Sir, - When murdering Palestinians bomb our children, young mothers and elderly at a mall on a weekday around noon, it is a fair assumption they were aiming at just such innocent civilians. I do not know what our response will be, but you can bet we will aim for something related to terrorist activity, and not a marketplace.
Some may say Israel has tanks and helicopters, while the only Palestinian weapon is the suicide bomber. Unacceptable as it may sound, it is probably true. So if they bomb our military we should retaliate against their military equivalent. And if they bomb our civilians, we should... but we won't, will we, because we are not inhumane animals.
This playing field isn't even. ("Israel vows strong response to Netanya bombing," December 6)
Sir, - "An absence of morality" (Editorial, December 6) was wrong. We are seeing the presence of a different morality - the morality of Islam. Islam has two codes of ethics, one for Muslims, another for infidels. In Islam an innocent infidel is an oxymoron. This is why so many Palestinians can commit so many atrocities.
In their eyes, they are doing nothing wrong.
Give them the tools
Sir, - Security guards are the bravest of our forces in the bloody war against suicide bombers, and many people owe their lives to them. We need to ask: Are we giving these heroes reasonable tools with which to confront the enemy?
Sadly, the answer is no.
One of the best ways to neutralize a suicide bomber is stun guns, which would temporarily incapacitate a suspect and free the user of any fear of killing or wounding an innocent person. Only one problem: Stun guns are much more expensive than the cheap detectors we arm our guards with. Yet surely locations like the Sharon Mall in Netanya justify providing the necessary tools to save more lives and balance the odds.
At present, when a guard hears the beep from his detector telling him he might be facing a suicide bomber, he knows his chances of survival are almost zero ("Guard dies preventing greater carnage," December 6).
Where's the word?
Sir, - Judy Montagu's poignant essay "Less than joyful in Germany" (December 4), followed so soon by the heartbreaking carnage in Netanya, prompted this thought: We have the word "Kristallnacht" (Night of Shattered Glass) to encompass the horror of that particular night and that particular time in our history. What portmanteau word would encompass the horror of the shattered bodies here and now, in this particular time in our history?
MIRIAM L. GAVARIN
Sir, - We all mourn deeply the loss of five innocent people killed by a suicide bomber. Had five people been killed in one day as a result of traffic accidents would we sense an equal loss? Regretfully, I don't think so. A suicide bomber is beyond our comprehension, but there should be a way to minimize the unnecessary carnage on our roads.
Sir, - I will not respond to Seymour Reich's misrepresentation of my political views ("We don't 'pressure' Israel," December 6). But I must comment when he accuses me of "maliciously" misrepresenting him when I condemn his efforts (as quoted in Haaretz) to lobby US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "to intervene aggressively over the Gaza border crossings, telling her this would gain the support of American Jews."
Reich also stated, "We don't presume to say it was because of our conversation with the Secretary of State or the political paper we sent her that she acted aggressively to achieve the border crossing agreement." However, "I have no doubt that we bolstered the Secretary of State's interest and strengthened her opinion that aggressive American intervention was needed to achieve political results."
Then, in the Post article, Reich had the hutzpa to suggest that the Gaza border issue was "willingly entered into by Israel's government" and that by "insinuat[ing] that Israel was coerced into adopting such policies" I am harming Israel's standing.
In effect, Reich is claiming that he was helping the Sharon government by lobbying the administration to jettison security procedures the government and military advisers had been insisting were non-negotiable until the very last moment, when they were bludgeoned into conceding them by the Americans.
I reiterate that it is outrageous for someone purporting to be an American Jewish leader to lobby the US administration to act "aggressively" against Israel on issues directly related to her security. For Mr. Reich to claim that such behavior would be approved by most American Jews is also untrue, and even more offensive.
Which Iranians will prevail?
Sir, - I would like to add some proportion to "Israel-Iranian encounter, 'a dream,'" (December 6).
An Iranian friend, an emigre living in Prague and a nominal Muslim (he eats anything), asked me at the time of Israeli "Oslo-itis": "What's wrong with your government - are they crazy?" He understood that the Oslo process was the beginning of a slippery slope and could produce nothing good. His education is high-school level.
