Letters to the editor, November 13

Payback Sir, - Evelyn Gordon generally writes sensibly - and I grant that she and MK Yuli Tamir have only good intentions - but her unqualified praise for Tamir's student loan program ("Student moans," November 10) leaves me uneasy. The obvious hole in the program is repayment. There won't be nearly as much as the plan envisions. Before the first repayments come due, the exceptions will begin. MKs will exempt people who go to preferred places of residence or work, people who work in certain professions, families of fallen soldiers, the handicapped and so on. Not all at once of course, but once the idea catches on there will be no end to it. Then the bar for income necessary for repayments will rise and the whole matter of income deferments will be manipulated. ISRAEL PICKHOLTZ Elazar Together, in deed Sir, - Michael Melchior must be commended for penning such a splendid piece on the need for Israel's citizenry to learn from the past in order to create a better future ("Repairing a 'people full of cracks,'" November 9). Beyond the rhetoric, we Jews all share the Torah. Yet we often forget just how much the this common heritage means to us. While some of us do not practice our faith in terms of rituals and liturgy, all of us would benefit from following the precepts of our religion in terms of good deeds, as these are among the most cherished of our beliefs as Jews. It is the good deed which endows us with our length of years as a people; it is the good deed that finds approbation for us as a people among all the inhabitants of this tiny planet. YOEL NITZARIM Skokie, Illinois No monopoly Sir, - Michael Melchior states Yitzhak Rabin's assassination "was the direct result of years of rabble-rousing, delegitimizing of alternate opinions and demonizing of those who held them." As abhorrent as his assassination was, I recall Rabin also tried to delegitimize his opponents by referring to the settlers as "cry-babies"; not a tolerant perspective. Does Melchior mean to tell us that Tommy Lapid and his cohorts, or the secular community as a whole, welcome alternate opinions and constructive criticism any more than the religious Right? I agree that we need more dialogue with our fellow Jews on how to best resolve conflicts, but please, there is no monopoly on rabble-rousing and delegitimizing. ABE DANZIGER Lakewood Sky high Sir, - It is indeed about time that Israel did something to bring airline competition to Israel ("Opening the skies," November 9). The fares charged by El Al for flights to the Far East are far too high because they have no competition. It is time that El Al lost its monopoly. STANLEY KERSEN Herzliya Pituah Taking a shot Sir, - While some political parties shoot themselves in the foot, the Labor Party has shot itself in the brain. Amir Peretz says he wants the party to go back to the good old socialist days. But when I came to Israel in 1982, it took seven years to get a telephone and inflation was out of hand. Prime Minister Sharon can smile all the way to the next election. Nobody will vote for Labor now. W. MALKINSON Ra'anana Special invitation Sir, - Some days ago, I received a computer-generated "personal invitation" via the mail to stop by my health fund, Meuhedet, for a free vaccination against the winter flu. The notice advised to do so before the end of November. Imagine my chagrin when I got to the 4th floor of the center on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem only to be greeted by a sign that read: "Vaccines available to people over 65 only, or those with chronic illnesses." As I'm only 49, I asked the clerk, "But what about this invitation?" "Oh, the sign supersedes the invitation." I hadn't planned on getting a flu shot, but because of the invitation I assumed that's what doctors were recommending this year. Why send out alarming notices if there isn't enough vaccine to go around? JOEL M. LOBEL Jerusalem Why is it? Sir, - Why is an Israeli health service's rehabilitation facility located at the bottom of a flight of steps? Why is the entrance to a government office dealing with handicapped benefits at the top of a flight of steps? Why are the hallways in at least one health service's buildings too narrow for a wheelchair to easily pass? Why is it that able-bodied drivers routinely park in spaces reserved for the handicapped? Why are there few recessed curbs, and why are ramps - where they do exist - usually too steep to be managed alone by a person in a wheelchair? Why do even "accessible" buildings almost never have truly accessible bathrooms? Why is it that people in wheelchairs have no way to travel independently without relying on special "taxis" or buying NIS 300,000 "elevator" vans, when a far more attractive private vehicle is available at half the price? Answer such questions, my fellow Israelis, and you might begin to understand why the Messiah has yet to come. Sign me: Forgotten, but not gone. NAME WITHHELD Jerusalem Wonderful mood Sir, - People are always complaining about how long they have to wait to get anything done at government offices. However, I would like to say something very nice about the Interior Ministry's office in Netanya. I went there to renew my Israeli passport, equipped with The Jerusalem Post, expecting to spend the whole morning there. But I was in and out in less then 30 minutes thanks to the help of a very kind English-speaking clerk who even helped me fill out the form! It put me in a wonderful mood for the rest of the day. TRUDI OAKFIELD Netanya Frank surprise Sir, - The connection between Turkey and Israelis as depicted in your special "Turkey" supplement on October 26 brings to mind another Jewish connection to Turkey. In the wake of Shabbtai Zvi's death in 1676, a new messianic movement sprang up led by Jacob Frank who had fled to Turkey to escape the wrath of Polish Jews. There he created a new version of "Shabbatianism" and returned to Poland. However, he was soon driven out and finished his days as self-created Baron von Offenbach. While the Frankists eventually died out in Poland, their counterparts flourished in Salonica until it was seized by Greece in 1913, whereupon they moved back to Turkey, settling in and around Istanbul. Some 40,000 of them are still there today. Known as Donmeh or renegades, they refer to themselves as Ma'aminim (believers), though Orthodox Jews call them traitors. Outwardly Muslim, they are the "Marranos" of Turkey. It is rumored that Ataturk himself, the first president of modern Turkey was a Donmeh. BERNARD FISHER Netanya On the seventh day... Sir, - It is indeed "a wonderful country" when Knesset members seemingly have nothing better to do than advocate for a change in television program scheduling. MK Shaul Yahalom (NRP) was quoted as saying that the popular show Eretz Nehederet should be broadcast at a time other than Friday night when the Shabbat-observant cannot watch it ("Observant viewers: Give us 'Eretz Nehederet,'" November 10). The article went on to quote an unattributed letter from the Internet which claimed that the observant public should not tolerate being excluded from what has become one of the country's "quintessential collective experiences." To my mind, Shabbat is one of the country's quintessential collective experiences. I will take it over a TV show 24/1. As for being excluded from being able to see the program, perhaps this is why God invented the video machine? LAURA WEINGARTNER Ra'anana