The view from my veranda

Gaza, Rockets on Tel Aviv, Free Speech, Purim and Yuri Shtern

15th March 2019


Good morning, Good month of Adar 2, Happy Purim and of course Shabbat Shalom


Apropos nothing and everything, as the world is reverting to type I found this quote from Chaim Weizmann, December 1936; “There are now two sorts of countries in the world, those that want to expel the Jews and those that don’t want to admit them”, ( Testimony given at the Peel Commission, Jerusalem, 1936).


Why Adar2? Well, since the Jewish calendar is a Lunar Calendar, every 4 years we are a month behind everyone else, so we add a month to catch up! Hence we have the month of Adar and Adar Shani. In the Gregorian Calendar you just add a day at the end of February every four years, making those born on February 29 very unhappy! The Gregorian Calendar was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and is now used by most of the world. Ask a religious child in Israel when his/her birthday is and they will inevitably give you the Hebrew date. Mine is the 12th of Shevat, in the year 5706 and this year is 5779, today being the 8th of Adar2. In other words we’ve been around for a long time!!!


I don’t know if you read about it but last night Hamas shot two long range missiles (rockets) at Tel Aviv. The IDF has responded. The residents of the South also suffered missiles this morning as children were on their way to school, dressed up for Purim. Of course they know what to do, running for shelter since they have suffered such attacks for years without a big fuss. The moment Tel Aviv hears the Red Alert and booms the world wakes up. The IDF response was immediate. The level of unrest in Gaza is extreme and the suffering of ordinary people is unbearable. No, it isn’t our fault – remember we left Gaza long ago. The so called Freedom demonstrations on the Southern Border of Israel, are not only more violent but more vile. The demonstrators launch party balloons with explosive devices attached over the border fence so that Israeli children will be enticed to touch them and die. Hamas is refusing aid from Israel, not the so called building materials but medical aid etc, on a regular basis, they are also killing any dissent, irrespective of whether the dissident is 5 years old or 95 years old. Shmuel Rosner explains the situation beautifully


Next a world-wide issue which began in the USA – Freedom of Speech. In principle, Freedom of Speech sounds like an inalienable right to all free peoples – but it has been used and abused and must be rethought.


On Wednesday we met up with old friends Sanford and Rosie Hollander for a delicious supper in The First Station restaurant Eat and Meat. Sandy has been to Israel no less than 120 times since his first visit in 1967. He has been a lifetime active Civil Rights proponent in the United States since he was a student many years before it became fashionable and he explained to me the misinterpretation of the free speech issue and told me about the Skokie March – I then came home and looked it up. This is what I found.


Freedom of speech” We hear it every day and those who spout hatred believe they are protected by that “right” one of the primary clauses in the First Amendment well apparently they are not. 100 years ago, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote what is perhaps the most well-known — yet misquoted and misused — phrase in Supreme Court history: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” The crowded theater remark that everyone remembers was an analogy Holmes made before issuing the court’s holding. He was explaining that the First Amendment is not absolute. It is what lawyers call dictum, a justice’s ancillary opinion that doesn’t directly involve the facts of the case and has no binding authority.


However, a tragic precedent was established in a Supreme Court decision of 1977 to allow the Skokie March by the National Socialist Party of America – Nazis with Swastikas – to go ahead, falsely based on the First Amendment.


Something has to change. Someone has to recognise the danger of unbridled hatred which has become the perversion of what was intended to create equality. Too many are shouting FIRE in a crowded theatre. Now all we need is one brave judge who is prepared to review an old misunderstanding of the First Amendment, reset the precedent and rule against hate speech to change the paradigm completely.


One thing has changed – a recent US report no longer describes the Golan Heights as occupied. As one who remembers life before 1967 it is right and fair.


This was a very busy week, especially for Zvi.

On Tuesday night the Yuri Shtern Holistic Care Centre held a Gala Performance in the Jerusalem Theatre. It began with a delightful reception, attended by volunteers, patients, Shaare Zedek doctors and of course our founder Lena Shtern and Director Varda Hershkovitz and all the amazing team. The performances of Israeli stars Karin Elal, Micha Shitrit and Arkady Duchin were given with open hearts for free, indeed Karin opened her heart during her performance and told the packed audience that 11 years ago she had cancer and there was nothing like the Yuri Shtern Centre for her. She talked openly of the incredible loneliness of going through cancer with no-one to understand, no-one to talk to and how different her life would have been had the Yuri Shtern volunteers been available to her. Even so many years later the tears ran down her cheeks and every single person in the audience understood her pain. The magic of release and relief that the volunteer therapist (all specially trained in a course at the Centre) can bring is unique. The new Director of Shaare Zedek Hospital Prof. Ofer Merin, spoke of his pride at having the Yuri Shtern Centre based at Shaare Zedek and his amazement at the positive effect the therapies have on patients in all four Oncology Units and Paediatric Palliative Care. We all left the Theatre feeling enriched and enlivened. I am so proud to be a part, albeit a small part, of this incredible organisation.


