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So Israel isn’t trendy this year

By Tracy-Ann Oberman, January 8, 2009

I mark the passing of the years by the reaction of secular folk to news of my holidaying in Israel. In the mid-1970s, school friends would be wide eyed at the exotic holidays taken by my family. In those days, travelling further than Spain was unheard of in my neck of the woods, so to fly to a tiny country in  the Middle East was the equivalent of back-packing in the Himalayas today.

In the ’80s, when I said I was going to Israel, university acquaintances eyed me accusingly as if I was a war criminal for even contemplating such a holiday destination. Tut tut.

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Saudi peace plan: still the only show in town

By Daniella Peled, December 30, 2008

It is the peace plan that refused to die. While the Annapolis process has been and gone, the Road Map is a distant memory, and Gaza is on fire, somehow the Arab League Initiative remains the perennial best-seller of the jaded peace industry.

First proposed by the Saudis in 2002, it presents an apparently simple deal: Israel gets peace with 22 Arab states in return for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.

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Not all is égal in the land of égalité

By Natasha Lehrer, December 30, 2008

Last Monday, after a Chanucah party held in the American Church in Paris by our delightful ecumenical synagogue Kehilat Gesher, my seven-year-old son won a plastic magen David. He put it in his pocket and promptly forgot about it. At school the next day, he rediscovered the magen David during playtime and showed it to his best friend, who told the teacher that my son had a religious symbol in his pocket. My son was duly reprimanded for his misdemeanour and the magen David (made in China) was confiscated.

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Wanted: lessons in discipline

By Simon Round, December 30, 2008

A lot of people seemed surprised this week at a report claiming that male teachers had more problems with rowdy schoolchildren than their female counterparts.

Take it from someone who once went to school: this is no surprise.

Ok, so maybe JFS in the mid-70s wasn’t a genuine inner-city sink comprehensive, but there were still more than a couple of pupils who would today be described as “challenging” and were in those days labelled “psychos”.

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Bowen, BBC and bias: a case of selective myopia

By Stephen Pollard, December 30, 2008

This week’s JC is full of analysis of the background to the Gaza military operation. But I have to confess that there is one explanation for Israel’s air strikes we have not offered to our readers. It is that put forward by the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, on Saturday: “The failure of Israel, with its high-tech army, to stop relatively crude rocket fire has become a political embarrassment for Israeli leaders.”

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Settlers’ cause is a welcome victim of violence

By Josh Freedman Berthoud, December 23, 2008

The events surrounding the eviction of Hebron’s “House of Contention” last month marked a new low in Israeli settler violence. Angry mobs ran riot throughout the city, enacting a “price-tag” policy of retribution on local Palestinians. Three men were shot at close range, cars and olive groves set alight and, in one reported incident, a group of settlers torched a home in which a large family cowered, as private security guards looked on. Of course, such nationalistic attacks would not be complete without the destruction of the enemies’ most sacred sites.

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Babylon means more than exile

By Jeremy Isaacs, December 23, 2008

Few major displays open in London whose subject intersects with Jewish history. Babylon, the archaeological-historical tour de force at the British Museum, is such a show.

The exhibition does several things, and all well. Using archaeological findings, corroborating eye-witness testimony, it tells the story of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. The main interest of this from the Jewish point of view is the capture of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the Temple in 587 BCE precisely, followed by the Israelites’ Babylonian Exile.

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Time to articulate our hurt in the war on hate

By Dr Winston Pickett, December 23, 2008

As Jews, we tend to be a surprisingly timid lot when it comes to expressing outrage — at least publicly. We shy away from what Americans call “playing the grievance card” — or what the British tellingly refer to as “special pleading”, with all that phrase’s overtones of deference and supplication.

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Be more Jewish, do Christmas

By Simon Round, December 23, 2008

A lot of Jews do Christmas. A great percentage of them feel slightly guilty about it — and a small proportion of the ones who don’t observe the festival feel that they are missing out on something, particularly when they see the M&S ads and watch Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen.

However, practically all of us mark New Year’s Eve in some way — either by sharing a drink with friends, going out for a meal or drinking 10 pints of a vodka-based punch and sleeping under somebody’s car in a street in Hainault (although to be fair, 1992 was not a typical year).

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‘Imagine This’ failed because it wasn’t great art

By John Nathan, December 18, 2008

Tomorrow night, a skillfully staged, well-performed musical with a good, original score and which has reportedly received nightly standing ovations since it opened one month ago will close. Why? The assumption is because too many people thought the West End stage is no place to deal with the show’s subject — the Holocaust. Last week, Eliane Glaser described how Holocaust museums increasingly attempt to attract the public to their exhibitions by taking the “risk of entertainment”.

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