A good man...
Sir, - I was very sorry to hear of what happened to Ariel Sharon, a good man who devoted his life to helping others by fighting for democracy while at the same time fighting those enemies of democracy, terrorists.
So many politicians these days enter politics to seek personal reward. Sharon is one of the few exceptions, putting others before himself. How commendable! ("Surgeons struggle to save PM's life," January 5.)
ADRIAN M. SHRYANE
First and Last Church
Sir, - We are extremely saddened at the news about Ariel Sharon and offer prayers for him, his dear family and Israel. Ariel Sharon has been the strength of Israel. Have no fear: God loves Israel, and will always look after her.
MA TIN JAI & DAVID NARBUTAS
...to shed tears for
Sir, - Arik Sharon has been badgered and beleaguered by the media - not to mention the overseas governments pulling him this way and that with edicts, threats of withdrawing financial assistance, etc.; plus his own political enemies and some citizens from the extreme Right who threaten his life every time he makes a decision they don't like.
Add to that the threats from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to assassinate him and the daily reports of anti-Semitism worldwide and one has to wonder how his health stood up this long. And add to the list that on the eve of his scheduled, sensitive surgery the media came out with yet another attack regarding the $3m. bribe.
I gag on this lack of sensitivity. In years gone by I thought I could never vote for Sharon. Now I wouldn't vote for anyone else. He has acted on his moral obligations to this country by making difficult decisions throughout the years. He is an open, caring leader who stood tall on behalf of the State of Israel.
I supposed it often happens that such a leader becomes a target of the coup mentality. I shed tears for him as a person, and for us as a nation.
My own prayer
Sir, - I decided that I wasn't going to be a hypocrite and pray for Sharon's health. He may have been a hero years ago, but he cruelly exiled Jews from their homes without caring what happened to them afterwards. Instead I will pray that the next leader of our beloved, beleaguered country is an honest, upright human being with strength and compassion to lead his people.
Sir, - Several years ago I wrote a Letter to the Editor asking why Israeli politicians are allowed to continue working and receiving a salary, paid by the taxpayers, well beyond the age at which most of the rest of the population is required to retire. I do not think Israel, with its almost constant difficulties, should be led by people who statistically are at risk of serious health issues.
For the record
Sir, - As a Messianic Jew I want to set the record straight. Yossi Cohen states: "On this particular Saturday, we received inside information about a plan to baptize tens of Jews from all across the southern region of Israel" ("Soul-destroying," January 5). This report was untrue. Only two women were going to be immersed; one who grew up in a Messianic Jewish home and chose immersion of her own volition - something that should be permitted in a free and democratic society - and the other a woman who has also chosen faith in Yeshua, her right as a free adult living in the same society. When did we, as individuals, lose our right to make our own choices and think our own thoughts in Israel?
To anyone tempted to buy into some scare tactic that aims to spread fear and panic, alleging that mainstream Jews are in danger of being brainwashed against their will or powers of reason, may I suggest that Jews are smart people who can think for themselves and reach their own conclusions. Any choices they make, including accepting Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah, cannot be suppressed, censored or circumvented by those who believe they should do your thinking for you.
PA anarchy for all to see
Sir, - One should not gloat over the problems of one's enemies, but seeing the utter chaos the Arab factions are bringing down on Gaza it is difficult not to feel a sense of vindication ("PA official: We're no longer in control," January 1). For years they blamed the Jewish settlers for all their problems, but whom can they blame now? Nobody but themselves; and the world can see it - if it chooses.
To crown it all came last week's attempted kidnapping of "heroine" Rachel Corrie's parents - a sheer stroke of political genius! ("Rachel Corrie's parents endure brush with Gaza kidnappers," January 5.)
Sir, - Eli Valley's January 4 op-ed would make sense if Munich was a film of fiction, or if the real Mossad agent actually was conflicted by doubt. Is it the case that he was? I assumed from the negative reviews that "Steven Spielberg's unforgivable 'sin'" (January 4) was inventing the doubt, not describing it.
