The view from my veranda

Zacharia Baumel z”l, Hamas prisoners, Hakol Yachassi, MLK

4th April 2019


Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom from sunny Jerusalem.


They say that miracles no longer happen but the truth is they happen every day in simple acts, births, healing, growing……………… but sometimes incredible, unimaginable miracles happen too.


American born Sergeant Zacharia Baumel z”l, was missing in action in the Lebanon war of 1982. For 37 years subsequent Israeli governments, the IDF and the Israeli Secret Services have been working to return his body to Israel for burial, a promise made to the families of  all Israeli soldiers. 37 years and we did not give up hope despite rumours of the body being moved to inaccessible sites. Last week the deeply emotional news came through the Russian administration that the body had been found and identified and transferred from the Yarmuk Camp near Damascus in Syria to Moscow. On Thursday the Russians performed a deeply respectful ceremony, attended by both Putin and Netanyahu, with the Red Army Honour Guard carrying a casket draped with the Israeli flag. The casket contained Zacharia Baumel’s army overalls, his shoes and his Tsitsit (a garment with specially knotted ritual fringes, or tassels, worn in antiquity by Israelites and today by observant Jews). The funeral was held yesterday on Mount Herzl in the Military Cemetery providing final closure for the Baumel family and proof positive that Israel doesn’t leave her soldiers in enemy hands.


Because Israel is a democratic state our prisons, even those of the highest security status, follow the international statutes concerning prisoner rights to free time, meetings, studies, exercise etc. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has complained to UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov simultaneously calling for a hunger strike by security prisoners in Israeli jails to improve their conditions! You heard me, leader of an oppressive, cruel regime, whose aim is to wipe out Israel and any internal dissent, is calling for an improvement in the already wide rights of security prisoners in Israeli jails. Why? Because Israeli Prison Services discovered that makeshift cellphones were smuggled into prison and terror attacks organised from inside said prisons. How cruel of Israel that terrorists aren’t allowed to organised mass killings of Jews from their cells.


The race for leadership in Israel has both reached deeper depths of name-calling and forced the leading candidates to understand our need for clarity in understanding their manifesto – their political plan. It isn’t enough to use every tactic to undermine one’s opponent, we need to hear positivity to believe that hope is on the horizon. Some parties will drop by the wayside as they lose their deposit and others will strengthen, but I see major changes over the next year. I believe that Mr Netanyahu may well win the popular vote, may well try to form a government, but ultimately will be forced to resign due to his legal battles. The questions on everyone’s mind is “Who can take over” “Who has clean hands” “Who is strong enough to stand up to Trump and Putin” “Who is sufficiently pragmatic to lead us to some semblance of calm”? Who can be seen by an unsympathetic, nay antagonistic, world as an Israeli leader to be reckoned with?


On the 4th of April 1968 the course of history was irrevocably altered. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King left his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee, James Earl Ray shot the Civil Rights leader and fatally injured him. Dr. King fought for the Civil Rights, Human Rights, for everyone, understanding that racism is not confined to any sector of society but like a plague attacks all who are infected by it. Those who walked beside him on his Freedom March were white and black, Jew and Christian and together they changed history by their non-violent revolution. So if they changed history, why do I say that his death changed the course of history? Dr. King was a pious man, a preacher, and a learned theological academic who understood his Bible and Israel. 10 days before he was assassinated he stood before the 68th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly and said “Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all of our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvellous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”


SpaceIL succeeded in launching the first privately funded spacecraft into earth’s orbit on its way to the moon. Wow! Right at the beginning of this missive I spoke of miracles and this is a miracle indeed. Little Israel, surrounded by enemies, barely the size of Wales, joins the USA, Russia and China in landing a spacecraft on the moon!!! The section of orbiting the earth has ended and the propulsion toward the moon was successful, the prospective landing on the moon on April 11th. The selfie camera will be proof positive of Israel’s landing and moving 500 metres on the moon’s surface. What a brilliant achievement! Here it is explained – with the odd Israeli joke or two!


Zvi and I spent a week with Joe Biden, before he became Vice-President, and found him an affectionate, warm but respectful gentleman. I even spoke to him about his natural tactile nature, because the religious women in the group are not allowed be close to any man other than their husband. He listened and was grateful for the advice, not realizing that his warmth could be misinterpreted – he even offered me a job as his protocol advisor!!!! I wouldn’t be surprised if this was yet another case of “Fake News” which has now become a watch-word of the Israeli election too!


I am always proud of my husband. Zvi is a “Mitnadev sidrati”  – “a serial volunteer”. He is on the Boards of so many major organisations that I never know exactly which meeting he has or when. One escape for him is singing. His beautiful bass-baritone is a central part of his choir, “Hakol Yachassi” and their determination to promote Israel and Jerusalem is now well known. Last night they headed the bill at a wonderful concert based on Israeli Eurovision songs and traditional songs, attended by 7 choirs from all over Israel. The concert, part of the Jerusalem Festival of the Arts, played to a packed auditorium, the audience sang and clapped and joined in and the evening, attended also by the Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion, himself a singer and cantor, was a huge success. As if that wasn’t enough, we went back to the hotel where the choirs are staying and continued the fun, singing and dancing our hearts out. Our friends Ronit and Yossi Dagan were amazed at the sheer joy of such an evening. Tody they are touring Jerusalem ending up in Schmidt Square (aka the area beside the beautiful Italian Synagogue and Museum on Hillel Street) where they will give a free concert to the assembled crowd.


Just in – the first photos of the moon’s surface from SpaceIL!


The scent of cleaning materials in the mass spring cleaning before Passover has dissipated temporarily to be replaced by the incredible multicultural aromas of Israeli Shabbat cuisine! From Kurdish Kubeh Soup to Tunisian Mejadara; Greek stuffed vine leaves to Moroccan stuffed vegetables; from Roast Chicken and veg to various fish in spicy chreimeh sauce – in fact the cultural overlap is complete, each enjoying the taste of the melting pot. Shabbat in Jerusalem is probably more special than in almost any other Israeli city because one can sense the change, the slowing down of the soul as people, observant or not, understand the importance of a day of rest. Probably the greatest social reform was the commandment to rest on the 7th day as the Almighty looked back on His work of 6 days and was pleased. There is a movement to exclude cell-phones from Shabbat, not just for observant Jews but for families and friends, to encourage uninterrupted conversations! We seem to have lost the concentration required to care what the other person is actually saying!!


This week I met up with my childhood friends again. Gosh it refreshes me, allows me to be myself without trimmings or explanations. Wonderful friends who knew my parents and siblings and were with me during the tough times, never judging, always supportive. Anyone who has moved from their home town, home country and had to start over understands the need to be accepted without needing to prove oneself, with people who loved you throughout and know your achievements …….know who you really are.


Zvi always describes Jerusalem as the City from Wall to Mall! The Mamilla open air mall beside the Jaffa Gate kind of combines the two and when the Hora Dance Troupe does a Flash Dance, well that is the best!


I had never heard this song, a song of dreams of a better world for all of us. Shulem Lemmer and Dovid Hill with “A Million Dreams”


Since I haven’t got the video of Hakol Yachassi singing Halleluya, Israel’s Eurovision Winner I will give you Shalva singing instead – the amazing Shalva Band.


When I step out onto our veranda, breathe in the amazing Jerusalem air, see the bustling city slowly coming to a halt after the main Shabbat shopping spree, I know that I am in a truly magnificent and special place. I will feel Shabbat in every aspect of Jerusalem and I am eternally grateful for it.


With love from Jerusalem, our veranda and the trees full of blossom promising a fruitful year.

Shabbat Shalom



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