Geoffrey Paul

Tunisian dominoes

By Geoffrey Paul, January 16, 2011

I have no doubt that Israeli military and political think tanks are hard at work trying to assess the outcome of events in Tunisia on such vulnerable neighbours as Jordan and Egypt and, within the same zone of influence, Libya and Algeria. There is no question at all that changes of regime in either Jordan or Egypt - unlikely immediately given the strength of their internal security forces - would have a major impact on Israel (and no less the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza).


Isn't it quiet!

By Geoffrey Paul, December 29, 2010

There are few phone calls that matter. Almost no Spam e-mails. If you doin’t look out of the window, it’s great. There’s even time to read the stuff you would not bother with, like dear Julie Burchill in Prospect magazine. Having told the JC she has given up her column and announced that shul no longer has any appeal for her, she tells this improving journal that her New Year resolution is “Reach a reading age of 12 in Hebrew - so far, it’s five.” Why bother?


Our man in the Lords

By Geoffrey Paul, December 17, 2010

Part of my argument for not appointing a new chief rabbi in 2013 (for which there was no room in the JC today) is that Lord Sacks’ retirement could open the way for an even larger communal role for him as Emeritus Chief Rabbi. Released from the shackles of the United Synagogue and the Beth Din and with a seat in the House of Lords, the way is open to him to become spokesman for the entire Anglo-Jewish community without regard to denomination.


Do we need another?

By Geoffrey Paul, December 16, 2010

Do we really need another Chief Rabbi?


Westminster not OK?

By Geoffrey Paul, December 13, 2010

If demonstrations are to continue in the vicinity of Parliament, which is likely given the controversial complexion of current British politics, is there not a strong case for moving all but the ceremonial occasions - like the Queen’s opening of a new session - to some extremity of the city where the life of London will not be disrupted by protesters?


If God sent the fire, he owes us firemen

By Geoffrey Paul, December 9, 2010

Citing halachah in support of outrageous religious discourse has long been a speciality of the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, 90-year-old Ovadia Yosef, spiritual mentor of Shas, the strictly-Orthodox political party with 11 members in the Knesset and a major role in Binyamin Netanyahu's government coalition.


So who's to blame?

By Geoffrey Paul, December 5, 2010

So who was to blame for the tragic Carmel fire? Why, God of course! You think this blasphemous?


A real Wikileak shocker

By Geoffrey Paul, December 2, 2010

Among the hundreds of thousands of classified US documents put into the public domain this week by Wikileaks, there is one I found particularly shocking. It is a long and comprehensive report on the alleged growth of organised crime in Israel, its increasing sophistication and its overseas connections. Sent last year from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, it lists names of what are claimed to be Israe’s leading crime families, their territories and their activities.


How was your shabbat?

By Geoffrey Paul, November 28, 2010

Another rocket fell in the Negev yesterday. No one killed so not worth more than a line or two in some of the Israeli press and none at all, of course, in the UK media. Not worth it with all that’s going on in the world. It’s different at the receiving end. A close relative who has children in one of the few kibbutzim which still remain in southern Israel e-mailed me after a similar rocketing incident last weekend. I quote his words without comment. There are things I would like to say to mollify him. I haven’t thought of any yet


Awaiting the other shoe....

By Geoffrey Paul, November 25, 2010

I had to admit here recently that I do not get out enough, but unless, I am very deaf, I have not heard the echoes in the national media we might have expected after the JC’s comprehensive report of Mick Davis’s critical comments on some Israeli policies. Those reverberations might come yet, of course, and those who put their hands to their lips and urge “not in front of our neighbours,” may still be right. Mr Davis’s words could still be picked up and used against Mr Netanyahu and Israel.


What was that again?

By Geoffrey Paul, November 24, 2010

If you have seen this before don’t read on but, last night, at a shiva, the distinctly Orthodox and highly-reputed South Hampstead rabbi, read his prayers (davened for the cognoscenti) from an iphone!


The Kestenbaum phenomenon

By Geoffrey Paul, November 21, 2010

There is enough top military brass (retired) in the House of Lords almost to furnish a parliamentary detachment of their own, among them former chiefs of staff, supreme commanders and medal-heavy generals. What, I wonder, will they make of the arrival in their midst of an ex-IDF soldier, a holder of the Israel army’s “outstanding soldier award”?



By Geoffrey Paul, October 24, 2010

American Jews associated with the Weisenthal Centre want to build a Museum of Tolerance on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery at the heart of Jerusalem. They are opposed by an unlikely alliance of imams, ultra-orthodox and reform rabbis and historians who say that an ancient graveyard - still containing some bones and gravestones dating back nine centuries - is inappropriate for such a museum.


Not bungled

By Geoffrey Paul, October 12, 2010

I wish the media could find a gradation between “bungled” and “successful”. It is highly unlikely that Linda Norgrove, the British aid worker taken hostage in Afghanistan, was killed in a “bungled” rescue attempt, as so many of Tuesday’s papers were reporting. Hostage rescues are highly risky enterprises, taking place at close quarters in settings where the captors have the upper hand from the outset. It was a dreadful and tragic accident, a consequence of a carefully considered political decision that the rescue should be attempted.


At the going down of the sun....

By Geoffrey Paul, October 7, 2010

A reader has drawn my attention to the fact that it is not only kids who are going hungry in Israel. There is a shocking story in the Los Angeles Times, which I have been able to verify from other sources. Speaking of poverty among Holocaust survivors in Israel as “something of a dirty little secret,” it claims that an estimated 70,000 survivors — one-third of the total of those living in the Jewish State — don't have enough money to make ends meet.The ageing survivors are regularly showing up in soup kitchens or government welfare agencies.


Say that again....

By Geoffrey Paul, October 4, 2010

While the number of millionaires in Israel soared by 43% in just one year, from 2008 to 2009, a rate bested only by Hong Kong and India, Israeli charities, quoted in the Hebrew press, report that " at least 223,000 families suffer from what is referred to as ‘nutritional insecurity’ - a state in which a person has no regular access to essential nourishment”. In plain English, they are hungry. In truth, poverty in Israel, statistically, is worse than even Turkey and Mexico.


He's behind you!

By Geoffrey Paul, September 21, 2010

If you are of Transylvanian descent, watch out. I received this worrying message today: "Vampire Teeth, listed as approved Parev on p.41 of The Really Jewish Food Guide 2010 are currently being reformulated." I really cannot be sure whether the fangs are being sharpened or, more likely, blunted since the London Beth Din - Kashrut Division issued the warning. Apparently, gelatine is being injected into the molars which, when they bite, will infect you with treif. Oh, the trials of kashrut....


Kosher alerts

By Geoffrey Paul, September 3, 2010

I have now read two accounts of people being pulled in by airport security because they were transporting shofarot from one country to another. But neither of them matches the experience of a gentle rabbi of my acquaimtance who, taking his lulav to synagogue in one of those closed cardboard containers which give no idea of their content, was challenged by a policeman during a period of high alert to say what was in the box. “A palm frond. some willows and sprigs of myrtle,” he told the increasingly suspicious officer.


A priestly malediction

By Geoffrey Paul, August 30, 2010

I hope that leading rabbis, and not only Israeli ones, will raise their voices in total condemnation of the sickening, criminal even, outburst by the former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel and current Shaas leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. According to Israeli press reports, in a Shabbat sermon he referred to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian people as “our enemies and haters...