Sir, - What a joyous treat Israelis and tourists were given on the Intermediate Days of Succot at the President's House. While waiting in line to enter the succa we viewed the magnificent art and artifacts in the gardens and reception hall and heard the music of a band, and also a violin solo. Then we were privileged to meet and be greeted by President and Mrs. Katsav. Upon leaving the succa visitors were entertained by a choir of young people and a performance of Yemenite dancers and singers. We sat on upholstered chairs.
What a class act; a treasure for all of us.
Sir, - Thanks to the Post and to Yehuda Avner for "Once upon a succa time" (October 17). The visit by the venerated Mrs. Golda Meir to the front lines during the Yom Kippur War was reported at the time, but the moving inside story - so brilliantly told by Mr. Avner - of her visit to the Golan Heights and her insistence, in spite of the dangers, on meeting the fighting boys whom she found praying under an improvised succa canopy stresses once again the courage and devotion with which this great lady led our country, despite the internal and external pressures, during those dreadful, trying days. She had no small part in the Israel Defense Forces reversing the course of the war and in our gallant forces finding themselves, when an armistice was declared, 101 kilometers from Cairo and about 30 from Damascus.
May her memory be blessed.
Sir, - I was uplifted by the Golda Meir article and strongly agree that "for the survival of the whole Jewish people... I believe with all my heart that any sacrifice is worthwhile." We in the Diaspora are, in the end, the beneficiaries of those sacrifices, which will ultimately lead to Am Yisroel Chai.
Highland Park, Illinois
Sir, - The late Gen. Motta Gur was one of the few officers in the IDF who expected war to break out. In the summer of 1973 I was working at the Israeli embassy in Washington. Foreign minister Yigal Alon came to the US and ambassador Yitzhak Rabin convened the staff to hear him speak. Alon brimmed with self-confidence about Israel's strength and invincibility, from the Suez Canal to the Golan Heights. Gen. Gur, then military attache, was much more cautious and skeptical and asked: "But - what if the Egyptians try to change the situation by force?"
Alon was dismissive: "They wouldn't dare; and if they did we'd throw them back to Cairo!" Rabin asked if there were any more questions. There being none, the meeting was closed. Within a few weeks the Egyptians and Syrians attacked.
Alon and Rabin ignored the insight of Motta Gur. The rest is history.
What good is hasbara?
Sir, - Many articles and letters have appeared in your paper crying out for the need to present Israel's case vis-a-vis the Arab-Israel conflict. Organizations such as those mentioned in Norman Cohen's letter ("Israel's case to the world," October 19) have been set up by sincere and dedicated people to inform the world at large, as well as influential figures, of the righteousness of Israel's being, of our democracy, our basic decency, our care of Jewish refugees from Arab lands. It may well be that, as a result, we have drawn otherwise indifferent individuals to look more kindly upon us - but the big question is: Are governments influenced to treat us with more understanding for the actions of a country that, throughout its history, has known only war and the persistent hatred of its enemies? There is no evidence of it.
After the Six Day War, France, which had sold us arms and Mirage fighters, decided that its interests lay elsewhere and, despite the huge support of its people for us, began to prostitute itself with Arab governments for oil and trade. Britain, despite its sponsoring of the Balfour Declaration and Partition, paid lip service to the courage of our people but carried through policies quite inimicable to the Jewish state. Even America, supporting worldwide democracy and recognizing us as the only democracy in the Middle East, holds a gun to our head to implement policies that fit with their conceptions of achieving peace but put us at great risk.
Our governments have, in the main, submitted to these pressures, claiming that realpolitik dictates. We can see the results of this submission in the debacle of our withdrawal from Lebanon, in Camp David and Oslo - and I foresee no peaceful fruit from our recent withdrawal from Gaza.
It is our government that must influence world opinion in our favor by stating our case succinctly and aggressively and, more importantly, uncompromisingly adopting the best policies for our people, with or without outside support.
