A Musical Interlude

With Chanucah starting tonight, it’s time to take a break from wars, terrorism and election politics and devote some time to those things which make life bearable – music, literature, things like that…

Last Saturday night (December 13th), the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir presented its first full-length concert of the 2014/15 concert season under the baton of our new conductor, Kate Belshé. Given the fact that it was a cold, rainy evening and that St. Andrew’s (Scottish) Church, where we performed, is notoriously cold and uncomfortable, we had quite a respectable turnout even though we were not completely sold-out this time. At all events, this was a great start to our work with Kate, who took over as our conductor only three and a half months ago and is already working magic. I can tell (to paraphrase Bogey) that this is going to prove “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”

One of the things I most enjoy about choir is the learning experience. A new conductor brings new ways, new ideas, new methods – and a whole lot of new repertoire. About two-thirds of the pieces we performed the other night were completely new to most of us.

Another thing I have noticed with this year’s repertoire – both in the Chamber Choir and in the full, 150-member Jerusalem Oratorio Choir – is that much of it is comprised of musical settings of fine literature. Since I always research the pieces that we sing, this has led me, via Google and its myriad links, into labyrinthine paths of knowledge, and to poets I had never heard of, or had heard of but never read, or had never read except in translation. Thus, for example, since, later this season, the women of the big choir will be performing Federico Garcia Lorca’s Romancero Gitano as set by the Italian-Jewish composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, I embarked on a Google search of both the poet and the composer. I never studied Spanish but my knowledge of Latin and French makes it possible for me to appreciate the beauty of the lyrics even without a translation.

Similarly, Kate’s choice of repertoire for the Chamber Choir, which included Morten Lauridsen’s beautiful setting of Dirait-on from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Les Roses, introduced me to Rilke’s French poetry. Rilke is well-known as a German-language poet so it came as quite a surprise to me to learn that he wrote over 400 poems in French. Moreover, as I do not speak German (although I sing it quite frequently!), I have never been able to enjoy any of his work in the original language – until now. At any rate, Liora, from the choir, who prepared the Hebrew translations for the concert programme, used as her source this English version,  although she departed from it in translating “ton intérieur”, going for a more literal translation.  However, she rendered “abandon” as “desertion”, rather than the more probable (in my humble opinion)  “self-abandon” –  in the sense of casting  off restraint.
Both interpretations are possible, of course. That is the beauty of poetry.

Lauridsen is no stranger to us. We have, in the past, performed his settings of O Magnum Mysterium and Sure On This Shining Night. This time, however, it was Samuel Barber’s better-known version of the latter which we performed.

When we first performed the Lauridsen setting of James Agee’s poem, three or four years ago, my curiosity led me on a fascinating journey into the realms of American literature. Prior to this, I had read very little by American poets, and very few of them were known to me, beyond Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, the antisemitic Ezra Pound and the Jewish Emma Lazarus. Oh, and T.S. Eliot, of course, whom I had always considered more British than American and who was the only one I studied in any depth, at school.

James Agee, in particular, was the catalyst for some serious mental gymnastics as I struggled to help Liora find a suitable translation for the words “this side the ground”. In fact – and this just goes to show how a fresh pair of eyes, not necessarily those of a native English speaker, can contribute to our understanding of a work (we think) we know well – it was Liora’s Hebrew translation that made me realise that “the late year” is to be understood as meaning “last year”, rather than referring to the later months of the year (which had never made sense to me before). Now I could kick myself for not having seen it earlier! ;-)

Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

Amazingly, it was only when preparing this post that I discovered that the song lyrics are only a small part of a much longer poem!

Yet another American poet of whom I had never heard until Kate brought us a setting of the beautiful Grace Before Sleep by contemporary American composer Susan LaBarr (of whom I had also not heard until now) was Sara Teasdale.  My research on the latter was a striking example of the way a Google search can lead one, link by link, into what I have already described as “a labyrinth”. Sara Teasdale led me to Vachel Lindsay, previously unknown to me and he, in turn, led me to Langston Hughes whose novel, Not Without Laughter, I have read and enjoyed but with whose poetry, I am not familiar. Who knows where else my researches will lead me?

Other pieces performed included two songs by the Renaissance era French composer Clément Janequin, a song in an Australian aboriginal language, Tungarre, by Stephen Leek (with which we opened the concert, singing it as we entered, in procession), an arrangement by Paul Ben-Haim of the Ladino romance La Rosa and a setting by the young American (Jewish?) composer, David Asher Brown of Shelley’s To The Moonbeam.

