letters to the editor 88.
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In praise of Aleh
Sir, - While I laud Frimet Roth's views on integrating disabled children into society ("Institutionalization - even in a 'village' - isn't the answer," June 29), I feel I must correct her on a few points. It appears that in labeling Aleh as an institution, she is admitting that she has never set foot within its doors.
As a mother of a profoundly handicapped boy who has resided in Aleh for half a decade, I can tell you that "institution" would be the last word I would use to describe the place. The love and care the children receive goes above and beyond that which many of the parents are able to provide with their limited physical, emotional and financial resources.
Yes, in an ideal world babies need the love of one caregiver for their optimum development; but what if the only "progress" that baby is capable of is to be able to swallow his own food? Would it not be preferable for that baby to be under the 24-hour watchful eye of an on-site doctor or nurse in case he needs emergency medical attention?
My son was in the emergency room enough times for me to see that home care was not a valid option. But these babies are loved, and they are loved and cared for by people whose job it is to take care of their needs and who are not pulled in multiple directions as are most parents of healthy children.
Perhaps the next time Roth launches an attack on an organization such as Aleh (which was founded by a father of a handicapped child who simply wanted his child as well as others cared for according to their needs), she should take a look inside. Yes, institutions should not exist, but Aleh should, as a sad but valued necessity to parents like me, who want the best for their handicapped children.
Ramat Beit Shemesh
Sir, - Frimet Roth cannot generalize when it comes to handicapped children. All disabled children are not born equal; there are those who can function to a lesser or more degree and there are those who cannot function at all without professional help.
To advocate the closing of Aleh is neither realistic nor practical. Aleh's children are, for the most part, severely brain damaged and as much as we would like to have these children in a community setting, it would be virtually impossible.
'Nam vets are respected
Sir, - I assure you that Vietnam vets are not held in contempt in the US ("For 'Nam vet, July 4 highlights why he left US," July 5). The ambivalence these veterans sense was directed toward a war, not the fighters. I make no comparison, and mean to imply none, between then and now. But the suggestion that Vietnam vets are personally looked down upon or disrespected is, I believe, wrong and inaccurate.
IRA LEE NEWLANDER
Sir, - Your editorial "No vindication for terror groups" (July 5) is absolutely correct.
Ironically, from the Arab and Palestinian point of view even more than from the Israeli, the terrorists have been destroying the (often morally powerful) Arab case and cause from the beginning.
If, in 1948, Arab world hadn't invaded Israel, and, in the 1950s, it hadn't expelled its own Jewish citizens effectively to Israel, there would be no refugee Palestinian population outside of Israeli territory, and no refugee Jewish population from the Arab world inside of Israeli territory, so the overall Jewish population of Israel would be so much smaller than it is that the Palestinians would probably have long been an overwhelming majority in pre-1967 Israel.
Likewise, after 1967, if the Palestinians had practiced a strictly nonviolent program of political and civil rights as equal citizens of Israel, there would again probably already long have been one single political greater Israeli state "from the sea to the river," with an equally or almost equally large Palestinian population.
Palestinian Arabs and their Arab neighbors need finally to realize that warfare and the deliberate effort to murder Israeli children and families have been profoundly and incomprehensibly self-destructive and irrational.
Sir, - The city of Jerusalem should rejoice at having been selected to host the World Gay Pride event ("Religious leaders unite to protest gay parade in capital," July 5). While not gay, I am privileged to live in Columbus, Ohio, a tolerant city in which gays have made outstanding contributions to society.
Among our most talented, friendly and law-abiding citizens, their mere presence in ever-increasing numbers speaks volumes about the rest of us. Their annual parade attracts hundreds of thousands of non-gays as we celebrate both their presence and our inclusiveness.
I can't help but contrast this with (according to news reports) the hostility of three-quarters of the population of Jerusalem and most of its religious leaders to the presence of the forthcoming gay celebration of life and diversity.
