The view from my veranda

Mourning, Maccabiah and Music

29th July 2022

Shabbat Shalom! I hope this missive finds you well. Chodesh Tov, happy new month.

Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Av and we are in the middle of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple thousands of years ago. The final day of mourning, the 9th of the month of Av, is a day of fasting but not only – it is a day in which we need to ask ourselves what led to the destruction of the Temple and recognise that yet again, today, our level of tolerance of anyone with views that differ from our own is at a horrific low. The fact that we understand the importance of the past in forming our future, irrespective of what or which religion we choose to follow, proof positive that we are all responsible for learning from whence we came.

The lesson learned is multi-faceted but above all other causes of the destruction is that most negative of emotions “sinat chinam” unwarranted hatred, to hate without cause or reason. We’ve all done it, hopefully in the past but each religion has its dark secrets. Perhaps as a reaction, many have lost their direction in the need to change. It’s a fascinating subject for discussion, not argument and when in doubt I always turn to my friend and mentor Rabbi Jeremy Rosen to give a well thought out, intellectual but deeply religious point of view.

The news that the Russians are considering closing down all Jewish Agency activities in Russia is extremely disturbing. Strangely enough, I am not sure that the reason is in any way anti-Semitic or anti-Israel but rather that the work to bring Russian Jews to Israel has caused a huge brain drain as indeed it did during the big Aliya from 1990 onwards. During that period and the turn of the century many Russian scientists and doctors came home to Israel bringing their vast knowledge with them, conceivably the biggest brain drain of recent times. The bringing home of Russian Jewry, something many of us had fought for and demonstrated for was incredibly positive for Israel, but very negative for the Russians.

The Jewish Agency (JAFI) has taken the issue to the Russian courts and it is currently in debate

Is Israel an “apartheid state,” as its enemies claim? We all know about BDS but there are far more subtle and dangerous calumnies, there are even Members of Congress and the European Union who proclaim Israeli apartheid. Who better to answer that charge than a Black South African who lived through apartheid? Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the South African parliament, fits that bill. He examines the evidence against Israel and draws a compelling conclusion. As you have heard me say not only is the claim and downright lie, not only do all faiths and creeds have complete freedom in Israel but to claim what we have is apartheid is to diminish the horror of the real Apartheid of South Africa Please, listen to Kenneth Meshoe, he knows what he is talking about

I was so happy to hear about recent bar and bat Mitzvas at the Egalitarian area of the Western Wall. While the out of the ordinary always reaches the news the normal, the regular, the joyous, the tolerant rarely does, so here I am talking about it!

Sheli Silver, despite her surname, isn’t a blood relation but she is quite definitely a member of our family! Sheli, her brother Tomer and their parents Ira and Valeri are real Israelis and have been from the moment that Ira and Valeri arrived in Israel, just one year after my own Aliya and if you ask either of their wonderful children what their identity is, without any doubt the answer will be Israelis, pure and simple. Sheli is coming to the end of her service in the IDF after a highly successful term of service in the IDF Education and Youth Corps teaching young people who would otherwise not be called up. They receive education which increases their motivation, morale and sense of identity and teamwork. This week Sheli took her “Pluga” her regiment to the Kotel for their swearing in ceremony, obviously watched by her proud parents. I am often asked what is the difference between our young people and those in the Diaspora and it comes down to taking responsibility both as an individual and as a team, being aware of those around you, because your life depends on it – and theirs – and learning who you are. When a young Israeli gets to University he/she already knows who and what they are. Innovation and initiative are the watchwords and the results in Hi-Tech are obvious but it is true in every sphere of their lives. They grow up with a sense of responsibility to the “clal” not only to themselves.

Yes, you heard it right, we are off to yet another round of elections! It drives me crazy that the profligate waste of money, money that we can ill afford, will be spent on incessant Party political broadcasts, constantly trying to convince us to change our votes, the creation of new parties, as if we don’t have enough already, the mud slinging and altered alliances and in the meantime we already know that none of the myriad of parties will achieve a majority to form a stable government and so the coalition negotiations begin and we get ourselves ready for the 6th round of elections which will follow in short order. I was so confident in the short lifetime of the most recent government because I felt that every sector was represented, albeit under several different names of parties but unexpected and clever alliances were made until they weren’t. Those in that government understood compromise for the better of the whole, they represented me, my beliefs and the hope for a tolerant society.

