October 9: Rigid rabbis

The fears of Israel's haredi community exemplify the rigidity and insecurity caused by living in total isolation.

October 8, 2007 20:41
letters March 2008

letters good 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Rigid rabbis Sir, - Shlomo Riskin has again showed himself to be a beacon of light at a time when Orthodox Judaism is trying to escape the bear hug of the ultra-religious ("Defying Chief Rabbinate, Riskin joins Christian Jerusalem rally," October 8). As an American familiar with the Christian community in the US, Rabbi Riskin is fully aware of the positive influence of these Christian groups on American public opinion. The fears of Israel's haredi community exemplify the rigidity and insecurity caused by living in total isolation in a world that has changed because of a real interchange of ideas and personal contact between adherents of all faiths - an interchange that has been going on in the US for many years but has not taken place in Israel. Our rabbinate has not even been able to come to terms with the Jewish Conservative and Reform movements. Unless it wakes up to today's realities and embraces a more liberal attitude to Judaism, making it a livable and dynamic religion, it may find itself ignored by mainstream Judaism. P. YONAH Shoham Leave Torah alone! Sir, - My call to all religious Zionist rabbis fed up with the haredi world: Please do not fiddle around with our Holy Torah, given to us 3320 years ago, nor tamper with it. As our great master, Maimonides, instituted 1,000 years ago in his "13 principles:

  • 8th Principle: "I believe wholeheartedly that the Holy Torah, as today in our possession, was handed down to us from Moshe (Moses) our great leader, in its completeness."
  • 9th Principle: "I believe wholeheartedly that this Holy Torah shall never be transmuted, and no other Torah will ever be transmitted to us from the Holy Creator." True Judaism will survive without competition ("Break the fundamentalist stranglehold," October 1). HINDE FEKETE Netanya Freedom x 2 Sir, - After close to 60 years of living as a minority in the Jewish state, the bulk of Israel's Arab citizens still refuse to participate in even minor public service roles. And this when it would be to their economic and social benefit. What this indicates is that the minority that refuses to accept its status as a minority will never truly be integrated in the state. Thus if there ever comes a day when there is a realistic negotiation for peace, Israeli negotiators should aim to have this Arab population, insofar as is possible, belong to the Arab political entity it is negotiating with. In this way the Arab population will perhaps be somewhat freed of its sense of oppression, and the Jewish state will be freed of a population hostile to its very essence ("Burning bridges," Editorial, October 7). SHALOM FREEDMAN Jerusalem Boos for Bar Sir, - Thank you for sharing Bar Refaeli's comments about dodging her military service: "What does it matter, Uganda or Israel? Why is it good to die for one's country? Isn't it better to live in New York?" She appears to have taken a page out of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's book, as per his Friday speech at Teheran University, reported on Israel Radio: "The Zionists should leave the Middle East and move to Canada, Alaska or any other available land mass" ("Refaeli bars famous friends' visit to Israel," October 3). Way to go, Bar. DAVID KATZ Beit Shemesh Good for Gilat Sir, - Your October 3 edition presented a stark contrast in the value systems of Israeli celebrities. On the positive side is singer Gilat Hillel ("A star is (re)born") who is quick to admit that "I've taken the valuable experience (of performing in the Army band) with me ever since." Totally on the other side of the spectrum is model Bar Refaeli ("I don't regret not having been drafted into the army, because I made out big"). Wow, what patriotism! You reported that Refaeli is planning to move to Los Angeles. I think that would be an excellent move for her; she will fit right in with Paris, Britney and the other Hollywood airheads. JANE S. HIRSCH Kochav Yair Sense and non-sense Sir, - Irwin Cotler's "Ahmadinejad and international law" (October 3) made perfect sense point by point. Columbia's position is understandable because American academia is dedicated to perfect non-sense. The American administration's position is understandable because it is born out of the cowardice of the State Department and the president's lack of moral authority. The UN's position is understandable because the entire institution is corrupt from top to bottom, and bottom to top. The only thing I don't understand is how a Canadian got the high ground on this issue. WILLIAM BRAUND San Antonio, Texas Two refugee crises Sir, - Thanks to Yossi Ben Aharon and WOJAC for their efforts to focus world and Israeli government attention on the Jewish refugees from Arab countries who fled for their lives in 1948 ("Flip side of the refugee issue," October 8). Any negotiation concerning refugees must acknowledge that there are two refugee crises, with possible claims for restitution on both sides. Shame on us that it is Rep. Tom Lantos of the US, and not our prime minister, who would make it mandatory to ensure that any discussion related to the problem of Palestinian refugees address equally the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Is our government listening? R. EHRLICH Jerusalem Temple irony Sir, - Al-Quds Day, commemorated by our neighboring countries this past Friday, is ironic. My worst subject at school was history, and it seems that it continues to be the worst subject of most people. We are continually being reminded that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions. It is holy to the Jews because it was the city chosen by God in which to build the Temple. It is holy to the Christians because it was the city in which the Temple existed, and it was where Jesus allegedly studied, preached and was eventually crucified. Why is it holy to the Muslims? Because it was from the site of the Temple that Muhammad, after his night journey from Mecca, went up to heaven on his winged horse, Burak. Although it does not actually say that he went to heaven from the Temple site in Jerusalem, it is recorded that he went up from the "furthest place" ("al-Aksa") This is assumed to have been Jerusalem, although Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran, while it is mentioned nearly 700 times in the Bible. The Arab name for Jerusalem, "Al-Quds" is a shortened form of the original Arab name for Jerusalem, which was "Bayt al-Miqdas," a name every Hebrew speaker will recognize as "Beit Hamikdash" - the Temple. Yasser Arafat rewrote history when he said that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. How ironic, then, that "The Temple" is precisely the name by which Muslims call Jerusalem ("Rallying for Al-Quds," Photo, October 7). I. SOLOMONS Beit Shemesh CORRECTION In our October 8 article "LA Jews, MK Erdan to mark Menachem Begin's legacy," Herzl Makov was incorrectly identified. Makov is the chairman of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. We apologize for the error.

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