The view from my veranda

Concords and Concerns

23rd October 2020


Shabbat Shalom,


How are you? I miss you guys and wish you could come back to Israel to enjoy all the beauty we have to offer!


I thought I’d start with some amazing facts about Israel’s relationship with some of the Arab States.

  1. Did you know that we have had a de facto Embassy in Bahrain for 11 years? Israel has been working to conduct diplomacy with Bahrain in secret, through the use of a front company.
  2. All hotels in Abu Dhabi have a kosher selection on the menu and the breakfast buffet for its Jewish visitors. I hope we take advantage of it because otherwise it will be very embarrassing. It would appear that they respect us more than we respect ourselves
  3. The relationship with the Emirates is not the first agreement Israel has signed but it is the first truly warm agreement. Their senior officials came to Ben Gurion Airport for the final signing this week and the first commercial flight of Etihad Airways took a large group of Israeli journalists and tour operators to Abu Dhabi.
  4. The peace treaty with the Emirates will lead to scientific cooperation as well as clear economic cooperation
  5. Many of the Arab States, especially Saudi Arabia, are most interested in Israel’s genetic research. Due to inbreeding, marrying within families etc, has produced many genetic problems, a field in which Israeli scientists are at the forefront in world research.
  6. Next in line are Sudan and Qatar
  7. Israel’s medical treatment of Bahraini princess Fatima bint Khalifa in 2010 helped pave the way for the normalisation deal between the two countries a decade later
  8. Not one of these countries, apart from Israel, is a democracy, yet all of the above are readily accepted into the UN and every other world organisation! In fact Sudan has slavery, Bahrain has over 30% foreign workers in menial jobs who cannot gain citizenship, UAE has just over 1 million citizens and nearly 8 million foreign workers who have no rights…..yet the “yafeh nefesh” (beautiful souls) of the world call Israel an Apartheid State. What does that tell you?


Sadly that brings me neatly to the issue that distresses me more than any other. To my utter dismay it would appear that we have lost an entire generation of young Americans to left-wing cant. Last week I gave you Bari Weiss’ article on the subject, but it goes much deeper than even she suggested. Being Jewish isn’t just being a good person. One need not be observant, although that really helps one’s sense of identity, but the traditions, both religious and culinary, create a home atmosphere that makes our children proud of who they are. It’s not only true of Judaism, it’s true of Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, the Mormon Church, Catholicism……..  Diaspora Jews have a tendency to be ashamed of the dress of a Haredi Jew yet have no problem with a turban, an Islamic beard or skullcap, the Pope’s skullcap, only the Jewish one. Why? It is a problem that is not exclusive to American Jews but is predominantly so. If the melting pot really worked why is there such violent anti-Semitism today? Because all of the others sectors of society are proud of their identity and we try to hide behind our own liberalism. I worry desperately about the young Jews who fight against Israel today without understanding what an amazing country this is – and that it is the only Jewish country in the world.


Zvi and I were invited by our lovely friend Prof. Paul Zimmet to watch a fascinating Australia-Israel Webinar yesterday with Prof. Shehadeh of Rambam Hospital – about the connection between diabetes and Covid-19 We learned a great deal about both the pandemic and the effect upon the ever increasing number of diabetics in the world. I was also fascinated by the current use of a car park!! No I’m not being funny, Rambam Hospital in Haifa has turned their underground car park into a state of the art Covid Hospital


Gosh I’m getting good at segways….. that brings me neatly to a fascinating yet disturbing situation whereby a senior, some say the most influential, member of Fatah and the PA is being treated in Hadassah Hospital. To most Israelis that’s a given, he’s very ill, we have hospitals, bring him here where our doctors will give him the very best of treatments. However the questions it raises have nothing to do with Israel’s obvious moral stance by bringing in a declared enemy and treating him to the best of our ability, it has much more to do with the bigger question “Where did all the vast sums of money the world leaders invested in the PA go if they don’t even have a medical facility to deal with such cases”? We trained their medical staffs in the care of Covid patients yet they have frittered away YOUR tax dollars, pounds and Euros without building any civilian infrastructure.


So you think you have problems? The Knesset was in uproar, literally when a vote to create a committee of enquiry into the Prime Minister’s involvement in the submarine affair- Let me first get you up to date. Israel bought 3 Dolphin submarines from Germany, at a huge cost, after our security services said we don’t need that many. The PM then agreed to Germany selling submarines to Egypt. OK back to the uproar at the Knesset. The Knesset passed a vote to establish a Committee of Enquiry and then, because the Likud MKs were “busy” at the time, claiming that they hadn’t heard Deputy Knesset Speaker Mansour Abbas (Joint List) announce the vote, Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin (Likud) nullified the vote and called for a re-vote once the Likud members had run in from their various committees.


After our second official lockdown, in Hebrew it is called a “seger” or closure which has a softer ring to it, our numbers are significantly down, from 9,000 to 1,000, whatever that means, but our feisty, brilliant “projector”, the man in charge the logistics of Covid, Professor Ronni Gamzu, is fed up, frustrated and angry at the government’s absolute disregard of his suggestions.


