16th June, 2023
Shabbat Shalom, Gut Shabbes, Good morning and I wish you a good weekend. In fact I wish you everything good and kind in this world
I want to start this week’s missive with this week’s Torah reading. It is so appropriate for our world in general and Israel, in particular. The name of the portion is Sh’lach or send. It’s the portion where the Children of Israel finally get really close to the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, and Moses sends out 12 spies to check out the potential of the unknown. The spies or scouts were gone for 40 days (a repeating number in the Bible) and they came back with wonderful fruits, a huge bunch of grapes, a pomegranate and a fig, none of which they had ever seen before. All well and good, but 10 of the spies reported that the Canaanites were huge aggressive giants not worth fighting; only Caleb and Joshua came back with positive reports, saying that the land was the ideal place to settle. Of course, the Children of Israel, chose to believe the 10 scaredy cats, made a huge fuss, rebelled and wanted to go back to the familiar slavery in Egypt. It was that “Diaspora” mentality that caused the Almighty to send the Children of Israel to wander another 40 years in the desert, to ensure a bright and confident generation, born to freedom, rather than one that preferred slavery to the unknown. Why appropriate? Because we not only need a wise leader, but honest and fearless reports as to the feasibility of where we live.
I watch current reports of world leaders, and our own, and not one is a Moses, a Caleb or a Joshua. The late Berlusconi, Chirac, Sarkozy, de Kirchner, Trump, Boris Johnson and Benjamin Netanyahu all under a cloud and the list is endless. My fear is that when leaders not only cheat but behave in an entitled bullying manner, above the law, that they convey a similar message to the people of their country Between Covid and such leadership people become more aggressive, less civil.
Well, that was not a happy start to this newsletter, but I promise that once the essential report is out of the way we will go back to being positive and optimistic!
Political confusion continues here in Israel, while those of you in the US and UK are watching the dramas concerning your former leaders unravel. Of course, the standard response to all accusations is a river in Egypt – denial – but time and the law will prevail.
The demonstrations continue, the huge one each Saturday evening in Tel Aviv is far from the only one. Each town, city and village has a demonstration, well managed and in virtually all cases very well behaved. Zvi goes to the Jerusalem demonstration which takes place outside the Presidents House, which includes many of our friends, whereas his boys tend to go to the big demonstration in Tel Aviv. No matter what the press may say, these demonstrations of concerned people, educated people who fear for the direction the country is going; conceivably the ultimate expression of democracy.
In a 413-13 vote the United States Congress passed a Bill to create a Special Envoy to the Abraham Accords. The bi-partisan bill has yet to go before the Senate but it is so logical and important it is unlikely to meet dissention. The Special Envoy will hold Ambassadorial rank and will hopefully ensure the already highly important and effective Abraham Accords which have changed the face of the area.
As UNWRA continues teaching from its hate-filled schoolbooks, describing Jews as dogs and pigs, encouraging the use of suicide belts and so much more, their funding has been seriously reduced yet they continue on the same hateful path. The US State Department has included Impact-se recommendations in its new framework agreement with UNWRA in the PA and Gaza. The impact of Impact-se’s reports are taking hold. For the latest news from Impact-se https://www.impact-se.org/
The two subjects came together when Yossi Klein Halevi spoke to an AJC congress about the question of Jews in the United States, the Diaspora, being involved in Israeli policy making. I think his whole speech was highly relevant and I agreed with 99% of what he said but I was most impressed by his response to Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli between minutes 8-10. https://youtu.be/HmNvYhYnTrU Minister Chikli, spoke immediately before him and Klein Halevi responded to Chikli’s claim that the demonstrators in Israel were BDS activists “Stop defaming loyal Zionist opposition”. I highly recommend clicking and listening.
Israel’s team in the UEFA Under 20’s Football World Cup in Argentina didn’t win the championship, they came in 3rd, but they certainly won the teamsmanship medal! No macho chest beating for this team, but rather brotherly hugs from team members and coach alike with each goal throughout the tournament. I’m most proud of the composition of the team; there were Jews, Moslems, Ashkenaz, Sefaradi and Mizrachi, in other words, ISRAELIS. Israelis, who played their hearts out for our country. The 3 goals scored in that final game express the real Israel – Ran Binyamin, Omer Senior and Anan Khalaili.
The World Beard and Moustache Championship is the next competition for Israelis, yes, honestly! 12 hirsute, bewhiskered Israelis headed for Germany and the competition, their team title? 972Beards!!
I think I told you that Zvi has two “parliaments”, the main one on a Friday in the Botanical Gardens Caffit restaurant and a “mini-parliament” on a Tuesday in a local coffee shop. I often join the mini-parliament after doing my shopping in the supermarket, and this week a gentleman sat down at the table next to ours, took out a fan, computer and all of his work equipment. Within moments we were all chatting. It turns out that he wanted to meet with the local Mayor and bring businesses to our area. It took no time whatsoever for one of our group, Meshie Schreiber to help this fellow set up what he wanted, including meeting the Mayor! At this point we introduced ourselves by name and it turned out that Meshie and this gentleman has the same name – Schreiber but his family had Hebraicised their name to Sofer! Such an Israeli situation!
