The Diary

Please don't step on this

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

Welcome to the newest addition to Israel’s fauna, recently discovered among the sand dunes of the Arava in the south.

The Haifa University researchers who identified it say it is the largest spider of its type in the Middle East with a leg span of up to 14 centimetres.

But scientists are worried that mining projects in the area could threaten the habitat of this and other, as yet unknown, creatures.

The spider goes by the name of cerbalus aravensis — which doesn’t mean Cuddles.

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Shalom to the taliban

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

Don’t knock the Taliban – they may be our cousins.

An Indian scientist is doing research in Tel Aviv to see if there is any truth to the belief that the Pathans, the ethnic group from which the Taliban are largely derived, may come from one of Israel’s Ten Lost Tribes. She will compare DNA samples of Israeli Jews with those of Pathans from North India.

Imagine if it proves true — mass aliyah from Afghanistan.

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Wintry wedding

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

They were planning to lift the roof of the newly renovated Kinloss Suite at Finchley Synagogue this week — literally.

The reopened banqueting rooms are equipped with a retractable roof which enables couples to have a traditional outdoor chupah while guests keep warm inside. The first bride due to enjoy the new facility was a grand-daughter of ex-London Beth Din head, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu.

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Chris Evans's rogue pie

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

Only a few days into the post-Wogan slot on BBC Radio Two’s breakfast show, Chris Evans has disturbed a JC reader. Not him exactly, but regular contributor to the show’s Pause for the Day, Rabbi Pete Tobias of the Liberal Synagogue in Elstree.

As Evans handed over Tuesday’s show, the next presenter, Ken Bruce, asked after a pork pie lying around the studio. Our reader thought he heard Evans suggest the pie had been scoffed – by the rabbi. “Well, he is a Liberal rabbi,” Bruce quipped.

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Joan's brush with security

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

After last month’s bomb attempt on an American plane, security experts say we need more sophisticated profiling of passengers to spot likely suspects before they get too far. So watch out, then, if you are an elderly Jewish comedienne.

The redoubtable Joan Rivers was stopped on Sunday from boarding a plane from Costa Rica back to the USA. Officials’ suspicions were aroused because her passport bore dual names, Joan Rosenberg aka Joan Rivers (Rosenberg her late husband’s name).

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Crisis in the kosher kitchen

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

I think someone better declare a state of emergency. My wife’s copy of Evelyn Rose’s International Jewish Cookbook has fallen to bits but when she tried to order a new copy, she found it was unavailable. How could this be, since the Bible of kosher cuisine must surely be the most popular book in Anglo-Jewish homes after the siddur?

Publishers Anova reassure me that the book is “not out of print” but “out of stock”. An updated, illustrated version is in preparation but not due out till the end of the year, or even early next.

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Our yiddishe madam

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

I thought Big Brother had been put out of its misery but Channel 4 is inflicting one last celebrity version on us.

For followers of small screen Jewry, among this year’s entrants is Heidi Fleiss, whose claim to fame lies largely in having being jailed in the 1990s for supplying call girls to Hollywood’s rich and famous.

Her activities have since included running a laundrette in Nevada. The programme-makers must hope she’ll be washing her dirty linen in public.

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Pork's not all white

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Retired Israeli cardiologist Eli Landau is doubtless causing palpitations among his countrymen with the publication of a cookbook about his favourite food: pork. He claims that The White Book is the first in Israel devoted to the euphemistically called “white meat”.

Asked about the likely reaction from his religious compatriots, he replied: “I don’t bother them, they shouldn’t bother me. Live and let live.”

Advice not applied to the pigs, a stuffed specimen of which he was sewing up with surgical thread when his Sky News interviewer found him.

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Hornby’s second thoughts

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2009

Author Nick Hornby has revealed he considered changing the Jewish identity of a key character in his new film, An Education, for which he wrote the screenplay.

It is based on journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir about her relationship as a teenager with an older man, called in the film David Goldman (as played by actor Peter Sarsgaard, below). Goldman is a dodgy wheeler-dealer whose contacts include the 60s racketeer Peter Rackman.

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No show Oborne

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2009

One man unable to make Limmud was journalist Peter Oborne, presenter of Channel 4’s recent attempted expose of the Israel lobby in Britain. He was invited to speak at the conference. but was too busy on assignment in Zimbabwe to complete his application form in time.

Or was the Israel lobby secretly out there on safari?

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