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Who's the 'jackass'?
Sir, - I am amused by Rabbi Ovadia Yossef's grasp of the Hebrew language and his ability to perform simple word play expected from a second grader ("Rabbi Ovadia Yossef: Secular teachers are 'jackasses,' " Internet Edition, November 23).
My amusement, however, is short lived and replaced by anger at the entire Shas movement who, in the midst of a political campaign, had the gall to advertise a message of Israeli unity: "There are no religious, there are no non-religious, we are all Jews."
Rabbi Ovadia Yossef and his entire following are a bunch of thugs and frauds who conveniently hide behind the Torah.
S. JONAH PRESSMAN
Freedom from fighting
Sir, - When I was about 10 years old in Manchester, England, my late father and I were once on our way to the Manchester Yeshiva for Shabbat morning service when my father, a wise and moderately religious Jew, made the disparaging remark, "You will soon see the rabbis fighting among themselves" ("The haredi house at war," November 20).
I'm all for "freedom of religion" which we have and more so, but I'm also for "freedom from religion" which we do not have at all.
In between the lines
Sir, - Brent Scowcroft's statement concerning the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in the article "Annapolis envoy Jones seen as Obama favorite for national security adviser post" (November 23), contains many positive aspects, such as "putting Iran back on the defensive."
However, it is easy to ascertain that the statement omits a parenthetical item which, of course, is most important to Scowcroft. That item would have had the first sentence read: "Resolution of the Palestinian issue (by means of sufficient Israeli concessions) would have a positive impact on the region. The key to arriving at this conclusion is the phrase 'Palestinian plight.'" There is no mention of the plight of the Israelis whose state's very existence is at stake.
Waiting for an aspirin
Sir, - Judy Siegel writes that "...many Israelis are unaware that the IDF goes all out when it comes to its soldiers' health" ("Healthy soldiers are better soldiers," November 22). But for my sons in the army, the commanders did their very best to ensure that it took the longest possible time just to receive an aspirin.
Another time, one of my sons injured his knee and it took three months before he received a proper x-ray. His base commander told him that he understood the pain, but that he was going to run him ragged, anyway. There are untold numbers of stories of boys ruining their knees in training.
In addition, my son was supposedly the 71st person this year to be bitten by a snake and it was only because it bit him on the thumb that he was saved from more dire results. At the time, the commander ordered a land ambulance instead of a helicopter, and it took a half-hour for a medic to arrive, and another hour for the ambulance to arrive. It was also imperative that his commanding officer appear at the hospital, but he did not.
The high-level positions and training don't address the needs in the field, which are met inadequately, if not criminally so.
The basic military line is that soldiers will be babies, and it's best not to cater to those needs. So, in the end, the soldiers suffer.
Keeping it Jewish
Sir, - Kudos to the Magermans for trying to increase attendance at Jewish day schools in America ("One philanthropist gets it right," November 23). I hope such efforts will extend to Jewish high schools as well. Children who only attend day schools until bar/bat mitzva age, and then go on to public education, are far less likely to build strong Jewish identities than those who continue their parochial education. Studies have shown that the reduction of assimilation and intermarriage is significant only if students continue their Jewish studies through high school.
The strongest influence on a child's development is the role modeling of the parents so if the parents do not actively demonstrate their own commitments to Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people, then they can hardly expect the schools and their children to successfully internalize these values.
The best way to ensure a Jewish future is by raising children in a Jewish environment, at home, at school, and in the world around them. And by making aliya, families can send their children to Jewish schools, saving the tens of thousands of dollars per year that is spent on day schools.
Cut off Hamas...
Sir, - I believe that Isi Leibler outlines a workable strategy for the release of Gilad Schalit, stating, "in the absence of real progress the government should impose a cordon sanitaire on the entire Gaza strip" ("Candidly Speaking: The tragedy of Gilad Schalit," Opinion, November 21).
With Schalit still in captivity, why not give it a go? After all, what can one lose?
Sir, - Isi Leibler proposes draconian measures of collective punishment against the million and half inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, in order to bring about the release of Gilad Schalit. According to Leibler, the inhabitants of Gaza deserve to have their water, electricity and communications totally cut off and to be driven to the edge of starvation. After all, "they have voted for Hamas in democratic elections," so therefore, each and every man, woman and child in Gaza is personally liable to be punished for Hamas's deeds and misdeeds?
In my view, this is a highly pernicious and dangerous argument.
Should Israelis elect a government in February committed to continuing military occupation and aggressive settlement of the West Bank, a Palestinian variant of the "Leibler Doctrine" could easily provide justification for indiscriminate attacks on any and all Israeli citizens.
The "Leibler Doctrine" contradicts international law, which strictly forbids the collective punishment of a civilian population - even when they make a mistake in their choice of a leadership.
It would be for the best of all those involved to stick to the norms of international law - and to bring Gilad Schalit swiftly home by the tried and tested way which human beings have used ever since there were wars: negotiating an exchange of prisoners.
...or just say 'no'
Sir, - Once and for all, we have to say "no" to Hamas: there can be no disproportionate exchange for Gilad Schalit's return. I'm sorry for him and I sympathize with his parents, family and friends, but we cannot trade over a thousand terrorists for him. He will have to remain in captivity. The demonstrations and publicity concerning his release are in vain and will result only in strengthening Hamas and weakening Israel.