The Diary

Dawkins v the Chief

By Simon Rocker, September 27, 2011

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks will be going head to head with champion of atheism Richard Dawkins on Radio Four's Start the Week on October 17. Up for discussion will be the Chief Rabbi's new book The Great Partnership which makes the case for faith, and Dawkins's new book for children, which treats religion as myth.

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Cantab, you have one hour

By Simon Rocker, September 27, 2011

Cambridge University has extended the deadline to allow observant Jews to vote for its next Chancellor, because of Succot.

The election to find a successor to Prince Philip has been fixed for Friday October 13 - the second day of Succot - and the following Shabbat.

But according to university regulations, those eligible to vote (anyone with a Cambridge MA or higher degree) must do so in pers

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Spooks' view of mid-east

By Simon Rocker, September 27, 2011

You can always rely on BBC1's spy drama Spooks to spread a little healthy realism on current affairs. While the media has largely waxed optimistic about the Arab Spring, foreseeing the birth of a new era of freedom and democracy, our fictional MI5 heroes have opted for a rather more sober view and begun preparing for an Islamist takeover.

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When beans mean heimish

By Simon Rocker, September 27, 2011

Alison Arellano and her family were naturally taken aback to read this sign next to a dish on the hotel buffet when they holidayed recently in the Costa del Sol, which says "Jewish with ham".

Just in case you think this is something out of a cannibal cookbook, the Spanish judias con jamon refers innocently to haricot beans with ham.

Judia can mean both bean and Jewess.

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Thanks for turning up late

By Simon Rocker, September 22, 2011

It was just as well that Lib Dem peer Lord Palmer arrived late for the Holocaust Educational Trust dinner the other day.

He had been waiting to vote in the Lords in favour of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which contains the all-important clause on universal jurisdiction intended to ease the threat of arrest against visiting Israeli politicians.

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Obama appeals to the head

By Simon Rocker, September 22, 2011

President Obama is suffering a backlash from America's largely pro-Democrat Jewish community over his position on Israel.

The Democrats recently lost what looked like a safe congressional seat in New York.

But Obama supporters clearly believe they can turn the tide. They have brought back the "Obamulke" of 2008 with a new logo for next year's presidential race.

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First claim on Mr Taub

By Simon Rocker, September 22, 2011

New Israel Ambassador Daniel Taub has been busy doing the rounds, speaking at the UJIA dinner, a Board of Deputies plenary and a Conservative Friends of Israel reception. All three apparently claimed to have been hosting the envoy's first communal appearance. The honour, we think, should go to the CFI.

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Rodents on joint exercise

By Simon Rocker, September 22, 2011

Haifa University researchers have discovered that rats administered with marijuana do not experience post-traumatic stress symptoms. Does that mean that IDF soldiers in future will be issued with spliffs in their kitbag?

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No, Prime Minister

By Simon Rocker, September 22, 2011

Was this just a slip of the tongue or was Piers Morgan trying to plant a subliminal message? Israeli Defence Minister and former premier Ehud Barak was the interviewee this week on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight. But the presenter opened by calling him "Prime Minister". Barak did not rush to correct him.

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Bowling with the Chief

By Simon Rocker, September 22, 2011

The Chief Rabbi's intellectual buddies for his annual Rosh Hashanah broadcast on BBC1 on Tuesday night (entitled "What is the point of religion?") will be Lord "Blue Labour" Glasman and political scientist Robert Putnam.

Putnam is an expert on community and social connection best known for his 2000 book Bowling Alone.

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