The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


August 14th 2009.

Shabbat Shalom

This week President Peres celebrated his 86th birthday. The President retains his mental and physical agility by testing his exceptional, dynamic intellect constantly, surrounding himself with young innovative minds. Happy Birthday Shimon Peres. Your path to popularity was long and hard but you represent Israel with pride, passion and dignity.

Rumours abound concerning the “imminent” release of Gilad Schalit . Zvi and I spent many an hour with Haim and Edna Avraham, parents of Benny, one of three soldiers kidnapped to Lebanon by Hezb-Allah. The Avrahams together with the Souad and Avitan families were promised and lied to by their sons’ captors, as is happening now. When Hezb-Allah promised to send the boys home depending on the Israeli decisions, they waited three years before admitting that their sons were already dead. Gilad’s 4th birthday in captivity was honoured by a prayer vigil at the Western Wall. The irony is that according to the Hamas demands, one Israeli soldier is worth 1,600 Palestinians in Israeli prisons including the infamous Marwan Barghouti.

My understanding of recent elections in the Palestinian Authority, especially in Gaza, is extremely limited. Reports suggest that the new guard is less belligerent than the old guard, but I see little difference! Yet again we are fooled into thinking that a democratic election will bring democracy which will filter down to the ordinary people. I believe that the finest writer on the subject is Israeli Arab reporter Khaled Abu-Toameh

The press is not even-handed – we know and bemoan the fact frequently, complaining that we can do nothing about it – when we can. If we choose to we can change the world. “The power of one” exists. There are many individuals who take that responsibility and respond to or pre-empt articles and news items by ensuring the truth has its say. David Frankfurter wrote an excellent blog this week with some suggestions as to what we can do. David and I are in awe of the effectiveness of men like Maurice Ostroff a fine example of what an individual can do – please watch the video he produced. Maurice took on the United Nations report on the War in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead). This Ministry of Foreign Affairs report and the IMRA Report of a MFA press briefing can inform YOU. We must be informed in order to respond- and respond we must. I cannot emphasise enough your responsibility to write to your local papers and TV stations giving them facts. It is easy to complain that the Israeli Government does not present the facts yet here we see that they do – it is simply falling on deaf ears, it needs a local presence.

Rabbi Irwin Katsof is a remarkable man. For the last 15 years Irwin has brought top quality groups of politicians to Israel accompanied by movers and shakers from around the world who he believes will put forward Israel’s cause by being informed of the facts. Zvi had the honour of mentoring his work during his tenure as Advisor to the Mayor of Jerusalem. Irwin’s work is largely unrecognized outside Israel, but the quality of the people his groups meet is testament to his determination to bring only the worthy. The current group, including the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry

and his invitees met with President Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political advisor Ron Dermer and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder of the Shurat Hadin . This is a proud week in Irwin’s life as his eldest son, AY, graduates his IDF officers course. The course is tailored for Haredi young men who wish to defend their country. Kol ha Kavod AY – Kol ha Kavod Irwin and Judy.

Our favourite American politician is among Rabbi Katsof’s current group. Republican Congresswoman and great supporter of Israel Ileana Ros Lehtinen and her husband Dexter. The Congresswoman has not wavered in any form in her support of Israel. Ileana and Dexter do not just talk the talk, they come to Israel on vacation with their daughters also. Go to Ileana’s facebook tell her how much you appreciate her!

Last night we drove out with the group to “Eretz Bereshit” right in the middle of the barren wastes of the Judean Hills, close to Jericho. The atmosphere is astonishing as “Abraham” welcomed us and took us back to ancient times when the Jews wandered and lived in this very desert. General Effie Eitam spoke to us of his upbringing, parents who lost everything in the Shoah, and his determination to overcome fear in battle in order to ensure a safe homeland for his children, a safe homeland for his wandering people. He pointed into the distance, to the lights of Amman, Jordan, to prove that we can come to a lasting and stable peace with our neighbours, if they will just show willing. General Eitam said “We do not want to fight, we are not an aggressive people, but anyone who attacks our homeland must expect an appropriate response”

Today the group spent the morning learning about the REAL Jerusalem! They went to the centre of town and walked to Shouk Mahane Yehuda for lunch and to the Shouk itself to watch the frenetic buying of fine fruit and vegetables in preparation for the Shabbat meal. I am jealous! I haven’t been to the Shouk for a few weeks and my senses cry out for the pure Jerusalem of the colours, aromas, shouts of the costermongers, cries of the barrow-boys as they close in on unwary shoppers with “Allo Allo Allo” sounding more like a comment than a request! The coffee shops are filled with laughter and the “ptillia” the Yemenite restaurant whose owner arrives at 03:00 in order to cook huge pots of delicious Yemenite food which stands on the “ptilia”, the candle flame, until the pots are empty. The array of stuffed peppers, aubergines, vine leaves and artichokes are a treat to the senses to say nothing of the meat-balls and chicken rice, yellow with turmeric and spices. Shouk Mahane Yehuda is the very heart of Jerusalem where all the faiths and denominations meet up with a sole purpose………. To find the best tasting fruit and vegetables, fish and meat in the world presented with humour and chutzpah unknown elsewhere!!!!

Jerusalem is slowing down, working Mum’s are cooking the produce they bought at the shouk or the supermarket, houses are being cleaned – often by the men folk since this is an equal opportunity country! Ever lessening amounts of water is sloshed on the marble terrazzo floors to be collected up with the trusty “squeegee” or “sponger” into any appropriate receptacle, such as a dust-pan, before said floor is mopped with a clean cloth to a gleaming finish. The aromas currently wafting around our building are scorched egg-plants and peppers – to be made into salads and rice – mixed with lentils, onion and again the essential turmeric. Israeli tables are always laden, and not necessarily costly……. Shabbat holds a world of traditions which all came home again – home to Israel.

Come and see us soon. With much love from Jerusalem, heart of our world.