Letters to the editor, March 28

Compulsory vote Sir, - So many Israelis seem to take a lax view of voting in the elections. Then they complain about bad government. It is time for Israel to introduce a law making it compulsory to vote and fining those who don't ("Aussie favors compulsory voting," March 27). MARK BRAJTMAN Cape Town Ovadia Yosef, Zionist activist? Sir, - The latest election pronouncement of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual mentor of the Shas Party, was as American as motherhood and apple pie. He even mentioned, approvingly, the famous Yiddishe Mama. He quoted the prophetess Deborah, whom the Bible terms "mother in Israel." Deborah said that those who do not join in the fray and participate actively in national struggles are "cursed… for they failed to come to aid the nation of Hashem… against the mighty" (Judges 5:23). Rabbi Yosef wrote a letter to Sephardi yeshiva boys who are passive or indifferent to the election, praising those who do go out and vote (for Shas, to be sure). He feels strongly that everyone should participate, and will practice what he preaches by going to a much earlier morning prayer minyan than his usual one so he can be first in line at his polling booth. This is Zionist activism. But the media could not resist the temptation to take the rabbi's words out of context and try to show one of Israel's greatest scholars in a negative light. In doing so they revealed their own lack of familiarity with one of the most basic Jewish texts, the "Song of Deborah," which most religious school children learn by heart. Thus I fully understand why Moishe Veeder was discouraged from voting for Shas ("Heaven & hell," Letters, March 27) , but I hope that he and others will not be daunted by the typical media hype. SHIRA LEIBOWITZ SCHMIDT Netanya Politicos for peace Sir, - I can't believe what I read in your March 27 issue: "[Haim] Ramon gives PA one year before unilateral pullout" (i.e., to meet Israel's demands). This is a threat - to give the Arabs part of the land of Israel unless they recognize us? Israel's politicians have lost their minds. When they run out of land for peace they will start giving away our children for peace. I am for giving away our politicians first. CHAYIM SEIDEN Jerusalem Nowhere into somewhere Sir, - "BOI: Investment leads to clearer roads" (March 24) pointed out that in 1997-2005 Israel spent almost double the fraction of its GDP on roads as the UK - an unsettling development. Several statements from Prof. Ilan Solomon were either false or misleading. European Transport Safety Commission data from 2003 show that the death risks per billion person-km travel for cars are 7; for buses they are 0.7, or 1/10 that of cars; and for trains they are 0.35, or 1/2 that of buses. These data refute Solomon's statement that buses are "statistically safer than trains." As for his statements on corruption from big projects, the costs - and, therefore, the likelihood of cost overruns from road building - are much greater than for rail simply because much wider land rights of way are required, and the costs per km. of road are much greater than those for rail. Finally, the professor's claim that it is a waste of money to invest in rail connections to outlying areas, the so-called periphery, misses the point: Such investments connect these outlying areas to the economic centers by shortening travel time - not just for the rich, but for everyone - while reducing death risks. They also provide safer means of shipping dangerous goods. Connecting an underdeveloped backward area by rail is one way to turn nowhere into somewhere in a way that promotes social equity in access to mobility. What is true is that in Israel we have much to do to eliminate risks for pedestrians from trains and buses. ELIHU D RICHTER MD, MPH Center for Injury Prevention Hebrew University-Hadassah Jerusalem Opportunity knocks Sir, - Further to "Israel destroys 1.2 million fowl in 9 days" (March 27): The Jerusalem Post has performed a vital function in keeping its readers up to date on the government's failure to fulfill its commitments to the unfortunate people who were forcibly evicted from their homes and businesses in Gush Katif. The government has now been handed a golden opportunity to show that it can keep its promises by not holding back its promised payments to the poultry farmers in the south who have been forced to kill all their flocks to keep the avian flu from spreading. RAPHAEL ROSENBAUM Kiron Jewish future right here Sir, - Jonathan Tobin's "If you build it, will they come?" (March 27) is, indeed, a big problem. However, we don't have to look as far distant as the United States as so many schools in Israel don't show too much interest in the "Jewish future" here. How many of our children leaving school have even a minimal awareness and understanding of our Jewish heritage and the history of Zionism? How many of these same children - or their teachers - can debate these issues confidently when they travel abroad? The Jewish future in Israel is a big problem. It needs serious attention. HADASSAH PALMER Haifa Justice for all Sir, - "Justice delayed" (Editorial, March 26) suggests that the way to make indifferent, lazy or incompetent judges more effective is to force them to work longer hours and hear cases continually until a verdict is rendered. I doubt this will happen; and if it did, I doubt it would work. The only way to correct the problem of judicial indifference to the public's needs is to give the public the power to appoint magistrate's court and district court judges - and, of course, to remove incompetent or lazy ones. The judges should stand for popular election. It follows that the only way to ensure that the higher court judges, like those on the Supreme Court, actually judge according to law and not according to their prejudices is to have these judges elected by the Knesset, not by other judges, as is now the case. KENNETH S. BESIG Kiryat Arba 'Evil' of Zionism Sir, - I did a reality check to ascertain whether B'Tselem is in fact an honorable human rights organization, as Larry Garber and Eliezer Ya'ari claim in "Who's really damaging Israel's image?" (March 19). In an on-line search for articles mentioning B'Tselem, I found that the popular anti-Zionist daily Web sites counterpunch.com and electronicintifada.net have published 13 since July 2002, and 29 since April 2002, respectively. The Web site of Egypt's English-language Al-Ahram weekly had 10 since July 2001. Britain's Guardian, arguably the most hostile daily paper to Israel in English-speaking countries, has printed an astonishing 84 articles mentioning B'Tselem since September 1999. In stark contrast, the prominent New York Times and the Globe and Mail, Canada's most respected newspaper, both dailies neutral on the Arab-Israeli conflict, have published only six articles mentioning B'Tselem since 1993, and none since January 2002, respectively. On the basis of this research it seems that the anti-Zionist publications are the ones that lap up B'Tselem's press releases. The organization appears to serves only two purposes: to disgrace Israeli Jews, gratuitously, before a world hostile to them; and to make the world focus on the "evil" of Zionism. JACOB MENDLOVIC Toronto Changing world Jewry, one Jew at a time Sir, - Re "Birthright, MASA mull merger to boost participation" (February 9): As participant and staff member of a birthright Israel trip, I want to emphasize how life-changing this program is for American Jews and their relationship with Israel. The program is often criticized for paying the way to Israel for "wealthy Americans" while Israel could better use the money for domestic and defense purposes. Of the 40 people on my trip in 2005, seven, including myself, have returned to Israel for various reasons including extended study. Several participants stayed in Israel after the program ended to further explore the country. But it is not just about returning to Israel soon, or even ever again. It is about the transformation participants undergo during birthright, one that cements a lifelong bond with Israel and their fellow American Jews. In the year after my return I have organized Shabbat dinners and parties for Purim and Hanukka and volunteered to raise funds for the Jewish community. I have written letters to elected officials asking them to support pro-Israel policies, attended Israeli cultural events, and recruited new participants to birthright. I have also educated my non-Jewish friends about Israel. One remarked that my photos revealed a country she was surprised to see, filled with multi-culturalism and natural beauty. By inviting non-Jews to Jewish events I am sharing with them what Judaism really is and dispelling negative myths about Judaism. It is no waste of money to fund these programs. Birthright Israel strives to change world Jewry, one Jew at a time. Its approach seems to come directly from the Talmud: "Whoever saves a single person, saves the world entire." MELANIE KADLIC Vienna, Virginia Ahead of the curve Sir, - Your March 26 front-page story "Judge raises constitutionality of AIPAC lawsuit" only reinforced why I find your op-ed pieces a "must-read" in my daily schedule. For, in effect, all the arguments raised by Judge Ellis questioning the government's case against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman are chapter-and-verse the same as those Caroline B. Glick made in "The trial of American Jewry" (January 31). Insightful, informative, provocative - pick your adjective. But the bottom line is your editorial pages keep your readers ahead of the curve. MICHAEL D. HIRSCH Kochav Yair