Obama’s victory

Sir, – Thank you for providing Page 1 coverage of the evil Iranian regime’s nuclear military ambitions in the wake of President Barack Obama’s reelection (“Barack, Bibi and the bomb,” Analysis, November 8). Clearly, this is one of the most pressing security issues that the US will face in the first year of a new presidential term. It is also the overriding issue that will test the seriousness and solidness of the US-Israel relationship as the electioneering dust settles.

Unlike the Republican contender, Obama subtly distanced himself from Israel by repeatedly referring to the need to stop Iran from having a nuclear weapon, rather than preventing it from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. This is very problematic since Iran might never declare “a weapon.”

Obama won and can signal how serious he really is by changing at least his rhetoric on Iran, even before our own elections in January. The clock is ticking for America and the world, and especially for Israel.

AARON BRAUNSTEIN
Jerusalem


Sir, – If ever there was a picture worth a thousand words, it was Ronny Brown’s depiction of today’s US Democratic Party as a Trojan horse being blithely led into the American homeland (Cartoon, November 8).

Just as ancient Troy was mortally misled by the gift from the Greeks, so were those who voted Obama in for a second term.

I foresee the beginning of the demise of America as the bastion of truth and democracy. I pray I’m wrong.

ARNAULD SCHONBRUNN
Petah Tikva


Simple answer

Sir, – There is a very simple answer to the question posed by reader Steven K. Ross (“A man, a plan,” Letters, November 8) as to why Israel cannot sit down with Hamas and Fatah and thrash out a deal without involvement by the US.

There is no chance that any such meeting could take place because Hamas, as its charter makes perfectly clear, is not and never was interested in land for peace. It is not a territorial dispute – Hamas simply does not want Israel to exist and wants to drive the Jews out.

Fatah cannot do anything while Hamas is more popular and in power in the Gaza Strip. At any rate, it quite likely believes much the same, and says so in Arabic to its constituents.

PETER SIMPSON
Jerusalem


Women at the Wall

Sir, – Reader Sarah Pearl (“Response to Rabinowitz,” Letters, November 7) asserts: “The late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein established a minimum of three feet as necessary for a mehitza to be kosher in a place of prayer,” and that the mehitza, or the barrier separating men from women, at the Kotel, or Western Wall, “meets the extreme standards of the haredi community....”

Actually, Rabbi Feinstein ruled that a minimum of five feet would suffice, but only in extenuating circumstances. Yet the writer entirely omitted one extremely important part of his ruling.

Technically, the mehitza only has to act as a physical barrier and need not keep women out of sight. But this only applies if the latter “meet the clothing requirements for modesty” and, if married, have their hair covered.

This, unfortunately, cannot always be assumed to be the case at the Kotel, so the mehitza must be opaque and high enough to keep them out of sight.

As for “women who wish to observe family members celebrating a bar mitzva or other momentous occasion,” the problems Pearl mentions may be a good reason for not celebrating them at the Kotel, but rather at a more suitable venue.

MARTIN D. STERN
Salford, UK


Sir, – Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz (“Not Orthodox and not Reform,” Comment & Features, November 5 demeans Women of the Wall, not by incorrectly identifying us with Reform Judaism, but by his claims that we hold demonstrations and are responsible for the arrests of some of our members and supporters.

We are a proudly pluralistic group with Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and other Jewish women who assert our right to pray at the Western Wall. We come to pray once a month for less than an hour each time. This is not, as the rabbi states, a provocation but a sincere and heartfelt expression of our spirituality and reverence for our people, our tradition and our God.

Rabinowitz writes that the Western Wall is “not Orthodox.”

Where else is a place for prayer divided with a physical barrier keeping men and women separate except at an Orthodox site? He also writes that the Kotel “was there many years before we... split into streams and camps....” What he neglects to point out is that for most of those years there was no mehitza at the Wall.

Those who, in Rabinowitz’s words, “turn the Western Wall... into an arena of public dispute” are those who oppose us. We come to pray and celebrate the new month. We deliberately and respectfully choose to gather at the back of the women’s section so that those who do not approve of our practice do not have to be bothered by it. Those who are bothered choose to be bothered.

We come, as the rabbi writes, “with... respect and brotherhood (sic).” We only ask for the same treatment by Rabinowitz and his supporters.

CHERYL BIRKNER MACK
Jerusalem
The writer is a member of the board of Women of the Wall


Below average

Sir, – With regard to “Average salary NIS 8,994 in August” (Business & Finance, November 7), the publication of this information is an insult, a disgrace and a joke.

On one hand, the Knesset announces an increase of NIS 1,000 per MK. On the other it allows for price increases on basic food items, putting more strain on us, the low income families struggling to make ends meet.

For me and most of my fellow workers (50 of us), this national average is more than two months of salary. We provide catering and maintenance facilities – the food being dished up with the same love as a mother – to nearly 2,000 soldiers on a northern army base of the Education Corps. Because of the nature of our work we would not even think about striking for better pay.

The powers that be, who sit in the head office in Tel Aviv and are led by the decision-making chairman of the board, refuse to adjust salaries to make life a bit more bearable. None of us have seen any increases for over five years. Only promises and high hopes.

A. ADLER
Nesher


Let them decide

Sir, – Reader Steve Kramer’s argument (“What Balfour meant,” Letters, November 5) is based upon the assumption that Jordan is Palestine. But who is he or anyone else to decide this for the Jordanians? I think King Abdullah and the Beduin would have something to say about this view.

Kramer and others with the same belief can’t face reality that if we want peace, we must end the occupation. (According to a recent poll at least two-thirds of Israelis support an end to the occupation.) I don’t care what former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy and others say when they claim that there isn’t any occupation.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, occupation is “the action, state or period of occupying.” To occupy is “to take control of (a place) by military conquest or settlement.”

If people can’t accept the fact that Israel occupies the West Bank, they are nominalists.

Nominalism is a doctrine in which universals or general ideas are mere names without any corresponding reality. Even Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who is right-wing, ruled that to peacefully resolve the conflict with the Palestinians is a matter of saving human life.

KEN KALCHEIM
Dimona

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