NETANYAHU’S ORTHODOX POLITICS ANGERS JEWISH DIASPORA
Benjamin Netanyahu yielded to pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners and suspended a plan to provide a better space for non-Orthodox men and women to worship together at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He also approved a contentious bill enshrining the strictly Orthodox Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel. And Jews around the world have been in an uproar. Together, those moves have reawakened a decades-old dispute over who is a Jew. And they have prompted an emotional debate over the nature of the relationship between the world’s Jews and the Jewish homeland — at a time when a Right-wing Israeli government, under increased international criticism, has relied on support from the Jewish diaspora in the West who are largely liberal. The dispute is a symbolic one, over identity and belonging and transcends politically divisive issues.
ASSAD’S FACE ON THE NEW CURRENCY
Syria’s Central Bank is introducing a new banknote — a 2,000-pound bill worth roughly $4 — because of “wear and tear” on the currency already in circulation. But the new bill will have, for the first time, a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad. The introduction of the new 2,000-pound bill might seem to suggest economic weakness. Since the conflict began in 2011, the value of the Syrian currency has dropped from about 47 pounds to the dollar to more than 500 pounds to the dollar this year. But the government portrayed the new bill as a sign of stabilisation. As the government enters another round of peace talks and as Assad faces calls to step down, his image on the currency will portray him as a leader ‘in control’ who can reassert the authority of the state, analysts said.
TOO MUCH PRAISE IN SAUDI ARABIA
Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud called for the suspension of a columnist after he published a piece that praised him with God-like attributes. The monarch also ordered action against Al Jazirah, the Saudi daily that published the column. He said that he was shocked by the headline and some of the expressions in the column that contained excessive words and descriptions of praise, including attributes that God used for Himself or to describe Prophet Abraham. “Such a matter has disturbed us and we cannot accept or tolerate it. We do not want it and we do not acknowledge it. We are well aware of the seriousness and danger of being lenient towards it,” the king said. The newspaper issued an apology, saying that the columnist was wrong in the choice of the expressions.
HATE FOR TRUMP IS ACTUALLY LOVE IN TEHRAN
It seems some Iranians are really, really happy with Trump. That is, if you look at the satirical depictions of Trump at the 2017 International Trumpism Cartoon and Caricature Contest in Tehran. Mocking presidents of the Great Satan, the United States is a bit of a cottage industry in Iran, where anti-Americanism is ingrained in state ideology. But the number of zealous anti-American protesters had dwindled over the years. Barack Obama’s outreach to Iran, the nuclear agreement and giving up on regime change, was not good for the hate industry. Now, Iranian hard-line groups cannot believe their good luck. They showed Trump in the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan, as Captain America wielding the Statue of Liberty as a bludgeon, and wearing a swastika armband. Last year, the competition focused on ISIS as an instrument of the West.
‘LOVE HOTELS’ ARE BACK IN CUBA
Cuba is now restoring a network of hotels where rooms are rented by the hour to lovers. State-run “posadas”, or love motels, disappeared during Cuba’s economic crisis in the 1990s when they became hurricane shelters. Private householders filled the gap in the market, but at exorbitant prices. Officials say the posadas will be cheaper and will help end the practice of love-making in Havana’s open spaces.
Couples making love are a common sight in Havana’s parks, on the beach and on the famed Malaccan seafront. It will also help people struggling with Havana’s overcrowded and scarce housing. The first posada opened at the end of the 19th Century in central Havana. Many Cubans have vivid memories of them. “Of memorable kisses and of the porter calling to the lovers when their time had finished”.