The view from my veranda

Tragedy, Guns, Litzman, Tisha b’Av and Dr. Malcolm Hoenlein


9th August 2019 – the eighth day of the Hebrew month of Av.


Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Today is the day before a very important date in the Jewish Calendar, Tisha b’Av, the national day of mourning. More of that later.


Yesterday we woke to the horrific news that a student of a Hesder Yeshiva, just days after enlisting to the IDF, had been stabbed to death on his way back from Jerusalem to his Yeshiva. He went to buy some books as end of year gifts for his Rabbis, including David Grossman’s latest offering. When he got off the bus and began to walk up the path to the Yeshiva he was followed and attacked. Such a tragedy; such hatred. Dvir Sorek z”l, poet and nature lover, was just a few days before his 19th birthday; ironically his grandfather was killed in a terror attack 19 years ago. Dvir, may your soul rest in peace and your family be consoled among the mourners of Zion.


Politicians who crave the headlines and make most noise are not necessarily the effective hard-working politicians who make the important decisions in our lives. 41 Democratic politicians led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer met with the Prime Minister in the Foreign Office and applauded his speech – although admittedly they also clapped when Abbas left the room in Ramallah! Nonetheless, 41 men and women who represent you came to see for themselves what really happens here.


We had high expectations of Rabbi Yaakov Litzman when he became the Minister of Health in Israel. A member of the Ger Hassidim, a man of principle we thought; a spiritual man who cares deeply for the well-being of Israelis, we thought. It came as a surprise when he was told by his Rebbe that he couldn’t be a Minister in a Government of Israel when they don’t recognise the State of Israel until the Meshiach (Messiah) arrives and he accepted the directive and became a Deputy Minister with the powers of a Minister. I was concerned that anyone who does as he is told in that manner should still be in charge of Israel’s medical services but – give the man a chance. Then it happened – Malka Leifer, a teacher and member of the Ger Hassidim was accused of being a paedophile and sexually molesting girls under her care in Australia. Brave young Australian women came forward and gave evidence against Leifer and the Australian Authorities asked for her extradition for trial in Australia. Deputy Minister Litzman coerced staff in the Ministry and succeeded in having Leifer declared insane and unfit for trial or extradition. Litzman is now being indicted for coercion and interfering in the progress of justice.,7340,L-5464832,00.html


Patrick Crusius despite his frequent racist, white supremacist rantings on Facebook, was able to obtain a semi-automatic weapon. Since I am frequently told I don’t understand I give you the words of my friend Doron who is both American and owns a gun.

The value of a life
In almost every serious conversation spawned by the horrific massacres plaguing the US and other parts of the world, someone inevitably brings up the example of Israel and that people in Israel carry rifles wherever they go… The point is that despite the proliferation of Israeli society with high powered tactical weapons, including M16s, M4s, Tavors & Galils (no AR15s) and usually carrying at least two 30 round clips of high velocity 5.56 NATO rounds (not 2.23 hunting rounds), you almost never hear of crimes and massacres using these weapons. Stop for a second and think why that is. These are rifles more dangerous than those used in most US catastrophes… but it is not the weapon that is at fault. Am I implying there are no deranged, angry madmen in Israel? No, not by a long shot (pun intended)! In fact, the great majority of these rifles are carried by youngsters, 18 – 22 years old, still maturing and with hormones raging. The difference is first and foremost in values and education. Take the mere name of Israel’s army… the Israel DEFENCE Force. That alone says it all. Furthermore, Israel’s Rules of Engagement are the strictest and most restricting of any army in the world, often even endangering soldiers because of the risk of civilian injuries or worse. From early childhood, Israeli kids are taught a principle called “purity of the weapon” (tohar haneshek) according to which the weapon is for defensive use only, and even then the stops and stages before opening fire are exhaustive. In high school, in the years leading up to military service, the youngsters are introduced to weapons for the first time, and while they do also learn to fire the weapon, the emphasis is on teaching gun safety, respect for the weapon, respect for each other, and above all, respect for human life. The fact is, Judaism and Israel exist by a principle that holds human life at the highest value, above all else. “One who saves even one life, has saved a world entire.” It is values like these that are sorely missing in the US and much of the rest of the world today, and that void is the root cause of our problem. People do not respect each other, do not respect themselves, have lost all humility and have lost their connection to humanity. People have lost respect for human life and thereby lost their anchor in differentiating right from wrong. Any proposed solution that doesn’t directly address that is simply sticking a temporary band-aid to cover the real problem, which will ultimately raise its head again soon after, uglier and more vicious than ever before.


