For the children...
Sir, - At the risk of preaching the obvious, the atmosphere Rabbi Boteach and others so crave ("When babies aren't exactly a blessing," March 5) is alive and well right here in little ol' Israel. Children in any number are seen as the true blessing they are, and in every population sector. Birthrates may be dropping overall, and for many reasons, but the joy and value of children still stands out as one of the most positive aspects of Israeli society.
Besides the super-friendly social, religious and cultural atmosphere for children, the many official discounts and benefits granted to large families - not to mention affordable school tuition (compared to any foreign standard) - only confirm and strengthen this very important and basic Jewish value.
Even the tourist industry is geared for the large family, with special rates, day-care services and even special entertainment for children standard fare in almost every hotel. No doubt about it, in Israel at least, babies are very much a blessing.
So you don't have to be a raging Zionist, Diaspora doom-sayer or naive idealist to understand that, despite all its faults, Israel is the best place to raise Jewish kids, the rabbi's family included. In fact, the most commonly-heard reason expressed by immigrants for coming here in the first place is "for the children."
Sir, - Shmuley Boteach's reasons for why some people choose not to have large families are generalizations and don't apply to most people. There are many parents who work very hard and still struggle to support one or two children. Also, while most people are biologically capable of having children, that doesn't mean they have the physical strength and emotional maturity to parent them properly.
Sir, - I was very surprised to read Jay and Emmy Zitter saying that large families are encouraged in Israel ("Where kids are blessed, officially," Letters, March 6). I thought the recent changes in family benefits were designed precisely to penalize them; but then I suppose they were only meant to undermine the haredi parasites and Arab fifth column, which are deemed to be undermining the Zionist dream of a state where Jews can jettison their millenia-long religious handicap and become normal human beings.
MARTIN D. STERN
Time out - of Israel
Sir, - Israeli law, plus the known weakness of our judicial system, and the laxness of our jails lead me to question the headline of your story "Public enemy #1 is gone; crime is still here" (March 6).
If Ze'ev Rosenstein is convicted in the Florida court he will be sent back to our disputable prison system, where he will be able to continue his highly profitable and very destructive activities. No, our public enemy is very likely not gone, and crime is still here due to some of our major corrupted politicians, questionable prison situation and even more questionable extradition law ("Ezra: Prisons are overflowing," March 6).
If an Israeli commits a crime in a foreign country and is convicted by a court there, he needs to serve his "time" in that country.
Sir, - Direct election of the Knesset means that citizens vote for individuals, not parties. Josef Gilboa (Letters, March 5) is concerned that partial direct election could increase the number of parties. Actually, directly elected legislators advocate for minorities because they know that they need individual voters' votes in order to be reelected, thus lessening the need for more parties.
Direct election yields accountability. If we have 100% direct election, we will have 100% accountability and concern for all citizens.
The US effected a peaceful revolution without additional parties when African-American citizens made it clear they would vote only for law-makers who would break down the barriers of segregation and discrimination. Even staunch segregationists such as Senator Strom Thurmond finally supported equality for their constituents because they wanted to keep their jobs.
SARA LEE WOOLF
Ramat Beit Shemesh
Abandoning an ideal
Sir, - I was profoundly disturbed by the headline "Religious Zionist rabbi supports Kadima" that accompanied your photograph of the acting prime minister shaking hands with Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun (March 6). While Bin-Nun has the inalienable right to support Kadima, his expressed reasons for doing so seem totally unrelated to either religious Zionism or his rabbinic title.
There is no apparent concern about the erosion of democratic values, nor for the plight of the thousands "disengaged" from their homes and livelihoods. No mention of either dismay or abhorrence over the terrible cruelty of the police at Amona is included in his unqualified endorsement of Kadima. Not even one single positive value is cited to explain the attraction Kadima has for the rabbi.
