There might be no such thing as a free lunch, but there may well be such a thing as a free falafel. I say that only because when I would get chatting to falafel stall-holders the subject would invariably turn to what I was up to in Israel, and the conversation would go something like this.
"Where do you come from, then? England, America?" the stall-holder would say as he took my order.
"South Africa - but I live in France," I would reply.
"And why have you come to Israel. Tell me, you are Jewish?" he would say as he began to prepare my falafel.
On December 16 1910 a gang of robbers attempted to dig their way into the premises of a jewellers' shop at Houndsditch, in the City of London. Armed, it turned out, with an assortment of pistols and large quantities of ammunition, the gang was disturbed, the police (who were unarmed, of course) were called, and in the ensuing confrontation three officers were killed and a further two severely disabled.
Imagine sitting down to dinner with guests from the Zionist Federation, Jews For Justice For Palestinians, Independent Jewish Voices and the Board of Deputies. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Yet over the last couple of years this is precisely what my wife Deborah and I have been doing - organising dinners in our home in which Jewish leaders and opinion formers from all sides of the Israel debate come together, with surprisingly convivial results.
If there is anyone who understands the agony of being berated by the X Factor judges, it is Brian Friedman.
As creative director of the show that has unified the nation in a TV ritual which ends this weekend with its grand final, Friedman knows what it's like to be panned as well as any of the contestants - only in his case, it is his staging and choreography that is the target. For that reason he felt enormous empathy with Katie Waissel, who was voted off the show two weeks ago, and puts a lot of his concern for her down to that "Jewish thing".
It began in 1980 when a group of 70 British Jews who did not have much on over the Christmas period decided they wanted to inject some excitement into the ailing world of Jewish adult education. Thirty years on, Limmud attracts more than 35,000 people per year across 55 communities around the Jewish world.
It was 1983, I was 18 and had just finished my first year in Nottingham doing a degree in theatre design, but wasn't sure it was the right course for me so I took a year out. I'd had a great month in Israel with a group of 30 kids two years before so I washed dishes in Maxwell's restaurant in Hampstead for a few months to make some money and got a flight out to Tel Aviv. I imagined that I'd travel about for a while, work my way through the Sinai and then go to Cairo, sit on top of a pyramid and do some sketching.
Peter Beinart is an articulate and important liberal voice on American foreign policy. Now a professor of journalism at the City University of New York, he became editor of The New Republic in 1999, at the age of 28, and held the post for seven years. A few months ago he published in the New York Review of Books an essay arguing that Israel needs to be saved from itself and from the American Jewish establishment, whom he charged with promoting "an uncritical brand of Zionism".
There are two plays by two of America's finest dramatists currently being staged in London. One of them, Arthur Miller's Broken Glass (at the Tricycle Theatre), is a very Jewish play by a writer whose work was not considered to be very Jewish at all. The other, Clifford Odets's The Country Girl, is a non-Jewish play by a writer whose work is generally thought to be very Jewish indeed. In either case, Jewishness, by its presence or its absence, defines them.
Rabbi Meir Kahane had just finished addressing a crowd of supporters at the Marriott East Side Hotel in New York on November 5, 1990, when a man, of Middle Eastern appearance and wearing a kippah, fired a shot at close range. The controversial 58-year-old founder of the ultra right-wing Jewish Defence League fell to the floor, blood gushing from a wound to his neck.
The thoroughfare that winds from the front door of her Paddington apartment is also a gallery of posters and pictures from a life of theatre, film and family. It is hard to see where she will fit the poster for her latest appearance in the West End.