The view from my veranda

Elections and normal Jerusalem life


19th September 2019


Shabbat Shalom! I hope you are well.


So, that was a waste of a couple of billion shekels wasn’t it? We could have built a new hospital with the money. Another election driving Israelis into apathy or a party political frenzy.  Of course Zvi and I voted, we take our civic duties very seriously; hopeful that this time would make a difference and praying we don’t wind up with another election!!


The final decision as to who forms the government is taken by President Reuven Ruvi Rivlin, after all the parties have presented their recommendations to him. It should be a simple process but whichever way one looks at it the results are so close it will be a battle of wills. I loved what Jason Pearlman, former Senior Media Advisor to President Rivlin, wrote about it with his usual wry, very British sense of humour.


“Ok… let me see if I got this straight…..

Yisrael Beitenu won’t sit with UTJ, Yamina, the Joint List, and most likely Shas, and will only sit with both Likud and Blue and White together.

Blue and White won’t sit under Netanyahu, and supposedly not with the Joint List.

Shas won’t sit with the Democratic Union, the Joint List, Lapid as an individual, and most likely Yisrael Beitenu.

UTJ will not sit with the Lapid, the Joint List, the Democratic Union, or Yisrael Beitenu.

The Joint List won’t sit with anybody… except maybe the Democratic Union.

Labor-Gesher won’t sit with Netanyahu.

Yamina won’t sit with the Democratic Union, the Joint List, or under Blue and White.

The Democratic Union won’t sit with Likud, Yamina, UTJ, or Shas.

Likud won’t sit under anybody, nor at all with the Democratic Union, or the Joint List.

About right?”


Despite the close results PM Netanyahu is definitely the loser, unable to achieve a coalition without the extreme right parties who do not fit his agenda. Blue and White headed by Benny Gantz came in first (33-31 seats) and the biggest winner is the Arab Joint List headed by Ayman Odeh (13 seats). Interestingly enough for the BDS people, the Arab Joint List is the third largest party followed by all of the above.


We have too many parties, votes are widely spread and the electorate is confused. If there were two, three or even ten parties it could bring us to a situation where extremists do not have a voice unless they join the main parties where their opinions will be weighed. It also means that the Arab electorate would be represented by a party which can change their situation for the better rather than being isolated by their leaders. Incidentally, Abu Ghosh and the Druze villages voted almost exclusively Blue and White.


Saeb Erekat – the PA negotiator Tweeted  “Israeli elections were about maintaining the status quo or strengthening apartheid. For peace to prevail, [the] next government has to realize that there will be no peace nor security without ending the occupation: Palestine next to Israel 1967 borders.”  Apartheid indeed when the Arab list got 13 seats in the Knesset which is more than any other small party, including Shas, United Torah, Avoda and the Democratic Union. How many Jews were elected in the Palestinian Parliament? Oh I forgot, no elections in the Palestinian Authority in 14 years and since we mentioned the much-bandied word apartheid, no Jews at all in the PA, no wonder he is trying to maintain the status quo


On Wednesday night I went with my friend Ruth Dudzuik to a fascinating meeting of the Women’s Giving Circle, about once a month Reisie Miller organises a cultural meeting with. Prof. Frances Raday, former UN Rapporteur representing Israel in the United Nations Human Rights Council, spoke of the difficulty of representing Israel in that innately anti-Israel body, about human rights in general and Women’s Rights through Frances’ work with CEDAW – The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the brainchild of the great Eleanor Roosevelt.


We learned about Israel’s human rights record and the surprising fact that among those countries that signed but didn’t ratify CEDAW are Palau and the USA! The Holy See, Somalia, Tonga, Iran and Sudan didn’t sign it at all! Israel, like everywhere else, suffers inequality on the subject of equal pay for equal work, but there are other issues that relate to religious institutions. Ah, I hear you say, it’s the Haredim again, well actually no it isn’t, at least not only. Institutionalised religions, Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism, Greek Orthodox, Copt, Islam, both Sunni and Shi’a, Armenian, all have a problem with women’s rights – some more than others concerning arranged marriages, isolation, suppression or separate prayer but in some it includes honour killing and wife beating. In an example of new awareness, Arab women are speaking out against “honour killing” in the area. Member of Knesset Aida Touma-Suleiman is leading a campaign in the name of Israa Ghrayeb, a young Palestinian woman who was killed by her brother “This has nothing to do with honour, it is FEMICIDE”. A regular critic of the UN I sense that this particular Committee does great work.


Despite the elections it’s been a quiet week, for a change! Last Friday night Amiad, Noga, Ella and Yonatan decided to come for Shabbat Dinner. I love spontaneous meals, one always garners plenty to eat but without the days of preparation! Admittedly they are very easy to feed, nobody is a picky eater. I love watching the children as Zvi makes Kiddush, gosh they are nuts about him! After a very relaxed Shabbat meal we sat around and talked, while the children either built wonderful skyscrapers with what in Israel are called Kaplot – not bricks but small wooden slats and then “Traffic Jam” a terrific game which really teaches them to problem solve and aged just 5 and 6 they did an amazing job!


