The view from my veranda

Sport, Saudia Arabia and Song

22nd July 2022

Shabbat Shalom everyone, especially all the participants of the 22nd Maccabiah!

Last week I promised you the video of the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah, always spectacular and particularly so this year. Since I don’t expect you to sit through the hour and a half of the original ceremony here is a short version – the highlights.

The first Maccabiah in 1932 was a direct response of the refusal of the International Olympic Committee to allow Jews to take part in the Olympics as a separate entity.  In 1928 Yosef Yekutieli presented his Jewish Olympics proposal to Menachem Ussishkin, the Chairman of the executive committee of the JNF. This required the approval of the British Mandate and in the autumn of 1931 the British High Commissioner Arthur Grenfell Wauchope, who expressed great admiration for Zionist Palestine as well as the Jewish sports movement in general,approved the Maccabiah.  The 1st Maccabiah opened on March 28, 1932. The Games were nicknamed “White Horse Olympics” because Tel Aviv’s Mayor Meir Dizengoff led a parade honouring the participants in the first Maccabiah Games by riding a white horse through the city streets. During the first Maccabiah 390 sportsmen took part from 18 countries. This Maccabiah Games hosts approximately 10,000 athletes, from 80 countries, competing in 47 sports categories. 

Meeting and greeting old friends, watching the most deserving receive awards, was very special. The most disturbing part of Maccabi World Union events is that the men are so tall! Can you imagine watching Zvi, all 1:97 of him, looking regular height when he talked to friends! Usually when I look for him in a crowd it’s easy, but in this crowd he disappeared into a sea of tall people!

This is a truly wonderful meeting place for Jewish youngsters from all over the world, especially those who live in tiny communities. In the olden days everyone thought that to be Jewish you had to be short, pasty faced, studious and as far from sport as possible should see the wonderful sportsmen of today. Incidentally, this is where Mark Spitz began his career.

Criticism of the Biden visit to Saudi Arabia as unnecessary or unwise is unfair. Firstly one does not make peace with ones friends but rather with one’s enemies, but in fact, despite popular opinion, Saudi Arabia is not an enemy. One needs to know what happens under the surface not simply accept populist media. For instance, Saudi Arabia and Israel have been in “under the radar” talks for over 20 years that I know of and they approached Impact-se to improve the tolerance in their education

I’m tired of the reports of Israeli “occupation”. While doing research into countries that have undergone partition in Wikipedia, I found many over recent years, all of which had simple explanations, only one mentioned occupation, guess which? There was an addendum that the proposed partition of Mandate Palestine floundered and the land was occupies by Israel, Egypt and TransJordan. What are the other countries? India and Pakistan, later into Pakistan and Bangladesh; Punjab, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Cyprus, Serbia and Sudan into Moslem North Sudan and Christian South Sudan – and that is just in the last  80 years. Yet again we are singled out and it isn’t difficult to understand the underlying truth of this uncomfortable choice on the part of the world, both media and politicians. In the words of Tevye the Milkman “Lord I know we are the chosen people, but for once can’t you choose someone else”?

If I may, I want to return to the subject of Saudi Arabia. If you stand on the beach in Eilat and look along the coast on a clear day, just 18 kilometres away is Saudi Arabia! Did you know that there is a Rabbi there?  A Rabbi who has a community and is fully accepted by the Royal Family? His name is Rabbi Yaacov Herzog, an American Israeli. One can buy kosher food in Saudi Arabia and 4.4% of the population of Saudi Arabia is Christian although neither Jews nor Christians can become citizens as long as they do not proselytise (on threat of death) they can live in relative freedom. I still remember when, about 15 or so years ago I found the visa application website for Saudi Arabia which banned Jewish application. Things are changing throughout the MENA region and the glue is fear and hatred of Iran.

Israeli journalist Gil Tamari went to Saudi Arabia to report on the Biden visit and chose to go to Mecca, despite big signs saying non-Moslems are not allowed and took several selfies in places that are banned. Luckily he was not arrested but his stupidity has caused a tsunami of criticism here in Israel.

Defence Minister of Israel Benny, Benjamin Gantz, was interviewed at the Aspen Security Forum and he impressed me as always.

We won a bronze medal in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon!

Lunah Chemtai Salpeter a marathon runner, originally came to Israel in 2009 to care for the children of her country’s ambassador and eventually married running coach Dan Salpeter. To see her smiling face as she wrapped herself in the Israeli flag brought us so much pride. A very special lady.

This week, mostly due to the Maccabi events, we have been on the road to Tel Aviv almost every day. One very special event, nothing to do with the Maccabiah, held by a very special couple took us to Papagio in the Herzliya marina. Barry and Cristine Slawsky with their gorgeous son James (Haim Elimelech) invited their close friends for a farewell dinner as they and their lovely friends Melissa and Paul, return to their native Canada. Barry is not a Luddite although he is probably the closest thing to it without the negative implications! Barry creates wonderful itineraries for travel, keeps the necessary phone numbers and hotel addresses all on what we call Barry’s iPad, a wad of tiny notes, carefully stuffed into his pocket. Incredibly it really works! Barry is conceivably the kindest, most generous quirky man on the planet! The food was amazing, the company delightful and the journey back to Motza easy.

