The view from my veranda

Tower Tragedy, Thoughts and Traditions

10th September 2021`

Shabbat Shalom! How are you? How was Rosh Hashana? Were you in closure or did you manage to be with at least some of your family and friends?

This is a very special Shabbat, called Shabbat Shuva or the Sabbath of the Return. Return to what? The Torah reading tells us that Moses, on his deathbed, spoke to the Children of Israel and told them that he knew that they would abandon their laws and traditions, after all, it wasn’t enough for them to have witnessed many miracles, they still worshipped the Golden Calf. So he knew that over the centuries and millennia, we would become ungrateful, recognise the troubles not the miracles and leave our faith, forget our laws and end our traditions, but he warned if that happens then God would abandon us. It sounds pretty harsh but on the other hand, right now it feels as though we have been abandoned and if so…………..

Although I write as a modern day member of the Children of Israel all of the above relates to all religions except one. Churches are empty, Christmas has become a gift-giving soul-less festivity….. we are all in the same boat. Actually, I am reminded of the old joke of the man sitting on his roof after a dreadful flood, begging for help. First a man comes in dinghy “Jump in I can save you” the man responds “No I’m waiting for God to come” Next a big log floats by with a note on it “Jump on I’ll take you to safety” the man responds “No, I’m waiting for God”. Finally a helicopter lowers a rope “Jump on I’ll take you to safety” the man responds “No, I’m waiting for God” Finally he arrives at the Pearly Gates and asks angrily why God didn’t save him “I sent you a dinghy, a log and a helicopter but you just didn’t want to recognise simple miracles” Today, we have miracles around us every day but thanks to overly PC attitudes or downright stubbornness we simply don’t believe them.

Today is the 10th of September 2021, 20 years ago today we were blissfully unaware of the enemy within, the enormous power of hatred that just one day later would explode into an inconceivable, unspeakable, horrendous act of disdain for Western civilization as thousands died before our very eyes. The 11th of September 2001 was not just the destruction of symbols, it was the end of innocence, but sadly not the end of naïveté. We still believe that if we are nice to people, even nations, it will be reciprocated…….. we still want to help those who need us.

On that subject; I am more than proud of the Impact Team (  since our reports are the basis of a very important statement made by the European Union this week. For the first time ever they recognised the anti-Semitism in the PA curriculum and state their intention to demand change. Remember the EU is the biggest funder of Palestinian education  If, as many, you hate links to reading material, this is an interview about a year ago, by our CEO Marcus Sheff so that you can hear his explanations of how this success came about.

So much has happened this week;

The entire country is in uproar over the escape of terrorists from a high security prison in what has been called the Israeli Shawshank Redemption, but sadly there is nothing redeeming about these 6 murderers. The prison guard literally fell asleep on duty but the tunnel was dug over a long period and the prison clearly not as secure as we thought.

Arizona has a law against boycotting countries (especially Israel) and this week they divested from Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory!

The new (and first) Bahraini Ambassador Khaled al-Jalahma has presented his papers to President Herzog and simultaneously, Gulfair has begun twice weekly flights to Bahrain, another huge advance since the Abraham Accords.

Time Out just declared Tel Aviv its 8th best city in the world for enjoyment…….that’s only because they are scared to admit that Jerusalem is Number 1!!

Ella just became a Captain in the IDF. That’s not surprising in itself  since there are many women officers in the IDF, but Ella, Captain Ella, is an Israeli Moslem woman who until a very few years ago didn’t know, let alone dream, that she could volunteer, enlist and become part of the defence of Israel. Today she is the new deputy spokesperson to the Arab community indeed the Arabic speaking world, and very proud to serve in the IDF.

