This won't wash
Sir, - The mayor of Rosh Ha'ayin should consider the following: My grandmother left Poland in 1900 as a young girl of 18. She always told us that in those years, the town of Osweicim (Auschwitz) was a resort town. People would leave the big cities of Warsaw and Lodz and spend their summers there. And, of course, there was a decent train service.
Now I know that most of our local councils are perpetually scrounging for cash. But there are certain places whose names are tainted forever. Auschwitz is one. Dachau is another. Trying to rehabilitate those infamous names is not a suitable task for any Israeli official ("Plan to make Rosh Ha'ayin and Dachau sister cities ripped by camp survivor," October 8).
Let's talk about
Sir, - Larry Derfner asks whether there are limits to Israel's right to self-defense and whether Palestinians have any such right ("Our exclusive right to self-defense," October 8).
The purpose of a war is to end an opponent's desire to fight as quickly as possible. Interpreting "proportionality" to require Israel inflict only so much damage as it suffered in previous attacks would allow Hamas to determine the course of the entire conflict by calibrating its attacks to the level of damage it is willing to incur in return. Proportionality must be measured by the amount of force reasonable to end the war, while limiting damage to innocent civilians wherever possible.
Israel had both the right and the duty to do whatever it took to stop the thousands of rockets that had terrorized its civilian population for years, particularly since the IDF's pinpoint tit-for-tat responses failed to achieve that goal.
As for Palestinian self-defense, Gazans cannot have it both ways. They voted for a Hamas government knowing full well that the organization sought the violent destruction of Israel. They cannot support a terrorist organization, yet claim to be entirely innocent when they suffer the foreseeable consequences of that support.
EFRAIM A. COHEN
Sir, - "Do Palestinians have a right to defend themselves?" asks Larry Derfner. Yes, they have the right, in fact the duty, to defend themselves against the sadistic Hamas and Fatah mafias that insist not only on perpetuating an unnecessary conflict with Israel, but also on tyrannizing their own countrymen.
The people should throw those rascals out. It's a tall order, but if they lack the necessary heroic mettle, or the inclination, then they must suffer the consequences of forfeiting their right to live free.
MARK L. LEVINSON
Sir, - Reading Winston Churchill's The Second World War (Vol. I "The Gathering Storm," p. 502), I found the following, written by Churchill to the British cabinet, when plans were being made to take the Norwegian port of Narvik from the Nazi invaders early in 1940:
"I assume Lord Cork (commander of the invasion force) has read the Bombardment Instructions issued at the outbreak of war... he may deem it wise to give six hours' warning by every means at his disposal, including if possible leaflets, and to inform the German Commander that all civilians must leave the town, and that he (the German commander) would be held responsible if he obstructed their departure. He (Lord Cork) might also offer to leave the railway line unmolested for a period of six hours to enable civilians to make good their escape by that route.
Leaders have faced dilemmas of this kind since modern warfare. Churchill was of the opinion that if the Nazis bombed civilians, the Allies would have no option but to resort to the same regrettable tactics.
It would do Richard Goldstone et al no harm to read some history.
Sir, - Jessica Montell tells us that she spent Yom Kippur at home, reflecting on human rights and the sins of others ("A time for soul-searching," September 30). But there is no atonement for her own failures in this crucial moral sphere, nor for the sins of B'Tselem, the powerful organization she heads.
In contrast, on Yom Kippur millions of other Israelis and Jews joined in prayers for the release of Gilad Schalit, whose plight is largely ignored by those who exploit moral and legal words to deny Israelis the most basic right to defense against terror. Montell's oped ignored Schalit, and her references to the tendentious Goldstone Report, which rests heavily on B'Tselem's allegations, failed to note that only two of 575 pages deal with our kidnapped soldier.
Like Goldstone, Montell should not wait until next Yom Kippur to atone for her role in turning human rights into a travesty.
Sir, - I must say I didn't expect the sort of gloating from Gil Hoffman I read in "Closer to a Nobel minyan" (October 8). Counting the number of Nobel laureates in Israel and then comparing that to the number of Muslims worldwide who have won a Nobel prize seemed in very bad taste to me. Was he trying to say, "Look how smart Jews are?"
Why not, then, compare our number to the number of American Jews who have won a Nobel? I am sure he would find that the number from the US is several times that of Israelis, and the relative numbers almost the same.
Sir, - "Can we generate electricity as we drive" (October 8) via piezoelectric elements in the roadway seemed to imply that this power is generated at no cost. However, if the piezoelectric element is to generate power, a deforming force must be applied by the tires of the vehicle - which is to say that physical work must be applied to the road surface. This additional work is a subtle additional load on the vehicle's engine.
This power is therefore not free. It is, moreover, generated at extremely low efficiency.
A car engine converts chemical energy into work at about 20 percent efficiency, whereas a modern fossil fuel power station works at about double that efficiency.
Considerations such as proximity to road-side end use may favour the idea, but it is pure fantasy to see it as a supplement to conventional power stations.
Old, and older still
Sir, - I was somewhat disturbed by the facility with which your correspondent mentioned, en passant, that Plymouth Synagogue in the UK (1762) is the oldest synagogue in the English-speaking world
After Oliver Cromwell gave tacit assent to the reentry of Jews to the United Kingdom in 1656, the Spanish and Portuguese community in the City of London met and prayed together until they erected in 1702, in emulation of their Dutch brothers in Amsterdam, the magnificent Bevis Marks Synagogue alongside the walls of the city. But even this fact of antiquity pales into insignificance when one walks through the synagogue in Lincoln, on England's north-eastern coast, alongside the Jews House.
Both edifices were built in the 11th century - the Jews House is the oldest existing stone house still standing in the UK ("London auction to offer Judaica from oldest synagogue in English-speaking world ," October 8).