The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom, Peace be with you

29th December 2023

Shabbat Shalom.

I can’t help thinking about the late Queen Elizabeth II in 1992 when she described the year as “Annus Horribilis” I think it is safe to say that this has been annus horribilis for Israel and for the Jewish people throughout the world. Right became wrong and cruel became acceptable, the world turned upside down.

I woke up this morning determined to write a positive Shabbat shalom, to find stories that lift our spirits, and then I read an article sent to me by Kinneret Chaya’s sister Nitzan. I tend to avoid most articles in the New York Times because their negativity toward Israel depresses me but this article depressed me for a very different reason; it is terrifying in its honesty describing what happened to women and girls on the 7th of October. No holds barred. So honest that it comes with a warning, it is essential reading and every single women’s organisation should be forced to read it before choosing to ignore the diabolical events of that day. Me Too? No never, ever like this.

Something we all know, we all saw, is that the Palestinians do not receive the aid sent by all your donations – and ours Musa Abu Mazourk is a Hamas leader. He wrote. “The aid that comes to Gaza must be distributed to the resistance fighters and what remains is then distributed to the people. The attempt of some citizens to seize aid, as happened today in Rafah, will be fought with all force, and the people must offer what is expensive and what is cheap for the sake of the resistance, not steal the food of the resistance” In other words, either join Hamas or your family starves.

Another blogger, @hodajanat wrote

Suddenly we discovered that Gaza, which is inhabited by 2 million people… has 36 hospitals. There are Arab countries with 30 million citizens and do not have this number of hospitals.

Suddenly we discovered that Gaza was getting water, electricity, gas, and fuel for free from Israel.

Suddenly we discovered that Gaza was receiving $30 million a month from Qatar alone

And $120 million a month from UNRWA, $50 million a month from the European Union, 30 million dollars a month from America. There are Arab countries drowning in debt and cannot find anyone to help them, even with one million dollars.

Suddenly we discovered that Gaza was not besieged, and all goods were entering it, as were foreigners and people of foreign nationalities. Its residents were traveling to Egypt and from there to the rest of the world, and Fafo is the biggest example.

Suddenly we discovered that Gaza was living better than many Arab countries…and its people were living better than many Arab peoples.

Suddenly…we discovered that our minds were besieged by a programmed lie…by the (Muslim) Brotherhood media

Armenians have had a presence in Jerusalem since in 1915, after the Armenian genocide, many Armenian Christians found refuge in Jerusalem and formed the Armenian Quarter with it’s beautiful, open churches. Sad to say that this week, masked Moslems beat up Armenian priests leaving some in critical condition in Hospital. Where is the outcry, as usual absent, for them and not for us.

I hope I can now get to my promise to myself to tell you about the positive and try my very best to stick my head in the sand for a few moments. As I have explained many times, the Druze communities in Israel, the Israeli Druze, are not only incredibly loyal, not only fine soldiers in the IDF, but feel great empathy with the Jewish Israelis. Not for the first time a restaurant in one of the Druze villages has gone kosher, in the past it was for tourists, but now, in the midst of the war, one Druze restaurant has not only gone kosher but is giving free meals to soldiers. It warms my heart.

Not everyone is against us! Not all Moslems hate us! Moderate Moslems are speaking out and Dalia Al-Aqidi knows what she’s talking about. Being an Iraqi journalist, she has witnessed the horrible acts both Al-Qaeda and ISIS did in her country. And still, “what ISIS and Al-Qaeda have done combined, cannot be compared to what Hamas has done to the Jewish people”, she tells us.

At the risk of repeating myself, Israelis, of all creeds, have amazed me. I am so proud to be a part of this incredible country and incredible people. Through the sadness of funerals of heroes that lost their lives, their short lives, thousands leave their jobs, literally thousands arrive to support families they have never met yet feel a deep empathy with. Add to that the myriad of good deeds, the barbecues for soldiers, meals for displaced families, knitted hats for soldiers, opening up their homes for families whose homes were destroyed, cooking for the Shiva, the 7 days of mourning, going to Hostage Square through rain and shine to support the families of the hostages, I could go on and on. We are a caring people, a caring army fighting to keep this tiny tract of land. Gosh I am so proud of everyone, except our government of course!

I wish you could all read Hebrew because several articles in the local press have celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of our Historic Building, right here on our estate. It really is gorgeous. Built in the style of the White House (really!) but in wonderfully pinkish beige Jerusalem stone, it was the convalescent home for the Union and for those who had influence. Situated in a glorious park with views toward Ein Kerem and Jerusalem, with the finest air in all of Israel, we are the luckiest people in the world that our estate, 230 families of all ages, got to live here.

