The view from my veranda

Succot, Syria, UN, Guests and fun



17th October 2019


Shabbat Shalom, Moadim leSimcha, Happy Feast of Tabernacles!


I am so confused with all the days of Festivals that I am not sure what day it is, but then it must be Thursday because I have an urge to write to you, and Friday when I send it!


The international news centred around the much criticised US withdrawal from Northern Syria. Suddenly after 500,000 civilian deaths everyone woke up.  To try to put things into perspective is not easy but basically it all centres around a despot, a tyrannical leader called Bashar Al-Assad who inherited his position from his father. Anyway, there were rumblings of dissent as Assad’s regime became more and more tyrannical and a rebel force began amongst the people. They were soon overpowered by radical, Iranian backed groups, including Hezb-Allah; then in came the Russians to fight alongside the tyrant Assad; this produced a back-lash and the Iranians came in with their sidekicks the Turks. In time the Turks became the strongest force in Syria…………… and yes, Assad is still there. In the meantime some half a million ordinary Syrian citizens died, an unidentified number from chemical weapons – but that was from Assad whose strength was encouraged by Iran. As I said last week, don’t even try to judge actions in the Middle East by Western standards because it doesn’t work – you cannot transfer the same policies because the situation is so complex. This is the Middle East. What I truly don’t understand is why everyone concentrates on this neighbourhood when thousands die weekly in Nigeria, Yemen, Libya, and the major cause of death in children in those conflict zones, indeed in the world, is unpotable water!!!


Last night Mike Pence announced a Turkish cease fire (albeit 5 days) in Northern Syria in an agreement brokered by the USA. Everyone laughed at the Trump letter to Erdogan for its “illiteracy” and childish language. Well who’s laughing now? Apparently it worked!


Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, released his 2019 annual report to the UN General Assembly. It is the first UN human rights report wholly dedicated to anti-Semitism. It thoroughly and thoughtfully examines and documents anti-Semitic violence, discrimination and hostility that, in Dr. Shaheed’s words, are “increasing in magnitude” and creating a “climate of fear” in Jewish communities worldwide. The report finds that anti-Semitism is “toxic to democracy” and “threatens all societies in which it goes unchallenged.”


I posted an observation on Facebook on the miracle that is Israel that all four leaders of the Blue and White Party are the children of Holocaust Survivors – indeed three of them were IDF Commanders in Chief! The question that arose from that post was whether they are able to lead and give our young people the motivation for a Jewish State, with the emphasis on Jewish, because that motivation is all but, lost both In Israel and the Diaspora. Since we come from a generation that forgot to tell their children, and before us a generation that needed to forget, we raised a generation that is ignorant of its past, thus does not know how to build the future.


News in short and in no particular order

  1. MP Dame Louise Ellman, a Jewess, has quit the Labour Party after 55 years, saying Jeremy Corbyn is “not fit” to become Prime Minister.
  2. Dreadful fires hit in two places in California
  3. A family of five was playing on Zikin Beach in Southern Israel when lightening struck them. All were electrocuted and a 14 year old died
  4. Many thousands of Christians came to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles annual parade organised by the ICEJ
  5. Venezuela, Libya and Mauritania have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council. One has a dictator who has plunged his country into poverty and the other supports slavery!
  6. Gal Gadot and her husband have formed a production company to produce a film about Irene Sendler who saved thousands of children during the Holocaust. Gal Gadot herself will play the title role about a real life Superwoman.
  7. PM Boris Johnson and the EU both announced that a Brexit deal has been reached but the stumbling block is over Eire and Ulster.
  8. Trump threatens Erdogan with economic sanctions if he continues his aggression in Syria.
  9. Andile Gumbi (36) held the lead role in the South African production of Daniel, the Musica at the Jerusalem Theatre when he suddenly fell ill and was rushed to Shaare Zedek Hospital where the doctors are fighting for his life


As I told you last week, we have been Succah hopping all week. Starting with Amiad and Noga, Yonatan and Ella for Friday night, then lunch with Rina and Yechiel, a quick visit with the Yekutieli family where Sammy took me to his veranda and explained his fascinating interpretation of the view and showed me an amazing book of his family’s history; upstairs to Rachel and Yossi for a surprise 70th  birthday supper for Yossi. Sunday Shiri and Leor and the girls; Monday, singing with the choir in the Succah of Rafael and Baya in Har Gilo which is even higher than Jerusalem and gave us a spectacular view of the forked and sheet lightening over the city – spectacular but it sent many people running into the house! In fact bits of Succah could be found all over the place from the subsequent strong winds; Tuesday and all the Ravivs were the Ishpuzim in Rachel and Igals Succah where Rachie put on a spectacular spread and Ayala, aged 10, gave Zvi’s grandchildren a course in making Slime!! The girls came back to us to stay and in the morning Zvi took them on the light rail to Mahane Yehuda which they absolutely adored!


