The view from my veranda

The Joy of Independence the horror of Elad

6th May, 2022

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Remembrance Day was deeply emotional as we remembered the lives lost to defend our beautiful little country then in an exceptionally prestigious and meaningful Yom Ha’atzma’ut  – Independence Day ceremony, this year’s beacon lighters were of the people and for the people leading to a decision to have only silent fireworks at the end, so that those with PTSD would not be terrified, we went into a day of family outings, all the wonderful fun that I described in my last letter……..and then

Last evening two young men, whose minds have been twisted by the heinous incitement of their society took axes, hatchets, machetes, I don’t know how to describe them, went to a religious town, yes guys within the green line – not that it makes any difference – and went on an orgy of bloodthirsty slaughter, killing 3 men, injuring more, leaving 16 children without fathers and an entire town in mourning. Why did they choose Elad? Probably because this is a Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) town, few of the citizens had guns to resist, to defend themselves, to retaliate.

I am sure you can imagine the sadness of Israelis, but perhaps the response of the Palestinian and Hamas leaders will help you understand. Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, expressed delight, yes I said delight, at the success of the attack and encouraged young Palestinians “and Israeli Arabs” to continue the “good work” whereas Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority condemned the attack. Hamas is on the rise among young Palestinians, even within Israel although to a much lower extent. Jordan, which has control of the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa Compound, together with the WAQF and Fatah, are deeply concerned and have now banned Hamas flags on the Temple Mount in an attempt to lower tensions. Khaled Abu Toameh, conceivably the best honest reporter, informing us of events within the Israeli Arab community explains

Subsequent Israeli Governments have given in to the demands of the WAQF concerning Jewish and Christian prayer on the Temple Mount, given in and in principle disallowed either faith from praying on their holy site in order to calm the incitement, but it didn’t work. We are unable to control the level of incitement within the Mosques and the determined inculcation of the young and disenfranchised; to inseminate disinformation into already angry young people doesn’t take more than oppression and a Goerring style proliferation of lies. When I say oppression I am not suggesting Israeli oppression, you have to understand the leadership of both the PA and Gaza whose very power lies in keeping their population both poor and unhappy while accumulating vast fortunes from the aid funding of our countries, the UN and EU!

As is the way here in Israel I have to change the emotional direction of this missive, accepting the ramifications of all of the above. Indeed, through Impact-se and its professional leadership, Marcus Sheff and Arik Agassi, something quite exceptional happened as a result of their meeting with the EU. Of course, as Chair I was aware of the impending meeting but nobody was prepared for the result! The EU, aware of the incitement in the PA/Hamas/UNWRA school curriculum is considering defunding.

” The motions are based on a report by IMPACT-se presented to a joint Foreign Affairs, Budget, Budgetary Control and Education and Culture Committee hearing of the parliament, as well as to the Commission in an April 20th testimony, by the invitation of the Parliament, and in a series of meetings with IMPACT-se’s leadership prior to vote.” PA textbook resolution vote: 357 in favor, 259 against, 24 abstentions 
The full text of the resolution condemning the PA is available here (par. 170). The world is slowly slowly understanding that terrorism begins in schools.

This year the change in the manner of leadership was astonishing. The Speaker of the Knesset, who traditionally leads the Independence Day Celebrations on Mount Herzl, brought with him a humility that has been missing for the last 12 years, giving a short speech of welcome. The ceremony itself, the beacon lighters were chosen for their incredible, selfless contribution to Israeli society and the world at large, the songs were Israeli, the dancers, soldiers, presenters and the audience all braved the unusually cold, windy weather with a smile… fact why don’t you just watch and enjoy – with simultaneous English translation from i24 See how many faces you recognise! All the beacon lighters were deserving and I was especially thrilled to see my friend, Kalman Samuels, the incredibly humble founder of Shalva, speaking of his son Yossi and the real force behind Shalva, his wife Malki. You will see Avi Samuels using finger language to tell Yossi about his father’s speech.

The next morning, bright and early a very different ceremony took place in the President’s House, the ceremony commending “Hayalim Mitstainim” Outstanding soldiers. Each and every one, from every walk of Israeli life, brought a tear of pride to our eyes. Each and every one received a word of gratitude and encouragement from President Herzog.

