(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - "Forgotten heroes" (June 15) recounting the story of the Exodus and the proposed reunion of its surviving passengers, noted that three of the passengers were killed in the confrontation with the British, who boarded the ship while it was still out at sea. One of the three killed, William (Bill) Bernstein, was not a passenger but a member of the American volunteer crew. Bernstein, a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, was Second Mate of the Exodus.
Like so many other Aliyah Bet ships of the 1945-48 period, the crew of the Exodus was comprised mainly of Jewish American volunteers. William Bernstein was one of the earliest of the overseas volunteers, Aliyah Bet and Machal, to die in that period and the War of Independence
Wrestling on the beach
Sir, - Samuel G. Freedman's "Pro Wrestling" (June 15) brought back powerful and nostalgic memories as I recalled individuals and events from as far back as the mid-1940s. Amateur wrestling, as distinct from professional wrestling, was - particularly in the Transvaal, South Africa - dominated by Jewish and Afrikaans athletes. It must be borne in mind that before becoming professional, a wrestler was an amateur.
One name in the professional ranks that I recall was Abe Wiseman, a member of the well-known Snoyman family of Johannesburg. Through the influence of Maurice Smith, Durban's top promoter, I invariably gained admittance to City Hall as a bouncer at one of the doors. Another name that comes to mind, but perhaps a decade earlier, is Bullet Myers.
I recall with particular sentiment one occasion when we were paid a visit from Israel by the "Wrestling Rabbi." I made it my business to befriend him, and I can never, ever forget how, one Sunday afternoon on Durban's North Beach, the crowd of bathers formed a ring and the rabbi and I gave a well-received demonstration of amateur wresting.
I am, of course, referring to Rabbi Raphael Halperin - and should he perhaps read this letter, I would like to say hi and kol hakavod.
At least listen to Burg
Sir, - Neither Sarah Honig ("Wicked wandering weeds," June 15) nor Amotz Asa-El ("Avraham Burg's French concoction," same date) appear to have seen the useful service Avrum Burg has done. One does not have to agree with Burg's assumptions, but has to see that a whole new argument has entered the arena and must not be thrown out without examination and serious argument. We here in Israel tend to dismiss ideas that are different.
A friend told me 20 years ago that the Jews cannot run a state - a fact I have yet to see refuted.
Majdi Halabi, missing soldier
Sir, - Re "Why Sultan Yakoub matters, 25 years later" (June 8): As reported about two months ago in a two-page spread in your Metro weekend supplement, there is another missing IDF soldier - who has, sadly, been all but forgotten. His name is Majdi Halabi, and he's an Israeli Druse who disappeared at age 19 on May 24, 2005, from the IDF base where he was doing basic training.
His name must be added to the list of missing IDF soldiers; and to our prayers.
Why we must love the convert
Sir, - If I met Natan Pandolfi ("Conversion and subversion," Letters, June 8), this is what I would say to him:
You did not convert because the Jews you met or heard of are perfect saints, and you did not convert because every Jew is always right in everything he says - and that includes Rashi.
Jews have absorbed many more insults and suffered much deeper disappointments than the one you describe, and I really do not see any reason for you to put your conversion in question - it is a very admirable step.
We have a commandment to love the convert, because he deserves it.
This is democracy?
Sir, - Re "Democratic disorders in Israeli society" (June 15): Naomi Chazan bemoans Israel's fragile democracy and its citizens' lack of faith in its governmental institutions. We are told that we are a democracy because every so often we go to the polling booth and elect our leaders. Here are some of the problems:
It began when Yitzhak Rabin declared that "It is unthinkable that we will descend from the Golan," then, when elected, negotiated for that very thing. Almost every prime minister since then has said one thing and behaved diametrically opposite to his platform. It went from the welcome of the terrorist PLO to Israel, engineered by bribing two opposition MKs, to the Gaza disengagement when Ariel Sharon - who had stood against the idea of unilateral disengagement from Gaza and was elected on that platform - made a 180-degree turn and proceeded to unilaterally disengage from Gaza (done, many people believe, to distract attention from his purported wrongdoing).
Sharon promised to respect the vote in the Likud on disengagement - then calmly broke his solemn word. He sacked ministers in the cabinet who were against his proposal. To Kadima flocked Likud and Labor self-seekers, abandoning their principles.
Add to that the childish stupidity of Haim Ramon, the accusations against the last two presidents, the corruption uncovered in the highest ranks of government and civil service, a Supreme Court more interested in the international media than in what is good for Israel that sometimes interprets laws in a manner directly opposed to what the Knesset legislators intended.
MKs stay comfortably in their Knesset seats, hanging on for dear life to their titles and salaries, and hang the country. Does any one know what has happened to the Pensioners Party? Its leader is now a minister sitting complacently in the government, having forgotten the pensioners who elected him.
Voters cannot thus really be blamed for holding our so-called leaders and their interpretation of democracy in contempt. What is the point of the ballot box if you cannot believe for one moment what those leaders say, or trust how they will act?
Sir, - Re "Forget being PC, catch some Zs" (June 15): Amanda Dan should stop complaining. I had three children - in 1955, 1957 and 1958 - and managed fine. We had no help. We had to boil bottles for milk, we had to boil nappies, we had to clean our chickens of feathers. My husband was a student and I typed his assignments. There were no parents or family around, but we never felt we had to complain.
It sounds as if this writer is simply spoiled - or maybe has no new ideas to write about?
'Eye' for an eye?
Sir, - Re "In a word" (Letters, June 15): It was common knowledge when I was a child in Leeds, England, that baitzimer, baitzky etc. were derived from the Hebrew betza, meaning "egg." In Yiddish this translated as eye-er and was a euphemism for the Irish gentile who often worked for Jews, sometimes as a "Shabbos goy."
When I was a little boy, a bearded, black-coated emissary knocked at the door when my parents were out. He spoke Yiddish. It was a hot and humid summer's day and I asked him if he wanted a drink. He asked for tay in a glozz - and then for an eye!
Do you know of anyone who was on the Exodus 1947? If so, please contact:
In the United States:
Genya Markon, Curator
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Tel. 02- 623-3225 or 02-627-1930