The view from my veranda

UNWRA Exit Stage Left

The 2nd of the 2nd 2024

Shvat 23rd 5784

October the 118th

Shabbat Shalom dear friends, Shabbat Shalom from a very wet, windy and rainy Jerusalem. Shabbat Shalom from a very busy week in Israel’s life. As usual I will try to give you a balanced look at our lives, what it means to be at war with a cruel enemy which hides under the guise of the underdog. It’s a strange world that we live in where Western politicians understand the situation and the public doesn’t!

I listened in rapt attention to the Congressional Hearing on UNWRA’s role, particularly UNWRA’s hate teaching and role in the October 7th massacre. I am so proud of Impact-se and our role in changing the world for the better but rarely more than at the hearing as our CEO Marcus Sheff, presented the schoolbooks taught in UNWRA schools and their part in hate teaching. Marcus, unlike most others, presented with professional sang froid, without drama, the facts. UNWRA was and is undoubtedly the catalyst for hatred. Of course one can also quote the horrifying figures of corruption and profligate waste of money within the organisation, but corruption occurs everywhere, the greatest crime of UNWRA is promoting hatred of such dimensions that it led to a massacre. For those with patience, the entire Congressional Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on UNWRA. Presenting the UNWRA control of education in Gaza and its effect, Marcus Sheff, CEO of Impact-se, appears at 1 hour exactly and at 1 hour and 35 minutes.

UNHCR the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, takes care of refugees throughout the world, refugees whose situation is beyond terrible and they do so with efficiency. Refugee status in the rest of the world lasts for two years but UNWRA has succeeded in making refugee status for Palestinians a multi-generational status. UNWRA must be disbanded and allow UNHCR to take over the position.

Israeli satirical TV show “Eretz Nehederet” or Wonderful country, did a very funny skit on UNWRA, in English, proving yet again that Jews have survived every conceivable horror with a sense of humour!

The war goes on, Hezb-Allah chooses to continue launching missiles at the almost empty towns, villages and kibbutzim in the north and Britain and the USA have been joined by many other countries in combatting the Houthis and their attempted blockage of ships. If ships do not go through the Suez Canal, Egypt loses essential revenue, so they may well join the fray. It is incredible how Iran, the master puppeteer is bringing chaos to the world both directly and indirectly. It is tangible in the Middle East but sadly clear in the West through demands for Sharia law in societies opposed to changing from open Christian societies to one governed by an oppressive way of life.

The hostage situation has reached boiling point here in Israel. We are fully aware of the price paid to release the hostages, both those who survive and those who do not. We learned a terrifying lesson over the Gilad Shalit case. We released 1,047 prisoners, many of whom had blood on their hands, for one soldier. I wanted to see Noam Shalit hug his son but the price was beyond all logic. Ehud Olmert voted against it but Netanyahu chose, at the last minute, to include one Yahya (pronounced Yichyeh) Sinwar among the released terrorists with blood on their hands, his release created a domino effect of terror. Yahya Sinwar, mastermind of October 7th. It is a dilemma beyond reason but one shared with the most supportive American President in Israel-USA history. Yes I know you don’t like the last statement, know that you want to think of him as a doddery old man but he has been steadfast in his support.

Each and every day, each and every hour, the families of the hostages and the fallen appear on our television screens. Their stories are part of our lives, an important part of our lives and despite the known dangers, we want our hostages home.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Qatar is funding the families of hostages in their fight to bring their family’s home. It would appear that the Qataris are playing all sides.

I spoke yesterday to a dear friend who visits the wounded soldiers in hospitals. She told me that the soldiers who are in the convalescent department of Sheba Hospital do not want to leave hospital. The bond they have formed has become their lifeline. Only they understand the disruption caused by the physical and emotional turmoil. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they could live together, with their families, in a kibbutz-style area, so that they could heal together, support each other, not break the bond which ties them until their last day?

Dr Nir Boms is a Middle East analyst and currently serving in the IDF, as he has done since the beginning of this conflict. It is Nir who introduced me to Impact-se, for which I will be ever grateful. I have taken the liberty of taking a small part of his most recent report from the front, because it is of ultimate importance to understanding this conflict.

“For many years now, the Iranian people have been trying to demonstrate to the world that they neither support nor condone the policies and actions of the Islamic regime. In fact, they want nothing to do with the worldview and sentiments of the revolutionaries who brought the Islamic revolution to fruition. 

The support given to Israel after the October 7 attacks is yet another clear signal to the world of an enormous schism between the Iranian people and the Islamic regime of Iran. Iranians wish nothing to do with the Islamic regime, the revolution that brought it into existence, nor the mentality of activists who supported it. Similar to the Islamist regime in Gaza, the Islamic Republic in Teheran has brought nothing but pain, suffering, and destruction to its people and the region at large. Iranians have long realized it. The question is – will the free world realize it as well?”