An educated Iranian in the seat next to me on a transatlantic flight, also a nominal Muslim (he sipped a pre-prandial whisky), informed me that Iran would eventually need Israel as an ally against Arab hostility.
But strolling around London I encountered a large, police-protected demonstration by Iranian immigrants bearing banners and shouting, "Israel must be destroyed." Their appearance suggested that their secular education and economic status were not of a high level.
From these experiences I understood that Iranians of modernist orientation match, more or less, the picture painted by Orly Halpern, including distrust of Arabs; while the Islamic-oriented, less-educated conform to the virulent anti-Israel view of conventional wisdom.
The question, then, is: Which group is larger and thus more likely to moderate, or accentuate, the influence of the governing ayatollahs?
Suffocating in Jerusalem
Sir, - The current plan for the city to expand westward is supposed to "relieve congestion" ("Controversial Jerusalem expansion plan set for approval," December 6). The exact opposite is true.
Smothering the green hills and trails to the west with asphalt and cement will make every Jerusalemite feel congested, without nearby hills to escape to for nature's restorative powers.
The mayor and a large segment of the population have never learned to deeply appreciate God's gifts of fresh air, forests and fields and flourishing wildlife, and are thus happy with quick-fix solutions.
This mad, shortsighted plan will destroy our beautiful land and the trails I and tens of thousands of adults and children have adored over the decades.
Keeping the faith...
Sir, - Perhaps Orthodoxy isn't the answer to the abhorrent state of Jewish education in the Jewish state, but neither is Reform Judaism. What we need is a melding, or at least a recognition, of all the streams to strengthen Jewish values.
True faith lies buried deep within the heart of the practitioner and no one can legislate an alternative. However, life functions such as marriage, divorce, conversion, kashrut, etc. must remain under the control of the Orthodox as only recognition of the centrality of Torah and Halacha can keep the faith ("Orthodoxy isn't the answer," December 6).
HAIM M. LERNER
Sir, - Had Michael Boyden entitled his article "Judaism isn't the answer" it might have been intellectually honest. The whole basis of his religion is accommodating the non-practice of Judaism, and intermarriage; and therefore the entire basis, both philosophical and practical, for conversion is the antithesis of authentic Judaism.
If Israel is to remain a Jewish state it will have to admit, however reluctantly, that the Michael Boydens of this world have changed their religion in everything except the name, which they cling to, partially out of the need to try and usurp the legitimacy of the religion they no longer believe in or practice, but mostly because of its marketing value in their drive to attract those who would prefer not to admit they have left the fold.
Sir - I am appalled by Magen David Adom's decision to accept the humiliating demands of the IRCS after all these years of standing by our principles ("Full MDA membership in IRC expected to 'crystallize,'" December 6).
Irrespective of some marginal material benefits that may accrue from becoming a recognized member, the MGA has given fantastic service to the citizens of this state throughout its long, bloody and painful history.
There is absolutely no justification in demeaning ourselves and our proud emblem in this way.
My feeling is that we should tell the IRCS to "stuff it."
Kibbutz Bror Hayil
Right for the Right
Sir, - With the religious Right arguing over who will lead them, I would like to suggest a way out of the impasse. Let them choose Prof. Robert Auman, who is receiving the Nobel Prize this week. He is an idealistic, religious man, a member of Professors for a Strong Israel, an individual of fine character and an Israeli hero ("Orlev bests Elon in poll for right-wing leader," December 2).
Hurt not others
Sir, - Instead of "Is it possible to be Jewish and a lesbian?" (December 4), I would ask: Is it possible to be Jewish and a bigot? Your letter-writer (December 5) cites an irrelevant verse from Leviticus. I would quote from the same book - chapter 19:18, which makes clear that "Jewish" and "bigot" cannot coexist, "at least not in the Judaism God intended," to use your correspondent's words.
I would advise seeing the moving and educational prize-winning documentary Keep Not Silent by Ilil Alexander ("Almost out of the closet," September 6). Learning about reality may make it less easy to hurt others with one's lack of knowledge and excess of intolerance.
M.-M. VAN ZUIDEN