The view from my veranda

My Birthday, Wishes and Prayers

14th January 2022

12th Shvat, 5782

Shabbat Shalom! I hope you are all well and that the current wave of Covid-19 will pass very quickly.

My ever vigilant daughter Rachel was very excited to discover that since I was born on the 12th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat in the year 5706 my Hebrew birthday and my Gregorian calendar birthday coincide! Yes I know it is confusing especially since three of our granddaughters sang Happy Birthday to me this evening since according to the Jewish traditions the day begins at sunset of the night before. Are you thoroughly confused yet? Maybe I should stop there and just tell you that I’m thrilled to spend this part of my birthday with you. Of course there won’t be any parties, in fact I am not sure that we will see anyone, they are all either positive, poorly or in isolation because they have someone either positive or poorly at home!

First and foremost I extend condolences to President Herzog on the passing of his Mother, Ora. As wife of Isaac Herzog’s father Chaim Herzog she served proudly by his side, raising her two sons, Isaac, now President of the State of Israel and Michael, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States. May her soul rest in peace. יהיה זכרה ברוך

Prince Charles took quite a beating in the fictional, but excellent series “The Crown”. In real life he has proven himself to be far from a wimp and I’m happy to report that he has commissioned a series of portraits of Holocaust Survivors to hang in Buckingham Palace.  The Prince of Wales came to Israel for the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp 2 years ago and has spoken of the need to keep the memories of Survivors alive so that the truth will always outweigh the fabrications of evil minds. In his speech in Yad Vashem he said “Hatred and Intolerance still lurk in the human heart ….We must be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence”.

Israel takes responsibility for helping those less fortunate well beyond her weight or size. It isn’t only sending our IDF field hospitals and IsraAid medics, engineers and psychologists to disaster areas; nor is it only providing agricultural, educational and scientific aid, we just donated $500,000 to the United Nations for food, medical aid and other assistance for Afghan refugees in Tajikistan, the Foreign Ministry announced this week.

I would be lying if I said all was calm and peaceful with the Southern Bedouin community at present but it would be an even greater lie to suggest that we do not have many wonderful Arab allies who are prepared to stand up and be proud of Israel’s achievements. Indeed, Muhammad Zoabi and Yahya Muhamid have spoken up for Israel all over the world. You are invited to meet the Arab Zionists: A new generation of online pioneers as reported in the British Jewish Chronicle”

We lost 4 heroes of the IDF – Last week in a horrific freak helicopter accident and yesterday in a mistaken identity shooting we lost Maj. Ofek Aharon and Maj. Itamar Elharar, platoon commanders in the special Egoz Unit. It isn’t that their deaths are more tragic than anywhere else in the world, but you must remember that here everyone knows everyone and it is personal, it is never just a name in the newspaper.

I loved Sidney Poitier, no matter what role he played he held a fascinating dignity, whether in rags or a suit. So was the man. So much more than an actor, Sidney Poitier went on to be the Bahamian Ambassador to the UN and later an activist in UNESCO. He never forgot his humble beginnings or who helped him – indeed who without whom we would never have heard of him. The man who taught him to read.

A group of eight US lawmakers, four Democrats and four Republicans, from both the Senate and the House, announced the creation of a bipartisan Abraham Accords caucus to work towards strengthening the existing agreements and expanding them to other Muslim countries. The exceptional results of the Abraham Accords have already brought so many of the MENA countries closer to the West and this Caucus can only improve the amazing work already done

Lior Raz, Israeli actor, became famous playing the rather violent role of Doron Kabilio in Fauda. What most of us didn’t realise is that Raz is not only a rather gentle character in real life but that he and Avi Issacharov owned the production company that produced the hit series. This week they sold their company to former Disney executives for a very tidy sum. Well done!

I had a fascinating two hour Zoom interview this week with a young lady called Laura of the Jewish History Association of South Wales . I had prepared a few words about growing up in Wales, in Cardiff so that she could ask the appropriate questions and I was amazed at how much I remembered and how fond were my memories of growing up in Cardiff and the incredibly varied members of my family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings; of growing up as a Jew and being accepted as such; of Hebrew school, synagogue and then a subsection about each of the synagogues as I was growing up, including the one we held in our “playroom”! I realise how lucky I was to be born Welsh to two parents who arrived as refugees and were welcomed with open arms. I spoke of my Mother, a true lady, a kind and loved woman and my father, too shy t speak publicly and so very proud of his beautiful wife who spoke English without even the hint of a Polish accent! It was revealing and brilliant.

