Sir, - Rabbi Shafran makes an excellent point, that under-reporting any segment of Jewish life is unacceptable, especially when most of what the press reports about haredim is negative ("Haredim and the mainstream", October 31). But the rabbi cannot have it both ways. At the end of his article, he states that haredim choose to read the "respected Aguda-affiliated haredi daily, Hamodia [because they] want to read news devoid of prurience and providing opinion based on Jewish tradition." Is it only the non-haredim who must exhibit tolerance and moderation?
Sir, - The haredi lifestyle, by definition, avoids inclusion into the mainstream of Jewish life. One of the important aspects of this lifestyle is to cut oneself off from the outside world and not to be affected by it. This does not make haredis the "bad guys" that Rabbi Shafran refers to, but it does make them different from those who follow other streams of Judaism. Haredim have every right in the world to practice Judaism as they interpret it, but so do all other Jews. Haredim must accept this principle before they'll be accepted by the mainstream.
HAIM M. LERNER
Sirs, - The alleged behavior of security guards in roughing up Haredi demonstrators who were protesting what they feel is the destruction of ancient graves on certain sections of Highway 6 is contemptible ("Double standards," October 26). But even worse is the carnage on the rest of our roads.
Data we have collected for a one-year period show there were approximately 17 deaths per billion vehicle-km. traveled, a risk four times greater than on the Autobahn and eight times that of high-speed motorways in the UK. The major preventable reason for this unacceptable rate is vehicles traveling at high speed. It is not the burial sites that may already be under the road that are the problem, but the burial of others still with us.
ELIHU D. RICHTER
Director, Center for Injury Prevention
Sir, - Peter Wells's suggestions for making Israel more tourist-friendly ("Want more tourists in Israel?" October 31) is missing one which I believe would be most beneficial. We should set up tourist information offices, centrally located in the cities and towns that tourists are most likely to visit. These are commonplace in Europe, where helpful, multilingual staffers provide maps, lodging reservations, information on places of interest and give useful advice to the traveler.
...but clean up
Sir, - The picture accompanying Peter Wells's article showed a disturbing amount of litter on the street. Jerusalem has become a sad and dirty city but it is not alone in disregard for the environment. Every beach, forest and mountain trail is littered with refuse. Trying to clean up a table and prepare a space for a child's birthday party in the Carmel Forest, we found used needles and condoms.
This is not just the dirt and litter found in public places after a Shabbat or holiday, but an accumulation that is never cleaned up, created by a public that is not punished for this violation.
It is time for all the nature conservation and environment protection organizations to form an umbrella group and concentrate on cleaning up what was once a beautiful country.
Sir, - Gershon Baskin notes that Prime Minister Sharon rejected entering into "a secret channel of permanent status negotiations" with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ("Imagining peace," October 27). Presumably such talks would have taken place while terror continued and presumably anything Sharon would have agreed to would have been binding on Israel. But it's clear that whatever Abbas might have agreed to would not be binding on anyone.
Both leaders committed to the road map but Abbas says he will not follow his primary obligation under that agreement: To disarm the terrorists.
If someone wants to buy my house and we negotiate and agree on a price, am I obligated to transfer title if the buyer says he's just unable to come up with the money?
Hicksville, New York
Sir, - MK Marina Slobodkin's apology on behalf of the government to the families of the victims of the Hadera suicide bombing for not ensuring their safety is commendable, but not enough ("5 victims of Hadera blast laid to rest," October 28). The second-most prominent minister in our current government, Shimon Peres, was instrumental in promoting the Oslo process and promised his "New Middle East" would bring peace in our time. When will he apologize to us for the damage this initiative has caused to the nation's security?
The good fence
Sir, - Caroline Glick often has the insight many journalists lack or are simply afraid to express. But she was wrong in saying that the security fence is worthless ("The good terrorists", October 28).
The fence is, of course, far from perfect, but it has, along with targeted killings, saved hundreds of innocent Israeli lives and given this country a breather while waiting for the rest of the civilized world to come to its senses. The European reaction to the latest Iranian threat may be the first indication that the world is waking up.
Sir, - The Gaza withdrawal was a political decision and history will judge its wisdom. I feel that we must put it behind us and move on. We now have many more pressing issues in Israel, among which the most important is poverty. To the politicians who were against the withdrawal I say: You lost, that is politics, get over it.
I feel that Binyamin Netanyahu, Uzi Landau and their supporters are behaving like petulant children who did not get their way ("Netanyahu, Landau to boycott PM's unity fest", October 28).
No business is show business...
Sir, - Bravo to Anshel Pfeffer for having the guts to say Bill Gates's 24-hour visit to Israel "had no practical importance... nor did it add even one job in the hi-tech sector" ("Welcome to the shtetl, Mr. Gates," October 28). In other words, if the multi-billionaire is not ready to invest in Israel then we do not need his lip service telling us that "Israel does wonderful things in the field of technology." We would prefer him to do some wonderfully concrete business here.
...but it resonates
Sir, - Contrary to Anshel Pfeffer's opinion, the effusive reaction of the Israeli press to Bill Gates's recent visit was appropriate. In many obvious ways business leaders such as Gates have more to contribute to our political viability than political leaders. In the context of the Iranian president's speech that Israel should be wiped off the map, Gates's visit and the global interconnectedness that Microsoft represents, is a resonating message that Israel is very much here to stay. And that is news worth getting excited about.
Sir, - As an Israeli who moved from America 14 years ago, I cannot accept Robert Dublin's assertion about the "significant sacrifices" that American immigrants make ("American idealism", Letters, October 31). We have gained a way of life that is ours, a country whose national anthem still gives us goose bumps, a way to stand taller as individuals when we see our children don uniforms, a pride in hearing of our nation's smallest accomplishments, a compulsive interest in all that goes on in the news, and the ability to argue about all of this without ever thinking, "Perhaps I should be little quieter - it is not good for the Jews."
The benefit-to-sacrifice ratio is so great that for many of us it never occurs to us we made a sacrifice, but rather a brilliant decision.
STEPHEN J. KOHN
Sir, - I somewhat agree with what Alan Franklin said about security interrogations on arrival and departure at Ben-Gurion Airport when he suggested profiling to target those likely to cause trouble ("Granny Jihad", Letters, October 31).
Two years ago my wife and I visited the US to see family. I was 73 years old and my wife was 65. I am a retired American military serviceman with a valid military ID card and my wife had a valid military dependent ID card, yet we were both interrogated and then sent to different parts of the airport for a hand-luggage search. We even had to remove our shoes. When I complained, I was asked if I wanted to leave on my flight or not.
However, as I understand it, profiling is against the law in the US. Why insist on it here?
EDWARD S. FORTUS
Apart from apartheid
Sir, - It has become common in leftist circles to try to foist the analogy of apartheid South Africa onto the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, of course equating Israeli Jews with the right-wing Afrikaners. There are no two groups more dissimilar than the Israeli Jews and extremist Afrikaners.
Israel is a stable liberal democracy with a minority of Arabs who enjoy all the rights of Israeli citizens including representation in the Knesset. Were it not for the murderous campaign of terrorism against Israeli civilians there would be no need to separate the two communities at all. How does this compare with the situation in South Africa where whites made up 15 percent of the population yet ruled over the black majority?