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Sir, - "Listen up, class, this is important" (David Horovitz, October 19) missed a major factor in the deterioration of our schools: that vast bureaucracy which is the Ministry of Education.
As a lawyer in private practice, I have occasion to do business with any number of government offices and ministries. None, repeat none, is as awful as Education. I can run around to the various land registration tabu offices and represent debtors to the various tax authorities and be treated with far more respect and professionalism than in the Ministry of Education. Your readers may be surprised to hear this, but I had a far more efficient and businesslike interface with the infamous and now-defunct Religious Affairs Ministry while representing a Conservative synagogue than when trying to represent the parents of English-speaking "dovrei anglit" children in the Ministry of Education. This ugly, rapacious behemoth swallows up generous government funding while the teachers, schools and children go without.
Those who wonder why the schools are out of money need to be told how much is supporting how many hostile bureaucrats who will never set foot in a classroom.
...that's Education for you!
Sir, - As a teacher in Israel for the past 27 years and a teacher-counselor for the past five, I have heard many complaints about my colleagues, some justified, some not. To understand someone, they say you have to walk a mile in their shoes. I will take you on a short jaunt:
If teachers were paid a fair salary, they would not have to give private lessons in order to be able to put food on the table. If they had fewer students in their classrooms, maybe fewer of them would need private tuition. If teachers were shown the respect they deserve by society (reflected in respectable wages) maybe the kids would show them more respect.
People who do not teach have no idea of how many hours a good teacher invests: all they see is the time school begins and ends, and those "lovely long vacations." They do not see all the marking, planning, preparing and searching for the perfect activity that will challenge the brightest yet not frustrate the slowest.
A good teacher never stops learning, training, investigating, helping, experimenting. A good teacher is constantly on the lookout for authentic, exciting things from the real world to bring into the classroom. Can all this be done from 8:30-14:00?
Finally, who do you think will be willing to do the job? Woefully few young, bright people are going in for teacher training, and those who do often drop out after a year in the classroom because of the reality, or are so idealistic that they are willing to carry on.
Thank heavens we still have some of those.
Putin likes it hot
Sir, - Herb Keinon suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin perceives sanctions against Iran merely as being against Russia's "economic interests." But it's much more than a few construction contracts.
A shooting war in the Middle East is in Russia's interests. Military conflict would send oil prices through the roof, benefiting Russia while weakening oil-dependent rivals China, India and Europe. The entire mess could be blamed on Israel and the United States.
Putin went to Iran to pour gasoline on the flames, and he did so because from Russia's perspective, the hotter the tension, the better ("The military option is really on the table now," October 19).
Sir, - While the UN does call Shuafat a refugee camp, your front-page article ("Shuafat area residents split over plan to divide Jerusalem in two," October 21) carried a photo that could have been taken in any city in Israel: lots of relatively new cars, air-conditioning motors - and not one tent in view.
This picture was typical of a back street in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Tiberias or Hadera, or even Petah Tikva. Piles of rubbish such as the one in the corner of the picture can be seen regularly on Petah Tikva's main street most evenings about 9 p.m.
Up or down, it's all the same
Sir, - It is heartwarming that the government is attempting to do something to reduce traffic accidents. But "Mofaz launches new point system as Knesset highlights Road Safety Day" (October 17) sounded like six of one and half-a-dozen of the other.
For many years, the system has been that a driver starts with a clean license and is debited with points for every serious offense. After reaching a certain number of points, he or she is summoned to a few "punitive" lectures. Now, this is to be reversed: A driver will start with a fixed number of points, and have them deducted for driving offenses. Loss of all the points will necessitate a written exam and road test in order to reinstate the license.
I agree with everything else stated by the Transport Ministry via Mr. Mofaz - but I cannot see the difference between punishment by points going up and punishment by points going down.
Lighting up outside
Sir, - "Urinating and non-urinating sections in a swimming pool" was an excellent way of highlighting what is still going on in Israeli restaurants with an outdoor section ("Smoking in public," Letters, October 21).
The law states that there shall be no smoking on the premises of the restaurant except within a completely sealed-off area specially designated for smoking and having proper ventilation. A restaurant's outdoor section cannot be totally allocated to smokers - the law appears clear on that; only a small portion can be sealed off. And that is clearly not meant to be done with a piece of rope, or by designating the left or right side of a narrow walkway between two tables.
Restaurant owners appear to be reasonably adhering to the law indoors. But while aware that their outdoor section is part of their premises, they still provide ashtrays and ignore complaints from customers about smoking.
Inspectors enforcing the law have to this day not been seen by myself or any of my friends, and they have a fortune of work ahead of them. The income from fines levied should be advertised as going for cancer research, and phone numbers posted for the reporting of offenders.
Sir, - So Joey Bishop, the last surviving member of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack," has passed on. Joey was the low-keyed comic who didn't go for the tumultuous carrying-on, but when he did appear with Frank, Dean, Sammy and Peter Lawford, his sardonic humor added a sense of class to this happy group.
The first heavenly meeting of these incredible entertainers will now come to order! ("Comic Joey Bishop, who lent Jewish accent to the 'Rat Pack,' dies at 89," October 21.)
'And the dish ran away with the spoon'
Sir, - In response to your piece about the disappearing sock conspiracy ("Not even a toe-hold on one of life's great mysteries," October 21), I wish to inform readers that the mystery was solved long ago.
The odd socks elope with the teaspoons.