The view from my veranda

Sunshine, Speeches, Insights and Songs

11th of December 2020


Shabbat Shalom, a joyous Festival of Lights, Chanuka Sameach and a blessed Lady of Guadalupe Day


What a weird year! How is it possible that just when we thought time was dragging it’s almost over? It’s almost 2021 and as we light our Chanuka Candles or dress the Christmas tree we realise that the last year has flown by! Although we are still deep in Coronamania the light is at the end of a long and dark tunnel and yes, I fear it may be a train coming the other way but I have faith that the vaccines will work and we can get back to some semblance of normal life. I wonder how the past 10 months have affected us, particularly our children – will the little ones feel guilty about running to us for a hug?


Just when you think you have heard it all, an Arab Sheikh from the United Arab Emirates, has bought 50% of Beitar Yerushalyim Football Club! Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan a member of the United Arab Emirates’ royal family purchased half of the Jerusalem soccer team whose fan-base is notorious for its anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism.

Teddy Stadium, home of the team, has lights surrounding the outer rim that spell out Chag Chanuka Sameach – Perhaps the Sheikh will bring light to La Familia – the Mafia-like, Islamophobic gang whose behaviour shames the regular fans of Beitar.


I love Zvi’s description of Jewish Festivals “They tried to kill us, we won, now let’s eat”. Of course it’s absolutely true! Latkes (wonderful potato pancakes eaten with either sour cream or apple sauce) and sufganiyot (jammy doughnuts) ensure a drastically raised cholesterol level but the traditional stuffed vegetables (either veggie rice or meat) balance out the oily, fried latkes and doughnuts. Each year the bakeries produce more and more exotic fillings for the sufganiyot but I still think most prefer the traditional ones.


The real story of Chanuka has nothing to do with candles, doughnuts or latkes but rather is the deep and meaningful story of the Hellenic Empire and their determination to spread the atheistic Hellenist way of life. This explanation by the late Rabbi Jonathan Saks takes us to a different, intellectual and proven historic level which explains that the real battle is not with physical battlefield of the Maccabees or with physical weapons, it is a battle for the hearts and minds of future generations, a battle so apparent today.


A funny Hebrew fact, or coincidence – the word Chanukah – chet, nun, chaf, heh – has two possible meanings. One is the Festival of Lights, Chanukah is inauguration or dedication; the other possible meaning is stifle, strangle or throttle…….which some people feel with the essential masks that we will wear for protection this year! Love it!


OK, I suppose I ought to give you some news, after all this is called a newsletter!


Darrel Blocker is black and proudly Jewish. He had shown a deep interest in Judaism since his days in the University of Georgia realising that the Church didn’t satisfy his religious questions. He joined the University Jewish Society and found that everyone had questions and it was argued and even encouraged, finally he found a community that was happy to brook his curiosity. He converted to Judaism in 2017, when he left a high position in the CIA,  now he is high on the list of candidates of President –Elect Joe Biden’s choice to take over as the head of the CIA. Quite an ethnic coup.


Every international deal, treaty or agreement is a matter of negotiation and ceding prior perspective and points of reference; such was the agreement with the UAE and Bahrain. The latest agreement currently brokered by President Trump demanded American recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. The potential signing of a document recognising Israel has been on the cards for a very long time. Like the UAE and Bahrain, we are not in a state of war with Morocco, indeed Israelis have been visiting Morocco in their many thousands, but they have never officially recognised Israel and we could not fly directly. Ironically the air route to Morocco is through Erdogan’s Turkey. President Trump was determined to complete his hat-trick of agreements before leaving office and he succeeded, even if it meant going against the international community and recognising Western Sahara as Moroccan. Of course, the Palestinians have denounced the steps toward peace and recognition of Israel, but then they would wouldn’t they. So sad that they see every step forward as a threat.


I have not read former President Obama’s book, but I have heard a great deal about it. I trust Rabbi Jeremy Rosen’s analysis of “A Promised Land”. Rabbi Rosen is anything but right wing, indeed we often discussed the reasons behind any antipathy toward Obama, so I felt safe in his impartiality. I was looking for an appropriate quote from the article but there were just too many showing glaring historical errors and biased inaccuracies to choose just one. Please read it.


