The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Sheila


19th February 2010.

Shabbat Shalom Everybody!

Gosh where do I begin…. This week the view was not from my veranda but rather from Jenin and Gilboa, the Jerusalem Conference and the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organisations run by the incredible and indomitable Malcolm Hoenlein and of course Carolyn Greene who dots the I’s and crosses the t’s of Malcolm’s imaginative programming and brings her own brand of efficiency to the Conference. Firstly I will run through a few news items then go on to try and encapsulate the last few days of information which is currently making my head go round and my heart burst with pride.

I am absolutely thrilled and delighted that even the ultra-left wing British Liberal Party could take no more of Jenny Tonge (Baroness Tonge) after her insane demand to investigate Israel’s amazing rescue operation teams apparent organ harvesting activities in Haiti! Her imagination ran away with her and she embarrassed herself, her party and her country. The blood libel is alive and kicking and Jenny Tonge is one of its stars.

The pro-Israel Daily Mail claims that British MI5 was informed before the operation to kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. The statement has several problems 1. That it was indeed Mossad 2. That the Brits were involved and knew of the identity theft 3. That it is common to hold such exchanges.

Several new immigrants from the UK were somewhat dismayed to see their names and passports used in the raid in Dubai and now need to clear their names with Interpol in order to travel!,7340,L-3850012,00.html

The Jerusalem Conference opened with a speech by Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem. The great fuss about the Arab homes in Silwan that he intends pulling down are illegally built when the families came from Hebron over the last 40 years and simply put up homes willy nilly. The Mayor wants to pull those homes down and build a new project with all modern facilities and infrastructure for those same families, for the Arab Jerusalemites! The last speaker of the evening was archaeologist Professor Gabriel Barkay who held us spellbound as he told the ancient wonders he found around the Temple Mount, all of which point to a clear Jewish presence.

Yesterday morning, at the crack of dawn, I found myself on a bus heading due east and then north through the Jordan Valley to the Gilboa region. The Gilboa is predominantly agricultural (apart from the amazing Teflon ski slope under construction!) and is a perfect example of how this country and our region should be. Jews, Moslems and Christians have found harmony and the ability to live and work together. Ead Saleem is the Deputy Mayor of the Gilboa Regional Council and he told us that before the last Intifada, despite enjoying all the rights of being Israeli he would have died before saying he was Israeli – he was Palestinian. In the Intifada he realized how negative hatred is and how working in harmony with his neighbours could bring his town and his people greater benefit from every aspect. He now proudly states that he is an Israeli Citizen. He said politicians think peace and speak war here they think peace, dream peace and create peace. The regional council built an Arab school where Moslems and Christians learn, sing and dance together and the children danced and played for us.

We returned to the bus and drove the fifteen minutes or so to the border and on to Jenin. Jenin amazed me. We parked next to a big fun fair with screaming children on the giant swing. We saw beautiful houses and apparently the camp has been re-housed; near the Jenin government house we walked through a groomed garden surrounded by mansions; we saw a wonderful new museum, large arena and the new administrative building where tables and chairs had been set up for our reception. The Mayor of Jenin spoke first, very party line, and then the Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad came to speak to us – surrounded by more security than all of our politicians together! He spoke in perfect English of negotiations and difficulties; of working to build an administrative infrastructure rather than destruction; of stopping terror and incitement; mentioning in passing the usual words of occupation and persecution, but I was amazed to hear him say the magic words “State of Israel” four times!

I was so surprised at the modernity of Jenin and Benny Segall, the Gilboa Regional Chief Engineer explained that he spends a lot of time in Jenin where the Mayor and the Gilboa region are working together to build basic infrastructure to ensure better lives for the Jenin residents and that privately the Mayor of Jenin is truly trying to change his citizens lives and cooperation is total. It is a start. Both Gilboa and Jenin chose to work from the ground up – without politicians and changes are afoot – please G-d they will flourish and grow.

From Jenin to the Kirya – Israel’s Pentagon but I cannot tell you anything of what I heard there except to say that I am so proud of our young soldiers and the ingenuity of their officers who encourage brilliant young brains to flourish. Major General Benjamin “Benny” Gantz, Deputy Chief of the General Staff spoke of the paradox of today’s situation of quiet on all fronts yet the air is filled with aggressive rhetoric and threats with large storm clouds over Iran which is spreading over Yemen, Eritrea, Somalia and further afield. After the briefing we drove to the Museum of the Diaspora where Noam Schalit awaited us. Noam spoke of his son’s captivity and he begged the Israeli government to ignore the American request to hold back on the prisoner swap and bring his son home. Politics are irrelevant when ones child is in mortal danger and imprisoned by killers for nearly 1,500 days and nights. Following Noam Schalit we had a surprise visitor – Dan Shapiro of the White House came to brief us – but I cannot tell you what he said because that was off the record too!!!!

As Noam Schalit was speaking of Gilad, his child, I thought of the song from Les Miserables – Bring him home. Although Dudu sang the part on Broadway I was unable to find his rendition in English – but found it in Hebrew. Dudu Fisher also sang this song before the Pope in the hope of his intervention on behalf of Gilad.

I barely touched on the events of this week, leaving huge gaps rather than bore you. I didn’t speak of our romantic walk through the Valley of the Cross on Valentines Day – which may seem an odd choice to my religious friends, but the valley is exquisite with wild flowers galore among the rocks, trees and grasses of the park. I didn’t tell you that Gloria Goldsein and I had lunch in Mamilla before wandering down through the multifaceted throng of the Old City Shouk, constantly bombarded with anxious stall holders who try to persuade you into their stores in seven languages! I didn’t even talk about lunch in the botanical gardens and my grand-children’s joy at seeing the fish, swans and turtles in the pond there.

Just another uneventful week in the life of the Ravivs!!!!

I will write a more complete summation of the Conference of Presidents mission – the amazing friends I made – new and old (Hey Joel) and the information gathered. Now I will go out on to the veranda to check that all my beloved places are intact and then will make my home ready for the bride of Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom to you all from Jerusalem, the ever beautiful and spiritual centre of our world.