The view from my veranda

201209 Shmuel Benalal, Tour of Valley of the Springs


9th December 2016

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem. Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

About 4 years ago I met a wonderful young man called Kasim Hafeez – aka Kaz. Kaz was born in the UK, grew up a Moslem, thought Jews were the evil enemy of mankind and then read “The Case for Israel” by Alan Dershowitz and realised he had been brainwashed. Kaz went through a really tough emotional period, his family basically disowning him, and I met him in a Jerusalem café near the Standwithus offices where he told me he felt more at home in Jerusalem than in his home town. The story is long but Kaz worked with Standwithus, moved to Canada, became a fan of all sport Canadian and made a fantastic video for Prager University.  THE VIDEO HAS BEEN BANNED ON YOUTUBE!!!! This gentle, sweet man has been banned for saying he loves Israel whereas hate videos and pornography is allowed. Unreal.

Israel is in turmoil about the proposed removal of an outpost, Amona, presumably illegal, on disputed land. It is an outpost of perhaps 20 families and the government proposed moving them to new housing in a legal village, but the far right are up in arms at the mere thought of moving Jews from Biblical lands. In principal I think they are right, you know I don’t believe that anywhere should be Judenrein, but life isn’t about right and wrong, it is about practicality (the soldiers who have to guard them) and international acceptability. Those 20 families make Israel look as if we don’t want peace, and makes Prime Minister Netanyahus job even harder than it already is.

Since I last wrote Jill and I visited the BibleLands museum excellent exhibit of David and Goliath. It shows the archaeological digs to find if this was a true story or a moral fable; it gives and exceptional overview of the site, which we visited with the Parliament just about a year ago. I strongly recommend a visit to the BibleLands – a quiet walk through history.

We had delicious dinner in the Botanical Gardens, walked through the Gazelle Park, met old friends for a chat and of course paid a visit to Shouk Ramle! Indeed Jill and Zvi are in Mahane Yehuda right now buying last minute fruit and veg for tonights Shabbat Dinner Party and Jill wants to buy her special treat – oriental flavourings for rice dishes! Indeed it was a busy week and I decided that I wouldn’t write about politics and diplomacy (or lack of both) but rather about our amazing day yesterday.

Yesterday Zvi’s Parliament went on another incredible tour, arranged by Eitan Carmon and Avraham Kalman, to the North of Israel, to the Valley of the Springs. Shahar Hermelin is the sole member of the incoming visitor department of JNF/USA, and he is brilliant at his job. Indeed JNF/USA is a wonderful organisation, just 5 or 6 people running the offices in Israel instead of the top-heavy, administration loaded organisations we are used to. For those of you who think that the JNF is just about trees, think again. Ecological projects, housing loans, water and irrigation projects indeed anything that enhances Israeli life. After the horrific fires in the North they provided the Israeli fire service with 8 new fire engines and much needed equipment.

We travelled north on Israel’s excellent roads toward the Valley of the Springs a major project of JNF/USA. . We climbed up and up to the top of the world with the most spectacular view over the springs in the valley below. Fish ponds and clean water ponds have been created to serve the area and new villages pop up beside the old ones, encouraging young families and clean industry to the area. As we descended to the ponds or springs we saw exquisite park areas with wonderful walks and hikes for all ages.

We went to Gan haShlosha, Nir David and Kfar Ruppin  where we had a fascinating talk on the birds which flock to Israel on their path to and from Africa/Europe. Israel is the only country in the world which actually grows fish to feed the pelicans which spend four to five months a year here alongside hundreds of thousands of cranes, white pelicans,

For lunch we went to a Kurdish village, founded and maintained by a wonderful group of people who not only built a museum to their ancestors but cook up a storm, and a kosher storm!!!! We started with a short explanation by Yuval and then the food arrived, and arrived, and arrived!!! Wonderful salads, kubeh soup, special rice dishes, chicken, tiny delicious meatballs and all served by the family. Gosh I highly recommend a visit

The special ending was when I found a photograph of my son in laws 116 year old great-great-uncle on the wall!

Our last stop was Kibbutz Gesher and Naharayim. Gesher literally means bridge and the kibbutz is right on the river Jordan with a fascinating history spanning Roman, Ottoman and British history in building the viaduct for the railway to Damascus. Gesher was also the site for the first Jordanian Israeli collaboration on the huge power station built by Mr Rutenberg. Yet another amazing place to visit,_Israel

Zvi and I just came back from the Memorial Service for our beautiful friend Shmuel, Sammy Benalal who was cruelly killed in a Mali terror attack a year ago. One is used to hearing superlatives and complimentary speeches when someone has passed, all their sins forgiven, but Shmulik was a simply exceptional man. Tall, handsome and impressive his qualities went so much deeper than his pleasant exterior. In Hebrew one says he was “naim halichot” pleasant in his ways, but it means so much more than that. Shmulik was a brilliant man, ready to help everyone but not his way, in a way that they could accept, in a way that did not leave one beholden, he gave one the confidence to make ones own decision based on his advice. An incredible father and husband, an amazing friend and beautiful person taken by vile terrorism when he was in Mali, helping the government set up a rational, non-Sharia, education system. Miss you dear Sammy but know the family is surrounded by love.

Tonight we have our Tel Aviv friends coming for dinner. I am excited because not all of them have heard my Zvi’s Kiddush. The table is set, the candles ready to light, the wine and Challot  in place and the food all cooked and prepared

The choir sang “Har Hatsofim” at the ceremony for Shmulik. Adi, the musical director managed to separate Shmuliks voice and everyone sang along. Now you can hear

Welcoming the bride of Shabbat takes place in the Synagogue as well as at home. This song Lecha Dodi, typifies our love of this special day

Shabbat Shalom dear friends

With love from Jerusalem