Sir, - The tunnel road has been open to Palestinian traffic for the last several months. This was supposed to be a goodwill gesture leading to (hopefully) reduced tensions and the opportunity for peaceful relations. Many suggested that the open road was, instead, an invitation for Palestinian gunmen to shoot Israelis.
We were correct ("3 dead, 5 wounded in shooting attacks," October 17). In Palestinian society niceness is equated with weakness, and weakness deserves death.
Sir, - We are all saddened at the deaths of three innocent young people from the Hebron Hills. This is the unfortunate result of Ariel Sharon's policy of trying to please Bush and Rice without considering the consequences. Hopefully Sharon has learned his lesson; but for three Israeli families it is too late.
This attack was verbal
Sir, - As one who was present at the Western Wall for Friday night prayers I did not see anyone throw any objects, let alone stones, at Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern ("IDF's manpower chief harassed on Shabbat at Kotel," October 16). Nor do I know of anyone present who saw anything thrown. There are no stones available at the Kotel, nor "objects" to throw, aside from chairs. Maj.-Gen. Stern was verbally attacked, and that is all. As one partly responsible for throwing thousands of people out of their homes he should realize that verbal attacks are likely to repeat themselves for some time to come.
RABBI DAVID STERNE
Misunderstanding the mehitza
Sir, - Conservative, Reform and secular Jews display prejudice and lack of understanding in their objections to the Kotel's mehitza ("Segregation barriers go up in Western Wall plaza," October 17).
An observant Jew is forbidden by Halacha to pray in a group where men and women are mixed. But nothing in Reform or Conservative credos prohibits their followers from praying where the sexes are separated. Since Conservative and Reform men and women can pray together at Robinson's Arch, perhaps they should leave their observant brethren to pray in peace, with a mehitza.
Precisely the rabbis
Sir, - Everybody is on the bandwagon dissecting, analyzing and giving advice to the Religious Zionists. It reminds me of the talmudic expression: "When the ox falls, the butchers sharpen their knives." Isi Liebler concedes that the Religious Zionists are among the most creative and idealistic element in society, but advises them to rely less on the rabbis and de-emphasize their obsession with land ("Religious Zionists in crisis," October 11). Perhaps he should have delved a little deeper into this movement's history - say, the last 30 years. It is precisely the rabbis who have inspired and encouraged Religious Zionists to be outstanding citizens, perpetuate the Zionist ideal of the Land of Israel and, at the same time, remain loyal to their faith and to Halacha. To tell them now to abandon the foundation of their strengths is to tell the idealist to be less idealistic and more like everyone else.
Instead of advice, perhaps there should be encouragement and help for these poor people who have been made refugees in their own country.
SOLOMON J. SPIRO
Israel's case to the world
Sir, - In "Learning to state the case" (October 14) Hilary Leila Kreiger just touched the tip of the iceberg regarding the amount of non-governmental hasbara work being done to present Israel's case. She mentioned only the Israel Project and Israel 21c, both well-funded and American; but dozens more organizations and individuals are working nonstop, in Israel, the US, the UK and Europe, to promote Israel's good name, reactively and proactively.
The British Israel Group concentrates its efforts on the UK, but its mailings find their way to many other countries. Most of these organizations are under the umbrella of CoHaV, the Council of Hasbara Volunteers.
Not before time is the Foreign Ministry offering a course to enable all us amateurs to better present Israel's case. It cannot be stressed enough that there is a war of words going on out there, and Israel's side is not being heard.
We hasbara professionals, semi-professionals and experienced amateurs are doing a great job with little back-up from the government, major Jewish bodies or the general public - who complain so vociferously in the press about Israel's poor hasbara but do nothing to help.
Most of us are struggling with no funds and very little appreciation. If the Jewish public truly cares about Israel's image, we need its financial and moral support - now.
