Breakfast for 'Bontshe'
While congratulating ourselves on the unanimous adoption of the Israeli-initiated UN resolution for a worldwide day of Holocaust commemoration ("UN adopts Holocaust day," November 2), I am reminded of IL Peretz's short story Bontshe the Silent. The story concerns a character who, when offered everything in heaven, asks only for a hot roll with butter for breakfast.
We should pause to note that the UN - after decades of unfairness through countless anti-Israel resolutions and conferences and, at times, open anti-Semitism - has now budgeted the paltry sum of $350,000 over the next two years for commemorations. What will this buy? A couple of posters in UN offices? A conference for UN bureaucrats? Or perhaps two years of breakfast for a dozen Bontshes
Sir, - When the army does not enlist teenagers under police investigation for alleged crimes committed during the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip it violates their civil rights ("IDF delays drafting violent protesters," November 2). Members of the Knesset are allowed to serve while being investigated by the police. Why the double standard? What happened to the principle "innocent until proven guilty?"
New era with impartiality
Sir, - Ron Kornish is surely right to call for "A new era of Catholic-Jewish dialogue" (November 2) and for Jews to do more to educate themselves about Catholicism.
Such sound advice should not overlook historical and secular perspectives, aiming for impartiality as a priority. This means acknowledging not only the role of today's politics but making use of political and military records going back almost 2000 years, rather than focusing exclusively on New Testament documents. Failure to examine the controversial but seminal second- and third-century writings of the ecclesial "apologists" from the time of Bar Kochba onward could also handicap assessments.
Genocide then and now
Sir, - Having read Daniel Pipes's take on the Iranian threat to Israel ("Genocidal Designs," November 1), I'm struggling with the same issue my grandparents did in Europe of the 1930s: To move to Israel or not. The difference is that this time we have a State of Israel with a strong army to stand up to the Iranians and their collaborators.
The question within Israel must now be: To act through a preemptive strike to prevent its destruction or to respond after an attack.
New Age, old problem
Sir, - I could barely suppress my laughter at the prospect of the Swiss proposition that a red crystal, into which the red Star of David could be placed for use by Magen David Adom staff and volunteers outside of Israel, could be added as a neutral emblem of the International Red Cross ("Swiss FM here on MDA compromise," October 31).
The crystal is a symbol of the New Age Movement, itself a religion, and is therefore not neutral. I fail to see how replacing traditional religious symbols with yet another religious emblem will achieve anything.
I suppose they have already discussed and discarded using a red square to avoid confusion with the Kremlin in Moscow.
Grand Junction, Colorado
Sir, - The proposal that Magen David Adom combine its red Star of David symbol with a neutral "crystal" symbol is unacceptable because it is discriminatory. Fair treatment of all parties requires that all first-aid organizations adopt the "crystal" and each can put its individual symbol - cross, crescent, Star of David or other - inside. The IRC would not even have to change its initials as it could be called the International Red Crystal society.
Sir, - I find it interesting that Rabbi Avi Shafran, an often eloquent and passionate opponent of liberal and left-leaning philosophies and mores, rests his argument for greater inclusion of haredi viewpoints on a standard liberal foundation: The value of hearing and airing a diversity of points of view.
Coming from Rabbi Shafran, this argument, although with merit, is hard to take seriously. It seems he is only interested in advancing a diversity of viewpoints when it is those in which he puts stock that are underrepresented. If Rabbi Shafran was willing to argue for the inclusion of points of view from all stripes, such as those from Reform Jews, secular Jews, or gay and lesbian Jews, his argument would be more credible.
Hallandale Beach, Florida
Sir, - I was gratified to have my article "Haredim and the Mainstream," (October 31) appear in your pages. I would like to correct one error which was inadvertently added regarding "a respected Aguda-affiliated haredi daily, Hamodia." While in Israel the Hamodia periodical is officially associated with the Agudat Yisrael party, the American daily Hamodia is not affiliated with Agudath Israel of America. The latter organization enjoys a close working relationship with Hamodia, as it does with the several other haredi periodicals here, but is not affiliated with any of them.
RABBI AVI SHAFRAN
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America
Policies in context
Sir, - David Hirsh's admonishment of Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians and terrorism ("The smart way to fight British anti-Semitism," November 1) doesn't include suggestions on what Israel should do to fight terror, nor does it address how Israel should present its policies given the context of a terrorist war waged against the Jewish state. In my experience, British Jews "hit their foreheads in exasperation" not at Israel's defence and security policies but as a result of the anti-Israel propaganda of the kind Hirsh inadvertently recycles.
The growing support for grass-roots Israel advocacy groups like Standup4Israel suggests that it is David Hirsh who is "muttering and grumbling."
Sir, - I agree with David Hirsh that the best course of action is to align against racism in all its forms, not just against anti-Semitism, and thereby claim the higher ground in opposing bigotry at every opportunity. While I believe Jews would love to stand their ground, they really don't know what to say in light of Israeli policies. A broad formulation of arguments just doesn't seem readily available.
In this regard, the Palestinians have orchestrated their propaganda far better. Our arguments based on a historic connection to the land don't seem to work when compared with the image of boys throwing rocks at tanks. Israel's claims are valid but one has to see beneath the surface to appreciate them, and that isn't always easy to do.
Sir, - While I agree fully with M. Youval's praise for security workers at our airports ("Salute to security," Letters, November 2), there may be a reason, other than "anything is possible," which justifies the need for security checks of even the elderly. Na ve people may unwittingly or knowingly hide the fact they have accepted a parcel given to them with a patter such as: "Please deliver this for me but don't tell security, they'll make a fuss." That's why an endlessly questioned traveler should take no offense.
MOSHE-MORDECHAI VAN ZUIDEN
Sir, - Peter Wells's suggestions regarding increasing tourism are quite on the mark ("Want more tourists in Israel?" October 31). However, all of them concern improvements to be made for tourists once they are in Israel. As an American tour company, one of our greatest concerns is getting tourists to Israel at all, due to the high cost of flights and limited seat availability.
One reason for these difficulties is Israel's policy of prohibiting airline competition into Tel Aviv. This policy must be changed so that we can help bring in the tourists.
Sir, - Living in Miami has become difficult since Hurricane Wilma ("Our wild week surviving Wilma," October 31). Yet, as we struggle to get back to normal, I can't stop thinking about the Holocaust, about how it must have been without even the most basic necessities of life such as water, electricity, medication. In this context I have become very thankful for Israel. And I wonder when will the Jewish people be able to live in peace and security? Israel is the world to the Jewish people, it has to survive. In peace.
Sir, - When I read about the smuggling of arms into Gaza, coupled with the warming of relations with some Islamic countries after disengagement, I can't help but wonder how long the honeymoon will last.
Eventually those arms will be used and show again that these friends are only fair weather ones. Then it'll be d ja-v all over again.
Sir, - Can someone explain to us why we are expected to pay the annual TV tax only to get six or seven minutes of English news, five times a week? Frequently, these broadcasts are replaced by "special programming." English speakers are also interested in details after a terrorist attack.
WILLIAM AND ESTHER WEISBERG
Trans Israel Highway
Sir, - Thank you for publishing my letter ("Grave concern," November 1) regarding the high death rate due to road accidents when compared with other nations' high-speed motorways. The data regarding risk which I provided refer specifically to the Trans Israel Highway, and not the nationwide interurban rates, as the published letter seems to imply.
ELIHU D. RICHTER
Director, Center for Injury Prevention