The view from my veranda

Vizier, Violence and Visions

10th December 2021

6th Tevet 5782

Shabbat Shalom! Just 14 days, a fortnight, until Christmas Eve! Where has this year gone?

I was looking at this week’s Torah reading and am convinced that every family should read it and interpret its message for our own family and friends. We all know about Joseph’s jealous brothers throwing him into a pit and his sojourn in Egypt, but few think about what followed. When famine hit their homeland (yes we all know where that is) Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt begging for help. They didn’t recognise their brother who was now a fine aristocratic adult and he admittedly taunted them and demanded the imprisonment of his younger brother Benjamin, but when it came to the crunch, when elder brother Judah begs for Benjamin’s release, Joseph reveals his identity and asked just one question “Is my father still alive”? It’s all about family, forgiveness and again family. Joseph promised to save his entire tribe from famine and his father Jacob came to Egypt with all his sons and their families, 70 in all, and Joseph gave them the fertile land of Goshen, a gift to the children of Israel (Jacob’s other name) to thrive and grow into a fine nation. Joseph forgave his brothers, I believe for the sake of his father. A lesson for so many families to learn. You don’t have to like everyone but you can love them.

Talking about forgiveness and tolerance, perhaps it is worth thinking about theocracies as opposed to democracies with natural religious leanings. I’m not talking about Synagogue, Church or Temple teachings, we are allowed to learn and use as we choose, I’m talking about forced theologies. Yes of course it is possible to combine democracy and religion – Italy, Spain, France are all democracies with clear religious connection to the Catholic Church and yes, the United States is based on Christian values, the motto of the United States is “In God We Trust”; the motto of the British Monarchy is “Dieu et mon droit” which means “God and my right”; I could continue but I think you get my gist. When does it become a danger? When the ruling of the country is by theocratic principles – a Theocracy. Of course one instantly thinks of Iran, formerly, under the Shah, a relatively free society despite it being a dictatorship; many of the Gulf States, and more recently, Turkey, where Erdogan is doing his best to overturn Ataturk’s laws thus turning a democracy into a theocracy – after Europe’s rejection of Turkey’s application to join the EU and Erdogan’s failed attempts to be accepted into Arab alliances. Never think that religious beliefs, or religious teachings are an imposition as long as you have a choice.

It is believed that Iran is now building a nuclear facility in Syria – Ehud Olmert defied the world and destroyed the last Syrian nuclear facility, just imagine what would have happened had he not done so! Syria, a once thriving democracy destroyed by  two cruel dictators encouraged by Iran alongside another once beautiful country destroyed by the Iranian backed Hezb-Allah. I believe the West has underestimated the influence of Iran, fighting their nuclear facilities rather than their octopus like thirst for power. Talks began in Vienna a few days ago and lasted exactly one hour before the Europeans walked out for consultation when the Iranians changed the entire paradigm.

Today, most of the Gulf States and indeed many of the Islamic societies have made a conscious attempt to become closer to the West, to change their intolerant manner of teaching children to hate everything that isn’t Islam and have come forward asking for assistance in rewriting their school curriculum. The latest member of the Arab world to ask for assistance in changing their schoolbooks, introducing tolerance of the other, is Qatar. Yes, book by book, student by student, we can change our world.

A few days ago a 15 year old stabbed a Haredi man near the Old City, and two days ago a 14 year old girl from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jerach stabbed a young woman walking along with her 5 children. Perhaps the hardest thing to accept is that the woman was the girl’s neighbour. Luckily the young Mother was lightly injured, although the children were in shock, and when the police arrested the girl they found Hamas style schoolbooks in her bag. We can change the schools but not the Madrassas, the hatred that is taught by religious clerics is considered untouchable. That must change – the teachings in religious institutions must be examined for incitement. Those who teach religion need not fear, but those who teach children to hate must face the music. I am aware that in your country yet another stabbing or shooting is doesn’t even make the media, but here it does.

I know you want some good news – even good Omicron news! Yesterday, in an interview, President of Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, Professor Yonatan Halevi, gave the good news that the hospital now only has 3 serious cases of Covid-19, all of whom were not vaccinated. They have not seen any Omicron at all. The hospital nearly collapsed under the vast numbers of cases about a year or so ago and now, thanks to Israel’s vaccination programme’s success, the numbers of hospitalized patients is very low. The third vaccination, known as the “booster” has tipped the balance and as parent slowly come to trust the vaccination for children we may just have seen the back of the worst. Since this pandemic took on the appearance of a war on infection I quote Sir Winston Churchill “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. It is, perhaps the end of the beginning”

It rained! Really, really rained! The dreadful dust storms of early winter have been washed away and the air is clear and crisp. My view of Jerusalem is perfect and the sunsets are bright red and pink – simply stunning. My British family find it hard to understand why on earth I am excited by rain…..but then we all know why Britain is such a green and lush land!

