Sir, - Hooray for your interview with Arkady Gaydamak ("'This is all a huge conspiracy,'" June 20). From the day he made aliya he was a man who stimulated interest, and he has always been a controversial figure. Unfortunately, what he says is true, the rumors surrounding him were more negative than positive.
On only one thing I disagree with him - when he says "this is not a specifically Israeli thing - it is true of all people." In my view, based on 50 years of living in Israel, it is a specifically Israeli characteristic to launch a witch-hunt against people who are too famous, too successful or too rich, the idiotic reasoning being that there must be something wrong. The press is also to blame for a lot of the negative representation of Gaydamak.
Thank you for giving him the opportunity to speak up for himself. I only hope he will not pack his bags and go back to France, or any other country that would welcome a philanthropist like him with open arms.
...and secret charity
Sir, - Re "When Bib met Arkadi: A curious match" (June 16): I feel it my duty to respond to Anshel Pfeffer's description of Arkady Gaydamak as a person who "eschews the ancient philosophy of giving charity in secret," someone whose philosophy is merely a question of PR and a way of acquiring credit and respect. I will therefore make public something I have kept secret until now.
More than six months ago, while I was deputy minister of social welfare, a mutual friend introduced me to Mr. Gaydamak, with whom I discussed welfare problems in Israel. One of the things I told him about was my ministry's budget difficulties; I said I was seeking additional funding sources to help us set up more hostels for girls who have taken to the streets since they could no longer live at home, both because of abuse and lack of understanding there, and also because of their difficult socioeconomic situation. I told him my ministry did not have a budget for this.
Mr. Gaydamak asked me how much it cost to run a hostel and how many girls could stay there. In response to my reply, he immediately made a commitment to fund 10 hostels. So far he has poured millions of shekels into this successfully functioning project, and he is still supporting us.
The activity of the hostels is carried out by a non-profit association (amuta) that operates according to the law and, of course, without any profit motive.
Since then I have also interested Mr. Gaydamak in summer activities for girls who need to be removed from their home environment for their own protection and whose families cannot fund their participation in summer camps.
Were it not for your article these donations would have remained secret - in line with the traditional Jewish way of giving charity anonymously. I also know of other donations by Mr. Gaydamak that have never been publicized.
I do not know how the purchase or support of a sports team could be kept secret. Had it been, it may be that Mr. Gaydamak and the Betar Jerusalem and Hapoel teams would have been accused of lack of transparency and hidden goals.
MK AVRAHAM RAVITZ
Not much pride
Sir, - Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman's support of the gay pride parade in Jerusalem was confusing and inconsistent ("Why a rabbi will march in Worldpride," June 19th).
On the one hand, "Gay pride parades... around the world seem like an opportunity for the gay community to act out some of its more bizarre fantasies," compared to which local Jerusalem parades appear less "outlandish." Yet he acknowledged that the August parade is being promoted as "an international event."
He informed us that "every year a third of teenage suicides are related to sexual orientation" and that he sees the march as an "opportunity for people struggling with their sexual identity to feel accepted and supported."
If his portrayal of a psychologically troubled gay community is accurate, I would expect him as a compassionate spiritual leader to act responsibly and wisely and encourage more discreet, professional and therapeutic channels through which gender-confused individuals can express themselves. A very public parade is not one of those.
ELLEN W. HOROWITZ
Sir, - Both Yaffa Ganz ("Love, borders & civilization" June 20) and Rabbi Weiman-Kelman - one opposing the gay pride parade and one defending it - are mistaken in their reasoning.
I have no complaint against gays and lesbians. That is how they are, and "treatment" in the vast majority of cases will not "fix" them. They should in no way be ostracized because of their proclivities.
But the rabbi ought to know better than to encourage a public display of sexuality - by any sector - disgusting not only to religious people but to many seculars, too.
