The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

Friday 25th March 2001

Shabbat Shalom dear friends

My greetings this week are mixed with sadness after the bombing in Jerusalem and the rockets in the South of the country. The rockets are not effective at killing but they create traumatised adults and children – robbing youngsters of the right to play outside in the fresh air and reminding them of how horrific life was before Operation Cast Lead.

A good woman died because she was in the wrong place, a woman who had given of herself to the poor and sick, a true Eshet Chayil – woman of worth. Mary Gardner, a 59-year-old Evangelical Christian from the Orkney Isles, north of Scotland, was studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She was studying Hebrew in order to translate the Old Testament for the people of Togo to whom she had devoted her life. 30 others were injured including David Amuyel. David owns the snack kiosk next to the bus stops outside Binyanei HaUma. He noticed an unidentified bag next to to the public telephone standing next to his kiosk. David told people to move away from the bag as he called the police, the situation already familiar to him. The recorded request for police assistance was interrupted by a huge boom as the bag exploded. David saved the lives of others but he himself is still in hospital with injuries to his lower body and limbs – the price of bravery. The unstoppable kiosk and the bravery of a simple man

Israel does not bow to fear or bullies – terrorism induces terror and we cannot let them win. The number of superstars arriving here is increasing, many suddenly understanding the importance of their roots. Bob Dylan is coming on June 20th and Gene Simmons is here right now with his family. Who is Gene Simmons? Well his real name is Chaim Witz, child of a Holocaust survivor who was born in Israel, Witz changed his name and became a superstar – in the group KISS. Known for his long tongue rather than his musical prowess Witz decided now is the time to come home after 52 years.

In my report of the cowardly bombing mid-week I barely touched on the trial and conviction of Former President Moshe Katsav on charges of rape and sexual harassment. I am so proud of our legal system which does not allow fame, wealth or public office to deter the full force of the law. The panel of judges deliberated in camera and only when the result of those deliberations was announced did they allow a limited press presence without cameras. The panel of judges (Israel does not have a jury system) included two women and one man. Presidiing Judge George Karra, Judge Miriam Sokolov and Judge Judith Shevach. Katsav wil appeal his sentence to the Supreme Court but the people of Israel are tired of his constant raging against the press and the legal system claiming “It is all becauswe I am Mizrachi” (Persian)

News Agencies do not protect their journalists by speaking out, if the story goes against their company line. Read Tom Gross descriptions of beatings, harassment and sexual harassment of both NY Times journalists in Libya and Reuters correspondents in Gaza. If the media will not admit the truth unto themselves how can they admit it to us or for that matter – tell the truth about our situation?
Wonders will never cease! The University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies is renowned for the anti-Israel stance of its student body but even this liberal, though excellent academic institution has its limits. Demonstrators against Israel Apartheid Week – held at universities and colleges all over the world – were attacked by SOAS students, including verbal racist abuse, biting and kicking. The University “deplores the use of violence and hate speech in on or around its premises”. Maybe they should watch what they teach too.

Talking of Israel Apartheid Week, I want to show you something special. These posters demonstrate the incredible rainbow of Israeli society which is probably more integrated than any other. We are not perfect, indeed still learning that Ashkenazi and Mizrachi make for a great social and culinary mix, but my goodness we do well.

Brava! The Israeli women’s basketball team made history last night as they won the EuroCup beating the French team Arras. and just to prove that Jews are good at sport………… Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team won last night’s match in the European Final Four!,7340,L-4047587,00.html

Jerusalem’s first International Marathon started as planned this morning and 10,000 runners are enjoying a good weather and a beautiful view of the capital as they follow a wonderful route through both old and new city. Traffic is pretty much at a standstill but nobody minds. Last night the participants met in Binyanei HaUma for a slap up meal of carbohydrates to build up their strength at the Sport and Health Expo. The race began at the Knesset (Parliament) at 07:00 this morning on a wonderful rainy Jerusalem day, infinitely easier than the usual heatwave for what was previously a half-Marathon. Runners came from all over the world, none deterred by the recent bombing. From the Knesset to the Israel Museum and then back to the Supreme Court, Israel’s pride and joy both legally and architecturally, through the centre of town and then to the Mamilla Arcade, Jaffa Gate, Zion Gate, the Cinemateque, the Khan, the Presidents Residence and on to entertain the bystanders sipping their Cafe Hafuch in the German Colony. They will be rewarded for their efforts well before the finish line by one of the most breathtaking sights in the world – the Sherover Promenade overlooking the entire City of Jerusalem. The sun came out for the finish in Sacker Park lighting up the trees and the faces of the onlookers

The glorious, life giving rain took a short break, the sun finding the white buildings sparkling in delight. The cooler weather demanded a huge pot of thick vegetable soup for tonight and a lovely chicken cholent for tomorrow’s lunch. I took a short break to remind me of the beauty which surrounds me every day and walked out onto my slightly soggy veranda. The buds on our orange tree are just beginning to show their heads and the rain elicits the aroma of orange leaves. The pomegranate tree is beginning to leaf and the freesias lift the air with their heady scent – augurs of spring despite the snow which lays thickly on Mount Hermon.

Just as spring will replace winter so joy will replace the agony of the last week. We will not dwell on the past although we must learn from it. We must not dwell because vengeance will make us as evil as our enemies. We will find a way to avenge but never to revenge. They push us and taunt us through their violent acts, they want us to react, they demand our reaction because they want the world’s anger upon us. We will not allow our moral tide to ebb – we are better than that.

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom – Peace be with you, “May the Lord bless you and keep you.”
With all my love from Jerusalem