The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


March 22nd, 2012

I want to wish you Shabbat Shalom but I cannot stop thinking about the funerals held in Jerusalem yesterday.

I am angry, very angry. The atmosphere created by media and Islamic fundamentalists allowed it to happen, sanctioned anti-Semitism through their disinformation gave him the right to shoot and us dispensable. Four people died, a father and his two babies after which the killer made another deadly pass to shoot a little, beautiful 8 year old girl in the head because he had “only” wounded her. Why? Because everything he learned from the French press (the Mohammed Al Dura case) – he was taught that Israelis kill Palestinian babies so he had the right of revenge.

Melanie Phillips says it better than I in her article Laying the groundwork for the Toulouse massacre –

Muhammed Mera travelled to Afghanistan, heart of the Taliban and Al Qaeeda and learned how to hate, who to hate and how to kill them. Muhammed Mera is no different to the young terrorists of 7/7 in London, from middle class families, 2nd generation immigrants from Islamic countries, comfortable homes, yet fertile ground for terror. It begins in the Mosques and continues through Afghanistan. Western countries must negate the rights of any young men who go to Afghanistan for any reason other than military posting.

Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the families, and after meeting the young mother who lost her husband and two elder children, sat clutching her surviving baby to her pregnant belly he trembled with anger as he said “How can anyone have so much hatred to kill children with such barbaric savagery? How can this young woman continue?”

Rabbi Jonathan, Gabriel (6) and Arieh (3) Sandler and Miriam Mosonego (8) – May their beautiful souls rest in peace and their families be consoled among the mourners of Zion.

The United Nations is known for its inequity. Israel’s exceptional Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, called for the dismissal of a Jerusalem based U.N. agency employee widely known for her blatant anti-Israel activism. Khulood Badawi, the information and media coordinator for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Je Ms Badawi tweeted a photograph of the bloodied body of a Palestinian child claiming it was as a result of IDF action. The photograph was a Reuters photograph of an accident in 2006. Zvi and I were made aware of the situation in the Jerusalem UN HQ when some 10 years ago we were invited to a personal dinner by the man then in charge of the UN Forces in the Middle East General Franco Ganguza and his delightful wife. He had a major problem getting us into the compound which is 98% Palestinian (not Israeli Arabs) and soon thereafter was “relieved of his duties for getting too close to the locals”!!!

To add insult to injury yesterday the United Nations’ Human Rights Council passed a resolution ordering a first probe into how Israel’s West Bank settlements may be infringing on Palestinians’ rights. The resolution was adopted, 36 in favour, 10 abstentions. The United States voted against it.

Prime Minister Netanyahu responded “This is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel. This council ought to be ashamed of itself. Until today, the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran. One only had to hear the Syrian representative speak today about human rights in order to understand how detached from reality the council is. Another proof of its detachment from reality came last week when it invited before it a representative of Hamas, an organization whose ideology is based on the murder of innocents.”

OOOOOOF! Enough bad news we must encourage the positive side of our schizophrenia and move to sweeter things, to raise our collective mood in time for Shabbat.

Last Friday night, for Shabbat dinner, we were invited to the Eldan Hotel by the Doppelt Family. Just like you, I met Michael Doppelt through my writings and we met one day in Cafe Caffit, since when we became firm friends. Michael ran in the Jerusalem Marathon last Friday – completing the course through torrential rain on the difficult surface of Jerusalem’s streets (his father Steve completed 10k in his first ever marathon) before hosting a delightful group of Jerusalemites for Shabbat together with Mum Carol. It was delightful! There is a Yiddish word “heimische” which translates beautifully into English as homely, but means something less complimentary in American!! Now I know where Michael got his “Yiddischkeit” and his love of Israel.

My glorious friend Arlene is in Israel! I was so excited when she told me she was coming, I watched her aeroplane land on my computer and awaited her excited call from the baggage claim. Sadly she’t come to Jerusalem and her boyfriend Adnan at the front desk of the King David (our joke) but rather to Kfar Shmeriyahu and Fegie! I managed to get one day from her, only one day to see the wonders of Jerusalem with a woman I love and admire, but better than nothing!!! We went to Yad Lakashish (all products made by old or infirm Jerusalemites) and then at Arlenes request we went to Shouk Mahane Yehuda. I loved watching her as she revelled in the sights sounds, hustle and bustle of that most Yerushalmi place in the world! The sheer variety of the passers by and the costermongers, many shouting hello, is overwhelming, the Shouk is the rainbow I so often talk about.

We went to the small but delicious coffee shop Cafe Mizrachi where one sits watching the world go by while eating, amazing freshly made food. The couple sitting next to us ordered a truly incredible looking soup which provided the perfect opener for conversation. Where are you from ? Norway; I expected antipathy the moment I heard Norway but persevered with a smile and curiosity. I found great sympathy, empathy and genuine concern. They were open and kind people, she is here for medical professors conference he as a tourist. Her husband spoke with such quiet considered gentleness of their recognition of Israel’s situation that it warmed our hearts. As they left he turned and said “You know, the people of Norway are with you”. Arlene wanted to come back to our home to sit once more on our veranda, to watch Jerusalem while waiting for her lift back to Tel Aviv. Her tears flow naturally as she walks onto our veranda and she refreshes her understanding of Jerusalem’s significance. Tel Aviv is fun, but Jerusalem is Israel; Jerusalem is significant and every day here is special. Arlene Wittels is exceptional, amazing friend, intelligent giving lady, hard worker for Israel and a special person. I always want more of Arlene; she is my mentor and my friend.
Sheri Arison is Israel’s richest woman but she has a very strong sense of social justice and is always looking for new thoughts on doing good. Her “Good Deeds Day”, held this week, brought 250,000 Israelis into schools, old peoples homes, indeed every place that needs help to do good! Zvi volunteered in Gilo. He was thrilled at the incredible organisation, each recipient institution or home was asked what they needed and the tools and equipment awaited the volunteers so that they could simply do the job. He came home aching all over and covered in paint, but very very happy. Brava Ms Arison, Israel is pr of you!

Today is Betty Korman’s birthday and yesterday five of us celebrated by taking her on a magical mystery tour south of Jerusalem into the Judean Hills. We drove to Maaleh Adumim, a beautiful dormitory town through the stark Judean Hills about 10 minutes south of French Hill. There we toured the archaeological excavations of one of the many Christian religious sites, a very special one, the Monastery of Marytius

From there we went to the Castel museum, the site, overlooking the breathtakingly stark Judean Hills, tells the history of the man and his work. Lauded by his peers in Paris, Modigliani, Chagall, Soutine et al, who were his friends in Paris where he went to study art when just a teenager. His family, true Sefaradim (exiles from Spain) and his absolute connection to Israel are evident in every piece. His Jewish roots deeply embedded in love for his family who lived in Hebron after Spanish Inquisition.

Miracles happen. In the Diary of Anne Frank she talked about the chestnut tree outside her window, and that tree produced saplings and those saplings grew and now one of them, one of those saplings will be planted in Yad Vashem – in memory of Anne Frank. A tree that grew out surrounded by hatred will be planted in love in a free, independent Jewish State, in Israel.

So that’s that! The bride of Shabbat is on her stately walk down the aisle of preparations as the Jerusalem world slows down to welcome her. The supermarkets are bursting, the kitchens a flurry of activity, children are scrubbed clean, homes sparkle, tables are set and shining silver candlesticks are laid ready to receive the white candles which will be lit one hour before sunset. I love Shabbat, I love Shabbat in Jerusalem, I love Jerusalem.

Shabbat Shalom to you all

With love from Jerusalem, glistening in the gentle sunshine of spring.