What does this say about you? Has the history of Jerusalem not taught you anything about the consequences of hatred and exclusion?
Sir, - While I tolerate the choices others make with regard to sexual behavior, I cannot conceive of an honest way to fit homosexuality into Orthodox Judaism.
And yes, I would prefer that the Gay Pride parade not take place here or anywhere else.
Nevertheless, it nauseates me that violence is being used as a tool against homosexuality. The Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled not because of sexual immorality but because of a shocking abandonment of all of Judaism's interpersonal precepts.
Sir, - One can be for legislation supporting the civil rights of homosexuals without condoning a gay parade. Concern for the emotional health of the children is enough for the police to prohibit any parade - be it heterosexual or homosexual - that flaunts sexuality in a family-oriented city such as Jerusalem. Check out gay parades in other cities.
Parents, can you allow your children to experience a parade that flamboyantly displays sexual lust?
Sir, - I enjoyed the editorial from the Houston Chronicle ("Independence Day," Elsewhere, July 5). But I think you should have given credit where credit is due - to Thomas Jefferson and his founding father friends who wrote this, this being the first part of the American Declaration of Independence.
It would also do us good to read carefully the high ideals which inform this document.
Sir, - I have just read the articles "Dear President Katsav" and "Why Rabbi Yisrael Lau should not be Israel's president" (July 5), both lamenting President Moshe Katsav's attitude toward the Reform movement. What seems to be glaringly absent from both articles is that the writers stand for movements which are themselves exclusive.
If Katsav were to visit a Conservative or Reform ceremony, he would recognize very little, as both movements are almost entirely Ashkenazi in nature and tradition. There is absolutely no place for Sephardi or Mizrahi Jews or their traditions. The Reform or Conservative movements have never made any effort to include the oldest Jewish communities in America and Israel. It is no wonder that Katsav does not recognize them when they pay no heed to his culture, traditions and history.
Sir, - The American Reform and the American Conservative movement are not the only religious streams in Judaism that have the status of being second-class here in Israel. The American Orthodox movement also has its problems. This is reflected in the fact that only a small percentage of those Jews converted by American Orthodox rabbis are accepted here and it was only after a bit of arm twisting that Yeshiva University was finally accepted as an accredited university.
If Steven M. Cohen and Yossi Klein Halevi ("Dear President Katsav," July 5) want the State of Israel to truly understand and to accept the Reform Jew, they must press for a large influx of families to come and live in Israel and establish Reform synagogues throughout the country.
Sir, - Yossi Beilin ("The American Jewish community isn't shrinking," July 2) displays an abysmal ignorance of both America and its Jewish community.
Many years ago sociologist Will Herberg explained that the only hyphenated identity that America "tolerates" is a religious hyphenated identity. One can be a Catholic American, Protestant American or Jewish American - and now a Muslim American - but not, say, a German-American or Polish-American.
That is not to say that all Americans are religiously observant. Quite the contrary, most Americans, for example, do not attend a house of worship once a week. While they may lead "secular" lives, most Americans would not identify themselves as "secular" Americans.
Moreover, why does Beilin think that there are significant numbers of "non-religious non-Jews" who want to become "non-religious Jews"? Does he have any statistics? Are the requirements of conversion by all the religious "streams" in America so difficult as to discourage "non-religious non-Jews" from becoming Jewish.
What is to prevent a "non-religious non-Jew" in America from simply identifying with Israel and supporting it?
Let Yossi Beilin stop flogging the dead horse of his secular conversion idea and stay away from religious - or non-religious - incitement.
RABBI MILTON H. POLIN
Sir, - In "Kassam hits heart of Ashkelon" (July 5), you report that "Hamas's military wing... claimed responsibility for the attack."
I don't recall the US differentiating between the Nazi Party and the Nazi army. Neither should we when it comes to Hamas's and Fatah's "political" and "military" wings.
If they wish to act independently of one another, it should play no role in determining our course of action in response to their murderous acts.