The view from my veranda

Shabbat, Sukkot and Tabernacles

24th September 2021

Shabbat Shalom, Hag Succot Sameach and a Blessed Tabernacles

Here in Israel, or the Jerusalem region anyway, we are beginning to feel that Autumn is on its way. The sun is gentler, the evenings cooler and the leaves beginning to fall. It isn’t like Mapledurham where I used to live, we don’t have the spectacular autumnal reds, golds, oranges of the Capability Brown style bank of trees reflected in the River Thames; not the breathtaking beauty of the Ardennes, nor the wonders of Upstate New York and New England, here it is much more subtle somehow – without the drama of more northerly countries. Suddenly there are clouds flitting across the blue skies and the light breeze becomes stronger and then, magically, the scent of rain fills the air long before it falls.

Last night we had our first rains! The prayers for rain said on this wonderful harvest festival will be answered before they are uttered!! Whereas on Passover we pray for dew before the searing heat of summer, on the last day of Succot (Tabernacles) we pray for rain, to dampen the parched earth of summer and bring forth new crops. Of course the fact that it will probably rain tonight is a bit of a problem and before its intended time – because many people sleep in their Succot (tabernacles) which are of course temporary dwellings of questionable stability and somewhat open to the elements!!!

I am sure you heard the news about Malka Leifer, the former Australian Headmistress of a Haredi school in Melbourne Australia. Protected and brought to Israel by the manipulations of the Haredi community, she managed to avoid the allegations of paedophilia and sexual abuse of some 70 girls in her care through a legal battle to prevent her extradition; a battle which lasted 7 years. Her extradition was hampered by the then Minister in the Israeli Government, Yaakov Litzman. I am happy to report that Litzman is also being charged here in Israel with hampering Court proceedings. She is now in Australia and facing the heinous charges.

I quote from Rabbi Jeremy Rosen: The “World Conference against Racism Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance”, was founded by the United Nations, after the Second World War and the Holocaust. Its mandate was to fund research on racism and to arrange international events organized through UNESCO to combat racist ideologies and behaviours. This generator of anti-Semitism, anti-Judaism, and anti-Israelism is a disgrace, and it is meeting again this week in Manhattan”. The current “Durban Conference” is a hatefest of such proportions one could feel that one is watching the replay of the Wannsee Conference where Hitler outlined the Final Solution. I have often expressed my belief that we are reliving those times in our world today and have to fight back. Brenda Katten represented Israel at the first Durban Conference and is still traumatised by the hatred she faced. Since he has expressed everything that I believe on the subject I strongly suggest you read Jeremy’s original words

Oh thee of little faith – Alexandra Ocasio Cortez and her Squad made a great deal of noise about withdrawing funding for Israel’s Iron Dome – again doing a mini-Goebbels claiming that the funding had already been withdrawn. Well their motion to Congress was soundly beaten in a cross-Party vote 420-9! While we should never take US support for granted we must also remember that we are the only reliable allies for the USA in the entire area and that our arms funding is not a one way street, despite the enormous different in our size it is a collaborative, reciprocal relationship. Do not be blinded by inter-party loyalties, President Biden is with Israel.  

We caught the last two terrorist escapees from the Gilboa Prison! The IDF, Israeli Police and the Secret Service did a phenomenal job and they were caught in Jenin, none of the six escapees put up a fight and all six were recaptured without harm and put back behind bars. When I heard of their capture in Jenin I thought about my visit to that city so long ago with the wonderful Malcolm Hoenlein. Television reporters always describe it as “The refugee camp of Jenin” yet have never spoken of the assistance given to the administrators of Jenin by the Gilboa Regional Council to rebuild and refurbish, to create a Museum of the people and a beautiful new Municipality surrounded by fine mansions; and most importantly the wonderful rapport created with the people. Apparently, from the reaction to their recapture, that has changed. Anyway, a pat on the back to our security forces.

Jay Ruderman takes his role as leader of the Ruderman Family Foundation very seriously. A determination to change the world to be a better place takes priority, there are no empty words in his vocabulary. He, together with Rabbi Dr. David Barak-Gorodetsky  presented some fascinating theories as to how to combat the radicalisation of the left against Jews and Israel in the USA. A very important read.