So Rosh Hashana has passed, the time for spring cleaning our minds, our thoughts and our intransigence in our dealings with each other is slowly coming to an end. Yom Kippur, Yom ha Kippurim is nearly here and we must admit our frailties and determine to change. There is no easy way out for Jews, we can’t just admit our sins and be forgiven, we have to show that we really, but really intend changing, although there is also a get-out clause which involves throwing your sins to the fish…..more of that later. This year we didn’t have to walk far to synagogue, it was right here in the exquisite old building which is the centre and tourist attraction of our park, just two minutes from our building. The service was very different from our usual Ashkenaz manner of prayer, although basically the same words, the music very different with a clear Middle Eastern flavour which I love – my only problem is that my trusty prayer book, proudly sporting Daddy name in Mummy’s handwriting, was somewhat obsolete, especially the prayer for the Queen!! The men of the community were thrilled with Zvi’s voice, a great addition to the prayers!

On the days leading up to and including Rosh Hashana one can perform the “mitzvah” or honour, of Tashlich, or to throw. One goes to a body of water and “throws” one’s sins to the fish who then eat the sins. Many go to the sea, or to a lake or river but this may not actually be Jerusalem but it’s still in the Jerusalem Hills and pretty arid except for drip watering systems! Anyway, here at the impromptu synagogue they found an answer to the dilemma….a huge tub of water with 5 goldfish!! I loved it, the little children loved the goldfish and at the end all of the children got an ice-cream from one of our neighbours who filled the synagogue fridge!!

The eve of Rosh Hashana was excellent. We were 27 including several children and the menu was eclectic, trying hard to suit the varied age groups. Leor’s father in law Menashe read the blessings on the various foods, such as dates, leek, beans, beetroot and a sheep’s or lamb’s head (no I didn’t although I love the meaning “You should always lead with your head not your tail”) for which I used a finger puppet of a sheep! Of course Zvi sang the Kiddush (blessing over the wine), broke Challah, made the blessing over the apple and honey and the pomegranate seeds….in fact so many blessings for the coming year, may all of them come to fruition. Everyone was wowed by the 27 little Challot I made for each of the diners – made to Rachel’s very special challah recipe.

Rosh Hashana day held mixed feelings. I love the festival but this year it fell on Daniel’s birthday, a very tough date, a very tough day.

After Shabbat Zvi and I headed for Jerusalem and the beautiful Talbieh neighbourhood where one of the choir has a home with a gorgeous huge patio. It was the annual party for Zvi’s choir, Hakol Yachassi, and it was great fun, although hugging and kissing was off limits, but fun since everyone there had already had their third vaccination.

My dearest old friends Orly and Yossi came to visit unexpectedly (that’s the way I like it). It was such a joy for both Zvi and I to spend alone time with them. Such amazing people, the type of friends who even if there is an unintentional break in the conversation, you just continue as if no time has passed.

Traditionally this is the time one begs forgiveness for anything one may have done, intentionally or accidentally that may have hurt anyone. I believe it is an important expression of frailty and humility, and acceptance that we are not perfect and even those of us who wish everyone well slip up on occasion. So if I have hurt you in any way, please forgive me and I vow to do better in the future.

From everything I have written above there was only one song that suited – and for me only one man who can sing it. Chaim Topol has spent his adult life making the lives of others better, a good man, an appropriate man to play the part of Tevye the Milkman. His song “Tradition” tells the story that has deep relevance to my Judaism; it tells the story of keeping one’s balance while precariously playing a fiddle on the roof; it’s about “hemshechiut” continuation, handing our heritage down to our children – and yes I know the role playing is old fashioned!

Rabbi Benji, a teacher in far off Sydney Australia’s Moriah College, chose a beautiful song for his final lesson. The central words are “Our Father our king, our King, inscribe us in the book of good life. Our Father our King inscribe us, seal us in the book of redemption and salvation”.  Avinu Malkenu sung on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement here sung by 1,00 wonderful children.

Finally, I will not apologise for loving the music of Hakol Yachassi, the choir that Zvi founded many years ago. Every member has become a close friend, a support in bad times and a joy in good. Here they sing a medley of Jerusalem songs, after all, the very heart of all our traditions, invocations and dreams for 3,000 years, are right here, in the Golden City, Jerusalem  

I wish you Gmar Chatima Tova גמר חתימה טובה May all your sweetest dreams come true for a healthy and gentle year.

With all our love from Sheila and her Zvi