The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem


20th January 2012

Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope this letter finds you well.

The media loves an interesting story. The analogy is always about dogs and biting – that a story is only interesting if man bites dog not if dog bites man. Well, the world media claims that Israeli society is falling apart because of a very few rebellious Haredim and the truth is – it isn’t!!! Professor Gerald Steinberg puts everything into proportion in his article “The Sky is Not Falling in Israel”

The Parents Forum for Justice is a group of US citizens whose children were murdered or maimed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel over the past decade. PFJ sent a letter to Attorney General Holder asking him to commence legal proceedings against prisoners freed in the Schalit deal. Under the 1991 US Anti-Terror Act, the United States can prosecute foreign nationals who perpetrate terrorism against American citizens, even if those acts are not carried out on US soil. However, for prosecution to proceed, the law requires the written certification of the American Attorney-General that the offences had been intended to “coerce, intimidate or retaliate against a government or civilian population.”

70 years ago, in a 90 minute conference, the Final Solution was born of 15 evil minds. The Wannsee Conference was held in a villa near Berlin and those 15 people made the cold blooded decision to separate and methodically slaughter anyone who didn’t fit the Aryan criteria – starting and ending with the Jews. Today it sounds banal to say “Never Again” because it is happening again and we are not rising to the call. The self-same dehumanisation is taking place every day in the media, the press, campuses, clubs and conversation. It is difficult to decide who of the many leaders is playing the part of Chamberlain but the part of Czechoslovakia is clearly Israel. Until children are taught the relevance of the Holocaust and its dehumanisation of those who are different to oneself we cannot prevent a recurrence. The Wave is a short movie based on a true story of teacher Ron Jones – it is a movie which can teach the children the danger of blindly following your peers rather than being an independent thinker who is tolerant to those who are different. Demand it be shown in all schools near you.

Ironically, on the 70th anniversary of Wannsee Israel is facing its first real challenge of assimilation. All new waves of immigration met with concerns and difficulties but somehow the Ethiopian immigration, which began with such dignity and grace, has been less accepted than it should be. Of course there are success stories, fine journalists, social workers, lawyers, nurses and doctors but youngsters find it harder to find the jobs their qualifications demand. We must get it right – we of all people.

The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey arrives in Israel to persuade us not to attack Iran but rather to allow the sanctions to work. This is becoming boring – we are continually being rebuked for plans we haven’t made for an attack we don’t want to take on!!! It is not tiny Israel’s place to save the world from the Persian threat – we are more than happy to be part of an alliance but alone? No thank you.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of the House committee on Foreign Affairs of the United States and dear friend is visiting Jordan and Saudi Arabia. During her visit to Jordan Congresswoman Ros Lehtinen demanded of the Jordanians that they appoint an Ambassador to Israel asap. Thank you Ileana, thank you for being a great American and a rare and true friend.

This week has been wonderful!! For my birthday we were invited for a Kurdish Shabbat lunch to our friends Shula and Moshe. I have never seen so much food in my life!!! I came in and was promptly crowned with a crown of flowers, sat before the burgeoning table on a chair festooned with balloons and entertained by everyone present singing Happy Birthday in Hebrew! Shula’s Mother Marussia told the story of her Aliya from Iran when she was a newly wed of 15, yes 15. She and her husband came to the nascent Jewish homeland from Zionism, leaving wealthy homes behind them, he swore that he was willing to sweep the streets in order to come to Jerusalem. Upon arriving her husband, dressed in all his finery, went outside in his finery, took the broom from the road sweeper and began to sweep the street. “What are you doing?” asked the road sweeper “Earning my first penny in Jerusalem” he responded. Marussia told us of the wonderful life for Jews in Iran and her sadness at what Iran has become today.

For my other birthday treat I went to the Botanical Gardens with a few girlfriends – nothing grand just lunch and laughter, the crisp air and winter sunshine reflected in the lake and the black swans gliding elegantly past us. This wasn’t a “round” birthday so it was celebrated quietly!

On Tuesday we went to the Mamilla Mall for the opening of the newest sculpture exhibition where our dearest friend Irit Lev is exhibiting among Israel’s finest. This exhibit is about musical instruments and the interpretations are varied and so interesting so as you walk through the ancient buildings stop, look and wonder at the talent of the artists before going inside one of the coffee shops to order your Cafe Hafuch!! After the opening Zvi, Irit and I went for a light supper at Cafe Cafe – a coffee shop in the very building that Herzl stayed in 1898, when he met with Kaiser Wilhelm in his quest to fulfill his dream of a Jewish homeland. The architects decided to leave the numbers on the stones from when they moved the old buildings to make way for the walkway. These numbers are a constant reminder of the antiquity of the site and the history of the stones. It amused us that the young waiter lapped up Zvi’s history lesson of why the nearby Jaffa Gate was widened to allow Kaiser Bill in with his Carriage and entourage – and Jerusalem got the Augusta Victoria Hospital in exchange!

Wednesday night was truly special. David Romanowsky studies Torah with joy in his heart and the party was a celebration of “Sium Shas” the completion of his studies of the Mishna, the explanations of the Torah David is the son of Rosa and Bernardo who are old friends of Zvi’s from Mexico City and dear friends of both of us from Jerusalem. When two of their children came to live in Jerusalem, Rosa and Bernardo came too – when their children decided to become religious, so did their parents, out of respect for their children’s choice. David has been through many health trials over the last 4 years and when the Rabbi spoke of the level of difficulty and praise of reading all the Mishnot he said that when it is difficult but you succeed it is one hundred times as fine but when you succeed in finishing the Mishnot with David’s difficulties you are 1,000 per cent purer. David, who has smiled through unbearable adversity smiled through this too, his four little children beside him as the Rabbi told them how amazing their father is. David’s brother Moi told of David’s determination even as a child, but then it was rebellious rather than the incredible determination to live and learn that he has today. As I looked around I saw the full gamut of kippot (skull caps) each denoting levels of religiosity! Black under tall hats, black velvet, black suede, black crochet, coloured crochet – large and small, and finally white silk for those who did not bring their own!!! The evening was uplifting and delightful – a lesson learned from every moment. Rosa looked more beautiful than I have ever seen her as she and Bernardo found joy in their son’s success. Please pray for the health, strength and recovery of David ben Reizele.

What is a Jew? Such a wide question, so many answers. Well try this one for size!!!

Tonight this particular Jew has three Australian psychologists coming to supper and 7 Israeli diners to entertain them!!!! When Paul Israel of the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce asks me for something I always say yes! Paul does great work and anyway he is such a lovely fellow! We will sit and chat, each of us explaining who we are and talking about being here and what it means to us – those born here and those who came here like Margalit who came to Israel as a tiny baby from Poland. Like so many other countries Israel is a country of immigrants but unlike so many other countries we came home because this is where we belong. Jews came to Israel not because they ran away from something but rather because they ran TO somewhere. We prayed for this land for 3,000 years. We suffered slavery, exile and death to return home.

I appreciate every sunrise and every sunset, and as Judith Hallsides late Mother taught her, I take time to stand and watch the sun set every night. Judith, may your dear Mother rest in peace and you and your sisters be consoled among the mourners of Zion.

Time to get the supper ready! The table is laid, the challot bought, the aromas starting and we are preparing to go to Jenny Efron’s wedding…………………..
Next week’s Shabbat Shalom will be from San Juan Puerto Rico!!!

Much love from Jerusalem, beloved and loved