The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

10TH June 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope this letter finds you well.

The Shabbat dinner party I described last week went off like a dream. The conversation was delightful as were the guests and it felt somehow right to introduce our new friends to old friends and mix the past with the present making new future friendships. The mix of origins reminded me of dinner parties in the States, Canada or Australia where many are immigrants from other countries, the only difference is that here we all came home. The guests came from Morocco, Canada, Wales, Belgium and of course right here in Jerusalem, Palestine.

Palestine, Palaestina. The name was changed by the Romans to eradicate all resemblance and memory of the Jewish era of Judea and Samaria; they were less successful with the name Jerusalem, attempting to call her Ilia Capitolina, but Jerusalem is so musical, so prayerful, so powerful that they did not succeed. Now the “Palestinians” are insisting that the prayer “If I forget thee oh Jerusalem” is a Christian prayer and not Jewish at all!!!

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen has written an excellent piece about Jerusalem this week – well worth reading the words of a dove, a religious dove but as he says not a suicidal dove.

This week you are getting only good news. I am tired of the Syrian situation whereby everyone shouts and no-one does anything. I cannot but think what they would all be saying if Israel behaved in the amoral and inhumane fashion of Bashar Assad – the highly sophisticated, soft spoken and seemingly mannered tyrant whose cruel regime is still running rampant in Syria – a country created when the entire Middle East “divvied up” this time by the French a country which created the strongest links with Iran and Iraq of Saddam benefitting his country with armaments that no-one quite knows about. The refugees fled to Turkey where they will not be welcomed with open arms. Gosh and I said no politics eh?

Actually there are some good politics too. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is at the forefront af a Congressional move against the declaration of sttehood by the Palestinians and the cessation of American financial aid to any government including Hamas. Prime Minister Steven Harper has yet again chosen the side of moral truth and sided with Israel publicly and openly – KOL HA KAVOD TO CANADA

Danny Adino Abebe is a handsome young reporter who began his journalistic career in the IDF and works with Yedioth Aharonot, one of the 3 majors newspapers in Israel. Danny is from Ethiopia but just as his identity never bothered him so it has never impeded his progress. Easily identified by his dreadlocks and enormous smile at any major event, Danny feels that many Ethiopians use their colour or origin as an excuse not to succeed – read all about Danny in this marvellous article by Ruth Eglash

Shevuot , the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost was wonderful. We were invited to friend both on Erev Shevuot – the night before Shevuot – and for Shevuot Lunch. It always fascinates me how different families have different traditions all of which include cheeses, milk, quiches, fish, anything but meat- but Zvi raised the question Why?
Why when we are expected to celebrate all festivals with meat and plenteous dishes do we stick to white foods – milk foods, on Shevuot. Most of us learned about receiving the Torah and not knowing how deeply the question of the calf in its mothers milk took us…….but no……… Zvi’s response was much more interesting. Halav……… milk….. is made up of three hebrew letters hey, lamed and bet. In gematriah – the mathematical calculations of hebrew letters this adds up to 40. Moses was atop Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights while receiving the Torah. Since Shevuot is the celebration of receiving the Torah – ergo milk!

In a few minutes I will leave for Ramot to collect my little grandchildren Yosef and Talia from their schools and take them home to play for a while before Shabbat preparations take over my mind. From Ramot we drive out to Givat Zeev on the main road, passing Samuels Tomb and driving down the long hill to Givat Zeev – named for Zeev Jabotinsky, one of the major founding fathers of modern Israel. Despite the searing heat of a Sharav or Hamsin, the air atop the mountain is fresh and the views spectacular. Givat Zeev is a pretty town, basically a dormitory neighbourhood of Jerusalem, although CNN and the BBC would call it a settlement! The homes are white, just like Jerusalem, and the local Arabs walk freely and tend their land, crops and animal herds without anyone bothering them – unlike Arab towns which do not allow Jews within a stones throw – literally.

The drive back home is even more spectacular as one climbs again to Samuels Tomb on the opposite side of the road one is taken aback by the panorama – a spectacular carpet of white buildings as far as the eye can see as Jerusalem, Israels Capital City and the the largest by far, spreads out before one in splendour. The number of towers is growing, once only the Augusta Victoria Hospital, St Georges, the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus and those few in the centre of town stood proud of the homes, now one has the Holyland Tower, the Calatrava Bridge, and many hotels and offices – Jerusalem is not only a city of ancient stones – Jerusalem is a thriving, bustling city of three-quarters of a million people whose ethnicities form a glorious rainbow evident in our skyline.

Each and every visitor to our home is mesmerised by the view. Jerusalem is so special, so heartwarming, spiritual, contentious and thoroughly embedded in our souls that to see her laid out before us is a gift of such magnitude that we must never ever forget her “If I forget thee oh Jerusalem, let my right hand becoem useless and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth”. The Palestinians can say what they wish – we know that this came from Psalm 137 “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” The psalm mourns the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army in 586 BCE, is part of Jewish tradition and liturgy and has appeared in Jewish sources for thousands of years. Before you consider their statements check out their lies.

I wish you Shabbat shalom and those who are preparing to arrive for the Presidents Conference on Tomorrow – see you there.

With much love from Jerusalem, the most beautiful city in the world.