The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


15th July 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well and that you had a good week. So much has happened since our last conversation but I chose to talk about the beautiful things we did this week rather than world news.

One event which warmed my heart however was the declaration of Independence of South Sudan. Finally and at last the Christians and Animists will finally live in peace, separated and no longer oppressed and massacred by the Islamic North Sudan. The Moslem states are furious and blame Israel for the separation – well I can only say that whatever part we played in this is blessed. We simply sent doctors, engineers and civic managers to help them when the world forgot their existence.

The week began with a tour of the Tel Aviv German Colony, one of the Templar sites in Israel. I loved being with our friends but quite honestly – anyone from Jerusalem or Haifa should not go on that tour!!! As we walked I spoke to Surka. Surka and her husband Rafi and all their family live on kibbutz Nahal Oz. Yes, you have heard the name many times as rockets from Gaza rain down on their idyllic farming community. “Each time there is a barrage of rockets, rather than send us running it strengthens our community. During the worst times we had the best films showing, the best music playing and we all gathered for parties every night to keep up morale. Our house enjoys an extra room as each of us gained a “mamad” or bomb-proof room. Of course it is hard but why should we give in to them and leave the land, which is right here in Israel, because a group of terrorists say so” Right on Surka, right on.

Every summer something exceptional happens in Jerusalem on a Monday and Thursday. Shouk Mahane Yehuda becomes a giant nightclub!!! Jill, Irit and I went for supper on the pavement of Jaffa Street , right near Ben Yehuda Street. We sat watching to world go by – religious Jews, Arab Moslems, Arab Christians, secular Jews indeed everyone was out to promenade on that balmy Jerusalem night providing us with a constant floor show! After supper we walked up Jaffa Street, together with many, many others, until we came to the shouk. Throngs, nay masses of people, the sounds of Jazz, pop, classical and Latin music called to us from each of the alleyways as people danced in the street. The music mixed with the usual calls of “One shekel, only one shekel” drew us in despite my dislike of overly crowded places. We found a corner near the trendy coffee shop and stood listening to an excellent jazz group, dancing quietly to the rhythm. Yet again the people were of every conceivable race, creed, nationality and colour.

Tuesday was a truly exceptional day. It was the day Lauren became Liba!!! Lauren Efron, daughter of our dear friend David, made Aliya from Florida to Israel on a Nefesh be Nefesh flight. Last year Lauren chose to come to Tel Aviv University for a semester, Aliya being the las thing on her mind…. it was about 73 after ensuring her hair was perfect and wearing the latest fashion! After a 3 week army volunteer programme and generally living the Israeli lifestyle the hair dryer was forgotten and Aliya moved up to first place. Lauren has been working toward the day she can come and live here and three days ago she fulfilled her dream and now she is fighting jet lag, asleep in our spare room. Last night she discovered one can go to a wedding in jeans and no-one will object! LIBA – WELCOME HOME.

On Wednesday Zvi and I went to the Opening event of the Knesset Forum on International Affairs. Every time I walk through the gates and along the huge area to the impressive Knesset building I feel a deep sense of pride. The organisers asked me to choose a few good people to join me there and I thought deeply and invited Barry Shaw and his wife Carol, Phillip Pasmanick, Juergen Buehler, Professor Irwin Cotler (who was certainly welcome without my intervention, particularly as the latest victim of Ha’aretz misquoting) and others. My choice was those who not only do outstanding work in the hasbara field but more importantly not those who simply complain about others but who really appreciate the incredible society we have built right here in Israel. I wish Michael Gribov and all his team great good luck in the coming year, I vow to work hard and long to help and keep the values and intentions of the Forums founder, the late Yuri Shtern. The Forum is non-partisan and will work hard to ensure that what we stand for and what Israel truly represents will finally and at last reach the world. Finally though it is up to YOU and your actions to ensure your local media tells the truth and that individuals speak out – not in defence of Israel – we don’t need defending we just need ot shout our wonderful truth.

Wednesday night found us at the Sheyan restaurant celebrating the birthday of an exceptional man. We met Alan and Bonnie Cohen about 18 years go, during the Jerusalem 3,000 celebrations when Alan walked into Zvi’s office asking for assistance with some very high quality groups he and Rabbi Irwin Katsof, through Aish haTorah, were bringing to Israel. Not only did we meet and befriend many of the participants of those groups, we found true friendship. So great a friendship that when Zvi and I married, the Ketuba (marriage contract) was signed in Alan and Bonnies lounge, the Chuppa (wedding canopy) which was held by our children, was placed at one end of the street (Zvi “moved” some police barriers to ensure privacy!!!) and the party in their street. We have not always been able to meet up but it was such an honour to be included in that small group of close friends to celebrate a man – half of a couple – who changed the shape of so many lives giving them purpose and a Jewish perspective. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALAN!!! AD ME’AH C’ESRIM

Yesterday was the wedding that Lauren came to in jeans. Our neighbours daughter was married in a wonderful traditional ceremony with every conceivable tradition interlaced and every conceivable Israeli equally enjoying the fun. – Arab Moslems, North African and Ashkenazi Jews, everyone doing what we Israelis do best – eating, eating and eating some more and then dancing it all off!!!!

Tonight and tomorrow Steven Gandel is visiting from far off Melbourne – only one or two Gandels left to see this month!!!

Now to the cooking – Steven loves his food so tonight we will have wonderful spring chicken, stuffed vegetables, cabbage salad, green salad, chopped salad, aubergine salad with tehina, courgette salad a la Zvi, and a few others and I must go to buy a ripe, juicy, red and ready water melon (avatiach) for dessert. Gosh the menu looks good, especially since I haven’t even started yet!!! Tomorrow he will get cake! Tea-time in Jerusalem, sitting on our veranda in the shade overlooking the city we all love is a special time as the searing heat lessens (slightly) and the breeze gently kisses the flowers and trees.

In order to cook I must shop and the supermarket will be filled to capacity as frayed cashiers try to deal with the Shabbat shopping of a nation preparing to welcome the bride of Shabbat. Shopping, cooking, resting and then…….. and then…… a glorious gentle quiet descends upon Jerusalem. Even the colour of the city changes from a bright, glaring white to a gentle pink glow as the sun sets and a city of white table clothes and laden tables slowly rests.

I wish you a Shabbat Shalom and although I promised no politics I must send special wishes to Carol Gould who speaks fearlessly on behalf of Israel in the most unfriendly of place – left wing university campuses. Carol, bless you. You are appreciated and your words do not fall on deaf ears, you are the living proof of what I call the power of one. Kol ha Kavod. Remember the cruel words of anti-Semitic, self-hating Jews can never drown you out. We are with you every step of the way and than you for your determination.

With much love from Jerusalem, love from Israel, new home to Lauren/Liba.