The view from my veranda

Prayer, Peace, Palestinians, Pandemics and Back to School

28th August, 2020


Good Shabbes everyone. I wish you a peaceful weekend. Don’t forget that one thing that the Coronavirus can’t stop is our private prayers. We don’t need a community to pray, we need the will to change, the determination to maintain our traditions despite.


Buddha said “Three things cannot be hidden. The sun, the moon and the truth. “


It’s been a trying week in Israel. You would think that the pandemic would have changed our local enemies just a little bit, that they could have learned what the Emirates have learned, that they can benefit enormously from extending the hand of friendship rather than lobbing missiles. Threats and infiltrations in the North from devastated Lebanon while refusing the helping hand extended by Israel; missiles and deadly arson attacks over the border from the South and Gaza. They care not a jot that a ceasefire, a hudna, could actually be of benefit to their citizens because they don’t care. The level of hate education both at home and in schools is so intense that they see nothing further. It is so sad.


An Israeli was stabbed to death by Palestinian in a terror attack this week. The attacker, from the PA, was immediately arrested at the scene near Petah Tikva; The victim was identified as Rabbi Shai Ohayon aged 39. The attacker was a 46 year old father of 6, who had a permit to work in Israel. Who knows what drove him to kill, perhaps the financial security he was promised for his children as a prize for killing a Jew?


Not everyone in Israeli society is pure and without evil. This last week the entire country was horrified by the dire behaviour of 17 people who either raped or watched others rape a 16 year old girl in Eilat. The police worked with exceptional speed and efficiency and all 17 suspects have been arrested. The one that brought me to tears is the foul young woman who filmed the whole sordid affair and put it on the internet. My mind cannot cope with it and my heart is breaking for the young woman whose life will never, ever be the same.


The strange thing is that we, Israelis, carry on life as normal – or as normal as possible under that shadow of the pandemic. Israelis have discovered Israel instead of being world travellers!! The hotels and B&B’s are thriving as never before and have stood up to the necessary Health Ministry Standards with zeal. The glorious streams, waterfalls, bird sanctuaries and wadis of the north, indeed al the nature reserves, insist upon booking ahead so that even though there is room for everyone, distancing can be observed and in the South desert trekking is becoming a real attraction, not just the beaches of Eilat.


Jerusalem hotels are full and the main attractions of the Botanical Gardens, the Aquarium and the Zoo are filled with children before they go back to school – a very different school from the one they left in March, but school nonetheless. Life will be very different but Israelis we will make the best of it. Check out the options in


Talking of schools, a fascinating fact has emerged – the top results in schools approaching matriculation are in the modern orthodox and Druze sectors. Both sectors achieved 100% eligibility to take the exams. To attain eligibility for matriculation one has to reach a certain standard, just turning up for school doesn’t guarantee entry at all! What is fascinating to me is that these two sectors are those who strive to attain excellence in their IDF service too. It’s a fascinating read as the statistics reveal more than who learns what.


A very interesting situation has emerged in the Health Ministry since the appointment of Professor Ronni Gamzo as the “Coronavirus Czar”! Gamzo is nobody’s lacky, he speaks clearly, openly and demands standards of governmental intervention whenever and wherever needed. In the recent lack of leadership concerning the annual pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov for Rosh Hashana, he spoke to the Ukrainian President and asked them to ban the arrival of foreigners and mass gatherings in Uman during that period. Why? Because the Israel leadership, caved to pressure from the religious parties and decided to allow some 20,000 followers of the Breslauer Hassidim to travel to the Ukraine, to Uman, and Gamzo saw the disaster of their return to crowded conditions and inability to isolate. He turned a Catch 22 situation into a simple response. If you want to read more about the Professor’s opinion of politicians


General Benny Gantz entered the viper’s nest of politics and somehow retained his dignity, which in Israeli politics many viewed as weakness, his humility as lack of power, but the brilliance of his tactics, of his unprecedented honesty is showing now. As President Roosevelt said “Speak softly and carry a big stick”


Many American Universities (and sports institutions) receive huge funding from Qatar, monies that would be far better spent on taking hate out of their own curriculum. Qatar is proud of its academic levels but Impact-se has found major, nay glaring intolerance in their teaching.  Jihad is praised, Christians are described as Infidels and Jew/Israel hatred is predominant with constant anti-Semitic tropes.


