- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flights have been grounded and troops have been mobilized in and out of Israel because of ongoing violence, but young Jewish people are still making the trip as part of their birthright.

Officials with Taglit-Birthright, which sends Jews aged 18-26 to Israel, said that while some have chosen to forgo the trip, a steady stream of pilgrims is still making the journey during wartime.

“We’ve sent 6,000 in this period since the conflict began, and only had 10 people leave early, which says something about what it must feel like to be there,” Gail Hyman, spokesman for Taglit, told the Religion News Service.

About 30 percent of the people who signed up for the educational trip have canceled since the fighting between Israel and Hamas began earlier this month, but Mr. Hyman said for those who do go, their itineraries are being adjusted based on the advice of Israeli security officials.

Creative concert

A rock band earlier this week found a way to put everyone’s favorite hate group, the Westboro Baptist Church, in its place.

When the band Panic! At the Disco found out that not only had the church parodied one of its songs in a homophobic rant but planned on picketing a concert in Kansas City, Missouri, it decided to up the ante by aiding the pro-gay Human Rights Campaign.

On their Twitter page, the band announced “Today @WBCSays is going to picket us. For every member of WBC that actually shows up we will donate $20 to @HRC #pride2014.”

Not to be outdone, the church posted on its Twitter page that while only 13 picketers were on-site, “if we’re being technical, you must count myriads of angels!”

Huffington Post reported that the meager showing — Westboro Baptist has few members outside the area of founder Fred Phelps — prompted the band to announce it would donate $1,000 to the Human Rights Campaign.

Page turner

A California book designer has found a following for his idea to give the Bible more of a novel feel.

In an interview this week with The Verge, Santa Cruz resident Adam Greene explained that his “Bibliotheca” Kickstarter project is for anyone who wants to “enjoy the biblical library anew as great literary art.”

Open the Good Book today, and you’ll find chapters, verse numbers and all manner of notes. Mr. Greene’s design, however, divides the Bible into four books and eliminates those extra marks.

According to the crowdsourced project’s page, $70 will get you the hardback books, and the initial goal of $37,000 has been far exceeded, with nearly $850,000 in pledges.

Mr. Greene told the Huffington Post in an email that he was surprised by the public’s reaction.

“What I thought would be a small-scale project for a niche pocket interest has received an overwhelming amount of attention across the globe from people of many backgrounds, faiths and languages,” he wrote. “Clearly this concept has struck a chord.”

Fashion faux pas

Sufi Muslim followers have taken issue with a symbol they say is sacred but is currently gracing the clothing and accessories of a Roberto Cavalli fashion line.

The Religion News Service reported that the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, a “mystical branch of Islam,” has launched a petition to get the fashion house to remove the symbol.

The symbol, which looks a bit like a scrawny Batman sign, is considered a sacred emblem that represents peace, purity and the name of God, the school said.

According to the petition, which has more than 3,500 signatures, the logo “has been tattooed onto models to represent snake bites and draws connotational indication of the deadly sins.”

The news service said the school has reached out repeatedly to the company but has only received letters in response that say the symbols look nothing alike.

Meredith Somers covers religion and faith issues for The Washington Times.

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