The view from my veranda

September 11th, Tony Blair, Elections and good stuff too

Friday the 13th of September, 2019

Good Shabbes! Shabbat Shalom! Have a wonderful weekend.


Two days ago we remembered. We remembered the horror and disbelief as we watched, time and again, as first one aeroplane then another flew into the Twin Towers – conceivably the archetypical symbols of Western Society. The Twin Towers, where men and women from all over the world worked in harmony to ensure the prosperity of their own economies and primarily of the United States, crumbled and fell under the hatred of another society. Men who lived in the USA, studied to obtain their pilot’s licences, probably had families and neighbours, celebrated July 4th and appeared to fit in, they are the diabolical tools of destruction that caused the death of nearly 3,000 people and shocked every sane person to the very core. Until that moment we could not believe that such controlled cruelty could exist. In 1994, Steven Emerson made a documentary called “Jihad in America” in which he named names and predicted a huge attack on American soil. He was right.


You may well believe the world was horrified, shocked, sad, but here is what one Israeli soldier saw.


Geoff was serving in the West Bank area of Qalqilya on September 11th 2001.  “At precisely 16:00 local time I was manning a roadblock outside Kfar Azun when all around me celebrations broke out.  The local Coca Cola distributor was driving around handing out bottles of Coke and people were handing out sweets.  That night I witnessed one of the best fireworks displays ever, all up and down the Shomron.  I only found out what had happened (9/11) when my shift ended at 18:00.  We all went to watch the news on TV in the truck drivers cabin (they were the only ones with TVs) and stood there thinking that we should be in shock but we weren’t.  We couldn’t help thinking that after a day of stopping ambulances trying to smuggle weapons into the village, anything is possible and probable.”  They continue to burn American flags.


Israel built a special memorial in the Jerusalem Hills to those who perished and on the night of September 11th two beams of light shone up into the Jerusalem skies to represent our mourning for what was. No celebration of death here, you can be sure we won’t forget.


Latest idiotic rumour is that Israel is spying on the White House. To start with anyone wanting to gain information is not going to go to the White House, secondly Israel wouldn’t be that obvious and finally, let’s be honest, everyone is spying on everyone – even allies who claim to tell each other everything! As President Trump said, there is no reason for Israel to spy on his administration because the Golan is ours, Jerusalem has been declared the Capital and relations are friendly.


Last week the NYT headlined that Israel attacked Lebanon/Syria, whatever, it’s irrelevant as long as they can say we attacked. Here’s the actual story. I’ll try to cut it short but it is like something out of James Bond!!


The Iranians “imported” 4 specialised explosive drones to Syria, specifically intended for Israeli tourist sites in the week before the end of the school holidays –  a time when Israeli families are out and about. Israel found out and destroyed them. In the meantime we discovered that Hezb-Allah (Iran) had missiles, stockpiled in a yard; we sent two drones to destroy the multi-million dollar missile guidance system which ensures missile accuracy, whose sole intention was to pin-point Israeli sites. They shot at us and – here’s the good part – we pretended that a military vehicle had been hit, sent in ambulances and shot over 100 rounds into an empty field as if in response which made Hezb-Allah believe they had achieved their aim to cause casualties and announced a cease fire without Israeli casualties! See I told you it was James Bond!!!


For a very long time now I have questioned the wisdom of free speech. It isn’t a right it is something that has to be limited by common sense. Incitement to hatred is not free speech it is a crime. Former Prime Minister of the UK Tony Blair heads a think tank and one of their conclusions is that free speech leads to hate crimes. I totally agree, as I do with many of Tony Blair’s views. Of course the cries of limiting ones rights are loud and angry, but the proof is in the bitter pudding we all eat every day on our streets – especially in New York if one dares to be an “obvious Jew”.


I am sick of our elections – or rather re-elections. I’m tired of the inevitable rift in society that such ugly, sectarian elections cause. The shrill voice of Ahmed Tibi and the tricks of Ayman Odeh of the Arab list, both of whom fight the Palestinian cause not the Israeli Arab cause; the Haredi parties who are the only ones who actually fight for their own sector; the far right who call for extreme action; the Likud who pump security at us and “Only Bibi”; the reformed Avodah party which calls itself the New Democrats; Liberman who aims to bring in automatic conscription for ALL and public transport on Shabbat; the far left who are dreaming a beautiful dream without policies and all of them are scared of Blue and White, the party that defies social, political and security stratification, but is led by men who understand all three, so all the parties use photographs of Benny Gantz in their campaigns!!


For reasons yet to be explained, prior to elections there is a sudden increase in rocket attacks, battle cries and chest beating from our neighbours (even more than usual)…….. as if on cue a situation which inevitably favours the right. One thing I will never understand is that the working class from Sderot to Maalot, are Bibi’s greatest supporters despite their standard of living going down and rockets on their heads!!!


