I read “At least six die when bus rams into truck on Route 1” (February 15) with much sadness, but no surprise.
When I drive on highways in Israel, I find buses tailgating me, overtaking on narrow roads and greatly exceeding the speed limit, even on roads with no central barrier. When I travel by bus, the proximity alarm is ignored by the driver nearly all the time.
Deadly accidents will continue until: • Bus schedulers realize that the speed limit is a maximum, and not an expected, speed, and will extend the journey time between stops accordingly • Drivers are trained and retrained to observe traffic regulations, and disciplined (or sacked) if they breach them • The drivers’ union supports these rules • Police patrols enforce the law on highways • Main highways are upgraded to four-lane dual carriageways.
Your front-page article reports that “Transportation Minister Israel Katz instructed his ministry to work faster to take steps to prevent such tragedies.” Allow me to point out that in any accident situation, there are fewer casualties and less damage the slower the vehicles are traveling.
The Transportation Ministry should examine all bus timetables, particularly inter-urban schedules, to see whether drivers can comply with them without speeding. It should also examine whether they are subject to criticism and/or sanctions by the bus companies if they run behind schedule.
A few common sense approaches would work wonders.
First, zero-tolerance for any and all traffic offenses, with stiff fines for all. Accumulated points should lead not just to losing one’s license, but to having the vehicle impounded. This might help with drivers already on our roads.
The greatest improvement for the future would be stricter controls over driving instructors, who should be made to take an advanced-driving course and be tested at least every two years, if not annually. At present, it seems that most instructors teach their pupils how to pass the driving test, but do not promote good driving habits by personal example – I have seen some appalling examples of poor driving, inconsiderate parking and talking on cellphones among driving instructors, both with and without pupils in the car.
In addition, police drivers should be paragons of safe driving, but some seem to consider themselves above the law.
It is unfortunate that in a country as small as ours, everyone either knows or is related to everyone else, leading at times to a very lax standard of enforcement. After all, you don’t want to book your neighbor’s mother-in-law for using a crosswalk as her personal parking spot. But if we are to reduce the carnage, that is what should be made to happen.
Your editorial on road safety the morning of the bus crash (“Death on the roads,” February 14) was never more pertinent.
Your comment that most accidents must be blamed on poor driving rather than poor road conditions was well taken.
The only way to reduce road deaths is to remove bad drivers from the road. Symptoms are: excessive speeding, rapid lane changing (or even passing in a turning lane!) and a failure to stop at crosswalks.
If one has in mind that the life you save might be your own, perhaps we’d all drive more carefully.
Efrat Incomplete Codex
In “Last vestiges of Syrian Jewry clinging to community” (February 15), we are told that Israel’s Aleppo Codex has recently been recognized by UNESCO as a world treasure.
We are then told that the 1,000 year old codex “was smuggled into Israel from Syria 60 years ago, and since then 200 of the original 500 pages have mysteriously disappeared.”
It is clear from the various books and articles written about the Aleppo Codex that the vast missing section (the first 200 pages) did not mysteriously disappear, but was simply stolen. The list of suspects is quite short, and it is highly likely that the perpetrator was Jewish and known to some government officials.
Prof. Hayim Tawil, in his co-authored book Crown of Aleppo (2010), states that he met with a senior member of the Mossad regarding the missing parts and the agent replied: “Leave the subject alone. You don’t want to know. It’s a very dirty story.”
Journalist Matti Friedman, in his book The Aleppo Codex (2012), notes that “the destruction of this magnificent book was an inside job.”
It is beyond belief that the Mossad was able to track down and capture Adolf Eichmann, but has not been able to track down and recover one of mankind’s greatest treasures, the Aleppo Codex. Perhaps, we the people can kickstart an investigation. It is never too late to right a wrong.
Ra’anana The Wall – again
It seems that reader Sarah Stern of Beit Shemesh (Kotel prayers,” Letters, February 15) has internalized and accepted her clerics’ teaching that persons lacking a y-chromosome are unworthy of handling a Torah scroll. I challenge her or any other reader to find proof that women cannot read from a Torah scroll, wear tefillin (however incorrectly) or lead prayers.
Even my two-year-old daughter has noticed that women are condemned by rabbis to an inferior role. I would call such attitudes medieval, but this would be insulting the sages of that era.
Try as I might, I can’t rid my mind of Dov Lipman’s “Fire Deputy Minister Porush” (Observations, February 5), in which he deals with two vicious assaults.
One of them involved the near-fatal stabbing of a pregnant woman. Lipman extols the attitude expressed by the victim and her husband: No anger, no hatred, no wish for revenge or retribution. “There has to be recognition of the existence of the other,” the husband states. “We must develop a trust-building dialogue....” Lipman says the wife “wishes she could ask her attacker to tell his story.”
The other assault was perpetrated by Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush. Lipman cites Porush’s statement that those who lobbied for an egalitarian prayer site at the Western Wall “should be thrown to the dogs.”
No blood was shed, nor was this incitement to bloodshed.
But Lipman’s attitude toward Porush is quite different from his approach to the aforementioned couple and can be summarized in the headline. No hint of trust-building dialogue; no wish to hear Porush’s narrative; only lashing him with quotations from our sages.
Porush does have a narrative. If he were to tell his story, he might argue, like an Arab assailant with a knife, that he was here first, that political Zionism grafted itself onto a vibrant religious yishuv, took over and developed it in its own image.
He might refer to Halacha, diluted and twisted by in-your-face agitators whose prophet – if they have one – is closer to Thomas Jefferson or Karl Marx than to Hillel or Akiva (with no offense meant to Jefferson or Marx).
To the extent that new arrivals concern themselves with the task of nation-building, their efforts are valid and they will no doubt earn their piece of the pie. To the extent that their efforts are directed only at getting that piece of pie, those efforts, I’m afraid, no matter how well-intentioned, can only be divisive.
SYDNEY L. KASTEN
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