The view from my veranda

50 days

50 days

24th November, 2023

Shabbat Shalom. Let’s hope and pray that this Shabbat at least 13 hostages, the little children and tiny babies, will be sent home to Israel.

The psychological games continue as Hamas reneged on yesterday’s release and changed it to 16:00 today, just before Shabbat. What is the hold up this time? As my friend Anne Behar said “They can find 10,000 dead within minutes but can’t find 25% of the children abducted on the 7th of October.” Hamas refuses to allow the Red Cross to visit the remaining hostages after the release of the first group.

The IDF has informed the very few that their loved ones are coming home, but to be prepared for their psychological and physical state. Every single day, several times a day, soldiers, specially trained soldiers of the IDF, call the families of the hostages to check on their wellbeing. I cannot imagine the deep sadness of those whose loved ones are not coming home – yet. The families have, in their deep sadness, formed a cohesive support group and each one is happy for the few, but I cannot, as I said, imagine their emotional state having to wait, yet again; not knowing under what conditions they are being held.

Ismael Haniya is a billionaire. He is the “Prime Minister” of Gaza yet lives in opulent luxury Qatar where he is reported to have watched the horror of October the 7th  on Al Jazeera, “prostrating himself in joy” at the scenes. Haniya was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989 but released in a prisoner exchange in 1992 since when he has been one of the masterminds of Hamas. I can never forget the release of Haniya and over a thousand other terror prisoners as they headed north in buses; they were released in exchange for the bodies of three Israeli soldiers Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Souad who were abducted from Har Dov, on the Lebanese border in 2000 and held by Hezb-Allah. We met all three parents, felt their agony, heard their prayers that their children may still be alive and if not at least to have a body to bury and sit shiva over. Benny Avraham’s parents used to come to our home to rest between Knesset visits. Chaim would fall asleep in the big armchair. He said the it was the only time he was able to rest. All three boys were dead, but their parents didn’t know that and Chaim literally died of a broken heart. To understand the irony of Israel’s high moral standards; Haniya’s mother in law was treated in an Israeli hospital.

Yahya (pronounced Yichyeh) Sinwar, one of the other founders of Hamas and the mastermind behind the 7th of October massacre, was also released from Israeli jail. He served 22 years of 4 consecutive life sentences, during which time his life was saved when he underwent brain surgery in an Israeli hospital, before being released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. The rest is history. I can remember a sense of doom as the world rejoiced the return of Gilad Shalit and the then and now Prime Minister Netanyahu greeting him in triumph. It was a great day for the Shalit family but at what price? Many of the terror prisoners will go to the Ofer Prison prior to their release, possibly straight into the West Bank. The Ofer high security prison brings forth many thoughts for me. My friend Jill, during one of her volunteer stints, help clear the files and so on of the former IDF controlled prison before it was turned into a high security, high walled prison under private (not really) supervision. It is also only a few kilometres from where Rachel lives and right next to the border control to Ramallah. The proximity to Ramallah is hardly surprising since Ramallah stretches many kilometres along the border, beside the Jerusalem Modi’in road.

Many of you have asked me about the work of Impact-se the organisation which I am proud to act as Chair of the Board. I tend to describe it in simple terms, because it is complex and very refined work and research by a small but exceptional team, culminating in reports on tolerance in education, predominantly in the MENA region, which are then taken to governments around the world who take major decisions based upon said reports. Clearly, the events of the 7th of October required a rethinking of funding to the PA by governments of the European Union, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Britain, Australia, the USA, basically all influential governments who fund the education systems of the Palestinian Authority and UNWRA. To understand the complexity here is the most recent report on the hate education of the PA which most of the above are now defunding based on our reports. It is highly detailed and therefore not short, but very important.

