The view from my veranda

Presidents Old and New

2nd July 2021

Shabbat Shalom dear friends.

Most of us outside Florida had never heard of Champlain Towers or of the people who lived there. Sadly the horrific collapse of the building could so easily have been prevented, the incident and sheer criminal negligence has everyone thinking of the horror of its collapse and the demise of those inside. Apparently the building was shaking and moving for several minutes before the collapse and a few people escaped. Teams of responders from Florida, the US Army and the IDF have been working 24 hours a day to reach those trapped inside, so far to no avail. The Home Front Command’s search-and-rescue delegation continues to work to find and pull survivors from the rubble. Col. Elad Edri, deputy commander of the delegation said “We still believe that there are survivors and we are working to rescue them” Miracles have happened before.

North America is suffering a searing, life threatening heatwave, and global warming is blamed, however, this is not the first time, and probably not the last, that such weather conditions prevail. It happened in 1936 then again 1976 and the hottest ever recorded temperature in North America was in 1913 in Death Valley – 56C – 134F. To put things into perspective, 56C is a normal summer temperature in Varanasi India, which doesn’t help the people of Vancouver who are not used to temperatures over 25C!

The first disagreement within the new government of Israel has come about early in their coalition and from the expected sources. Ra’am and Meretz are up in arms about the proposed “Family Reunification Law” which disallows Palestinian citizens of Israel bringing family members who live in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip into Israel to live with them, even if they are their children or partners.

It isn’t, wasn’t and never will be a secret that rebellion is a death sentence in the PA. The Palestinian Authority justice minister and head of the investigation committee into the death of activist and dissident Nizar Banat says Banat was subjected to physical violence and his death was “unnatural”. Nizar Banat was an open critic of the Palestinian leadership, a brave man indeed. Here Khaled Abut Toameh writes about the lack of press freedom in the PA. I do not understand the world media that lauds the actions of the PA and yet criticises Israel on every single issue despite absolute journalistic freedom here.

In future I will not refer to the “scorched earth policy” of the Gazans as “balloons” but rather call them by their real name – incendiary devices intended to burn farmland, crops, parkland and animals all carefully tended, built and loved by Israelis close to the border with Gaza. Those balloons also have far more abhorrent intentions, dressed at children’s toys they are meant to be seen by children and explode on them. Here in central and northern Israel a box of matches has become another weapon in the arsenal of destruction in towns and villages around the country as Palestinians continue the scorched earth policy burning down thousands and thousands of trees planted over the last 100 years by KKL.

Time for some good news! Gal Gadot gave birth to a little girl called Daniella. “Wonderwoman” indeed, thrilled to be a Mum.

President to be Isaac “Bougie” Herzog has done a brilliant job as Chairman of the Jewish Agency, repairing the damage of his predecessors, determined to rekindle the connection between Israel and the Diaspora, particularly with the American Jewish community, and using his undoubted gentlemanly personality to reach out.

On Monday evening we set off for Mount Herzl and a beautiful reception to honour Herzog’s years as Chairman of the Jewish Agency and wish him well on his tenure as President of the State of Israel. The reception was held in the beautiful grounds of the Museum, close to the Military Cemetery of Mount Herzl, where so many heroes are buried and Presidents, Prime Ministers and Chiefs of Staff lie, a reminder of the struggles which built this country and of the great and lesser leaders of the past.

Master of Ceremonies was Yaacov Hagoel, formerly Chairman of the World Zionist Organisation who will become Chairman of the Jewish Agency in Herzog’s stead. Yaacov Hagoel is a very able and diligent man who understands the needs of the Jewish Agency. Of course there were many speeches lauding Herzog’s work, each describing his determination to do well, his connection with the world, his “blue blood”, his grandfather who was the Zionist leader, Chief Rabbi of Ireland, of his father the former President Herzog, and his continuing the fine name of Herzog. He then stood up on the podium, holding on to the lectern and said very few words “Thank you to everyone gathered here for their kind words” his hope to do a good job and then “There is one person here who gave me my first opportunity by sending me on my first ever speaking tour and his name is Zvi Raviv. Apparently he saw in me what others missed” We were so proud!! At last, at long last, someone who showed gratitude for Zvi’s selfless determination to help others represent Israel. Oh yes, Isaac “Bougie” Herzog is a mensch.

