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Guardians of the earth
Sir, - Shavuot commemorates the Jewish people receiving the Torah, and many religious Jews stay up the entire night studying Torah. Hence this important holiday provides a wonderful opportunity to consider if we are properly applying Torah values:
â€¢ Since the Torah teaches that we are to be shomrei adama - guardians of the earth - (Genesis 2:15), why are we not sufficiently addressing the many current severe environmental threats?
â€¢ Since the Torah stresses that we should very diligently guard our health, shouldn't we consider the many negative health effects of animal-based diets?
â€¢ Since the Torah mandates the avoidance of tsa'ar ba'alei haim - causing unnecessary pain to animals - shouldn't there be far greater concern about the horrible treatment of animals (10 billion annually in the US alone) on factory farms?
â€¢ Since the Torah mandates that we are to share with hungry people, shouldn't we address the fact that 70 percent of the grain produced in the US is being fed to farmed animals, while an estimated 20 million people die from malnutrition annually?
Let us make this Shavuot a time to begin applying Torah values in order to produce a more humane, healthy, environmentally sustainable, just and compassionate world.
RICHARD H. SCHWARTZ
This boycott won't bite
Sir, - While it is very disappointing that the Union of University and College professors in the UK should - again - have adopted a resolution to boycott Israeli academics, it is important that this be used as a rallying cry to academics worldwide that they must voice their support for Israel.
Sadly, the UCU has been hijacked by a minority group of anti-Israel activists and the vote does not reflect the views of the majority of members, who almost certainly will not adhere to any boycott. Many fair-minded people who have not actively supported Israel before now will want to stand up and be counted.
The Stop the Boycott Campaign, Engage and Academics for Israel in the UK will continue to oppose this outrageous union policy. Scholars for Peace in the Middle East have already gathered a large number of signatories to a petition calling on academics to refuse to cooperate with anyone who adheres to a boycott of their Israeli counterparts. Given Israel's unequaled record of benefit to the world as a result of cooperation with some of its top brains, the notion that any intelligent person would want to jeopardize such cooperation is ludicrous.
If I am certain about one thing, it is that I do not believe this boycott will bite. Far from diminishing contact with Israelis, it will lead to more people than ever wanting to increase joint research ("Lawyer promises action if UK academic union fails to rescind 'anti-Semitic' boycott call," June 5).
Cheadle, Cheshire, UK
Inspired by India...
Sir, - It was inspiring to read the warm praise and greetings for our 60th Independence Day from Cherag M. Kelawala of Gujarat, India (Letters, May 13). It is good to remember that amid all the jealousy, hatefulness and all too many ready to condemn us at any opportunity, there is one corner of the world where anti-Semitism is unknown.
India must be one of precious few countries on the globe, if not the only one, where there have been no pogroms, where Jews were never expelled, persecuted or otherwise harmed; where Jews can live peacefully and comfortably side by side with those of other beliefs, be they Hindus, Buddhists or Zoroastrians. Truly, India stands high.
Happily, warm political and commercial relations have developed between the world's largest and smallest democracies.
...introspective at home
Sir, - While reading Yehuda Avner's well-written and vivid "Countdown to the Six Day War" (June 4), I could not help wondering whether our current leaders would be capable of the vital focus needed to face a similar existential crisis, or whether they would be distracted by concern over maintaining their political power, personal image or stock market portfolios.
May God spare us from finding out.
Respect, and its lack
Sir, - I read with disgust the remarks by Iran's president regarding Israel and her birthday ("Ahmadinejad: Israel is 'stinking corpse,'" May 9).
As a Catholic raised in the southern United States, I was taught to respect all races, and that Jews were God's chosen people. Even now, as an adult, I have a hard time understanding the hatred many seem to harbor against Israel.
But we will stand by Israel and her people regardless. What Ahmadinejad and his ilk need to remember is there's one thing the US does very well, and if he keeps opening his big mouth, the US military might close it for him permanently ("Yes: Urgency on Iran," Editorial, June 5).
Spinning out of control
Sir, - When I turn on my television, I see most of our news anchors and their respective guests acting as if they have discovered a new word - "spin." On an assortment of recent news and political discussion programs that I watched, I counted the word used more than seven times during a period of five minutes, by two or more people. These folks are in the business of communication. Can't they be a little more original in the way they express themselves?
It was Bill O'Reilly of Fox Cable News who coined the word, or as good as. Maybe it used to be cool or hip - but enough already. "Spin" has spun out of control.
Sunny side up
Sir, - All high-rise buildings in Israel in excess of nine floors are automatically not fitted with solar heating systems. With the huge increase in high-rise buildings in recent years, it would be very prudent to overcome this major drawback so that we can return to enhancing solar energy and be able to take advantage of this new energy idea ("Solar power companies hail new 'household' energy plan," June 5).