Two wives, not so easy
Sir, - Greer Fay Cashman, in her polygamic enthusiasm, overlooks the fact that Deuteronomy 21,15-21, which begins with the case of a person with two wives - one hated, one loved - ends with the rebellious son concluding that this situation was among the causes of his rebellion. It is a fact that while preoccupied with the legal complications of this existing institution, the rabbis of the Talmud were apparently monogamous.
Incidentally, the source for the story about the two wives plucking out their husband's grey and white hairs is the Babylonian Talmud (Bava Kama 60b), further emphasising the negative effects of polygamy.
As Maimonides never tired of emphasizing, biblical law took account of human frailty and the norms prevalent at the time. Accordingly, God did not, as it were, find it politic to prohibit outright polygamy, or animal sacrifice; nor, according to some authorities, was kosher animal slaughter regarded as a positive mitzva, but rather as a permitted resort for the carnivorous.
When we first came to Israel during the "Magic Carpet" aliya of Yemenite Jewry, my wife used to ask our cleaning ladies who were first wives about their views on the rival wife. All gave vent to the constant traumatic effect of the intense jealousy they suffered.
Please, Greer Cashman, let sleeping dogs lie! ("Why not Mr. and Mrs. - & Mrs... & Mrs...?" April 3.)
Not exactly so
Sir, - Granted, politicians are not known for their honesty, certainly not ours. Still, Labor Party Secretary-General Eitan Cabel has set a new low by stating "This is the first time that the leading party has won less than 30 seats" ("Peretz bids to form coalition with Right," April 3).
Actually, it was Cabel's own party that won only 26 seats in the 1999 elections ("Israel's new leader wants 'broad government' to heal rifts," May 23, 1999).
I don't recall the Likud, which in that election won only seven seats less, trying to form an alternative government; nor do I recall Labor doubting its mandate at Camp David II, or at Taba.
How is it that Labor's losing a seat in the final calculation - to fall a full 10 seats behind Kadima - makes them more fit to be the ruling party in the 17th Knesset?
Convergence in comfort
Sir, - If the new Israeli government is determined to carry out another disengagement, or "convergence," as they now prefer to call it, and if it cannot be avoided, may I suggest it take the following steps to avoid the pain the Gaza settlers went through:
First, build large new settlements in the area Israel intends keeping, of a character similar to the settlements slated for uprooting (same number of houses, etc.). Settlers would have one year after evacuation to settle in the new settlements, after which their allotment could be sold to anyone. Where possible, build the new settlements around those remaining in Israel, Ariel for example. Relocate as much of the infrastructure as you can.
If Ehud Olmert wants to redefine Israel's borders within four years he will have the time to implement a decent exit strategy, thereby avoiding the greatest mistake the last government made - ripping Jews from their homes with no place to go ("Rice backs Olmert's pullout plan, sort of," March 31).
Sir, - Thanks for your excellent election coverage which, via your Web site and e-paper, has been a wonderful link for us with the homeland. We pray that the new MKs, particularly of the nationalist persuasion, will get their priorities in order and think less of their own personal ambitions and portfolios than of the good of our people and the State of Israel.
New territorial concessions labeled Unilateral Disengagement will be only a starting point for the final push for the rest. Our retreats in the north and south have - more than at any time since '67 - empowered our enemies to believe in their own rhetoric of Israel's total removal.
At their pleasure
Sir, - In "Going backwards" (Elsewhere, April 2) London's Jewish Chronicle relates that in the early and mid-20th century anti-Semites used to shout "Go back to where you came from." I remember only too well the shouts of our local anti-Semites in North-East London: "Jews go back to Palestine!" - so I did.
Now they're shouting "Jews get out of Palestine." There's no pleasing some people.
Won't you give this aid back?
Sir, - I write in peace and friendship. If you want to retain the support and respect of the American people, please consider the amount of monetary aid we give you on a yearly basis. It is approximately $3 billion annually, or, rounded off, $8 million a day. We, your friends and allies, have many domestic problems: lack of health care, job loss, homelessness, as well as roads, bridges, levees and dams in need of major reconstruction. Hurricane Katrina has destroyed whole cities and displaced thousands of people. It looks like a bomb was dropped. Eight million dollars a day could go a long way in rebuilding our citizens' lives.
