The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

2nd March, 2012

Shabbat shalom dear friends. I hope you are all well.

This was a busy week in Jerusalem, Zvi was deeply involved in the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency where many discussions of the future of the Jewish World take place. Zvi’s contribution is vociferous and innovative but not always welcome by those who enjoy sameness even when change is essential. There are many wonderful people who travel from all corners of the globe to take part in the discussions and decision making but the Jewish Agency is like ship without a captain or navigator. Expressing my views is unpopular but as I recall the Jewish Agency was a powerful glue between Israel and the Diaspora but that glue has come unstuck as Aliya and youth lose priority. The Agency must take great care that like Italian cruise liner, they do not go aground saying hello to people on the shore instead of piloting the ship.

I was thrilled to receive a call from Canon Andrew White from Baghdad. If you recall Canon White travelled to Ezekiels Tomb about 18 months ago to check the veracity of rumours that the local Sheikhs had destroyed the Jewish element of the Tomb. Happily he called on Jerusalem Day to inform me that not only was the Jewish element intact but the local Al Kifl Sheikhs were determined to preserve and refurbish the entire site. Over time we conversed and I sent photos of the original texts for the artisans to copy. This call from Canon White was different, he had Sheikh Al Gahalivi with him in a meeting. The Sheikh wanted to speak to me. I was overcome with emotion as he came on the line through an interpreter. He said “I was praying for many years that someone would care about the Tomb. I wanted to preserve the Tomb for us all and prayed that I would find someone to communicate with out there in the world and you sent Canon White to me and the work began in earnest. I want you to know that the Jewish shrine is safe with us, Ezekiel is important to us too. I want to build a visitors centre around the Tomb to protect it and to make it ready for when Jews, Christians and Moslems can all visit the Tomb together. I just wanted to thank you for caring and being prepared to act. Shukran and Salaam”
What on earth could I say to this brave man? Through the interpreter, and Canon White, I thanked the Sheikh for his care and determination to retain the Jewish identity of this important shrine in a world that might cause him harm.
Lior (Lotseh) Weinberger z”l was a fine man. I loved to sit with him at family meals to listen to his stories, his incredible history as an Officer in the Soviet Missile Corps. He told me everyone knew he was a Jew but it meant a great number of scuffles and name calling especially as he advanced through the ranks, a fact that toughened him up. One story in particular stuck in my mind. There was a plan in place to launch a rocket containing chemicals to poison the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Serving his National Service in the Soviet army Lior’s Jewish identity was strong and his relief when the plan was scuppered was total, he said that he even thought of mutiny. Years later as he made Aliya to Israel with his wife he vowed to prevent any such actions by anyone ever again. Their two sons served in elite units in the IDF. Yesterday a criminal driver drove his truck into Liors car killing him instantly and drove off. The Police caught him but it doesn’t bring Lior back. Baruch dayan emet.

A few interesting details from the news.
Israel has appointed her first Ethiopian born Ambassador
As Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch steps down from her position Judge Asher Grunis takes his place as the new President. I wish him wisdom, good counsel, health and strength.
Denis Prager video – Is Israel an Apartheid State?

Yesterday was St Davids Day, March 1st and Welshmen all over the world celebrated the patron saints day – yes even religious Jews in Netanya. Sadly I didn’t make it to the annual festivities this year , due to the inclement weather but I wanted to capture the Welsh spirit for you and found the answer in a marvellous film “The Englishman who went up a hill and came down a mountain” Really really Welsh.
To fully understand you have to go to Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium, scene of great Rugby Football and incredible breathtaking singing. This is the Welsh National Anthem. Happy St David’s Day to all my Welsh friends. Cymru am byth.

As a child back in Cardiff I spent a great deal of time with the Danovitch family. It seemed so exotic that one of them was married to a beautiful Israeli lady called Tova – even her name meant “good woman”. I loved her instantly and even though very young she was active in the local WIZO group, going with her mother in law Gertie and my mother Betty. Today, the Cardiff WIZO group is named for my wonderful mother and Tova Ben Dov is the world President of WIZO – and I – I am the exotic one living in Israel too!!! Mazal Tov Tova my love – you deserve it!!!

Yosef Eliyahu (Joseph Elija) is our 7 year old grandson and now he and his classmates, each and every one of them, is King of the school! They mastered the art of reading and the Chabad school held a Chumash Party. Each had to read his part in the programme, which is hard for a shy young man but little sisters cheered him on and stole his sweeties! After receiving their Holy Five Books, the boys then danced their hearts out, not as scholars but raucous little boys! My heart burst with pride.

The rain is phenomenal – it is March already and the fine spring weather is normally upon us but the rain is strong and wonderful. The snow is thick on Mount Hermon high in the Golan Heights, children tobogganing and adults skiing down her slopes, The formerly trickling streams are filled and rushing down toward the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) which is filling nicely – still some to go but really blessed rainfall. Last night it snowed in Jerusalem too but the ground was too wet for it to settle properly. Our veranda is looking more beautiful than ever – here in Israel the cyclamen is not a fragile house plant but rather a sturdy spring flower which loves the snow! The Jerusalem hills are covered in a pink cloud of Almond blossom (shkediot), bright red poppies (calaniot) wild pink cyclamen (rakafot). I ws worried the season would be over before we got home but they are still flowering. The Valley of the Cross is phenomenal and the only thing I missed is the incredible black Iris in Netanya which flowers at the end of January.

Purim is around the corner and children know what they want to dress up as for school! Children large and small walk through the streets dressed as everything from Superman to Mordechai – Tinkerbell to Queen Esther. The only aspect of Purim I don’t like are the exploding caps and fireworks that the older children find amusing. This is a week filled with parties for young and old. We are going to a wonderful party organised by the Jerusalem Cancer Research society – and believe it or not we are all going as “Cowboys”

It feels so good to look out over our familiar, almost private scenery. Finally the hills around us are coming into view; they were hidden in the snow-filled clouds until a few minutes ago. Gilo over to my right, followed by Beit Tsafafa, Ramat Rachel, Talpiot, Baka, the German Colony around toRamat Sharret and the Holyland Project. Gosh it looks wonderful. Home.

Shabbat Shalom dear friend. I wish you a peaceful contemplative Shabbat filled with family and happy memories.
With all my love from Jerusalem
PS Shhhhhhhhhh I didn’t even mention Iran or the horrors of Syria and the worlds refusal to act!!!!