The view from my veranda

Tolerance, Brain Freeze and Mahane Yehuda

23rd July 2021

Good Shabbat, a blessed Eid al Adha, have a safe and beautiful weekend

I hate saying “I told you so” but sadly the raucous parties, pubs and huge crowds at the Euro 2020 football games, especially the final, have put Britain, or rather England, into the red. Thanks to the idiocy of the open, no mask policy I cannot go to my incredible grandson Zachary’s bar mitzvah. Not that our former policy helped here! We are also slowly creeping toward the red after a wave of Covid brought in by travelers who did not isolate. When will we be rid of this pandemic? Partly when  everyone is inoculated, when a green pass is the only way to go to malls, cinemas, theatres, wedding halls or fly so that the utter selfishness of the anti-vax idiots begins to hurt them. When governments worry less about votes and care more for voters. Populism kills. There is good news on the horizon though. Israel is to become the first country in the world to test the Oravax oral COVID-19 vaccine

Prime Minister Bennet spoke out about the major problem of non-acceptance of Haredi, Orthodox, and any other strains of Judaism. It is far from a one sided lack of tolerance of which we feel the results every day. Our young people are moving away from traditional Judaism and that is very sad. It started with the Greeks, the Hellenists, who recognised that if you ban Shabbat, kosher food and circumcision the Jews will disappear on their own.

I think Bennet is right. It doesn’t comfort me but his assessment is correct. The Haredi community bears a huge responsibility by taking Judaism so far that it is unattainable to the ordinary mortal so the vast majority simply moves away; parents are responsible for a lack of example and finally the State of Israel, in teaching Judaism, taught a cold history lesson rather than a warm, caring Jewish lesson. The draconian control of the Rabbinical Courts has driven many to either marry abroad or hold hippy style weddings and too many Tel Avivim have decided not to perform brit milah (circumcision) on their baby boys. The non-acceptance of the Haredi community for anyone who is not like them (and vice versa) has created a vacuum. Thus, Bennet is right, the need for a “lighter” Judaism, a more forgiving Judaism, has become abundantly clear, otherwise we lose our youngsters right left and centre.

The situation on the egalitarian, interdenominational area of the Kotel (Western Wall) last week ON TISHA B’AV, when an extreme Haredi group tried to take it over, was an example of the need for change. Sinat Hinam – unwarranted hatred – brought us down too many times

Who would have thought that ice-cream with strange names and flavours would become a top political and diplomatic story? Ben and Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever, had a “brain-freeze” gave in to BDS and risked the jobs of hundreds of workers and denied both Israelis and Palestinians in the disputed territories the right to a bit of sweetness in their lives! The PC misreading of the situation here in Israel is staggering. Far more disturbing is that the Board wanted to boycott all of Israel. The problem is that if one boycotts the Israeli company it will fold and jobs will be lost. The Israeli company is a separate entity. Ess mein kinder!

The Olympics in Japan. The Japanese government took the unpopular but brave decision not to allow any crowds to any of the competitions – pure sport without interference or fear. It is the 17th time Israel has competed in Olympic events and this year we have sent 89 athletes of every category to Tokyo. Today Zvi’s parliament will be watching the opening here in our lounge, while munching on pizza and I will ask them to stand for a few moments in memory of the Israeli athletes murdered by the PLO at the Munich Olympics. Of the top hopes for Gold Blue-and-white judoka Sagi Muki represents one of the country’s top medal chances in Tokyo and is a perfect ambassador off the mat as well. Linoy Ashram is not only number one in the world rankings in rhythmic gymnastics but is at the very top of her form. In fact, we have a really outstanding team. May our athletes come home with lots of medals, pride in their achievements and camaraderie that is only achieved in sport. It is worth remembering that Jewish sportsmanship began with the Maccabiah Games where young Jews from around the world compete.

