The view from my veranda

Tolerance and Terror in Tel Aviv

7th April 2022

Thursday night exactly one week before the Passover Seder!

It is a time of festivals, religious festivals, from Ramadan to Easter and Pascha/Passover/Pesach. Spring cleaning by any other name is in the air and the shops have scrubbed down their shelves and replaced the “regular” foodstuffs with Kosher for Passover goods. Even those of us who say “I don’t understand why tea or sugar or salt, in the exact same packaging as always, should need a label saying Kosher for Passover – but I buy them anyway, because I would never give as guest anything but the genuine article. The promise of family gatherings and the scent of cleaning materials barely cover the finagling of politics. Idit Silman, a right-wing member of the current government decided to find a timely excuse to break away and resign from the coalition, the question of whether or not one should be allowed to bring non-Kosher for Passover food into hospitals over Passover. Her resignation letter was allegedly written for her by far-far- right MK Smotrich. Really? Why is it always just before a festival? Do they have to ruin everything? Of course the media immediately began with polls as to whether this government can continue as a minority government? who’s to blame? Will there be elections before we have finished counting the Omer (between Passover and Shevuout) the 49 days so similar to Lent? Of course the first thing that happened was a right wing demonstration and Mr Netanyahu, leader of the opposition, spoke publicly for the first time since the beginning of his trial!! What politician can refuse an opportunity to gloat I ask you?

That’s it I’ve had my moan with a groan. Now to better thoughts.

Out of tragedy good can come. When Druze policeman Amir Houri died in the Bnei Brak terror attack it really hit the heart of Israelis of every denomination and faith. Hundreds went to the funeral and the visitors to the Houri home have continued without stop. The family has been surrounded by those who wished to pay their respects and express their gratitude to this family who paid the ultimate price for their loyalty to our little country.

The media has made much of the “rioting” beside the Damascus Gate however those who regularly visit the area say that there are wonderfully decorated stalls with delicious foodstuffs for the worshippers to enjoy after sunset during Ramadan. As always it is the few, maybe 15 or 20 yobbos with trouble in their minds, having been inculcated with hate in the Mosques. Never ever paint everyone with the same brush. However, when I was sent a video of a young French Jew trying to escape a beating and fell to his death under the tram or the young thugs beating up young Jews in NYC, the Upper West Side, or London, it frightens me more than anything. When did it become dangerous to wear a kippa and why? Who are these thugs? Who is responsible for their hatred and what is being done about it?

Usually everything is blamed on “settlers” in the foreign media but this week I yet again understood that generalisation is a dangerous thing. I went to see Rachel and the girls in Givat Ze’ev, to the little open-air shopping area by the “Tahanat Delek” the petrol station. I love that the shoppers and owners alike are from every walk of life, Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis, Palestinians, everyone together just being, without friction, without anger, just being…..just being.

We know how to deal with our own region and as I have reported time and again, we are making great strides in changing the education of young people, taking hate out and putting tolerance in to their curriculum – and it is working, slowly, one child at a time, as more and more countries recognise that the hatred of the past cannot continue – and the schoolbooks were filled with hatred, not only of Jews but of all who did not follow the teachings of Islam. Now a new openness is coming to this region, women are no longer described as chattels; respect and tolerance toward “the other” is being taught; a far more moral approach is being taken toward non-believers and more and more countries are now demanding that the Palestinian Authority joins Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (yes really) Morocco and others in taking hatred out of their children’s schoolbooks. The latest news is that the EU is threatening to stop funding if they do not comply. Comply? They must make changes according to the Criteria of Tolerance in Education of UNESCO – all as a result of the reports compiled by Impact-se and the hard work of our CEO.

This Shabbat is called Shabbat ha Gadol, the Great Shabbat or the Important Shabbat. As with everything from the Torah the interpretation is open to discussion. The Torah reading is about the Plagues that the Almighty brought down upon the Egyptians, indeed about the lambs that were bound before the plague of the First-born, which is thought to be the time that the Children of Israel began to understand that something important was about to happen, that they would soon be free from slavery.  I didn’t know that originally Christians celebrated Easter on Shabbat HaGadol, but then it was changed, and the Seder night was also changed from Shabbat haGadol. Gosh this is getting complicated! Anyway, one thing we are sure of is that the Last Supper was indeed the Seder Night, and basically we have so much in common, much more in common than that which separates us.

So let’s get back to traditions, it’s far less complicated than the history of who does what and when!

Homes are cleaned, not just cleaned but CLEANED! Surfaces are scrubbed, fridges emptied and cleaned, many putting aluminium foil to cover all surfaces so that kitchens look like spaceships! Once all the breadcrumbs have been swept out of the house, not under the carpet because that is outside being beaten to death! Then comes the exciting part, all the special foods that need to be bought and stored ready for the marathon cooking spurt just before the big night! This year we are just 20, I can’t remember everyone who is coming but I can promise they will have a place at our table. First comes the blessing over the wine and then we are off, recounting the story of Pharaoh, Egypt, Slaves, Moses and of course how the Almighty freed us. Before the food comes  the “Seder Plate”  , each of the six items has a special meaning and  receives a blessing, and of course the Matza or unleavened bread. This is followed by hard boiled eggs in salt water, yes really, it is actually delicious, before we dive into the food. There are so many traditions of what one can and cannot eat on Passover, totally dependent upon the lands of our dispersion. Ashkenazi Jews cannot eat any pulses whereas Eastern Jews can and do, which is cause of great jealousy on my part since my Ashkenazi soul cannot break with the traditions of my ancestors and eat a lovely dish of rice! After the meal one says grace and then the last part of the story and then…….we sing! The first song is the most important “Next Year in Jerusalem” the prayer of 2,000 years. Today it is sung to a joyful tune but once………

Tradition. It’s all about tradition. The traditions of our parents, their parents and their parents going back hundreds and hundreds of years. We are called upon to tell the story of our slavery, the interpretations of the Rabbis and Zvi always says that the most important characters of the story that we read are the Four Sons. It is the story of four young men “One who is wise, One who is wicked, One who is simple and one who does not know to ask.” Many say that these four sons represent the levels of knowledge of our religion. The wise son who learns and carries out the blessings; the wicked son who may have learned but derides anything to do with his religion; the simple son who is too busy with TikTok to bother with anything and the one who doesn’t know what to ask because nobody bothered to teach him. What do you think?

Tomorrow morning, really early, we are off for a break with the choir. We are going South, touring and learning, stopping for a picnic to which everyone brings sandwiches, quiches and cakes, then arrive at the Kibbutz Guest House well before Shabbat so that we can get ready for Shabbat Dinner. Shabbat Dinner with the choir (Hakol Yachassi) is fabulous. We are all old friends and we sing together, starting with Zvi’s Kiddush, singing traditional Shabbat songs. We then sit together and sing some more! On Shabbat morning we go for a walking tour coming back for a traditional lunch, then rest and come home after the Sabbath is out, after nightfall. It is a wonderful break from Passover preparations!

I’m going now, and I hope that I’ll manage to write to you next week since the Seder night is on Thursday, but I promise to try.

If not, I wish you a good Pesach, a Blessed Easter and a Holy Ramadan. I would be a fine world if only we could all accept and embrace our differences and recognise our similarities.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Remember to sing “Next Year in Jerusalem” with gusto and if you don’t know the melody…

There is a terror attack in Tel Aviv right at this moment, just as I was telling you of the joy of Passover. At least 5 people in serious condition as a terrorist began shooting in all directions. The shooter has not been caught yet. It was a beautiful balmy evening and many people were out enjoying the night life of Tel Aviv. I must go, without songs I fear. I must watch the reports, check on family and friends. Again, yet again, hate wins through. The security forces expected an attack in Jerusalem but yet again it is in the Central region. Why, why? Why can’t we all live together in peace?

With love