The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

31st December 2010
Shabbat Shalom – and a happy happy new year.

Gosh, this year has been like a Chinese curse…….. very interesting!!!!
The events that stand out fr me – in no particular order –
Former Israeli President Katsav was found guilty yesterday on two counts of rape and one of aggravated sexual harassment. The trial was held in camera with three judges who came to a unanimous decision. I am proud of our legal system, in Israel no-one is above the law, no crimes are swept under the carpet of diplomacy. As a hopeful augur of times to come the BBC reporter said that the trial showed what a healthy democracy Israel is.

The largest natural gas reserves ever were discovered off-shore by Israel. Apparently Moses knew exactly where he was going, and the Arab threat to drive us into the sea should have been a hint!!!!

Israel’s economy is thriving while her detractors are still wallowing in a morass of fiscal disasters and terrorism threats. Christmas was deeply threatened in the USA, Germany, UK although the threat was thwarted. Now Denmark is threatened, both the newspaper which published the cartoons under threat and staff lives.

The fire in the Carmel Forest took the lives of 44 people. The fire itself was sad but the forest will regenerate with our help, the lives, lost through stupidity ,can never be recreated. The only positive is that we discovered that the world was willing to show us the same care we showed them and rushed to our help.

Israeli teams flew to Haiti the moment the extent of the tragedy was recognised. They are still there. Israeli police helped restore order, Israeli doctors heal the sick, Israeli bureaucrats helped restore civil authorities. We rush to every place that needs us.

The Mavi Marmara humanitarian ship was part of a flotilla to draw attention to the starving people of Gaza. There were more than a few errors of judgement. They were predominantly violent agitators; they had no real aid; Gaza doesn’t need any aid; they took the ship apart to create weapons to beat the IDF within an inch of their lives; the IDF did not plan nor execute the boarding in a logical manner. It was a PR disaster in a world willing to accept untruths.

We sat glued to our television screens in fearful anticipation as the Chilean miners sang, exercised and spoke to their families while the rescue teams dug and dug – with unbelievable success.

Jesus was declared a Palestinian and the Temple Mount a Moslem site unrelated to Judaism or Christianity and Rachel’s Tomb declared a Moslem Holy site – by the UN.

We got discovered in Dubai, not through the cameras as everyone thinks but through credit cards……. so dumb!

We joined the OECD and immediately went to the top in terms of our thriving economy.

We discovered viable options in the treatment of cancer and heart disease

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman says it like it is and the soft West doesn’t like his truth. The good cop – bad cop act of Yvette and Bibi may not appeal to the PC sensibilities of the West but we live in a very nasty neighbourhood where standing tall and showing strength are the only defence.

This week we spent a delightful evening with Harry and Nancy Bloomfield from Montreal. Harry and Nancy are political opposites as far as Israel is concerned, Harry feels it important that we appear good in the foreign press and finds Avigdor Libermans direct approach offensive; Nancy says it is nobody’s business except those whose sons and daughters fight for our country. Of course I am with Nancy, we need leaders who can stand up to our neighbours not those who look pretty on CNN.

Yesterday Saeeb Erekat, the Palestinian Chief Negotiator, spoke at a multi-cultural conference here in Jerusalem. I believe that peace will truly come when an Israeli negotiator is able to speak in front of a multi-cultural conference in Ramallah…. without being killed. Did you know that most of the top Palestinians enjoy the cuisine of the American Colony Hotel and the top, highly expensive restaurants in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Jerusalem?

Barmitzva buses are arriving in the thousands!!!! Families from around the world are running bar mitzva tours. The children have fun and the parents ensure their sense of continuity through a deep contact with their roots.
Weddings here are fun too! Some are humungeous, some are just family and close friends. The wedding of our friends Madeleine and Martins daughter Orly and her delightful new husband Lior was very special. It wasn’t the food or even the lovely intimate hall, it was the incredible sense of joy and fun and love that the families brought with them. I even danced!!!!

2010 was Israels best tourism year ever! Our family is increasing the numbers in the new year as my eldest son Daniel, his lovely wife Karen, adorable little boy Joshy and his loved mother in law Ellen are coming to stay with us this week. I am so excited!!! It means that I can walk through the Old City , the Israel Museum, the Biblelands, the Zoo, the Bloomfield Science Museum, Little Israel and of course………Mahane Yehuda. It is strange how the sights and smells of that magical place capture ones imagination. Nancy Bloomfield said she was standing in the middle of Mahane Yehuda and all my description were rushing through her mind as she turned to see the colours of the succulent vegetables and fruits, the heady aroma of the spices and of course the yelling of the costermongers “Yalla Yalla – best in town only 10 shekels”. I love it!!!

We are starting 2011 with joyous occasions, my family coming here and us going to Florida to be with our “other “ family for the Lindenfeld Double Barmitzva of Ilan and Jeremy. It seems like forever since we spent time with them and we miss them so much so this is the perfect opportunity! Zvi will go to see his family in San Diego and Mexico City but I am resting after my ankle break – it is much better but needs a little time without chasing around!!!

Christmas came and a record number of Christians came to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to celebrate. It was beautiful.

My wishes for 2011,
I wish for less knee jerk loyalties in the world, more reasoned expectations understanding of democratic and strategic alliances and a vision of true friendship.
I wish that the democracies of the world would defend themselves and their rights and stop their false concern for those who claim to be oppressed yet become the oppressors of their hosts.

My resolutions for 2011
To stand up to bullies and be ready to stand up and fight for the cashier or clerk with the same vigour that I defend my country because they are my country.
To remember that there are people like Malcolm Hedding, Malcolm Hoenlein, Canon Andrew White, Irwin Cotler, Alan Dershowitz, Ileana Ros Lehtinen and of course Itamar Marcus in this world and emulate their incredible determination for Tikun Olam.
To tell those I love that I love them – at least once a day.
To use my ears and mouth in the relative ratio, just as my Mummy used to teach us

My wishes for 2011 are epitomised in this song -Tshmor al ha Olam Yeled – Child, take care of this world because we aren’t capable

Jerusalem is slowing down already. The rain has washed the dust of the last few weeks away leaving the buildings glistening. The shiny roads are emptying, the buses heading off to the nearby bus depot and the Kurdiwsh families sit down to their kubeh soup. Salads of every nature, none of them with lettuce, are set out on heaving tables – Matbucha, Turkish salad, hummous, finely diced vegetables with chopped mint and lemon, couscous salads and the inevitable piping hot mushroom and spice salad which sits atop the humous….. alongside vegetables stuffed with spicy meat and rice, wonderful chamin or cholent and of course good old chicken soup with fluffy kneidlach………

I wish you a truly wonderful and delicious Shabbat with people who love you. I wish you peace, joy, fulfillment and pride in who you are and the strength to shout it from the rooftops.

Shabbat Shalom from the most amazing, fascinating, spiritually satisfying city in the world