Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on gondolas, gender law and the days when Israel dared to hope for peace

Be honest. Didn't we all smile at the footage of those silly tourists whose gondola overturned in Venice? The gondolier repeatedly asked them to sit down and keep still but they were shifting up and down to video the sights until the boat rolled over. No-one was hurt but they were in the water for some minutes They might have been rescued sooner but passers-by seemed more interested in videoing them. Oh, the irony.

Venice. Photo: AP/Luigi Costantini

Scotland's highest court has ruled that the UK government acted lawfully in blocking Scotland's gender self-ID reforms. The court ruled that the proposed changes would affect equality laws across Great Britain. And while the Sassenachs are perfectly happy for Scotland to pass its own laws for the Scots, it's a fundamental rule that the tail should not wag the dog.

At the weekend I was leafing through my old cuttings from an assignment to Israel when I talked to many people, both Jews and Arabs, to report the hopes and fears of that troubled land.

There was the pro-Palestine newspaper editor who rejoiced whenever his people made the Jews “feel uncomfortable” in the occupied territories. There was the Israeli kibbutz veteran prepared to give back the entire West Bank for a lasting peace. There was an ultra-orthodox rabbi who believed the only future was for easy-going Israel to embrace the strict religious codes of the Old Testament. There was one of Israel's former UN ambassadors who said there was no quick fix but : “If we are able to survive for, say, 20 years without a major war and gradually lower the barriers, it's just conceivable that these seemingly insurmountable obstacles will diminish.”

The good news? Many of the people I spoke to were optimists who believed peace across the Holy Land was maybe a decade away. The bad news? They were talking to me in 1987.

One of my interviewees in Jerusalem found humour amid the horror. He was a university professor and an expert on terrorism who traced the history of Israel's troubles to the religious leaders of more than 30 centuries ago. “For reasons of safety,” he smiled, “maybe Moses should have picked Hawaii.”