The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


Friday 21st May 2010.

Shabbat Shalom to you!

The world’s eyes are so firmly fixed on the Middle East – and misunderstanding the implications of what they see – that they ignore dangers far closer to home. Hugo Chavez is a classic megalomaniac/ sociopath who is quietly manipulating his own country and most of Latin America at the same time. He is a very dangerous man. His treats against Venezuelan Jews represent clear and present danger About two or three years ago my husband saw the signs and managed to persuade the then Prime Minister to ensure Jewish Agency emissaries went to persuade Venezuelan Jews to leave. The Jews truly believed that their social position would save them, now we know that it will not. Will we never learn? Does anyone else care?

Professor Noam Chomsky was denied entry from Jordan to Israel at the Allenby Bridge on Sunday. When he asked Israeli authorities for the reasons for the decision to block his entry, he was told that it would be sent in writing to the US embassy. Of course this made the headlines in te media but when British pop star Elton John was banned from performing at a private concert in Egypt because he is gay the media falls silent. He was forced to call off the concert because the government-controlled Egyptian Musician Union bans gays. Mr. John will still perform in Israel, where gays are welcome.

Israeli Government Authorities have decided to hand over lands owned by the Jewish National Fund to Arab farmers in the Galilee. The government watchdog Ometz has filed a request with State Comptroller asking him to look into the matter.

Tensions rose before Shevuot when a rogue gang of Haredim, a tiny minority who are acting against their own leaders, decided to wreak havoc outside the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon where a new fully protected emergency room is to be built. They protested the moving of old graves which are not even Jewish graves to complete the building next to the main hospital. They took the issue to the Supreme Court but both the court and the Prime Minister gave the go-ahead to the building. They fought police and then wreaked millions of shekels worth of damage in Jerusalem’s religious neighbouroods destroying public property. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has told them that he will not endanger his municipal workers and they will have to do without municipal services for the foreseeable future. It is so sad when religion loses its direction. Whatever happened to pikuach nefesh? I know they don’t read newspapers but they must know that the city was bombed from Gaza and needs and underground facility. I love my religion, I think it is fine, tolerant and considerate and doesn’t resemble this angry and intolerant group.,7340,L-3890514,00.html

I was very excited to receive a phone call from my friend Renee this morning telling me about a marvelous initiative taken by Prof. Guy Bechor. Tomorrow at 10:30 Herzliya Marina a flotilla of small boats will sail to Ashqelon in positive support of Israel in response to the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s anti-Israel Gaza flotilla purportedly in memory of Rachel Corrie. There will be full press coverage so look out for the story and react positively in your newspapers. Erdogan insists he simply supports blockade stricken Gaza and is not anti-Israel. I have no doubt that before leaving on his flotilla he and most of the yacht owners will leave their sore side mansions and go to one of the fine restaurants in Gaza City and stay at one of the 5 star hotels . How much aid has Turkey sent to Gaza? How much Israel is providing is an open book. the trouble is that no-one opens the covers!

Shevuout in Jerusalem is very special. White clothes, white cheese and a determination to do things better and have a better understanding of the meaning of the laws that G-d gave us so many thousands of years ago. We misbehaved when Moses came down from Sinai and we still haven’t the patience to understand. We tend to either take it all just too literally which makes us rigid in all our demands in our faith or we refuse to accept the beauty of what we were given and reject it in an equally rigid manner. Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, my dear friend and mentor says everything I wanted to say….. but much better – and not for the first time!

Last night we went to an outstanding concert at the Jerusalem Theatre. The concert was one in the Jerusalem Symphony series. The programme included American composers and ended with a symphonic interpretation of West Side Story including an outstanding young Israeli pianist. The entire audience was on its feet at the end! If you are visiting or live within reachable distance you really should come to the concerts.

Despite warning to the contrary have a facebook account. It is an amazing tool for hasbara outreach and also finding old friends. I read Barry Shaw and Barry Rubin and many others who understand the Middle East. If you are on facebook please look them up.

Todays Shabbat Shalom is running late. I just went out onto the veranda to take a deep breath of air before the next heatwave its and found myself entranced by the view. The shopping mall is in its final throes before closing its doors; the roads are emptying and the stillness is descending over the city like a blanket of peace; aromas rise from my downstairs neighbours – kubeh soup, rice flavoured with Hawaij and raisins, spicy meat-stuffed vegetables, chicken cooked for hours in a tajeen, kneidelach and chicken soup, and the predominant pungent smell of roasted aubergines and peppers. This is a country that cooks – and cooks well each adopting the cuisine of other countries. My mother in law, the indomitable 96 year old Ala, is convinced that the Italians stole Lokshen and just called it pasta! My food is ready…. The long list of family favourites completed.

I think I am going back outside now I want to watch the last buses pull into the depot and their drivers go home to freshen up for Shabbat. I have to check if my tomatoes are ripe growing out of the orange trees earth where someone was too lazy to put their tomato in the rubbish and the seeds turned into a productive Triffid! The air is sweet, the quiet calm entrancing and the only sound is that of the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer in the Beit Safafa neighbourhood. I so love this entrancing city, I love its diversity and its colour, its history and innovation, but most of all I love it because it is home.

With much love from Jerusalem