Judaism features

What the Koran says about the land of Israel

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

According to the Hamas charter, Palestine is an Islamic endowment “for all generations of Muslims until the Day of Resurrection” which no one may renounce. The Arab-Israeli conflict is seen as not just a political dispute but an implacably religious one.


The UN campaign trying to make insulting a faith an international crime

By Simon Rocker, March 12, 2009

It became an iconic image: a book by an award-winning writer burned on the streets of Britain. In September 1988, Salman Rushdie published his novel The Satanic Verses, which contained an irreverent alternative life of the Prophet Muhammad. While literary critics debated its artistic merits, elsewhere a storm was gathering. Many Muslims felt deeply affronted by what they saw as an assault on their faith and, in January 1989, some took to the streets in Bradford to demonstrate, culminating in the now notorious book-burning.


Why Purim will even outlast Yom Kippur

By Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, March 5, 2009

I love finding new messages whenever one returns to biblical texts. As a teenager, I discovered that Mordecai sounded like the Sumerian deity Marduk, who was adopted as the patron god of Babylon, and Esther sounded like Astarte, or Ishtar, the Mediterranean goddess of fertility, sex and much else besides.


The mitzvah of Fairtrade

By Jonathan Wittenberg, February 26, 2009

A Jewish Guide To Fairtrade
The Fairtrade Foundation

I’ve long been grateful that Fairtrade exists. It makes me feel less like a thief when I go shopping. I’m doubly appreciative now, with the publication of this Jewish Guide, which relates the principles of fair trade to Jewish ethics, rooting them in textual sources and listing kosher Fairtrade foods.


Despite evolution, I can still believe in a Creator

By Joseph Mintz, February 18, 2009

‘Is it on your grandmother’s or grandfather’s side that you are descended from an ape?” asked Thomas Huxley, Bishop of Oxford and one of the early opponents of evolutionary theory at an infamous debate at Oxford University in 1860. It was one year after the publication of Darwin’s The Origin Of Species had set the world alight.


The demon trap getting historians all fired up

By Simon Rocker, February 12, 2009

If you are looking for a novel half-term activity, then it would be hard to beat the ancient art of demon-trapping. On Tuesday and Thursday next week, the British Museum in London, in association with the Jewish Museum, is running family workshops where you can make an incantation bowl like the ones used by our Babylonian ancestors to keep unwanted spirits at bay.


Why the Torah is green

By Rabbi Ariel Abel, February 5, 2009

In February 2008, a fig tree was mauled in Bodh Gaya, India. Allegations focused on a thick branch of the tree that was mysteriously lopped off and sold in Thailand in 2006. The branch reappeared for sale on the black market; accusations of corruption followed. Apparently, police never resolved the case; it was hard to conclude whether the tree had been legitimately pruned, or whether the nefarious activities of the black marketeers were to blame. Nowadays, the tree is surrounded by protective railings.


Still fighting the battle over Israeli conversions

By Mordechai Beck, January 14, 2009

For many Israelis, Rabbi Chaim Druckman represents the very essence of religious Zionism. His cheerful countenance, swathed in a flowing white beard, commands great respect well beyond the confines of the Zionist yeshivah world in which he has been a major player for almost half a century.


Why Limmud is now the festival of festivals

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

At the closing gala of the recent Limmud conference in Coventry, the historian Deborah Lipstadt recalled an earlier conversation with some young people who were struggling to think of any contemporary Jewish heroes. But instead of suggesting a few examples herself, she did something else. She asked members of the audience to stand if they had been part of the Limmud organising team; next she asked anyone who had presented one of the 900-plus conference sessions; and so on, through to visitors from abroad; or anyone who had supported a Limmud event .