Alex Kasriel

Interview: Chava Alberstein

By Alex Kasriel, May 27, 2009

The fact that I can do albums is magic. The fact that people are ready to buy them is a miracle.” Israeli folk singer Chava Alberstein admits she is bemused by the longevity of her career — one that has spanned four decades and includes more than 60 album releases. Israelis have loved her ever since she rose to stardom at the age of 18, entertaining the troops during her Israeli army service (which, she insists, is the best training a performer can get).

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British olim in love with the Zionist dream

By Alex Kasriel, May 27, 2009

Politicians who can’t be trusted, a worsening international reputation and no peace anywhere in sight, Israel seems troubled. What do ordinary citizens think? We asked four emigrants from the UK:

The modern Orthodox Jew

Forty-four-year-old Simon Monk and his wife Nicole moved from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, to Netanya 14 years ago. Their first child, Gabriella, was a baby when they arrived. Nicole, a teacher, and Simon, a banker and a member of the Netanya City Council, now have four other children.

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Coming to a field near you

By Alex Kasriel, May 21, 2009

Regina Spektor

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How Miss World made rapist pay

By Alex Kasriel, May 21, 2009

Eleven years ago, Linor Abargil was crowned Miss World. As the 18-year-old Israeli model smiled for the TV cameras and accepted the congratulations of her fellow contestants, no one would have suspected that the memory of a horrific ordeal was still fresh in her mind.

Seven weeks earlier, she had been raped at knifepoint.

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Esther's manifesto (probably)

By Alex Kasriel, May 20, 2009

Esther Rantzen is strongly considering standing as MP in Luton South.

This is a brilliant idea. The 68-year-old has a very good chance of winning especially at a time when the rest of the MPs are about as popular as a food free wedding.

She may not have won the public vote during appearances on various reality TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing and I'm a Celebrity...Get Me out of Here! but she was not unpopular. And the skill set of the former That's Life! star and ChildLine founder, is far more suited to politics.

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Israel not on song at Eurovision

By Alex Kasriel, May 18, 2009

Israel's plea for peace fell on deaf ears at the Eurovision Song Contest last night as the country ranked only 16th out of 25 competitors.

Well known Jewish Israeli peace activist Noa (real name, Achinoam Nini) and Israeli Arab Mira Awad sung There Must Be Another Way in Arabic, Israeli and English as they held each others hands and banged on Olive Oil tins.

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Jordan and Peter Andre split

By Alex Kasriel, May 11, 2009

The couple have just released an official statement confirming they have separated.

Whatever you think about the glamour model (real name Katie Price), her lewd antics and her pneumatic breasts, it is still a sad fact that her marriage of four years is over.

This is especially true as they have two children together: Junior, three, and one-year-old daughter Princess Tiáamii.  And Jordan, who is halachically Jewish has another son, Harvey, six by footballer Dwight Yorke.

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Storm in a bra cup. Or why M&S shouldn't reduce its big bra surcharge

By Alex Kasriel, May 8, 2009

It has just been announced that Marks & Spencer has scrapped its surcharge on bigger bras after a revolt from large busted women.

A group calling itself 'Busts 4 Justice' won enormous support for its fight against the extra £2 levy on bras larger than a DD-cup.

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Simone’s got talent — and she’s proved it

By Alex Kasriel, April 30, 2009

The world is full of aspiring performers. You only have to look at Britain’s Got Talent for proof. So convinced are some of their own abilities that they put their own money on the line to record albums. Most disappear without trace. Not so Simone Dinnerstein.

Two years ago, the Brooklyn-based pianist self-produced an album of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The record became an instant bestseller, topped the critics’ charts and earned a prestigious French music award. At the relatively late age of 33, her career as a concert musician had been launched.

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‘Air travel is today’s Holocaust’

By Alex Kasriel, April 30, 2009

Thanks to two detectives from Strathclyde Police Force, Matilda ‘Tilly’ Gifford has become the most famous environmental campaigner in Britain.

The 24-year-old member of Plane Stupid, the direct action group that fights airport expansion, hit the headlines last weekend when she disclosed that the Scottish police had tried to recruit her as an informant, using a combination of intimidation and financial inducement.

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Are second sons really more rebellious?

By Alex Kasriel, April 29, 2009

Today's Daily Mail runs a story which tells how recent studies prove what we already suspected: younger sons are more rebellious than their conservative older brothers.

The newspaper uses Second Testament Bible story The Prodigal Son to illustrate the point.  But there are more biblical exceptions to this rule, than examples that prove it: Jacob and Esau, Cain and Abel, Joseph and all his older brothers. 

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Interview: Natalie Press

By Alex Kasriel, April 7, 2009

It is a good time to be a British actress right now. Kate Winslet has just won an Oscar for her role in The Reader and Rebecca Hall has earned good reviews for her performances in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Frost/Nixon. Meanwhile Emily Blunt is gaining recognition in The Young Victoria in which she plays the title role. And then there is Natalie Press, who was Blunt’s co-star in the pair’s breakthrough movie, 2004’s My Summer of Love.

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Interview: Idan Raichel

By Alex Kasriel, April 2, 2009

Idan Raichel started playing the accordion when he was nine. It was, he says, “the uncoolest instrument ever”, associated as it was with old-fashioned Israeli folk songs. But his suffering has paid off.

Now accordions have a wholly different reputation, thanks to bands like the Argentinian Gotan Project on the world music scene.

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The Jewish G20 protesters and me

By Alex Kasriel, April 1, 2009

From left to right: Morgan Ezra Zigler, 25; Dan Glass, 25; Tilly Gifford, 24; Sam Solnick, 24 and Rachel Solnick, 22  

These are the Jewish environmentalists who were letting the world's leaders know they are concerned about climate change at the G20 demonstrations today in the City of London.

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Rescuing Seder songs

By Alex Kasriel, March 26, 2009

It is a familiar story. You are sitting at the Seder table, having enjoyed a delicious meal of turkey and chrane. You have been through the Haggadah, manish tana has been sung and the afikomen hunted and found. Everything is perfect — that is, until it is time for the traditional table songs.

Versions of Chad Gadya start confidently but trail off into a quiet hum when everyone realises that no one actually knows the tune.

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The Knesset belles

By Alex Kasriel, March 25, 2009

Ok, so it's obviously more important what their political views are and how effective they are at doing their job, but it is still gratifying to learn that Israeli female politicians are among the most beautiful in the world.

That is according to a survey conducted by the popular Spanish newspaper website, 20 Minutos. In fact, the Israeli candidates all ranked among the top 30 female politicians out of 59 in a list which includes Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton and Segolene Royal.

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Interview: Jennifer Weiner

By Alex Kasriel, March 19, 2009

She may hate the term “chick-lit” but Jennifer Weiner — one of the best-selling novelists of the genre — certainly understands its power. Weiner, the author of Goodnight Nobody and In Her Shoes — which was adapted into a hit movie — feels strongly that a book should not be dismissed just because its heroine’s aim is to fall in love and have a family. But the Philadelphia writer, who has nine million of her books in print in 36 countries, says that she has become more pragmatic about the term.

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The man behind Britain’s other Best Picture

By Alex Kasriel, March 12, 2009

Simon Chinn has been making dramas and documentaries for television for the past 10 years. In all that time, the closest he has got to the Oscars is watching the event on TV. But, a fortnight ago, that all changed.

The 39-year-old film producer (son of Sir Trevor) won Best Documentary Feature for his film Man On Wire at last month’s Academy Awards.

“As a documentary-maker you never expect to be breathing the same air as Brad and Angelina,” he reflects, having returned to his north London home, swapping the glitz and glamour of

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A refugee from the Ayatollah

By Alex Kasriel, March 12, 2009

When 18-year-old Jilla Youseffi said goodbye to her parents one morning in early 1979, she had no idea whether she would ever see them again. Youseffi was leaving her home in a well-heeled suburb of Tehran for the last time, heading for a new life in Britain where she would be safe from persecution by Islamic fundamentalists.

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From Mafia man to Orthodox Jew

By Alex Kasriel, March 5, 2009

He was a New York gangster, a “goodfella” who spent his life dodging the law. But Louis Ferrante — aka Big Lou — is pleased he wound up in a maximum security prison.

Because that is how he found Judaism.

The 39-year-old Italian-American, whose thick accent irresistibly brings to mind Tony Soprano, was a member of the Gambino organisation, working for one of America’s most ruthless crime families. He was heavily involved in racketeering and fraud, activities that from time to time required brutal violence.

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