Sir, - The behavior of the Natorei Karta delegates increasingly becomes more bizarre, and perhaps reaches its climax with four of them spending Shabbat inside Gaza ("'A Guten Shabbos' in Gaza," January 3). Undoubtedly, they were able to enjoy a genuinely warm and Torah-filled atmosphere in the intimate company of their terrorist hosts.
However, I wonder if, while the Natorei Karta-ites were assiduously trying to convince our enemies that the terrible tragedy in Gaza was not in the name of Judaism, they gave the slightest thought to questioning their hosts about whether the terrible gut-wrenching suffering of Gilad Schalit and his family is in the name of Islam.
... and Gaza voters
Sir, - Shari Lopatin of Phoenix Arizona expresses concern for the "innocent Palestinians living in Gaza" and writes, "Mind you, I emphasize 'innocent,' meaning those trying to go about their daily lives - not the terrorists" ("Answers to a taboo question," Letters, January 1).
This needs a comment. As a civilian (not in the army nor the government) I have to tell Shari that Gaza terrorists do not wear uniforms (except when the TV cameras are grinding away at staged events), or even T-shirts emblazoned with the announcement "I am a Gaza terrorist." Indeed, they make it a point to dress exactly like the innocent. Nevertheless, terrorists in Gaza are a part of the policy of the Hamas government, branded by free nations in the West as a terrorist organization.
When Lincoln intoned the justly famous "government of the people, by the people, for the people" as the prime characteristic of democracy, he also implied that the innocent people are responsible for the government they vote into power. It is unfortunate, but not unfair, that the people of Gaza are suffering because they voted for Hamas, whose policy was no secret. It is unfortunate that they, too, suffer when Israel takes defensive action. And Cast Lead was defensive -since its end, the security of innocent Israelis who live their everyday lives in the area, has improved beyond 90%.
We hope that Shari and her boyfriend will become Israeli citizens, taking full responsibility for the vote they cast in our elections.
On human suffering
Sir, - Barry Rubin's reply to Efraim Zuroff on Central European suffering ("Our suffering should be the basis for cooperation, not competition," December 30) misses the egregious intent of a predominantly Baltic campaign to superimpose communist crimes over Holocaust memory.
Their 2008 "Prague Declaration" is an instrument, in the European Parliament, to scrap Holocaust Commemoration Day - officially marked by the UN and many EU states on the date of the Auschwitz liberation, January 27. It is to be replaced by an all-purpose totalitarian victims' day on the Soviet-Nazi Molotov-Ribbentrop accord date of August 23.
A similar World Anti-Racism Day not only diluted the grievances of most targets of hate but, in Durban, allowed for its hijacking by racists and extremists. Had the Holocaust/Stalinist equivalency been transparently discussed in mutual respect between the respective parties, Rubin's viewpoints may have had broader acceptance.
Sadly, his praise of the Vilnius Occupation and Riga Genocide museums is off-beam. Their displays iconize anti-Bolshevik nationalist heroes, who happened to be Nazi death squad auxiliaries. The Jewish Holocaust is deafeningly silent in their absence.
Rubin also fails to address Lithuania's witch hunt against Jewish anti-Nazi partisans, for ostensible "war crimes" against those very auxiliaries. Zuroff's briefs for war criminal investigations were scorned in Vilnius. Likewise, President Adamkus, in a 2008 meeting with us, never delivered on his commitment to void the charges against the partisans - i.e., Yad Vashem founder Yitzhak Arad and three women in their late 80s.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center works with many victim groups, among which there is no pecking order of suffering. The lessons of the Holocaust are honored as a yardstick in a never-ending chain of inhumanity. The memory of each is acknowledged for its own validity. Communist crimes must be approached accordingly, not as a replacement ideology.
DR. SHIMON SAMUELS
Director for International Relations, Simon Wiesenthal Center
Barry Rubin writes: Some of these claims are misleading, but more importantly, the basic argument misses the point. What could possibly encourage more problems and foment more antagonism than an all-or-nothing position in which the Jewish side ignores the sufferings of Central Europeans and merely makes demands on them? It also ignores our own interests in bringing out Stalinism's crimes. At a time when anti-Semitism is reviving all over the Western world and the Holocaust is being manipulated to slander Jews today, to keep pushing this kind of line is counterproductive, to say the least.
Sir, - Personally, I have no problem paying more for water, though I agree that it's a hardship and an uneven tax that will vastly impact those who are less well-off ("Out of their depth," January 3). My biggest problem with the added cost and proposed taxes on use of water in Israel is that it does little or nothing to address the most critical issue of Israel's water supply, and demand.
If the best the Water Authority can do is put out commercials reminding us that the Kinneret is drying up, and raise prices and impose taxes, its managers should be replaced with people who can provide a safe and steady supply of water to the people of Israel. Short of prayer, which we can all do, that means being working day and night to solve this problem. Maybe the answer is desalination on a level the world has never seen. Maybe it's importing water from Turkey or another country. Maybe it's dragging an iceberg to our shores. Maybe all of the above. But my sense is that the Water Authority spends too much time worrying about who will pay for it, and taxing us, and uttering the timeless phrase, "Yihiyeh b'seder" - it'll be okay.
Second, the Water Authority needs to engage and educate the entire population, including the millions of tourists and others who use our water. I have undertaken this with my family and others, and our water usage has gone down to far below what we are allotted. I welcome water conservation ideas at email@example.com. But this is a drop in the bucket. The Water Authority needs to manage conservation, too.
And yes, there's an issue of paying for it all. That's fine, if the rest is being done responsibly. But to punish the public with higher taxes and fees without helping to increase supply and reduce demand is just irresponsible.
Telling their stories
Sir, - Reading the article "When 'Mazal Tov' seems to be a curse" (January 3), I was reminded of Marie Osmond and her fight against postpartum depression. She wrote a book, Behind the Smile: My Journey Out of Postpartum Depression. Asked in a TV interview what made her come forward with her story, she said, "When I think back on how I felt - completely alone, totally hopeless, ashamed and in despair, and then how long it took for me to acknowledge the fact that I needed help, I wonder, 'What took me so long?' I really want to help women recognize the symptoms and offer them an empathetic shoulder to cry on. My mother helped me so much by telling me her story, and I hope I can do the same by telling mine. I have seven children; someday they may be parents, too. I want my daughters to feel comfortable discussing their feelings as they enter motherhood, and I want my sons to be understanding husbands and fathers."