Words into action
Sir, - First, where did our government find all the extra money for elections now ("Knesset okays bigger election budget," December 20)? And second, if Labor is so concerned about the Israel's poor ("Labor will focus on 'social security,'" December 20), maybe it could make a shining example of putting its election promises into action by publicly refusing to use most of this money for big posters, bus ads and leaflets that will be thrown away and litter our streets. Then, it should redirect this money towards hot meals for school children, to help pay for medication and other projects that would actually help the poor.
This is really what the voting public needs to have its confidence restored, not empty words and bad examples personified by our politicians.
Sir, - Perhaps because I'm not a member of Likud or any right-wing party, I find the treatment accorded to Moshe Feiglin by many of his opponents within Likud appalling ("Netanyahu to take action against Feiglin," December 21).
Feiglin has paid his debt to society. His crimes were ideologically motivated and did no real harm to anyone. Unlike several MKs who have been investigated and charged with corruption, Feiglin's crimes were not committed for personal gain but for what he perceived to be the security of the nation. Many right-wingers who were not prepared to take the same risks silently applauded his courage and determination.
Feiglin proved, in the Likud primaries, that he should be taken seriously and that he represents, perhaps, the moral conscience of Likud because he upholds Jewish values in an otherwise secular party.
If Netanyahu really wants to unite all the factions within Likud, rather than try to get rid of Feiglin he should explore what he and Feiglin have in common and build on that.
Sir, - Am I alone in thinking that the poor voter turnout for the election of an ex-prime minister to the leadership of an unelectable party will prove to be the non-event of 2006?
Settlements and schools
Sir, - National Religious Party leader Zvulun Orlev's statement that "sacrificing a state religious school is worse than sacrificing a settlement" is perplexing ("Orlev: I'd rather close a settlement than a school," December 16). Many settlements have entire school systems and thus dismantling a settlement ruins not only houses but schools too.
Also, if Jewish education is a priority in Orlev's platform, why was so much funding to yeshivas cut during the recent Likud-Shinui-NRP government?
Sir, - Rather than engage the point of my essay, Reform Rabbi Eric Yoffie chose to simply accuse me of "constant attacks on Reform Judaism" and of ignoring the "vibrancy" of the "largest of the North American religious streams" ("Stop the bashing," December 15).
Some might find his umbrage at being "attacked" ironic considering that in 1997 he called the Israeli Chief Rabbinate "medieval... a disgrace to the Jewish people"; that, in the August 27, 1998 issue of Washington Jewish Week, he referred to Orthodoxy as "ghetto Judaism"; and that, most recently, he invoked Hitler when taking issue with opponents of legal guarantees for gay unions.
What is truly remarkable is Rabbi Yoffie's claim of his movement's success, based on membership artificially inflated by "patrilineal Jews," non-Jews married to Jews and a plurality of members who do not regularly participate in Reform activities. The rabbi might be sobered by the fact that more than 100,000 Orthodox Jews participated in this year's Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas (completion of studying the Talmud). Since they represent, as Rabbi Yoffie noted, a community comprised of "fewer than 15% of North American Jews" - well, let the rabbi do the "vibrancy" math.
Jews' obligation to focus on what the Torah asks of them may not "appeal to more than a minority" of Jews at present, as the rabbi claims. But that idea has been Judaism's central credo throughout the ages. Efforts like Reform's "creative religious thinking" mislead millions of precious Jews into thinking that Judaism is Silly Putty.
We Orthodox hurt deeply to know that so many of our brothers and sisters have fallen victim to a false vision of what it means to be a committed Jew. When we point out the Reform emperor's lack of Jewish clothes, that is not an "attack" but an expression of true brotherly love.
RABBI AVI SHAFRAN
Wolf in sheep's voting
Sir, - Daniel Pipes's citation of Ehud Olmert's defeatist speech ("My gloom," December 21) does not reveal all. In addition to Olmert saying Israel is tired of fighting and being courageous, he also said: "We are tired of defeating our enemies... We want them to be our friends, our partners our good neighbors... We will spare no effort in order to convince them, not by fighting with them, not by killing them... but by sitting with them, talking to them, and helping them... so that the Middle East will indeed become... a paradise for all the world."
Let's be real. Today the world is facing a resurgent Islam with implacable motives. Rocket, mortar and suicide bombing attacks are on the rise in Israel while Hamas gains support among Palestinians. In these conditions, the vision of a Middle East paradise sounds like a recipe for national suicide.
It is useless for the sheep to vote for vegetarianism if the wolf remains of a different opinion.
Opportunity or tragedy
Sir, - The recent success of Hamas in PA municipal elections is probably more of an opportunity than a tragedy ("Hamas victory boosts chances in parliamentary elections," December 18).
It will mean the severe trimming of the wings of Fatah/PLO's corrupt and incompetent successors to Yasser Arafat. In addition, a Hamas victory in the upcoming PA legislative elections would let Israel off a lot of hooks in the State Department, the British Foreign Office, Europe and the UN.
While the Hamas Charter is as brutal as the original PLO Charter regarding getting rid of Israel, with Hamas there is no confusion about this objective being remitted to a committee for amendment.
Therefore, if Hamas is elected it would hasten the return to the 1948-67 political status quo in which Israel was excused serious requirements of land and transit concessions since its neighbors did not wish to make peace with it.
Teach it's 'our land'
Sir, - The editorial "Stop hate education" (December 19) addressed a problem that will continue to plague Israel as long as we, the victor of several defensive wars, plead for peace from the vanquished. We never state openly and proudly that this is, and always has been, our land.
Arab education in Israel should focus on this fact and emphasize the high standard of living and fair treatment Arab Israelis receive in comparison with Arabs elsewhere.
The idea of teaching them about the Holocaust is pitiful. If we are here as a result of the Holocaust, the Iranian president is right: We should ask the Europeans for a piece of Europe as compensation.
We have to stop pleading for security and peace while the Arabs plead for "their land." There will never be peace while our leaders and intellectuals call attachment to the land "idol worship."
Sir, - In the wake of the anti-Semitic statements by Iran's president, the Post reported: "Swedish parliament to cease ties with Iran, thanks to Rivlin," (December 14). The story never made it to most Swedish newspapers. The reason: Sweden's Tidningarnas Telegrambyr (TT), a monolithic "news" organization pursues an anti-Israel policy.
TT's biased reporting is legion: 19-year-old armed Palestinians shot dead by the IDF are labelled "children," while Israeli children murdered by terrorists are called "settlers." A telegram as published by TT, regarding the Palestinians, said: "900,000 of the population are refugees, or descendants of refugees, who were driven out of their homes when the State of Israel was formed in 1948." However, TT altered key elements of the AFP original which said: "Around 900,000 of the population are refugees who were expelled or left their homes after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948..." (emphasis added).
Media outside Sweden might want to take a close look at TT's news censorship.
Let there be light
Sir, - Following Jessica Freiman's article ("Gush Katif evacuees prepare for Hanukka in J'lem hotels," December 21), I am happy to say that the World Mizrachi has distributed 12,000 Hannukiot to the evacuees all over Israel.
Sir, - It is said that parents are often given prophetic insight when naming their children. While the name Calev is somewhat rare in Jewish families, your correspondent, Calev Bender of London, beautifully echoed in his article the courageous words of his Biblical namesake ("Why I am making aliya," December 20) In the Torah only Calev, along with his leader Joshua, stood up against the naysayers among his fellow explorers, and cried out "The Land is very very good" (Numbers 14:7).
Let us wish this idealistic-realist new immigrant an easy absorption to Israel and welcome!