Signs of dissent...
Sir, - Perhaps Nathan Lewin thinks Israel is the 51st state; we are not ("Is there free speech in the military?" October 28). There are excellent reasons for not promoting political displays at military ceremonies.
Most young men and women in Israel have well-thought-out beliefs about the government and many other issues. But these young fighters, who will soon be placing their lives on the line, are mature enough to know that there is a time and a place for parading them. At least most of them are.
What if each of those 700 great kids had displayed his own sign? My son was one of the 700 and he is not silent about his views - in the right place and at the right time.
It is hard to imagine that a display of rudeness such as this by a soldier at a US military ceremony would be ignored. Part of the beauty of the IDF is the recognition that we live in a democracy and that soldiers may sometimes be involved in actions with which they disagree. Most soldiers understand that when a uniform in worn at a public ceremony, expressing one's personal views is off-limits. Sitting around the barracks and discussing them is far different than showing disrespect at the Western Wall for their colleagues, guests and the IDF.
Imagine the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the US having antiwar signs pinned on their jackets.
STEPHEN J. KOHN
...are better softer
Sir, - Both the US Army and the IDF have a mechanism that provides for the airing of complaints and problems that may interfere with a soldier carrying out his duties. It is called the chain of command and works like this:
Suppose a soldier feels, for personal reasons, that he cannot carry out an order to evacuate settlers. He requests a private meeting with his commander and makes it clear that he will abide by the latter's ruling. In nine out of 10 cases the commanding officer will find some way to accommodate the soldier as long as he feels he has made a reasonable case and is not making a political statement in order to attract attention and force his will on the army.
Having been an officer in both the American and Israel armies, I can assert that the soft approach and playing by the rules will get you much further than militancy.
An army is not democratic in nature. You do not choose your leaders, and in most cases you cannot veto an order. Each soldier must make the most of a difficult situation and always keep in mind that the army has a mandate to protect its citizens and must be obeyed, even regarding orders with which you disagree.
Stopping the drift
Sir, - In "Israel has a distorted, shallow view of Diaspora Jewry" (October 28) Ted Sokolsky repeats the slogan that Israel should see to it that Diaspora Jews are (Jewishly) educated. If not, a large group like the "American Jewish community" will be "an iceberg that's drifting away."
Here's a suggestion to ease Mr. Sokolsky's mind:
Put together a top-notch group of Jewish thinkers who have had much success in Jewish education, some "out of the box." It might include Academy Award winners Steven Spielberg and Mark Harris; cartoonist Richard Codor; rabbis Dr. Haskell Lookstein, Dr. Naama Kelman, Joe Wernik, Steve Lerner, David J. Forman, Stuart Geller, Jerry Abrams of Camp Ramah fame, and Gordon Papert; Emmy Awardee Henry Schuster; professors Dana Evan Kaplan, Leora Batintzky, Yisrael (Lee) Levine, Jonathan Sarna, Michael Berger, Zeev Harvey and Deborah Lipstadt; educator Peter Geffen; and editor Neil Rubin.
Let these individuals convene for a week-long conference, using their talents and abilities to fashion novel and penetrating approaches to Jewish education. Let their ideas be floated freely around the Jewish world. Who knows what might happen?
Why Herod was hated
Sir, - Robert Eisenman describes Herod as our "arch-enemy," responsible for our "destruction." The historical record is different.
In 40 BCE, the Roman Senate declared Herod "king of the Jews" in order to displace the incumbent Jewish king, Mattathias Antigonus, appointed by Rome's rival, Parthia. Mark Antony executed Antigonus in Antioch and replaced him with Herod, who brought 33 years of peace to Judea, earning the Jews' gratitude.
Herod was hated ostensibly because of the "slaughter of the innocents," but this incident is not found anywhere outside the book of Matthew. He was appointed king during the Roman civil war with Octavian. He was a major player in the rise of the Roman Empire, when Christianity was unlawful because of its hidden (Gnostic) links with Mark Antony.
Herod switched his political loyalties to Octavian after Mark Antony's death. For this, and not his alleged blood-thirstiness, he was hated ("Remember, the Temple was built by Herod," October 28).
Sir, - Inconsequential, yet irritating: "Named to Britain's House of Lords" is both clumsy and inaccurate. The accepted term is "raised" or "elevated" ("Lloyd Webber diagnosed with cancer," October 26).
'Pay what you want'
Sir, - Re Elie Leshem's "Schlock Rock can't play it like Radiohead" (October 28):
There is a generation of new consumers downloading all creative media for free via file-sharing. For huge artists like Radiohead, this poses its challenges, but the survival of the bands themselves is guaranteed by ticket sales.
Smaller artists in niche industries, like my band, don't fare as well. But instead of being deterred by the world of file-sharing, we decided to tweak it, with, as is Shlock Rock's practice, a bit of a moral message. The campaign was never "Take It for Free" - it was "Pay What You Want."
We want people to have our music for an affordable, nearly free price. But giving it away completely not only undermines our tiny Jewish music industry, it also sends the message that nothing has real value anymore. Our educational philosophy demands that people be an active part of the process.
It was a question of Jewish values, not one of overestimating our own.
The Arts & Entertainment editor responds:
I appreciate the move to bring one's music to a larger audience while running the risk of reduced revenues. My point was that offering something of quality for free may actually prompt consumers to dig deeper into their pockets, while the decision to keep a minimum price in place will likely result in downloaders sticking to the "recommended" $1 charge. Setting a base rate for something is generally seen as a statement regarding its intrinsic value. At the same time, allowing consumers liberty to work out the financial equivalent of their appreciation for the music is perhaps the best way of allowing them to become an "active part of the process."
Sir, - Bad enough that politics, sex and religion are all mixed up here in the Middle East - now the mix is being seasoned with humous and Lebanese vitriol ("Lebanese set record, tell Israel: Hands off our humous!" October 25).
Let Israel respond with an even bigger serving of humous than the good chefs of Lebanon produced, and pray that this should be our only bone - or bowl - of contention.