ELKAN’S VIEW FROM RADLETT 29TH JULY 2015
One of the things about being Jewish is that we spend a great deal of time complaining. This is not a new thing; Moses suffered it when the children of Israel came out of Egypt. After 3000 years this particular tendency has if anything becomes stronger, and it is therefore not a bad thing from time to time to actually count up our achievements.
Seventy years ago we were beginning to understand the enormity of what had happened in the Holocaust. We had no army to defend ourselves, no state that would take us in without quibble or argument, no one who was prepared to stand up and speak for the Jewish people.
Since however that period is ancient history for many of us, the world since 1984 is a concept with which we can all grapple. In the last 30 years the population of Israel has doubled, living conditions have improved markedly, and the number of cars has gone from 157 to 364 per thousand inhabitants (and don’t we know it in the rush-hour). Gross national product has gone up by 900%, while the national debt has fallen from 280% of the GNP to 66%, a figure that might please George Osborne. Exports have gone up 860% and high-tech exports 3600%. Israel ranks higher than the UK in terms of health wealth and personal security, while life expectancy is very high and the country is reckoned to be the fifth happiest in the whole world.
Of course there are problems. Poverty is much greater than it ought to be, the cost of living is too high, the political system is chaotic, the religious parties have too much influence, bureaucracy is a national disease and fairly frequently the Israeli government speaks first and thinks long after. But occasionally we need to lift up our eyes and see how very much better off we are than the generations that came before us. Israel is nothing short of a miracle, and we are fortunate to be privileged to see and experience it.
The latest Kol Kehillat Kernow newsletter, issue 41, is now available featuring the Pesach Seder at Trelissick Gardens.
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ELKAN’S VIEW FROM NETANYA 23RD JULY 2015
On Saturday night and Sunday we will observe the fast of Tisha B’Av which this year actually falls on Shabbat. Since the only fast observed on Shabbat is Yom Kippur, “the Sabbath of Sabbaths” as it is described in the Torah, Ninth Av is ”nidche – pushed forward” to Sunday 10th Av. On Saturday night we read “Megillat Eichah – the Book of Lamentations” which tells of the capture and sack of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Disturbingly, many of its details have echoes in the Holocaust.
On Saturday night restaurants and cafes in Israel are closed, and it is a strange and slightly eerie experience to go through streets that are normally thronged with people, but are echoingly empty.
Originally the fast marked the anniversary of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, which by ghastly coincidence occurred on the same day. The inability of the Jewish people to offer up sacrifices, and the growth of a Jewish Diaspora with the consequent difficulty of travelling to Jerusalem, required a non-sacrificial style of service and led to the development of the synagogue. It is only in our day, with the growth of mass air travel, that it is again possible for Jews from all over the world to regularly spend Chagim in the land of Israel.
Tisha B’Av continued to be a day of disasters for our people. The expulsion from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492 both happened on this day, as did the outbreak of the First World War. We commemorate also many of the other disasters that have befallen our people, and there are two moving Kinot – Poems of Lamentation, which describe the massacre at York in 1190. The author of one of them clearly knew many of the people involved and describes them by name.
Tisha B’Av commemorates the disasters of our history, but the Jewish people has always survived with hope, and there is a deep belief that one day the fast will become a festival of joy.
The photos from this year’s Pesach Seder at Trelissick Gardens are now online in the Photo Gallery.
On Sunday 17th May, there will be a South West ‘simcha’ in Totnes, featuring Israeli dance and song, Jewish music and stories, jokes and food. You can find out more in the Events section.