All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Ain't Nothing Shaking (But The Leaves On The Tree

This is so typical. Virtually the entire UK is hit by an earthquake and do I feel even the slightest tremor?

No - of course not.

It was the biggest quake to hit this place in over twenty years and I slept right through it. Not only that, but so did everyone else in our family.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Hello Everyone (Cough Cough, Splutter, Splutter)

Now that I'm back, I've decided to celebrate the fact by promptly falling sick. I went in to school yesterday, managed to make it through my three teaching lessons and lunch break and promptly came home.

I've spent the day at home, sleeping, catching up on some school stuff and generally feeling pretty grotty. I didn't think that when I developed that sore throat in the middle last week, I'd be ending up at home. Still, I suppose my colleagues would rather that than having me share my malady with them.

I still can't get over how much I achieved during my trip.

Last Wednesday, we took a taxi directly from our British friends' flat in Netanya to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. After a lengthy time pouring my heart out to the Kotel - which was the first time I'd put tefillin on in that location since my barmitzvah - we took the fascinating tour through the Western Wall tunnels which run the length of the Wall, all the way, deep into the Muslim Quarter.

It is absolutely amazing to see how much of the Wall still stands and I think quite miraculous that we have the ability to witness this incredible part of our history. Walking on the very same Herodian steps that our ancestors feet touched all those millenia ago is quite breathtaking and thought provoking. I would say that a visit to the tunnels is an absolute must when you go to the Wall - but make sure book in advance, so beware of turning up and expecting to get in - it is very popular.

We came out of the tunnel through the exit on the Via Dolorosa and had to be escorted back to the Jewish quarter by armed guards at the front and rear of the group. I still don't know who frightened me more, the bemused Arabs or the scary looking Ethiopian with the gun/rifle at his disposal.

When we reached the checkpoint by the entrance to the tunnel that led back to the Kotel plaza, we turned to the right and entered an amazing restaurant that has been built inside a deep arch. It is called Tony's Between The Arches Cafe ( The dairy food was wonderful (I had pizza of course), but even more memorable were the tables which consisted of a hollow base covered with a round glass. Under the glass, and sitting in a bowl at the top of each hollow, there were numerous archaeological finds, such as oil lamps and suchlike.

Having had our meal, we made our way back to the Kotel and split up. I wanted to visit the Temple Institute, a fascinating living museum that has been created to house an ongoing collection of Temple vessels that are being built for use when the Third Temple arrives.

For over twenty years, the people at the Institute have painstakingly reconstructed over seventy different objects, ranging from numerous silver trumpets (chatzozerot) to the incense burners, for the sole purpose of having them ready in time for the coming of the Messiah. They are getting their measurements directly from the Torah and so these objects are all authentic and at times, quite incredible to look at. If you are interested in seeing their creations, have a look here.

Here is a photo of Michal in front of the reconstructed golden menorah:


Having spent an undisclosed amount of money on some beautiful books, I took Michal around the exhibit. Of particular interest was a life sized model of the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) dressed in his full garb. Michal had been learning about this only the previous week, as it was described in the Parasha (Torah portion of the week) of Terumah. I couldn't have picked a more appropriate time to visit.

Time was at a premium and so we had to rush through the exhibits, which was a real shame...but our taxi was waiting to take us back to Netanya.

Both driving from and to Jerusalem on Route 6 afforded us a chance to see the separation barrier. I know that this is a pretty controversial issue but as I looked at the concrete aberration, I continuously kept in mind the fact that since this barrier has been erected, suicide bombings have virtually disappeared from Israel's streets. I know that we have recently experienced such a pigua (an attack) in Dimona as well as the one which rocked Eilat last year - but these are thankfully exceptions to the norm. I only wish the Government had thought of the idea before so many innocent lives were lost at the start of the decade. This has indeed been a painful lesson for both Israel and her supporters.

We spent Thursday morning shopping around Netanya, a lovely little "hick" town as my friend G likes to call it. At times, I wondered if I hadn't wandered into petit France as precious little Hebrew was heard. I didn't mind, granted that I am pretty fluent in French, it being my mother-tongue.

I was also surprised as to how advanced my Hebrew has become. I found myself conducting detailed conversations in Hebrew to taxi drivers (who always have an opinion about everything!) and shopkeepers. I felt very much at home in Israel, not least because I could communicate with the locals in their own language, unafraid to make mistakes or hide behind the English touristy thing. I felt confident enough to chat with them in their own tongue, which is a feeling that I can't remember experiencing in the past.

Thursday evening was spent at our friend's beautiful wedding in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon, which is near Hadera. The wedding ceremony itself was particularly memorable, not least because we were blessed with a Chazan (Cantor) who could have doubled up as a Chassidic/Sephardi pop star. I don't ever remember dancing during a chupah (wedding ceremony) before, but when he got into his stride, singing Shabchi Yerushalayim, I had to hold myself back from letting go in front of all those guests!