About 1,500 years ago someone decided to bury his personal treasure so that nobody would find it, obviously intending to come back later, retrieve the treasure and buy himself a nice farm! Well last week a group of young volunteers, working on an archaeological dig in their year before IDF service, saw something glittering in the sun and found 450 gold coins in an earthenware jar! Read all about it!


California is suffering yet another bout of horrific fires and Storm Laura has left destruction behind her over several states in the USA. By the way, why do storms and hurricanes always have women’s names? I can’t decide if it’s a compliment to our strength or an insult, alluding to our ability to destroy. Actually, this week Britain was hit by Storm Francis bringing horrific floods with it – but Francis is the male spelling of Frances so maybe……. Never mind.


Isn’t it strange how the coronavirus has taught us to greet and meet outdoors? We have learned that touching elbows means a hug and smiling with one’s eyes is more honest than smiling with one’s mouth – hidden behind a mask.


A whole generation of children will be afraid of touching, of hugging, of kissing, probably only one of the results of this pandemic. Next week Israeli children will return to school. They have to add new words to their lexicon – capsules, distancing, masks, Alcogel, all of which confuse their ability to connect. The hugs of their first day back at school are no longer allowed and they haven’t been playing with their buddies during the extended vacation……….they have so many new hurdles to jump.


This week’s Torah reading  Ki Teitzei deals with 76 of the 613 laws of Judaism. Coincidentally it also deals with the punishment for rape. For me the most fascinating of all the laws outlined tells us that we are not allowed to turn in an escaped slave..


Time for some happy news!!! The veranda is blooming despite the searingly hot weather! Next week, in fact starting tomorrow, we are in for a heatwave so I will have to take special care of each and every plant. Perhaps the heat will ripen the sweet peppers I grew from seed and the oranges, still very green but growing beautifully will attain a hint of the bright orange that will tell us they are ready for picking. Sometimes I feel that the hibiscus is finding it hard to breathe, waiting for the afternoon shade while the bright crimson geraniums just keep blooming! Here in Israel they are called the “flowers of the garbage heap” because they grow anywhere!!


We saw Zvi’s grandchildren last Shabbat and had a wonderful visit with Nattie and Yolli Zonszein then on Wednesday I bumped into our friend Mika in the supermarket (hard to identify with masks) and on the spur of the moment she and her husband Aharon came to sit on our verandah. I love spontaneous visits most of all – no preparation just whatever is in the fridge! The season of soft fruits is here, our fruits and vegetables are locally grown, straight from the fields and orchards, so we never get fed up of the plastic imported fruits. The nectarines and peaches are filled with that sharp/sweet flavour of nature and the watermelons, aah the watermelons, bright red seedless and refreshing are the fruit of the moment, conceivably the most Israeli of fruits………. Perfect with white cheese, either cottage or sharp Bulgarian cheese or flavourful feta – all locally produced. We sit in our verandah for the balmy Jerusalem evenings, enjoying the breeze, talking about our world and our day, enjoying icy cold watermelon while overlooking the view over Jerusalem.


Enough, time for music!!


The Central Choir of Melbourne, Australia recorded a Hebrew version of Leonard Cohen’s Halleluya – beautiful My thanks to my “shvester” Andrea Koven for sending it to me


Just in case you are feeling down, with a sense that this isolation will never end, here’s one to perk you up! From Carousel “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by a virtual choir from 15 countries


Shalom Aleichem, the song that welcomes Shabbat in a million homes before the blessings over wine and bread and sitting down to a Friday night meal. White tablecloths, sparkling glassware, the best china and gleaming cutlery dress tables groaning with the festive meal, each country of our dispersion may produce different foods but the basis is the same, just the inherited traditions are different. Shalom Aleichem, Peace upon you.


Peace, such a short word with such deep meaning. Paz, Pax, Pais, Shalom, Salaam….each word accompanied by a sigh, a lament and a prayer.


With much love and prayers for your health, your ability to cope with the impossible situation we find ourselves in and a plea to family far apart – call each other, Facetime or WhatsApp – make sure your children know and learn to love the faces of their older relatives, as if they were right next to them. Zvi and I are lucky with 9 of our 14 grandchildren close by but my heart yearns for Sammy, Oliva, Zachary, Joshua and Callie, just to hug them and remind them how much I love them.


Virtual hugs and much love from Jerusalem whose beauty awaits you