The view from my veranda

The Honey and the Sting

11th day of the 11th month 2022

Shabbat Shalom dear friends

“The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose.” ― Kahlil Gibran

On the anniversary of the loss of lives in World Wars and two days after the anniversary of Kristallnacht  it is perhaps hard to see the rose, especially with the world in its current ghastly state, but roses abound as the bright red poppies which bloomed in the mud and blood of Flanders Fields.

Today, at the Cenotaph War Memorial in London, at precisely the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, silence will be observed as Royalty, Ministers, Old Soldiers all stand to attention. Each and every one of them with a red poppy on lapel, and wreaths of red poppies will be laid to honour those who fought that we may be free.

The question on everyone’s lips and the concern in everyone’s mind is whether Benjamin Netanyahu will succeed in creating a viable coalition while clipping the wings of the birds of prey who want to join him. The name Itamar Ben Gvir is on the lips of the world and the pages of virtually every newspaper in the West and rightly so. As far as the vast majority of Israelis are concerned, nay distressed at his success, his antipathy to what we stand for sometimes masks the similarity between his rants and those of the very people he claims to hate! However, since we are talking about roses not thorns, I must place my trust in the experience and ability of Netanyahu to avoid an international outcry. I await the result of the coalition list.

I understand that the concerns of the Diaspora Community are twofold and both aspects are valid. In terms of “How do we look to the outside world” I don’t really have an answer, but Israel is most certainly held to a higher standard than any other country, including yours! Really. When you look at the number of countries which have troops far from home on lands that have been “occupied” and realise that those self-same countries spend a great deal of time, and air-time berating Israeli occupation it gives a degree of balance to our situation. The other aspect which may well affect the relationship between Diaspora Jews and Israel is the threatened changes in the level of religious control. In truth, I cannot see any of these changes taking place but the disconnect may well take place anyway.

The rose and thorn? The Jewish Agency has decided to ensure security of the egalitarian section of the Western Wall but I am sad that it is necessary.

So? what are the results of the USA by-elections? I understand that it is all much closer than expected but since I do not really understand the electoral system in the USA I would love someone to explain it to me! So far it is 48 seats to the Republicans, 46 to the Democrats and 2 to small parties which looks as if there is no clear majority. Does that matter? Does it affect future resolutions? The rose here is that unlike the thorns of the last elections with riots and storming of Congress, things seem to be much more civilised but we still have two years until the Presidential elections.

Is the Kristallnacht history still relevant today?  Can our children and grandchildren understand what began on that fateful day when anti-Semitism became overt? How did dehumanisation culminate in the beginning of the end for European Jewry? If we don’t tell the story and compare it to what is happening today then we are preparing to repeat history. I see the horrors that young Jews suffer at University, particularly in the USA but nearly everywhere in the West, and I fear for their future. When I lived in the UK, actually in London, I was very active in an organisation called AJ6, the Association of Jewish 6th Formers (the last two years of high school) preparing them for University and the tacit anti-Semitism that they would meet there. The emphasis on tacit, whereas today it is overt and even acceptable and I fear that today’s youngsters are not prepared, gather all their information from TikTok and Instagram, have lost their pride in being Jewish and in Israel because we, their parents and grandparents did not ensure that they were educated in who they are and where they come from.

How do we know that the Palestinians are not garnering enough media space? They immediately put forward a resolution to the International Court of Justice in the Hague! Yet again the old trope of Israeli occupation tantamount to annexation of lands beyond the 1967 borders is going before the Court this week after consideration by the United Nations. Of course, the result is a forgone conclusion and while it doesn’t actually affect Israel it is an uncomfortable diplomatic situation for Jerusalem. In fact the PA are planning a diplomatic blitz (in the words of Khaled Abu Toameh) based on Smotrich/Ben Gvir to raise their profile.

So what about a few roses?

Qatar has direct flights from Ben Gurion Airport for the Mondial, the World Cup!

Lonah Chemtai Salpeter became the second fastest woman in the New York Marathon just 7 seconds behind the winner! Lonah came to Israel from Kenya, fell in love and married her trainer and has proudly draped herself in the Israeli flag with each and every win. Brava!

