The view from my veranda

Where’s Eylon when you need him?

22nd of March 2024

12th Adar II 5784

167th of October

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Shabbat Shalom, Purim Sameach, Ramadan Kareem and a blessed Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday

Do you remember the old story about the teacher who sees two children fighting in the playground, one of whom is beating the living daylights out of the other? What’s going on here? Asks the teacher. Who started this? To which the angrier of the two children responds. It all started when he hit me back. Sound familiar.

We have been horrified, confused, angry and dismayed at the inverse reaction to the barbarism of October the 7th, and the subsequent war, but it seems to get worse by the minute. Canada, after their Foreign Minister visited the area, made a public statement that they would stop providing Israel with armaments. Actually Canada doesn’t provide Israel with armaments, just some spare parts and we actually provide them but the person reading the newspaper or watching the news doesn’t care, Israel must be the bad guy. Even British Foreign Minister David Cameron, a long time supporter of Israel, demanded that the Red Cross be allowed to visit the Hamas prisoners yet has not demanded that they visit the hostages, who for 167 days have lived in abject fear and dire conditions. A ceasefire is demanded to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. The situation for the average Gazan is dreadful, but nobody recognises the fact that hundreds and hundreds of aid trucks are going into Gaza and are then appropriated by Hamas leaving the ordinary people to starve. Basically, Israel is portrayed as the evil colonialists while leaders around the world announce that we have the right to defend ourselves. The ultimate dismay was the cartoon in La Presse, the Canadian French speaking newspaper, portraying Benjamin Netanyahu as a vampire as in the 1922 movie Nosferatu. Are we in 1935 or is it already 1938?

You often claim that we have terrible hasbara, or public diplomacy, and I always defended the spokespersons, saying that it was just because nobody was listening, but after the suspension of one of our best young spokesmen, Eylon Levy, the one with the expressive eyebrows and perfect English, both Oxford and Cambridge educated and oh so eloquent, I’m now convinced you are right because Eylon Levy has been suspended by the Foreign Ministry! Why? Unconfirmed but logical explanation is that Mrs Netanyahu objected to his popularity and the fact that he had attended demonstrations against the Judicial Reform. When the media quote Ben Gvir and Smotrich’s verbal Terrets and we are led by a Prime Minister who is hated throughout the world, right or wrong, our story, the story of constant terrorism and dead Israelis is already forgotten.

I’m sorry to be so pessimistic but my usual optimism is replaced by fear for Jews around the world. A Habad House in Miami was torched; a Jewish coffee shop in the Upper West Side of Manhattan was daubed with red paint and so on. Young Jewish students do not know where it is safe to go to Universities and colleges…… but why? We have good Christian friends throughout the world, their support lifts my spirits, but still, the situation begs the question, why the Jews? Do the left love and admire the stifling rule of Sharia Law? Surely not, so why do they support it?

I received the letter from Dina Rubina from many friends. Her lecture was cancelled for spurious reasons and she wrote back to the organiser, a perfect response.

 Anyway, I think I have exhausted the questions and doubts and want to go back to my positive thinking.

Actually, before I move on, perhaps we should all watch this interview of Douglas Murray by a South African reporter. He is about the only person capable of such brilliant argument against intentional disinformation.  

Here’s a surprise. Despite everything that’s happened – and is happening – Israel is the 5th happiest country to live in, out of a total of 143. According to the just-released World Happiness Report, the UK is in 20th place (down one from last year’s survey) and the US is 23rd, down eight places from 15th in 2023.

Topping the poll is Finland, which has held the accolade for seven years now, followed (in order) by Denmark, Iceland and Sweden. Iraq comes in at 92, Iran is 100, Egypt 127, and Afghanistan comes in last at 143. Surprisingly Palestine features in the survey and comes in at 103 – down four points from last year.

As I have explained in earlier missives, the funerals of soldiers lost in battle are attended by hundreds, ordinary Israelis who support the families as they support the families of the hostages. Zvi and our friend Prof. Shimon Sheetrit go to the homes, the Shiva houses, houses of mourning, to support and express their solidarity with the family. Yesterday they went to the home of the Perez family. Captain Daniel Perez z”l  died on October the 7th, but his body was taken to Gaza, like many others. However the Chief Rabbinate decided that for the comfort of the families, a funeral ceremony could be held until the ultimate return of the body. I am so proud of Shimon and Zvi who go to comfort families as often as possible. It is considered a mitzva, a good deed to console and comfort and Israelis have really come forward.

