August 1: Clever, not original

Gershon Baskin's "Why I am a neo-Zionist" (July 31) is not as original as he may think.

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July 31, 2007 21:19
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Clever, not original Sir, - In "Why I am a neo-Zionist" (July 31), Gershon Baskin is not as original as he may think. The term sounds clever, positioned midway between Zionism and post-Zionism. But the idea of basing Jewish identity and development upon a bedrock of humanity originated neither with him, nor with Reform Judaism, Humanistic Judaism or post-Zionism. As students we asked the yeshiva head: Why does the Torah not prohibit cannibalism? He answered: The Torah assumes humanity, and the mitzvot are a superstructure upon that foundation. The Gemara says, can there be anything forbidden to a gentile and permitted to a Jew? It is assumed that the Torah adds obligations; it does not diminish any obligations connected with being human. So one can obviously accept Baskin's non-original original thought. Even the Orthodox, even old-fashioned Zionists can accept it. Where they may differ from Baskin is in some of his applications: for example, that it is all right for Israeli Arabs to consider May 14, 1948 as their nakba; but immoral for Jews to live in the West Bank. That it is okay for Jordan and Saudi Arabia to have zero Jews living there; but horribly inhuman, unethical and "unmodern" to have a million Arabs living within Israel and considering themselves Palestinians - and that this attitude is demanded by democracy and humanism. J.M. KING Jerusalem Sir, - It is extremely difficult to discern whether Gershon Baskin is engaging in a frenzied polemic against Orthodoxy or making a rather disarranged statement of his views regarding the future of the Jewish state. In an op-ed replete with contradictions the most glaring indication of his persistent confusion is his condemnation of messianism while declaring his belief that the "Jewish people have a right to a homeland in the Land of Israel." Baskin should understand that while he sees the vital need for the establishment of a Palestinian state, there is no Palestinian of stature who believes that the Jewish people have any rights at all to the Land of Israel. ZEV CHAMUDOT Petah Tikva Sir, - We gave away a piece of land, Gaza, in exchange for the promise of peace, and look where that got us. Now Gershon Baskin wants to repeat the experiment with an enormous amount of land, Judea and Samaria, for another promise? Sorry, but the potential for similarly disastrous consequences is just too great. This is not about "Zionist settlers blinded by a messianic dream." It is about commonsense security requirements, as well as an honest look at the track record of those we are dealing with. Suicide bombers, Farfour the Mouse brainwashing children to hate, daily missiles fired at Sderot - these do not seem like peace initiatives. There is no other way than to give up the land? Actually, there is. For starters, how about the Palestinian leaders giving up their belief that Israel has no right to exist by amending their constitution? How about using those millions of dollars of aid to provide decent social services and proper education for their people, instead of training them in terror? TARA BRAFMAN Efrat Shun Feldman's ilk... Sir, - Shmuley Boteach may still be friends with his old protege Noah Feldman, a rising superstar, and may appreciate his many talents and brilliant achievements ("Does Noah Feldman deserve to be hated?" July 30). However, to imply that it is not the end of the world for a former Orthodox Jew to marry out of the Jewish faith is wrong. I, for one, don't need his participation in Jewish organizational life. His children will not be Jewish no matter what he accomplishes or how much money he donates to Jewish causes. I wouldn't want him at my Shabbat table and have to explain to my family why they also celebrate Christmas. For a truly religious family, there is something very uncomfortable about being friends with an intermarried couple. Yes, by shunning Mr. Feldman we send a message that we are not happy with this situation of so many Jews marrying out of our faith. Let us not glorify the idea that it's not so bad and that we should act as if nothing is unusual here. JUDY ABIR Jerusalem ...welcome them Sir, - I wholly agree with Shmuley Boteach's view of intermarrieds. Many, if welcomed, would observe Jewish practice at a very high religious level. Their children may well convert to become observant Orthodox Jews. I know because this happened to my family. STEPHEN HIRSCHFELD Cleveland, Ohio Achoura Abbadi may have Jewish blood Sir, - When Ruth Eglash's first article about Achoura Abbadi appeared over a year ago, it was the Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies that contacted those concerned to point out that almost certainly this woman, unknown to herself, had Jewish blood. The Jewish family name of Abaddi was by no means unknown in Israel and the Diaspora - all stemming from the same part of the world as she originally came from - and we have documents showing this name in trouble with the Inquisition in Zaragosa, Spain, as far back as 1487. Achoura had never considered the possibility of having Jewish roots; but remembering customs among her grandparents and other matters that came to light suggested she may have more than one line of Jewish blood. All our evidence was backed up by documents, which her lawyers took along to her second hearing before the Supreme Court, having specially requested them after adjourning the hearing for her first application. Yet on the day of the hearing the judges seemed in a big hurry to close the matter, refusing her Arab lawyers any chance to present the evidence. This is not the first time in the last few months that the Supreme Court has refused to intervene in providing justice for Marranos-Anusim. Indeed, it is beginning to look as if it has a pact with the conversion courts to leave the sorry mess so many people are in instead of exercising balance and fair play. When one organization after another is granted enormous publicity and sums of money for "human rights" conferences, why are innocent people being thrown into prison and deported for no other crime than coming here to convert - simply because they do not have sufficient papers relating to their ancestors? To clarify: I work without a salary, and Casa Shalom's only charge to Achoura was NIS 200 shekels ("'I would do anything to get back here' - Moroccan would-be convert fights a losing battle to stay in Israel," July 29). GLORIA MOUND, Executive Director Casa Shalom Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies Gan Yavneh Thank you! Sir, - We would be grateful if you could say a big thank you to the soldiers who helped us change a tire (we had a flat) on our Eldan car in Hebron on Tuesday, July 10. They let us use their mobile phone and changed the tire for us. We would have been lost without them! Other Israelis, too, were always there to help and show us the way. CHRIS LUK Muenster, Germany Not so odd Sir, - A reader found "odd" the news report that 41,029 people got married in Israel last year (Letters, July 31). One explanation is that since Judaism permits a person to remarry, someone could conceivably wed two different people in the same year. Not odd, to God it's fine / If some Jews choose one / More than one time. (With apologies to William Norman Ewer, 1885-1976). YONATAN SILVER Jerusalem

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