(photo credit: Courtesy)
Building on the basics
Sir, - If Larry Derfner is willing to take five minutes off besmirching Jewish settlers ("The fierce urgency of a settlement freeze," June 25), I'd like to ask him:
1. Why is the world really bothered by Jews living in Judea and Samaria?
If you've ever driven past French Hill in the direction of Beit El, you will see vast empty hills as far as the eye can see, where both Jews and Arabs can live. If the Arabs stopped killing us, they could live peacefully in their settlements while we Jews live in ours.
2. Have you ever driven to Gilo past Beit Tzafafa, which is inhabited by Palestinians? That neighborhood is growing by leaps and bounds and five-storied villas all the way to the Malha mall. No one is talking about a settlement freeze there, and Israelis aren't complaining about this land takeover in that neighborhood.
Why is it okay for Palestinians to build in the Land of Israel, but not Jews?
3. Why has it not yet registered in your mind that the Palestinians today run their own daily lives, with no interference from the Israeli government? The one area where we still govern them is security, and thank God for that.
Sir, - Larry Derfner's argument for an urgent freeze of all settlement building is illogical. He states that the Palestinians accept large settlements housing hundreds of thousands of settlers who won't be moved, so the Palestinians are negotiating land swaps. Yet it seems that building an extra bedroom in one of those settlements is the problem.
Even more obtusely, Derfner imagines that Israel is fighting "to keep the settlers in their place and the Palestinians in theirs."
In her column adjacent to Derfner's, Evelyn Gordon states the real reason we have to fight: "The real problem is... Palestinian unwillingness to accept the very existence of a Jewish state" ("The only state in the world whose existence in deemed negotiable," June 25).
Pressure from America on Israel to shut down settlements won't affect this basic problem.
Sir, - On any given weekday, anyone touring the various towns, villages and cities of Judea and Samaria would see that those most adversely affected by a building freeze would be the Palestinian Arab workers themselves. So in order to help their economy, the Israeli Left and the world should be insisting on more building, not less.
Two Jews, one opinion
Sir, - Larry Derfner's opinions are evidently not popular. In "Leopards cannot change their spots" (Letters, June 21), five readers expressed reservations over his June 18 column "Look who's preaching disarmament."
One stated that "there is practically 'wall-to-wall' agreement among Israelis that a future Palestinian state must be disarmed." That may well be so. In fact, there is pretty well unanimity on most other issues as well.
For example, "We have no partner." "They want it all." "Instead of turning Gaza into a Singapore, they are lobbing rockets at us." In short, "they" should blame themselves for their misery because of the follies of their leaders.
This widespread agreement is by no means a new phenomenon. Forty years ago, almost to the day, two years after the Six Day War, new-immigrant students at the Hebrew University were interviewed. One said: "With Israeli students, Israel has accomplished what the Communists failed to do - institute a uniform way of thinking" ("Czech students in Israel - conflict of ideas," May 28, 1969).
Those were the euphoric years. There was unanimity that "liberated land will not be returned." It was "Rather Sharm e-Sheikh without peace, than peace without Sharm e-Sheikh" - until all that was discarded and forgotten, following the tragedies of the Yom Kippur War.
Today, the opinions we hear are frightfully conformist. Gone are the days of those legendary "two Jews with three opinions."
We need to decide
Sir, - In "Preserving Poland's Jewish heritage" (June 25), Michael Freund seemed to imply it would be good for the Lublin Yeshiva to draw thousands of students back to Poland.
After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, it was resolved never to return there. We have to decide whether our future as a people and a religion is with the ingathering realized in the State of Israel, or with the restoration of Jewish architecture and cemeteries in the Diaspora.
I'm not suggesting that all that happened in the Diaspora of 2,000 years should be forgotten. But the greatest effort of memorializing the past, Yad Vashem, was built in Israel, not in Poland or America.
We revere and study the Babylonian Talmud, but Zionism and traditional prayer and doctrine assume that its laws will be practiced in Eretz Yisrael.
How can we expect the world to recognize the Jewishness of the Jewish state if we keep emphasizing our exile experience?
Jewish Agency's new leader
Sir, - On a cold night in February 1986, we chose to spend the evening outside the arrivals area at Ben-Gurion Airport. Finally, after being imprisoned for many years by the former Soviet Union authorities, Natan Sharansky was coming home. We had seen TV pictures of the beautiful reunion between Natan and his wife, Avital.
Now as they flew to Israel, we believed our place was at the airport to greet them.
A giant TV screen kept several hundred of us apprised of the final moments of the landing, of the meeting with Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and of the cheering in the airport arrivals hall by the workers there, who appreciated what this champion of freedom of conscience had achieved.
Our wait in the harsh night air extended to several hours, but we did not abandon our spot. Finally, Avital and Natan appeared, and we could demonstrate how we, the people of Israel, felt about them.
Although his physical stature was small, we realized as he spoke in his halting Hebrew that Natan Sharansky was a giant of a man and a truly great Jew. Now, 23 years later, we are proud it has been decided that he should lead the Jewish Agency into a new era ("Jewish Agency reform passes in assembly," June 24).
RITA AND DAVID GEFFEN
Let me clarify
Sir, - In "It's about the women" (June 24), I argued that "radical Islam is worse for women than [for] arguably any other group, except maybe for Jews." That is to say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hatred for women is possibly exceeded only by his hatred for Jews.
Unfortunately, due to a badly placed modifier in the sentence, it may have sounded like I was saying that Jews are harder on women than Iran. I did not say that. The rest of the paragraph clearly explained the point.
My essay was clearly about radical Islam and the connection between the status of women and Islam, not about how Jews treat women.
Sir, - It appears to me that Elana Sztokman was referring to radical Islam as being bad for women, as well as being bad for Jews, and not what your letter-writer implied ("Come off it," June 25). I would give her the benefit of the doubt, as nowhere else in the article does she mention women's role in Judaism, or compare Judaism and Islam.