(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - Nathan Burstein's "Lighten up!" (Cover story, August 3) about more and more Israelis "going blond" shouldn't be surprising. The phenomenon has been around for years, especially in the US, where the "California surfing look" got a big boost in the 1960s via pop groups like the Beach Boys. Israelis, eager to imitate American fashion trends, have naturally taken to dyeing their hair as well; it makes no difference what their cultural or ethnic backgrounds are.
As for Jews actually having blond hair, that can be plainly seen, especially among Jews originating from northern European countries - including many haredim, who tend to marry within a very tight, selected group, which includes cousins.
Greatly contributing to this genetic reality has been that age-old historical cause: "foreign DNA" being injected into a socio-ethnic group originating from either Mesopotamia or the Caucasus - for example, by invading armies, as in the period of the Crusades. (Many Druse have blond hair and blue eyes, allegedly "inherited" from invading Christian Knights Templars.)
Sir, - For years you failed to notice that a good 75 percent of Israel's female population were walking around with red hair; I too went red when I went gray. Now I have also gone blond as it is cheaper in the long run. You see a lot of rubbish written about blonds, and a lot of trees are unnecessarily cut down to provide the paper for them.
Sir, - With all due respect to Botticelli, his virgin did not belong in your "peroxide"-crowded article. Granted, it was interesting - but to devote 10 pages to going blond seems a bit exaggerated.
Sir, - Re "Three little pigs" (August 3): I'm sure I speak for a large part of the Israeli population who are shocked and disgusted with many of our politicians. David Forman expressed almost perfectly my anger at what is happening - or, I should say, not happening - in this country. These men act immorally, show no remorse and get rewarded with fat pensions and chauffeur-driven cars.
What happened to justice? Our family joke is, if you want to make a lot of money in Israel and get away with all sorts of infamy, become a politician.
A little respect and awe
Sir, - "Being Orthodox is designed to make [a person] a better citizen and that, ultimately, is the goal of Judaism and the Jewish people" read Saul Singer's penultimate sentence in "Inward and outward" (August 3).
Let's assume that by "Orthodox" Singer means observing the commandments. Surely this has nothing directly to do with citizenship, but rather submitting to the will of the Holy One, blessed be He, as best we Jewish human beings understand that will. In the process of so submitting and acting, one may indeed become a "better" citizen. On the other hand, keeping the commandments might just as easily be the umbrella under which certain of the so-called Orthodox ("strictly Orthodox," "ultra-Orthodox") withdraw from civic responsibilities altogether, as we well know in Israeli society. Thus Singer's definition of Judaism's goal just doesn't hold up, theologically or politically.
Let's say, however, that his arguments about the ethical value of kashrut are worthy. He says: "There is strong argument that the line-drawing of kashrut is not arbitrary, but ethical." Seemingly this ethical argument has helped to increase Singer's, and many others', Jewish religious observance. Is this not, however, a potential whim? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that a method of slaughter is found that minimizes animal suffering even more than the kosher method - won't Singer then need to endorse that method? Or will he then have to admit that kashrut, too, is not about ethics but about obedience? (To be fair, Singer does recognize that obedience is primary.)
What Singer lacks in his essay - a critique (with some unfortunate snide undertones) of Prof. Noah Feldman's New York Times magazine article "Orthodox paradox" - is an intrinsic appreciation of the intellectual and spiritual struggles of many people today, and historically, who have been brought up in an Orthodox milieu and been exposed to modernity. Indeed, what is so clear in Feldman's article seems completely lost on Singer: the inner contradictions of Orthodoxy.
Feldman went to the Maimonides School of Brookline, Massachusetts. In the American Jewish day school world, this is the equivalent of Reali in Haifa or "Alyada" in Jerusalem. Maimonides was established in 1937 by Joseph B. Soloveitchik, "HaRav," who later became head of Yeshiva University, the beacon of Modern Orthodoxy. A poignant moment in Feldman's article is this: "We were periodically admonished that boys and girls must not touch one another," and this in a school (high school, no less) in which R. Soloveitchik had boys and girls studying Talmud together as early as the 1940s! How to deal with this contradiction?
Feldman admits to contradictory aspects of his life - his intermarriage and his love of and participation in Jewish tradition - indicating that this is but one possible outcome of the chances classic Jewish religious life was once prepared to take with modernity. Those contradictions have been the driving forces of Jewish life for 250 years, and all forms of Jewish identity today can be traced to attempts to accommodate the challenge and the changes. Singer's searching for human frameworks, ethical or otherwise lovely, is as much a result as are other attempts.
I, however, would sooner trust one who, in challenging God, as it were, walks away limping from his battle with the angel, than one who speaks of that wrestler as "essentially ignorant of what Judaism is supposed to be." Respect and some awe would be more appropriate.
Sir, - As a resident of Safed for 46 years, I felt offended, insulted and degraded by the comment attributed to Joel Mandel that "Safed is made up of three types of people: the hassidim, the artists and the crazies." Nothing could be further from the truth. Seventy percent of Safed's population is made up of traditional and secular Jews who work hard, pay their taxes, serve in the army and fly the nation's flag on Independence Day. The hassidim are a drain on the city's coffers; the so-called artists' colony is a faint shadow of what it was when we first arrived in Safed, and the "crazies" - or "astronauts," as the locals refer to them - may be "colorful," but in fact are simply a blight on the city.
Safed may be perfect for the Mandels, but for all the wrong reasons (Arrivals, August 3).
Raw egg no-no...
Sir, - Faye Levy, whom I admire for her healthy-minded recipes, calls for a raw egg in the aioli recipe published in your newspaper ("Tuna salad with an accent" June 20). I recently contracted salmonella poisoning from such a recipe: an avocado dressing with a "hidden" raw egg, served at an upscale restaurant in New York.
Health departments in all parts of the world are clear in their recommendations to avoid eating raw eggs due to the danger of salmonella.
CHANA RUBIN, R.D.
Sir, - I made my first trip to Israel in 1973. At that time, I purchased Wonders of a Wonderpot. On my next visit (1981) I bought Israeli Cooking on a Budget. I've used both extensively over the years, and when I made aliya two years ago, of course they both came with me, and they're in very good condition.
Sybil Zimmerman has been a part of my life for so many years, it was good to read Judy Montagu's Short Order (July 27) and know I'm not the only one who waxes nostalgic over these cookbooks.