Nor were our own, Jewish, sources neglected. Besides contemporary settings of verses from The Song of Songs by the Anglo-Canadian composer Healey Willan, the American  Daniel Pinkham, and the recently-deceased Israeli composer, Yehezkel Braun (whose niece is a member of our choir), the Book of Psalms also figured prominently in our programme, with settings in Latin and English, as well as the original Hebrew. Besides Salomone Rossi’s early Baroque setting of Psalm 146, we sang a Latin setting of the first three verses of Psalm 96 by his  German contemporary, Hans Leo Hassler:

The Psalms are a perennial favourite, and always relevant, even in contemporary times, as we can see from Bobby McFerrin’s “feminist” setting of the 23rd Psalm.

I will leave you with the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir performing a hypnotic, canonic setting based on a traditional Oriental melody, by Israeli composer Ofer Ben Amots,  of Psalm 137. I think that, in these times, when our enemies and even the “enlightened” countries of the West, are disputing the inaliable right of the Jewish people to our capital, Jerusalem, it is as well to remind everyone that even throughout the long Exile from our land, our eyes were ever turned, in hope, to Zion.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
Yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee…

Happy Chanucah                    חג אורים שמח


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Nationalism, the “Jewish State Bill” and the U.N. Partition Resolution of 1947

The day before yesterday sixty-seven years ago, on November 29th 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition the territory of the Palestine Mandate into two states – a Jewish state and an Arab state.

With all the talk these days about recognition of a “Palestinian” state and the mantra of “Two states for two peoples”, it is interesting to note that the international community at the time, as personified by the United Nations General Assembly (not the Security Council, where the five permanent members can exercise the right of veto), did indeed recognise the existence of two peoples within the borders of the mandated territory – the Jewish People and the Arab people. NOT “the Palestinian people”. In fact, Section B Article 9 of the resolution makes it quite clear that the word “Palestinian” refers, not to members of an ethnic group or ethnos, but to all people holding citizenship of the Mandated Territory of Palestine.
The election regulations in each State shall be drawn up by the Provisional Council of Government and approved by the Commission. Qualified voters for each State for this election shall be persons over eighteen years of age who are: (a) Palestinian citizens residing in that State and (b) Arabs and Jews residing in the State, although not Palestinian citizens, who, before voting, have signed a notice of intention to become citizens of such State.

From the above paragraph, it is quite clear that “Palestinian”, in 1947, did not mean “Arab”, but referred to both Arabs and Jews. It is also evident that the intention of the United Nations General Assembly was to create yet another Arab state (there are currently over twenty Arab states, the exact number depending on whether you follow the UNESCO definition, that of Wikipedia or that of the Arab League) and one Jewish state.

Moreover, it is manifestly clear that, in 1947, when the United Nations spoke of “Jews”, they were referring to a nation or a people, rather than a religion, as “Jews” are set against “Arabs” and not against “Muslims and/or Christians”

This being the case, one is somewhat bemused by the hysterical reaction of the world – and of the Israeli Left – to the idea that Israel’s proposed “Jewish State Law” should open with a declaration that Israel is the national state of the Jewish people and only of the Jewish people.

Now, I think that before we enter into the thick of this discussion, we should agree on our definitions. Debates about the proposed law tend to confuse “nationality” with “citizenship” – and indeed, the two words are often used interchangeably. My British passport, for example, has a line devoted to “nationality” where it states that I am a British citizen. My Israeli passport, on the other hand, refers only to “citizenship” and states that I am an Israeli citizen. Israeli identity cards, on the other hand, have a line devoted to le’om (לאום) which is best translated as ethnos and which, for the purposes of this article and to avoid confusion,  I too shall call by that name. Israeli ID cards list the ethnos of the card’s owner (Jewish, Arab, Druze etc.)   and this is distinct from citizenship because all permanent and temporary residents of Israel are obligated by law to possess an ID card, whether they are citizens or not (this does not apply to short-term residents, such as tourists, or holders of a student visa).

Having defined our terms of reference, let us now return to the point at hand.

Two points leap to the fore when entering the fray here:

1) Hardly anybody has actually bothered to read the proposed law. Instead, they have derived their knowledge of its (supposed) content from the various reports in the mass media, and thus, their knowledge of the facts is coloured by the political leanings of said media. In short, each newspaper, website, or news broadcast emphasizes that part of the proposed law which tends to prove whatever the reporter, blogger or broadcaster wants to prove and ignores or glosses over whatever disproves the journalist’s point of view. How else can one explain the number of people interviewed in the media (I refer to the general population, not to the Knesset Members sponsoring the proposed laws) who reply, when asked for their opinion: “I haven’t read it, but from what I have heard, I think it is good/bad/racist/discriminatory/necessary etc.(take your pick)”?
Only yesterday, I asked a friend from my choir who was waxing indignant about the proposed law if he had actually read it. He replied (and I quote): “Do you think I’m going to read all that legal verbiage?”
We live in the age of Twitter and the sound bite. Of course I knew he hadn’t read it.

