The view from my veranda

Virus, Votes and Vision.

28th February 2020


Good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom!


The only good thing about the Corona virus is that nobody is talking about Bibi!!


Did you know the reason we say “Bless you” when someone sneezes? In the Middle Ages, during the Great Plague, if someone sneezed then they were blessed becaue chances are they were infected with the plague. Now we have wonderful Alco-Gel and learned to sneeze into our elbows but nonetheless kissing and hugging is becoming a rarity! We have run out of facemasks and I cannot decide if this is a political ploy to scare the living daylights out of us; to ruin trade with China or encourage more research into immunization before the next round of influenza or MARS (MERSA). All I know is that I long for the days when, as a child, the Corona man came around with his drinks float full of bottles of sweet pop with names like “American Cream Soda” and “Dandelion and Burdock”. Oh well that’s another childhood memory ruined!!


Israeli scientists are just 3 weeks away from developing a vaccine


Zvi just came in to tell me of a fascinating story from the Shoah that relates to the Corona Virus!

Rome, 1943,  Albert Kesserling, was the German commander in charge of the Nazi troops in Rome, and Herbert Kappler  was the city’s SS chief of police. Under the direction of Professor Giovanni Borromeo, a man who’d previously refused to join the Fascist party, the Catholic hospital had already become known as a safe haven for Jews, allowing doctors like Vittorio Sacerdoti, a 28-year-old Jewish man who had lost his previous job due to his religion, to work under false papers in the hospital. Borromeo had also installed an illegal radio transmitter and receiver in the hospital basement, which was used to communicate with local partisans.  Professor Borromeo had a brilliant idea, together with Dr. Sacerdoti, they decided that any Jew who came to the hospital seeking refuge would be admitted as a new patient and declared to be suffering from a highly contagious and deadly disease known as ‘Il Morbo di K’, aka Syndrome K or ‘K’ Syndrome, so named for the two Nazi Officers! Their “patients were instructed to cough violently whenever the Germans came near to investigate the hospital until the Germans feared the outcome of this deadly “K Syndrome” thus saving tens, possibly hundreds of Jewish lives.


Going back to childhood memories, once upon a time I thought that politicians were wisely chosen leaders who only wanted the best for the country, whatever country, kind of altruistic parents – well, that bubble burst long ago when I discovered the truth about the “honest reporting” of the BBC, but at least I thought that despite megalomania the leaders really intended leading our countries wisely, whether the policy we voted for or the policy we didn’t. Another bubble burst! There are some leaders who actually set out to improve the current situation of their constituents, but they are few and far between and usually unpopular because change is never welcome and usually hurts!


In just 3 days Israel goes to the polls for the third time. It is ludicrous, it is painful, it wastes billions of shekels that should go toward health care and pensions and all because one person refuses to relinquish power. We could have had a new government nearly 2 years ago, a centrist, logical coalition of Likud, Blue and White and probably Liberman and Emet giving us the most stable government for a very long time, but ego denied us the right to stability because, quite rightly, Blue and White, Liberman and Emet refused to sit in a coalition with a Prime Minister who would spend several days a week in court defending himself on serious corruption charges. The situation is even more distressing because he refused immunity from prosecution by stepping down. Remember, it was Benjamin Netanyahu that declared that Ehud Olmert must resign his Premiership because he could not lead the country and fight his legal battles.

Oh well, Monday will tell us if we are truly democratic of ruled by a corrupt government.


Talking of Democrats with a big D, what on earth is going on in the Democratic debates? Watching the vitriol fly I think I prefer our insane politics to the USA!! Bernie Sanders is frightening! It isn’t only his misinterpretation and misrepresentation of Israel, it’s his praise of Castro and Venezuela, deeply reminiscent of Ken Livingstone and, yes, of Jeremy Corbyn! In fact little sense was spoken at the debates, certainly no manifesto declaring their intentions regarding the future of the United States………. and a great deal of nasty, demeaning comments about Bloomberg’s wealth!


This week began with 3 days of meetings of the Jewish Agency, planning, discussion, informative lectures and debates. The various meetings were conducted with a new format which was both inclusive and hopeful. Instead of being told what the decisions were, each table was given a chart and asked to write their suggestions on post-it notes which were then taken back to the office for consideration. I didn’t take part in the majority of meetings, in fact very few, because I was busy trying to do “as the doctor ordered” and walk, walk, walk. I succeeded, helped by lovely girlfriends who walked with me. Our time in Tel Aviv was made all the more worthwhile by the presence of our dearest friend Dr. Kimball Taylor who comes all the way from Cardston, Alberta, Canada to be with us. I was deeply impressed by the quality of the attendees and of course Zvi’s input was, as always, relevant, coherent and impressive. The two Danny L’s, Liwerant (Mexico) and Lamm (Australia), showed great leadership, speaking up and speaking out.


