The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem

25th February 2012

Shabbat Shalom dear friends!

It seems that the only country not afraid of Iran is Israel, a fact disconcerting to countries much, much bigger! We live in a tough neighbourhood and bullies are rife, if we were scared of them we would have packed our bags and run years ago. We made a decision, never again to be sheep to the slaughter. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama will meet over the Iran situation on March 5th and maybe the two countries which have the most to lose will listen to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait who understand that the current Iranian leadership is a danger to EVERYONE. What I fail to understand is how the world (through the IAEA) used Mohamed El Baradei, since exposed as Moslem Brotherhood, to be our watchman over the Iranian nuclear programme. The Iranian danger to the USA is known

Syria and the killing has reached diabolical proportions. In an insane attempt to silence the media the troops targetted the press centre in Homs killing senior journalist Marie Colvin whose final report described seeing a little baby die.

Khaled abu Toameh, Moslem Arab, Jerusalemite and outstanding journalist, speaks on behalf of Israel at many US campuses, was speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations here in Jerusalem, told us he feels safer with Hamas and Fatah than on some US campuses! In a panel discussion moderated by David Horovitz, Khaled told us of the horrific bus accident just a short way from his home when children died. Despite Palestinian claims, he said that the first people on the scene were the IDF, followed by MDA and Zaka. The Palestinians just stood by!!! Khaled also told us about the foreign press. Once he informed them of a situation that put the IDF in a good light and only two journalists responded, so he made up a story claiming Israelis abused Pal children and he would take them to see and every one wanted to go and report.. Khaled told them he would call them the next day to take them to the place and never did!

The Conference of Presidents, led by the exceptional Dr Malcolm Hoenlein brings Jewish leaders to Israel to hear our spokepersons, meet our politicians and IDF and transmit the information to leaders in the USA. One discussion was headed by Steve Linde, the new Editor of the Jerusalem Post, as we left the discussion I met Marc Belzberg of One Family Organisation. Unlike the JA Victims of Terror Fund which closed leaving survivors of terror attacks high and dry, One Family has never abandoned them and the founders, Marc and Chantal, ensure the survivors are cared for. as their nightmares never end.

One of the greatest bones of contention within Israel is the matter of obligations and rights. One third of Jerusalem’s population pays income taxes; one third of Jerusalem’s population serves in the IDF; one third of the population pays municipal taxes; but, everyone receives social benefits irrespective of his/her contribution. This situation caused a terrible social rift as both the Haredi community (ultra-orthodox) and the Arab community of Jerusalem are financially dependent upon those who go to the IDF and work and tend to feel little responsibility for the society they live in. I am not suggesting that all Haredi families are parasites nor all Arabs – I am more than aware that some work, pay their fiscal dues, although the level of illegal work (un-taxed) is high and serve their country. David Ben Gurion, at the founding of the State, naively decided that 300 Yeshiva students should be excused conscription, ensuring the Jewish character of the State and excluded Arabs from conscription that brother would never fight brother, although both Bedouin and Druze volunteer for the IDF as brave and true defenders of Israel. The Tal Law had to be changed to ensure that ALL citizens become useful members of Israeli society. Attorney Yehuda Ressler fought hard to bring about this change and this week the Supreme Court declared the Tal Law without legal basis and the government will introduce a new law to ensure that everyone pays his/her part in defending this country – if not in the IDF then in Sherut Leumi – Public Service.
In contrast Prof Gerald Steinberg writes of Israel’s thriving society in the newly formed Times of Israel –

While in New York we had so much fun with our little grandson Joshua and his Mummy and Daddy. We went to see the Paper Bag Company performance with Nana Ellen, to the Natural History Museum and by train out to the Coney Island Aquarium where we all got blown away – literally! We had dinner with Lenny and Ruth Cole where we had a wonderful time with each other and with our waitress Jennifer Press; I met my lovely Arlene Wittels and Deborah Davidson at the Met; we ate Nattie Zonszeins haute cuisine and Zvi managed to spend lots of time with Yolli, Dr Joel Zonzsein, his endocrinologist and best buddie. We spent a glorious evening remembering a dreamy cruise with the Gandels with Josephine, Tom, Joyce and Fred and I met my childhood friend Rabbi Jeremy Rosen -we never have enough time to say all we want to tell each other! We went to the 9/11 Memorial which is breathtaking and finally on our last morning we met up with Rivka and Michael.