The other day I was very happy to visit friends in the beautiful retirement village of Protea Hills, just a ten minute drive from where we live, it is in the village of Shoresh. Shoresh has the most magnificent views over the Jerusalem Hills and clear, pollution free air. Both of these special friends are from my home city of Cardiff in South Wales and have made history because this is the first time that Protea Hills has welcomed both mother and daughter in their midst. It is such a joy to delve into our former Welsh life with both Tema, aged 101 and full of life and history, and my friend Sue, eliciting such happy memories.
This is the season for visits of friends from the lower hemisphere of mother earth and last weekend was no exception. Friday night dinner was wonderful! Our Australian visitors have a special place in my heart, Robert and Anita Simons from Sydney and Anita’s grandson Jesse, who is serving in the IDF and is one of the most delightful young men I have met in a very long time. Our other guests were Drs Arik and Ora Schiffer who had served as emissaries to Australia many years ago, and Merle and Frank Friedman and the conversation flowed wonderfully after Zvi’s famous kiddush! Merle and Frank stayed over and the very next morning was a “Coffee on the Lawn” event on our estate.
Our apartments, all 240 of them, are built on an historic site which includes the glorious building of the former convalescent home of the Israeli Union, and the Avenue of the Presidents, trees planted by all the Israeli Presidents, beginning in with the man who started it all, Theodore Herzl! The buildings surround the gorgeous building and the lawns, trees and park which have been preserved. Everyone brought something, cakes, fruit, veggies and drinks and young families sat on the huge mats sat out under shade and the “older” families sat around getting to know each other better. It was delightful! As always happens several of the people in our group discovered that we have mutual friends, so Laura and Uri, we are all meeting at our place in the next few weeks!
I mentioned Anita and Robert Simons, who just a couple of weeks ago hosted a parlour meeting in Sydney for my lovely friend and CEO of Impact-se Marcus Sheff, and are now in Jerusalem. On Wednesday we met up with the lovely Gaby Hirsch for lunch and a tour in Shalva. Needless to say, they were completely blown away by the sheer beauty and joy of Shalva, the sounds and sights of happy children and young adults and the state of the art facilities. As always, Gaby kept the best for last, or should I say the most important in my life because everything in Shalva is the best – Dr. Dan’s Room, the Studio for the performing arts in the name of my late son Dr. Daniel Cammerman, that came to fruition through the generosity of incredible friends, kind people we barely know, and of course Daniel’s patients and colleagues. With donations to the Remembering Daniel campaign from 25 shekels to $20,000 each and every one an expression of love. A music therapy session was taking place and watching these amazing youngsters singing their favourite songs when they could barely speak, coming forward to talk to the musician who treated them with such deep respect and the joy on their faces when they were asked to sing their favourite song along with the recording was precious, no not precious, priceless. https://youtu.be/wjcgIeMVwcA
Today, Friday, we will go to the cemetery in Jerusalem for the memorial to Zvi’s parents, the wonderful Kalman and Alla (Rybak) Raviv. According to tradition on reads from the prayer book, both the prayer for those who passed on and blessings which begin with each of the letters of their names. I have told you the stories of Kalman and Alla, a story which is that of the founding of this little country, of bravery, determination, love of country, love of Judaism and recognising what tragedies await in their native Poland. Both achieved the honour of receiving “Yakir Yerushalyim” the literal meaning “beloved of Jerusalem” for their incredible work for the country, the City and the children of Jerusalem through their teaching and creation of the now world famous children’s school crossing guards, which Kalman began several years before Britain and the USA. They are buried in a beautiful area reserved only for “Yakir Yerushalyim” beside former Mayors, Judges and poet Naftali Herz Inber, the poet whose words became Hatikva. Only close family will be present and will come to us for an early Shabbat dinner afterwards. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the history of the Rybak-Raviv family is that although Kalman and Alla were Hebrew teachers in Mexico for just 5 years, an entire generation of their students now speak Hebrew and 60 years later still speak of their teachers with deep affection. A clear proof that good teachers can change the world.
So, time for music. When I asked you what you like best you all said that you love what I choose so that’s what I’ll do.
One of the youngsters in Shalva was asked what his favourite song is and he shyly announced, Shalom Aleichem, the beautiful blessing which we sing before Shabbat. He wanted the traditional tune and I wanted to give you something a bit different so here we have a Georgian group (FSU not USA) singing https://youtu.be/lNtqhLbUGwA
A beautiful song, a prayer, a blessing all in one. Ten Li Yad, Give Me Your Hand. I simply love this rendition. https://youtu.be/SVm0bVmLChA
The song “You Raise Me Up” is one of the theme songs of Shalva and I don’t know if you realise it but it suits our relationship too. Writing to you forces me to be pragmatic about even the most tragic of situations. You have seen me through the Intifada, the killing of an Israeli Prime Minister, personal tragedies and worries and celebrations. You saw me through the death of my incredible, beautiful son Daniel, so this song is a thank you because you really do raise me up, make the unbearable possible. https://youtu.be/9bxc9hbwkkw
I wish you a beautiful weekend in which the current civic anger doesn’t touch you or your loved ones. I wish you tolerance and love in whatever corner of the world, whichever half of the hemisphere you live and to those in North America I wish you rain to quench the fires that blaze uncontrollably.
Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom to you and yours from Jerusalem, glistening in the distant hills, every beautiful, ever spiritual.