The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom from Sheila

4th April 2009.

Shabbat Shalom!

The 32nd Israeli Government was announced on April 1st and this site gives you their names, positions and biographies.
It is the largest and most expensive government in Israeli history, but the only alternative was holding new elections. I wish the new Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Government great success, for their success is Israel’s success. I admit to some trepidation however – it is a shame that the position of Foreign Minister did not go to someone with international experience and a greater sense of delicacy, diplomacy and tact.

On Tuesday, after a delightful lunch with Judit and Danny Liwerant in the Caffit restaurant in the glorious Jerusalem Botanical Gardens – bursting with a rainbow of bright spring colours and elegant trees, Zvi and I drove to Tel Aviv to the Tsafta Theatre with Irit and Itzik Lev to see new production by commentator and author Efraim Sidon. The women performers were outstanding but the production missed the delicacy of clever satire and became destructive lampooning, irreverent and uncaring undergraduate absurdity. It annoyed me intensely; we have so much to be proud of. In other words it was a perfect play for the Tel Aviv audience who loved it!!

Imagine a group of friends meeting up after 40+ years! 6 Cardiffians (from Cardiff, South Wales, UK) who grew up in each others pockets, all of whom live in Israel, meet up at a coffee shop in an Australian plant nursery in Shilat near Modi’in, central Israel. Each of us said the others hadn’t changed – and even though we obviously have outwardly, we suddenly became 14 years old again with no need to explain who is whom or what and when. The question was asked “What brought you here to Israel?” The others all came as young women, whether through pioneering spirit, devotion to the ideal, looking for something new or a determination to raise their children in this wonderful country. I came much later but have never regretted one second having found fulfillment. Not one of us regret the decision, all of us feel that it has enriched our lives which have widened and encompass so much more experience, understanding, depth and quality from stepping outside our comfort zones to come home. We all came home.

I raced home from Shilat my mind filled with conversations and the memories they engendered – rushed in to the apartment washed my face, grabbed Zvi and raced out again……. to Tel Aviv, waving at Shilat on the way!!!!! We were going to the Kadima Party farewell function for Ehud Olmert. Isn’t it amazing how differently those who work with and are friends with a good man see that person in an entirely different light to those who simply hear gossip and news-speak? Mayor of Haifa Yona Yahav reminded us that he beat Ehud Olmert as President of the Student Council of the Hebrew University – and his assistant was none other than the now Aliza Olmert who he introduced to her husband! Minister after Minister walked to the podium and tearfully expressed their love and admiration for the man, many declaring him one of the greatest Prime Ministers Israel has known –each saying that history would be very kind to this man. Tsachi Hanegbi described him as “Navigating the ship of Israel for 3 years, through exceptionally stormy waters, in a manner of great leadership”. People who did not need anything from him talked of his absolute determination to do the right thing for Israel, of his ability to make decisions, to listen and accept advice, of his incomparable analytical brain and ability to cut through all the political dross which accompanies every issue, but most of all, what I have been saying for years – each and every one of them expressed undying love for the man, the mensch and regret at the mistreatment and slurs aimed at him. Tsippi Livini said that they had their differences, some public, but that once the “discussion” was over Ehud Olmert was back to business with only one issue on his mind – the good of Israel. Former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert stood to speak and the rowdiness of the gathering dissipated as the room fell silent. He spoke quietly, filled with emotion. “I have the strange feeling that this is the last time I will stand to make a public speech. I have very mixed feelings about leaving office, especially under the current circumstances but for the sake of the country and the party there was no other option…… It took enormous diplomatic and political effort to gather unaffiliated states for the Annapolis Summit. It was an event that branded the consciousness of millions of people around the world who realized that Israel is an existing fact. The first thing that happened when we left office was a denouncement of the process!” The outpourings of love from the room and from those who know the man well were overpowering and I pray they will strengthen him for the upcoming period. I can only hope that the slings and arrows aimed at him return to sender with force and that the Olmert family can enjoy some well earned quiet before he returns to the scene in a big way!

The rain followed by gentle warming spring sun brought the spring flowers and the hedgerows are filled with colour! Red poppies, anemones and tulips; Yellow wild mustard, broom and mimosa; Purple wild rosemary and lavender; Blue harebells and pimpernels; Pink wild cyclamen, cherry trees. See for yourselves!!

The cleaning is well on its way, cupboards sparkling, stove devoid of any signs of former delicacies and the silverware reflecting our pleased faces…and poor Zvi carried the umpteen boxes of Pesach (Passover) dishes up three flights of stairs from our machsan (store-room). I love the cleanliness, the newness the sense that this night is really different from all other nights yet emotionally familiar. I love tradition and knowing that we are reading the same story of freedom from slavery that my parents, their parents and their parents read to their children. I love knowing that we will eat my Zeidy’s recipe for Charosis (the mortar) and tell everyone how he used to go into the garden to grate the fiery horseradish because I couldn’t bear his tears; the table set with the white and gold china that Kalman, Zvi’s late father, received as meagre compensation for their family home in Bialystok, Poland; my parents seder dish, lovingly stands in the centre of events even though they are long gone; the inevitable hard boiled eggs in salt water and the various ridiculous explanations. I love that we will eat gefilte fisch, kneidlach soup, roast chicken and roast veggies just as I did as a child. It is all about the aromas, the memories they evoke and the incredible Jewishness of the combination. This year our own children are not with us for Seder night but we do have Ira and Valeri, with their wonderful children Tomer and Sheli. Ira and Valeri came from Russia just a year after I came to Israel and we adopted them as our family and they us. Life’s cycles are miraculous – Zvi started the world struggle for Soviet Jewry and 27 years later Ira and Valeri came from Russia, became our family, built themselves a successful life, had two amazing children and then went back to Russia as emissaries of the Jewish Agency to bring others into the cycle. Now they are back home and we are very happy they are at our table. As we sing “le Shana ha ba’ah b’yerushalyim” (Next year in Jerusalem), unlike our forefathers we don’t have fear and doubt – we will be here!

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem – I swear that the city is gleaming even whiter after all the Pesach cleaning!!!!
With love