The view from my veranda

Sheila’s Shabbat Shalom Letter


March 4th 2010.

Shabbat Shalom!

History often repeats itself but similar situations take on dissimilar perspectives as facts are slewed and reinvented over time. Two historic areas under British rule, India and Palestine, claimed their independence receiving initial promises in 1919 to complete their partition in 1947. Both India and Israel decided to accept a two state solution; for India Moslem to the north and Hindu to the South as per Lord Mountbatten’s plan. Few in this world question the Indian partition although India has been battling violent insurgents ever since. In the double standards which are the scourge of our world today no face is turned to India claiming occupation. “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” -Jawarhalal Nehru

New legislation giving refugee status to Jews who fled persecution in Arab lands not only accords them their rightful status it ensures that in future negotiations not only Palestinians will demand compensation. Over 800,000 Jews fled persecution but never received refugee status, nor a penny in aid, because finding refuge in Israel is considered coming home.

British journalist Andrew Gilligan produced a documentary called Britain’s Islamic Republic which investigates a fundamentalist Islamic group headquartered in Britain, which claims to have placed ‘brothers’ in positions of political power. Using undercover recordings, Gilligan reveals the group’s ambitions to create a worldwide “Islamic social and political order”; the concerns of a mainstream party being ‘infiltrated’; he also talks to mainstream British Moslems who want it to stop.
I am saddened by the changing face of Britain – the land which gave my parents safe haven when no-one else accepted Jews fleeing Eastern Europe. The British Bulldog is a poodle in the face of new and insidious internal influences hung by her own petard of freedom and democracy.

The USA should not lay back on its democratic laurels and gloat as Steve Emerson points to a similar phenomenon across the Atlantic in this linked article

Khaled Abu Toameh warns us that the Palestinian Authority is once again trying to divert attention from its deep internal problems by escalating tension with Israel – the Palestinian Authority’s policy since its inception after signing the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993.

Christiane Amanpour conducted an interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef the son of the founder of Hamas. His father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, is currently serving in an Israeli prison. For 10 years Yousef worked with the Shin Bet “because he came to believe that Hamas was practicing “exceptional cruelty” against its members and “killed people for no reason”. Yousef fled to the US and became a Christian. Please watch both the interview and the Analysis

And now for something completely different (you have to be a Monty Python fan to understand that one!)

Esti Ginsburg is an international model and unlike many of her successful young compatriots she has taken on her duty and right as an 18 year old Israeli and enlisted in the IDF “Not all Israeli celebrities take their duties seriously but I grew up in this country and owe a debt of loyalty” Kol Hakavod!!v=xDY3O2bExxo&feature=related

Since coming to Israel one experience touched my heart above all others. The morning after the Jewish Agency’s Operation Solomon brought thousands of Jews from Ethiopia, May 24th 1991; Israelis poured forth their hearts and emptied their closets to clothe a people who arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Zvi and I chose to take new underwear and on our way to the hotel we shopped and loaded the car with socks, underpants and knickers for adults and children.

Rather than the expected traumatised newcomers we found a fine dignified people dressed in draped white Shabbat garb. A Kes, or leader stood proudly observing his people, a head and shoulders above the others, and then, across the room I saw her, a tiny beautiful woman standing on a table smiling in wonder at her new Jerusalem home. I was drawn to her and as I got closer I realised that even on her tabletop perch she was barely taller than I. We had no common language but there was a magical connection. I held out my rose to her and she took it, tears of joy running down her face.

Silence fell as Ambassador Uri Lubrani, the man who brought Operation Solomon to fruition, entered the hall. There was no whooping, no shouting or clapping as 3,000 white clad, dignified people silently raised their arms and pointed a rose to honour their hero. Uri Lubrani had brought them out of 2,000 years of exile as Falashasha (Outsiders); they were home in the Jerusalem of their songs, dreams and prayers.

Through ignorance, not ill-will, we have not always done right by the Ethiopian immigrants but we are doing better. Shlomo Molla is a Member of Knesset , Danny Adeno Abebe is an influential journalist; we have doctors, nurses and social workers and above of all fine soldiers. The community has its own website to tell their story.
Our dear friend Herman Schotanus from Holland is in Jerusalem with experts to lovingly restore the windmill in Yemin Moshe as a gift to the people of Jerusalem. The windmill, built by Moses Montefiore was a working mill for a mere 17 years before running into disrepair. It will once again become a working mill and provide not only flour but a source for memories of Jerusalem’s rich modern history as well as her Biblical one.
Tuesday evening saw me on the fast road from Jerusalem to Netanya for the annual St. David’s Day Party for ex-Pat Welsh organized by Gerald and Mimi Rapport and Les and Viv Greenbaum. In a seaside hotel in central Israel, amid shouts of “Good grief is that really you? I haven’t seen you in forty years!”, Gerald Rapport entered the proceedings wearing a Welsh dragon sweatshirt and welcomed us in fluent Welsh. It was only later that we found his poetic rendition in the ancient Gaelic language was actually a traffic violation or some such!! We sang “Myfanwy” “Calon Llan” and other Welsh classics including the Welsh National Anthem “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (Land of my fathers); it didn’t sound like the breathtaking chorus at the Cardiff Millennium Stadium but it wasn’t bad!! One of the evening’s highlights was when my friend Madeleine’s Israeli daughter Orly suddenly pulled out a big Welsh hat and proudly placed it on her head!!! As the party came to a close we got to our feet to sing Hatikva and while fondly remembering the country which nurtured us, every single person in the room knew that he had come home to the real Land of Our Fathers.

So the sun shone and then it rained and then it shone and then it rained…. every drop is precious and fills our beautiful Lake Kinneret. The changeable weather is turning our veranda into a jungle! Purim is over, and the Passover cleaning has begun. Carpets hang over railings to receive the beating of their lives and men and women share the preparation of homes for the big change to make this night different to all other nights. We are lucky to have a big Seder this year, a house filled with family and friends, although I always feel a sense of desolation that none of my family will be with me. This evening I was so lucky that there was a break in the gathering clouds as the moon began to rise as a huge translucent orb on the horizon creating a perfect silhouette of Jerusalem before it.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem, city of my forefathers and yours.