The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


15th June 2011

This is an early Shabbat Shalom, but for good reason!

Sunday evening we drove down toward the Dead Sea on the Jerusalem -Jericho road, the one that Nomi Shemer wrote about in the last verse of “Yerushalyim shel Zahav” – the road to the Dead Sea via Jericho. It never fails to amaze me that once one leaves the glorious lushness of Jerusalem, through the tunnel beneath the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus, one emerges into another, unloved world of barren scrub and unkempt landscape, a world without KKL.

As one passes the marker of Sea Level and begin the steep descent toward Sodom, the bald hills soon give way to a moonscape of strangely shaped hillocks and startlingly white land in stark contrast to the deep purple mountains of Jordan on the far bank of the Dead Sea, mountains which hide the secret treasure of Petra. Down, down, down, and down some more to the lowest place on earth – the phenomenal Dead Sea, Yam haMelach.

We were invited by the Nancy and Harry Bloomfield to join them at an exceptional event to draw attention to the opening of the Bloomfield Family Visitors Center of the Negev .

Andrea Bocelli at the foot of Massada

The anticipation was evident in all those at the pre-concert reception as everyone hummed along with the piped Bocelli favourites. The site was magical, deep in the desert, hot and breezy, seemingly in the middle of arid nothingness until one looked up, up and up to the deeply emotive, historic site of Massada. Massada, scene of the most famous of Jewish revolts, Jewish refusal to be enslaved by another of the many armies that wanted control of this land. This revolt ended in mass suicide rather than capture by the Roman army. The Roman not only wanted control of the Jewish people, so extreme were their desires that they even changed the name from the Land of Israel to Palaestina – a change which was to cause so many problems. The site of Jewish resistance was now going to be the site of joy and music and culture. Sweet revenge indeed.

We sat in rapt anticipation as the orchestra struck up the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from Nabucco – so appropriate to the site. Our backdrop – Massada itself – was softly lit ensuring that we were aware of the glory of our position. Mr. Bocelli walked onto the stage to rapturous applause, his assistant bringing him to the stage and then the conductor placing him before the microphone. His shy smile seemed to light up the audience of 7,500 and as he began to sing, the sheer effortless purity of his voice rang out over the Mistral that threatened to spoil the evening. I didn’t know that Barry and Carol Shaw were in the audience too but you can listen and understand our emotions and joy as you watch Barry’s videos of the event.

Achinoam Nini, known in the world as Noa, is a close friend of Mr. Bocelli and they sang the theme song of “Life is Beautiful” together
Miri Awad is the Arab-Israeli singing partner of Achinoam Nini and here exhibits her exquisite voice as she sings with Bocelli
The concert was over, two encores had been received with standing ovations but we wanted more. As Mr. Bocelli was led back to the stage again, Zvi yelled out “Nessum Dorma” and a few seconds later the first notes rang out and Mr. Bocelli’s effortless voice rang out beneath a starlit Massada. Magic. Magic. Magic.

The early greetings are for good reason. Our dear friend Saul Same arrives tomorrow all the way from Melbourne, Australia and we want to see him as soon as we can and then we have a wedding in the evening near Tel Aviv.

On Friday morning we have the stone setting ceremony for Zvi’s dear mother Ala, the traditional ceremony at the graveside is followed by an equally traditional meal at our home whereby one presents food to enable four essential blessings of gratitude – wine or grape juice, the fruit of the ground and of the tree and bread. Her head-stone is etched in perpetuity, not only with her name Ala (Leah) Raviv-Hendler, but also the names of her family who died in the Shoah so that they too will have their names on a grave, as we did with Zvi’s father Kalman. It is difficult to remember that she has gone, she was such a huge part of our lives. We are still finding treasures of history as we go through papers and letters which reveal parts of her life that we did not even realise. This was a generation of fiscal poverty and cultural and moral wealth – I hope that revealing evidence of their selflessness and dedication to the better of their fellow countrymen to others we can reclaim just a little of their strength of character.

Our Navy is at the ready for the latest flotilla about to leave the shores of Turkey but I think that this is purely a media magnet – they are not bringing unnecessary aid to Gaza. Maybe the “aid flotilla” is really headed for the spa at the new Movenpick in Gaza. The people of Gaza are starving my foot!! This is amazing – just read through it!!! They used Israeli products because of the high quality!!!

Last night Jerusalem took on a strange yet spectacular sunset. I assume it was due to the thin layer of Eritrean volcanic dust that turned dusk into a magical glow on the white stones of our buildings. As I stood on our veranda looking out it was exceptional. Just in case Stanley was wondering, by the time you all come for the KH conference you will see the tiny orange tree with a dozen small hard green fruits already and the herbs – lavender, lemon pelargonium, melissa, basil, thyme, zatar, louisa, rosemary and more – reaching the peak of their pungency. I may even manage some pomegranate buds!

We just met Avraham and Mindele Jasqui of Mexico in the Mamilla project. Avraham told me about a project of the Syrian Chalabi community in Mexico City whereby they investigated the breakdown of Jewish continuity in the wider Jewish community in mexico. The result of an indepth invesitgation ws that it was the breakdown of FAMILY that was the cause. Family, the traditions of family, the warmth of family, the desire for family amongst the young women or young couples…………. all ultimately contribute to the breakdown of traditions which hold us together as a community and a people. I agree 100% since most young people today dare to claim it boring to raise children so put it off and insist upon their own lives and careers even when they do make the huge decision. Me? I cannot think of anything more rewarding and fulfilling than raising children – I loved every second and now reap the rewards of my grandchildren – basar basari – flesh of my flesh. TRADITIONS!!!

I am now awaiting a full eclipse of the moon – the first shadow is already creeping across his face – I promise to stand on the veranda and watch it – trying to capture the miracle on film. I am so excited!

Finally, my favourite article of the week which embodies who and what we are. Israeli soldiers of the Israeli DEFENCE Force literally give their blood for Israel

Wishing you and yours Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, with all the love of this amazing city.