January 18 UpFront: Girls with a mission

The legitimate complaints of the settlers should be addressed by the government, and not ignored.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Girls with a mission Sir, - In Larry Derfner's excellent "Child warriors" (Cover story, January 11) we were made aware of the success the settlers are having in educating their children to confront the government and the court system in modern Israel - from the womb to the front line of action, without the benefit of a normal childhood. As I read the article, I was overcome by a feeling of sadness at the plight of young people being led down the road of despair. When Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, wrote his famous pamphlet "The Jewish State," he presented the following question: "Shall we end by having a theocracy? No, indeed. Faith unites us, knowledge gives us freedom." He saw the rabbis as a unifying force, but felt they should confine their activities to the synagogue. So what is to be done? • The legitimate complaints of the settlers should be addressed by the government, and not ignored. • The government should institute a program that will channel the energies of these young people in a direction that will benefit the state. • It is urgent we reach a peace treaty with the Arabs and establish final borders so that this difficult issue is finally removed from the table. P. YONAH Shoham Sir, - I usually enjoy Larry Derfner's well-researched features, but take him to task for writing that "Ir David, otherwise known as Silwan, [is] an Arab neighborhood just outside the Old City where settlers have established a 'Jewish presence' over the years." Ir David is the original location of David's defensible Jerusalem. By suggesting that the Jewish presence is a relatively new thing, Derfner, simply put, gets it wrong. The archeological evidence is explicit, as anyone who has toured Ir David's excavations knows. The only population that had a longer presence in Ir David than the Jews were the Jebusites - and they are long gone. MELISSA SER Jerusalem Sir, - I have not read such a biased article in a long time. Just the thought of children being held in jail for such a long period should upset Larry Derfner. I would volunteer to take him to an outpost and leave him there for a day or a week so he could really get to know these people. MADALYN SCHAEFFER Jerusalem Sir, - The only thing that the seven "anonymous" girls show is that a large group of settlers are becoming just like Muslims. They're using their children as guided missiles in a religious crusade that ignores logic and reality. It's dangerous and sad. DAVID TEICH Rehovot Sir, - Larry Derfner wrote: "Alluding to the legend, popular among Jewish extremists, that [Baruch] Goldstein learned of an impending Palestinian slaughter of Hebron Jews and that he killed all those Palestinians in the Tomb of the Patriarchs to prevent it...." That Baruch learned of an impending Palestinian slaughter of Hebron Jews is not a legend. On February 25, 1994, the evening before the event, Yediot Aharonot carried an item stating that there was anticipation of Hamas's intention to carry out a gigantic attack. The security forces as well as the media and the government thus knew what was expected, but did nothing to prevent the impending Arab attack. Baruch, as a doctor and army officer, was requested to prepare a field hospital for expected casualties. I know all this since I have been living in Kiryat Arba since 1975. RACHEL KLEIN, Spokesperson Kiryat Arba-Hebron Municipality Kiryat Arba Sir, - The ideology of the girls Larry Derfner interviewed, which he so detests, is dynamic, exciting and vigorous. It is an ideology which children share with their parents and grandparents, and which will survive for generations. And all Mr. Derfner can offer in return is a limpid concatenation of vacuous slogans, which will never be passed to the next generation. His subjectivity is proven by his reference to "the legend, popular among Jewish extremists, that [Baruch] Goldstein learned of an impending Palestinian slaughter of Hebron Jews and that he killed all those Palestinians in the Tomb of the Patriarchs to prevent it." This is not a "legend" among "extremists": It was the conclusion of the Kahan Commission. Presumably even Mr. Derfner would not suggest that the five judges on that commission were right-wing extremists. DANIEL PINNER Kfar Tapuah Larry Derfner responds: It shouldn't be necessary to debunk the myth that Baruch Goldstein acted to preempt a massacre of the Hebron settlers, but unfortunately it is. The Shamgar (not Kahan) Commission never determined the precise motive behind Goldstein's killing spree because he left no explanation, nor did he tell anyone his plans. As for the alleged threats at the time by Hamas against the Hebron settlers - there always are such threats and always were; that's why the Hebron settlement is the most fortified, heavily guarded Jewish neighborhood on earth. There was no impending massacre of Jews in Hebron on Purim 1994, and the idea that Goldstein prevented one when he shot over 100 Palestinian men and boys kneeling in prayer, killing 29 of them, is without foundation. Tzur Hadassah's failings Sir, - I was deeply disappointed by your article on Tzur Hadassah ("Between chalets and minarets," Shira Teger, January 11), which skirted the main issues and problems, overlooked many of the