The next morning, at the crack of dawn, well not really it was 07:30, Sari Singer got on the number 480 bus to Jerusalem, getting off at the Hemed Interchange. At exactly 08:00 I left Motza toward Hemed and found Sari already standing at the bus stop, waving happily! We came home for a few minutes so that she could see where we live, then headed off for Shalva where the lovely Alex gave us the tour, culminating in Dr. Dan’s Room. It’s really difficult to express the sheer joy of Shalva, the butterflies mobile above one’s head as you walk into the huge lobby, the incredibly beautiful expressions painted on the walls, the joy of the children. It was admittedly quiet because most of the activities take place afternoons, but Sari, who knew Daniel, was so thrilled by the studio, as I knew she would be. I was so happy she was there I forgot to take photos! We had a snack in the restaurant then headed back home, but both decided on a detour. Where to? You guessed, to see my Rachel! Rachel and Sari just love each other and although it was out of the way, it was such a joy to sit in Rachel’s kitchen with the wonderful aromas of her cooking before heading home where Sari and I talked of memories and Zvi explained the history of where we live.

The President’s Avenue of trees right underneath our veranda, the pill box which once protected the road to Jerusalem, right beneath our building, the original Sanitorium of the Histadrut, the Israeli Union, and the original “yishuv” or settlement of Motza, establish in 1870 in the Jerusalem  Hills with a synagogue built on the ruins of a  Crusader structure. All within a few minutes of our home – that’s life in Israel, everything is new but the land itself has the history of thousands of years. The excavations of Tel Motza have revealed a huge temple and settlement dating from the 9th century BCE.

A few hours before we passed through Ramot on our way to Givat Ze’ev, a stabbing attack took place on a bus from Givat Ze’ev to Jerusalem, right next to the shopping mall in Ramot. The bus driver was injured and the terrorist was stopped by a passer by. Incredibly both will be treated with equal medical attention in Israel. The attacker told the police that he just wanted to die but suicide was not an option in Islam so he decided to be a Jihadi.

The last Tel Aviv trip was the Award Ceremony of Yakir Maccabi for those who have devoted their lives to Maccabi Hearing the names called out, both of the recipients and the presenters, and their curriculum vitae of inspiring young people, bringing young people to Israel and encouraging youngsters with special needs to enter sport was inspiring, these are good people who deserve every congratulations. I’m not going to start giving you names but those I specially loved know exactly who you are!!!

And so to Shabbat. As I have explained, each Shabbat we read a parasha, a portion, of the Torah. This Shabbat we read about Pinchas who is Aaron’s grandson and therefore my ancestor – really! Since my family, as Cohanim – priests, descends from Aaron until today, if I had time I could trace my family back to Moses’ brother! Anyway back to Pinchas which explains how Aaron’s grandson was granted the covenant of the priesthood and goes on to describe how the 601,730 men between the ages of 20 and 60 should be divided into tribes according to male descendants. However one gentleman by the names of Tzelafchad had five daughters and no sons and by the new regulations they would not be eligible to inherit their portion of land so when he passed away they petitioned Moses who incorporated them onto the laws of inheritance. Moses then empowered Joshua to succeed him to lead the Children of Israel into the Land of Israel. Fascinating and intricate, well worth reading.

After that explanation only one song is suitable to start our trilogy of music!

Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho which contains the names of several men in my family!

You may talk about the men of Gideon
You may talk about the men of Saul
But there’s none like the good old Joshua
At the battle of Jericho

The late great Mahalia Jackson

When Israeli poet and lyricist, Naomi Shemer heard the Beatles song Let It Be she loved the message and she wrote Lu Yehi in Hebrew. Sung by Chava Alberstein you will see photos of young people in the IDF and our prayer for them is that in the future our enemies will accept our existence and these youngsters can go to university, get jobs and have families like all the other young people in the world – Lu Yehi.

Al kol eleh, also known as Of the Honey and the Sting is Sari Singer’s favourite song! So here it is with all my love to Sari and to all of you. Remember that life is both bitter and sweet and it’s up to us to find the sweet and keep it in our hearts.  The words are exceptional, lyrics such as only Noami Shemer could write and I suggest you read them as you hear the music.

And so dear friends, that’s it for this week. I wish you a glorious weekend, a truly beautiful Shabbat. After all, having planned the menu, our guests cannot come to us tomorrow, so Zvi and I will relax, see our lovely neighbours and enjoy Shabbat just the two of us!

With love from beautiful Jerusalem.


​If the media does not inform us we must inform the media

My Website      Sheila Silver Raviv