Sir, - Daoud Kuttab wrote about a conference to discuss Palestinian public relations, saying: "Speaker after speaker criticized the mistaken attempt to present the Palestinian struggle as that of a Palestinian mother appearing to celebrate the death of her son and refusing to show her real feelings... The need to humanize the Palestinian image through encouraging human-interest stories and documentaries was emphasized repeatedly, as opposed to a suggestion to break cameras attempting to film negative images, which was rejected" ("Stop idolizing death," October 10).
Apparently, those who participated in the Palestinian public relations conference believe that parents seen celebrating their children's death through murder-suicide is a mere image problem, not a moral one. It is precisely because they think this way that Palestinians have dehumanized their own image before the world. Breaking cameras or producing more "human interest" stories on Palestinians only conceals the truth, but does not change it.
MORTON A. KLEIN
Zionist Organization of America
Difference of ability
Sir, - As an answer to the question raised by Evelyn Gordon on the difference between a connection between Gaza and the West Bank and construction in the area E1, one must simply consider this: Can Israel interrupt traffic between the northern and southern West Bank whenever it wants? Yes. Are the Palestinians able to interrupt traffic between the north and the Negev? No. That's it ("Tunnels, overpasses and myopia," October 20).
Sir, - "Academics against Israel" by Alexander Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky (October 19) misrepresented the Association for Israel Studies. In the first place, AIS is an international, not "US-based," association with roughly equal membership in North America and in Israel. Secondly, AIS is an academic association and, as such, takes no position on political questions. It has certainly never "paid for" any activities that delegitimize the State of Israel.
PROF. ALAN DOWTY
Association for Israel Studies
South Bend, Indiana
Sir, - Reading the horribly disturbing "State charges six minors with committing sodomy on child" (October 20) I searched the article a few times thinking I'd missed something about the parents of this 11-year-old boy; but I didn't find a single word. How is it possible for a child of this age to be badly beaten, abused and threatened over more than two years and his parents totally unaware of it? Was he so left to his own devices that no one monitored his comings and goings or picked up on what should have been disturbing emotional clues?
While the young perpetrators of these sickening and disgusting acts are surely to be held responsible, I also ask: Where were their parents, obviously clueless as to the type of children they were raising?
Sir, - I am a little puzzled by this statement: "[Health Minister Dan] Naveh... said that if [avian flu] were detected in Israel, all fowl in a three-kilometer radius would be destroyed, while all fowl in the country would be inoculated." Why not inoculate all the fowl now and avoid destroying any later? ("Naveh: Israel unlikely to escape bird flu," October 20.)
Sir, - Having read "Israel slips to 28 on corruption index" (October 20), Rabbi David Sterne's letter of October 19 ("This attack was verbal") saddened but did not surprise me. If Rabbi Sterne feels that Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern deserved what happened to him at the Western Wall, he has every right to say so. Even if throwing stones is a barbaric form of retribution, the rabbi might conceivably quote this as a punishment prescribed in the Bible. But he chose to imply the incident did not happen!
It may well be he did not see any stones being thrown. But to declare that none were or could be thrown is appalling, a perversion of the truth. There was no question that stones were thrown. The only question was whether the perpetrators would be caught. (It appears they now have been.)
The area of the Kotel is full of loose stones. From the vast tract at the back of the plaza where renovation work is being done to the side of the ladies' section, where half the ramp fell in some months ago, "ammunition" is readily at hand.
Moshav Tal Shachar
Sir, - Is it only me, or do all Anglo immigrants thrill when the weather turns soft and cool, the mornings dawn damp and misty and - yes! - one ventures forth actually holding an umbrella aloft? The joy and wonder of the first rain, called yore, is unequalled.
Funny, I don't remember being moved in the same way by grey skies and drizzle back in the UK. There, it was more like, "Oh no - it's raining cats and dogs again!"
Just another reason why life in Israel is so special.