(photo credit: )
Sir, - Though at first I admired the stand of the seven settler girls who refused to cooperate with the police, two huge problems with their belief system defy Halacha as I know it:
1. We are meant to follow the laws of the country we live in; that the girls do not recognize the court's authority or the country's laws means they absolve themselves of any civic responsibility. Those laws also include laws against bodily harm, theft, etc. Do they hold themselves above these laws as well?
2. The girls' failure to unequivocally denounce the murder of former PM Yitzhak Rabin demonstrates their lack of Torah education. Even kindergartners know that "Thou shalt not kill" is one of the Ten Commandments. We place the highest value on life; it's what differentiated us from the pagans of the time when the Torah was handed down to us. God knew the mortal mind's capacity to justify even the most heinous crimes. "Do not kill" means just that - there is no caveat: unless you have a really, really, really, good reason.
The girls' failure to take a stand for our strongest Torah value lost them all credibility in my eyes, and showed them up as hypocrites. Have their rabbis not taught them better than this? ("What would Rav Kook say?" Matthew Wagner, January 25.)
Sir, - Why do we give a hoot about not ceding any part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians? Would they have ceded one square centimeter to us had they won the Six Day War? Assuming, of course, that any Jews were left alive to make a claim ("We are in Jerusalem!" Natan Sharansky, January 10).
JOCK L. FALKSON
Bang for the buck?
Sir, - I most heartily agree with Saul Singer's "Worry about the right things" (UpFront, January 25). His pieces always express a balanced analysis of the subjects he discusses, and the measures he recommends never go to the extreme. He and Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, who spoke at the Herzliya Conference about his brainchild, the Copenhagen Consensus, are to be commended for their effort to rearrange priorities. The remedies prescribed for the world's ills are very much to the point. But there are several flies in the ointment.
First, AIDS prevention and malaria control involve hard, monotonous and often dangerous work in isolated, unglamorous localities. Almost by definition, this work can be done only by young, unattached people, and for a limited period. Those doing the admirable work in these fields do so, to the best of my knowledge, mostly on a voluntary basis. Supplying the effort involved in Dr. Lomborg's proposals requires intensive and ongoing recruitment and training programs.
Secondly, this type of work involves spadework, lacks the glamour of discovery and invention, and does not lead to recognition and fame. And in the long term, volunteering is insufficient; recruits to this work will be found only in return for generous compensation.
Human nature being what it is, people will always be attracted to the new and exciting, and the incentives needed to counter this may be quite high. I do not know if Dr. Lomborg has factored all this into his reckonings, but it is my feeling that the "bang for the buck" will be considerably reduced.
Turning to the local scene, Mr. Singer's proposal to intensify the war on speeding hit the nail very firmly on the head. Contrary to the above, this effort can be implemented by the not unreasonable expansion of existing agencies, and it requires only the will, imposition and enforcement of strict penalties.
The untreated question
Sir, - David Forman's history of the Altalena affair was a bit off the mark ("Israel's fifth column," UpFront, January 18). His chronology was skimpy, misleading and ignored certain elements.
Already on May 15, after midnight, Menachem Begin informed Yisrael Galili, of the new Defense Ministry, of the existence of the ship Altalena and even suggested that the Hagana purchase it. On May 17, Mossad agent Z. Schind informed Galili that they had been aware of the ship's existence for some time and suspected the British knew of its existence. The chain of events as described by Forman implied that David Ben-Gurion was surprised only on June 11; which was not the case.
But, more important, Forman wrote that "Begin refused to respond to the ultimatum, making a clash inevitable; whereupon Ben-Gurion issued the order to open fire on the Altalena."
It would be more correct to have written that faced with an ultimatum which contradicted the terms of the agreement Begin had concluded with Galili to land the boat at Kfar Vitkin, Begin sought to communicate with Ben-Gurion. IDF troops then opened fire at Kfar Vitkin beach, killing two Irgun men, whereupon the Altalena upped anchor and set sail for Tel Aviv. There, Palmah men opened murderous fire on the ship and at men swimming in the water.
Fourteen more Irgun men were killed at that location by small-arms fire. Ben-Gurion then ordered a cannon to fire on the Altalena, even though Begin had withheld return fire from the boat.
In writing "While there is much debate as to whether the confrontation could have been avoided," Forman avoided the main question: If Begin initiated informing the new government about the ship; had agreed to a major compromise over the distribution of the weapons; had agreed to land at Kfar Vitkin, a Mapai moshav, and almost 90 percent of the arrivals had disembarked and already set off for Netanya - why did Ben-Gurion need to use military force, seeing Begin had proved that, in deliberations, he was willing to seek national unity?
Could it have been that he was seeking to destroy Begin and the Irgun as a political force, or even eliminate Begin altogether?
Tie dollar to gold
Sir, - I read "Dollar slump is national disaster" (January 17) and am very worried about the unhealthy mix of the US dollar's recent drastic decline, coupled with the drastic rise in America's national debt, which now exceeds nine trillion dollars.
I am as patriotic as many Americans, but this situation cannot continue much further without a catastrophic economic depression. I believe the only solution is a stable currency backed by gold, with minimal debt.
JAMES A. MARPLES
My Ecuadorian friend
killed in Israel
Sir, - The only thing I wanted to do was say to my parents, "I am OK, please don't think the worst about the situation."
"My life as a volunteer on a kibbutz has been the best decision of my life," I said to myself before hearing, suddenly, the news that an Ecuadorian compatriot, someone from my dear country, had been killed here, near the Gaza border ("Sniper kills kibbutz volunteer," January 16).
We are volunteers, we came here to have a new, good experience and give our help to Israel; also to see that famous city - Jerusalem - that most Latin Americans, who are Christians, want to know about. And nobody knows how important it was for me the first time I stepped off the plane into Ben-Gurion Airport that day in September 2007.
Israel is the perfect place to visit and to live, and I don't understand the reason for the war. Every day I talk with Israeli people, and what I know for sure is that they only wish for peace.
Now, a friend of mine has died. I knew him for maybe two months. He arrived after me at Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha - the place where he died - and, ironically, the only thing I knew when I talked with him was that he came here to find "peace" in his life.
What I couldn't imagine was the reaction of his parents when they picked up his body at Ecuador's Quito Airport, only a couple of days before his birthday ("Remains of kibbutz worker flown home," January 20).