Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • In another part of the forest

    Jenni Frazer
    Apr 21, 2009

    The other great motif of Pesach in Israel is the repulsive "Pesach bread", made out of matza meal, which figures on kosher for Passover menus all over the country.

    It seems to have been born out of a belief that Israelis will lose the will to live unless they can have bread - or at least, fake bread - with every single meal.

    There is no easy way to say this but Pesach bread is a crime against food. Occasionally, it is even rendered to look like bread, but most normal people reckon it tastes closer to cottonwool or cardboard than anything that you might actually want to eat.

  • A dry response

    Jenni Frazer
    Apr 20, 2009

    The great discovery of my recent trip to Israel was the white flower that doesn't require water. It looks a bit like a double narcissus and apparently can last for a month without benefit of liquid. In fact, if you add water to a bunch of these mini-miracles, you tend to kill them off. A friend had a massive bouquet, whose only drawback seemed to be that the flowers really need some sort of ballast to anchor them in the vase. We stopped off at the well-known flower shop in Tel Aviv's Gordon Street and asked for the flowers that don't need water and the owner shrugged knowngly and pointed to the display.

  • Let them eat bagels

    Simon Rocker
    Apr 17, 2009

    It certainly is not in the Bible and the rabbis may not have had it in mind, but a new ritual has grown up around Pesach. Just as on the nights of the Seder, so on the last night young children again stay up late -  this time to welcome back their father ,with armfuls of bread from the kosher bakeries that re-open after the festival has gone out.

  • Eh?

    Stephen Pollard
    Apr 14, 2009

    This is one of those sentences you don't think you are hearing as you are hearing it.

    Sky News, midday:

    The top story on Tuesday 14th April: Jack Tweed has been given a two month jail sentence.

  • It started in America!

    Stephen Pollard
    Apr 14, 2009

    This is funny - Iain Martin's draft Brown apology:

    What people have to understand is that this crisis started in America before spreading to Britain. It was in America, not here, that these people started to publish their blogs. When the practice then caught on in Britain we had no idea that it would get out of hand so quickly and lead to these problems.


  • The kids who chose to eat matzah

    Simon Rocker
    Apr 8, 2009

    Here's a nice Pesach tale from Rabbi Mark Winer, of West London Synagogue, who told it in a sermon given to the recent World Union of Progressive Judaism conference in Israel:

    "One of my favourite stories of our Progressive Jewish impact on the world around us comes from Michael Farbman. During the three years that he was our Progressive rabbi in Sha'arei Shalom in St Petersburg, Michael and Olga sent their son Samuel to a regular state-supported school.

    "Invariably, Samuel was the only Jewish child in the class. One year just before Pesach, Michael and Olga paid a special visit to Samuel's teacher in school, to explain that during the week of Pesach, Samuel would be eating only matzah. The teacher requested that Michael and Olga bring in a box of matzah a week before Pesach, so that all of the children in Samuel's class could sample matzah.

  • Let it rock

    Simon Rocker
    Apr 8, 2009

    Dr Keith Kahn-Harris writes about his unusual specialism on Guardian CiF:
    "Inside every seven stone nebbish of a diaspora Jew, there is a mighty rock god waiting to be liberated by heavy metal music."
    Well, you could never play air clarinet with klezmer...

  • Rise in aliyah figures can’t hide the facts

    James Martin
    Apr 8, 2009

    Western Jews are apparently planning on flocking to Israel in their droves because of the global financial crisis – according to a prominent aliyah agency.

    Nefesh B'Nefesh reported last month that from September 1 until December 31, 2008 - the first four months of the crisis – they recorded 2,947 inquires, while during the same period in 2007 only 1,398 people called, an increase of over 100 percent.

    And perhaps it’s no surprise that people are considering their future in the Diaspora as jobs become scarce and financial security elusive.

  • So much for healing

    Stephen Pollard
    Apr 7, 2009

    Oops. It looks like someone - the US population, to be precise - has been reading the wrong script.

    Wasn't George W supposed to be the most polarising President, and President Obama the great healer?

    Here's the latest Pew poll: