The view from my veranda

170512 Good news bad news –


12th May, 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. How was your week? Mine was insanely busy but that means I am still alive and with it so, I guess that’s fine!!!

Actually it has been a very busy news week too. Rather a “good news-bad news” wekk.

It is good news that 82 girls have been released by Boko Haram in Nigeria, but that means that over 100 still remain in captivity undergoing terrible conditions. When the released girls met their families their inability to communicate emotionally was apparent and some carried young babies. It is a tragedy beyond imagination that 300 schoolgirls were taken into probable slavery.

Good news that the Presidential visit to Jerusalem is happening but with many questions. He will come with Ivanka and Jared but will not go to Yad Vashem. Traditionally, all leaders who come lay a wreath next to the eternal flame. He will, of course, also go to Ramalla but that conversation will remain in camera.

The good news is that the American President is coming to Jerusalem – the bad news is that Jerusalem will be in virtual lock-down for the duration!!!!

The good news is that Ron Lauder has been in extensive talks with Mahmoud Abbas in preparation for this visit and Mr Abbas has somewhat relented on some issues. Tripartite talks in Jerusalem between Israeli PM Netanyahu, PA President Abbas and President Trump and a signing of a first stage peace treaty is expected. Clearly none of us know what will ensue, one can only imagine the scenario. “If you don’t come to talk we will change the Embassy” or even “If you don’t come to Jerusalem and sign you get no more American money” Who knows? The bad news is that the Embassy is unlikely to be moved, although it will be on the table. The worse news is that Mr Abbas agreed to all the generous terms on the table in PM Olmert’s home and suddenly decided to leave for Ramallah – a mere 15 minute drive away, before signing. The even worse news is that Abbas could be motivated to sign because of fear from Hamas, Hezb-Allah and ISIS – a rational fear beyond imagination.

The good news is that President Trump is coming to Jerusalem to stay at the King David Hotel – the bad news is that Manager Chaim Shkedi had to inform everyone that booked a room in the hotel that they had to go elsewhere! We are used to all of the above situations whenever an American President comes to visit – most others mingle with the regular visitors.

The timing of the Presidential visit and potential signing is not inconsequential. The President arrives on the 22nd and Mr Abbas is due to arrive on the 23rd – which happens to coincide with Jerusalem Dayand all the celebrations. As to whether it will be a good news day or a bad news day remains to be seen.

Great news that Marine le Pen (Nationalist – Right Wing) lost the elections for President of France – bad news that she gained legitimacy. Unknown news about President Emmanuel Macron are his views on foreign affairs, everyone is too fascinated by the youngest French President since Napoleon who fell in love with his teacher when he was 15 and later married her.

It is good news that Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned for terrorism and multiple murders, enjoys Israeli chocolate wafers – it is bad news (for him) that as the instigator of the Palestinian prisoners hunger strike, he was caught on the CCTV camera having a nibble in the loo! It is good news for us because it proves that his motive was to keep his name on the lips of the Palestinian leadership and not his supposed maltreatment in prison. I can promise you that in comparison with jails almost anywhere in the world, he is in the Waldorf Astoria.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby came to Israel and had a wonderful meeting with President Rivlin. Sadly the British Press almost ignored his wise words.

The bad news is that Israel is 91 on freedom of the press rating – the good news is that that low position is due to inevitable military censorship not lack of safety. The number of countries that kill reporters for telling the truth is growing fast. The results of the survey are astonishing.

I discovered that news while attending a phenomenal Conference organised by the Jerusalem Press Club (Uri Dromi and his amazing staff)

Former Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor opened the conference. Always pragmatic, soft of voice he has long been the voice of reason in the Israeli Knesset. I suppose in a way he is also a good news, bad news person – good news that he is a voice of reason, bad news that his very pragmatism and kindness means he will never be elected Prime Minister. Here he looks at what next

Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, spoke to us of his experiences during that time and then after saying that he hadn’t been to Israel since 1882, announced (I told you good news, bad news) that he has always held the opinion that a reporter must be in situ to understand the complexities of any conflict, having visited Jerusalem and Ramallah he would now think differently!!! Two days and he’s a maven?