In a marvellous new advance Yair Lapid inaugurated the new Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi while there on an official visit this week and outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had an excellent farewell meeting with President Joe Biden, confident of Biden’s loyalty to Israel.

Two lovely things happened to us on Tuesday, one was my chat with the incredible Tema Gaba, aged 99, who lives in Jerusalem but spent most of her life in Cardiff. Tema is an incredible woman full of stories of Cardiff life, people, happenings and stories, her mind just as alert as ever. It is such a joy talking to her from every aspect, particularly because she knows my history better than I do! Tema was a close friend of my beautiful Mother, Betty Silver, who passed away when I was 17, and Tema speaks of her and reveals so much about my Mum that I never had the opportunity to learn. Whatever happens in your life, listen to the stories of incredible people like Tema and learn about from where you came.

Four years ago, on the 29th of June, Zvi and I met with Nancy and Harry Bloomfield, for lunch in Jerusalem and lo and behold, they came for lunch this Tuesday, 29th June for lunch in our new apartment. I loved Nancy’s enthusiasm from the moment she walked in the door to each and every room – seeing the beauty beyond the remaining unopened boxes and cartons! It was too hot to eat outdoors on the veranda so we inaugurated our new dining table and talked and chatted about family, friends, work and gossip……as old friends do.

It was a lovely week in which I got to see Rachel and the girls twice, once here and yesterday when we went off to the heat of Modiin searching for gardening ideas for our veranda. On Sunday, despite fasting for the Fast of Tammuz, the girls had a ball, climbing and swinging in the play areas in our park; yes despite being 15 and 12 they really know how to have fun without the help of their cell phones or tablets! I got to talk to my wonderful NYC grandson Joshua on WhatsApp, he is growing so fast and I cannot get to be with him but at least he managed to speak about his excitement of heading off to camp again this year!

Each time I leave Givat Zeev I feel the excitement of climbing that last hill, past the grazing camels, the vineyards and finally arriving at the view, THE view, the panorama of Jerusalem from Samuel’s Tomb. I never tire of the sight! Here Arieh OSullivan tells us about it  

Many years ago, immediately after Zvi’s bar Mitzva, the Rybak family changed its name to Raviv and headed off to serve the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency as Hebrew teachers in Mexico City, in the Yiddische Schule School. There they found exceptional warmth within the community and many family members and until today Zvi speaks of warmth and love of his friends and schoolmates. This week they held a class Zoom and Zvi gave them a lecture on the current government coalition and of course of our life here. His talk was a resounding success, indeed, he must have been good because I achieved several new readers after his speech! Welcome to them!

Uziya Zadok was only 13 when he wowed Israel with his rendition of “Shema Yisrael” He captured the prayer and made it his own cry for peace.

You all love Koolulam and they have produced a new video, the response to the disturbances and hatred over the last months. They give hope with Mishu Iti Kan – Someone is with me here

Matanot Ktanot – Small Gifts is sung by Avraham Fried and Rami Kleinstein, all about the small gifts that we take for granted. The translation is in Spanish in honour of my new Mexican readers. So often we don’t see the rainbow, the joy of a child passing by, friends returning from prayer, the Shabbat Candles, the food on the table, the family around us, we tend to forget them in our very human state of moaning. It is such an amazingly beautiful life, celebrate it, remember your Matanot Ktanot.

That’s it! We wish you a beautiful weekend, a contemplative Shabbat in which you remember all those amazing gifts we receive every day of our lives. One of my favourite moments is as I light the Shabbat Candles, I know that from that glow my day of rest begins, whether with the laughter of the children or just Zvi and I, it is irrelevant, it is Shabbat.

With love from the Jerusalem Hills