The view from my veranda

Birthday, Bennet, Bougie

9th July, 2021


Shabbat Shalom! Hope you are well and the heatwave of the last weeks is passing.

Yesterday was one of the three most important dates of my life, July 8th, 1972, My son Gideon Saul was born. Gideon Saul has lived up to his name and his Torah Reading his whole life. Never one to follow the crowd he stands for justice not only in his work life but in any situation. Gideon has given me the most incredible family, his wife Stephanie, Sammy, Olivia and Zacky. Gideon, even saying his name makes me smile. Happy birthday my love.

Gideon’s Bar Mitzvah Torah Reading of Matot and Masei (Numbers 30:2-36:13) is of great relevance today. How many of us stay silent in the face of racism, cruelty, corruption? How many of us don’t want to make waves when we see and hear anti-Semitism? How many of us find the Ostrich position more comfortable than fighting for what is right? Silence is assent. How often do we face acts of injustice or callousness with silence? A derogatory joke in our presence; an act of selfishness or cruelty; simply reading of political oppression, all of these instances summon us to choose a side. We can either verbalise our opposition immediately, or, through our silence, become allies of the act or words we abhor. There is no neutrality. Silence is assent.

Israel has a new President. Isaac (Bougie) Herzog gave a truly magnificent speech both in the Knesset and at his entry to the President’s House, where he spent much of his childhood as the son of President Chaim Herzog. He carries himself with dignity and brings a very different ability to the position – he has spent most of his life speaking to and learning about the Diaspora and his connection and affiliation to those who live outside Israel is absolute.

A new dawn on Israel Diaspora relations in the Knesset. PM Bennet and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have already reached out to both the world’s political leaders and Diaspora leaders ensuring a closer relationship. President Joseph Biden has spoken several times with PM Bennet and Yair Lapid has just returned from a meeting in Rome with US Secretary Blinken. Naftali Bennet met secretly with King Abdullah of Jordan last week, to heal the fractured relations with Jordan. Yair Lapid and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi met at the Allenby border crossing and Israel agreed to provide a further 50 million cubic metres of water to ease the Jordanian situation. In his historic visit to the UAE Lapid said “Israel wants peace with its neighbors – with all its neighbors,” Lapid said in a speech at the inauguration of the Embassy in Abu Dhabi. “We aren’t going anywhere. The Middle East is our home. We’re here to stay, and we call on all the countries in the region to recognize that and to come talk to us.”

The much talked about “Citizen Law” nearly brought down the new government this week. Despite initiating the proposed law, Former PM and Leader of the Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu chose to fight it tooth and nail with the sole purpose of scuppering any chance of Israel keeping its current government. The proposed changes refer to the ability of non-Jewish Israelis to bring family members into Israel and for those family members to gain citizenship. It sounds simple but the implications are obvious and the fact that Bibi fought it …..I know you will be angry with me for saying what I think but the situation disgusts me.

It is not a case of racism! Looking at the facts, over 250,000 Arabs have received Israeli citizenship under family reunification but I am pushed to find any Jews that were accepted as citizens into the PA or any of our Moslem neighbours.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Chief of Staff Kochavi performed a ceremony this week dedicating a memorial to the brave soldiers of the Southern Lebanese Army who fell in the fighting alongside Israelis, including Gantz and Kochavi. Some 2,700 SLA fighters chose to live in Israel as Israelis. “The border was closed, but for you, the circle was never closed,” Kohavi said to the bereaved families in attendance.

In a fascinating move the United States has expressed a preference in who will take over from Mahmoud Abbas as leader of the PA. I totally approve! I met Dr. Salaam Fayad many years ago when the exceptional Dr. Malcolm Hoenlein invited me to go with him on a visit to Jenin. The man is impressive, his plans give hope for independence to the PA; he wants to imitate Israel’s learning from the British bureaucracy during the Mandate, forming a police force, financial institutions, government departments, education which is why he was shunned and resigned his former position as Prime Minister to Abbas’ Presidency.

Daniel and Jill Meron are about to end their highly successful run as Israel’s Ambassadors to the Czech Republic. Daniel is the official Ambassador but this is a real husband and wife team. As he left Daniel said that the Czech Republic is Israel’s greatest friend and supporter in Europe. Well done to the Meron family and welcome home!

One of Zvi’s favourite projects hit the news this week. Read all about it!

This has been a busy week! Visitors, meetings, Zooms and gardening, although admittedly we haven’t even attempted the last dozen boxes of as yet unknown belongings. Unpacking is exhausting!! On Monday my friend Sue popped in on her way home from visiting her Mum Tema, about whom I wrote last week. We had lovely visitors for lunch on Tuesday – loads of doctors which at our age can be rather useful! We sat outside on the veranda and I sported my lovely new tablecloth of bright flowers…just to brighten everyone’s day. Yesterday was wonderful, we met up with Zvi’s cousins Yossi and Rachel and together with mutual friends we went to our favourite restaurant “Na-Ya” in Beit Nekufa. Tonight we have Zvi’s boys and families and a full set of parents from all sides! Zvi and Rachel have finally persuaded me that once the number of diners goes over 15 I need to do a buffet. Most of the salads are made, 3 quiches and a large side of salmon ready to be cooked, potatoes and cauliflower ready to roast, separately of course and as yet an unknown pasta dish for the children. Tomorrow we have old friends but new immigrant family and friends, Spanish speaking, coming for tea and I invited 3 Israelis so that I have with whom to talk!! Other than that……

So what music do you like? Koolulam is obvious but I can’t put them every week! So let’s start with a tribute to the United States, after all you celebrated your birthday this week too! “God Bless America” sung in Yiddisch by the cast of Fiddler on the Roof

I can’t decide if I love this video or……What do you think?  Gad Elbaz “Drink LeChaim”

We tend to worry and fret over the small things as if they are life changing yet if we would concentrate on the small things, the small gifts of life our lives could be so much better! Here two beautiful children sing of “Matanot Ktanot” Small Gifts.

One of the excellent small gifts of this weekend is that my adored nephew and niece, Steve and Claire, are joining Gideon, Stephanie and family on their holiday in Cornwall to celebrate Gideon’s Birthday. Wish I was there. I just had a video call with Rachel and Talia so I could see Rachel make the Challot and chat to Talia……another small gift.

I wish you a beautiful weekend, a Shabbat filled with love and family.

With love from Jerusalem, even if I now see her beauty from a distance