The view from my veranda

170901 Israel, 120 WZO


September the first, 2017

Shabbat Shalom everyone! Since today is the first day of the school year here in Israel I decided this would be a letter about Israel – we find it too easy to forget the wonderful country that gave us all a sense of pride that thousands of year of abasement determinedly bent us down like Uriah Heep. Our heads are high and we even have the courage to criticise ourselves. However, criticism is fine if it is positive – this country is the epitome of Jewish moral standards – we can’t let them drop and we have to encourage. Sadly we live in a world where our national flags and monuments have been taken over by the far right, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful as legitimate symbols of our culture.

Disasters everywhere, North Korea Launches ballistic missile over Japan; Houston and areas of Texas are under water with people fighting to survive; the Monsoons this year led to horrendous flooding in Nepal, India and Pakistan which have led, thus far, to 1,500 people losing their lives and what is the headline in the US press? Melania Trump wore high heeled shoes!!!!

Thanks to idiotic priorities of the media, this week I want less media news and more real news, the things that ordinary people like you and me do to change the world. Take this young Israeli who couldn’t bear the suffering in neighbouring Syria – see what he did

IsraAid and iAid are both in Houston, Nepal, India and Pakistan – and incredibly IsraAid is still working in Haiti. We don’t give up! I am sure you remember the IDF field hospital set up hours after the Haiti disaster – that included ZAKA and Magen David Adom

The IDF field hospital on the border with Syria is still performing triage and first aid before the injured are sent to Israeli hospitals for treatment. A drop in an ocean of misery but we do our best.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs performs acts of aid and generosity that are unparalleled, over 140 countries have received Israel aid, not money but the power to help themselves. Please, don’t forget this is a tiny country has just 8 million citizens… look at the website and look at MASHAV

Save a Child’s Heart is performing lifesaving surgery on children from countries where they would surely die if not for the Israeli surgeons, often countries don’t even recognise our existence…..particularly from the Palestinian Authority.

Eye from Zion and of course MASHAV send opthamologists to third world countries where ignorance, dirty water and infections cause blindness to give back sight using mobile operating theatres.

For Israel’s 65th birthday in 2014, Israel21C introduced us to 65 ways that Israel performs “Tikkun Olam”

Tikkun Olam is our raison d’etre, in a world that is becoming more and more insular as telecommunications take away our ability to communicate Israel is reaching out.

Why all the self aggrandisement? We aren’t supposed to prideful but there is so much to boast about! 120 years is a flash in time for most countries but just 120 years ago a man had a dream; not just a small dream but a gigantic dream. Teodore Herzl was an assimilated Jew from a well to do family in Austria – aware of his ancestors but not a practicising Jew. He was a writer and intellectual but worked as a journalist. He was sent to France to cover a fascinating story of a Jew who had a successful military career and through the jealousies of his Christian co-officers was shamed and stripped of his rank and position after a military kangaroo court passed judgement. Herzl recognised the reason for Dreyfus shaming, Dreyfus was a Jew. Herzl had a dream but he did not write Hebrew so when he wrote a book called Altneuland – New Old Land –  he wrote the immortal words ‘Im tirtzu ein zo agada; ve’im lo tirtzu, agada hi ve’agada tisha’er’ in Latin letters, אם תרצו, אין זו אגדה; ואם לא תרצו, אגדה היא ואגדה תישאר, meaning, ‘If you will it, it is no dream; and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay. Herzl not only wrote a book about an old-new land he gathered the most influential Jews of the world together in a Swiss city called Basel in the first World Zionist Congress on September 1897. Teodore became Theodore and then Benjamin Zeev Herzl, his dream took many years of travel, disappointment which cost him his health but the First World Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland 120 years ago.

120 years since the idea of Jews returning to their homeland became more than a prayer; 120 years since those first Zionists gathered to create a basis for the Jewish State, 120 years since that fateful Congress and now 69 years after the dream came true just think about our achievements!

To fully understand the circumstances which led to the Congress and the travail and travels of Herzl himself one should visit the phenomenalHerzl Museum in Jerusalem. The Museum, a spectacular audio-visual experience was put together by our dear friend Dr Motti Friedman.

UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres was in Israel and our President chose to tell him like it really is…….. and he responded favourably but nothing like Nikki Haley who is just an amazing honest and brave lady, standing up for Israel as never before.

The other day Zvi and I set off to the Municipality Square for a very special event to honour the memory of Israel’s 5th President, the much loved Yitzchak Navon. President Navon was (like President Rivlin) born in Jerusalem and even as a child he loved to learn about the various neighborhoods and their peoples, Polish and Bukharian; Iraqi and Hungarian; Arab, Jew and Christian, his curious nature led him to learn all the languages, fluent in 10 –  Ladino, Yiddish, Arabic, English and many others so that he could converse with the entire rainbow. Navon was also a poet and playwright – writing the famous Bustan Sefaradi about his own neighbourhood and community. The most famous Ladino song “Adio Querida” (Farewell my love) is thought to be a love song that expresses disenchanted love for Spain, the country that persecuted, killed and then expelled its Jews from the land they loved

Our friend Advocate Gideon Fisher has been honoured as a Fellow by the International Institute of Chartered Arbitrators – a rare achievement. Mazal Tov Gideon – remember you couldn’t do it without Dafna!!!!

This week was our usual race – beginning on a special note with a coffee and chat with my adored friend Andrew Stone (Lord Stone of Blackheath who to me is still my childhood friend and Habonim madrich) where we talked about the past and our future – a future both of us are fighting to make a kinder, more tolerant and gentler one.

Impact-se is an amazing organisation which translates and researches the school curriculum in Israel and our neighbouring countries, and Madrasses in Europe and the USA, to enact changes to ensure tolerance of the other – according to criteria of UNESCO which we set up. We had a Board meeting two nights ago at the Hebrew University and I am so proud of our Director Marcus Sheffwho has created wonders in reaching governments and Ambassadors with our results. Bravo Marcus. Read the material – you will be surprised.

Tonight we celebrate Amiad’s 41st birthday here at home for our Shabbat Dinner – with about 24 guests! Don’t worry, I got up really early so that I could write to you before continuing the three day marathon cook-in! We have… Pea soup that the children adore, barbequed spring-chicken fillets, beef stew, Meat balls in sauce, grilled salmon fillet, Vienna sausages, Salads of the following varieties- Cauliflower, Sweet potato, mushroom, beetroot, courgette and toasted aubergine (chatzilim) with tehina and of course huge green salads. I will also do rice to go with all of the above and oven chips (French fries) for the children! At the same time I have prepared a veggie lasagna for tomorrow night’s big pre-Rosh Hashana party for Zvi’s choir to be held at our friends, Eva and Eli Yaron, home in Tsur Hadassah. I can’t even begin to tell you what this week-ends programme entails visiting Nitza and Ronit Dotan Hofesh is organizing a huge party for her husband Gedi’s 80th!!!

The beautiful and mournful Adio Querida expresses the pain of expulsion from so many countries so many eras of oppression, so now it is time to try a happier note – How would we present Herzl and his dream today? Would it have the same elegance or be as effective?  Cantors Hefgott, Adler and Schachat sing………. O sole Mio!!!!!

As the old year closes and the new year is before us with all the hope and opportunities it presents I chose Lu Yehi – Let it be – as my closing song

With love from Jerusalem the beautiful, fascinating spiritual heart of our people. I have the privilege of seeing its ever changing face every single day from our veranda. Israeli children returned to school today and we wish them all a year of study, learning, friendships and fun.

Shabbat Shalom to you all wherever you may be. Stay safe and stay strong.