The view from my veranda

Shevuot, Pentecost and Ramadan

25th May 2023

5th Sivan 5783

Shabbat Shalom, Shevuot Sameach, Blessed Pentecost and Whitsun

Shevuot is a beautiful festival, the spring harvest and so much more. We wear white clothes, pray all night and tell the story of Ruth, the wonderful daughter in law of Naomi. It’s a very special story of love, loyalty, devotion, hard work and economics…. Yes economics! Naomi, wonderful woman and mother of sons, lived in a strange land and her sons died, leaving her alone, or so she thought until he favourite daughter in law reassured her that she would go with her no matter where that may be. Ruth also chose to follow Naomi’s Jewish faith. Ruth is the precedent in Judaism for every woman who chooses to convert to this complex way of life – at least, in those days it wasn’t complex but more and more constrictions are placed upon us and on converts. In fact, when a woman converts to Judaism, traditionally she receives the Hebrew name Ruth and is treated with the utmost respect, or that’s what is supposed to happen!

For a change I digress. The beauty of the story of Ruth, the purity of the harvest, white clothes and prayer, have become too complex. As time goes on it has become more difficult to convert which is such a shame, after all anyone who wants to become a Jew in these tough times should be welcomed with open arms! What about those economics you mentioned, I hear you ask! Well, when Ruth and Naomi finally arrive in the land of Moab and landowner Boaz, and Ruth “gleans” in his fields, it wasn’t love at first sight on the part of Boaz, although apparently Ruth was a stunning beauty, it was all about gaining the rights to the field, but I didn’t want to spoil your picture of a dutiful daughter in law picking the remaining wheat, left on the ground after the harvest so that she could make bread to feed Naomi.

In Judaism, the festival of Shevuot takes place after the 49 days of the counting of the Omer, originally the counting of sheaves of wheat as offerings for the period after Passover; in Christianity Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day after Easter. For both religions the 49 days include a time of restraint from celebration or eating unessential foods; in Christianity it is called lent, in fact, in Islam it is called Ramadan, as I have always said, we have much more in common than we do what separates us.

I have to mention some aspects of politics, both here and abroad, then I’ll tell you about our incredible week.

The much disputed State Budget for 2023-2024 passed the Knesset in the early hours of this morning in its second and third reading. The budget and the accompanying Economic Arrangements Law were passed by 64 – 55 against. The dispute covers the 14 billion shekels of special allocations for the needs of the coalition party members. In other words, the needs of the country with rising taxation and mortgages was not addressed. As a very loyal Israeli I am not happy with myself for the feelings I have toward this government, but I feel that the normative citizens have been hijacked for the determined effort to stay in power.

Mahmoud Abbas, President of a non-existent country that the world recognises, stood before the United Nations and declared that there are no Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and that Israel “dug and dug under Al Aqsa and couldn’t find any proof”. Well, in the name of truth it must be said that we didn’t dig, Raaed Salah dug out under Al Aqsa almost causing a collapse of the ancient walls, almost a hundred truckloads, and we found thousands of relics of the time of the Temple! In fact the very first coin uncovered at the Sifting Project  was from the time of the rebellion against the Romans and bore the words “For the Freedom of Zion”, Zion being the name for the Temple Mount. Perhaps the most disgusting of comparisons made before the plenum was when he compared Israeli information to the repeated lies of Goebbels.

Talking of lies or implied untruths, Christiane Amanpour apologised for her disgusting description of the terror attack which killed three members of Rabbi Leo Dee’s family as a “shootout”. Her apology was not accepted by Rabbi Dee since it was obviously forced and Prof Alan Dershowitz is taking on the lawsuit against CNN and Amanpour pro-bono. CNN and Amanpour have, over the years tried to create an impression of moral equivalence between terrorists and the IDF, or terrorists and people who live in Judea and Samaria. It is high time this case is brought.

Jerusalem Day, the celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem after 19 years of Jordanian rule, went relatively peacefully. As I am sure you already know, there was much discussion as to whether the Flag Parade should go through the Moslem Quarter of the Old City, or limit itself to the Jewish, Armenian and Christian Quarters. The decision was taken to go in through the Damascus Gate and the Parade went forward without almost no incidents. I say almost because some of the people in the parade behaved in a manner that shamed the nation, attacking an Arab woman in their path. One such incident was one too many and the perpetrators have been arrested. I hope they will go to prison. Jerusalem Day began as a celebration of victory which is very different to an “in your face because we won” parade. Just as VE Day is celebrated in the UK so we celebrate in Israel.

