Schalit - it's about time...
Sir, - The lead story of your newspaper announces that Israel is on the verge of accepting a prisoner swap deal ("Schalit deal likely to be approved," December 22). Well, I should hope so! After hemming and hawing for more than three years, our leaders are finally waking up. It's unfortunate that certain families lost members to terrorist groups, but we can't bring back those who are gone. Let us not lose another one because certain people feel we are giving too much in return for Gilad Schalit.
... to act for the good of the country
Sir, - Though it may be taboo, I criticize the Schalit family for trampling the needs and the good of our country for the sake of their personal needs. My philosopher/cab driver asked me, "How would you feel if it were your son?" I answered, "How would you feel if five members of your family were blown up by a terrorist who was set free in exchange for Gilad Schalit?"
Both questions, however, are beside the point. We need leaders who see the good of the country as their responsibility, not emotionally driven men who will not see the inevitable consequences of their decisions.
Sir, - As all Israel waits breathlessly to learn whether the Schalits will be reunited with their beloved son - though at a terrible cost to the nation - there is one point that must be made perfectly clear: For the past year, the world has castigated Israel because so many Gazans died during Operation Cast Lead in comparison to Israeli losses. But now the Palestinians have told us exactly how much they believe each Israeli is worth.
According to Hamas, the life of a single 23-year-old soldier is equivalent to 950 Palestinians, including national leaders and senior terror operatives. So let there be no more accusations by Hamas or the rest of the world that Israel is guilty of a "disproportionate response" when it exacts a fearsome toll as retribution for the next terror attack, which will be the inevitable result of the proposed prisoner exchange.
EFRAIM A. COHEN
A shameful ordeal
Sir, - I just finished reading the article about the teenage American immigrant who was allegedly so brutally tortured following what would have been a routine call to the police ("Dubious arrest leads to alleged prison rape nightmare for American teenage immigrant," December 22). I can't imagine how the mother must feel for her child. As mothers, we always want to protect our children - and yes, a 17-year-old boy is a child. What her son reportedly went through can never be undone. His ordeal will be with him the rest of his life.
My disgust, anger, frustration, and mostly sadness must only be a drop of what this boy and his family are feeling. Even if he were guilty as charged - which, from your report, it sounds like he wasn't - he did not deserve such life-altering abuse under the charge of the police.
I would have expected this type of treatment from our enemies, not a system that is supposed to protect our citizens. The police continue to earn a poor reputation. I'm embarrassed that such a thing should happen in our country.
SUSAN KATZ, MD
Preserving Nazi cynicism...
Sir, - Has our obsession with the Holocaust reached the stage where we have to preserve Nazi cynicism ("Find 'twisted criminals' who stole infamous Auschwitz sign, Netanyahu urges Polish authorities," December 21)? Someday, some ignorant Jew-hater will claim that the Nazis were really trying to emancipate the Jews through labor.
Why not put up a new sign: "Here is where the flower of German culture tortured and killed millions of human beings"? The original sign can be preserved in a museum, or in Yad Vashem. But we do not have to preserve Nazi taunts.
... and the desire for vengeance
Sir, - Reading the article on Inglourious Basterds ("Jewish revenge - a fantasy revisited," December 21) on the subject of Jews' secret revenge fantasies, I felt as if I were in the wrong movie.
I know so many Jews, and only two who fancy vengeance. Not because it's not kosher; rather, because most of us are really above that. I surely hope.
MOSHE-MORDECHAI VAN ZUIDEN
Sir, - Jews, like other groups, seek relocation generally because of economic hardship or persecution, so I do not believe American Jews avoid aliya simply because Israel lacks a constitution or because religion in Israel is highly politicized ("How to bring US aliya," December 20).
However, there are other contributing factors. America is a capitalist country, while Israel embraces socialism. Americans are loath to engage in business here because of high taxation, archaic labor laws and exploitive banking fees and practices. Socially, Americans have difficulty with the aggressiveness, abrasiveness and downright chutzpah of Israeli citizens.
Educationally, the Israeli school system, while once a model to be emulated, has fallen way behind American standards. Due to the economic downturn in America, families are attracted to aliya as a means of avoiding high tuition charges, only to discover when exploring school options, there are very few, especially in the modern Orthodox sector, offering a quality blended curriculum of secular and religious studies.
Finally, the post-Zionist ideology has taken hold in America, with assimilated Jews buying into the Palestinian "victim" narrative more often than not. The ultra-Orthodox community generally does not support settling the Land of Israel at this time.
To bring about a large aliya from America, significant changes in Israeli societal norms, economic practices and educational opportunities would need to be established. Beyond that, as hinted to in your editorial, the spark of idealism and love of Israel would need to be rekindled among all segments of the American Jewish population.
Sir, - I commend Pope Benedict XVI for signing a decree recognizing the late Pope John Paul II's life of "heroic virtue" ("Pope Pius XII, John Paul II on way to beatification," Internet Edition, December 20). John Paul, a man of deep faith, will one day be canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. The Holy Father was an inspiration and a model witness to the life of Christ; a shepherd of truth immersed in profound humility and immense love for both God and man.
His many writings and tireless worldwide pilgrimages of faith were a source of strength, encouragement, confidence, optimism and enlightenment not only to Catholics but to all men of good will.
A champion of the poor and ardent exponent of Christian unity, the Polish pontiff was, in such capacities as teaching, governing and sanctifying, both a beacon of light and salt of the earth.
Alongside his historic role in the fall of communism, John Paul was an influential and uncompromising defender of the dignity of human life. I pray for his well-deserved heavenly reward that is promised by the Giver of every gift to his good and faithful servants.