IMPACT-se has just released a report showing further dramatic improvements to Saudi Arabia’s school textbooks. Over the last year, textbooks for the second semester of 2020/21 and the first semester of the 2021/22 school years have been moderated in several key areas.The greatest number of changes have been made to lessons discussing Jews, Christians, non-believers, and violent jihad. While problematic material remains, we found profound change in these categories. A Qur’anic verse describing Jews being turned into monkeys and another about Jews who cursed Muhammad have been replaced. An entire textbook unit on jihad was scrapped. IMPACT-se’s report and example list was presented to the Saudi authorities. We are gratified that so much of the offending material that we noted there and in our follow-up report has now been removed.  Slowly, quietly changing our world.

Succot is a time when we invite “Ushpizin” special visitors, spiritually we invite our forefathers and actually invite real-life visitors. Guests are an integral part of Judaism and the three foot festivals, the festivals which entailed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, guests are even more important. Inviting people to share the joy of the Succah is of great importance. In the words of the great philosopher, doctor, research scientist and teacher, Moses Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Festivals 6:18): “When one eats and drinks, one must also feed the stranger, the orphan, the widow and other unfortunate paupers. But one who locks the doors of his courtyard, and eat and drinks with his children and wife but does not feed the poor and the embittered soul—this is not the joy of a mitzvah, but the joy of his belly.  

On the first night of Succot we were in Rachel and Igal’s Succah, with the children obviously. There are usually dozens of visitors but with the Covid pandemic they kept it to family and close friends only. It was a joy to hear Yosef, Talia and Ayala sing along with their father to the old, traditional songs while we dined like kings on Rachel’s excellent food.

The next night our wonderful “Telavivim“, (a group of friends so dear and supportive that I wish everyone could be as lucky as we are to know them) came for supper to our place and simply fell in love with our veranda…..It was purely spontaneous and delightful visit – gosh I love them! It never fails to fascinate me how good people will always leave you feeling loved and happy in the knowledge that you were surrounded with joy, a virtual group hug – as opposed to those who just find fault with what you have done. On Wednesday night we went to Ehud and Gigi’s Succah for another spontaneous evening of chatter and Zvi’s stand up!- and yes I took the food with me! Last evening Steve and Shuli came to us for a light supper and a “catch-up” on family news and this morning we are off to Tel Aviv to Rina’s 70th birthday party. We come home and then off again for Shabbat dinner at our friend Itzik’s Succah….. and yes I’m taking food to his home too – but just a lemon cake and a big bowl of Guacamole!

Yesterday I took our neighbour and my walking partner Rikki to Givat Ze’ev to the plant nursery there. She was amazed that in this supposed “settler town”, actually of some 35-40 thousands people just outside Jerusalem, the shopkeepers in the little group of shops, are both Israeli and Palestinian. The brothers who run the highly successful plant nursery are Palestinian and the cars lined up in the parking lot are also Palestinian…..kind of denies the label doesn’t it? We bought flowers for her little veranda, then went to the greengrocer and from there to the bakery, all a few steps apart. On the way back home I pointed out my favourite view, that from the very top of the hill beside Nebe Samuel, Samuel’s Tomb. In Rikki’s words “So many people rave about the views from Paris and Rome but they are totally unaware of this stunning panorama right on their doorstep” It was a particularly clear morning and the view – ah the view!

I need to get ready for the party and wrote to you until after midnight, getting up again at 6 because I will never abandon you. It’s incredible, I’ve been writing my weekly missive for more than 22 years, even I am amazed. I began with a few family and friends and now, well ow there are thousands of you reading these words as I pour out my heart to you. Each and every one of you is of great importance to me. I feel that I have made friends, real friends, on each continent, friends who spread my missives among their friends. It warms the very cockles of my heart and shows your support for Israel.

Enough schmaltz!


This song has nothing to do with Sukkot, with Simchat Torah indeed nothing Jewish and everything Jewish, “With a little Help from my Friends” began as a simple Beatles song and evolved into a brilliant song about real friendship – between all of us.

In an absolute 180 religiously and emotionally as Tel Aviv rejoices on Simchat Torah – literally translated the Joy of Torah. On that day we celebrate the reading of the last portion of the Torah and dance in the streets, in the synagogue and spread the joy of Torah. Tel Aviv is known as a secular haven but Jews will be Jews given the opportunity!!!

Finally, for those who feel that, as Jews we are alone, here is a beautiful international rendition of “Amen” from the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. To our dear friends Juergen and Vesna, Tim and Martha, Jay and Meridel and all the founders of that loved institution that has proven time and again, their total loyalty to Israel, thank you!

With love to you all, from that city whose hills reach up to heaven. Each morning I step out onto the veranda and look Eastward toward Jerusalem, shining on the hill before me.

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach and a blessed Tabernacles.