2) If one were to take the trouble to read it, one would see that it does not, in fact, change the current legal position at all, and it most certainly does not (as its detractors claim) turn the non-Jewish citizens of Israel into second-class citizens.

The proposed law does, indeed, proclaim, that the State of Israel is the national homeland of one ethnos only, the Jewish people, that the Jewish holidays are the official holidays and that the Jewish Sabbath is the official day of rest of the State of Israel. But it also expressly declares the right of minorities to enjoy their own festivals and days of rest. The Bill also reasserts the position of the blue and white flag with the Magen David in its centre as the flag of Israel, the seven-branched candelabrum as the symbol of the State of Israel and “Hatikva” as the national anthem of Israel. There is no change here. All this is already enshrined in existing laws, just as the essence of the State of Israel as the Jewish national home, the place where the Jewish People came into existence, is already clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence. The proposed law also declares the right of all Jews to return to the land of Israel and to receive Israeli citizenship. Again, nothing new – this right was already established in the Law of Return 1950 and its subsequent amendments. And while the law speaks of the state’s duty to promote Jewish culture, it also expressly extends protection to the rights of minority groups to develop their own culture.
In short, every section of the law which enshrines a particular Jewish right or supposed privilege, is followed by another section, protecting the civil and religious rights of minorities. This is in line with all the important international documents which preceded the establishment of the State of Israel, including the Balfour Declaration and the document establishing the Mandate for Palestine. The former spoke of “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” whilst, at the same time, protecting “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.  The latter, in Article 2, required the Mandatory Power (ie. the United Kingdom) to establish conditions which would secure “the establishment of the Jewish national home“, while, at the same time, “safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.”
The meaning is clear. Israel is both a Jewish state and a democratic state, in which both Jews and minority groups will enjoy equal civil and religious rights.

This being the case, two questions arise:
1) Why is the Left so opposed to the proposed law? It changes nothing, after all.
2) Why is the Right so much in favour of it? It changes nothing, after all.

It is clear to me that the main objection of the Left – and of Israel’s detractors abroad – is the very definition of Israel as “a Jewish State”, even though this was the intention of the UN General Assembly right from the start. They claim that the very idea of an “ethnocentric” state is racist. Why? They are in favour of a “Palestinian” Arab ethnocentric state, and that, apparently, is not racist. Why is it such a racist idea for Jews to have their own state, where they can develop their own culture – without infringing on the cultural development of other ethnic groups?  Isn’t the idea of “self-determination” valid for Jews? Only for other ethnic groups? They claim that to state loud and clear that the Land of Israel is the national homeland for one ethnos only is to discriminate against other ethnic groups. Yet Spain, for example (which recently voted to recognise the “Palestinian” state), when enacting a law which will supposedly make amends for the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, made sure to clarify that the law “is rewarding not the expulsion itself, but the ability to preserve links with Spain and Spanish culture.” In short, Jews who can prove they have preserved the language and culture of Spain (ie. those characteristics which define the ethnos) will be able to return to Spain – because Spain is a nation-state, for the Spanish ethnos, as well as being part of the European Union. And the EU apparently has no problem with that.

As for the Right, in his regular Friday afternoon programme on Israel Radio last week, Yehoram Gaon gave it as his opinion that the proposed law is intended principally for internal consumption, to remind those of us who seem to have forgotten, where we came from and why we are here, in this land. There is also another facet to the claim of “internal consumption”. Many people say that Prime Minister Netanyahu supports the enactment of this law, because he is trying to pander to his supporters on the extreme Right. There is something in that, also.

