The view from my veranda

160115 Peres, ISIS, Hebdo, Deri, Abbas


15th January 2016

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. This is your 70 year old Israeli correspondent giving you the lowdown on what really happens here in the Middle East and what we think happens in your neck of the woods. Yup, yesterday was my birthday and I am very thrilled to have reached another benchmark. It was made even more special because dear friends come to celebrate with me – even if I didn’t tell them it was my birthday – but more of that later.

First and foremost – Former President Shimon Peres had a minor heart attack two days ago but after angioplasty is raring to go home. I am confident this will not slow him down. He already eats healthily so hopefully he will continue until 120.

It has been a crazy week wherever you live. 10 American sailors were “found” in Iranian waters due to a navigational error. The 10 sailors on 2 small Riverine craft were stopped and held by Iranian forces as they strayed into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf. Once the Iranians realized it was by error the sailors were released. I have to admit that if the video is the whole truth the sailors were treated very well.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror attacks in Istanbul and Jakarta. Istanbul, fascinating and beautiful city, has lost credibility and tourism thanks to the Turkish leader Erdogan, but now it has also lost the safety factor for the many Germans who used to fill her streets. The Turks are now trying to wheedle their way back into Israeli favour, but it will take time and a lot of proof. The loss of life in so many unstable and warring countries is horrifying. I know it has always been, but now we have the power to change and our leaders do not use it.

Germany is leasing several Israeli produced drones, preferring the IAI Heron to the USA produced Predator. It is an enormous step forward for the IAI.

It is a year since the terror attack on the offices of outrageous French magazine Charlie Hebdo. I remember the argument I had with my French cousin when I said it was religiously based – even though it was so close in time to the Hyper Cacher Supermarket attack he ferociously defended France saying it couldn’t be – just a year ago. This week the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Laurent Sourisseau, who was in the offices during the horrific attack, responded with the most controversial of cartoons. When little Aylan Kurdi died it raised awareness and sympathy for the Syrian refugees, but Sourisseau depicts him as a future child molester and rapist…………. following the revelations of rape and sexual harassment in European countries that welcomed refugees.

The Jerusalem offices of B’Tselem, the left wing organization, were burned down. Immediately Meretz leader Zahava Galon began a tirade against the right wing claiming arson, but according to both the Fire Service and B’Tselem, it was an electrical fault! We are still waiting for Ms Galon’s apology.

Arieh Deri is a brilliant man. He has served in many positions, including Interior Minister, in various governments of Israel, and done so with great ability. However, Arieh Deri served a prison term for fraud. Two days ago the Knesset agreed to his return to the Interior Ministry. I am in two minds as to the logic. The first proposal put forward by the new Minister is to revoke citizenship of Israelis who join ISIS/Da’esh……… I cannot disagree! I hope he will prove himself as rehabilitated and will use his undoubted intelligence to the good of the country.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is close to retiring. The PA will fall into anarchy as the only person strong enough to hold the various groups together leaves the scene.  Why do the Palestinians attract such sympathy? Why do they receive 15 times more aid than Ethiopia which has far greater needs and is a Western ally?  Why is their PR falling on such willing ears? Of course the only aspect for the Swedish Foreign Minister is to accuse Israel of summarily executing terrorists without trial. How stupidly blind can you get? What? She wants us to read them their rights as they are stabbing civilians with machetes???  This video explains what the breakdown of so many Middle Eastern countries means to Israel, with the brilliant Richard Kemp

On Sunday I received a lovely phone call from Helsie (Helen) Burstman to say that she had arrived in Israel the night before and had a message for me from John and Pauline Gandel. Of course we immediately got in the car and met her at the King David. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with her and found we had many Australian friends in common and she gave me the kiss that John and Pauline sent (and my birthday present!)

On Monday I received a lovely surprise. Ron Myerson sent me a glorious Calendar filled with some of his very best nature photographs – it’s on my wall Ron!!! Tuesday and I met my friend Judith Hallside for lunch in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem – it was so much fun and I love the architecture of Baka. On Wednesday out lovely friend Dr Kim Taylor came to us having taken part in a fascinating international conference on medical management of emergency and terror situations – a field Israel has become expert in. This visit is a milestone one for Kim – it is his 50th Israel visit…… quite a feat. From the moment we met him all those years ago, in the Absorption Centre for Ethiopian Immigrants, I knew we met an exceptional man and a very special friend.