We tried to go each evening to the Shiva to spend time with the Lindenfeld/Sheinfeld family and honour Marta Sheinfeld z”l Mother of our friend Helene. One night Zvi took the evening service and on the final night the family’s Rabbi from Chabad Coconut Grove, Yaacov Fellig gave a wonderful speech about Marta z”l; her character, her humility, her generosity and her legacy to her family. The Shiva is an essential ritual giving the family time to mourn, remember, talk and relate their feelings to friends.

The flight home was long, very long, but we arrived happily to the hustle and bustle of Israel’s ultra-modern Ben Gurion airport, our luggage arriving at the baggage claim before we did, and raced to Tel Aviv to clean up, change clothes and go to the sumptuous wedding of Yair and Yuliah. It was fabulous. The next morning I saw my grandchildren and got all the hugs I had missed for 3 weeks while Zvi went to the parliament, I wrote a quick Shabbat Shalom to you and the children came for Friday night supper – in other words back to normal!!

Jerusalem, ah Jerusalem. Nothing changed in our absence except a change in neighbours and the sound of the power drill as they pull up the floors and make their mark on their new home! So good to be home, Shuk Ramle, walking in Mamilla with Rosa, even my visit to the supermarket was special, no small packs of plastic covered plastic fruit and veggies, the vegetables, morning picked, are piled high in mountains of shiny purple aubergines, small green cucumbers, wonderful juicy red tomatoes, large, moist, crispy bunches of parsley, coriander, mint and dill; potatoes, yams and huge onions which still have the life giving soil on them, bright orange pumpkin hacked into irregular shapes, seasonal, cheap, imperfect shapes and perfect taste. Multi-coloured hills of spices perfume the air – Israelis say “ta’am shel pa’am” the taste of yesteryear. Israelis don’t buy a few, we buy huge bagsful!! Cooking is a national hobby and it’s good to get back home to the aromas of 140 traditions!!!

Purim is creeping up on us and the shelves are filled with “Hamantaschen” Hamans Ears, filled with dates, or poppy seed, or raisins, or jams indeed almost every possible flavour. It is probably the most appropriate of festivals right now as one talks of the evil coming from Persia, from the town of Shushan as the Grand Vizier, Haman, spoke evil of the Jews, convincing the King that they wanted to take over his world. It took a woman, Esther, guided by her Uncle Mordechai, to convince the King that indeed the evil one was Haman and thus saved the Jews while Haman was led through town, backwards on his own white horse for all to see his idiocy. Ahmedinejad – take note. Every Purim families prepare “Mis manot” – gift packages (of food of course!) to give to friends and neighbours – usually of sweet treats to ensure that those you know have a truly festive Purim to celebrate our success over the evil Persian. Zvi has a philosophy that every Jewish festival is “They tried to kill us, we won now let’s eat”!!!

Good luck to Joseph Cedar and his film “Footnote” in the Oscar voting. “Footnote” is an outstanding movie, go and see it!

So I have written enough, much more than usual! I would hate to bore you! However I have two Mazal Tovs in the family.
The first is my beautiful, adored grandson Samuel George (aka Samsam) who is 7 years old this week. Samsam who taught us all so much and is going to show the world that he can do ANYTHING.
The second is my big brother Ronnie who is exactly 10 times older than Samsam this week. Happy 70th birthday Ronnie – can’t believe you are that old………….. gosh I will soon be catching you up!!!!

I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, heart of our hearts and our faith, most beautiful and multifaceted city in the world, city of white stone which glistens in the rain, glows in the sunrise and turns gold in the sunset and draws at my heartstrings each and every day.

Shabbat Shalom

With love