The view from my veranda

170929 Har Adar, Mekel, Yom Kippur


29th September, 2017

Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova and Gmar Hatima Tova.

Tonight we have a chance to change, a chance to improve ourselves and to atone for the things we did or said. Forgiveness is not automatic, we must pledge to do better and most importantly of all, we must apologise in person to those we have offended or hurt. It is not enough to regret words that came out of your mouth like spears – one must go to the person we shot down and express our determination never to hurt them again. Yom Kippur is not just about refraining from food – it is about Tikkun Adam – it is a promise to elevate ourselves above petty, thoughtless comments.

This has been a dreadful week in Israel. Beyond the tragedies that befell the world at the hands of nature we have the tragedies that man causes man.

Imagine living in a sleepy dormitory town, beautiful houses, manicured gardens, professional people, generally left wing on “Kav ha Tefer” the seam-line; you have someone who comes to work as a handyman cum cleaner every week and he becomes a friend. Jamal Nimer was one of the workers and was specially loved by those in whose homes he worked. One woman described him as a family member, sitting for breakfast with the family before work and chatting over coffee at his break he claimed to be repulsed by the extremists who became terrorists. He worked for her for 4 years. Jamal was not all he appeared to be.

Jamal was 37 years old, married with 4 children but he had a secret – he beat his wife and she left him escaping to Jordan, leaving him to fend for the 4 children. This week, when he came to the checkpoint, the guards sensed something different, called the IDF Border Guards and when they approached he pulled a gun from his sweater and shot them all at point blank range. He knew them all, had exchanged friendly words with them, but he shot and killed them. He need no longer worry about his children’s financial situation because his family will now receive a pension for life from the aid your country sends to the PA.,7340,L-5021069,00.html

It reminded me of Hassan, who was, we thought, a close friend but after he killed an Israeli officer and was killed himself, we found out he was a senior member of the Tanzim, the military wing of Fatah. How can anyone in pastoral Har Adar ever trust again. Many Palestinians will no longer have work for that reason.

I met Rachel and the children in the Garden Centre in Givat Zeev(according to CNN, BBC, a “settlement”). The garden centre is owned by two young Palestinians who do very well. I was unsurprised to see soldiers, Rabbis, locals come in and hug the Palestinian owners, chat and talk about families. That’s what we do!

I have an amazing friend called Merav. Merav has two beautiful daughters, both of whom are autistic. She is very involved in Shalva, an exceptional organisation which gives love to the whole family of autistic children  I love Merav and we met for lunch in Caffit, in the Botanical Gardens. As we sat in the gentle autumn sunshine, beside the lake, I looked around at the people sitting enjoying the food – Arab women in Hijab, Religious people, tourists and people like Merav and I – just having fun. It is something that most miss – we actually live together in harmony – it is the exception that destroys all our lives.

Here there was huge uproar because Interpol is admitting the Palestinian Authority to its ranks. No, they will not be privvy to sensitive information, yes it means they will have to take responsibility for their criminals and perhaps terrorists can now be extradited!

Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, most of the Caribbean, Florida, Texas, Mexico, India, Pakistan and Nepal are all reeling after terrible natural disasters. Most are complaining of the slow response to their plight but incredibly Israeli aid teams are already in most of those countries. It seems that the wheels of bureaucracy grind very slowly because I remember the howls of dismay after Katrina and I hear them again. Tikkun Olam needs no bureaucracy.

The German people are in a state of shock. Angela Merkel won the elections but the far right party made huge gains, taking third place. Last night Zvi and I went on a Jerusalem Press Club tour of religious neighbourhoods to experience Selichot. We met two delightful German journalists and I spoke to Jose-Julio about the election results. As in many places in Europe the fear of xenophobia is replaced by the fear of terrorism and drastic changes to German society both socially and demographically by the huge influx of immigrants. The right is winning on the fear front.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that we had another crazy week! Friday night, which coincided with Rosh Hashana, we were 20 people at our Shabbat Dinner. As usual I made too much food but the children always take some home anyway!!! Saturday night we popped into Irit and Itzik Lev’s in Tel Aviv to wish Irit a very happy birthday and then went on to the Cameri Theatre for an excellent show.

