The view from my veranda

Short Term Memory?

3rd March, 2023

Shabbat shalom dear friends.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens

We humans have a tendency toward short-term memory loss when it comes to events and the weather. We forget that things have been worse or that it snows in Los Angeles on a fairly regular basis! In fact, it snowed in Los Angeles, according to the National Weather Service, in 1882, 1913, 1918, 1919, 1922, 1935, 1939, 1942, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1962, 1987, 1989, 2007, and finally 2023. What does that have to do with the undoubted unrest in Israel today? Everything. We forget that history repeats itself and predict that our world is coming to an end.

I will try to rationalise our political chaos (tell me one country that is not in political chaos right now) but first, my heart goes out to the families of the victims of terrible terror attacks this week.

Hillel and Yigal Yaniv z”l, two brothers aged 21 and 19 were sitting in their car next to the Palestinian town of Huwara when a terrorist drew alongside shot and killed them escaping into the territories. As a result, 400 Israeli yobbos went into the town and burnt houses and cars endangering the ordinary people of that town. It is true that the people had celebrated the deaths of Hillel and Yigal, dancing in the streets and handing out sweets, but we are better than that – there is no excuse for Jewish terrorism and I hope and pray that they will be sent to prison for their acts.

Elan Ganales z”l, 26, an Israeli American who served in the IDF as a computer programmer, returned to the USA to complete his studies, and came to Israel for a friend’s wedding, was driving along the Eilat-Jerusalem highway when he was shot to death.

May their souls rest in peace and Israel know no more tragedy.   

In his speech to the nation yesterday, the Israeli Prime Minister “remembered” the quiet, dignified demonstrations when Israel pulled out of Gaza. “There was no closing of roads, people behaved and the police controlled the crowds who were against our retreat”. Short term memory loss! Roads were closed, the demonstration descended into disorder and the police were not the sweet and gentle control of which the PM tried to convince us. He also forgot that he voted for the government decision to leave Gaza.

The current demonstrations have, until now, been orderly, determinedly calm, simply expressing the concern of the majority of Israelis (according to the polls) about the intended Judicial Reforms. Indeed, the majority of the demonstrators were closer to my age than the age of our grandchildren. That changed in a dreadful turn of events on Wednesday in Tel Aviv. The crowd moved forward, not violently but decided to walk through the metal police barriers in order to create a human blockade across the main artery, the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. The police, who had been holding up the barriers decided to move back, allowing the marchers forward. Who initiated the order to throw stun grenades into the dense crowd is a matter of speculation, although apparently it came from the top, not the PM, but the Minister responsible for controlling civil unrest, one Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. Since this is the day of cell-phone videos, the officer in charge was shown throwing the first ear-splitting grenade. The stun grenades did their job as several people were injured, taken to hospital, and thus the mood changed in an instant, the demonstrators were angry, not just about the government but they were now concerned for their personal safety and rather than accepting the police presence, they now resented them. We are not a people who rampage and we didn’t this time but the mood definitely changed.

It may sound funny when I tell you that in the midst of the confusion of the Tel Aviv demonstration everyone looked at their Tik-Tok and saw that Sarah Netanyahu had come all the way from Jerusalem to a very expensive, exclusive hairdresser in Tel Aviv, as my father would have said “Punkt”! A few hundred people gathered outside the salon expressing their distress at the “Let them eat cake” situation. Of course, it was unnecessary provocation for her to be there during the demo but, anyway – the message went out that she was held hostage by the demonstrators and her husband held a press conference to express his dismay. In fact, there was a back door to the salon through which she could have escaped but that isn’t the point. Every opportunity to discredit the demonstrators.

I have many friends, normative, law-abiding friends of every persuasion, who are proudly flying their flags and joining the demonstrations because they fear for our beloved country. Do not be drawn in by the media headlines, we will still be a shining example of democratic government with a highly effective Supreme Court, but the pushing through of the judicial amendments to cover the legal infractions of the PM and other Ministers is a deeply disturbing step.

What worries me far more is the perception of Diaspora Jews that we are falling apart and they do not identify with the current government, thus affecting their formerly deep connection with Israel. Not only are we not falling apart I have the feeling that this government will not survive, the few genuine Likud Knesset Members are becoming restless and the Haredi MK’s have discovered that they are not given the power they contemplated by joining the coalition. It is my firm belief that this situation will disappear into the sweet, ethereal realms of the short-term memory until the next time! Like snow in LA we forget that history repeats itself, but now everything is recorded on our cellphones!

It has been suggested that tourism and our economy will fail, don’t worry, it hasn’t and it won’t – this is a glitch not a disaster! Everyone will be here for their Pesach (Passover or Pascha) sojourn all over Israel. After all Passover is one of the “foot festivals” the pilgrimage festivals of climbing the Jerusalem Hills to pay homage at the Holy Temple.

Zvi came back from his travels, tired and delighted with his time with his Mexican family, friends and old schoolmates. One of the most important aspects of his journey was to sit with his cousin Billy, in Mexico City, and go over his family tree. The son of two lone Holocaust survivors, Zvi has never known grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins, all his many “cousins” are distant or through marriage, a lonely but all too frequent repercussion of that tragic, cruel period. Yesterday Zvi sat at the computer carefully typing from the scribbled notes as he sat with his much loved cousin and was amazed to discover the large family he never knew and the few who survived. Most fascinating were the stories that accompanied their arrival in Mexico. His father, the wonderful Kalman, was the only one who actually came to the nascent State of Israel in 1935, those who stayed perished and the remainder of the family emigrated from Poland to Mexico. He will finish putting it all together once his jet lag has passed and hopefully send it to his children and his wonderful, ever widening family in Mexico.