As for me, I think the proposed law is completely unnecessary. Although, in fact, it does not relegate Israel’s non-Jewish citizens to second-class status, it seems that many of them feel that it does. It is clear to me that there are interested parties who, to suit their own agenda, have been assiduously nurturing these fears amongst minority groups. However, when I hear the brother of Israeli Druze policeman Zidan Saif, who was killed in the Har Nof Massacre earlier this month and who gave his life to defend Jews, declare that if the bill which discriminates between Jewish and Druze blood passes, he would no longer encourage his co-religionists to enlist in the IDF – then I realise that perception here is all-important. I do not think it is any longer possible to convince Murat Saif and his Druze co-religionists that their perception is faulty. There is an alliance of blood between Israel’s Jews and the Druze population. There are other loyal, non-Jewish minorities in Israel, who serve in the IDF and whose fate is bound up with that of the Jews – the Circassians, for example, and (to a certain extent) the Bedouin. Why should we be perceived as slighting them, even if in fact, we are not? Are we to endanger the alliance between us, for a purely declaratory law, which changes nothing whatsoever of the existing legal situation?
Everything that the “Jewish State Bill” says has already been said – in the Declaration of Independence, in the Law of Return, in the Law of the Flag and the Symbol of State, and in a host of other laws. Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish People. It is vital that this fact be recognised by our so-called “partners in the peacemaking process”, but it is not necessary to pass an internal law to that effect and wound the susceptibilities of Israel’s minority populations. It serves no useful purpose and, since it changes nothing at all in the legal status of Jews or non-Jews in Israel, merely confirming existing laws, it is – although innocuous from the point of view of the actual legal status of the non-Jewish minority – hurtful to them (because of their own, albeit mistaken, perception) and therefore harmful to the Jewish majority.

If there are people in this country who need to be reminded of the Jewish and democratic nature of the State of Israel, there are sufficient laws already on the statute book for that purpose. They need to be enforced, not duplicated.

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Justice for Jonathan Pollard – Prisoner of Zion

Today, November 21st 2014, Jonathan Pollard begins his thirtieth year in prison.

Jonathan Pollard

The day before yesterday, the US Department of Justice once again torpedoed his request for conditional release and made it clear they would continue to do so.

How can one explain the fact that although Pollard was NEVER convicted of treason, but merely of passing classified information to a friendly state, he received a life sentence, with a recommendation that he never be paroled – in contravention of the plea bargain without which it is by no means certain he would have been convicted?

How can one explain the fact that then incumbent Defense Secretary  Caspar Weinberger delivered a secret memorandum to the judge prior to sentencing – to which neither Pollard nor any of the lawyers who represented him then or later have ever been allowed access, apparently containing false charges which led to Pollard being sentenced as if he had been convicted of treason? In other words, Pollard was sentenced, not for the crime of which he was charged, but for other crimes, against which he had no opportunity to defend himself. If this is not denial of due process, I don’t know what is!

The excuse for the US administration’s opposition to any clemency for Pollard, who, today, will have been twenty nine years behind bars and who is suffering from severe health problems, is that his release would “constitute contempt for the severity of the offense and promote a lack of respect for the law.”

Severity of the offense“???
Just to remind you, the information Pollard passed to Israel was not information concerning American troop movements or American spies, not information which endangered American lives, but information on  WMD capabilities of Israel’s Arab neighbours – information vital to Israel’s security, which the US was supposed to share with Israel under the terms of a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two nations, but which certain elements within the US security and political establishment deliberately withheld from Israel,  in order to weaken the Jewish State and make her more malleable and vulnerable to US pressure to make dangerous concessions to the Arabs. For this, he received a life sentence with a recommendation that he never be paroled, as if he had actually committed treason by passing classified information to an enemy country in time of war. In comparison, Russian spies who most definitely caused harm to the US, received far more lenient sentences.  Anna Chapman, was deported without serving any jail time at all. Moreover, the usual sentence for passing classified information to a friendly country – the crime of which Pollard was convicted – is between six to eight years in prison, with actual jail time prior to release averaging between two and four years.

Jonathan Pollard has already served twenty nine years of his sentence – far more than any other person convicted of passing classified information to a friendly country. In his secret memorandum (small parts of which have now been made public), Caspar Weinberger contended that Pollard’s actions had damaged US relations with “friendly Arab countries”.

It is hard to see how. The only possible damage of that sort could come from the revelation that the US had been spying on “friendly” countries and Israel would hardly be likely to reveal this as such a revelation would, of necessity, reveal to those “friendly (though not to Israel) countries” the extent of the intelligence Israel had on them.

 “ a lack of respect for the law.”
Whereas illegally spying on millions of one’s own citizens, as the US government has done, promotes respect for the law, I suppose!

It is hard to escape the suspicion that it is Israel, as much as Pollard, that the US is seeking to punish. Now, admittedly, for Israel to spy on a friendly nation such as the US is – well, not very nice.
No, seriously. It is not nice to spy on one’s friends. It’s even worse to use a friend’s own citizens for that purpose.

I am sure Chancellor Angela Merkel would agree with me.

