The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom Kfir

19th January, 2024

Shabbat Shalom.

Happy birthday to little Kfir Bibas who was one year old yesterday. There was a big birthday party in Tel Aviv but sadly Kfir wasn’t there. He spent his very first birthday in Gaza, a hostage to the barbarity that is called Hamas. Kfir, Ariel, Shiri and Yarden Bibas were all kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz on that fateful morning of October 7th.  There is not one person with a heart who did not cry at the sight of Shiri’s agonized face grasping those two little “Ging’ies” to her chest. In Israel posters bearing their photos are everywhere, songs have been written about them, the sane world has begged for their release, but either their captivity is considered too good a hostage or, God forbid, they are no longer alive. I know your hearts are breaking too.

Something I hadn’t realised is that most of the kibbutzim on the Southern border were founded by the Aliyah from South America. Soon after the founding of the State of Israel, some 70,000 young people from Jewish youth groups in South America came to Israel with the sole intention of building agricultural communities which is the central ethos of Kibbutz life. It is their descendants, their children and grandchildren who were killed like lambs to the slaughter.

Essential medication has been delivered to Qatar who delivered to the Red Cross who delivered to Hamas who hopefully delivered to the surviving hostages who have been without any medication for over three months. The Hamas demand that any and all medication intended for the hostages be multiplied by one thousand, yes one thousand. In other words, the medicine for Colitis, for Asthma, for heart disease and for high blood pressure is multiplied by one thousand and the international community complied. Still, we have no idea who is dead and who is alive; where they are, what their medical condition is or whether they will ever come home.

Piers Morgan has carefully recorded and faced Israel’s enemies over the past 105 days, but perhaps the most telling interview was with Thomas Hand who explained the situation from a personal point of view, with his daughter Emily, who was a captive in Gaza, sitting beside him, stroking her Daddy’s cheek when he became emotional. It is exceptional, heartwarming, frightening and beautiful–F8R  

Israel has become one big displaced person’s camp. Admittedly in hotels, fed and cared for but the thought of putting farmers, country children, kibbutznikim, into hotels in towns is painful. They all want to go home, well, most of them, those whose homes are not destroyed, but their villages and kibbutzim are still under rocket fire, both in the south and in the north. Yes, Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim that their people are starving yet have plenty of money for rockets and missiles. The North and Hezb-Allah is a different story but just as tragic.

Ra’anana is a wonderful dormitory town in the central region. Thriving yet in a gentle, almost sleepy way, with wonderful parks, tree lined streets and a busy shopping centre. This week the quiet of Ra’anana was broken by a ghastly terror attack in which 19 people were injured and Edna Blueshtein was killed when the terrorists stole her car at a car wash, stabbed her, and then rammed a bus stop on the main road just as children came out of school. Originally they wanted to celebrate the action of their Hamas brothers by stabbing as many Jews as possible but then decided to mow them down with a stolen car instead. Hamas celebrated of course.

Iran. On January 16th 1979 the Shah left Iran, exiled by an American President who then encouraged Ayatollah Homeini to take control of that previously thriving country with vast funding for their activities. The determination to create an Islamic Empire is paramount on the minds of the Ayatollahs. Currently close to war with Pakistan and the Kurds, Iran uses proxies to fight their war in Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Yemen indeed, almost every area of conflagration is controlled by Iran. If you were to look back over my newsletters I told you that for many years the body that oversaw (oversees) Iran’s nuclear facilities was headed by Mohammed El Baradei, a Member of the Moslem Brotherhood!

82 years ago tomorrow, German officials sat down at a table in the Berlin suburb of Wansee and worked out the final solution for the Jews. The intent of the highly documented meeting was to ensure that no Jews remained in Europe. Comparison to today’s world uprising against Jewish communities under the guise of anti-Israel sentiment proves that history does repeat itself. Anyone who blames Israel for October the 7th has no sense of history, indeed is ignorant of what Israel stands for and is a supporter of rape, beheading, burning babies alive and all the horrors perpetrated by Hamas. Indeed they are complicit in all of the above.

