The view from my veranda

170616 David Grossman Booker, London Fire, Steve Scalise


16th June 2017

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

David Grossman is Israeli. He has often been described as the conscience of Israel through his writing and his words. David Grossman is on the left of the political map but he loves Israel and sadly gave the ultimate sacrifice of his son’s life to the war against those who would see Israel disappear from the face of the earth. He is also a fine writer and this week won the most prestigious prize an author can win other than the Nobel Prize – his latest book “A Horse Walked into a Bar” won the Man Booker Prize for literature. It is a short novel about a stand-up comedian, his grief, laughter and betrayal.

This has been a tragic week for London. The tragedy was the result of negligence not terrorism, but a tragedy beyond words nonetheless. A high rise building, full of families, was refurbished by the local council, albeit an apparently cosmetic job, but despite constant complaints from the residents, the fire safety conditions were not improved. An exploding refrigerator on a lower floor caused the building to be engulfed within minutes and the escape routes of those inside were unclear and for many unavailable. I write about it not just because my heart aches for the families of those who lost their lives but also because it is a global disease – negligence to a devastating level. “Get the job done so that it looks good but who cares about the real nitty gritty of peoples lives” Our public officials are, in general and everywhere, not up to scratch.

After the horrific terror attacks in London Mayor Sadiq Kahn has turned to Israel for advice on how to deal with terrorism. A liberal Moslem and a caring Mayor he recognises who, sadly, knows the most about dealing with fanatical Islamic terrorism.

Yet again politics and guns became an awful issue as a crazed Democrat spent time planning how and when to shoot at Republicans playing baseball in a field next to the Democrat field. James Hodgkinson was not just political, not just a Democrat, he ranted and raved against President Trump and Republicans in general while at a garage just a few days prior to his heinous act. While admittedly there will always be unstable extremists, my question is how did he legally buy a 7.62mm high powered rifle and a hand gun just days prior to the attack? Didn’t anyone either report the sale to the police or question his purchase? In Israel one has to pass both psychological and general health tests before the police will consider granting a private gun licence let alone actually owning one. Soldiers are carefully trained and if they leave their gun unattended, even for a minute, they are punished. A gun is not a toy, nor is it everyone’s private defence system; I was born in a country where even policemen need a special licence to carry weapons and live in a country that has seen enough violence from the outside to abhor internal violence. That is why Jerusalem is 12 times safer than Seattle (of similar size). I pray that Congressman, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who is in critical condition, will return to full health.

The Palestinian Authority President does not suffer opposition. Mr Abbas has closed down several news sites for espousing policies in opposition to those of the government. While far from surprised by his decision, I am amazed that the hyper-alert worlds press and media remain silent. We know they over-react on any subject concerning Israel but their silence on lack of freedom of movement and speech in the PA – and many other Islamic countries – is bordering on sycophancy.,7340,L-4976532,00.html

Canon Andrew White, Lola and Norman Cohen, Lola’s Shortbread, scones and Andrew’s clotted cream were not the only reason Zvi and I went to Lola and Norman’s for Shabbat tea. The warmth and love that emanates from their home while listening to an Anglican Canon discuss the week’s Torah reading with a wonderfully clever Jewish scholar who wrote a book called “The Torah on one Foot”.

Talking of authors, books and freedom of speech – when is a book not a book but rather a political pawn? Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, wrote a book while in prison. The book, a memoir, went through the scrutiny of the military censors and the result was given to his lawyers to take for printing. Despite the care he took in having every word checked the “powers that be” decided he had passed on secrets thus his prison sentence would not be shortened by one third. We know that his book contains information that would be damaging to those currently in power yet also know that it passed the military censor- I ask you to come to your own conclusions.

On Sunday morning I collected Rachel from her home and we went off for two days of mother/daughter fun. We drove northward to Hadera, stopping on the way at various sites, and arrived at our hotel. Hadera was not number one on our list of “must see” Israeli cities but the promise of a brand new hotel and access to so many beautiful tourist sites made our decision easy. We were amazed! The level of building is phenomenal – beautiful high rise private apartment blocks on the beach and inland are sprouting up at an enormous rate; Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa are just too expensive for most Israelis and the north is a great alternative with wonderful public transport and roads to the big cities.

