Deadly tragedies

Sir, – The two recent deadly tragedies we have experienced, first the residential gas explosion followed immediately by the residential pesticide poisoning, are incidents one would expect in a Third World country and not in a developed economy such as Israel’s.

In one, a gas company technician had just left the residence after a family in the apartment complained of a gas leak. In the other, a pesticide technician used toxins with no known antidote, and apparently allowed the family to reenter the residence while the air was still toxic.

In developed, liberal economies such as those in Western European or North America, there would already be calls by the municipality, the national parliament and the press to open immediate investigations.

But in Jerusalem, the press and our elected representatives are, so far, silent.

Were these preventable tragedies due to the arrogant nature of Israeli society, where regulations are ignored because we know “better?” Were they due to technicians working with potentially deadly systems who do their jobs with the same impatient and hurried attitude that so many of us have when going about our business? Were they due to the government’s failure to properly regulate industries and utilities that provide potentially lethal products to our homes? Were they due to past failures on the part of our government to insure that proper safety and construction methods are used when our homes are constructed. Were they due to our government currently doing nothing to retroactively inspect for and correct those problems? These and many more questions should be leaping out at us from our news media. But they aren’t.

JOEL BURSTEIN
Jerusalem

Sir, – From what flash of inspirational genius did you say it would be better if all gas stoves were consigned to the rubbish dump and we all used clean and safe electric stoves (“Jerusalem tragedy,” Editorial, January 26)? Thousands of Le Cordon Bleu-trained, Michelin- starred chefs, together with millions of good old-fashioned home cooks the world over, would rather set fire to kindling in the middle of the kitchen floor and use that as a source of heat than suffer the inadequacies of ceramic and iron electric stoves, with their delays and sluggish reaction times.

By all means, criticize the poor safety standards observed by the country’s gas fitters, the paucity of gas installation inspectors and the general Levantine attitude of yihiye beseder (it will be fine, don’t worry) that pervades our society. But writing editorials does not involve cooking lunch or dinner.

STANLEY COHEN
Jerusalem

Handling smokers

Sir, – Thank you, Judy Siegel- Itzkovich, for once again offering an easy, effective solution to the problem of smoking, which just won’t go away (“A breath of fresh air,” Health, January 26).

It definitely would be “logical for the municipality to hire more armed security guards who are present all along the light rail from 7 a.m. to midnight so they could give out NIS 1,000 fines to smokers at the stations – their salaries covered by this income within a short time.” How soon can this idea be implemented? How is it that your reporter still isn’t part of our government? With the abundant revenue generated from the fines, we can increase the manpower required to enforce other no-smoking laws, including in areas just outside hospitals, where patients – including cancer sufferers – and visitors wait for rides amid clouds of smoke.

We also need manpower to fine kiosks offering open packets of cigarettes, a practice that encourages children to smoke even after we raise the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21.

This is just the beginning!

RIVKA ZAHAVY
Jerusalem

Sir, – When reading about the lack of enthusiasm for enforcement by the majority of municipalities, I was nodding my head, as this has been my own experience when confronting illegal smoking.

There is an absence of respect, shame and regard for anti-smoking laws by the population in general, too. Smokers might know there is a slim chance that anything will happen to them, and for those of us who are offended by the smoke it is easy to figure that no one is going to do anything about anyway, so why try? When I step out of my comfort zone and confront an individual or an establishment, there also seems to be a huge disparity in understanding what the laws actually are. I have a fantasy of having these laws, in both English and Hebrew, handy in my purse so that I can accurately counteract the misunderstanding. For example, I have been to many restaurants where the workers believe they can still have smoking sections.

That being said, it would be helpful and worthwhile for The Jerusalem Post to publish the clear facts of the smoking laws to date. Then, those of us who are willing to stick our necks out can be better equipped to do so.

K. BRONSTEIN
Petah Tikva

Sir, – It was good to read about all the efforts that are being made to discourage people from smoking. As an ex-addict, I know how difficult it is to give up, which is why I am discouraged whenever I see young people smoking.

I believe there are two further steps that we should take to rid ourselves of this scourge. Neither is very difficult.

The first should be to mandate that cigarettes be sold only in packages designed by the government. It should not be too difficult to design something disgusting. It should be an unappealing color and have a picture of a typical lung cancer patient in the final stages of the disease.

I am sure the tobacco companies would object strongly, an indication we are on the right track.

The second step would be an advertising campaign focused on endorsements by leading athletes, who would proclaim that anyone who wants to be a world-class athlete cannot afford to have his lungs damaged by tobacco smoke.

This two-pronged approach would, I believe, be very effective when combined with current restrictive legislation in virtually eliminating smoking in our society.

STEPHEN COHEN
Ma’aleh Adumim

Stamp of approval

Sir, – I enjoy Herb Keinon’s Out There columns, especially when he talks about his personal experiences. Since we live in the same neighborhood, I enjoy identifying the local situations that he mentions.

Regarding “‘Can’t I just buy a stamp?’” (January 26), I also have used the post office on a Friday morning, and so understand what he is talking about.

But what was not mentioned is that the post office has made it a little bit easier for us customers, and they now have an SMS service.

There is an option to key in your mobile number when taking a number, and then an SMS is sent a short while before your turn. I used this last time I was there and could do some shopping while waiting.

One has to be careful to return before closing time, even if the SMS had not yet arrived, as they still do not let people in after that time, even with numbers.

DAVID ZIANTS
Ma’aleh Adumim

Sir, – Thank you, Herb Keinon, for allowing us to start the week with a smile and even a good laugh. After the awful days last week and the tragedies involved, we certainly do need something to cheer us up.

VICKY SCHER
Jerusalem

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