The view from my veranda

The Chagim are over!

Friday, 5th October, 2018



Shabbat Shalom and, as they say here in Israel “Moadim le Simcha acharey ha chagim” Gratitude and joy that we are after the festivals!! Apparently the festivals and the level of cooking and entertaining involved, exhausted me and caused my back to complain severely – which is why I didn’t write last week!!


I love all the festivals; even Yom Kippur has its compensations – the ingathering of those who under normal circumstances would never go to a synagogue. It is said that when the shofar sounds to indicate the end of the Day of Atonement, our prayers go straight to heaven. I must admit that there is a very special sense of purity in the air at that moment – even if it takes a nanosecond before the usual business of our crazy world swings back into action!!


When I was a teenager we used to do a house to house hop (that dates me!), a party which went from house to house so that we didn’t annoy the parents for an extended period of time!!! Well, that’s what Succot is here in Israel; we all travelled from one Succah to another. There were insanely decorated succahs and simple sophisticated succahs; succahs filled with pictures of Rabbis and succahs filled with pictures of the seven species; whatever the style all were filled with “kol tuv” everything good. It is a “mitzvah” a blessing of the festival to have visitors and for my son-in-law Igal’s birthday Rachel had some 30 learned Rabbis around her succah table!!


While we were celebrating religious holidays the world became a little more insane and a lot more dangerous. Thanks to a very important Jewish law, called Pikuach Nefesh, the saving of a soul or the saving of a person, the security services here in Israel work throughout the festivals to protect us. The violence from Gaza, what the media called the “Right of return demonstrations” became even more violent, even more evil. The arson balloons and kites have taken a turn that even the insane and cruel minds of Hamas could not have imagined – or could they? Bouquets of beautiful coloured balloons, with sparkles and hearts and smiley faces land in the kibbutzim, specifically to attract small children- and then they explode! Such evil.


In the meantime Russia gave the vile and murderous President Assad of Syria and gift of highly sophisticated, up to the minute missiles and the response was not nearly strong enough. Russia rules in most of our neighbouring countries.


Benjamin Netanyahu followed Mahmoud Abbas vitriolic (as always) speech in the UN with another theatrical display of Iranian nuclear facilities – of which we had already informed the USA and the IAEA claimed they knew and had already confirmed that it was not active. Really? For all the years that El Baradei led the IAEA they didn’t report the rampant development of nuclear weaponry in Iran so why should we believe them now?


Angela Merkel visited Israel and Jerusalem again. She had very friendly talks with the PM, as usual spoke to him about settlements and Gaza and went back to Germany.


Theresa May isn’t winning the popularity polls but is still beating Jeremy Corbyn who is increasingly racist, anti-Semitic and sounds more and more like Mahmoud Abbas in his speeches!! She certainly won hearts with her entrance to the Conservative Party Conference – dancing to Abba’s Dancing Queen!!


I would love to ignore the furor over the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh, after all it has nothing to do with Jerusalem or Israel, but I can’t. I believe that the accusations are totally political, not that I approve of his actions, assuming that they occurred, but because I believe in the rule of law, and American law states that one is innocent until proven guilty. I am sure there are few young men who didn’t get drunk at parties or “tried it on” (in my day they called it from 1st base upwards). I know the rules were very different and a slap in the face was enough to stop them in most cases but 99% of those kids grew up to be responsible citizens, even judges and lawyers and doctors. My question is, how did has he behaved from that time until today.  Bret Stephens is vociferously anti-Trump yet in his article is in the NYT he says ” I’m grateful because Trump has not backed down in the face of the slipperiness, hypocrisy and dangerous standard-setting deployed by opponents of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I’m grateful because ferocious and even crass obstinacy has its uses in life, and never more so than in the face of sly moral bullying. I’m grateful because he’s a big fat hammer fending off a razor-sharp dagger“.


The elements raged yet again as hundreds, suffered from tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. The people of Indonesia tell of the ground turning to jelly and the colossal wave that hit the shoreline without compassion wiping out everything in its path. Our hearts, and Israeli aid, go out to those who suffer. It is irrelevant to whom they pray, they are human beings in need of help.