This has been another tense week, but a week in which both Zvi and I were very busy. Zvi and his choir, Hakol Yachassi, go to the various Jerusalem hotels to sing to refugees from both the South and the North. Zvi also goes to rehearsals of his other choir, the Jerusalem Symphony Choir, where he meets with friends while preparing for their next concert. We both went back to make sandwiches, as I told you I changed from cheese to tuna and Zvi from bagging to schlepping! I went to Movement, Art Studio, and of all unusual things, met with other women in the village library and we all made felt birds! Really! I know it all sounds flippant, but it is all about interdependent support, we need each other, even if we don’t mention the sons, daughters and grandchildren who may well be on the front line in Gaza, we are together, irrespective of what we do. If it is something that helps the country, the hostages, the IDF or the refugees, all the better but it is essential to our sanity that we are together. One of my favourite projects, which I did not take part in, was the knitting of hats for soldiers. This little village sent hundreds of warm beanies for soldiers on the Golan where it is already very cold. Of course, my most important activity is writing to you, telling you about the situation from my perspective, from Israel’s perspective heads the list. By the way, you often ask if you can forward my newsletters; of course you can! I prefer them being forwarded as a whole rather than out-takes but even that is better than nothing! Don’t forget, the website is  

A really funny outcome of this war is apparent in the IDF, all of the men, at least most of them, have moustaches, lip-rugs! It’s partly because beards and helmets don’t go together but it has become a real fashion statement, an emblem of their service against Hamas. From Viva Zapata to handle-bar they take selfies to prove their devotion to the hairy upper lip! I can only hope that they will shave them off when the hostages are all home, safe and – no I cannot even pray for safe and sound, but at least home in the loving arms of their family, those who still have families.

I want to tell you about one problem that I have, quite apart from all of the above; my keyboard is slowly fading! Both the Hebrew and the English letters are disappearing and it’s a very new keyboard! It may sound as if I am making excuses for my typos, but honestly, if I hadn’t learned to touch-type many years ago (gosh is it really 60 years ago?) I would be in real trouble. I must call the supplier but never seem to have time!

Zvi has gone to a neighbour to see the final stages of a big mosaic, a mosaic made by many people in Motza, as another “therapy” group. It will take pride of place at the entrance to the village. Hopefully he will come home with lots of photographs that I can put on Facebook. After the neighbour he will head of to Jerusalem, to the Botanical Gardens restaurant “Caffit” where his parliament has a separate room where they meet each Friday lunchtime. The parliament is made up of Professors, politicians, journalists, civil servants and a couple of businessmen. It used to be co-ed but the women decided that we had better things to do on a Friday and many women have their own Friday parliament.

Tonight, Zvi’s boys and their families will be with us for Friday night supper. The table is once again extended (it goes from small corner table to a one that can set up to 20 diners), and I set it yesterday so that I can write to you, finish the cooking and still get to see Rachel and family before Shabbat. We will be 14 for Shabbat dinner, not too many, and the pea soup, the children’s winter favourite, is made, I made a few salads last night and luckily my stash of food in the freezer will be raided for the main course; bolognaise for the children and Rachel’s delicious beef for the adults. Roasted sweet potato, cucumber salad, cabbage and pomegranate salad, a big green salad, oven chips for the children (they can’t do without them) a tomato salsa salad and anything else that comes to mind. Dessert is taken care of, Gili and Ella want to make cakes and I bought profiteroles and yesterday I made a wonderful chocolate sauce with some almond milk so that it would not be milky! Very exciting!

Since music is so important to our wellbeing, I want to go back to giving you more than one song. This song by Shlomo Artzi is not new as one sees from the video of a young and still handsome man, but his words, his music and his strength have not waned in their power.

Ayn li Eretz Acheret – I have no other country. The original beautiful song  and the real, emotional rendition made after the 7th of October. It may be difficult to watch but so is the truth.

As I sit talking to you, I pray, with all my being, that Hamas will not renege yet again and the 13 hostages will be freed. I pray that the tiny people will forget the horrors and go on to live good lives and that those still in captivity will come home. Amen

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom.