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Sir, - In the hands of one who has sought it so avidly over the years, power is a very dangerous thing. Instead of focusing on being caretaker of the government until the elections, our acting prime minister has decided to seize this opportunity to make drastic changes in policy. We are suddenly hearing mention of final-status talks ("Olmert hints at final-status deal," January 18). Are there new factors of which we have no knowledge? And then there are Olmert's strongarm tactics regarding the treatment of Israelis opposed to what he is attempting to do in Hebron and elsewhere ("Olmert takes tough stance against settlers," January 19).
Ariel Sharon had more political sense, even some humility, in dealing with these matters.
...and the glory
Sir, - In his pronouncements last week Ehud Olmert succeeded in angering the Arabs (over electioneering in East Jerusalem) and the Jews (over the removal of illegal settlements) in equal measure - a clear indication, surely, that he is entirely qualified to serve as prime minister of Israel.
Sir, - "Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert directed Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday to present a plan for the evacuation of some 20 illegal outposts in the West Bank."
The acting PM would accomplish more for the rule of law and the safety of our citizens by asking the police to present detailed plans to eliminate police corruption, road accident deaths and the mafia.
But if he is so interested in eliminating illegal settlements, why does he not also evacuate illegal Arab housing in Judea and Samaria?
Iran's nukes - just a curiosity
Sir, - At long last the issue of Iran and the Bomb is being discussed in the British media. But some commentators treat it as a surprising curiosity and are neglecting to sound the alarm.
Israel needs to do more to alert the world of this threat; the British people, at least, are not being convinced of its seriousness ("Security Council members demand suspension of Iranian nukes," January 17).
Sir, - Paul Eidelberg did a good job of distinguishing between direct election of the prime minister and electoral reform ("Stable, honest government," Letters, January 19). There are two minimum requirements for electoral reform:
â€¢ direct election of a minimum of 75% of MKs - meaning each one is responsible to the citizens who elected him or her and not to a party or prime minister;
â€¢ separation of powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government - meaning an MK cannot also be a cabinet minister; strict regulations would govern relations among the three branches of government, guaranteeing that major power rest with the electorate, not with political parties. There could be a presidential executive (as in the US), a prime minister (UK), or some other model.
SARA LEE WOOLF
Ramat Beit Shemesh
Digging their own graves
Sir, - The criticism of awarding the Golden Globe for best foreign film to Paradise Now was disturbing and justified ("Humanizing terrorism," Editorial, January 18), but there is a silver lining in this cloud: As one more example of liberal naivete it will only serve to help conservatives.
By seeming to either humanize terrorists or to argue against tough anti-terrorist measures on civil rights grounds, liberals are digging their political graves. Their recent flap over the administration's use of warrantless domestic surveillance came at a low point in President Bush's popularity, and helped fuel a backlash by the terrorist-fearing public which quickly reversed the president's flagging numbers.
So go ahead, moronic Hollywood elitists: Show everyone what idiots leftists are so we can keep electing Republicans.
Sir, - Another, perhaps deeper, angle on the viewpoints of Rabbis Marvin Schick ("Where is Chabad heading?" January 10) and David Eliezrie ("To Chabad, every Jew counts," January 15) is their vastly different philosophies and approaches to God, Judaism, the Torah and one's purpose in the world.
In the ethical literature written by non-hassidic rabbis in the era of early Hassidism one finds a painful weltanschauung that shuns most of the Jewish nation. To be close to God one must be the perfect Torah scholar and perfect follower of the law. Well, most of us are not perfect, and the message for the average Jew of the time was, in essence: There's no hope for you, and you don't really matter. A great schism existed between the elite and the masses, who felt second-rate.
Then came the Ba'al Shem Tov, vouching that every Jew has a divine spark and that his quintessence is a part of God; and thus all his other negative traits and dispositions are just a facade covering his Godly makeup. Through the power of tshuvoh ("return"), he who is further away is potentially really closer, while he who thinks he is closer is really further away.
The Misnagdim [opponents of the hassidim] do not see it this way. After astronaut Ilan Ramon was killed in the space shuttle tragedy common mutterings amongst Lithuanian haredim were that he deserved it: for being secular, for desecrating the Sabbath, and so on.
