The view from my veranda

Terror, Taliban, Triumph and Gold medals

27TH August 2021

Shabbat Shalom! I hope this letter finds you well, vaccinated and Covid free.

Every leader suffers the mistakes of his predecessors. I don’t know if there is an appropriate quote but that’s the fact. It takes at least two years, some say four years, to undo mistakes and if concurrent leaders made the same mistakes the current leader has to take brave, unpopular steps to turn things around. Perhaps this should be considered “Hindsight can be merciless. People of any given era often look back in time and wonder how their predecessors could have been so dimwitted.”

Two days ago a representative of Al Queeda decided to show his support for the Taliban by driving his car among a group of civilians and American soldiers, blow up the vehicle then as the crowd neared to investigate he blew himself up killing 12 Americans and maiming uncountable numbers of both soldiers and civilians. Support for the Taliban and the various offshoots begins in Iran but doesn’t end there. Afghanistan has a sinister neighbour, Pakistan. The Pakistanis are very dangerous because they play the international game very well. On the one hand condemning the anti-American stance of the Islamic terror organisations while simultaneously funding them and allowing them to flourish within Pakistan.

I have no doubt that the blame game has already begun, but the biggest question is not why or when the American troops are taken out of Afghanistan but rather, why, ever since they entered that G-d forsaken country, has nothing been done to encourage the formation of formal government. The international community is so busy fighting windmills and finding jobs for the boys that they made no effort to build an alternative to the savage, inhuman, brutish, brilliant tactics of the Taliban. The United States had 20 years since 9/11 to change the countries it entered, but nothing was done. So folks, the blame games are inappropriate on every level – we have a common enemy and it is irrelevant as to whether you are Republican or Democrat – indeed the same goes for Israel – it is irrelevant whether you are Likud or anything else. In both cases the internecine fighting was about individuals not policies and it weakens us all.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennet arrived in Washington with an agenda for his talks with President Biden, first and foremost to repair any rift created by the former government. His intention was to discuss the questions which pertain to the very existence of Israel. However, understandably, President Biden has a dire situation on his hands and the meeting has been delayed until 10:00 Washington time which will be very close to Shabbat in Israel causing the PM, who is Shomer Shabbat (he keeps the laws of Shabbat) to delay his return. It can’t be helped.

Hamas is strengthened by the tragic events in Afghanistan. They plans huge disruptions starting with their border “demonstration” and undoubtedly followed by more rockets. Hamas needs publicity. The Qatari money is not going to Hamas, it goes directly to the families who have suffered so horribly; the food and staple goods which Israel sends each day don’t pay for missiles and if they don’t have publicity then they don’t get donations and they can’t build rockets. Hezb-Allah is also feeling more powerful at the “success” of the Taliban and has increased its threats – even the cowardly Nasrallah has poked his head out of his bunker on occasion!

What is the link between all of the above? Iran. Yes Iran. Don’t be fooled, the threat from Iran is not only nuclear in fact it is something far more insidious….terror.

As you already know Rabbi Jeremy Rosen is more than a friend and mentor, we agree on just about everything!! I don’t know if it’s the Cardiff connection (I still remember my brother Ronnie and I playing with the Rosen brothers in the garden of Green Gables, the home of Jeremy’s Grandfather MJ Cohen. Anyway to return to the crux of the matter, this week Jeremy wrote a piece about “Appeasement” a word hated by both of us. It applies to the policies of the West in general and so much more. Well worth a read, it is philosophical, well rounded and relevant.

Not everything in this world was death and depression this week – let’s talk about the things that make life worthwhile.

This is a “Watch This Space” but just so that you know that the European Union is currently discussing information gathered and published by Impact-se.

As a non-Spanish speaker it has been both a fun week and a trying one!! Zvi has been meeting old friends from his Mexican High School – the famous Yiddische Shule in Mexico City. All of the others were born in Mexico but Zvi arrived as an oversized 13 year old with his parents and little brother Meir z”l immediately after Zvi’s Bar Mitzva, his parents sent by the Jewish Agency as Hebrew teachers to the community. They took the challenge because Zvi’s father Kalman had many family members who fled Europe for Mexico and since both he and Alla were orphans – every member of both families wiped out by the Third Reich – they saw it as an opportunity for their children to know family. I digress. The meetings were actual and by Zoom. Of course Zvi wrote a lovely message for his classmates most of whom are still in Mexico, saying how the decades which have passed have not dimmed the friendships of those times 60+ years ago.

