The view from my veranda

A new start


18th June 2021

Shabbat Shalom everyone! I hope this missive finds you and your loved ones well, safe and happy.

Let’s get the political scene out of the way so that I can talk about the veranda (mirpesset) and the fact that the plants love the beautiful air of Motza.

Sir Walter Scott could have been writing about politicians today when he wrote “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”

Since Monday, or was it Tuesday, the vexation of those who lost power is tangible. The Likud leadership, particularly Netanyahu, Ohana and Regev, are spitting venom and the Haredim (Ultra Orthodox) who have lost their ability to control have come out against Bennet; the Likud leadership (Netanyahu, Ohana etc) calling the new government “left” and the Haredim demanding that Bennet remove his kippa (skullcap) since he is obviously not a religious Jew because he joined forces with secular Jews.

The new Israeli Cabinet is a wonderful mix of views who decided that in the interest of the people of Israel we need change, consensus and pragmatism. Naftali Bennet is on the right of the political scene and Yair Lapid is centre left but both are Zionists in the true sense of the word. Both accept that Israeli society is made up of a wide variety of views and beliefs and they want to include discussion from everyone. In other words two leaders of the newly formed government are open to discuss the needs of everyone. For me to watch them together, heads close in discussion, smiles on their faces which filters to all the varied and various cabinet as the winds of change take us in a different direction. The change in attitude, the lack of belligerence was made much clearer when one of the first calls of congratulations came from President Biden who took nearly two weeks to call Netanyahu after the elections. To the extremes, this was a “putsch” to the vast majority of Israelis, this is a breath of fresh air.

There is no question that over the coming weeks, our enemies, particularly Hamas and Hezb-Allah, the proxies of Iran, with incitement both within and without our borders, will test the new government, as will Europe and even the USA; I believe they will stand up very well to all and every test.

For those of you outside Israel who have become more and more frustrated with the attitude and power of the religious institutions, you should know that one of the first statements from the new government is to review the question of who is a Jew, civil marriage and all the issues that emerge from the shadows. Hopefully the new attitudes and laws will bring many young people back into the fold.

I am certain that the usual media banalities about Naftali Bennet being “Right Wing” should know that he chose to stay in the family home in Ra’anana rather than the Prime Minister’s residence so that his lifestyle will not disrupt his children’s education. Furthermore, to understand the character of the men who share the leadership, here is something my friend Tal Hartuv, who was hacked with machetes, within an inch, nay millimeter, of her life by two terrorists while she was out walking in the Jerusalem forest wrote this :-

Over the last few years, Naftali Bennet has met regularly with myself and other terror victims/bereaved families, not simply to “advance his agenda” but just to express his support.

When I was in Geneva, Yair Lapid heard my speech at the UN. It impacted him deeply. Afterwards, he took time out of his busy schedule to have a meal with me. I later shared a stage at some public event with his wife, who didnt seem to care about the fancy speakers’ venue, but was keen to meet with me afterwards and know how I was doing.

Even if people don’t agree with their politics, (and politics is something I dont really understand) these people have empathy. Not everything they do is to pursue a political agenda.

Indian Mynah birds are interlopers, they have invaded Israel and are killing off many small birds and if you are not careful they will take small dogs and cats. Unlike the noisy crows, they have a beautiful song, have exquisite plumage but they destroy all in their path. They are so very like our enemies that Icouldn’t help but make the comparison. You may well ask “Why now”? Well imagine a forest, a forest donated by the Mexican community to KKL in memory of Zvi’s little brother Meir who was killed in a tragic accident in Mexico City when the family went to Mexico as Hebrew teachers. The forest was opposite our new home, an entire hillside of trees, that one day last week “someone” decided to set it alight, following Hamas scorched earth policy, endangering the houses above and Road No1 below….crossing to our side of the road; the entire hillside is now black, a burned wasteland and constant reminder that we build and they destroy, torn apart by hatred. It was frightening, horrific to see the hillside in flames, trees and wildlife destroyed but there was a glimmer of hope in the scene – two Arab workers from one of the apartments, jumped over the high fence carrying hoses wetting the trees on our side and doing their best to put out the flames on our side, then bravely helping the firemen. We must never tar everyone with the same brush.

