The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem

8th June 2012
Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom to you all with a very special one to my adored big sister Doreen……. happy birthday my love. Thank you for being the most amazing sister in the world and standing by me through thick and thin. Happy birthday to you and your Melvyn.
Now to more serious issues then back to the joyous side of life.
The biased and unfair reporting of Israel’s indecisiveness concerning the work-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan who flood over our border with Sinai has infuriated me. As always I chose to write about it. Israel is kinder than other countries and trying to find a humanitarian answer to a problem that is tearing us apart. There are very few asylum seekers and have you ever wondered from where people who have nothing to eat found the 4,000 dollars to pay for their transportation here are my thoughts on the issue
Syria, words fail me. Secretary Clinton says that they can’t do anything because China and Russia are against it…….. sorry but that is a lame excuse for the most powerful country in the world.
Ulpana is a neighbourhood in the Israeli ‘settlement’ of Bet El. Ulpana was built with government approval yet it is being pulled down in order to ensure the building of other settlements. Gosh politics is devious.
The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth the Second. Pomp, circumstance and a huge show of love from her subjects who admire the enormous job she has done with great dignity, despite the odd ‘annus horibilus’. For the first time for a long long time Britain seemed to return to being British with the quintessential quirks and eccentricities that so identify the British nature. Watching the sea of union jacks gave me a great deal of pleasure and most importantly – my niece, beautiful bride-to-be Carly, became the princess she always deserved to be, overnight. My childhood community in Wales is holding a royal dinner, with a top table peopled by Her Majesty, Prince Philip – miraculously recovered from his renal infection – and of course Charles, Camilla, William, Kate, Harry et al. Even my two very favourite anti-monarchists thrilled at the sheer beauty of the flotilla of small boats on the Thames – one waving from the balcony of the House of Lords and the other from his home, and my little grandson Samuel received a friendly wave from Prince Charles. My Father bought a TV back in 1953, just to watch the coronation of this beautiful young woman, and Britain was a different place then, indeed we lived in a different world. In those days people understood the horror of war, their memories untarnished by time. Brits traditionally pulled together in the bulldog spirit and no-one had even invented the ‘me’ generation. When Elizabeth was crowned she and her family were admired deeply for refusing to leave London when the bombs were raining down on their reign, when princesses donned overalls and worked on the farm or on the ambulances to boost the morale of a physically devastated country and Vera Lynn sang ‘we’ll meet again’. Immigrants to Britain were a bonus because they wanted to become part of this proud and elegant nation…… and did. Jews who arrived broken and poverty stricken from Europe flourished and children of the Kinder transport found warmth, love and homes. I am sorry to wax lyrical of times I barely remember but it was a Britain with a population which fought Nazism with zeal, fought Oswald Mosely’s facism and put the whole before the individual.
Winston Churchill was conceivably the wisest leader of modern times. On the 4th of June 1940 he said these words, both wise and prophetic
“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. “
This week began with a delightful and gentle breakfast with our lovely friends the Oppenheimers and from that moment on the Energiser Bunny, aka Zvi, took over my life……….from the bar mitzva of a dear friends son, just a little party with about 1,500 guests, to a funeral in Ashkelon, then meeting dear friends Jacobo and Miriam Eizen to see the end of year performance of Hora Yerushalyim dance troupes – the ‘hora efrochim’ the fledgling dancers – to a walk through jerusalems old city for the unbelievably beautiful festival of lights which begins with a colossal, multi-coloured Moroccan style pergola at the Jaffa gate, through holograms and an immense 20 metre harp which shows a light display on one of the ancient buildings finally eating in the jam packed Mamilla Mall. Yesterday I took personal time and met with my childhood friends for lunch, driving back to Jerusalem to meet with our dear friend Pastor Leo Giovinetti who brings me wonderful Californian chocolates and his own delicious gourmet coffee – home roasted at the Mission Valley Christian Fellowship in San Diego – or rather Holy Roasted! From meeting Leo we boarded the bus for Masada. Last night was a phenomenal night as we sat in the audience, thanks to the persuasion of Gideon Sellinger of the Hebrew university, and saw a performance of Bizet’s Carmen at the foot of Masada. The story of defiance, persuasion and the refusal to be enslaved by false love seemed appropriate to that site of great heroism and deep sadness. President Peres spoke to us before the performance, without notes he spoke clearly with great wisdom of the character of Carmen and the site of the performance ‘each woman is a universe’ he said and we should never forget it.
Riding back to Jerusalem in the wee small hours we dozed off and awoke as we reached the entrance to Jerusalem next to the Hebrew university campus at Mount Scopus, so relevant to our fight for independence and recovered after 19 years in Jordan. The view was breathtaking. In the gentle pre-dawn light I saw Jerusalem in her entirety before me. What a panorama. Jerusalem, Ir Shalom, Ir Shalem, Shiloh, Ariel, Heftsiba…….. so many names for one beloved city, actually 70 in all – 70 names in the bible and they say it isn’t ours. humph. The Temple Mount stood high proud and centre, admittedly surmounted and imposed upon by the golden dome of a memorial – not a mosque, but surrounded by sheer beauty and indelibly imprinted upon our spiritual heart. Gosh I love this city even at 04:00 in the morning.
When I first came to Jerusalem in 1963 the city was divided, in grave danger and the country was under constant attack from the Syrian Golan Heights upon the kibbutzim of the north, from Jordan to the East and Egypt in the South. Here in Jerusalem, we could not visit the Western Wall, nor the Hurva Synagogue, we could only look from afar and continue our prayer “Next year in Jerusalem”. We did not take anything that belonged to another “people” we fought a war imposed upon us by many huge neigbouring armies and won – the spoils of war included a return to Jerusalem, Ir Shalem, a complete city, a whole city not a half. Just before the miraculous 6 Day War, in June 1967, Naomi Shemer wrote a song which Shuli Natan sang in the Israel Song Contest. It won and just a short while afterwards the yearning of the song which echoed our deepest prayers came true and the triumphant final verse was written. Jerusalem of Gold – Yerushalyim shel Zahav says it all. Here sung by Ofra Haza
Where were you during the 6 Day War? What did you feel? What did you do? I really want to hear from you.
I wish you a Shabbat shalom wherever you may be and hope you will come and visit us in Jerusalem, this year or next, just come.