On Wednesday I went to the home of Erna Bindelglass, a Survivor of the Holocaust from Holland. Although many members of Erna’s family were in the Camps,  Erna and her little brother were not. Erna told us of her years being sent from hiding place to hiding place in the farms of Holland, ever terrified of being discovered, her hair dyed to disguise her Jewish appearance. Although treated with love by the few who were prepared to risk their lives to save Jewish children, Erna believes that the vast majority of Dutch were knowing collaborators with the Nazi Regime.


Yesterday it poured, nay teemed with rain, but undaunted, Zvi and his choir Hakol Yachassi, fulfilled a dream of Zvi’s and met together with another 970 singers at the Tower of David Museum next to the Jaffa Gate to the Old City, to sing for an international video session. Most wearing white plastic rain capes they looked like angels or white doves, laughing and enjoying the moment, singing their hearts out standing on the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem. They say a picture speaks a thousand words – well their choice of song did too. Imagine by John Lennon.


Today the weather is perfect for sport which is just as well since some 5,000 contenders from 80 countries are running in the Jerusalem Marathon. The Jerusalem Marathon has become on of the major Marathon events in the world, a great achievement.  The route will go through many parts of the City, mostly along roads but also along the running path from the First Station Boardwalk to the Zoo. Our friends Itzik Mussachi and Zvika Ledder are running, last year Tzivka won the award for the slowest runner, a prize of which he is very proud since he achieved what none of us even attempted, he finished!!  It is looking good for the race, part of which will run under our home. I just hope I can get out of the road to go to pick my grand-daughters up from school! Of course I will leave it to WAZE to get me there.


Purim. Purim is a complex and tangled web of lies, malevolence, women’s rights and a determination to save the Jewish people from death. Over the years the story has been oversimplified and the heroes and anti-heroes made clear, but it wasn’t so. Vashti wasn’t a bad lady, she just didn’t want to be shown off and worse to all of her husband, King Achasuerus’s buddies at a feast; Mordechai understood that his niece was beautiful and brilliant and that the King was weak and lustful and he suggested that Esther enter a beauty contest to find a replacement wife; Mordechai overheard Achasuerus’s Vizier Haman plot the death of the Jews, especially Mordechai; Esther became Queen, Haman got his own back, literally and the Jews were saved. As always we celebrate, special food, 3 cornered sweet pastries which mimic Haman’s Hat and parties galore in fancy dress!! As Zvi always says, most Jewish festivals are based on “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” some things never change. Instead of Haman we have Homeini.  I was surprised and pleased to read of the increasing number of Christians who celebrate Purim. It is logical, of course, since we share the same enemies even today. The more the merrier.


Incidentally there is a new, famous and proud Jew on the block! Amar’e Stoudemire, basketball player supreme is becoming a Jew and has been given Israeli citizenship. Welcome friend, welcome to the tribe!


This Wednesday we are off to London for the Bat Mitzva of my beautiful grand-daughter Olivia. Olivia will read from the Torah, her choice, and will make us proud. I have the honour of being given the “Aliya” of Cohen and Zvi will read the Prayer for the State of Israel. Olivia is such an amazing young woman, clever, kind and strong…………she’s also a fantastic sportswoman! Zvi and I are taking his grand-daughter Amit with us, since Amit also celebrated her Bat Mitzva a short while ago. Obviously Amit can’t wait to see London and on Friday she and Zvi are meeting my wonderful friend Lord Stone for private tour of the House of Lords. It will be a whole new world for Amit and she will get to see my whole family!


That’s it! I’m off to collect Talia and Ayala from school and take them home. There my welcome will be clear even before I walk up the steps to their apartment, the incredible aroma of freshly baked Challah!


Anyone who sees my Facebook page knows that the view from our veranda is stunning. We overlook the whole of Southern Jerusalem and are privileged to awaken to phenomenal sunrises painting the city pink and gold. Well as wonderful as that view is when I come home from Givat Zeev, over the highest point in Jerusalem next to the Prophet Samuel’s Tomb I get to see the whole of Jerusalem set before me like a huge multifaceted map, glistening clean and white after the rains. Gosh I am so lucky.


Today’s music is obvious – Arkady Duchin, the star whose heart is as big as his body, singing “Mi Ohev Otach Yoter Mimeni” which means Who Loves you More than I – a song he wrote about Israel, the land he came to aged 16 from the FSU. There are no subtitles but his feeling are clear


The Prayer for the State of Israel sung by Shai Abrahamson. No matter how many times I hear this it makes me cry.


Finally, on Facebook, Hakol Yachassi and 970 others singing Imagine.


I wish you a wonderful Shabbat, a time of contemplation, family and peace. Forget politics and concentrate on strengthening your soul.


Shabbat Shalom and love from Jerusalem, the heart of our faith, the most beautiful city in the world, no argument!!!


If the media does not inform us we must inform the media

Facebook      Sheila Silver Raviv
Involvement The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center