letters good 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Madonna, et al.
Sir, - The participation of Hollywood stars in a Rosh Hashana "Kabbala conference" need not be taken too seriously by observant Jews ("Rabbis react with disgust to Madonna's visit," September 17).
On the basis of past academic work, I can vouch for the fact that (a) a thorough knowledge of Aramaic as well as Hebrew is required to study midrashic literature, let alone Jewish mysticism; (b) even such knowledge does not enable most people to fathom the Zohar's difficult Aramaic text; and (c) only a few erudite non-Jews such as Johannes Reuchlin and Guillaume Postel have ever attained some understanding of the Kabbala.
The notion that Madonna and her friends are equipped to study Jewish mystical texts, and in an inadequate English translation, is therefore ridiculous.
If, on the other hand, gentile celebrities choose to learn Hebrew, come to appreciate Judaism and demonstrate their support for Israel, who are we to object?
GABRIEL A. SIVAN
Former Deputy Editor
The Encyclopedia of Judaism
Sir, - Shimon Peres made time in his busy schedule to meet with pop diva Madonna for nearly two hours to discuss "how to advance the peace process." If the president wishes to take advice from a non-expert, I suggest he listen to the average Israeli taxi driver, whose views would at least be formed by knowledge of the region and the subject ("Madonna meets Peres, heads up all-star Kabbala celebration in TA," September 16).
Sir, - Q. What's the difference between Madonna and Shimon Peres? A. Madonna wears tefillin and visits the graves of holy rabbis.
Bridge to nowhere
Sir, - For more than four decades I have been involved in building business relations between Israeli and Arab businessmen, nationally and internationally. I believe that true peace with our neighbors will come via economic powers. In 1994 I was one of the founders of the Israel-Jordan Chamber of Commerce, and I do my best to promote business relations and make things happen in this direction.
I know of many Israeli commercial firms and companies that are keen to establish working business relations with their counterparts in the neighboring countries, especially Jordan. And as a businessman, I am aware of the most vital tool to establish such relations - personal meetings between the parties. It is thus most unfortunate to confront the reality that it is almost impossible for a Jordanian businessman to get a visa to visit here and meet his or her Israeli counterpart.
I have tried to help businessmen cross that bridge (literally); to no avail. So many times visa applicants are refused for no reason, or rejected without a reason being given. So many times applications simply get lost in the most complicated bureaucratic process. The end result is always the same: Applicants lose interest, both sides lose potential business, and the worst of it is that, at the end of the day, the trust and peaceful relations between our two countries are jeopardized.
One common solution to the problem, suggested by the Israeli authorities, is for the Israeli businessman to fax the Israeli embassy in Amman, recommending it grant a visa permit. Such faxes were often sent with my warmest recommendations and explanations; all in vain. I've also tried speaking with our ambassador in Amman, but this failed to allow my counterpart to visit me in Israel. In a very few cases, the Jordanian visa applicant is asked to deposit his passport at the Israeli embassy for a period of 45 days prior to getting any response at all.
With such an attitude, no wonder Jordanian businessmen get the message and stop applying for visas.
I am surprised at the lack of action by our Foreign Ministry, which should clearly be following the declared political vision and creating the very basic tools to allow it to materialize. My own experience has led me to the conclusion that the ministry has neither the will nor the ability to change the situation.
The peace treaty signed between our two countries was aimed at normalizing business ties also. But our government does not seem interested in genuine normalization ("'It is possible to correct the future,'" September 12).
Israel-Jordan Chamber of Commerce
Sir, - The Kassam rocket that struck the Zikim army base, injuring 66 soldiers, should serve as a wake-up call to all those who think Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert have a handle on things. No matter what our wishy-washy response may be now, the Palestinians have proven, once again, that this government's mad rush to create a Palestinian state is based on purely political considerations and not on the realistic situation on the ground.
Does anyone really believe that Olmert will get better at his job if we keep him in it longer?
"Throw the bums out!" was an American slogan for clearing the slate. Our leaders are not bums, but they should definitely be thrown out before their Kassam-friendly policies destroy more than just the fabric of the country ("Less panic, more solidarity," Editorial, September 16).
Sir, - Re "Seven killed in accidents over holiday weekend" (September 16): I suggest that there be draconian punishment for traffic offenders.
My own daughter twice got a ticket and an NIS 800 fine for driving 140 km. an hour. I thought the first fine would have convinced her not to speed, but it didn't. I wonder what effect the second ticket and second fine will have. This is after her parents' admonishing her all the time not to speed.
Now we've taken the law into our own hands, and said: "One more speeding ticket equals no more car."
Money, not chickens
Sir, - Animal protection groups in the United States are urging rabbis and other members of the Jewish community who perform the kapparot ceremony prior to Yom Kippur to use money instead of chickens in a spirit of kindness and compassion.
Rabbis met in New York City on August 6 to discuss concerns about the ceremony, including disease risks and mistreatment of the birds. The suffering of kapparot chickens in Jerusalem, New York City and elsewhere is appalling.
Responding to the many complaints our group has received, we published a brochure entitled "A Wing & A Prayer: The Kapparot Chicken-Swinging Ritual." It's available in print and on the Web at www.upconline.org/kaparos/upckapparot.pdf
KAREN DAVIS, President
United Poultry Concerns
Scotland has no more Rabinowitzes
Sir, - Re "Diaspora delights" (Ronda Robinson, Rosh Hashana Magazine, September 12): When my wife and I made aliya in May 2006, we were the last Rabinowitzes in Scotland.
My late father, Zelig Rabinowitz, used to tell the story of a man called Rabinowitz who changed his name first to Robinson, and then to Robb. Friends said: "We can understand why you changed from Rabinowitz to Robinson; but why from Robinson to Robb?"
The man answered: "When my name was Robinson and people asked me what it had been before, I had to tell them it was Rabinowitz. Now I can tell them it was Robinson!"
I have had many laughs from that story. But, alas, there are no more Rabinowitzes In Scotland.