April Journal – Part 2 (a.k.a. April in May)

I promised my readers a second post, describing the other events of April – or, at least, the first half of April but, as so often happens, after starting to write, I took a break for a couple of days, and then there was Pessach (Passover), and – well, you know. Sometimes Life gets in the way of writing about it (lol).

I started drafting this post just after Pessach, but, since I very much wanted to include a clip from another one of our concerts, I put it on hold after describing my weekend in Alon Shvut in the hope that the official video of the concert would be uploaded to YouTube. While I was waiting, the simmering tensions in the south of Israel broke into open hostilities when the terrorist entity of Hamastan (a.k.a. the Gaza Strip) progressed from the steady stream of booby-trapped balloons they have been sending to Israel for about a year, to a hail of rockets (more than 700 rockets over the past two days) – with no word of condemnation from the UN, the EU or the western mainstream media – except for a disgraceful headline from Sky News, The Independent and ITV when Israel finally responded, to the effect that “Israeli airstrikes kill mother and baby” (who were actually killed by a misfiring Palestinian rocket), with no mention of the fact that the Israeli airstrikes were in response to the hail of Palestinian rockets raining down on Israel! No mention either of the Israeli civilians who were killed in those rocket attacks.

As of this morning, a ceasefire was supposed to be in place.  In my experience, this usually means that we cease and they fire – so I don’t know how long that will last. I will take the opportunity, however to try and complete what I started.

So, let’s get right down to it.

Alon Shvut is a religious Jewish community settlement in the heart of the Etzion Bloc. The Etzion Bloc was a group of Jewish settlements in the Judaean Hills south of Jerusalem, built on land purchased from Arab landowners (often at grossly inflated prices), which, under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, lay in the area slated for the Arab state. Even before the withdrawal of British Mandatory forces, the Jewish community in the area was subject to attacks by their Arab neighbours, culminating in a battle in which residents of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, together with Haganah reinforcements, held off the combined forces of the Arab Legion and local Arab villagers for two days, before surrendering on May 13 1948, when the Arabs then massacred many of the survivors. The Etzion Bloc was recaptured by Israel in 1967, during the Six Day War and in September of that year, Kibbutz Kfar Etzion was re-established. On this subject, I should like to reiterate a point which I have often made in the past, namely, that the same UN resolution which is so often quoted in demands for “the Right of Return” of Palestinian Arabs, also referred to the right of JEWS driven from their homes in the part of “Palestine” which had been originally slated for the Arab state. As I wrote in a previous post:

An interesting fact, which is not generally known, is that  UNGA Resolution 302 (IV)  of 8th December 1949 – the instrument which set up UNRWA – did not, in fact, refer specifically to Arab refugees. Resolution 302 (IV) recalls two earlier resolutions, UNGA Resolution 212 (III)  of 19th November 1948 and UNGA Resolution 194 (III) of 11th December 1948 and its terms of reference are the same as those of the two earlier resolutions,  encompassing  “the relief of Palestine refugees of all communities”.
Since Article 11 of Resolution 194 (III) “Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date” and since the preamble to Resolution 212 (III) makes it clear that “refugees” refers to refugees “of all the communities”, there is no logical or legal reason for assuming that this applies only to Arab refugees. There were Palestinian Jews who also lost their homes; for example, the Jews of Gush Etzion (the Etzion Bloc) and other kibbutzim and  moshavim in Judaea and Samaria, who, under the terms of Resolution 194, are to be permitted to return to their homes “at the earliest practicable date”. Since these areas were illegally occupied by the Jordanians between 1948 and 1967, “the earliest practicable date” was not until those lands were liberated by the Israel Defence Forces during the Six Day War. Why, then, does the UN persist in calling the renewed Jewish settlement in those areas illegal?

 

Alon Shvut (the Oak of Return) is named for a lone oak tree growing on a hill in the middle of the Etzion Bloc, which came to symbolise the yearning of the Jews expelled from the Bloc, to return to their homes.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my nephew got married at the end of March to a girl from Alon Shvut and the reason we travelled down there for the weekend was to celebrate the Sheva Brachot, or Seven Blessings. These are the seven blessings recited as part of the traditional Jewish marriage ceremony. They are also recited at festive meals during the seven days following the wedding. As we had travelled down for the weekend, and as it is a mitzvah, or religious obligation, to honour the Sabbath with three festive meals, this meant that we took part in three recitations of the Seven Blessings.

In addition, it is customary for a bridegroom to be honoured by being called up for the Reading of the Torah during the week following his wedding. So, in addition to the Friday evening service at the big, Ashkenazi synagogue, we also attended the Shabbat morning service at a smaller, Yemenite synagogue, where the bride’s father serves as rabbi amd leader of the congregation and where not only my nephew but also his father (my brother-in-law) and his uncle (my brother) were honoured by being called up to the Torah.

Alas, I cannot share any pictures of our weekend in Alon Shvut with you, as photography is not permitted on the Sabbath.

I had intended to write next about our General Elections, which took place on April 9th, but the situation being what it is, and the coalition discussions not being very encouraging, I am going to skip to something much more pleasant – our second April concert. This took place two days after the elections under the title “Women’s Voices” (קולות נשים – Kolot Nashim). The participants were women from all five Jerusalem Oratorio choirs, under the baton of Danielle Arad, conductor of Cantabile, JOC’s women’s choir. Of course, there was also a significant contingent from my own choir, the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir.

The entire concert was professionally videotaped but the video has not yet been made available (although almost a month has passed since the concert) and so I am going to have to crave your indulgence and ask you to make do with several short extracts filmed by members of the audience on their mobile phones.  First of all, here is the contingent from the Chamber Choir, performing an arrangement for women’s voices of Shabbat Hamalka (שבת המלכה –Shabbat the Queen):

 

 

And your humble servant performed, together with a friend, Romy Elbert, also from the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir, the duet “Oh Lovely Peace” from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus. Unfortunately, my sister, who was supposed to be filming it on her mobile phone, pressed something she wasn’t supposed to press or touched something she wasn’t supposed to touch,  and, in so doing,  cut off the video less than half-way through 😦  :

 

 

The two main pieces of the evening were “David’s Lyre” (כינורו של דוד – Kinoro shel David) by Yehezkel Braun,  based on lyrics taken from the Book of Psalms and from the Midrash, and “Follow the Sea” (בעקבות הים – Be’ikvot Hayam) by Amit Weiner (who was preesent at the performance), to lyrics by the poet Natan Yonatan. Alas, until the official video of the concert is released, I have no way of sharing with you the former, which is, as it happens, one of my favourite pieces of modern Israeli music. However, somebody in the audience (I cannot remember who) did film the latter, in its entirety, so you can at least see that:

 

The concert ended with a performance of an African-style song, Kuimba, by African-American composer Victor C. Johnson. Here, too, alas, I can bring you only a fragment:

 

I am well aware that this post is somewhat disjointed. You can put that down to the difficulty of concentrating when there are so many worrying things going on in my little neck of the woods. However, I did promise, in an earlier post, and at the request of one of my readers, to continue with my “Hebrew Word of the Day” and so, before I go, here it is (closely linked to one of the subjects of this post).

Nashim (נשים) – Women.
Singular: Isha (אשה) – Woman

Sometimes, we have to fight to make our voices (קולות – kolot; singular: קול – kol) heard. And sometimes, to do that, we just have to sing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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