The view from my veranda

The Jubilee, Pentecost, Shevuot and another crazy week

3rd of June 2022

Shabbat Shalom! I hope you are well and that your week left you smiling

For those of us who love Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, Wasn’t yesterday’s ceremonial event glorious? Everything from the various regiments of the Guards, the horses (and the truck that went around collecting their residue) the crowds in the Circle and the Mall, the sheer joy of the occasion and finally the Queen, Her Majesty is such an appropriate title for a truly majestic lady, and her family appearing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to the roar of joy from the crowd. This 96 year old stood throughout the fly past (I loved the aeroplane formation of 70 in the sky) bending to explain what was happening to her great grandson and chatting away with her son, a smile breaking out on both occasions. Her leadership may be titular but her example is supreme.

The police were everywhere but did not touch anyone and smiled constantly, alert but polite and discreet. As they say you can take the Brit out of Britain but not Britain out of the Brit!! I love Israel, wouldn’t live anywhere else but Britain is best at creating an atmosphere of pomp and circumstance without exaggeration or bling!

So to this week in the world of the mundane, everyday life of us ordinary folk.

Perhaps I’ll start at the end then work back, not backwards but… know what I mean!

Yesterday I had a phone call from the CEO of , the research institute of which I am so proud to be Chairman of the Board. Anyway, Marcus Sheff (CEO) called to update me on so many advances that I couldn’t stop smiling for hours. Open the link and you will see the incredible advances made by the team in the sphere of Tolerance in Education in th entire MENA region and of course Israel, all sectors. More and more Islamic countries have come to the realization that if they want normalization in their relations with the West (as opposed to Iran) they have to change the way they teach their children – hate teaching cannot continue. Indeed hate teaching is against the Koran and against the basic tenets of their religion.

Let me go back to the beginning!

Since our “limousine” breathed its last drop of petrol, after 19 years of excellent service (a tiny Daihatsu whose paintwork had long given up in the Israeli sun) and two busy people tried to manage with one car, we went to look at alternatives. Electric? Hybrid? Petrol? We are still deciding! I was at home while Zvi went to a rehearsal for ……..wait that comes later!

One Monday Gaby Hirsch, from Shalva, came for a cup of coffee to help me decide when to organise the official opening of Dr. Dan’s Room, the incredible Studio for Music, Dance and Drama in the name of my beautiful son Daniel who was killed in an accident two and a half years ago while riding through Central Park.

In the afternoon we went to the shloshim (30 days after someone passes away) of our dear friend Frida z”l. Here in Israel the tombstone is laid after 30 days, not a year as in the Diaspora. It was very moving, a beautiful ceremony and since Frida was a singer with an exceptional voice, we al sang her favourite song, which coincidentally is mine too. Lelechet Shevi Acharaich – a love song to Israel.

Tuesday and I had lunch with the Queen of Cardiff. Tema Gaba is an institution, a wonderful incredible lady celebrated her hundredth birthday this week. I love sitting and talking with her, enjoying her world of knowledge and sweet memories of my parents. Tema, like the Queen, served in the British Army during WW2 and any opportunity to hear her tales of those times lights up everyone who knows and loves her. I wish you could meet her, a wonderful Welsh Lady! Unlike the Queen there was no big celebration, no fly past, no Grenadier Guards,  just joy in knowing someone who really did humble but great things in her life.

Wednesday Zvi had another rehearsal……. Yes you already know, that comes later…and I managed to sneak in a quick visit to Rachel and the children to be renewed with their hugs. You would think that the climb up to Samuel’s Tomb and the view, the panorama of Jerusalem laid out in front of me, would become everyday, but it doesn’t. Each time I look out over my city I am amazed anew. Such incredible beauty, even the new city, built of gleaming white stone, is beautiful stretching before me in a huge jigsaw of hills, houses, highrises and cranes – yes the national bird of Israel is the building crane! We just don’t have enough housing especially as the wave of new immigrants is growing, surprisingly from the USA and the West.

Finally we come to Thursday and the truly magnificent concert of the Cantus Choir of the Jerusalem Academy of Music was held in the YMCA theatre. The YMCA is conceivably the most beautiful building in Jerusalem. Situated opposite the King David Hotel its cupolas and towers, arches and gardens dominate the eye and the atmosphere is wonderful. The theatre has a high, decorated cupola and a full proscenium arch with a second cupola behind it. One by one the choir filed onto and up on the stands and magic happened. Each and every song, conducted by the beautiful and talented Ronit Banit, resounded from the stage to the full audience. We were captivated. I’ll try to make a YouTube for you. Instead of going out to a coffee shop our friends Eva and Eli came to us for coffee and cheeses and we had such a lovely time.

