The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila


8th May, 2009.

Shabbat Shalom!

Israel is preparing for the Papal visit of Pope Benedictus 16th to the Holy Land. Maps of roads to be closed to allow him clear passage are available on the internet and are posted on Post Office notice boards; police barriers are in place ready to close said roads; volunteer traffic police are cleaning their uniforms and the residents of Jerusalem are working out how on earth to get to work. The Israeli Philatelic Society has published an outstanding set of commemorative stamps as a truly beautiful tribute and the Ministry of the Interior and the relevant Police Department are swamped by Christians from the PA wanting permits to visit Jerusalem. Officially there is great excitement; the people are a little less sure.

When His Holiness Pope John Paul, Karol Józef Wojtyła, came to Jerusalem he brought with him concern and love for Israel, a sense of deep spirituality and a rich knowledge and understanding from his youth in Poland. He brought enormous joy and hope and left us feeling that there was a friend in the Vatican, a dear friend. This Pope has a different background and a less open outlook and Israelis are concerned. I hope and pray that we are wrong, that he will understand and that his advisors will tell him of the plight of Catholics, indeed all Christians, in the Palestinian Authority. If he will listen to the last remaining Christians, predominantly Catholics, in Beit Hanina, Beit Jalla, Bethlehem and Ramalla then maybe he will finally speak out and save them and their churches. There is fear that the Vatican will claim land around Jerusalem (funnily enough not the Temple Mount which the very essence of Christianity through its basis in Judaism) yet is not willing to give up some 800 Jewish manuscripts and many other precious antiquities held since the Inquisition.

I pray for a peaceful, spiritual visit and I wish his Israeli parishioners a time of deep reflection, prayer and hope and His Holiness Pope Benedictus 16th a long reign filled with compassion and determination to look beyond Rome to Jerusalem.

The new Government and the Ministry of Finance put forward a financial programme which may help to put more money into the State coffers but is extremely harsh on the poorer classes. Health Minister Littman is particularly incensed at the loss of funding for hospitals and health funds after the current government broke the contract of Mr. Olmerts’ government to improve Health care and provide more neighbourhood clinics. Minister Litzman and is now fighting tooth and nail to ensure comprehensive and sufficient health cover for all classes.

President of Israel Shimon Peres is a man of peace, a great statesman and a determined and outspoken proponent of Israel. He made Israel’s untenable position clear to President Barak Obama in the hope of reaching out to a man who may understand that Israel is not to blame and he could not hold back his anger at the United Nations clear bias and unequal process of blame while talking before Ban Ki- Moon, Secretary General of that once august organization now tainted by oil-power and greed. The one-sided condemnation of Israel during and after Operation Cast Lead, in the full knowledge that United Nations posts and aid convoys were constantly attacked and used as cover by Hamas was the cause of this exceptional outburst. Thank you Mr. President, at least someone is speaking out and being heard, albeit in a deeply echoing cavern.

Israels young and handsome new Minister of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov, is determined to woo you to the most beautiful country on earth. He intends “selling” Israel and her multitudinous delights to the world. He intends to ensure that the glory of the Galil, the magic of the Sea of Galilee, the beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean coast, the stark wonder of the desert, the fun of Tel Aviv, the history, stones, stores and vivaciousness of Jerusalem and the sheer magnificence of its Old City are promoted.

Zvi’s cousins Ruth and Billy are visiting from Mexico, don’t worry they left Mexico 3 weeks ago and are not infected, and although they are regular visitors they are stunned by the changes in the short while since their last visit. Israel is vibrant, modern, changing, exciting and very beautiful. No road is built without phenomenal landscaping, no town is built without thought of greenery and statuary, no shopping centre without sculptures and colour….. even the Hi-Tech park near our home was built with wide white steps leading to a lawn and terracing and the inevitable sculptures. In other words, for anyone who has not been here or was here many years ago, Israel has changed beyond recognition, and all for the better!

Yesterday the Cardiff 6 met again in Shilat, the industrial area near Modiin. Inside a huge garden centre the coffee shop nestles in a shaded corner, 6 women who, to outsiders, may be past their first flush, suddenly became 16 again. All 6 of us, find it hard to share with our families our satisfaction with our decision to be in Israel. One friend came at 17, three in their 20’s, one in her 30’s and me, I came in my 40’s. We all feel that while there was nothing pushing us away from what we had there was a strong magnet pulling us here to Israel; that is what is so hard to explain. It is innate, it is fulfilling and our homecoming was inevitable. Ain li Eretz Aheret – I have no other country watch it – it has translation for the wonderful words.

Economics and financial disasters seem to be on everyone’s lips and around every corner – wherever you may be. One can see the wisdom of the Jewish way of handling ones possessions- one third in land, one third in cash and one third in investment. No matter how small ones stockpile, it sounds pretty sensible to me. I always say that if a pessimist predicts calamity often enough it will ultimately become reality……..Jack de Lowe sent me this quote which proves the point!!! “Economists are pessimists: they predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions.”

It is now 15:30 Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve) and the traffic is thinning, car parks emptying, stores closing their doors, buses turning into the depot, workmen packing up their tools as the aromas of each household’s kitchen remind them it is worth returning home in time to rest before the Friday night meal. Crisp white tablecloths gleam on tables already burgeoning with a huge variety of salads. The Israeli table is always filled with salads, chopped roasted aubergines, grated zucchini and egg, (Zvi’s invention and apparently “the best salad in the world”, roasted red pepper, ratatouille, noodle and vegetable, tomato and garlic, home pickled cucumbers and peppers, babganouche and the king of Israeli salads -finely chopped cucumbers, red peppers and tomatoes in fine local olive oil and fresh lemon juice with a touch of purple onion and parsley.

Now is the time for a slafstunder, siesta, nap, kip, shut-eye…….. in other words Shabbat Shalom and much love from sleepy Jerusalem, ready to wake up and don her white clothes to welcome the bride of Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom and much love from Jerusalem