Israel


TimeToTalk.
I haven’t been completely quiet about recent events on the border between Israel and Gaza. On Facebook, I shared several opinions and articles I agreed with. I even started making my posts public. It’s time people knew the truth; it’s important, because ignorant people are making things worse.

This British Jew changed his mind. One of the things that helped him was when he realised, “Over 80 percent of the people who were killed while trying to breach the border were members of terrorist organisations whose direct aim is to bring death and suffering into Israel.”

This Israeli was there, at the border. “The IDF employs many creative means of reducing friction with Gazans and uses numerous methods, most of which are not made public, to prevent them from reaching the fence.”

This is what the media is doing. “The reports were pretty much all in line, suggesting that peaceful protesters were fired on by bloodthirsty Israeli troops.”

I posted two statements that were mine:

  • I think it must be very hard for anyone living in the UK (amongst other countries) not to be influenced by the images and voices on the TV. That’s why I post the other side sometimes, although I don’t know if anyone listens to it.
  • The people who condemn Israel for defending itself in the only way possible are perpetuating these awful scenes. A strategy that works will be repeated.

I used to think we could ignore people whose opinions are based on lies. But we can’t, because those opinions create the facts.

Here’s another fact that people don’t realise. As I go about my ordinary life in Jerusalem, where I live, or in other parts of the country, I see Arabs – in the streets, in cafés, in hospitals, on public transport, everywhere. Last week I attended my son’s graduation ceremony at Israel’s Open University. Many of the graduates and families were Israeli Arabs. There is more to life than politics.

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Which forty years am I referring to in my title?

The Children of Israel spent forty years wandering in the desert before they came to the Promised Land. (Some say that’s because they got lost, which in turn is because men are always too proud to ask for directions.) Some of the Israelites gave up hope of ever arriving and wished they’d stayed in Egypt rather than following Moses out and across the Red Sea as the waves parted. Yet they reached their destination in the end and lived happily ever after… well, almost. We’ve just celebrated their escape from Egypt as we do each year on Seder night – the first night of Passover.

But that’s not the forty years I meant.

Alan Bennett’s first West End play was called Forty years On.

No, not that either.

WeddingRingThis is it: Forty years ago, David Drori placed this ring on my finger and we’ve been together ever since… he and I, that is. The ring and I, too, but that’s less important.

When exactly did that happen? This is where things get complicated. The date we remember is 11th April. In fact it’s more than what we remember; it’s the actual date. But is that the date we should be celebrating?

David and Miriam, 1978

I didn’t really colour my hair for the wedding. The scanning process changed its colour.

One year, when we were both working in the same office and mentioned it was our anniversary, someone remarked, “This is why you should celebrate the Hebrew date and not the Gregorian date.”

We probably looked confused and she added, “You didn’t get married after Pesach (Passover) did you?”

The asimon dropped. (That’s the literal translation of the Hebrew expression. An asimon was a telephone token, used in public phones instead of coins, probably because of rampant inflation at that time.) No, of course we didn’t. Jews don’t get married from the beginning of Passover for at least thirty-three days (depending on their branch of Judaism) because of the Omer, which is like Lent, I think. But as Jewish festivals take place according to the Hebrew calendar, they vary according to the Gregorian calendar. In 1978, 11th April fell more than a week before Passover. Most years, Passover begins before it.

How does the Hebrew calendar work? A year usually has twelve months, the names of which I learned to recite at the age of five and still remember. Every so often, according to a calculation I don’t remember, there’s a leap year during which a whole month is added.

David has no trouble remembering the Hebrew date of his birthday. He was born on the eve of Passover and was pleased to discover that this year his Gregorian and Hebrew birthdays coincided.

The modern State of Israel mostly works according to the Gregorian calendar. Things would get confusing if we didn’t. And that’s why we don’t remember the date of our wedding according to the Hebrew calendar, although this year it was probably at around the time we celebrated it with a meal in Petersham Nurseries, Richmond Park, UK, before we left for another trudge through the snow.

Petersham Nurseries - Richmond Park

One thing I can be sure of: There will be no snow when we celebrate again, in Jerusalem, on 11th April.

I’m in the middle of writing and editing and preparing and more, but yesterday we had an opportunity to attend a public rehearsal of Don Giovanni and we took it.

Love SeatAfter the performance, we had a bite to eat at the nearby Sarona Market, where we saw this seat. It plays love songs. Well, there’s probably a loudspeaker hidden behind it, but you can sit on the bench and listen to love songs. Isn’t that sweet.

After that, we enjoyed an evening walk by the sea in un-sea-sonably warm weather.

But the strangest things happened during the performance. Really, they both happened. I’m not making this up.

Maybe because it was a rehearsal, a few members of the audience thought it was all right to talk to each other or to use their smart phones – silently. Some people up in the gallery were talking quite loudly. Eventually, the disturbance was dealt with somehow and the talking stopped. Just then the translated text of the opera, displayed above and next to the stage said:

We’ve finally got rid of that fool.