A very quick roundup of thoughts.

Normalisation with Saudi Arabia, which is closer than you think, is the ultimate defeat of Iran. 

Americans, in our current situation, would have rejected anyone labelled a loser, a fact we need to learn. It’s time for change.

Yair Lapid is ready to change his former position and join the government on condition that the extremists are thrown out, in order to prevent the upheaval of elections. 

You will be surprised to hear that there is a great deal of good news too – Besorot Tovot.

Horfeish is a Druze town in the North of Israel. A wonderful lady called Ibtisam lives there and has a restaurant which, after October 7th, she made kosher so that all of those who wish can eat there. A few days ago, a man was sitting in a nearby coffee shop and noticed a group of soldiers who were not eating. He offered to buy them food, thinking it was a matter of cost, but they said that they couldn’t because the food there was not kosher. He immediately called Ibtisam to find that the restaurant was already closed. “Bring them to me! I’ll open the restaurant for them” She then began cooking, preparing them a feast, without charge. It is typical of the Druze community, who have served with great honour in the IDF too. As a result of their loyalty and bravery, change will be made in the Basic Law to ensure that they have a place of honour.

Cedrick Garin z”l, a fallen soldier who came to Israel with his mother from the Philippines some 17 years ago, was a brave young man who loved Israel. His civil status was uncertain but last week Interior Minister Moshe Arbel paid a condolence call on Cedrick’s mother and young wife to inform them that they had both received honorary citizenship and to thank them for Cedrick’s bravery. Moshe Arbel of the Shas Party, has proven his humanity time and again. Zvi and our friends Prof. Shimon Shetreet and Meishi Schreiber went to the Shiva (mourning ) at the Garin family home and found that there were many, many visitors and each had brought them food along with their condolences. Prof. Shetreet has done his best to visit as many families as possible to show compassion and unity with them.

I wish you could have been a fly on the wall when I went shopping this week in a large local supermarket. Standing in front of me in the line for the cashier was a Moslem lady in full, and beautiful, Arab dress. We started chatting, one of my favourite aspects of shopping, and touched on the current situation. She was from Abu Ghosh very aware of what is happening, and we helped each other with loading our goods on to the conveyor belt. As we parted with a huge smile and thanks, we wished each other peace. She said “Inshallah” and I said “B’ezrat HaShem” both of us meaning may it be God’s will.  

Our daily life continues as usual with obvious changes. We have not been to the cinema lately, which we have sworn to change next week. Continuing with normal life in times of chaos is essential to one’s sanity. Going to courses, meetings, discussions, knitting hats for soldiers, making sandwiches, working for the better of one’s community and of course supporting those who need it, to show our enemies that we can still enjoy life is of ultimate importance.

I finished my 20th hat for soldiers and decided that I would do for the family as well! I find it so relaxing to sit and knit. It means I don’t have to think about the war, about anything in fact. The pattern is so simple that I can watch the news and still continue knitting!

When our conversation is over, Zvi will go to his parliament in the botanical gardens, a sad parliament because we lost one of our most loved members, Eli BenTovim z”l  this week and I will head off to Rachel to see the children too. Zvi will then go to get Gili, Ori and Yuval and bring them to our home for Shabbat while their parents take a well deserved break to celebrate 20 year since they met. I have already made most of the food including Ori’s favourite crepes with maple syrup for dessert! I’m just about to prepare the crust for the pizzas and make the lasagne, not the usual Shabbat dinner but the one they requested. Tomorrow will be much more traditional and if the rain will just stop for an hour, we will go off to the nature reserve to check out the wild flower situation!!

And so to music.

Yachad is a song about opening our hearts to love and peace.

Brothers in Arms was written many years ago by a British Jew, Mark Knopfler, and it is said he wrote it to honour the IDF. I don’t know if it is true but this song, in my mind, does just that.  These mist covered mountains, Are a home now for me, But my home is the lowlands, And always will be
Someday you’ll return to Your valleys and your farms, And you’ll no longer burn to be
Brothers in arms

Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu – Peace will be upon us- a prayer and a song.

I wish you a peaceful Shabbat a weekend of kindness, of good new and of good health. We can only control our own tiny part of the world but as I always say “The Power of One” can change our world and ultimately the whole world. Bringing love may be a banal statement but its power is infinite.

Shabbat Shalom from beautiful Jerusalem, to you all, my friends. Please write and tell me how you spend your weekend. I love hearing from you