The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

11th March 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear Friends

Yet another world disaster as Japan suffers the horrors of an enormous earthquake followed by a tsunami. It seems that Mother Nature is angry with us…… The 8.9 earthquake, whose epicentre was 10 kilometresoff the coast, was relatively surface creating huge land movement and extensive after shocks are expected. The distressing prediction is that the tsunami resulting from this earthquake will hit the entire Pacific rim including Japan, Australia, Taiwan, the West Coast of the USA, and Hawaii is expecting a 2-3 metre high Tsunami. For those who have already been hit our hearts are with you and those who have yet to feel the force of nature – stay high and be safe.

Pope Benedict XVI made a proclamation. Finally and at last the Vatican not only absolves the Jews but states that we didn’t kill Jesus! This declaration, in the light of current world events, is of the utmost importance. Maybe this Pope recognises the fundamental threat that hangs over both our religions.

Former Presidential candidate John McCain made a very public about turn on Jonathan Pollard and is now fighting for his release. Pollards continued imprisonment, under unbearable conditions, is inexplicable. Enemy spies are released after 5 years yet this man, who allegedly spied for the USA’s greatest ally has suffered a protracted sentence without any hope of parole. It begs the question “Why did the USA choose to withhold this information”? Pollard denied spying “against” the United States. He said he provided information vital to Israeli security which was withheld unfairly by the Pentagon – information including data on Soviet arms shipments to Syria, Iraqi and Syrian chemical weapons, the Pakistani atomic bomb project and Libyan air defense systems.

Jerusalem schoolchildren were deeply disappointed this week. They were promised snow, which of course means no school and lots of fun! Instead it rained….and rained glorious, strong, wet rain! The snow fell on the Hermon where thousands will ski this weekend and when it melts it will form streams, rills and waterfalls to fill the Kinneret. Jerusalem’s rain falls down to the lowest place on earth to the Dead Sea the surprising racing torrents bringing life to the arid but fertile earth of the desert promising glorious colour next month. The saddest Israelis who regret that snow didn’t fall in Jerusalem are the Tel Avivim who come in their cars and take it home on their car roofs!! The Jerusalem Municipality has arranged a special treat for Purim however, turning Safra Square beside the Municpality, into a huge ice skating rink!!!

The current leaders of the Western World remind me of the famous Yiddische tale of Herschele from Ostropoly. Herschele was a Shammes or beadle of the synagogue and one of his tasks was to go around the shtetle awaking the men to ensure a quorum for prayer. It often snowed in the shtetl and people were not happy that the shammes spoiled the virgin snow before they had time to enjoy it. They held a town meeting to solve the problem and came to the conclusion that 4 men should carry the Shammes on their shoulders so that his footprints would not spoil the beauty of the snow!!! That is the trouble with politics today….. everyone is trying to carry solutions so that the snow won’t be spoiled and in doing so trample beauty into the ground.

PM Benyamin Netanyahu marked International Women’s Day with a tribute to Israel’s female soldiers serving in the IDF. While remarking that Israel is the only country in the region where women have equal rights, Mr. Netanyahu went on to describe the myriad contributions by women in the IDF:
“I am impressed by you. There is a revolution in the IDF here. One-third of the IDF’s personnel are women. We have Border Police fighters. We have women in the Air Force as pilots. This expresses the change in the status of women in the IDF and in the State of Israel as a whole. We must especially salute the women soldiers and officers in the IDF. I salute you. May the sun shine on you every day, not just today.”

Israels detractors rely upon rumours and gossip, never upon facts. I have been the subject of cruel gossip and rumours and one is left devoid of the means to contradict such calumny since facts are irrelevant to those who wish you ill. From my own experiences I came to a conclusion appropriate for Israel May our enemies always boycott Israeli goods. Then they will be out of health, out of wealth , out of touch and out of luck!!

Last Shabbat we went for a walk in the Valley of the Cross, Jerusalem. It was close to dusk and the city was clothed in her best pink robes as we scrambled over hills covered in wild anemones, outcrops of wild cyclamen shockingly sprouting out of rocks and clouds of Almond Blossom. We went with Ira and Valeri and their two beautiful children Tomer and Sheli, who are Israel’s story encapsulated. Valeri’s family were Communists who left Israel for the Soviet Union where Valeri was raised speaking Hebrew and loving Israel. Both he and Ira were in broadcasting but Valeri also worked with the Jewish Agency. In 1991 Zvi was one of the leaders of a huge group of Keren Hayesod leaders who visited the now free Russia and Valeri was their contact and translator. Soon afterward Valeri and Ira made Aliya and became part of our family, Valeri working in the Jewish Agency and Ira in Keren Hayesod. Tomer and Sheli were born here and are real Israeli children spending much of their time on Davida’s moshav with a variety of animals and country life and spend every Holy Day with us. Passover, the Pesach Seder night will as always be in our home but this year it will be Sheli who leads the Four Questions since Tomer is now a 13 year old Jewish man. While it may seem mundane and you may say “What’s so amazing about that?” Well in Soviet Russia when Valeri grew up he couldn’t have a bar mitzvah; couldn’t celebrate the Seder or any of the Jewish Holy Days. Valeri did not have the freedom of choosing whether he wants to be religious or not – but now, in this wonderful, free country his children do.

Purim is coming!!!
Supermarkets are filled with treats and “Mishloach Manot” to fulfill the tradition of giving friends and neighbours a little gift of food. The Hamentaschen or Hamans’s Pockets are proliferating with every conceivable filling. I am not a fan of the usual poppy seeds – I go for the spiced apple and raisin or ground dried fruits or even chocolate! The city will be one big party, in the streets of the centre and in homes, children go to school dressed as everything from Queen Esther to Queen Latifa, from Mordechai to Zorro! Purim, yet another story of persecution, oppression and the triumph thereof, a story of determination and bravery and Purim is the most appropriate story to follow International Women’s Day. The story of Purim took place in Persia and tells us of the wicked Vizier Haman – who bears a distressingly accurate historical resemblance to Ahmedinejad; we need to create a plan whereby Ahmedinejad, his Ayatollah puppeteers and maybe Jimmy Carter with them, all ride backwards on a horse to the jeering of the demonstrators who are tired of their rule of theocratic violence and oppressive determination to achieve world domination.

Zvi has gone to a rehearsal for his choirs concert in a couple of weeks. I love to hear him sing, he has a mellifluous bass baritone voice which try as he may stands out from all his fellow choristers! The rain has stopped and Jerusalem’s white stones are glistening as if G-d cleaned them especially for Shabbat. The sun is kissing the tops of the hills and the traffic is leading away from the shopping mall and we put the finishing touches to our white clad Shabbat tables. I wish you a Shabbat Shalom, safe from all disaster, whether natural or man made. Take care of yourself and give yourself a treat – come to Israel and see that I do not exaggerate – it is the most amazingly beautiful country with Jerusalem at its heart – the heart of Israel, of Judaism, Christianity and the world.

Cyril – I hope you received all the kisses I sent you. I love you dear cousin.

With much love from Jerusalem