The view from my veranda

Australia, Santa, Canon White, Haley and Rona Ramon z”l


21st December, 2018

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Gosh it is almost Christmas and 2019 is just around the corner. They say that time flies but this is insane!!

An uncomfortable truth rarely told. Here Canon Andrew White tells of the horrors suffered by Christians in almost all of the Middle East. This Christmas, before hanging your stockings, lighting up the tree, cooking the turkey and buying countless gifts Christians must understand the threat to their brethren in this region. It is time to demand from your religious leaders that they make a noise, a very loud noise this Christmas.

Thirty years ago, a Toshiba radio cassette machine with Semtex inside it, lay unnoticed in a Samsonite suitcase and exploded over a Scottish village called Lockerbie, killing the passengers, crew and villagers as it crashed to the ground. The blame was ultimately taken by Libyan Premier Muammar Ghaddafi, and in time he paid the victims recompense. In fact as a result Ghaddafi gave up his arsenal to the international community and was repaid by President Obama by deposing him, which ultimately led to his horrifying death. Libya is now uncontrollable, without a leader and split into hundreds of tribal regions. Ghaddafi was a cruel dictator but he held his country together. Lockerbie, on the other hand, changed our security procedures forever.

It is fair to say that no matter which side of the political fence one may sit we have all appreciated and admired United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikky Haley. Her untiring loyalty to her country, her faith and a fair hearing for Israel, have endeared her to every rational person.  “It is time we faced a hard truth: both sides would benefit greatly from a peace agreement, but the Palestinians would benefit more, and the Israelis would risk more. I am soon to be an outside observer who has invested so much time on this issue – I pray that we will not still be having the same conversation, the same old speeches, in years to come.”

Women of valour has been the repeating theme in Israel this week as the entire country mourns the death of Rona Ramon, widow of Ilan Ramon. Rona brought joy to so many while mourning the loss of her husband and her son Assaf, who died in an accident while flying for the IAF. The pain of the loss of Assaf was expressed in her work with other people’s children and everyone who met her benefitted from her warmth and kindness – but the pain of loss was more than her body and soul could handle and she succumbed to cancer this week. The outpourings of love from all walks of Israeli life expressed the goodness of this amazing Israeli.,7340,L-5428356,00.html

There is a huge uproar over the United States decision to withdraw troops from Syria. The truth is that there are only about 2,000 US soldiers there currently and the decision is to withdraw only the ground troops not the observers or air support. Little was said about the withdrawal of 7,000 US troops from Afghanistan after a deadly 17 year war. The speech given by the President included both issues but was overshadowed by the resignation of Defence Secretary James Mattis. The President feels it is high time that other countries take part in the fight against ISIS. In fact many countries take part in Operation Enduring Freedom  It is worth noting that the withdrawal from Syria will have little effect on Israel, but the Kurds will undoubtedly suffer, again.

In relatively recent statistics Israel has less intentional homicides than Canada! In fact Israel, despite and including the terrorist attacks, has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world. So next time someone says to you that it is dangerous to come here – laugh at them!!

It is never boring in this region, much is made of the destruction of houses of terrorists, hardly effective since they will be paid to replace them by the PA; imprisonment? Prison is not my best option for those who survive since they are radicalized as in prisons around the world. I don’t have an answer, let alone a response.

I am a huge Aussiphile and if there isn’t such a word in the dictionary then I just coined it!! I think Australia is a great country, its very youth allowing it to create laws and character denied older more traditional societies. There was jubilation in Israel this week when Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison announced it would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and move the Embassy to Jerusalem. Fabulous we thought, until we heard the conditions. Firstly he said West Jerusalem, then he said East Jerusalem as the Palestinian Capital then he said that Australia would move its Embassy when there is peace. I can hear the late Saul Same, a great and much appreciated supporter of the Australian Labour Party, cringing in shame.  I would like to tell PM Morrison that we already knew Jerusalem is the Capital of the State of Israel, don’t need your conditions and we are thoroughly fed up of being reprimanded.

With Christmas fast approaching I really wanted to write a positive newsletter. I know that living in the Middle East and with the situation in the world in general it isn’t easy but let’s try to change the mood.

Did you know that Santa rides a camel in Jerusalem? Well he does! Not only rides a camel but oversees the giving of free Christmas trees to Jerusalem Christians, a gift from the Jerusalem Municipality with thanks to KKL. It is a tradition of many years started during Ehud Olmert’s Mayoral term.

We just had the passing out ceremony for new pilots at the Hatzirim Air Base not far from Beer Sheva. The course is backbreaking, out of thousands of applicants, hundreds who start the course, a very few actually make it to the end. Colour blindness or simply not passing the rigorous intellectual tests mean most fall away so the celebrations are the result of great achievement. This year was special, for the first time the son of Ethiopian immigrants completed the course and will take his place as a pilot/navigator in the Israeli Air Force. Incidentally, the biggest smile will be on the face of Dr Avraham Yitzhak, who came home to Israel when he was a teenager, applied to study medicine at Ben Gurion University and today is the Senior Medical Officer of the Israel Air Force – the biggest smile except for Yod’s Mother!

Sodasteam, much maligned for their groundbreaking factory “over the green line” which gave jobs to Palestinians is about to get Roger Waters angry again! They intend opening a factory in Gaza to ensure jobs in that beleaguered strip of land

This has been a relatively quiet week for us both. We have all sorts of paperwork to sort out, which usually gets pushed aside for more interesting endeavours! I managed to get to Shouk Ramle, right down the road from our home, in the temporary train station. There is so much “tat” there including children’s pyjamas and adult T-shirts for 5 or 10 shekels (useful for a quick change when the children dirty their clothes when visiting), kitchy decorations and plastic flowers, but I don’t go for those things, I go to feel the amazing hubbub, the chaos of people finding a bargain, every variety of Jerusalemite, pushing and shoving their way through the throng. Shouk Ramle arrives once a week on a Monday, I am convinced that it is because the costermongers need the rest of the week to rest their voices from shouting their wares “Ha kol le 10 shekl” Everything for 10 shekels or some such. It is really fun and I rarely go home without several packages!!

My easy week meant that I had time to appreciate our own incredible view from the veranda, freshly washed by the glorious, life giving rain. Each morning the clouds welcome me with new designs in the sky, casting fascinating shadows over the vista. I also managed to cook up a storm, my first real culinary session since being unwell. I still can’t eat most of it but Zvi’s children are coming tonight for Shabbat and I will have plenty of choice!!

Tonight we have the usual array of salads – Courgette, egg, cabbage, cucumber, and for once we have traditional chicken soup with kneidlach (matzo balls), chicken, rice, roasties and compote for dessert. Not exciting but better than last week!!!

I thought a lot about which songs I want this week. One was obvious, obvious because it shows how children can be taught to love with one heart.

Who remembers the old El Al flights when they would play the music of Heveinu Shalom Aleichem as we came into land in Ben Gurion Airport? It was so special, in the same way that instead of going into a sleeve we could touch the ground and smell the aroma of pine and citurs in the air. Anyway this is a very special second best!

Finally, the most amazing aspect of Israel that despite all the trials and tribulations life here is incredible. The people warm, the food amazing, the interaction of differences and the mutual concerns and delights. No song expresses this better than Al Kol Eleh. I have played you almost every version of this song but this one……………… wow! Koolulam helped by the beautiful voice of Shlomi Shabbat.

I wish you Shabbat Shalom, a Holy Noel and a peaceful time to celebrate what we have  and what we have achieved.

Shabbat Shalom


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Involvement The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center