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Letter from Israel, Opus Two
Last uploaded : Friday 10th Dec 2004 at 21:51
Contributed by : Sheila Raviv



10th of December 2004
Chag Orim Sameach or Happy Festival of Lights

Oh how I love Chanuka!!! There is something so special about the joy of succession, of knowing that we celebrate our right to our Jewish traditions. Chanuka in Jerusalem is so special that we even have our own chanukia (9 branched candlestick) for this festival, but more of that later.

This week I have been steeped in wonderful women! It actually began last Saturday evening when we went to Tel Aviv to see an old friend of mine, Tova, and her husband Shabtai. Tova lived in Cardiff for a while and met my Mother who introduced her to her beloved WIZO (Womens International Zionist Organisation), and now I am proud to say that Tova is World Chair of WIZO. Another amazing lady who was at the dinner was Brenda Kattan, a WIZO lady who has represented Israel on many occasions, included the ghastly Durban Conference. Brenda told me of a conference that was held recently in Geneva at the behest of Mrs Mubarak, wife of President Mubarak of Egypt, for women to play a greater part in diplomacy. The meetings were incredibly positive, and despite strong attempts on the part of the Palestinian representatives, Mrs Mubarak stuck to the agenda.

One of the most interesting results of this conference was the decision to put forward a motion in the UN to include at least two women in all peace negotiation teams. Brenda is an incredible spokesperson for this country, positive, eloquent, stately and beautiful.

On Wednesday Rachel and I went to visit another amazing lady, Lee Shindell. Lee is an American who came to live in Israel and is another eloquent, positive and incredible woman. Sitting in her home one hears stories which prove yet again tha tone can be refined, worldly and religiously observant.

Then came Thursday, when Kinneret Chaya [a suicide bimbing survivor] and I formed a "double-act" for the terrific women of the Buffalo UJC Womens Mission, a tour organised by my friends at Mabat Touring, Carol and Ze'ev. I decided that I liked the sound of a women's mission and helped Carol and Ze'ev get the Jerusalem speakers together! We sat around a table at the glorious Anna Ticho House, and, over scrumptious food, Kinneret and I told our story of her injuries in the attack and of our relationship since that time.

During our exchanges with the women Kinneret told me something that made my heart sing. During the first period of her recovery, Kinneret Chaya was very angry at her parents, because she related them to the horrific pain she had suffered in their 24 vigil in hospital. As time went on she understood, through many conversations with me (and her psychologist) that period passed, but then she became angry with Israel, the nation. That was much harder to overcome because no matter how many facts one is given, logic is not part of the psychological equation. On Thursday night sitting before the wonderful women of Buffalo, Kinneret Chaya said "I was angry with Israel, and didn't see what was so wonderful about the place until I went to my course in Los Angeles. As part of the course we were to make a documentary and I chose to go into the street and interview passersby on what they felt about the American Jewish community and Israel. The answers were very disturbing, especially those on the American Jews. When I would ask how many Jews did they think were in America they said crazy numbers like 20,000,000 and thought that no matter what the number they had all the money! Their responses made me think. When I came home I realised how lucky I was to live in Israel, to be an Israeli. I now believe I could not live anywhere else in the world. This is home."

Thursday evening brought the group to my friend Valerie's home for candle lighting. Valerie is the woman I wrote about, the true Eshet Chayil. We were welcomed into her home as only she knows how. Delightful finger food exquisitely presented. Although food is the essential part of any encounter in Israel we wanted first to light the candles which Valerie did together with one of the women. Now we come to the "Jerusalem Chanukia". The tradition started in Jerusalem, although it has now spread to other communities, of a glass case with two chimneys, one on either side of the lid, made of metal, often gilded but also in plain metal, with the oil lamps inside. The purpose being that in Jerusalem one traditionally place the chanukia outside your door for all to see, and in the inclement weather of Jerusalem in December the enclosed oil lamp developed and was used by Greek Orthodox priests to carry a Holy flame from church to church also. So we lit the lights and said the prayers and set the symbol of our lasting Jewishness outside the door. Apparently there is a man in Meah Shearim who still makes these chanukiot, a tradition passed down through about 10 generations in Jerusalem.

This morning my dear friend Naomi Ragen came to speak to the group at the hotel. Naomi is a fascinating speaker who rarely appears before small groups but she absolutely wowed them! Naomi's latest book "The Covenant" is selling like hot cakes and has a five star rating on Amazon. It is the story of Israel as she is today. No-one is the baddie and no people the goodie, that would be too simplistic, read the book and know the country.

And so to Shabbat and rest. I am exhausted, happy thrilled, delighted and as always very proud to be a Jewish woman among such wonderful friends. Each of these women has achieved because despite being told that one person could not make a difference, they knew that it was worth trying. Each and every one of us can make a difference in this world. One disturbing fact came out in these last few days. Most Diaspora Jews just sit there! Well, I am sorry but no-one, no Jew can just sit there passively, we are past the stage of going quietly to our fate?.. Israel is here and we can stand proud and defend our right to prayer and to existence. Remember Judah Maccabee.

Chag Orim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom to you all.

With love



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