The view from my veranda

Tradition, Terrorism, Tears and Chanuka

26th November 2021

Shabbat Shalom everyone! How are you? I looked at today’s date and I couldn’t help but wonder where the year has gone! It strikes me that this time last year we had no concept that Covid would still be running our lives!

29th of November 1947 was one of the most important, if not the most important date in the Jewish calendar, yet one rarely acknowledged, if its significance is even realised. On the 29th of November, 1947 the United Nations voted on Resolution 181, the partition of Mandate Palestine into two entities, an Arab entity and a Jewish entity – a two state solution indeed. . Until I read Brenda Katten’s excellent article on the subject, in today’s Jerusalem Post, I hadn’t realised the extent of Canada’s part in the Partition Plan; we tend to speak only of Canada’s more vociferous neighbour. I quote “Canada was a key player in the framing of the history-changing UN General Assembly Resolution 181. Ivan C. Rand, a Supreme Court justice, was central in drafting the UN’s Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Canadian diplomat Lester B. Pearson (later to become Canada’s prime minister and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate) was appointed chair of the UN subcommittee responsible for creating a detailed plan of partition; historians credit Pearson with securing a positive vote at the UN. Many Zionists saw Rand and Pearson as Canada’s version of Balfour.”

As we have come to realise, the passing of 181 created an angry response from our Arab neighbours who even then refused to accept any compromise, and so the scene was set for the next 75 years. This week Hamas decided that the British decision to declare Hamas as a terrorist organisation, thus closing the faucet on funding from British citizens, was a lst straw for the leaders of Hamas, their funding and political clout fading into worthless non-existence are using their only weapon to place themselves back in the public eye – violence – terrorism. A young man from a fine family came from South Africa as a volunteer to the IDF, served admirably and chose to guide young people around the Kotel Plaza and its historic sites. He was walking to work when a teacher of Islamic studies and Arabic under the auspices of the Jerusalem Municipality (upholding our determination to enable religious freedom) wnet up to the Temple Mount and came down with an automatic weapon and Eliyahu David Kay, 25, was killed. Such hatred, such an insane need to kill anyone who does not think like you; a total lack of tolerance for anyone who does not pray in the same direction, having been taught to hate for their whole lives. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am so involved in education, in teaching children to accept those who are different. I know this is far from the first time I write about Impact-se but we are changing the world, schoolbook by schoolbook, school by school, country by country. Please take 2 minutes to look

It’s almost Chanuka! Although we are taught about the miracle of the amphora of oil that lasted for eight days, ti really isn’t just about sufganiyot (doughnuts) and gifts – any more than Christmas is about trees and presents. The Greek soldiers who ruled this region were tired, they wanted to go home, they’d had enough of killing and fighting so they thought up a wily plan. If they banned our laws and traditions we would be just like them. Without dietary laws, Shabbat, circumcision etc we would not be Jews any longer and they could relax, call us Hellenists and go home.  However, there were some pesky Jews who simply wouldn’t accept this travesty, who saw our very identity disappearing and although their level of zealotry was questionable they decided to fight. For the first time in history a people fought to retain their identity – a religion fought to retain its identity. Now that is the real miracle of Chanuka.

My family is wonderfully diverse. We have Secular, Orthodox, Haredi, Masorti (traditional) , Christians, Quakers, Agnostics and Atheists – and we all respect and accept each other and each other’s beliefs and get on famously! This week, in our wonderful neighbourhood, the local synagogue invited any and all children and parents to a Hanukah Party (see even the spelling of Chanukka is diverse) and several secular women objected suggesting it was “kfiaya datit” religious imposition. Have we reached a situation similar to Hellenism?

If it is nearly Chanukah it is surely close to Christmas which is some ways has suffered the same fate as Chanuka – ringing it down to a tree, fairy lights and gifts, gifts gifts. It saddens me that the beauty of who we are and what our festivals mean is slowly getting lost in our materialistic society. Ask the Christians of Gaza (and the PA) what their identity means. Israel has just given permits to the last remnants of the once thriving Christian community of Gaza to come to Israel to celebrate Christmas. From there they can go to Bethlehem, to Manger Square to pray. The world is so busy with the “Israel/Palestine Conflict” that the oppressed Christians are forgotten. Perhaps we should remember the story behind Thanksgiving in the USA. Again it has nothing to do with pumpkin pie and roast turkey – those who left Plymouth in search of a new life in the New World were oppressed Christians! This Sunday, the 28th of November is the first Sunday of Advent – may it be blessed for Christians all over the world

President Isaac Herzog spent much of last week in the UK. He met with Prince Charles in his private home, with Boris Johnson and with the Jewish community. We are very lucky to have a man who is able to communicate on an equal standing with his British counterparts (indeed all English speaking leaders) since, although he was born in Israel, his family came from Ireland. Having been the World Chairman of the Jewish Agency where he did an outstanding job of restoring the purpose of the Agency after years of neglect, he really understands Diaspora Jewry and our mutual relationship. This provides a natural Segway to the lovely news that former President Ruvi Rivlin, so brokenhearted after the love of his life, his Nehama, passed away, has found new love. I wish him – them many wonderful years together. Nehama is unquestionably looking down and blessing her husband’s new found happiness.

