The view from my veranda

151225 Christmas Day, Samir Kuntar, Terror attacks, Fanaticism

25th December 2015
Dear friends, Shabbat Shalom and of course a truly blessed Christmas to all our Christian friends.
This week has been a strange mixture of sheer joy and deep sadness, each entirely separate one from the other. First I will speak of the sadness and then continue to my joy.
The attacks continue, one at a time, from Raanana to Ariel, Haifa to Kiriat Gat, Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to ……… anywhere. We know not where the next attack will come from, we know not who is friend or foe; we want to feel friendship to all but the distrust has seeped slowly into our very beings. I don’t want to mistrust the young fellow who walks down the street in front of me or to return to that sense of looking over my shoulder that I felt for so many years when alone on city streets outside Israel. Make no mistake, they are targeting “obvious” Jews and soldiers. This is racist………. No more no less and lives are tragically lost.
Yesterday two men lost their lives to hatred right near the Jaffa Gate, one because he tried to save the other. Ofer Ben-Ari raced to the aid of Rabbi Rueven Biermacher and another man when he saw a terror attack. He could have run away but instead he ran toward danger to stop the terrorists with his bare hands. Even when he heard warning gunshots from the Magav policewoman he continued to fend off the attackers from their victims all the while being stabbed and endangering himself. He was then caught in the line of fire. May their souls rest in peace.
Since fanaticism is what has brought the horror of terrorism upon us, I am deeply ashamed of the group of Jews who gave a disgusting display of hatred at a recent wedding, shouting and lauding the killing some months ago of a little Arab baby in the village of Duma by some Jewish zealots. We do not believe in zealotry, we are a compassionate people and I cannot bear the thought that any of us descend to the same kind of misplaced fanatical patriotism to which our neighbours succumbed. I want each and every one of those people present and seen to yell incitement to hatred to be sentenced and jailed.
Samir Kuntar was a very, very bad man. In 1979 he perpetrated a vile terror attack in Nahariya, Northern Israel. Kuntar killed Danny Haran before killing Haran’s four-year-old daughter Einat by smashing her head with the butt of his rifle, while her mother watched from her hiding place. The mother sadly stifled her 2 year old trying to muffle her tears. They also killed policeman Eliyahu Shahar. Kuntar was sentenced to 3 consecutive life sentences. In 2008 he was given his freedom in the prisoner exchange for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Back in Lebanon Kuntar quickly rose to be in charge of Hezb-Allahs military actions and was lauded by the Iranians as their man in Syria. He finally met his martyrdom this week, in an Israeli targeted killing, as he sat in his Syrian home.
Britain has broken away from the US policy and declared the Moslem Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Following an intensive 18-month governmental study, the United Kingdom issued a startling indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). It described the organization as fiercely anti-democratic, openly supportive of terrorism, dedicated to establishing an Islamist government, and opposed to the rule of law, individual liberty, and equality.
Now to the happy news. Growing up in Wales I have many fond memories of the Christmas spirit and especially during the bad days, we must move forward and appreciate the good in life, pray for better times.
The joy began last Wednesday when I went to Ben Gurion Airport with Rachel to greet my eldest son Daniel arriving on his flight from NYC. Ever calm, ever low key it was so wonderful to be engulfed in his hugs, to feel confident in his loving presence. The drive back to Jerusalem was filled with an exchange of family stories, especially of Karen, Joshua and little Callie.  We stopped at Rachels apartment so that Igal, Yosef, Talia and Ayala could join the love fest and hug Uncle Dan, non-stop! No sooner had the excitement levelled out than it rose again to a crescendo on Thursday as Gideon, Stephanie, Olivia and Zachary were heard bounding up our stairs……. and rushed immediately onto the veranda to drink in the view. On Friday morning they all went sightseeing, determined that the children would get the very best out of Jerusalem. They went to the Israel Museum and saw the amazing exhibits, including archaeology and Judaica, exhibits that no other museum in the world can boast.
Then it was Shabbat. Ah Shabbat. The joy of having my children with me, lighting the candles with Stephanie and Olivia, Zvi’s melodious Kiddush, Olivia and Zacky’s prayer with Zvi over Rachel’s challa and the traditional meal, so special. It was very exciting for Amiad and Nogas two little ones who found new playmates in the “big” children.
Shabbat was not the usual calm Shabbat, my mind was filled with the family and thoughts of Saturday night when friends came for a special dinner at Caffit in the Botanical Gardens. I chose the Botanical Gardens simply because I love it – but it limited the number of guests, so please don’t be offended if you were not invited – it doesn’t mean I didn’t want you! Zvi’s sons, my sons and daughter, their spouses and of course OUR grandchildren! I love seeing the children all together.  I was overwhelmed by the love which came from every corner of the room, from the words of my Zvi, from the hugs and kisses of friends, from the glorious violin performance by Sasha (Alexandra Dennisov) and Adi Hayats guitar, as they played my favourite song and a beautiful presentation made by Mel Brickman showing me from birth until today, introducing my entire family to my Israel family and close friends. Now everyone knows I am 70 – actually I am not…….. as Zvi said I am the only woman willing to be 70 a month before my actual birthday so that my sons could be with me!!!!!
On Sunday, the family went off to Tel Aviv and Rachel, Yosef, Talia, Ayala and I met them on the beach at Kibbutz Palmachim. It is a deserted beach at this time of year and it was sheer joy to be the only ones there, except for one fisherman with a small trawl net who demonstrated his art to the children. The weather was glorious, clear blue skies and we saw egrets fishing, eagles hovering and cranes wading ; we raced and went shell picking and Yosef even went into the water – only to find he had no change of clothing!!!
Two crazy days later and my boys had gone, back to their lives, back to their British and American families, leaving us exhausted and wanting more, much more, it is never enough. The joy of a modern family! For Yosef the high point of the visit was when he beat Uncle Daniel at Rubiks cube……. admittedly about 30 years after Uncle Dan gave it up!
Jerusalem fascinates me. The Chanuka decorations still abound but now they have been joined by the Christmas decorations along the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City and in many other Israeli cities, especially Nazareth, Haifa and Jaffa. I told you of the ICEJ and the combination of the Chanukiah and Christmas tree on the balconies of their building, well that is the feeling of Jerusalem in a nutshell. Thank God a million times that Christians in this city are free to celebrate and express themselves in prayer and joyous singing, without anyone threatening them. Indeed the opposite is true, Jerusalem welcomes all religions.
My favourite story for this day comes through the wonderful Father Gabriel Naddaf, who encourages Christian Israelis to join the IDF and this year has provided the Christian soldiers with a special reception in Haifa. and especially this Christmas greeting from the IDF
My friend Bob Ackerman put a video on Facebook and because it came from a good source, I watched it. Steve Harvey is in hot water this week but here he shows another side of him as he interviews the Rabbi who found and returned $98,000 “because I was raised as a good Jew”
What songs should I give you today? What is appropriate for both Shabbat and Christmas? What shows equal and mutual respect?  What better than the 23rd psalm, written by King David right here in Jerusalem and holy to both Christians and Jews? Yes, I think that is special. Mizmor David, sung in Hebrew by Ehud Banai with English translation.
How better to end this letter than to play the ultimate song of hope. Louis Armstrong singing Wonderful World, because sometimes, when hope seems so far away, we need reminding of just how amazing our world really is.
With much love from Jerusalem, still the centre of our world, still the most beautiful city of diversity, humanity, faith, spirit and thousands and millions of prayers, which one by one reach up to Heaven.
Shabbat Shalom, a Blessed Christmas
For non-Brits – do you know the origin of Boxing Day? Do you know what Boxing Day is?

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

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