Letters to the editor, May 21

Meat of the issue Sir, - If Baladi Meats wishes to import unsalted meats that is its right, but the rabbinate also has the right to refuse to allow them to be certified as kosher. ("Supreme Court to sink teeth into meat import debate," May 18). Secular courts have no business ruling on religious affairs, any more than religious authorities have to dictate whether an individual can eat treif if he wishes to. MARTIN D. STERN Salford, UK Sir, - Matthew Wagner's report on the attempt to ban the import of non-salted kosher lamb made my blood pressure rise. Why can I not eat lamb at a reasonable price? HELEN LEVENSTON Jerusalem Easy option is no real option Sir, - Rabbi Avi Shafran ("Uncountered charge," Letters, May 17) dodges the real issue so rightly raised by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin: the hillul hashem - desecration of God's name - involved in the fact that "the widely respected contemporary halachic authorities" refuse, or lack the moral courage, to annul marriages. This power has been used in all generations, from the Talmud onwards, to rescue agunot, women whose husbands refuse to give them a divorce, from severe hardship situations. If these rejectionist authorities wish to retain their "widely respected" stature it behooves them to use the power vested in them by such halachic giants as Yosef Caro of the Shulhan Aruch. Of course the issue is halachically controversial, but rejection is the easy option. As Rashi put it (Betza 2b): "The ruling of the one who permits is to be preferred since he is not afraid to rely on the tradition which permits; but that of the prohibitionists is no proof since everyone can forbid even something that is permitted." ARYEH NEWMAN Jerusalem Sir, - If the failings of the rabbinical court system were limited to its bureaucratic abuse and blackmail of Jewish women seeking a divorce, this would be bad enough. But there is also abuse of practically every Gentile convert seeking to complete his or her conversion. This system is rotten to the core, and its failings go a long way toward explaining why so many Jewish Israelis are put off by their own religion. Rabbi Shafran would be well advised to open his eyes and use his considerable influence to call for fairness and justice, along with compassionate and, dare I suggest, well-trained dayanim to serve in these courts. KENNETH S. BESIG Kiryat Arba Peretz's plans Sir, - Re "Peretz signs eviction orders for 12 illegal outposts" (May 18): I would much prefer to see Amir Peretz's plans for halting the daily barrage of rockets into Israel from Gaza; for reducing terrorist attempts against Israeli citizens; and for completing the security fence as quickly as possible in order to provide Israelis with real defense against terror. After all, "defense" is part of his title, right? STUART PILICHOWSKI Mevaseret Zion Audaciously we fight the big lies Sir, - In his letter of May 16 Cecil Renfield of Sydney, implying that Israel is responsible for being hated and lamenting that he has "to bear some of the brunt of the [resultant] anti-Semitism," has forgotten the main lesson of the Holocaust and its parallel in the Islamists' war to destroy Western civilization. The blood libel, the blaming of a group to divert attention from murderous intent and justify murderous deeds, existed in the 1930s and exists now, embraced by people of influence in their collusion with murderers. The fact that we ourselves do not trigger their terror campaigns as we defy big lies and exhibit the audacity to fight their disseminators' machinations seems to elude Mr. Renfield. EVE LEVITAN Jerusalem Disaster looms Sir, - We are all fully aware of the security and demographic issues that haunt us ("It's not about the race, Ehud," May 17). However, I simply cannot visualize the terrible scenario that will arise from the attempt to evict 70,000 people from their homes. We still have vivid, heart-rending recollections of the eviction of several thousand Gaza settlers, which caused us such terrible anguish. Where on earth are 70,000 individuals - parents, grandparents, children and babies in their cots - going to be accommodated while evacuees from the previous eviction still wait for homes owing to the lack of preparation by the previous government? Whether our persuasion leans to left or right we can only shudder at the tragedy that looms as Ehud Olmert's government rushes to get cracking on its "convergence" plan. It could, heaven forbid, turn out to be Israel's greatest man-made disaster. M.U. MILUNSKY Netanya Sir, - It seems to me that most of the points in Elliot Jager's op-ed could have been used to argue against Disengagement, Part 1. CHAIM SHERMAN Neveh Daniel Better be feared Sir, - When Daniel Pipes advises "Bush: Just say no to Olmert" (May 17) he is whistling in the wind. As he correctly observes, the US has never opposed Israeli territorial concessions, and unfortunately it is not about to change. As in the past, the US is beholden to Arab oil interests and now, thanks to its political entanglement in Iraq, is more dependent than ever on Islamic public opinion. We will only start to turn the tide against militant Islam when we realize that it's more effective to be feared and respected than to be liked. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont What wasn't noted about A.M. Rosenthal Sir, - Former New York Times reporter and current Columbia University journalism professor Samuel Freedman does well to praise the late A.M. Rosenthal ("Abe Rosenthal, American Jew," May 16). His was a legendary career in journalism, and worthy of praise in its own right as well as for his role in breaking the various taboos at the Times that prevented Jews from serving in crucial posts. Freedman is also correct to note that while Rosenthal served as top editor at the Times he did not ensure "favorable coverage of Israel," especially during the tenure of Thomas Friedman, a Rosenthal prot g , as the paper's Israel correspondent. However, I find it curious that nowhere in his more than 2,000 words about Rosenthal did Freedman think it worthwhile to examine the last phase of his career at the Times. From 1987 until 1999 his op-ed column served as a powerful rejoinder to much of the criticism of the Jewish state that appeared elsewhere in the paper. Was this fascinating reversal of Rosenthal's attitude during his time as editor a result of his discovery of Judaism that Freedman writes about? Were his brilliant dissections of Israel's critics during this period, as some wags noted at the time, 700-word teshuvas for the harsh and often unfair coverage his newspaper gave Israel earlier in his career? Or was it just that having crossed the church-state divide between "news" and "opinion," Rosenthal felt free in his last years at the Times to voice his latent sympathy for Zionism and his disdain for its enemies? These are important questions that the author ignores. The result is not only an incomplete portrait of a great journalist. It is also a reflection of the lack of sympathy many among the elites of American journalism (among whose number Freedman must be counted) still feel for A.M. Rosenthal's decision to dedicate his final years to correcting some of the Times's lingering bias against Israel. YONATAN BEN DAVID Philadelphia Who needs 'bagrut'? Sir, - Kids are not stupid. They know you can make lots of money as a football player, pop star or even MK without having a full bagrut. As one mother pointed out to me when speaking about her talented tennis-playing son: "I'd rather give him a few more coaching lessons in tennis - he will eventually earn more money from that than from getting a higher grade in English." If we as a society had a little less awe of money and a little more respect for learning we might have a better chance of raising the bagrut average ("Matriculation eligibility rates drop 2.4%," May 17). YARDENA OSTRAL Haifa Sir, - The poor matriculation results come as no surprise to educators in the field. In the name of democracy and children's rights we allow outrageous behavior to become the norm in the classroom. Sixty percent of our students report feeling threatened by their fellow students within the school walls. Pupils who are worried about their physical safety have little energy left to concentrate on their studies. TOVA GERTA TEITELBAUM Haifa Sweet Babe Sir, - Babe Ruth was everything your writer said in "The Babe's greatness is beyond comparison" (May 11), but a correction and a few additions are appropriate. The Babe did not call everyone "Kid." Waite Hoyt, pitcher for the Yankees in the 1920s, recalled that when the team was introduced to president Coolidge before a game, the Babe "whipped out a big, red bandana handkerchief, mopped his face, and snorted, 'Hot as hell, ain't it, Pres?'" Not only did the Babe hit far more homers than the number-two home-run hitter, as noted, he hit more homers in a season than some entire teams did. On a sweet note, the still-popular Baby Ruth candy bar came out in 1921, when the Babe had become a national hero. The company claimed it was named after president Cleveland's daughter, who died in 1904, but nobody believed it. Times have changed. The most the Babe was paid by the Yankees in a single season was $80,000, an incredible amount at the time. But Barry Bonds is making about $20 million dollars this year; which, though a tidy sum, is less than what a few other baseball players are being paid. HAROLD JACOBSON Jerusalem