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Sir, - Your editorial "How to prevent war" (July 23) in which you assert that Syria "fights peace with Israel with all its might" made a profound observation, Churchillian in its essence and worthy of quotation: "War is eminently preventable, provided that basic steps to reduce its likelihood - by convincing the aggressor that it will be too costly - are taken."
What we teach our kids
Sir, - The focus on that small word nakba in Arab schoolbooks should make us consider the much more important question of how our schools teach Israeli children about the history, nature and ultimate purpose of our state.
A manual entitled To Be Citizens in Israel published by the Education Ministry in 2001 is required reading for all high school seniors, and they are tested on its content. The book downplays the history leading to the establishment of the state and its essentially Jewish character. Jewishness and democracy are discussed mainly from their negative aspects - how they adversely affect the lives of the Arab citizens - leading students to conclude that Israel's Jewish character is detrimental to its ability to function as a democracy.
In the home and in the mosque, Arab children will learn to hate us irrespective of the texts they use. We must ensure that our children develop love and pride in our state. And that must be nurtured in our schools ("'Nakba' reference in primary school textbook sparks furor," July 23).
No hugs and kisses
Sir, - Having read both Noah Feldman's piece in The New York Times magazine and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's response, I am at a loss as to which is the sadder situation - the self-proclaimed "modern Orthodox" student who left the fold, or the rabbi who just doesn't get it ("Stop ostracizing the intermarried," July 23).
While it is true that "intermarriage has grown to approximately 50 percent of the Jewish population," that statistic is inaccurate when referring to the Orthodox. Rabbi Boteach believes that ostracizing the person who married out does not work - says who? I believe it is partly because of such social pressures that, as Noah Feldman wrote of his high school, "nearly everyone remained orthodox."
Intermarriage by the uneducated and unaffiliated is a tragedy that can be combated only through Jewish education. But in the rare exception when intermarriage occurs among those who have had a proper Jewish education, hugs and kisses are not the proper response.
When Feldman is about to marry out, the rabbi gives him a pep talk: "I told him that he was a prince of the Jewish nation," etc. A few weeks ago, in the Torah portion of Pinchas, we learned that the man who brazenly took a non-Jewish woman to consort with in front of Moses was none other than a "prince in his father's house." In that story Pinchas' response was not to invite the couple over for Friday night dinner to sing songs and see the beauty of the Jewish religion!
Feldman feels slighted because his high school newspaper did not print a "Mazal Tov" to him when he informed them that he was marrying a non-Jew. One can only be comforted by the fact of the rabbis stating at the "end of days" people will have no shame.
Sir, - B'Tselem executive director Jessica Montell told Ruthie Blum: "I'm opposed to whitewashing, because I don't think it's in anybody's interest." I couldn't agree more ("Occupational hazards," July 19).
For that reason, I invite readers to look past Montell's general defense of B'Tselem's research and examine specific cases in which B'Tselem distorted Palestinian casualties, questionably portraying many as "not participating in hostilities" at the time of their death. While Montell maintains that "it's been years since the [Israeli] military has claimed our facts are inaccurate," it's easy to find examples in which IDF and B'Tselem accounts are at odds.
For example, B'Tselem reported that Muhammad Hamidan, killed Nov. 16, 2006 in the Nablus district, was not involved in fighting at the time of his death. The army disagreed. Israeli troops had come under fire and "identified an armed man and opened fire toward him," an army spokeswoman told the AFP, referring to Hamidan, a wanted member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Similarly, B'Tselem reported that Wahib a-Dik, killed Dec. 14, 2006 in Kafr a-Dik, was a bystander to hostilities when he was killed. Again, the army disputed this, saying "soldiers had fired at a person who was getting ready to throw a concrete block on the troops from atop a building" (AFP, Dec. 14, 2006).
For several more examples in which B'Tselem's claims are contradicted not only by the IDF but also by Palestinian sources see "B'Tselem's Annual Casualty Figures Questioned" at www.camera.org
Whitewashing B'Tselem's inaccurate data serves neither the interests of the Israelis, nor of the Palestinians.
TAMAR STERNTHAL, Director
Israel Office, CAMERA
Sir, - Isn't expecting Israel to hold to a higher standard of human rights a form of racism? Isn't it saying, in effect, that one expects certain countries or peoples to be morally deficient, and therefore they can be excused their reprehensible behavior?
In education lies hope
Sir, - I am not normally in key with the views of Tommy Lapid, but "Bush's, Peres's, rosy scenario" (July 19) was right on the spot.
The only slight glimmer of hope, which needs to be pursued by the powers who wish to see peace in the Middle East, is education - from birth and through schooling and college - to replace hate with good will, and the destruction of Israel and its inhabitants with tolerant coexistence.
These are the goals that should be set and toward which the peacemakers should direct their efforts, as the first step. Then hopefully, in a generation or two, we will see peace. Anything else is a pipe-dream, and all energy and money expended a complete waste.
Calling Paula Levison...
Sir, - I am interested in locating a woman, probably now in her 70s, who emigrated to Israel in the late 1940s after WW2. During the war my grandparents in Holland hid the girl in their attic during the occupation and saved her life. I am trying to locate her with the hope of reuniting her with my grandmother, who is 93, and also to receive recognition from the government of Israel.
My grandparents really cared about this teenager, whose whole family had been killed by the Nazis. They put their lives on the line by treating her like one of our family.
I am writing in the hope that someone out there might recognize her name - Paula Levison.
I have a blog detailing my attempt to locate Paula - click on www.familybothof.com
...and veteran volunteers
Sir, - Forty years ago I arrived in Israel as a volunteer from England, carrying enthusiasm and a rucksack... and stayed! I feel strongly that this anniversary mustn't be ignored. How many other volunteers stayed and made a life here? What are their stories?
I am willing to hold a reunion here on my kibbutz. Interested? Contact me at 02-5348708.