Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • It’s OK to use BC and AD

    Simon Rocker
    Jan 6, 2009

     From early days we are taught at cheder to use BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) for dates in preference to BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, In the Year of Our Lord). The terms CE/BCE were actually introduced by Protestant Bible scholars who considered them more neutral.
    But the Jewish Bible scholar James Kugel was surprised to find an Orthodox colleague happily using BC and AD, as he recounted at the recent Limmud conference.
    How come, Professor Kugel asked?
    - "Well, BC stands for Before Christianity?" the elder don explained.
    - "And AD?"
    - "After dat."

  • Business is bleak but how about this weather

    Candice Krieger
    Jan 6, 2009

    As Britons returned to work for the New Year yesterday, surprisingly it wasn’t the recession that was at the front of people’s minds. It was the weather. Commuters braved snow, black ice and sub-zero temperatures to get back to business, albeit reluctantly. But hey, it makes a refreshing change from recession-speak.

    Travelling on the tube over the past two days, talk has been more about keeping warm than keeping jobs. Oh, and the six per cent hike in public transport fares.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate the cold and my purchases this morning - a windproof fleece hat (cosy), padded snow gloves (suitable for skiing) and three pairs of cotton-rich socks from Marks & Spencer (although a bargain at 98 pence) - probably didn’t help the bank balance.

  • Hamas will never let Palestinians feel safe

    Jan Shure
    Jan 5, 2009

    A thoughtful and even-handed leader in today’s Times, includes the following sentence: “Though it is clear that the mortar attacks must stop, Israel might reflect on whether helping to relieve the manifest disaster of poverty and malnutrition in Palestine is not a quicker way to peaceful co-existence.”

    Of course relieving the disaster of poverty and malnutrition would be a better way to peaceful co-existence, but only as long as organisations such as Hamas and Hizbollah had the well-being of the Palestinian population in mind. Today, as in Southern Lebanon in 2006 and across the region in 1948 and 1967, the Palestinian people are the human shields or the pawns in a much bigger geo-political game whose ultimate goals are the obliteration not just of Israel but of moderate Arab regimes.

     The fact that they are deliberately placed in harm’s way by Hamas – as they were by Hizbollah in 2006 - and their pain and hunger is exploited as photo-ops for propaganda purposes, means that no amount of aid or assistance from Israel will ever be allowed to lead to conciliation, co-existence and peace.   It is a route Israel has tried: anyone familiar with the history of the region over the past 35 years would be aware that Israel has spent millions of dollars on education and infrastructure in the occupied territories with precisely that aim in mind – alleviating poverty and lack of opportunity in the Palestinian population, something that Egypt and Jordan as, respectively, the occupying powers in Gaza and the West Bank, manifestly failed to do between 1948 and 1967. 

  • A diplomatic Czech mate

    Daniella Peled
    Dec 31, 2008

    Czech President Vaclav Klaus must be overwhelmed by his stroke of diplomatic luck. His country has been handed the EU presidency right in the middle of a major Middle East crisis. With 27 members, each country has to wait well over a decade before it gets its crack at the six-month presidency. So he is ensuring they make the most of it.

    Centuries of culture are all very well, but the Czech Republic has yet to recover its mittel-european standing following the depredations of the twentieth century. Now is its chance to finally show that it has more to offer the world than beer and cheap stag weekends.
    Hence its startlingly pro-Israel stance over the Gaza operation, ahead of leading an EU mission to the region. The voice of “New Europe” indeed.

    The Czech Republic finds itself filling something of a power vacuum at the moment. America is remaining distant from the Gaza conflict, at least until 20 Jan and the new dawn of President Obama. The UN is as usual toothless, the Arab world divided. When it comes to the EU hard-hitters, Germany is by default disqualified from involvement in anything approaching criticism of Israel, whereas the UK is floundering. Never mind that the EU is incapable of formulating any kind of unified foreign policy – by accident it appears to be pretty much the only international body really getting involved in the Middle East at the mo.

  • Inside the minds of Hamas

    Daniella Peled
    Dec 31, 2008

    International leaders may be issuing calls for an immediate ceasefire, but Hamas leaders may be hoping for a rather different outcome.

    They have been hugely damaged by Israel’s surprise attack and massive bombing campaign. Communications lie in tatters, Israel has reportedly inflicted huge damage on their local operational structure and an estimated 50 per cent of rocket silos have been destroyed.

    The only way Hamas can now inflict any serious retaliatory damage is if the IDF decides to embark on a ground invasion.

  • Eastenders and that wedding; the unanswered question

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 23, 2008

    I am not an Eastenders’ regular but couldn’t help watching last Thursday’s Jewish wedding. Femme fatale Janine Butcher has returned, after an interlude, to the series, reinvented as Judith Bernstein, to marry an elderly Jewish widower (for his money, her family suspects).

  • Brondesbury's unexpected baby boom

    Jan Shure
    Dec 15, 2008

    I have just been to one of those synagogue events which have sprung up in the past decade, a baby blessing. Almost certainly imported from the USA, baby blessings are designed to demonstrate the fecundity of a congregation and, by association, the thriving nature of the shul and its contribution to the future of the Jewish community.

    I recall the earliest being held at Mill Hill Synagogue in about 1998 (as a former community news editor of the JC, I was required to be aware of such things), and since then, they have fanned out across the synagogue organisations and the country.

    I was taken by surprise by two aspects of the one I attended: the irresistible charm of the occasion (though I am slightly biased, my own grandson being one of the babies blessed) and the sheer number of babies born in the past year in this particular congregation.

  • Livni's shimmer to the right

    Daniella Peled
    Dec 11, 2008

    Tzipi Livni went off at an interesting tangent this week.

    Speaking in Tel Aviv, she was quoted as saying that Israel’s Arab population should see a future Palestinian state as the solution for their national aspirations.

    “Once a Palestinian state is established, I can come to the Palestinian citizens, whom we call Israeli Arabs, and say to them ‘you are citizens with equal rights, but the national solution for you is elsewhere,’” Army Radio quoted her as saying.

  • Should that be Baruch Obama?

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 1, 2008

    There has been a lot of web-chatter about the origins of US President-Elect Barack Obama’s first name(the name, too, of his Kenyan father). The favoured explanation among online etymologists  is that it comes from the Arabic-derived Swahili word, baraka, meaning “blessing”, akin to berachah in Hebrew. More far-fetched is that it is somehow related to Barak, meaning lightning in Hebrew, the name of the Canaanite-smiting commander who delivered the goods for the prophetess Deborah in the Book of Judges.

  • I believe it is a shame that the show hasn’t been given a chance

    Craig Silver
    Nov 28, 2008

    I have to express my disappointment at the news that the Imagine This musical in Drury Lane is set to close.

    The final showing will be on December 20, and I believe it is a shame that the show hasn’t been given a chance.

    People can judge it in the way they want. I myself was not too keen on the concept behind it and did have reservations about it. But after reading the drubbing that it got from the critics, I wanted to see it for myself.