The pilot of the Enola Gay, and President Truman himself, never gave a moment's thought to the mass killing and suffering they inflicted on the Japanese, convinced it was legitimate self-defense.
Was the Mossad any different?
Sir, - Eli Valley missed the mark in his criticism of those who find fault with Munich. The problem is not its portrayal of Israeli agents as human beings struggling with the morality of their assignment to eliminate the terrorists. That is the one aspect of the film that is genuinely praiseworthy, offering a glimpse of the unique historical and ethical burdens afflicting the Jewish soul. The decision to use violence - even in self-defense, even in direct response to ongoing acts of inhuman barbarity - should always be a vexing one, no matter how clearly justified and perhaps necessary it may be.
Rather, Spielberg's "unforgivable sin" is the omission (or rewriting) of much of the historical context central to the moral calculus underlying Israel's decision to resort to violence to stop the Palestinian terrorists.
In Munich those terrorists seek only a state of their own, not a second Holocaust. But in 1972, the year of the Munich massacre, Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci interviewed Yasser Arafat, then head of the PLO and its Black September terrorist wing, which carried out the attack, and Arafat was blunt: "The end of Israel is the goal of our struggle... We don't want peace. We want war, victory. Peace for us means the destruction of Israel and nothing else."
Spielberg and co-screenwriter Tony Kushner also omit the fact that the Palestinian massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches was not an isolated act of terror but one in a series of barbaric attacks against the Jewish state that year. Four months before, the Olympics terrorists massacred 27 passengers at Israel's Lod Airport; two weeks after Munich, terrorists assassinated Israel's agricultural attache in London. Israel wanted deterrence, not revenge.
But Western European governments rebuffed Israel's repeated demands that they arrest the Palestinian terrorists operating openly in their midst who were planning and carrying out these deadly attacks. In fact, less than two months after the Olympics massacre, West Germany staged the release of the three Palestinian terrorists it had captured alive at Munich. Instead of serving long prison sentences for their acts of inhuman savagery, these murderers were given millions of dollars and safe passage to Libya, where they were welcomed as heroes for having murdered innocent Jews in cold blood. Two were later killed by Israel's Mossad; but for West Germany's craven act of appeasement the terrorists would have remained in prison and Israel would never have had to eliminate them. The third terrorist remains free to this day, having served just 54 days in prison.
To be sure, Munich is not without its merits. But it is only superficially the story of the 1972 Olympics massacre. For the real story one should see Kevin Macdonald's brilliant Academy Award-winning documentary One Day in September.
AHARON S. R. SILVER
Walnut Creek, California
Sir, - If, as Eli Valley suggests, Steven Spielberg's "unforgivable sin" is to ask how the Jewish psyche has been affected by decades of violence and war, then the title of the film is grossly misleading. The name "Munich" symbolizes the brutal murder by the PLO of 11 Israeli athletes while they were guests of the German government and of the International Olympic Committee.
If, however, the movie is a "morality play" - albeit concerned principally with the morality of the Jewish people - then perhaps a more appropriate title would be "OCD" (obsessive-compulsive-doubt) with its self-inflicted "punishments" of pain and moral conflict and of unending, unlimited Jewish guilt capped by self-imposed exile.
It also follows that Hanan Ashrawi, who years ago famously declared that "Jesus was a Palestinian," has now been draped with the mantle of "prophecy" by Spielberg and Tony Kushner.
MIRIAM L. GAVARIN
'Man bites dog'
Sir, - Instead of stating that the residents of Mea She'arim are being harassed by thousands of visitors, your headline of January 3 read "Mea She'arim residents allegedly harass tourists." It seems to me that the local population has as much right to its privacy as those Savyonites whose homes are isolated from the general public. To accuse these people of inhospitality is the opposite of the truth. Many are known to invite visitors to the Western Wall to partake of a (free) meal in the spirit of Shabbat.
If the Mea She'arim residents are considered such a tourist attraction, perhaps a theme park with actors wearing the "quaint, outmoded" garb representative of the quarter would satisfy the interest of visitors, as well as requiring no limitation on their attire.