The extreme fun of baseball
Sir, The first thing I noticed in your issue of September 28 was the picture of Derek Jeter, shortstop for the New York Yankees, who also happens to be my favorite athlete ever. I am a dedicated, die-hard baseball fan the Yankees in particular and I absolutely loved "Why Israel needs baseball." I'm also a 15-year-old girl who happens to be a coach for her two younger brothers' little league team (in the eight-to-10-year-old division of the IAB).
I'm constantly told by Israelis, British, even a few Americans, that baseball is boring and pathetic. It's unbelievable that a sport Americans consider an important part of their culture is such an underdog in Israel. Although it's not as fast as basketball or as violent as football (or as pointless as golf) it's extreme fun! Aside from those important reasons to love the game I, like Michael Freund, believe baseball has wonderful values such as teamwork and sportsmanship.
My co-coaches and I make sure to end every game with two questions: Why do we come here, and what is the most important part of the game? To which the kids all know to answer: "to have fun" and "sportsmanship." Every game ends with a cheer for the opposing team, then everyone shakes hands. The kids all know that unsportsmanlike conduct will be rewarded with a comfortable spot on the bench.
However, we have one major problem: the facilities. Our fields are dirt, rocks, thorns, garbage, ashes and whatever else gets dumped, surrounded by a broken fence. There is a shortage of helmets and the base runners often run unprotected, praying for a miracle every time. We have had some major injuries from a rusty nail puncturing a child's foot (through his shoe!) to a heavy backstop collapsing on a kid's leg, severely breaking the limb, which required major surgery. Kids also lose teeth from balls that change course abruptly due to the rocks and other stuff on the field.
Sir, Kudos to Michael Freund for his excellent article. I would suggest that baseball offers an even more global message to all us Jews. In most other sports the objective is to get the ball to the other team's side. In baseball the ultimate goal is, simply, to come home.
Little League Coach
Sir, I loved "Why Israel needs baseball." I think Michael Freund is one of your best contributors.
Sir, Daniel Pipes voices the persistent provincial fear of the "other" ("Islam's impact," September 27). His thesis is that Muslim immigration to Western countries is changing those countries in detrimental ways. On the one hand, what he says is perfectly true; never has a major influx of people from a different culture failed to cause changes in the local culture. It is also true that these changes are typically disruptive and always resented by many. Dire predictions of the "destruction of our way of life" are a common feature of such times. Indeed, the stabilizing power and centuries-old wisdom of tradition deserves respect and a reluctance to alter it.
As troubling a process as assimilation is, however, the result is typically an improvement. The genius of Western culture is the marketplace of ideas; the assimilation of foreign cultural ideas with our own to form new traditions. America, for example, started with some Western European Protestant Christians yet today is the proud and happy home of groups too numerous to list and too diverse to characterize.
Muslim immigration may result in some turmoil and a few changes I would prefer not to see, but we will learn from them as they learn from us. The result will be a better America. To Muslim immigrants, as to all immigrants, I say: Welcome!
Muslim abuse of Christian rights
Sir, Re "UN official hints at support for binational state" (September 28): The UN's special rapporteur on Palestinian rights, John Dugard, should first review the shocking abuse of Christian Arab rights under the Palestinian Authority. This wonderful element has suffered no end and many have fled the regime. To recommend a binational state is to recommend a Muslim-contolled state that will be bad for Jews, Christians, Druse and anyone who is not a Muslim.
Dugard should instead protect all PA citizens' rights by persuading the UN, US, EU and those nations pouring millions into the PA to invest urgently in infrastructure, economy and improving the quality of life of the long-suffering Palestinians so they will be able to recognize that there is hope for the future and a chance for a peaceful Middle East.
No cause to celebrate
Sir, The leading story in your September 28 issue reported the great sense of satisfaction Prime Minister Sharon and his followers felt on their technical victory ("Sharon sees Likud win as vindication of his policies"). It should be realized, however, that a vote so evenly divided within a single party must be an embarrassment to the ostensible "leader." For which side do we vote when and if we vote for Likud the 49% or the 51%?
Furthermore, since the vote was clearly influenced by feelings of preserving jobs rather than agreeing with policies, one could guess that, statistically, the 49% was more representative of the policies of the party. In view of this, expressions of revenge and intolerance of "rebellion" (i.e., difference of opinion), indicate a profound lack of understanding of the democratic process. With this, we may express sorrow at the passing of the Likud. There's certainly no cause for celebration.
What God thinks
Sir, Perhaps the headline "'Egalitarian' shul exhibition tests limits of Halacha" (September 28) should have read: "...tests limits of patience." A religion is all about worship as preferred by the Worshipped, not the worshipper. The first thing you need to do is find out what God thinks on a matter, and only then voice your preference within that range of options. Otherwise you are talking not about a religious practice based on the worship of God, but about one based on the opinions of humans.
Sir, The ongoing discussion by proponents and opponents of the mehitza in Jewish prayer halls is handled by Shira Leibowitz-Schmidt in her usual informed style ("The mehitza that made waves in New Orleans," September 29). However, she does not tackle the problem of the increasingly oppressive construction or rather, obstruction of the mehitza in modern Israeli communities.
I also find it uncomfortable and inappropriate to pray in a Jewish setting where men and women sit together, but the mehitza today is usually a large physical barrier complete with opaque curtains. The female part of the congregation can neither see when the Ark is open nor hear the prayers properly, especially when there is heavy gossip cover from the (male) front section.
I remember with nostalgia English shuls where the women sat either in a gallery with an esthetic metal bar to prevent accidents or in a clearly defined ladies' section at the rear, where full participation in the service was possible. Decorum was preserved without difficulty.
Sir, New immigrant Martin Berkowitz is going back to his native country to get away from organized crime and corruption. Let's see it can't be the US, or Canada, or Britain, or France, or anywhere in South America and certainly not in Africa....
Aha! The penguins of Antarctica await him.
Sir, I share Martin Berkowitz's disgust with the high level of corruption and domestic violence here in Israel. In fact there is no end to the list of problems that need fixing in our state. Running away and leaving it to others to improve things, planning to "return in a few years [when] things get better" is Mr. Berkowitz's solution.
Many people see the good things that outweigh the bad and have chosen to live here. Some do what they can to improve the political and social situation.
L'hitraot, Mr. Berkowitz. I hope you will come back some day. Always remember, however, that this is no place for the faint-hearted.
Dinner at 12 (p.m.)?
Sir, I turn to your esteemed paper as a last resort. I have written to El Al customer service a number of times, without reply.
As an ordinary, but frequent, El Al flier (three flights a month) I am simply asking why I am refused dinner in the morning on long-distance night flights instead of at midnight just after take-off, or even later. The stewardesses refuse on the grounds that, due to kashrut regulations, they are unable to serve dinner in the morning, when the other passengers get a milk breakfast. If this is so I see no reason at all why they are unable to send me a copy of those rules, which, after my many and repeated requests both on the telephone and in writing, have still not been sent. I am beginning to believe no such rules exist.
I have total respect for passengers who uphold their religious obligations during the flight. However, as a secular passenger I believe I too have a right to my meal whenever I want it.
El Al is, after all, an international airline and not a religious institution.