The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom – 100 days

12th January, 2024

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat shalom and Chodesh Shvat Tov – the new month in the Jewish calendar is the month of Shvat which is supposed to be the month of good news, of b’sorot tovot. Even the initials in Hebrew suggest good news is on the way; I wish it would hurry up!

There are so many things that I fail to understand in this upside down world of ours where right is wrong and wrong is right, and evil is rewarded, but for the life of me I don’t understand how the South African regime, one of the most corrupt and cruel regimes in the world, is taking Israel to the International Court of Justice, which by the way is yet another arm of the United Nations, and the world stands by! Of all the examples of injustice in the world right now this has to be the epitome.

Yesterday the lawyers presenting South Africa’s case spoke, and, sadly, quoted the miserably inappropriate ministers in Netanyahu’s government and their demands for the annihilation or exile of the Palestinians in Gaza, as if they are the policy makers of the Israeli government. Their statements were taken as proof of Israel’s and the IDF’s intent for genocide of the Palestinian people. Had Netanyahu immediately disassociated himself from their outbursts perhaps it could have helped but, you know what I feel about the fact he did not.  This is not an injunction, nor is it a legal case, it is a trial to decide if this is a plausible claim on the part of South Africa with the clear intent to besmirch Israel’s name. Today our legal representation will easily deny every claim but what if the somewhat biased panel of judges choose to accept the South African case as plausible? Then every soldier of the IDF, from Generals to Privates, can face criminal charges in any country in the world. It is an untenable situation.

The saddest sight today was to see the parents and families of hostages standing on the border with Gaza with megaphones, shouting their love and determination to bring their loved one’s home, just in case they may hear. Many of the hostages that were released told of how their captors kept telling them that nobody cared about them and no-one would fight for their release. Psychological torture indeed. Equally, many families of the hostages travelled to The Hague and stood in the freezing cold Dutch winter trying to make their voices heard, talking to any journalist who was prepared to hear their voice.

The top echelon of Hamas began planning the October 7th massacre in 2014. Each detail, every diabolical detail, was carefully planned. The workers who came over the border and were taken into homes, kibbutzim and villages, treated as family, carefully mapped every room in every home, knew who was where, which enabled the terrorists to find and torture, rape, burn and slaughter.

Never believe that it was spontaneous. It was a carefully planned with a level of evil unseen.

How on earth did we get to this? How was Hamas able to convince a gullible world that they are the good guys after what they did on October the 7th? How on earth did they convince a gullible world that there was a siege on Gaza when we were providing all their staple needs? How is it possible that their leaders live in incredible luxury while the people starve and nobody sees it? The IDF reached the home of Marwan Issa, second in command to Mohammed Deif, in Khan Yunis (described as a refugee camp). They found a gorgeous modern mansion with beautiful green lawns, a fabulous pergola and swimming pool. Right there in the supposed refugee camp is a luxurious neighborhood for Hamas leaders!  Of course, he had already escaped, probably to Qatar with the others.

How many times do you join in the cry of “Hep Hep Hoorah” or Hip Hip Hooray? Did you know that it was the victory shout of the Crusaders? Did you know that it meant Hierosolymaest Perdita, Jerusalem is lost, the old battle cry equivalent of “From the river to the sea”? I have always hated it, tried to explain why not to use it….but thanks to our friend Stanley Roth who sent me this article, it is explained much more clearly than I ever could

The vast majority of Israelis pray that this impossible government will accept the latest Qatari plan to end this phase of the war and allow for the release of the hostages, those who are still alive. While demanding the end to the fighting it also demands that the Hamas leaders be exiled from Gaza. Who knows if it will work or where they will go. Ismail Haniya, the supposed head of Hamas, is living in Qatar already, and it is said that even he didn’t understand the level of evil of Sinwar. Qatar demands that no assassinations take place on their soil which raises a further question, but is this dystopian government capable of making such a decision or will the decision be taken by the War Cabinet? For the sanity and unity of Israelis, the hostages must come home, alive or in a coffin.

This war is wider than you think. Australia has always stood by her allies through every war, and I mean every war, and this one is no exception. Australian troops have joined British and American troops in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, to defend shipping against the Yemenite Houthi marauding piracy against any ships carrying goods to Israel. Bahrain, Canada and Holland have also sent troops. Are you aware that US and UK troops have launched rocket attacks on Yemeni towns? This BBC article explains who the Houthis are and why we, the allies, are attacking them

Sunday will be my birthday, Sunday the fourteenth of January. Sunday will be exactly one hundred days since October the 7th, the hostages will have been in captivity for 100 days of hell. At exactly 11:00 Israel will stand still for 100 minutes in tribute to those hostages still in the tunnels of Gaza. No buses, no trains, no shops, no restaurants, nothing. It is the people’s protest to this government to bring them home and that we are willing to pay the price, including the return of the displaced persons of the south to their homes, or what remains of their homes.

