By JERUSALEM POST STAFFZealot's confession
Sir - As an Orthodox Jewish American tourist and regular reader of The Jerusalem Post now in Israel for the High Holydays, I wish to make a confession: I was one of the "zealot haredi worshippers" at the Western Wall who attempted to bar OC Manpower Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern from reaching the Western Wall on Friday evening ("IDF's manpower chief harassed on Shabbat at Kotel," October 16). With me were my two sons, who emigrated to Israel three years ago and are now studying at hesder yeshivot and serve in the army. Like me, they resent having their officers insult the venerable rabbis who head their yeshivot.
While I object to Gen. Stern being called a "traitor," he cannot get away with attempting to break up hesder yeshiva units in the IDF, or calling for swifter conversion to Judaism for non-Jewish military personnel.
Sir, - This act was deplorable. If Maj.-Gen. Elazer Stern can live with his support of the expulsion of Jews from Eretz Israel, that is his business. If he came to the Kotel to assuage his guilt, all the more reason not to harass him.
Sir, - Who are these thugs who attacked a Jew praying at the Western Wall? Since when did throwing stones become part of Shabbat Shalom? With Jews like these, who needs anti-Semites? They will destroy Judaism and the Jewish people all by themselves.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Unity, not uniformity
Sir, - W. Solomon made many good points in "One people, one religion" (Letters, October 12), in particular that "converts to Judaism [should] be honored as full Jews" - the Torah itself instructs us on several occasions to do precisely this - "and prove themselves worthy of it." However I feel his call that we should all "join in a unified style of prayer using a single prayer book" is unjustified. While people should not use their particular ancestral tradition as a means of looking down on others, why must we merge our customs into a single, bland commonality?
Our different edot might be compared to the colors on an artist's palette, with which he can paint a beautiful picture. If they are all mixed the result is a muddy brown.
As Chairman Mao put it: "Let 1,000 flowers blossom," giving, in their profusion, every individual the opportunity to find his or her most satisfying spiritual home.
MARTIN D. STERN
Sir, - I wondered at your choice for the front page of The Jerusalem Post on Yom Kippur Eve ("30 Israelis take new cremation option," October 12). An article describing in great detail a cremation parlor in Israel seemed a very unfortunate choice for the holiest day of the year. As a regular reader of your paper I was shocked and pained.
Why Poraz is right
Sir, - I was surprised to read "Poraz's peeve" (Editorial, October 12). Like you I thoroughly support and admire the aims of the Beyahad program - may it succeed and go from strength to strength. However, you gave no convincing reason why Israel should be exempt from the basic precept governing modern liberal democracies which holds that state involvement in religion only corrupts the state and the religion (as is manifest in this country).
Religious faith is primarily a private and personal issue, as is non-faith or faith in other religions and philosophies. It is not the role of the state to promote a particular religious belief, even if it is the majority faith. If the state insists on promoting religion - not to be confused with morals, ethics and civics - it should do so on a pan-religious, non-denominational basis reflecting the faiths of all its citizens, including Christianity, the Druze belief and Isalm. No such program has been proposed.
Beyahad is restricted to Judaism and there is no good reason why non-Jewish taxpayers should be supporting it. The state may facilitate it, but not pay for it. Avraham Poraz is absolutely correct.
Sir, - I often wonder why I am prone to gut-wrenching when I hear the terms "international law" and "the international community" ("The myth of international law," Gerald Steinberg, October 16). For whom does this community speak? It is the same when I hear Kofi Annan pontificating like some sort of secular, international... well, pontiff.
Annan can speak only as the head clerk of an international organization of clerks, nepotists, tyrants, pencil and paper pushers and assorted hangers-on. The idealists among them - and I personally do know some - are by and large invisible and ineffectual.