But it goes beyond that. How can one explain the treatment of Pollard in prison? What reason could there possibly be for the refusal of the prison authorities to allow him compassionate leave to visit his 97-year-old, terminally ill father one last time? His request to do so was denied, without any explanation. Nor was this piece of spite enough for them. Pollard wasn’t even allowed to attend his father’s funeral – just as he had been denied permission to attend his mother’s funeral, when she passed away ten years earlier.

Could such systematic vindictiveness possibly be – because Jonathan Pollard is a Jew?

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Jews Butchered As They Pray – Again

In mediaeval Europe, and right up into the twentieth century in places such as Russia, Jews died in their thousands because of lies and whispers. It was enough to spread a malicious rumour that Jews had desecrated the Host, or kidnapped and murdered a Christian child to use his blood to bake unleavened bread for Pessach, and hey presto, you could ignite a full-scale pogrom.

Nor were things any different in the Muslim world, as the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840 and the Mashhad Blood Libel and forced conversion to Islam of the city’s Jews a year earlier, prove.

For the past few weeks, Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular, have been powder kegs waiting for a spark. We have witnessed several terror attacks in which so-called “Palestinians” have used motor vehicles as a means to murder Israelis (see my previous post), others in which knives were the weapon of choice and one, last week, in which both methods were used. A “Palestinian” rammed a car into a group of people waiting at a bus-stop/hitch-hiking post and then jumped out of the car and began attacking people with a knife, fatally stabbing 26-year-old Dahlia Lemkus in the neck as she lay there injured and unable to run away.

Yesterday, two so-called “Palestinians”, armed with knives, axes and firearms, stormed a synagogue in the orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Har Nof in Jerusalem and began to systematically butcher the Jews praying there. They managed to kill four worshippers before the police arrived on the scene. A shootout then developed, during the course of which, the “Palestinian” terrorist murderers  were liquidated by the police – not before fatally wounding a police officer, who has since died.

Hamas was quick to praise the cowardly attack, claiming it was revenge for the “lynching” of an Arab bus-driver earlier in the week.

A few days ago, an Arab bus-driver from Jerusalem (who worked for the Egged bus company – so much for the claims of apartheid in Israel) was found hanged inside his bus. All the evidence pointed to suicide. Autopsy reports proved that this was, indeed, the case, but the dead man’s family (perhaps understandably, in view of the stigma attached to suicides) insisted that there was no way he would have killed himself.

Malicious false rumours began to circulate, fueled by the “Palestinian” media and even Abu Mazen, claiming that this was no suicide but a lynching by (Jewish) “settlers” – with claims of so-called “witnesses” to having seen anything between three and six “settlers” murdering the bus driver, Youssef Hassan Al-Ramouni. Interesting that none of them thought to try to help the victim, or go to the police, or – if they didn’t trust the Israeli police – at least to call for help. Interesting, too,  that their accounts vary so much, and that they can’t seem to agree on the number of “settlers” involved, isn’t it?

I trust the parallel with the pogroms is now clear.

To get back to the despicable massacre in the synagogue yesterday morning, it should come as no surprise that the way this was treated by the world media was almost as despicable as the attack itself. Organizations such as the BBC, CNN, CBC News and so on, fell over themselves to clear the actual murderers of blame and minimize the murder of Jews.

CBC News gave us: “Jerusalem police fatally shoot 2 after apparent synagogue attack” (my italics – ed.)
According to CBC, not only is the existence or nature of the attack in doubt, but the most important point is the shooting of the murderers by the Israeli police.

CNN displayed their bias with a monumental gaffe (Freudian, no doubt) in which Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat is interviewed about the attack, atop a headline screaming: “DEADLY ATTACK ON JERUSALEM MOSQUE” (my emphasis – ed.)

This came hard on the wake of their original headline, when the news first broke (hat tip to Honest Reporting): “Four Israelis, Two Palestinians Dead in Jerusalem”, from which you might get the impression that there was some kind of moral equivalence between “Palestinian” murderers and their Jewish victims or even that the “Palestinians” and Israelis were all killed by the same people.

I am also indebted to Honest Reporting (a website I recommend highly to anyone interested in the Truth that lies beyond the blatantly dishonest journalism now common in the world media) for the BBC’s original headline: “Jerusalem synagogue attack kills four Israelis”. This headline, which has since been changed, omits all mention of the identity of the attackers. However, in the article that followed, the BBC referred to the massacre as “what police say was a “terrorist attack” at a Jerusalem synagogue” (my italics – ed.) In short, the BBC isn’t sure that when “Palestinians” storm a synagogue and butcher Jewish worshippers with meat cleavers, it is actually a “terrorist attack”. Maybe they thought it was another “accident” – like the “Palestinian” drivers who somehow manage to lose control of their vehicles when in the vicinity of large groups of Jews waiting at bus stops.