Please act like our friends and refuse to take any more money. Give it back - not to the Bush administration, but directly, to the cities in need.
We support your right to have a secure, prosperous nation. Please support our ability to take care of our own people.
Dream on, Mr. FM
Sir, - How can PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar dream of a land without Israel? ("PA's Zahar: Israel should be eliminated," April 3.) Do his dreams exclude his past as a Muslim and annihilate the family begotten by Abraham? If so, he and his family have no right to the land either!
Jews' and Muslims' sole origin derives from one progenitor alone: Abraham. He was the first monotheist and the very first Jew. He and his progeny have the right to this land where they currently reside - and, yes, Abraham's children were not only the offspring of Isaac and Jacob, but also of Ishmael.
So, Mr. Zahar, you'd do well to dream about this land for your children in a place adjacent to, but not including, Israel; about a time when your children will live in peace with their Jewish neighbors in two separate countries: Israel and Palestine; and about valuing life for your children and Israeli children.
Know, finally, that your dreams will come to fruition only when they bring dignity to your people, the Palestinians, together with my people, the Israelis.
Sir, - Monday's "study break" by airport workers - an event so ordinary that it didn't merit press coverage or any serious attention from airport management personnel - inconvenienced about 2,000 travelers on 15 flights. Passengers were ignored while these diligent scholars debated over how to embarrass our country and earn some new perquisite.
But for those of us having just completed long flights, with weddings and funerals and families and business appointments to attend, this was not a trivial event, as manifested by the screaming and anger.
For how long will travelers - citizens and hard-to-attract guests - be subject to the atrocious behavior of these pampered "workers"? Is the skill involved in moving a suitcase so high that no substitute staff can be found? I doubt it.
What (and which politicians) gives these employees the right to impose their will on us?
Sir, - Israeli drivers are, in my opinion, the most capable and knowledgeable drivers in the world, probably due to their army training. However, they do not know the meaning of the word "courtesy." If they were courteous our traffic fatalities might go down to near-zero ("Show no mercy to reckless drivers," Letters, April 3).
Sir, - As someone who has driven more than 90,000 km. all around Israel on a motor scooter I can certainly offer an opinion about bad driving practices. I have often read reports of several thousand volunteers being used "in the traffic sector."
Where are these volunteers? I have never seen one doing anything related to traffic control, and when I volunteered to "do anything" in that department, my offer went unheeded.
The enemy is us
Sir, - We know the death toll on our highways is one of the highest in the world, and we know why: It's the disrespect Israelis show each other.
But let's not stop there. Our rivers and streams are so polluted a fish can't live in them. The "holy" Jordan River dumps pure raw sewage into the Dead Sea. The Mediterranean along the Israeli coast is full of raw human sewage. Our marinas are filthy, and getting worse every year.
Tel Aviv's polluted air kills over 1,000 people every year, and tens of thousands from Tel Aviv to Haifa suffer from asthmatic conditions. The authorities have done little to nothing to correct the problem.
I recently visited Antalya, Turkey, and Cyprus, where I found men fishing in the rivers and lakes. The marinas were so clean you could see the bottom. In Antalya I discovered that 60% of the cars now use LP gas to cut back on air pollution; it's also a lot cheaper. In Cyprus I saw people hand-raking the beaches in preparation for the tourist season. Antalya alone received over 7 million tourists last year, 300,000 of them Israelis.
Okay, so we have some problems they don't, but our biggest problem is not terrorists - it's ourselves. We tell everyone who will listen how much we love this land, but look what we are doing to it, and to each other.
Look before you leap
Sir, - We are very proud of our pairs ice-skaters Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovsky. They have tremendous talent - but, oh, their appearance! Who advises them? ("Chait, Sakhnovsky thrill at Nationals," March 30).
Their hair is messy, their costumes peculiar. His strange-sleeved shirt is crumpled, she has bits of material hanging all over the place. This untidiness must surely influence the judges.