The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


24th July 2009.

Shabbat Shalom.

We are home after an amazing holiday with the most gracious hosts and wonderful fellow travellers. To quote Lewis Carroll “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– Of cabbages–and kings” We spoke of all the above with time for dining, history, cruising and jokes.

Did you know that the Islamic Jihad in Iraq is currently celebrating their major victory over the United States? They claim superior military power made the Allies turn tail and run out of Iraq…… seeing the Presidents good-will gesture as an enormous defeat. Ambassador Yoram Ettinger writes on the relationship between Israel and the USA

The Dead Sea is one of the 28 finalists in the competition to become one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The lowest place on earth and its minerals will compete against the Amazon River, the Galapagos, Grand Canyon and others in a competition which will be decided in 2011”>voting

One of Israel’s most important and least understood issues is “settlements”. What constitutes a settlement? The dictionary suggests that it is “a small community, village, or group of houses in a thinly populated area”

Nothing illegal or immoral, simply a place to live. Misinformation accompanied by a great deal of disinformation implies illegality and engenders thoughts of wild-eyed Jews pulling down existing Palestinian villages to build their fine and lush towns. One cannot ignore the fact that there are a few such settlements, a few too many, but the Prime Minister is already dismantling them. Ordinary settlement towns were built where nothing stood before. We took a journalist from Peruvian Television – Ricardo Muller z”l, to Maaleh Adumim. After driving 10 minutes to the south of Jerusalem, through barren hills, we came upon a beautifully kept garden town. We drove through the town to the far side and looked over the barren wasteland beyond, Ricardo said “I didn’t expect this beautiful town but even more I did not expect to see this stark wilderness- nothing – but absolute nothingness. I thought, from the reporting, that I would find a small town filled with zealots surrounded by exiled Arabs!” The land we were standing on was occupied by Jordan after the 1948 cease-fire and deeded to Israel in our peace agreement. If you recall, Jordan and Israel constitute the original “Two State Solution”

Jerusalem, Yerushalyim, Ariel, Hephsibah, Ir Shalem, Ir ha Kodesh, Neveh Zedek; a few of the 70 names of Jerusalem in the Bible, our capital city, the only place in the free world where anyone attempts to deny Jews the right to build a home. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat had this to say on the subject.

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel – the heart and soul of the Jewish people. If Jews can buy and build homes anywhere they choose in New York, Paris or Moscow, surely too, a Jew can live and build anywhere they choose in the city of Jerusalem. No Mayor of any city in the U.S. would prevent construction of a home based on race or religion, and I surely as Mayor of Jerusalem will permit Jews to build in all areas of Jerusalem, in the same manner as Muslims and Christians can. We will stand strongly against any intervention to try and divide Jerusalem. I am proud that there has never been greater freedom of religion in the city of Jerusalem than under the flag of Israel – where everyone is free to practice their beliefs in public and visit their holy sites. The future of Jerusalem is quite clear – it must stay the undivided capital of the State of Israel. “

See Daniel Pipes opinion.

Tuesday was an exceptional day, the high spot of a wonderful holiday with dear friends. We visited the newly refurbished synagogue and museum in Rhodes. The Jewish community of Rhodes has a fascinating and long history – but the period of the Holocaust is the most unexpected. The Jewish community numbered about 4,000 in 1940 and the Germans conquered Rhodes in 1944. The Turkish leader and the Moslem religious leaders warned the community of what was about to happen and many escaped but 1,604 remained and were captured by the Germans and transported to the camps. However the Turkish Ambassador discovered that some 42 members of the community had Turkish citizenship and he fought tooth and nail against the invading Germans to prevent those Turkish Citizens from transportation. He succeeded and although their lives were made difficult they stayed and survived. The history of the community was told to us by Shmuel Modiano, one of the few islanders to have survived the Holocaust. Shmuel was to have had his bar mitzvah in Kahal Shalom in 1944, but instead “celebrated” it in Auschwitz. Today, at 79, Modiano leads tours of the synagogue and La Juderia “I am obligated to tell,” Modiano says sadly. “There is no one else.” He turned his arm to show the tattooed numbers and told us how he was found by the Russians amongst a pile of bodies when they saw him lift his hand to indicate that one skeletal frame was barely, but still alive. Shmuel now lives in Rome where he finally celebrated his long delayed bar mitzvah in 2007, but he comes to Rhodes for 5 months every year to tell his story and the story of his survival in the camps. As Shmuel finished his story, our tear-filled group spontaneously said Kaddish (prayer for the departed) in memory of those who perished and Shmuel who chose to speak out.

I love coming home! Straining to see the beaches and skyscrapers of Tel Aviv as the aeroplane glides the last miles over the Mediterranean Sea I know that every moment brings me closer to Jerusalem. The ground crew smile as they call out “Bruchim ha Ba’im” Welcome; Israeli flags, Israeli stamps and Israeli gleaming marble floors. As one leaves the air-conditioned modern terminal and steps into the searing heat of a July day the sounds and aromas feel like home and then there was Rachel – ready for her first hug. We called into Givat Zeev to see our little grandchildren who couldn’t hide their curiosity as to what “matanot” (presents) we brought them, and then, on our homeward journey, we passed the Tomb of Samuel the Prophet and the breathtaking sight of Jerusalem spread before us as an undulating, sparkling white mosaic; refreshing our bearings according to its towers.

Zvi left me to the unpacking and he drove to the closing ceremony of the highly successful and thoroughly enjoyed 18th Maccabiah in Latrun. What a show!

Tonight we will bring in Shabbat in the time honoured manner, welcoming the bride of Shabbat with the glow from the candles, the Kiddush and the blessing over the Challah, with Zvi’s wonderful mother, 95 year old Ala. Ala had a fall when we were away, but shrugs off her multiple sutures saying “It was nothing” – they don’t make them like that any more!

I wish you all Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, heart of our world, the glorious city which Zvi and I are lucky enough to call home.