The view from my veranda

Zvi, Prince Turki, Warsaw Conference and lots more

15th February 2019

Shabbat Shalom! How was your week? I would love to hear about it from you.

One question that almost everyone asks is “How do you know so many people outside Israel”? It is easy to answer – primarily because of Zvi’s work with Keren Hayesod, creating Young Leadership all over the world (Keren Hayesod is the fundraising arm of the Jewish Agency all over the world except the USA) Those “young” leaders are now our age! His voluntary work with Maccabi World Union and the Maccabiah has also brought in friends, close friends from every corner of the globe – add to that his devotion to the work of the Jewish Agency and his part therein and the picture is complete. Not that I am a shrinking violent but I came to the that world much later than he. Together we met Christian and Jewish groups and political and social leaders from everywhere, thus enriching our lives even further.  Volunteering, being involved in Hasbara and being ready to talk to everyone, the more diverse the more interesting, widens one’s perspective and enriches one’s life more than I can possibly describe. In truth, both of us inherited the desire to learn from other communities and reach out to them from our parents and in Zvi’s case, his Grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Rybak of Bialystok.

This weekly missive came about through word-of-mouth requests for the truth from Israel during the Second Intifada. Perhaps it was then that I realised how twisted the news media was – both far right and far left with very little in the centre.  It is when I coined the phrase

If the media does not inform us we must inform the media.

I am very disturbed by a recent report which suggests that US Jewry is distancing itself from Israel. Religion is important but Israel and her place in our lives is far more important. The increase in anti-Semitic assaults in the USA, particularly in NYC, is distressing, not only in the USA of course, because the racists feel enabled – why? I believe we have to present a united front and argue amongst ourselves – the old saw “United we stand divided we fall” is even more relevant today. I understand that my words are just musings and I really want to know what you think. I know there are religious differences but why should that affect the relationship with Israel?

Perhaps one of the explanations of the above problem is explained in this article “The problem with conversion in Israel today”,7340,L-5458400,00.html

The Warsaw Summit this week held several surprises. One created a mini-storm when PM Netanyahu spoke out about Poland’s part in the Holocaust – a crime in Poland! The far greater tempest came when Arab representatives spoke out about the Palestinian issue in a video secretly filmed and leaked by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. Arab leaders can be seen talking to Israelis and stating that confronting Iran is far more urgent than solving Palestinian issue and reaffirming Israel has right to attack Iranian targets in Syria.

Don’t be fooled however – In an Israeli Channel 10 interview with Barak Ravid the Saudi Prince Turki stated that PM Netanyahu is misleading his people by suggesting that Arabs will put the Palestinian issue on the back burner and that it will never happen. I wonder who is telling the truth.

Denis Ross tweeted today The PA may not like it, but Arab states will pursue their interests even when the Palestinian leadership opposes. Case in point: the Warsaw Conference. Arab states had more of an interest in arguing for unity of effort against Iran than boycotting a conference the PA opposed.

The horrific murder of Ori Ansbacher last week revealed many aspects that caused the usual Palestinian and Hamas organisations to distance themselves from the act. As foul as their perpetrators are they are not willing to claim responsibility for this particular filth. Despite the horror all the friends and family of Ori (meaning my light) gathered to read her beautiful poetry and put it to music to honour her search for peace.

On February 14th 1896 a Jewish journalist published a small book, barely more than a pamphlet. His writings were prompted by a legal case he was sent to France to report on, the Dreyfus Trial. Altneuland. Of course the young journalist was Theodore Herzl and his epiphany as to the problems of racist antisemitism in France and in the world brought him to the realization that we must return to our homeland. The book has now been translated into dozens of languages and when Nahum Sokolov translated Altneuland into Hebrew, he called it Tel Aviv and the rest is history. Altneuland led the Zionist movement  and the First Zionist Congress in Basle. Herzl devoted his short life to ensuring the dream became a reality. He met with world leaders at a time when travel was not simple. Perhaps it is appropriate that the house he stayed in in Jerusalem is a Steimatzky book shop in Mamilla today. Every Jew should read that book.

Great news, The Band’s Visit won a Grammy for the best musical album. I love Sasson Gabbay who played the lead role in the movie which I understand is infinitely better than the musical! Here is the movie, I couldn’t find it with subtitles but one doesn’t really need them to follow the theme –

This week the Israeli wish to help in all situations had a tragic end. There was a minor accident on the Modiin bound side of route 443 and a man on the Jerusalem bound side stopped to help, the problem was that he didn’t fully pull over to the side and a bus, travelling behind him, did not manage to avoid him, swerved and overturned on its side killing 3 and injuring nearly 50 passengers. The law demands that if one sees an accident one must stop to help, but sometimes the sense of duty and urgency causes disasters.

