letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - Re "Women to the back" (December 1) about Egged's quiet introduction of sex-segregated buses: I cannot see any distinction between passengers boarding a public bus on a public bus line in Beit Shemesh being forced to sit at the back of the bus because they happen to be women, and passengers boarding a public bus on a public bus line in Selma, Alabama, being forced to sit at the back of the bus because they happen to be black.
Surely it is the duty of our state, through its legal system, to ensure that no segment of its citizens is discriminated against by companies whose financial incentives are stronger than their democratic principles?
What's it all about, British Council?
Sir, - Yet another British Council library hits the dust ("British council decides to close Jerusalem library," December 4) "following a drop in demand."
Many years ago there was a thriving British Council library in Haifa, located in a small basement flat. It was always full of people jostling each other around the shelves and queuing up to check out books. On the occasions I filled in for the permanent librarians I observed that it was used not only by native English readers but also by Israeli students and schoolchildren.
Librarians from northern kibbutzim and moshavim came with their suitcases to select enough English reading material for the next month. There was a substantial non-fiction section, and the fiction included the best of British writers.
Instead of expanding this popular library and moving it to more spacious premises, as we expected, the British Council closed it down "because of lack of demand."
What exactly is the council's role in Israel? At one time it brought the best of British theater here. The performances were not subsidized, yet every one was fully booked. This activity has also ceased, so it is not clear what the council's directors mean when they say the British Council will focus on "increasing the appreciation of UK ideas and achievements."
Sink or swim
Sir, - I strongly disagree with Ahmed Tibi's claim of anti-Arab discrimination via a higher electoral threshold ("Arab factions fear electoral reform," December 3). His protest is valid only if it leads to a disproportionate cutback in the choices Arab voters face; which is not the case.
The Arab sector is not starved for choice: The three Arab parties picked up a combined 252,944 votes, or roughly one major Arab party for every 85,000 of their voters. In contrast, the remaining 2.8 million voters had 25 parties to choose from, or one for every 112,000. There were also several smaller parties aimed primarily at the Arab electorate.
Tibi claims a future 5% electoral threshold will strangle all choice by forcing the three main Arab parties to merge. They currently hold a combined 10 seats in the Knesset; as the proposed threshold would be six seats, this would still allow for two large Arab parties, provided the smaller Arab parties merge with the larger ones and all invest enough effort in encouraging their constituency to vote in sufficient numbers.
While a higher threshold would decrease Arab voters' choices, this is supposed to be the aim in attaining a less fractured, more efficient Knesset, and it certainly would not hit these voters any harder than the remaining population, adjusting for size.
Contending parties in the next elections, Jewish and Arab, will all have to work harder to swim and not sink.
Little big man
Sir, - The attack on Natan Sharansky was as misinformed as it was vicious ("Will the real Sharansky please stand up?" David Forman, December 3). Not only a worldwide hero while in the Soviet Union, Sharansky has distinguished himself in Israel as a symbol of courageous leadership and a model of political integrity, forming a new political party for immigrants' rights, standing on principle against the disastrous disengagement fiasco and struggling to democratize the corrupt and murderous Palestinian leadership.
Would that our other political figures, continually surrounded by scandals of every type, had but a fraction of the stature and decency of this little big man.
RABBI STEWART WEISS
Jewish Outreach Center
What planet is...
Sir, - In "The perfect diet? Try a compliment" (December 3) Shmuley Boteach wrote: "Compliment [your wife] on her nails and manicure (something husbands always miss)."
Who is he writing for? How many Israeli women get manicures? I can tell you with certainty, Shmuley, that religiously observant Jewish women at least are not getting their nails done.
What planet is he living on?
...Shmuley living on?
Sir, - Shmuley Boteach is to be commended for his support of women having both careers and large families; unfortunately he ends up sounding condescending and seemingly unaware of some basic facts, like there being only 24 hours in a day.
While he lauds Queen Victoria's success in raising a large family, chances are good that she did not have to rush to get to the supermarket before it closed, or scrub the wall behind a toilet (of the future kings).
If you are at a board meeting, you are not at the PTA meeting. Lecturing to college students is infinitely more stressful when you have left a feverish 10-year-old home alone. The business trip means that the third-grader's book report doesn't get finished, etc.
The only historical account of getting time to stand still featured a man - the biblical Joshua - and it was not to give his fine washables more time to dry in the sun.
There is no way, given the pressures of a career and the responsibilities of parenting, that the quality of mothering and/or working will not suffer.
Was Rabbi Boteach's wife running a company while he was away on his book tour? Chances are not. The supermom theory needs to be put to rest once and for all ("Large broods and large responsibilities," November 27).
Seeking 'Misha' and 'Zhenya'
Sir, - The descendants of Sophia Martinyuk are seeking the Jewish siblings Sophia's family sheltered in Lublin during World War II. After the round-up of local Jews began in 1943, the Martinyuk family hid the youngsters for two years. The children's real names were not known - they went under the pseudonyms of Misha (Mikhail) and Zhenya (Eugenia) for the whole of their stay with the Martinyuks.
During the family's move to the Ukraine in 1945 the children's Jewish identity became known to the authorities and they were sent to live in Israel. Appeals from the Martinyuks to find out their fate proved fruitless.
Sophia Martinyuk passed away in 2006, but her descendants are desperate to continue the quest in her name. Anyone with any information please e-mail email@example.com
Sir, - This being my first letter to the Post, I would like to offer my support and admiration for the country of Israel. I am a Christian from Canada who realizes that Israel is a miracle from God. That she exists today, after genocides, crusades, hate, war, unprovoked physical attacks and ideological attacks from many in the media, various countries and the UN - this is truly a miracle.
Sydney, Nova Scotia
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