December 27: Orthodox obstacles

Orthodox groups refuse to participate in any meetings with Conservative and Reform to tackle the major problems facing the Jewish people.

letters 88 (photo credit:)
letters 88
(photo credit: )
Orthodox obstacles Sir, - In Calev Ben-David's "A meeting (not) of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform minds" (December 26), he urges the leaders of these three groups to meet together in order to tackle the major problems facing the Jewish people today. That is a wonderful idea; however, if the implication is that these groups are not willing to talk to teach other, it should be made clear that the Conservative Movement (and I dare say the Reform Movement also, although I cannot speak for them) would welcome, and has always welcomed, such meetings. Unfortunately, the official Orthodox groups have consistently refused to participate in any such event, even though there are individual Orthodox rabbis who would. A glaring example of this is the excellent Limmud event that takes place in England each year where some 2,000 people, affiliated with every group, come to study for a week. The London Beth Din, however, has forbidden Orthodox rabbis to teach there, so while Orthodox laypeople come to learn, only Masorti and Reform-Liberal rabbis are presenters. Ben-David also mentions the problem of the non-Jewish Russians and the need to help them convert. Here, too, there is cooperation between the three groups in the Joint Institute, where some Orthodox laypeople and some Orthodox rabbis participate. But the official organs of Orthodoxy - in this case the Chief Rabbinate - put obstacle after obstacle in the way. Indeed there should be cooperation, but unfortunately the chances of it seem slim indeed. RABBI REUVEN HAMMER Head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement Fast facts Sir, - I would like to clarify a number of inaccuracies in "Rabbinic literature CD-ROM shatters stereotype of haredi Holocaust silence" (December 19). 1) The Fast of the Tenth of Tevet commemorates the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the year 433 BCE. It has nothing to do with the Second Temple and the Roman destruction some 490 years later. The fasts of the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av commemorate the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. 2) Religious Jewry has always remembered all tragedies on Tisha Be'av. Special Kinot and remembrances of European Jewry were instituted after World War II. The fast of the Tenth of Tevet was set aside by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate as a Yom Kaddish Clali - for those whose dates of death were unknown. It was not instead of Holocaust Remembrance Day. M. SUNRAY Jerusalem A partial view Sir, - Unfortunately, telling only part of the story can be done subtly, without overt name-calling. "All the inns are filled, as Bethlehem marks its first upbeat Christmas in years," (December 25) says "Israeli-Palestinian fighting erupted in 2000," which totally obliterates responsibility for the intifada. To say "Tourism…has been battered by Israeli-Palestinian clashes, the complex of towering concrete walls and fences Israel is building to separate itself from West Bank Palestinians," without mentioning that this is a security barrier to stop a stream of suicide bombers, is to totally distort the story. BEVERLY LEWIN Ramat Hasharon New tactics Sir, - Even the wise men of Chelm wouldn't make such a stupid blunder ("Shin Bet opposes criteria change for prisoner release," December 25). We have released hundreds of prisoners and still we are no closer to getting Gilad Schalit back. So what do the geniuses who play at running our government do? They propose to unilaterally release more prisoners, even those who have committed more serious crimes. They call this a "confidence-building measure." The only confidence we are building is the sure knowledge that if terrorists continue to stonewall, they will get more and more concessions without having to give anything in return. If we really want Schalit back, we should refuse any more negotiations until we receive solid proof that he is alive and well. Will this work? No one can be sure. But we have seen that Arabs respond positively if we show strength, and they take advantage if we show weakness. In any case, we can't be any worse off, and maybe this will get our prisoners back. DAVID ROTENBERG Jerusalem Right time Sir, - In "The man who would be..." (December 20) Yaakov Katz seems to have overlooked a very important aspect of bringing order to a situation where chaos prevails. Gen. Tahboub must have full support of the West Bank's population. This type of support will only be forthcoming if PA President Mahmoud Abbas shows the Palestinian people that it is time for political reform. Thereby, he will separate himself from the old guard and allow a new generation of leaders to emerge. There has never been a more opportune time for the Arab leader to make a break with the past and forge a new path toward the formation of a Palestinian state. Everyone is going to be carefully following how the billions of dollars pledged to Abbas are used. Gen. Tahboub will succeed if he is able to work with the IDF - with the full backing of the Palestinian Authority. P. YONAH Shoham African impasse Sir, - When I compared Caroline Glick's "Condi's African holiday" (December 11) to her previous articles on different issues, I concluded that she has a gap in her knowledge of the Horn of Africa - and especially Eritrea. Firstly, it is absolutely baseless to blame Eritrea for supporting al-Qaida. Eritrea was the first country in the region fighting terrorists. Ethiopia's ambassador to Israel, Feseha Asghedom ("African borders," Letters, December 19), is appreciative of Glick's article, but accuses the writer of "omitting one crucial fact." He feared that "readers were given the wrong message" when Glick stated that Ethiopia had rejected the Border Commission's ruling of April 2002. Unfortunately, the ambassador took aim at the only strongly stated and defensible fact in Glick's speculative piece, which is plagued with outrageous accusations against Eritrea. The UN Secretary-General, in his progress report on Eritrea and Ethiopia of April 30, 2007, stated "Ethiopia's position regarding cooperation with the Boundary Commission in the implementation of the decision remains a major factor of the current impasse." For the past five years, encouraged by its supporters, Ethiopia has endeavored to force renegotiation of the "final and binding" ruling of the Border Commission and bring about unnecessary complications by trying to involve third party intermediaries. To date, the Ethiopian government has impeded the implementation of the legal process by flouting the agreement signed in Algiers in 2000. In a nutshell, had the Algiers agreement been respected and fully accepted, and had the demarcation of the boundary been expeditiously completed, the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia would long ago have returned to their natural state of neighborliness and cooperation. In the meantime, Ethiopia has occupied Eritrea's sovereign territory. This act of occupation not only sets a dangerous precedent for the survival of states, it is also detrimental to peace and security. TESFAMARIAM TEKESTE Ambassador of the State of Eritrea Tel Aviv