What did Chabad say at the time? Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner of the Chabad-affiliated Mayanot Institute wrote admiringly in an opinion piece in The Jerusalem Post of Ramon's Jewishness and the way in which he had said the Shema prayer while the shuttle was over Jerusalem and prayed for world and Jewish peace.
While a non-hassidic rabbi may see the secular Jew in the dark hue of the negative commandments he has transgressed, the hassidic rabbi sees the positive deeds he has already done, and how the rectification of sin-turned-into-virtue fulfills the Creator's purpose for the world.
Sir, - No one will ever suspect me of being a Lubavitcher hassid, but one of my most memorable experiences in the rabbinate was when the Lubavitcher Rebbe invited me and several other Young Israel rabbis to a private session in his office. During the meeting, which lasted from 12 midnight till 3 a.m., the Rebbe put forward his views on many religious matters. The presentation was so powerful and moving that I understood how this man could have inspired thousands of emissaries to travel throughout the world to return unobservant Jews to the essence of Jewish practice. Even after his death his influence still motivates young men to continue this sacred work.
I was therefore very distressed to see Dr. Marvin Schick's attack in the Post. To say that Chabad promotes a discounted Judaism and is unduly tolerant of unobservant Jews is a slander. Bringing Jews who have never had any religious training or education back to full observance is a task that requires patience, love and inspiration. Chabad's emissaries work day and night for the cause and I have never seen or heard of any who compromise religious standards.
It is ironic that a few days after Dr. Schick's article appeared, a Nazi skinhead attacked a Chabad synagogue in Moscow, stabbing and wounding 10 worshipers, some of them quite seriously. The Lubavitcher rabbi of the synagogue, no youngster, did not think twice. At the risk of his life, he jumped on the attacker and, with the help of others, subdued him.
These are not men who are selling their religion wholesale. I am certain that among the worshipers at the synagogue were those brought back to observance by Lubavitcher efforts.
Men who attend evening services in the middle of the week are practicing their Judaism in full. They will continue praying at the same synagogue despite the risks involved.
RABBI SHLOMO WEXLER
...for different Jews
Sir, - Marvin Schick, in attack mode, has forgotten what he stands for. On a recent Shabbat, students from RJJ, the school Dr. Schick heads, found Chabad at Harvard - an organization Prof. Alan Dershowitz helped build and continues to support unwaveringly - the place in Cambridge where they could maintain their halachic standards.
The fact that thousands of Jews without prior Jewish experiences find Chabad equally meaningful and compelling has absolutely nothing to do with compromise on laws and traditions, and everything to do with unconditional love for each and every Jew regardless of his or her degree of Jewish knowledge and observance.
RABBI HIRSCHY ZARCHI
Chabad House at Harvard
Sir, - Re the recent flurry of articles about the vandalizing of Arab-owned trees, may I draw readers' attention to a quote from the October 25, 1934 issue of The Palestine Post: "Uprooting of trees has become a habit among the fellahin, reports Al-Difa. In spite of Government's strong measures against such offenders, a slight altercation usually concludes by one of the contending parties taking revenge on his opponent's trees or animals."
I recommend considering this item before automatically assuming that Jews were behind the recent spate of tree vandalism.
Sir, - May I thank you for publishing my letter on the unknown whereabouts of my nephew ("James Turner, where are you?" Letters, January 18). And may I now ask you to publish my sincere thanks to one of your esteemed readers, Yehoshua Sivan, who has brought this family together again.
Sir, I salute you.
Tamworth, Staffordshire, UK
A different planet
Sir, - Re "Israeli scientist charts Pluto's 'New Horizons'" (January 18): I hope the mission is a success and that Judy Siegel-Itzkovich will write about the encounter in 2015.
She's right, Pluto is a different kind of planet. For several reasons, actually. According to many, it is not even a planet. But it does have a moon, called Charon.
With the US moving into Pluto, and Pluto having a satellite called Charon, are there any doubts whatsoever that Charon, and consequently Israel, are also controlled by the US?
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