The Diary

Israel has a pig broblem

By Simon Round, April 29, 2009

The outbreak of swine flu is causing consternation in Israel where even the name is controversial.

Because pork is not kosher, Israel’s deputy health minister Yakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party has said the virus should be called “Mexican flu”.

No one seems to be listening. Everyone is too worried about catching the virus.


It’s no joke for Danny

By Simon Round, April 29, 2009

It is not just at Durban II that Iranians and Jews have clashed recently.

At a recent internal BBC conference, Iranian-born comedian Omid Djalili launched into a tirade against BBC3 controller Danny Cohen over the use of what he perceived as offensive material on the channel. Then Cohen retorted that he had been offended by a joke that Djalili had told about the Jewish Secret Service (What is it called? Answer: MI6, MI5, MI4, MI3...MI final offer?)


Freud back on list

By Simon Round, April 22, 2009

Of all the newspaper reports following the death of Sir Clement Freud last week, the one which he would be least happy about was the story that appeared on the JC’s website.

Back in 1974, when Freud was a Liberal MP, he demanded that he be removed from a list of Jewish parliamentarians compiled by the JC — despite the fact that he came from a Jewish family which fled the Nazis and that his grandfather was the Jewish psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud.

If we ever make a list of deceased Jewish Members of Parliament, rest assured that Freud will be on it.


No eggs and it’s no yoke

By Simon Round, April 22, 2009

Following Easter, shoppers may well be sick of the sight of eggs, but in Israel, they just cannot get enough of them.

Such has been the run on eggs over Pesach that major supermarkets have run out as exhausted Israeli chickens fail to keep up with demand.

Chicken farmers are said to be working overtime to, er, crack the problem.


Abramovich loves shack

By Simon Round, April 22, 2009

We don’t know how reliable the Russian Izrus news agency is, but if its report is accurate, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich must be feeling the credit crunch.

According to the agency’s account, the Russian oligarch arrived in Israel for Passover by private helicopter. But during his stay in the country, he rented a small shack in the Negev desert for which he paid the owner in advance.

For five days, according to Izrus, he was left alone eat dry lepeshki (a kind of bread) and drink only water.


Crunch for Sir Alan

By Simon Round, April 14, 2009

Sir Alan Sugar was unable to watch himself fire the latest blundering contestant, Majid Nagra, in last week’s episode of The Apprentice... because he was busy hunting for matzah, according to his spokesman.

The multi-millionaire Amstrad boss missed the show because he was in America celebrating Pesach with his family.

His spokesman, Andrew Bloch, told The Sun: “There was a three-hour break in communication with Sir Alan so perhaps he was busy looking for the Afikoman?”

Isn’t that normally a job for the apprentices rather than the boss?


Lasers for bug battle

By Simon Round, April 14, 2009

It’s kashrut inspectors meets Star Wars in the Israeli town of Tiberias, where shomers are to be armed with laser guns in order to fight the good fight — not against Darth Vader but against bugs in salad.

The guns zap the insects with a lethal beam. Every inspector will be required to be armed during de-bugging missions.


Chabad’s matzah mules

By Simon Round, April 14, 2009

Chabad is not normally the kind of organisation to be involved in organised crime, but over Pesach it mounted a huge smuggling operation into Iran.

Chabadniks turned Matzah mules to import secretly large quantities of unleavened bread into the country to keep Iran’s 20,000 Jews supplied over the festival.

While the authorities allow Jews to practise freely, the import of any goods from Israel is strictly forbidden, which is a problem for Jews who have been unable to bake enough matzah to feed the entire community.


Tesco’s PR problem

April 7, 2009

This week’s report on Tesco’s Israeli goods helpline may have revealed a deeper problem with the supermarket’s approach to Jewish issues.

After calling the company press office last week, our reporter was told: “It’s Friday afternoon, I would have thought you lot at the JC would have the afternoon off.”

When the reporter replied that the office would soon be closing, the spokesman replied: “Lucky you.”

Tesco claims “Every little helps”, but presumably this level of assistance was not what Jewish businessman Jack Cohen had in mind when he founded the company.


An age-old tradition

By Simon Round, April 7, 2009

Brit milah usually takes place at the age of eight days. However, this week two men who missed the eight day mark — by more than 80 years — had the procedure carried out in Israel.

An 87-year-old man and another aged 81 were circumcised by the Achim-Brit Yosef organisation.

Better late than never.