Wedding vows without religious coercion

My nephew, Kevin, got married a few weeks ago in a picture-book English wedding. A beautiful rural location near Oxford, magnificent summer weather, confetti, croquet, Pimms and a rare reunion of the family, which is spread out all over the place. The sort of occasion that makes one happy to be alive.

Not a unique event in itself, but a very special one for our family. Special also for those of us – Israelis, I mean – for whom such an event is unthinkable within the borders of the Jewish state.

For one thing, Kevin ad his wife Jo were born into different religions, yet they didn’t have to sneak off to Cyprus to get married on the sly. They were able to marry, legally and officially, in a country that doesn’t claim to have the right to sniff around  in people’s private lives. That’s what happens when there’s a separation between religion and state. Continue reading

Mandela’s Jewish Comrades

By | Jul. 30, 2013 | 6:11 PM | 

The predominance of Jews among the older generation of white anti-apartheid activists is unmistakable. As my father once put it, there was a minyan for every political discussion in Pretoria Central Prison after the imposition of martial law in 1960 – though never for the purpose of prayer, as far as I know. Most of the old-timers were comfortable in their Jewishness, but their rituals had a lot more to do with Marx than with the Almighty.

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The End of the Circus

The counterpoint is jarring. As the European Union takes its first, halting step in imposing sanctions on Israel, thousands of so-called athletes from the Jewish diaspora have gathered in Jerusalem to uphold the rather odd proposition that Jewishness is a sporting attribute on a par with speed, strength, endurance and so on.

Evolution is normally a slow process; it’s seldom that we get to see the past and the future in such close and discordant proximity. Those of a more spiritual bent than I might even regard it as a revelation – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the ineluctable consequences of our actions and perhaps change direction before it’s too late.

In Jerusalem, we have the Maccabiah, a quadrennial gathering of Jewish sportspeople from around the world under the slogan “Sound Jewish Minds in Healthy Jewish Bodies.” (Surely I’m not the only one for whom that has creepy echoes of Berlin 1936?) Of course, the Maccabiah is only ostensibly about sport. What it is really about is aliya; a huge fiesta (organized by an even huger network of jobs for pals, nepotism and international junkets) designed to impress the pants off gullible diaspora Jews in the hope that some of them will decide to return as immigrants. Continue reading

On the horns of a summer dilemma

Newswise, we’re in the silly season now, which means that the media are full of soft and silly stories due to the lack of hard news over the summer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; most of the news we get is so utterly depressing that it’s good to have a respite every now and again.

The silly season is traditionally the time when Bibi Netanyahu increases the volume of his ranting and raving against Iran and he hasn’t disappointed. Once again, the media are stuffed full with his bulldog jaw and clenched brow as he launches terrifying warnings in the direction of the perfidious Persians. I don’t quite know why he chooses mid-summer for this stuff – perhaps it’s silly season in Israeli politics as well (or is it some sort of gut understanding that his silliness is appropriate in this season?) – but he’s been doing it like clockwork for as long as I can remember (which isn’t very long, given my advanced age and the parlous state of my memory.) Continue reading