Poke in the eye

Sir, – It would be hard to imagine a more derisive put-down of 4,000 years of Jewish history and religious tradition than your insistence on publicly accommodating the view of Yom Kippur as “a perfect day for bicycle riding” (“Riding bicycles on Yom Kippur,” Editorial, September 5).

What a gift to enemies who loudly and repeatedly assert that our spiritual connections to this land are a fabrication.

How about “a perfect day” for some serious introspection for those unable to bear the thought of joining their compatriots in prayer, meditation and fasting? Kudos to Transportation Minister Israel Katz for his efforts to disassociate the government from this annual poke in the eye to Judaism.

ZE’EV KIMCHE
Efrat

Sir, – The phenomenon begs a different question than the one asked in your editorial: Why has the currency of Jewish practice become so devalued that youth and adults see Yom Kippur as nothing more than a great opportunity for unimpeded bike riding? Has Jewish education in the Jewish homeland become so impoverished that it cannot find meaningful alternatives for what is called the holiest day of the year? This is an existential issue that cannot be solved by either a government minister or a municipality. It requires a massive rethinking of our national goals and our collective Jewish identity.

LINDA WOLFF
Sha’arei Tikva

Sir, – On the corner of Allenby and Ahad Ha’am streets in central Tel Aviv there is a large, underused building with ample parking places for bicycles. It is an excellent destination for those who wish to leave their cars at home on Yom Kippur and ride a bike through the streets of Tel Aviv with their kids.

The building I am referring to is the Tel Aviv Central Synagogue. The family that prays together stays together.

CHAIM FRIEDMAN
Beit Shemesh

Galvanizing call

Sir, – Thank you for publishing details regarding the upcoming conference on Jews from Arab lands (“Gov’t stepping up campaign for rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries,” August 28).

All of what Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said took me back to November 1975 when I attended the founding conference of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) in Paris.

There was a particularly exciting moment when a telegram was received from Farouk Kadoumi of the PLO, inviting the Jews to go back. The reply was harsh and fast: These Jews, who had suffered violent pogroms led by screaming Muslim mobs and had all their property confiscated, had no desire to return to the hangings of Iraq or the dungeons of Syria.

Subsequent conferences were held in London, Washington and Herzliya, and there was enough testimony to guide the Foreign Ministry in the war of words it was supposed to wage against Arab propaganda.

But it did nothing.

Everything was presumably filed away.

In the same way, the ministry turned aside from the sterling work done by a former Anglo attorney, Martin Bar- Shalem (Shaw), who was now living in Israel. This included his involvement in drafting the personal and communal pro forma compensation claims of Jews from Libya. His multi-faceted efforts could fill an interesting book.

What is important now is whether the upcoming conference is just going to be a blast of photo ops, ignoring all the past accomplishments, or whether it will galvanize the Foreign Ministry into action and be followed by a real and concerted effort by the government.

MALKA HILLEL-SHULEWITZ
Jerusalem
The writer edited The Forgotten Millions – The Modern Exodus of Jews from Arab Lands

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