Later, the man directly in front of me was using his phone, holding it so that its light shone in my eyes. I put my hand up in front of me to block the light and again looked at the text of the opera. It said:

He dazzled me for a moment.

I kid you not.

It’s good to get out sometimes and experience life outside the computer.

Right, back to editing.

During the month of December, my publisher, Crooked Cat Books, has been offering a free ebook each day and very kindly donating to a charity chosen by the author of that book. There have been some very worthy charities in the fields of cancer, dementia, children in need and animal welfare.

Neither Here Nor ThereSo, why have I chosen a charity that helps young people who have decided to change their lifestyle?

First of all, it fits my romance, which is free today: Neither Here Nor There. The heroine has just left the closed haredi community in which she grew up and has to learn to cope in the outside world.

But mostly it’s because I’ve realised how difficult that transformation is. Children have no choice in the sort of family they’re born into. If they then come to the conclusion, by themselves, that the only lifestyle they know isn’t for them, they need a lot of help before they can fit into the new lifestyle.

I stress by themselves, because Hillel stresses it, too:

We believe that all people have the right to choose the lifestyle they want, and we therefore never try to convince anybody to change their lifestyle – we only help those who have already made an independent decision to become less religious.

I believe Hillel does a very important job. Thank you, Crooked Cat, for donating to them today.

To download my book for free today, go to the Crooked Cat Books website, click on the little Father Christmas and use the coupon code to ‘purchase’ the book. (If the Smashwords page looks strange, go back, right click the link and choose ‘Open link in new tab.’)

The Monster (Hebrew: Mifletzet) sculpted in 1971 by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, is a well-known landmark in Jerusalem and one that is enjoyed by children, who love to slide down its three-pronged tongue.

The Monster

The Monster

Usually.

When I walked past it, yesterday evening, it looked different – a bit sad and funny.

MonsterClosedReducedI posted the picture on Instagram with the caption: What have they done to the monster? And to the English language?

This post is about what happened to me this past weekend. It’s also about much more than that.

We were visited by a lovely Canadian couple. They stayed with us, ate and talked. We showed them some of the sites of Jerusalem: the Old City market, the Western Wall, Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Machane Yehuda market, the city centre and other neighbourhoods. The visit ended with an impressive light show projected onto the city walls. Then they left us to visit other parts of the country before returning home to Canada. The end?

 

With new/old friend on the Jerusalem's light railway

In the Light Railway

Not at all, because I left out the beginning of this story. Two eleven-year-old girls became friends at school out of convenience, and somehow that friendship grew to include visits outside school. One of those girls was considerably less popular than the other and so glad of the friendship that provided protection from the harsh treatment she’d endured from other girls.

That friendship ended without warning just a year after it began. The popular girl’s mother secretly took her daughter off to live in Canada. The other girl was left to flounder, suddenly vulnerable and exposed to bullying from all directions.

The girl who remained was me. The one who left was the woman who came to stay last weekend, over fifty-one years later. We met briefly four years ago, but this was the first chance we had to talk together.

LightShow5Cropped30

‘Weird’ was a feeling we both agreed on. I could be talking to her as friends do, when I’d suddenly remember she was that twelve-year-old girl who deserted me. And while I knew that what happened back then was in no way her fault, I appreciated her apologies. Her leaving led to six difficult years that determined the person I was to become, and none of it was her fault.

I’m so glad we met up again. And I might even have a chance to visit Canada.

Har Herzl (Mount Herzl) has been Israel’s official national cemetery since 1951. It is the final resting place of presidents, prime ministers and other leaders. It is also a military cemetery for many soldiers who gave their lives for the country.

Mount Herzl

Entrance to Mount Herzl

I’ve visited Har Herzl many times over the past forty years, but never on a guided tour, and there were many things I didn’t know about it. So when I saw a request by Tali Tarlow for “test drivers” of this chapter of the book she’s been writing, I jumped at the chance. Tali is well known for her fun and informative scavenger hunts. I’ve been on three of them, all in Jerusalem: the Old City, Nachlaot and Yemin Moshe.

HarHerzlCemetery30

Cemetery

“We know how to do memorials,” said Erika, who joined me on Friday for the visit. It’s true. Unfortunately, this small, young country has had plenty of experience. And designers have  created some innovative symbols. As well as the graves I mentioned above, we saw the memorials for passengers and crews of sunken ships and submarines, and for Ethiopian Jews who died trying to reach the Land of Israel. In Tali’s chapter, we read sad and uplifting stories, knowing that without the people buried in this place, we wouldn’t be living here.

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Memorial to Ethiopian Jews

A-Z Challenge: H is for HerzlAt the top of a hill, we saw the tomb of Benjamin Ze’ev (Theodor) Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel, after whom the place is named.

 

Har Herzl is also a lovely park, well laid out with trees, flowers and grass.

Although we enjoyed our morning on the mountain, Erika and I decided that next time we meet, it will be at a happier location.

 

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