This has been a very “social” week. I visited my neighbour Naomi, admiring her apartment design then the next day going to our downstairs neighbour Nili to celebrate her husband Itzik’s birthday. Itzik has Alzheimer’s Disease and although he smiles and is a sweet and kind man, much of his memory has disappeared. A great adventurer, Itzik loved to sing, still does, so Nili invited an accordionist to sing all the old Israeli songs along with the friends and neighbours. He absolutely loved it, even though the words were forgotten his face shone as he hummed and lalala’d along. Toward the end of the evening one of his old friends stood up and told us that whenever there was a function of any sort Itzik always sang “Eli Eli”, the poem of Hannah Senesh that Nomi Shemer put to music. We started softly then came to a crescendo – and suddenly Itzik remembered the words and sang out in a beautiful baritone, loud and clear. Not a dry eye in the house.

On Wednesday Poodle came to visit. Poodle (aka Sarah), a beloved friend of Daniel and his best friend Justin (aka Paddy) since their Carmel College days, is a very special person. Always kind, wise and gentle she is the truest friend anyone could dream about. Of course we sat and talked about Daniel, but in the way he would have wanted, about his life. Just as Poodle left we got a phone call from our lovely friends the Dagans, telling us that they missed us, so I invited them to supper for left overs!! It was wonderful. Today lovely Flory Benalal is coming for tea and then I meet Zvi and we are going to Amiad and Noga’s for supper together with all Zvi’s family and to round off the week, tomorrow evening we are going to celebrate Ruth Dodzuik-Justitz birthday in the lovely coffee shop of Shalva. If you have never been to the coffee shop, you are really missing out!

I have been asked to describe our project our “Mitcham”. About 240 families, predominantly in apartments but also in houses, totally mixed ages from young families to people like us – the AK Club! AK means Alte Kackers or politely put, Oldies! Each evening as I take my prescribed 2 kilometre walk (usually a bit more) I love to see the children in the playgrounds in the park. The central building, once the sanitorium of the major Union, the Histadrut, where people came to recover from various illnesses, in the “best air in Israel”. The design of the big house is based on the White House, yes really! It is absolutely stunning and at night is lit with many colours, like Joseph’s coat! Most of the area is parkland, the trees newly planted but promising to provide shade and the walking paths zig-zag throughout. The landscaping is exceptional and slowly slowly flowers are taking hold. We live on the old road into Jerusalem, the Seven Sisters, named for the hairpin bends which the old buses used to manouevre with varying success! All around us are walking trails through the Jerusalem Forest and each day I say thank you for living here.

Zvi? I hear you ask, what is Zvi up to? Well he is now singing in 3 choirs. Hakol Yahassi, The Jerusalem Academy of Music Choir and the Ensemble a quartet that sings for the elderly and Holocaust survivors. He is always busy with other voluntary work, helping everyone and working with “Ha Tsad Hasheni” which reaches out to the Spanish speaking world with news of Israel. This morning at 07:00 we set off to Jerusalem so he could get the bus to Tel Aviv for a course – I think at the Tel Aviv Museum. Why the bus? Because apparently the train doesn’t run on a Friday!!

This video is stunning! Jerusalem and all her faces.

Advances have been made in the final designs for Dr. Dan’s Room and I promise that those of you who gave so generously wil be excited by the results. It will be worthy of Daniel, a Studio for Music, Dance and Drama for the incredible children of Shalva. The studio has been in use over the last 2 years but because of Covid and the susceptibility of the children in Shalva it has not been decorated. Next week I am meeting with some of the Impact-se team to see the proposed Dr. Daniel Cammerman Library, in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, containing all the reports of the last 25 years in one accessible place. Daniel lives on in all our memories and his name will be there for all to see in places that he would have loved.

In honour of Itzik, the first song is actually called “A Walk to Caesarea but is commonly known as “Eli Eli”. The poem was written by Hannah Senesh and set to music by David Zehavi.

Israel is now choosing our representative for the Eurovision Song Contest in Italy. We are amazed at the level of talent of the hopefuls. Absolutely stunning! Here is last year’s representative the beautiful Eden

For anyone who thinks that Shalva is a scary place filled with problem children – think again! Firstly it is beautiful, the biggest centre of its kind in the world, full of laughter and fun for the children and a haven for the parents. It’s HAPPY!

A special message to all who are not feeling up to par, who are fighting illness – you are in all our prayers, our hearts and minds.

To my big sister Eddie and her husband Raymond – I am so thrilled for you, starting a new life. It is going to be amazing!!

With all our love from Jerusalem, always in our hearts and minds.

May God bless you