Letters to the Editor, June 20

Who's an Ethiopian Jew in shul? Sir, - Danny Admasu's "Which way for Ethiopian-Israelis?" (June 19) made somber reading. One of Israel's largest absorption centers is situated in Mevaseret Zion, where I live and work, and I am therefore in daily contact with the very large Ethiopian community there. The fact that they are such wonderfully polite, well-mannered and patient people makes it all the more sad that they are so discriminated against. Their synagogue in the center, where I join them in prayer every Shabbat, is the scene of one of Israel's greatest scandals, for they are routinely excluded from all of the service. Fifty or 60 Ethiopian men sit quietly and respectfully on the lefthand side of the shul, while the 20 or so "whites" on the right, often observing less decorum, ignore their presence. Not one is ever called up to the reading of the Torah, a basic right of every Jew. Synagogue officials have explained this as stemming from uncertainty over "who is Jewish." (By contrast, the children of these neglected shul-goers get quite the opposite treatment from the boys and girls of the Bnei Akiva movement, who take them under their wings on Shabbatot and "show them the ropes.") I work in a pharmacy and can attest that many of these adult males have undergone circumcision by virtue of the fact that they have come in bearing prescriptions for standard after-brit treatment. And once they have been circumcised, can their Jewishness be in doubt? Couldn't the government, which has placed these people in an absorption center, also supply them with a certificate indicating that they have completed the conversion process? Our rabbi and sexton, who have both indicated their willingness to include the Ethiopians in synagogue services, say a certificate would solve the problem. Apart from the terrible sin of offending the Ethiopians' feelings, they are being actively pushed out of Israeli society. Does no one in the Israeli government care enough to address this grave problem? DAVID S. ADDLEMAN Mevaseret Zion A mite confused Sir, - Re "Lack of civil marriage a major violation of human rights - Barak" (June 19): With all due respect to the president of the Supreme Court, he seems to be confusing human rights with religious rites. Any person in today's State of Israel may legally befriend, live with, cohabit with and bear children with any other person in this country of the opposite sex. By tradition, however, if both partners of such a duo are Jewish and wish to observe their faith's commandments (Halacha) they have the right and privilege of applying to the local office of the Chief Rabbinate, at the Religious Council, and requesting hupa vekiddushin, halachic nuptial rites. ASHER WOHL Rehovot Sir, - The week that we read in the Torah of Korah and his revolt against the Torah ideals, we find Judge Aharon Barak also revolting against the Torah. Just like Korah, Barak will be consigned to the dustbin of history. EMANUEL QUINT Jerusalem Guns, not butter Sir, - In "Hamas urges probe of arms transfer to Abbas" (June 18) Hamas noted that the decision to supply Abbas loyalists with weapons came at a time when the Palestinians were suffering "under the yoke of financial siege and starvation." It seems that the latter problem has existed over quite some time. Two questions come to mind: Why have the Palestinians' Arab brothers and sisters in Jordan, Egypt and all the other Arab countries allowed this condition to exist for so long, and why haven't they sent shipments of food to their impoverished Palestinian brothers? They seem rather quick to supply guns and bullets, which equal violence. Food equals nourishment. It is revealing how the Palestinian problem is being addressed with guns and bullets. JERRY & SYLVIA DORTZ Ariel Panic panacea Sir, - In "Get rid of religion" (Letters, June 19) Robert Nickisson employs a lot of logic. Certainly religion has brought war, fanaticism and torture for many ages. But the illogic of this letter appears in its conclusion, where it talks about the world's "chance of survival in the atomic age." Was it religion that produced the atom bomb, or was it science? Why not write a letter titled "Get rid of science"? Shall we get rid of medicine because there is malpractice, or of government because of corruption? Mr. Nickisson blames religion for war. But many wars have been fought by the irreligious, or by atheists - for example, Hitler against Stalin, or the border skirmishes between the Soviet Union and China. Was the war between North and South Korea, or between North and South Vietnam, a matter of religion? Religion is guilty of many crimes, but "Get rid of religion" is a panic panacea, not a rational argument. SAMUEL SAMUELSON Jerusalem Consumer aid, quick! Sir, - Re "VAT cut will help working poor" (June 19): This is a highly commendable step taken by our finance minister. The question is, will the poor benefit? No. Most of the people taking advantage of this VAT reduction will be the tradespeople who have fixed prices, including VAT, for their services. I cannot see them reducing their prices by one percent; they will retain their price levels but pay 1% less to the government, keeping the "saving" for themselves. What can the government do to prevent this? JULIUS ORBAUM Netanya World Cup racism? No Sir, - Sometimes, watching a football game, it appears that you are the only being on earth to witness an infringement. I know, it happens to me regularly. There's a name for this - it's called being biased. Yet what goes around comes around; some free kicks you get, some you don't. Robin van Persie taking a dive has nothing to do with him being Dutch - in fact it's not really his fault at all, he and his domestic club-mates are trained in this art. There's a word for that as well: cheating ("World Cup racism," Letters, June 19). MARTIN LEWIS Hod-Hasharon Hard to credit Sir, - They say you can't always believe what you read in the newspapers. Well, I found it difficult to believe what I read in "Even after tragic train crash, 3 cars illegally cross tracks" (June 15). A minibus carrying children crossed the train tracks near Ashdod while the light was red. The driver committed the same offense in March, at which time he was found to have 24 previous traffic offenses. And he is still driving children in a minibus. Can you believe it? CECIL WEINER Rehovot