Letters to the editor, February 16

Political cleanup... Sir, - The statement by Omri Sharon's attorney, Navit Negev, about Judge Edna Bankenstein's sentence being "severe and exceptional punishment" is the epitome of ludicrousness. Negev's argument that the sentence "deviates extremely from judicial precedents up until now" is in itself a commentary on how light sentences have been for crimes of all kinds. For some time there has been an outcry, including from commentators in The Jerusalem Post, that our judicial system is too easygoing when it comes to handing down sentences on people found guilty of criminal activity. At this point in particular we are dealing with white-collar exploitation by members of our government. The precedents of light sentencing should not form the basis of normality. It is time for a rejuvenation of judicial intellect. Such punishments should be much greater if they are to serve as a deterrent. Coming down harder on those who violate the public trust is another step in cleaning up politics, and even our judicial system. BERNARD KATZ Ramat Aviv ...just unbelievable Sir, - Omri to be jailed. I can't believe what is going on in Israel. Iran plans to nuke you out of existence, the Palestinians elect Hamas, anti-Semitism is running rampant, Islamists are threatening world peace - but in Israel the loyal son of the best of the best is sent to jail. And for what? For not reporting campaign contributions. Shame on you. At a time when all Jews and all Israelis must pull together, a time when we are threatened again with annihilation, you insist on fighting each other and taking pot-shots for political reasons with no regard for whom it hurts. JEFF FISHMAN Duluth, Georgia Guns and butter Sir, - The acting prime minister, together with his aides, has remitted to the Palestinians NIS 250,000,000 in tax revenues collected by Israel. Why didn't they, in their wisdom, deduct the amount owed Israel for utilities it provided the PA, for which the PA never paid? We will never know how much of that remittance gets channeled into purchasing arms and ammunition. The Palestinians must have one of the highest levels on earth of weapons per capita. A quarter-million shekels is a fortune, and we have children going hungry. Doesn't charity begin at home? ("Israel: Saturday D-Day for Hamas-led PA," February 15). IVAN ISRAEL Tel Aviv Guilty of generosity? Sir, - Naomi Blumenthal is, I have always thought, a decent, sincere, hard-working, caring and intelligent parliamentarian. What recent events have put in question is primarily her intelligence; the woman is neither corrupt, nor guilty of anything heinous. She may have gotten more and more caught up in that proverbial web from which she tried to extricate herself. As Greer Fay Cashman so charmingly put it in Grapevine (February 15), she seems to have a tendency to extend gracious "hospitality." The relatively paltry sum she expended on keeping people from having to travel back and forth is hardly comparable to the shenanigans others, high on the political totem pole, have engaged in with impunity. I suggest that kudos to the judicial establishment be put on ice until those guilty of what the state comptroller called "the greatest election scam ever" are in jail ("Listen to the A-G," Editorial, November 27, 2003). Blumenthal's was a foolish gesture - and the fact that things went from bad to worse is certainly deplorable, especially if it is true that she tried to dissimulate and distort evidence, which cannot be condoned. Nevertheless, Naomi Blumenthal does not belong in jail. Nor ought she to be depicted as Public Enemy No. 1, or 2. ("Blumenthal convicted of election bribery and attempted cover-up," February 14.) NETTA KOHN Herzliya Pituah Seen as whiners... Sir, - Thank you, Rabbi Riskin, for expressing what I have felt since our expulsion from Gush Katif ("A settler bares his soul," February 14). I have gone from bewilderment to anger to despair as I see the events unfolding in Israel. The first few days that we were here in Nitzan 2 we were warmly embraced by everyone we encountered. Now I feel the hostility and hatred as we, the new millionaires, are viewed as crybabies and whiners for not being able to pick ourselves up and be useful and productive people again. SUSAN SHAUL Nitzan 2 Sir, - Your February 14 edition made for some very painful reading, notably "Six months after losing their homes, where are they now?" Some of the families who evacuated from Gaza six months ago are in shoddy housing or still without homes and jobs, and still grieving the loss of their communities. It was also painful to read Shlomo Riskin's account of the hatred felt by a large number of left-wing Israelis for the so-called settlers. A poll showed that many hate the settlers more than they do the Palestinians. Do they feel the