It’s almost election time in the USofA. As the election gets closer the atmosphere gets darker and darker. This is, above all, an election of personalities rather than an election of policies. I cannot predict the outcome but I hope and pray that the best person for the United States will be the next President.  Remember that for every extremist on the left there is one on the right and vice versa.


So what have you been up to this week? Are you in or out of lockdown – gosh I hate that word! Why can’t we find a different way of saying that we are in seclusion or confinement. It isn’t a prison sentence, we aren’t being punished or in solitary, nobody is coming around the houses, keys clinking like Mrs. Danvers, turning the lock on our front doors, it’s voluntary, but essential. Wearing masks is another matter, if you don’t wear a mask then you not only risk your life but the lives of others……..


Zvi has been really busy this week as a member of the Presidium of the Congress of the WZO (World Zionist Organisation) Zoom meetings. 3 days of intense discussions, all of importance to the Diaspora and Israel. Zvi was thrilled to see Malcolm Hoenlein give a brilliant presentation. Sadly,  there was unwanted political interference affecting the survival of some of the oldest organisations. Amongst the meetings there were elections to major positions within the WZO. We congratulate and wish great success to Yaakov HaGoel who was elected Chairman of the WZO. The apathy of the current generation of potential leaders within the Jewish World is the main challenge before him.


If, like me, you love Israeli films the huge library at the Israeli Film Institute is now available on line


Yesterday I did something I haven’t done for years – I wrote a letter, not just a letter but a hand-written letter to my grandchildren in NYC. To my surprise my handwriting is still large, even and really quite legible! We also had a wonderful visit from Rachel and the children who are being extremely careful and obeying all the Covid regulations. As soon as they arrived they wanted to help me, to clean and tidy and wash down the verandah but all I wanted was to hug them, which of course I’m not allowed. While the children watched a movie Rachel and I lugged the huge box of photographs and set it on the dining table, and began a journey through the past, finding the most amazing photographs from a time long before her arrival on this earth! My three babies feature strongly, gosh they were beautiful and I wish I could still say I have 3 children, in fact I still do no matter what fate threw at my family. Photos of our old home on the River Thames evoked our long Shabbat walks up our country lane to the dairy farm at the end. We remembered my greenhouse where I sowed seeds and transplanted the seedlings ready to put out into the vegetable garden in the spring. It was a special time with the children who knew that this was Mummy’s refuge.


I don’t have the one and a half acre garden any more but I do have the most glorious view and our verandah is not only beautiful it’s famous! The mornings and evenings are cool, and the plants and little trees are flourishing for the respite. Tonight both of Zvi’s boys and families are coming for Shabbat dinner, first time for ages, luckily our table extends enough that we can all sit in “pods”, Leor and Shiri and the 4 girls, Amiad and Noga and children and Judy and Zamir……and us two! The menu includes the favourites of adults and children alike – pea soup, pizza and chips for the children and veggie soup, about 10 salads and garlic and herb baked of salmon for the adults – and for 6 year old Yonatan who is addicted to salmon or as most Israelis say salomon.! For dessert we have a fruit salad and my very favourite dessert in the world (after pavlova and crème brulee) Auntie Eddies Brandy Cake which I haven’t made in more years than I can think of because it’s so creamy and sinful but since Zvi and I do exercise twice a day and walk every evening I feel we deserve it! We start by singing Shabbat Shalom ot welcome everyone to the table, then Zvi’s Kiddush (blessin over the wine) which will resound all over the entire neighbourhood (well he is a bass-baritone) with all the children joining in, followed by the breaking of bread (hamotzi) and then to meal. The children aren’t observant but they love the tradition of Friday night and will take it with them long after we have gone.


The children get very excited by the citrus trees, the avocado tree grown from a stone and the prolific sweet pepper plant. As I ate breakfast this morning my favourite little bird came to visit. His wife came a few times this week but this morning it was the gorgeous Tsufit, his shimmering, iridescent little body flitting to each hibiscus flower and sipping the sweet nectar from the outer base of the flower as opposed to the humming bird which has a long tongue for the job, he simply makes a hole in the side. He is so beautiful that I forgive him for the fact that the gloriously coloured flowers then drop off and die! Watching the birds and tending the plants, in between Zoom meetings and writing, speaking to friends, keeping up with the news all mean that being in closure is bearable.


So what music do you want this week? A little bissel Yiddish or Satchmo making us all feel that life is beautiful?


The first song is Yachad – together. A song in sign and words


Uzi Chitman – Born to Peace – Noladeti le Shalom. Every Israelis prayer


“It ain’t the world that’s so bad, it’s what we’re doing to it” the words of Louis, Satchmo/Pops Armstrong, the man I would vote for in any election in any country – he would truly make it a “Wonderful World”


I wish you a sweet weekend, a Shabbat Shalom. Remember that if you know anyone who is alone, or feels alone, just give them a call and tell them you care.


With all our love from our Jerusalem home to yours