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Thursday, 13 September 2018

Bad Things Persist in Happening to Good People

LukeStories like those of babies Luke Robinson Forester and Donnie Berenblut are the stuff of lurid newspaper headlines

  1. And as the details of Donnie’s brief life were indeed featured this week on the website of the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle, I also read about the yet shorter existence of American Christian baby                                                                                        ** Luke whose mother, Michelle has produced an illustrated book about him within barely nine months of his birth and death.

Donnie, born with the chromosomal disorder, Edwards Syndrome (Trisomy 18) lived for 142 days while Luke, who was diagnosed with Dandy Walker Malformation at his 12 week pre-natal ultrasound test, died within hours of his birth in December 2017.

Both families are religiously devout, but while Donnie was the youngest of a large brood of healthy children, Luke was the younger brother of an infant sister born with two congenital defects of her own.

Despite this and her professional expertise as a legal nurse consultant, because she is a strict pro-life Christian Michelle refused to contemplate an abortion.

She is scathing of the view – popular in Jewish tradition - that ‘everything happens for a reason’ and writes:

“I think our culture is very uncomfortable with grief and loss. Happiness has been put on a pedestal, and that’s what everyone should strive for at all times. When someone says, ‘everything happens for a reason’ in response to someone’s grief, what they’re really saying is, ‘cheer up, move on, stop grieving’. That’s not OK. What we should say in times of unimaginable sorrow is, ‘this is tragic, let me cry with you’”.

During the first months following Luke’s death, Michelle and her husband Clint, an oil rig technician, long debated the pros and cons of conceiving a third time and considered genetic testing because of their experiences with their previous children.

But their medical insurers refused to pay for a test so they have opted instead for US domestic adoption, which costs an average of $39,000. The Foresters have been fortunate to discover a long-forgotten investment worth $31,000 and have thus decided to seek to adopt a baby although presently $8,000 short of their goal.

Michelle says she empathises with mothers willing to give their children away for adoption simply because she knows how it feels to walk into a hospital with a baby - only to leave empty-handed.

** For the Love of Luke: Our commitment to life in the midst of certain loss is available from Amazon @ $3.99 (Kindle) and $10.99 (Paperback).

© Natalie Wood (13 September 2018)

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Where Do Karmiel’s Flowers Go?


Karmiel mayoral candidate Moshe Koninsky dutifully shook my hand and …

That was it!

During today’s pre-election English language meeting hosted by Kehilat Hakerem Synagogue I spouted my apolitical party piece urging him to recognise the small but growing Anglo community’s contribution to local life.

But Koninsky response was to nod sagely, refer to the diverse communities in the city and - to move on! He did not respond to my request for the municipality to give us a formal 'presence' worthy of our contribution to local affairs.

However while his attitude was worryingly indifferent, he and his accompanying team members did cover issues that concerned all citizens, not simply the 25 Anglos present.

As a candidate, Koninsky cuts an attractive, energetic figure, anxious to kick-start some big changes in Karmiel. He promised that if elected, to save public money, he would manage with one, instead of the customary two deputies and would also greatly shorten the period any mayor could stay in office.

He claimed further that as mayor, he would suffer a cut in salary compared to what he presently earns in business management.

He pointed out that despite continuing local aliyah and the new rail station, Karmiel loses about 1,500 young people a year. The trains, he noted, travelled two ways! But he wanted to try to stem the outward flow by encouraging more industry, tourism and culture.

Moshe KoninskyHe claimed that a possible science park project had failed because the outgoing mayor Adi Eldar had argued against it being built next to Ort Braude College (the site chosen by the scheme's main sponsor) and while a hospital may be built locally it would never be full-sized as the government had decided in favour of those in Nahariya and Tzfat.

Koninsky also fielded questions about culture, religion and sport, side-stepping a query about Karmiel’s Arab community. He said members represented about six per cent of the population and that while eager to avoid charges of racism, he was anxious to preserve Karmiel's Jewish character.

© Natalie Wood (02 September 2018)

Monday, 27 August 2018

Will Mayoral Candidate Accept My Challenge?

Moshe KoninskyI am pleased to report that Karmiel mayoral candidate, Moshe Koninsky intends making an early return to Kehilat Hakerem Masorti Congregation to address a second pre-election meeting. This time it will be an all-English language event.

The meeting is open to non-members and will run for an hour on Sunday 02 September  from 4.00 p.m.  – 5.00 p.m.

As Mr Koninsky has been gracious enough to agree to return so soon to our congregation, I renew my challenge to him:

Have your current Hebrew and/or Russian election manifesto translated into good, crisp English and post it either on my Facebook Timeline ( or on this blog (https://wwwalwayswriteagain.blogspot). If you do, you will win my vote!

Meanwhile, here is a flavour of what I intend to say on Sunday:

  • Aside from publicity posters and banners, I think printed electioneering literature is an unnecessary expense as candidates' manifestos may be published in several languages on their personal websites, social media and the municipality's own website.
  • If printed literature must be produced it should come in the four main languages spoken by residents  in one easy to handle pamphlet. 
  • The way it is now produced in full colour on high gloss paper is ridiculously costly, environmentally unsound and is reminiscent of 'vanity' publishing!
  • The city should appreciate that the Anglo community may be small but it punches above its weight in what it achieves in terms of public service, etc.
  • We should be given a voice and represented on Yom HaAliyah and at the Purim parade.

I very much look forward to discussing these matters as well as much wider issues that affect everyone in the city.

© Natalie Wood (27 August 2018)

Friday, 24 August 2018

Attacks on Shechita Always Hard to Swallow!

Anti ShechitaIt appears that Haifa Masorti Rabbi Dov Hayoun has not been the first of his colleagues to be arrested for doing his job!

In April 1913, Rabbi Avraham Gershom Levitt, the shochet (licensed kosher animal slaughterer) of the remote Canadian Jewish community of Halifax, Nova Scotia was arrested, tried and found guilty of “inhumane practices in kosher slaughter”.

The prosecution’s case rested on Rabbi Levitt’s refusal to stun an animal before killing, a method proscribed in Jewish law and he was fined $6.00 with $7.65 costs for causing “unnecessary pain and suffering while slaughtering”. Although the sentence was swiftly reversed on appeal, the affair was thought by many to be an antisemitic attack.

The episode is among those mentioned by Professor David Fraser in **Anti-Shechita Prosecutions in the Anglo-American World, 1855–1913: A major attack on Jewish freedoms, a work which itself may be viewed against a backdrop of increasing global antisemitism not seen in almost 80 years – durig the depths of The Holocaust.

In July 1940, for example, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that “virtually 90%” of European Jews had been prevented from eating kosher killed meat and poultry”.

Now, Jewish history continues to be repeated: Twice since the start of 2018, diverse news outlets like US Jewish website and Britain’s The Guardian newspaper have noted marked trends in hostility towards Jewish and Muslim methods of animal slaughter.

Are such incidents simply vexatious, or are they, as suggested by the author of the feature, part of a thinly veiled campaign aiming to make both communities feel unwelcome? If so, Jews and Muslims have more to bring us together than the hatreds that drive us apart.

Meanwhile Professor Fraser maintains that his work is “the first study of historical attempts by animal welfare groups to ban the Jewish method of slaughter (shechita). It details cases from Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, and the United States, many for the first time, in which anti-animal cruelty groups prosecuted those engaged in shechita as part of their attempts to introduce compulsory stunning of animals before slaughter. Despite claims to the contrary, this study offers clear evidence of underlying, unrelenting antisemitic motivations in the prosecutions, and highlights the ways in which a basic idea of innate Jewish cruelty was always juxtaposed with an overtly Christian ideal of humane treatment of animals across time and borders”.

I read the opening pages of Professor Fraser’s work just as it was reported that UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn had allegedly suggested that people like me lack a ‘British sense of irony’. I wonder how he would view the following:

The large proportion of Jewish people who have helped to found internationally renowned welfare and social justice societies is well documented and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (the SPCA, later the RSPCA) is no exception.

Moreover, its start also became another example of petty antisemitism when Lewis Gompertz, a co-founder and honorary secretary, was forced out following a decision to limit membership to Christians!

The several ironies are clear: Not only had Gompertz, an eccentric engineer and vegan of Dutch Jewish descent helped to found the SPCA, although known to be Jewish, he married in church and was buried in a Christian cemetery.


David Fraser is Professor of Law and Social Theory at the University of Nottingham. His research focuses on legal aspects of the Shoah and modern Jewish legal history in the Anglo-American world. He has previously published the book Honorary Protestants: The Jewish School Question in Montreal, 1867-1997 (2015).

**Anti-Shechita Prosecutions in the Anglo-American World, 1855–1913: A major attack on Jewish freedoms is available from Amazon in hardcover @ $119.00.

© Natalie Wood (24 August 2018)

Monday, 20 August 2018

Present – but Not Involved!

Moshe KoninskySo far as I’m aware, Moshe Koninsky is the Karmiel city councillor best known for conducting a very public private war with Rina Greenberg, his arch rival in the race to be the municipality’s next mayor.

But I should know much more than anything I may glean from poor Google translations as I spent another hour last night (Sunday 19 August) at a pre-election meeting hosted  by the Kehilat Hakerem Synagogue.

However, just like UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn – who would hate both local candidates on principle simply because they are Israeli Jews – I may have been present – but I was not involved!

The event had been advertised as being conducted in Hebrew and English. But by the time I left not one English language word had been uttered. Then, as I began to walk through the main door, a kind individual followed, inviting me to return for a much belated English translation of what had been said.


Mr Koninsky, like Mrs Greenberg, should know that I am not an infant who may be forced to stay behind after class for a remedial lesson. I am a voter of senior years who pays her taxes and who has volunteered – that means given her time gratis - as an English language tutor, both at home and at a local school. The home tutoring role was under the aegis of the municipality. I resigned from both roles as I felt I had been treated with disrespect. It is, after all, almost Rina Greenbergproverbial that what costs nothing is worth nothing.

Mr Koninsky, Mrs Greenberg, you are both treating me – indeed all of the the small but vibrant local Anglo community - with gross disrespect by not accommodating our linguistic needs. We also have a voice and you should listen to it.

I challenge you both to have your current Hebrew and/or Russian election manifestos translated into good, crisp English and then post them either on my Facebook Timeline ( or on this blog ( in the comment box below. The first one to do this will be guaranteed my vote.

But I will not hold my breath!

© Natalie Wood (20 August 2018)

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Right,Wrong or Weak,Strong?

HollidayIt is 20 years since the original hardcover edition of Children of Israel, Children of Palestine first appeared. Why it was suddenly offered as a brief, free Kindle promotion some weeks ago is unclear. I hope it was not a vain attempt to bolster the HAMAS-led bogus ‘March of Return’.

Part of the ‘Children of Conflict’ series edited by American psychotherapist turned writer, Laurel Holliday, the volume comprises a selection of largely adult-written memoirs of living as a child on either side of the divide during the modern Arab-Israel conflict.

After its initial publication, it reappeared in paperback in 1999 and then in digital format in 2014, barely months before Operation Protective Edge – the Israel military’s last full campaign in Gaza.

Holliday’s 1997 introduction remains unchanged, so taking no account of the huge changes - including Israel’s total withdrawal from Gaza, four wars and innumerable acts of violence that have occurred during the interim – whether inside Israel or the Palestinian Authority and Gaza.

This would be ridiculous if the book did not serve to underline the grim reality that on both sides, the more facts and figures have changed – the more they have stayed the same!

Unlike the Holocaust and World War 11 or indeed ‘the troubles’ of Northern Ireland, the ongoing conflict between the modern State of Israel and its nearest Arab neighbours continues and what we witness now are but the latest episodes in a story whose beginning is easily traced to the earliest tales of the Hebrew bible.

So what are we left with here?

Many of the Jewish stories leave a whiff of lingering patronising elitism, while too often, the Arab response is one of unreasonable, hatemongering resentment. It is obvious, reading a couple of the memoirs of Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab lands that they find it much easier to empathise with their new non-Jewish neighbours because they literally and figuratively speak the same language. The sponsors of Israel’s new Nation State Law should consider this.

But on the whole and as ever, Jews and Arabs take contrary views of perceived disaster. While too many Arabs refuse to see that their displacement from ancient communities dragged them kicking and screaming into modernity, Jews, as ever, have treated similar experiences as a golden opportunity to make over – make good.

When will anyone ever learn?

Children of Israel, Children of Palestine – Our Own True Stories, edited by Laurel Holliday is now available only at full price at Amazon @ $15.99 (Kindle); $23.35 (Hardcover); $20.56 (Paperback).

© Natalie Wood (18 August 2018)

Friday, 10 August 2018

Make Amazon In Israel Great (Again)?

The US Investigative Project on Terrorism claims one of its stories has forced the giant online retailer, Amazon to remove a t-shirt bearing an anti-Israel slogan.

I am not so sure.

The IPT, which fulfills an important and successful role in exposing and disgracing international terrorism, on Tuesday highlighted an Amazon t-shirt with the words 'Make Israel Palestine Again'.

Now correspondent, John Rossomando says: t-shirt“Reader complaints caused Amazon to stop selling a t-shirt that said "Make Israel Palestine Again" after the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) drew attention to it”.

That may be true.

However, it has also been reported that Amazon is considering conducting surveys in Hebrew, which is “a testimony to Israel’s market potential”.

Nir Zigdon, of eCommunity, whose company provides consultation to Amazon, has told the Globes business website:

“In my opinion, the (survey) questions indicate a clear trend – Amazon is trying to understand how many Israeli sellers now using Amazon will sell on Amazon Israel if it is founded”.

It has also been suggested that Amazon has even considered building a giant warehouse in the centre of the country to facilitate speedier, cheaper delivery than at present.

So it looks like Amazon wants to persuade Israelis to do this, buy that – without the nasty t-shirt!

© Natalie Wood (10 August  2018)

Why Enough Can Never Be Enough

Mr Ivan Lewis, the perennially affable MP for Bury South, Greater Manchester from whose constituency I emigrated to Israel, has received this ‘friendly’ anonymous note:

IL AS Message_o

“Have you asked yourself why people hate the Jews? You treat the Palestinians like slaves. You kill them by the 100s, including children, You steal their land.  Now you are going to build 400 new houses on the West Bank. You love power and money more than your God. And He punished you.  I hope He will do it again. Shame on you!”

Ivan. LewisMr Lewis has responded thus on social media:

“This anonymous note arrived at my office this week. Yet more evidence of how modern antisemitism and anti-Zionism are inextricably linked. I feel anger and sadness. #EnoughIsEnough

Indeed! And enough of those fellow Jewish Israelis who have criticised people like me for showing the world what is happening to our fine UK Jewish Members of Parliament.

In this regard, enough may never be enough.

This is a REAL shame!

© Natalie Wood (10 August  2018)

Karmiel Voters Lost In Translation?

Rina GreenbergRina Greenberg, Karmiel’s present deputy mayor, is running her 2018 campaign for the city’s top job in Russian, Hebrew – and Russian and Hebrew!

Ukrainian-born Greenberg, who celebrated her 70th birthday earlier this month, has been swift to distribute campaign literature in two separate and expensive-looking leaflets each aimed at Hebrew and Russian-speaking potential voters.

But what about native English speakers like me?

When I met her last night (Thursday) at a pre-election meeting hosted by the Kehilat Hakerem Synagogue, the former city adviser on immigrant affairs was non-committal about my suggestion for one multi-lingual leaflet to include also Spanish, English and Amharic.

My Hebrew’s not good but I was told she replied: “Well, there are many languages out there, it’s a question of money, I'll see what I can do”.

City councils (‘municipalities’) worldwide are notorious for finding money for those matters that most interest - and benefit - elected officials and their civil servants.

My warm suggestion to Ms Greenberg and her friendly rivals for the mayoralty is that they treat all the city’s linguistic communities with equal respect. During October 2017, I wrote that I and other local Anglos felt like second class citizens when we were unrepresented at the city’s Yom Ha’aliyah (immigration day) event.

So I hope those responsible at the ‘irya’ (city hall) read this short note and take appropriate action. No-one there will either know or care one jot about me as an individual, but surely they will appreciate that every vote – and voter - counts!

© Natalie Wood (10 August  2018)