The view from my veranda

Alpha, Delta, Upsilon and Omicron

3rd December 2021

Gosh I can’t believe it’s already December tonight is the 6th Candle of Chanuka and it’s only 21 days to Christmas! Where has the time gone?

This morning, thanks to a crossword clue that I couldn’t answer, I discovered that the word Omicron is a strange choice for the newest variant of the SARS2–Covid-19 virus, it’s meaning makes the choice of name an even stranger choice. Omicron is the rarely used letter in Ancient and Modern Greek meaning a “little o” – the short antithesis of Omega. It’s sort of a micron “o”. Strangely named because everyone has made a very big noise and named it a very small sound! I also find it odd that one is not allowed to called viruses by the names of the country from which they appear to stem. I clearly remember the Hong, Kong Flu, the Asian Flu, Russian flu and of course the horrendous Spanish Flu which killed many millions, but now we have to find other names. Why? Because it is apparently racist to call the current pandemic the Chinese flu. I understand that in some countries people of Chinese origin were attacked which is horrific, but that indicates a problem in the society not the pandemic. Anyway I digress. I’d love to know who named the most recent variant Omicron – and why!!

Every year the United Nations resolution known as the “Palestine Package” is put forward and passed by a huge majority. It’s main aim? To declare the Temple Mount as a solely Moslem Holy site called Haram Al-Sharif, devoid of any reference to Jewish or Christian ties to the Holy site for all three monotheistic religions. In other words the intention is to deny Jews and Christians the right to pray on the Temple Mount. 19 countries decided to change their votes but 129 countries still voted for, 11 against and 31 abstentions. Sad to note that none of the countries who signed the Abraham Accords voted against the resolution. Apparently diplomacy is diplomacy and the United Nations is the United Nations. Sadly, the good intentions after the dissolution of the League of Nations after failing to prevent WW2 and forming of the United Nations in its stead, has not prevented the tacit approval of the denigration of Israel.

Taking of the UN, UNWRA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (in Palestine) has declared itself on the verge of bankruptcy after its major donor countries decided that their handling of hate education in the PA and Gaza took them beyond the pale and decided to withhold funding until serous changes are made. I am happy to say that this corrupt organisation was “outed” by Impact-se.

The Western world should be ashamed! The poorest countries on the globe do not have the means to buy any of the vaccines, not even the ones which we throw away because they only have one month until their “sell by” date. We offered them to the Palestinians but they refused to take them insisting we were trying to poison them (so what’s new?) and it would appear that most of the wealthy countries do not think it important that the pandemic has overtaken Africa – except to ban travel to and from that continent. Israel has decided to provide many African countries with vaccines. Dr. Dan Turner, of Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, has been advocating sending vaccines to African where less than 6% of the population has been vaccinated against Covid-19. Our Minister of Health, Nitzan Horowitz, announced that large numbers of vaccines will be sent for distribution over the next weeks.

It was a source of great hilarity in Israel when Mark Zuckerberg announced the new name for his company…META means “dead” in Hebrew. However last month META proved to be alive and surprised us all by actually moving quickly. META removed over 160 Facebook and Instagram accounts with connection to Hamas. A small start, but an important one since both were used not only to incite but to create organised chaos.

I was not really surprised when the Economist declared Tel Aviv the most expensive city in the world. It isn’t only housing ($10,000 to $21,000 per square metre) – it isn’t that much more expensive than Jerusalem, but home rental is outrageously expensive and parking, simple parking is insane1 Since Tel Aviv roads are mostly narrow finding a “blue and white” parking spot is almost impossible and the average parking lot charges about 40 shekels ($13) an hour – wait a minute that would be considered cheap in NYC!!! Maybe hotels? Israeli hotels in general are very expensive, in fact the top level of hotels in Israel are all extortionate; maybe restaurants? Even in Tel Aviv there are restaurants from over-priced to cheap…… so what is the report based on? Strangely enough, it is because the Israeli shekel is one of the strongest currencies in the world thus pushing up the costs in comparison to the dollar.

Today is 48 years since David Ben Gurion passed away. Tiny of stature but a giant among men Ben Gurion did not care for the demands of others, he knew that the Jewish people needed their own country – he knew we had to come home. He understood that after the Shoah we could not listen to others, we had to be independent and despite even the members of his own cabinet and certainly the USA he declared the founding of the State of Israel on that fateful day in 1948. Even the name of the Jewish homeland was his secret – many thought it would be Judea, but he was, by modern standards a bit of a dictator, and we need to thank Heaven for that. His stubborn leadership was matched only by his personal humility, no fancy limousines, new furniture for the PM’s home, or double beds in planes for him, as one can easily see both in his “tsriff” in Sde Boker and his home in Tel Aviv. One interesting fact about Israeli Prime Ministers as opposed to USA Presidents; The US has always voted for the taller Presidential candidate, the exception being James Earl Carter, whereas Israeli Prime Ministers have often been quite short – even very short! Ben Gurion, Shamir, Golda Meir, Begin, Barak even Naftali Bennet; why? Because in Israel one votes for the leader of a party not an individual. Just thought it funny!!