The beach in Hadera is amazing, the sunset phenomenal and we walked down across the sands to a quaint and delicious restaurant on a cliff. Next morning we went down to breakfast – an Israeli breakfast – and even by Israeli hotel standards this was exceptional. Every conceivable variety of fruit and vegetable cut into every type of salad or just natural; eggs scrambled, boiled, shakshuka or freshly made omelettes; herrings of every flavour; smoked salmon; 6 different freshly squeezed juices; cheesecake, croissants, pies and tarts; breads of every type, colour, seed and grain; in fact everything one could dream of set out in long lines of deliciousness. The famous full English breakfast dims into oblivion in comparison!!!!!

After breakfast we took our few belongings and headed off for Kibbutz Nahsholim and the famous glass factory or Mizgaga. Baron Rothschild – known in Israel as “Hanadiv” or the philanthropist, decided to build a bottle factory on the white shores of Dov beach, or Tantura, to make bottles for his wineries in Zichron Yaacov and Rishon le Zion. The beautiful factory was built and a young scientist chosen to head the project, while bringing experts from France and elsewhere. Sadly the sand proved useless and the glass of poor quality so the factory was closed, the Baron continued importing bottles and the young scientist went off to Tel Aviv to find his fortune – his name was Meir Dizengoff, future Mayor of Tel Aviv. The Mizgaga has become a fine museum with artifacts not only of the glassmaking factory but also of Napoleons navy when they stopped on their journey to Jaffa after a crushing defeat in Akko. Well worth a visit.

While Rachel and I were away Zvi went to the inauguration of a KKL forest in the name Lia and Ruben Merenfeld z”l by their children Susana, Yehudit, Miriam and Isaac and their families. Zvi planted a tree together with Flory Benalal to honour an amazing family and their strong ties to Israel.

On Tuesday we met up again with the Shabbat Tea crowd! Fish and chips at the King David has become a tradition and this time it was augmented by a delightful lady called Sandra who is Canon Andrew’s friend and helpmeet. It was a joy to watch Sandra take in the history of the King David – so much more than a hotel.

From the dinner at the King David we continued to the Zappa theatre club and a marvellous performance of “The Big Tisch” with Kobi Arielli and Jacky Levy telling Jerusalem stories and veteran singer Moshe Lahav. It is such a “Jerusalem” affair with wonderful stories of the way Jerusalem was when they, and Zvi, were growing up.

On Wednesday Zvi spoke to a group from Melbourne headed by his old friend Nathan Schaeffer. As always they were enthralled by his knowledge and humour and a second lecture is in the offing!!!

On Thursday we had a special treat – my amazing grandson Yosef decided he wanted to come and spend the day and sleep over. It was so much fun, we went to Avraham and Ruti Levy’s home where Avraham took us onto his roof and we saw the full panorama of Jerusalem before us – from the walls of the Old City to the spires of St Johns. Yosef had a ball when Saba Zvi took him Go-karting!! An additional delight was when Tamara Gutverg, Zvi’s relative from Mexico, came for a quick lunch with us. Tamara is on a very special Taglit/Birthright Excel course for young potential entrepreneurs. Sounds incredible

This morning Yosef and I went to the Israel Museum. We saw the amazing Judaica pavilion then went to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition and the model of the Temple period Jerusalem. It was so exciting to watch his curiosity and delight and realise that Yosef is now big enough to take to the Museum.

So that’s it! I took Yosef home and the incredible aroma of Rachel’s challot greeted us; of course I left with a delicious booty of freshly baked challah……….. mmmmmm she is such a marvellous baker!

Before we sing, I loved this video – I am that Jew.

Yaacov Shwekey has a habit of bringing me to tears with his beautiful voice  and this is no dofferent. Mi Sheberach Chayalei Yisrael, Bless the Israeli soldiers –

Have you ever thought how many Israeli songs have the word Shalom – Peace – in them? How many of our prayers? Shir le Shalom – song to peace – was ironically the last song sung by Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin  in his gravelly voice before he was assassinated by an extremist Jew. So ironic because few had done more than General Rabin for the security of our beautiful Israel.

I wish you Shabbat Shalom. Let’s pray for the day the world will wake up and those who prevent peace will be silenced…………..

With love from our beautiful city, from our veranda, a profusion of colour and joy,from Jerusalem