Simon Round

Mind your language, Eli

By Simon Round, July 11, 2008

There are signs that the Israeli government might not be treating the process of welcoming and integrating immigrants with a great deal of importance.

Why? Well, the newly appointed absorption minister, Eli Affalo, does not speak a word of English. That may prove significant when one’s job entails a large number of conversations with English-speakers.

A source close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the decision, saying: “Speaking English is not part of the criteria.”

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I went on TV to find love

By Simon Round, July 11, 2008

Dan Shell agreed to let an ITV camera crew follow his attempts at internet dating. Any regrets?


Finding true love can be a tricky and unpredictable journey. It is a process that most people like to conduct with a degree of privacy. However, 38-year-old Dan Shell has decided to allow the television-viewing public to follow his romantic progress.

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The way we deal with rubbish is, er, rubbish

By Simon Round, July 11, 2008

It’s going to be a rubbish column this week. This isn’t to say that the quality of the writing won’t be every bit as effervescent (or not) as usual, just that the subject is, well, rubbish.

Why am I writing about rubbish? The fact is there is a lot of it about these days. We are creating more rubbish than ever before which means that local authorities are struggling to do everything within their power to dispose of the mountains of waste as efficiently as possible.

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Williams: Heavens can wait

By Simon Round, July 11, 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he will not be taking to the heavens in an aeroplane — with one exception.

Rowan Williams told Green Futures magazine that he intends to keep his feet firmly on the ground in an attempt to leave as small an ecclesiastical carbon footprint as possible. He is, however, making one exception. “The only fixed flight this year is a trip to Auschwitz. After that I’m looking at travelling by train in Europe.”

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UJIA’s dinner dilemma

By Simon Round, July 11, 2008
Word reaches us of a terrible dilemma confronting UJIA. It’s being strongly rumoured that Gordon Brown has been pencilled in as the main speaker for their autumn fundraising dinner. Which, under other political circumstances, would be lovely — except that Mr Brown’s prospects are not currently looking too rosy. So we hear that there has been some concern within the organisation — the word “panic” has been used — about whether they should think again, just in case he is not the PM at that point. A spokeswoman promises to get back to us, but somehow never does. Very politic.

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A novel correction

By Simon Round, July 11, 2008
Two weeks ago, we reported a correction from the Daily Mail apologising for falsely suggesting that David Gest had contracted a sexually transmitted disease and had Liza Minnelli’s dog killed. Here is another beauty from The Guardian concerning a book by The Times’s Jewish editor, James Harding. “James Harding’s book, Alpha Dogs, is not a searing, gripping novel as we said in a diary item. It is a work of non-fiction about a firm of US political strategists.”

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Can faiths agree on punishment?

By Simon Round, July 11, 2008

Beyond Belief

Radio 4, Monday, July 7

Sunday Life

BBC1, Sunday, July 6

In a sense, Beyond Belief is what we pay our licence fee for. Who but a publicly funded broadcaster would invite thinkers from Islam, Christianity and Judaism to sit in a radio studio and chat for half an hour about what their faith says about punishment?

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Parade? What parade?

By Simon Round, July 4, 2008

You may have been among the thousands attending the “Salute to Israel” parade in London on Sunday. So how did London’s paper, the Evening Standard, report the event? Well, the paper carried a centre-spread photo showing Spanish football fans celebrating their Euro 2008 triumph  in Piccadilly Circus on Sunday night.

The caption read : “In among the sea of red and yellow is a lone Israeli flag, presumably left lying around after a parade earlier in the day to celebrate 60 years of the state of Israel.”

Yes, that was it.

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Sharansky talks pants

By Simon Round, July 4, 2008

At the Conservative Friends of Israel annual business lunch last week, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said he had vivid memories of Soviet dissident and retired Israeli politician Natan Sharansky walking across the Glienicke Bridge in West Berlin on his release from prison in 1986.

Mr Osborne said: “When I met him years later, I asked him what he was thinking as he crossed the bridge, and he said: ‘I had lost so much weight, and because my belt had been taken, I was terrified my trousers would fall down’.”

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Israeli - and big in Beirut

By Simon Round, July 4, 2008

Israel and Lebanon may not be on talking terms right now, but Lebanese music fans can’t get enough of an Israeli transsexual singer (and, no it’s not Dana International).