The weekly violent demonstrations on the border with Gaza continue. I cannot understand the leaders of a society which sends its young people into danger, encouraging them to violence yet refuses to accept a brand new hospital on its border with Israel despite a chronic lack of medical care; refuses financial help from Israel; uses the 120 daily lorry-loads of staple foods Israel sends through Kerem Shalom; their leaders come to Israel for medical care yet the political gain of being the underdog overcomes any moral considerations for “Les Miserables” the ordinary people of Gaza.


Talking of Gaza. The despicable little man, George Galloway, with the support of that other despicable little man Jeremy Corbyn, set up a charity called “Viva Palestina” which fundraised for Gaza. Trouble is nothing went to Gaza!


Sacha Baron Cohen drops his uber-idiot persona to play the famed Israeli spy Eli Cohen in a new Netflix drama. The reports are that he does an excellent job representing a true Israeli hero. Baron Cohen actually speaks Hebrew, although in the past it was the supposed language of Borat.


A beacon of light in a dark world… Impact-se reported this week that the new Jordanian school curriculum has undergone huge changes for the better. Finally tolerance in education means something!!!


After Shabbat Zvi and I met Danby and Marvin Meital at Zappa Jerusalem for a fun evening of ABBA music. My expectations weren’t high, just fun but my goodness, the band was phenomenal!! Karniband, amazing voices, huge repertoire, very professional. If they appear near you they are well worth buying a ticket!!


On Sunday we walked up to the village, just a couple of hundred metres, to our friends Shifra and Peter’s home. It is gorgeous. A most unusual old house filled with beautiful memories. Shifra produced a delightful meal and equally delightful guests.

Yesterday I met Dolly and Ruth to see a doll exhibit and discovered a truly magnificent oasis of peace and beauty right in the centre of the city!! Right next to the Russian Church, itself a wonderful piece of architecture, is Sergei’s Tower. A lovely building which hid the Pilgrim’s Hostel of the Russian Church. We walked inside to find Sergei’s Courtyard, a truly peaceful garden surrounded by the round towers of the original hostel. Well worth a visit and apparently the hostel is now a very nice hotel. We so enjoyed the dolls exhibition and then I spent my time trying to catch up to the walking speed of the amazing, 90 year old Dolly!!


The light rail was absolutely packed but luckily my walking stick ensures me a seat. Looking around I was yet again struck by the Jerusalem rainbow right there in my carriage. The light rail is a delight for people watchers, usually well behaved and very friendly. We sped up Jaffa Road and from my vantage point I saw the frantic activity in Mahane Yehuda, wall to wall with shoppers after the fabulous fish, meat,  fruit and vegetables to prepare for their Shabbat table. I love looking at their faces as they schlepp their packages onto the train, to look at them and try to guess what they are going to cook. Some are easy, obviously the Ashkenaz Haredi will make gefilte fish, roasted chicken, potatoes and any accompaniments that are happy to sit on the Shabbat platter. The exotic Yemenite will make Kubaneh, spicy chicken and golden rice; the Moroccan will make fish chraimeh, spicy vegetables stuffed with scented minced meat; the Kurdish mother will make Kubeh soup, either sour or beetroot, various stuffed vegetable dishes; the Iraqi will make makluba, a chicken, vegetable and rice upside down “cake”. It really is fun guessing! This morning, as I woke up early enough to see the sunrise I could already smell the aromas of those guesses become reality in our own building!


Last night was a special treat. I finally took Zvi’s iPhone and did a Facetime with Frank and Jen Eppell, my wonderful, newly rediscovered cousins in far off Nova Scotia. I was concerned because they suffered the rather violent end of Hurricane Dorian and I wanted to make sure they were well. It was so much fun to go into their home and let them into mine through our cell phones. That was the side of communication that deserves the name!! Of course despite our current locations, we are still very Welsh!!


On the 19th of September, at 08:30, El Al is doing a flyover of Jerusalem with their brand new aeroplane called, what else but “Jerusalem of Gold” Painted in their usual Blue and White with a special dash of gold!! I love El Al, it’s the very best airline and it’s mine!


The welcoming of Shabbat is a time when traditionally a husband honours his wife in verse and song in Eshet Chayil – Woman of worth.


This song by Shlomi Shabbat is exceptionally beautiful and foloows the tradition of praising and uplifting the mother and wife of the family.


Jewish music has run an incredible evolution through Europe, East and West, North Africa, Israel and the fashion of our times.


I already went to see Rachel, stopping to buy Challot in Nehamas bakery, which in itself is an experience. Every possible type of Challah, rogelech, cookies and cakes, it is a good natured scramble and everyone wishes everyone else Shabbat Shalom. Driving back I thought of you as I climbed up to Samuel’s Tomb and glanced over the panorama. It was especially spectacular today, the foreground clear as a bell and the hills behind it blurred in a heat haze. Exceptional – through the haze I could just pick out the Calatrava Bridge, St John’s Church, Augusta Victoria………..


I wish you a wonderful Shabbat, remember there is nothing quite like old friends and family but that doesn’t mean one should make new friends.

With much love from our veranda, from our home to yours.