letters to the editor 88.
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Cool to hate Israel
Sir, - British Jews who sign declarations condemning Israel are like the "modern," assimilated Jews in Vienna and Berlin in the 1920s who despised their shabby, Yiddish-speaking hassidic brethren from the East (Ost-Juden). "We understand people who hate them, but we're not like them," they would whine. "They're bad Jews, while we're good Jews." Of course when Hitler came it didn't help them.
Now that it's uncool to say you hate Jews, Israel has become "the Jew among the nations," and nothing is cooler than hating Israel. The pathological cowards among us are shouting, "Look, I'm a good Jew - I'm condemning Israel!"
We've always had these people. In the Middle Ages they used to convert and denounce anti-Christian plots in the Talmud to get the 14th-century equivalent of a mention in The Guardian ("Top British Jews join new group opposed to Israeli policies," February 6).
Sir, - Possessing neither a sense of Jewish history nor a balanced awareness of the situation here, these so-called "top" people appear to have crawled out from under a stone - and you can't go much lower than that!
Arrested in Iran for holding hands
Sir, - I am a man who writes to show the situation of life in my country in the 21st century. We are living in a big hell whose name is Iran, a country where inanimate things have more liberty than living ones.
One day last week my girlfriend and I were sitting in a local park. She was laughing and took my hands. We were enjoying ourselves very much. Suddenly two policemen came and asked us to go with them. They looked angry. We were very confused. "Why should we come with you? What have we done?" I asked them. They said nothing. I repeated my question, but one of them pulled our hands apart, then started swearing at us.
They took us to the police station, kicking me on the way, then started beating me with a nightstick in a small, dark room. They shouted at me and called me "atheist." They repeatedly said "God damn youâ€š" then shoved me to the ground. One of them put his boot on my head and pressed it down.
I know it is incredible, but it was real. Do you know why they acted as they did? Because we had touched hands [in public], and it is forbidden in Islam. It was our whole crime.
They made me say, "I repentâ€š" in the presence of my girlfriend. Can you imagine it? Yes! They behaved according to their Islam and the laws in Iran! They said they could also whip us. And there is no law to protect us.
I understood that they also have a rule for killing single persons who had sex, with stones. But under foreign pressure they have stopped this. Every foreign visitor can easily find us who are living in adversity, without any freedom or rights.
I study in one of the best universities in Iran, but the behavior even against students in this country is barbaric. So what will they do with the world, if they could?!
Please publish my story without any name because if they find me, they will terrorize me, certainly. But what I would really like to say to other humans is: Enjoy your freedom, and know people are killed for it in another part of the world.
NAME AND ADDRESS WITHHELD
Don't blame UNIFIL...
Sir, - I think that it is unwise to blame UNIFIL for Hizbullah's activity in Lebanon ("IDF: UNIFIL not halting Hizbullah border hostilities," February 6). The Israeli government under Ehud Barak chose to evacuate the IDF from Lebanon back in 2000, and while Ariel Sharon was an excellent leader after Barak he could have done something to fill the void left by the evacuation, which ultimately resulted in the war last summer.
Second, UNIFIL is the result of the international community's already weak response to terror, both in the region and worldwide. It should not surprise anybody that an international response is less than what we as Israeli citizens hope for; and rightfully so, because they are serving their own interests in a mutifaceted and complicated situation.
Our job is to look out for our own interests. Such is the way of the world - and Israelis know that as well as anybody.
Sir, - I can only praise your page 3 layout on February 6. The top article was headed "IDF: UNIFIL not halting Hizbullah border hostilities." Directly under it was "Egypt not doing enough to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza." The common denominator? Apparently we are still expecting other countries to protect us.
The whole Zionist idea was that with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 we Jews would finally be responsible for our own fate. Our protection would, once and for all, be in our own hands. A government that abdicates its responsibility to protect its citizens is unworthy of continuing in office.
Staves and rings
Sir, - The dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary informs us (Letters, February 6) that the seminary will soon publish its position on the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis, and on same-sex marriages ("commitment ceremonies"). One would hope that the Conservative Halacha Committee, in passing such a far-reaching modification, would consider the opinions of such halachic giants as Rabbeinu Gershom, and that its decision would be based on the painstaking study of talmudic sources and rabbinic responsa.
Halacha is flexible. The staves used for carrying the holy ark in the tabernacle could move within the confines of the rings that held them. But they were never to be removed.
Sir, - In his comprehensive treatment of the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, Stephen Rosenberg omitted two very plausible and, in my judgment, very likely possibilities ("Two tablets or one?" February 1).
1. There were two identical tablets, each inscribed with the entire Ten Commandments. As was then the practice with important treaties, two copies of the covenant were made, one for each party, God and Israel. We know that the treaty between the Hittite king Hattusilis III and the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses III, ca. 1270 BCE, was inscribed on two tablets of silver, one for each side.
2. Perhaps the words on the tablets were inscribed in the new proto-Canaanite alphabetic script (precursor of Hebrew) which had been developing about that time and in that area. In its early stages this script was still partly pictographic and could have been written in any direction in the manner called horizontal boustrophedon (you start writing from right to left, then the next line is left to right, and you keep alternating).
Perhaps this is what aroused the wonder of the text, and why it was called "the writing of God."
Bar Ilan University
Sir, - Re "25% of J'lem home sales are to foreign residents" (February 2): The fact that so many properties are being sold to foreign residents is quite unsettling. This means that new olim as well as Israelis, particularly young families who would like to purchase an apartment in Jerusalem, are being priced out. Perhaps just as important is that these foreign residents are not contributing to the daily economic flow of the city but creating a "ghost-town effect" in our nation's capital.
I suggest that the government impose a hefty purchase tax and much higher municipal tax rates on these purchases, so that those of us living here full-time can afford to buy homes in Jerusalem and keep it vibrant.