August 31: Start-up culture

Necessity has made us build and evolve our society in its unique way, and while far from perfect, Israel can be a powerful role model for the rest of the world.

Letters 521 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Letters 521
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Start-up culture
Sir, – Bravo to Daniel Gordis for reminding us that “Culture matters” (A Dose of Nuance, August 17). Culture represents the collective norms and behaviors and is indicative of the values at play and the “messages” that get sent.
Gordis aptly describes the key collective norms and behaviors behind the economically successful and relatively prosperous Israeli culture. He appropriately challenges Saeb Erekat around the range of collective behaviors and norms that his people exhibit, knowing that they can either inhibit or support the growth and development of their society. Culture is indeed the key factor that drives the deep chasm that exists between us in terms of social, political and economic progress, as well as our inability to solve the differences between us.
Israel has a fluid and agile culture that allows people to “dance” at the edge of chaos. We build upon and benefit from our affiliative nature and the lifelong networks we build and benefit from. We resist standardization and actively improvise and experiment toward getting the job done without fear of being punished or made to look “wrong.”
Our isolation has made us adaptive as both visionaries and patriots, with a deep sense of community and comradeship. Debate and disagreement are a way of life and create the disruption, dissonance and inflection points that cause deviations from the norm and result in creative and innovative solutions and unexpected inventions.
Our assertiveness, courage and candor are supported by our ingenuity, creativity, critical independence and integrative thinking. These mind-sets and behaviors enable us to solve problems in unique ways.
Necessity has made us build and evolve our society in its unique way, and while far from perfect, Israel can be a powerful role model for the rest of the world. There is an opportunity to learn from our successes and failures in the face of adversity, as unprecedented levels of global uncertainty and instability are already driving the innocuous cultural changes nationally and globally.
JANET SERNACKZichron Ya’acov
Supermarket savvy
Sir, – With reference to “There oughta be a law” (Grumpy Old Man, August 17), how nice to have a partner in thought! But there is a way out of the supermarket dilemma. It involves having “moo-eyes.”
It’s not a gun. It’s like those things cows look at you with. Sort of bestowing guilt on you.
I say, “Ge-ve-ret” (madam) and shake my head, slowly. She kinda knows. The cashier seems to look up and smile knowingly, and so do a few others behind. Someone even clucks – kind of disapprovingly.
Everyone knows, you see, that it’s not the thing to be done. And most seem to want to be thought of as cultured types.
I also make myself look very tired and old. People usually huff out of the way for me.
And try raising your arms just a little, off the carriage handle, inquiring-like, when your way is blocked by those 4- by-4-sized offloading trucks. Make sure the guy sees you. He’ll move.
Keep looking old and moo-eyed. It works for me. It’s all in the training, I suppose.
Sir, – I enjoyed reading Grumpy Old Man’s rant about supermarket shoppers who leave unattended pushcarts in line while they wander around gathering items.
The Jerusalem Post’s local supplement In Jerusalem once published an article by me on the same subject, but from an entirely different perspective.
In “Pushcart technology,” I described an Israeli innovation whereby pushcarts wait in the checkout line in place of shoppers, who need only return when their cart reaches the cashier. Unfortunately, I pointed out that there are still some people who are unable to move with the times and literally “stand in the way of progress.” Those particularly resistant to change tend to be from the West who purchase 10 items or less and insist on their right to “express themselves.”
I call upon Grumpy Old Man to embrace innovation.
Sir, – Unfortunately, Lawrence Rifkin forgets one of the most offensive problems in Israeli supermarkets – the practice of “grazing.”
It is not uncommon to see shoppers eating their way through a store. Many people think nothing of consuming fresh produce, nuts and candy. Some even open drinks and packages of snacks that they then leave on shelves before going through the checkout line.
As we know, supermarkets operate on very small profit margins. Each item that is consumed without payment adds to the cost of doing business. This cost is then passed along to all customers in the form of higher prices.
Grazing is not just a matter of bad manners. It is theft, pure and simple, for which the rest of society is forced to pay.
EFRAIM COHENZichron Ya’acov
Bitter and sweet
Sir, – Regarding “We owe an apology to Tikva Hamami and Tamar Epstein” (The Human Spirit, August 17), I would like to thank Barbara Sofer for acknowledging her conversation and for quoting Dr. Rachel Levmore.
The bitter part is the facts, and I thank Sofer for bringing them once again to the forefront. God willing, they will change sooner rather than later.
The sweet part is that there is someone like Levmore and the organizations she works with.
I am a former aguna (woman refused a religious divorce by her husband) and witnessed Levmore working for me and with me. I paid nothing and received hours of her time, her relentless energy, her intelligence and hope.
Sir, – The mitzva to be fruitful and multiply was given to man – not to woman – for the simple reason that women already desire to bring forth children. It is an emotional and physical need for women.
Our rabbis have created a situation where this most basic desire cannot be fulfilled because of a vindictive man who refuses to present his wife with a get (religious divorce). And so the answer seems to be to beat him up – yes, it still is used as a persuader – or to put a herem on him (to ostracize him), although this does not always work.
Why cannot these marriages, after a suitable passage of time, be annulled? Why, after a suitable passage of time, cannot three rabbis “take” the place of the husband and hand the woman a get? How can we as Jews criticize other religions that repress their women when we have the situation of agunot?
Over five years ago a husband left his wife and two small children. He left Israel and never returned. He has never seen his children in all that time and never sent any money of support even though he has a good job.
Working through an Israeli lawyer the man has been making demand after demand from his wife; when she agrees to this blackmail and is ready to sign, he then adds another demand that is impossible to fulfill. He has been heard to make the statement, “So she’ll wait another five years.” (And this with a herem against him through the Jerusalem Rabbinate.)
The woman is still young. She would like to marry again and have more children before her time runs out.
How did the get, which was originally meant to protect the woman, turn into what it has become? How can it be that our venerable rabbis cannot find an answer to one of our most basic problems? Shame on all of them!
It’s family, after all
Sir, – Regarding Miriam in Stewart Weiss’s “Lines in the sand” (In Plain Language, August 17), I am an Orthodox woman who has been in the situation of Miriam in having to attend weddings of non-observant relatives.
During the past few years, both of my nephews got married in the US. I attended both weddings. Although they were only “kosher-style” (meaning no pork or seafood), I was given delicious kosher meals, which were sealed and included regular plates and silverware.
One of the weddings was an hour after Shabbat (although it started 20 minutes late). I spent Shabbat in a place that was half an hour away and managed to arrive before the wedding started. If I had arrived late, so be it.
I understand Miriam having red lines, but in this case she really could have attended the wedding without violating Halacha. She could have stayed nearby, arrived late, and probably been there for half the celebration. She could have eaten the kosher food, and if she was uncomfortable eating with people who were eating non-kosher food, she could have requested a separate table for herself and her family. (I know people who have done this.) Or she could have eaten before the wedding.
Family ties are important, and as long as the wedding did not involve intermarriage and she could have attended without violating Halacha, she should have gone. She could have come late and even “suffered” by eating kosher food on plastic plates.
Yes, there are red lines, but this was hardly one. She missed an opportunity to share in her family’s joy and bring happiness to the bride and groom.