This has been a week of lovely friends, events and deep sadness.

The week began with an exceptional show put on by Zvi’s choir in a Jerusalem Theatre near Shouk Mahane Yehuda. Songs from the old days, songs of Israeli Trios with wonderful explanations and film clips of the original performances. The choir sang beautifully, Liron Mussachi danced like a dream and of course, never willing to miss an opportunity to shine, Zvi appeared in a dress, brightly coloured socks and his bright red size 50 sneakers for one of the songs! The full house sang along, clapped and gave them an amazing ovation. Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion came to introduce and congratulate the choir on their achievements and to give Zvi a hug on stage…….”even though he didn’t vote for me”!

On the evening of the 23rd I lit the memorial candle for my beautiful son Daniel, Dr. Daniel Cammerman.  Incredibly 2 years have gone by in a cloud of Covid, but the disbelief remains. During the day I went to Rachel’s to try and help her prepare a “seudah” a meal in honour of Daniel at the study centre where her husband learns and then two of my amazing childhood friends took me out for lunch, not to eat but to show me their love. Lighting the candle seemed so strange. Parents should never have to light a memorial candle for their children, it just isn’t natural. The next morning Rachel and I were back on Zoom for morning service held in Gideon’s home and conducted by Philip, Daniel, Gideon and Rachel’s father. As always Gideon found the words that I cannot, his gentle eloquence when speaking of his big brother brought tears to my eyes. The caring of special friends who called me and spoke lovingly helped, they called “le nachem” to console.

Yesterday we had the joy of a visit from Zvi’s cousin Yossi (Joseph) Ribak and his lovely wife Rachel. There is nothing so heartwarming as sitting around the kitchen island with a bowl of home-made chicken soup and putting the world to rights!!

Friends are beginning to arrive in Israel! Yes of course it involves paperwork and tests; but Israel now allows tourists in with an antigen test instead of a PCR, if you come from a green country of course. Thrilled that two of Daniel’s very best friends are here right now, the incredible “Poodle” from the UK and Eli and his entire family (children included) from the USA, having taken advantage of the more open doors.

Tonight we have Zvi’s boys, Amiad and Leor and their families for Shabbat Dinner, a small affair since there will be only 12 of us but the change in the weather dictates that we will be indoors, for the first time since arriving in the new apartment. I just hope that the extending table opens up….we haven’t tried it yet!!

Tomorrow we will go to visit our neighbours, a young couple that have really impressed me and then friends are coming for tea. On Sunday, the first night of Chanuka, the entire choir of 30 members and their spouses or partners are coming to us for the lighting. Everyone is triple vaccinated so there is no fear, and we will sing into the night accompanied by the choirmaster Meron, and of course eat… Jewish affair is considered a party without a ton of food….. however, I have been banned from cooking by the organising committee (Merav in particular) apart from my famous veggie soup which contains everything but the kitchen sink!

In a few minutes I will be interviewed for an oral history project of Welsh Jewry. The usual reaction when I am asked where I emigrated from is “Oh you mean England” I then have to explain that one does not tell a Scotsman or a Welshman that they are English – not if you don’t want a history lesson thrown back at you! Yes I know, my parents were both Polish but Wales opened its heat and gates and gave safe haven to many Jews who fled Eastern Europe and of course during WW2 when the world shut its gates any came to Wales – to the UK.

For our music selection this week I found a new Koolulam!! It’s called Hope – enjoy

Shalva is so close to my heart for many reasons. This week the British Shalva Week took place and I am proud to say that my children’s father and his wife, Philip and Barbara Cammerman, took the Shalva Challenge and raised money from family and friends, money which he dedicated to Dr Dan’s Room.  I also want to thank the lovely Rachael Risby Raz and her husband for their amazing contribution. It seems only appropriate to include a marvellous Shalva style rendition of “Happy”

I couldn’t decide whether to put the next song on this week’s missive. I think it is important, I also think it expresses and deals with the dilemma of so many young Jewish people, in this case Americans. Y-Studs sing

So that’s it! Another week has passed and brought its joy, laughter and tears. Tonight as I light the Shabbat Candles I will think of those I love. When Daniel’s best friend Justin and his amazing wife Daniella began a tradition of lighting brightly coloured Shabbat Candles in Daniel’s honour (I still cannot write z”l) I began to do so too. He would have loved it. I can imagine his big, brightly coloured, Yemenite Kippa, which conveniently stayed on his beautiful bald head, and his delight as the glow of the candles shone back from his face. Traditions bring family closer, those with us, those before us and those after us. It’s what holds us together. TRADITION!

Shabbat Shalom from wonderfully sunny, crisp, autumnal Jerusalem. I wish you  a beautiful weekend.