The kitchen of Pope Francis’ Vatican residence was made kosher for a day last week, as the pontiff hosted a delegation of rabbis from his native Argentina. The gesture was a sign of the close personal relationship between Francis and the Jewish community, and continued efforts to strengthen the institutional relationship between Jews and the Church.

After hearing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise the Knesset this week that his government would support Israel “though fire and water,” one could excuse Israeli lawmakers for thinking that they had died and gone to hasbara heaven.

Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a Columbia University assistant professor of international and public affairs who is also a resident physician in East Harlem in New York, is a practicing Sikh. As part of his faith, he wears an uncut beard and a turban. Last September, he was attacked not far from his home in Harlem by a group of young men who, while yelling “terrorist” and “Osama,” kicked and beat Singh, fracturing his jaw and dislodging some of his teeth.

When one looks at official Canadian government policy towards Israel and Palestine, there doesn't seem to be much that is outstanding. Beyond the language on UN resolutions that provide Canada with room to protect Israel, the basic pillars are all there: Two-state solution, anti-settlements, reference to UN resolution 194 for refugees, etc. Yet, everyone knows that the Canadian prime minister's heart and soul, and his rhetoric, are firmly on one side: With Israel.

One man said he wouldn’t want his prostate checked by a female doctor who wore a head-to-toe chador. Another said Montreal is already “strange” to the rest of Quebec and could get stranger. A former nun said she switched cashes at Staples rather than be served by a woman in Muslim head scarf. The Parti Québécois government wrapped up the first week of hearings into its highly contentious Charter of Values.

Wearing some form of head covering in public is an important sign of Islamic identity in many Muslim-majority countries, but there is considerable variation in the extent to which women are expected (and sometimes mandated) to cover up. A recent Pew report, based on a survey conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research from 2011 to 2013 in seven majority-Muslim nations, reveals just how widely opinions about female attire differ in the region.

One of the unintended consequences of Peru’s booming economy is that life in the capital is becoming more stressful. Lima is covered in construction sites, competition for the best jobs, and housing is brutal, and traffic is horrendous. Still, people there are finding creative ways to relax in the midst of all that. Some of them are turning to Buddhist meditation.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas urged Christian pilgrims from around the world to visit the Holy Land to mark the visit of Pope Francis, set for 2014, in a Christmas message on Monday. The pontiff is to make a brief visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories from May 25, his first to the Holy Land, Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot said last week.