Last Friday I decided to stay home for dinner, but only after going to Rachel’s for my hugs and Rachel’s incredible home made Challah. She really is a champion baker and best of all, she makes enough for any friends who are unwell. What a woman! Shabbat went quietly, our friend Efrat came to visit and we went for a long walk on the rocky path to the view over the reservoir. Oh the spring flowers! It was truly uplifting and brought our concern at the political situation back down to earth as we saw with our own eyes the miracle of both nature and the beautiful, tree covered land in which we live. That night my granddaughter Ayala came to stay and we had some special time together which included shopping of course. Not to be outdone, the next night Yosef decided to stay over to have his “Safta” time. It never fails to amaze me that even aged 18 he thinks I am cool!

Tuesday and finally, at long last, Zvi came home! He is jet-lagged, but thrilled with his journeys.

Wednesday was a very special day. Our lovely friend Merle Friedman invited me to join her for an event at Yvel, the phenomenal pearl jewellery creations founded by Orna and Isaac Levy. Oh my goodness. First of all we were amused by Tami Sirkis, daughter of Ruth Sirkis the mother of Israeli culinaria, then a tour of Yvel. The “give-back” projects of Orna and Isaac include the training of new immigrants, giving the tools to be independent. I cannot adequately describe so will give you this link to discover for yourselves.  

Yesterday I saw two very special women. A late coffee and wonderfully enjoyable time, sitting in the spring sunshine at the Harim patisserie with Raaya Kahana, an amazing woman, former head nurse at Hadassah and now retired she has become an accomplished sculptress. Later Daniel’s close friend who we all adore, Alex aka Poodle, came to us to visit. Zvi usually disappears when my friends come round but with Poodle, well, he adores her just as much as Rachel and I!!

And so to today. Of course, Zvi will go to his parliament, having brought his friends Mexican, tequila filled, chocolates and I will visit Rachel and the children, travelling over Samuel’s Tomb, with the best view of Jerusalem’s mosaic of white buildings covering too many hills to count. I will then come home to decide what culinary delicacies to provide for our Shabbat dinner here with Ehud and Gigi. You already know how much I love the atmosphere as Shabbat nears. It is as if everyone prepares for a day of rest, whether the secular shabbat picnics and tourism of Saturday or the prayers of a Shabbat in the synagogue, the intense family of Friday night is so apparent, so tangible, it warms one’s heart. It isn’t about the food yet somehow it is always about the food, the food of our ancestors, the food of our dispersion, the food that our parents and grandparents, all our antecedents prepared and ate. The manna from heaven of two challot, the poverty that created foods that have more vegetables than meat or fish, the foods that tell our grandchildren where we came from yet with a modern twist of Polish/Moroccan/Kurdish/Greek/Tunisian fusion.

Purim is around the corner, the non-woke story of a beautiful young woman, her clever and wise uncle and a King who expected his wife to dance naked before his drunken buddies. Vashti’s brave refusal to dance led to one of the most fascinating stories – the saving of the Jewish people from the plans of the wicked King’s vizier Haman. Queen Esther, her Uncle Mordechai, King Ahasuerus and the wicked Haman in the city of Shushan, Persia.

Going back to the theme of short term memory and the Jewish people, there are huge celebrations all over Israel during Purim, not just eating three cornered delicacies (like Haman’s hat) but after reading the Story of Esther one is commanded to drink enough wine to be merry (not drunk) so that one cannot distinguish between the wicked Haman and the wise Mordechai – in other words not to wallow in past tragedies but to move on. Cities and towns hold an “Adloyada” which split into actual Hebrew is Ad Lo Yada” or until you cannot know – again invoking the rule of memory loss. We cannot always look back, we must know of the past but move into the future which is the most important message of this festival.   

Trust me, we will survive even this! We have survived attempted annihilation by oppressors and internal strife which cost us two Temples, we will survive this too. All we need is to lose our short term memory and just get on with living, living in gratitude at a truly magnificent nation, the State of Israel.

What many of us cannot put into words the lyricists of these wonderful songs have done for us.

One of Israel’s most famous songs from way back when, probably the two but last last upheaval in Israel, is Eretz Eretz Eretz sung by Ilanit. Just absorb the lyrics

The next song is for those who find it necessary to hold Israel to standards that they do not expect from their chosen domicile. Ayn Li Eretz Aheret – I have no other country. A haunting melody with words that hit home. Those of you who decide that Israel is not democratic and you lost your faith – c’mon! A little bit of self-examination is in order. Anti-semitism is rampant in the country of your choice, it is a pandemic far more dangerous than Covid, don’t buy into the woke cant, we are everything that expresses democracy; our vociferous claim that democracy is challenged by the current government is the very proof of a thriving democracy. Tell me that your government is perfect and I’ll let you off the hook.

There is a wonderful song from the musical Carousel, a song, an anthem and a prayer. You’ll Never Walk Alone, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, music by Richard Rogers We have to stick together, irrespective of which way you pray, if you pray at all. Those of us who cherish the right to be who we are without fear, just remember, united we stand and divided we fall.

At the risk of being repetitive, this country is everything we wanted, everything we dreamt of when we were dispersed to the four corners of the earth. Complacency is not in our nature, we are not lulled into a stupor of comfort, we are feisty because democracy is so vibrant that we can be feisty, we can kick back against what we don’t like and support situations that other support.

I am happy to say that Zvi is back sitting at his computer beside me, it just feels right! Next week is going to be very special but you will have to wait to find out why!

Shabbat Shalom dear friends from the most beautiful city in the world, the city that is so precious that it has 70 names in the Bible. From the rolling hills to the ancient walls, from the steeples and minarets to the thriving, exciting modern city, I wish you a peaceful, contemplative weekend.

With love