letters to the editor 88.
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For the sake of the children...
Sir, - It's time people learned fiscal responsibility and looked toward the future. Kudos to Greer Fay Cashman for her wonderful "To save the children" (March 19), recommending that the monthly child allowance be rechanneled from families into mandatory savings accounts for each and every child in Israel.
At age 18 the child could access the money and use it for university fees, a mortgage, furniture, or whatever he or she deemed important at the time. It might not be a lot of money, but it would be much better than nothing.
I understand the plight of those with large families; but they too must learn fiscal responsibility. I give anybody credit for having a large family, but it shouldn't be at the expense of the state or, more importantly, of denying their children the ability to get out of the poverty cycle. The little bit of financial security received via these savings would enable them to do that.
LESLIE BAKER, Beersheba
Sir, - It was with a growing sense of shock that I read Greer Fay Cashman's article suggesting that child allowances be stopped and, in their place, bank accounts opened in every child's name. The huge number of soup kitchens operating in our country shows how impoverished families with several children have managed to "make do."
Your writer's proposal would make those families unable to feed their children even minimally. How hungry would they have to get before your writer realized that there was something very wrong with her proposal?
RHEA ISRAEL, Rehovot
Sir, - Re "Olmert: Stop dealing with portfolios" (March 21): At a time when the country is sensitive to bird flu, Ehud Olmert seems to be arrogantly counting his chickens ("Kadima... will in all likelihood be the biggest party and will be the real center of power in the country").
In fact, the large group of "undecided" voters are most likely trying to decide which party to choose other than Kadima. The kind of overconfidence Olmert exhibits leads to people not bothering to turn out to vote, in contrast to supporters of the parties to the right of center, who are the most highly motivated to vote.
On March 29 we may well be treated to the Israeli version of "President Thomas E. Dewey."
DAVID M. LEVIN, Jerusalem
Dead-enders are mobilizing
Sir, - I'm starting to worry that Kadima is being over-confident about its chances on March 28. It's true, I think, that most Israelis have given up on the dead-end solutions offered by both the Left (unconditional negotiations) and the Right (behaving as if our diplomatic and military situation today were frozen in pre-Oslo mode) and want some pragmatic flexibility, come what may.
Prospective Kadima voters should not be complacent. Be warned: The dead-enders are mobilizing.
JOSEPH WEISSMAN, Ra'anana
Focus on display
Sir, - The complaints voiced on this page concerning an IDF security procedure in Jericho, pictured as an "underwear parade," concern a photo taken for the Associated Press by one Nasser Shayouki (March 16) who was exercising, with IDF permission, freedom of the press.
The problem derives not from the army's security procedure, but from the issue of discrimination raised by the old New York Times slogan "All the news that's fit to print."
The humiliation, if any, lay not in the security measure, but in its display in the media ("Indecent exposure," Letters, March 21).
MIRIAM L. GAVARIN, Jerusalem
Sir, - Jonathan Pollard has again lost an appeal for his freedom after suffering so long in prison. Maybe the US government should study the Mordechai Vanunu case in Israel ("Pollard loses supreme Court appeal," March 21).
MARK BRAJTMAN, Cape Town
Sir, - I do not understand the big fuss about this new "revelation" that the Torah may permit extramarital sex ("National religious aroused over opinion allowing kosher sex, without marriage," March 17). I have extensively cited the main modern source, Shaalot Yavitz II:15, in my Torah portion sheets for many years.
The Jewish talmudic commentator Rabbi Jacob Emden (1697-1776) opposed promiscuity, but was concerned that married East European businessmen, away from home for months at the Leipzig fair, were living with local women without benefit of mikve or bearing children, owing to their shame; so he proposed that such relations be declared legitimate and that those who engaged in them practice taharas hamishpacha (family purity laws) and bear more badly needed Jewish children. He could not conceive that this common practice of such notables as Jacob, King David and King Solomon be forbidden; and concubinage was a good way to get around Rabbeinu Gershom's Christianinspired Ashkenazi ban on polygamy.
