entitlement by which democracy overflows into anarchy. We saw it this week. Almost exclusively young people, most using very expensive means of communication to co-ordinate the riots, went on a purposeless rampage thorough several cities, looting and burning, even killing, bent on destruction. The British police are not armed and were caught unawares. I don’t think it will stop in the UK. The reason? Who knows what ignites such insanity? I keep returning to the idea that it is the sense of entitlement without demands and for once and for all the West must learn that rights demand obligations – nothing is for free.

Australia has the right idea! When the usual inanity of Boycott Israel came up in Melbourne, and the BDS demanded a boycott of Max Brenner chocolate shops (are they kidding, maybe they never tasted the sheer heaven of those choccies) an immediate enquiry was initiated by Michael O’Brien, Minister for Consumer Affairs. Secondary Boycotts are illegal in Oz. So here is the Australian site but the “Bald man” has stores in the USA too.

I walked into the former Hyatt, now a Dan Hotel, in Jerusalem with my dear friend Rosa and we were met by an incredible sight. At first I thought it was a set-up for a movie!!! On one of the sofas in the foyer sat a Haredi young man, with flowing side-curls, working on a lap-top computer while obviously having a serious meeting with the older gentleman sitting next to him – an Arab with full robes and a red and white Kaffiya on his head. We both stopped in our tracks at the sight wishing for a camera!!!

The “Peoples Protest” in Israel is incredibly well mannered, unlike the supposed democratic demonstrations in the Arab world (of which only Tunisia created change for the better) and the UK where democratic expression broke into anarchic riots. Indeed 300,000 people marched, many thousands have formed tent cities in most large towns and central Tel Aviv is slowly being covered in tents. The Government recognises most of the demands, cheaper housing is dependent mostly on the unlikely good nature of builders, but student housing and the cost of university is in the governments hands. The demands are very real, housing is unbearably expensive and rentals too, and many people who work in the public sector (and some in the private sector) receive governmental help to raise their salaries to subsistence levels; however, while many are for real there is a definite movement to bring down the government. Latma has the answer of course, with great good humour!

Isi Liebler frequently writes what I think – this week he expressed my own disappointment with Israeli Leader of the Opposition Tsippi Livni who publicly shamed our Prime Minister in an interview for American Television – suggesting he should capitulate to Obamas demands in order to make life easier for American Jews. Sorry but that isn’t the Israeli PM’s job! Ms Livni has lost my vote.

Last evening Zvi and I were invited to join our first meeting of IMPACT-SE the outstanding and thoroughly academic organisation which researches education in Israel, the Middle East and overseas assuring that education of young people meets the UNESCO standards of tolerance and peace. The standard of our fellow board members is humbling and the work they have done is phenomenal. Just look thorough their website and you will recognise that this is blessed work. As always this type of work needs funding, it doesn’t have a name on the building but my goodness it works to provide our children and their children with a better world.

For Zvi and I this has been a week of grandchildren. A wonderful week but a strong reminder as to why one has children when young and agile!!! I took Talia, Yosef and Ayal to the Bloomfield Science Musem, right near the Hebrew University and gosh they had a marvellous time! Without realising it they learned all about density, electricity, hydro-power, velocity and relative weight! It was so much fun and I loved watching my daughter Rachel give a lesson in architecture to all the children trying to build a bridge. She showed them how to place the wooden struts, to build the arched bridge out of huge polystyrene blocks, finally placing the keystone so that all the children who seconds previously watched in rapt attention could then jump and bounce on it in vain attempts to make it collapse!!!! It was the perfect place to take three children on a steaming hot day!!!

Two days ago Zvi took his little grand-daughters, Amit and Gili, to Kiftsuba in the Moshav of Tsuba near Hadassah Hospital where they jumped and leapt and ran and drove bumper cars to their hearts content. That night as we put them to bed Zvi read them Cinderella in Hebrew and I sang them Brahms Lullaby which I sang to my three children so many years ago – it still works!! In the meantime, Yosef, Talia and Ayala went to the huge park in Modi’in with their parents and had a ball. Yosef even did bungie for beginners!!!!

You see – Israelis have fun!!! Indeed my great-niece and nephew, Carly and James, came back from Tel Aviv for Shabbat Dinner with the extended Raviv Family! The raucous chatter, the food (usual eight or nine salads- remembering that Israeli salads are often cooked and never contain lettuce!!!!) the fun and most of all the view.

Our friend Sasha Teslers son Marlon came too, along with Zvi’s sons and grandchildren, and was surprised at the way Jerusalem calms for Shabbat. Of course there are more central parts of Jerusalem that are still busy but they love the fact that nothing moved, the streets were silent except for the sounds of families walking in the balmy evening air, family life, families eating together, Shabbat dinner, children bringing pots of food to parents and parents to children. Peace, quiet, Shabbat, yet with the call of the Muezzin to remind us that this is a multi-cultural society. The tiny but prolific orange tree was admired and the pomegranate tree too. We drank home brewed and concocted herb tea at the end of the meal as we sat overlooking Jerusalem, just being, just absorbing, just enjoying the wonderful sight. In the corner of the veranda the Israeli flag flies, high above Jerusalem, exactly at the spot that Arlene stands and tears fall down her cheeks in joy.

Tish b’Av came and went, some people learn the lesson of “sinat chinam” some don’t. Life is so much sweeter if we can just learn to love the other, to be tolerant of others ways. Life goes on.

I wish you a Shabbat shalom, a Holy Ramadan, a peaceful and loving life. Go on, smile at the thought!