The reason Bin-Nun gives for supporting this party is his certainty that it will win the election and make the decisions, after which he will do his best to salvage what he can of the Jewish settlement enterprise.
In calling his religious Zionist peers "escapists" while lending support to a party that has publicly stated its commitment to further major unilateral withdrawals, Bin-Nun not only shows his naivete but his apparent abandonment of any relationship to the ideals and ideology of religious Zionism.
Praying for the PM
Sir, - When did your reader become an authority on Jewish law, laying down that Mr. Sharon is halachically dead "even if his heart still beats"? ("Kadima's heartbeat," Letters, March 6). He is 300% wrong. Although I am a member of Moledet and totally against Ariel Sharon's policies, I say a special prayer for him three times a day and would never have the audacity to talk, let alone write, about dividing a nation that we continuously pray should stand united.
Sir, - In "Who really sets Jews against Jews?" (March 1) Daphna Baram repeated the canard that Israel "possess[es] the fourth most powerful army in the world."
Israel's army is not even the fourth largest in the Middle East, never mind the world. Egypt, Syria, Iran, Morocco and Turkey all have larger armies than Israel's (see Anthony H. Cordesman's The Military Balance in the Middle East, p. 11). And the armies of China, the US, India, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Vietnam, France and Germany are all larger than Israel's (Cordesman, Trends in Western Military Efforts, p.16).
Please note that several other media outlets have corrected identical or similar errors. Most recently the International Herald Tribune published a correction (January 3) regarding an op-ed by Saeb Erekat. It stated: "An opinion article on Nov. 26 about the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt referred to the Israeli military as 'the fifth largest military in the world.' While there are various ways to measure military strength, in terms of manpower alone and counting both active service members and reservists, Israel's military ranks 18th globally, according to data in the latest edition of 'The Military Balance,' a reference by the International Institute for Strategic Studies."
Israel Office, CAMERA
Sir, - The recent Cambridge "debate over Zionism" was unnecessary and unproductive, fueled by publicity-thirsty individuals like those Jewish professors and others who take abusive liberties in criticizing Israel. Is it galut self-hatred and a lack of self-esteem that motivates them to air their views at every opportunity in an unfriendly world?
'Israel' is absent
from this music
Sir, - I live and teach in Toronto. Together with a few colleagues I have been disturbed by a new music history textbook by K. Charlton, published by McGraw-Hill, called Experience Music, which the publisher's university sales representative sent me to examine for possible use. Toward the end there are several sections dealing with influences on Western "classical" music - from China, Spain, etc. One, set in bold type in both the relevant chapter and the table of contents, is "Influences from Africa and the Middle Eastern City of Jerusalem."
It turns out that these discuss the American Jewish composer Steve Reich and his piece "Tehillim." The adjective "Middle Eastern" is repeated several times in the context of the composer having studied in Israel - but although "Jerusalem" and "Middle Eastern studies" appear on page headings and in the body of the text, Israel is never mentioned, not even in the index.
The music editor at McGraw-Hill told me he asked the author, who replied that she was "trying to avoid politics." He agreed that the next edition of this book will identify Jerusalem as "Jerusalem, Israel," and pointed out that the company also publishes a book by Roger Kamien of Hebrew University; but I wanted to bring it to your readers' attention that a textbook put out by a huge publishing company apparently condones the idea that mentioning the name "Israel" is a political act.
Sir, - I think Yehuda Sherman has forgotten what happened in Berkeley, California, in the Sixties ("Hatred's un-American," Letters, March 6). No hatred? The police had nothing but hatred for the students. They may not have beaten or trampled on the rioters, they just shot them.
At least here nobody died.
Sir, - Thank you so much for printing the interview with Wafa Sultan ("You can believe in stones, but don't throw them at me," Verbatim, March 6). It was simply wonderful to read what this Arab-American psychologist thinks of the mentality of part of the Muslim population, and it was really refreshing to see it in your paper. This interview ought to be reprinted in as many publications as possible.