The view from my veranda

If I Forget Thee

The first of September 2023

15th Elul, 5783

Shabbat Shalom! I hope this missive finds you well.

Elul, the Hebrew month of Elul, has so many connotations. The famous saying “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” from The Song of Songs written by King Solomon, the Hebrew initials of the words spell out “Elul” when you read the entire poem it is a love story between a man and a woman.

Elul is the month of Selichot, (Penitential prayers) in which we pray that our sins be forgiven as we near the High Holy days which many believe to be the days of judgement for our behaviour over the past year. So according to ancient tradition, I wish that you be written in the good book.

It’s popular to claim that the Torah has no relevance to today’s way of life….. think again and read what Rabbi Jeremy Rosen has to say about that in his explanation of tomorrow’s portion Ki Tavo  

Sadly, the individual terror attacks continue. Yesterday a Palestinian, with a work permit in Israel, instead of driving to his workplace, rammed the border post near Modiin, the Maccabim post, and killed a soldier, injuring 5 others. A 42 year old father of 5, he did not fit the profile of a terrorist and was a regular at the crossing, but he did what he did in a moment of rage. As I have written many times, murders in Israel are a rarity unlike in most countries of the world, but here in this tiny country we are shocked by each death, especially when it is a young soldier defending our lives. Sergeant Maxim Mulchanov z”l was a lone soldier from Ukraine. May his soul rest in peace.

Iranian weightlifter Mustafa Rajaei has been banned from entering any competitions for committing the ultimate sin of shaking the hand of Israeli weightlifter Maxim Svirsky at the World Masters in Poland. The Weightlifting Federation strongly condemned the action of the Iranian government.

There are often secret meetings between Moslem countries and Israeli diplomats, irrespective of their diplomatic status, however the moment such meetings are revealed the situation becomes untenable. When Israeli Minister Eli Cohen met informally with his Libyan counterpart, Najla Mangoush, he was meant to keep it hush hush, but didn’t. The public outrage of the Libyan Government meant that Mangoush was fired and had to flee.

Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin z”l, was dubious, deeply suspicious of the wording in the Oslo Accords, the Interim Agreement for the Self-Government Arrangements, to be signed between the Israeli Government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. His concerns were recorded in a Cabinet Meeting on the 30th of August 1993 just 2 weeks before the signing. He felt that Israel was giving too much and the Palestinians too little, he did not want to go through with the signing. His doubts were well known but this week they were finally published after the 30 year release of protocols

Zvi and I went to the movies this week, actually we wanted to see the movie Golda but the newspaper gave the wrong times so we went to see an Israeli movie about the Yom Kippur War, “Mezach”, or The Stronghold. To be more exact, it is about a young doctor and an outpost along the Egyptian border in the days leading up to and during the fighting of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, 50 years ago. The acting is outstanding and the story true and revealed the cracks in the leadership, both military and political, during that war. After all the other outposts were destroyed by the Egyptian army, the wounded dying from lack of bandages, morphine and antibiotics, the soldiers had to make a decision. It is really worth seeing either before or after “Golda”.

At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”

(Theodor Herzl, 3 September 1897) A man, a dream and reality because one man saw antisemitism in France and realised what the future held without a home of our own. Today Zvi and I live right next to the tree that Theodore Herzl planted on his visit to the future Jewish Homeland. Oh, how I wish he could have seen the beauty, the realisation of his dream that is Israel. With all our problems, and we have many at the moment, this is still a phenomenal, democratic miracle.

We are currently living through some difficult birth pains – the birth pains predicted by Hegel and his 80 year theory – as the generation that built this country on unselfish devotion, the generation that lived through the Holocaust, that lived through the expulsion of North African Jews, that lived through the downfall of the Soviet Empire, the generation that built this country has grandchildren that have no idea what it means to be without a Jewish homeland or what Herzl really wanted. I learned a great deal from my husband and often laughed as he quoted Hegel yet again, but he is right, we need to go through this period in order to revive our Zionism. Incidentally, that feisty spirit that built Israel is proving itself every single weekend as the demonstrations against the current government’s untenable policies continue.

Do you remember the jokes about Jewish athletes, or rather the lack of them? Well Israel has definitely proven them wrong! Just this week we won medals in Jujitsu, 14 year old Lia Shalev won Gold in the Junior Championship in Las Vegas. Maru Teferi made history as the first Israeli marathon runner to win a medal, a Silver Medal in the World Athletics Championship in Budapest. The Israeli team brought home the Gold at the World Rhythmic Gymnastic Championship in Spain. The various aliyahs brought amazing talents, each with their own speciality; from traditional soccer and basketball to great athletes.

Without Chabad (aka the Lubavitch) small communities around the world would not survive. Dublin has one such Rabbi and for the first time in 50 years, a new and much enjoyed kosher restaurant has opened! It is so successful that its reputation has gone beyond the Jewish community to Dubliners in general! I know from my own family how the Chabad Rabbi and his amazing wife in Cardiff have brought the community together irrespective of religious leanings. Such was the dream of Rabbi Shneerson, another dream come true.