Walter Bingham is the world’s oldest Journalist. “I don’t realise how old I am until I pass the mirror” Walter is an incredible man, still as alert and astute as ever and he has just celebrated his 100th birthday!  When we sat in the Jerusalem Press Club together to hear various and varied speeches Walter always asked the most pertinent and cutting questions, right up until today! I suggest that you listen to and watch this interview with Walter to warm your heart up after all of the above.

Rachel and I decided to go for a walk in the nature reserve opposite our home before the rains returned. It was a glorious day, a real Jerusalem winter’s day with a combination of a hilltop chill and warm springlike sunshine as we crossed the winding road of “Sheva Achiot” the Seven Sisters, named for the seven hairpin bends as the roads winds its way down the hill. We walked the stony path with its deep runnels made by years of winter rain flowing down the grassy hill, on the search for spring flowers as we went. I admit to an obsession with those first harbingers of spring. We found but a few, although the leaves emerging from the undergrowth promised many more, a few brave wild cyclamen, the famous Israeli Tormos, a wild form of lupin, standing tall, proud of its leaves, and to complete our joy, the first almond blossom, just a few lone flowers on the bare branches of the wild Almond trees – not exactly the cloud like blossoms of next week but each individual flower gave us a sense of things to come! The culmination of our walk was the view over the reservoir below; the tree covered hills leading down to the dam in Beit Zayit, the half-filled lake it will create after this week’s rains and the vineyards, row after perfect row of vines alongside the waterline. The perfect quiet of our walk, meeting only the occasional runner or dog walker, gave us a peaceful break from reality and an emotional and spiritual refill.

Last Shabbat we visited Sergio and Sarah, Zvi’s cousins who made Aliyah from Mexico, to see their incredible new apartment overlooking the sea in Netanya. As promised, we went for a walk along the seafront promenade, busy with people strolling walking their dogs and just enjoying the sunshine. It never fails to amaze me how much warmer the coastal plain is compared to the Jerusalem Hills! Just a Saturday afternoon with no worries, walking along the calm sea – or so it seems. Sergio loves my soups so of course I took one with us and we sat in their beautiful salon, all the furniture and lighting, each piece a work of art, as Sarah explained that they didn’t bring anything with them because Israeli design is so exquisite – I must agree!

As always, I am off to see Rachel and the children in a few minutes, drawn by the aromas of her delicious cooking for Shabbat. I love sitting with the children and hearing their rapid talk about their week. It grounds me, brings me joy to see our future. After a Friday afternoon nap, we will go to Amiad and Noga and the family for Shabbat dinner. Tomorrow I may persuade Zvi to come back to the nature reserve to check out the situation of the wild flowers, in the knowledge that the almost constant rains will have filled the reservoir. On the other hand, perhaps, the path will be a muddy quagmire and we will turn back to the warmth of our apartment and a nice cup of tea.

For once the choices for music were easy. I hope you will love them as I do

Tamir Grinberg is an Israeli singer/songwriter who wrote this haunting song about the return of the hostages. A beautiful song, in English, “All I’m fighting for is to bring for is to bring you home, bring you home”

Idan Amedi doesn’t sing to the troops, he is one of the 300,000 reservists and although he could easily have made a different choice, he chose to serve in Gaza. In the terrible accident during an operation to blow up a Hamas tunnel, he was seriously injured, thank heaven on the way to recovery but this Israeli singer is a hero, something he denies, knowing he was “just doing his duty for the land he loves” . He wrote this song months before October 7th, but it tells of our humble heroes.

Pete Seeger represents the Sixties dream of peace more than almost any other singer and his songs carry deep meaning until today, none more than “We Shall Overcome” Listen carefully as he talks of those who do nothing and sings “We are not afraid”  

With much love from the beautiful, rain washed hills of Jerusalem. We will survive this as we have survived every other challenge in the past. A special thank you to all our Christian friends, especially those who come here and go to The Hague, for your unswerving support for Israel

I wish you a Shabbat shalom, a peaceful Sabbath and a weekend of blessings