The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter – Nobel Prizes, Jerusalem elections, Don Giovanni in Jerusalem

11th October 2013
Shabbat Shalom dear friends
Such a strange week, in a world of strange weeks. A week filled with oxymorons like “Arab Democracy” , of Israelis who won Nobels prizes for Chemistry as Americans, of a phenomenal young girl who fought the horrific religious powers in Pakistan was pipped at the post for the Nobel Prize for Peace by……………. the UN Team in Syria! A week of continued killing in Syria despite the watchdogs of the UN; of the horrors of oppression in the Congo, Eritrea and so many other parts; the lack of understanding that the Egyptian Army is succeeding to bring some form of freedom to normal people where a “democratically elected” government did the opposite; and of course of the interminable discussions with the Iranians concerning the nuclear facilities that they claim are for electrical power yet they hide them in vast underground bunkers hidden from inquisitive eyes.
In Jerusalem a great Rabbi died at the age of 93 and hundreds of thousands of Israelis, predominantly religious but including many secular admirers, paid him the ultimate honour of going to his funeral, following the cortege to his final resting place in Sanhedria. His power and influence reached levels unheard of in Israel, far beyond his own Mizrachi (Eastern) community, yet his wonderful wisdom and unchallenged knowledge were slightly muddied as those around him drew him into politics in the Shas party that he founded. HaRav Ovadia Yosef was an undoubted Torah scholar of huge proportions, yet, as with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, lesser humans rode on his wisdom and used his spiritual power to more earthly ambitions. Two dear friends, coming from disparate religious backgrounds yet equally spiritual and pure wrote about the Rabbi. Canon Andrew White who knew Rabbi Ovadia well and admired his outstanding brain and Rabbi Jeremy Rosen who wrote.’s+Blog) May he rest in peace and may his family be consoled among the mourners of Zion.
I don’t know if my last piece of local news counts as an oxymoron, more an inconsistency, but a non-Jerusalemite is challenging the incumbent for the position of Mayor without even bothering to move here! Although unashamedly pro-Israeli, I am not a political animal. I support the best man/woman for the job irrespective of party, which is why this time I have very clear cut views. Our Mayor, Nir Barkat, has all the necessary elements to put Jerusalem’s case to the world, through visiting diplomats and politicians and of course the foreign press. His English is outstanding, he is bright and highly presentable and representative – and he knows this city having grown up here and bringing his children up here and is supported by the current government – he is not perfect and we have disagreements but he is doing a good job. On the other hand we have a very capable man, Moshe Lion, who does not live in Jerusalem, is the favourite of Avigdor Liberman and has already signed a political pledge with the Haredim. So you see, grammatically it is not an oxymoron, but the vagaries of politics distress me nonetheless. Nir Barkat, the secular Mayor, held up all civic events and culture to honour the Ovadia family during the week of mounring whereas the new Shas leaders stepped from the mourning tent and used the hiatus to push their candidate Moshe Lion!!!
I am sure of two things, Zvi and I are voting for Nir Barkat as Mayor and Hitorerut for the council. HITORERUT – Awakening – the fabulous group of young people who chose to fight for the Jerusalem they want to raise their children in and ensure it remains a city that young people want to stay in. Most importantly, although capable of fighting for what they believe to be right, Hitorerut is in tandem with Mayor Barkat which is a rarity in local politics.
Last night Zvi and I were invited to an exceptional performance of the Jerusalem Opera Company – Don Giovanni performed in the incredible beauty of David’s Citadel. The architecture is phenomenal and the history even more so. The historical periods were clear in the ancient stones in four obvious architectural styles. The lowest area showed the Herodian style taken from the original Temple supporting walls for secondary use when Suleiman the Magnificent decided to refurbish Davids Citadel, which is when he also added the Mosque and Minaret. The incredible arched openings, the archers slits and the crenellations and the ramparts formed an incredible backdrop to the familiar story of love and betrayal.
We were invited by Yaakov and Nadia Shtrizak, our beautiful young new Olim from Russia. Yaakov, a resounding bass, sang with the Rimsky Korsakov Opera in Leningrad before he and his beautiful Nadia came home. After hearing him sing for a Jewish Agency event Zvi pulled every string in his arsenal to help Yaakov achieve auditions with both the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Operas both of whom accepted him to the their regular troupes. Yaakov sang the part of the old man, Commendatore, Donna Anna’s father who is killed in the first act but makes a ghostly reprise in the last act resulting in Don Giovanni’s ultimate demise. It was as much a delight to watch Nadias face as her beloved Yaakov sang to perfection as it was to hear him for ourselves!
I love operas that have familiar music, but this production held more than one surprise. In the first act as the young bride and groom walked across the grounds the audience was delighted to see that the groom and the groomsmen wore white kippot (skullcaps) and carried a chuppa (marriage canopy)!!! It just gave a perfect Jerusalem touch to this Jerusalem performance!
I admit it was hard to concentrate on the story as my eyes constantly wandered around the sheer beauty of the Tower of David Museum and archaeological site. It really is stupendous!
So, it is almost Shabbat. The buses no longer pass our window as the drivers are home with their families preparing for Shabbat, the cars have emptied from the shopping mall car park and that oh so beautiful peace is descending upon our incredible city. I want Jerusalem to be for all her residents but never ever to forget what she means to us all and the Biblical importance of every stone.
Talking of Biblical importance, Babylon (modern day Iraq) is so closely tied to our Bible, it is where we were taken from Zion in captivity as slaves. Today Iraq is suffering as never before as our dear friend Canon Andrew White tells us. Listen to the words of this simple song
Although this is not Shabbat Bereshit I absolutely loved this choir singing Lecha Dodi
I wish you love, joy and laughter in your lives and a special sense of gentleness and contemplation that comes with our day of rest. This weeks Torah reading, Lech Lecha in which Abraham and Sarai (Sarah) are rewarded by the Almighty for their goodness and their ability to rebuff temptation to evil. Maybe a few of our politicians should be reading this parasha………. and understand its relevance.
Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.