The view from my veranda

Dignity, Royalty and Begin’s Judicial Reform

5th of May, 2023

Shabbat Shalom! I hope you are all ready for the Coronation of King Charles III tomorrow! I love the fact that King Charles and the Queen Consort invited Chief Rabbi Mervis and his wife to stay at their home so that they could attend the Coronation tomorrow, a short walking distance from Westminster Abbey. More of that later, but I need to tell you of our week in Israel first.

Sadly, we are all aware of the tragedy that befell the Dee family when a terrorist shot and killed sisters Maya and Rina and Lucy succumbed to her wounds, and of the incredible dignity shown by Rabbi Leo Dee and the children after that tragedy. This week they visited the organ recipients, donated after Lucy’s death, including Lital Valenci who received Lucy’s heart. Rabbi Leo and son Yehuda stood by as Keren and Tali listened to their mother’s heart beating in Lital’s chest, giving her a new lease on life. As you can imagine there was not a dry eye in the room and the heart surgeon who conducted the transplant surgery, Dr. Dan Aravot, said that the emotional side of transplant surgery is often forgotten and for Lital, it was of great importance to meet the family and let them know that it is thanks to Lucy’s heart that she will be able to watch her children grow. I do not use the word “mensch” often, it is the ultimate compliment, a statement of true human kindness and the Dee family has shown an unbelievable ability to give to our world while mourning.

Yesterday morning, the IDF found the perpetrators of the terror attack and within two hours performed an exceptional operation involving some 200 soldiers, and killed them. The operation took place in the complex alleyways of the Kasbah in the town of Nablus. In a rare instance a video of the operation was given to the media and we saw undercover agents dressed as women and local merchants walking through the streets, getting into position and they were soon followed by the armed units. It made us proud to see how brilliant the planning was and the determination to avenge the deaths of such a beautiful family who had never done anything to anyone except exude love.

Rabbi Dee has requested to meet with the families of the terrorists to try to understand what drove them to perform such an extreme act of hatred. When I hear him speak, usually in English, I hear his British upbringing, the determination to find logic in the illogical, in the tragic, and not lose one’s head in hatred.

In a pinpoint, surgical operation the IDF took out a senior member of Hamas’, a man who was responsible for planning attacks on Israelis. As a result, 104 rockets and missiles rained on the South, predominantly on the town of Sderot. It came as a total shock to the residents, who had known relative peace for a while, yet again traumatising children and parents alike. Many young couples moved to Sderot and the area for a better life, cheaper housing and community. Thanks to the care of former Israeli governments, Iron Dome and bomb shelters, nobody died but homes and vehicles were destroyed.

Ben Caspit, an Israeli investigative journalist discovered a document which attests to the fact that the accusations against former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak by Netanyahu’s government, accusations that he initiated the former judicial reform at the centre of the demonstrations, were in fact created at the behest of Prime Minister Begin’s Likud Government! Isn’t it fascinating how politicians are expert in convincing their followers that they are responsible for all successes and never responsible for any failures! They manage to twist the truth to their own advantage.

In a poll this week as to the suitability of leaders to form a representative government the result was Benny Gantz 41% and Benjamin Netanyahu 33%. I cannot decide if citizens are just tired of the configuration of this government or with the proven untruths of their leader.

Back to the Coronation! First of all, I remember it clearly. June 2nd 1953 and the amazing piece of furniture that now graced our living room. About a metre high and 60 centimetres wide and deep, the oak and ash case was beautiful. The screen that produced magic was 12” and black and white, making it difficult to make out the actual stars of the affair but we could hear every word. “God Save The Queen” repeated three times sealed the deal. Her Majesty, a slender, sylphlike young woman, showed great dignity as she wore the unbearably heavy crown taking great care not to move her head in either direction for fear of it falling. I loved this short video made by King Charles describing his childhood  and for those who are interested, this video of the plans for the Coronation, Operation Golden Orb . My son Gideon reminded me of a simple British fact, that we mistakenly call the flag of the United Kingdom the Union Jack. The Union Jack is the maritime flag of the UK and the national flag is the Union Flag. Whatever it is called the Union Flag adorns the streets and buildings of London, indeed of Britain, and thousands have camped out just to watch the procession. I love all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the Royals and traditional British ceremony. These events bring the people of Britain, of all creeds and colours, together in celebration. I admire the Royals for their dedication to duty and in recent times the ability of the new King to change the perception of his life, promulgated by the media. I am certain that we will see a greater emphasis on ecology from this avid gardener and on his special projects in youth programmes. You can see the entire ceremony on the Royal Family Youtube station on your televisions

I will be watching the broadcast together with Israelis here at home and at Zvi’s request the buffet lunch will include cucumber sandwiches, egg sandwiches, (both cut into triangles without crust of course) quiches, scones (cheese and sweet) crudites with dips (a British favourite at parties), a Victoria Sandwich cake, apple crumble and custard………… can’t wait!