On Sunday I collected the delightful Lola Cohen, who together with her husband Norman, created unbreakable loving connections with Christian communities and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem and shares our love for Canon Andrew White, and headed off to the Museum of the Diaspora in Ramat Aviv. We were invited to a CAMERA panel discussion on British Anti-Semitism. The panel was wide and included journalist Melanie Phillips but the most impressive (and the most humble) was Hadar Sela of the “BBC Watch” division within CAMERA. Her work is amazing and her reports are professional  I believe that the upsurge in anti-Israel sentiment and its accompanying antisemitism in the UK is exacerbated if not instigated by BBC reportage led by the disgusting Jeremy Bowen; Hadar’s reports maintain the same.  The two front rows of the audience were held by the American donors and supporters of CAMERA and when my question card was put forward it was rejected – “Do you feel that anti-semitism in the UK is worse than in the USA”? I think it was an important question.

Monday was a fun day- I met the two Rachels – my Rachel and Rachael Risby-Raz – for breakfast and I should have known that they would want to go to the local shopping mall! It was fun on the one hand, looking for an outfit for Rachael’s sons bar mitzvah, but I find shopping exhausting and resort to people watching to pass the time. I love it in all of Jerusalem’s Malls (and we have too many) because it gives us the chance to see the Jerusalem rainbow of people – every type, colour and creed. It denies any claims of apartheid, bringing all the other false claims into question too. Everything from full black  Moslem burkas – to full black Jewish garb, walking beside each other, mothers and children and trendy youngsters of indeterminate origins who just enjoy shopping, eating and having a day out. I had cause to go to Hadassah on Mount Scopus (where Zvi was born in 1945) and the same mixture all talking and smiling at each other. It’s wonderful being a people watcher instead of having one’s head in the cellphone!

Our Shabbat Table is already laid, since yesterday was “Yom haAhava” (day of love which is Israel’s version of St Valentines) the theme is pink. Tonight we have friends from Zvi’s choir coming for dinner – each of them is bringing something toward the meal and they have become my friends too. Hakol Yachassi is so much more than a choir, they are like family. Tonight the blessing over the wine (Kiddush) and over the challah will be even more harmonious than usual as the choir members sing alongside Zvi – I love it when they come!

In a minute we are crossing the road to the Avichail coffee shop meet Yankele and Galila Eisner and then I am then going to collect Talia from school and take her home where we will be greeted by the delicious aroma of Rachel’s Challot baking in the oven. In Israel only the religious schools (Moslem, Christian and Jewish) wear uniform and I have to say that I am a strong proponent of school uniforms because it is a great social leveller, teaching children that they are part of a whole, part of society with responsibilities to the whole rather than selfish individuals. They develop personalities even while in uniform!!

Returning to the theme of first paragraph, I firmly believe that one is never too old to make new friends, be it the person sitting next to you in the bus, train or restaurant or the rich and famous – for me it makes no difference who you know, or whether you are famous or not, I want to learn from you, find out about you and enrich both our lives that way.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, Yom Ahava, I chose a very special song “What the World Needs Now” sung by Dionne Warwick. After all in our crazy and crazier world we all need more love.

The next song is in Yiddisch but is self explanatory! Az der Rebbe Tanz – When the Rabbi Dances, The story is that whatever the Rebbe does all his students (Hassidim) do as he does. It was my children’s absolute favourite when they were little!

Finally Adon Olam – Lord of the Universe – by the Revivo Project. Other songs of praise too. I love that they sing in a synagogue with all the beautiful décor of a Sefardi place of worship.

I’ll be back soon but it’s time to collect Talia and I wouldn’t miss it for a moment, not even for you!!!

I’m back, a beautiful Challah in hand, hugs and kisses from the children and new thoughts. As I wait for Talia at her school I am amazed to see that Ramallah grows unabated and ever closer every week to the borders of the neighbourhood of Ramot. On the other hand, as I climbed up to Samuel’s Tomb on the way home, Jerusalem lay before me but this time, the mist gave it all an incredible, ethereal beauty, the hills outlined through the haze outlined like a picture frame by the first almond blossoms – Shkediot. Gosh I love this city!!

From our veranda I see Jerusalem slowing down, the mall car park emptying, the empty buses wending their way toward the bus park and the aromas of a hundred Shabbat cuisines wafting their way up temptingly toward me reminding me of all those who found refuge here, came back home. The minimarket and restaurant opposite are serving their last customers before closing their doors with a sigh of relief – everyone calling out Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Shalom umevorach – a peaceful and blessed Shabbat.

I wish you a blessed weekend, a beautiful Shabbat

With love from us to you


If the media does not inform us we must inform the media

Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center