The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Jerusalem. Syria, Egypt,Rockets and weddings

22nd August 2013
Shabbat Shalom dear friends. I hope you are well. We have so much to talk about this week that I don’t know where to start. Chaos reigns in the Middle East, chemical weapons were used again near Damascus, riots continue in Cairo and it seems every day that the hopes of the Arab Spring are dashed into smithereens. Day, by day, by day.
4 rockets fell on the North of Israel yesterday, narrowly missing an old peoples home for Shoah Survivors. Iron Dome downed one and the others fell on two kibbutzim causing severe damage to homes but thank G-d no-one was hurt. We didn’t wait around, the Israeli Air Force simply went out last night on a foray and destroyed the rocket site with no injuries on the ground. It is amazing that in almost all forays from the air there is huge human collateral damage (USA is 90%) yet we did this yet again without any fatalities.
King Abdullah of Jordan, while hardly a paragon of democracy and freedom has chosen to speak out about the situation. He expressed distress at the warring Islamic factions that are taking the entire area into an inferno of religious insanity. The internecine Islamic jealousies and fighting has resulted in a war which no-one can win and hundreds of thousands are dead. The Christians and Jews are caught up in the intense fury and who knows what the home release of former President Mubarak will ignite.,7340,L-4420149,00.html
The Egyptian army is systematically bringing order back to Sinai by taking out gangs of Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and others of their ilk. It is just another absurdity of the conundrum that is the Middle East that a military junta brings more freedom than a “democratically elected” President! Hopefully the army will also control the killing spree against Christians and Bahai in their country.
Determinedly ignoring the human rights abuses which surround Israel, Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd, has opened his big mouth again and is calling for a total boycott of Israel and Israeli goods because of the supposed apartheid nation! My response to Roger Waters in words that he may understand –  “I don’t need your education. I don’t need your thought control. I don’t need your dark sarcasm. Roger leave Israel alone. Hey Roger! Leave Israel alone!!! All in all you’re just another brick in the wall “
Bar Rafaeli may have avoided the draft but she stands up to the inanity of Roger Waters and BDS. Rafaeli on Twitter “Roger Waters, you should remove my picture from videos at your concerts. If you’re going to boycott, then go all the way.” Waters should consider boycotting the Yemen if he bothered to watch this 11 year old warrior who fought being married off and left her family
Khaled Abu Toameh hits the nail on the head again “Today it has become evident that that leaders and members of the Islamic Movement in Israel enjoy more freedom and rights than the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan, and even — under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank”
Esther Meshoe is the daughter of a South African parliamentarian, Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, and Esther believes that as a Christian one should always tell the truth and stand up against those who tell lies. Esther refutes all allegations that apartheid plays any part in Israeli life.
The King David Hotel in Jerusalem is again the centre of attention as talks take place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under the watchful eye (?) of Martin Indyk. This time the talks are held in camera, preventing the possibility of premature news scuppering hopes before they move forward. These talks are not based on hopes for agreements on every issue, as they shouldn’t, they are based on the economic possibilities of working together to better the lives of two groups of people. It isn’t a new idea and indeed President Peres has always said that peace will come when the Palestinians have something to lose. Life in the West Bank is looking better and many Israeli companies are working in tandem with Palestinians. Economically life there is better than it has for a long long time- ever since the Intifada killed people and peace in one fell and evil swoop. The fact that the West Bank (Yehuda and Shomron) is a separate entity to Gaza creates a greater sense of hope than before. Realistically we are talking about relative co-existence and life without children being taught to hate. It isn’t tomorrow, maybe not next week but if we have patience and the leaders and negotiators keep their mouths shut, it will happen.
This was a busy week, especially since we had hourly conversations with our internet, TV and phone provider trying to leave them since none of the three services are provided by a lousy provider!!!! Have you ever tried the same process of endless waiting on the phone line????