Actually, as I believe I told you before, the White House, is only part of Arza’s history. Long before the convalescent home was built, a certain gentleman by the name of Theodore Herzl came to visit and planted a tree. He was told that the sapling was a beautiful cypress, but in fact it was a simple fir tree, which was actually cut down by the cohorts of Haj Amin El Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem and friend of Hitler. The planting of the tree led to the forming of the Avenue of the Presidents alongside our veranda. The steps leading down the side of the hill sport the trees planted by most subsequent Presidents and just around the corner, to the right at the bottom of the steps is one of many pill-boxes guarding the main Tel Aviv Jerusalem Road. We live amidst history!

Friends are coming to Israel, volunteering, going south to support the few residents still there, to understand the destruction left behind by the Hamas attack and going North where Hezb-Allah is pounding towns and villages. Yes, as if what happened to the South and is happening in Gaza wasn’t enough, the North is also suffering rockets and missiles on their heads. Most towns have been evacuated but the farmers of the kibbutzim, moshavim and egg producing chicken farms have no choice but to return and feed the animals, those that have not fled or been killed, and for one farmer, to keep Israel supplied with eggs. A few missiles came from Syria too. Add to that the renewed Houthi piracy of ships Bab el Mandeb. Houthis, whose real name is Ansar Allah, are so named after Badr-al-din el Houthi, declared war on Israel but all their drones and missiles were shot down by US ships in the Gulf, so they changed their tack and concentrated on what has been described as the worst shipping bottleneck in a determined attempt to draw the USA into the war. By the way, yes, I know I am obsessed with this war but then it is obsessed with us.

Israelis love CNN’s John Vause Not just for his fair reporting back in the 3nd Intifada, but for his tears two days ago. John couldn’t hold back his tears on air on Tuesday while reading a letter from the mother of Israeli hostage Noa Argamani. Liora Argamani wrote, to President Joe Biden. “I am terminally ill with Stage 4 brain cancer. All that’s running through my mind before I part ways with my family forever is the chance to hug my daughter, my only child, one last time.” She further wrote, “I want to get to see my Noa at home.” Since John was our neighbour and dear friend during his time in Jerusalem, I’m not surprised.

What amazes those who come is that life goes on, not as usual, far from it, but we all go out to restaurants, meet in each other’s homes, do all of the things I have outlined above and best of all meeting old friends and showing their support. Support, a smile, a letter, a note, a phone call, all make a huge difference to our lives. In fact, your reading what I write, what many of us write, is of huge importance to our morale. Just as we feel that we are not just forgotten but that the worst day of our lives has brought condemnation, not of Hamas but of Israel; when the torture is blamed on us, and then a few words in Facebook, or an email or WhatsApp, give us hope that everything will be alright.

We are having a quiet Shabbat, just the two of us, to rest before Zvi’s big week. He, as part of the Jerusalem Symphony Choir, is singing in a big concert at the Jerusalem Theatre on Tuesday and on Monday I am going to the incredible play, written especially for the young people of Shalva, tailored to their abilities. It makes me so proud that a project such as this came out of Dr. Dan’s Room, the studio for dance, drama and music that we established in Daniel’s name in the Shalva Centre. Zvi just left for his parliament in Caffit in the Botanical Gardens and I will head off to Rachel and the children to wish them a Shabbat Shalom and if I’m lucky, she will make me a good cuppa and a home made bread roll with egg salad for my lunch

And so back to the beginning. Another year has passed, thank heaven 2023 is almost over. What awaits us in the next year? Who knows but we will ultimately win through this ghastly period. A new year and new start.

What do I wish you for 2024?

Understanding. Above all understanding both for us and by us.

Empathy, kindness, freedom of religious expression, to be loved and love, to come together instead of fighting each other. I wish all children that they will be taught tolerance of those who differ, to be taught peace not war, living not killing. Most of all, that we be accepted, as we are, each to his or her own, without judgement or violence. To celebrate our differences.

Wow! What songs fit that wish? What better than 1,000 musicians and singers in the Roman Amphitheatre in Caesarea? HOME by Ehud Manor to honour the hostages and those lost in this war.

Shiri Maimon and Tamir Greenberg sing “I’m Coming Home” to honour the hostages and the soldiers who are fighting for our very existence. “Let the rain wash away the tears of yesterday”

I played this song once before but it is worthy of many times. Yaakov Shwekey singing the prayer for the soldiers of the IDF, as he said “The best soldiers in the world”  If I have one prayer for 2024 it is that the soldiers of the IDF will serve their time in peace not in war.

I wish you a “Good Shabbes” a weekend of good news, of safety to be who you are, whoever you are.

With love from Jerusalem