This week, The Times of Israel Podcast is talking to Canadian-Israeli documentary filmmaker Igal Hecht, whose newest project “The Wilderness” is now screening in North America. “The Wilderness” is a 10-part series exploring biblical stories from the Old and New Testaments, including the Temptation of Christ, Hagar’s promise, Sodom and Gemorrah, and the story of Ruth and Naomi.

The big news in Israeli politics is that Gideon Sa’ar has, in so many words, had enough of Netanyahu’s leadership. Sa’ar, a follower of Jabotinsky, may not be the charismatic leader like Netanyahu is but he an honest man, a true Zionist and is not ashamed of his right wing beliefs – in other words he is a traditional Likudnik. It comes as no surprise.


The Pfizer vaccines have arrived in Israel by DHS! There was a rather strange official welcome at Ben Gurion Airport. It was so extreme that I thought that Netanyahu and Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein were going to kiss the containers!


HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, the real one not the weak, insulting version of “The Crown”, gave a beautiful, personal tribute to the late Rabbi Jonathan Saks on his shloshim (30 days after passing).


Last week I wrote about the anniversary of the Kindertransport and a lovely reader, Joy Goldman, told me about Sir David Attenborough’s interview about the two young girls who became his “sisters”. Sir David, now an Instagram star, speaks beautifully about his experiences.


Thank you so much for your beautiful responses to the Yahzeit (anniversary) for my beautiful son Daniel, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your outpourings of love . We were determined to make the weekend spiritual and so it was. Perhaps the most spiritual aspect was when the family and close friends, simultaneously read a portion of Psalms (tehillim), carefully chosen by Rachel, each in their own country and home. The service in Gilo synagogue that Zvi organised was very moving, with a very few friends and family, Zvi reading blessings for the family; on Sunday morning Gideon held a minyan (quorum) in his garden, lovely friends braving the British winter to be there. In all, it was a special, gentle tribute to a gentle, special young man.


The sun is shining! It really is a glorious day, bloomin’ cold for Jerusalem, but beautiful. As soon as I finish writing to you, my lovely friends, I will go and sit outside on the verandah (do you remember that it’s called a mirpesset in Hebrew?) Today will be less rushed than usual since I already prepared the incredibly time-consuming stuffed vegetables yesterday – they become imbued with the flavours if left overnight. I was on the phone to Rachel several times since her stuffed veggies are fabulous! I love the fact that she is such a terrific cook that I learn from her! In fact she brings a wonderful hint of Mizrachi cooking to this daring but innate Ashkenazi cook! Since you love to read recipes, here it is. Basically it is finely chopped tomato, onion, celery and tons of parsley very finely chopped, add some sweated chopped onion, and a handful of round rice and a bit more salt than you think you need since apparently the rice and veg absorb a lot of it…….. then comes the tedious part! Bring onions and cabbage to the boil and leave them in the hot water – so that you can peel off the leaves, fill and roll. Yes I know it is a real “Bubby” recipe but I never work on actual amounts, you know it’s right when it tastes right!I did red peppers too…… if it tastes as good as it looks it will be wonderful!! We will carry it to Leor and Shiris tonight where we are celebrating Amit’s 14th birthday. Yes, I did write about her birthday last week but that was in our house, this time it will be in Leor and Shiri’s garden with the “other side” of the family!


And so to music


I loved this video! Two little girls singing Maoz Tzur (Roch of Ages) the traditional song we sing having lit the Chanuka Candles. The person who put his on YouTube describes them as Oriental, which apparently has become yet another ethnic description that has been designated as non-PC, but actually means Eastern! Whatever their description, they are gorgeous!


A beautiful song sung by Eden Ben Zaken, called “Yesh bi Ahava” (I have love in me) gives tribute to the Sabas and Saftas (grandparents) of Israel. Ben Zaken is joined by a surprise guest. Prime Minister Netanyahu! They sing about love winning through. Actually, one of the sound men released the original video of the recording and all I am willing to say is that I am amazed at the technology that corrects flat notes!


Katan Aleinu” (We Got This), bringing together a group of our leading musicians:  From Dubi Gordon in far off Boston

“We got through everything, we’ll get through this too.

Before every obstacle and uncertainty

Our hope hasn’t been lost

Whatever happens we’ll say thank you

We won’t falter,

We got this.”


My wish for this Shabbat is that the light from the Chanuka candles and the Shabbat candles will be so bright that they will shine upon each and every one of us. Hopefully, very soon the Christmas lights will add to the illumination of minds and hearts around the world


With much love from Jerusalem