Promises and handshaking were the order of the day at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm el Sheikh Egypt. All the participating countries pledged to improve their ecological record but I’m not sure anyone is watching over their progress. President Isaac Herzog headed the Israeli delegation at the conference.

Few people are aware of the 8th Abu Dhabi Assembly for Peace a true rose among the thorns. It is the meeting of the minds of good people from the full gamut of religion and religious observance with the intention of understanding each other while retaining our individual identity. I am very proud of the fact that Rabbi David Rosen represents the very best of Judaism in this and many such gatherings. Thank you David.

This was a good week for Zvi and I. Our wonderful friend Kim aka Dr Kimball Taylor, came on his 61st visit to Israel in order to attend the Jewish Agency for Israel Meetings in Tel Aviv. Kim sits on the Aliya Committee bringing a totally fresh aspect to their work and then he came to stay with us. We are being very careful not to overload me with visitors but Kim is a member of the family and basically knows where everything is in the fridge and clears up after himself. It’s also good to hear that my surgery was amazing from the lips of the good doctor!!

It has been a week-ful of birthdays! Ori, Shiri, Rachel and Ayala on consecutive days! I decided to take Rachel out for lunch a day early, and Yosef came along for the ride. We went to my new favourite coffee shop on the edge of Kibbutz Kiriat Anavim. Kiriat Anavim or town of grapes, was built on land bought from the village of Abu Ghosh in 1912. The area has blossomed, as has the relationship with Abu Ghosh and the coffee shop not only has delicious food, delightful young waiters but is set in a veritable bower of plants.

My lovely friend Betty called in for a surprise visit and a delightful catch-up and then Monica and Evan Minkoff popped in after a day with Zvi and on their way to the airport and home to Denver Colorado. Another delightful visit was from Nancy Epstein who sits with me on the Board. Nancy and I had never met but the instant friendship was inevitable. What a delightful warm lady!

I am really doing very well and have been given an excellent regime of physio from my local clinic. So far it has been really helpful although when Zvi and Kim decided to climb up to the Castel right next to our home, I admit that I backed out!  Doing one and a half kilometres on our complex is quite enough for me!

We had rain! As usual Tel Aviv was flooded but there is more than one advantage to living in the Jerusalem Hills! We don’t flood and our plants, trees and fields get life giving water. Suddenly yellow patches along the road turn lush and trees lose their summer dust, their true colours shining through. The white Jerusalem stone buildings glisten in the sun and the world seems to have a cleaner, fresher look. Our veranda looks spectacular! The tiny lime tree has over twenty limes and more coming daily as the sunbirds do an excellent job of fertilizing the fragrant blossom; the kumquat tree has a lot of fruit although rather small this year but the lemons are fast changing colour from green to a vibrant yellow. Small fruits but filled with juice.

The various coloured hibiscus are thriving in the gentle sunshine and I discovered that cuttings from my new bright red hibiscus, a get-well gift from my siblings, can be propagated easily! In other words, the work put in earlier in the year is paying off in a glorious display!

This week’s Torah reading, Vayera from Genesis, is deeply relevant to today as the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael reaches a head. Who would have thought that a family dispute thousands of years ago could culminate in today’s wars. Heavenly guests tell Sarah she is pregnant and the Almighty destroys Sodom and Gemorrah, then Sarah gives birth and insists that her handmaiden Hagar with Abraham’s son Ishmael, be sent from their home. Talk about complications!

And now to music. I can’t think what fits all the roses and thorns of a week in the Middle East but I promise to try.

This song about Jerusalem sung by Gad Elbaz really touched my heart.

I know that your favourite is Koolulam and here they take the rose and thorns and bring a beautiful song in a new recording from September this year.

Al Kol Eleh – Above all this – is about the honey and the sting, the rose and the thorns. I love this rendition by Yonina The lyrics are basically the recipe for life. Every bee that brings the honey, Needs a sting to be complete; And we all must learn to taste the bitter with the sweet.  

To everyone, to my family beside me and in far flung places, to my friends both near and far, we wish you a good weekend, a Shabbat Shalom, and more roses than thorns, more honey than stings.

Shabbat Shalom and much love from Jerusalem. Remember that Israel is both your mother and your child, you care for her as a child loves her mother and she cares for you in the same way that a mother loves her child. We don’t always agree but the love that binds us overrides any disagreements.

With love