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Leon’s no-newsletter 01 Purple Iris. Sat 17th Feb 2024

I’m still here. Fourteen years ago, almost to the day, I sent out my first no newsletter, 11th Feb 2006.

Purple Iris on Homrah Hill near Palmachim

The war has been so upsetting that my mind blocked out everything else. I refused, after the catastrophe of Saturday 7th Oct 2023, to divert my thoughts to pleasant things. God, or whoever sent that horror, didn’t want me to enjoy life. I followed the behest diligently.

I was wrong. Life could be enjoyed. We are obliged to enjoy life, to see the horror and to fight against those who brought it upon us, and, at the same time bring children into the world, rebuild the ruins created by war, and to plan for a future of peace. We will only grow stronger if we don’t fall into despondency. 

Catastrophes aren’t messages on how to lead our lives. They are there and that’s it. There are things we might have done to prevent the event, but once it’s happened we need to live with it as best we can. 

In December we flew to Toronto for a visit with my son Ittamar and his family, Anat and the two little girls, Noga and Alona. They had holidays and we went everywhere with them.

Today, as we’ve been doing most Saturdays, we had a barbecue lunch with my son Ariel and his family, Lilach, Ophir and Alon. 

Etti and I took a walk around Homrah Hill, near the beach at Palmachim, to see the Purple Iris (Irus Ha-argaman) in bloom. This is one of the few places it grows. There are other places close to the coast in the sandy earth of ancient sand dunes.

The Rubin Stream Nature Reserve was nearby and we thought of making a little picnic with the chicken and tasty young bean sprout sandwiches Etti had made, but it was cold and started raining. Clouds had been gathering all morning, yet the picnic site was crowded, everybody expected sunshine. Some, in furry coats and balaclava hats, were setting fires for a barbecue, others, holding the little hands of colourfully warmly dressed children, made their way to the hiking path along the river. These weren’t people to be stopped by freezing cold wind and a few drops of rain.

We picked up some steaks in Jaffa. Arab stores are open on Shabbat. I crossed busy Japhet Str. Etti was busy with the butcher and eating icecream on the sidewalk next door. I found my favourite food, Burekas, and we proceeded to Ariel.

I listen to the news, never giving up the hope that each new broadcast will announce that the hostages have been released. Each time I don’t hear that, I’m disappointed, but wait for the next broadcast, perhaps it will bring good news, but most of it is bad.

Listening to the news doesn’t mean that I talk about the war. In fact, we try to keep away from the subject. 

As a child, in South Africa, I knew that, on the one hand, Israel was the homeland of the Jews and my future was there. On the other hand, the Jewish People, there, face enemies who will kill any Jew who lives there.

This didn’t do much to make immigration an enticing prospect.To make matters worse, I’d given up being religious. Had I continued I might have consoled myself that God would protect me. I entered Israel as an unbeliever without expectations.  

I had no illusions of a peaceful life. 3 years previously the disastrous Yom Kippur had been fought. The tour guide's course had been disbanded. People were in a depressed mood everywhere. Many asked me why had I left paradise in SA to live in this dangerous, struggling country.

My excuse was that I came to learn Jewish history at the place where it began. War is part of Jewish history. My heros lived here, the prophets, the Judges and the kings, the people who created the nation I belonged to. They didn’t say “let’s run away to SA, it’s too dangerous here.” They fought and spoke their minds, no matter how many people said they were wrong.

Jews, living in the Diaspora, can fall into the trap of thinking that they can survive without fighting for their right to exist. One can’t fall into this delusion in Israel. 

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