As the traffic jams near every park, forest and lake became longer and longer nobody got angry, they all recognised that families were off for a day of birthday parties, celebrating Israel’s 74th birthday. We were supposed to go to the annual “parliament” barbecue at the Schreiber families garden, but unfortunately our hostess was unwell so rather than be alone we invited a very few close friends to partake of whatever fare could be found in the Raviv freezer The multiple salads took a few minutes to prepare, which left us with the meat. Despite being 100% Israeli (actually his birth certificate says that he is and was Palestinian) Zvi, unlike both his sons, is not a great fan of barbecues or “mangal”. Our wonderful upstairs neighbour Benny came down to check the feasibility of using our barbecue for the first time in 5 years – after a thorough overhaul by yours truly – and pronounced it safe and ready so I happily placed the chicken pieces and the home-made burgers on the grill so that our aroma filled smoke joined that of most of our neighbours. All was well until the gas balloon ended! A hurried return to the kitchen ensure lunch but I admit I was disappointed.

Halfway through the meal we heard the sound of aeroplane engines. Was this the promised fly past? We rushed from the table and stood expectantly on the veranda, eyes to the sky……but somehow nothing happened! The only compensation was that we got to laugh with our neighbours who did the same! I hope next year’s fly past will compensate! Our meal ended with the very best chocolate mousse ever (sorry Jill)! Ruth Dodziuk-Justitz showed her Suisse origins and we all enjoyed every mouthful!

As Zvi finished clearing up, (we have a deal, I prepare and he clears up) we made a good cuppa, he made his “special” omelette, and turned on the evening news. All sense of celebration, of fun, of joy disappeared as we watched in horror the desperately sad results of a terror attack. More than 26 Islamic countries, More than 24% of the world’s population identify as Moslem, yet this tiny piece of ancient Jewish land, our heritage, offends by its very existence. This beautiful 74 year old lady is a blot on their vast landscape Does it depress me, yes of course, but we had to get up this morning and show our enemies that they cannot break us, we are here and will not be moved.

I am reminded of the Dementors in the Harry Potter stories. Dementors feed on human happiness and generate feelings of depression and despair in all those in close proximity, “soul-sucking fiends”……..I sense that JK Rowling knew exactly what she described.

It never fails to amaze me how little even supporters of Israel know about us. I love the conversations where people ask intelligent questions and I had just such a conversation when I was in the UK a short time ago. I visited dear friends Adrian and Barbara, together with my friend Jill, and as we sat in their lounge they began to ask questions that were so important to all of you if you stand a chance of answering the lies.  Here is a quiz for you, with different questions to theirs but worth seeing what you do or don’t know anyway.

Today is Friday, almost Shabbat, and time to gather ourselves, prepare the Shabbat meal, to light the candles with a prayer that the light of the candles will spread warmth and peace. Tonight Leor and Shiri, with their four girls, Amit, Gili, Ori and Yuval are coming to us for Shabbat Dinner and Rachel, Yosef, Talia and Ayala are in Leeds to have Shabbat with Rachel’s father Philip to celebrate his 80th birthday. Hopefully Gideon will be with them too. A modern family indeed, spread all over the world held together by tradition

Adon Olam – Lord of the Universe- is the prayer that takes me back to my childhood. It is the final prayer of the Shabbat service and pictures of my father, grandfather and all around me folding their prayer shawls as they sang to the chosen melody of the week. I love this version, led by IDF Cantor Shai Abramson sung by the IDF coir relaxing….I just love it and it restores my mood with its beauty. Without translation, just enjoy!  

When an Israeli prays for good news all around say “Hallevai” Ehud Manor was the greatest poet/lyricist of Israel and his words ring true today. Boaz Sharabi wrote the melody and here he sings Halleva’I –

The last song was written by a young man called Robert Zimmerman in the ’60’s, at a time when we thought we could change our world His words have proven to be too prophetic of our times today. Blowin’ in the Wind

I wish you Shabbat Shalom, a weekend of prayer for this tortured world. Who knows, perhaps by educating our children to accept those different to them, whether by colour, creed, speech, language or nationality…only by teaching our children can we learn to be tolerant human beings raising tolerant human beings.

With love, as always, from Jerusalem