The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Melbourne Australia

22nd November 2013
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. Shabbat Shalom and G’day Mates!!!!
Did you know that Australia is a very very long way from Israel? I have developed a new respect for our Australian friends who make that trip twice a year to visit friends, to attend meetings and support the organisations they are proud to be part of. A truly active and warm community.
From the moment we landed in Melbourne, to discover two of our suitcases had not arrived from Sydney, we felt the enormous warmth and real Aussie welcome of our friends here. Suddenly the 27 hours of flights dissipated as we were wrapped in a flurry of visits and hugs.  Lunch in Toorak with Linda, Pauline and Ian then a quick sleep and supper at the beautiful kosher restaurant with John and Adrienne arriving back at the hotel just in time to catch up on our lost sleep.
Yesterday we visited the Jewish museum with Ian and Linda. I am speechless – both Zvi and I were so incredibly impressed by this unusual and all encompassing musuem.  The exhibits explaining Jewish life and rituals is wonderful. Jewish life in Australia and a timeline of the provenance of Jews who came to Australia, and where they ultimately settled. A truly worthwhile visit.
From the Museum we went for lunch with friends of Ian and Linda who are visiting from Malaysia. Although raised a Moslem Rama is an open and delightful woman who happily explained that the Islam she was taught is a million miles from the Shi’a and Sunni Islam that we have come to fear. Zvi and I hope to fulfil their long-time wish to come to Israel where they can learn the truth which so differs from the perception according to world news.
After lunch we visited the Victoria Museum of Art to see the exquisite Japanese exhibits in the Pauline Gandel Gallery. It was a beautiful experience and we are so proud that our friends are able to give so generously to Australian culture.  Lesley Kehoe, curator of the Gandel collection, then showed us an exquisite collection of Japanese Lacquer Boxes – explaining in detail the painstaking process which could take more than a year to produce even one box – the spiritual and emotional investment of each movement, each stroke, each tiny element of this rare and special art form.
In the evening we were invited by our gracious hosts to the graduation ball of Mount Scopus High School. I really didn’t know what to expect since I was used to very informal and somewhat raucous parties thrown for the kids in both Israeli and British Schools. The hall was filled with tables of parents, siblings and grandparents who cheered as their progeny filed out to the hall and then were called up to receive their graduation certificates accompanied with an amusing description of their aims and achievements and a photograph of their arrival in kindergarten at the school which then took care of their secular and Jewish education for 15 years. As each beautiful youngster walked accross the stage and their ambitions read out, at least 60% intended going to Israel for 6 months, for a year, to Ulpan, to study or to make Aliya and go into the IDF – and those of Israeli parents all intended going home to do their IDF service. Their confidence in being Jewish, their wide knowledge of who they are and why is living proof of the success of this school system. Whatever they do and wherever they go these young people will always know what it means to be a Jew – both the responsibility and the joy.
This morning we had a delightful surprise! We discovered that our wonderful old friend Robert Simons is at the same hotel……….. and we thought we wouldn’t see him til Sydney!! The meetings of the Hebrew University Committee are taking place here in Melbourne and as the Australian President of the Hebrew U Robert is here of course. He introduced us to Barry – a lovely man who is the current Chair. Robert together with another lovely friend, Harold Finger, worked hard to  ensure that Sydney Jewish schools have the same sense of excellence and Jewish values as Mr Scopus in the Moriah School, building it up to the large school it is today.
Tonight Zvi and I are spending Shabbat dinner with a truly incredible man, both legend and mensch. Saul Same, born in Be’er Tuvia in Mandate Palestine, Saul was taken to far off Australia as a child, but his heart never left Israel. Saul built a beautiful life and family with the love of his life, his Lucy (z”l) establishing a legacy of love and warmth – a love of Israel. Last year we had the honour of celebrating his 96th birthday at home with our family in Jerusalem. Dear Saul, maybe he stopped running the 10k a couple of years ago but he is still active, intelligent and a leader – a born leader who draws love.
I hate to tell you but I have absolutely no idea what is going on in this world right now!!!! We have not had time to watch television or read a paper so excuse my ignorance. I am certain that the media is full of more indecision on Iran, or more situations where Russia is filling the void and making decision and of cours eof the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. I still find it difficult to talk about tha tmoment since as the nescaster announced the death of a President Doctor Grossman came down the stairs in my home ot tell the family that Mummy had died. It is not easy to separate the two events in my mind and obviously the tragedy of the loss two young lives intertwined by fate, one a world leader the other a fine human being, stays with me forever.
So I see no view from my veranda although it is always in my mind’s eye; I cannot pick an ornge from my tiny tree or a watch the lemons turn from green to a warm buttery yellow; there are no white stone-clad buildings but what we have is a young, vibrant country whose greatest advantage is being a long long way from most of the strife in this confused world. While never leaving her allies unsupported in war or strife Australia has the vast advantage of not having any neighbours other than the Great Barrier Reef and dolphins!!!!
One of the only sad things I have heard here is that the Australian media has not reported the wonderufl support Israel is giving to the Phillipinnes in the form of over 150 IDF doctors, nurses and medical support staff with field hospitals -or that the first child was born in the field hospital and his name is …………………ISRAEL!!!    Since then many other babies are born and cared for and the sick and destitue also. IsraAid is performing wonders co-ordinating other NGO’s to help rebuild in the most devastated areas.
In a few minutes we are going for lunch and some retail therapy in a large shopping mall that everyone tells me is outstanding – I have already warned Zvi that shekels are not acceptable here but he is allowed to use his credit card!!
I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Melbourne, home of cricket, Australian rules football (it makes Rugby look lame and the most welcoming, caring, adorable and wonderful friends imaginable.
Be well, be strong, be proud of who you are and accept others for who they are.
For your musical delectation this week we have Waltzing Mathilda – not the Australian National Anthem but the most famous and of course for Shabbat a surprising video from Russia
Finally – Chanuka. Zvi always says that in Judaism every festival is “They tried ot kill us, we won – now let’s eat” and Chanuka is no different —–latkes and sufganiyot!!! Here Technion sutdents sing the traditional song with a difference and then sung with all the different types of chanukiot
Shabbat Shalom, Chag Chanuka Sameach and loads of love from down under