The view from my veranda

Lies, damned lies and stories of the Middle East

20th May 2022

Shabbat shalom! Hope this missive finds you well.

Lies soar on the wings of calumny. MIT did an entire study on the efficiency of lies as opposed to the truth. The result of their research “Falsehood diffuses significantly faster than the truth and the lie becomes the remembered truth”

Such it is in the Middle East.

The case of Shireen Abu Akleh is an obvious example, the most recent example, but how many of you remember Mohammed Al Dura? On the 30th of September, 2000 Israel was blamed for the killing of a 12 year old who was crouching, hiding behind his father, the photograph captured and spread like wildfire. The resulting riots and world condemnation was overwhelming. As far as I am aware nobody publicised the results of the autopsy which showed that it was a Palestinian (Gaza) bullet that killed Mohammed. So it is with Shireen Abu Akleh, the difference being that the PA will not give Israel access to the body, the bullet or the results of the autopsy. The reason is obvious but the media will never investigate the truth. The result? Riots in both Israel and the PA and worldwide condemnation.

Surprisingly, we, both in Israel and the Diaspora, promulgate the same lies on a different stage. The very basis of Israel’s existence is the Jewish religion, the traditions, yet the very same people, women, who happily cover their heads and honour the Moslem laws when entering a Mosque demand breaking the age old laws of Judaism claiming they demean women. First of all virtually every religion puts the woman in the home, raising the children, often separating men and women during prayer; Judaism is the only religion which actually has a special blessing for the women of the home before Shabbat (Eshet Chayil) and finally, why change the traditions which harm no-one since Judaism is so flexible already with many streams of both belief and tradition. Why am I raising this subject when discussing lies? Because, in truth, it is the greatest stumbling block in our relationship with Diaspora, or more specifically, American Jewry. Call it misunderstanding, call it whatever you wish but our prayers over 2,000 years of dispersion, were not for the Tel Aviv beach or the streets of Meah Shearim, they were for the Kotel, the Wailing Wall, the Old City, the Temple Mount, every depiction of our prayers show the Holy Sites, all the other places are non-denominational, have no religious significance so why force change rather than reach compromise? The more we fight among ourselves the more our common enemies rejoice.

What do supermodels have in common with media hype and lies? Bar Rafaeli responded to the vituperation of Bella Hadid on Instagram. Hadid’s Instagram page has become a propaganda tool against Israel. She and her sister Gigi have some 80 million followers between them and their sole purpose has become to condemn Israel and blame Israel for the current wave of terror. Never undermine their influence, their inanity is what ttracts young people to believe them and so the calumny continues.  Bar Rafaeli wrote mourning the 3 who were killed in Elad, spoke of the wave of terror attacks, and ended her post with a challenge to Hadid to repost it.

How can one stop the rot of disinformation? Start young, teach tolerance, be patient because the lies have been taught for generations, the situation cannot change in a moment, it takes a generation, but we have to start now. The fascinating truth is that those very countries that taught their children to hate Israel, the Jews and Christians (while adopting our prophets) have reached out to change and introduce tolerance into their education curriculae while the Western countries have gone backwards into teaching intolerance in the guise of political correctness.

So back to my question – how do we stop the rot of or disinformation? To begin with we take note of the work of IMPACT-se ( ) and look into our children’s schoolbooks.  The woke trend is tantamount to burning books and destroying statues, by disallowing books of historical importance, yes I mean Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gone With The Wind, Little Black Sambo (which incidentally is about India and a little black hero) – how can we explain to our children that we have improved our society since then? To deny history is to lie, because we are nothing if not the result of our past.

Back to Israel! So this week the government has suffered another blow as their ability to govern is eroded by those on the right and the left leaving them. Of course it is an obvious danger when so many views come together in a coalition, but I hope they survive. The hooha about the cost of security installations for the PM’s home in Raanana while the Prime Minister’s Residence is being made livable, are unfair. He did not make any of the said decisions it was the Security Services who simply went ahead without consulting with local government as required! On the other hand we had two Members of Knesset, Arab Members of Knesset who abused police officers. Ahmed Tibi, Former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset who studied medicine at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, screamed abuse at the police and in the plenary of the Knesset, took the podium and called a female Knesset Member “scum of the earth” demeaning the Knesset and the police in one week. The second incident involved Knesset Member Ofer Cassif who hit a police officer on the head because they asked him to stop and identify himself as he got close to riots.  What kind of example do they show to their constituents, especially the young ones?

Enough doom and gloom! I actually had a lovely week!

On a glorious Sunday morning I headed off to Gilo to collect my wonderful friend Lola Cohen. Lola and her late husband Norman were very involved in Christian/Jewish relations both here and in Britain. Our friendship with Canon Andrew White drew us together but the truth is that Lola’s Shabbat afternoon teas (Yorkshire of course) and the incredible scones with jam and cream and homemade butter shortbread confirmed our friendship! Anyway, we hadn’t managed to get together for too long so we decided to “spur of the moment” and headed off to the Botanical Gardens. Oh joy! Not only the humungeous, now famous  Caffit’s “Oreganatto Batata” a sweet potato, feta cheese salad, that we shared, I wish I could adequately describe the calm, sitting beside the pond, surrounded by people enjoying the veranda, the lovely young waiters, the great food, the glorious weather, but most of all the phenomenal display of water lilies! No wonder the lotus is the stuff of mythology and legend, they are spectacular! Pink, yellow, red with the lily pads bearing rather noisy croaking green frogs. What a delight and of course the conversation with Lola is always enlightening. I find her admission that she will be 90 years old in a month unbelievable! Ad meah ve esrim (until 120 is an old Hebrew blessing)

The next morning Zvi and I headed off to Shaare Zedek Hospital where Zvi became Van Gogh – a small surgery on his ear!! Sitting waiting for the surgeon, then the biopsy results etc gave me the opportunity to do what I love best……people watching. The mix of society, rich and poor, young and old, Arab and Jew, all sitting together either waiting or seeing patients. Yes in this supposedly religiously Jewish hospital many senior doctors are Arab. Watching the friendly interaction, the same conversations in dozens of languages, the same gesticulations engendered by trepidation before going in to the various doctors – I wish you could have been there to see the real Israel, obviously without the medical necessity!

On Tuesday both Rachel and I had reason to be in Jerusalem so we decided to be spontaneous (twice in one week) and meet up in Talpiot! We found a small cafe at the back of the shopping mall, quieter than most so allowing conversation, with the most fabulous freshly made salads and vegetable patties! Everything looked amazing and we got to choose our favourites for our meal. It was a delicious delight and to have time with my amazing daughter without husbands or children was a rare and special time.

Wednesday night saw Lag b’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer which I described last week. Thousands went to Meron to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the man who wrote the Zohar and opened the secrets of the Torah to his students. The rules changed dramatically after the tragedy of overcrowding in which 45 people lost their lives in a stampede. This year the numbers were limited and all went well until some zealots rushed the grave of the great Rabbi. For those who wish to discover more

Zvi has been very busy rehearsing for the concert of Cantus, the choir of the Jerusalem Academy of Music, which will be held in the YMCA in two weeks. He loves to sing and has a glorious bass-baritone! Last night’s rehearsal culminated in him collecting a delightful visitor on his way home. Alan Podolsky ended his Israel trip and came home with Zvi. I love Alan, in fact I love Alan’s parents and siblings, his aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents! Alan’s parents are the only ones in San Diego all the others are in Mexico City.

That brings us up to tonight! We will be 18 for supper, but that number may grow, I never know with Zvi! He and Alan have gone off to Jerusalem to meet with Victor and Mirta Solnitsky from Argentina, to give them a tour and a visit to the Kotel then they will come back here to see our new home and rest. Since the number of guests for dinner is somewhat fluid, flowing upwards that is, I have already prepared most of the salads and two quiches. Wait. Lets start at the beginning. Kiddush (the blessing on the wine) from Cantor Zvi Raviv, the blessing on the Challot (plaited bread) will be performed by Mr Yonatan Raviv (8 years and one week) and then….edamame for starters to get all the children sitting down, followed by cream of celeriac soup, onion quiche and sweet potato quiche, beetroot, kohlrabi, potato, cucumber, courgette, cabbage, caprese, chopped and green salads, baked salmon, then for dessert we will have home made apple pie and ice cream!! All this on the veranda which is ablaze with colour and scents. The weather promises to be balmy so I managed to set everything up outside, which also gives the children the freedom to run around rather than being told to sit by the table! I have a feeling that there will be lots of Spanish spoken tonight. Zvi loves to use his Spanish and we will have 5 family members who speak Spanish so I will make quite sure that I sit with Zvi’s boys and families, despite the fact that the lingua franca is English!!

Time to get back to my preparations. We borrowed an extra table from our downstairs neighbours and I always say that it’s the same amount of work for 6 people as it is for 20, the trouble is that Zvi always takes me seriously!

Since we spoke of Mexicans, of special friends and family Zvi and I wish Nattie and Yolli Zonzsein a huge MAZAL TOV on the birth of a new grandson. We are so thrilled for them especially since they are now in the same country, the same vicinity, as their daughter Merav, after making Aliya 2 years ago. Never mind that it took Yolli some 35 years to be convinced by Nattie that this is home- he loves it and has adjusted perfectly!

What was that you said? Isn’t it time for music? Yes it is and even better it’s Koolulam time!

There’s someone with me here

Yismachu – Rejoice a beautiful Shabbat Song performed by the two Yitzchaks Perlman and Helfgot.

Since that was probably the ultimate in Ashkenazi prayer let’s go straight into an Eastern Jewish Shabbat prayer!! Lecha Dodi is the song we sing to welcome the bride of the Sabbath, the same words a different melody!

“Come out my Beloved, the Bride to meet;

The inner light of Shabbat, let us greet.”

I wish you a peaceful weekend and above all the ability to distinguish between truth and lies.

With all my love from Jerusalem, centre of our world, Jews, Moslems and Christians, this is where we can join together in harmony if we just accept that true faith is individual not imposed.

Shabbat Shalom