NORMAN W. COHEN
British Israel Group
Sir, - The two salient issues in the Arab-Israeli dispute should be addressed head-on in major forums and high-profile, full-page ads in major world newspapers:
no "right of return" for Arab refugees to Israel, certainly not for the descendants of the original refugees - entirely unprecedented in history or law - though compensation, including for Jewish refugees from Arab countries, may be an issue for negotiation;
the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza are not Palestinian or illegally occupied territories, even if the UN and all the Arab states say they are. They are the unallocated remnants of the League of Nations Mandate to the UK and their legal status therefore remains disputed.
Everything else that could be brought up in pro-Israel hasbara is commentary. To make Israel's case to the world public needs the efforts of high-powered international lawyers and statesmen of high repute.
Doesn't Israel owe Guatemala?
Sir, - Israel has rightly offered help to Pakistan, but as far as I know has not offered much aid, if any, to Guatemala. Yet according to the Jewish Virtual Library:
"Guatemala can boast of two firsts in Israeli history. It was the first country to announce its recognition of Israel, by Jorge Garcia Granados in the UN immediately after the proclamation of the state. Guatemala was also the first country to open an embassy in Jerusalem, under the same Garcia Granados. Later, under international pressure, the embassy was moved to Tel Aviv."
Isn't it time we showed our appreciation to another democracy, one that helped Israel in the past, by helping Guatemalans cope with their recent disaster?
Leave 'em alone
Sir, - Kudos to Larry Derfner for finally saying what many of us have thought for years ("Parental guidance? Give me a break," October 16.) Back in the UK neither I nor my parents would have dreamt of phoning a teacher at home. To us they barely had first names, let alone home phones!
If the teachers were left in peace to do what they are meant to be doing they would probably do a better job and command more respect. They do not have to be our chums, just our educators.
Dutch feelings on football
Sir, - Further to David Horovitz's "The revolutionary power of football" (October 14): The Dutch soccer fans' love of "elegant" football is, in my opinion, a legacy of Holland's incredibly popular radio sports commentator throughout the 1930s, Han Hollander - a Jew, killed in the Holocaust. His enthusiastic descriptions of the top soccer games on Sunday afternoons became the radio weekend entertainment. Even my straight-laced mother was loath to miss them. They turned the Netherlands forever into a nation of philo-Semitic soccer fans.
Kibbutz Tel Katzir
Succot & Christmas
Sir, - An observation: Christmastime in the US sees "tree lots" pop up all over, folks selling Christmas trees (fake and real) as well as holly garlands, door wreaths and mistletoe. Succot-time in Israel sees "Succa lots" and "palm tree leaves for schach lots" pop up all over.
Christmastime in the US one can buy Christmas tree decorations - tinsel and blinky lights as well as large plastic Santas, Frosty the Snowman and biblical scenes to clutter your yard and roof. Succot-time in Israel one can buy Christmas tree decorations - tinsel and blinky lights as well as large plastic and laminated pictures of rabbis, scholars and biblical scenes to cover the walls of your succa.
But our radios aren't yet inundated with Succot music, nor our malls with Succot muzak.
'No social certificate? We won't eat there'
Sir, - Rabbi Michael Melchior's "Stand before God together" (Yom Kippur supplement, October 12) concluded with the hope that "the prayers we say in the month of Tishrei will turn into social action in the month of Marcheshvan."
I would like to draw your attention to a non-profit organization called Maagley Tzedek, an outgrowth of Shachen Tov ("good neighbor"), which has been distributing a social certificate called Tav Hevrati among restaurants and banquet halls. Analogous to the kashrut certificate, it indicates that the business named obeys the law and commits no transgressions of bein adam lehavero (between man and his fellow man).
Requirements which must be fulfilled in order to receive the social certificate include paying one's workers at least minimum wage, granting them the rights accorded by law, and providing accessibility to the handicapped.
The certificate has been offered throughout Jerusalem so all businesses are aware of it. It is now up to the public to pressure these establishments to improve the way they treat their employees by refusing to eat at any restaurant that falls short of these basic moral standards.
A list of halls and restaurants already carrying the certificate is available on www.tav.org.il