Simon Round

How Britain helped forge Israel

By Simon Round, May 2, 2008

British Jews and the Dream of Zion
Radio 4, Monday April 28

On the eve of the 60th anniversary of Israel, here was a programme which told the story of the involvement of British Jews, and indeed non-Jews, in the foundation of the Jewish state.

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On a wing and a prayer

By Simon Round, April 25, 2008

A passenger was thrown off an aircraft last week — for davening. The man, a strictly Orthodox Jew, went to the back of a United Airlines jet to pray shortly before take-off from New York’s Kennedy Airport. However, the plane was unable to take off for San Francisco while the man was unseated. Three flight attendants were unable to persuade him to interrupt his ma’ariv prayers — the man’s friends attempted to explain to them that, as Magnus Magnusson would have put it, once he had started he had to finish.

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When we were street fighters

By Simon Round, April 25, 2008

A Rage In Dalston
Radio 4, April 19

It is a shame that the majority of British Jewry did not have the chance to hear this radio show about the little-known 43 Groupers who fought Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists following the Second World War — as it was broadcast on Seder night.

But if you managed to catch A Rage in Dalston on BBCi, you would have heard about the clashes between the Jewish ex-servicemen and -women and the far-right movement, on the streets of East London.

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Forget Ken, Boris and Brian — vote for me

By Simon Round, April 25, 2008

This time next week, we will know whether Ken or Boris or perhaps even Brian is the new mayor of London. I have to confess the prospect does not excite me. Ken’s voice is too nasal for my liking, Boris’s hair is quite frankly a mess, and as for Brian — well call me prejudiced, but I don’t think a city the size of London should have a mayor named Brian.

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Pesach - for men only

By Simon Round, April 25, 2008

In order to stem the tide of alienated men leaving Judaism, the Reform movement in America has come up with a wizard wheeze — the male-only haggadah.

Rabbis Dan Moskovitz and Perry Netter have adapted the Exodus story to make religion more relevant to modern men’s lives. So, the 10 plagues now include prostate cancer, hair loss, weight gain and impotence, and the four questions are given a gender twist, for instance: “Why is it that, no matter how old I get, I don’t understand women?”

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Yentob's expensive account

By Simon Round, April 25, 2008

The great thing about the BBC is that because we effectively pay their salaries, staff members have to tell us what their itemised expenses are. This is how we know that Alan Yentob, whose basic salary at the BBC is £300,000 a year, has claimed more than £27,000 over the past three years, including £120 for a cake. According to The Daily Telegraph, he also claimed £1,500 for a Christmas lunch for colleagues, despite being a nice Jewish boy, and mysteriously claimed £743 for “discussions”. Who said talk was cheap? Clearly not Yentob, who also claimed 24p for a single phone call.

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Heard the one about...?

By Simon Round, April 18, 2008

Did you hear the one about the Israeli comedian?

The answer is probably not. We have all got our favourite Israeli writers, our favourite Israeli politicians, and even our favourite Israeli spoonbenders.

But Israeli stand-ups? Possibly the nearest many of us have come to Israeli humour is comedian Mark Maier’s comic alter ego, Roni Shmoni. When two English girls ask the fictional Israeli soldier for directions to the beach, he replies: “So you want to sleep with me?” (or words to that effect). We find it easy to laugh at Israelis; but can they laugh at themselves?

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Nostalgia for the Entebbe raid

By Simon Round, April 18, 2008

Age of Terror: Terror International
BBC2, April 15

For any government wishing to rescue hostages, the operation on Entebbe remains the gold standard. It spawned four star-studded feature films and dozens of documentaries. Indeed the survivors have spent most of the 30 years since the operation being interviewed; as this documentary demonstrated, the news footage from those eight days in June 1976 have been played so much that it is beginning to wear out.

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I eschew routine - every day, at the same time

By Simon Round, April 18, 2008

When I was at school I had a friend who used to dread Monday nights. That is because his mum always made egg and chips on a Monday. She was a poor cook and he didn’t like eggs much anyway.

It always used to amuse me that he knew exactly what meal he was going to get on any particular night (Tuesday was lamb chops, Wednesday was Shepherd’s pie, can’t remember Thursday but Friday was challah followed by roast chicken, obviously).

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Think yourself happy

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

Nutrition expert Dr Michael Sharon says he has discovered the secret of happiness.

Michael Sharon is a happy man. He is not happy just because he is financially well off, although he is. He is not happy just because he has a loving relationship with his partner, although he has one. And although he is happy that his new book is being published, his happiness in not just about that.

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The judge who finds ministers guilty

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

Since retiring as Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf has become one of the government’s fiercest critics, accusing it of bungling the fight against crime It is hard to tell when Lord Woolf is angry.

 

He has a kindly face and generally displays a half-smile even when talking about the most serious issues. However, it is fair to say that the former Lord Chief Justice is, at the very least, dissatisfied with the government.

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Writing a column? It’s a walk in the park

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

Occasionally, when I’m seeking inspiration for a column, I go for a walk. For some reason I find it easier to come up with ideas when I am moving. This is sometimes disconcerting for colleagues who think I am merely wandering aimlessly about the office, occasionally tripping over waste-paper baskets and exposed wires. So, for their benefit, I have taken to walking outside.

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A sink full of kosher plates

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

There are several theories as to what the the staff on the Titanic were doing as the ship sank (rearranging the deckchairs seems to be the most popular one). However, here is a new one — they were making kosher food for the ship’s Jewish passengers. Forty-four Jews went down with the ship, and their descendents may find some consolation in the fact that at least they were able to eat kosher food served on top-class crockery right up to the end. The White Star Line of Liverpool had plates for kosher food specially made with a black rim, marked in Hebrew for meat or for dairy.

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Moses almost played God

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

Actor Charlton Heston, who died this week, did not boast any Jewish ancestry, but this did not put off the Hollywood studio chiefs who kept casting him in Jewish roles.


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Dam! It’s those Jews again

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

“India launches water aggression in collaboration with Jewish lobby” runs the headline on a story on the Pakistani Online International News website. The site reports how the chairman of the Indus River Water Council, Hafiz Zahoor ul Hassan Dahir, has warned that India has been building dams which will enable the country to stop the flow of rivers into Pakistan at will. But as for the contribution of the Jewish lobby to the problems of water flow between India and Pakistan…? Answers on a postcard please.

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The Anti-Defamation League v The World Evangelical Council

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

The World Evangelical Council took an advert in the New York Times reaffirming the Jews’ need to accept Jesus. This irritated Abraham Foxman, the chairman of the Jewish lobby group, the Anti-Defamation League, who labelled the targeting of Jews for conversion as “offensive and insulting”. This one could run and run. (In fact it has in one form or another for 2000 years).

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Lunch with the man who ate the world

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

Food critic Jay Rayner dined at the best restaurants in five continents. It was in Russia that Jay Rayner came face to face with his Jewish food heritage in the most bizarre and surreal fashion.

Rayner was sitting in the Sirena, one of Moscow’s top and over-the-top restaurants. It is, says Rayner, a strange place to eat. The floors are made of glass, there are sturgeon and carp swimming beneath the feet of the oligarchs perusing the menu.

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My father, the cheating rabbi

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

Saturday Live
Radio 4, Saturday, April 5

There is often a moment as the clock radio clicks onto the Today programme in the morning when the news somehow fuses with your dreams to conjure a strange vision. You know the kind of things — James Naughtie interviewing Gordon Brown as he strums a mandolin aboard an ocean-going liner and The Rev Ian Paisley sitting in the bath eating pink cup cakes.

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The judge who finds ministers guilty

By Simon Round, April 10, 2008

Since retiring as Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf has become one of the government’s fiercest critics, accusing it of bungling the fight against crime

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Pontiff takes the biscuit

By Simon Round, April 4, 2008

He may be the head of the Catholic Church, but Pope Benedict XVI has a haimishe taste in confectionery. The Pontiff developed a liking for kosher cakes when his doctors stopped at the Boccione bakery in Rome for a pastry, and introduced His Holiness to their products. Says the bakery’s owner, Wilma Limenati, who received a thank-you letter from the Vatican: “I guess he enjoyed the biscotti and ‘Jewish pizza’ [an almond and raisin confection].”

She added: “I think the Pope has looked forward to the doctor’s visits ever since.”

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