Apartheid? Not here
Sir, - Apart from a two-year stint in the army and a slightly shorter interlude in Copenhagen, I spent the first 38 years of my life in the US, and the next 22 in England. I have been in Israel for the past 13 years.
My family doctor is an Arab. The surgeon who operated on my wife is an Arab. The specialist who diagnosed her problem is an Arab. One of two oncologists she consults is an Arab. My urologist is an Arab. The minor procedure he advised was performed by an Arab.
The bus company that serves the north is owned and run by an Arab consortium. Most of the pharmacists in Nahariya are Arabs. The owner of the largest fruit market in Nahariya is an Arab. My neighbor in the flat below is an Arab. Twenty percent of all students in higher education here are Arabs.
Conclusion: This is by far the most tolerant and least apartheid country I have ever lived in ("Oxford holds 'Apartheid Israel' week," February 16).
Biased view of Jabotinsky
Sir, - Colin Shindler made three assertions in his article summarizing his new book The Triumph of Military Zionism: Nationalism and the Origins of the Israeli Right ("Jabotinsky vs Begin," February 5). All three are dubious and untenable.
First, the vision of Jabotinsky is unauthentic in that it "was constructed by both David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin" and, moreover, was "the product of Begin's determined attempt" to claim the leadership of the national camp in the state of Israel. Second, this vision is based on "a selective reading of Jabotinsky's canon of writings." Third, it is doubtful that Jabotinsky would "have embraced military Zionism" had he lived.
Shindler goes over ground well-trod over the past two decades by partisan Israeli writers such as Yigal Eilam, Yaakov Shavit and Yochanan Shapiro. However, Jabotinsky's writings, including an 18-volume edition and, more recently, eight volumes of his letters, have been available for study for 40 years and more. Any unfaithful "construction" that any non-objective researcher such as Shindler proffers has already been debated and found wanting.
Jabotinsky fully embraced the military phase of Zionism and actually had done so in 1915 when he initiated the establishment of the Jewish Legion. In 1938, he praised the Irgun, writing: "Happy am I that I have merited such pupils as these." In 1939 he advanced the planning of an invasion of then Palestine and an Easter Uprising-like takeover of government offices. He further praised the actions of the nascent Irgun against Arab terror in June 1939 when he wrote: "My children 'write' better and more clearly than I" while seeking that the organization keep to an ethical code of armed struggle.
Jabotinsky, who attended Begin's wedding in Drohobych in May 1939 and had appointed him to the top leadership positions of Betar in prewar Europe while disagreeing with him at the 1938 World Conference of Betar, had already selected him as his main ideological heir. Begin's leadership of the Revisionist Movement (he preferred to use the term "Jabotinsky Movement" to include not only the political branch but the youth movement Betar, the Irgun and elements of Lehi, the National Workers' Federation, National Sick Fund and additional institutions) before and after 1948 was recognized and accepted by the vast majority of Betar, Revisionist and Irgun veterans.
Although, to be fair, we need to read Shindler's entire book, this excerpt already illustrates his own selective interpretation and biased construction.
HARRY (TZVI) HURWITZ
Bareheaded, truly Jewish
Sir, - Two of your readers complain about male candidates for the Knesset being pictured without kippot ("Head start," Letters, February 15). They are obviously not aware that the custom for Jews to keep their heads covered is a relatively modern one. In the 13th century it was normal for male adults in Germany and France to have their heads uncovered, even when called up to read from the Torah. The custom of keeping the head covered at all times began to come into fashion only in the 14th and 15th centuries. Jewish men in biblical and Temple times did not cover their heads.
Tractate Shabbat attributes the origin of the custom to Rabbi Nachman ben Yitzchak in the 4th century. It relates that when her son was born, the famous rabbi's mother consulted astrologers (even though this is strictly prohibited by the Bible - Deuteronomy 9-13). They told her evil spirits would make her son a thief unless she kept his head covered at all times to protect him from their influence. This she did, and Rabbi Nachman continued the practice. In the rabbi's later life, it is recorded, out of respect for their teacher his many students also kept their heads covered, and the custom spread throughout the Jewish world.
As they say - the rest is history. A similar situation has happened in modern times with followers of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, as a sign of their allegiance, wearing a hat of the same distinctive style as the Rebbe's.
The rabbis constantly urge us to return to the ways of our forefathers in the times of the Bible and the Temple in Jerusalem. By appearing bareheaded, the prospective Knesset members are doing just that.
MAURICE J. SUMMERFIELD
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Why be extreme?
Sir, - "Religious Zionism is out of touch with mainstream society" says Matthew Wagner (Analysis, February 10). At present, mainstream Israeli society's only objective seems to be to isolate itself from the Palestinians as quickly and completely as possible. This aspiration has been expressed by virtually every political party, including the Likud and Yisrael-Beiteinu. The National Union/National Religious Party offers the only alternative for Israelis who object to this process.
Popular as disengagement may be as a solution to the "demographic problem," it is extreme and impractical. The withdrawal from Gaza was traumatic and costly, and few of the 1,700 families dislocated have yet found permanent housing and employment. Disengagement from the West Bank will involve between 10 and 20 times more people, families and businesses.
The NU/NRP's objective is to encourage Israelis to reconnect with their land, their culture and their religion. It rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state, as did at least 50% of the mainstream until only recently.
Autonomy may not be a permanent solution, but NU supporters see no urgent need to foster self-determination for a population that only weeks ago voted by a landslide in favor of the destruction of Israel.