On Sunday evening Zvi and I took Zvi’s son Leor, wife Shiri and three little girls to “Ha Tachana” – the site of the old Ottoman Railway Station. It has become the “in” place to go and we were not disappointed! As we left the car park we turned onto the wonderful boardwalk which runs through from Baka along the old railway lines and turn into the Tachana. We not only found great restaurants but the children made pottery jugs, others made colourful T shirts, there were oversized Betta Bilda sets, mini cars and bicycles for the children to ride and all sorts of other activities and crafts. Adults were not left out of the loop as the central area was taken up with folk dancing (rikudayam) everyone smiling and having a ball. It was so wonderful to see. This is the real Jerusalem
On Tuesday night we drove up into the Jerusalem Hills, way above the city, through the forest to the very top where the air was so clear and pure, to celebrate the wedding of the son of our friends Igor and Liliana Sarni. It was small, intimate, delightful in Nes Harim a beautiful village in the forest, out on the veranda under the moonlight looking out at the spectacular views while enjoying the age old ceremony of Jewish nuptials. Under the star studded skies beside Jerusalem, Dan broke the glass cup to remind us of the frailty of life, of marriage and of the Jewish people. He said the words “If I forget thee Oh Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its power and my tongue cleave to my cheek” It was then that Liliana told me that she and Igor were married under a chuppa just a few years ago because their marriage in Russia had to be secular – Judaism was not allowed. I looked across the table at Igors friend, artist Ruslan Sergeyev- and thought of how he blossomed and grew here. Ruslan knows that Israel is the land of opportunity!
Wednesday was a celebration too as I met my dearest friend for breakfast at the Botanical Gardens to celebrate the fact that she finished her chemotherapy. As we sat enjoying a beautiful breakfast together with my little grand-daughters who came to feed the fish in the lake, I looked out over the water, the fantastic water lilles, the trees and the animated diners and I could but think that this was the perfect place to find peace, quiet and healing and celebrate her freedom from chemo.
We were joined by Lena Shtern, widow of the late Yuri Shtern. During Yuris’ illness Lena discovered that she was able to relieve his pain and symptoms through her knowledge of alternative medicine and gathered therapists around Yuri to help with his holistic care. After his death Lena decided to form an army of therapists who give their time and abilities for free at Shaare Zedek Hospital Oncology Unit and in the Yuri Shtern Foundation clinic where patients and their families receive treatments and therapy for a minimal charge. My friend and I have decided to join the Board of the Yuri Shtern Foundation and I am so proud that Lena asked us
My cooking this Shabbat is minimal!! We turn into one of those families emerging from the car before Shabbat with the containers of aromatic food. We will spend Friday night with Zvi’s children and grandchildren then on Shabbat we go for lunch to our friends and neighbours Shula and Moshe where they present a truly Kurdish Shabbat lunch of Chamin, at least ten salads and a myriad of other dishes. Chamin is the Eastern Cholent – without the ghastly Kishkeh but with brown, long stewed eggs in their shells in the dark brown rich gravy of the meat and vegetables. I love the Kurdish Shabbat food, I love the different tunes for the prayers and the different traditions………….. actually – the same traditions with different music!
So that is the week that was! Jerusalem is preparing for Rosh Hashana with the hundreds of different types of honey on display– all Israeli! Here everyone buys gifts for everyone else!! In my day it was new clothes for the children for Chag, here it is gifts gifts gifts……. for all and sundry!!!
Shabbat Shalom from Zvi and I. Shabbat Shalom as Ashkenazi Jews enter the period of selichot, of atonement or apologies, Sefardi Jews have already been doing selichot for three weeks. It is a very important “mitzva” demanding that we accept that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, that we harm others even accidentally, that we are sorry for it. So let me take this opportunity to apologise for any words that may have hurt you in any way, for omissions or exaggeration, I am truly truly sorry.
With love from Jerusalem, beautiful, beautiful Jerusalem. Remember the words that Dan, and all Jewish bridegrooms say as they stand under the wedding canopy? If I forget thee
11 year old Michel Cohen sings of all our prayers for the New Year – Shir l’Shalom, the song for Peace the song that Yitzchak Rabin sang just minutes before his assassination.