I taught at the United Nations International School for 21 years and came in contact with a broad range of UN people from many nations, levels of power and degrees of education. NGOs, unelected - and perhaps even unelectable because of their narrow issues and partisan agendas - are among the most anti-democratic, elitist organizations on the planet. Their clout comes from no "moral position" or vast "moral authority" - except such as they arrogate to themselves and as their huge war chests allow. And, of course, as the media grants them.
On a much sadder note I find it personally tragic that Jews like Daniel Machover and Ken Roth (and Nobel winner Harold Pinter and hundreds of others) are found at the forefront of these movements.
There is tikkun olam and there is selbsthass.
...tyrants & hangers-on
Sir, - In "Ugly iceberg of bigotry" (September 12) Alan Dershowitz rightly exposes the utter hypocrisy that informs both the anti-war movement as regards Iraq and a variety of human rights organizations. Several years ago, during what was reportedly the largest anti-war demonstration in English history, I happened to be in London.
During the demo in Hyde Park, which attracted well over 1,000,000 participants, the overwhelming majority of signs were anti-Israeli. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a featured speaker, could not have helped but see these comparisons of Israelis to Nazis and all the proclamations of the desire for "Death to Israel." Yet he too, hypocritically, said nothing about these sentiments.
The utter shamlessness of these demonstrators and their cohorts in many human rights organizations, not to mention Western universities, boggles the mind. Would that these uninformed people knew history better. But, one would suppose, that's asking too much.
Isn't it so?
Sir, - After informing us of some Muslim clerics' claim that recent natural disasters in the US were caused by American political actions against Muslim interests, Auri Spigelman wonders how these clerics will interpret the earthquakes that have wreaked havoc in Pakistan and Afghanistan (Letters, October 14). Isn't it obvious that the earthquakes were the result of the Pakistani foreign minister's meeting with Silvan Shalom and the Kabul government's cooperation with the US?
Sauce for the goose
Sir, - I found it curious that the Palestinian Authority is pleased that its terrorists may be treated by Israel as prisoners of war ("PA: Israel may reconsider status of prisoners," October 11). PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs Sufian Abu Zaida explained that the prisoners had been acting on the instructions of the PLO: "The entire PLO leadership is responsible for the prisoners."
Let us put that piece of data together with one other. When the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel could not construct the security wall it was because the court found that the terrorists were not an aggressor state and, therefore, Israel had no right to invoke the doctrine of self-defense.
The PLO is a national liberation organization with functioning executive, legislative, police and security departments and what passes in the Middle East for a judiciary. If, as Minister Zaida argued, the terrorists are to be treated as POWs, then a fortiori they acted as part of a national militia; otherwise they would be mere criminals. If the PLO wants its prisoners treated as POWs and argues that the prisoners acted in an army under its direction and control, then Israel's security wall, even under the warped ruling of the ICJ, is a justifiable act of self-defense against terrorists of a national authority.
POWs? Sauce for the goose.
ALAN B. KATZ
Melville, New York
Sir, - Police deployed to guard Nazis? Hold on, something's wrong ("Protest against Nazi march in Ohio turns violent, six people arrested," October 16). The protesters should get gold medals for fighting the Nazis and letting the police know, in no uncertain terms, that protecting Nazis is not what police are supposed to do in America.
Shame on Toledo for allowing Nazis to march, rally - or, actually, even exist at all! Nazi existence is the epitome of removing freedom of speech, and indeed all freedom. Nazis are criminals.
There's a serious lack in the education system if local government and police are ignorant of what the Nazis actually preach and teach - death, murder, hatred and destruction. If they did know, there's no way they could allow them to congregate. It's tragic that Nazis are permitted to preach their Nazism in America.
Sir, - It is about time the Nobel Prizes for literature and peace were abolished. These days the main criterion for receiving them is anti-Americanism. Harold Pinter and Muhammad ElBaradei are examples par excellence ("Pinter wins Nobel for literature," October 14).
Mathematics, the queen of sciences, is universal. Her values will be appreciated by a Martian mathematician in the same way as by a Swedish or even a Norwegian one. That is why Robert J. Aumann's achievement is absolute.