Almost Lag b’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, the period between Passover and Shevuot, the Feast of Weeks. The date is important throughout many periods, including the day on which the terrible plague which attacked the followers of Rabbi Akiva, finally ended; the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai in Meron and the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans. There are two faces to Lag b’Omer, one is the annual pilgrimage to Mount Meron and the other is the celebratory bonfires and barbeques held in every town and neighborhood.

Noa Kirel is a highly talented young woman. She has a beautiful voice and her dancing ability borders on the acrobatic. Noa will represent Israel at the Eurovision music competition in Liverpool on May 13th. For those who are not aware, the Eurovision Song Contest has become of great importance in this part of the world, having a degree of politics that doesn’t always go against us. I believe that Noa’s talents may well take us higher than the predicted 7th position in the betting odds. This is her official video – not counted in the music at the end of this missive!  

It’s been a busy week, but two meetings stand out. One was when I got a lovely phone call from Joy Wolfe MBE, a stalwart of UK/Israel relations, long serving journalist, editor and honest reporter of events and President of Standwithus UK, for me, she is a good friend. Joy always calls me when she arrives here to visit her daughter Naomi and I love meeting with her and hearing all the latest about the UK community, so immediately, we arranged to meet at the Pop Up Café in Kiriat Anavim, my favourite restaurant. Joy was absolutely delighted when she arrived, as we sat in the veritable bower of the garden of Pop Up. Surrounded by citrus trees and flowering bushes one also enjoys the delicious creations of young Chef Tom Levi, winner of the top TV chef programme. He came over to say hello, such a delightful young man.

The other was an excellent Zoom in which both CEO of Impact-se Marcus Sheff and Aliza Craimer Elias, Director of the Institute for Curriculum Services (USA) spoke about their essential work on school curricula. While Marcus and Impact-se concentrate on the removal of hate education and the introduction of tolerance in schoolbooks in our region and beyond, The Institute for Curriculum Services concentrates on schoolbooks in the USA, and you would be surprised as to how much disinformation about both Israel and Judaism has yet to be changed, some of which has successfully undergone changes already. It is no news to you that as Chairperson of the Board of Impact-se I am deeply proud of the work of the team, led by Marcus and Arik Agassi. They work long hours, never ceasing to open new avenues for change. The world awaiting our grandchildren will depend upon what children learn in schools today and by changing the paradigm in Moslem schools we can hopefully change the future.

The sun is shining, actually after a chilly last week, this week is gradually getting hotter. Today it may just reach 35 degrees (for those of you in the USA that’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit)! That’s hot! As usual I’ve been enjoying our veranda. I love nothing better than getting my hands into the earth and planting, replanting and moving things. It is good for my soul. While Zvi sings in his various choirs I garden! I am so excited to check the baby apples on the new tree, the amazing blossom on the orange, lemon, lime and kumquat trees, the scent filling our evenings; snapdragons which I grew from seed, petunias, pinks and in a short while the various colours of hibiscus bushes. As I am writing I look out of the window and the almond tree is full of green fruits. It’s going to be a good day. This evening we will celebrate Gili’s 14th birthday at Shabbat Dinner and then tomorrow, a new King and his Queen.

Listening to the Zoom with Marcus and Aliza I began to think about the way we complain about almost everything yet are the luckiest people on earth. We have the right to complain, the right to change, to rectify wrongs, to make a better world for generations to come. If each and every one of us chose to teach tolerance, a misused word which mean to accept those who are different to us, to learn to listen rather than expound, life could be so much better. The teachings of the Torah, and of the great Rabbis of the past, instruct us to illuminate the world, a lesson for us all. One of the core commandments of Judaism is “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). The Talmudic sages Hillel and Rabbi Akiva indicated that this is the central commandment of the Torah.

On a totally unrelated subject, Zvi and I went to see a movie this week and were amazed at the brilliance of the story and the acting. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry starring the incomparable Jim Broadbent. We truly recommend it. No swearing, sex, violence or guns. Just brilliant acting and a beautiful human story.

There have been many tributes to the new King at his Coronation and although this was dedicated to his late mother perhaps this best expresses our connection to the Royals. Cantor Azi Schwartz of the Park Avenue Synagogue welcomes Shabbat to the tune of God Save the King

The Shabbat Project really touched my heart as Jews around the world celebrate together. Of all the beautiful ceremonies in Judaism, my favourite is Havdalah, literally the difference, when at the end of Shabbat we say goodbye to the Sabbath and awaken our senses to the world again. All five senses, the flame, the spices, the wine, and this beautiful song. Sung by the wonderful Natanel Hershik  

Children are our future; children are our hope. Hatikva means Hope and here children sing the National Anthem of the State of Israel. We are going to be just fine!!!

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom to all our friends, those who love what the real Israel stands for. With love from our veranda, overlooking Jerusalem, glistening white in the distance.