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Archive for April, 2011

The fact that I support Israel despite not being Jewish seems to prompt a certain amount of curiosity and even suspicion. Particularly as I am not a Christian Zionist, nor an Islamophobe. Rather, I love Israel because… I love Israel. It might not be a common position but as far as I am concerned it should be. It is a sad indictment that a love of Israel is what confuses people, when the real puzzle is surely hatred of Israel.

You can read the rest here.

‘It is no small thing to cheer a man’ – Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

The NaNachs cheer me all the time. Long may they dance.

An Israeli worshipper was shot dead by Palestinian police forces early this morning. He and some fellow Breslov Hasidim had been praying at the site of Joseph’s tomb, a key site in the Jewish religion. The site is in Nablus, which was handed to the Palestinians as part of the Oslo Accords. It is therefore under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, whose policemen shot the Jews as they left, killing one and seriously injuring others.

It has been said that the group had not co-ordinated their visit to this sensitive area through the usual channels, even though this was during Passover, a time extra visits would be anticipated. For this, they paid a heavy price: one of them has been killed and others wounded. In the wake of the attack, some Palestinians set fire to Joseph’s tomb. I cannot conceive of a sentence that begins to express how horrific this is.

Contrast the situation there with the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Israeli authorities painstakingly protect the rights of all faiths to visit and pray at their places of worship in dignity and comfort. Indeed, Israel leaves the administration of the Temple Mount (a site of intense significance to both Judaism and Islam) to the Arab Waqf.

I visited the Temple Mount during my Once In A Lifetime trip to Israel last summer. It was the one part of the trip I did not enjoy. When we arrived, some charmless Arab security guards menacingly inspected the attire of the females in our group to check it was sufficiently modest. I’ve no problem with the principle which would equally have applied at Jewish holy sites, but the execution was unpleasant.

On the Mount itself there was litter floating about the place and a dark feeling. When I have stood at the Kotel (Western Wall) I have always been overwhelmed by a feeling of beauty, magic and light. On the Temple Mount I felt a similarly intense feeling, but one clouded in darkness. We were watched closely throughout our visit, as there is a rule that Jews (and indeed any non-Muslims) are not allowed to pray up there. So if you pause for a moment with a thoughtful look on your face, you immediately fall under suspicion.

Israel deserves enormous credit for the way it governs the Old City of Jerusalem, allowing all faiths to enjoy their holy sites. Were Israel to behave how the Palestinians did in Nablus today, one can only imagine the global outrage. Imagine for a moment that some Arabs were shot by Israelis as they left the site of the Dome of the Rock. Imagine that following this, some Israeli youths set fire to the Dome of the Rock. We would be talking about global outrage, possibly even talk of World War Three breaking out.

Yet when that chain of events happened in Nablus this morning it merited little coverage, condemnation or even reflection. My heart goes out to the family of Ben Yosef Livnat, who was killed there. May his memory be a blessing. I wish his injured friends a speedy and full recovery. Regular readers will know of my love of the stories and sayings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. All the Breslov Hasidim of any strand I’ve ever met have been wonderful, gentle and joy-inducing people. I hope that through the pain, shock and hurt they continue to bring light to the world.

And I hope that one day, Israel is given due credit for the way it so beautifully governs the Old City of Jerusalem, proving itself once more a moral example to the world.

So, the BBC is to axe its long-running quiz The Weakest Link. This is my favourite moment of the show.

This is a guest post from Jonathan Sacerdoti

Last summer I marched through central London with a group of friends, all of us waving Israeli flags, cheered on by crowds of people lining the streets. Don’t believe me? Well I did.

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Four years ago, before this blog existed, I wrote an article for The First Post about a Channel 4 documentary called The War On Britain’s Jews. The documentary was about the growth in antisemitism in Britain, and was presented by Richard Littlejohn.

Some commentators were expressing surprise that Littlejohn – who can be scornful of political correctness and minority groups – would speak-out on such an issue. As I argued in my article, this actually made sense: ‘Maybe it isn’t Littlejohn who has shifted positions after all. Perhaps he has stayed just where he always was and it is his old sparring partners on the Left who are changing their spots by adopting – when it comes to Jews – just the sort of racist behaviour they are meant to oppose.’

If you wish to, you can read my article here.

I wrote in February of my love of the Na Nachs. There have been a few nice articles written about them elsewhere of late, including here and here. Enjoy – as Rabbi Nachman himself said: ‘It is no small thing to cheer a man…’


Last night’s seder was just wonderful. Co-arranged by the Israeli House department of the Israeli Embassy, and the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, it was a very enjoyable evening. It had an informal atmosphere, yet still included many moments of reverence and profundity.

Among these were when we sang a song for Gilad Shalit. His mother, Aviva, has written a poignant article about her son, to coincide with Pesach. It is headlined ‘At night I whisper – Gilad, come home’. You can read it here.

Last night one was one the best nights of my life. Thanks to Gili for inviting me.

How was your seder?

This time last year, I wrote of my love of Pesach and how much I enjoy the Seder. I attended my first seder in 2007, and was quickly smitten. I’d like to say another big thanks to all who have invited me to theirs over the years, I feel very blessed.

This year I am going to one that has been organised by the Israeli House department of the Israeli Embassy. The entire seder will be in Hebrew. I’m rather excited, actually. I’ll be there with the wonderful Gili Brenner.

Chag Sameach to all. During this time of talk of release from bondage, I will be increasingly thinking of Gilad Shalit. It seems a fresh momentum might be building in his case again. I do hope so, and pray that this will be his final Pesach in captivity.

Let our Gilad go.

Israel made some appalling PR errors during Justin Bieber’s visit last week. His Twitter following is just short of nine million strong, but its reach is many times that when you add in the ‘re-tweets’ of his fans, and the media attention that his online pronouncements are afforded.

For the millions of youngsters who follow Bieber, their association with Israel will now be that it is the only country that has managed to upset their hero during his world tour. It could have been so different, but the efforts were always destined for disaster. (I know – as his biographer and a vocal Israel supporter I was personally made aware of several ill-advised plans.)

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© Copyright Chas Newkey-Burden. All Rights Reserved. Thanks to Chris Morris.