The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


15th December 2011

Shabbat Shalom! How are you doing? Well I hope.

This has been an odd week since we haven’t been sleeping at home, but rather staying with friends in Mevasseret and coming in early each morning to let the workmen in to the apartment for a days work on our epic renovations! The journey has given me a whole new perspective of Jerusalem from the other side. But more of that later.

This should have been a wonderful week to report. Prof. Dan Shechtmans acceptance speech at the Nobel Award Dinner was amazing and Israel’s Lee Korzits won a gold medal in the ISAF World windsurfing Championships. Apple, in an unprecedented, but wise, move, have chosen Israel for their first R&D centre outside California. Instead of being able to gloat at our successes I am angry, very angry.

As you know I rarely express anger, though sometimes offended, but this week I am furious. This is an amazing, free, busy society with women as leaders of two political parties, with important roles in finance, business, the law and the IDF but because of the determination of the media to chip away at any weakness here and the intolerance of a certain sectors the world now thinks that we are a society where women sit at the back of the bus, have to walk on the other side of the street and cannot sing for fear of offending Haredim!!! That is not Israel! I am furious that a few religious zealots are trying to impose their will on all of us. I am not in any way anti-religion or anti-religious, on the contrary, I love Judaism, the warm and gentle Judaism that I grew up with in a home with a Yeshiva educated father. This sector of society must understand that rights are earned by fulfilling ones obligations. Israel is a society of strong women and the rule of law, equal rights were hard earned by the pioneer women. If it wasn’t tragic it would be funny that Shas Member of Knesset Nissim Zeev suggested that religious soldiers who don’t want to hear a woman’s voice should carry earplugs!!!!

Young right wing religious zealots, boys and girls, decided to test the border with Jordan and then threw stones at soldiers – injuring a senior officer and shouting “Nazi” at him. He is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and the shouts hurt him more than his actual injuries. I am disgusted. They should go to prison just as anyone who throws stones at our soldiers. If they want to be protected by them then honour them. These are not “settlers” these are hooligans and should be treated as such. Having vented my ire I must add a rider; had these young hooligans been Arabs then Im Tirtsu and Shalom Achshav etc would have demonstrated for their release – apparently “human rights” only belong to the enemy. Those same groups never decry the demolition of Jewish homes on the “disputed” territory – only Arab. On the other hand, when the same hooligans defaced a disused Jerusalem Mosque it was the ordinary people of Jerusalem who went in to paint over the grafitti and repair any damage. Now THAT is Israel.

Equally Israel is the “Haiti Grows” project launched by IsraAid just a year ago. The President of Haiti , Michel Martelly, visited the site two days ago, lauding the agricultural ability of Israel, our generosity in sharing that knowledge and the fact that we did not just help and go but stayed to rebuild. IsraAID just sent three delegations to support its missions in Kenya (famine relief), South Sudan (supporting a girls rape victim shelter) and Haiti (medical, social and agriculture programs). Tikkun Olam.

I spoke about my pride in Professor Dan Schechtman winning the Nobel Prize for his work on quasicrystals. He was shunned and derided for his discovery by his scientific peers around the world until finally, after 30 long years his work was accepted, applauded, lauded and he was awarded a Nobel Prize for it. His speech displayed his determination and humility.
“Science is the ultimate tool to reveal the laws of nature and the one word written on its banner is TRUTH. The laws of nature are neither good nor bad. It is the way in which we apply them to our world that makes the difference.
It is therefore our duty as scientists to promote education, rational thinking and tolerance. We should also encourage our educated youth to become technological entrepreneurs. Those countries that nurture this knowhow will survive future financial and social crises. Let us advance science to create a better world for all.”

Now back to Mevasseret!!

Leaving Sam and Fridas home in the small hours we turn the corner at the end of their quiet and leafy suburban road in this dormitory town to a view of distant Jerusalem all the way to the Calatrava Bridge. Young children stand on each street corner near the primary school, wielding large “lollipops” to stop the traffic and allow the younger children to cross. These youngsters, known as the “Mishmeret ha Zahav” or Golden Guards were formed on the initiative of a certain Kalman Raviv, Zvi’s amazing Father to take care of the youngsters as they cross the road to schools all over Israel.

Driving thorough Mevasseret we ease our way into the traffic as we head off onto the side roads to avoid the dreadful traffic jams into Jerusalem on the main road. Within moments the hill of the Castel, or Mount Ma’oz, looms on our right, ancient citadel scene of so many battles, including the battle for control over the entry into Jerusalem during the War of Independence.

Next, winding our way through the tree lined hills, stripped bare by the Ottomans until KKL -JNF began to plant trees in 1935. Today Israel is the only country in the world with positive afforestation. On the right a large Tel looms, ancient buildings on its apex. The Russian Orthodox Church, its gold onion shaped roofs glistening in the sun; St Mary’s Well, where Mary (Miriam) stopped to drink on her way to Bethlehem; St James Franciscan Monastery with its multi-lingual blessings and of course – this is Israel – the wonderful coffee shops and restaurants.

The last roundabout and Adwan waits with his baigeleh stand, Jerusalem baigels and zatar. These baigeleh are not like the sticky doughy bagels you know nor are they the same size or shape except for the hole!! About 10 inches long, 6 inches wide, soft and covered in sesame seeds one tears it apart and with each and every bite one dips the delicious bread in the paper twist of zatar, a herb mixture composed of savory, thyme, sumac, salt and sesame seeds. He knows us now, after all we are on this route for 10 days, and in response to my smile he goes to a separate bag to bring me the very freshest. Fauz also sells hard-boiled eggs – again nothing that you would recognised, these eggs are cooked for hours in a spicy mixture until the eggs inside turn brown – truthfully not my cup of tea but adored locally!

Munching our wonderful local breakfast we come to a sharp turn in the road and there above us a different kind of marvel, the huge modern form of Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem its helipad like a huge plate on the roof. Up, up a little bit further on the Aliya to Jerusalem. Nearly home!

To make life complete, apart from the constant drilling, sawing, dust and noise (to say nothing of tea, coffee and Turkish coffee on tap) I had an inner ear virus (Labyrinthitis) which turn my world upside down – but that too will pass!

Our house is upside down and Shabbat will be somewhat strange but no matter what the state of the renovations – I want to move back home to have the peace of Shabbat here, on my new, if dusty veranda and its breathtaking view. I need ot light my Shabbat candles at home – to be with my husband in our Jewish home. Candles, Kiddush, Challah and whatever meal I am able to garner from the remains of my half empty fridge.

Shabbat Shalom, with love from Jerusalem – the most fascinating, beautiful, spiritual, sadly contentious city in the world.