Simon Rocker

Serenading the kibbutzniks

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2011

X Factor contestant Mary Byrne, from Dublin, was the guest of honour at an Israeli embassy reunion in London for kibbutz volunteers to mark the centenary of the collective movement.

She sang for guests, who were served their meals in a room mocked up as a kibbutz dining hall, and said that her year at Kibbutz Geva had "opened her mind to a world of peace".

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A brief encounter

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2011

Natan Sharansky, last of the speakers at the Israeli embassy's Yom Ha'atzmaut do in London on Monday, sensed the audience was getting restless. So the diminutive Jewish Agency chairman reassured them: "I promise to be very short".

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Don't say 'terrorist'

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2011

You can only marvel at the BBC's efforts to preserve neutrality. A recent TV news report, noting that the 2012 Olympics would mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes, said the attack had been carried out by Palestinian "paramilitaries".

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Second thoughts on peace?

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2011

The Palestinian diplomatic mission in London seems to be in two minds, judging from its website.

Its tourism section describes Palestine as comprising East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

But the interactive map (right) on its "Discover Palestine" page, decked out in the colours of the Palestinian flag, takes in all of pre-67 Israel.

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Jemima's goodwill mission

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2011

Jemima Khan found herself the centre of unwelcome attention last week after feeling forced to deny malicious rumours on Twitter. But she will be happier at publicity over her involvement in an event tonight.

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Council threat to Hackney schools

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

Two strictly Orthodox schools are facing action from Hackney Council, which says they are operating without the necessary planning permission.

The council is planning to prosecute Torah V'Yirah, a primary school for nearly 300 boys run by the Satmar Chasidic sect which opened two years ago.

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West Bank tours plan

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

Yachad, the new alternative advocacy group, is planning educational tours for youth group leaders to East Jerusalem and the West Bank as part of its programme to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The group says that "time is running out" for a two-state solution, which is "threatened" by terrorist violence and "undermined" by the building of Jewish settlements.

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Desecration at synagogue leads to fast

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

Members of a London synagogue observed a special fast on Monday after a burglary in which its Torah scrolls were dumped on the floor.

Thousands of pounds' worth of silver artefacts and scroll cases were stolen from Magen Avraham, a congregation of Aden Jews in Finchley, late last Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday.

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Why Yom Ha'atzmaut went sour for Mumbai rabbi dad

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

A seemingly bizarre controversy flared up over this year's ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem to mark the start of Israel Independence Day.

Lubavitch Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg and his four-year-old grandson Moshe Holtzberg, who lost his parents in the terrorist attack on Mumbai's Chabad House in 2008, had been among those asked to light torches.

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The Grand

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

It's dance night at The Grand in Eastbourne, and some silver-haired couples are still getting their kicks on Route 66. Jiving to a live band, they roll back the years at this vintage five-star hotel, which has entertained visitors to the well-kept seaside town since 1878.

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A kippah cure for baldness

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

When your hair is rapidly disappearing and your head begins to resemble a desert, you confront an obvious problem: how do you clip on your kippah?

Well, Brooklyn artist Mark Svartz has found the answer; the hairmulka. A yarmulke attached to fronds of fake hair, it will happily sit atop the most denuded scalp.

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Diplomatic dynamos

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

You would probably think I was living in a parallel universe if I told you that Israel had won a "best delegation" prize at the United Nations.

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The wisdom of Solomon

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

It's good to see Stacey Solomon carving out a TV career, now as co-host of ITV1 Saturday night show Sing If You Can.

She has also published her autobiography this week - at the tender age of 21. But its title, My Story So Far, is no great shakes. After her I'm A Celebrity exploits, why not something a bit more literary like Confessions of a Kangaroo Shmekel-Eater?

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Randall on the money

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

leading business journalist Jeff Randall has shown he is no mean fundraiser by heading the quest for £1.5 million for a Jewish studies chair at his old university, Nottingham.

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Get hammered for Israel

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011

Enjoy the Hebrew Hammer, a blend of vodka, curaçao, lemon and lemonade, concocted specially for students celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut by the Duke of Cambridge, a cocktail bar in Oxford. It's blue and white (with the ice). They ought to serve it at the Bicom Israel conference on Sunday.

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Engaging with Israel

By Simon Rocker, May 11, 2011

Sunday’s “We Believe in Israel” conference has been billed as the largest advocacy of its kind in this country. But if you go to the conference home page, you’ll notice that the word “advocacy” does not appear.

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Indy writer's Israel rethink

By Simon Rocker, May 5, 2011

When it comes to Israel, Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown belongs with the bashers rather than the backslappers. So some readers were left rubbing their eyes on Monday when she suggested that Israel's supporters may have a point in complaining that it is unfairly picked on by the left.

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Barking up the wrong tree

By Simon Rocker, May 5, 2011

Despite web rumour, Kate Middleton is unlikely to be of Jewish stock.

What's stirred it is that her mother Carole was born Goldsmith: and further up the matrilineal line lies great-great-grandma Elizabeth Myers.

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Lock, stock and mohel

By Simon Rocker, May 5, 2011

Madonna took her commitment to the Kabbalah Centre so seriously that she not only had her son circumcised but also her ex-husband, film-maker Guy Ritchie, according to the centre's Karen Berg, quoted in New York magazine.

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Beware of the sauce

By Simon Rocker, May 5, 2011

Israeli cuisine is coming up in the world. Still, I wonder at the Tel Aviv restaurant whose menu included the following item: gnocchi with "chess nuts, parmegano reggiano and fresh pee" (sic). That's carrying the search for organic ingredients a bit too far.

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