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Sir, - I found "Men's mikvaot pose health hazard, Hatzalah warns" (December 14) appalling. Thank you for bringing this horrible situation to our attention.
The picture of the turnstiles was terrible. Since when is going to the mikve a "members only" situation? Going to the mikve is a mitzva and should be open to all men, not just members. What if a visitor wants to go to the mikve and doesn't have a card to activate the door? And the health hazards, as mentioned by Hatzalah, are just awful.
A caretaker must be in attendance at all mikvaot to collect fees, provide supplies and be available in case of emergencies. Let's eliminate all these gates, turnstiles and pay and card activated doors. Let's make the mikvaot available to all men and all visitors, not just a privileged few.
Sir, - It seems to me that Andrew Silow-Carroll doesn't like the idea of religion - in schools, in politics, anywhere ("Mixing religion and politics in the US," December 16).
Those of us who are religious have no problem with it. We want to know about a candidate's faith because that gives us a hint as to his morality and character. Bill Clinton was only as religious as he needed to be for the cameras, and we saw his morality. George W. Bush is clearly a more religious man and, regardless of what one thinks of his policies, most would agree that he means what he says and says what he means.
Jews need not fear religious Christians or, in the case of Mitt Romney, a Mormon. These people respect Judaism, and they love Israel and support it. Our problem comes from those who believe in nothing, like many Democrats and moral relativists.
Sir, - You report that Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, director of ITIM, stated that "Young Jewish Israelis who fall in love with non-Jews are being forced to remain married outside their faith by an inefficient bureaucracy" (Knesset committee to investigate long delays in approving conversions," December 17).
In the vast majority of cases, this is inaccurate. Many prospective converts are only interested in joining the Jewish - or rather, Israeli - people for social reasons; they are not interested in converting to the Jewish religion or in accepting all the halachic obligations involved. The fact that the Jewish partner is probably equally unwilling to lead a fully observant lifestyle makes any such conversion a complete sham. The sooner the state stops interfering in purely religious Jewish affairs, the better for all concerned.
MARTIN D. STERN
Sir, - Whew! The teachers' strike is finally over. Now what was accomplished? From the murmurings I have heard among a number of teacher friends, not nearly enough. Financially - certainly not much to crow about. As to the decrease in class size and the return of teaching hours in the classroom - that's still up in the air. Promises they got, but government bodies have been known to renege on promises in the past. Were these results really worth more than two months without classes?
It seems to me that Ofer Eini got just about the same results with only the threat of a strike. Perhaps that's the difference between a polished negotiator and a sort of bull-in-the-china-shop bumbler? Let us hope that the "reform" will be a true reform. Education in Israel is at a historic low point. Something needs to be done.
Sir, - "Both sides declare victory at end of school strike saga" (December 14). So if both sides won, then who lost? Of course, only the children - but in matters of education they need not be considered. We adults have more important things to think about.
Sir, - Every cigarette packet carries a government warning that smoking endangers our health; perhaps they should also carry a warning that Labor MK Yoram Marciano falls into the same category ("Labor MK forms pro-smoking lobby in Knesset," December 14). The irony is that Marciano values his own health, as he gave up smoking some years ago. But he does not see it as his duty to protect other citizens, particularly young people, from the hazards of smoking and the dangers of passive smoking.
England now has very stringent no-smoking laws. On the front door of every public building, including pubs, restaurants and casinos, there is a large no-smoking symbol with the Ministry of Health warning that "Smoking on these premises is illegal." There is no such thing as a "smoking section" unless it is a totally separate room with its own ventilation system. In a democracy, the wish of the majority rules; only about 28 percent of Israelis smoke, ergo the 72% who are non-smokers are being protected. I agree with Marciano that smoking is not illegal in this country; perhaps the answer is to designate tobacco as a dangerous drug and make it illegal.
MIRIAM VAN BERS
Sir, - I'm an oleh who voted for Kadima in the last elections but I can't do it again. I'm evaluating other parties and Labor just eliminated itself from contention. When Labor MK Yoram Marciano says that smokers have a "right" to risk giving others cancer, and he vows to roll back the anti-smoking legislation, that's the final nail in the coffin. If, as he says, we're not a "Third World country," then we should be looking to Europe and North America, where anti-smoking legislation continues to expand. Rather, he wishes to be a Third World country and say that whatever thugs want, thugs get - even if it endangers others.
Sir, - Your excellent editorial "UNreformed" (December 13), which exposes the virulent anti-Israel stance of the UN, should be etched on the hearts and minds of those who insist on viewing the UN as an honest broker.
Where truth lies
Sir, - Larry Derfner seems to be upset, nay flabbergasted, by the virtually unanimous Israeli disbelief in the recent NIE report ("Behind the Zion Curtain," December 13).
I find the embrace of the NIE by someone known not to trust anything from America rather peculiar. His claim that this changes everything, ushering in a new era of peace and tranquility, is almost embarrassing. Regardless of the incompetence of the US intelligence agencies, there is one glaring inconsistency.
We know that Iran is pursuing some form of nuclear technology, either for civil or military purposes. We may assume that the Iranian leadership is either sane or insane, but not both. If insane, allowing them access to nuclear technology is obviously unacceptable.
If sane, I'd like Derfner to explain why Iran would devote a large portion of its assets to developing nuclear power plants when the country sits on huge supplies of oil and natural gas which could provide the power at a fraction of the cost.
Therefore either the Iranians are sanely determined to develop atomic weapons, or insanely determined to develop nuclear power at a cost several times as expensive as that of gas-fired plants. I don't need an NIE report to tell me where the truth lies.
STEPHEN S. COHEN
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