The view from my veranda

Shevuot and Shelters

16th May, 2021

5th Sivan 5781


Tonight we wear white clothing and light the candles to welcome the beautiful festival of Shevuot. Shevuot, the first harvest and the time we celebrate the arrival of Torah and the laws which came down from Mount Sinai. Shevuot is also called the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, meaning fifty, since it is fifty days after the counting of the Omer which began on the first night of Passover.


We serve up special food, delicious cheese dishes, gorgeous vegetarian dishes, made from a cornucopia of Israeli produce, but why? Tradition has it that once we were given the laws of what we can and cannot eat, we did not yet understand so we eat only milk products and vegetables. The supermarket shelves are emptied of the phenomenal array of Israeli cheese products as men and women around the country make cheese cakes, borekas, blintzes and of course the famous Middle Eastern Knafeh.


Shevuot is one of the three “foot festivals” festivals of pilgrimage to Jerusalem. An important symbol of Shavuot is the Bikkurim, or first fruits, a basket containing the first harvest of the Seven Species, barley; dates; figs; grapes; olives; pomegranates; and wheat which in ancient times was carried to the Temple in Jerusalem in a procession accompanied by music.


This year will be different. Yet another night of children in bomb shelters, parents doing their utmost to calm them. Last night yet again hundreds of rockets and missiles on the coastal plain. I ask you only one thing, speak out. Speak out and remind those who blame Israel should recognise who started this round of violence. Speak out and remind all who will listen that the people of Gaza are indeed oppressed, oppressed by Hamas. The people of Gaza are indeed under siege, because Egypt has closed their border. The people of Gaza are indeed hungry, because their leaders, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are using the vast amounts of aid to dig tunnels and build rockets, not to feed their people – yes your tax money is building tunnels and rockets.


British Sky News interviewed a young barrister who is a member of UK Lawyers for Israel, Natasha Hausdorff. I thought she did really well and the interviewer treated her with respect.


One way to recognise Israel’s pin-point bombing of Hamas/Islamic Jihad buildings is that when the building falls, if there is a huge ball of fire then heavy black smoke you can be sure that there was an arsenal underneath that building. Interestingly, most countries reacted when just one building was destroyed – that housing Al Jazeera and AP. However, what you were not told is that the building also housed Hamas Intelligence who used the building as a shield.


The bluff. Most of you asked me about the bluff. Israel put out an announcement that in all probability we would need to send in ground troops, which was backed up by a partial call-up of reservists and the placing of tanks along the border. All the news outlets front paged the story but we didn’t go in! Because they thought we were going in many Hamas leaders went down into one of the major tunnels (the tunnels are not little mud crawl holes – most are concrete lined, well built and sufficient for an armoured car to go in – and one of our bombs closed off the entrance leaving about 100 inside. Simultaneously, other leaders left the bunkers, came out and were targetted.


Stephen Daisley is a journalist and he really understands what lies behind the last few days and the last 20 years.


We have survived rockets and missiles before, we will this time, but now we also need to heal our society. No more cries of “They are destroying Al Aqsa” We haven’t and wouldn’t. Israel is strong, our society is open, I want to go back to Mahane Yehuda and see the Jewish costermonger putting on his tefillin and tallit (prayer shawl and phylacteries) praying toward Jerusalem next to the Moslem who starts his day bending toward Mecca. We deserve to live together in peace.


That’s all folks.


Just one song today!


Avinu Malkenu, Our Father Our King, a truly beautiful rendition  by some of the world’s greatest  Cantors


Our Father our father who is in heaven
Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel;
Bless the State of Israel, with its promise of redemption.
Shield it with Your love; spread over it the shelter of Your peace.

Our Father our father who is in heaven
Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel;
Send your light and your truth
To its leaders, its ministers, its advisors,
Establish them with good council before you.

Our Father our father who is in heaven
Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel;
Strengthen the hands of those who defend our Holy Land.
Deliver them; crown them with salvation and victory.
Bless the land with peace, and everyone who lives there with lasting joy.


I wish you a good Shevuot, a peaceful Shevuot in which the only harvest is of fruits not schrapnel


With love