The view from my veranda

Corona, Confusion and Purim

6th March 2020


To start this missive with the usual jovial Shabbat Shalom, Good Shabbes may seem somewhat over optimistic, but actually it really isn’t. Despite the politicians and “the virus” several very positive things have happened this week. I think I’ll start with the good news and then depress you and then put some music to raise your spirits again!


The good news is that an agreement with the Taliban seems to be on the horizon, brining thousands of soldiers home. A war of nigh on 18 years which has flummoxed 3 Presidents, costing $2 trillion and 35,000 lives looks like it will finally come to an end. It was a lose lose situation, to all intents and purposes, another guerilla war, fighting against an unidentifiable enemy who were/are prepared to capture, kill and execute all who they deemed an enemy – the Taliban. If there is one thing we have learned over the past 20 years, it is that no matter who we defeat something worse arises from the dust. To come to an agreement with the Taliban has taken great bravery. In hindsight we can say that it should never have been Afghanistan, or Iraq for that matter, it should have been Iran from the very beginning but too many world leaders were scared to tackle the true enemy of freedom, the true perpetrators of virtually all the terror attacks in this world. Thank you, James Earl Carter.


So we still don’t have a government! The final result gave Likud 3 seats more than Blue and White but forming a coalition is quite another matter. There are 120 seats in the Knesset and forming a government depends on who one can garner from the other parties which was always a centre left and centre right situation but of late has become a far-right addition to Likud and a far-left addition to Blue and White. Of course, it is very easy to blame Avigdor Liberman who has steadfastly refused to sit with Netanyahu, the Haredi community (unless they work and serve in the IDF) or the Arab Joint List.


Netanyahu’s government has ignored, time and again, the needs of the Israeli Arab community. The catalyst for bringing out the Arab vote was, probably, the Trump plan which included many moderate ISRAELI Arabs who live in what is known as the Triangle, in Northern Israel to feel disenfranchised since the plan included transfer of Israeli Arabs within this region to the Palestinian Authority. The plan is a starting point for negotiation but Netanyahu denied it and Benny Gantz spent a great deal of time going from town to town insisting that Blue and White would not allow it – but both parties refused to include the Joint List in their potential coalitions. The final straw was when Netanyahu said: “Israel is not a state of all its citizens, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people—and it alone.”

That deeply insults about half of the medical teams in Israel, to say nothing of the Northern Bedouin, Circassian, Druze, Christian Israeli Arabs who serve the country loyally.


While some of the MK’s of Joint List have questionable loyalties they are not unreachable and the vast majority of the Israeli Arabs are hard-working loyal citizens and should be treated as such. The combination of the above caused even the most apathetic Israeli Arabs to come out and vote, achieving 16 seats, and in my opinion, has pushed the MK’s of the Joint List further away.


The wonderful President Ruvi Rivlin, who will decide who will be given first chance to form the next government coalition, spoke for us all when he said “We don’t deserve another awful and grubby election campaign like the one that ends today and we don’t deserve this never-ending instability. We just don’t deserve this. We deserve a government that works for us.


It is irrelevant whether you call it Covid-19 or the Corona virus – it is scary.  There is no reason for hysteria but there is good reason to closely follow the precautions of the medical teams. In fact Israel has probably been the most cautious, actually turning away tourists from Korea last week and the list of flights stopped and tourists banned from countries is growing. China, South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam, France, Switzerland, Spain, Germany and Austria, Israelis returning from the European countries are self-isolated. Unfortunately, the Corona Virus has appeared in Bethlehem so we had to close the Christian sites and our medical teams are helping the PA to isolate cases.


Purim this year will be a rather miserable affair with most of the Adloyadas (street festivals of Purim events) cancelled, children’s theatre, pop concerts and municipal parties also cancelled. Quite apart from the physical concerns, many businesses, particularly those dealing with entertainment, tourism and companies that rely on manufacturing in China are going to be in dire financial straits. I was impressed by the following video which while insisting that one takes all the necessary precautions, reassures us in terms of numbers.


Talking of Purim, yet another festival which fits Zvi’s description of “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” Rabbi Jeremy Rosen’s writes in his lucid and compelling manner the true story of Purim. We have a tendency to judge events in today’s context which is really irrational when one considers events thousands of years ago! One sees Haman, Ahasuerus and Esther in a totally new light and my favourite in the story, Mordechai, is revealed. Actually I always felt sorry for Vashti but that’s another matter!!


Why are the good things always relegated to a back page? This news should be headlines.

Hungary, Canada, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Uganda, Brazil and Australia hold that the ICC in The Hague does not have the jurisdiction to hear Israeli war crimes lawsuits and wrote official letters stating this to the court before the February 14 deadline for such submissions.


The UN kindly produced a list of 112 companies, many international, which operate over the greenline. It is irrelevant to the UN that those companies provide work for the Palestinians! If you want to know who to support, the list is here.


This whole “over the green line” business drives me nuts. So many countries control of claim land thousands of miles outside their landmass, like the UK and The Falklands or the USA and Samoa… to say the very least, why are they so concerned with where factories and companies are situated.


I know you have been waiting with bated breath to hear the new Israeli Eurovision song. What was that you said? What is the Eurovision? Well, it is an international song contest, the one that launched many an international career for the winning contestants… ABBA! Anyway, I love this year’s entry, sung by Eden Alene in four languages –English, Hebrew, Amharic and Arabic, was written by Idan Raichel and Doron Medali. Eden has an amazing voice and apparently learned four versions of the song and the choreography all in one day! She is absolutely beautiful!!


The Maccabeats have a very light hearted way of describing Purim in English songs


Ofra Haza, an exquisite voice lost through ignorance. I don’t have a subtitled version but this is a translation of the traditional Yemenite song.  Now sit back and enjoy the sheer purity of Ofra Haza  singing “Im Na’alu”


I had the honour of a visit from Joy Wolfe this week. Joy is a driving force behind so many British pro-Israel activities, even though she thinks she getting older I find her schedule breathtakingly busy!! Just a week in Israel and she already visited Standwithus, Victims of Terror and WIZO, quite apart from coming in to see me! Another wonderful visitor was Daniel’s close friend Poodle and her lovely husband David. It’s always a joy to be with her and while David went off to find Judaica we had some lovely time together.  Other than that I have been trying to walk 2 kilometres a day, weather permitting. Actually the weather over the last few days was glorious although  the “blessed” rain returned today with a vengeance!!


If I don’t get a move on and stop chatting with you about the weather then we won’t have any Challot for Shabbat! Yes I decided that today I will make our Challot, Rachel needs the occasional rest! It’s just Zvi and I this week, no big Friday nights at the moment.


Stay well and stay safe. With all our love from Jerusalem, incredible city, so beautiful, so spiritual and so troubled.


Shabbat Shalom