The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


24th December 2009.

Shabbat Shalom, and a truly wonderful Festive Christmas Season of joy and love.

I don’t intend depressing anyone this Festive week but have to address two subjects. This is the link to my “No Room at the Inn” letter concerning the plight of Christians in the Palestinian Authority We can’t continue to ignore the situation – we have to make the media and our leaders take this on.

The IDF recognises the situation and has given all Christian Palestinians unlimited access to Israel during the Festive Season

The other subject on every Israelis heart is Gilad Schalit. It appears to be such a simple decision – give “them” what they want a get Noam and Aviva’s son back home – but it isn’t. Israel has already set a precedent of talking to terrorists unlike other allies because we cannot break our promise of bringing our soldiers-children home. It is so complex a decision that PM Netanyahu has had daily consultations with the most senior of military and diplomatic experts. It is a decision of Solomonic proportions; how many master terrorists can you release for one young lad? What are the risks? Where should the terrorists be deported on their release – knowing they fully intend fomenting hatred wherever they may be? How many Israelis will die as a result of their release? The simplistic approach does not work – the demand that they be released and the IDF, Mossad and Shabak be more alert is naïve, they do a brilliant job already but the risks change. On the other hand we all need to see Gilad at home with his family since that is what we stand for and who we are.

It is 70 years since the SS St Louis was turned away by the American, Canadian and Cuban governments who refused to accept the Jews. The tragic journey from Miami Beach to Antwerp is legend and the story is told in Resolution 111 of the United States Senate. The story was brought to me by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, great friend of Israel and the proud recipient of an Award by the St. Louis Project. Zvi and I are proud to call Ileana friend.

One of the greatest paradoxes of all time is why the Jews are always (or almost always) the scapegoats when they are the biggest givers to our world. In this interview with George Gilder he addresses that question and hopefully answers it as he did in his book “The Israel Test” Why hate the Jews in what he deems the Golden Age of Palestine? Because they failed the Israel test!

We went to a concert on Tuesday night in the Henry Crown Hall of the Jerusalem Theatre. “Life and Peace” presented and supported by Italian cities and the President of Italy and given in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. An amazing evening of brilliant musicians and great music the crowing glory was the phenomenal musical and emotional interlude of “The Intercultural Journeys Ensemble” consisting of a young Arab-Israeli violinist, Hanna Khoury, in a wonderful, “loud” suit (black on black stripes so shiny I swear I could see my reflection!) and a very soberly dressed Jewish-Israeli cellist, Udi Bar-David with Puerto Rican percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos. They played n perfect unison melding Yiddish Shtetl, Israeli and Arab melodies in a stream of harmony and joy, smiling at each other exuding love. It brought tears to our eyes and a standing ovation from the audience. Most of the invitees were Christian representatives of all denominations including the Nuncio of the Vatican. An audience filled with kipot, dog-collars and cowls.

Jerusalem will not have a White Christmas but many of my readers on the East Coast of the US and in Europe are snowed in and snowed under, but we had a Wet Chanuka instead! The sun is shining and the weather crisp as Jerusalem goes about her regular business giving tribute to those for whom this is the Holiest of Seasons.

Let’s make a New Year resolution for 2010. Although I would never demean the influence of wonderful organizations such as MEMRI, Honest Reporting, Media Watch and so many others who have a profound effect on all of us and on the media – let’s do something different. I was taught that if you speak badly of others then their sins reflect back upon you so let’s start sending out positive news, positive vibes about us, without referring to our neighbours or their errant ways. Instead of pointing the finger outward let’s wave our hands to draw attention to our own achievements on the scientific and the diplomatic level, on human rights, one big celebration on all the good things and the good news that happens here. Let’s stop whining about the way the world treats us and start reminding them of how we treat the world!!!

Finally I want to send a special greeting to a very special man. Canon Andrew White, the Bishop of Baghdad, a pragmatic yet hope-filled curator of good relations between the faiths, is actually going home for Christmas. Andrew called me from Amman on his way to the UK and I was so thrilled with the effectiveness of his latest MS treatment in Baghdad. His voice came over the wires loud and clear. “Hey Andrew, have you given up the booze, you sound amazing?” “Yup” he answered “gave it up for Christmas!” No slurring and his voice of reason can again ring out to the world. Bless you Andrew you are one of a kind.

May G-d Bless you and keep you safe from harm – Shabbat Shalom, a blessed Holy Day, happy birthday to my big sister Eddie in Toronto and a happy anniversary to me! Christmas Day will be 18 years since my official Aliyah to Israel. Chai, chai chai!!! Always did have a sense of history and humour since I actually arrived here on April Fool’s Day!!!!

With love from the heart and soul of our peoples, Jerusalem the truly Eternal City of David, son of Jesse; psalmist, romantic poet whose poetry lives on in the language it was written, 3,000 years ago in this City of Gold.