Say No More, a dance track by Aderet, who had the operation 10 years ago, has been at the top of the playlist this month on the Beirut Nights internet radio station devoted to dance music. Said Aderet: “They know I’m an Israeli singer, and that it’s an Israeli song. It feels great.”

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Potty about Zionist plots

By Simon Round, July 4, 2008

The Diary enjoys a preposterous Zionist conspiracy theory, and this week we have two crackers.

Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning D-Day epic, Saving Private Ryan, was Zionist propaganda. According to an Iranian documentary about Hollywood cinema, the eponymous soldier was called Ryan because of the similarity of the name to “Zion”. Moreover, claims the documentary, “prominent films like Saving Private Ryan highlight the role of Jewish soldiers. By exaggerating this role, the Zionists seem to be trying to achieve legitimacy for their post-war actions.”

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How I could look like a frum George Clooney

By Simon Round, July 4, 2008

I noticed while browsing the internet a few days ago that George Clooney has (or certainly very recently had) a beard. So did Keanu Reeves. Does this mean that beards are now in?

Ever since I started shaving, I have been toying with the idea of growing a beard. I haven’t done so for two reasons. I really enjoy shaving and would therefore feel deprived if I couldn’t wield my Bic any more. Also, beards generally look rubbish.

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An inquiry into His Bobness

By Simon Round, July 4, 2008

What’s So Great About... Bob Dylan?
Radio 4, Saturday, June 28

It has been ages since Lenny Henry made a good programme. I think the last one was probably Tiswas, the weekend kids’ show which ran out of steam some time in 1982.

Yet this Radio 4 nugget contained all sorts of things you do not normally associate with Henry — it was intelligent, thought-provoking, articulate — and there was not a single silly voice in the entire half-hour.

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Rabbi... or is that Robbie?

By Simon Round, June 27, 2008

When Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks arrived at BBC Television Centre last week for his Thought for the Day slot, he had problems gaining access to the studio.

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The best correction ever

By Simon Round, June 27, 2008

This correction of a story about Liza Minnelli’s former husband David Gest, published in the Daily Mail last week, is our favourite Jewish celebrity correction. Ever. As a service to readers, we print it verbatim:

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TZIPI’s criminal past

By Simon Round, June 27, 2008

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni revealed this week that her parents had met under rather unusual circumstances: they were robbing a British train at the time.

Livni’s parents Eitan and Sarah were both activists in the hardline Irgun militia in Mandate Palestine when they became acquainted while mounting a raid on a British train.

They were arrested and served time in different prisons, but the spark of romance had been lit.

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The city sale of the century

By Simon Round, June 27, 2008

Strictly Orthodox property developer Eliasz Englander had a problem. His firm, Citywise, is developing a 106,000 ft scheme at 1 Southampton Row in central London. He needed to put a tower crane on the site, but was informed by builders Bovis the crane had to be erected on Saturday to prevent traffic disruption.

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Supershmaltz me!

By Simon Round, June 27, 2008

Our Food editor sets out to discover what effect two weeks of eating only haimishe shtetl food has on his body

I have always enjoyed Jewish food. There is something intensely comforting about a big, fatty salt-beef sandwich slathered with mustard, a bowl of golden chicken soup with lockshen and a kneidl or two, or a fat slice of challah with chopped liver and a pickled cucumber. Comfort food does not get more comforting than this.

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Lawyer outed as Jew... again

By Simon Round, June 20, 2008

Another exclusive in agenda-setting local rag the Jewish Telegraph. It reports that Nick Freeman — the lawyer known as “Mr Loophole” for his ability to help celebrity clients escape driving convictions — “has spoken publicly about his Jewish background for the first time” to the paper.

Actually, it is the first time he has spoken about his Jewish background this month.

Or did they miss his JC interview in which he talked about being a member of the New Kahal Chassidim shul?

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Yossi eats hay for energy

By Simon Round, June 20, 2008

If you want to see Yossi Benayoun in action, try the 2.30 at Ascot.

Yossi Benayoun, the horse, is named after the Israeli international footballer.

The nag is owned by South London man Russell Trew, who tells the Wimbledon Guardian that, as a West Ham supporter, he was a big fan of Benayoun until the midfielder joined Liverpool.

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