Tolerance is not a political statement, it is a way to raise one’s children and to change our angry world into one in which understand those different to us is a basic element. At least I get huge satisfaction from knowing that Impact-se is living up to its name and having a huge impact on the issue of tolerance in education. Do check out our website and see that so many nations in the MENA region understand that teaching hatred (be it from the far left, far right or mistaken theology) is child abuse.   

Zvi and I went to the Jerusalem Municipality yet again this week, the bureaucracy of selling our old apartment drags on and on despite the fact that both the new owner and we have already moved on with our lives. I know, that’s a common complaint wherever you live. In fact we walked in, took our number and were surprised to see some 60 available clerks, each in their little numbered booth, and about 20 of them available to the public. Both clients and clerks were of every conceivable sector of the Jerusalem rainbow. My only complaint was that although they were there it was basically to tell everyone that the million forms had to be filled on line!

The Maccabiah is over! It was a resounding success, from the entry of the teams, country by country, into the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, to a myriad of sports events all over Israel, and a great sense of pride that the participants were part of the second largest sports event in the world, each representing the Jewish community in their home country. For Zvi and I the highlight was the camaraderie of seeing old friends from every corner of the world and then the “Ne’ila” the closing ceremony. Why was it so special for us? because we took four amazing girls, aged 15 to 11, our granddaughters who danced, yelled, sang and thoroughly enjoyed the glittering young stars of the Israeli entertainment industry. It was spectacular! Three of the girls went down close to the stage and were in a state of ecstasy that they actually touched the stage that Noa Kirel danced on!!

Of course there is so much more to the Maccabiah than sport and spectaculars. Our friend Ceci Bayon brought her grandchildren, who were taking part, and ‘did” Jerusalem from top to bottom, not missing a single sight or site! She is not alone, many used the opportunity to really show their children or grandchildren what Israel really is.

The work that goes into every Maccabiah, all done in relatively small offices without huge committees like the Olympics, is phenomenal. Imagine coordinating 10,000 participants from 62 countries!

We haven’t been entertaining as much as usual, but last night was fun! A group of friends, Zvi’s singing partners in his Ensemble, came with spouses and we just sat around, ate and laughed. I already decided to go with a light supper because even at night the veranda is hot, not with the ghastly humidity of Tel Aviv but hot. Quiches, salads, apple cake and ice cream while everyone admired the “garden”. The little lemon tree is laden with tiny green fruits and is even blossoming again! The kumquats await Martin, the limes await a G&T with friends, the Passiflora is producing still green fruits, the scent of the basilicum wafts over us all and the herb garden is producing daily service. I could wax lyrical about the flowers but then you would not believe that anywhere could be so perfect!!

When I choose music for you I try to bring appropriate, amusing, typically Israeli and often familiar music. This time you will get something entirely different!! This singer decided to take everything Israel, what we do, say, eat and think and put it all into one song!! Sadly there is no translation as far as I know, but I loved it. See how many words you can identify. I’ll give you a clue Bamba (that very Israeli peanut snack) appears regularly.   Wait, I found one with subtitles but I’m leaving the original too because I like it!!

Free Love didn’t begin in the 60’s, it also had very different connotations but Moses’s brother Aaron, my ancestor, advocated loving one’s brother, sister, neighbour. This song talks of love, of Ahavat Chinam, of loving each other, no matter how different was are. It’s all about tolerance, accepting each other with, not despite, our differences. This song is from the religious aspect but it applies to all of us. If Sinat Chinam (hatred) brought down the Holy Temple than surely Ahavat Chinam can rebuild the Temple of our relationship with each other. I hope the subtitles (CC) work

As they used to say in Monty Python “And now for something entirely different” Noa Kirel is a highly talented, amazing young Israeli who is becoming an international success. She is  beautiful, healthy not anorexic, has a great voice and is an outstanding dancer – and she will represent Israel in the Eurovision next year. Our granddaughters are completely besotted with her! This song has no relationship to Israel or Judaism except that this young woman is proud to be Israeli, accepted her conscription to the IDF with grace and – well decide for yourselves

I wish you a wonderful weekend, a peaceful Shabbat, one in which you are surrounded by loved ones, whether relations or those you choose to be with.

Jerusalem awaits you, still beautiful, spiritual and the centre of our world.

Shabbat Shalom