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Sir, - Sam Ser did a nice job covering the opening of the first season of professional baseball in Israel ("Take me out to the ball game," June 29). He should also be credited for reminding us that in baseball one must learn how to lose ("Batters need this prayer because so much of their efforts end in failure.") Thus we may hope that the popularization of baseball in Israel could be a catalyst for more sportsmanlike behavior in our civic and political life.
However, your writer neglected to mention the very commendable fact that the Israel Baseball League is committed to playing a very active season without violating the sanctity of the Sabbath or Holy Days. This is another contribution to sports in Israel, one that many of us have been long awaiting.
Sir, - On the occasion of the initiation of baseball in Israel, perhaps it is appropriate to point out that this gentile American game - which has had much Jewish input, of course - is a very moral game, having many core ethical principles to teach.
It does not count as a score until you come Home (teshuva, repentance). If you run to a base, if you are ambitious, make sure you are "Safe." You are given a second and a third chance to hit the ball. But in the end, if you miss these chances, you are "Out." As high as the ball goes up in the air, if the fielder catches it, the batter is out (Pride goes before a fall).
You can "steal" a base, but only according to the rules, by agreement with the other side.
You don't have to run always. If you are given four balls, you may walk to first base (Justice prevails). If you hit a homerun, or even a double, if there are others who have not come home, you can bring them home (Hesed, or unearned kindness).
Exact records are kept of all your actions: hits, errors, slides, runs batted in. As the prayerbook says: "All your deeds are written in the book." The players get their rewards; but only if they perform (God rewards good deeds).
Mazal tov to Israel baseball. Play ball. Let's pray.
Sir, - Sam Ser did his usual excellent job in covering the inaugural game of the Israel Baseball League. My only critique of its presentation is the choice of caption for one of the photos, indicating that "For many in the crowd, baseball had been relegated to trips back home."
Back home? And what is Israel?
Sir, - While I can relate to being nostalgic about certain experiences in the "old country" like sports, music and food, I feel the line was crossed when the predominately "adoptive Israeli" audience would not sing "Hatikva." While I can understand the 90% non-Israeli players (who included some sporting crucifixes around their necks) not feeling moved by our anthem, there is no excuse for those of us who call Israel home to not want to sing it.
It will be interesting to see if, in the next generation, the players in the baseball league are mainly home-grown; if Hebrew is the predominant language spoken in the stands; if the native-born Israeli journalists understand what is going on - and, not least, if all the players, as well as the spectators, give the Israeli national anthem the respect it deserves. This will be the sign that baseball has become an Israeli sport, and that it is not just an American transplant.
For what it's worth, I wish all baseball enthusiasts much luck with their endeavor.
Sir, - "All available means" (June 29) by Malcolm Gunn on the overcrowding in the Burj Barajneh refugee camp stated that 17,000 Palestinians reside in an area of 1.5 square kilometers (1.5 million square meters). This amounts to about 88 square meters per person.
According to Gunn's figures and the lebanon.com/construction/beirut/program.htm Web site, the camp is, strictly speaking, only about half as densely populated as the Beirut Central District, which was designed to accommodate 40,000 residents on a plot of 1.8 square kilometers (1.8 million square meters, or 45 square meters per resident).
This does not, of course, mean that the dwellings in each location are of comparable quality, only that there is enough land in the camp that they could be.
Ain't no such thing as a 'secular conversion'...
Sir, - Leave it to Archie Bunker, history's most loveable bigot, to put things in perspective.
Those with long memories will remember the classic All in the Family episode where the Bunkers were hosting the late Sammy Davis, Jr. Mincing few words, Archie engaged the entertainer in conversation, of a sort.
"Lemme ask you somethin', Mr. Davis, if it's okay," Archie began. "Well, the thing is, y'know, well, look, ain't nothin' y'can do about bein' colored, that I know - but why'dya go ahead and become Jewish for?"
Good question, Arch, one which millions of others had also been asking. And which, it seems, advocates of liberal and creative conversion would delete from the questionnaire potential converts are asked to fill out.
Sorry, but to make life easier for the three or four hundred thousand non-Jewish Russians now living here does not justify compromising conversion requirements. That would be just one short step from legitimizing civil marriage, paternal descent and other safeguards that would play havoc with the bonds that have kept us a people.
And suggesting that easing up on conversion demands is payback for the cultural and scientific contribution the Russian immigrants are making to this country is nothing short of ludicrous ("Divided we fall," June 29).
Not that the other side of the coin - revoking a certificate of conversion - is any less troubling. After all, once a convert accepts the yoke of Judaism, he/she agrees to live by the laws of the Torah, even if what is being told to the conversion committee is a bald-faced lie. Surely it makes little difference whether or not those laws are being adhered to; after all, for both the natural Jew and the convert, transgressions will be dealt with not in this world but in the next.
If, as our grandmothers used to point out, it's not easy to be a Jew, well, it shouldn't be any easier to become one. And, yes, let's welcome, accept and love the convert. But let the convert, in turn, be aware that with the benefits come obligations. There is no such thing, in other words, as secular conversion.
Which is, when you come down to it, very simple and straightforward. Something even a dingbat can understand.
...but something's got to give
Sir, - Prof. Benjamin Ish-Shalom refers to halachic rabbinic institutions having no solution to the marriages of 300,000 olim who can't marry in the rabbinate.
However, the situation is worse than that, as they cannot be married at all in Israel, where only Orthodox rabbis have the right to carry out such marriages, and they will not accept as Jews those who do not have a Jewish mother or have not been converted by the rabbinical authorities.
It is iniquitous that so many people accepted as Jews by the Right of Return are denied this elementary privilege in their adopted country. The solution to this problem is to allow non-Orthodox Rabbis to perform marriages, and also allow civil marriages. This would then require modifying the law to allow all the offspring of such marriages to be registered as Jews, or better, to remove this classification from the records of the Ministry of the Interior and refer to all Israeli citizens only as such, in the records and on their official IDs.
The article quoted also refers to a statement by Rabbi Riskin that rabbis in Israel have immense political power. Despite this, there are enough voices in the Knesset to approve a bill altering the marriage laws, and to finally overrule this immense power.
MONTY M. ZION