I believe most gays and lesbians to be normal, honest people living quiet, decent lives who do not go out into the street to "celebrate" their sexuality. I challenge the paraders to channel their energies into helping the less fortunate among us. That way the public would get to know the gay community and accept it as equal.
HULA K. SMITH
Sir, - In "Defining Judaism down" (June 13) Avi Shafran did a good job of explaining the accurate meaning of the Bible regarding homosexuality, and in doing so exposed the casuistry of those who would deal lightly with the holy texts.
It makes perfect sense that in biblical days homosexuality would have been anathema. When infant mortality was high and the tribe was struggling to survive, a non-reproductive lifestyle was socially unacceptable.
Nowadays, however, underpopulation is not the concern it once was. Times have changed, but I wonder if there's a way for those who know how to read the scriptures accurately to also know how to deal with those changes.
No demographic threat?
Sir, - In "Olmert's plan for Jerusalem"(June 16), Caroline Glick quoted projected population figures for Israel that need explaining. She referred to a present Jewish population in Judea, Samaria and sovereign Israel as comprising 67 percent. The projection for 2025 is quoted as between 56 and 71 percent.
How is this wide range explained, short of allowing for massive Jewish aliya? Moreover, if the lower figure is more accurate, what will happen in 2035, or does she not look that far ahead when she claims there is no demographic threat to Israel's Jewish majority?
MONTY M. ZION
Caroline Glick responds:
Demographic forecasts, when based on careful research, are the province of neither the right nor left wing. They are data that politicians and citizens alike are invited to engage in order to put together strategies and modes of operation that align with current trends rather than current myths.
The disparity in the possible demographic balance between Jews and Arabs in the demographic forecasts for 2025 presented by the research team led by Bennett Zimmerman that I discussed in last Friday's Column One stems from different baseline scenarios for Jewish/Arab fertility rates and Jewish/Arab net migration rates.
I encourage readers to read the research team's entire report at www.pademographics.com
Here it should be noted that the latest statistics of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics show that the Jewish birthrate and immigration rate is growing consistently while the Arab birthrate is decreasing consistently and the Arab net emigration rate remains negative. These current trends are in stark contrast to pessimistic ICBS forecasts in recent years.
In light of these statistics, according to chief researcher Zimmerman, the most likely scenario is that in 2025 Jews will make up 68% of the population of sovereign Israel and Judea and Samaria.
Sir, - In "Israel's image - why the all-time low?" (June 8) Evelyn Gordon does not mention that when our pioneers came here at the end of the 19th century the country was neglected and only thinly populated. It was impossible to live in large parts of it.
The Jezreel and Hula valleys had malaria-infested swamps, there was no irrigation, etc. The Jewish settlers started to develop the country, often at risk to their lives.
Only then did many Arabs from surrounding and faraway countries come to work here. They were not original inhabitants, and the claim that they have lived here for generations is a lie.
Israel's government officials in charge of public relations should stress this again and again.
to see them
Sir, - When viewing resolutions by "organizations sincerely concerned about ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Shamai Leibowitz may find "[n]othing in the language of the resolution[s] suggest[ing that] they are attacking Israel per se."
He may consider as "baseless and unfounded" any accusations that groups calling for such actions against Israel are engaging in anti-Semitic or anti-Israel Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) attacks against Israel.
But as long as those organizations launch their attacks only on Israel - as long as they express no concern about ending any other conflict going on anywhere else in the world - there is no other way to view them ("Yes to cooperation. No to boycotts," June 20).
RICHARD A. ROSEN
West Mount Vernon,
Right on, John!
Sir, - I and many other world cup viewers were impressed when Ghana's John Pantsil proudly waved the Israeli flag after scoring against the Czech Republic ("From Ghana with love," Photo, June 18).
Pantsil is a loyal supporter of Israel and the team he plays for, Hapoel Tel Aviv.
How disappointing that Ghana's FA apologized for Pantsil's behavior as if it was something to be ashamed of. One can imagine the difference had he waved the Palestinian flag.
LAWRENCE J. RYZ