(photo credit: Courtesy)
Who deserves honor?
Sir, - Larry Derfner must have thought he was playing it safe after his astonishingly sympathetic attitude to the roadblocks (September 7). After all, who better or less controversial to nominate as People of the Year than Holocaust survivors currently residing in Sderot? ("The truly needy," September 12.)
Not that his choice is unproblematic. Surely Holocaust survivors endured the Katyushas that rained down on Haifa last summer, as well as the Scuds that fell all over Ramat Gan during the first Gulf War; I have no recollection of them receiving any special recognition or accolades then.
Moreover, Sderot most certainly has more than its fair share of elderly, infirm and poverty-stricken residents who are not survivors; I doubt very much that they're any less terror-stricken as a result of Hamas's actions than those who managed to make it through history's most shameful and darkest period.
So playing it safe is not always playing it correctly.
Well, then, who should receive the honor of being nominated People of the Year? All of us, I'd say. Have we not demonstrated extraordinary reserves of patience and fortitude despite a government that seems paralyzed and incapable of action? Have we not managed to choke back the frustration of having an unqualified and corrupt leadership more concerned with its own well-being than with those it is supposed to serve? And have we not responded quietly to the freeing of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners while three of our brave soldiers remain in captivity?
Yes, indeed, we are truly all People of the Year - though some might demur and point out that our complacent acceptance of what's been going on makes us Freiers (suckers) of the Year.
Sir, - Amotz Asa-El is well known to readers as an excellent columnist. In "Person of the Year" (September 12) he reached new heights with his scathing and insightful criticism of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for holding onto office in the face of his undoubted failure to lead the country in a proper and acceptable manner.
While Asa-El represents "Middle Israel," the following two op-eds, expressing similar thoughts about our prime minister, emanated from a known left-winger, David J. Forman ("Morality test") and an equally well-known right-winger, Sarah Honig ("The driverless state").
I sincerely hope Mr. Olmert reads these excellent articles and draws the obvious conclusions; though I doubt if my hopes will be fulfilled.
Sir, - David Forman's "Morality test" was right on the mark. Not only are our political leaders in desperate need of repentance, but we, who elected them, must demand of them not just atonement, but accountability. Prime Minister Olmert, as the first among equals, should do just as Forman suggests - resign. My vow for this Yom Kippur will be to give us Israelis the strength to demand new elections, with the prayer that whoever we choose to lead us next will possess some integrity and humility.
Hope for change
Sir, - Gil Hoffman, indicating the interest of some forward-thinking MKs in dealing with electoral reform, offered hope that the people's concern for representative government is not being totally ignored ("Power to the people," September 7). Mr. Hoffman and The Jerusalem Post are to be commended for tackling this serious subject.
With the difficult situation in the country, the public, especially our youth, is feeling more removed than ever from the decision-making process affecting its future. Previous large demonstrations in the country challenging the powers that be have been totally ineffective. This has convinced us in CEPAC that the main channel for change can only be the Knesset... the same Knesset where borderline MKs are sure to object to changing anything in the system that might leave them outside.
We in CEPAC offer our assistance to any MK, such as Ophir Paz-Pines and Gideon Sa'ar, mentioned in the article, who are ready to support direct regional elections. We hope that more MKs will join them.
Large numbers have already signed our petition on this subject. To add to those numbers and help CEPAC support the civic-minded MKs, we invite you to join us by signing up on our Web site - cepac.org.il - and encouraging others to do so. For more copies of our petition for distribution, contact Elaine@Cepac.org.il.
We must convince the Knesset to reform itself and thereby become an instrument of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The seventh year
Sir, - Your excellent survey of Shmita ("And in the seventh year the land shall rest," September 12) requires a factual correction. Matthew Wagner writes: "Anything that began growing during the shmita year would be forbidden for consumption."
Just the opposite is true. The Torah requires that fruits of the seventh year be made available, free, to all people - for the express purpose of consuming them. (Indeed, the Ramban, Rabbi Moses Nachmanides, rules that it is a positive Torah commandment to eat them). What is forbidden is "commerce" in these foods, namely, buying or selling large quantities, since this invalidates the requirement that they be made available to everyone (without profit to grower or dealer). However, as Mr. Wagner writes, "sfihinâ€¦ is forbidden for consumption."
Sir, - Haredim have decided to celebrate the sanctity of the shmita year by insisting on eating only produce that has been imported from outside Israel. They are also now adamant about imposing their negative approach on the many of us who look forward to the joyous opportunity to express our connection to the holy land while honoring both the letter and spirit of the seventh year. In view of the above, I would seriously require three certification documents from the haredi importers:
1. Authenticity of the kashrut of the imports.
2. Certificates from the ministries of Health and Agriculture that the produce has not been grown using polluted irrigation water, and is safe to eat.
3. A certificate of mental health for importers who insist that the only way to observe shmita is by buying our produce from our terrorist enemies while they are shelling us with Kassam rockets.
Good ol' respect...
Sir, - Much of Batya Ludman's September 12 column "Good old-fashioned respect" needs translation and immediate dissemination to all newspapers, schools, parents, teachers and youth counselors in our country.
As the writer says, "The time has come for each and every one of us to take serious stock of who we are, and who we would like to become."
Sir, - Once, on a visit to Oxford University, I was surprised to see the motto "Manners maketh man" worked into the wrought-iron gates of one of the colleges. It reminded me of my high-school years in Melbourne, where this was a constant theme at school assemblies and in classroom discussions.
No expensive laboratories or equipment are needed to teach the importance of good manners and courtesy in daily life. Here in Israel we excel in many different fields, but in polite behavior and civility, we are at the bottom of the list. It is a doubtful distinction, and one that affects the quality of our everyday existence, of our political life, of our TV talk shows, of our sport, and even of our international relations (for example, tourism).
Surely schools can find a few minutes during the week to deal with the subject, via discussion or playacting, in order to improve our national behavior and prop up our self-esteem.