At first glance, Howard Jacobson might be considered a strange candidate to make a film on the Creation. He is not religiously observant but then neither is he a convinced atheist. So given that Channel 4 wanted a polemical treatment of the subject, as the first part of its series The Bible — A History, why choose someone who cannot decide whether the Creation happened, or if it did, what it means?
A new year has begun and for many people that means a renewed attempt to find that one special person with whom to share their lives. But what makes them think that after a lifetime of trying and failing to achieve that special relationship, they are going to succeed now?
The best thrillers are tense, full of twists with plots that take you first one way and then another, serving up breath-taking cliff-hangers, driving you crazy with suspense.
In a way one could say the same about the career of thriller writer David Kessler, whose life has taken a few twists of its own since he decided at the age of 15 that he wanted to be a professional writer.
Having made his career choice, he left school without qualifications, and drifted through menial jobs both here and in Israel as he tried to write that elusive thriller.
It took documentary-maker and artist Mira Hamermesh a long time to speak about her wartime experiences. Sixty years went by, and even her closest friends were unaware of her compelling escape from Nazi-occupied Poland to Palestine.
When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, she escaped with her brother — their journey took them through the Soviet Union to Lithuania and ultimately to Palestine. Her parents and the rest of her family stayed, were incarcerated in the Lodz Ghetto and died at the hands of the Nazis.
Anat Hoffman is not a woman who likes monopolies. Twenty years ago she took on the Israel’s telecommunications behemoth, Bezeq, and won a resounding victory. Her present target is an even more imposing opponent — Israel’s religious establishment. But this, she feels, is a battle that she and Israel dare not lose.
For a man at the centre of a controversy, Professor Shlomo Sand looks remarkably calm. The German-born Israeli historian has faced ferocious and repeated attacks from the academic community in Israel and beyond over his new book, The Invention of the Jewish People. His scholarship, his conclusions and his political stance have all been criticised. In fact the title itself has angered Jews around the world.
The storm certainly helped sales, propelling the book to best-seller status in Israel. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
By this time next year, there could be a new chair of Jewish studies at Nottingham University, enabling students to learn about Jewish history, religion, culture and politics. If it happens, it will be largely down to the contribution of one man — award-winning business journalist Jeff Randall.
The question is not how Randall will be able to raise the necessary money for the chair — he does, after all, have a contacts book filled with just about every significant player in the business world — but rather, why.
As a former chemistry lecturer, Colin Shindler knows all about explosive situations. His new appointment could certainly be construed as such. Shindler has just been made the country’s first-ever Professor of Israeli Studies at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the college with the reputation of being the most hostile anti-Israel campus in the UK.
Dr Aric Sigman has found himself making the headlines recently. Controversy has been raging over one particular assertion in his new book, The Spoilt Generation, which has been causing Guardian readers to get more than a little hot under the collar.
The vehemence with which he has been attacked has taken Sigman aback, especially given the fact that his views would not have made the front page of a synagogue magazine 40 years ago. Yet now his assertion that parents should be left to decide whether to smack their children or not is incendiary.
James Wolfensohn is not a typical investment banker. After all, how many in his profession have dedicated their career to redistributing the world’s wealth from the rich to the poor.
Wolfensohn has. In his decade as president of the World Bank he was able to indulge his passion for development. It was a decade in which several hundred million people were taken out of poverty — a very small first step to righting the world’s imbalances.