letters to the editor 88.
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Flies in the ointment
Sir, - Arab MKs from the Hadash party and Balad's MK Azmi Bishara vehemently oppose voluntary civic service for Arab youth lest it lead to their "Israelization." In Bishara's case this opposition stems from his political indoctrination at Humboldt University in East Germany in the 1980s, where he was taught there is no such thing as a legitimate Jewish state. Indeed, East Germany never recognized Israel and based its diplomatic ties with Arab states upon that principle.
However, times have changed. Communism, not Zionism, failed. It is East Germany that no longer exists, not Israel.
Bishara is having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that his education was upside down - but that does not give him the right to deny young Arab Israelis the opportunity to improve their standard of living. For indeed, voluntary civic service is the key to a better future for all young people in Israel ("Who's afraid of 'Israelization'?" Editorial, February 5)
Sir, - The attitude of Bishara and Co. illustrates what we're up against in our efforts to democratize the Middle East. Democracy requires mutual respect and the integration of all as equal participants in the system. The civil war in Iraq, the factional fighting in Gaza and Lebanon and the stubborn persistence of autocracy in so many Islamic countries shows that democratic values are very alien in a region afflicted with a malady one could call "Bisharazation."
Now that's something to be afraid of.
Peres for president?
Sir, - Stewart Weiss is a wonderful man - but why "Draft Elie Wiesel for president"? (February 4.) We want to give that honor to a person who has dedicated his life to our country.
Shimon Peres is that person, and the right man for this time. Few would dispute the outstanding contribution he has made since, as a very young man, he stood at David Ben-Gurion's side; or that he is more respected throughout the world than any other Israeli.
Sir, - As a woman, I would certainly like to see a woman president, but at the moment a statesman like Shimon Peres is the only suitable and deserving candidate.
Since the inception of the state there has never been a political, economic, scientific or diplomatic activity he was not involved in.
I think he is one of the few men who get up in the morning and think, "What can I do today for the State of Israel and for the Jewish people?"
One had to watch the special debate on the BBC's Hardtalk program during which Mr. Peres faced over 100 young people from Arab countries asking the most provocative questions, which he answered with wisdom, logic, knowledge and hope for peace for the future of Israel and our neighbors.
I hope our politicians will come to their senses and realize that they have to elect Shimon Peres as president of the State of Israel.
Honorary Life President
Sir, - Why doesn't the president resign? Because he has unfinished business. He still needs to pardon himself. And you must know why Ehud Olmert is pushing for Shimon Peres to be president. Olmert will need a pardon, too, and one can do business with Peres.
Israel needs true leaders, now.
Sir, - Re "Who speaks for the Zionists?" (Jonathan Tobin, February 4): Another front where Zionists appear to be losing traction is, tragically, Western Europe. For example, a common sentiment in Europe's press and on its streets is that Muslims are treated today the same way Jews were treated some 60 years ago.
Not only is this sentiment inaccurate - thoroughly diminishing the true suffering the Jewish people endured - it is also symptomatic of something deeper within the European consciousness: the sacrifice of right over wrong in return for acceptance and tolerance.
Such a sentiment speaks to political correctness rather than to any evenhanded historical analysis, and obfuscates the true complexity of Middle East politics. At its worst, it obfuscates the true nature of the Zionist cause.
College Oark, Maryland
Sir, - I wish to clarify some points attributed to me through an unreliable "third source" in "Masorti Movement ponders pro-gay appointment at JTS" (January 31).
I appreciate the Reconstructionist movement's embracing a theology that allows it to serve as the spiritual home for people who identify with gay and lesbian thought and practice, yet I believe that the Conservative movement has a different approach to Jewish tradition and therefore must play a different role in the Jewish world.
The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary is in the process of clarifying its position on the ordination of openly gay rabbis and the implications of such a halachic step, i.e., whether Conservative rabbis can marry two men and/or two women (in "commitment ceremonies"). I will be publishing our stand in the coming months.
I welcome the appointment of my colleague Rabbi Danny Nevins as dean of the JTS Rabbinical School and look forward to a strong working relationship and open dialogue on the major issues facing the Conservative movement worldwide.
RABBI EINAT RAMON
Sir, - David Forman criticizes, in emotional and evocative language, the separation of men and women on "mehadrin" buses, equating it with what existed between whites and blacks in the US ("Destination - Montgomery, Alabama, 1955," January 21).
This is unfounded. Racial segregation on buses is based on racial prejudice, whereas there are solid religious reasons for segregating the sexes.
I do not justify the abusive behavior described toward Miriam Shear, but fail to understand why she did not move to the back of the bus when the situation was explained to her. Surely she would agree that if a non-Muslim entered a mosque mistakenly wearing shoes, he should remove them on being requested to? I once mistakenly sat in the women's section in synagogue and appreciated being set right.
Contrary to your columnist's claims, segregated buses are not meant to push haredi values onto the secular public. They are localized democracy in action - viz. the consent of haredim, both men and women, to separate seating on buses which run through their neighborhoods.
Sir, - Thank you for the Teddy Kollek memorial publication ("Legendary mayor of Jerusalem," February 2). It was helpful and inspiring, the kind of journalism sorely needed in Israel.
This beautiful publication made me really appreciate Jerusalem once again, and the great work done by Mayor Kollek and many others which makes every neighborhood and museum, hospital and garden in our capital awe-inspiring.
PETER SHMUEL LEVITT
Sir, - Your chart headlined "Cabinet reshuffle" (February 2) implied that Ephraim Hasson will almost certainly become science minister.
I hope the cigarette at his lips is not indicative of his regard for scientific evidence.
JerusalemFlies in the ointment