letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - Kudos to Larry Derfner for "Shades of gray" and to Erica Chernofsky for "Blood brothers" (Cover stories, July 13). Both features transported me right into the field of battle, and I found myself finishing them with a heightened sense of awareness of what it means - the sense of fulfillment and often terrible cost - to be a soldier in the State of Israel.
This was quality writing, almost cinematographic.
Hassidim are Zionists
Sir, - I praise Samuel G. Freedman for his astute analysis of Michael Chabon's "Wandering Jew" syndrome ("Chabon's choice," July 13). He was seriously misleading, however, when he wrote that "all Hassidim are on religious grounds non-Zionist...." As an academic, he should have been more careful and written "hassidim are against the political movement of Zionism."
The Even-Shoshan Dictionary describes Zionism as "the movement which throughout the exile longed for the return to Zion." The Alkalai Hebrew-English Dictionary defines it as: "a) the movement to secure Jewish return to the Land of Israel; and b) the aspiration to Zion."
The Ba'al Shem Tov and his followers who established the hassidic courts - Rav Nahum of Chernobyl, Rav Aharon of Karlin, the list of names fills many pages - all saw the return to Zion as central to Jewish history. Many of them did in fact return in the 18th century, experiencing great hardship in order to come to Safed and Tiberias during that perilous time (the most prominent of them were Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and Rav Nahman of Breslav). The origin of the hassidic name "Twersky" is Tverya (Tiberias), adopted in secret against the will of the Russian authorities. Sixty thousand individuals carry that name today, all of them "Zionists."
It is grotesque that Zionism - meaning the longing for Zion - is being misused to insult a huge community in our midst.
I may add that my maternal grandfather, who was a Gur hassid, kept a photograph of Theodor Herzl near his bed until the day he died, in the city of Haifa. A little less stereotyping, or some serious research, would do well for the cause of unity.
Sir, - The main argument against the cynical anti-Zionism of Michael Chabon and his ilk is the choice of the IDF recruits described in "Shades of gray" and "Blood brothers," who risked their lives and limbs in order to defend this country in the Second Lebanon War. Israeli sovereignty is a fact and will continue to be one as long as there are enough brave men prepared to make these sacrifices.
"Better to die on one's feet than live on one's knees." This dilemma was settled long ago, and the Chabons of this world are fighting a rearguard action of fantasy compared to the gritty reality of our existence as a state and a community.
Rand wouldn't brook Dr. Brook
Sir, - I was first exposed to Ayn Rand's writing and philosophy when I read her books together with my teenage children in the Eighties. Somehow I don't think she would concur with Dr. Yaron Brook's extreme right-wing politics ("'You don't fight a tactic,'" July 13). Like so many expatriate Israelis and Jews living abroad who like to tell us when and how to go to war, Brook completely ignores the fact that war and peace are waged by an army, and this demands the very highest act of altruism on the part of the soldiers and their families.
To defend our country (and unfortunately that means fighting for it), our young men and women delay their studies and their wage-earning, risk their lives, and their parents pay the price economically and emotionally. So when Brooks urges us to go to war, is he planning to bring his family here to participate?
Sir, - Amotz Asa-El ("A tale of two pities," July 13) errs when he states that the "disparagement of public hygiene" began with Ehud Barak. It began when two renegade MKs from the Tzomet Party were bribed with ministerial positions and perks to vote for the Oslo Accord and thereby, tragically, enabled its passage.
Expand that beauty
Sir, - I was happy to read that Naomi Chazan believes that "An Israel that cuts itself off from the plight of refugees - whatever their origins and beliefs - contravenes its most fundamental mission" ("Beautiful Israel," July 13). Maybe in her next column she can urge our government to formulate a "clear, reasoned and humane" policy regarding our own home-made refugees, the evacuees of Gush Katif, many of whom, after two years, do not yet have proper housing, jobs, or schools for their children.
Sir, - What a splendid moment this could be for Sweden, Norway and England! These countries, which despise Israel, could really show the world their humanitarianism and endlessly expressed concern for the Palestinian people by taking in Palestinian refugees. For these noble, altruistic countries this could be "their finest hour."
Prisoners of a 'warp'
Sir, - Sarah Honig's Another Tack columns usually contain some of the most realistic and insightful observations in your weekend magazine. However, in "The Miriam Groff follow-Up" (July 6), Honig displayed a disturbing misreading of the prisoner exchange question.
She wrote about the difficult decisions a government has to make and its need to think only in terms of the long-range collective good without being hindered by a hostage's parents' scale of priorities "warped by extreme anguish." This frightening prescription implies that soldiers (and all citizens as well) can be sacrificed for some nebulous, long-term collective good that is nothing else but an abominable excuse to refrain from aggressively acting to retrieve our sons from captivity.
Let us be honest and painfully state that our leadership, and perhaps much of our nation, is presently "warped" by an extreme lack of anguish that Gilad Schalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are doomed to languish in captivity, like those before them. That is why terrorism is tolerated; why Sderot must learn to "take it"; why our national agenda concentrates on constructing shelters.
If we have, due to a lack of courage and healthy national will, abandoned our soldiers to our enemies, then let us at least have the courage to risk our own safety on their behalf by implementing a prisoner exchange.