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Calling for a leader
Sir, - Sarah Honig's expose of our "Insane-asylum democracy" (June 8) unraveled the intricate and ultimately tragic consequences of our deeply flawed electoral system. It also posed the question of why anyone remotely decent, honest or patriotic would sully their integrity in the murky waters of political corruption and Machiavellian shenanigans. Conversely , the Winograd Committee, which reputedly will criticize our failed leadership even more vehemently this summer, should hopefully inspire a massive public demonstration demanding unconditional electoral reform.
I believe a successful outcome, such as the Ukrainian "orange" campaign achieved, is definitely viable if and when the proud, talented and essentially decent citizens of our wonderful country shake off their apathy and cynicism to mobilize and congregate in numbers vast enough to force the necessary legislation - before the next election.
Who and where is the courageous and charismatic leader with the inspirational qualities to organize and unite us?
GISH TRUMAN ROBBINS
Too much of these, too little of those
Sir, - I would agree with Norman Podhoretz on all points except his last - reform in Islam and the prospect for democracy. I believe both he and the Bush administration have read too much Bernard Lewis and Natan Sharansky and not enough Bat Ye'or, Ibn Warraq, Robert Spencer and Serge Trifkovic ("A family affair," Interview with Ruthie Blum, June 8).
Crying and fuming over our missing men
Sir, - Thank you, David Forman, from the bottom of my heart for your article on the three soldiers missing from the battle of Sultan Yakoub ("Why Sultan Yakoub matters, 25 years later," June 8). The state has undoubtedly pushed them out of its memory; but many good people still remember.
For 25 years, every Friday night when lighting the Shabbat candles, we mention their names. We pray for them, cry for them and their brave families, and I, personally, absolutely fume every time the media and officials speak only about finding Regev, Goldwasser and Schalit.
If all the People of Israel truly cared and took the plight of all our missing soldiers to heart, perhaps something would move, open, develop. The State of Israel is not doing the job. Perhaps the people have to do it themselves.
Don't stop being Jewish
Sir, - I would like to respond to Natan Pandolfi's letter ("Conversion and subversion," June 8). As a convert myself in an identical situation - my wife and children converted with me - I think I can understand his position. However, his letter proved exactly the point of the rabbis he cited and their commentary on Beha'alotcha. When things get really tough, he shows lack of commitment.
What people make of their religion and of the Torah is exactly that: people's work. Rabbis miss the point sometimes, and so do converts. What really counts is what the Torah states about conversion and the way to treat converts. This is the Halacha.
A convert makes his own covenant with God, just like the Jews who once stood at Sinai. Nobody but God Himself can revoke that covenant.
I've also heard the famous saying that it is "hard to be a Jew." Indeed, for a convert it is difficult to adjust to a different lifestyle in a different community, but people mostly are missing the beauty of the Torah lifestyle.
My advice to Mr. Pandolfi would be to focus more on this beauty and less on what people - including some rabbis - make of it. The commentaries on Beha'alotcha, in my humble opinion, deal with the mixed multitude of converts who converted for the wrong reasons, and not with the ger tzedek (righteous convert).
Mr. Pandolfi: Dissent among rabbis is commonplace, and if you do not feel at home in your community in the US, I strongly recommend you make aliya. In Israel you don't pay $25,000 a year per child for a Jewish education, and there are lots of communities who take the convert, and the Halacha's injunction to love the convert, very seriously.
Don't give up being Jewish. You will miss it.
How Egypt got 'Arabized'
Sir, - Brenda Gazzar's "Exodus II" (June 1) concerning what happened to the remnant of Egyptian Jewry made me recall what happened to a much larger Egyptian Jewish population in the aftermath of the 1956 Sinai Campaign.
My wife and her family, then living in Cairo, were given a week to dispose of everything and leave the country. Fortunately, my mother-in-law had French nationality, allowing them to go to France, and later to Israel, where they arrived after six months. My father-in-law, though "stateless," was allowed to accompany them.
In 1956 there was still a sizable Jewish population living in Alexandria and Cairo, with smaller numbers in cities such as Port Suez. The Jews of Egypt, many of them in professional positions or engaged in commerce, were part of an elite that helped to impart a European element to Egyptian society. Following this mass expulsion, however, Egypt very quickly became "Arabized." It is a trend which continues to this day.
Look beyond Oz For Elon's wide reach
Sir, - I thoroughly enjoyed the two articles about Emuna Elon and the English translation of her 2004 Jerusalem religious-sociological novel, If You Awaken Love ("Unsettling romance" by Leslie Cohen, and "Pride and politics" by Orit Arfa, June 1). Both writers were impressed by Elon's fairness to, and understanding of, the Left and its Palestinian cohorts despite the fact that she is a right-wing settler in Bet El, married to MK Rabbi Benny Elon. Her openness is attributed to her mentor, Amos Oz.
But both articles suffered from a glaring omission, one which would quite simply explain this ability of Elon's: the names of her great and famous parents, Pinchas and Pnina Peli. These extraordinary right-wing public figures brought together, for years, all sorts of people at their Shabbat Yachad events - from Elon's left-wing uncle, Rabbi Avigdor Hacohen and his second wife, a kibbutz poetess, to the Japanese Makuya supporters of Israel, disciples of her father. We went to these events and saw Emuna there often when she was a young girl.
Her husband too comes from an outgoing and great public religious family, that of Justice Menachem Elon. Rabbi Mordechai Elon is Benny's brother. So both she and he had strongly outreaching Jewish and Zionist outlooks from birth - way before she met Amos Oz.
A Jerusalem Jewish Voice
Sir, - Lee and Stan Freeman from England say "Home is here" and describe their aliya as "the best decision we ever made." These words should be enlarged, printed on aliya posters and distributed in every English-speaking country, together with the engaging photo of the couple (Arrivals, June 8).
In a word
Sir, - With regard to the use of the word beytz for gentile: In Ireland we used it all the time. The plural was beytzimer; beytzke was the feminine. Yok was also used, yaykelte being the feminine. Shaygets (male) and shikse (female) were used, but they were derogatory - though most of us did not know so at the time. Lapseh was also used for a female. Except for shaygetz and shikse, I never found out where they originated ("The great divide," Meir Ronnen, June 8).
Sam Ser's article "More than meets the eye" (June 1) mistakenly gave the impression that Fatah al-Islam and Al-Qaida in the Levant are identical, rather than separate militant groups. UpFront regrets the error.
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