The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


1st July 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope this weeks letter finds you well and happy.

Two days ago I did something I have never done before; I took the face of a grown man in my hands and simply said “Thank you”. The grown man in question was retiring Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency Richie Pearlstone. What makes Richie different to almost all other leaders? It isn’t his wonderfully dapper exterior or his ear-ring, Richie didn’t enter the four year honorary post for self-aggrandisement; Richie Pearlstone put his entire heart and soul into the good of the Jewish Agency and Israel, 24/7. So I took his face in my hands and thanked him. I guess one should really thank his delightful wife and partner Amy for “giving him up” to the Jewish people.

The Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings include Keren Hayesod, UJC (by any other name), the Orthodox Movement of America, The Reform Movement of America, Keren Kayemet and of course Maccabi (Zvi is their representative) and many others. These are good people, people who want to better the Jewish world, to move us forward, to include and improve the small and large communities the world over. The internal politics and strife of any large organisation are evident but most of those present just want to advance the cause of Israel and ensure Jewish continuity.

Old friends like Jack Smorgon, Carol Solomon, Nancy Polchuk, Sondra Sokal the delightful and aptly named Paul Israel and many new ones too including impressive new faces to the world of Tikkun Olam. When we brought Saul Same and his sister Molly to the final cocktail party to introduce and welcome James Tisch as the new Chairman everyone wanted to say hello and shake Saul’s hand. It is through the incredible example of this superb man’s love of Israel that generations have followed suit.

Carol Solomon said something very important during her morning session “WE LIVE IN A 90 SECOND SOUND BYTE WORLD” It’s true and we mustn’t give lengthy explanations we must write concise and catchy letters and responses to the media. Push the fact that ZIONISM IS NOT A DIRTY WORD indeed it is the culmination of a dream. For instance, I cannot stand the word “deligitimisation” indeed can’t even say it why can’t we just say ISRAEL DENIAL?

So, what’s in the news this week?
The Flotilla of course -Alistair Burt, the United Kingdom’s Middle East envoy cannot understand the Gaza Flotilla and advised British citizens not to join. “There are recognised ways to get humanitarian aid into Gaza which is supported by the Israeli Authorities and the UN, and anyone looking to make a humanitarian contribution should do just that” The members of the “Flotilla of peace” (now there’s a misnomer) think that IDF divers “nobbled” 2 of their ships but ignore the fact that the Greeks and Turks do not want the flotilla to leave their shores ruining their improved relationship with Israel. One man actually admits it is political not humanitarian

The Hezb-Allah killers of Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri have been indicted and found guilty in Lebanon. Justice is not always executed in our neighbouring countries and it is of great import that this case ran its full course.

Delta Airlines is accused of agreeing to ban Jewish passengers on flights to Saudi Arabia – duh! Of course they did! Jews cannot go to Saudi Arabia at all – not on any airline! Delta is one of the few airlines that flies directly to Israel – don’t punish them.

The week started with a visit to “Zion ha Gadol” with John and Pauline Gandel from Australia. Picture simple wooden tables, filled with never ending salads, chopped vegetable salads, tehina, hummous, cabbage, tomato, garlic and lemon, fire-hot Yemenite schug, rice, bean and onion salad – and that’s just the first course. It was fun, noisy, crowded, busy, redolent with the smoky aromas of meats on the fire and very Israeli and so much nicer than sitting in a posh restaurant! In the evening we went to a beautiful reception at the Israel Museum – out on the veranda overlooking the Knesset and the Jerusalem sunset. We first did a tour – I never tire of the phenomenal collection in the Israel Museum especially the Judaica and Synagogues.

Monday. I managed to escape and meet my lovely friend Rosa to meander through the Mamilla Arcade, next to the Jaffa Gate, shopping a little and admiring the statues exhibited there especially those of Irit Lev, dear friend and artist, who has some spectacular models exhibited.

Yesterday, after Zvi took them to the Kotel and the Old City, Saul, Molly and I left Zvi at the Board meetings and escaped to the botanical gardens and “Caffit” for lunch yesterday. Sitting beside the lake, watching the black swans floating by as families laugh, eat and enjoy the freedom of an Israeli coffee shop.

I made it to Mahane Yehuda for a few glorious moments this week. I ran through, absorbing the aromas, noise, hustle and bustle, people and of course the sight of multi-coloured piles of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, as I rushed into the throng to get my fish. Mahane Yehuda. So “Yerushalmi” and the epitome of everything we stand for – free enterprise, free movement, free speech, freedom of prayer, freedom, freedom.

Zvi will soon be off to his parliament where they will vociferously solve the problems of the world…..a process carried out in coffee shops all over Israel. I wish a few of our leaders would play fly on the wall and find some answers too. Whether governmental or voluntary; NGO or Quango it is time our leaders listened to their constituents. Too few are Richie Pearlstone, too few care for the work more than their own seats or ambitions.

Jerusalem is slowing down as the epicurean aromas fill the air, happily replacing the exhaust fumes. My downstairs neighbour Shoshana brought us “Marak Kubeh” Kurdish kubeh soup which we will eat alongside our gefilte fish for supper! The local convenience store brings in wonderful stuffed vegetables, sigarim, pastellas and kubeh for busy housewives to add to their already burgeoning tables.

Soon I will set the Shabbat table with the white dress of a bride adding the Challah cover my lovely sister Doreen and her husband Melvyn gave us for our wedding, place Zvi’s fathers kiddush cup and then light the candlesticks which stood in my parents home. We are the culmination of our traditions and we must remember to endow our children with the rich traditions we inherited.

Finally we must never forget what an amazing country this is -in the words of Dick Hirsch “WE CAME TO ISRAEL TO BUILD IT AND WE WERE BUILT BY IT”

With all my love Jerusalem, city of our inherited dreams.