Iyab Shalabi is Israeli; Iyab Shalabi is a deaf, mute, paraplegic Israeli; Iyab Shalabi is a Paralympic Gold winner who proudly wore the strip of the Israeli team. Iyab was born deaf and suffered a terrible accident as a child, falling from a roof, which left him paralysed from the waist down. However Iyab has an incredibly supportive family and a father who gave up his regular life to support his son and drive him wherever he needed to practice his swimming. This is the story you won’t read in the international media, the story of an Israeli, irrespective of his colour or creed, an Israeli pure and simple. A story of great bravery and determination encouraged by his family, his community and his country.

The Paralympic Games had humble beginnings at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire (if you are British you say Bucks or Buckingham not the whole mouthful) in 1944-45 after the British government asked Dr Ludwig Guttman, a neurologist who had escaped Nazi Germany and believed that sport was the only way to rehabilitate patients with spinal injuries, to create a rehabilitation centre at Stoke Mandeville.  His story is fascinating

The Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is considered a brilliant Torah scholar who when Covid first appeared told his flock not to get the vaccination, but his brilliance helped him understand that there is no shame in changing one’s view. This week he came out with the statement “No jab, no job”. He has warned his followers that it is dangerous to remain unvaccinated which is a huge step forward for the haredi, Ultra-Orthodox community in general.

I “unfriended” someone on Facebook this week. I don’t mind if anyone wants to discuss with me, to disagree with me but his man went well beyond the Pale. He is obviously an narcissist because he joined the Anti-Vaxxers movement but that isn’t enough – he used and wore a yellow star, a fabric yellow star with Anti-Vaxxer written instead of Jude! The lowest of the low.

Man was instructed to rest on the seventh day, and the land must rest every seventh year. According to the Bible (e.g. Exodus 23:10-11) every seventh year the land may not be worked, and the produce of the land may not be bought or sold. Rather, the land is to be left alone, though people may pick what grows naturally in the fields and orchards as they need. Of course one must still water the land so the trees will not die, but no more than that.    

This Rosh Hashana takes us into a new harvest year, or rather a new non-harvest year. Shnat Shmitta, Jewish ecology. Each 7 years, as I learned as part of our history\ geography lessons in high school in Wales, one must leave the land to rest. “Rotation of crops encourages the restoration of minerals to the soil” I can still hear the lilting Welsh tones of the teacher. A fascinating conundrum since during this year an observant Jew will not buy produce from Israel for fear of breaking this rule, but rather imported produce.

Since my little trees, especially the lemon and kumquat trees, are laden, groaning with fruit, I will have to decide what to do.  The little lemon tree is magical! I have a full crop of fast growing fruit, then a second crop of tiny fruits and now it is in blossom again! I have a feeling that we will have lemons until next year!

Today’s music has a theme, here the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, whose home is at the YMCA in Jerusalem, is made up of young Israeli and Palestinian singers who talk of making change and being friends  Mashup for Change!

Achinoam Nini is an Israeli of Yemenite origin who grew up in the States and came back to Israel to serve in the IDF. Mira Awad is a Christian Arab Israeli. Together they represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest with “There must be Another Way”

The last song is also one of hope, of togetherness. Sung in English, Hebrew and Arabic, recorded in the multicultural city of Haifa 2 years ago. One Day by your favourites, Koolulam.

So we are getting closer and closer to Rosh Hashana, to what we hope will be a new start, in readiness for the Day of Atonement. Perhaps a good start is to understand the difference between dialogue and dialectic, talk, discuss, listen. My incredibly wise Mother, the legendary Betty Silver, always told us “You have two ears and one mouth, try to use them in the correct proportion”

With much love from the glorious air of Motza Illit. Zvi is about to come home after taking the four girls (Leor’s daughters) to see a new centre in Ma’aleh Adumim. Yes, we have 4 girls staying over tonight so that their parents can have a fun weekend. Before you gasp in dismay – all of them had a Covid test yesterday so that Zvi and I would be safe. Zvi just called to say they are on their way home “Have you got pizza in the freezer”? Well of course I have! They will then help me get everything ready for Shabbat…..

With love to you from us.

Shabbat Shalom, a blessed Shabbat