So I told you a little bit about where we were and what we did but it was the tip of a very lovely iceberg!!!


We went for the first night of Succot to Rachel and Igals Succah. The beauty of their succah and Igal’s singing were only surpassed by the phenomenal array of delicacies set out by Rachel with the help of Yosef, Talia and Ayala. We had 3 young Mexicans with us, Alan, David and Daniel, all here on a Hachshara year. They are currently in Kibbutz Hazirim but are about to go off on courses with Magen David Adom and Marva, the volunteer IDF course for 3 months. David will be coming to Jerusalem instead, which I am thrilled about. All three boys fell in love with Rachel’s children, the traditional service in the Succah and of course the View from our Veranda!!!


The next day David and Alan’s Auntie Rosie and Uncle Jaime and cousins came up from Gan Yavne for lunch, a very Spanish speaking affair, and our lovely friends Michael and Judy Baum joined us for a meal interspersed with guacamole, enchiladas, tacos and other wonders which sat alongside my rather Ashkenazi traditional food!!


Dorothy and Michael Goldstein are here to celebrate the first birthday of their little grandson and we managed to drag them away long enough to have lunch with us, and as always we had enormous fun and talked about just about everything under the sun. That evening we went to a show at the Khan Theatre – once an Inn on the Spice route.


On Thursday we went to a VIP reception at the ICEJ Tabernacles celebration. The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem brings thousands and thousands of Christians from all over the world for a huge week of celebration and parades – but sadly we couldn’t stay for the congregational meet because we were invited to Rafael’s succah in Har Gilo. What fun that was!!! Rafael is a member of Zvi’s choir so we sang, danced and solved riddles about Succot.


Shabbat dinner was held at Itzik’s home. A lovely traditional meal in his Succah with dear friends, then on Monday – after Simchat Torah, we had a fabulous family wedding where Shiran married Dennis – Igal’s sister married her love. It was wonderful!


We had a couple of quiet days then yesterday my dear old Cardiff friend Adrienne and Abe Arkin, came to stay for a 70th birthday party in Jerusalem. Of course it turned out that the celebrant knew Zvi……. Who doesn’t? Adrienne and I spent a lot of time catching up on Cardiff news and lapsing into a Welsh accent!!!


Last night Zvi and I set off for the city centre and a meeting of the “workers” volunteers for Hitorerut, the young, highly able apolitical, political party making a strong bid for the Municipal elections. We have mentored them for many years now and watched them grow into principled, able representatives. Of course we lowered the average age by about 40 years (they are the volunteers that go out on the streets to convince the public) but felt enormous pride at the enthusiasm and intense sense of right and wrong of the candidates. My prayer is that the competition between the logical candidates will not force an inappropriate candidate upon the City. Jerusalem needs a different type of leadership which will serve EVERYONE in this diverse city. I believe that Ofer Berkovitch and his excellent team, which includes Aliza Ahrens, daughter of Misha Ahrens, can do the job; especially after spending time talking to his amazing wife Dina!!!


The Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre for Cancer Patients and their Families has a special place in my heart and I am proud to serve on the Board. Based in Shaare Zedek Hospital it changes lives – always for the better. The video has subtitles –  Should you choose to donate, hard not to after the video –


I am about to go to visit Rachel and the children – and collect my freshly baked Challot! Tonight we will spend with Amiad, Noga and the children in Tel Aviv then stay over with them ( I love their guest bed!). My contribution to supper is pea soup, the children’s favourite, and a salad, not a huge effort!!!


Time to satisfy the melodious side of my personality; what songs are appropriate for this week – after the chagim?


Hagit Yaso is Israeli, in fact she is everything that is good about Israel. Here she sings about how beautiful the world is


Hagit impressed me so much that I had to include her rendition of Halleluyah, at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem,


As a generation we are far too complacent about Israel. Time for a reminder that it was not always so. The Barry Sisters “Vi akhon zol Ich Gayn ”  Tell me where I can go.


I wish you a Gut Shabbes, a sweet day of family and contemplation. I wish you kind thoughts and joy.


With much love from our home, our veranda, our Jerusalem.