The view from my veranda

Shabbat Shalom letter from Sheila


29th January 2010.

The 27th of January was International Holocaust Day, the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by Russian soldiers and there were memorials and services all over the world. Perhaps the most poignant was still the sight of the Israeli President and Prime Minister speaking before the German Parliament. In spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles we have come so far, we have achieved so much and on Tuesday the Israeli Cabinet sat in the Reichstag and the German leaders visited Auschwitz. When President Peres spoke in Hebrew of his grandfather who perished in the Holocaust and then recited the Aramaic words of the Kaddish I for one was moved to tears.
One would think it couldn’t happen again. Sweden supported the Nazi Regime in the Second World War by providing steel to make arms. This week Malmo Mayor Ilmar Reepalu, equated Zionism to anti-Semitism in an interview for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, urging the Jewish community to distance itself from Israeli attacks on Gaza population.,7340,L-3841278,00.html

Thursday morning our leaders went to Ben Gurion Airport to greet the phenomenal medical and first response teams who came home after performing miracles in Haiti. The work of those teams, the IDF, Zaka and IsraAid was above and beyond any expectations. Those who did nothing to help the beleaguered Hatians, or indeed anyone else, claimed that an American nuclear trial caused the earthquake and the IDF went there to harvest transplant organs. Israel is the solution not the problem and I refuse to give credence to anyone who tries to equate or compare our help to all nations in need after natural and imposed disasters to our neighbours determination to create Goebbels-like slanderous lies.

Yesterday I went for lunch at a restaurant nearby and sitting quietly with his wife was a soldier in uniform. Nothing exceptional in that, but then we noticed the English word ISRAEL on his shoulder and the insignia of the medical corps which indicated that he had arrived home this morning from Haiti. I didn’t want to disturb his welcome meal with his wife but I smiled my thanks across our table.

Yesterday evening saw the induction of the new Attorney General of Israel Yehuda Weinstein. Unlike his predecessors Adv. Weinstein did not come from within the system, he was, until a few weeks ago a fine and upright private lawyer which gives him the infinite advantage of being apolitical and a man of independent thought; it augurs well for Israel’s legal system. For me it was of special importance since Yehudas wife Averil (nee Wien), bright, elegant, funny and beautiful, grew up with me in the tiny community of Cardiff, South Wales. Cymru am Byth!!!

Very occasionally a journalist expresses an opinion which is in concert with everything I believe. Tom Gross did just that in an article published in the Wall Street Journal which he has now been asked to expand. Tom proves that the West Bank – with Israel’s help, administrative knowledge and investment, is doing very nicely thank you. It proves that if we could be left alone to discuss our own discussions and settle our own disputes we would find a comfortable peace without demands which cannot and will not be met.

Barry Rubin told a great Israeli joke The UN secretary-general announces the creation of a great UN world soccer team, including all the member countries. “But”, asks his deputy, “Then who would we play against?” “Well, Israel, of course,” the secretary-general answers.

I went to Shouk Ramle on Monday. The stalls were still setting up and behind many of them men stood facing East and the Old City, putting on their Tefillin. It still amazes me and makes me so proud to see the freedom of performing a simple religious act.

The Tefillin Terrorist! I guess you all heard of the scare when a woman on a flight in the USA thought that a man’s tefillin were a bomb. If you think that is funny the police spokesperson at the site said “the innocent man conducting his Jewish prayers simply put his OLEFACTORIES on is head and tied them to his hand”! Loved it!!!

Today is Tu b’Shvat, one of the four “New Years” of the Mishna. Children in every school in Israel go out to plant a tree. Not satisfied with the traditional dried fruits Israelis determinedly continue to make this the only country in the world with a yearly increase in trees.

Jerusalem is beautiful after the rains. The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is filling in the north and we watched the torrential floods in the Negev Desert in awe following the heavy rains of this week. It is truly amazing after 7 years of drought to see the waters flow from Jerusalem, 811 metres (2,660 feet) above sea level down the 15 miles through the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea 422 metres (1,385 ft) below sea level. Within a few weeks the desert will truly bloom as the thirsty but fertile sandy soil will bring forth latent seeds.

When I went on line to find you a video of the floods I was confronted by a site which claims that Israel – not Mother Nature – created the floods to try and drown Gaza!!!!

Thank you for your lovely notes and wishes for Zvi. He is now recovered and doing really well. He is feeling so much better that he no longer calls me “Florence Nightingale”!!!!

We wish you a Shabbat Shalom, a beautiful weekend and the strength to stand up and be proud of who and what you are. By continuing to be who we are and being the first and the best in any situation which demands aid, initiative, kindness and generosity can we hold out heads up high.

Spanish journalist and politician Pilar Rahola

I am not Jewish. Ideologically I lean to the left and I am a journalist. Why have I not adopted an anti-Israel stance like the majority of my European colleagues? It is because, since I am not Jewish, I know it is my historical responsibility to fight against hatred. Hatred of the Jews, and hatred of their homeland, which is Israel. The fight against anti-Semitism is not the Jews´s duty. It is the duty of the Gentiles. As a journalist, it is my duty to seek the truth, to go beyond prejudices, lies and manipulations. And the truth is not being told about Israel. Thus, as a person of the left who embraces progress, I am duty-bound to defend freedom, culture, peaceful coexistence, the civic education of children, and all of the principles that the The Tablets of the Law have rendered universal. Principles which Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. This means that, since I am a Gentile, a journalist and a leftist, I have a triple moral commitment to Israel. Because, if Israel were to be vanquished, then modernity, culture and freedom would also be crushed. Even though the world has failed to wake up to this fact, Israel’s struggle is the world’s struggle.
Thank you very much.
As the Hebrew saying says,

(Thanks to John Haddow of New Zealand for drawing my attention to this)

Shabbat Shalom to you all dear friends

With love from Jerusalem – most beautiful city in the world.