(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - Thank God for Larry Derfner! At last, a voice of reason ("A new, unfair Israeli demand," November 22). With cries everywhere to not give back anything, he tells us why we should and must return the land over the Green Line to the Palestinians. Assuming, that is, that we really want a possibility of peace.
Even Menachem Begin would have realized that. Shmuel Katz perhaps not, but then Shmuel was always a little to the right even of Begin. Still, far Right or not, it's good to see his stuff once more ("The looming danger of Annapolis," same date).
Sir, - Gush Etzion is in the heartland of our nation, located between Judaism's two holiest cities, Jerusalem and Hebron. If we do not have the right to live here, Mr. Derfner, then where exactly in the world do we have the right?
Sir, - P. Yonah's November 22 letter ("Jerusalem needs a unique solution") describes the real possibility of his having been harmed in the Arab Quarter of the Old City. However, he errs in citing Jerusalem as the "birthplace" of Islam, which originated in what is now Saudi Arabia. Pauline Christianity also developed elsewhere. Singularly, Jerusalem has existed, been mourned, yearned for and known for millennia as the one and only holy capital of the Jewish people.
While all Jews hopefully desire a solution to be found in the "political arena," it is sadly doubtful that in the three-ring circus of the EU, UN and world public opinion there exists the good sense to enable our dangerous "invisible walls" to vanish any time soon.
Sir, - Dr. Haim Katz misses the point entirely when he compares the ownership of Park Avenue apartments by wealthy Europeans to the feeding frenzy of Diaspora Orthodox Jews on the epicenter of Jerusalem ("Priced out of the market," Business & Finance, November 22).
In Jerusalem, virtually every major real estate development in the city's center is exclusively intended for absentee owners. There is no such parallel in New York. And, yes, there is a domino effect, whereby small shop-owners and providers of basic services are either priced out of the market or bereft of a livelihood, displaced by overpriced boutiques that peck at the eyes of a population surviving on overdrafts.
The malaise, however, goes far deeper. There is a phenomenon today whereby a certain segment of American Jewry looks at Jerusalem as its personal kosher playground. Here they can drop in when convenient; enjoy overpriced restaurants; make fancy kiddushes in their rarely-used million-dollar homes in order to show off their real estate swag; and then go home to Lawrence or Englewood without ever making any real investment in Israel, the kind of investment that involves genuine risk and commitment.
The children of such people come to Jerusalem for a year or two after high school. An entire industry of overpriced, underperforming "yeshivot" caters to their whims without imparting even minimal appreciation of Israel in terms of familiarity with the land, let alone recognition of the fact that their Israeli counterparts are in uniform defending their country, at times giving their lives for it. Instead, these unsupervised boys and girls often disport themselves with a sense of entitlement that is nothing short of galling.
The message this conveys to young Israelis goes far beyond "Abandon ye all hope of living in your own city." The message is that a galut Jew and his children can exercise an ownership attitude which requires no real commitment, and that easy money buys American 18- and 19-year-olds the right to flash their lavish allowances, behave inexcusably in the city's streets and cafes, and look at the soldiers who defend their "Disneyland" as if they were invisible.
The entire phenomenon of such tourism needs to be more closely examined. The so-called yeshivot should be scrutinized. Standards should be set for what they teach and what values they impart. And the nouveaux-riche parents should be taxed for their assets here to the extent that they feel the pain a bit, too.
And, yes, through proper legislation, they should know that these taxes are being used to build affordable housing for those to whom Jerusalem is not merely a place to visit - housing alongside theirs, not in remote peripheries. (I live in the US, but my son is a soldier in the IDF.)
Riverdale, New York
Kick in the pants for MKs
Sir, - The issue of MK attendance at committee meetings and in the plenum is disgraceful indeed ("Lax MKs and a complex constitution," November 21). The contempt that government ministers and the vast majority of the Knesset members show for the citizens of Israel is a scandal.
A practical solution might be a "watchdog" approach by the press. A weekly summary of attendance at committee meetings, plenary sessions and ceremonial events might be in order, especially on those occasions when foreign heads of government address the Knesset. Knesset and government reporters, aided by an intern or two, could compile the list at little extra cost to each participating newspaper.
The resulting "roster of shame" might be just the kick in the pants these hucksters require to get down to work.
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