Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Gone Gaga

    Jessica Elgot
    Aug 18, 2009

    Lady Gaga has never been attention-shy. But it takes a brave lady to wear a necklace which looks like it's made of bullets through security at Ben Gurion airport.

    Most of us wouldn't pick an Israeli ariport as the ideal venue to draw attention to ourselves, but Gaga, who recently posed for a magazine shoot wearing nothing but sticking plasters, marched through passport control in a spiked hat and boots, teamed with a black leather biker jacket.

    Never mind the bullets being inappropriate, how on earth did she get through the metal detector?

  • They don't like it

    Jenni Frazer
    Aug 18, 2009

    An extraordinary amount of vitriol has been directed at me after I recently suggested in the paper that rabbis should stay out of politics. Most of the attacks have been from supporters of the rabbi at Bevis Marks, against whom I have nothing whatsoever, though judging by the vehemence of the language, you might believe the contrary.
    However, the central point remains. Rabbis and politics are a lethal mix, as, for that matter, is the involvement of any person of the cloth with the political world. Just look at the flak directed at the Archbishop of Canterbury every time he ventures a political opinion. Our own chief rabbi's almost monk-like discretion in this regard now seems almost saintly.
    I did not, nor do I currently suggest, that rabbis should not hold political opinions. The very reverse. What I object to is them dealing out such political opinions to the congregation, as though their affiliation to party allegiances had a sacred hechsher. I am more than capable of making up my mind about where I stand on Israel, for example, without being hectored one way or the other from the pulpit.
    And given the rancour directed against me this week, probably the same applies to many overheated members of the congregation. Well, that's me told.

  • Grow up

    Stephen Pollard
    Aug 14, 2009

    I was going to post again on the bizarre silly season story of the moment, the notion that Dan Hannan is somehow a traitor, either to his country (the Labour line) or his party (the Conservative line - which has some more merit to it, given their panic over the idea that they are anti-NHS; I wish they were).

  • Hand of history

    Marcus Dysch
    Aug 14, 2009

    I don’t want to go all Tony Blair on you, but there is something a little bit special about feeling the hand of history on your shoulder.

    Joining Baroness Ruth Deech in Krakow last week to collect her family silver – hidden away for nearly 70 years – was a remarkable privilege.

    While the trip lacked the pomp and circumstance of an official visit or a hand-over ceremony, what happened in the small flat in Mazowiecka Street, with just six people in attendance, held enough sentiment of its own to not miss a couple of politicians elbowing their way into things.

  • Another derecognised conversion

    Simon Rocker
    Aug 13, 2009

    In this week's JC, I write about why it would be difficult to reach agreement for a universally recognised standard of conversion. But as if any more evidence of the obstacles were needed, the Jerusalem Post reports another example of an Israeli Orthodox convert having her conversion invalidated by the official rabbinate.

  • School vouchers, yes please

    Stephen Pollard
    Aug 13, 2009

    Halleluyah! There's a post on Harry's Place making the progressive case for school vouchers. And quite right, too.

    I've been banging on about this since 1995, when I was Research Director of the Fabian Society. I couldn't understand why it was regarded as right-wing to want to give all parents the ability to choose their children's education. Better-off parents can write out a cheque to a private school. Surely the progressive approach is to give that power to all parents.(Now, of course, I realise that the idea that the left is somehow, by definition, more progressive than the right is simply risible. George Osborne is bang on.)

    As Milton Friedman put it:

  • Bush went soft

    Stephen Pollard
    Aug 13, 2009

    Fascinating Washington Post piece which argues that Dick Cheney felt that President Bush went soft in his second term:

    "In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him," said a
    participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney's reply. "He
    said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he
    took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush
    had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's
    advice. He'd showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming. It
    was clear that Cheney's doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times --
    never apologize, never explain -- and Bush moved toward the

  • Fish or female?

    Simon Rocker
    Aug 13, 2009

    Kiryat Yam council near Haifa are apparently offering a $1million to anyone who can prove the existence of a mermaid who has reportedly been spotted frolicking off the coast of Israel. But are they ready to offer more for anyone who can answer the question that really matters - would she be kosher?

  • The Mechitzah on the Street

    Simon Rocker
    Aug 12, 2009

    That redoubtable Orthodox blogger, Honestly Frum, has this tale from Jerusalem. It begins:

    “Last year the Satmar Rebbe visited Yerushalayim for the opening of the new Satmar Yeshiva. Due to the fact that men and women were standing on the same side of the street the procession was delayed until they separated, and there was a mechitza setup on the street to facilitate the separation. In Ramat Bet Shemesh there are areas where they already have separate street sides. (I wonder what took so long). On Friday the megaphone (the “vehaya machanecha kadosh”) people went around announcing men and women should walk on opposite sides of the road during the weekend.”

    More here.