Sir, - Bravo to Joseph Feit for pointing out the folly of using the army to enforce laws against civilians ("Civilian control of the military - it's time to bring in the posse," December 28).
This article should be required reading for all politicians responsible for putting in place a policy with the potential to cause a rift within the armed forces, when unity is needed as never before. It is really up to the people to make this point crystal-clear to our politicians that the army should be used to defend the country and not become a political tool of any one party.
... and skewed army tactics?
Sir, - Every now and then, I read something that makes me seriously question Israeli leaders' sanity, and "IDF marks out hundreds more sites in Gaza as off-limits for any military strikes against Hamas" (December 25) is one of them.
First, not an inch of Israel is "off-limits" to Gaza terrorists, so why does Israel feel the need to protect an inch of their land? Second, if you are going to do such a ridiculous thing, why advertise it? Wherever Israel has decided not to attack, that is exactly where Hamas will hide!
Sir, - Danny Danon feels "a certain measure of concern that the move to bring in the left-leaning MK's was an attempt to to counterbalance many Likud freshmen's right-wing leanings ("Likud incumbents ponder possible influx of Kadima MKs," December 25). In general, I think there is a desire not to be dependent on the party's right wing after the 10 months of the moratorium come to an end.
I would suggest that Danon is a little late waking up to this fact, which was obvious when Netanyahu made such a big effort at the beginning of his premiership to get Livni to join the coalition, and when he brought in Barak. When Netanyahu accepted a two-state solution, did everything but beg Abbas to negotiate and spoke of painful concessions, were you all asleep? Netanyahu is no longer a Likud Herutnik. Just as we had to come to terms with Sharon turning left, so we must with Bibi.
Sir, - Rabbi Macy Gordon states that "there is a near-unified opinion that a conversion, once properly done, is irreversible, unless there was proof of fraudulent intent at the time of conversion"("One-sided opinion,"Letters, December 27).
It is suspicion of fraudulent intent that is at the root of all cases of "the right, indeed the duty, of rabbinic court judges and even civic employees to question and/or annul conversions to Judaism, even those authorized by the Chief Rabbinate."
Several notorious cases that have disturbed the Jewish community in England were based on the fact that a female convert married a kohen within a short time of her conversion, leading to the suspicion that this was her intention all along and that it had been concealed from the beit din. Other cases hinge on the fact that the convert never took up a religious lifestyle even for a short time after conversion, suggesting that he or she never intended to do so. These sorts of cases suggest prima facie "fraudulent intent at the time of conversion," and therefore the conversion's invalidity.
MARTIN D. STERN
Sir, - Rabbi Macy Gordon has written perhaps one of the briefest yet most effective, sensitive and insightful responsa regarding conversion to Judaism that I have ever had the good fortune to read. Rabbi Gordon should only go from strength to strength.
Sir, - The article "New archeological discoveries in Jerusalem reveal Jewish life during Second Temple period" (December 22) contains an error that is important to correct.
The story inaccurately describes the Western Wall as "the only major remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple and Judaism's most sacred site."
This is incorrect.
The Western Wall is not a remnant of either of the ancient Jewish Temples. It is a remnant of one of the retaining walls of the Temple Mount.
It is not the only remaining retaining wall either. The Southern and Eastern Walls are relatively well preserved and can be seen in large part even today. The Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, together with a portion of the Western Wall, has been one of the major attractions of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park for a number of years.
In a day when the senior leadership of the Palestinian Authority denies the location of the ancient Jewish temples, it particularly behooves major media outlets to take care to describe these facts accurately.
PROF. AVI BELL
Sir, - I am incredulous that MK Shelly Yacimovich would sponsor an amendment to the Biking Bill negating the need for a helmet when bicycling in urban areas ("Helmetless urban biking bill advances," December 28).
"Requiring helmets drove many people away from their bikes and back to their cars because of the hassle of wearing a helmet and carrying it around," she tells us. Her argument would be persuasive were it not for the fact that it flies in the face of evidence that those riding bicycles without a helmet are nine times more likely to suffer a serious head injury than those who do.
So instead of amending the law, why doesn't Yacimovich act like a responsible MK and put her efforts behind a public education campaign - billboards, radio and television ads, circulars distributed to all school children, etc. - highlighting how wearing a bicycle helmet is not a burden, but a lifesaver.
JANE S. HIRSCH
... and lifesaving drugs
Sir, - I'm afraid the health basket has itself become a basket case ("Health basket to cover smoking-cessation courses and medications for first time," December 24). The basket now includes smoking cessation courses and drugs to cure a self-inflicted problem, but not Avastin, which can help metastasizing breast cancer patients.
As the mother who lost a young daughter to breast cancer - she left behind six children - I pray that no other mother, father, husband or child suffer the loss of a loved one.
Let the smokers exercise more self-control and exert the effort to stop. Let the schools teach the dangers of smoking. But let the committee that determines the health basket help those breast cancer patients who want to live, before worrying about those who inflict health problems upon themselves.
Pride of the Dutch
Sir, - We Dutch are very proud of Jasper Schuringa, the 32-year-old bussinessman from Amsterdam who immediately went after the terrorist on the Northwest Airlines flight ("'He's trying to blow up the plane,'" December 28).
The moment he saw that something was wrong, he jumped over the seats and got the terrorist on the ground. He is a real hero.
JACOB DE WINTER