The view from my veranda

180427 Arava Tragedy, this week in view


27th April 2018

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

This week promised to be one of good news and joyous events, or that is how it started.

Two days ago a group of wonderful young Israelis, boys and girls from a pre-military academy, set out on a trek in the Arava – to prepare them for their military service. They were thrilled and excited, recorded in their group WhatsApp prior to leaving. The first night they slept under canvas and then set off along the trail of a dried up river bed, a wadi, for the days trek. Very heavy rain fell in Jerusalem, exceptional rain, and when it rains in Jerusalem the waters rush down to the Negev and the Arava. There was a flash flood in the wadi, the waters simply rushed along the river bed in a torrent and 9 young people, 8 girls and a boy, were killed, 13 were rescued without harm and 2 were injured. One boy was still missing last night. The search and rescue emergency units of IDF units, MDA and all emergency units were involved in the event. While it is easy to condemn after the fact, the warnings were clear, two young people lost their lives in similar situations the day before, the decision to go on the trek was made without the permission of the Ministry of Education. Spring in the Dead Sea area is unpredictable, rains frequent, flooding too, not like this but nonetheless. May their sweet young souls rest in peace and their families not be consumed in blame but rather in healing.

The rains in Jerusalem were phenomenal – torrential rain, hail and constant lightening like a strobe. I have never seen anything like it.

On Sunday Jill and I went to the Israel Museum on the recommendation of my friends Dana and Betty who volunteer in the Museum. The exhibit, both disturbing and brilliant, is the work of Zoya Cherkassky, “Pravda” which means truth in Russian, describing, with scary clarity, her experiences as a new immigrant in Israel. Emigration is never easy leaving behind the familiar and learning to be accepted in a new society, and this exhibit – no you should see it for yourselves but be prepared.

The Simons Family from Sydney, Australia is a wonderful, active, Israel loving family and I love them. It came as no surprise that Robert’s son Derek and his wife Toni chose to hold their son Guy’s barmitzva in Jerusalem. It was a truly joyous affair beginning at the Davidson Archaeological Park, on to the Western Wall ending in a party to beat all parties on the roof of the Mamilla Hotel. Many family members came all the way from Australia for the event and we were thrilled to meet them one and all. Robert walked around with a big smile on his face; Guy gave a wonderful speech; Guy’s buddies told us about him in a funny roasting; Anita danced the night away with Robert as did most of the guests and the food was delicious. A truly warm, friendly and sophisticated celebration.  Robert will receive an Honorary Doctorate from the Hebrew University for his years of loyal and hard work.

Jill and I met with my lovely Cardiff friend Susan Gaba Yakir in Aroma Coffee Shop, a wonderful friend and the best coffee in the world. Café Hafuch means upside down coffee, a work of art! Always in a glass mug so that one can see the design – dark dark coffee at the bottom, milky coffee above and white froth on top always with a design of a heart, a leaf or whatever the creation of the day may be.

On Tuesday we drove to Tel Aviv for a special celebration. Albert Avraham Marciano loves music and his birthday celebration at Zappa nightclub was just that, music. Avraham sang with many other artistes, including the phenomenal opera singer Yotam Cohen, and we sat enthralled. Rina and Yechiel Heller joined our table and we all had a special surprise when Avraham and Rina’s daughter Shlomit got on stage. A painfully shy woman she opened her mouth and sang Changes – it was incredible, really goose bump time. Of course, being in Tel Aviv we went to see Zvi’s son Amiad and Noga’s beautiful children Ella and Yonatan, to take them out of kindergarten and play with them before heading off to Zappa.

Wednesday just happened!! Since the weather was already unpredictable I decided to invite the wonderful Joy Wolfe home for lunch rather than risk the rain and then it happened – I thought that Ruth Dudziuk-Justitz would enjoy the company and then Zvi called to say that he and Michael Meir were joining us…….. of course I had enough food because Jill and I made quick salads and my fish balls came out of the freezer, although the absolute hit was the fresh salmon in creamed horseradish!!!

A horrific car ramming in North Toronto left 10 dead and 15 injured. The motive is unknown and mental illness is suspected but the case is clearly still open. Whatever the motive the dead will never come back and those involved will never be the same. Could it be terrorism? Who knows.

Two Presidents met in Washington and their relationship blossomed. President Macron of France and President Trump of the USA met to discuss Iran and the nuclear deal among many other subjects. It was clear that they and their spouses were on good terms. I love the “kissy kissy” aspect – men hugging and kissing is normal here in Israel and I totally approve. Perhaps more kissing and less shouting could improve our world. I never understood why men can’t kiss – why on earth would a father and son shake hands? Hopefully something positive will come out of it.

Germany showed solidarity with its Jewish citizens when over 2,000 Germans demonstrated with kippas It was a positive start but little was mentioned about the cancelling of a prestigious music award which went to a rapper spouting hatred for Jews. Perhaps the demonstrations would be more effective if they took place each week, on Friday, increasing in size.

And so it is Shabbat again. The country is in mourning for the beautiful lives lost through negligence, not intentional but negligence nonetheless. 9 families will light a memorial candle beside their Shabbat candles and ask why.

I realise that I wrote the week’s events in reverse this week – our social calendar before news and so on but as I told Michael Meir, I don’t write a newsletter to you I chat with you about Israel, our social life and things that affect our lives. I find it a conversation and I love it when you respond – it is really hard having a conversation on your own!

Tonight we will have a quiet Shabbat Dinner, just Zvi, Jill and I – or so the day starts. I never know how many we will be but I love entertaining and it is never a problem to find food! The secret is to love people – life would be so much better if we learned to love instead of hate. I am involved in three organisations which bring love to our world – two through education and one through pure love to bring calm to the troubled world of cancer patients and their families.

The basis is what you learn at home but education, what thoughts are filtered into ones head as a child, is the most important aspect of the future of our world. Not many people get to change the world through changes in education but Impact-se does it every day.  Then there is David Geffen and his organisation and of course the Yuri Shtern Holistic Centre in Shaare Zedek Hospital and in our small clinic. These three organisations are not famous, nor are they huge, they employ very few people yet they each change our world for the better. Selfishly I receive huge satisfaction from my involvement in all three because they are all about giving of oneself to help others.

Rabbi Hillel said “Love your fellow as you love yourself” which is said to be the entire Torah in a nutshell. This weeks Torah reading deals with all the rules for building a fair and loving society – as we leave the Torah behind we lose the love too.  Democracy has stringent rules in order to protect the rights of everyone – free speech is conceivably the most abused of all rules and has become an excuse for spouting hatred without paying the price.

So it is high time we spoke of music!!

Shlomo Artzi deservedly lit one of the beacons at the Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl, his songs are an integral part of Israel society. This song, sung with his son, tells it all with the words what is the cost?

Finally a prayer, a plea a blessing all together VeHi Sheamda with Shwekey and Shloi Shabbat with translation into Spanish for all my friends who speak that beautiful language.

I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, from our verandah overlooking the most beautiful city in the world

With much love