The view from my veranda

Democracy isn’t easy

28th April 2023

Shabbat Shalom! I hope you had a good week.

As we leave behind us the pain of Remembrance Day I thought of Eleanor Roosevelt who kept a prayer in her pocket, a prayer of gratitude and humility for us all.

Dear Lord,
Lest I continue
My complacent way,
Help me to remember that somewhere,
Somehow out there
A man died for me today.
As long as there be war,
I then must
Ask and answer
Am I worth dying for?

Here in Israel it has been a strange week of wonderful celebrations, joy, happiness and togetherness beside mourning, strife and family feud.

The ceremony on Mount Herzl, here in Jerusalem, was wonderful, the torch lighters, almost one and all, worthy of the honour, ranging from Israeli Heroes such as Brigadier General Avigdor Kahalani, recipient of the Medal of Valour, Medal of Distinguished Service and the President’s Medal, known for his bravery and leadership during the Yom Kippur War where he led his troops to an unexpected victory, securing the Golan Heights after invaded by the highly superior Syrian Army. Sylvan Adams, an Israeli/Canadian entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to encouraging education and science through the international language of sport. Dr. Avi Rifkind, who pioneered trauma medicine in Israel – I remember the day during the Intifada when a soldier was shot through the heart and Avi saved his life against all odds, to be best man at that soldiers wedding, helit his torch together with Dr Khetam Hussein who led the fight against Covid at Rambam Hospital. Dr Hussein is the first Druze woman to head a department. David Blatt, a much loved former basketball player who has coached most Israeli teams. Of course, there were many other worthy and exceptional people but perhaps the most popular and surprising was the 16 year old who changed the lives of hundreds of other teenagers. Ofek Rishon was horribly bullied and shunned at school and decided to tell her story on a television programme called haZinor, headed by Guy Lehrer. Lehrer was horrified to discover that Ofek had been bullied throughout primary and middle school and thus began the campaign of awareness. Ofek now heads an organisation and reaches out to bullied children, travelling the country talking to them and to those who bully so that they understand the repercussions. As she tearfully read out her speech before lighting her torch the crowd cheered her. Twelve torch lighters in all it was very moving.

As is my wont, I am starting at the end and avoiding the beginning of those two significant days, From mourning to celebration, from Remembrance Day, Yom haZikaron, to Independence Day, Yom haAtzma’ut. Even on those two days of ultimate importance to Israeli society, two days which in the past held us together as a unified society, even those were affected by the split. The sad tradition whereby the families who lost family members in battle have one day, one special day dedicated to their loss, in which they go to the Military cemeteries and stand by the graves of their loved ones in an act of togetherness in the grief, was drawn in to the political morass. When the families of the fallen demanded that politicians not come to the cemeteries, the leaders of the fallen soldiers organisation begged the Members of the government, if they insisted upon appearing, to steer away from politics and to simply stand with the families. Unfortunately, his words were heeded by very few. Even on Mount Herzl, when the Prime Minister appeared many families walked out. One cannot judge the actions of the families who lost their children, parents, siblings fighting for this country but it made me sad.

Sometimes even the strongest 75-year-old lady needs open heart surgery to ensure a healthy future and Israel at 75 is no different. That is exactly what is happening now. Even though I told Zvi that I never want to hear the name Hegel again, his 80-year theory is actually an accurate description of what is happening right now in Israel.  As you know, I have not hidden my concerns about the judicial reform as outlined by this coalition government and we have taken part in very respectful, if vociferous, demonstrations.

Yesterday there was a demonstration of supporters of this government, a sign of a healthy society, because after all, free expression of disagreement  is the ultimate proof of democracy. It bothers me that the organisation of this demonstration and the bussing of participants was actually paid for by the Likud Party. There were many speeches although the media concentrated on the usual histrionics David Ansalem “The elite is running this country and holding us down” he didn’t refer to the current government, he was referring to an imaginary Ashkenazi elite who, as he has repeated and repeated and repeated, have oppressed the Jews from Arab nations. The moment that really angered me however was when the crowd took photographs of Supreme Court Judges, threw them on the ground and trampled them. The ultimate disrespect. Stand up for your beliefs, demonstrate, speechify, wave flags and show love of country, but do not deepen the already distressing split in the people even more than it already is. The Haredi community chose not to participate.

That’s it, from now on this missive will be happy, positive and make your chests swell with pride!

