No train wreck, this Sir, – David Rosenberg (“Down and out in Gaza?,” Guest Columnist, June 10) writes an interesting piece, but ends it by accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of “avoiding any accommodation with the Palestinians.” In the same issue, Alon Ben- Meir (“Defying the rules of conflict resolution,” Above the Fray) writes that both sides are headed toward a “horrific, violent eruption” for lack of leadership.The facts on the ground do not support either supposition.It is true that what they want (to flood us with their nationals living in other countries, and control over the Old City) and what we want (control over the whole West Bank and Jerusalem) are not complementary.However, leadership also entails managing a conflict in a peaceful way and making the best of a difficult situation.This isn’t a train wreck, but huge progress toward peaceful coexistence.
BARRY LYNN EfratOther uses for fervor Sir, – Regarding “The counsel of despair” (Think Again, June 3), not just secularists like Yossi Beilin, but also the haredi enablement of Oslo must not be forgotten. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik was prepared long ago to give the Arabs sovereignty over the Temple Mount. British Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jacobovits stated that he would “be glad to see the Palestinian flag flying over east Jerusalem” and that “Judea and Samaria are of no strategic value.”Orthodox Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz called Israeli soldiers “Judeo- Nazis.” At the time, the Belzer Rebbe, Israel’s Chief Rabbis Lau and Bakshi- Doron, Rabbi Norman Lamm of Yeshiva University – indeed, most rabbis and around 80 percent of world haredi Jewry – were supportive of Oslo.Rabbis Eliezer Shach, Ovadia Yosef and Menachem Porush held that giving up parts of the Land of Israel to Arabs in exchange for “genuine peace” was halachically permitted, and instructed their Degel Hatorah, Shas and Aguda parties, respectively, to vote accordingly in 1993.If world haredi leaders and their devotees had demonstrated for the territorial integrity and honor of Eretz Yisrael with one-tenth of the fervor that they do over parking lots and bones, then Oslo, the terror attacks, the ceding of Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Gush Katif, and the placing of the rest of Israel in such danger would never have occurred AMNON GOLDBERG Safed Good work of Efrat Sir, – As a former volunteer for nearly 20 years for the Efrat organization, I read Ruth Eglash’s article “Redefining ‘prochoice’” (Feature, May 27) with great interest.Early on in my marriage, in the 1960s, I had, unfortunately, a personal experience of abortion, so in response to an advertisement published in 1980 I went to meet the people at Efrat. I was surprised to see that they were all religious, just as I’m sure they were surprised that I wasn’t.I was given the task of building up an Efrat team for Haifa and the North, and this is what I did from 1980 until about 1997. We started off with eight women volunteers, with the number reaching approximately 50 people who could be called upon to help in various ways.We worked from our homes and went on visits to “our” areas by bus. There were no mobile phones or computers in those days, and I kept in touch with all the volunteers by sending out a photocopied, handwritten letter, as I didn’t have a Hebrew typewriter.The volunteers themselves were often mothers of large families. They were very kind and a pleasure to work with. My two children were in high school and at the time I was teaching English for external students and those taking matriculation exams.Requests for help reached me via Efrat’s Jerusalem office, or people phoned me at home: “Hallo, is this Efrat? My sister/neighbor/friend has arranged to have an abortion in a few days. Could you come and see her?” I got as much information as I could about the woman, prayed very hard and phoned her up. I told her that I was Helen, from Efrat, and said I’d heard she had a problem.“Would you like me to come and visit you, so that you could tell me about it?” I asked, and throughout all those years and all those cases, the answer was always yes.Not a single woman told me to go away and mind my own business. You see, I knew they would say yes because, as they say, “I've been there.”So, sometimes accompanied by another volunteer, I went to see the woman, who unfailingly welcomed me into her home.Occasionally, her husband was there, too.(We had a number of unmarried girls as well, which is another, long story.) The reasons we heard for terminating a pregnancy were many. Not all had to do with a lack of money; sometimes the husband or someone else in the family, or a social worker, was trying to persuade the woman to have an abortion.We, the volunteers, listened carefully to what the woman was telling us, and drew upon our collective life experiences to try to solve some of the problems. For example, some of us knew what it was like to be pregnant while having a problem child in the family, and other volunteers had had husbands who didn’t want another child.We talked about these things and offered help where we could.As for contraception, I would ask in a roundabout way, simply from the point of view of statistics, if any had been used. We discovered that the women knew all about contraceptives, but most of those we talked to didn’t like using them.Some of the women thanked us very much but said they were going to have the abortion anyway, while others decided to hold on to the pregnancy and even kept in touch, inviting us to the joyful celebrations when the baby was born.This, then, is the “catastrophe” that horrifies Rina Bar-Tal so much.I have in front of me the patient information forms from the London Hospital, which women who have arranged to have an abortion must read and sign. A full description of the procedure is given, plus a telephone number a woman can ring “if you change your mind or wish to discuss it further.”So you see, even Western liberals give women a choice, which is more than our social services do.
HELEN PORATH Haifa