Strangely, so many wonderful things have come out of the horror of the attack. I have written about the sense of community and the need for us to be together; about the sandwich making and the volunteer fruit and vegetable pickers; of the hat knitting for soldiers; of donations of equipment for soldiers and clothing and furniture for those displaced families, but there is so much more. A Bedouin family from Rahat who used to work in Kibbutz Nir Oz now cook up a storm of fabulous traditional food for the remaining kibbutz members who watch over the crops and flocks.  Group of Eritrean refugees who live in and around Tel Aviv went down south and set up barbecues for the soldiers as they came out for a few hours of R&R.

I don’t want you to get the impression that we sit at home, quivering in our safe rooms eating bread and water, Israelis do everything to maintain a normal life, or rather not a normal life but to show our enemies that we will not be cowed. We still go out for amazing Israeli food, although many of the restaurants once filled with tourists are now filled with Israelis. Friends are still arriving from all over the world; the lovely Rebecca and Harold Finger came to check out our veranda so that Harold could take photos to send to Stanley Roth who loves to hear about the trees and plants. On that subject the lime, lemon and kumquat trees are all heavily laden with fruit. Harold and Rebecca are here for an extended period looking for places to volunteer and as they say “to spend money here in Israel”. Such special people who really understand the importance of this tiny sliver of land to the Jews around the world in the Diaspora. Their stay coincided with an Australian Keren Hayesod study mission and although they had already visited the destroyed kibbutzim of the south, they ensured that everyone else did too.  

Our friend Sha’ela sent Zvi home from a meeting with a huge bag full of the great big juicy lemons from her tree!

Life is filled with meetings and activities from singing in choirs (Zvi), movement classes (me) creativity sessions, inviting and going to friends and doing our best to celebrate what we have.  Last Friday night was supposed to be just another delightful evening at Amiad and Noga’s home but my goodness it was so much more! As I walked through their front door, I saw an extra table in the room and with a very loud “SURPRISE” the children and adults, joined by about 8 friends, leapt out at me singing Happy birthday!! Both Leor and Amiad had cooked up a storm, including my very favourites – Amiad’s ceviche and Leor’s quiches. Zvi sang his kiddush, to the delight of all present, and we sat down to a real party. It was so wonderful to spend an evening without talking about the situation or politics, just laughing with the children who kept coming to hug me! Zvi had also been cooking, but that was cooking up a plan to get me to Amiad’s without knowing about the party! Gili, Leor and Shiri’s second daughter, made a magnificent birthday cake to round off the fabulous evening.

Exodus 10 (Bo) is the Torah portion this week and Jeremiah the reading from Prophets. We read about the last of the 10 plagues God brought upon the Egyptians and about the gift of a Jewish calendar (tomorrow is the 10th of Shvat) and the law which leads up to Pesach, Passover, Pascha, and removal of all bread related foods from the house whereas reading from the Prophets reveals God’s promise to save us from our enemies. Basically, long before Islam we suffered the jealousy and hatred of our enemies but, hey folks, we are still here!!

Israel’s singers, from the most famous to the least known, have been going around the hospitals singing to the injured, hoping to stimulate comatose patients to wake up and to make others smile, to help the families too. Perhaps the most poignant of all is this song “Call me Gingie” about little Kfir.

Eyal Golan sings “Am Yisrael Chai” – the Jewish people lives. This is the spirit that keeps us going.

In every Jewish home on Friday night, before the Shabbat meal, the family, or to be exact the spouse sings a song of praise to his wife! Yes really. “A woman of worth, who will find?” I love it!  Here the Chief Cantor of the IDF sings with the Rabbinical Choir of the IDF as they enjoy a Friday night supper together.

Dear wonderful friends, I am so grateful to you for forcing me to think logically, to put impossible situations into words and to feel the warmth that emanates from you, dear readers. Each and every one of you that responds to my missives warms my heart in a way I cannot express. I wish you a good weekend when hatred is forgotten and kindness becomes the watchword.

I’m off to Rachel and Zvi is going to his parliament in the Botanical Gardens then tonight we will be with Nattie and Yolli Zonszein for our Shabbat dinner. I love our Friday routine of writing, sending, going to Rachel to see the family and eating one of Rachel’s amazing bread rolls and Zvi going off to save the world. Life is what you make it.

Please take care, I need you!

Shabbat Shalom, with love from Jerusalem, the beautiful, golden centre of our lives.