February 28: Shame either way

As long as Israeli governments do not take serious steps to increase the supply of housing to answer the increasing demand, prices will increase.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Shame either way
Sir, – The glaring front-page headline “Abbas on Jaradat: Israel wants anarchy by killing our children” (February 26) was deeply disturbing. I was distressed even further by the veiled threat of Abbas, which indicated that the death of security prisoner Arafat Jaradat would not pass easily by.
The above presents to many thousands of concerned, sensitive and intelligent citizens of Israel a most awful dilemma.
We were recently informed by President Shimon Peres that he has known Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for decades, and Peres unequivocally assured us that Abbas is not only an honorable man but indeed a worthy peace partner.
If there is substance to Abbas’s accusations I would admit to being deeply ashamed of our country. However, if it is established that Israel in fact does not torture Palestinian prisoners, I would find myself in the position of being deeply ashamed of our president.
Look to ‘hesder’
Sir, – With regard to “UTJ MKs brief Shteinman on Kandel draft plan” (February 26), the media have been exposed to so many different plans on how to share the burden of army and national service for the haredi sector that they miss the successful plan that is already in place, namely the “hesder” yeshivot.
The Kandel Plan, the Ya’alon Plan, the Yesh Atid position and the Bayit Yehudi proposal are all very well intended. However, they will fail to create a public sense of sharing the burden equally. The successful hesder model combines army service beginning at the age of 18, and continued Torah study during that service.
This approach would save tens of millions of shekels that otherwise would go to support haredi families should the soldiers be inducted at age 23, 24 or 25.
In EU’s graces
Sir, – The European Union has yet to designate Hezbollah a terror entity despite the organization’s planning and execution of murders on European soil and throughout the world (“Dutch FM thinks Burgas report will lead EU to rethink Hezbollah’s status,” February 26). Yet it condemns Israel, threatening it with sanctions – for building apartments.
It would seem that in order to gain favor with the EU, one must stop building and start killing.
By the neck
Sir, – From “Work on eco corridor for animal crossings begins on Route 1 near Sha’ar Hagai” (February 26) we learn that the Route 1 project, which will widen the road to Jerusalem in both directions, allowing more lanes, will cost Israel about NIS 2.5 billion.
The raison d’être of the project is to relieve the bottleneck at the entrance to Jerusalem. We have been told nothing about intended changes at the entrance to the city, nor have we seen any sign of road works there. Apparently, the designers have not realized a simple fact: The rate at which a liquid pours out of a bottle depends primarily on the size of the bottle’s neck, and not the bottle itself.
If Route 1 is made wider but nothing is changed at the entrance to Jerusalem, the rate at which vehicles enter through the Bridge of Strings junction will not improve, and there will be very little benefit.
The obvious solution is a comprehensive underpass system that would have an infinitely greater effect than widening Route 1, and cost much less. It would be enlightening to hear from Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on this point.
Not unnoticed
Sir, – With regard to “Women of the Wall hold costumed megila reading” (February 26), one trusts that the supreme irony of the undisturbed reading on Purim of the megila at the Western Wall by women dressed as men has not gone unnoticed.
Promote rentals
Sir, – As long as governments of Israel do not take serious constructive steps to increase the supply of housing to answer the increasing demand, prices will increase (“Bank of Israel keeps interest rate unchanged as housing prices rise,” Business & Finance, February 26).
The price of land, major indirect taxes, bureaucracy and severe limitations on credit are major reasons for price rises.
Successive governments have taken no material steps to promote rental housing, which has many advantages, especially for young couples, and would over a few years reduce demand for real estate and cool the market.
In addition, housing built for rentals would reduce rental prices, which have also risen excessively. The uncertainty of rental periods, which are generally limited to one year, would be considerably reduced.
Most Western countries have supplies of rental housing and do not push their citizens to buy apartments. This also provides the working population with maximum mobility, and frees them from the need to find capital, without which it is very difficult to purchase in a market where banks are being regulated to limit the amounts loaned on mortgages.
Limitations on credit could also force borrowers to look for credit in the unregulated private market, the largest section being the grey market, which is completely unregulated by the Bank of Israel and not seriously assessed for income tax.
Skewed lineup
Sir, – The Jerusalem Post has announced the lineup for its second annual conference, the theme of which is “Fighting for the Zionist Dream.”
One would imagine that the speakers’ list would be balanced, representing people from the Left, Right and Center. Yet of the 11 Israelis featured in the ad from your February 26 issue, three (Avigdor Liberman, Danny Danon and Gilad Erdan) come from Likud Beytenu’s right wing; one (Naftali Bennett) is the head of a party that opposes the two-state solution and calls for the incorporation of territory into Israel immediately; one (Caroline B.Glick) is an outstanding rightwing columnist; and another is the soon-to-be-out-of-office chief rabbi (Yona Metzger) who has done nothing to solve problems of agunot (women whose husbands refuse to grant them a religious divorce) or conversion, and is opposed to any religious pluralism in Israel. The only politician on the list who advocates a peace process is Ehud Olmert, who currently holds no office and is on trial, as is one other speaker (Liberman).
In its publicity the Post mentions that it is featuring “leaders of American Jewry.” Yet there are only two Americans listed, one of whom is not Jewish and is also known for his right-wing views (John Bolton). Only Alan Dershowitz represents a more moderate view. Indeed, where are the leaders of American Jewry? Not on this list.
Where are the Israeli moderates, representatives of Center or Left parties? Where are the Post columnists who are not right-wingers? Where are religious leaders of non-Orthodox groups or even moderate Orthodox groups? Since the Post prides itself on presenting a multitude of varied opinions, the current lineup seems to be a distortion. It is unfortunate that it therefore will speak to only a very limited sector of American Jewry and present an extremely skewed view of the “Zionist dream.”
What a pity to miss an opportunity to truly represent the variety of views that exists regarding Zionism and the very real and pressing problems we face today.
REUVEN HAMMER Jerusalem The writer is a rabbi and columnist (Tradition Today) in The Jerusalem Post Magazine.