letters to the editor 88.
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Tyrants in the rabbinate
Sir, - "Stop obstructing converts" (Editorial, May 24) neatly expressed the frustration of those who want Israel to be strengthened by an attitude of inclusiveness. Those foiling this goal in the rabbinate are acting in a way that reflects a lack of generosity and accountability.
While we in the Diaspora cannot control the internals of Israeli democracy, we can choose to withhold funding if harmful decisions are made.
The major Jewish philanthropies should use their financial clout to show the petty tyrants in the rabbinate that meanness is not a Jewish virtue. The Jewish religion belongs to all the Jewish people, and should not be expropriated by a power elite.
Sir, - The chief rabbinate is withdrawing automatic recognition of conversions performed by many (officially) Orthodox rabbis in the US because of doubts about the standards they apply. I dread to think how lax these may be since Israeli conversions are routinely questioned in England because of precisely the same worry - that the candidates may not be sufficiently rigorously screened to avoid those with ulterior motives, usually that they were only motivated to convert so as to marry a Jew and had no real interest in accepting the obligation to live a fully Torah-observant lifestyle.
MARTIN D. STERN
When you go to war
Sir, - I got upset and annoyed reading "Britain proposes compensation for dead activists' families" (May 23). In the last few years many genuine reporters, photographers and civilians have been killed in fire-fights between warring factions worldwide and no one ever suggested compensating their families. It's simply called "collateral damage."
Have the Russians been asked to pay compensation for people killed in Chechnya, or the Indians or Pakistanis for those killed in Kashmir?
Tom Hurndall and James Miller knew they were going into a war zone, so their families should have persuaded them not to risk their lives. Let the International Solidarity Movement, for whom they "volunteered," pay compensation.
Sir, - I wonder what compensation the British government is prepared to award the families of the victims of the suicide bombing at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv in 2003 - three murdered and numerous wounded - carried out by British citizens.
My guess? Not a penny.
Why people are saved
Sir, - Michael Freund frankly annoys with his passionate piety ("Operation prayer shield," May 24). He points to the fact that the Kassam rocket hit the Sderot school before the students arrived because they were praying somewhere else. There is "a potent lesson to be learned here about the power of prayer... those kids... are alive today because of it ("Miracle in Sderot: Prayer saves students from Kassam," May 22).
But many other rockets - and suicide bombers - have succeeded in killing Israelis. Was it because they were not praying?
Praying for you
Sir, - I would like to let you know, dear people of Israel, that I and others in my part of the world are praying for all people in your part of it. I truly wish that, no matter what the differences, the different parties would act like mature people, sit down and talk it out.
I am sorry that women and children must be hurt and killed, their only crime being living there. I pray that God Almighty gives you the courage and strength to keep your eyes on Him while you deal with the hell.
No problem for Jesus to walk on water
Sir, - Re "Jesus may have walked on ice, say researchers" (April 30): Jesus demonstrated his power over nature in a number of ways in the gospels. Here are a few:
He commanded the stormy sea and wind to be still in Luke 8:24. In Mark 6:38-44 he fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, and had leftovers. At the wedding in Cana, John 2:6-10, he turned water into wine. And he demonstrated his life-giving power over death in John 11:34-45 with the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
It would have been no problem for him to have walked on water, just as the gospels say he did.
Ends and means
Sir, - Marc Schneier embraces Ehud Olmert's policy of convergence on the basis of "the preservation of a Jewish majority in Israel" and fighting terrorism ("Backing convergence - an American Jewish perspective," May 23). While it is understood that most Israelis agree to these objectives as paramount, it is on the means to achieve them that we are so divided.
Recent history has taught us - can there be any doubt? - that in the eyes of our Arab neighbors, accommodation and compromise are always interpreted as weakness.
We need only recall the hasty withdrawal from Lebanon, or the White House "handshake" and subsequent rearming of the Palestinians after Oslo; or the alarming statements of MKs on the possible redivision of Jerusalem; and, of course, the foolhardy expulsions of Gush Katif, which is now a terror base of Hamastan, for us to be more circumspect regarding any future unilateral withdrawals.
Sir, - In choosing for himself the "good life" of America over life in the Jewish state, Rabbi Shneier has made it perfectly clear that his driving concern is not that of ensuring a Jewish majority within the State of Israel - because if that truly concerned him, he would be encouraging American aliya and packing his own bags as well.
No, for Rabbi Schneier the key to securing a Jewish majority in Israel is the expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel, which he will watch from the comfort of his own home in either the Hamptons or New York City.
Independence for Kosovo?
Sir, - I read "Next - independence for Kosovo" (May 24) with enthusiasm. I too believe that this is the next logical thing to happen in the Balkans. I do not object to Kosovar Albanians, having such resentment and hatred toward Serbs, to want to separate and go on their own, just like the Montenegrins. What concerns me is the effect two countries with a majority ethnic Albanian population - Albania and Kosovo - will have on the region.
Discussing the various ethnic groups that once lived in the former Yugoslavia, Shlomo Avineri mentions "Slav Macedonians." Being an American with an ethnic Macedonian background, I object to this reference.
I do not consider myself Slavic, and neither do the majority of Macedonians. My parents and forefathers spoke a Slavic language, but were not ethnically Slavic.
We are ethnic Macedonians.
Sir, - To reward ethnic cleansing by giving Kosovo independence is shameful. The Kosovo Liberation Army was listed by the US State department as a terrorist organization, and are major drug traffickers in Europe. Since NATO came in they've almost cleansed Kosovo of Serbs, destroyed hundreds of Serbian churches and made Kosovo a breeding ground for terrorism.
I guess if you want terrorism to increase, support the independence of Kosovo. By the way, the Albanians do have a homeland. It's called Albania.