The funny part is that the city was empty because there was a huge and very well organised, joyful Gay Parade nearby in the Bell Park. We feared that nobody would get to the concert because of the level of traffic and lack of parking, but in fact, I came straight into the city from the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus with barely another car on the road and suddenly, right at the gate to the YMCA a perfect parking spot was waiting just for me!

Another fascinating fact about the Gay Parade. For many years it was held in various Israeli cities but not in Jerusalem, for a million reasons, but it was a Haredi Mayor who made the decision to allow the Gay Parade in Jerusalem and apart from one tragic incident when a crazy man killed a young participant , Shira Banki z”k who as marching to support friends, it has been a wonderful and colourful addition to the Jerusalem calendar.

Talking of parades, after the Flag Parade last week and the disruption caused by two factions of the extreme right, Defence Minister Gantz is considering declaring both Lehava and La Familia  terrorist organisations.

I did an upside down missive this week – I felt the need to write about lovely things instead of only politics and shootings.

Uri Zohar, a major player on the Israeli stage and screen, passed away yesterday at the age of 86. Zohar began as a secular Jew, became a Haredi Jew yet never lost his tolerance for the opinions of others and continued to influence many. Together with Arik Einstein, two of his children married two of Einstein’s children, he made an iconic skit called Lul, about the various ‘Aliyas” to Israel showing that nothing is new and each new wave of immigrants has to adapt to life here, as everywhere. Brilliant and very funny!

I learned something this week, in fact today, from an article written by Liat Collins in the Jerusalem Post. I hadn’t realised that the Ottoman Empire, which occupied this land for 70 years, expelled the Jews of Jaffa in 1914. Moslems were allowed to return to Jaffa but Jews were not and they are mostly buried in Kfar Saba. . So much we don’t realise, so much that preceded the State of Israel. Even we sometimes accept that we must be guilty of something because the media tells us we are all the time.

Almost the end of the Counting of the Omer, nearly the Feast of Weeks, Shevuot.   Rabbi Jeremy Rosen describes beautifully the relevance of Shevuot, of the words we use and the kindness we should express. If you want to understand the real meaning of Shevuot, of the festival and of the reading of the story of Ruth, beautiful Ruth who chose to be a Jewess and became a true Jewish heroine by following her mother in law Naomi. “Shevuot is so much more than “Whither thou goest I goest”

This weekend and Shevuot which follows on the tails of Shabbat we will be eating only milk products – no meat or chicken – more of a tradition than a law. Cheesecakes galore, blintzes of every description and the supermarkets sport shelves after shelves of Israeli cheeses hard, soft and white varieties, yoghurts, creams, butter and the world famous Israeli cottage cheese which unlike its namesake in the rest of the world, has no “marbles” it is soft and creamy and like all the cheeses there is a 5% alternative which tastes just as good! We have a crazy schedule of friends and family, because this is Israel and everyone invites or is invited for the festivals. Barely a table lays bare, all burgeoning with delicacies and most with 10, 15, 20 and 30 diners! We are a country that entertains at home, rather than restaurants. We are a country of great cooks, men and women cook at home, usually a combined effort, and a very informal manner. Children are very much seen and heard and part of the scene, never sent to bed at 6 o’clock they join in conversations, unless it is boring and turns to politics in which case they are excused to go and play until dessert!!

Time to go and prepare the food that I will be taking with me to each home. Herb and lemon baked salmon for tonight; my yummy lemon cake for tomorrows brunch (one comes home from the synagogue and immediately eat rather than waiting until lunchtime);  blintzes and crepes for tomorrow evenings holiday meal. No cooking for Monday evening after the festival ends because we are going to the annual party in the home of Meme and Liora, a party that was on hold during Corona (Covid-19) and has joyfully come back on the scene.

You already had one song right at the beginning of this missive so let’s find two more!

This is one to join in! Everybody, no matter what their faith, knows Hava Nagila. Here Harry Belafonte and Danny Kaye sing together

The next song is my mantra, Smile sung by Nat King Cole, his voice reaches into the depths of my soul and the song, the song has so much deep meaning and an important message. Here with clips of the inimitable Charlie Chaplin

I wish you a good weekend, on Sunday Christians celebrate Whitsun, or Whit Sunday the British name for Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter – you see, we have so much in common. The counting of the Omer (between Passover and Shevuot) is 49 days and Pentecost is…..7 weeks! When I was a child this was a Christian festival but has since changed its name to Spring Bank Holiday. Not sure that is progress but that’s today’s world. Jews will be celebrating Shevuot and the giving of the most important laws of today’s society, the 10 commandments and they social laws that every society abides by today.

Shabbat Shalom to you, Chag Shevuot Sameach and loads of love in your life, through friends, family and just people who pass by

With love from beautiful Jerusalem