The view from my veranda

151203 Putin, San Bernadino, Penn, IsraAid, Turkey

December 3rd 2015
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I promise that this weeks newsletter will be positive, it has to be positive because otherwise Harold will be disappointed. The last two weeks were filled with loss but life goes on and, in truth, many good things happened this week, even those that are not initially apparent.
Russias Mr Putin is very, very cross with Turkey’s Erdogan on many levels. Shooting down his fighter plane was sufficient reason, but when he refused to apologise Erdogan invoked Putins wrath – not a comfortable position to be in. However, we are talking about silver linings today, aren’t we? Well, here is that lining; Putin decided to cancel his country’s purchase of Turkish agricultural produce and intends buying from…………… Israel instead!!!!
The COP21 conference on climate change was held in Le Bourget, near Paris. 121 world leaders participated, including both Israel and the PA – and despite Abbas of the PA’s insistence that Israel caused the ecological disasters in the Palestinian Authority, Mr Netanyahu walked up to a surprised Mahmoud Abbas and shook his hand! Brilliant! Mr Netanyahu also outlined Israel’s advanced work on ecological issues
Israeli Environment Minister Silvan Shalom and Jordanian Water and Irrigation Minister Hazim El Naser met this week and announced the issuance of a new $800 million water project which will increase water supply for both countries and increase inflow to the Dead Sea, whose water depletion is of major concern.
British aeroplanes are already in the air after a decisive vote in Parliament yesterday to conquer, to eradicate ISIS, at least in Syria and Iraq. This video of Margaret Beckett’s speech in Parliament fascinated me.
Strange bedfellows. In two World Wars American Presidents chose isolationist policies and Russia proved her determination to fight, and so it is now. The Russian President Putin, who refuses to put the words “politically correct” into his lexicon, especially when he sees chaos and danger in the world, stepped in in Syria. Obviously he finally has what he always wanted – a seaport on the Mediterranean. Putin is also holding very positive talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Herewith, a quote from Mr Putins communication:-
Very many dramatic developments, including dramatic ones have been happening globally. But let me start with congratulations on the coming Chanukah holiday. It’s a very good and bright holiday that symbolizes the victory, the triumph of light over dark. I really hope that in international affairs we’ll have it this way as well. We are satisfied with the progress of bilateral relations. I wish to note that the mechanism promoted by you and proposed by you presupposes contacts between the militaries to prevent incidents due to the dramatic developments in the region, has been efficient; we have advances in other spheres as well.”
You would think that with foul neighbours and constant security issues Israel would stagnate on innovative projects. Israel is the most innovative country and the greatest outreach to the poor countries, per capita and in real terms, in the world. If you don’t believe me believe Warren Buffet and Bill Gates!
The United Kingdom Parliament voted yesterday to act against ISIS in Syria and the aeroplanes are already in action.
Abu Dis is an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem, south of the Temple Mount, in one of the many valleys of this beautiful city; after all, if you have hills you must have valleys too!  Anyway, I digress, Abu Dis was built over the last century or so on a site known as the Ofel. The Ofel was the area beneath the steps leading up to the Temple Mount, where those making Aliya, ascending, to pray would walk up the hundreds of steps. The only people coming down the steps were mourners so that those ascending would know to console them. The current residents of Abu Dis claim it was never Jewish or part of Judah (Judea) and is ancient Arab land, which is fine, we can all claim whatever we wish but it doesn’t make it true. This week it was revealed that an 8th century bulla, or seal impression, bearing the name of Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, King of Judah was uncovered by archaeologists in the Ofel. Hezekiah ruled the kingdom of Judah from around 715 and 686 BCE. During his reign the kingdom was invaded by the ascendant Assyrian Empire and the capital, Jerusalem, was besieged by the army of King Sennacherib. The Book of Kings II 18:5 says of Hezekiah that “after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among them that were before him.”
Hezekiah or in Hebrew Hizkiayahu, created an ancient water tunnel which runs beneath the Old City including the Shiloah Pool. It is amazing, an incredible sight and this week Sean Penn went to see its wonders.
Sean Penn was in Israel to be the keynote speaker at an IsraAid event about the future of Haiti, held in Tel Aviv, funded by the Pratt Foundation’s Peter Adler. Zvi and I were honoured to be invited by Shachar Zahavi and sat in the front row to hear the words of Ambassador Michael Oren who introduced Ambassador Danny BiranProf Nachman Ash (IDF Chief Medical Officer) and Dr Efraim Laor, the Head of IsraAids mission to Haiti, experts who race to the world’s trouble spots, tornados, floods, tsunamis and war, to provide aid and succour.
After the multiple horrors that hit poverty stricken Haiti in 2010 Mr Penn decided to go and see what he could do to help. With minimum funds he succeeded in setting up a small aid station but when the second half of the cleared area was given to IsraAid he began to understand how to achieve real work. His team could barely manage to get drugs and water for the people and here was a team that had their kosher food flown in daily! He understood that IsraAid knew how to help on every level and it galvanised him into action. “The indirect impact of IsraAID is that everything that JP/HRO has accomplished would not have existed without the inspiration and support that they provided“.  A shy, quietly spoken man he realized that the most important item on his list of needs was morphine for the injured, not an easy acquisition in the cautious west.  After watching the immense suffering of those in dire pain, he was ready to deal with the devil to obtain the essential drugs he found a willing partner in Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and the people of Haiti benefitted.
Penn had been under enormous pressure to cancel his trip but thanks to his confidence in the exceptional founder and director of IsraAid, Shachar Zahavi he chose to come, not only to come but he stayed extra days and toured Jerusalem, Massada, the Golan Heights, the Galilee and came away loving it all. In Jerusalem he went to the Western Wall, the Old City shouk, Yad Vashem, and sang with David Broza in a multi-cultural school. I suggest you visit the IsraAid Facebook page to see for yourselves.
Sadly I cannot speak only of beauty and delight – a diabolical thing happened in San Bernadino in California. A married couple, a former restaurant inspector for the local authority and a pharmacist, shot former workmates at a Christmas party, in a terrible attack in which Syed Tizwan Farouk and his wife Tafsheen Malik killed at least 14 people. Our hearts go out to the families of those murdered.
I have a quiz for you! Let’s see what you know about Israel and whether you do better than the Birthright participants
I hope Harold enjoyed this weeks newsletter. His words reminded me how much we have to be grateful for and I am grateful to him for that. In a world where so many are harming so many, it is good to remember the good news. Positivity galvanises us toward Tikkun Olam.
And so to music
David Broza, exceptional Israeli singer and musician wrote a song from the heart –  Yihyeh tov – It will be alright. A song that reflects our fears and our hope for a better tomorrow
Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu v’al koolam – “Peace will come to us and to all peoples. Salaam, to us and to the entire world, Salaam Shalom”
Finally, for Shabbat and for Harold and Stanley, Yismachu, “They Will Rejoice“. Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgott and the incomparable violinist Yitzchak Perlman, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week
Almost Chanuka, when despite dire conditions, threats and destruction, the Jews fought back.
I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem. Jerusalem, a truly magnificent city, a deeply spiritual city The Talmud tells us “Ten measures of beauty descended to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem.”
With love

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

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