All this appears in the context of Emden's article on the influence of non-Jews upon Jews - for example, Christian shame regarding the body, and the Muslim joy of sex.
Emden cautions readers not to follow him before getting feedback from great scholars - insofar as Rashi and the Rambam (Maimonides), as opposed to the Ramban (Nachmanides), Rabbenu Yona and the Rosh, do ban extramarital sex; but he then concludes by especially recommending it for frustrated yeshiva students, whose minds are constantly diverted by sexual thoughts.
The Talmud notes that a man without a woman lacks joy and peace, and possibly even God and Torah - cf. those hassidim who think all day about how not to think about sex, by reciting Reb Nachman's tikkun, for instance.
YAAKOV FOGELMAN, Jerusalem
Sir, - Before Orthodox young men and women start yelling whoopee in reaction to your report "National Religious aroused over opinion allowing kosher sex without marriage," they should know that what the Ramban (Nachmanides) and others have permitted is not a "one-night stand."
The pilegesh or concubine (who cohabits without marriage and Ketuba) had to be assigned to one man only. She could not be taken by another man and then go back to the first one. The Hebrew expression is meyuchedet lo, "restricted to him."
Here is the citation from the Bar-Ilan CD "Responsa": Rashbo, attributed to Ramban (Nachmanides), 284: "In the matter of the Pilegesh, to let you know my opinion, in truth... I do not know why there is doubt about it. Certainly she is permitted since he assigns her to himself... will a brother marry his sister, and a father his daughter? But since she is in his house and is exclusively for him, the children are called on his name, and it is permitted."
Kosher sex has its limitations.
RABBI JACOB CHINITZ, Jerusalem
Sir, - I am a retired gynecologist obstetrician who only recently read Saul Singer's "The race for identity" (UpFront, February 10). When I was working, a woman came one day for a consultation. She was 47 years old and had not menstruated for three months. I thought she had entered menopause.
But after consultation, and with ultrasound confirmation, I discovered that she was three months pregnant. She already had 10 children - how to tell her she would be having an 11th? Finally, I broke the news.
On hearing it she burst into joyous exultation, her face shining. "Thanks, Allah! Thanks, Allah!" she whispered. So it is in the Muslim world, where children are a benediction.
This is the race of identity. If Jews have children, they will survive. If not, with so much assimilation in the Diaspora, they will diminish and disappear through an egoistic selfdestruction. It's a false egoism, because children are the greatest wealth and happiness in this world.
DR. JACQUES TOLUB, Ra'anana
Call 'em lousy, you'd be right
Sir, - I want to get into this "Are Israeli drivers lousy?" fight. First, my qualifications: I began driving my father's trucks and cars when I was 15. He owned a nursery near New York City. Later I drove big trucks; then I graduated to taxis and ambulances. I drove across the US several times, sometimes on the interstate highways, but mostly on the two-lane roads. To test a driver, I'd recommend driving all night across the Rockies in a snowstorm without a heater, and with a windshield wiper that doesn't work.
I have been in Israel for 10 years - and I will not drive in this country. I have seen people try to pass someone on a two-lane road without making sure whether they can pass and get safely back into their lane. That seems to be the cause of most fatal crashes during the weekends. In America we're used to cars from an early age. We don't get excited when we get behind the wheel. The answer to Israel's road accident problem is severe testing and training, and severe punishments.
SHEPARD RIFKIN, Tel Aviv
Sir, - The writer of "Waste of mind" (Letters, March 21) seems to think that children have no right to free time. In England there are school holidays that are just that - holidays. Here, apart from the summer, all the holidays are over festivals. It is hardly ridiculous that children should be allowed to have some totally free time. Most children I know have very little when they are at school.
Children's development doesn't take place just at school; it also happens when they are allowed to do what they want.
SARAH FAIRWEATHER, Jerusalem