I’m sure that none of you ever thought of Israel as a centre for real ale, or country breweries, but then we always aim to surprise! Several Israeli breweries have chosen to label their beers for the IDF and one Israeli family decided to name a beer for their son who fell fighting Hamas on October 7th. Tomer Nagar z”l loved the beer of the Glentz brewery and at the family’s request one can now drink the Tomer Beer, “a rough, unfiltered beer that leaves one with a taste for more”.

Almost Purim. In so many ways we are in the midst of a repeat of the Purim Story. Hamas = Haman = Sinwar; a determination to wipe out the Jewish people by convincing a King that it was the only way to save his Kingdom. The big difference is that we don’t have a Mordechai or a Queen Esther.

My favourite aspect of Purim is not the fancy dress, the parades or the parties but rather the fascinating determination to get tipsy (not drunk) until one cannot define between evil and good. A strange concept indeed, but a wise one. So many bad things in this world happen out of vengeance, the holding of old fights and arguments in one’s mind and the wars that result. If one cannot determine between good and evil, if one can go beyond seemingly retributive justice, the world would be a very different place.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion has decided that the Odloyada (from the Hebrew Od Lo Yeda or in a way innocence) the name coming from the above precept, will take place on the streets of Jerusalem. His decision was made not to fly in the face of our current situation or the hostage families, but rather to show that we are strong and must continue with our lives, despite it all.

So Purim and the story of Esther and her clever Uncle Mordechai. I’m sure that this story of bravery would not stand by the criterion of Women’s Movement, indeed I suppose most would say that Vashti was something of a heroine because she refused to dance before King Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes) buddies, which didn’t exactly please him, and that Esther’s use of her feminine wiles was degrading, which confirms my opinion that one should never judge history by today’s standards. OK let’s start from the beginning. King Ahasuerus had a nasty Vizier called Haman who was a profound anti-Semite (yes even then). Ahasuerus was a bit of a party boy, but not very bright and easily influenced by the wicked Vizier, aka Haman. Haman convinced Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews especially Mordechai who was far too clever and thought up the plan to send his beautiful niece Esther to convince Ahasuerus to save the Jews. When asked what Mordechai’s planned punishment was to be, Haman said that he should ride a white horse, backwards, throughout the city of Shushan, Persia, and hanged publicly. Esther persuaded Ahasuerus that Haman was a bad man and he should suffer the fate he planned for Mordechai (I hope that you are following this saga). Anyway, nearly 3,000 years later we still celebrate Esther’s bravery by reading her story in synagogues throughout the world. Children (and adults) get to wear fancy dress and hold parties and in the synagogue, when Haman’s name is mentioned, we make noises to drown out his name so that we will not think of vengeance. Yes I know most of you know the story but I like my take on it!!

Guess what, apparently it wasn’t enough that James Bond was married to a Jewess (Daniel Craig), Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the latest actor in the running to play 007. The highly sophisticated actor is a natural choice.

We celebrated Zvi’s birthday this week, by inviting a dozen close friends to a local winery in Kibbutz Zova. As the rain turned to a torrential downpour we were worried that nobody would turn up, but they did and once the noise of the rain on the roof subsided, it was a delightful get together. In fact it was the third “celebration” for Zvi. At the weekend he joined in the party for his granddaughter’s 6th birthday and for the first time in his life, six men got together and raised his chair! He was so excited!

Today is a quiet day for us after a crazy week. Zvi will go to his parliament in the Botanical Gardens and discuss the world’s problem but I decided to stay home today, to recover from the awful cough that everyone seems to have.

Purim demands celebration, even when we may not feel like it.  Here the Maccabeats sing the story of Purim for you Raise Your Glass

I had never heard of Avishai Cohen but then his name came up when I was searching for songs about hope. I really like this one and hope you do too

Whenever I feel that the world is against us, and this is not the first time, I think about the wonderful Simon and Garfunkel song “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and find myself singing along with it. What we need right now is that bridge, that leader who will give us the sense that he or she has our back, cares deeply about us

Nearly Shabbat, Palm Sunday, Purim, Ramadan, time for contemplation, and determination. Jerusalem is so very beautiful after the rains, its pinky white stones glistening, clean and pure. Surely this world has enough space for all of us, what ever our faith, whichever direction we pray in, whether we stand, kneel or prostrate ourselves, whatever our language, whatever name we give to the Almighty.

Time to understand who is the oppressive aggressor and who is the oppressed.

With love from our beautiful city, Jerusalem