Father of the idea
Sir, - Daniel Doron praises PM Netanyahu's "economic peace process" as being a "smart undertaking," and the evidence he presents certainly seems to confirm this strategy ("Movies in Nablus, dramas in Bethlehem," September 23).
But if there is one person who deserves credit for the idea that economic prosperity can bring peace, it is none other than our president, Shimon Peres, who has been preaching this approach - ad nauseam, according to some opinions - for decades.
Seen at best as a Don Quixote, at worst accused of being blind to Palestinian hate and terrorism, Peres has been both praised and vilified for his consistent stand that if the Palestinian economy prospers, so will peace. Yet these ideas were often denigrated by the Right and even by Netanyahu because they came from Peres, one of Oslo's "founding fathers" and a known supporter of territorial and other far-reaching concessions for the sake of peace.
The fact that Netanyahu has recently come, at least publicly, to similar realizations deserves praise; but it is important to give credit where credit is due regarding the real innovator of this "new" economic peace process.
Building frenzy ahead
Sir, - Yes, there will be an inordinate amount of building beyond the "Green Line" from the night after Yom Kippur until the following Shabbat ("Obama to host PM, Abbas without deal on settlements," September 21).
Prime Minister Netanyahu can safely and personally guarantee Presidents Barak Obama and Mahmoud Abbas that these structures will be removed within the coming few months, or even weeks - and the most right-wing parties in the Knesset will not object. That should make even Saudi Arabia and the EU happy.
What they don't know about Sukkot won't hurt them.
RABBI MILTON H. POLIN
Retirees to the fore!
Sir, - Re "Home front risks collapse in next war without civilian support network, study warns" (September 23) reported that "in the coming months, the Reut Institute will work with corporations" to ensure continuing services in the banking and cellphone areas. Charities will provide vital services suchas food supplies.
In this great country of ours, we have thousands of retirees who volunteer in every type of venue. They have brainpower, experience and time to spare because they do not have to appear at a workplace daily. They could fill vital positions in forming and working for the home front everywhere. They just have to be organized and trained - now.
The government should use them. After all, they are one of our most valuable assets.
Sir, - Jurisdiction in democratic countries generally considers the accomplice to a crime as substantially guilty of the crime itself. Thus the driver of the car which carries the bank robber is equally guilty of robbery. If he were part of a shooting group returning to its base after a killing, he would be an accessory to murder.
In the Gaza crimes investigated by Judge Richard Goldstone there were killers and accomplices. The accomplices were part of a group intended to provide civilian cover for the armed shooters. It would appear that not all were there of their own free will. Many were coerced.
To expect our military to be able to identify and separate the willing accomplices from the unwilling is ridiculous; equally, to expect the Israelis to give the killers a free pass.
This is not the first time Israelis have been at war with Arab terrorists and it must be common knowledge to the latter that their accomplices, innocent or guilty, are at risk of their lives.
Against this background, it borders on the idiotic to find Israel guilty of war crimes ("Who's being unfair?" Richard Goldstone, September 23).
JOCK L. FALKSON
Sir, - Re "Rosh Hashana storms set September rain record" (September 21): Massive amounts of rainwater are wasted every year because we have only three sources of water - Lake Kinneret, the coastal aquifer, and the mountain aquifer.
If reservoirs were built all around the country, as in the US and West European countries, we would probably have enough water and wouldn't have to suffer through droughts.
Building the reservoirs would, moreover, create a great amount of employment, which would be a tremendous boon to the economy.
Can prayer cure?
Sir, - Before embarking on a scientific study of the efficacy or non-efficacy of prayer, Dr. Anthony Luder (Letters, September 22) should be aware that it is a fundamental talmudic principle, and subsequently a halachic one, that the universe pursues its natural course (olam keminhago noheg). As Maimonides words it in his Code: "Neither providence nor prayer nor privation can cause it to deviate from its pre-programed routine."
All normative Orthodoxy does is modify human behavior and create a pedagogic framework within which human compassion, a sense of justice and concern for others become primary virtues.
Maimonides: "Were we not to pray or fast when misfortune befalls us but simply brush it off as the way of the world and not regard it as a clarion call to mend our ways, we would be guilty of heartless indifference and more likely to cling to our bad old ways."
However, he permitted the use of Torah verses to "cure," as it were, a very sick person as a psychological placebo to settle his mind, while emphasizing that, medically speaking, it was important to give him the best scientific treatment possible. He vehemently denounced those who regarded the mezuza as a charm to protect us from demons or misfortune, regarding them as guilty of the cardinal sin of idolatry.
All the mitzvot have a moral purpose: to help us better our ways. They do not guarantee our physical or material welfare.
Sir, - Dr. Luder cites a scientific study that showed no statistical difference between the outcomes of patients who were prayed for and those who weren't.
A New Scientist magazine reader pointed out an amusing flaw in the study: "Does this mean that their friends and relatives [of the people who were not prayed for] were forbidden to pray for them? If so, does anyone believe for a moment that they heeded this prohibition when their loved ones were in danger?"
Life, as it is
Sir, - Judy Montagu does it every time; she manages to reach in and move me not only by means of her writing, which is brilliant, but also by her down-to-earth subject matter ("Tale of a boy and his father," September 23, and "Gone to their world," about death, September 9).
She deals with real-life issues. Please let's have more of her articles.
Stamp of approval
Sir, - Ray Hanania's "No questions for the Christmas or Hanukka stamps" (September 22) was wonderful. Sign me up in favor of a Great Writers in History issue.
Thank you for your insight, Mr. Hanania. May you be inscribed for a good year in the Book of Life.
DAVID M. ZINDER