The food was marvellous and both the bride and groom were radiant.

Michal and I spent Friday with a friend of mine whom I had met over twenty years ago on Kibbutz Lavi. I had the opportunity to meet her charming husband and beautiful daughter and we reminisced and schmoozed on the beach in Herzliya, while our kids played on the sand. A lovely afternoon indeed.

If that weren't enough, we then took a taxi (which my friend's husband very kindly arranged)which took us to another friend's apartment in Raanana - a guy whom I've known since I was seven years old and hadn't seen in ten years. I met his lovely wife and gorgeous sons, one of whom is four, whilst the other is two (and a character if ever there was one). We spent a fabulous Shabbat and the icing on the cake was my friend very kindly inviting over a couple from England that I haven't seen in five years. The nicest Shabbat I've had in a very long time.

And then it was over. Six full days, spent with wonderful people and so many memories recalled and created at the same time. One couldn't ask for a better holiday, granted that we were missing the rest of the family. What a shame that they couldn't have shared our experiences!

Just thinking about this trip has made me feel better. I might be spluttering, but in my heart, I feel like a new person. I have re-established contact with old friends and family and in the age of email, it is heartening to know that our friendships can once again be restored, albeit in two dimensional screen-based fashion.

I can't wait to get back to Israel either. My heart has been renewed and refreshed.

Monday, 25 February 2008

I'm Back

I have had the most wonderful six days (even though I feel like death warmed up as I write this). I saw old friends, re-established contact with cousins that I haven't been in touch with for years and spent a most wonderful day in the Old City of Jerusalem, re-connecting with my spiritual roots.

The wedding we attended was beautiful and unforgettable and Michal was a joy to travel with. I really could go on, but words can't describe how lovely the holiday was. I can't think of a single bad moment, which pretty much sums up the experience.

I want to go back now....but only after this cold/cough/yeuchiness has left me.

Monday, 18 February 2008

My Heart Is Back Where It Belongs

I don't think I can convey in words how excited I feel about my upcoming trip to Israel. Aside from last year's wonderful week in Eilat, I have not been to my beloved country in almost ten years.

The last time I prayed at the Western Wall (Kotel Hamaaravi) was Pesach (Passover) 1998, little knowing that it would be this long until I would return - and hell or high water, I will find my way there during the course of this trip! I'm sure you will recall the special place the Kotel holds in my heart (if you can't have a look here).

Those of you who read this blog regularly (I suppose as regularly as I update it.....) will no doubt be aware of my deep love for the land of Israel. I am, was and always will be a very proud Zionist, irrespective of whatever some name people choose to call me for wearing this tag. Were it possible, I would have moved to live in Israel when I was eight years old..and nine....and ten - and I still haven't given up on my dream of eventually settling there.

Israel is my true home, the place where my heart and soul lie, live and breathe. In the UK, we merely exist, whilst in Israel, we soar.

I honestly can't remember the last time I was so excited about going on a trip. As a child and teenager, my parents and I went there every year, sometimes twice, sometimes three times and the palpable excitement I felt when going never faded. You can therefore imagine how I feel this morning, only 24 hours before departure.

I don't know if I will get the opportunity to write to you whilst I'm out there, but if I don't, please think of me living out every second in the place that defines me a member of the Jewish Nation.

Lehitra'ot (see you soon my friends).

Sunday, 17 February 2008

A Hearty Mazel Tov To The Brand New State Of Kosovo!

It is not often that we get to celebrate the birth of a brand new state. I know that this was a regular occurence about twenty or so years ago, but these days, it is not something that we hear every day.

Right about now, Kosovars are still walking around in some sort of daydream, fully aware that their declaration will no doubt incur the wrath of both Serbia and Russia and Lord knows what the next few weeks may bring about.

I feel for them.

Nearly sixty years ago, our people did the same thing, against the "good advice" proferred to us by our Arab brethren and many other so-called friends around the world. Sixty years on, anyone who gives a damn about being Jewish, knows that we did the right thing, irrespective of how much people criticise Israel and the Israelis.

I don't know what will happen with regards to Kosovo, but I fervently hope that this day is the beginning of a great period for that unfortunate country. Now go and do the correct thing and establish immediate relations with Israel!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Congratulations To Whomever

I don't know who was behind the assassination of one of the world's most bloodthirsty inhabitants.

The amount of distress and tragedy this animal was responsible for; the number of familes whose lives were shattered as a result of his operations; the future lives of the victims which he took away; all bear testament to the "legacy" of this hateful man.

I really don't care who finally got to him. It is just a pity that it took so long. Some people don't deserve the gift of life - not if their sole purpose for breathing the air and taking up the limited space that we have on this earth, is to destroy the lives and futures of other human beings.