The Smadar Cinema is a Jerusalem Institution. Situated in the German Colony, surrounded by Templar buildings, it is a small cozy cinema, which has been totally refurbished and we went to the celebratory re-opening. Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkivitch spoke beautifully about the history of the Smadar, and then we saw a marvellous French movie called “Burgundy”. The next day we collected Ella and Yonatan from their new kindergarten, played in the park and then took them for a delicious ice cream in Vaniglia in Tel Aviv, left them with their Mummy Noga then went on to the Cameri theatre again! The play was funny and clever about the intended marriage between the children of a Tel Aviv secular, left wing family and a traditional, right wing settler family. It was fascinating and many truths were told through humour.

Last night we toured the Haredi  Geulah and the Bucharian Quarterto see and hear the Selichot. Our guide Zippi, herself a Haredi woman, is an expert on the streets where she grew up, a journalist and very open to life in general. It was fascinating to see the flurry of activity as people rushed to Selichot (repentance) services and tried to finish preparations for their Succot (Tabernacles) choosing decorations from the gaudy stock of the local shops.

What is Selichot? In Judaism it is not enough to apologise, one must truly repent ones sins and if one has sinned against another human being one cannot expect forgiveness from the Almighty, one must achieve forgiveness from the person. To walk around these neighborhoods and absorb the way of life which hasn’t changed in hundreds of years is incredible – to do so with people who are not Jewish and are unfamiliar is even better. We ended the night with a super meal at Shtissel Restaurant – Potato Kugel, Cholent, Tsimmes, Gefilte Fish……….. yes of course it was Ashkenaz yet surprisingly familiar to the German journalists!!!

I was trying to think what to write to you about Kippur. How do I relate to it? How do I choose to repent? Then I received Rabbi Jeremy Rosens missive of the week and I found it.–

“Our task on Yom Kipur is to spend time thinking about where we stand in this world. Who are we? What are we? Every year we should go through this cathartic experience. This painful process of self-examination. In my case, it is all the more necessary and painful, because I really am a crazy, mixed-up kid. I live in two cultures: Jewish and non-Jewish. Within Judaism I exist in my own cocoon, part conformist and part anti-establishment. I can recognize the need for authority, and I rebel against it. I am a rootless cosmopolitan and proud of it. Yet I am passionate about my homeland, for all its problems. Of course, I reflect on this a lot of the time. But somehow Yom Kipur gives it an added urgency and time without distractions.”

Yom Kippur is not about fasting, about suffering hunger pangs and making them the central point – one fasts in order to concentrate upon praying and repenting. The very prayers are so deeply meaningful – the Torah readings appropriate – Yom Kippur is about who we are and what we can achieve as individuals if we just understand our mistakes and try to put them right.

In the past I was hurt in ways I cannot describe by those who should have protected me, but I wish them no harm, I wish them only good health, clear conscience and a life full of sweetness. Make your vengeance about making your life as fulfilling as you possibly can

The solemnity of Kippur, the Day of Atonement, means there are no songs that will fill you with joy. There is one however, the prayer which heralds Yom ha Kippurim, Kol NIidre. Cantor Helfgot and Yitzchak Perlman – two men of high and beautiful character.

Instead of another song I want to give you the Story of Jonah (which we read tomorrow) as told by a marvellous little girl.  Nineveh is Mosul in Iraq, its near destruction by evil forces is as relevant today as in the Bible.

I am about to go to Givat Zeev to see Rachel and the children before the Chag and give them hugs. It is an essential part of my Shabbat/Chag.

Tonight everything will stop. No cars, no buses, no taxis, no trucks; the silence broken only by the squeals of children as they ride their bikes on the empty roads. We will walk up to the synagogue in Ramat Sharett, I love it because it is traditional, tiny, accepting and a beautiful mix of Sefardi and Ashkenaz. Tucked away in a little alley beside a supermarket it is everything I need to allow me to pray.

If I have ever offended you apologise from the depths of my heart, I promise to do better in the future – it was never my intention to hurt you.

 I wish you a Gut Yomtov, Chag Sameach, Gmar Hatima Tova – May you be inscribed in the good Book.

With love from beautiful Jerusalem,