Party of one?
Sir, - I celebrate your editorial "Netanyahu tries to throw a party" (December 25) about the saving of Kadima not because of Kadima itself, but for the sake of the larger principle involved. It is only with slight hyperbole that I say these words from your editorial should be inscribed into the heart of public discourse throughout Israel: "The end of ideology should have meant an end to pointless polarization, not an end to principle. The Left cannot promise 'peace now' and the Right cannot realistically preserve 'Greater Israel.' Ariel Sharon's Kadima established an alternative view to such false either/or political choices - one that's now embraced by the four largest parties in the Knesset."
Details of final-status terms and how to get there vary among liberals and conservatives, but the general embrace remains. Hopefully this will help Israel in everything from the gut-wrenching decisions about Gilad Schalit to upholding the rule of law.
Sir, - If Tzipi Livni had "principles," she would have brought Kadima into Netanyahu's coalition in the first place. The end of ideology in Israeli politics began long ago, and Netanyahu is merely playing the political game astutely.
Response to terror
Sir, - In response to B'Tselem's "concerns" about the killing of the three Fatah men in the West Bank ("IDF soldiers kill three Fatah terrorists responsible for rabbi's murder," December 27), I ask this: What kind of sick person uses his own wife as a human shield? These are terrorists we're dealing with!
Sir, - We mourn the tragic loss of Rabbi Meir Chai, who was innocently murdered by terrorists this past Thursday evening in Samaria. He was the husband of our dedicated teacher Elisheva, a mother of seven, including a two-month-old infant.
I congratulate the IDF for swiftly finding the perpetrators of this heinous act.
The US can't have its cake and eat it, too
Sir, - If the US regards Judea and Samaria as an integral part of the Jewish State of Israel, it is easy to understand American ire over being stopped by Israeli security personnel manning a roadblock, since diplomatic staff traveling within a country is exempt from security inspections - even if the security personnel were to confirm that the US mission was illegally using its diplomatic vehicles for illicit human trafficking purposes ("Israel claims US Consulate car tried to run over guard at checkpoint," December 25).
However, if the US regards Judea and Samaria as part of a second, Palestinian state (alongside the original Palestinian state of Jordan), then not even the US can expect diplomatic immunity for the same staff and vehicles in two separate countries or political entities.
So which is it to be? Surely not even Barack Obama can have his cake and eat it, too.
A reply from Teaneck
Sir, - Marilyn Henry's article about the Teaneck, New Jersey, Etz Chaim variance hearing egregiously misrepresents and mischaracterizes many of the elements of our situation, and in doing so unfairly terms my testimony either "clever or deceptive" ("A house, or a house of prayer?," December 27).
In truth, the article is deceptive in taking the ancillary statement of a technical legal distinction and wrongly portraying it as the relevant question at hand. The distinctions between a private prayer group and a house of worship, in our case, are numerous and not at all accurately depicted in this column. Our group meets at the rabbi's house only on days when driving is forbidden, meeting at all other times and for all other functions at other locations; no other synagogue-type functions take place at the house, which is not the mailing address or corporate office of the organization; the house is a full-time, round-the-clock private residence of a family of five, maintaining a residential look, with no permanent fixtures of a house of worship; among several other distinctions. In any event, the judgment was not ours; all the specific information, in extreme detail, of how the house has been used was submitted to the town in full and approved by them on three separate occasions. After some neighbors (by no means all) still objected, despite previous attempts at conciliation, the town then decided the matter should be resolved by the zoning board, and we have cooperated in that process fully.
Many of Ms. Henry's misrepresentations may be due to the fact that the regulations of the board meeting allow for almost any comment to be made during the proceeding, without regard to accuracy or relevance. Newspapers, however, have a higher standard, and are ill-served by the wholesale acceptance of all of these statements as facts. In addition to the false statement that the addition has two bathrooms (there is only one), other "facts" taken without investigation include the assumption that "ill will" is attributable to the construction of an addition well within the laws and standards of the neighborhood, without knowledge or assessment of other factors and biases that may exist. This last assumption is also demonstrably false, as these neighbors have objected with equal vehemence to other efforts to pray in the neighborhood that did not involve construction. Contrary to Ms. Henry's implications, practically all synagogue applications are opposed by some neighbors; in essence, the key difference between our group and others that ultimately developed into synagogues throughout the US is that our group received explicit permission from the township three times. Much of this could have been clarified if the author had spoken to me or anyone associated with our group. The article correctly terms the questioning at the hearing as "convoluted," and yet, ironically, seems to base a report entirely on that questioning, doing a disservice to myself and others involved.
President, Etz Chaim
of Teaneck, NJ
Sir, - My father was a Polish Jew whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis. Dad managed to escape and, after a harrowing trek, found himself in a Rome prison with many other Jews. After the Nazis came to Rome, the Italian authorities let their Jews go, fearing the worst for them. My father wound up being hidden in a monastery north of Rome by Catholic priests. These righteous priests saved many Jews at great risk to their own lives.
I can't say for sure, but Pope Pius XII may have had a lot do with this ("A papal outrage," Letters, December 24). He may not be a "saint," and he may not have exercised all of his authority to save Jews in Catholic Europe, but facts such as these should be known, nonetheless.
Long live Rose
Sir, - How extremely pleased I was to read "100 for Rose of Jericho" (December 23), Dr. Rose Bilbool's 100th birthday. I first met Rose almost 30 years ago, when she visited me professionally in Jerusalem, and was immediately enthralled by her personality and energy. She visited me a number of times and never tired of recounting how she had discovered the efficacy of papaya by "accident." I had the privilege of visiting her papaya farm, where she also grew oranges, and was shown how she processed Normacream.
In 1986, I had to return to England for a number of years and lost touch with her. In view of Jericho's current status, I often wondered about her well-being. So news of her birthday showed me she is a survivor. It made my day.