Wednesday, at the Kotel (Western Wall) the ceremony of Birkat ha Cohanim, the Priestly Blessing, took place. About 120,000 people gather to hear it. It immediately took me back to my childhood and the festivals where my Daddy and my brother would go outside for the start of the ceremony when the Levites (teachers) would help them prepare to go up onto the dais to bless the community. The men of the Silver and the Katz family would stand up there, at first facing us and then turn away, cover their heads with their prayer shawls and turn back to the community reciting the ancient words. One was not supposed to look at them during the blessing but hey, this was my Daddy and I loved looking at him and was so proud of his important role. He used to bless me every morning anyway as I stood with him as he said his morning prayers. Here is the massive ceremony at the Kotel


Yesterday the first of our current guests arrived and what a joy it was! Merle and Frank Friedman are from South Africa and are in the process of moving to Israel. I loved their first reaction – to go straight out onto the veranda and take photos! Merle loves flowers so when she saw the display of hibiscus blooms, the geraniums, pelargoniums, my special fuchsia plant called Valerie and the array of culinary herbs she was in seventh heaven! In the morning Zvi took them to the “open” Succah in the President’s Home, which I understand was absolutely spectacular with Israeli agriculturalists cutting tree-fresh fruits for everyone. After the Presidents home they went to the Islamic Museum where they were wowed by the exceptional clock collection, then home for lunch. Last night we all went down to the Pais Basketball Arena for a wonderful reception for the ICEJ Tabernacles celebrations. It was wonderful to see old friends Jay and Meridel Rawlings, Malcolm Hedding and of course Tim King, all the original founders of the ICEJ. Tim gave me an update on his incredible daughter Anna who first became very well known as a model with her fiery red hair and beautiful face, gave up her career to volunteer for the IDF, became an Honorary Citizen, got her Master’s degree in Conflict Management and most importantly gave Tim a beautiful grandchild!! The show afterwards was absolutely spectacular.


So to Shabbat, followed by the last days of Succot and time to take down the wind-blown succot and store it for another year, such is the cycle of festivals. The final and then first festival of that cycle is Simchat Torah – literally the joy of Torah – when we dance, sing and throw sweets to children for the sheer joy of coming to the end of our weekly Torah readings and make ready to begin all over again with the story of the creation and of course Adam and Eve, which brings us neatly to Rabbi Jeremy Rosen’s writings – Sin is not such a big deal! He also explains that the famous and sinful apple of the story could have been an orange, or a grape or fig!!!


You already know my Friday routine – I wake early, write my letter to catch you up with the week, tidy the house, set the table for Shabbat, prepare food then go to Rachel to see her and the children and get my hugs then back home over the hill of Samuel’s Tomb, see the panoramic view, down to Ramot to get anything that’s missing from tonight’s menu……….. oh tonight……. We obviously have Merle and Frank, Prof. Gabby Barkay who will regale us with tales of his Sifting Project, Zvi’s Mexican cousin Sergio Verbitsky and his new wife and Mika and Aharon Sarig. Oh boy, I haven’t even started to cook so I really ought to find some extra special songs then go to get organised!!!


I was looking for songs appropriate to Simchat Torah and then, of course, this song by Koolulam came up called Good Deeds Day – It should be good for you! I love it


You know this song, I’ve given it many times, but this version it exceptional – Salaam, Shalom, Peace


HaTikva, The Hope – we must never forget who protects us and our incredible young people


With all our love and blessings from Jerusalem, the most beautiful city in the world, open to all and loved by most.


Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach, Feast of Tabernacle Blessings


If the media does not inform us we must inform the media

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Involvement The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center