Praying for Sharon
Sir, - One blessing coming out of the illness of our prime minister is greater unity among the nation ("Sharon coma could 'continue for weeks,'" January 15). Politicians from different parties and private citizens are all expressing their concern for Ariel Sharon's well-being and wishing him a speedy recovery.
Blended in with these comments, however, is a disturbing questioning on the part of some people as to whether we should pray for Sharon or not. There are at least three reasons why we should: First, we should pray for Sharon as we would do for any fellow Jew in distress. Second, we need to pray for him as the elected leader of our nation. And third, even people who don't agree with Sharon's policies and past decisions should pray that he recovers and is able to repent.
Sir, - If you look at the prayer for a speedy recovery from illness it states that we pray for a particular person among all the sick of Israel. So anyone who did not wish to pray for Ariel Sharon's recovery would automatically be doing so when reciting this prayer for any other person.
Sir, - With all due respect and admiration for the excellent medical care the prime minister is receiving, it is clear that his best doctors are still his spin doctors.
Sir, - The prime minister's awful stroke should be a wake-up call for all us overweighties, and especially for Omri Sharon. He seems to be going in the same way as his father, and it's time he did something about it before it is too late.
Sir, - As the Kadima party did not exist and therefore could not be voted for in the last election, what official standing can this party have now, prior to a subsequent election? If, due to Ariel Sharon's incapacitation, the post of prime minister becomes vacant before the next election, surely the replacement should come from the Likud party, from which the premier took his authority? However, which MKs are Likudniks for the purpose of choosing the new PM from among themselves?
In other words, should all those MKs who left to join the nascent Kadima party still be treated as members of the Likud - which would allow Olmert to be a candidate - or should they be treated as if they had resigned their seats, and therefore be replaced by the next names on the Likud list for the purpose of picking a PM? I am totally confused.
Vital to be counted
Sir, - On election day we literally stand up to be counted. The hope expressed in Evelyn Gordon's "Bye-bye, NRP (and NU too)" (January 12) is that the religious right will no longer be counted as such, but only as part of a larger right-wing party.
But without the opportunity to make their numbers plain by voting for a specifically national-religious party, and to field that party as a player on the Knesset floor, these citizens would find that the only avenues of influence open to them were disruptive public demonstrations and dirty private deal-making.
Ms. Gordon writes that inside a large party "their influence would be substantial." On the contrary, if they have no alternative to that party, they have no leverage; and if their electoral strength is a matter of conjecture, they have no weight.
MARK L. LEVINSON
Vote for life
Sir, - The tragic deaths of young people at the weekend aside ("Car accidents kill three," January 15) it was announced last week that 19 people, including several young children, have already died in car accidents since the beginning of the year. Last week 22 people were seriously injured and around 1,000 visited hospitals after vehicle collisions. Last month Prof. Gadi Wolfsfeld reported at the Or Yarok conference that NIS 92m. had been spent on "information" campaigns for raising road safety awareness, and that the issue was in the public mind more than ever before.
If the equivalent sum had been invested in speed cameras, or at least in increasing police patrols, drivers would have realized that fast and reckless driving does not pay. The income from fines, plus the deterrent factor, would have made a considerable difference to the economy. Furthermore, Traffic Division Chief Cmdr. Shahar Ayalon has given drivers carte blanche to travel at 20 k/ph above the speed limit wherever they are. Consequently, we see them speeding along in torrential rain, seemingly without a care in the world. That phrase will never again describe 19-plus families and dozens of others with relatives crippled for life.
With elections on the horizon the only thing left for the concerned public to do is make its vote conditional on a serious statement about fighting road carnage in the platform of the party they wish to support.
The Metuna road safety organization is 12 years old. Since our inception there have been 12 ministers of transport and the situation today is almost as dire as it was when we started. Due to public demand we are holding an international conference at the end of March called Thinking out of the Box, where we will discuss the reasons for society's failure to deal with this national epidemic and how attitudes can be changed. For more information call (09) 884-4667.
Sir, - For years, Tzvia Greenfield has made effective use of her seemingly "unorthodox" (for Meretz) appearance and lifestyle to get attention, mostly from the media. Her uniqueness is unarguable, and her agenda unmistakable. In the last line of the interview she lays it out clearly: "I do think that rationally speaking [a two-state] solution is a step in the right direction."
And what do you have planned for the next step, Ms. Greenfield? ("A left-wing firebrand via a haredi seminary," January 15.)
Eliminate all desire
Sir, - Re "More arrests in gang rape case" (January 15): If we know one thing about rapists it's that they invariably repeat their vile acts whenever the opportunity presents itself. I've yet to see a sentence that really fits the crime.
I would suggest castration for violent rapes. And people who get their kicks by assisting the rapists without actually participating in the act, or by acting as a cheering section, should be treated as if they were active participants. Finally, the age bar should be lowered for these offenders. There are 13-year-olds who get as much gratification out of rapes as do adults and will, therefore continue to commit them. They should therefore be treated as adults.
Hate at UCI
Sir, - I must set the record straight after reading the January 10 letter by Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez of the University of California at Irvine, written in response to my op-ed "Jewish Students of America, know your legal rights" (December 11).
First, though UCI "does not believe that Title VI applies to ZOA's claims," the US government disagrees. After reviewing the ZOA's complaint against UCI and deciding to investigate the university's conduct, the Office for Civil Rights noted that Title VI covers "cases of anti-Semitic harassment."
Second, Vice Chancellor Gomez falsely stated that I suggested UCI condemns hateful, demeaning and degrading speech. I said no such thing. In fact, a major problem at UCI has been the administration not condemning - despite repeated requests that it do so - the hateful speech and conduct that has frequently been expressed toward Jews and Israel. The administration has tolerated the hate, purportedly to protect speech, but at the expense of Jewish students' well-being.
On occasion the administration has itself exacerbated the hostility: To the dismay of many on campus Vice Chancellor Gomez spoke at a university-wide "anti-hate" rally in 2004, even though he knew that Jewish student groups had been told they were not welcome there. The administration's active participation had the unfortunate effect of making Jewish students feel even more marginalized.
SUSAN B. TUCHMAN
Director, Center for Law and Justice
Zionist Organization of America
See no jihad?
Sir, - Your article about female "holy warriors" sent a chill down the spines of many besides myself, I'm sure ("Jihadi feminism," January 15). I would say that the number of women in any community ready to betray the very essence of femininity - protecting life - and carry out these unspeakable acts of mass murder is as good a reflection as any other of the extent to which that community has been diverted from all morality in the service of an evil ideology.
And in Europe, too! How long can European governments close their eyes?
Sir, - Further to Tom Gross's "International media: Still vilifying Sharon?" (January 12): Israel is indeed still being vilified around the world, and why doesn't the Israeli government do something to redress its poor international image? For example, Israel possesses the finest air force in the world. The amazing skill of the Israeli pilots in taking out Saddam's nuclear potential in 1981; the ever-incredible Entebbe victory in 1976: the neutralizing of Egypt's entire air force during one day in 1967, and the pin-point accuracy of the IAF in removing several Palestinian terrorist leaders all go to prove this. The IDF has similarly shown itself the best in the world, having won five wars against almost unbelievable odds.
And now, as borne out by the continuing progress of Ariel Sharon, who has been brought back from the very edge of death, Israel has also shown itself a leader in the medical field.
So where are the books and TV documentaries about the IAF, the IDF and the Israeli medical services? Non-Jews around the world would at least be respectful of us, and the anti-Semites would krenk their hearts out. And what's wrong with that?