We went for our PCR tests this week, twice! Firstly because we had been with Leor who discovered the next day that he was poorly – yes he had Covid so we dutifully went the very next day to be tested only to find out that we should have waited another day before the infection could be detected! The system is so incredibly efficient I was proud. We arrived at the test site and there was quite a long queue but not awful. Young people came alongside asking for our forms and ID cards and on the spot printed the stickers for the tests; they worked in batches of 5 cars at a time. The reason was obvious as we neared the drive through tents– there were 5 test stations. Within 20 minutes we were done and out despite the fact that there were probably some 50 cars before us! Luckily we both gave a sigh of relief when the results came through – NEGATIVE! I’m proud to say that over half a million Israelis over 60 have already had their fourth jab.

Of course, there is always one famous person that not only believes that they have the right to flout rules, but are willing to lie to get what they want and then create havoc by their actions. Novak Djokovic, brilliant tennis star, is the epitome of the misuse of privilege and an anti-Vaxxer (yes I know he claims to have a) recovered or b) have a medical release from vaccination. Currently known as Novaxx DjoCovid, he met his match, literally, in the Australian Government.

In the Torah reading this week we learn that after Pharaoh got fed up of the pesky Jews, their darned plagues, and let us go, almost immediately regretted his decision and as the Children of Israel crossed the REED Sea …..well you know the story. But the big question is why did Moses take them on the scenic route which went through the Reed Sea and took 40 years rather than leading them on the direct route to the Promised Land……..My thought is that he wanted the older, slave generation to leave and the young free generation to lead. It doesn’t always work. Not all leaders are wise or follow the Almighty – far from it. Worth reading what Rabbi Jeremy Rosen has to say about it.

Talking about Torah reading, praying etc, got me thinking about Kippot, Kippas, Yarmalkes, skullcaps those multifaceted head coverings that clearly express your level of religiosity and to which ethnic group you belong! Really! From the tiny lop sided kippa of the Bnei Akiva youth group to the humungeous furry shtreimels of the Haredi sects. The least religious is the white silk graduating through to the black silk, then the knitted kippa has its own sectors – small hand crocheted ranging from your football club colours to deep black; next come the large knitted kippot, whose wearers are usually very right wing, sporting long, unruly earlocks beneath; Bresslauer have white bobble kippot declaring “Na Na Nachman” support for the Rabbi Nachman of Bresslau; next we come to the velvet kippa – a big leap in religiosity and the size is a perfect  fit over the crown of the head and in the very orthodox, Haredi communities can be see peeping out at the back of the essential large black fedora which is often worn at a jaunty angle; finally the shtreimel, ah the shtreimel whose size, shape and fur declare which of the Hassidic Rabbis one follows, to say nothing of the size, shape and colour of the kippa worn underneath!! So there! A “standing on one leg” rundown on Jewish male head-covers!!!

Apart from a magnificent walk through the Lifta Valley in search of the first spring flowers this has been a week of staying home. Partly because most of the family members who went with us on the walk are now at home, isolated with Covid, partly because it has become scary out there! The flowers in question were the wild cyclamen, rakafot, and the tiny, exquisite wild blue iris. They look exactly like my favourites, Dutch Iris but they are barely 10 cms high and perfectly formed. It took a rocky, difficult path to get to them but we were all as excited as children when we finally found them! Our picnic was delicious, vegetable patties (a bit like latkes but made with potato, sweet potato, courgette and onion all minced together) schnitzels, vegetable crudites and fruit………..and since we were the only picnickers in the chilly weather we were well distanced which is just as well since Leor was “positive” the very next day! His news was quickly followed by Rachel’s daughters and 3 of Leor’s 4 daughters! As usual we were very busy on Zooms etc but apart from those we meet on our walks around the neighbourhood, nothing!

As soon as I finish our conversation Zvi is taking me out for breakfast! Tonight, Shabbat Dinner, we will be with our lovely friends Esther and Mario Lev, two people known for their delicious food – so I’m not cooking today!!! No parties this year, in fact we tend to be very wary of gatherings!

As a certain British playwright said – If music be the food of love, play on!

You love Koolulam – I love Koolulam and their message of hope and peace. Someone is Here With Me

Fix You is the next Koolulam, recorded during Covid

Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu – Written by Mosh Ben Ari, has simple lyrics which say it all – Peace will soon be upon us, Peace​​ will soon be upon us, Peace​​ will soon be upon us and on everyone.​Salaa​​m (‘peace’ in Arabic) Upon us and upon the whole world, Salaa​​m, Salaam

My birthday wish, my prayer is that through this strange period of isolation we have learned that the one thing that matters is caring for everyone, no matter how differently they look or pray. I pray, plead, that soon I will get to see, hold, hug and tell my children and grandchildren that I adore them, that they are the most incredible people in the world and that they are everything I ever wanted.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends