Your blogs

  • The carefree joys of student life?

    Naomi Bloomer
    Oct 9, 2009

    Buy this book. Buy that book. Photocopy this page. Learn that vocabulary sheet. Read such and such a page of such and such a book. In its original language. You don’t know what it means? Just read it out loud. How do I know I’m saying it right? Oh I see, you’ve not been listening to anything I’ve been teaching you, is that it? Get out of my class. You’re banned. You’re expelled.

    And that’s how my most recent sobbing fit happened. Well, it didn’t even happen like that, actually. I imagined that entire conversation. I imagined it? No, I dreamt it. Yes, dear reader, I’m dreaming about having crying fits in lessons.

    I also dreamt that someone stole my bag from me on the street, looked in it, threw my purse and phone back at me and ran off with my notes. I woke up in a cold sweat. And it’s only week two. What am I going to get like during exam period?

  • Let's make it a good one, lads!

    Naomi Bloomer
    Oct 1, 2009

    This week has been crazy.

    I moved in on Saturday, and within twenty minutes was already talking to five different people as if we had known each-other for years. Within a few hours, I had met someone on my floor in halls who I had known two whole years ago from going out with his best friend. Then, someone from school last year. In the Union later, another friend from school had popped up and perhaps 20 new “Best Friends Forever” – BFFs – were made.

    Everyone talked like we were BFFs and we would be together forever. You could go up to anyone and instantly talk genuinely and with more enthusiasm than I think I had for any other random person in my entire life. I said “I love you so much! You’re my best friend!” probably around 30 times in one evening.

  • Wrong end of the hose

    Geoffrey Paul
    Sep 17, 2009

    While the UK Fire Brigades Union, long-time experts in matters of foreign policy, as we must all be aware, were busy whipping up their comrades to support a boycott of Israeli goods, the Egyptian Petroleum Ministry was planning to increase Egypt's gas exports to Israel to 120 trillion British thermal units in the coming year, a major increase in supply over the current year. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Egyptian gas is used by Israel in its manufacturing industry. So is the Fire Brigades Union, and its foreign policy savvy TUC allies, now going to extend its boycott to Egypt? Will it become verboten to visit the pyramids or take cruises down the Nile? And will the unions forbid British soldiers the life-saving benefit of a new Israeli discovery of a sort of "glue" which stops bleeding from battlefield wounds? Even firemen may one day be thankful for this new medical technology. Should Israel refuse it to them? Good moral questions for this time of the year. Shanah Tovah!

  • Can't wait to start university? Actually, I'm petrified

    Naomi Bloomer
    Sep 10, 2009

    So, what seems like a lifetime after A-level results, this Jewish girl from Watford is now looking forward to going to university later this month.

    Looking forward? No, that’s not the right phrase. Perhaps petrified is more appropriate.

    I completed my accommodation form incorrectly and ended up in catered halls instead of self-catered. It will just have to be a repeat of the past seven years at a secular comprehensive: I’ll have to be very careful, always asking twice about canteen food and never eating anything I’m not sure about.

  • What was that you said?

    Geoffrey Paul
    Aug 24, 2009

    Academia does not necessarily (some would say, at all) breed commonsense. But even Bar Ilan's Ephraim Inbar should have known better, on the eve of his Prime Minister's visit to the UK, than to tell the Today programme in essence that Britain was no longer a power that really mattered in the Middle East and was just carried along in the American slipstream. Professor Inbar was introduced as an advisor to Mr Netanyahu. I hope he has not advised him what to say when he meets Gordon Brown this week.