Nor was this Al-Beeb’s only sin. They interviewed Israel’s Economics Minister, Naftali Bennett after the massacre and when the latter produced a picture of one of the murdered Jews, the interviewer had the temerity to demand that he remove the photograph because “we don’t want to actually see that picture”.
Was the sight of a slaughtered Jew, lying in his own blood, too much for her tender sensibilities? Funny, the BBC doesn’t seem to have any problem with doctored pictures of dead “Palestinian” babies, usually showing a lot more horrific detail (often photo-shopped).
Well, I will show the picture:

Har Nof synagogue massacre

And this one:
Murdered Jew in Har Nof synagogueAnd this one too:

Har Nof victims

The victims of the Har Nof pogrom were Rabbi Aryeh Kopinsky , Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Rabbi Kalman Ze’ev Levine and Rabbi Moshe Twersky.

Between them, they left behind twenty-four orphans.

And the fifth victim – Israeli Druze police officer  Zidan Saif.  A traffic cop, Saif  was one of the first responders to arrive on the scene. He was critically wounded in the head during the shootout with the terrorists and died later, in hospital. He leaves behind a widow and a four-month old baby daughter.

Zidan Saif cop killed in Har Nof massacre

May God avenge their blood.

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Things That Made Me Sad, Things That Made Me Mad and Things That Made Me Glad

It’s going to be a mixed bag of goods this week.
Since my last post, a three-month-old Jewish baby, Haya Ziessel Braun, has been murdered in Jerusalem by a “Palestinian” terrorist, who deliberately rammed his vehicle into a crowd of people waiting at a Jerusalem Light Rail stop; four days later,  one of the many injured in the cowardly attack, a young woman from Ecuador, Karen Yemima Mosquera,  who had recently discovered her family’s Jewish roots and who had come to Jerusalem in order to learn more about the faith of her ancestors and to formally convert to Judaism, died of her injuries; the day before yesterday, another “Palestinian” terrorist attempted to assassinate Rabbi Yehuda Glick, an activist for the restoration of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount.

Haya Ziessel’s parents had been trying for years to have a baby. They only got to hold her in their arms and enjoy her sweet smile for three-months before she was brutally snatched from them.
Karen Yemima had come to Israel, ahead of her mother and sister, to light the way for them so that they, too, could eventually come to Israel and reclaim their Jewish heritage. But, instead, what brought them to the land of their fathers was their daughter’s funeral.
The cowardly terrorist who murdered a three-month-old baby and an innocent young girl, was shot by police as he attempted to escape on foot from the scene of the carnage and later, succumbed to his wounds.

And how did the mass media present the story to the public?
The Guardian (no surprises here) referred to it as a “car crash”.
The BBC (again, no surprises – the Beeb’s anti-Israel bias is notorious)  chose to portray the attack as a simple traffic accident with “Nine hurt as car hits pedestrians at Jerusalem station” – which at least had the slight merit of headlining the injuries caused to the victims, unlike AP, whose initial headline (albeit corrected later) screamed: “Israeli Police Shoot Man in East Jerusalem” – a reference to the shooting of the terrorist as he attempted to make his getaway, which completely ignored the terrorist outrage itself.
Agence France Presse, in a headline taken up by other media outlets, went with “Jerusalem driver shot after ramming pedestrians“, making it seem as if the shooting was merely an over-reaction to a traffic accident.

The vicious anti-Israel bias of large segments of the world press has been covered by such important monitors as “Honest Reporting” and “Commentary” and I see no need to enlarge further.

The bias of some of our own, Israeli media outlets regarding the attempted murder of Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick also aroused my ire.  I suppose it’s hardly surprising that our “friends” at the Guardian should refer to him as a “far-right rabbi“, but it makes my stomach turn when the (far-left) Ha’aretz describes Rabbi Glick in their headline as a “prominent US-born right-wing activist” as if to imply that he is some kind of foreign-born colonist, with no right to be in Israel, let alone the Temple Mount. However, given the general extreme left-wing, anti-Zionist tone of what was once a respected newspaper, I am not too surprised at this, either. But why is the same terminology adopted by supposedly middle-of-the-road media such as the Jerusalem Post and Ynet?

Rabbi Yehuda Glick advocates the right of both Jews and Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount. He is not some kind of anti-Muslim fanatic who favours preventing Muslims from praying on the Temple Mount, as this video-clip of him praying together with Muslims should make abundantly clear:


In fact, Rabbi Glick’s vision for the Temple Mount, is of a Jewish place of worship side by side with the Muslim  one, because, as we read in Isaiah 56:7, “My House shall be called a House of Prayer for all nations.”

There have been some good things, this past week though. On Tuesday, I began a course at the Open University entitled: “A Journey in the Pathways of the Bible”. This is a course of study which is designed, over the next three and a half years, to cover the whole of the Hebrew Bible and which is taught by Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau. Right from the start, I found it fascinating and I am happy to think that I have this to look forward to every second Tuesday :-) .

On Wednesday, my choir – the Jerusalem Oratorio Choir – hosted the Adash Choir from the Czech Republic. This is a women’s choir comprised of students from Ostrava University and the name “Adash” is an acronym of Ivrit Derech Shira - Hebrew Through Song – so-called because the choir’s conductor and musical director, Dr. Tomáš Novotný, uses Hebrew songs to teach the Hebrew language. As far as I understand it, the students are all non-Jews, so it makes me doubly happy, when we hear of the rise in antisemitism throughout Europe, to know that there are still many people of goodwill out there, who love Israel. Anyway, as long as we can welcome such musical ambassadors here, with their wonderful voices, who needs antisemitic little turds such as Roger Waters?

And now to my final item. It’s a pity I couldn’t write this last week, when the weekly parsha (Torah portion) was Noach (Noah), but it makes me glad all the same. It rained heavily during the night and when I awoke at about six o’clock this morning, this was the sight that greeted my eyes.


Besides the fact that we badly need rain here in Israel, there is something about a rainbow that always inspires hope.

Shabbat Shalom to you all.

Posted in Daily Life, Music, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

(Not Quite) The Hostess With The Mostest (Yet)

My regular readers have, no doubt, been asking themselves where I could have disappeared to. Yes, I know I shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition, but it sounds less awkward than “have been asking themselves to where I could have disappeared”. I suppose I could have said “have been asking themselves whither I had disappeared” but that sounds rather pretentious.

Anyway, the fact is that on August 31st, I moved to my new apartment and since then, I have been working like a dog (do dogs work?) to lick it into shape (actually, I had my cleaning lady squeegee the floor – no licking involved), and have hardly had time to sit down at the computer and blog, although I kept up with the world on Facebook, via my mobile phone.

My furbabies have just reminded me that dogs actually do work, at a variety of jobs – such as sheep-herding, guard duty, guiding the blind etc. and that they themselves, as self-respecting felines, were of immense assistance to me when it came to unpacking the dozens of boxes and cartons which I brought with me from my (our?) old home. Who knows what treasures I might have thrown away, unexamined, had they not insisted on exploring each and every carton, jumping into them and running off with any interesting-looking piece of paper. I did, in fact, almost throw away an extremely important document from the bank, containing my new internet password, but this was not their fault and fortunately, I retrieved it before it was taken down to the dumpster and irrevocably lost.

The reason for this fever to get the new flat in order in just three weeks was that I had recklessly invited the whole family (twelve souls, including Yours Truly) for the festive meal on the Eve of Rosh Hashana. Those of you who remember my previous attempts at large scale catering will no doubt understand why, as I commenced my preparations, I asked myself more than once, “What was I thinking?!” – particularly when I tried to swap round the two disposable baking-trays to ensure that each got an equal amount of heat. It was then that I remembered – too late – why I dislike disposable aluminium foil baking-trays. They have a tendency to buckle, with the result that extremely hot gravy spattered all over the place, including on me!

As is usual on these occasions, I – as the hostess – made the main course (chicken legs and thighs in honey and garlic sauce), the soup (a vegetable soup which garnered high praise, especially from one of my brothers-in-law) and the dessert (my Famous Fruit Salad), while my sisters and my stepmother rallied round and contributed many side dishes, such as baked potatoes, rice, spicy Moroccan-style fish balls (“Moroccan gefillte fish” ;-) ), salad and so on. In addition, Ilana, my stepmother, prepared beef for those who don’t care for chicken. As you can imagine, there was enough food left over to provide several meals! Again – as usual ;-)

Of course, this being my first sit-down dinner, naturally there was room for improvement. I hadn’t given sufficient thought to serving-dishes in which to put some of the food prepared by my family, or in which to serve some of the shop-bought salads which we had for hors d’oeuvres. And I think I would have done better if, like the Crawleys of Downton Abbey, I had a bevy of servants to heat up and serve the many dishes, thus enabling me to sit at ease at the table and take part in the dinner conversation. For that reason, I admit to not yet being the Perfect Hostess. However, I don’t think I did too badly, considering I have never before hosted a large-scale sit-down dinner – and to think I did all this within weeks of moving into my new home, and with a couple of dozen packing-cases still to be opened, which I shoved into the study, discreetly out of sight.