Each year since 1967 and the reunification of Jerusalem, a “Flag March” has taken place on Jerusalem Day, following the route of the troops who marched to the Kotel (Western Wall). It is a celebration as young people with Israeli flags dance their way through the streets – or it was a celebration. This year it became part of the hateful politicising of just about everything by the highly objectionable Itamar Ben Gvir, the extreme right wing politician who is nothing more than a rabble rouser, doing his best to stir up trouble. The former government did not have the courage to change the route, entering through the Jaffa Gate rather than the Damascus Gate which was already a point of dispute close the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jerah ( originally a Jewish neighbourhood established in 1890 at the grave of Shimon ha Tzadik -Simeon the Just and inhabited by former Palestinian refugees who were compensated with homes there) It is Ben Gvir who instigated the last conflagration which began in Sheikh Jerah after Jews tried to evict Arab families. I don’t take sides but we have enough to contend with on the international arena without starting new fights locally. Anyway, the response from Sheikh Jerah was a week of horrific internal strife, fighting in the streets and suddenly we looked like last year’s riots in the USA.  The reason the march took place is simple, we cannot allow Hamas threats to dictate our daily lives.

So apart from the fire life has been interesting as always. Loads of visitors, a journey of discovery as I wander through Mevasseret Zion and Maoz Zion, finding new and wonderful food stores, plant nurseries and hardware stores…. In fact this has been a fantastic week of discovery. Meeting other newcomers, well actually we are all newcomers to the neighbourhood because they only finished building a couple of months ago! It’s such a delight! Most evenings I go for walks with my lovely neighbour Roni and as we walk around the park that runs between the buildings we are greeted and chatted to so I never manage to get up enough speed to register on my phone no matter how far we walk! I have to go out for a second walk while everyone is eating supper or watching the news so that I can walk fast enough to achieve my applause from the phone! This evening we’ve invited everyone in our building (we are only 6 apartments) and a couple from the next block who wave to me each morning with a cheery “Boker Tov” – good morning! I decided that since most people either have the family with them for supper or they go to their family the simplest thing was invite them for a pre-Shabbat cocktail at 5, that way they are free to be with family for a traditional Shabbat dinner.

I have to address a subject that frightens me more than any other – your safety. The world has become a dangerous place for Jews, the vile Roger Waters seems to be getting far too much attention and degrading, or undermining every minority group is considered racist, beating up Jews is not. It’s time to fight back and change the media interpretation of Israel and Jews in the news.

Zvi has gone to his parliament; they have a great deal to talk about this week since the political scene has changed completely, although the topic has turned from “What is Bibi doing this week and when will he go” to “Will the new government hold and who will pull whom in what direction” I will get a full report when he gets back. It always amuses me that the Friday parliaments are rarely mixed, there are women’s parliaments, although less, and there are men’s parliaments and boy do they talk! Anyone would think that they really have the ability to change things!

The Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem is a natural valley between the walls of the Old City and Yemin Moshe; in the summer it is the site of many concerts. The audience tends to dance and sing along – dancing on the ancient stones! Idan Reichel performed in 2019 singing Shevet Achim ve Achiot – a Tribe of brothers and sisters. The chorus says it all Here is a house, Here is a heart, And I will not leave you, Our ancestors – Our roots, And we are the Flowers, the melodies, A tribe of brothers + sisters.

For everyone who has found the last year of Covid and isolation just too much to bear, here is a song from Omer Adam, Shir Hamaalot with English translation

For all of you who worry about the attacks on Israel, the growing anti-Semitism in the world and the unfair condemnation of everything that Israel does to defend herself, just watch and listen because after all it’s “Katan Aleinu” which is a slang expression meaning – we can manage this with ease

I wish you a beautiful Shabbat, a blessed Sunday and remember to reach out to your neighbours, check on the elderly and infirm, invite a Survivor for Shabbat dinner, because the more you look outside yourself the greater your joy in life itself.

With love from Jerusalem, from our new mirpesset and best of all from the little lemon tree that is so thrilled with its new home that it is covered, nay smothered in blossom!!