Yesterday Rachel and I went to Mahane Yehuda Market! For the first time in so very long we masked up and took our granny shopping trolley and set off, filled with excited expectation. Our first stop was at Tsidkiyahu’s to say hello and wonder at the huge array of olives, roasted garlic and onion, salads of every nature and of course the pre-Shabbat fare of kubehs, “sigarim”, meat patties and vegetarian delights – have you ever noticed that apart from the wonderful fresh chopped salad, most Middle Eastern food is fried?. We then spent the next two hours just wandering, trying not to trip people up with the shopping trolley, enjoying the huge display of grapes, piled high creating a wonderful display, sweet fresh figs, huge and juicy, incredible ostrich-egg sized mangoes, black shiny cherries sold by the kilo and the atmosphere. I visited the man who Ruth and Yozek recommended for the best herring and bought Zvi a treat. It was like going on vacation, exploring and finding new things without the danger of flying!

There is no market in the world with the atmosphere of Mahane Yehuda. I don’t know if it is the rainbow of humanity, each and every colour complementing the other or the cacophony of fifty languages all at full volume! The friendliness of the costermongers, shouting their wares and in response to my “Can I have a kilo of cherries” always seem to add those few extra grammes and when asked to take them off respond “Why? Would you deny the children those extra few cherries? Take them and enjoy” I never have the desire to argue…..after why argue with logic like that? I was asked why so many shoppers and costermongers were without masks and the answer is twofold – one it is debatable as to whether the covered section of the market is indoors and secondly – we are at a very high percentage of inoculation. Anyway, I was masked, Rachel was masked, we had fun and that is a rarity in these days!!!

As you know, Zvi cannot resist yet another challenge, another opportunity to help. His latest is called Hakol Zahav – which can be translated as either as Everything is Gold or the Golden Voice. The sole purpose of the group is to sing for the lonely, elderly or sick. Steven Linde, the wonderful former editor of the Jerusalem Post who now edits the Jerusalem Report (well worth a visit to the website) put an article all about them in last week’s issue.

So I’d better sort out the “nasherie” for Zvi’s parliament friends and also make sure I have everything for tomorrow’s brunch with friends, here on our veranda. It will almost certainly be with all sorts of quiches (one of the latest Israeli staple foods) tons of cut veggies, cheeses, and the fun of being with people that one hasn’t managed to see for months. We are in the season of the water melon, those wonderful, quenching, sweet, oh so Israeli fruits, different to the Greek ones, mostly without seeds. Watermelon goes so well with feta or Bulgarian cheeses……yum. Today is men, in fact men watching sport, so popcorn, dips, pizza and chocolate cake!!! Tomorrow is another matter…..I need to think healthy! I love entertaining, love a home filled with people, laughter and chatter…….within the limits of Covid. Me, I’ll be here, talking to you rather than in there with the men.

So, what have you been up to over the last week? I’d love to hear from you, know that you are alright; find out what is happening in other countries and how you and your families are passing the strange times. I am spending lots of time making our veranda beautiful, it pleases me and is so good for the soul. I am extra thrilled by the little lemon tree my Cardiff girlfriends bought me years ago. It really wasn’t happy in our old home, I fought and fought to keep it alive……here it is thriving!!  Believe it or not there are dozens and dozens of baby lemons and now it also has fresh blossom… happy!

So what tunes do you want? That’s another thing I want you to tell me… a “Desert Island Discs” on the Veranda!!!

This song was beautifully received by all of you so I’m putting it again. We Got This – Katan Aleinu

Yitzchak Rabin had a terrible voice, he grunted rather than sang but, if we all think back to that dreadful day, that day in November, this was the last song he sang. Shir le Shalom – Song for Peach. Sung here by Shiri Maimon

Uzi Hitman wrote the music to the prayer Adon Olam. There are many versions but this is the favourite!

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom, a day of remembering that we are all one people, irrelevant of our ways of expressing our beliefs…..we are all here on this earth and the way each and every one of us behaves to the others changes us all, one by one.

With much love from Zvi and I, here overlooking Jerusalem, looking out to the world.