This has been a wonderful Chanuka! Actually our wonderful week began on Shabbat when suddenly we had the most wonderful visitors who just popped in – Peter and Yaella Cooper! I’ve known Peter for more years than either of us care to remember and although Yaella looks as beautiful as when Peter first introduced her to us, they are newly empty nesters and had time to walk in the gazelle park and then come to us! On Sunday, for first candle of Chanuka, the entire choir came to our place for a party/rehearsal/sing-song. We were so lucky with the weather and set the food table outside on our veranda, everyone brought something. First of course we lit the Chanuka candle with Zvi leading the blessings, then to the excellent electric piano accompaniment of choirmaster Meron, we all sang our hearts out, not just Chanuka songs but their regular repertoire. All the neighbours said how amazing they were and how much they enjoyed the “concert”. I’m also happy to say that everyone cleared away the mess and we were left to sit around and muse on the lovely evening.

Monday was very special for both Rachel and I because we were meeting the truly wonderful “Poodle” for lunch. I should explain, Brits in general and private school students in particular, tend to give each other nicknames. Poodle was at school with my son Daniel (DanCam), Justin (Paddy because he is Irish) and so on. Their names stuck and even in University the tradition continues as in RobRab (|Robert Rabinowitz). Anyway I digress – we met Poodle in a lovely local restaurant called Naya and none of us particularly remember the food because we chatted and remembered and learned and – that’s what you do when you are with Poodle, whose real name is Sarah but since she had a very unusual hair style while a student with Daniel in Carmel College she earned the name “Poodle”. I can only wish everyone friends as true and gentle as Poodle and Paddy….. but that’s another story entirely.  On Wednesday we met up with Yaffa and Martin Glass and Yaffa’s “baby brother” Zvika for a delightful lunch in Modi’in which was really fun and then we went on to Tel Aviv for candle-lighting with a group of Zvi’s schoolmates and friends from University. Are you exhausted yet?

Tonight we have our delightful neighbours Yael and Naftali (gosh I love that name) coming for candle-lighting and Shabbat dinner because it is so rare that neither they nor we have our children and grandchildren over! Tomorrow we are going to Zvi’s lovely cousins Sergio and Sara……..

This week’s parasha, Torah reading, is a very modern story or perhaps an eternal one. It describes paternal favouritism, fraternal jealousy, a gift which made the favourite son stand out and created a strong reaction ending in the son being exiled to a foreign country. However the son was very clever and interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream and prevented famine…..sound familiar? Of course it is the story of Joseph, his coat and his rise to power in Egypt. So much to learn, it is well worth reading in whatever language you wish, but worth reading.

Perhaps that brings us nicely to the first song. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat” in 1965 it shot them to fame and fortune and suddenly brought a Bible story to those who would otherwise never have thought to read it. The words of “Close Every Door” are sadly relevant today, as is the story of Joseph, the Bible reading for Shabbat

Arik (Leib) Einstein, was born on the 3rd of January 1939 in Mandate Palestine and passed away 8 years ago. His best friend was Uri Zohar and two of Einstein’s daughters married Uri Zohar’s daughters – giving them 17 grandchildren! Arik Einstein wrote the following song about his friendship with Uri Zohar. You and me will change the world – Ani ve’Ata

Imagine two sisters in London with voices like angels taking a song from a movie about a shipwreck and turning into a glorious Chanuka song! The Fabian Sisters.  My thanks to the wonderful Gaby Hirsch of Shalva for telling me about it and for helping me through a really tough time, for her part in the creation of Dr. Dan’s Room in the name of my beautiful Daniel and for being a great, loving friend.

So that’s it! The rain has stopped for now and the sun came out but it is really chilly! In Hebrew it is called a “lying sun” shemesh m’shacker. Zvi has gone off to his parliament in Jerusalem and I am preparing food for Shabbat. Since my veggie soup has become a staple during these cooler days it will be served after the gefilte fish with shockingly fuchsia coloured horseradish sauce (chrein), veggie latkes, steamed salmon, courgettes with mushroom, chopped salad and ……an as yet undecided desert! Whatever I decide to make will be enhanced with home grown herbs and fresh lemons and kumquats picked from our trees.

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful weekend and a smile as you open another window on your Advent Calendar. As you light the sixth Chanuka candle tonight then the Shabbat Candles remember that you are helping to light the world, candle by candle, praying for enlightenment to match the glow of the flames.

With much love from our home to yours and of course from the view from our veranda