So – a New Year and a New Home.
Perfect :-)

I cannot, of course, end my first blog of the New Year without some mention of Yom Kippur, which begins this evening. Since 1973, Yom Kippur is inextricably linked with the near-disaster of the Yom Kippur War, but I don’t want to write about politics now, tempting as it may be in light of the fact that, this year, Yom Kippur coincides with the Muslim festival of Eid el-Adha. I could say an awful lot about that and would have, had it coincided with Rosh Hashana, when we read the biblical story of the Sacrifice of ISAAC (and NOT, as the Muslim attempt to re-write history would have it, of Ishmael). My faithful readers know that this blog, which was actually born in war, has always been a mixture of the political and the every-day. I have written almost exclusively about politics for the last couple of months and a break (however short) is now required.

So I will just leave you with the traditional blessing for the High Holy Days: May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.



G’mar chatima tova – גמר חתימה טובה







Posted in Cuisine, Daily Life, Humour, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Truth Is Out There

Now that things have quietened down somewhat, I have had time to search out all manner of interesting video clips and articles pertaining to the truth of Israel’s claim that Hamas not only made cynical use of civilians as human shields, in flagrant violation of international law, but even used UN premises as military bases. Here, for example, a Finnish reporter confirms the use of the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, as a rocket-launching site: This particular reporter, Aishi Zidan (note the Arab surname), reacted to the publication of this video with an angry demand that her reportage not be used as “Israeli propaganda”.

In fact, the Shifa Hospital served as one of the main Hamas command centres, with a vast network of tunnels and bunkers beneath the hospital (but not for the use of civilians as air-raid shelters).

In this next clip, a journalist from the Indian TV channel NDTV not only films and comments on how Hamas terrorists set up a rocket launch site on an open plot of land right outside his hotel, in a densely populated area, but also mentions in passing the fact that the IDF did, in fact, issue a warning of its intention to target the area. Later on, he shows the rocket actually being fired.


Want some more? Here is France 24 reporter Gallagher Fenwick  with proof that Hamas terrorists fired their rockets from right next to UN facilities:


So why has it taken so long for the mass media to admit the truth? In the case of Ms. Zidan (see above), possibly her own personal bias is at play. In other cases, such as that of Gabriele Garbati (see below) and others, fear of Hamas retaliation no doubt played its part.

Remember the claims that Israel fired on a UN-run school? The mainstream western media were quick to condemn. But see here an analysis demonstrating how the event was stage-managed by Pallywood to make it appear an Israeli mortar strike near the school was actually a deliberate Israeli assault on the school.

How about the Israeli assertion that, in many cases, casualties falsely attributed to Israeli air and mortar strikes, were, in fact, caused by misfired Hamas rockets? For example, the alleged Israeli attacks on Al-Shifa Hospital and on the Al-Shati refugee camp.
Be my guest. Italian journalist Gabriele Garbati – once he was safely out of Gaza and beyond the reach of Hamastweeted the truth.

And, while we’re on the subject, suppose Israel had targeted UN-run schools? By using those schools for storing rockets on at least three occasions, Hamas turned UN premises – and schools, at that – into legitimate military targets. Note that on the third occasion, UNRWA did not publicise the “discovery” on their official website. Shame? Maybe. But I very much doubt that UNRWA – 99% of whose employees are locally-recruited “Palestinian” Arabs  – was really as surprised as they claimed to be. If, as their official website assures us, the organisation has “strong, established procedures to maintain the neutrality of all its premises, including a strict no-weapons policy and routine inspections of its installations, to ensure they are only used for humanitarian purposes, how could they have missed the fact that rockets were being stored in at least three (and who knows how many more) of their schools? And how does the handing over of the rockets to “the authorities” (ie. Hamas) conform to UNRWA’s “neutrality” policy?

Let’s take this a stage further. How could a clinic under UNRWA’s auspices be constructed, with over 80 kilograms of explosives built into its very walls, without the knowledge, if not the actual connivance of UNRWA personnel?

In short, the UN – which has consistently demonstrated its hostility towards Israel – is in no position to take the moral high ground in any discussion of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Come to think of it, neither is Israel’s supposed best friend, the United States.







Posted in International Relations, News, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments