The Shmooze

Jews and Arabs Partner for Football 4 Peace

By Nathan Jeffay

School’s out here in Israel, and today some 60 sports coaches arrived in Netanya from the UK and Germany to prepare for a most remarkable summer camp. They are partnering with 100 local coaches to help 1,500 youngsters with their soccer skills. The youngsters — Jews and Arabs, boys and girls — will train and play together for most of next week, building up to a final tournament.

Some 40 communities and regional councils will participate in the camp. Jewish and Arab communities are partnered and the participants are divided into small mixed groups. Part of the time is spent in a Jewish community and part in an Arab one, all participants meet at the final festival, next Thursday. Teams will be judged on fair play, not just results.

The program is called Football 4 Peace, and the message inculcated in all participants is that just as they can play together, they can live together. But it goes deeper than that. It’s also about Jews and Arabs on teams together learning that between them anything is possible. “Players that trust one another play well together,” says Football 4 Peace’s statement of values. “Learning to have faith in the capacities of others to carry out their roles and responsibilities dutifully and mutually, in ways that also contribute to the well being of team-mates, is an essential ingredient of good sportsmanship.”

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Vogue's Ill-Timed Profile of Syria's First Lady

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Her husband runs one of the world’s most repressive police states, but Vogue wants you to know that Syria’s first lady runs a “wildly democratic” household. She is also, the magazine says, “glamorous, young, and very chic.”

As other Arab dictators are forced from power, the fashion magazine has released what has to be one of its more awkwardly timed recent profiles, a fluffy feature about Asma al-Assad, described in the article’s headline as a “rose in the desert.”

Though Vogue is hardly the place to turn for clues about Syria’s true inner workings, the article is still occasionally thought-provoking, mostly for the questions it raises about the editorial decisions that went into its euphemistic phrasings and largely positive portrayal of the Assad regime.

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Will Cosmo Mag Get Un-Sexy for New Middle East Edition?

By Nathan Burstein

Whether they’re Arab or Jewish, women in the Middle East will soon have one more thing in common: access to Cosmopolitan magazine.

Hearst Magazines announced Wednesday that it is launching an Arab-world version of Cosmo, which will join 60 other editions selling in 100 countries. Despite headlines like one on MediaBistro.com that announced, “Cosmopolitan to Roll Out Middle East Edition in March,” the new magazine will not be the first Cosmo in the region. Israel already prints a Hebrew version, which in December featured singer Katy Perry on its cover and informed readers about what types of men are attracted to certain perfumes. (It also provided them with “3 Reasons to Be Happy You’re Bootylicious.”)

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First Female Arab Plastic Surgeon in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay

For the first time, Israel has a female Arab plastic surgeon. Rania El Hativ, 28, is now operating at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa.

She hopes that her decision to enter the field will help to make Arab women less reticent about going for plastic surgery. “While there is growing openness to plastic surgery among the Arab population, the field is still relatively unknown,” she said in a press statement. “In addition, Arab women may be hesitant to reveal bodily defects to male doctors, and may neglect serious problems. Just by being there, I hope to make it easier for Arab women to undergo examinations for plastic surgery procedures.”

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Gay Israeli Teen Kidnapped by Family

By Michael Kaminer

With all the buzz about how hot Tel Aviv’s become for gay travelers, we still get the occasional reminder that not everyone’s on board with circuit parties, muscle boys and beach cruising.

Take the family of a 19-year-old gay man living in Tel Aviv. Four people from his hometown of Tamra, an Arab enclave in Israel’s north, are accused of “kidnapping their homosexual relative and taking him on a 12-hour nightmare, all because of his sexual tendencies,” according to an article on Ynetnews.com.

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Could Elvis Costello Be Coming to Israel After All?

By Nathan Jeffay

His wife, the Canadian jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall, is to perform in Ra’anana in August, and the international pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs has offered Elvis Costello a “five star VIP tour of Israel” if he accompanies her on the trip.

The Forward recently reported that Costello canceled his June 30 and July 1 performances in Tel Aviv, describing his decision as “a matter of instinct and conscience.” In a statement Costello also blames the decision on “despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.”

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Arab Bakers Anticipate a Happy Passover, Thanks to Shas

By Nathan Jeffay

Here in Israel, they say that Passover brings Jews together. Religious and non-religious, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Tel Avivians and Jerusalemites, the vast majority of Israel’s Jews will sit down to a Seder this evening.

Yet few people realize that Passover also spurs a certain unity between some of Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. The holiday has some Israeli Arabs rooting for the Orthodox political parties, including the rightist and pro-settler Shas.

Jewish religious law forbids the possession during Passover of bread and similar products, known in Hebrew as chametz. In Israel, the sale of chametz in Jewish areas on Passover has been illegal since the enactment in 1986 of the Festival of Matzot Law. It states that bakery goods may not be displayed in public during the weeklong holiday.

But the law has seldom been enforced, and for years Shas, together with other Orthodox factions, has been on a crusade to change this situation. This Passover, Shas is in control of the Interior Ministry, and has instructed local municipalities to employ inspectors and fine anybody they find purveying chametz.

In an Arab bakery in Haifa this week, there was rare admiration for Shas. It’s simple economics. Arab bakeries used to do roaring trade during Passover, selling to Jews searching for chametz. But in recent years, the taboo on Jewish shops selling chametz has eroded, and chametz has become far more readily available on the Jewish market. Shas’ move to reverse this could mean a very happy Passover for Arab bakers.

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