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Pulled from depression
Sir, - Reflecting on my 41st Independence Day as a citizen of Israel, I was depressed. Never have we had such a corrupt and incompetent government. Moreover, it has no class. When a true Jewish hero, Liviu Librescu, was buried last week in Ra'anana, not a single cabinet minister or even MK attended.
Then, just when my spirits were at their lowest, I watched the spectacular Bible Quiz, in which young Jerusalemite Yishai Gispan begged to be disqualified as the winner because he felt he had not answered one of the questions perfectly.
We do have magnificent people in our country; if only they chose to enter politics! ("I don't feel I deserve this title, Bible Quiz winner tells judges," April 25.)
Sir, - A young man attempts to sacrifice his newly-won "crown" because he does not feel he merited it. The judges refuse to budge. He is forced to go through what is for him a charade, pre-programmed for a happy winner.
In my opinion, this was a case of poor judgment, for it placed the contestant in an untenable situation. He worked hard to win, and perhaps he deserved to, but he didn't want to sacrifice his principles for a prize.
This incident could have served as an outstanding example of personal integrity and good sportsmanship. Too bad the judges blew it.
The good fight
Sir, - The haunting sounds of the siren in memory of those who fell defending our state have hardly died down and our tears have scarcely dried. So often we hear that "we must not forget"; then next day it's business as usual.
We must remember them each day of our lives. As they fought, so must we ordinary citizens fight the enemy within our country: the sleaze and corruption. If we succeed, then perhaps we can say they did not die in vain ("Knesset panel approves Katsav's request to extend suspension," April 23).
BARBARA ANN PFEFFER
Pride in God's promise
Sir, - The sadness that afflicts all Israelis on Memorial Day is not only because people mourn the loss of so many soldiers' lives. Auto deaths also exact heavy tolls. The exhilaration of Yom Ha'atzma'ut does not derive only from "realization of the ultimate victory of the Jews over our enemies," as David Forman writes in "The nature of independence" (April 23). Other events have provided such victories.
What distinguishes this period in the Jewish calendar is pride - acknowledged or not - that the religious component of the God-given promise to Israel to inhabit this land is worth fighting for and dying for, and demands celebration.
A different day?
Sir, - Currently over 20,000 families are mourning the loss of a loved one killed while serving our country. That's a tragically high number of traumatized people.
Israel recognizes their sacrifice by means of a memorial day, and that is commendable. There is, however, a terrible additional price for these families. They are asked to attend official ceremonies and visit the cemeteries, but when evening comes they are asked to switch abruptly from mourning to celebratory mode, playing havoc with their torn emotions and endless pain.
I would strongly urge the powers that be to show more sensitivity and find a different day to remember our fallen.
Sir, - It is beyond belief that a Reform rabbi who made aliya (from Cheshire) and whose son died defending Israel was prevented from participating in the memorial ceremony in Hod Hasharon, where he has created a congregation named for his beloved son. Of course no self-respecting rabbi is going to agree to drop his rabbinic title, as he was asked to do if he was to read the memorial prayer.
I was privileged to read a special tribute to Jonathan Boyden at Manchester's Yom Hazikaron ceremony on Sunday. I now feel his blessed memory has been defiled.
Is this the Israel so many of invest time and energy in defending? It is not long since we commemorated those who died in the Holocaust - Jews of every shade and those who were Jews in name only. Do we not have enough problems with our real enemies without creating internal rifts? I feel it a real desecration of God's name that rabbis would think this an appropriate way to behave ("Father of fallen soldier stripped of position at memorial ceremony for being Reform rabbi," April 23).
Cheadle, Cheshire, UK
Sir, - The disgrace would be having a Reform "rabbi" recite the memorial prayer. When the Protestants changed the principles of Catholicism they had the intellectual integrity to call their religion by a different name. Reform negates the 13 principles of the Jewish faith - how can such a person stand and ask the Lord of Mercy to accept the soul of the departed in the Garden of Eden and provide eternal life for it because the Lord is his heritage, when he doesn't believe it?
But Judaism has turned into a free-for-all. Anything goes. Everyone and his mother-in-law feel they can dictate to true rabbis, men who have dedicated their lives to the study of the Torah, what they should be allowed to say and what topics they can discuss.
As the old joke goes, "Rabbi, leave kashrut and Shabbat and mikve alone... just talk about Judaism." I'm sorry, it's not funny.
Sir, - When Rabbi Micky Boyden arrived in Israel he came to see us (old-timers) and asked, "What do you think I should do to make my aliya meaningful"? We replied, "Use your good offices to help create a better society." After hearing about this affront, we say: Your mission is to fight bigotry and intolerance so all streams of our religion will be accepted and respected."
ZELDA AND LEON HARRIS
Sir, - As a Holocaust survivor and former partisan, I was very disappointed by Yehoram Gaon, who took his usual fee, flew business class and stayed in a upscale hotel in Krakow to sing "Eli Eli" and the "The Song of the Partisans" at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Asked about the remuneration, he replied that he doesn't give pro bono performances. It was an insult to our martyrs and fallen partisans (Celebrity Grapevine, April 22).
Sir, - Shabtai Gold's "The great divide" (Independence Day supplement, April 23) revisited the problem of relations between Israeli Arabs and the state.
Over 30 years ago, a lovely Druse graduate student told me: Israel is a parliamentary democracy in which a party gets its demands met through coalition politics. Arab village sheikhs have never embraced this process, and Arab citizens have thrown away their votes on frivolous anti-Israel parties.
The solution is elegantly simple: Form an Arab-Jewish party to advance legitimate Arab interests, and it will get a fair share for Israeli Arab villages and individuals, as religious parties do for yeshivot. This will not only integrate Israeli Arabs into the general society but counteract their alienation and send a much-needed message to the region and world.
CHARLES E. VERNOFF
Iowa City, Iowa
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