Letters to the editor: November 23

Jager on Peck Sir, - Like Elliot Jager, M. Scott Peck's teachings exert a profound impact on my life even 25 years after purchasing my first copy of The Road Less Traveled. His clarity and radiant optimism allowed me to find my own voice. I wonder if I would ever have discovered the joy and spirit of Yiddishkeit without Peck's showing me the way to authenticity and personal responsibility. Did he have feet of clay? Absolutely! So what? One needn't look far into the Bible for heroes with fa ilings. David himself warns us in Psalms 146: "Do not trust in princes." Only God is perfect; human beings can never be. So let us celebrate the teachings of a person who left the world a wee bit comprehensible ("When your guru has feet of clay," Nov e mber 21). RABBI DR. JOSH MARK Jerusalem Sir, - Elliot Jager describes Scott Peck as a profoundly spiritual thinker, Jewish in some ways but Christian in others. He points to Peck's heavy drinking and chain smoking as contradicting his own doctr i ne of "delayed gratification." Jager's conclusion is that we must learn to learn from great minds who have clay feet. The most un-Jewish aspect of this kind of thinking is inherent in the distinction between the Western "intellectual" and the Jewish t almid hacham. The intellectual can be inconsistent, violating his own teaching, placing mind over morality in his private life. The talmid hacham, no matter how much Torah he knows, can command no authority or reverence if he does not obey T ora h as well as know it. Clay feet are all right - even Moses sinned - but a systematic division in attitude which says, in effect, do as I say, not as I do, does not fit into Jewish tradition, certainly not into its mainstream. J. M. KING Jerus alem Sir, - I found Elliot Jager's op-ed quite upsetting, in particular: "Peck was a spiritual thinker of the highest order... what a seeming breath of fresh air he was compared to the shabby holy men whose improprieties make news in Israel as they despoil J ud aism for politics and profit." I don't know how many "shabby holy men" Mr. Jager actually knows, or if his knowledge of them comes simply from the newspapers, notorious for discrediting anything that smacks of traditional Judaism. I do know that individu als such as Rav Aron Leib Steinman, Rav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, Rav Chaim Kaniefsky and Rav Michel Y. Lefkowitz are all individuals of impeccable and sterling character whose reputations are unsullied by any hint of scandal, impropriety, personal gain or p rofit. These men are the recognized leaders of the haredi world today. A visit to Bnei Brak and Jerusalem can verify my claim. To impute otherwise is to slander an entire community. Jager's own sense of traditional Judaism seems to be: "The book... propa gates values essentially in harmony with mainstream Judaism. How far, after all, is "Life is difficult" from "Es is schwer tsu zein a Yid"?" That sentiment may be quite popular on Broadway, but it is very far from anything taught in the Ortho dox Je wish world, which sees observance of Torah and mitzvot as the most satisfying, fulfilling and justifiable way for man to live. RABBI HESHY GROSSMAN Passaic, New Jersey Party ain't over Sir, - Amotz Asa-El's unflattering eulog y of t he Liku d was premature ("The party's over for Likud," November 22). He essentially seemed to laud pragmatism and define ideology as "die-hard" - obfuscating the fact that it is neither dead nor dying. Where I can agree is that the gentlemanly Mena chem Be gin, a true democrat, made a grave error in leaving the Labor bureaucracy intact; it would have been far better to clean house. However, I see Sharon's quitting, together with a cadre of opportunistic, "pragmatic" cohorts, as a form of house clea ning. The Likud's "party," in that sense, is just beginning - to be united in the service of what were always the goals of any true Zionist: the land of Israel for the people of Israel, with opportunity, liberty and justice for all. As for Sharon's new pa rty, it has garn ered the support of those who, like the French with De Gaulle, opt for the classic "strong leader" solution, failing willfully to see their hero's "fatal flaw(s)." We hope that the Likud will field instead, if not a "philosopher king," then at l east a le ader whose ideology, intelligence and integrity are above question, one who will work toward a proud, secure and free Jewish national state, with peace and prosperity following. NETTA KOHN Herzliya Pituah Sir, - What a relief! Sharon h as left th e Likud, whose leadership he gained by concealing his real intentions before the elections. ANNI RUUTI Tiberias Why meddle with the system? Sir, - Dan Izenberg reminds us that in this parliamentary democracy of ours it's the d irty work o f buying or coercing your way onto a "list" that really matters ("Primary concerns," November 22). We "Westerners" deplore the absence