Torah and the draft

Sir, – With reference to “Porush: PM betrayed us” (February 26), Jeremy Sharon quotes Benny Rabinowitz, spokesman for the Degel Hatorah Council of Torah Sages, as saying that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could go down in history for “criminalizing Torah study.”

Learning Torah is of paramount importance to the Jewish people.

While not being haredi, I have been learning Torah (without monetary remuneration) in a kollel for my entire adult life (42 years). My three sons and one son-in-law have all learned in a kollel. One still does. One son and I have served in the army (I, for 25 years, including front-line action in the first Lebanon war).

I cannot for the life of me understand the haredi spokesmen who claim that the government is trying to “criminalize” learning Torah. The criminal act is draft dodging. If the haredi world did not harbor criminals all these years by allowing people to register in yeshivot without actually learning Torah, the rest of us would appreciate the learners more.

Haredi leaders have missed the proverbial boat.

NACHUM CHERNOFSKY
Bnei Brak

Sir, – It’s time that haredi rabbis became honest with themselves, as well as with Israeli society (“Haredi rabbis issue ban on IDF service for yeshiva students,” February 25).

Most religiously observant Israelis (of which I am one), and even many so-called secular members of society, are willing to allow outstanding Torah scholars to be exempt from military service. But not everyone can immerse himself in such study for eight to 12 hours a day.

Many are incapable intellectually, and many just don’t have the patience. Witness the many students who roam the streets of Bnei Brak, Jerusalem and other haredi population centers or gather at various corners to chat when they are supposed to be engrossed in study at their yeshivot or kollels.

I’d like to have an honest answer from the heads of yeshivot: Just what percentage of those enrolled devote themselves fully to the Talmud? Those who can’t should be made to enlist in the IDF or do some sort of useful national service.

I believe that haredi rabbis merely fear that the secular temptations of the army and outside world will lead astray those who are not in the yeshiva world and bring them to leave the haredi way of life. But isn’t this a sign of weakness and an admission that their segregated way of life has failed? It’s shameful and a desecration of God’s name that haredi rabbis and political leaders encourage across-the-board exemptions, even when too many are bluffing their study of Talmud. If the situation persists, I fear that many among the secular and traditional elements of society will become disgusted and more estranged from Torah Judaism.

RON BELZER
Petah Tikva

Sir, – In “‘Kol Baramah’ and the law for military draft reform” (Think About It, February 24), Susan Hattis Rolef expresses her shock at the level of vitriol she hears on the radio aimed at Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett by various haredim.

This shameful behavior should come as no surprise since the haredi community has never had very much respect for the State of Israel or its flag. Haredi disdain for the state has simply been covered up as a means to extract more funds from the treif Zionists.

Yet I wonder: If the current government were led by Labor and had haredim in the coalition, would Ms. Rolef be as upset?

MATTIAS ROTENBERG
Petah Tikva

Failing a prisoner

Sir, – With regard to “Sheinbein’s lawyer: Prison shoot-out was avoidable” (February 25), I was a resident of Montgomery County, Maryland, in 1997 when 17-yearold Samuel Sheinbein murdered someone and dismembered his body, and then fled to Israel.

I recall thinking: “At least he will get the mental health care he needs.” Apparently, this was not the case.

I suggest a complete review focusing on the apparent failure of the Israeli penal system to address a prisoner who was known to be mentally ill.

BETZALEL MESSINGER
Jerusalem

Oren raises eyebrows

Sir, – I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the headline “Oren: International sanctions more dangerous to Israel than missiles on Tel Aviv” (February 25).

Any missiles that fall on Tel Aviv would kill people. The bestcase scenario would be one missile a month. Still, the city would empty out. People in hi-tech would run for their lives. Investments would dry up.

Imagine if Ben-Gurion Airport were targeted by one missile a month. Every airline would cancel.

We would lose all our tourism.

Now imagine a missile fired every day.

Hamas, with its full control of Gaza, is not able to stop missiles from being fired. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, with much less control over the West Bank, would certainly not be able to stop them.

Israel has a lot of things the world wants. Sanctions would not hurt as much as missiles.

Missiles kill. With sanctions you can live.

SHLOMO BAR-MEIR
Tel Aviv

Sir, – Former ambassador to the US Michael Oren’s acceptance of the likelihood of missiles being fired at Tel Aviv if Israel accepts the dictate by US Secretary of State John Kerry for it to retreat from the hills of Judea and Samaria means that Oren is also resigned to the eventuality of Arabs launching missiles from their independent entity on Israel’s only international airport. One missile on the airport closes down the economy.

Then again, if Israel goes under, Oren has landed a job with CNN. He could spend the rest of his days at CNN Atlanta, where he could also work as a historian at the Jimmy Carter Center, writing books about the rise and fall of Israel.

DAVID BEDEIN
Jerusalem

The writer is director of the Israel Resource News Agency

Buckle up, Shmuley


Sir, – Regarding “Chabad fanatics are destroying the movement” (No Holds Barred, February 25), I don’t know why Rabbi Ezra Schochet is so disappointed with Shmuley Boteach.

Perhaps it’s because of Rabbi Boteach’s thirst for celebrity status, his love for titillating book titles, his pseudo-intellectual attempts to browbeat anyone who doesn’t agree with him.

Perhaps Rabbi Schochet feels, as do others, that Rabbi Boteach’s books and self-serving articles turn off more people than they turn on. And while it’s clear that Shmuley is charismatic, clever and entertaining, perhaps Rabbi Schochet sees that his one-time protégé is on a dangerous road, one paved with good intentions. We all know where that leads.

YAACOV PETERSEIL
Jerusalem

Righteous move

Sir, – Wouldn’t it be both a humanitarian gesture and a positive tool to announce to the world that Israel will welcome 20,000 Christian families that are presently being persecuted by Muslims in Syria? You could give them full Israeli citizenship after several years, or, if they choose, they could go back to Syria after the fighting ends.

If the Syrian government comes out against the offer, then at least the world media would see that you tried.

You are already accepting Muslims among African migrants who will never be supportive of the Jewish state.

At least Christians, it is hoped, would be loyal citizens and serve in the military.

Certainly, Christians in Europe and America would admire your righteousness.

NORTON DRUGER
Medford, New Jersey

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