letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - I would like to know what, if any, action is being taken by US and European rabbinical authorities and community leaders against the ultra-Orthodox (and other?) Jews attending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial conference in Teheran. A herem and total, across-the-board condemnation would seem the least of the measures that should be taken ("Zionists abuse Holocaust - rabbi," Elsewhere, December 12).
Sir, - In past op-eds Shmuley Boteach attempted to convince us that he doesn't know the first thing about women. Now, moving on to greener pastures, it seems he's wishing to show that he doesn't know anything about Christianity either ("A religion of life," December 12).
[Judaism's] "emphasis on life is probably its single greatest distinction from Christianity"? Judaism stresses perfecting this world, while St. Paul made Christianity shift to focusing on the perfect hereafter. Christians emphasize the spiritual, the unseen, the intentions, while Jews give priority to the tangible, the deed. That doesn't make theirs a religion of death.
Most Christians also read and believe in the call to "choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19). Heaven and Earth are called as witnesses here, maybe to say: Don't lose sight of either. The Talmud (Kiddushin 39a) explains that the life we should be after is whatever gives eternal life.
We're not that much apart. Overboard polemics obscures the truth of each side.
MOSHE-MORDECHAI VAN ZUIDEN
Feel that zeal
Sir, - Thank "who knows Whom" for sending us an MK concerned for the future of the Jewish people! Zealous MK Paz-Pines wishes to forbid Chabad to lure impressionable youngsters into the bondage of religion ("Bill handcuffs Chabad's tefillin campaign," December 12). Would that he had been around 40 years ago when my kids were reaching their teenage years.
Because we lacked pubs fearless enough to allow our kids entry they were stuck with synagogue youth groups from their most tender years in upstate New York. Now two of my daughters are leading blighted lives as the mothers of 17 sabras and the grandmothers of not quite seven more. Of those 17 two have completed and one is doing National Service, working with teens who have had all the benefits of pubs and drugs. Six others are reservists or on active duty in Golani, Nahal and the Combat Engineers.
If only I had had the advice of this sage lawmaker back then, my offspring and their kids might have been saved for a life of bowling, pub crawling and apple pie back in Schenectady, where they were born.
Sir, - The treatment given Benny Sela after his recapture, as noted in your editorial "Shameful celebration" (December 11), certainly wasn't any worse than that given some of the settlers at Amona.
To fly El Al, or not
Sir, - Avi Krawitz is incorrect when he claims that "the haredi community may have no real alternative but to fly El Al, which will still service its needs" ("El Al Shabbat debate was inevitable," December 12). I have never had any problems flying with other airlines and have generally found their staff entirely understanding of my religious requirements.
I would always choose to not to fly with El Al should it fail to guarantee that it will always publicly observe Shabbat and other aspects of Jewish tradition.
MARTIN D. STERN
Sir, - While El Al might not fly on Shabbat, that does not make it a Sabbath-observing company. It is not uncommon on Shabbat to see an El Al van or bus picking up and dropping off employees in my city, ostensibly going to and from work. Where has the haredi outrage been over this practice that has been going on for some time?
Sir, - Irene Khan, head of Amnesty International, drew the wrong conclusion from her trip to Hebron. She observed that "the whole city seems to have turned itself around to provide security that the settlers need." She decries the negative impact of "a few hundred settlers" on the Palestinian population.
The correct conclusion is that the large Palestinian city of Hebron is so violently racist that it cannot abide a few hundred Jews as neighbors, thus necessitating Israeli security to protect the rights of the minority.
Amnesty International always seems to find Israel guilty of protecting itself ("Charting Amnesty's road to peace," December 12).
STEVE AND MICHAL KRAMER
Sir, - Finally, the government of Israel has shown some backbone by not granting a visa to the UN circus headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu ("Jerusalem, UN at odds over whether Israel blocked Beit Hanun mission," December 12).
If only the government would display that courage more often.
Sir, - Re "Destructive criticism of law enforcement threatens democracy, says Mazuz" (December 5): The attorney-general's mandate is not to defend democracy; it is to enforce the law impartially and to defend justice, in itself a heavy responsibility and, from the Jewish perspective, far more important.
What upsets the public today is Mazuz's transparent use of the law for political ends. For example, his department recently appealed a lower court decision that endorsed Nadia Matar's political right to criticize a government bureaucrat - a minor issue, at best, and unworthy of an appeal by the A-G. On the other hand, Mazuz failed to act against the Peace Now leadership who illegally obtained information regarding a significant government policy and used it to besmirch Israel before the world. In the process Peace Now violated the law against incitement, and very likely committed treason.
Not to brag, but...
Sir, - "Hawking's black hole lecture leaves teenagers in the dark" (December 11, 2006) was unfair to attendees. Your headline, based on the reaction of a few students, does not match the conversations I had with other students who attended.
While none of us, of course, could deliver a lecture like this, we were attentive, generated intelligent questions, and had our imaginations stimulated. Many of those who attended are among the brightest students in Israel. They prepared for the meeting and were intrigued by its content.
While education in Israel might not be as good as it should be, and perhaps we are shortchanged by it, some of us do our best to fill the gaps. Being invited to Stephen Hawking's lecture was a chance of a lifetime - for study, not bragging - and I spent time afterwards describing Hawking's concepts to my peers. I am sure I was not alone in doing this.
The British Council, which sponsored this visit, did not waste its money, or our time. The inspiration Hawking provides to intellectual excellence and exploration, as well as showing us that life's greatest challenges can be finessed, will direct many of us through our careers - as scientists, mathematicians and physicians - and in many other scholarly pursuits.
Holtz Air Force Technological Academy