The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem – the President Obamas Visit.

22nd March 2013
Shabbat Shalom and a quick reminder to all my Jewish friends – we aren’t slaves any more. This is the festival of freedom so do what has to be done but don’t make it servile suffering!!!

Two Kassam rockets exploded in the city of Sderot onThursday, a clear message from hamas that they do not like the impending agreement between Abbas and Netanyahu. One landed next to a private house but luckily there were no injuries. There were numerous demonstrations against Obama and America with the usual flag burning but suprisingly the Palestinian police did an excellent job of controlling the crowds.

Before anyone starts writing angrily to tell me that President Obama is awful, lying, terrible, any other criticism you wish – the following is my take on the Presidential visit. I think he did an amazing job and his support for Israel was clear at every step.

President Obamas visit has been a resounding success on many levels. He treated President Peres with the respect and esteem his age and career demand; his relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu is warm and friendly and he went to great lengths to show that, especially as he was the only one to hold Sarah Netanyahus chair as she stood patiently beside it at the dinner in the Presidents Home! He said clearly that the Jewish homeland must exist in security; he said that while peace talks must restart there must be no pre-conditions brought to the table and looked most displeased when Mahmoud Abbas spoke in such negative terms about Israel; he stayed in Jerusalem not Tel Aviv; he met the young people of Israel and told them that their future is in their own hands and he talked about the sadness for young Palestinians to see soldiers who have control of their cities (like it or not and whatever the reasons is true); he told them clearly the “atem lo levad” you are not alone and equally importantly he said that America will not allow a nuclear Iran and “all options are on the table”. he went to Herzl’s Tomb and and Rabin’s grave and back to Yad Vashem, after expressing in strong terms that he will not countenance any Holocaust denial; his words were warm, eloquent and he reiterated that Israel was not born because of the Shoah but rather due to the Shoah Israel must exist. Former Chief Rabbi Lau, said hank you to the American people “As a child in Buchenwald I was used to military uniforms but as the American soldiers, led by Patton, walked into the barracks where the children cried in Yiddisch and freed us, not from slavery but from death, the uniforms took on a different meaning. I met a man in Seattle who had been a soldier in WW2 and apologised for America coming too late to save the Jews and I ask that this time America will arrive in time.”

At Yad Vashem the President spoke his most relevant and heartfelt words “Here on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear, the state of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but with the survival of a strong Jewish state of Israel, such a Holocaust will never happen again,”

The President said that children are not born to hate, they are taught to hate and hatred and racism of all sorts must be addressed, anti-Semitism above all. As he stepped out of the darkness of both the cause and the fact of Yad Vashem to the beauty of Jerusalem before him he commented on this land which is the historic land of the Jews for which they yearned.

From Yad Vashem to Bethlehem and then he will fly home leaving Israel with a very warm glow. President Obama has now, in no uncertain terms, earned the deserved kudos for his visit and put all responsibility for the success or failure of any new talks squarely on John Kerry’s shoulders.

We were not invited to any of the events but as the President arrived in Jerusalem he may just have seen me waving on the veranda as his helicopter flew low overhead before landing in the sports field of the Hebrew University on Givat Ram. Thanks to the sand-storm he will go back to the airport by land since his helicopter cannot take off.

Zvi and I were so proud when the children of Hora Jerusalem, Efron Dance Centredelighted the President with their presence at the Presidents House as he patiently went from child to child shaking hands and patting faces.

Here is a round up of the visit

Where Obama is visiting and why

I have only just discovered the writings of Daniel Greenfield. This brilliant article called “The Deadly Israeli House” underlines the idiocy and danger of equating building a few homes to swearing annihilation of the Jewish people.

Lord Trimble in the United Nations Human Rights Council on their latest “waste of time” inquiry of Israeli actions. -”Your inquiry is wrong, your report undermines peace, stop the selectivity against Israel. I regret to say that the Council displays the same selectivity that led to the abolition of the earlier Commission. I urge you to heed the criticism by successive UN secretary-generals of this Council’s habit of singling out only one specific country, to the exclusion of virtually everything else.”

Kol ha kavod to our friends Danby and Marvin Meital who are holding a special Seder on the island of Madeira. Thirteen Jews, many of them Bnei Anousim – descendants of Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism more than 500 years ago – will gather in Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira, to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. It will be the first public Seder held in over five centuries in a region that once had a thriving Jewish population until the Inquisition arrived, even in this remote location, so far from the mainland.

I would love to tell you what is happening outside our window right now but I can’t see beyond the orange tree! The Sahara came to visit in the worst sand-storm I have seen for a very long time. I have a feeling that the President will not be able to fly today!!!!

Instead I will tell you about our experience yesterday. The experience of pre-Passover shopping in Israel. Rami Levi is an entrepreneur who opened a chain of inexpensive supermarkets. It was announced on Israeli television that his “Pesach basket” was the cheapest in the country, and yesterday we discovered that 90% of Jerusalem was in Rami Levi —– all at once!!! Huge baskets full of every conceivable passover delicacy – fruit, vegetables, matzot and anything that had the right Kosher le Pesach stamp on it. For Ashkenazi Jews there is the further dilemma of what has “kitniot” or pulses and what doesn’t – the lucky Sefardi Jews can eat rice, humous, seeds and so many other things that make life easier!!!

My menu is ready, the meat in the freezer waiting for me to finish changing the dishes and dipping the pots and pans in boiling water with stones in it. Why? Because that is what my family has always done!! Just as my parents and their parents did before us we start with the blessings over parsley (new growth of spring), of bitter herbs (to remember the bad times) and of the combining or charoseth to remember the glue that binds us and the times we worked as slaves building the pyramids. Then the head of the house hides the Afikomen for later. We then eat the hard-boiled eggs in salt water, before folding the prayer books and settling nto the main meal of chicken soup with matzo balls, chopped liver, roasted meat, chicken, turkey and of course the inevitable roasted veggies and salads galore! We will be 26 for Seder, including the Podolskys from San Diego, the Efrons from Florida and all the family and extended family. I can’t wait!!!

So as the beautiful flowers of our veranda disappear under a blanket of sand I am thinking back to a very positive week. Any fears were allayed by the actions and words of the American President. Now we have to see if John Kerry is up to the enormous job placed on his shoulders. Hopefully he will remember the words of my lovely husband, in the council chambers of the Municipality some 8 years ago when Zvi explained to the assembled dignitaries the “mosaic of Jerusalem”, at the end of which John Kerrry came to Zvi and admitted his former misconceptions and the truth of what Zvi said. Here’s praying!!

Tonight Zvi and I are eating supper at his synagogue where they officers took pity on the wives and decided to take Shabbat ha Gadol as a reason to gather the community and eat together. No cooking tonight!!!!

Shabbat Shalom to you all and if I don’t manage to write to you again, Happy Pesach and remember that this is one festival which celebrates our release from slavery to freedom. Enjoy is and sing as loud as you can possibly manage “B’shana ha ba’ah b’Yerusalem”

I end with the story of Moses, the Jewish people and freedom sung by Paul Robeson who fled persecution himself He ran to Britain which is wher ei learned to love his voice. “Let my people go”

With love