  • Sheryl and Bernie: An American Tale

    Geoffrey Paul
    Aug 21, 2009

    New York's Jewish establishment is panting in anticipation of publication next week of a tell-all memoir of her 20-year affair with fraudster Bernie Madoff by former top Jewish civil servant Sheryl Weinstein. One astonishing fact which emerged pre-publication from inside the covers is that, during her association with Madoff, the unsuspecting Weinstein was chief financial officer of Hadassah, the American arm of the Women's International Zionist organisation, Wizo. As such, she was party to investment decisions by the Wizo board which poured many millions into Madoff's schemes. Her own husband (who did not know of her affair) is also said to have invested with Madoff. Weinstein's book, "Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie and Me," is reported by New York newspapers to disclose rather more than most readers might want to know about Madoff's phsyical attributes, or lack of them. Weinstein was one of those who gave evidence at Madoff's trial. She said the day she met him was "the unluckiest day of my life." There are no comments from her husband.

  • Don't look now...

    Geoffrey Paul
    Aug 4, 2009

    New neighbours are moving in. Their goods and chattels have arrived aboard a huge pantechnicon. It has travelled all the way from the Czech Republic. The name of the moving company, written in large letters, is GOLEM. The company can be reached at a website in the Czech Republic which begins “www.Golem...” Should we be worried?

  • How clever?

    Geoffrey Paul
    Aug 3, 2009

    I have read and tried to work my way through the history and legal argument about the properties in East Jerusalem from which, this week, Arab families have been forcibly evicted and into which Jewish settlers have been allowed to move. I must confess that I still do not know who was right. What I do know is that, in terms of public relations, Israel has shot herself in the leg again by sending in the police to enforce its rights. How many points does it win her in the court of public opinion to be seen ousting people who - apparently, and I have no proof - have lived under the same roof for 50 years? What does it say about Israel's ability to live in peace not just with her neighbours but with her own Arab citizens? Sometimes, I must confess, I just shake my head in disbelief at the miscalculations of successive Israeli governments. Who was it ever said anything about “clever Jews”?

  • Jewish cossacks

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jul 21, 2009

    Time and again in accounts of Cossack raids on their Jewish or Polish neighbours, we read of men on horseback, wielding fiery touches, setting fire to fields and crops and terrifying the local populace. I recalled these accounts with a prickle of horror when I read today's Israeli press reports of between 1,500 and 2,000 Arab olive trees being set on fire by horseback riding settlers from the ever-troublesome West Bank Jewish settlement of Yitzhar. It is from this place, you may recall, that Israel paratroopers were withdrawn a few years ago after clashes with settlers. What gives this ugly story an even uglier twist is that the settlers say their attacks are not aimed specifically at local Arabs but at the Israeli Government as a warning of what will happen if they continue to demolish illegal structures on West Bank settlements. If and when the Israel Government moves against the settlements themselves, I fear we will see battles of Jew against Jew as have not been experienced in modern history. It is a terrible prospect, made worse by the fact that one side believes it is acting in the name and with the blessing of God.

  • Auschwitz 'corrective'

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jul 15, 2009

    It is not very often you read a “corrective” about the Holocaust that makes you sit up and say, Yes, that's right. I hadn't seen it that way. But I have just had such an experience with the July 16 issue of the New York Review of Books. There, Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale and specialist in Eastern Europe, claims that by 1943 and 1944, when most of the killing of West European Jews took place, “the Holocaust was in considerable measure complete . Two thirds of the Jews who would be killed during the war were already dead by the end of 1942. The main victims, the Polish and Soviet Jews, had been killed by bullets fired over death pits or by carbon monoxide from internal combustion engines pumped into gas chambers at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor in occupied Poland.”

    So why my skewed perception, which I am sure most other Western Jews share? Explains Snyder, “The very reasons that we know about Auschwitz warp our understanding of the Holocaust: we know about Auschwitz because there were survivors and there were survivors because Auschwitz was a labour camp as well as a death factory. These survivors were largely West European Jews because Auschwitz is where West European Jews were usually sent. After World War II, West European Jewish survivors were free to publish as they liked, whereas East Euopean Jewish survivors, if caught behind the iron curtain could not. In the West, memoirs of the Holocaust could (although very slowly) enter into historical writing and public consciousness.”

    You can read more of Snyder's fascinating views on “The Ignored Reality” at www.nybooks.com/articles/22875