letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - Most Israelis have no clear understanding of what the president did or did not do. This may even still apply to those deciding on his indictment. But almost all of us have already formed an opinion.
While the accusations are repulsive, even more so is the release by the police and other agencies of what may or may not be going on - a cheap way of currying favor with the media or besmirching a man's character while a difficult and sensitive issue is being investigated.
If the accusations are valid, a trial will reveal all the squalid details. If not, they aren't our concern. Some of us here have learned that keeping one's mouth shut is a virtue; clearly many in the government have not.
While the media may publish them, the stories originate with agencies whose duty is to protect the privacy of those they deal with. They have failed miserably. They need to be investigated as well - without leaks ("Police recommend Katsav be charged with rape," October 16).
Short and sweet...
Sir, - Natan Sharansky would bring to the office of president a large measure of dignity that is lacking today. He would not bring any political baggage, as would Ruby Rivlin on the Right, Collette Avital on the Left, and even Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who would be mired in the country's religious-secular problems.
Though Sharansky is of short physical stature, he is virtually a giant among the people of Israel! ("Draft Sharansky for president," October 16.)
HAIM M. LERNER
Sir, - As Irving Greenberg indicated, Sharansky is a true hero of the Jewish people and of freedom- and peace-loving mankind. He is also a person of great wisdom and intelligence, whose understanding of the Israeli and world situation is second to none.
With his great humor and capacity for connecting with others he would help keep the peace at home and be the best possible ambassador for Israel.
Sir, - Rabbi Greenberg's outstanding recommendation has little chance of being heard amid the corrupt political system we live in. We must remember that the previous Knesset chose Moshe Katsav over Shimon Peres; likewise uninspiring chief rabbis.
The system requires urgent and meaningful change, often discussed but not enacted. As matters stand, the Knesset will most probably elect Ruby Rivlin, who was a capable Speaker but lacked Sharansky's charisma.
Let's hope for a miracle, some political courage and the backing of Binyamin Netanyahu, a close friend of Sharansky.
...no, rather sour
Sir, - Those who describe Natan Sharansky as both dissident and aliya activist are applying a contradiction in terms. Soviet dissidents wanted to change the regime; refuseniks who applied to leave for Israel were exercising their constitutional right to return to their historical homeland.
Sharansky played the field and actually jeopardized the aliya movement. To ensure his eventual release the world Jewish community decided to keep his name in the forefront as a "refusenik" who had been wrongfully sentenced.
He is a failed politician, having no following among former Soviet olim. To describe him as a statesman on the basis of a book and an extensive PR campaign arising out of a prolonged lecture tour in the US after his release is fatuous. While he is very good at self-promotion, to many he is not the man of the moment and to appoint him Israel's No 1 citizen would be a grievous error.
I'd rather see that title bestowed on Lova Eliav or writer Amos Oz.
Soviet Jewry Activist 1969-89
US teens in our yeshivot
Sir, - While Rabbi Shmuley Boteach recognizes the problem, he fails to understand the different factors that contribute to the free rein teenagers enjoy in Jerusalem, and offers no real solutions ("Falling into the gap trap," October 12).
For one, the countless bars and cheap liquor - available for the first time to 18-year-olds from America - entices them to experiment. There wouldn't be such a crowd of young decadents on Ben Yehuda if the bars didn't cater to this crowd or if the city didn't allow such a nightlife culture to thrive.
Secondly, the yeshiva system in America creates these kinds of kids by leaving their religious education to be completed with the celebrated "year in Israel." The high schools expect the Israel experience to instill those religious values they neglected while busy focusing on secular studies and college preparation.
Thirdly, parents must recognize that they are part of the problem. By not regulating their children's spending habits and not maintaining a stable interaction with their lives, they give tacit approval to their behavior.
Finally, not all yeshivas in Israel cater to students with a firm desire to better themselves during their year here, which Rabbi Boteach does mention as contributing to the problem. However, these yeshivas specifically target these kids to save them from losing their yiddishkeit completely. Leaving them to attend college in America won't stop them drinking and partying, nor will locking them into the study hall every night.
What Rabbi Boteach fails to realize is that by year's end most of these students will have grown out of their youthful indiscretions, decided to internalize what they have learned, and look at their past experiences with disdain.
Judge them not by how they act at the beginning, but by how they come out at the end.
Yeshiva Dormitory Counselors
Sir, - Amid all the publicity regarding Mizo (Bnei Menashe) aliya, including "A miracle of biblical proportions" (October 4), a few words of realism:
This group justifies its coming here based on self-proclaimed descent from the biblical tribe of Menashe. There is, however, no historical evidence to support this. On the contrary, the Mizo, by their own account, hail from China. The Assyrians did not exile the ten tribes to Eastern India, nor to China. Conversion efforts in Mizoram have found a loophole for a modern-day Jewish mission: claiming descent from Menashe.
This messianic claim is not surprising given that the Mizos are themselves recent converts to Christianity. The inability of many religious Jews to recognize these facts can only be explained as a form of romantic naivete.
As a religious Jew myself, I believe conversion should be a sincere journey of exceptional individuals to Judaism, not a process involving entire ethnicities. Conversion recognizes a form of excellence which can never be all-encompassing.
I hope the state authorities realize this and take the appropriate measures.
Sir, - We decry the wanton destruction of our forests by rockets and arsonists, yet contemplate the destruction, by our own hand, of forests west of Jerusalem because the government lacks the political courage to expand our capital eastward.
Better our government should go rather than our forests! ("Safdie to 'Post': Have to build west 'cause can't go east," October 16.)
MILTON J. KRAMER
...from the get-go
Sir, - I have just been to Tiberias, and went through the bus station there. To my amazement and amusement the places where the bus stops are located ("gates") were marked "Get 1," "Get 2," "Get 3," and so on. Where do they find these hopeless abusers of English?
Until the signs are altered I can only suggest that anyone seeking a quick divorce (get) hurry along to the Tiberias bus station!
Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar
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