What can I possibly say about Dr. Malcom Hoenlein that will not appear to be an exaggeration? Malcolm, as Executive VP of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations since 1986, has done more to shape the form of US policies toward Israel than any other individual. In most Administrations he had “the back door key” to the White House – but did so quietly. His Conference of Presidents meetings in Jerusalem always brought discussions of a high quality and speakers who would only be heard due to Malcolm’s determination. Malcolm has finally stepped down from the Conference but knowing him he has many plans up his sleeve. For me he has been friend, taking me on incredible adventures, always showing me new things and allowing me to be privy to secrets simply because he knew I would be discreet. Malcolm, please stay in touch, you have enriched our lives and we love you.


It has been a busy week, quite apart from unpacking from Montenegro, washing and repacking for Rhodes, my few days was just being with Zvi. However Zvi had many meetings, the best with Bougie Herzog, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency to discuss many concerns. As Zvi arrive Bougie told everyone in the office that his entire career began when Zvi invited him, aged 24, to go on a speaking tour of the UK; that Zvi was the one that started the Fight for Soviet Jewry. Zvi also learned something new – it was Bougie’s grandfather, Rabbi Herzog, who wrote the Prayer for the State of Israel which was later set to music.


We managed to meet up with Sam Bettsak who is here studying at Pardes. Sam spends as much time as possible in Israel, at times teaching English to underprivileged children, and we are thrilled that he is in Jerusalem this time. We met him atop the Mamilla Mall at the Happy Fish Restaurant. I don’t know how many of you have been to the Mamilla Mall but it is one of three night-time hubs of activity in Jerusalem. Activities every evening, restaurants and stores, Tuesday night is folk dancing night (Rikudayam) and what stands out is the fact that Jews and Moslems of every level of religiosity, mix and wander together having fun!


Another hive of activity is the First Station, originally the Ottoman and British train station of Jerusalem and I went there last night with Irit Lev who now lives in Tel Aviv and she was amazed at the fun of the restaurants, since it was Thursday a band was playing the music of the 60’s and 70’s, Tuesday is Old Israeli Movies, Wednesday Israeli songs and so on.. great fun!


Irit Lev came to stay for a couple of days while Zvi is away and yesterday we went to the Israel Museum. It was my first real outing and I was excited anew at the scope and quality of the exhibits. Admittedly I only managed three but they are incredible. I revisited both the Veiled Women of the Holy Land and Manifesto with Cate Blanchett playing 15 different roles on 15 different screens, 15 different scenarios and finally a fascinating behind the scenes look at the work of Gilad Efrat


29 years ago yesterday, I walked into the offices of Keren Hayesod in Jerusalem to learn how to do my job as Director of Women’s Division UK properly, since training wasn’t on the cards there. It was a life changing moment. I met the man who would open my mind, my heart and my life. It was the moment I met my Zvi.

Zvi Raviv I don’t regret a day of our life together. I think we make a terrific team! You gave me the space to be the person my parents raised me to be. You gave me back my confidence and I did for you. You may have escaped yet another anniversary but next week, when you get back from Rhodes we can celebrate 29 years since our first date!!


What is the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av? Why is it so important that the three weeks leading up to it we do not buy new things or celebrate? Why do we fast? Why do we not go to the sea or swim? What makes it the day of mourning? Well, in 1313 BCE the spies returned from scouting the Promised Land and with bad reports which angered G-d and the Jews had to wander for 40 years in the desert as a consequence; both the Temples were destroyed on this date, one by the Baylonians and one by the Romans;  the Bar Kochba Revolt failed and the Jews of Betar were butchered; the expulsion of the Jews from England and the expulsion from Spain after the Inquisition, all, yes all of these tragedies fell on one date, the 9th of Av – Tish b’Av. However, never defeated, as we end the fast we say “Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.”


Shalva, what an incredible place, amazing people and here is the song “One Day” from the young people of Shalva.


We are taught to gives thanks to G-d each morning as we wake. Modeh Ani lefanecha – I give thanks before You. Omer Adam sings the prayer that I said each morning with my parents.


Finally, the Revivo Project sings a medley of wonderful Shabbat songs with a Sefardi leaning. I love it!! Sorry no translation but that doesn’t stop you singing along


Our veranda seems empty without Zvi, in fact the house seems empty but I am thrilled he has gone away with his children and grandchildren in the knowledge that I am well taken care of under the watchful eye of Rachie and good friends. This afternoon I am going to Givat Ze’ev for Shabbat with the Barashi family, Rachel, Igal, Yosef, Talia and Ayala, a Shabbat of contemplation and prayer, no cellphones, no television, no radio, just wonderful food, gorgeous conversations and prayer. A real Shabbat. I love it!


I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, a city so beautiful it takes my breath away.


With love, as always