Letters to the editor, June 4, 2006

What we can do about smoking Sir, - Without much publicity, annual World No Smoking Day (May 31) has been and gone. While smoking rates in Israel are slowly declining, a lack of vision remains regarding tobacco use - particularly intolerable since this expensive addiction remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the land. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization quitting smoking (or, better still, not taking it up in the first place) is the single most important thing you can do to safeguard your health. So what can we do to improve things by next year? We can: • get rid of cigarette vending machines that enable kids to buy as much of the drug as they can afford (14 is the average age for a first cigarette); • enforce laws barring smoking in indoor public spaces; • get cigarettes out of army canteens, where subsidized prices turn occasional smokers into heavy smokers; • tax the living daylights out of the tobacco companies and prevent the illegal trade; • provide specialist services to help people quit and subsidize the medications that make the process more likely to succeed; • support our relatives and friends in their attempts to quit; • think about phasing cigarettes out entirely by gradually raising the legal age while educating about the dangers of this deadly weed. With a little vision, we can do all these things. We really can. DR. JOHN BOROWSKI Jerusalem Gone mad? Sir, - If memory serves me correctly, it was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as the repeated commission of identical errors with the expectation of different results. Can there be a better way to describe our approval of yet more arms and ammunition for a still larger "elite" violent band on the Palestinian side? ("Israel approves arms to the PA to protect Abbas," May 26.) Now Abbas has appointed an individual accused by Israel of being involved in terrorist acts as commander of Force 17, his "presidential guard." As your May 29 editorial "The limits of the 'reconciliation' plan" bluntly put it: "No one, bitter experience has shown, can seriously express confidence that weapons that at one moment are pointed at Hamas may not the next be used to murder Israelis." Sometimes I think we've gone mad. JOEL KUTNER Jerusalem Sir, - In "Abbas's newest big lie" (May 30) Caroline B. Glick criticized the Israeli government's embracing of Mahmoud Abbas's new plan, describing it as a "declaration of war against [one's] own country," arming its enemy. Sometimes a headline is worth 1,000 words, as in "Abbas appoints top fugitive to head Force 17" (May 31). ISRAEL ZVI Efrat Sir, - My heritage finally forces me to speak out. Why is Israel committing suicide? Little has changed in the Arab attitude to Israel. Giving back Judea and Samaria is saying, "Kill me." What happened to "Never again"? PAUL ANDERSON Nashville, Tennessee Sir, - Naively I expected public outrage at the decision to approve arms for the Palestinian Authority military recruits, bearing in mind the failure and subsequent tragic outcome of the Oslo Accords. However, cynically, one could interpret this Israeli policy as exploiting the friction between Hamas and the PA, leading to civil war between two factions. GISH TRUMAN ROBBINS Pardesiya Just another day at the circus Sir, - At a recent UN Security Council meeting, the Syrian representative made this interesting pronouncement: "If we examine the matter, we will find that Israel was behind the eruption of both World War I and World War II" ("Gillerman: World War III already begun," On-Line Edition, May 31). No one seems to have bothered to suggest to the representative that it would have been difficult - even for Israel - to do its warmongering worst prior to its existence as a state. Apparently, for those present, it was just another day at the circus. BRUCE WARSHAVSKY Beit Shemesh Limits to pluralism Sir, - Samuel G. Freedman's op-ed on Arnold Eisman, new chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, hit upon a very important point ("The organization man," May 31). It seems Eisman, with a reputation for tolerance and neutrality, is aware of the dangers of total individualism and pluralism when he refers to the "Religion of One." Salo Baron in his History of the Jews portrays the decree by a caliph in the seventh century that any "group of 10 who wish to have their own religion and leader, are permitted to do so." The Jewish exilarch and geonic authorities considered this dangerous to Jewish unity and existence. We too must set limits to pluralism. Otherwise in our "post-denominational" age we shall end up not with more than four official religious movements, but with thousands. It's similar to the argument about concentrating Jews demographically and running the risk of destruction, or deliberately scattering Jews to save them from it. What matters in population applies to ideology. How much "scattering" can we have and still retain a palpable Jewish people and Jewish faith? SAMUEL SAMUELSON Jerusalem A Jewish life Sir, - I read Larry Derfner's description of his Jewish atheism in "Who's living an incomplete Jewish life?" (May 26) with trepidation. Obviously Israel is a divided nation not only politically but in the religious observance sphere as well. We have ultra-Orthodox Jews, centrist Jews, modern Orthodox Jews, Conservative (Masorti) Jews, Reform Jews, secular Jews and too many non-Jewish Jews. Not every Jew who immigrated to Israel did so from religious conviction or out of adherence to Herzl's vision or Jabotinsky's wake-up call. But I honestly believe that a Jew who was not born here, yet chose to immigrate to Israel did so because of a desire to live and breathe a Jewish life among Jews. If Larry Derfner has no feeling for Judaism, why did he leave the fleshpots of North America to settle here? DR. ESOR BEN-SOREK Rishon Lezion Empowering Ethiopians Sir, - In empowering the Ethiopian community, the Ethiopian National Project relies on local and national Ethiopian organizations which operate the ENP's programs and will continue to serve the needs of the community even after the ENP is no longer on the "agenda" of world Jewry. The Fidel Association, which operates the youth outreach center described in Ruth Eglash's "On their own" (UpFront, May 26), is only one example. TAKELE MEKONEN Director, Fidel Association Hod Hasharon No news is bad news Sir, - All too often I turn on Israel Radio's Reshet Bet at 9 p.m. to hear the live transmission of the Mabat television news, only to discover that the TV news time has been changed that day because of a sporting event. The priorities are wrong, and confusion abounds. KALMAN FEDER Nof Ayalon Grouch-o Sir, - Re John Lalor's "NATFHE's ridiculous" (Letter, May 30) I would like to point out that it was Groucho Marx, and not Woody Allen, who would not "care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." MITCHELL BARNETT Tel Aviv Sir, - Sorry Mr. Lalor, but Woody Allen was just another rising comic when Groucho Marx originated that line. MARCHAL KAPLAN Jerusalem