The view from my veranda

Love, Songs and Breaking Dawn

12th August 2022

Shabbat Shalom everyone! How are you today?

Did you know that yesterday was Tu b’Av, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av and a day of love. Very different to the highly commercial Valentine’s Day, not only because in fact St Valentine wasn’t a very nice man, it is a day when young girls would dress in white, run and hide in the fields, from the young men of the village and come home with a potential husband! Not only did the girls have the last word on who they chose but it was so romantic, probably very unWoke, and fun! A day of romance rather than money-making and this year it was even more appropriate than ever because my late parent’s anniversary fell on……Tu b’Av! They married on the 11th of August 1935 and taught all of us, their children, what it meant to be in love.

Last week we were under a deluge of rockets and missiles but in a truly exceptional operation, called Operation Breaking Dawn, yet another strange name the combination of our Prime Minister Yair Lapid and our Minister of Defence, the former Chief of Staff of the IDF Benny Gantz, the entire operation was over in 2 days and many of the leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a proxy of Iran, were  “removed”. When we say pinpoint killing that is exactly what it is. Our video proof shows a tall apartment building and the missile literally entering through a specific window and killing 15 of the PIJ top men without touching any of the other apartments. The very next day the “clean-up” began, payments to those who lost earnings during those two days or whose houses were hit by rockets and of course, ensuring help to those who were traumatised by the constant sirens and booms. Imagine living for generations in a bucolic setting, farming and raising children in freedom but, and this is a horrific but, every short while your kibbutz is bombarded with rockets and missiles and your children traumatised. Everyone speaks of Sderot, a town on the border which is often paralysed by Hamas or PIJ, but somehow, children huddling in a shelter instead of romping in the fields reaches even deeper into my heart. Anyway, hopefully the combination of effective leaders, Lapid, Gantz and the amazing Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi who ensures that his soldiers have a moral compass as well as a military one, will buy us a long period of Hudna.

The way forward to genuine peace, in Hebrew it has one word, Shalom, but in Islam it has three levels. Hudna, a cease-fire, Salaam (peace as long as it is convenient for you) and finally Sulch (forgiveness and true peace).

For me, and many Israelis, the photograph of Lapid and Gantz, walking along arm in arm, heads close together, deep in consultation, gave us hope. So different, so important.

Incidentally, long before the new elections were announced, two fine men, Benny Gantz and Hilik Tropper, made a promise to Shalva that they would come to play basketball with the Shalva Team. They did so without any publicity, just a video from one of the Dad’s which the press caught up

Most of you will be surprised to know that several thousand Gazans already have work permits to cross into Israel, obviously they go through security on their way, and as a result of an agreement probably with Hamas (or not) the plan to allow some 10,000 further work permits for Gazans to cross over into Israel has been granted. At the same time after just a two day break, the truckloads of staple foodstuffs, fuel and of course electricity supply have been reinstated. Perhaps the least spoken about but perhaps one of the most important aspects of this group of leaders is that they chose not to free any prisoners, terrorists, in the “deal” to end Operation Breaking Dawn.

I try not to write about the internal problems of the USA, it isn’t my place, but this really got my goat. The City University of New York union delegates, who are charged with representing the entire CUNY faculty, created a group called “Not in Our Name.” In a public letter, they declared Israel to be a “settler colonial state” that commits “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” and “funds Nazi militia groups.” The delegates further pledged to “create networks and programs within the CUNY Jewish population to . . . unlearn Zionism.” I cannot begin to understand. If you want to put your name to protest please sign the petition.

“Keep this law because that is what will make the nations of the world think of you as wise and understanding, and when they hear about these laws, they will say that surely this must be a wise understanding nation to have them.”  Deuteronomy 4:6  But is it true? Was Moses just a little too hopeful and maybe naïve? Rabbi Jeremy Rosen considers this in todays short precis of the Torah reading this week.

Israel is not only a country whose founding fathers wrote freedom of prayer and religion into it’s declaration of independence, Israel has never held back the advancement of women. Major Dana (family name not given for obvious reasons) is the Commander of an Iron Dome missile defense battery. The Islamic Jihad just fired 1,000 rockets at Israel. About 160 fell short in Gaza. Iron Dome intercepted more than 95% of the rest, saving thousands of lives. Thank God for Maj. Dana & her comrades.

As we get closer to yet another round of elections and two party primaries have already produced their expected and unexpected results I could not but think of what Sir Winston Churchill said of democratic elections

“At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper—no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point”. —House of Commons, 31 October 1944

Blessing Akawasi Afrifah represented Israel at the European Athletics Championship and came away with a Gold Medal and a world record run, the first Israeli to run the 200 metres in under 20 seconds. Born and raised in Israel his father worked in the Ghanaian Embassy and Blessing, a true Blessing, became an Israeli citizen. Just a short while ago Lonah Chemtai Salpeter honoured us with Israel’s first ever medal in a Marathon in the world Athletics Championship in Eugene Oregon. I love the rainbow of Israeli society.

Did you know that Scottish Jews have their own Tartan?  Yes really. Scottish Jews have a fine history, producing Members of Parliament, Ministers and so much more in medicine and business. Now they can add to their list of honours!

After three long years in which Covid paralysed Australia and made travel almost impossible, the wonderful Pauline and John Gandel arrived in Israel for two short and crazy days with daughter Lisa who runs the family Foundation. I cannot begin to describe the friendship, the warmth, the love between Pauline and John and ourselves but it meant that despite a crushing schedule, we got to see them twice to catch up on “everything”! They come to Israel for many reasons but this time it was to see the progress made on the Gandel Rehabilitation Centre in Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. The generosity of the Gandel family is legend in their native Melbourne and they have many projects here in Israel but I think this is my favourite. An essential addition to the famous hospital it opens state of the art possibilities to those injured by illness, accident and war. There are many wealthy people in this world but few who always look out into their surroundings seeking ways to make life better for all. I love the entire Gandel family for so many reasons one of which, perhaps the most important, is the determined sense of a close Jewish family that the lovely Pauline keeps as her priority.

I must get on with my writing, the only problem with our new study set up is that since we now have side-by-side computers the temptation to chat and discuss tends to cause me to digress from the issue at hand and as you well know, I digress without reason anyway!

Last night we had a “Bira and Shira” (Beer and Song) evening on the area next to the Big House put on by our local council. Actually there wasn’t any beer but rather some excellent Israeli wines. It was gorgeous because the band played both wonderful Israeli songs that I knew and also Beatles songs all of them dedicated to the romance of Tu b’Av. In fact, my favourite part of the evening was watching the local children dance in unison and with gusto! As my friend said “It’s just like the old days when the kibbutz children used to be like family”

In a very short while we will set of for the centre of Jerusalem to the gorgeous Yoel Solomon Street, the pedestrian street with multi-coloured parasols overhead, to the Piccalino restaurant and the birthday brunch in honour of the 75th birthday of one of our newest Olim. Professor Jozek Dodziuk-Justitz and his lovely wife Ruth.  After many years in New York City they came home and enjoy every moment with new and old friends.

This evening, for Shabbat Dinner, we are with Leor, Shiri, Amit, Ori and Yuval, only three girls since Gili is on her Bat Mitzvah trip with her other grandparents Menashe and Galia. And tomorrow we will have Shabbat lunch with our newest Olim friends, Merle and Frank Friedman from South Africa. Old friends for Zvi but new Olim to Israel.

Sunday and Rachel, Yosef, Talia, Ayala and myself will board a flight to London where we will not only celebrate Gideon’s 50th birthday (last month) but all 8 of my grandchildren will be in one city at one time and I will be so full of love that I have been dreaming about it for weeks! Zvi will stay here to guard the country and drive to be with his grandchildren without me asking for the car! In addition to family events we will all try to see old friends and a few cousins but our priority will be Gideon, Stephanie, Sammy, Olivia and Zachary, and of course Callie and Joshua.  On the Thursday we are driving to Oxford to meet up with my siblings, Doreen, Ronnie and Sandie and my cousins Lynne and Michael and while we natter about family things Rachel will take the children to see Exeter College where Uncle Daniel studied and walk along the banks of the Isis, hopefully explaining why the Thames is called the Isis in Oxford, perhaps even hiring a punt to complete the experience and sit on the grass to picnic.  In fact what I’m trying to tell you, gently, is that the chances of my writing next week are highly limited because as much as I love you all……. But am thrilled to say that I will be caught up in my family!

What songs? Love songs obviously but which ones? Hebrew or English? Israeli or…….

What else but Heart to Heart – a song of love. Shir le Ahava

A love song to Israel, a love song to the only country we have. This little Jewish country which tries so hard to get it right. Ein li Eretz Aheret, I have no other country

When I was in Ulpan, the Hebrew language school Ulpan Akiva at Ramat Poleg run by Shulamit Katzanelson 35 years ago, one of the ways to learn Hebrew was through song. I was in the choir and my solo was this incredible song, a love song to Israel. The music was composed by Nurit Hirsch and the lyrics by Ehud Manor. This week Nurit Hirsch celebrates her 80th birthday

I wish you love in all aspects or your life. To give, to receive and to spread.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem,