The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from jerusalem

Friday 13th May, 2011

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, I hope this missive finds you well.

Isn’t it strange how quickly one falls back into the swing of life? Zvi gets up at 05:30 each morning to go to morning prayers and will continue to do so for the next 11 months. He prays 3 times a day, chanting the mourners prayer as his father did for his brother and he did for his father, a last mark of respect for his late mother. Traditions are so important to Jewish continuity – if we do not continue with the traditions of our parents to teach our children, who will remember or respect them?

The headline says it all Satisfaction and stupefaction after Demjanjuk trial
Observers at the trial of John Demjanjuk expressed relief at the verdict, but many were stunned when the court ordered Demjanjuk’s release on the grounds of his age shortly afterwards. This most foul of human beings would have used his advanced age and health as an excuse to torture, slaughter and then burn people and should be treated accordingly.

Nakba or catastrophe is what the Israeli Arabs call Israel’s Independence. A bill just passed in the Knesset so that public money could not be used to fund anti-Israel demonstrations – even riots – in Arab villages and towns across the country. They, of course, suggest that such action is anti-democratic- I say it is self-preservation and logical. Imagine demonstrations in the USA against commemorating 9/11 or American Independence!

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes no bones about his support for Israel. It cost him a position in the UN and he has absorbed discontent from some countries but he is a leader of a democratic country that supports the only democratic country in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement to mark Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) celebrations:

“Today, on the 63rd anniversary of Israel’s independence, I extend warm regards to the many Canadians who are celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut.

“Since its creation in 1948, the world has witnessed Israel’s unwavering dedication to affirm its right to exist and to achieve peace and security with its neighbours.

“This day offers an opportunity to remember the constant struggles facing Israel and its citizens, and to reaffirm our commitment to strengthen the bonds of our partnership. Through trade, investment and the exchange of knowledge in areas such as innovation, green technology, medicine and law, our nations can continue to grow together.

“Our Government understands the realities of the Middle East and we will not falter in our continued support of Israel, Canada’s friend and ally, in defending the values that both nations share – freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

“As we celebrate the creation of the State of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, I call on all Canadians to wish them peace and prosperity in the year ahead.”

Mr Harper leads Canada with his conscience not with an eye on the next election. Thank you Sir, thank you for being a true friend. To write to him

Former Speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzik wrote a short article for the Jerusalem Post “10 good reasons to love Israel”. Personally I could find hundreds but I thoroughly enjoyed her lighthearted thoughts for Independence Day.

Most of the cast of the hit TV medical series ‘House”, all excepting Hugh Laurie, came to Israel this week to experience Remembrance Day and Independence Day. From all reports they had a ball really touring and seeing everything to the delight of their local fans!

Two nights ago I went with Zvi’s cousins Billy and Ruth to see the phenomenal sound and light show at the David’s Tower Museum. First we walked through the old/new Mamilla Arcade and sat in Aroma to have a good cup of coffee and a famous Aroma sandwich. Walking through the Jaffa Gate one immediately comes upon the stately walls of the David’s Tower, built by Suleiman the Magnificent, in the footsteps of those such a Allenby, Kaiser Wilhelm and Pope John-Paul, to enter the Museum on your right. The Museum itself is quite marvelous, situated at the Jaffa Gate, and the sound and light show is well worth seeing. The history of Jerusalem is portrayed through laser light show onto the ancient walls of the Citadel in a spectacular manner. One feels as if one lives history as the images and sounds surround you using innovative trompe l’oeil technology. Well worth a visit.

My dear friends Yaffa and Martin Glass came from Leeds for a very special event. Their youngest son Rafi had his passing out parade after basic training in the IDF last night at the Western Wall. Emotional, nervous but above all very, very proud, they have been overwhelmed not only by their sons decision to come to Israel, his mother’s birthplace, to pause his medical training and serve in the IDF but most of all by the warmth and attention a “lone soldier” receives. The ceremony was amazing, the young men and women glowing and most of all they were given the respect the so deeply deserve. Mum, of course, cried her eyes out in pride.

One tradition in Israel is to help mourners after the seven official days of mourning during which time the bereaved sit and receive friends and relatives in their home. The emptiness after the seven days can sometimes be worse than the actual Shiva week. Frida made her famous mushroom rice; Shula made kubeh soup bright pink from the beetroot base filled with delicious meat filled kubeh; Shoshanna arrived from downstairs with delicious stuffed vegetables; Danby could not be outdone and made a full meal of chicken soup, chicken wings, salads and dessert even preparing the noodles (lockshen) for the soup! Friends kindness and the sense that one is not alone in the world is very much part of Jewish tradition. Zvi’s “buddies” from the synagogue (Bet Knesset) in Gilo ensured a quorum each evening for the services during the Shiva and embrace him each morning as he goes to pray and say the mourners kaddish. Sometimes in the evening Zvi goes to the “Shtibelech” in the Old Katamon neighbourhood. The Shtibelech or little synagogues, was built for the Jews who lived outside the Old City but did not have where to pray. Services are every 15 minutes day and night until midnight and working men come to fulfill their duty of praying thrice a day at a time which suits them.

So now, Israel is an exquisitely beautiful 63 year old lady; ever wiser, ever more open to learning and to giving. As she learns and gains more knowledge she teaches the world fulfilling her promise of Tikkun Olam. This is an inquisitive nation which will not take no for an answer. We do not dwell on tragedy, although we do not forget it either. We use our past to build our future and to teach our children to be strong and successful.

Lag b’Omer is around the corner and huge bonfires are being built – we all hang on to our wooden structures lest they disappear during the night!!!! There is a Hebrew expression “kol siba l’mesiba” every reason for a party – that is the difference between Israelis and our neighbours – we build we don’t destroy – we rejoice what we have we don’t wreak revenge for what we don’t.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. We wish you a peaceful Sabbath and a truly wonderful week. With much love from Jerusalem, not 63 years old but 3,000+ and without a wrinkle in her pure white skin.