27th January, 2023
Shabbat Shalom dear friends,
The great educator Janusz Korczak who saved so many children from the Nazi death machine, said “The one concerned with days, plants wheat; with years, plants trees; with generations, educates people.”
Today is World Holocaust Remembrance Day a day to remember the Shoah, the millions killed in a heartless and regimented manner just because they were “the other”. If we compare those horrific, dark days of 80 years ago to our life today, we have a great deal to be thankful for, in particular this incredible little country, a Jewish homeland. We mustn’t forget the past and its role in creating our present and future. We must teach our children of this dark and cruel period of our history. We must never forget those who died just because they were Jews, but Israel was not created because of the Holocaust but rather the guilt of the free world that something as horrific, unthinkable as the Holocaust could happen allowed the re-creation of the Jewish State. Our ability to rise again out of the ashes a miraculous Phoenix, created an innovative, fast-thinking, feisty society that is very capable of taking care of itself and the world around it. I know that sounds a little arrogant, lacking in humility but Israel produced people who had no choice but to think on their feet in order to survive. Before I lose your attention, let’s look at Israel today, not the political aspects, unfortunately we have all gone through ups and downs as the price of democracy, but rather the achievements.
First and foremost, Israel has grown into a thriving multi-cultural society of nearly 10 million souls. Some would call it a hotch-potch, which is fine, as long as we remember that it is a mosaic of faiths and colour. I don’t know if it is PC to describe the wonderful rainbow of Jewish/Arab/ Christian life in terms of colour but just as we were dispersed all over the world so we gather together bringing the colours and traditions of the lands of our adoption.
Innovation. That urge to find solutions, to survive, has given birth to a generation of innovators as never before. In Medicine, Science, Hi-Tech, Biology, in all spheres we were forced to excel and we have, that includes military excellence, sadly through necessity.
The IDF, born of necessity has become the greatest melting pot of all. From the very beginning, friendships were built as comrades in arms – Druze, Bedouin, Christians, Jews of all levels of observance, fight side by side protect us from those who do not understand that all we want is to live in peace.
Education. The great educator Janusz Korczak said
“The one concerned with days, plants wheat; with years, plants trees; with generations, educates people.”
I am proud to say that the Israeli state education system teaches tolerance, giving all sides of the conflict a point of view. Since we are looking at the bright side of life after the Holocaust I must mention the increase in Holocaust education in Moslem countries especially in the UAE. Sadly, it is not quite so in Europe (or the States) particularly Holland where 50% of children do not believe the Holocaust ever happened. Here Impact-se CEO Marcus Sheff talks about the wonderful reaction of UAE educators to Holocaust Education https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPRNE7rgkjE
Democracy. Yes, I know we whine and moan and even yell when the government we didn’t want comes into power, but hey, that’s democracy! When a country is as strong as Israel, I know that the pendulum will swing back to the centre, that the people will speak. The incredible, peaceful demonstrations are testament to the freedom of everyday life of everyday people. I am aware that changes in either direction tend to alienate those who don’t live here, those who are connected through their umbilical cord but feel disassociated by certain aspects, but please remember that we are utterly interdependent, that we Israelis need our family abroad just as you need us. Sometimes we get cross at the sister who doesn’t call, or the friend who forgot your birthday, or their opinions that make us angry, but it cannot cut the connection, cannot stop us loving one another. We do not have to conform, sometimes we even reach vehement arguments or disagreements, but we must cling together.
Food. Yes Food! We know that Israeli food is exceptional when our neighbours complain to international bodies that we stole their recipes! It really is crazy because Israeli food is actually an extension of the Middle Eastern diet with various additions from North Africa, Ethiopia and Eastern Europe. I love the fact that one can visit a Bedouin tent or a Circassion kitchen or a Druze home and get kosher food! No not Halal, although that is true too, but many restaurants of the above Israelis have catered to the needs of their Jewish visitors. It’s not just a one-way street, in Jerusalem, for example, rare is the day that a Moslem family isn’t eating in a kosher restaurant. They say that an army marches on its stomach, well the IDF marches on the huge food parcels sent by mothers or brought to the gate of the base to ensure that the entire camp enjoys home food.
Remembering. We must never forget those who perished, the generations that remained unborn, the futures left unlived, but we must honour their lost lives by living ours to the best or our ability not wasting our lives on hatred. As a people, we have seen what “sinat hinam” has done to us and to the world at large. Sinat Hinam? To hate without reason. We survived the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, even the Nazis, but must remember that sinat hinam brought about the destruction of our Holy Temple, twice. Our prayers today, the 27th of January must be for the souls of those who perished and for those who survived and rebuilt their lives against all odds. https://www.yadvashem.org/archive/hall-of-names.html
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Senior Imam Qari Asim wrote this beautiful prayer to be recited on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the UK
“Loving God, we come to you with heavy hearts, remembering the six million Jewish souls murdered during the Holocaust.