We love to complain, and right now we really have plenty to complain about, but guess what? Israel has jumped to 4th place in the UN’s recently published global happiness index. Admittedly it predates the current government but despite it all we are a happy people! The top 20 countries bring a surprise for most of you because the media concentration on our troubles forgets to mention that we are a caring, giving society! The list. Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Canada, Ireland, United States, Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Lithuania

My Mummy used to sing a funny song call “Ve’re Going to a Vedding” and that’s what we did this week. The wedding of Itamar to Limor, a very special wedding indeed. Itamar comes from an observant family, he is the son of our very dear friend Motti (Mottle) Friedman, founder of the Herzl Museum, and has chosen a different religious path to his father, but a path full of respect. The wedding itself took place near Nes Ziona, not in a hall but rather under the skies, trees, flowers of a beautiful wedding site. Israeli wedding food is often upside down, that is the pre-food food is served at stands all over the terraced gardens, from sushi to schwarma, from burgers to delicious spiced fish….all in small portions, finger food. Once the guests have overcome the epicurean delights, we all move toward the outdoor Chuppah (wedding canopy) where the parents and for the lucky people, grandparents, await the bride and groom eagerly. At this wedding, Itamar and Limor danced their way to the Chuppah, stopping right next to me to place her veil over her face. The traditional ceremony, the swearing of love for each other and for Jerusalem was complemented by their beautiful words of love about how they met and what brought them to this day. Motti’s exceptional wife Rivka and their daughter Esther stood proudly beneath the chuppah. It was a prefect mix of the very best of a Jewish traditional wedding service with a modern twist. We loved it!

Living in Israel is much more than a place to lay one’s head. Living in Israel means being involved in how and who runs the country in the full knowledge that every word uttered carries weight in the big wide world. Living in Israel is all about “Ani l’Dodi v’Dodi Li” about caring for others, for those around us irrespective of their origin, creed, colour or leaning, of being prepared to stand out and stand up. Our dinner parties do not avoid politics and religion, we talk openly about everything, disagree frequently but it is not a hypocritically polite society, often mistaken for brusqueness. We care, we know that this country depends upon us, upon our children, upon our defence and our allies. We recognise that many of you misunderstand our political situation, are confused by our current government’s priorities, despite the fact that you and your politics are in a much worse state! We are like family, no, we are family!   Sometimes we fight, sometimes we disagree, sometimes we have to recognise that despite our love we don’t know how to swallow each other’s views, but family we are. Whether left or right, observant or secular, we must educate our children to be tolerant, to accept each other, never to believe that anyone different to us is automatically wrong. The coming of instant everything means that people don’t think before putting their views online creating horrific results in promoting hatred and racism. Even when WhatsApping a friend, think before you write.

Talking about educating our children, today Israeli children go back to school! 6 year olds coping with their back packs, excitement mixed with trepidation as their tearful parents take them to their first day in “Kita Aleph” ready to become independent, walking to school each morning. Here the vast majority of children walk alone to school, the school crossings “manned” by their older schoolmates. You may not know but Zvi’s incredible father created the first Mishmar ha Zahav “Golden guards” at the crossings, their lollipops stopping the traffic to let the children cross in safety, long before Britain and the USA had “crossing ladies”. Anyway, I digress, although that’s something you are used to, education. How and what we teach these youngsters can produce either great or bad future leaders. Thank heaven the Israeli state education system won the approval of the Impact-se report ( ) for its tolerance in education. Read the full Israeli report on the various streams to understand.

Today is Itzchak Perlman’s birthday. Genius, mensch, Israeli, leader, example a man who despite his fame has maintained a wicked sense of humour. A real gentleman. Here he plays music from Fiddler on the Roof… enjoy.

We have had the honour of being present a several weddings recently and one of the most moving moments in a Jewish wedding is just before the groom breaks the glass to remind us of the fragility of life, marriage and Jerusalem, when we sing Psalm 137, King David’s If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.

All we really want, all of us without exception, is to live life in peace, to provide for our children, to play with our grandchildren and to love they neighbour. I sometimes think that if we didn’t have politicians and I’m sorry to say, religious leaders, running our lives we would all get on so well! I just found this video, a beautiful song all about peace among ordinary people.

So another Shabbat, moving closer to the high holidays. It seems only yesterday that we celebrated Rosh Hashana but it really is a whole year and what a year!! I’m about to head off to Rachel, drawn by the aroma of freshly baked Challot and the anticipation of the look of happiness and delight on the faces of Yosef, Talia and Ayala, the rush to give me hugs as I walk in the door. Rachel’s smile is enough to fill me with joy. I’m sorry to be shmaltzy but our children and grandchildren are the high points of our lives, both those here and abroad…. It is for them that we work to make this world a better place, to leave them a worthwhile legacy of love. I am who I am thanks to my parents, their teachings, my memories of my Mother are dim, she passed away when I was but 17 years old, but the greatest memory of my Father, the one thing that really gave me to face unbearable pain with strength is that each time I came into the room, whether after five minutes or five months, my father’s face would light up just at the fact I was there. May your children always know how much they are loved.

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, the never forgotten city.