of voting districts having elected representatives who are accountable to their voters - forgetti ng that Isr ael does pos sess a constituency system. Every MK is actually accountable to a constituency: those wholesalers of votes on the party central committees are employed to ensure that their expensively purchased candidates will deal loyally with t he providers of their pri vileged and well-remunerated positions. The identities of the country's principal operating constituencies may be found every day in the business and gossip columns of the Post. They are the industrial, financial and comm ercial conce rns; the civil engineering contractors, the electricity corporation, monopoly importers, the cement monopoly, the labor unions. Extend the list (but not by much) by picking out the 20 or so individuals among whom the newly-privatized business es are traded. Ask, for exa mple, why the privatized El Al can still regulate its competitors' access to Ben-Gurion Airport. These constituencies really need to be absolutely sure that strings are pulled, that legislation is attuned to their interests, a nd that no po litical or fisc al damage is inflicted on their vital causes. The insurance premium paid to ensure the continuity and growth of these businesses is merely the purchase of an MK or two. So why meddle with a system which works so well - for th eir constituen cies? HARVEY CHESTERMAN Jerusalem Irving's attributes Sir, - The Austrian government had good cause to arrest and try David Irving on charges of "alleged wrongdoings" of Holocaust denial, as reported in your November 18 and 20 issues. You could also have noted that Irving was judged a "liar," "anti-Semite" and "Holocaust denier" in a London court on April 11, 2000, after he sued Emory University Professor Deborah Lipstadt for slander. NORMA MARX Jerusalem Ilana Da yan's wrong facts Sir, - "The trial of Captain R" (November 20) for a crime he did not commit, the false testimony given by his soldiers, and what your editorial aptly describes as the surrounding "media frenzy" makes for painful reading. One can only rejoice with the captain and his family now that he has been unequivocally acquitted, and admire their behavior throughout their ordeal. While this acquittal does give one faith in our judicial system, one is left with the uneasy feeling that there is something very rotten in our me dia. Most disturbing of all has been the behavior of Ilana Dayan, host of Channel 2's investigative TV program Uvda. One wonders why the broadcasting authority has not, at the very least, insisted that she come out with a public apology. LILLY DIMITROVSKY Jerusalem Sir, - Israel has freedom of the press and a healthy enquiry into abuses should always be welcome, but there can be a tendency to go overboard. The usual explanation is that the press is dominat ed by left-libe ral types. But I think there's more to it, having to do with something I would call Jewish masochism. Whatever the cause - probably some mix of morality and internalizing of anti-Semitism - this is a neurosis and it can be a real impedime nt in the war against Islamo-fasc ism. A good example is Noam Chomsky, who has made a career out of painting America and Israel black. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont Arafat's 'poisoning' Sir, - I followed the latest PA slander of Israe l with interest. The nonsense that HIV virus was used to cover up some poison used by the Israelis is ridiculous ("Aide claims Israel poisoned Arafat," November 17). I refer you to Red Horizons: The True Story of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescus' Crimes, Lifestyle, and Co rruption by fo rmer Romanian Col. Ion Mihai Pacepa, which contains clear evidence that Arafat had carnal intercourse with his (male) Palestinian bodyguard while visiting Bucharest. One might assume that this was not the only occasion. So Arafat's dying of AIDS is anyth ing but farfetched, whether the Palestinians like it or not. MICHAEL MATHER Vienna Cyclist, reflect! Sir, - Re "Making biking safer" (Editorial, November 21): I am always amazed that there is no way to legally enforce cyclists to have hea dlamps or reflectors on their bikes, and not only on highways. They seem to believe that because they can see you, you can see them. I firmly believe that enforcing this would prevent many road accidents. LOUISE BR AVERMAN Ra'anana Sir, - It is easy to agree with everything in your editorial concerning the safety of cyclists with regard to the wearing of helmets and the need for bike lanes. However I am sure a number of lives could be saved if more cyclists ob eyed the traffic laws. How often when driving do we see cyclists riding the wrong way down one-way streets and the wrong way on dual carriage-ways; and, many times, at night riding without lights, ignoring red lights and stop signs? Bike riders must take some responsibi lity for their own sa fety. VALERIE FISHER Ra'ananar B