A rose by another name?
Sir, – What a magnificent gesture for Janet Porter to organize 800 dozen roses as a symbol of friendship between American Christians and the Jewish State of Israel, despite the way their president is said to have treated the prime minister on his recent visit to Washington (“The war of the roses,” April 2).
May I suggest that if our prime minister really thinks that the acceptance of such a gesture is going to offend the American president, Ms. Porter have her gift redirected to President Shimon Peres, who as president is non- political and surely should have no problem accepting such a gift on behalf of all the people of our country.
JerusalemThose who don’t know history...
Sir, – So the US administration “does not attach immense significance to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas’s rejection of [former prime minister Ehud] Olmert’s peace terms,” and when President Barack Obama was advised that his efforts to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians “will founder, like those of previous presidents, on the rock of Palestinian intransigence,” he responded that “he had an obligation to find out for himself” (“Snubs, bold steps and a failure to learn from history,” April 2).
In other words, for Obama, history doesn’t count. Only the force of his personality will determine the course of world events.
How can one explain such an arrogant obliteration of the painful lessons of the past? Either it is a cognitive failure, as described by George Santayana – “Those who cannot learn from history are destined to repeat it” – or a sign of insanity, which Albert Einstein defined as “doing the same thing over and over with the expectation of different results.” Take your pick.
Unfortunately, either way, it is we who will pay the price for his exercise in futility.
DR. JAN SOKOLOVSKY
Sir, – What if Israel goes along with the US and makes peace with the Abbas government based on the 1967 borders, and then, one year later, in a general election, Hamas is swept into power – as would almost certainly be the case? Hamas would find then itself with within missile range of Ben-Gurion Airport.
Is this an acceptable basis for Israel to make peace? I don’t think so.
London... and those who make it
Sir, – The report on new evidence that Raoul Wallenberg was alive after the Soviets claimed that he died in 1947 only supports what numerous sightings and reports have stubbornly maintained – that Raoul Wallenberg survived in the gulag and in the Soviet psychiatric prisons as late as the 1980’s (“Wallenberg revelations turn case ‘upside down,’” April 2).
In 1985, in my capacity as chairman of the Jerusalem Raoul Wallenberg Committee, I took a sworn statement from an elderly Caucasian Jew who had been imprisoned in Sverdlovsk for Zionist activities. In his moving statement, he told me that he had spent four days in 1972 in the prison infirmary in the bed next to a fellow prisoner who was very sick with a badly bloated stomach. He had helped to feed him, and the prisoner had whispered to him that he was Wallenberg, a Swede who had saved many Jews in Budapest in 1945. The guards ordered the man to stop helping or speaking with him.
I sent his statement to the Soviet leaders at the time, but of course nothing came of it. I am convinced that in time we shall indeed learn the truth about the fate of this tragic hero of humanity, for the sake of his family, of his recently deceased stepbrother Guy Von Dardel, who searched for him vainly for 50 years, and of the thousands of Jews who owed their lives to Wallenberg.
JerusalemAnti-Semitism and the pope
Sir, – Western literature offers many examples of how the Jewish people have been stereotyped, ridiculed and victimized for hundreds of years, even before the climactic events of last century. Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Moses in Sheridan’s School for Scandal were portrayed as either heartless or comic usurers; fairy tales like Grimm’s “The Good Bargain” depict Jews as liars and cheaters; Chaucer’s Prioress gives us Jews as child-killers – and one could add that during the Black Plague at around Chaucer’s time, they were accused of poisoning wells and spreading the disease. Through much of Western history, then, Jews have been used as scapegoats for just about everything wrong with society.
When Father Raniero Cantalamessa yesterday quoted a Jewish friend in saying that Jews “know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence,” what he had in mind, surely, is the kind of stereotyping mentioned above. I believe that Father Cantalamessa is rightly and painfully aware that the Western media these days goes well beyond criticizing the pope for not having perhaps acted more promptly in the cases of a few German and American priests accused of pedophilia. Like him, I feel that the media these days is so caught up in self-righteousness that it comes across as generally comdemning Catholic priests, who are, if we are to believe some reports, all latent homosexual perverts. The media would do well to focus a little more on the fact that instances of abuse by priests have dropped significantly in recent years and that the overwhelming majority of priests go about their duties faithfully and in the true spirit of Jesus.
Ashcroft, British Columbia
Sir, – The pope’s preacher, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, has compared verbal critiques of Pope Benedict XVI’s actions while he was archbishop of Munich in handling clerical sex-abuse cases, to the shameful utterances of anti-Semitism hurled against Jews.
The two matters cannot be compared. The Jewish heritage is a constant. An archbishop’s due diligence to duty, or lack thereof, is subject to evaluation.
So far, I still have confidence in Benedict, but he must demonstrate that he will do everything in his power to root out all pedophile priests and encourage all victims to come forward.
The pope has a chance to prove his detractors wrong. The Jews in the Holocaust had no such opportunity. The combination of truth and sincerity is what can redeem the pope’s character and good name.
JAMES A. MARPLES
Longview, TexasWho is an Ashkenazi?
Sir, – Michael Freund’s advice on kitniyot assumes that all Jews can be classified as Ashkenazi or Sephardi (“In defense of the kitniyot ban,” April 1).
If I were to try to advise my grandchildren on what to do about the eating of legumes, I would have a problem. Of my 10 grandchildren, to the best of our knowledge, one is purely Ashkenazi, five are 50% Ashkenazi and four are 75% Ashkenazi. Is the solution based upon matriarchal lineage, or have our rabbis come up with a more sophisticated solution that would apply to Israel’s ever increasing mixed-ethnicity population?
Haifa How to peel a banana
Sir, – Reading the article by Caroline Glick “Exploiting the crisis” (April 2), is analogous to peeling a banana. She simply peels back the myths, the lies, the confusion, the misunderstandings, the pretenses and the myopia and gives us the benefit of the fruit.
Many years ago, in the late 1950s, some of my relatives, along with a
planeload of Jews, were fleeing the communist regime in Poland. They
were given bananas to eat on the flight to Israel. As most of these
Polish Jews had not seen this fruit before, they assumed that it was to
be eaten as it was. They simply started to bite and chew the banana,
peel and all. A stewardess who saw this immediately jumped to the front
and demonstrated to the new refugees how to eat this fruit.
This is how I see Caroline Glick: She is the stewardess showing the
Jews who do not know better or do not know how, the correct way to look
at the issues that face the State of Israel and the Jews of the world.