Just 9 days to Rosh Hashana and the stores are heaving! Once upon a time Rosh Hashana was one of two occasions for new clothes, the other being Pesach, but these days the children have new clothes the year round! The hardest job is choosing from the incredible array of fruit, vegetables, meats and fish to produce the multitude of delicacies based upon the land of your parent’s birth. The dishes that come from the Arab countries, brought here by the 900,000 Jews who fled persecution in those countries are delicious. It’s just after 06:00 on a Friday morning and the aromas are already rising from the kitchens in our apartment building.


Alice, on the ground floor is cooking up a storm and the very Moroccan flavours of cumin, cinnamon and turmeric whet one’s appetite; the Tunisian cuisine of Daisy mixes with the Turkish cuisine of her husband Chaim – a home of equal opportunity as Chaim does the shopping, then prepares the vegetables so that Daisy can work her magic; Michal and Kobi mix Moroccan and Ashkenaz cuisines, and the aromas show that it works! Shoshana is Kurdish, has six children and many grandchildren all of whom arrive on her doorstep for Friday lunch of “Marak Kubeh” or kubeh soup. Shoshana makes a slightly sour soup with celery and onion, mangold and garlic into which she drops the delicious meat  filled kubeh dumplings made with bulghar wheat and chickpea flour and dropped into the fragrant soup. There is an Israeli joke that suggests that if a Kurdish Jew doesn’t have marak kubeh for lunch on Friday he forgets it’s Shabbat and goes to work on Saturday!!!


Me? my DNA test says I am 94% Eastern European Jew but my cuisine is extremely eclectic!! Tonight, Leor, Shiri and the four girls are coming for Shabbat Dinner so I cook whatever the 4 girls will eat (veggie lasagne always goes down well) starting with Gili’s favourite pea soup, the adults have a spicy Moroccan fish chraimeh, a green salad, caprese salad, baby new potatoes, grilled sweet corn, mushroom salad, roasted aubergine with tehina, home pickled cucumber salad and anything chocolate for dessert!!


Talking of Jewish origins, today Jeremy Rosen wrote a fascinating article about the Jews of the Iranian town of Mashad. We know so little and it makes for intriguing reading.


Last night Zvi and I went to the Jerusalem Opera performance of La Colombe. It was outstanding! All four parts, soprano, tenor, bass-baritone and mezzo, were excellent and the comedic acting was perfect. The Director of the JOC, Fern Berniss, came up to me “You’re Sheila aren’t you? I grew up with Elisabeth Gelb”!!!  They grew up in Toronto together, where I met Elisabeth who then moved to Alaska and live half the year on a boat. George and Elisabeth spent a wonderful Pesach with us. Only in Jerusalem!!


One of the joys of waking early at this time of year is that the sun is just waking up too. Mist covers the horizon, softening all the harsh lines between land and sky. Then, the magic happens as the soft greyness turns into a red glow and washes Jerusalem of Gold. My scarlet geraniums frame the view perfectly. Oh yes it is worth waking at 06:00!


Did you know that Rosh Hashana is actually a misnomer? It isn’t a NEW year, it’s the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month and is the Head of the Year!!!


I’m off to cook now, after my daily routine of sitting out on the veranda to eat breakfast and flip through the newspaper, glancing frequently at the view to ensure I’m not dreaming. Zvi will wake and turn on the telly to hear the news, I will set the Shabbat Table out on the veranda and then set off for Givat Ze’ev to kiss my Rachel and her beautiful family. I wish she lived even closer so that we could spend Shabbat together, but in the meantime a kiss will have to suffice. Actually, if truth be told, my real dream is to have all three of my children and both of Zvi’s boys and their families all together for one Shabbat meal. Our home always stretches to accommodate whoever wants to come, something we both learned from our parents. In fact, my Mummy always kept one place setting on the carver table just in case an extra guest arrived, so that they would not feel they had caused any trouble.


I know how much you love Jerusalem of Gold, Yerushalyim Shel Zahav and how blessed I am to see it every day of my life. Here Ofra Haza sings with the words so that you can join in


Koolulam, Koolulove – There is still hope – it’s called love. I am enough of a dreamer to believe it’s true.


Each morning, as we open our eyes, we give thanks to God. This song exemplifies our gratitude. Modeh Ani This version has an English translation of Omer Adam singing but in fact I found another rendition which I absolutely adored, placed by a Christian group with Spanish translation.


I wish you a good weekend, a thoughtful Shabbat during this period of repentance, of a determined effort to throw our sins to the wind and do better, be kinder, express our gratitude to those who give us their love.


Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem



For anyone interested these are Israel’s (almost) final election results


Blue and White: 1,148,700 – 25.93% – 33 seats

Likud: 1,111,535 – 25.09% – 31 seats

The Joint List: 470,611 – 10.62% – 13 seats

Shas: 329,834 – 7.44% – 9 seats

Yisrael Beytenu: 309.688 – 6.99% – 8 seats

UTJ: 268.688 – 6.06% – 8 seats

Yamina: 260.339 – 5.88% – 7 seats

Labor-Gesher: 212.529 – 4.80% – 6 seats

Democratic Union: 192.261 – 4.34% – 5 seats

(Central Elections Committee/The Jerusalem Post)