In the horrors of that history, when so many groups were targeted because of their identity, and in genocides which followed, we recognise destructive prejudices that drive people apart.
Forgive us when we give space to fear, negativity and hatred of others, simply because they are different from us.
In the light of God, we see everyone as equally precious manifestations of the Divine, and can know the courage to face the darkness.
Through our prayers and actions, help us to stand together with those who are suffering, so that light may banish all darkness, love will prevail over hate and good will triumph over evil.”
It seems almost banal to tell you of our week on this day of mourning, but that is also part of Israel, part of Jewish life, taking past pain with us while thanking the Almighty that we are able to smile, to dance, to hear and create great music, so tell you I will, because living life to the full in the name of those we lost honours their lost lives.
On Shabbat our young neighbours came to tea and it was really lovely. I had made a very British afternoon tea, scones etc, much to their delight! Sunday was a special day, Zvi’s baby arrived! A beautiful, brand new, bright red, electric car! Thanks to our wonderful neighbour Benny, who received his car a few days before us, we managed to learn all the incredible apps and tricks. It’s funny because I am the car person but Zvi has not stopped smiling since it arrived!
On Monday, Zvi and I went for a glorious walk through the track which leads to the Beit Zayit dam, and the subsequent reservoir. We didn’t do the whole 7 kilometres but rather stood above, looking down on the waters which will be full before winter is out. I stop at every new flower, Zvi swears that I know each budding wild cyclamen (rakefet) by name and the only reason the almond trees blossom is to say hello as we walk past! It was so bracing and the best part is that it is literally across the road from us.
Tuesday morning and I met with one of my very favourite people. Gaby Hirsch has literally held my hand through the deeply emotional period of creating Dr. Dan’s Room, the Studio for the Performing Arts in Shalva that bears the name of my amazing eldest son Daniel z”l. Gaby and I became firm friends through thick and thin. We met at a brand new patisserie just five minutes from our home. Oh my goodness me, the cakes and pastries, savoury and sweet were of the highest standard possible, the French trained pastry chef watching over every creation. Although the place is only a few weeks old the queues went all the way through the garden onto the lane, we luckily got a table outside in the sunshine and split all our goodies down the middle, literally. It blew any chance of diet but wonderful to the eye and the taste buds. If you want, I will take you there because you’ll never find it! It’s in Kibbutz Kiriat Anavim and called HARIM.
To understand the depth of the tragedy of the Shoah, it is worth remembering that Shalva takes care of these incredible children, and adults, the fabulous “imperfects” who would have been first on Hitler’s list.
Tuesday evening and we had guests for dinner. Ronit and Gedi, Eilata and Shmulik came from Tel Aviv, Rina from Jerusalem and Hannah came from across our park! In fact, it was on a visit to Hannah and Danny’s apartment to put up their mezuzot (the little box on every Jewish door post, it contains a prayer) that we decided to come and live here. The best decision of our lives. The delightful evening all began because Ronit took my advice literally and she and Gedi invited themselves! I love it!
Thursday and Mayan’s Bar Mitzva in Nes Ziona, in a gorgeous old synagogue that has just been refurbished. It was the most amazing service I have ever been to! Joyous, the Chazan sang every prayer with gusto, and we all joined in!!
We raced home without the delicious lunch because I had to Chair an International Board Meeting of Impact-se (www.impact-se.org ). I’ll tell you all about our achievements of 2022 and plans for 2023 next week although if you click on the link you can see for yourself why I am so incredibly proud to Chair this Board.
Tomorrow evening, after Shabbat, we celebrate the birthday of Ella, our beautiful 10 year old granddaughter. Ella, a Ninja aficionado, is currently obsessed with Italy so Rachel has made her a gorgeous pinata in the form of a huge Gelato cornet, the gelato itself in the national colours of Italy! Gosh my daughter never fails to amaze me!!
I think it is time to stop prattling on before you get fed up of me!
If there is one prayer which personifies those in the Concentration Camps, the invocation that they muttered with their very last breath – Shema Yisrael – Hear O Israel. Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot sings, with translation https://youtu.be/bnlvNYk7iLk
Each morning, as we wake, we thank the Almighty for giving us back our souls, for waking, for continuing with our lives, something that as we remember today, we must show gratitude. The prayer, Modeh Ani, is sung here by Omer Adam in a beautiful Eastern rendition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQVM8Was3vk
Finally, to end on a happy note! My thanks to Don and Karen for this weeks song. Never judge a book by its cover eh? Arieh and Gil Gat are brothers and sang on Israel’s “Rising Star” much to the delight of the panel. I absolutely love it! https://youtu.be/YwWFA04sqEo
And so we come to another Shabbat, another weekend, another Sunday, a weekend to give thanks for our freedom, our lives, and to fight for what we feel is right and teach our children why it is important to fight for the rights of others. As I have said before, irrespective of which direction you pray and on which day, I wish you a peaceful weekend and love of family and friends.