September 4: Bank's shame

Although there was only 1 charge on my account last month, it had increased more than 100% over the usual 5.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Banks' shame Sir, - Today I downloaded the August statement from my bank. Imagine my surprise to find that instead of the five bank charges normally on my account, there was only one. Surprise turned to shock, however, when I saw that the one charge had increased more than 100 percent over the total of the five. Is this what Bank Supervisor Rony Hizkiyahu had in mind when he asked for bank fee reform? Does anyone in government care that we seniors, and the rest of the public, are getting ripped off? I'm afraid it's just another example of our sick government's inability to protect its citizens from exploitation by a powerful cartel ("Banks took advantage of the reform" September 1, and "Greed you can bank on," Editorial, August 21). MOTTLE GOODBAUM Jerusalem Traditional cures for an 'old dog' Sir, - A few weeks ago my daughter lost a fellow soldier from the Golani Brigade. No, not in battle - unless it was the drivers' war on Israel's streets, the weapon of choice being the car. A country gone wild on its roads needs the reins pulled in on it. How? It could be done quite simply, immediately and even cost-effectively. A minimum of 5,000 additional traffic police need to be hired from all across the country. High penalties set for driving infractions would both offset the expense of their salaries and serve as punishment. When people's pockets are touched, they feel it. Those who perpetrate the most severe infractions need two additional punishments: confiscation of their driver's license - an ankle-bracelet would ensure they don't sneak back behind the wheel - and a six-month volunteer stint at a rehab facility. The adage says you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Nonsense. Israelis' old-dog behavior on the roads will respond to the old technique of stimulus and response. Each time they step on the pedal in an irresponsible and murderous way, they will receive a response that hurts. What Israel needs are real leaders willing to push forward an agenda for healthy driving in a presently very sick environment ("Three die in road accidents," September 3). YAEL COHEN Ra'anana/Pepper Pike, Ohio What Jewish normalcy is Sir, - A reading of the Al Het prayer in the Day of Atonement prayerbook will reacquaint Hillel Halkin with the fact that we Jews - on a communal basis, so as not to shame any one person - traditionally admit to any and every negative human impulse ("If it can happen anywhere, it can happen here," September 3). Reciting Al Het ( "For the sin of...") is not a means for establishing normalcy, God forbid, but to express profound regret over any failure to curb such impulses from translatinginto action. In the midst of demoralizing poverty and exile, the Jews of Europe, and later America, had a Yiddish saying: "May the Abishter (the Good Lord) protect us from ever finding out what we can become used to" - for example, not keeping Shabbat or kashrut, intermarriage, incest, etc. This is what exemplifies Jewish normalcy - the resistance to becoming accustomed to ever-lowered standards, especially in our own behavior, needing greater and greater "shocks" to show us that something has gone very, very wrong. The shock paradigm belongs on death row, not in an enduring community. MIRIAM L. GAVARIN Jerusalem Praying for you Sir, - My heart and prayers go out to the people in your beautiful country. The bravery with which you awake to face each day is inspirational. We all hope to live in peace one day, but until then our countries must stand together against those who would deny us that peace. I wish I could tell you of the respect many Americans feel for Israel, but the examples would fill more space than you can give me. May God give you the strength and resolve to win the day. TOM WALTERS Cocoa, Florida 'Rock, rap - gevalt!' Sir, - Once again, self-appointed haredi crusaders are trying to "protect" their youth from corruption ("Stop the music! Haredi functionaries move to eradicate 'foreign' pop, disco," September 3). And again, instead of trying to deal with the fact that no community is immune to the outside world, they are using threats and scare tactics while hiding behind condemnations by prominent haredi rabbis. It doesn't matter that the livelihoods of reception halls that allow a "treif" band to perform on their premises or of budding singers who appeal to a wide cross-section of the haredi public might be harmed. The end justifies the means, no matter how radical or perhaps even halachically questionable. The problem is that these tactics don't usually work in the longer term. While TV is still effectively banned in the haredi world, other attempts to forbid technology (computers, Internet, cell phones) have been met with "civil disobedience" by many haredim, who simply ignore the bans, or seek "kosher" technologies. This haredi attempt to stifle rock and rap music in the community will also backfire. Sooner or later, the "moral majority" will discover that all it has accomplished is to foster more internal controversy and hate among its own constituents. GERSHON HARRIS Hatzor Haglilit Talking rot Sir, - The "rot" Jeff Barak described was already embedded in political circles which later became the Labor party in the 1930s, not to speak of what went on after 1948 ("When did the rot set in?" September 1). Mr. Barak did a disservice by firing arrows of righteous wrath primarily at the left-wing elites' bugbear, outsider Binyamin Netanyahu. Further research into Netanyahu's financial "success" story would have revealed that he, unlike others mentioned in the article, did not acquire "the better things of life" at "somebody else's expense," but on his own initiative and out of his proclivity for hard work. From the start, the well-educated Netanyahu rolled up his sleeves and went out to work for his living. Netanyahu's Labor Party opponents publicly mocked him for working for a furniture firm in Tel Aviv, on his return from the US, implying this made him unfit to lead the country. Netanyahu's best-seller A Place Among the Nations sold like hotcakes and surely brought in some healthy earnings. After his defeat in 1999, he left politics to become a popular lecturer worldwide. The lengthy police investigations into allegations of impropriety in the "official gifts" case during his term as premier came to naught. Your writer might have enlightened us regarding how Ehud Barak made his millions, and on how wealthy Shimon Peres is. Peres heads a foreign-funded peace center whose turnover runs into the millions. TRUDY GEFEN Kiryat Ono Water crisis? Sir, - I am happy to announce that the water crisis, if it ever existed, is now officially over - if you judge by whoever administers Jerusalem's parks. The lawns of the promenade that overlooks the Peace Forest and the nearby park of East Talpiot are watered every day for over an hour, except on Shabbat. Our lawn makes do with a 45-minute watering once a week, and is still thriving. So there you are. I really have no idea what the water people are crabbing about. We obviously have lots of the stuff! ("Tel Aviv makes list of water-wasting cities," August 28.) YISRAEL GUTTMAN Jerusalem