Sir, - Michael Freund is right on target (in "Dare to dream of a rebuilt Temple," October 29) in standing up boldly for the Jews' elementary right to visit and pray at their holiest site, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The rank injustice - nay, ludicrousness - of a situation where, as Freund writes, "the followers of Muhammad are allowed to visit and pray where Solomon's Temple once stood, but not the followers of Moses," surely cries to heaven. And this situation has been allowed to continue for nearly half a century!
But that, Mr. Freund, is exactly the point here. This injustice should never have been allowed to continue this long; it should have been nipped in the bud. Since it was not, however, the situation, intrinsically absurd as it may be, has hardened into "custom," and the world - especially the Islamic world - has become used to it, to the point where its violation now would be considered an act of sheer provocation.
This is the sad reality today, for which we can "thank" our government's moment of weakness, in the summer of 1967, when we had the opportunity and the power to call the shots - and threw it away.
Sir, - Reading Orly Nov's oped about Temple Mount violence ("Spinning out of control, October 28), one gets the impression that if Jews were to refrain from ascending the Temple Mount completely, then all would be quiet and restrained. According to the Nov doctrine, it was Ariel Sharon's visit to the same Temple Mount that ignited the intifada of 2000. This is the same doctrine that says that by releasing 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, including innumerable convicted terrorists, there would no longer be any attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
The only problem is that Nov has either forgotten or ignored 20th century history in Israel. It was Haj Amin El-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, who ignited and incited false rumors of an Al Aksa takeover. This in turn resulted in the cold-blooded murder of hundreds of Jews in 1921, 1929 and 1936. Which Jewish leader incited the Arab community then?
Sir, - Jordan's caution against "Any new provocative attempts by Israeli troops and Jewish extremistsâ€¦" would be laughable, were it not so serious ("Jordan warns Jerusalem violence could derail peace process," October 26).
Jordan itself, indeed, could derail the peace process - if the people of Israel insisted that their government not continue any talks until the Jordanian Minister for Media Affairs and Communication apologizes for his demonization of Israel.
Why should we ignore it?
Sir, - At last, in "Remember, the Temple was built by Herod" (October 28), the article I thought I had been waiting for! Robert Eisenman, an American historian, calls a spade a spade and gives us historical facts about the builder of the Temple and the function of the Temple. Herod was a nasty character and no one wants to revive the priesthood or the sacrificial cult.
But the conclusions he draws are very unhistorical. "The problem is we must start from scratch based on being a territorial people again" How can a historian talk of starting from scratch? As a matter of fact, our prayers are very territorially based. All our lives are oriented towards the land of Israel. The whole of the Zionist movement was based on that.
What really made Judaism special was when prayers took the place of sacrifice, before and after the Expulsion. From then on Jews have not needed a Temple to maintain religious identity because "The whole earth is filled with His glory."
Rabbinic Judaism, which developed after the Expulsion, preserved Judaism and enabled us to survive extra-territorially. True, it was not equal to (or what Eisenman calls "up to") the task of defending millions against the slaughter. But that's what there was.
Still,, it is clear that the new historical fact of being a people in our own land obliges adaptation. Judaism as a way of life cannot remain static, and just as it has changed over the centuries, so must it continue to adapt to changing conditions.That is where our major struggle is in maintaining our identity.
I am second to none in my wonder at the past, and archeology and architecture have their honored place, but what's gone is gone. To try to build another temple is a diversion and a misguided waste of effort.
The Dome of the Rock and al Aksa sit on top of the Temple Mount today, and they are important to Moslems for their own religious reasons. I myself was thrilled to bits when I visited in 1967, but for historical not religious reasons. As for Eisenman's statement that "there is plenty of room on the Mount for everyone," he must be kidding. Demanding equal rights is just a source of contention.
It would be politically embarrassing to give up visits to the Mount - but it certainly wouldn't affect my Jewish identity or my pride in the Land of Israel, which are expressed in private, communal and national life. Symbols are one thing, but real life requires substance. Who needs another enormous building?
Tougher on Turkey
Sir, - Re Alon Ben-Meir's "Mending a strained alliance" (October 29), Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's latest fabrication and accusations against our foreign minister are outrageous.
Rather than "diplomatic silence" or defensive posturing regarding this outrageous diplomatic offensive against us, we should borrow from the playbook of American football - the best defense is a good offense. Not militarily, of course, but diplomatically.
Erdogan should be publicly excoriated by our leaders as a supporter of fundamentalist Iran, a peddler of Jewish blood libels on his state TV, and a liar and fabricator of stories about Israeli war crimes. Our ambassador to Turkey should be recalled, and an active campaign in the US by the pro-Israel lobby initiated to have Congress recognize the Armenian genocide.
This will put Turkey on the defensive, rather than us. If relations with Israel and the US are important to Turkey, they will lower the flames. If they aren't, then we have nothing to lose.
Sir, - Shmuley Boteach's "Israel's time has come (October 27) deserves commendation for reminding us all of Israel's wonderful attributes. His appeal to world Jewry to "see Israel as the place where the limitless potential of the Jewish people is finally being made manifest" is most timely in the current anti-Israel climate. We would do well to emulate him in singing the praises of our beloved country.
DR. RACHEL BIRATI
Sir, - Douglas Bloomfield asks: "What's so scary about J Street?" (October 29). Then he professes discomfort with J Street's past position on on the Gaza war, and current positions on Hamas and Iran sanctions, as well as some of its partners - and so he answers his own question.
Well, we are more than discomforted. We're downright scared that J Street's lobbying on these issues will be very dangerous if not fatal to our continued existence in the Land of Israel.