The highlight of our 3 day stay in Tel Aviv was undoubtedly, incredibly, the glorious visit of Kinneret Chaya to the hotel. Since she now has 4 children and is studying, our best efforts of getting together with her and Rachel always seem to fail, so I was thrilled beyond words as I saw her walk across the lobby of the Hilton! She is even more beautiful than ever, her scars really have become stars. She is just a miracle. In case you are new to my missives, let me explain just who this incredible young woman is.


As always Rabbi Jeremy Rosen teaches me something new, a different aspect of Judaism, every week.


This morning, Rachel, Zvi and I put aside our Shabbat preparations for a very important family occasion – the Brit Mila of little Noam Moshe Daren. My relationship with the Darens is long and loving, we are family and friends and I love each and every one of them! The Brit Milah (bris or circumcision) is an ancient tradition bringing 8 day old boy children into the fold of Judaism. It has had a bad press of late, mostly by the Europeans but quite apart from the religious aspect it has many health aspects too. Here Prof Shimon Glick explains


Tonight we are returning to our usual routine! Zvi’s boys and families are coming for supper and thanks to my wonderful freezer full of my favourite soups, quiches and lasagna carefully prepared before my surgery the table will be suitably groaning with food! I actually made two types of soup, this week my orange soup for the children and cauliflower soup for the adults, of course with the inevitable Osem soup almonds for everyone! Main course? Fresh salmon and roasted veggies for the adults and for Yonatan, veggie lasagna for the children and loads of fresh salads. Dessert will be made by Leor’s girls. It will be wonderful to get back to singing the Kiddush together, led by Saba Zvi, and the children joining in the blessing of the Challah which is then “broken and thrown” as tradition demands. It is said that rather than have the challah portion pass from hand to hand the Rabbi would throw it to each student of member of the family straight from his freshly washed hands.


This has been a week of family celebrations. In far off New Zealand,  my beautiful great-niece Olivia married Shaun, her Prince Charming, with 4 generations of Olivia’s family flying out to be with her. Lucky lucky Olivia and Shaun………wish my siblings has been at our and Rachel’s weddings. Mazal Tov to all!!!


Anyone who thinks that the only mention of many colours in the Bible is Josephs coat, think again. As the children of Israel were becoming increasingly disgruntled with the apparent lack of progress toward the Promised Land God gave Moses instruction to build a Sanctuary made of thirteen materials—gold, silver and copper; bluepurple and red-dyed wool; flax, goat hair, animal skins, wood, olive oil, spices and gems—out of which, G‑d says to Moses, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell amidst them.” This is the Torah reading for this week and it made me think that so many of the Jewish people are impatient and disgruntled, not understanding or following the path that is set out for us. Exodus – remember the one with Moses and the Exodus that brought us home, again.


Andinet means “together” in Amharic. The Andinet choir was founded as part of the “We are all Andinet” project at the Jewish Agency’s Haruv Absorption Center in Be’er Sheva. The project empowers newly-arrived immigrant children from Ethiopia by seeking out their special talents. This week they were a resounding success at the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors meetings as they sang “Shevet Achim v’Achyot – a Tribe of brothers and sisters”.


The one thing that holds us together as a people is tradition. The traditions of our forefathers, of our ancestors, the traditions that honour our parents and grandparents. Today we are trying so hard to play a different tune on our fiddles, perhaps with those tunes we cannot keep our balance of that ever fragile roof. No I’m not talking about the homemaker and the wage-earner but rather the beautiful traditions that all of us, man and woman, can keep. Although we were poor our path in life was so much easier, we were part of a kehilla, of a community. The voice of Chaim Topol and the magic of Yitzchak Perlman’s violin


So, almost Shabbes. Time to heat the oven, set the table and prepare for the arrival of the children. Today the sun is shining, the flowers peeking out in surprise. Narcissi, sweet smelling narcissi are bursting open and the grape hyacinth are poking through their winter green. The view is as breathtaking as ever and Jerusalem is slowly closing down, getting ready for Shabbat. The traffic going up to Gilo has already slowed as families scrub themselves clean and shining to match their homes and the aromas of 120 nations fills the air. I know that Shoshana made Kubeh Soup because she does it every week as she follows the Kurdish tradition of Friday lunch with the entire family – including Kubeh Soup!!! Michal has a mixture of her own Ashkenaz cuisine and her husband Kobi’s spicy Moroccan food where s although Chaim is Turkish Daisy is from Tunisia and her cooking matches her exotic traditions……… and so it goes, traditions.


I wish you a beautiful Shabbat, a good weekend with time to sit and talk around the family table – no cellphones to break the communication.


Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, with all our love