same toward the early settlers, many from the Left, who built the communities on "Arab land" in which many of them live today? ELAINE SARID Jerusalem ...and scapegoats Sir, - Rabbi Riskin chose to be non-offensive and therefore failed to mention that Kadima, and Ehud Olmert specifically, is using the distaste Israelis feel for settlers to show off his toughness and ability to stand up to the "enemy." No one expects him to act tough with the Palestinians, since no Israeli leader has done so in a decade. So the settlers become the scapegoat upon which all venom and frustration can be poured. SHARON LINDENBAUM Rehovot Work backwards Sir, - Re "70% of Israelis believe the educational system is failing" (February 15): We need to consider working backwards - in other words, "return-to-college" programs for pensioners, as exist in the US state of Arizona; realistic, affordable, life-long learning for mid-life adults, who would fill the colleges in the evenings and weekends and after work; and - most importantly - more college opportunities, most likely while they are working, for young people who have completed their military service, to enable them to build the best lives they can to benefit themselves, their families and Israel. All this will require tuition assistance and a broader approach to their needs. OFER CHAMU PETER SHMUEL LEVITT Netanya Not forgotten Sir, - Re "Forgotten Jewish heroes" (February 9) William Mehlman wrote: "Yad Vashem… has [not] yet seen fit to devote a single room or corner to Rabbi Weissmandl… who together with his partner in the 'Bratislava Working Group,' Gisi Fleischmann, stopped Jewish transports from Slovakia." I can only assume that Mr. Mehlman has not visited the new Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem. Had he been there he would have seen that throughout the museum, and particularly in the section on resistance and partisan movements, Jews under Nazi occupation who acted to save Jews are presented in the various contexts of their activity. Indeed, among the stories presented are those of Rabbi Weissmandl and Gisi Fleischmann, as well as a number of panels and pictures addressing the activity of the Working Group. Moreover, our library contains all the publications about Weismandl and Fleischmann; and the archives contain most of the documentation about their activities as well. ESTEE YAARI Foreign Media Liaison Yad Vashem Jerusalem Unforgettable Sir, - One day we received pictures of kalaniyot (anemones) from our son; the next day, sadly, we learned of the death of Shoshana Damari, who sang the words of "Kalaniyot" in a manner never to be forgotten. We saw her live on two occasions. In Beersheba we watched the parade marking Israel's 16th anniversary and heard Damari bring her own special tone to that event. On the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem we took our blankets down to the Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem and listened to her as she sang with real gusto for a magnificent crowd. This past fall, on a visit to Israel, we were watching early Israeli movies on TV - and there was Damari as a young woman helping Israelis and Jews around the world to learn to love our nation. May her memory be for a blessing ("Shoshana Damari - the voice of a nation," February 15). RITA AND DAVID GEFFEN Atlanta Betty & Germaine Sir, - Blu Greenberg wrote the perfect review of Betty Friedan's life and work in "Universal feminist, particular Jew" (February 14). I was not aware of Friedan's Jewish connections, and was glad to hear of them. It has always seemed to me that the essential issue in feminism was admitting the biological significance of child-bearing as balanced against the demand for human equality in rights and dignity. If Friedan's position became moderated, as Greenberg said, in favor of this recognition, and if she was able to include Jewish values in her universal campaign, I am satisfied. Two extremes are deplorable; and one of them, frankly, is found in the Bible and Talmud. The basic halachic outlook on the roles of husband and wife is "Ki yikah ish isha" - "If a man takes or buys a woman." The former holds the initiative in both marriage and divorce, as in "veshilha mibeito" - "He sends her forth out of his house." All the moderating, equivocating and hairsplitting in the modern Orthodox world cannot remove this basic fault in our tradition. The other extreme is found in such figures as Germaine Greer, who took up the cudgels held out by Friedan and posed the proposition that it is unfair for women to carry a fetus for nine months and so some alternative must be found - for example, growing the baby in a test tube. If women are going to rebel, not only against male domination but against Nature, we know extremism is being practiced, or at least theorized. JACOB CHINITZ Jerusalem