local personalities from within the Hebrew-speaking main part of the yishuv - from the media, the arts and literature, and even most of the local movers and shakers, i.e. the Reform movement or local committee leadership. That leadership has begun to plan and build religious institutions and other public buildings, and it has raised the flag of religious pluralism (Tzur Hadassah is the only locality that allocates funding for the Reform movement). It has rejuvenated parks and created kilometers of gardens and lawns. It has straightened out over a decade of economic fiasco and paid huge fines for past tax evasion by the local committee. There is a new, small Bnei Akiva group; the scouts or Bnei Moshavim number much more and have made an impact. Unable to muster political independence, local residents bear the brunt of stunted development under the backward Mateh Yehuda regional council, which returns tax money to Tzur Hadassah for development and lacks motivation and capability to initiate building projects. Over 700 children in the settlement escape the substandard regional education and manage to study in high-quality Jerusalem schools. The mediocre elementary school, despite its special environmental program, is a detraction and stops many people moving here; an alternative open school with religious/secular pluralism is being planned by some 60 parents in Tzur Hadassah and the region. The region resents the affluent "city-mentality" of the dwellers of Tzur Hadassah, and their expectations of democracy and professional competence. They resent the low educational and cultural standard of many of the settlements in the region, its manipulation by two kibbutzim, and the blind eye turned to the criminal chicanery of a developer who formed two settlement groups in "the spirit of the Labor Party" and fled overseas with some $12 million of development money. Despite court orders, the region refuses to repay the residents and the public for the development losses. Tzur Hadassah suffers from dire government neglect; it has no indoor meeting place for hundreds of people for public ceremonies and activities. Due to no recreational outlets, youth vandalism is rampant. The government, the army and Border Police have ignored the security of the settlement, and the way is paved for car thieves, illegal workers and occasional efforts to carry out terror attacks (all of which have been thwarted until now due to civil awareness). The Israel Lands Administration refuses to free up land for commerce and the Transportation Ministry/Egged cartel bans more efficient private mini-buses for regional transportation - thus barring access to Tzur Hadassah to poorer groups like Ethiopians, former Soviet citizens, and other socio-economically challenged people. Another downside is vehement anti-religious activity with anti-Semitic undertones: for example, a past threat to burn prayer books; two attacks on Torah scrolls; a riot on Friday night to burn the Chabad emissary's house; a mean anti-mikve campaign, and a recent bogus 2007 anti-haredization campaign coordinated during four months by a local anti-religious activist via the e-mail of his JDC workplace, accompanied by a petition to block the building of the Har Kitron neighborhood's synagogue, whose members are mostly traditional Zionist Sephardim. Tzur Hadassah's main selling point is its access to nature and spectacular sunsets, cheaper multi-floored houses and apartments, and low taxation. Its current jewels include a qualitative musical conservatory program for ages 4-17, two choirs (one of which has performed abroad), and a unique horse ranch, where children start learning riding at age three. YITZCHAK KEREM Tzur Hadassah The writer is former acting chairman of the Tzur Hadassah Local Committee and an elected member of the Local Committee. Cookies & cream Sir, - I read Larry Derfner's "Inside the bubble" (January 4) with enjoyment, while laughing myself silly. My experience is all in America. I worked for Sperry Semiconductor (PurpleTech) for nine years before being dumped in the merger-mania of the mid-'80s. I then went to work for National Semiconductor (VeryBlackTech, a former partner of Tower Semiconductor in Migdal Ha'emek) and left in 1998. After nearly two years of searching for myself in Alaska, I was asked to return. And I did - a foolish mistake, but at least I had no expectations beyond making a killing and returning permanently to Alaska. Asked twice to return, I had the presence of mind to laugh both times. I have now found a niche in electronics repair for people who can't afford the exorbitant rates of $150 an hour to have someone help them. I have worked for various rates, but most frequently am paid a dozen US cookies per hour. I was never happier with stock options than I am with cookies. I also volunteer, marking trails for dogsled races. I play in the woods on snowmachines and ATVs. I study my Bible quite a lot. I am finally who I want to be. The abandonment of trust by companies is not an Israeli problem. It's global, and it's a problem of greed. The executives are rarely treated so callously. Indeed, they get huge bonuses for saving their companies millions via employee abandonment. I have discovered something very important about myself in this time since leaving BlackTech. I cannot cook at all. If I could, I would bake my own cookies and ditch the small part of hi-tech I am hanging onto. PAUL BERG Alaska