July 14: Not without blame

A year ago the residents of Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood were in an uproar when KKL-JNF cut down vast areas of forest.

July 13, 2013 22:03

Letters 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )

Not without blame

Sir, – In“Targeting KKL-JNF” (Editorial, July 11), you note the irony of Arab opposition to the pro-environment efforts of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael–Jewish National Fund. The ludicrous accusations are transparent, but KKL-JNF is not always without blame.

A year ago the residents of Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood were in an uproar when KKL-JNF cut down vast areas of the adjacent forest, citing fire prevention.

The claim was belied by the extent to which trees were razed beyond the stated goal of the cutting, yielding football field sized open areas matching the property lines of abutting streets.

That was more than coincidental for neighbors, who saw a clear plan for future construction in those spaces.

Indeed, a week ago plans were revealed stating that 2,000 homes would be built across the “forest,” including 12- and 18- story apartment buildings. Were the neighborhood’s residents prophetic or just savvy to the wiles of big business, land developers and various other interests? KKL-JNF has an opportunity now to prove the residents wrong. It can state – and more importantly, act! – to oppose destruction of the last remaining green space in northwest Jerusalem. Or, it can feign concern with meaningless pro-environment declarations that will fool no one. We’ll see.


Pious statements

Sir, – The Syrians might finally agree to let the United Nations come in and have a look at the country (“Syria opposition denies chemical warfare claim,” July 11).

Ban Ki-moon, the official voice of the UN, has for more than two years been issuing sanctimonious statements but doing nothing. This shows that the world body is a waste of time and money, and should be assigned to the dustbin of history.

It must be pointed out that an idea like the UN will not work when there are nation-states that are powerful and have their own interests. It would be far more practical to deal with diplomatic power arrangements and leave the pious statements to writers and philosophers.


Poor behavior

Sir, – I cannot comprehend the laxity demonstrated by the police vis a vis extremists within the ultra-Orthodox community (“Haredi soldier attacked by ultra-Orthodox mob in Mea She’arim,” July 10).

These malevolent, vicious thugs are motivated by their revered rabbis, whose every whim and ruling is slavishly obeyed by myopic and frenzied followers who need to be restrained, held accountable and severely punished.


Sir, – While it is true that the young people of any country are its future, when 100 young men almost lynch a soldier in Mea She’arim and 7,000 girls are bused to the Western Wall to deliberately cause trouble (“Thousands of haredi girls prevent Women of the Wall from praying at Kotel,” July 9), what sort of an education are these people receiving to equip them to be our future leaders? I, for one, certainly don’t want to be governed by any of them.


Controversial exit

Sir, – With regard to “The rebellion of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks” (Comment & Features, July 10), leading effectively a religious community requires a range of skills and personal qualities, of which intellect is but one.

A truly effective leader must inspire trust and admiration, display a consistent set of values and have the courage to stick to his convictions – even at the risk of being less popular.

Unfortunately, Rabbi Sacks has fallen short in a number of these respects.

When he was still chief rabbielect, he spoke a lot about accommodating the aspirations of modern Orthodox women, and set up a working party of women who toiled to make recommendations.

As far as I know, their report is still gathering dust.

The most notable episode of Sacks’s engagement with non- Orthodox communities is his refusal to attend the funeral service at a crematorium for Rabbi Hugo Gryn, a Holocaust survivor and widely respected Reform rabbi. Perhaps a true iconoclast would have had the courage to take a broader view of his job description.

Whenever I heard him interviewed on the BBC, Sacks never once made an unequivocal statement in support of Israel. He praised the BBC in fulsome terms for its “integrity, honesty, fairness [and] balance,” when public opinion – the BBC in the vanguard – was becoming less and less sympathetic toward Israel, when there was not a British Jew who thought the BBC’s treatment of the conflict was in any way honest, fair or balanced, and when these perceptions were confirmed by an impartial British government inquiry. I guess that is iconoclastic.



Sir, – Congratulations to Nathan Lopes Cardozo for his well written and enlightening article on Britain’s outgoing chief rabbi.

I am one of the fortunate ones who receives Rabbi Cardozo’s “Thoughts to Ponder” every week, so I had already read this article and said to myself that it should be published. My thanks to the Post for making such thought-provoking articles more widely available.

In light of the tragic behavior of our “rabbis” today (e.g., Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s outburst against Rabbi David Stav, the corruption allegations against Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Mea She’arim rabbis who allow their young men to threaten haredi boys who do army or national service), we need a revitalization of Jewish values. That’s where Rabbi Cardozo has something special to offer.

It’s about time we listen to his voice and make halachic Judaism more meaningful and vibrant.


Sir, – It was most unfair to the next chief rabbi of Britain to write that “with the stepping down of Chief Rabbi Sacks, British Jewry’s most illustrious institution will cease to be a world player.”

Rabbi Ephraim Mervis was a colleague of mine in the ministry in London for many years. He has always been an extremely popular personality and has already made an incredible name and reputation that is known far and wide beyond Finchley Synagogue.

No one in life is indispensable, and every minister of religion or chief rabbi brings his own skills to his vocation. There are great things ahead with this rabbi in control, and many will be utterly surprised.



The writer is emeritus cantor of Woodside Park Synagogue in London

Morsi’s democracy

Sir, – The attempt by Gil Troy to blame the downfall of Mohamed Morsi (“Egypt’s totalitarian democracy as the invisible pink unicorn,” Center Field, July 10) on Morsi’s “political fanaticism along with his government’s economic incompetence” is correct. Yet this is seen primarily through Western eyes that view democracy as an absolute value, as if it were the only virtuous vessel of the people’s will.

Muslim civilizational thought thinks differently. Throughout Arab history, a dynastic approach to governance has been preferred out of a rationale that it has proved to be a better instrument than free and repeated elections in guarding the people’s settled life.

The leadership in Egypt, as elsewhere, is expected first and foremost to be the custodian of the people’s individual social and economic dignity over and above religious beliefs. Hence, had Morsi demonstrated that he cared for the former and not only the latter, democracy could have worked in Egypt more or less as it works in Israel.


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