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Archive for January, 2013

I had never heard of Etti Ankri until I read about her in Daniel Gordis’ interesting new book, The Promise of Israel. In the book, he absolutely raves about her album Beshirei Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, which sets the poetry of the 12th-century Spanish rabbi Yehuda Halevi to music.

So I gave it a spin as I carried on reading, and it’s enriched many a day since.

Here’s one of the album’s tracks. I’d love to hear which Israeli music artists you recommend…

Again, I am reminded of this passage from Shoah survivor Elie Wiesel’s spellbinding book Souls on Fire: Portraits and Legends of Hasidic Masters:

‘What cannot help but astound us is that the Hasidim remained the Hasidim inside the ghetto walls, inside the death camps. In the shadow of the executioner, they celebrated life. Startled Germans whispered to each other of Jews dancing in the cattle cars rolling towards Birkenau; Hasidim ushering in Simchat Torah. And there were those who in Block 57 at Auschwitz tried to make me join in their fervent singing. Were these miracles?’

Haunting, inspiring and astonishing.

Read more about Holocaust Memorial Day here.

The Holocaust Educational Trust has accused Liberal Democrat MP David Ward of “deliberately abusing the memory of the Holocaust, causing deep pain and offence” after he compared the Israeli government to the Nazis, and accused “the Jews” of inflicting “daily atrocities” on the Palestinians.

His statement was peculiar, not least its choice of words. He wrote that the Jewish people faced “persecution” during the Holocaust, but that the Palestinians face “atrocities” now.

Ward is not the first to abuse the Holocaust in order to slander Israel and the Jewish people. It is, unfortunately, a popular technique, as I wrote in the Jewish Chronicle in July:

It is the “they-of-all-people” argument: the suggestion that the Jews, having faced extraordinary persecution, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors.

Put aside for a moment that the “oppression” which proponents of this argument are accusing Israel of committing is usually imaginary. When directed by gentiles towards Jews, the “they-of-all-people” argument is in its very essence so fundamentally ill-judged and unjust, and voiced with such a breathtaking lack of self-awareness, that my spirit flags when I hear it.

I concluded:

Let us strip the “they-of-all-people” argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity.

You can read the column in full here.

Ward is standing by his statement. He gave a bizarre interview about it to Sky News, during which he giggled, and he later claimed the words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel as his guiding motivation. Wiesel has now distanced himself from Ward, saying: “Although he quotes me correctly, I am outraged that he uses my words at the same time he utters shameless slanders on the State of Israel.”

Even by the standards of the Liberal Democrats this is a mess.

(Update: David Ward has now ‘apologised’. However, one Lib Dem MEP isn’t happy that the party leadership reprimanded Ward.)

Israel goes to the polls on Tuesday and it would be great to know what you think.

Israelis, who are you voting for and who do you expect to be the winners and losers?

Those outside Israel, what are your feelings as the story unfolds in the hours and days ahead?

To get the ball rolling, I’ll say this: those who believe a right-wing administration equals the death of the peace process should recall how it has often been right-wing Israeli PMs who have made concessions. Menachem Begin made peace with Egypt, Benjamin Netanyahu handed most of Hebron to the Palestinians in the 1990s, and Ariel Sharon withdrew from Gaza.

That said, as I look at the likely outcomes of Tuesday’s vote, I am hardly bursting with Rabin-era enthusiasm. I wonder what proportion of the Arab electorate will show up to the polls, and what effect that could have on the outcome.

Two quick ‘election broadcasts’:

This lad thinks Israel should definitely vote for Bibi.

Whereas I’d love you to read about the newly-formed NaNach party, which is headed by Sharon Knafo, who miraculously survived a terror attack in Jerusalem in 2001.

Over to you. What is your take on it all?

Winter truly hit England this week. Much of the country, including my village, is currently facing heavy snow.

So here’s Thorns, by the lovely Charlie Simpson. It’s a beautiful song about English weather and the seasons:

Let’s put on our rain coats
And drench ourselves in England’s weather
Just to know we’re free…

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Adele isn’t just a superb songwriter with a magnificent voice. She also has a knack of cutting through the bland corporate backslapping of prestigious awards ceremonies.

In February 2012, she won an astonishing six Grammy awards. During her emotional acceptance speech for the sixth, she wiped her face and said: ‘Oh my God, I got a bit of snot.’

At the Brit Awards a few weeks later, she flipped her middle finger at the audience after being cut off during her acceptance speech for Best Album. She later explained her gesture was aimed at the industry ‘suits’ in the audience.

Last night, she won a Golden Globe for Skyfall. Accepting the award, she said: ‘Oh my God! Honestly, I came here for a night out with my friend Ida – we’re new mums. Thank you for letting us be a part of your world tonight. We’ve been pissing ourselves laughing all night.’

That’s my girl. Next month, she is up for an Oscar. Assuming she wins, I’ll be intrigued to see what she pulls out of the bag in her acceptance speech.

Read more about my biography of Adele here.


I’m sure many of you will have heard of the cookbook Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Yotam is Jewish and Sami is Arab. Their beautiful book serves up 100 recipes which cover the traditions of all Jerusalem’s people, accompanied by a generous serving of dazzling photography of the wonderful city. It’s a book with a big heart.

Jerusalem was among my Xmas presents.

This is an epochal moment for me, as I am a virtual stranger to the kitchen (apart from when it comes to washing up, worst luck). The rare attempts I’ve made to cook in the past have been hit and miss. Mostly miss: a friend who was unfortunate enough to eat something I’d prepared turned to me as he left and said, ‘This is a day which will live in infamy’.

Anyway, I attempted my first Jerusalem recipe this evening: the Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad. Although I got my proportions a little wrong, I am calling this one as a success:

So far, so good. Other recipes in the book I plan to try in the near future include hummus, shakshuka and… shawarma.

If you’ve read the book and have any tips or experiences to share, please do. If you’ve any recipes of your own you want to share, we’d all love to see them. Equally, any words of encouragement for me – or sympathy for my future co-diners – would be welcome.

We continued our annual tradition of heading to Amsterdam for New Year’s Eve. Ollie Bollen, fireworks, food and fun – we had a lovely little time. Here are some photographs I took.

I visited the Portuguese Synagogue, which is a beautiful building.

The buttresses are modelled on those of a reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.

This is at the entrance of the mourning room.

And here is the mourning room.

Elsewhere in the city, I was thrilled as always to see my Amy Winehouse biography translated and on sale.

Finally, I don’t think the barista at Starbucks believed this was actually my name.

Happy New Year! I now feel relaxed and recharged – how was your holiday period?


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