We heard from many amazing journalists from around the world but were distressed to hear of the plight of investigative journalists and war reporters who are killed, beheaded, tortured and exiled for telling the truth. Russia and Belarus are surprising perpetrators, the Arab countries as expected and if you check out the list above – South America too.

I collected the incredible Dr Cyril Sherer, who is well over 90 and about to publish a new book while still involved in medical research, and he told me I had written incorrectly that he was born in New Zealand. Dr Cyril was born in the UK and went to New Zealand as a child then came back to the UK for his medical training. He has been in Israel for many, many years and has treated most of the rich and famous – indeed still does. I was thrilled to see my lovely friend Sheila Zucker at the conference. Many of you New Yorkers of a certain age will remember Sheilas Show on the radio.

Yahya Muhammid is an exceptional young man. Brave and true to himself he chose to “come out” despite death threats. Yahya’s sin? He loves Israel. Please read “Cleaning the Hate”.

It would be difficult to describe the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem without superlatives. The building, once the Embassy of the Ivory Coast, is beyond exquisite, it’s soaring arches exceptional made even more beautiful by the enormous Israel banner flags hanging the full length of the building. It was time for the Jerusalem Day celebrations to which we are thrilled to be invited. Greeted by Director Jurgen Buhler, his ever efficient assistant Beverley Dwyer, David Parsons and our great friend and one of the founding members Tim King with his wife Martha. Most of the speeches were short and very sweet – especially the one by Rabbi David Rosen, until the Vice-President of the Ivory Coast became very emotional and somewhat verbose. His emotions at his first visit to Jerusalem were appreciated and understandable though. The Embassy was founded when almost all countries moved their Embassies to Tel Aviv and a group of ever loyal Christians chose to found the ICEJ.  and×416.jpg

I sat with Zvi, Samuel, Varda, Menachem and Lena Shtern, all devotees of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre for Cancer Patients and their families. Gosh it is a phenomenal organisation which eases the lives of those who need it most through healing and professional psychological support.

Jerusalem Day and I can never forget sitting in the traffic Jam next to Mount Herzl, with the Robins and Kovens visiting from Toronto, and receiving a phone call from Canon Andrew White who at my request was in Ezekiel’s Tomb and excited beyond words at what he found. As I said, good news bad news – again. Andrew, Professor Gabriel Barkay and I worked long and hard on the refurbishment of the Tomb together with the Mullah and then the Jerusalem Post did an article and claimed the kudos for someone else!!!

I just wrote to the journalist 6 years too late but – “I reviewed the article you wrote about Ezekiels Tomb and realised you praised the wrong people!!!   If not for Canon Andrew, Professor Gabby Barkay and I, nothing would have been done. We did the research and Gabby contacted the British Museum for details and I did the research here. Andrew risked his life and oversaw everything and the Mullah called me to thank me in tears of gratitude. Shame really”.


The weather has been ridiculous! Two days ago 39 degrees and today a pleasant 23. Crazy! However, and this is just good news, the Veranda is blooming!! Day lilies, geraniums, pansies, Hibiscus………… gosh I love it!

I have oiled the huge wooden table out on the veranda so that we can invite friends over to sit and enjoy the view. I love to sit at the little table under the shade of the awning, sip my coffee and absorb the beauty of the city before me.  My dream is to sit around that table with my siblings so that they will understand what I write about each week. My perfect dream is to sit around the table with my siblings, my children and their wonderful spouses and their children together with all of Zvis family – gosh wouldn’t that be amazing? Can you imagine the cooking I could tell you about?

Before the songs I just want to cite a quotation placed on Facebook by Kay Wilson – the ultimate survivor

Posting one of my favorite sayings. May you all have a wonderful Shabbat.

Who is wise? One who learns from every man.
Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations.
Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.
Who is honorable? One who honours his fellows.

Ben Zoma, Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1

What to sing for Jerusalem Day? Dudu Fisher with If I forget you Oh Jerusalem.

Naomi Shemer’s Jerusalem of Gold sung by the late Ofra Haza

Finally – is that good news? – finally a flash dance by Hora Yerushalyim in the Mamilla Shopping Arcade

May you only receive good news! Good Shabbes, Shabbat Shalom, PeaceWith love from Jerusalem, the best news in the worldSheila