Sir, - Is it not obscene to spend a million shekels on a fireworks display when bread prices are rising, people are going hungry and there is "no budget" for life-saving medications, adequate education or vital measures for preventing road deaths, as detailed in "Mofaz's new power" (Editorial, May 16)?
I realize the money comes from different sources, but the discrepancies between our life style and our priorities are overwhelming.
Couldn't the Tel Aviv Municipality and the French donors have made a more meaningful and lasting contribution than a half-hour, feel-good flash in the sky? ("NIS 1m. fireworks display for Tel Aviv," May 15.)
Dial 'S' for speed
Sir, - Zelda Harris laments the lack of speed cameras on our roads ("Potentially lethal," Letters, May 16). Many people bring devices into their cars that broadcast their location and could therefore potentially be used to monitor their speed.
I believe that these devices, known as cell phones, are already used in some countries to monitor traffic-congestion patterns. How ironic if the very presence of a cell phone in a vehicle encouraged its driver to go more carefully.
Sir, - Annulling marriages by beit din fiat, as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin suggests, is not a "solution" to recalcitrant husband cases ("'Mekudeshet' revisited," May 16). The halachic legality of such an approach has been emphatically rejected by all widely respected contemporary halachic authorities.
Unfortunately, resolving difficult marital Halacha situations is not so easy. And while the rabbi is correct about biblical law's assignment of roles in a Jewish divorce, as a practical matter a Jewish woman can indeed initiate a divorce proceeding in a Jewish court - a common occurrence.
I am gratified, though, that Rabbi Riskin concedes that the film Mekudeshet displays "an unfair bias against rabbinical courtsâ€¦ and even against the entire corpus of Jewish marital law," and agrees with me that the propaganda film "neglects to mention" significant information, is "one-sided," and misrepresents the "true meaning of kinyan."
As to the two cases he cites where he alleges that rabbinical courts have acted less than responsibly, I obviously cannot address the charge without being privy to the files and arguments. As I wrote in my original piece, though, there may well be "cases where individuals (both women and men) are inadvertently ill-treated by the divorce system in Israel - a bureaucracy (and an Israeli one) after all."
Mekudeshet's slander of Jewish law, however, was the essential point of my essay. And that charge remains, entirely understandably, uncountered by Rabbi Riskin.
RABBI AVI SHAFRAN
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America
What was this...
Sir, - Guenter Lewy ignores the long list of impartial scholars, including Jewish ones, who have made use of world archives, including Ottoman-friendly German ones, and added their voices to the call to recognize the crime against the Armenians as genocide. Mr. Lewy, however, seems to regard only those scholars who toe the Turkish denialist thesis line as being "distinguished," while all others are ignored ("Was it genocide?" May 15).
He does demonstrate impartiality in advising the Turks to "acknowledge the misdeeds of some of their compatriots during World War I" - "misdeeds" that resulted in the uprooting of an entire race from an ancestral homeland and the killing of over 1 million Armenians, sparing only those who converted to Islam and the very young, who would be raised as Turks.
Was this anything but genocide?
...if not genocide?
Sir, - Guenter Lewy appears to be specializing in the attempted debunking of genocide claims. In his book The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies and in a 2004 Commentary article called "Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide?" he argued that neither Gypsies nor American Indians were the victims of genocide.
He now attempts to obfuscate the genocide of the Armenians.
Lewy's analysis will come as a surprise to an overwhelming number of historians and genocide scholars. It would be an even greater surprise to Raphael Lemkin, who in a recently discovered TV interview with CBS in 1949, explained that the treatment of the Armenians was one of the catalysts for the Genocide Convention.
I await Lewy's forthcoming book on Rwanda.
Sir, - Re "What's in a name?" (May 12): Convergence, consolidation, retrenchment - for Iran, for Hamas and for all Islamists such terms converge into a single word: retreat. Will the Mediterranean beaches become Israel's Dunkirk? God forbid!
To find the correct terms, Israel must focus on the other most pressing "term": national unity, and how it is possible. If it is not, should we invest in life rafts?
Sir, - One feels rather sorry for these children landed with outlandish names ("Meet Danger, Disco and baby Shalom," Letters, May 8). At least they can change them eventually.
But until then I can see poor Apple being called Granny Smith at school.
Sir, - Let me get this straight: First, American philanthropists buy the Gaza greenhouses left behind by the ousted settlers. Then the greenhouses are given to the Palestinians in Gaza for their livelihood. Soon afterwards, the Palestinians destroy the greenhouses in internal disputes and then turn to the world as supplicants pleading for support.
Well, I guess it beats working for a living ("Palestinian gunmen destroy Morag greenhouses," May 14).
Don't forget to ask
Sir, - "Don't expect much from Olmert visit, US says" (May 16). Fine. But he can still ask for Jonathan Pollard's release!
Leave acoustics to the musicians
Sir, - Your point about the significance of preserving our historic sites is well taken ("Save our heritage, Editorial, May 14). The simultaneous foray into the complexities of concert-hall acoustics, however, proved more confusing than enlightening.
The argument of "acoustics confirming to musical preferences" of a certain period in time is unsustainable. Some of the greatest concert halls happen to be centuries old, and they have throughout served as dream venues for musicians to perform in. One such is New York's Carnegie Hall, an acoustical gem in an architecturally undistinguished shell.
Other halls have no such luck, intentions and investment notwithstanding. A dispiriting example is the elegant hall of the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv.
All said and done, acoustics are for performers and audiences to evaluate - not architects, politicians or editorial writers.
If the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra musicians, who have played the world over, deem the acoustics of their home base, the Mann Auditorium, to be lacking, their professional opinion deserves to be considered and, if possible, acted upon.
PROF. EMANUEL KRASOVSKY
School of Music
Sin of smoking
Sir, - My humble thanks for "Smoking sins of parents visited on infants, study finds" (May 12). Here in the US I've been following and fighting tobacco since 1986 with a passion that wakes me up and puts me to sleep.
In these 20 years I can't recall any news media source in our US attaching the powerful description of "sins of the parents" to smokers' children. Regrettably, so many professional health advocates, aiming to change the head not the heart of the tobacco addict, resist recognizing smoking as a sin.
I am joyfully sharing this JP news link with many.
Director, I Will Never Use Tobacco, Inc.