Swings and slides
Sir, - The Jewish world should be grateful to those families with the courage and conviction to call east Jerusalem home ("Don't you be my neighbor!" March 16). How easy to move elsewhere and not have to wake each day wondering when the volcano will erupt - as I'm afraid it must, sooner or later. The catalyst for intense violence could be something as banal as an argument over a parking spot; passions on both sides of the divide won't stay suppressed forever.
I think, though, that the Jewish residents of the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood would welcome coexistence more than the Arabs would. We know about being "guests" of other nations and about the obligation to welcome strangers onto our land. So maybe a toe should be ventured into the surf - or, rather, into that now-exclusive playground. I'd like to think that it hurts the Jewish residents to keep Arab children from the delights of sand boxes and see-saws.
As an opening gambit, why not make the swings and slides available to all? It's a small risk that may wind up paying handsome dividends.
Sir, - David Forman, writing "Making Reform relevant" (March 16) wishes that Reform Jews would make a greater commitment to those aspects of Judaism that are relevant to the Jewish people, and less to pure spirituality. He might have noted that conservative Christians and Jews often take the lead on people issues, which is why they are thriving.
By and large, Orthodox Jews are highly committed to Israeli security, and they were a major force for Soviet-Jewish emigration. Likewise, Evangelicals help to ease the plight of persecuted Christians abroad, as in China and Sudan.
Such parochial concerns may be disdained by sophisticates looking for universal spirituality, but for people who care about people, they are an inspiration, lending passion to their spirituality.
Sir, - Re "Reform leaders plan $100m. for Israeli movement" (Daily, March 15): If the Reform movement really wants to advance religion in Israel it should use the $100 million to make all Israeli synagogues handicapped-friendly.
Chirac isn't bothered
Sir, - Amotz Asa-El's "The life and times of Jacques Chirac" (March 16) assumed that Chirac failed as president. But from the French point of view, he was a wild success. Muslim rioting was not an issue for President Chirac, as officially there are no Muslims in France.
President Chirac has been able to keep France's EU farm subsidy (about $900 per cow). He used the EU to control the Germans and, as a conduit, to claim to be the leader of Europe. Yet, France is a leader in flouting EU laws. This does not bother President Chirac, an advocate of the doctrine of l'exception fran aise.
Unresolved territorial disputes
Sir, - Re Amotz Asa-El's "Nuclear perspectives - the moral imperative (III)" (March 9): The impulse for Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the impending Russian seizure of mainland Japan.
In April 1941 (two months prior to Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union), Russia skillfully neutralized the military threat from the East by signing a neutrality pact with Japan. Thus when the Wehrmacht swept into Russia, Hitler was unable to mobilize a Japanese attack against Russia's rear, despite the provisions of the 1936 Anti-Comintern Pact and 1940 Tripartite Pact.
Nonetheless, when Japan opened its campaign of aggression against the US and Britain in the Pacific and Far East, Hitler and Mussolini gratuitously honored the pacts by declaring war on the US - four days after Pearl Harbor! After cessation of hostilities in Europe in May 1945, the Western Allies were still heavily engaged in the Far East and US Forces were still far from realizing a successful invasion of the Japanese mainland.
However, for the Russians to leap onto Japanese soil was physically an easy operation: Indeed the total occupation of Japan was such a tempting prize that moves indicating imminent abrogation of the neutrality pact were discerned in the summer of 1945 - prior to the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6.
History records that Russian forces commenced their occupation of Japanese territories on August 8 - which they refuse to vacate to this day. The atom-bombing of Nagasaki the following day - which brought about Japan's acceptance of surrender terms on August 14 and the landing of US forces on mainland Japan on August 26 - also constituted a warning to Russia not to progress further with its unprovoked aggression against a defeated Japan. On September 2, 1945, the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay, aboard which the Japanese signed the formal terms of their surrender to the US.
Thus were the Japanese spared decades of the nasty fate rendered by Russia to nations of Eastern Europe.
Three or four?
Sir, - Barry Newman mentioned that the three Jewish former Major Leaguers who will be managing here this summer would not have refrained from playing on Jewish holy days and also had "only moments" of glory in their careers ("What's 'balk' in Hebrew?" March 16).
First of all, there are four former Major Leaguers who will be managing here this summer. Mr. Newman neglected to mention Steve Hertz, who had a "cup of coffee" with the Houston Colt 45s in 1963. He's right, Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax did not play on Yom Kippur; however Koufax's decision was influenced by Ken Holtzman, a young up-and-coming pitcher who kept kosher, at home and on the road as a player, and had a contract clause stipulating that he would never pitch on a holy day. When Koufax was confronted with that, he conferred with many people, and asked to skip his pitching rotation. The two Jewish lefthanders faced each other the day after Yom Kippur, and Holtzman gave Koufax one of the last defeats of his career.
As for Art Shamsky's Jewish consciousness, he too did not play on Yom Kippur. His "moments" included being an integral part of the 1969 World Series champion New York Mets, and batting .300 that season.
Last, Ron Blomberg's "moments" include five out of nine seasons in which he batted over .300. His highest was in 1973, when he batted .329. That year he was the first designated hitter in American League history.
Where I concur with Mr. Newman is that the level of play in this upstart league will not be of a high standard. It was never meant to be. It is on a par with single A minor league (rookie) ball played in the US. The players will earn approximately what the players receive in single A (approximately $800/month). Like their counterparts in the US, most of these players will never make it to the Bigs, but it may keep their childhood dreams alive for just one or two summers, and hopefully expose Israelis to the game of baseball.
Barry Newman responds:
Steve Hertz had a very abbreviated Major League career with Houston in 1964 (not 1963). In stories on the fledgling league and who will be doing the playing and managing, his name is mentioned almost in passing, with more emphasis placed on his current role as the baseball coach for Miami Dade Junior College. So while he was technically a Major Leaguer, it's a trio and not a quartet of former Jewish ballplayers that the league is counting on for legitimacy.
Dr. Noy's cure
Sir, - What a gift to read Jay Bushinsky's article about Yitzhak Noy ("Making housecalls," March 16). Since coming on aliya not a day has gone by without my waking up to Dr. Noy's soothing voice as he reads the day's news - and of course, there's his 3 p.m. review of international news. He has been the best ulpan: His Hebrew is clear and easy to understand. I hope that he hasn't cut back his schedule, because it is true - it just wasn't worth listening to his substitute!