The view from my veranda

Sheila’s Shabbat Shalom Letter


12th March 2010.

Shabbat Shalom!

Vice-President Joseph Biden is one of Israel’s greatest allies in the United States Government. He is an always has been – a trait absorbed through his mother’s teaching. His visit to Israel was to recognize the strong alliance between Israel and the USA and to show support for the re-opening of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. VP Biden emphasised his determination that negotiations begin without preconditions.

As VP and Dr. Biden were on their way for a private dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sarah at the Prime Ministers home in Rehavia, Jerusalem, the Vice President was given the untimely news that Minister Eli Yishai had announced the building of thousands of new houses in the disputed territory of East Jerusalem. Admittedly the housing was in an area between French Hill and Ramot although the media suggested it was in “the refugee camp of Shoefat. The VP’s reaction was correct, he immediately called the White House and asked for guidance. As a result of that call he denounced the announcement. Please understand the underlying elements of this affair. Everyone knows that we build, everyone knows that Jerusalem desperately needs housing but the timing and noise of Yishai’s announcement was inflammatory and caused inexcusable embarrassment to our strongest ally. If I use a slightly crude analogy…. everybody knows that people urinate in the swimming pool but to do so from the high diving board is inflammatory and the lifeguard must censure you!

In case you didn’t understand the meaning of “proximity talks” it just means that Mahmoud Abbas will sit in Ramallah and Benjamin Netanyahu will sit in Jerusalem and they will conduct their talks without meeting. A necessary precaution for Abbas since he promised he would not sit at the table with Netanyahu as long as building continues in disputed territory. Newspeak probably but if it works it works!
Israel Apartheid Week scared us all since it was the young who organized it in Universities worldwide. Inherited memories of brownshirts flooded through my generations thoughts. Apartheid was the heinous enforced separation and oppression of blacks in South Africa, the antithesis of Israel. Israel is a mixed society whose citizen enjoy freedom of prayer and expression, with full representation for all citizens in the Knesset and local government irrespective of creed. However…….. Jews are prevented from living or building in ARAB neighborhoods based on their religion. THAT is tantamount to racism though I am careful not to misuse the word apartheid.

The Hurva Synagogue was originally built from secondary usage stones which came from the Northern wall of the Temple Mount. The synagogues arch – what remained of the dome containing the Holy Ark – was a symbol of Jerusalem. However, Yasser Arafat claimed that the unrestored Hurva synagogue is the sign of Israel’s indifference to Jerusalem. The project to restore the Hurva has now come to fruition. Hopefully Mr. Arafat is turning in his grave at the realisation that we are here to stay.

We went to a wonderful performance of “The Magic Flute” with soon to be graduates of the Academy of Music in Jerusalem. The performance was phenomenal, the young voices superb and we were very proud. The performance was part of the Jerusalem Arts Festival which has been taking place all week. On Tuesday we saw a wonderful performance of the Hora Dance Troupe of Jerusalem , both children and adults in a tribute to their late choreographer and driving force, the late Bracha Duda’I z”l. Hora is conceivable the most representative of groups with dance from traditional “Sochnut” dances through to inventive modern pieces.

Yesterday our hearts were in Sydney Australia where Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence led the ceremony of “Hachnasat Torah” in the Great Synagogue. One of the Sefer Torahs was in memory of our dear friend Col Goldstein – brought into the synagogue by his lovely widow Gloria.

I love the pre-Passover expectancy in the air which breaks through the extreme heat wave that washed over us this week and the heavy dust of Libya that accompanied it! The supermarket shelves are filling with Kosher for Passover goods – and the hunt is on for which foods have pulses (kitnyot) – for Sefardi Jews and which ones do not for Ashkenazi Jews. Most stores have sales of crockery and cutlery, of white goods and of linens as the determination to make everything Pesachdik takes over our lives. The biggest sellers in the supermarkets are cleaning materials – indeed the largest manufacturer actually produces a special brochure of their products for Passover!!! The air is redolent with the scent of bleach and beeswax and the dust of beaten carpets! Actually I shouldn’t blame the carpets since we have had the worst dust hanging over us which blew in from the Libyan Desert – the northern and eastern corners of the Sahara. It is definitely a case of Murphy’s Law when one just finishes the toughest cleaning and the dust blows in!! I was surprised to find that in the religious neighbourhood next to us, Bayit ve Gan – the huge vats of boiling water with stones in them are all ready for the “koshering” of dishes for Passover. Yeshiva students tend to take on the duty of standing beside the huge vats with blow-torches to ensure the constant boiling heat of the water as people stand in line with their dishes for dipping.

Every day of my life I say thanks for the joy of living here in my own land where we can perform the most peculiar of traditions in total confidence!

Zvi is now with his buddies at his Parliament in Angel’s Petrol Station coffee shop, putting the world to rights and raising the roof in argument which has given me the opportunity to finish off my cooking and preparations for Shabbat. Our dear friends Paul and Vivian Zimmet are about to leave Tel Aviv to spend a few hours with us before we go together to a small Shabbat dinner for the new Australian Ambassadrix which will be hosted by Ruvy Herzog. I can’t wait to see them!

Be well, Shabbat Shalom and much love from Jerusalem.