I hope his wretched soul rots in hell for eternity.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

I Am Now Decensored

During the two years that I worked at a Church school, I was very careful to keep my opinions about the Church to myself. I felt it hypocritical to criticise the hand that was responsible for me being able to buy food, heat the house, pay the mortgage etc.

In September, I started at my new school, a non-faith establishment and as a result, I currently have no qualms whatsoever about raising issues in the church that are doing their best to give me sleepless nights.

Let me continue by stating that I don't have a problem with the Christian religion per se. In fact, some of my very best friends are Christians. After all, you guys pilfered much of your religion from us, so why should I be angry?

A large part of your Church Service is probably closer to the original ritual that was performed in the Temple in Jerusalem, than our own Synagogue services. I certainly don't remember the last time the Rabbi walked down the aisle waving the smoking incense!

Let's not forget that your Big Guy (TM) was also one of ours, granted that he wasn't exactly what one would call a model Jew. At least not by any noteworthy Jews that I know (and Helen Shapiro doesn't count as a "noteworthy Jew").

However, that doesn't stop me raising my fist in anger at two recent stories emanating from both ends of the Christian spectrum.

Firstly, could someone please explain to me why the Pope is doing his very best to destroy more than 40 years of Jewish-Christian relations by insisting that the Easter Mass calls on Jews to recognise and accept Jesus as being the Messiah? Do we ask Christians to fast on Yom Kippur to savew their souls? Do we tell them that they will only achieve salvation if they only take on seven days of Matzah? I don't recall the last time the Chief Rabbi suggested that a good Christian can only call himself thus if he cuts off his foreskin?

I thought that respect for religion meant that you accepted other people's views as being valid, even if you didn't subscribe to them yourself. Why doesn't Pope concentrate on his own people instead of on mine? Why doesn't he encourage his people to do their bit to increase Church membership amongst themselves?

What is the guy's problem?

Here are some facts from the Jewish horse's mouth:
1) We don't believe in Jesus being the son of G-d
2) We don't think he was the Messiah.
3) we have managed to live as Jews three thousand years before Christ came along and two thousand years after (although the Christians haven't exactly made it an easy ride for us)

It is that simple - deal with it.

I don't have a problem with Christians believing whatever they want to. I just find it really insulting when their leader shows us total disrepect by imposing his views on us. We all believe in one G-d.

First rant over.

Secondly, let's talk about the Archbishop of Canterbury and his views - which can either be described as criminally naive or incredibly stupid (and I tend to go for the latter) on incorporating Sharia law in the British legal system.

If anyone went out there with the intention of inflaming the Islamaphobic sentiment in this country, he couldn't have done a better job?

I suggest that in the same vein, the Chief Rabbi calls for all Jews who eat Pork or shellfish or dammit, Tesco Chickens, whilst driving around in their cars on Shabbat, no, make that Yom Kippur to be fined under British law. Yup, that would go down well - except that the Chief Rabbi wouldn't be as stupid to even think of such a ludicrous idea, let alone mention it in a newspaper article. The good Archbishop has made a laughing stock of himself and I honestly don't think that he deserves to be head of the Anglican Church.

Second rant over.

I wonder how many of you, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or any other creed, share my views? I also wonder how many of the level minded, decent, sensible and thoughtful Christians reading this post will agree with me.

Because, if you do, you really deserve leaders who present you and your religion in a more worthy and ultimately spiritual, light.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Its Been A While

Hello friends. My sincere apologies for the delay in posting here. A number of friends have approached me and asked why I haven't written in for a while. To be honest, I can't think of a good excuse (unlike my students, who have unlimited imaginations when it comes to the excuses department), so I won't patronise you by giving one.

Then again, I could say that I was too busy to write...

Nah.

I'm not going to even try.

However, just to keep you in the picture, this blog, though a little unattended (not ignored, unattended) is never too far from my mind.

So now that I'm back, what's new?

Well, we've got the usual political stuff, Obama vs Hillary, John McCain, Mr Republican Shoe-in, so sorry Mitt, but I don't think your Super Tuesday will be that great); crap in the Middle East (including the tragic attack in Dimona yesterday) and political shenanigans headlining the ever sombre news broadcasts.

I've been busy. School is keeping me out of trouble and occupying both my mind and time. The girls are....well, the girls and the wife is.....well, the wife. I'm pretty excited about my upcoming trip to Israel with Michal, which, though short, will hopefully be amazing. I can't wait to get back to the Kotel (Western Wall), as it has been almost ten years since we last kissed.

I really can't think of anything else of significance to add, except that I will endeavour to keep you updated more regularly. I'm too tired to have thoughts about much right now - I just want to make it through the next few weeks!

Please continue popping in, even if yours truly is a little distracted.