That brings us to yesterday. Ah Yesterday, my actual birthday. Yesterday I became 70 years young. I find it very hard to believe, my mind is still 45, but I am so thrilled at this milestone, I want to shout it from the rooftops!!!!

We didn’t tell our guests that it was an important day because I wanted them to come, just to visit the veranda! It was a very Sydney, Australian lunch. Originally it was to be Harold and Rebecca Finger, then I discovered that Michael and Dorothy Goldstein were going to be in Jerusalem and they brought their friends Sue and Gary and of course Kim was here. It was fun – there is always enough food to go around! I loved watching Harold walk around the veranda, checking that I really described the truth, and he found that I did! He promised me to report to Stanley and Charmaine once he got back to Sydney. Stanley still hasn’t seen the veranda but loves my horticultural reports! Each and every one commented on the spectacular view – but then you knew that already!

Last night Kim decided that he had seen enough of me in the kitchen, so he took Zvi and I to Sima restaurant, right near Shouk Mahane Yehuda. The food was excellent and Kim’s company is always great. Afterwards, trying to move a little after eating too much, we walked up the short hill from Sima to Mahane Yehuda market. I always love going there to shop, love the sounds, aromas, sounds and hurry-scurry, but nothing prepared me for what awaited us when we got there. Almost all the stalls were closed up and there was a flurry of activity as table and chairs were hurried changed from their flat-stored position to filling the lanes between the stalls – Mahane Yehuda turns into a big, sprawling night club at night!!!!

 Young people were streaming into the clubs and music poured from every coffee shop as it sprawled into the alleyways. Greek, Arabic, Eastern, Pop, Hip-hop – every type of music was represented!!! So now you know what to do in your evenings -Mahane Yehuda at night!

Is the world better or worse than when I was born in the first weeks of 1946? In Britain there was strict food and fuel rationing, had been since 1939, but I must admit our family didn’t suffer as others because we had a large field behind our home with 40 chickens, a horse, geese and goats, so we had plenty of eggs and swapped eggs for butter and milk and cream – rare commodities during the 15 years of rationing. Sweets and candy were highly limited, indeed didn’t come off rationing until 1954, which meant we had good teeth and weren’t fat. We found our fun climbing trees and running races, because there was no real TV, certainly not colour, no sitting hunched before a computer and losing muscle for us. On the other hand there were no inoculations and TB, polio, smallpox, measles, chicken pox and whooping cough were prevalent – and I had the last three. 6 years of a terrible war had taken its toll and there were many widows and evil in the world even then but we were better at identifying it. For Jews, there was no Israel, that is, there was Eretz Yisrael but no State, it was still but a prayer and a dream. I don’t remember it but I can only tell you that my world changed when Israel was declared a nation. I grew up with a confidence that even my very confident parents never had. I became part of something so big that I started writing about it, MEDINAT YISRAEL………. And still do!!!!

I loved this CNN video of the last 68 presidents – a video lasting just 68 seconds! If you check it out you will see that left, right and centre – they all use the same rhetoric!!!

And so to music!

Yaffa Yarkoni, Shoshana Dimari were the singers of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s in Israel so I thought you would like to hear the old style singers! See how many songs you recognize!!!!

Since it is my birthday I want to give you a gift – the Shabbat candle lighting scene from Fiddler on the Roof – still makes me cry!!

Finally, as Jews around the world welcome Shabbat, even as theya re told not to wear “Jewish” garb or kippot in the street for fear of beatings, there is one thing that holds us firm, that keeps us together, that ensures our heads are held high and gives us hope……….. TRADITION!!!

Shabbat is nearing, Jerusalem is moving to a gentler mode of life, families gather, foods are placed on gleaming white tablecloths and the family silver is displayed because after all – a bride must be dressed in her finery to greet Shabbat.

With much love to you from Jerusalem, Jerusalem the Golden.

Shabbat Shalom