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Bravo to Thomson Fly...
Sir, - I read "Butting heads" (Cover Story, Nathan Burstein, November 16) with interest. Having been a loyal and frequent flyer with El Al for 24 years and a King David member, I welcomed the new Thomson Fly with open arms for just one reason: It flew direct from Manchester to Tel Aviv - a vital point for those of us connected with the North of England.
For seven years we haven't had a direct flight on this route and have had to make our way to Israel via Heathrow, which necessitated a three-and-a-half-hour wait between planes; or fly via Amsterdam or Frankfurt. It made the journey long, tiring and very arduous, not only for the young and healthy, and extremely stressful for elderly or infirm passengers.
Having been used to El Al prices, which aren't cheap, I would willingly have paid El Al the same prices if it had taken up the challenge. It didn't. Thomson Fly did. I booked a round trip four months ago for January, with a meal and a suitcase. It cost me $308, one flight, no stops and very decent flying times. I can afford to buy my own newspaper, I generally don't drink alcohol inflight, and if I don't like the film, I always have a good book with me.
I wish it could have been El Al, but it wasn't, so I say kol hakavod to Thomson Fly.
Sir, - El Al has ignored the Manchester Jewish community, the second largest in Britain, for so many years and now Thomson Air has a direct flight at reasonable times in the day. This is far more significant than the price benefit.
...and to El Al
Sir, - As a frequent flyer, there are two things I look for in an airline, apart from value for money: security and comfort. First and foremost is security. Especially after 9/11, passengers, including myself, are willing to pay more for that extra peace of mind. El Al provides the highest level of security of any airline with security on board, pilots who have been in the Air Force, and cabin crew who have achieved high performance grades in the army. How much safer can you get?
The second thing I look for when choosing an airline is comfort. True, British Airways remains the leading airline in this respect in terms of "frills and extras"; however, El Al truly makes you feel "home away from home" with its continually improving customer service, warm smile and, of course, the non-frozen, tasty and healthy meal.
If none of the above convinces you to choose El Al when flying to and from this country, remember that you are supporting Israel and helping to provide an income to Israelis - a better option than flying Lufthansa and supporting the German economy, or even the British if you choose to fly Thomson.
Rosenblum was right
Sir, - We certainly welcome the distinction made by Jonathan Rosenblum in "Passion, not poison" (November 17), between what he considers legitimate "haredism" and the isolationist, self-absorbed haredi nature of Mea She'arim. We may disagree with his "mainline" haredism as well, but it is good to read an open criticism, by a self-styled haredi, of the extreme end of his type of Judaism which is destructive, suspicious of the state and full of what Rosenblum labels poison.
We have a problem not only with haredi extremism. In other areas of religion and politics we would welcome a similar rejection of extremism by moderates. For example, we were told, even during WWII, that not all Germans were Nazis. But what was missing was a clear-cut rejection of Nazism by mainline Germanism. We would have welcomed a clear-cut rejection of anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church in the days of Father Coughlin in the Thirties. Similarly, it would have been helpful to hear a rejection of Louis Farrakhan by Jesse Jackson, and a rejection of Black Pantherism by moderate black leaders in America.
Today, it would be nice to hear a rejection of suicide bombers and Iranian fanatics on the part of what we are told are the majority of peaceful Muslims. Where are the fatwas issued against the president of Iran and Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah and the leaders of Hamas - as were issued against writers who dared to reflect pejoratively upon Islam in their books?
Rosenblum was right in refusing to take his journalist friends to Mea She'arim because that place and those Jews do not represent even acceptable haredism, not to mention Judaism itself.
RABBI JACOB CHINITZ
Out of sight, and that's unfortunate
Sir, - The exhibit reviewed in your magazine on November 2 ("Let my people go"), which presents a historic summary of the Jewish national movement struggle in the USSR, is the result of a large investment of time and energy on the part of the organizers. Nevertheless, one major failing must be pointed out.
The exhibit represents the position of official Israel government policy, and of the Jewish establishment bodies. In essence, the leading activist players and groups who actually galvanized the struggle and took it into the streets and into the media are marginalized, if not eliminated entirely. The visitor leaves knowing nothing of the central crucial factor of that struggle, which is that the campaign to liberate Russian Jews was delayed, and at times crippled, by the policy of the various governments of Israel and the Jewish organizations abroad who fell in with it.
As is documented, for example, in Prof. Fred Lazin's recent book The Struggle for Soviet Jewry in American Politics, as well as in others, the opposition to an independent activist struggle and the denigration of and interference with such tactics - which were then adopted several years later - hampered the campaign.
In addition, much is hidden. The pre-1967 activities are downplayed. Later minor figures are near-glorified. The early crucial contributions of Yitzhak Shamir, Geula Cohen, Morris Brafman, Bernard Deutsch, Pesach Mor and many others are absent. Rabbi Meir Kahane's JDL is dismissed as simply "crude."
Are we to assume that political favoritism was at play here? Was history altered and perhaps obliterated to suit patrons? We can argue retrospectively over methods and tactics, but that a great part of what happened in those years was placed out of sight is an unfortunate reflection on the organizers.
SONJA COHEN ILLUZ
Formerly Committee for the Release of Soviet Jewish Prisoners UK
Founder of The 35s, London
Sir, - Gloria Deutch's delightful and vivid description of Athens ("Greece in all its glory," October 26) brought back wonderful memories of our visit there several years ago for a medical convention.
Whereas the archeological and architectural attractions are impressive, our most lasting memory and connection to Athens will always be the graciousness and hospitality of the Chabad emissaries there, Rabbi Mendel and Nechama Hendel and their family.
Since we keep kosher, we travel with a stock of dried soups, instant meals, crackers and canned foods, supplementing our diet with local fruits and vegetables. Before leaving for Athens, we contacted Rabbi Hendel, who suggested a hotel near the main shul which was around the corner from the Plaka and two kilometers from his home. He also invited us to join him, his wife and their two (now three) children for Shabbat meals.
The street where the synagogue is located is cordoned off and guarded 24 hours a day because of anti-Semitic and terrorist attempts. There is a minyan there on Mondays and Thursdays and, of course, on Sabbaths and holidays. Each Friday, the rabbi and his wife empty their living room of furniture and arrange lines of beautifully set tables. The Hendels host, on average, 30 people each Friday night, and not all of them are tourists. During the Olympics, they set up a beautiful kosher restaurant for the participants and the guests. It was a mammoth undertaking.
We've forgotten much of what we saw in the National Archeological Museum; what we do remember is the connection we made with the Jewish presence in Athens.
In last week's article on Menahem Milson, who served as President Sadat's aide-de-camp during the Egyptian leader's visit to Jerusalem, his rank should have been given in the headline as colonel.
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