Last Friday night dinner was very special because rather than feeding the multitudes we were just four, our lovely guests Raquel Birman and David Finkelstein who have seen Israel from all sides, determined to learn and see all they could since their last visit some years ago. Their joy at all they saw and all they found was infectious and their love of this little country obvious in every word and description. Their adventures in the Old City, their visits to many sites, sights and museums in the new as they absorbed Zvi’s narration. I told you about the Herzl Museum and Yad Vashem but there is so much more! They went to the Israel Museum, to the Archaeological and Judaica tours; to the many exhibitions around the Kotel, not just a Wall! This week they went up north with our friend Eva as their guide and now they are back in Tel Aviv where they will visit the Tel Aviv Museum, the Palmach museum and so much more. Tonight they will come with us to our lovely friends the Blums where we will enjoy the company of some of our favourite people in Israel!

On Monday I was back in Shalva, my happy place. This time it wasn’t for a tour or a wander, it was for the most glorious event imaginable! FestiShalva! Shalva doesn’t look at the disabilities of the 1,000 children who are daily in their care, they look at the possibilities. The children sang, danced and had a ball. My favourite moment was when, at the end of their performance one child said “I dreamed I could fly” and two of the volunteers lifted her over a cloud! Actually I also loved when a group of girls, including Halleli Superstar, dressed in sparkly blue and white, danced and then there was the scene where the Shalva boys who are in the IDF had their own flag parade and then………. Actually every scene and every child was my favourite! There is something so special about that place, something joyous. Last night was the Channel 13 TV’s “Erev Truma” an all star night of donations to Shalva. Israeli stars of stage, film and the pop world appeared and of course beautiful clips of the children of Shalva. It was incredible.

We had nothing planned for Tuesday then it happened, a phone call from Sadi Beceren to say he wanted to come and see us. We were absolutely delighted! Sadi, who lives in Istanbul, is a wonderful friend though Maccabi World Union -a truly magnificent organisation which builds friendships between people, especially young people, from every corner of the earth through a common love of sport in the “Jewish Olympics”; some 8,000 athletes every four years. Anyway, back to Sadi. He was so happy to sit out on the “famous” veranda for lunch and just chat and reminisce. That’s what happens with real friends.

Talking of Maccabi, Zvi and I were thrilled to hear that Michael Siegel is the new World Chairman of Maccabi World Union – a brilliant choice. Congratulations Michael!

That brings us to Wednesday and another delightful meeting with old friends, but this time in my favourite restaurant, Naya, right around the corner in Beit Nekufa. I can’t honestly remember when we met Harry and Nancy Bloomfield but I’m very glad that we did! Nancy and I always find what to talk about and she is a terrific listener and I just enjoy Harry’s company. This time they brought a friend with them, an absolutely delightful lady who lives in Italy but is originally from Spain. Inma Cavallucci really impressed me with her warmth and intelligence. Harry and Nancy, like us, meet good people along the way and love to bring them home. Inma is a Catholic and has enjoyed visiting just about every Christian site in this amazing City. I have a strong feeling she will be back soon!

So, tonight we celebrate Shevuot with the Blums and then tomorrow evening we have a lovely group of people at our Shabbat/Shevuot dinner table. For many reasons, some feasible some created (there is no mention of it in the Bible) we eat dairy products over Shevuot. One explanation is that this is a harvest festival, another, which I learned as a child, is that we received the words of God from Mount Sinai, including the dietary laws and since they were not yet clear, we do not eat meat. Sounds perfectly logical if unproven! Anyway, back to tomorrow night. Our guests of honour will be the Bevilles, Keith and Deidre, all the way from Melbourne, Australia, Irit and Yitzik Lev who spent very happy years in Australia as emissaries and Dr’s Ora and Avner Rosengarten, dear friends, Ora and Zvi sing together in one of Zvi’s choirs. The meal will be very “halavi’ or in Yiddish it’s called “Milchik”, in other words, dairy. We will start with blintzes, not the sweet ones, with a mushroom and mangold (swiss chard or spinach beet) creamy filling, followed by vichyssoise, a new recipe for me by the wonderful British chef and personality Mary Berry. It includes celeriac which I love. Then on to Rachel’s recipe for spicy fish together with cauliflower, broccoli and roasted sweet potato, plus the usual salads of course. For dessert, apple crumble and ice cream. I think they will be happy.

Sending love to all the beautiful Australians who gave Marcus Sheff, CEO of Impact-se, such a warm welcome. I’m thrilled that he agrees with my assessment of the Australian Jewish community! Good on yer!

Talking of happy, let’s enjoy some great music.

“Ten li yad” Give me your hand, an appeal, a prayer, for help to follow a new path

“Rak b’Yisrael” only in Israel – is a fun song in which we poke fun at ourselves. I love it!

Jerusalem, you are my mother, my bride, my sister. Shlomi Shabat sings a song to Jerusalem, the eternal Capital of Israel, of the Jewish people. Jerusalem the Holy City to all three monotheistic religions and the Jewish homeland.

So I wish you a beautiful festival, be it Pentecost or Shevuot and a Shabbat filled with joy

With much love from Jerusalem