First of all our visitor, the lovely Dr. Kimball (Kim) Taylor who came for the Jewish agency meetings in Tel Aviv and then joined us at home. Gosh, we have known Kim for about 25 years and he and his wife Marianne are adopted members of our family. Kim is a highly respected member of the LDS church in Canada and has dedicated himself to bringing awareness of and respect for Israel within the LDS Church. He founded the Children of Israel Foundation to help his cause. Anyway, just for a change I digress! Kim is on the Aliya Committee of the Jewish Agency and there were fiery discussions there too!

The weather was so lovely that Kim and I went for a long walk along the trail that overlooks the reservoir of Bait Zayit. The air is phenomenal, the views glorious and the conversations along the way heartwarming.

On the eve of Independence Day we sat and watched the ceremony on Mount Herzl together then Zvi and I headed off for Ramat Hasharon and the annual Yom haAtzma’ut party at the Lotans while Kim caught up on his post jet-lag sleep. Rachel and Shaul Lotan open their home to literally hundreds of guests, plying us all with Israeli food and music. Great fun! We arrived home at about 02:30, the main highway full of others who had also been to parties! Luckily Israelis are careful about drinking and driving although like everywhere else, the young drive like lunatics!

Next morning, armed with salads and a cake, Kim, Zvi and I headed off to Dvorit and Meishi Schreiber for their annual BBQ. Lots of friends, tons of meat on the grill, chips in the fryer and multiple salads on the table the conversation quickly turned to “the situation” as we ate our fill. It was fascinating to hear the erudite elucidation of the legal and political aspects of the national dilemma from Professor Shimon Shetreet. Shimon was born in Morocco, studied in a Yeshiva, held several Ministerial posts in Labour governments, and is highly qualified to understand and explain the complexities. We didn’t only talk politics, we had fun too!

That evening we met up with our lovely friends Sue and Tony. Tony Perkin, is a friend of many, many years and it was a delight to meet Sue, whose sister Adrienne has been my friend since childhood. We met up with Rachel at my current favourite Middle Eastern meat restaurant in Jerusalem called Ezra. It is insane there! Loud Israeli music, crazy activity as waiters rush from table to table, families and the incredible aroma of meat “Al ha’Aish” which literally means on the fire! Despite the noise I managed to talk to Sue as Zvi spoke to Tony and Kim and Rachel swapped stories, catching up on everything.

That’s about it. While I have no idea what will be the outcome of the political situation, I only know that despite it all we are a caring society, we reach out to third world nations and nations which suffer disasters; we are at the forefront on medical and scientific research; our HiTech industry is still a world leader and although our light is flickering at the moment we are still a light unto the nations. We will sort this out because there is no alternative. The secret is to talk, not to close oneself off in a bubble of same-minded groups, to try to open up and do what my Mummy always taught us “You have two ears and one mouth, please use them in that proportion”. Be open, don’t hold grudges, remember that even when you cook a pancake it has two sides!

Yesterday we had a visit from a new friend! Robert Wolf and I have agreed on almost everything on Facebook and somehow a friendship emerged. We were thrilled yesterday when he popped in.

A traditional song for both Holocaust and Remembrance Day is “The Human Tapestry” this rendition by the Israel Air Force Choir touched my heart The lyrics are so important in our angry world.

“When I shall die, something of mine, something of mine
will die in you, will die in you.
When you’ll die, something of you, something of you in me
will die with you.
Because all of us, yes all of us, are all one living human tapestry and if one of us leaves, something dies in us – and something, stays with him
If we knew, how to comfort, the anger, if only we knew.
If we knew, how to calm our rage at our humiliation, to say sorry.
If we only knew how to start over.”  

A change of mood and a song of joy, ‘Adon Olam’ – which translated means ‘Lord of the Universe’ – is a hymn that has been part of the Jewish daily and Sabbath liturgy since the 15th Century and which speaks of God in both cosmic terms and as a personal presence in our lives. 200 children gather to honour King Charles’ Coronation. Charles has always been a true friend of the Jewish community in the UK.  

This one is really different! The words Shalom in Hebrew and Salaam in Arabic both mean peace and this song wishes everyone, whatever their language, beliefs, nationality or colour peace, a single syllable that is so elusive and so attainable. Here Daddy and Josh wish Israel Happy Birthday!!  

Shabbat Shalom to all, to every single one of you. You are more important to me than you can imagine. Each Friday morning I get up and begin writing the words that I hope will help you understand what happens here in this amazing little country and how it affects our lives, yours and ours.  

So from a gloriously sunny day I wish you peace, joy and understanding.
With love